Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Auto Industry Refutes Romney's Lies

The pundits say that Hurricane Sandy has temporarily frozen the presidential campaign in place effectively halting the momentum that the Romney Campaign had been building since the first debate.
That may be true.
But Hurricane Sandy has not stopped the lies and false ads emanating from the governor’s campaign.
Romney desperately needs to win Ohio.  He can still win without Ohio but the road to victory gets much tougher without the Buckeye state.  And as we all know, no republican has ever won the white House without taking Ohio.
Romney’s main impediment in winning the state is the auto bailout.  The president supported the bailout.  Romney opposed it.  One out of every eight jobs in Ohio is related to the auto industry.  For those scoring at home…game, set match Obama.   
Romney is so desperate to win Ohio that he has made any number of sketchy claims to stem the tide. 
He started by trying to take credit for the bailout by saying that the managed bankruptcy was his idea and that the president was simply following his lead.  Now everyone, other than those whose sole source of news is FOXNEWS, knows that Romney’s claim is simply a lie.
His next attempt came on the stump.  Romney said that he had just read “somewhere” that Jeep was moving its entire production to China.  Fact checkers called Romney on the lie noting that Jeep had no intention of moving American operations and jobs overseas.  The demand for Jeeps, thanks to the auto bailout has been growing both here and abroad.  The demand for Jeeps in China is huge.  Jeep plans on opening operations in China and hiring Chinese workers to staff the plant.  Jeep is also expanding operations in the US that will generate 1,100 new jobs.
But the Romney Campaign has said publically that they were not going to allow fact checkers to run their campaign.  In keeping with that promise; instead of retracting their comments they began running the lie on television ads.
The ads were met by a wave of media criticism.  The independent fact checking group, gave the ad a “Pants on Fire rating.
Undaunted, the Romney Campaign doubled down.  Not only are they still running the Jeep television ads but they began running radio ads which repeated the lie and added that GM plans to double the number of cars built in China. 
The message is clear.  Obama is so bad for the auto industry that Jeep and GM are shifting American jobs to China.
Finally, a voice of reason can now be heard in response to the Romney lies.
Chrysler Senior Vice President Gualberto Ranieri denied any possibility that US production would be affected writing: “Let’s set the record straight: Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China.”
GM spokesman Greg Martin said:  “The ad is cynical campaign politics at its worst.  We think that creating jobs in the US and repatriating profits back in this country should be a source of bi-partisan pride.” He went on to say that Romney’s ads show that the candidate is “bereft of any fundamental understanding of the global automotive industry…All global manufacturers, whether General Motors, Ford, Chrysler or VW, build historically in the markets in which we sell.”
It should be noted that it is quite extraordinary for the leaders of any industry to refute the statements or ads coming out of any campaign.  But Romney’s false statements were unnerving shareholders and raising unfounded questions.  Thus, blatant boldfaced lies often require a strong response.   
Neither rain nor sleet nor hail nor Hurricane Sandy can stop Mitt Romney from lying to the American people.


"Sandy" Makes The Case For Effective Government

We have been awestruck by the massive destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.  The devastation in Atlantic City, the carnage in Seaside Heights and the war zone that once was Breezy Point are incredible.  Reports this morning estimate that damages will reach $50 billion dollars; second only to Hurricane Katrina’s $106 billion.
As the storm dissipates and the focus turns from rescue to what will most certainly be a long and arduous recovery, we are mindful of the political rhetoric that played out before the storm came crashing down on the east coast.
We heard a lot of talk from small government conservatives about the evils of big government.  We heard a lot of talk about reducing the size of government.  We heard about defunding FEMA and repealing the collective bargaining rights of public employees.  We heard about the need cut government programs and reduce government spending.  We heard about the evils of the redistribution of wealth.  And last but certainly not least, we heard small government conservatives talk about “I” and “My” and how government was infringing on our individual rights.
We haven’t heard a lot from small government conservatives the past few days.  As the devastating realities of Hurricane Sandy come to light they seem strangely quiet.
Oh, there are some, like the Wall Street Journal who believe that Obama and the federal government should stay out of the Hurricane Sandy fray because:  “Energetic governors and mayors are best equipped to handle disaster relief because they know their cities and neighborhoods far better than the fed ever will.”  But that’s not what we are hearing from the governors and mayors whose states and cities have been impacted by the storm. 
New Jersey has been the hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy.  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is a fiscally conservative Republican and avowed supporter of Governor Romney.  In fact Governor Christie gave the keynote address at the Republican National Convention that handed Romney the party’s nomination.  By all accounts Governor Christie is a straight shooter; a man willing to put principle ahead of politics.  When FOX NEWS asked Christie if Governor Romney would be touring the storm damage; Christie said he had no interest.  He said that with all the damage and destruction his state is facing at this moment anyone who thinks he gives a damn about presidential politics doesn’t know him very well.
But Governor Christie has been effusive in his praise of the president and of FEMA for their professionalism and support in helping him and his citizens through this difficult time.  He has called upon the National Guard and Army Corps of Engineers for assistance.   In fact Christie will be touring the storm damage with the president today. 
So why is Christie touring the area with the president after having dissed any notion of a similar event with his chosen candidate, Mitt Romney?  Because the president will provide huge sums of money, manpower and support that will help Christie rebuild his state. Romney brings nothing more than a photo op and a traffic jam. 
Everyone knows that if the president and FEMA were not making a substantive contribution to Christie’s recovery efforts, Christie would tell them to go to hell in a heartbeat.   
Austerity measures can have grave consequences.  Imagine the citizens of New Jersey left to bear the brunt and cost of Hurricane Sandy on their own.  Governor Christie gets it.  But many conservatives don’t.      
This is what happens when radical ideology and reckless rhetoric meet the real world.  The firemen that small government conservatives wanted to lay off are the same ones who pulled people from their burning homes in Breezy Point.  The first responders who risked their lives to air lift trapped homeowners in Atlantic City out of harm’s way were the same one’s whose pensions small government conservatives wanted to cut.  And those EMT’s and paramedics who rescued at risk infants from New York city hospitals when their generators quit are the same one whose collective bargaining rights small government conservatives couldn’t wait terminate.
Our guess is that none of those firefighters, first responders, EMT’s or paramedics were asking victims if they were members of the Tea Party.
America works better when federal, state and local governments work hand in hand…neighbor helping neighbor…friends and family helping each other.  The collective “WE” always works better than the isolated “I.”
Are we using Hurricane Sandy to engage in a bit of political demagoguery?  Damn right!  Because we remember the conservative rhetoric that would leave the state of New Jersey on its own.  

So to all our conservative friends who believe that the federal government doesn’t fix problems…it IS the problem. 

To all those who  kneel at the alter of Grover Nordquist and want to "reduce government to the size that you could drown it in a bathtub." 

As you look down from your lofty perch at the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Sandy remember these words: 

Perhaps “you DID build that”...
...but you’re sure has hell going to need the government to help you rebuild it.
Don't believe us...ask the victims.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Romney Uses Tragedy To Score Cheap Political Points...Again!

As the sun rises America looks to the east to assess the damage left in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.  The winds are still too strong to get an aerial view of the situation and this morning’s 9AM high tide is certain to add more misery to an already catastrophic situation.   
What we do know that Sandy is the largest and most destructive storm in our history.  7 million are without power.  Lower Manhattan is struggling to recover from a 13 foot storm surge.  Atlantic City has been damaged to the extent that it will take years to recover economically.  And this assessment of coastal devastation does not take into account the damage that is certain to befall Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio as Sandy collides with an arctic cold front moving in from the north.  Blizzard conditions have enveloped the Midwest as Sandy moves inland wreaking havoc on everything in its path.
On Monday the Romney Campaign announced that it would suspend its scheduled campaign events for Monday and Tuesday in deference to the storm victims…
That is until the Romney Campaign changed its mind later that same day.
As we were writing the previous post late last night we noticed CNN reporting that Romney will attend a  an event this morning that his campaign is billing as a “storm relief event” for those affected by Hurricane Sandy.  Romney will serve as host and will be joined by racecar driver Richard Petty and country music star Randy Owen.  We could not help notice that the governor has chosen to stage this event at the epicenter of the storm damage…Kettering, Ohio.
While Romney is raising relief funds in Ohio his running mate will be dropping by their campaign offices in Lacrosse and Hudson Wisconsin to public thank volunteers for collecting items for storm relief.  For those who are unaware…Wisconsin is another battleground state that is critical to Romney’s election prospects.
Meanwhile, Romney’s wife Ann will visit offices in Green Bay, Wisconsin and Davenport, Iowa before heading to a relief rally in Des Moines.  As you might have guessed; the state of Iowa is not expected to suffer any coastal erosion at the hands of Hurricane Sandy.  But the Romney Campaign does need to shore up any erosion of support in this key swing state.
Far be it for us to suggest that the governor is staging events in key swing states in order to garner cheap political points.  We’d like to believe that Romney is holding these events for truly well intentioned reasons.  But Romney’s history suggests that he is not above politicizing a tragedy for personal political gain.
After all this is the same guy who was in such a lather to gain political points off the storming of our embassies in Cairo and Benghazi that he rushed to stage the infamous press conference where he was wrong on the facts and tone deaf on the message.  This is also the same guy who tried to make cheap political points by using the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and Navy Seal Glen Doherty in stump speeches.  The parents of both Stevens and Doherty called on Romney to stop politicizing their son’s tragic deaths.
One thing that you can count on with Mitt Romney; he is consistent.  He will take a firm stand on an issue one day and then sure as rain take just the opposite view a few days later.  You can also bet the ranch that if there is a tragedy to be mined for cheap political points…Romney will be there.                         

Monday, October 29, 2012

Romney's Disaster Relief Plan: "You're On Your Own"

Hurricane Sandy is battering the Mid-Atlantic coast.  Lower Manhattan is flooded.   The Atlantic City Boardwalk has collapsed.  3.6 million are without power.  The storm is so massive that fifteen states have requested national disaster area status making them eligible for FEMA assistance.
These are just the initial reports received immediately after Sandy made landfall at 8:00 this evening.  First responders will have to wait until sunrise to assess the full damage of this storm.  Federal, state and local officials will coordinate rescue and restoration efforts once storm has passed and the flood surge recedes.
As we watched the events of the day unfold we were struck by the co-operation between federal and local authorities in preparing for the storm.  We watched as one governor after another took to the podium to update their constituents on the status of the storm.  Politics took a back seat.  Each and every one of them complimented the president and FEMA officials for their organization and support.  There was genuine relief in knowing that the federal government was going to be there to help dig through the rubble once the storm had passed.
As we follow this story we can’t help but wonder how things on the ground would look if Mitt Romney had his way.
During one of the Republican Primary debates last June Romney was asked what he would do to keep FEMA solvent.  Romney said that we should cut government spending and “send it back to the states…And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector…that’s even better.”  When asked if he was serious about moving disaster relief to the states he said he was; “It’s simply immoral in my view for us to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids…”  It’s not often that you hear a politician say that it is immoral to pay for disaster relief. 
Romney is just one in a long line of conservatives who complain about big government but are the first to seek government assistance when disaster strikes.  While Romney was Governor of Massachusetts he had to deal with two catastrophic events: one a serious storm and the other a chemical plant explosion.  Each time Romney asked for federal assistance even though he was sitting on millions in unspent FEMA relief funds that Massachusetts was given for taking in displaced Katrina victims.  He even refused to use the more than one billion he had in cash reserves.  His spokesman said that the state would not consider spending its own money until it was clear how much cash the federal government would give.
Moving disaster relief to the states makes no sense.  Natural disasters usually cross state boarders.  They require a coordination of resources: police, fire, emergency rescue just to name a few.  Without a unified chain of command you would have a disjointed response that would be ineffective, inefficient and could conceivably make a dangerous situation even worse.  Hurricane Sandy has impacted at least 15 states.  Imagine the inefficiency and confusion if 15 states were operating on their own.
And then of course there is the matter of how the states would pay for it.  Many states do not have the financial resources to fund their own FEMA.  Their only recourse would be to raise state, local and property taxes.  Even that might not be enough to properly fund local needs.  While this might make Romney’s federal budget look a little better; how does that benefit the local citizenry?
This is just another example of what happens when insane ideology and ridiculous rhetoric meet the real world.   

Hurricane Sandy Impacts Election

Hurricane Sandy is expected to make landfall today.  The massive storm packing 80 mile per hour winds, a foot of rain and lethal storm surge will impact some 50 million people in the most heavily populated corridor in the nation.  Residents in New York City, Long Island, New Jersey and other coastal lowlands have been ordered to evacuate. The New York City transit system has been closed and thousands of flights in and out of the east coast cancelled.  Even the New York Stock Exchange, which has stubbornly refused to bow to the forces of nature in the past, has closed.  Millions are expected to be without power for weeks.
What makes this storm so unique is that its east west trajectory takes it right into the path of a winter storm moving in from the west and cold air moving in from the arctic.  The resulting collision could result in blizzard conditions producing up to two feet of snow as far east as Kentucky, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
While our thoughts and prayers are with the communities that stand in the storm’s path, we are in the business of politics.  And so the political question is: what impacts, if any will Hurricane Sandy have on this race?
The president has a job to do.  He has to run a government.  That could work in his favor.  Not to be cynical, but the storm will present the president with an opportunity. The president will have the advantage of appearing presidential as he visits FEMA control offices throughout the impacted areas; consoling those who have suffered the most and promising that federal and state assistance is on the way.  He will have the opportunity to work hand in hand with state governors to assure that assistance is delivered quickly and efficiently.
Hurricane Sandy could prove to be the president’s undoing as well.  He can’t be out on the stump when a natural disaster is about to hit the country.  He has already been forced to cancel several campaign events including a key event with President Clinton in Florida.  We expect that Bubba will do just fine without him. But it is an opportunity lost.  The storm and its resulting power outages could impact early voting.  Voter turnout is considered key to an Obama victory and anything that keeps people away from the polls does not bode well for the president.
Finally, if the government seems to be failing in its recovery efforts…slow to respond to the needs of the people or ineffective in getting resources where they are needed the most…the negative political impact will come crashing down on the president’s shoulders.  George H.W. Bush paid a huge political price for his failure to respond effectively to Hurricane Andrew.  And FEMA’s inept response to Hurricane Katrina was viewed by the Bush 43 administration as the low point in their tenure.
If you are sitting in the Romney Campaign offices in Boston you are probably throwing your Starbucks against the wall.  The Romney Campaign has momentum. When you have momentum you don’t want anything to get in the way…especially eight days before the election.   Hurricane Sandy has effectively stopped that momentum.  The airwaves are already shifting from Romney’s surge in the polls to wall to wall coverage of the storm.  Romney’s massive ad buys are not running as planned.  Like the president, the Romney machine has been forced to cancel events in key swing states.
Romney has been temporarily moved to the place of irrelevant spectator.  He can’t take to the stump to attack the president without looking crass, self serving and out of touch.  In fact, if he is anything but supportive of the president in this difficult time it will come back to haunt him. 
Romney had a great weekend.  Ohio polls show him tied with the president.  Another poll has him leading by six points in Florida.  The Des Moines Register has endorsed him; the first time that paper has endorsed a Republican since Nixon.  But all that momentum remains on hold as the nation turns its focus to Sandy.
How Sandy impacts this election is anybody’s guess.  What we do know is that the election is frozen in place for the time being.  It is doubtful that key the swing states of New Hampshire and Virginia will see either candidate again as floods and power outages are not conducive to campaign caravans.  The president will have a messaging advantage as he goes about administering the duties of his job.  And if the election comes down to the mechanics of ramping up voter turnout, the Obama ground game will have the advantage.
People say that there are 8 days of campaigning left before the election.  The fact is there are only about 5.  Historically most people will have made up their minds by the Thursday or Friday before the election.  

If that is the case then Sandy's impact is already being felt.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Colin, Cuba And Caution

Colin Powell has endorsed Barak Obama.  The former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs under Bush 41 and Secretary of State under Bush 43 announced his endorsement today on “CBS This Morning.”
Powell’s long and distinguished career in public service makes him one of the most respected members of the Republican Party.  “I think I’m a Republican of a more moderate mold.” Powell said.  “That’s something of a dying breed, I’m sorry to say.”
In spite of his conservative leanings he voted for Obama in 2008 calling the new president a “transformational figure.”  His endorsement in this close election was highly coveted.
While discussing his endorsement he went on a detailed explanation of the circumstances the president faced upon taking office.  He detailed the steps the president took to fix the economy and concluded with:  ‘And I saw of the next several years, stabilization come back to the financial community, housing is now starting to pick up after four years, it’s starting to pick up.  Consumer confidence is rising. Generally we’ve come out of the dive and we’re starting to gain altitude.”
But Powell is best known for his distinguished military career; so his views on foreign policy are always of interest to us.
Commenting on the president’s handling of foreign policy, Mr. Powell said: “he saw the president get us out of one war, start to get us out of a second war, and did not get us into any new wars.  And finally I think the actions he has taken with respect to protecting us from terrorism have been very solid.  And so, I think we ought to keep on the track we are on.”
Regarding Governor Romney’s views on foreign policy Powell said:  I have concerns about his views on  foreign policy…the governor who was saying things at the debate on Monday night…was saying things that were quite different from what he said earlier.  I’m not quite sure which Romney we would get with respect to foreign policy…His foreign policy is a moving target…And my concern is that sometimes I don’t sense that he has thought through these issues thoroughly as he should have.”
Fittingly, Colin Powell’s endorsement comes on the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  We are reminded of how close we came to a nuclear holocaust. 
In 1962 a U-2 spy aircraft took photos of Soviet missile installations in Cuba.  When confronted, the Soviets said that the Cuban missile facilities were in response to the United States installation of nuclear missiles in the UK, Italy and Turkey and the failed Bay of Pigs invasion.  The United States considered attacking Cuba.  But President Kennedy understood the repercussions of a military attack.  Instead Kennedy decided on a military blockade to keep the missiles from reaching Cuban shores.  He called the blockade a “quarantine” as opposed to a direct act of war in order to give Khrushchev a way out.  He demanded that the Soviets dismantle the installations and return all offensive weapons to the USSR.  A number of Soviet ships tried to run the blockade.  One Soviet missile crew shot down a U-2 aircraft; an act that could have resulted in direct retaliation.  But Kennedy held firm and remained calm as negotiations continued.  Eventually the Soviets capitulated and removed the missiles in exchange for a promise by Kennedy not to invade Cuba.  The young president had stared down the Soviet bully…and won.
Historians tell us that Kennedy had consulted with Eisenhower as to the likelihood of Khrushchev firing the nuclear warheads if Kennedy chose to strike.  Eisenhower, the Commander-Chief of the allied forces in WWII told Kennedy that he didn’t believe Khrushchev would fire the missiles.  Kennedy remained unconvinced and patiently allowed negotiations to continue.
 It turns out Kennedy was right.  In his memoirs Khrushchev wrote that even if the US struck first he believed that one or two of his larger missiles would have survived.  And if that were the case he would have aimed them at New York and millions would have died.
While we were only 11 years old at the time we clearly remember the fear that gripped the country as the 13 day standoff drug on.  Caught up in the fantasy of Camelot, we wondered if our new young president would keep us safe.
Today we are reminded of those fearful times a half century ago.  And Colin Powell’s words remind us that we need a calm and steady hand directing our foreign policy.  Caution and patience always wins out in foreign policy.  The president has shown that he is up to the task.  Like Colin Powell, we don’t believe that the governor has thought through the issues as thoroughly as he should have.  You can’t just blow up Iran’s nuclear facilities and then go off and grab a beer.  There will be repercussions for taking military action.  None of them are good.
You would think Romney would know that.  After all 17 of Romney’s 24 foreign policy advisors served under George W. Bush. 
They should be well versed with repercussions and unintended consequsnces.                 

"God" Enters The Debate

It was only a matter of time before God entered the debate…
If you follow politics you are no doubt familiar with the latest nonsense coming out of the Republican Party. 
Republican Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock has informed us that if rape leads to pregnancy it’s “something God intended.” 
Mourdock’s comments come on the heels of the assertion offered by noted biology expert, GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin, who said that in the event of “legitimate rape a women’s body has a way of shutting that whole thing down so that pregnancy doesn’t occur”… thereby inferring that if a woman DOES get pregnant there is no possibility that she was actually raped.
These well researched conclusions dovetail with the opinions of Republican state legislators in Virginia who believe that a woman should be required to submit to a trans-vaginal ultrasound before being granted legal abortion services. 
They also fall neatly in line with Republican surrogates like Rush Limbaugh who referred to a college co-ed who lobbied for free contraceptives as a “slut” and a “prostitute.”
Governor Romney has distanced himself from Mourdock’s claim…sort of.  Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said:  “We disagree on the policy for rape and incest but still support him.”  There were no plans to demand that Mourdock pull down a Romney testimonial ad that began running in Indiana earlier this week.  After all Republicans can’t let crazy talk and common sense stand in the way of re-taking the Senate.
Mitt Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan has sponsored anti-abortion bills with the aforementioned Todd Akin.  He is pro-life with no exceptions…a view that is an integral part of the Republican Party platform. Mr. Ryan questions  how one can in good conscience separate his public policy from his faith; saying that life begins at conception no matter how that conception occurred.   Yet Mr. Ryan has shed his “no exceptions” faith based views in favor of governor Romney’s more pragmatic allowance for rape, incest and the health of the mother.  Apparently faith matters except when you are running for national office.
The misogynistic rhetoric being bandied about by the MEN of the Republican Party is offensive.  The Party’s policies threaten a quarter century of progress on women’s rights.  And when they start bringing God in as the rationale for their beliefs they have taken the conversation about “big government” to a whole different level.
There are two things here for you to consider.
First, the whole conversation about exceptions for abortions…rape, incest or the health of the mother…is pure BS designed to make the Republican Party appear more moderate and reasonable on the subject.  Let’s say a woman becomes pregnant as the result of what she claims was rape or incest.  Who decides if she is telling the truth?  Is she the sole decider?  What if the man claims it was consensual?  Does he have final say?  Does the matter go before the courts?  Does a judge decide?  How long does this take?  After all there are term limits as to when a woman can have a safe abortion.  The fact is that the exception for rape or incest is no exception whatsoever.
Now let’s talk about God.  Many of us believe in God even though the existence of a “Supreme Being” cannot be proven beyond the shadow of a doubt.  That’s why we call it faith…not science.  The belief in a Supreme Being is a matter of personal faith.  In this country we have the right to practice and demonstrate that faith in whatever self serving manner we choose.  Those who do not believe find another path.  That is their right. 
Many of us who believe that there is a God will admit to having personal conversations with him/her/it.  Most often those conversations occur when our ass is in a sling and we are promising to turn over a new leaf if only he/she/it will help us to get through our most recent screw up.  Many of us will use whatever revelations we may receive from those personal conversations to shape our future path.  But no matter how clear the path may be to us…it does not give us the right to impose that path on others.
Republicans believe that the government should control a woman’s reproductive rights.  That’s bad enough.  But using "God Will" as the cornerstone of their policies is an insult to all who believe that God is an independent.               

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Romney's Business Experience...More Liability Than Asset

As the campaign heads down the final stretch we see Mitt Romney’s supporters reverting back to the cornerstone of his qualifications for the presidency…his business experience. 
Their claim is simple.  Romney’s extraordinary success in the business community makes him uniquely qualified to tackle the nation’s economic problems.
Their claim seems valid.  After all, when you are talking about budgets, debt and deficits; who better to take the wheel than a successful businessman with decades of experience in handling such matters.
The problem for Romney is that the United States of America is not a business.  And each time Romney has tried apply his business acumen to the nation’s problems his experience has proven to be more of a liability than an asset.
Take his economic plan.  Romney sees the top 1% of the country as the job creators…the engine that runs the country…our biggest asset.  He wants to maximize the power of this asset by reducing their taxes and stripping away regulations that impede their growth.  But in order offset that decrease in revenue he has to cut his expenses and reduce his liabilities.  He does this by cutting loopholes, programs and legacy costs that the other 99% of the country depends upon.  In the business world you can outsource, offshore, layoff or replace that 99% with advances in technology and automation.  You can downsize and consolidate your operations to eliminate many of them and reduce their impact on your bottom line.  But that doesn’t work in running a nation.  That 99% isn’t going anywhere.  You have to account for them as they matter just as much as the top 1%.  Romney has continually stumbled in accounting for the 99% in his economic policies.
Let’s look at his infamous “47%” comments.  Romney singles out the 47% of Americans who don’t pay taxes.  He says that they are not taxpayers and therefore not interested in his tax reducing proposals. He says:  “So my job is not to worry about them because I will never convince them that they need to take responsibility for their own lives.”  Let’s set aside that included in that 47% are elderly folks on social security, veterans and the working poor who don’t earn enough income to pay taxes.  In the business world Romney could get away with not worrying about them.  Again, he could outsource, offshore or simply lay them off.  But as president he has to include them in his policies and his economic plans.  Romney’s “off the cuff” comments show that he has trouble making that transition.
Finally, let’s look at the auto bailout.  Mitt Romney looked at the failing auto industry as he would any other prospective Bain investment.  He concluded that the industry needed to go through a managed bankruptcy, reorganize their management, restructure their operations and reduce their liabilities and expenses. If they came through the bankruptcy then Romney would be willing to provide government guarantees for financing so car buyers would not have to worry about the security of their warranties.  If they were unable to successfully re-organize and right themselves then their fate would be in the hands of the free market by whose hands they would live or die. Steve Rattner, the “car czar” who handled the bailout for both the Bush and Obama administrations, said that the industry could not have gotten through the bankruptcy procedure without an infusion of cash.  Unable to pay their bills; they would have to shut down and liquidate.  Rattner tried to find financing through the banking industry.  But the banking industry was in turmoil.  Lehman had just collapsed and other major banks were teetering on the brink.  None of them would touch the car industry with a ten foot pole…not even Romney’s Bain Capital.  Rattner says that Romney was well aware of this financing difficulty and still wanted to let the market take the industry down.  Rattner says that the president understood the importance of the auto industry to the American psyche.  He understood the devastating effect the industry’s collapse would have on the country.  And he fully understood the enormous effect the loss of 1.5 million auto jobs would have on the economy.  So the president stepped in when Mitt Romney would not.
Running a country is a great deal different than running a business.  It’s not just about debits and credits…profit and loss.  It’s about people and their lives. 
Serving as President of the United States requires a very different set of skills than serving as CEO of Bain Capital.
Governor Romney and his supporters have yet to grasp that concept.          

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

One more Comment On Last Night's Debate

One more comment on last night’s debate…
Lost in Romney’s sudden willingness to agree with the president’s policies on Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and Libya were comments he made on the use of soft power in the Middle East and a convoluted approach to China.
Regarding the Middle East, Romney said that “we can’t kill our way out of this mess.”  He spoke of working with Middle Eastern countries on economic and social issues in order to soften their extremist views of the United States.  He talked about working to build schools and infrastructure. He talked about educating Middle Eastern women and advocating for their rights.  Suddenly moderate Mitt was advocating for the use of soft power, negotiation and compromise.  Neocon Mitt was left sitting at home.
We found this new line of thinking laughable.  Pull up the debate online.  Listen to Mitt the peacemaker make the case for education, infrastructure and women’s rights in the war torn Middle East.  Then pull up any of Mitt’s stump speeches here in the good old US of A.  Listen as he advocates cutting education and transportation, rejects equal pay, and pushes to overturn a woman’ right to choose.  The hypocrisy is palpable.
He did the same thing with China.  First he said that China is not a country to be feared.  They don’t want war, he said.  They want a growing economy and open avenues for trade throughout the globe. He said they are a partner that we can work with.  Then he turned around and raked them over  the coals for stealing our intellectual property, engaging in unfair trade practices and manipulating their currency.
The two faces of Mitt Romney.  Which one will we see tomorrow?         

Monday, October 22, 2012

Mitt's Magical Mystery Tour Continues

Ok, we’re just going to say this about Mitt Romney…
…never in the history of American politics has there been a candidate who has so blatantly and unabashedly reversed his position on core issues for the sole purpose of winning an election.  
Tonight we tuned in to witness the third and final presidential debate.  The subject matter was supposed to be foreign policy.  A debate on foreign policy generally requires that the two candidates explain and defend their divergent views on…foreign policy.  But Mitt Romney decided that tonight was the night that he would effectively disavow all the hawkish policy statements he had made in the past and adopt the president's positions on most foreign policy issues.  In fact if it were not for the back and forth on a few economic issues that wheedled their way into the conversation there would not have been a debate at all.
Romney’s performance was stunning.  The hawkish bluster was gone.  Romney used the word “peace” so many times we were waiting for him to break out a bong and a bag of hash. 
Romney reversed himself on so many key foreign policy issues that we don’t have the space to list them all here.  The reversal that most caught the attention of the press was Romney’s u-turn on the president’s policy for leaving Afghanistan in 2014.  Romney has consistently criticized the president for setting a time certain for the withdrawal.  Tonight he parroted the president’ s own words saying  that as president he would pull our troops out in 2014 because it is time for the Afghans to take responsibility for their own security.       
The Romney Campaign said that their debate strategy going in was to avoid any major gaffs and appear moderate, reasonable and presidential.  There was no mention of defending one’s positions or standing behind one’s core values.  We found this casual admission that the campaign intentionally threw the right wing neocons that handed Romney the nomination under the bus…unsettling.
The president was strong tonight.  He defended his record and his policies going forward.  He was very effective in drawing the contrast between Romney’s comments this evening versus the things Romney has been saying for months out on the stump.
 The president looked strong and steady.  But tonight was all about Romney.  Mitt Romney waffled again…some would say lied…and hoped the voters wouldn’t notice.
A CBS flash poll of likely voters said the president won tonight's debate by a 53%-23% margin.  A CNN poll gave the debate to the president by 20 points and a PPP poll by 8 points.  It was a very good night for the president.    
It used to be that a politician believed in something and spent the campaign trying to convince voters to buy into his position.  But the Romney campaign has completely altered that strategy in favor of a more “flexible” approach…say whatever it is you need to say to close the deal.
We miss having George W. Bush around.  At least with the Bush Doctrine you knew where the guy stood on the issues.            

Strong At Home = Strong Abroad

There are two new polls out that bear mentioning on the eve of tonight’s debate.
The first is the QUINNIPIAC poll that shows Obama leading Romney by 5 points in the state of Ohio.  That lead is down from 10 points two weeks ago.  This shows that the president is still ahead in what may prove to be the most important state in this election.  It also shows that Romney has made huge strides in the past two weeks.  The question is can the president hold him off.  The key here is turnout.  If the president’s ground game can re-invigorate student and Hispanic enthusiasm he will hold Ohio.  But if Romney’s surge continues over the final two weeks and he over takes the president in Ohio there is no reason to believe that he won’t do the same in the other swing states.  If Romney can pull past the president in Ohio we think he wins this election.  The key component contributing to Obama’s lead is the auto bailout.  In Ohio, one in 5 jobs is realted to the automobile industry.  The president saved the industry.  Romney wanted to let it go under.   
The other important poll is the NBCNEWS/WALL STREETJOURNAL/ MARIST poll that shows Romney and Obama tied nationally among likely voters at 47% of the vote.  The more interesting piece of this poll is that 62% of likely voters want the president to make BIG changes if re-elected.  They want to see changes in Washington and in the economic components that affect their daily lives.  They don’t want to talk about the past…and they don’t want four more years of the same.  As we have said before, the president has yet to lay out a clear, concise pronouncement of his vision for the future.  He has given us bits and pieces…100,000 more teachers, more manufacturing jobs, investment in alternative sources of energy…but he has yet to connect the dots with voters.  It’s tough for him to do that tonight with the focus on foreign policy.  But if this poll strikes the administration as it did us, we expect to see the president more clearly articulate his vision for the future over the final two week stretch of this campaign.
So what does any of this have to do with tonight’s debate on foreign policy?
In yesterday’s post we wrote about how about how there are those in politics who want to expand America’s role in the world even though our economic resources are insufficient to accommodate such expansion.  The fact is that you cannot have a strong foreign policy if it is not backed by a strong economy.  For example, Iran knows that the US is a war weary nation that is going through economic turmoil.  They know that the American people are more concerned about jobs than they are about Iran’s nuclear ambitions.  So they are using that perceived weakness at the nuclear bargaining table.  The president and our allies have imposed stringent economic sanctions on the Iranian regime.  Those sanctions are having a devastating effect on Iran’s economy.  According to an article in the New York Times, the weakened economic conditions in Iran have resulted in an apparent willingness on their part to discuss their nuclear ambitions.  The economic conditions in both countries are having a direct impact on their foreign policy.  You cannot be strong abroad if you are weakened at home.   
Foreign policy and economic policy…the two are irrevocably linked.  We will be watching tonight to see which candidate more clearly articulates the correlation between the two. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Viewing Foreign Policy From 40,000 Feet

On Monday night President Obama and Governor Romney will meet in their third and final debate.  The subject is foreign policy.  With the polls showing an ever tightening race, this will be the last time these two men will have the opportunity to address 70 million Americans.
Unfortunately, this debate will probably begin with a heated discussion of the attack on our consulate in Benghazi and the murder of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans.  The purpose of this cat fight will not be to better inform the public about a tragic event; but to throw raw meet at their respective political base.
Mitt Romney will say that the president bears responsibility for the death of four Americans because of his administration’s refusal to add additional security at the consulate.  He will say that the administration tried to cover up the fact that the breaching of the consulate on the anniversary of 9/11 was in fact an organized attack conducted by Al Qaeda or a similar terrorist organization.  And he will say that this attack is just further evidence of the erosion of the president’s weak foreign policy.
The president will no doubt counter with the fact that the administration put out the information they were receiving on the Benghazi attack in real time.  He will say that any inference of a cover-up is offensive.  And he will say that his doubling down on the number of troops in Afghanistan, his working with our allies to remove Kaddafi, his authorization of drone attacks which have decimated Al Qaeda leadership, his elimination of Bin Laden and the fact that thousands of Libyans took to the streets in condemnation of the Benghazi attack and in support of the US, are proof of a strong foreign policy that is working.
Hopefully this back and forth of political posturing will end after the first several minutes of the debate; after which the candidates will move on to a more substantive conversation of their world views.  Because foreign policy is a big picture topic that needs to be viewed from 40,000 feet; not micro-managed through the prism of gotcha politics. 
Columnist David Ignatius echoes our sentiments in his recent column in the Washington Post.
Ignatius cites an article by Michael Mazarr, a professor of strategy at the National War College. In the article titled: “The Risks of Ignoring Strategic Insolvency” which appears in the current issue of Washington Quarterly, Mazarr questions whether US military power needs to be “resized” to fit a changing world.  Mazarr contends that if the US fails to curb its international ambitions and tries to stretch its increasingly limited resources to cover all its traditional commitments it is destined to fail.  Mazarr doesn’t see the decline of American power but rather its overextension.
Ignatius quoting Mazarr: “The very definition of a grand strategy is holding ends and means in balance to promote the security and interests of the state.  Yet the postwar US approach to strategy is rapidly becoming insolvent and unsustainable.”  Mazarr points out several factors that are contributing to the insolvency of America’s traditional foreign strategy: US economic and budgetary difficulties; the emergence of new powers hostile to US interests; the ineffectiveness of traditional US military solutions (see Iraq and Afghanistan) and the growing resistance of the American people toward entering into another military conflict.
As Ignatius correctly states; “These are the strategic facts of life.  But every time a new crisis comes along the “correct” political response is: America should fix it.”
From our perspective the president seems to have a better handle on these changing dynamics than Governor Romney. 
The president understands the economic conditions here at home and consequently has called for a reduction in military spending.   When punitive action is required, the president has called for diplomacy, stringent sanctions and the patience to allow them to work.  When military force is deemed necessary he has increased the use of drones and Special Operations Forces and moved away from the traditional methods of heavy armor and boots on the ground.  And understanding the nation’s unwillingness to serve as the world’s policeman, he has built coalitions and called on our allies to share the burden.
Governor Romney has a different world view.  He believes that the only way to keep America secure is through tough talk and military force.  He believes that it is America’s destiny to be the world’s protector.  He has called for a massive increase in military spending in amounts exceeding (after adjustments for inflation) the treasure spent in WWII and the cold war.  His plan calls for enormous increases in battleships, destroyers, carriers and other traditional arms.   And he persists in these outdated armament requests even though the defense department has said publically that they do not want nor need them.
In additional to having an outdated view of America’s place in the world, the governor has been, shall we say, less than presidential in carrying out that message.  In fact, in the past several months he has had several opportunities to demonstrate his foreign policy bona fides and he has stumbled at every turn.  He turned what should have been a social visit to the British Prime Minister into an international incident when he managed to insult the London Olympic Organizing Committee.   When he responded to early reports of the Benghazi incident, his press conference was so ill-timed and short on facts that even his closest supporters cried out in embarrassment.  His highly promoted speech on foreign policy turned out to be little more than a recitation of strategic talking points that the president had already implemented.  And his clumsy efforts to catch the president in a lie at the last debate were fact checked by the moderator. To add insult to injury; members of his own staff do not believe he reads the foreign policy briefing papers they provide him.  Yet this is the man that almost half of the American people say they would trust with his finger on the nuclear button.
When it comes to America’s place in the world these candidates could not be any more different.  We hope that that this last debate will serve as a platform for a substantive discussion of those divergent views.
We share David Ignatius’ and Professor Mazarr’s views on the ever changing dynamics of America’s place on the world stage.  We thank David Ignatius for his reporting and Professor Mazarr’s for his insight.       

Friday, October 19, 2012

We're Goin' With Nate!

If you have been following these elections you are no doubt as confused as we are about the latest polling data.
The latest Gallup Tracking Poll has Romney leading Obama by 8 points nationally among likely voters.  But the latest NBCNEWS/WALL STREET JOURNAL /MARIST Poll has Obama up by 6-8 points among likely voters in the key swing states of Iowa and Wisconsin.
What’s up with that?
We did some digging and here is what we found.
The volatility in the polls stems in part from the fact that early voting has already started in 38 states.  Those that have already voted when polled are not really likely voters…they are definite voters.  And there seems to be some variance in the way they are counted in the polls.
The president leads among early voters in both states.  In Iowa early voters said they voted for Obama over Romney 67%-32%.  In Wisconsin early voters chose Obama 64%-35%.  The experts think these numbers are accurate because Obama’s superior ground forces are really pushing voters to go to the polls early.  Nobody, not even the Romney people believe that Romney is up by 8 points over the president.
So what have we learned?
We have learned that this is a very close race and that the polls will shift between the candidates from now until Election Day.  Those who study the polls for a living tell us the key is to look at the polls as a whole and search for trends as opposed to focusing on one or two specific polls.  They also tell us that there is the very real possibility that Obama could win the Electoral College race but lose the popular vote.
RealClearPolitics is a nationally recognized polling organization that averages all the polls and looks for trends.  They say that if the vote were held today Obama would win with 281 electoral votes.
But our bet is on Nate silver.  Nate Silver is a statistician, sabermetrician, psychologist (We don’t what those words mean…but they sure do sound impressive.) and writer.  Silver first gained notoriety by developing a system for forecasting the career development of Major League baseball players which proved wildly accurate.  He gained national recognition in 2008 when he correctly predicted the outcome of the presidential election in 49 of 50 states.  (He got Indiana wrong…Obama won by 1 %.)  He also correctly predicted the winner of all 35 Senate races that year.
Silver says that Obama has a 66% chance of re-election…and that he will win 287 Electoral College votes to Romney’s 250.
Forget the polls!  We’re goin’ with Nate!!!    

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Just Tell Us The Truth!

The campaign is almost over.  Only 19 days until Election Day.  There is still time…
It is really a sad state of affairs when the two men running for the most powerful position in the world cannot tell us the truth for fear of losing the election. 
Today the two candidates traded barbs about binders and Big Bird all the while knowing that there are some very tough conversations lying ahead.  But nobody wants to have that conversation until after the election.
Mitt Romney is a bright guy…a very successful businessman…a money guy.  He knows full well that his tax program doesn’t work unless you pay for it by eliminating deductions for mortgage interest, charitable deductions, state and local taxes and health care cost.  Even then you need to raise taxes on the middle class to make it “revenue neutral.”  He knows that we cannot afford to increase defense spending to the highest levels in our history.  He knows this!  But he won’t tell us the truth because it will kill him at the polls.
The president isn’t a dumb guy either.  He knows that the only way to reduce the deficit and the long term debt is to drastically reform Medicaid and Medicare.  And the only way to save Social Security for future generations is to raise the retirement age and freeze benefits.  He knows this!  But he won’t tell us the truth because it will kill him at the polls.
Candidates are often heard saying:  “The American people are smart.”  But then they treat us like we are stupid…like we cannot comprehend the “complexities” of: if you keep spending more than you earn you will find yourself in very deep doo.”  They act like we are mushrooms that need to be kept in the dark.
Any serious plan to cut the debt/deficit and grow the economy must include an increase in revenue in the short term and spending cuts in the long term.  It's math!  We get it! 
There are some very hard decisions that are going to have to be made very, very soon.  On January 1st there are severe mandatory cuts in defense and a broad spectrum of government social programs that will automatically kick in unless someone orchestrates a compromise in Washington.  These cuts will be devastating to the middle class and working poor.  On that same day the Bush tax cuts will expire; raising taxes on millions of struggling American families.  Nobody wants to see any of these things occur.  But we cannot wish them away.  So somebody is going to have to grow some brass and tell the American people the cold hard facts. 
Barbs about binders and Big Bird may make for great headlines.  But they won’t solve the problems facing everyday families.  We need the truth.  We can handle the truth.  We’re not stupid!
(Well, except for the three people on the street asked by one of the late night shows  who they thought won the debate between Michelle Obama and Ann Romney!!!   The one guy said Michelle really connected with the audience.)