Friday, September 28, 2012

Akin Causing Problems For GOP

Do you remember Todd Akin?  He’s the Republican candidate who may single handedly derail their efforts to control the Senate.
Akin is running against incumbent Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill for the US Senate.  Akin is the guy who gave us the astoundingly stupid statement about “legitimate rape.”  Akin is the guy who told us that pregnancy as a result of rape is unlikely because a woman’s body “has a way of shutting down that whole thing.”  Akin is the guy who could make or break the Republican Party’s chances to take control of the Senate.
You may recall that upon hearing Akin’s astoundingly stupid statements Republican Party leaders abandoned the Tea Party backed candidate like rats leaving a sinking ship.  Romney, Ryan, Cantor, McConnell and a host of others condemned his remarks and urged him to step aside.  Karl Rove and a number of other financial backers pulled their support.  It looked to everyone like Akin was done.
Except Todd Akin!
Akin flipped the party leaders the bird and said he wasn’t going anywhere.  He said that the people of Missouri voted him as their candidate and only the people of Missouri could tell him to leave. Akin was in it for the long haul.
Any chance that Akin might withdraw ended this week with the passage of the state deadline for all candidates to be removed from the ballot.  Like it or not…Todd Akin is the Republican candidate for US Senate from the state of Missouri.
Akin celebrated by putting his foot in his mouth once again.  After Senator McCaskill tore into Akin in their most recent debate; Akin said that the Senator was not very “ladylike” in her approach.  Nothing closes the gender gap for swing voters like referring to your tough female opponent as un-ladylike.
Republicans would love to ditch Akin.  But they desperately need his seat to have any chance of controlling the Senate.  So do they pour money into his campaign and legitimize his candidacy or do they distance themselves and risk losing the bigger prize?
Once again the Tea Party radicals have cost the Republican Party.  In 2010 Republicans could have easily won Senate seats in Delaware and Nevada.  But the Tea Party forced the nomination of Christine “I am not a Witch” O’Donnell and crazy Sharon Engle.  Both lost and the Democrats retained the Senate.  Now the Republican Party faces the same dilemma with the train wreck candidacy of Todd Akin.
So how do Republicans enthusiastically support a guy who they were pillaring just a few weeks ago?
Perhaps they should consult with Mitt Romney.  After all, nobody is better at flip flopping than the leader of the Republican Party.


Are We Really Exceptional?

One of the most frequently used phrases during any election season is: “American Exceptionalism.”  Wherever you find bunting and a flag draped backdrop you will find “American Exceptionalism.”  It is a phrase used by every hopeful politician to elicit patriotic feelings of mom, apple pie and country.  It’s a throwaway line that has become the all encompassing catch phrase of who we are as a country.  Exceptional!  To disagree is to be labeled “unpatriotic” or worse.
We would very much like to believe that it’s true.  That among all the nations in the world we are in fact “exceptional.”  But at this moment in time there are far too many things that say otherwise.
In twelve short years we have a amassed a national credit card debt of over $16 trillion dollars.  Our spending is out of control.  And our elected leaders just kick the can down the road; passing the problem along to our children and grandchildren.  That’s not exceptional…that’s irresponsible.
We are the wealthiest nation in the world.  We have the world’s largest economy.  Yet 60 million Americans are living at or below the poverty level.  That’s $23,000/year for a family of four.  That’s not exceptional…that’s inconceivable.
Our infrastructure is crumbling.  We lag behind most modernized nations in terms of mass transit and high speed rail.  Yet 8.1% of our population is unemployed.  The real unemployment number is double that because millions of Americans have simple given up the search.  There is desperate work that needs to be done and millions of Americans willing to do it.  But for some reason we can’t seem to put the two together.  That’s not exceptional…that’s unimaginable.
We have some of the greatest institutions of higher learning in the world.  But our primary and secondary schools are in disarray.  Our schools are crumbling and our best educators are often let go in favor of less effective teachers who have tenure.  The results are evident in our children’s performance.  Our children lag behind most of the developed nations in terms of math, reading and science skills.  That’s not exceptional…that’s unconscionable.
We pride ourselves on being a nation of laws.  Yet we violate the Geneva Convention as we deem necessary.  And to this date not one of the persons responsible for the banking travesty that nearly brought down our economy has been prosecuted.  That’s not exceptional…that’s unfathomable.
We have the largest military in the world.  We are the self proclaimed “world’s policeman.”  Congress spends billions in borrowed dollars on our military and procures million dollar weapons that they don’t even want.  We spend more on our military than the next seventeen nations combined.  Yet our infrastructure is outdated, our schools are crumbling and millions of our children are literally starving.  That’s not exceptional…that’s unreasonable.
One of the cornerstones of our democracy is the right to vote.   Millions of Americans have suffered great hardship and many have given their lives in pursuit of the right to voice their opinion via the ballot box.  Yet today we see a blatant racist attempt to suppress the voting rights of a certain segment of our society.  Citizens who have voted for decades are finding their names purged from the rolls.  Poor folks are suddenly told they need to spend money they don’t have to procure documents they never needed if they want to exercise their voting rights. All orchestrated under the guise of preventing voter fraud; instances of which have historically been infinitesimal.  That’s not exceptional…that’s unthinkable.
There are those who will say that we are wrong.  There are those who will say that every other nation suffers from these same problems and deficiencies.  They will tell us that in spite of all our faults millions still flock to our shores to enjoy the freedoms of the greatest nation on earth.
To those we ask this question…does that make us “exceptional”…or simply the best of a sorry lot.
We can fix our problems.  We can do big things.  We can once again be what Ronald Reagan called “That shining city on a hill.”  But until are willing to do the hard work that is necessary to be “exceptional” …”American Exceptionalism” is nothing more than a campaign throwaway line                   

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


The bugler is warming up in the wings.  He’s about to play “Taps” over the Romney campaign.
The latest Quinnipiac/New York Times/CBS News poll shows the president widening his lead over the former governor in key battleground states.  Among likely voters Obama leads Romney by 10 points in Ohio, 9 points in Florida and 14 points in Pennsylvania.  Romney trails the president on “likeability,” “ability to handle the economy,” “foreign affairs” and “understands my issues.”  Obama’s lead closely mirrors his standing in the polls at this time in 2008.
As if the polls weren’t bad enough; several Republican Party leaders along with a number of rank in file members are beginning to distance themselves from Romney.  They see the top of the ticket as a drag on their re-election prospects. 
Romney and his surrogates continue to put out a positive spin.  Romney says the campaign is going well and sees no reason for panic.  His surrogates question the validity of the polls and blame the biased main stream media for their woes.  You know a campaign is in trouble when they start blaming their shortcomings on the media.
So what happened?  Why has this successful CEO found himself trailing so badly in the polls?  There are actually two basic reasons for the campaign’s current predicament.
The struggling economy and massive unemployment should have given Romney more than enough ammunition to take down the president. But rather than stay on this message the campaign chased the daily news cycle like a shiny object.  Instead of talking about jobs, jobs and jobs they tried to spin every comment made by the president.  The result has been a muddled message that has failed to resonate with voters.  Meanwhile the president‘s campaign began with a defined message…and they stuck to it.  In fact they continue to stay on message today.  Their consistency has borne fruit in the polls.   
Then there is the candidate himself.  While Romney is undoubtedly a good husband, good father and outstanding CEO; he is a flawed politician.  He made the calculation to adopt the policies of his base rather than running on who he really is and what he really believes.  Romney is a moderate trying to appease a radically conservative base.  The result is a stiff and cautious candidate who has to think about what he should say rather than speaking from the heart.  The voters can easily sense that his remarks are not genuine.  And when a video catches him in an unguarded moment the repercussions are devastating.
Is it over?  Not yet!  But it is getting close.
Early voting has already started in 16 states so to some extent the die is already cast.  Romney may be able to alter the course of things in next week’s first debate.  But he will need to do extremely well and have the president implode to have any impact on the current course of events.
So how will we know after Tuesday if Romney still has a chance?  Karl Rove, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell will tell us. 
Republicans went into this campaign believing that they could take the Oval Office, increase their advantage in the House and maybe even take control of the Senate.  They are now acutely aware that if Romney continues to lag by these margins they may lose all three.  Karl Rove is no fool.  If Romney falters next week you will see Rove moving substantial amounts of his Crossroads GPS PAC money away from the presidential race to bolster tenuous House and Senate candidates.  Follow the money.
 The same is true of Boehner and McConnell.  Boehner wants to keep his House Speakership and McConnell wants to hang on to his Majority Leader position in the Senate.  If they think Romney is finished you will see both of them ramping up their support for House and Senate candidates while backing off their support for Romney.  Rove, Boehner and McConnell will let you know where Romney stands.
Mitt Romney can spin this current state of affairs  all he wants.  He can blame the biased main street media, inaccurate polling or the stars in the heavens.  His campaign and consequently the Republican Party are in serious trouble.  As they say:  “You can put lipstick on a pig…but it’s still a pig.”
Romney is whistling past the graveyard.
The bugler is getting ready.                  


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Ryan, Redistribution and Gas

PAUL RYAN – Mr. Ryan spoke out against the president’s policy on space exploration and demonstrated once again the Republican hypocrisy on the role of government in our society.  The President has all but pulled the government out of the space exploration business.  He wants private industry to step in and take the lead in our efforts to explore outer space.   Paul Ryan disagrees.  He says that if government gets out of the space business it won’t be long before “we see China looking down on us from the moon.”  Whatever happened to the good old American entrepreneurship that Mr. Ryan is so fond of?  Mr. Ryan wants government to fund our space exploration efforts to enable our future generations to compete in the race for space.  Yet he wants to cut government funding for teachers, education and Pell Grants that enable our future generations to compete here on earth.
REDISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH – Nothing sets conservatives’ hair on fire like a conversation about the redistribution of wealth.  Any hint of taking the hard earned money from one individual and handing to another is like waving a red cape in front of a raging bull.  But conservatives ignore the fact that redistribution of wealth has been an integral part of our economic structure from the beginning.  According to Jeffrey Bruner of Gannett News; the best example of this is the progressive federal income tax system that has been in place since 1913.  The system taxes the wealthy at a higher rate than poor.  Most Americans think that’s fair.  There are other examples of redistribution that play an important part of our society.  Congress collects taxes and then distributes that money as it sees fit.  Some funds may go to help only a few…research for the cure for rare disease…while other funds go to help everyone…roads, bridges, health care for seniors and weapons for the military.  When you rail against the concept of redistribution of wealth you are venting against one of the cornerstones of our capitalist society.
GOVERNMENT AND BUSINESS CAN WORK TOGETHER – There is a natural gas boom going on in our country.  Geologists have discovered that we have natural gas resources beneath the ground that rival the oil resources in Saudi Arabia.  Drilling companies are stumbling all over themselves to mine that gas for profit.  The process is called “fracking.”  It involves injecting large amounts of water and chemicals into the ground to break up the shale and free the gas. The development of this process has been hailed as a historic achievement by private industry.  The boom happened “away from the greedy grasp of Washington” claimed the American Enterprise Institute.  “The free market has worked its magic.” claimed the Barnett Shale Energy Education Council.  What these private industry advocates ignore is that from 1916 until the 1970’s the federal government was providing subsidies focused almost exclusively on increasing the production of natural gas and oil.  The Department of Energy began funding research into fracking and horizontal drilling in 1975. But it took more than 20 years to perfect the process.  The Department of Energy invested $137 million in gas research over three decades and the federal tax credit for drillers amounted to $10 billion between 1980 and 2002.  In 2010 gas and petroleum industries received $2 billion in federal subsidies with another $14 billion going to renewal energies.  What was once considered a “stupid” idea in 1981 is now a viable component of "energy independence." Our thanks to Kevin Begos of “Associated Press” for his work on this important story.                    

Monday, September 24, 2012

Romney Has Problem Telling The Truth

If you have followed the presidential campaign as closely as we have you cannot come away without the unsettling notion that Mitt Romney has a real problem with telling the truth.  It not so much what he says that we find disconcerting.  It’s more about the things that he conveniently leaves out when making his points.  The governor’s recently released tax returns offer a case in point.
Romney has repeatedly told us that over the past decade he has not paid less than 13% of his income in taxes.  His recently released 2011 returns show that he paid taxes at an effective rate of 14.1%; slightly more than the 13.9% he paid in 2010.  But what Romney doesn’t tell us is that he manipulated his 2011 return to conform to his political rhetoric. 
According to Brad Malt, the trustee of Romney’s blind trust, Mitt and his wife “limited their deductions of charitable contributions to conform to the governor’s statement in August, based on the January estimate of income, that he paid at least 13% in income taxes in each of the last 10 years.” 
The Romney’s gave $4.6 million in charitable donations in 2011 but claimed only $2.25 million in charitable deductions.  Had they taken the full amount in deductions the Romney’s would have paid a lower percentage in taxes than he had previously claimed; far lower than the percentage paid by average Americans.  Romney conveniently omitted that little tidbit of information.
This strategy of omission has become a pattern in the Romney narrative.
Romney granted CBS NEWS an interview which aired last night on “60 Minutes.” 
Romney criticized the president for adding $5 trillion dollars to the national debt.  He left out that a large portion of that debt increase came from the two unpaid wars, the unfunded prescription drug plan for seniors and the unfunded Bush tax cuts; all initiated by the Republicans under George W. Bush.
Romney said that he will reduce federal income tax rates across the board by 20%.  He said that he will make these reductions revenue neutral by eliminating loopholes.  What he left out was specifically which loopholes he intends to eliminate.  The only loopholes that would have any economic impact are very popular with the American people:  deductions for mortgage interest, charitable deductions, health care costs and state and local taxes.
Romney said that he would reduce the debt and deficit by either eliminating programs or turning them over to the states.  He neglected to tell us which programs he was talking about.  He also neglected to tell us that while moving some programs to the states will reduce the federal budget, the funding has to come from somewhere.  That means state and local taxes and fees will have to go up if we want to keep the programs alive.
Mitt Romney has a problem with “fudging” the truth.  He would probably call it a "difference of opinion." 
We would call it a lie.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Mitt Being Mitt

“95% of life is set up for you if you are born in this country.”
This is another quote from the now well documented tape of Mitt Romney addressing a group of well heeled supporters at a private gathering last May.  This is the same fund raiser where Romney dismissed 47% of the country as a bunch of government dependent moochers who are unwilling to take responsibility for their own lives.
There’s really nothing left to say.  The quotes speak for themselves.  Its Mitt being Mitt.  The man has lived in privilege for his entire life.  He has no concept of how to connect with the 99% of Americans that have never known “privilege.”  And he never will.
His campaign is a train wreck.  Instead of providing a clear, specific consistent view of where he wants to take the country, the Romney campaign spits and sputters; chasing the daily news cycle like a St. Bernard chasing a beach ball. He won’t give us any specifics because he doesn’t really understand what we need.
Yet he wants to be OUR president.
Mitt Romney is by all accounts a very successful businessman who has accumulated an enormous amount of wealth.  He has absolutely no idea why the rest of us haven’t done the same. 
After all: “95% of life is set up for you if you are born in this country.”
Just so we're clear...according to Mitt…if you run a successful business…then you DIDN’T build that.  It was all set up for you.  All you had to do was walk through the door.

Congress, Romney and the Middle East

CONGRESS - The most incompetent and ineffective Congress in our nation’s history will adjourn today to allow members time to campaign for re-election.  Congress usually adjourns in early to mid-October in election years.  But this Congress will go home earlier than any other Congress since 1960.  And why shouldn’t they take some extra time off.  It’s not like they have any interest in accomplishing anything.   This past week they failed to pass a bi-partisan farm bill that would have helped Midwestern farmers struggling due to the severe draught.  They had bi-partisan support for a jobs bill that would have helped returning veterans. But it failed by two votes when the Republicans who sponsored the bill chose to vote against it rather than give a win to the president.  So now they will return home to persuade voters to return them to Washington so they can do nothing all over again.
In fairness they did pass one bill before leaving.  They passed a continuing resolution to keep the government running…and their $174,900 paychecks coming…until next March.
ROMNEY – The Romney campaign is shifting gears…again.  Reeling from an avalanche of criticism over divisive remarks in which he wrote off 47% of the country; Romney now says that he wants to be president of “100%” of Americans.”  He also said that he embraces the president’s charges that he is the grandfather of “Obamacare” and that he would never round up 12 million immigrants and send them packing…statements that are directly contradictory to those has made throughout the campaign.  Clearly the Romney campaign is chasing the daily news cycle; a historically losing strategy that seems to envelop every failing campaign.  Ultimately the blame falls on Romney, who insiders say is micromanaging the day to day campaign operations.  Conservative Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, in a column titled:  “Romney Campaign Needs a New CEO”   called the Romney campaign a “rolling calamity.”
How is it that the guy who was supposed to be this incredibly successful CEO can’t run his own campaign?
MIDDLE EAST – Comedian Charles Krauthammer is at it again.  In his Washington Post opinion piece he shortsightedly blames the president for all the unrest in the Middle East.  In essence he says that Obama, by offering mutual respect to Muslims, has emboldened them toward acts of violence against the US and its allies.  The result of Obama’s belief “that his very election would revolutionize Middle East relations” is the “black flag of Salafism, of which al Qaida is a prominent element, raised over our embassies in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Sudan.”
Krauthammer’s attempt to lump all Muslims among the radical minority that are causing violence throughout the Middle East is nothing more than anti-Muslim bigotry.  He ignores the fact that 60% of all Muslims are under 25 years old, uneducated and unemployed.   56% of all Egyptian women cannot read.  These are young, uneducated impressionable people easily swayed by zealots and miss-information. 
The Middle East is going through a very chaotic time.  The Arab Spring has witnessed an uprising against the ham fisted rule of cruel dictators.  Change is messy, chaotic and often violent.  Did the fact that the United States elected its first minority president play some role in convincing the youth of the Middle East that change was possible?  Absolutely!  Did this president arrogantly believe that he, like all his predecessors, Democrat and Republican alike, would be the guy to bring peace to the Middle East?  Absolutely!  Could this president or any of his predecessors controlled the series of events that have transpired over the past several months?  Absolutely not!
So to Mr. Krauthammer we ask this one simple question.   What is your solution?  It is easy to fill a column with criticism; much more difficult to offer a slate of solutions.  Mr. Krauthammer’s buddy Mitt Romney is finding that out.
We suspect that Mr. Krauthammer would like us to return to the good old days of the Bush policies on foreign affairs.  The days when we used Hellfire missiles to till the fertile soil of the cradle of civilization in order to plant the seeds of democracy. We have seen firsthand just how well those policies worked. 
They are building a monument to them in lower Manhattan.   

Thursday, September 20, 2012


We were watching one of the national news channels yesterday and all they talked about was “%”.  It dawned on us that all this presidential campaign seems to be focused on is “%”.
The top 1%!
The remaining 99%!
What % Romney paid in taxes!
8.1% unemployed!
Obama’s #*% approval rating!
Romney’s #* disapproval rating!
The president #*% lead in battleground states!
Thanks to Governor Romney the latest “%” to flood the airwaves is the 47% that Governor Romney says do not pay taxes.  He went on to “in artfully” describe this 47% of the country as folks who “believe that they are victims, who believe the government has the responsibility to care for them , who believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to name it.”
We should point out that Romney is correct; 46.4% of Americans do not pay any federal income tax.
So who are these people that the governor says “don’t take care and responsibility for their own lives.”  According to the Tax Policy Center that 46.4% is made up of the following:
28.3% are WORKING Americans who due to tax credits and deductions DO NOT pay federal income tax but DO pay payroll taxes.
10.3% are elderly who don’t pay taxes because they are on social security
6.9% are non-elderly making less than $20,000 per year.
1% or “Other” which include some of the top 1% wage earners who do not pay any taxes due to losses or loopholes in the tax code.
This does not seem to be a bunch of moochers bent on scamming the system.
In keeping with our “%” theme party here’s another “%” for you to consider.
Romney and a lot of conservatives say that the top 1% wage earners pay an overwhelming % of all the taxes paid in this country.  That is factually not true.  We do have a progressive federal tax system in this country.  The more you earn the higher % of your earnings you pay in federal taxes.
But that is not the case with state and local taxes.  State and local taxes are regressive.  Those making under $20,000 pay 12.3% of their income in state and local taxes while the top 1% wage earners pay 7.9%.
The bottom line is those at the top earn 21.0% of all income generated in the country and pay 21.6% of all federal, state and local taxes.  Those at the bottom earn 3.4% of the nation’s income and pay 2.1% of the nation’s taxes.
The Romney campaign has tried to make this campaign about two things: 1) a referendum on the president’s policies and 2) tax cuts.  He hasn’t given us anything in the way of specifics as to how he would run the country.  He just wants us to believe that half of the country is mooching off the hard work of the other half.  The moochers support the president and his big government ideas.
So here are one more set of “%” for you and the governor to consider…
According to the latest polls the governor trails the president by 7 percentage points in Ohio and Virginia and by 5 percentage points in Florida.  He trails the president by 7 percentage points nationally.
Romney’s strategy isn’t working.  If he wants to win he needs to stop insulting the 47% and provide some specifics on how he intends to run this country.     

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Play Until The Whistle Blows

Democrats are feeling pretty good about themselves.  By every historical measurement their candidate should be packing up the Resolute Desk.  A struggling economy, 8+% unemployment, rising poverty, an unwinnable war, American troops being murdered by their partners, protests in the Middle East…would normally serve as the obituary for an incumbent president.
Yet remarkably their guy is leading in the polls.  In fact his lead is growing.  His favorability is high.  And for the first time in this campaign he is no longer trailing his challenger on the number one issue in the eyes of the voters...his handling of the economy.
How does this happen?
It happens when your opponent is a flawed candidate counseled by an incompetent campaign staff.  From a tepid convention, to omitting the troops in his acceptance speech, to the ill timed and unbelievably uninformed news conference amidst the murder of our Libyan ambassador, to public infighting among the staff to calling the 47% of Americans who don’t pay taxes slackers who fail to take responsibility for their own lives…Mitt Romney has done everything in his power to hand the president a second term.  He has single handedly managed to do the one thing the president could not do himself.  He has managed to make the narrative about everything and anything but the number one issue in the eyes of the voters…the president’s handling of the economy.  The struggling economy is the president’s Achilles heel and Romney hasn’t come close to hitting it.  Instead of talking about economic policy and the president’s record we see Romney appearing on “Live with Kelly (Rippa) and Michael (Strahan)” debating the qualities of Snookie vs. Honey Boo Boo.  For the record, Romney chose Snookie.    
Mitt Romney and his campaign have performed so badly that prominent conservatives have joined Democrats in piling on.  Bill Kristal, George Will, Peggy Noonan, David Brooks and Rush Limbaugh have joined a host of conservative politicians in blasting the competency of the campaign.  And since every campaign is by its very nature an extension of the candidate; this scathing criticism falls at Romney’s feet.  This was the guy who was supposed to be the “fixer.”  If anything need fixing its Romney’s campaign.
So given the current course of the campaign…why shouldn’t Democrats be felling pretty good.
Because as someone once famously said:  “It ain’t over until it’s over.”
In spite of the comedy of errors emanating from the Romney campaign; Mitt Romney is still very much in this.  There are 48 days left until the election and 48 different things might happen that could alter the current trajectory of this election.  There are still three debates to negotiate.  We have no idea of the effect that new voters ID laws in 37 states will have on voter turnout.  And if Israel attacks Iran will we be drawn into another war?  Any of these things…and hundreds more could alter the face of this election.  If you don’t believe us check out the affect recent events in the Middle East have had on the opinions of likely voters. 
Two weeks ago the President’s handling of foreign policy was approved of by 54% of likely voters.  Even though the president had no control over the release of a distasteful video; and had no control over the radicals who stormed the embassies and murdered four Americans; his 54% approval rating on foreign policy dropped to 49%. 
If you played organized sports you were always taught that you never let up until the whistle blows.  You never stop playing until the final out is recorded.  If you slack off…if you let up…you might get hurt…and you might lose.  Democrats would be wise to heed that advice.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"Romney Unplugged" Overshadows A Bigger Story

There are two major stories in today’s news.  One will receive will receive front page prominence in the media.  The other, though far more important will be largely ignored.
So let’s start with the front page news.
Mitt Romney’s supporters and detractors have called upon the governor to pull back the curtain…to allow voters a peek inside the candidate.  To allow voters to understand what Mitt Romney really believes deep within his core.  Yesterday they got their wish.
Speaking to a private gathering of wealthy supporters Mitt Romney said the following:
“ There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what.  There are 47% of the people who are with him, who are dependent on the government, who believe that…that they are victims, who believe that the government has the responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, you name it.  That’s an entitlement and government should give it to them.  And they will vote for this president no matter what.  I mean the president starts off with 48, 49%...he starts off with a huge number.  These people pay no income tax.  47% of Americans pay no income tax.  So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect...My job is not to worry about those people.  I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
If we are to take Mitt Romney at his word then we must infer that he sees half of the country as slackers who have failed to take responsibility for their lives and live under the expectation that the government should assume responsibility for their care and feeding.  These are the Obama supporters. 
That will come as quite a shock to the millions of Americans, many of whom are Republicans, living on the social safety net through no fault of their own.  It will come as quite a shock to the 16 million elderly Americans, many of whom are Republicans, who avoid paying federal taxes because they live on Social Security and Medicaid.  It will come as a shock to the millions of small businesses and large corporations, many of whom donate to Romney’s campaign war chest, who avoid paying federal taxes due to business losses or legal loopholes in the tax code.
But what struck us even more than the audacity of Romney’s comments was the casual way in which he made them.  This was not the stilted, robotic candidate who appears so cold, stiff and careful in front of the cameras.  This was a candidate who was very comfortable among his peers; speaking in a casual conversational manner.  This was Romney unplugged.  This was the disconnected Thurston Howell III that many of us long expected him to be.  This was not a gaff or a miss-statement.  This was Romney really being Romney.
The other far more important story concerns our troops serving in Afghanistan.
Yesterday the United States announced that US and NATO forces would be suspending joint operations with Afghan troops.  The move comes after Afghan police on Sunday killed four American soldiers and a gunman in an Afghan militia uniform killed two British soldiers earlier in the day.  51 international troops have been murdered by their Afghan “partners” since the first of the year.
The president sent an additional 30,000 troops into the fray to help secure the country and ostensibly to allow the US military time to train the Afghans so that they could provide their own security.  The goal was to complete the task and reduce our military presence in country by 2014.  This apparent lack of trust between NATO coalition forces and our Afghan “partners” calls that strategy into question.
As we have said so many times before…it is time to bring our troops home.  There is no “military victory” that justifies supporting a government whose troops are murdering our military men and women. 
This war is lost.  When we leave…and we will eventually leave…the country will return to a society steeped in the 4th century.  We are only here because no politician is willing to admit that the war is lost and it’s time to bring our troops home.
If only we still had the military draft still in place.  For if we still had the draft, the cries from American mothers to bring their sons and daughters home would have ended this senseless war years ago. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

This & That

As the violence in the Middle East increased over the weekend so too did Republican criticism of the president’s foreign policy.  Republicans took to the Sunday talk shows to lay blame for the unrest on the president. They said that president’s “weak” “apologetic” and “confusing policies have emboldened our enemies.  “They don’t respect us.  They don’t fear us” said ranking Republican Congressman Peter King on Sunday’s “Meet the Press.”
So let’s take a look at the facts.
“Weak”—the president tripled the troops in Afghanistan, ramped up the drone attacks which have decimated Al Qaeda leadership and increased the use of Special Ops Forces to disrupt the flow of arms, supplies and intelligence to our enemies.  The president eliminated Osama bin Laden.
“Apologetic”--NBC NEWS went back and examined all of the president’s foreign policy speeches over the past 3 ½ years.  They could not find one instance where the president apologized for America’s actions.  The president admitted that we made mistakes.  That’s not an apology…that’s honesty.
“Confusing”—the president has consistently said throughout his term that he would end the war in Iraq, take the fight to Al Qaeda and use all means necessary to defend American interests and values.  History shows that he has kept his word.
If Republicans wish to misguidedly blame this president for the current unrest in the Middle East, then they certainly have that right.  But if we follow their logic we would naturally expect them to blame the policies of George W. Bush for the attacks on the World Trade Center and a decade of civil violence in Iraq…right?   
CAMPAIGN – The Romney campaign continues to chase shiny objects while party leaders shake their heads.  The latest word out of Boston is to ignore the candidates plummeting poll numbers because “they are biased.”  They also said that voters should “focus only on the national polls and ignore those taken in the individual states.”...a theory that defies decades of campaign strategy.  Boston also blamed Obama for what they perceived as the miss-treatment of the producer of the amateur film that sparked the Middle East uprising.  California law enforcement officers brought the film’s producer, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula in for questioning and later released him.  Nakoula was convicted in 2010 for bank fraud.  His conviction included a 5 year ban from using computers or the internet. He was questioned under the pretense that his production of the film may have been in violation of his probation.  Conservatives blamed Obama for “the brown shirts violating Nakoula's right to express his Christian beliefs.”
Romney is a flawed candidate whose campaign is in disarray.  These are not our words.  These are the words uttered by Rupert Murdock, the Wall Street Journal, Erik Ericson, Rush Limbaugh, and a host of conservative leaders and pundits.
VOTER FRAUD – The Pennsylvania State Supreme Court is expected to rule this week on the state’s controversial voter identification law.  If the law is allowed to stand an estimated 750,000 Pennsylvanians who voted in the last election will not be allowed to vote in this one.
News21 is a national investigative reporting project funded by the Carnegie Corp. of New York and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.  They conducted an exhaustive public records search across all fifty states to determine once and for all if voter fraud did in fact exist. 
According to Natasha Khan and Corbin Carson of News21: “A News21 analysis of the 2,068 alleged election-fraud cases nationwide since 2000 shows that, while fraud has occurred, the rate is infinitesimal.  In addition, the analysis shows that in-person voter impersonation on Election Day, which prompted 37 state legislatures to enact or consider tough voter ID laws, is virtually nonexistent.” 
News21’s analysis turned up 10 cases of voter impersonation since 2000.  With 146 million registered voters in the US that amounts to one out of every 15 million prospective voters.
So given the infinitesimal number of actual cases of voter fraud; why are Republican controlled state legislatures imposing these new voter ID laws?  Is it racism, bigotry, fear, cronyism or just typical dirty politics?  The correct answer is…all of the above.  

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Neo-Cons Can Have Krauthammer...We'll Take Obama

If you are among those that enjoy reading the funny papers with your morning coffee you should check out Charles Krauthammer’s take on Obama’s Iranian policy.  When viewed through the prism of the violent protests erupting throughout the Middle East, Mr. Krauthammer’s comments are so stunningly superficial that they would be laughable if they weren’t so dangerous.
The president has stated that a nuclear armed Iran is unacceptable to the United States.  He, along with a number of coalition partners has implemented tough economic sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy.  He has authorized cyber attacks that have slowed the development of Iran’s nuclear capability.  And he has authorized the CIA, or perhaps the Israeli’s, to take out key scientists and engineers working on the Iranian nuclear program.   The plan is straight forward…slow Iran’s nuclear development long enough for the sanctions to take affect…to make life so miserable for Iranian people that they rise up and bring the program down themselves.  If that strategy fails, the president has said that all options, including the use of military force, are on the table.     
Mr. Krauthammer apparently disagrees with the president’s Iranian policy.  Quoting Krauthammer: “A policy so incoherent, so knowingly and obviously contradictory, is a declaration of weakness and passivity.  And this, as Anthony Cordsman, James Phillips and others have argued, can increase the chance of war.”  Mr. Krauthammer along with Mr. Romney and their neo-conservative friends believe that the only way to stop Iran’s nuclear development, as John McCain so famously said, is to “bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.”
Krauthammer and his neo-con pals are always eager to “go all cowboy” whenever the opportunity occurs.  There is nothing they seem to like better than to unleash the new toys that the procurement boys have placed at their disposal.  Nothing says “Made in America” like a Hellfire missile.
The problem with this reckless neo-con strategy is that when you finally decide to pull that trigger you must be prepared for the consequences.  Dick Cheney one told us that the Iraqis would greet our soldiers like the French welcoming the liberators in WWII.  He neglected to tell us that the flag waving crowd that cheered as the American military rolled into Bagdad quickly turned into a riotous, looting mob.  “Mission Accomplished” drug on for a decade and thousands of American lives were subsequently lost.  Today Iraq is more likely to embrace Iran than they are the liberators from the United States. 
If the United States conducts a military strike against Iran, the conflagration that will erupt in the region will make this week’s violent protests look like a Sunday picnic.  And the thousands of missile strikes that Iran surrogates Hamas and Hezbollah will rain down on Israel will make Bush’s “Shock and Awe” look like a fireworks display at a county fair.  You cannot use military force without considering the consequences and developing an exit strategy.  Krauthammer and the neo-cons have ignored that part of the equation.
It is easy to beat the war drums from the comfort of one’s living room.  But those who play that game have little stomach for the realities of war. 
You may recall that the common criticism conservatives like to levy against this president is that he is “weak” “apologetic to our enemies” and likes to “lead from behind.”  Conservatives ripped into Obama for not helping the protestors in Egypt.  They said he was slow to assist the rebels in Libya.   And they blasted him for standing by while tens of thousands were slaughtered by the Assad regime in Syria. 
Now, having witnessed the violent attacks against our embassies, these same conservatives are questioning whether Washington acted unwisely by siding with protestors and the rebels.  They were for the rebels before they were against them.  The president does not have the luxury of changing his mind once he gives the order to fire.  Once you pull the trigger you can’t put the bullet back into the gun.  The president gets it.  The neo-cons don’t.
This president has shown time and time again that he is not afraid to use military force when necessary.  Each of the drone attacks which decimated Al Qaeda and their leadership was personally authorized by this president.  This president formed a coalition whose air strikes enabled the rebels to remove Kaddafi without placing American troops in harm’s way.  Special Operation Forces have been instrumental in stemming the flow of weapons into Syria from Iran.  It was this president that authorized those missions.  And it was this president who risked his presidency by ordering Seal Team Six to take out bin Laden.
The difference between this president and the neo-cons is that he goes about the country’s business calmly, thoughtfully and quietly. You won’t find any “Mission Accomplished” banners hanging from aircraft carriers under this president.
Democracy is not easy to achieve.  A void occurs when dictators fall and those who seek democracy struggle find their footing.  Competing factions step into the breach.  The process is ugly and often violent.  Patience, thoughtfulness and a cool head are required. This president has demonstrated those qualities.  His record justifies our support.
So as far as Iran is concerned…we’ll put our faith in Obama.  The neo-cons can have Krauthammer.            

Friday, September 14, 2012

Mitt Romney Is Dangerous

Mitt Romney is a dangerous man.  His reckless bluff and bluster over foreign policy makes this point abundantly clear. 
We will let others decide whether his unconscionable behavior of late stems from a deep seated hatred of Muslims or a desperate attempt to win political points.  The bottom line is that at a time of international unrest and the murder of four American citizens Romney turned to politics.
 Mr. Romney was so eager to demonstrate his toughness to his base that he put politics ahead of country.  So eager was he to wield his sword against the misguided few who stormed the compounds in Cairo and Libya that he ignored the overriding fact that the United States cannot win a war against a billion Muslims.  His actions in a time of crisis call into question his ability to lead.  His doubling down on the lie the very next day calls into question his character.       
Look at a map of the world.  Examine the pictures on your TV.  American embassies in North Africa and the Middle East are under siege.  Muslims in twelve countries; from Morocco to Indonesia are rising up in violent protest over the disgusting depiction of the prophet Mohammed in an amateur film.   Romney would order in the Marines to tamp out the unrest.  Mitt Romney would have boots on the ground in every one of these countries. Imagine Iraq or Afghanistan…times ten…bloodshed and violent uprisings in the streets…more American lives lost...more American treasure wasted.  This is Mitt Romney’s world view.
Mitt Romney likes to throw out comments like:  “Obama is leading from behind”…’Obama’s failed foreign policies.”…”Obama has made us weaker.”  He is good at criticizing the president.  But when it comes to telling us his own foreign policy ideas he offers nothing but saber rattling rants.   
What would Romney have president Obama do in this particular situation?  Send in the Marines and order them to start mowing down protesters?  Based on his rhetoric the answer is “Yes.”
It’s easy to go all “Rambo” about war when you don’t have to fight it.  It’s easy to order troops into battle when you don’t have to do it.  It’s a different story when you are the man calling the shots…sending kids into harm’s way.  Just ask any president who has ever done it.  We can’t help but wonder if Romney would put politics ahead of pragmatism in making that decision.   
Mitt Romney is a dangerous man.  And recent polls show that the American people are starting to understand that fact.  The just released Wall Street Journal polls show Obama leading Romney by 5 points in Virginia and Florida and by 7 points in Ohio.  Romney MUST win two of these key states to win the election.
Historian Craig Shirley tells us that during times of national crisis the public rallies round the president:  FDR after Pearl Harbor, JFK after the Cuban Missile Crisis, Jimmy Carter after the failed rescue mission, and George W. Bush after 9/11.  The murder of the Libyan Ambassador and three US citizens was one of those times.  Instead of joining all Americans in unified support behind the president Mitt Romney chose to attack…not even having the decency to wait until after the next of kin had been notified. 
Mitt Romney put his political future ahead of his country.  That is dangerous.     

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Romney Places Politcal Aspirations Ahead Of Country

On April 24, 1980 President Jimmy Carter authorized the US military to conduct a rescue operation on Iranian soil.  The purpose of the mission was to rescue 52 Americans who were being held hostage in the American embassy by Iranian students.  The mission failed when two of the helicopters carrying the strike force crashed killing 8 servicemen.
Then candidate Ronald Reagan could have used incident as a political opportunity to attack President Carter’s leadership.  Instead he chose to back the president’s attempt to rescue the hostages and joined with President Carter in paying tribute to the servicemen who had lost their lives.
We can now say with all certainty that Mitt Romney is no Ronald Reagan.
Twelve hours after issuing a reckless and factually untrue statement critical of the president’s handling of the international incident in Benghazi, Mitt Romney repeated his false assertions.  Even after having the time to assess the true series of events that took place at the Libyan consulate, Romney chose to repeat his lies for the sole purpose of gaining political advantage.
The past several weeks have been nothing but a disaster for the Romney campaign.  His overseas trip was supposed to be an exhibition of his foreign policy credentials.  Instead he offended our closest ally on the eve of the Olympics.  The Republican Convention was supposed to give him a bump in the polls.  It didn’t.  His acceptance speech was supposed to be the platform where he laid out his specific vision for the country.  It wasn’t.  Suddenly what only days earlier has been a tight race turned into a 6 point lead for the President.  
The leaders of Romney’s own party began to publically question his competence; imploring him to be more specific and more aggressive.    Conservative pundits like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity chimed in.  Conservative talk show host Laura Ingram offered the most scathing commentary saying:  “If the Republican Party and Mitt Romney cannot defeat this president with this record…then they should shut the party down and start over with all new people.”
Suddenly, in the midst of all this criticism the riots in Cairo and Benghazi appeared like shiny objects before Romney’s eyes.  So eager was he to calm the voices of dissent among the Republican faithful that he recklessly jumped into the fray.  Instead of appearing “presidential” he looked desperate.  He chose to put his failing political aspirations ahead of the country.  He showed a lack of character and judgment.  And though he may posess all the skills necessary to captain a successful business in corporate America; he has shown us once again that is sorly lacking the characteristics necessary to successfully navigate international waters. 

There is more to being president than analyzing balance sheets and formulating a successful business plan.  Mitt Romney just learned that lesson the hard way.         
Mitt Romney has every right to question and criticize the president’s foreign policy.  But the time and the place for that debate is not in the middle of an incendiary international incident where American lives are being lost.
Mitt Romney still has time to win this election.  But if President Romney exhibits the same reckless behavior in handling our foreign affairs as candidate Romney did during the past 24 hours…his inauguration will mark the beginning of a very, very dangerous and volatile period for our country.            

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Romney Unfit To Serve

The office of President of the United States requires a uniquely talented individual.  It requires a person with the intellect and the capacity to effectively respond to unforeseen events, the disposition of which may have worldwide implications.  It requires a composed, thoughtful individual with the spine to make the tough choices and the light touch of a seasoned diplomat. 
Over the past twenty four hours Mitt Romney has proven that he is not that individual.
As you probably know the US Ambassador to Libya and three of his security personnel were killed yesterday when armed protestors stormed the US compound in Benghazi. 
The protest was in response to an amateur video released in the US which depicts the prophet Mohammed in a series of disgusting circumstances. No one knew anything about the video until Terry Jones, the radical Gainesville, Florida pastor whose threats to burn the Koran set off widespread violence in Afghanistan, started to promote its content. The subject matter of the video was picked up by hard-line radicals throughout the Middle East.  Apparently those wishing to discredit the US spread the false rumor that this was some sort of blockbuster movie scheduled to be premiered on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

The lie spread like wildfire, infuriating Muslims throughout the Arab world.  Protests ensued in both Cairo and Benghazi.  The protestors attacking the Benghazi mission were armed with machine guns and RPGs.  They ransacked the building and set the place on fire.  Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three of his staff died in the confrontation.
The Obama administration understood the potentially explosive nature of the situation.  The Cairo embassy tried to diffuse the brewing  tension by issuing a statement condemning the video and supporting the peaceful practice of all religions.  It is important to note that this statement was issued PRIOR to the violent attacks on the American embassies. 
AFTER the attacks occurred and the world learned of the deaths of the US citizens, Mitt Romney issued the following statement: 
“I am outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Cairo and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi.  It’s disgraceful that the Obama Administrations first response was not to condemn the attacks on our diplomatic missions but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”
So eager was Governor Romney to score political points over the deaths of innocent Americans that he either failed to notice that the Cairo embassy's statement in support of law abiding Muslims was made BEFORE the attacks occurred…or he was intentionally twisting the facts for political gain.  

Once all of the details were confirmed, President Obama condemned the attacks saying in part: “We will not waiver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act…and make no mistake justice will be done.”
The Middle East is a tinder box.  Think Iran 1979.  American military personnel and diplomatic envoys live in a constant state of heightened alert.  Any miss step could have far reaching consequences not favorable to the United States.  Yet here is the man who could be our next president shooting off his mouth for political gain. 
Romney’s callus and craven attempt to politicize the deaths of American citizens is unconscionable.  And it is yet another example of why he is unfit to serve as President of the United States.