Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Worst of Our Politics

Yesterday I had the opportunity to view Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards’ testimony before the House Oversight Committee. What I witnessed was the very worst of our politics.

Ms. Richards was summoned to testify before the committee ostensibly to justify on Planned Parenthoods’ federal funding. She was also there to answer charges that her organization illegally sells fetal tissue for profit. Those accusations stem from a controversial clandestine video that purports to show Planned Parenthood employees discussing the disposition of fetal tissue in callous terms. Planned Parenthood has publically denounced the video as having been substantively edited.

Regardless of the stated intent of the hearing it quickly became evident that the real purpose was to provide majority members with a public forum to express their revulsion for abortion and their disdain for Ms. Richards personally.

Ms. Richards was repeatedly interrupted, talked over and berated. She was bombarded with questions without being given the opportunity to finish her response. The level of disrespect shown her was palpable. The misogynistic attitude on display an embarrassment to the institution.

For example...

Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT.) brought up Mrs. Richards salary. In a clearly sarcastic manner he “congratulated” her on her level of remuneration. Ms. Richards, clearly uncomfortable with the line of questioning, stated that she made $520,000.

Ms. Richards was present to testify about matters relating to Planned Parenthood operations and funding. She was not being accused of any personal wrongdoing. Her level of compensation irrelevant to the matters at hand. Yet here was Chaffetz mocking her compensation publically for no real purpose other than to score political points. I wonder if Chaffetz reveals and critiques the compensation package for all male CEO’s appearing before his committee.

Chaffetz revealed a slide that appeared to show a dramatic rise in the number of Planned Parenthood abortions opposite a precipitous decline in the number of cancer screenings. Chaffetz point was that Planned Parenthood has been consistent in its claims that abortion services amount to only 3% of the total services provided. The graph clearly shows those assertions to be untrue.

Ms. Richards replied that she had never seen the slide before and that the information was inaccurate. Mr. Chaffetz, oozing confidence that he had caught Richards in an irrefutable lie responded smugly: "I got it straight from your annual reports.”

Ms. Richards’ attorney leaned in and whispered something in her ear. Richards then quickly said: “My lawyers just informed me that the source of this information is Americans United for Life, and anti-abortion group. I would check your source.” Noted as the source on the bottom right hand corner of the slide…Americans United for Life.

Chaffetz, looking alternately stunned, bewildered and embarrassed; quickly yielded his remaining time and turned off his microphone.

Abortion is one of the most important, sensitive, emotional and controversial topics of our time. As such any discussion of this issue should be cognizant of the sensitivities on both sides of the debate. There was none of that in evidence here.

When Barak Obama bludgeoned Mitt Romney in the last general election Republicans retreated behind closed doors to lick their wounds and find a new prospective. When they emerged from their soul searching they promised a more inclusive party. A party sensitive to the views of minorities and women. They even held seminars to teach candidates how to talk to women????? Apparently Mr. Chaffetz and the Republican members of his committee didn’t get the memo.

Republicans like to see themselves as constitutionalists and defenders of the rule of law…except in those instances in which the debate centers on women’s issues. Then misogyny runs rampant and women are treated as property.

Yesterday there was no evidence of the constitution or the rule of law in that hearing. As far as I know the constitution still holds that abortions are legal. As for the rule of law; had it been a courtroom Chaffetz and his cronies would have been charged with contempt for repeatedly badgering the witness.

Yesterday I watched the government disrespect, badger, marginalize and lie to one of its citizens. Her only offense…abiding by law and doing her job.

Yesterday I witnessed the very worst of out politics.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Let's Get This Party Started!!!

Sound the trumpets!

Donald Trump has released his highly anticipated tax plan.

A plan that according to Trump is so brilliant that the world’s leading economists are asking why no one ever thought of it before.

A plan that will slash taxes on the middle class…eliminate taxes on the working poor…and finally make the hedge fund millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share.

A plan that when combined with Trump’s “fantastic” and “brilliant” economic agenda is destined to make us all “RICH”!

Sound the trumpets! Bang the gongs! Hosanna in the highest! We’re all going to be rich!

Make no mistake…Trump’s plan does cut taxes. He cuts the tax rate on regular income from 39.6% to 25%. He cuts the capital gains rate from 23.8% to 20%. The corporate tax rate is cut from 35% to 15%. Business owners will now pay a flat 15%. The estate tax is history. Whoohoo!

Someone had the audacity to ask Trump how he was going to pay for his plan which cuts trillions of dollars from the federal government’s income stream.

No worries! Says Trump. He is going to pay for all of these tax cuts by eliminating the tax deductions and tax loopholes the rich use to avoid paying their fair share.

Another trouble maker noted that the tax savings provided by closing those loopholes won’t come close to covering the trillions in tax revenue required to fund the government. So how does Trump propose to make up the difference? Again…sweating the details.

Stop being such killjoys. Trump has it all figured out. He’ll make up the difference through economic growth. “I make great deals! I’ll make great deals that will grow our economy. My plan will grow the economy by 5 or 6 %. Some people say it will grow even more than that.” I’m going to get our jobs back from China…from Japan…from Mexico. Trust me…I’m going to make America great again.”

There is a bit of a glitch. In spite of his statements to the contrary Trump’s plan CUTS taxes for the hated hedge fund guys. And most economists believe that his projections of 5-6% economic growth are unrealistic.

Who cares! Why sweat the details. We’re all going to be rich!

I’m sold! How about you?

In fact why not forget about this whole election nonsense.

Let’s just appoint Trump president get this party started!!!

We’re all going to be rich!!!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

GOP On The Road To Irrelevance

If there was ever any doubt that the Republican Party is careening down the slope to political irrelevance; that uncertainty was all but erased with the announcement of John Boehner’s resignation.

Boehner informed the country that he would be leaving the speakership and his congressional seat at the end of October. Facing a challenge from the far right to vacate his chair, Boehner decided that it was “best for the institution” to step aside. He expressed confidence that he could overcome any efforts to remove him but decided that it was best for his caucus and the country to avoid such conflict. “Your primary responsibility in this job is to protect the institution,” Boehner said. “And since I was planning on stepping down at the end of the year anyway I thought now was a good a time as any.”

The truth here is that while Boehner loved his job he had grown increasingly weary at the destructive behavior of the “knuckleheads” occupying the far right fringe of his caucus. The prospect of a vote to vacate the chair was very real. Boehner most likely would have prevailed. But he correctly judged that such a squabble within the party during an election cycle would prove costly to both his party and the country.

Boehner’s announcement was met with raucous cheers from the Tea Party members of the caucus. His cardinal sin in the eyes of the Tea Party fringe was to seek compromise with Democrats to get things done. On rare occasions Boehner had the audacity to circumvent Tea Party intransigence by soliciting the help of Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats to pass legislation. Those occasions were few and far between but once was enough for the far right.

In recent weeks the debate concerned passage of a continuing resolution to fund the government. The current CR expires at the end of this month. The Tea Party members wanted to pass a CR that excluded any funding for Planned Parenthood and vowed to block passage of any bill that included such funding. Failing to pass a CR would cause a costly government shutdown. That was fine with the far right who believed that the president would be blamed for the costly stoppage.

Apparently Tea Party members have no recollection of recent history. The last government shutdown resulted in the furlough of 800,000 government jobs, a $25 billion hit to the economy and the first credit downgrade in our nation’s history. The blame for this misery was placed squarely on the shoulders of the Republicans. The political fallout devastating. No matter to the current bunch…many of whom helped to drive the train into the ditch the last time.

Boehner understood that a CR without funding for Planned Parenthood would never pass the Senate. And even if it did it would never get past the president’s desk. The resulting shutdown would have devastating consequences in the upcoming election. Boehner sought compromise and for that the Tea Party wanted his head.

Make no mistake…25-40 members that make up the Tea Party caucus have clout…and they are more than willing to use it. The last member of leadership who dared to defy the far right ended up seeking other employment.

Former Majority Leaser and heir apparent to Boehner’s thrown, Eric Cantor, once a Tea Party favorite, became too squishy in the eyes of the right when he dared to solicit Nancy Pelosi’s help in whipping up votes on several pieces of legislation. The Tea Party put up a candidate to challenge Cantor’s re-election bid in the primary and sent the #3 Republican packing.
Threaten a politicians prospects at re-election and you get his/her attention. It is in this web of fear that the Tea Party makes its bones. It is this fear of job security that rests at the core of the intransigence and gridlock that we have come to expect from the Republican Party.

The problem with the right wing caucus is that while they are good at fear mongering, obstruction and causing political mayhem they have no idea what to do when they win. After defeating Cantor and promoting McCarthy their choice for Majority Whip was Steve Scalise. Scalise has often been referred to within the party as “David Duke without the baggage.” Nothing warms the hearts of minorities like appointing an avowed racist to a leadership position.

It appears that Boehner’s successor will be his current #2, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy…a choice made more by process of elimination because of course there is no consensus within the party. McCarthy doesn’t necessarily fall in line with the crazies but he did recruit a lot of the young guns that are wreaking havoc within the party. The real fight will be to see who replaces McCarthy as Leader.

Meanwhile there is a continuing resolution to be passed and a government shutdown to be avoided. My guess is they will pass a CR at the eleventh hour that will fund the government at current levels for a few months. That will give the Republican majority more time to see if they can get their act together. Then around Christmas time they will debate the issue all over again. Nothing says Happy Holidays like the prospect of closing down services on which tens of millions of Americans depend.

John Boehner was arguably the second most powerful man in the world. Yet with all that power he was incapable of governing. I believe that John Boehner was a pragmatist. I believe that if you locked John Boehner and Joe Biden in a room the two of them would reach an equitable compromise on most of the issues that divide us. But that is not how the system works. In order to govern you need to build consensus within your own party and Boehner was never able to accomplish that goal.

It is one thing to stand up for your convictions. But throwing bricks and causing utter mayhem when you don’t get your way is something altogether different. John Boehner was bad at his job because he was never able to get his caucus to understand the difference.

That is why the Republican Party is on the fast track to political irrelevance.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Do yourself a favor...

Have you had a chance to watch any of the coverage of Pope Francis’ visit to the United States?

If not…do yourself a favor and tune in.

Today I witnessed the best that humanity has to offer.

I basked in the joy as the faces of tens of thousands of believers and non-believers alike literally lit up at the sight of this remarkable human being.

I listened as this soft spoken man delivered his powerful message…a message that is not about God or faith but rather a message of joy, goodness, inclusion and forgiveness. A call to do unto others as you would have then do unto you.

I observe this skillful communicator as he deftly weaved his way through the minefields of the most controversial topics in a manner that was compassionate and inclusive rather than divisive.

I watched as stone faced cynical leaders wept at the sound of his words.

And then, corny as this may sound…I choked up myself as this, one of the most powerful men in the world, asked the 50,000 people lining the Washington Mall for help. With genuine humility he said: “I ask all of you to pray for me. And to those of you here that are not believers…I ask that you send goods wishes my way.”

As a practicing Catholic I know full well that the Catholic Church, like any organization run by human beings, is a flawed institution. Bad behavior and bad decision making are intuitional defects that have existed within the church’s DNA for over 2,000 years.

On March 13, 2013 the Catholic Church elected Jorge Mario Bergoglio Bishop of Rome, Sovereign of Vatican City and the 266th successor to Peter, as Pope of the Catholic Church.

This time they got it right.

Do yourself a favor. See the best that humanity has to offer and the possibilities that his positive message holds for all of us.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Game Over?

Today we live in a political climate where the anger and frustration over the institution that is Washington beltway politics is surpassed only by the disdain exhibited toward those who ply their trade within its corridors. The popularity of “outsiders” like Trump, Fiorina and Carson gives testimony to the reality that voters are ready to express that anger at the polls.

It is in this hostile atmosphere that we find Hillary Rodham Clinton, the embodiment of an establishment politician, making a run for the White House. The Clinton campaign offers a textbook example of everything that today’s voters hate about politics. Parsing quotes…non-answer answers…walking the fine line between appeasing the big corporations that fill her campaign coffers and the middle class and working poor whose plight she pledges to champion.

Case in point…the Keystone Pipeline.

Over the past several months Mrs. Clinton has been asked hundreds of times if she supports the Keystone Pipeline. Each time she has declined to answer the question. First she told us she would give us an answer AFTER she was elected president. Then she said that in deference the White House she would wait until after the administration announced its decision. Then she said that she had put the White House on notice that she was going to announce her decision “soon.”

While her stated intent was to afford deferential respect to her former boss, the truth is that Clinton was carefully weighing the options of whose support she needed the most. Should she appeal to the big money bundlers in big oil or should she bow to the interests of the ecological crowd entrenched in her liberal base? The pluses and minuses of the Keystone Pipeline have been spelled out for months. This decision was about nothing but politics.

Yesterday Clinton suddenly announced that she would NOT support the building of the Keystone Pipeline. Apparently she decided that at this point in time in her campaign she needed the support of her left wing base more than the backing of the money crowd. Perhaps the reality of Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden nipping at her primary heels had something to do with her decision.

Then there is the timing. It is no coincidence that Clinton’s announcement came at the same moment that Pope Francis was setting foot on American soil. What better way to fly under the radar with a politically risky announcement than to make it when the press is distracted by a different shiny object. Her decision may get some play on the evening news but after that it is three days of wall to wall coverage of the Pope. By the time Pope Francis leaves the country her decision will have long since been relegated to yesterday’s news.

And even if you believe that her announcement was intentionally timed for the papal visit to connect with the Pope’s recent encyclical on the dangers of climate change; the calculation is still pure politics.

Mrs.. Clinton continues to play the political establishment game in an environment that is toxic to politics as usual. She tip toes through the landmines of truth versus fiction…principled values versus political opportunism…running the risk that at any moment her political career could go up in smoke.

Voters are tired of politics as usual. The fatigue over Clinton being Clinton continues to rise. A just released Bloomberg poll has Clinton barely leading the straight talking Sanders and the not-yet-candidate Biden: Clinton 33%; Biden 25% and Sanders 24%. She is upside down in the polls in terms of her character and trustworthiness. Questions over her handling of her emails continue to haunt.

Yet she keeps playing the same game.

Could the game be over?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Hillary And Bernie Are Smiling

Scott Walker has left the building.

The Wisconsin governor announced yesterday that he was suspending his campaign.

Once thought to be one of the favorites to win the nomination; Walker was never able to sustain any traction in the polls.

The truth is that Walker’s poll numbers began to plummet the minute he set foot outside of Wisconsin. Wisconsin voters elected Walker twice and helped him to defeat a recall challenge. But cutting jobs and slashing pensions was not a winning message outside the cheese state. Once voters got a closer look at his union busting bona fides the bloom quickly fell off the rose.

Walker didn’t help himself on the stump. Sweaty and stilted he never projected the persona that voters want to see in their president. And he seemed strangely out of touch when it came to matters of national security.

Walker proclaimed that his life experiences prepared him to serve as commander-in-chief. He likened running the military to his time as an Eagle Scout and compared fighting radical extremists to standing up to union protestors.

That said…Walker is a state governor who has real time experience running a large government organization. Traditionally that experience would hold a candidate in good stead among primary voters. But in today’s Republican Party that experience is of no consequence.

In the past 48 hours the Republican frontrunner (Trump) has questioned the president’s birthright and faith while the runner-up (Carson) has announced that he would oppose a person of Muslim faith ascending to the presidency. Sadly the reaction from the other Republican candidates to these hateful, racist, constitution defying comments has been less than underwhelming. Fear of angering the base trump’s all. No profile in courage here…a Sister Souljah opportunity missed.

And while Republican candidates engage in this outrageous dialogue their cohorts in congress are alienating women, blacks and Hispanics.

The Republican Party is once again in disarray.

Somewhere Hillary and Bernie are smiling

Monday, September 21, 2015

We Only Have Ourselves To Blame

If you are a parent you are no doubt familiar with the out of body histrionics often displayed by a prepubescent child prohibited from getting its way. Temper tantrums, foul language, property damage; all exhibited for the purpose of attracting attention, changing minds and altering the inevitable outcome. Rewarding such behavior is the worst thing a parent can do.

With that in mind I give you the 114th Session of the United States Congress; starring right wing conservatives in the role of prepubescent child.

The federal government will run out of money in nine days. The prospect of another costly government shutdown looms large on the horizon. Right wing conservatives are willing to allow the shutdown to occur. This time it is Planned Parenthood that has them in a snit. They want to defund the organization and they are willing to shut the government down if they don’t get their way.

Experience has taught Republican moderates in the leadership that the blowback from a costly government shutdown will fall squarely on the GOP. Not good during an election year. So leadership is trying its best to soothe the savage beast. The latest shiny object tossed out to distract the crazies is a bill to defund Planned Parenthood for one year while authorities investigate accusations that the organization is illegally engaged in the selling of fetal tissue for profit. The bill passed in the House last Friday but has little hope of passing in the Senate and no chance of making it past a presidential veto.

The far right refuses to be placated, insisting they will shut down the government before they agree to a continuing resolution that includes funding for Planned Parenthood. The fact that the last government shutdown resulted in the furlough of 800,000 government jobs, a $25 billion dollar hit to the economy and the first credit rating downgrade in American history, is of little consequence.

When the founders framed our constitution I believe that they intended for the government to work for everyone. I believe that the intent was to send individuals to Washington to represent the interests of their local constituents; to debate and lobby for ideological principles that they believed to be right and just.

But I also believe that the founders intended for those representatives to seek compromise…to put the best interests of the country as expressed by the majority ahead of their own. I do not believe that the founders intended for the minority to shut down the institution in an ideological hissy fit.

The fact that we find our country in this situation is of our own making. We send people to Washington to represent our interests and reward them for bad behavior.

Republicans have by their own admission, spent the last several years engaging in tactics whose sole intent was to keep a duly elected president from performing his job. The Ted Cruz’ of the world are nothing but political opportunists who cause mayhem for personal gain.

In fairness Democrats are oft times equally complicit; sending people to Washington whose sole intent is not to govern but to marginalize the Republican Party as the legitimate representative of a large segment of the American people.

The haters, fear mongers and bleeding hearts exist on the far reaches of our politics and leave no room for compromise or progress. As long as we reward bad behavior by returning these types of people to the halls of power we can only blame ourselves for the deplorable state of our political affairs.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Carly Shines During "Trump Fest"

All Trump all the time.

That’s my takeaway from last night’s “Trump Fest” brought to you by CNN.

CNN clearly understood that it had the makings of a ratings bonanza in its airing of this second GOP debate. They also correctly assessed that this ratings opportunity was due in no uncertain terms to the bombastic vitriol that is Donald J. Trump.

So network executives decided to capitalize on their good fortune by expanding the debate to a marathon two and three quarter hours and staging an event that pitted the ten other candidates against Donald Trump.

One by one the candidates were asked to respond to a personal attack that Trump had levied against them. As each candidate responded the cameras caught Trump’s reaction on split screen. Trump was then given the opportunity to respond.

All Trump all the time.

As a result it was difficult for all the candidates to push through the sophomoric food fight and get their message out. Some candidates got very little air time as Trump dominated the conversation.

That said there were a few candidates that managed to rise above the fray.

I thought Marco Rubio and John Kasich made a good accounting of themselves. Rubio was particularly strong on foreign affairs and Kasich, sounding more like a general election candidate than a conservative primary hopeful, spoke of the need for compromise and coalition building to get things done both at home and abroad.

Jeb Bush made a valiant attempt to show that he really did want to be there. He did his best to push back at Trump…though he looked uncomfortable doing it.

Chris Christie gave his best performance since bridge gate. But by-in-large they all seemed to fade into a blur as the marathon debate wore on.

Except for Carly Fiorina.

Fiorina was hands down the clear winner in this debate. He answers were crispy and clear. She was well versed on the issues and eloquent in her delivery. She exhibited an inner strength when the discussion turned to foreign policy; and allowed her passion and emotion to be revealed when she talked about abortion and the legalization of marijuana. Fiorina and her husband lost a son to drug abuse.

Like the other candidates Fiorina was asked to respond to one of Trump’s personal attacks. Unlike the other candidates she refused to engage in the food fight; preferring to allow Trump’s own words to do the talking for her.

Moments earlier Trump had blasted Bush for saying: “I don’t think we need $500 million for women’s health services.” As Bush tried to deflect Trump kept screaming: “I heard you say it…I was watching…I heard you say it.”

Moderator Jake Tapper then asked Fiorina if she cared to respond to Trump’s comments published in a Rolling Stone interview where Trump said about Fiorina: ‘Look at that face. Can you imagine anyone voting for that?”

Fiorina gathered herself and then calmly said: “It’s interesting…I just heard Mr. Trump say to Mr. Bush: I heard you say it. I think millions of women heard exactly what Mr. Trump said.” Game...set…match.

I expect to see Fiorina’s masterful performance rewarded in the polls.

And what of Mr. Trump’s performance.

In my opinion Mr. Trump gave his worst performance by far. He was exposed for his lack of specifics on the issues as well as his oft times unseemly rhetoric. He offered nothing new…repeating the same bombastic generalities that we have heard so many times before.

That said I do not believe that Trump’s poor performance will hurt him in the polls. His supporters will stick with him in large part because they will be sympathetic toward him over what they will most certainly perceive as unfair treatment (piling on) by both his opponents and the network.

As proof I offer you the unscientific online polls conducted by Times Magazine and Drudge immediately after the debate. They show Trump winning the debate by 64% and 57% respectively.

One final thought.

Setting aside for the moment the individual performances of the eleven candidates on that stage; there was a several very clear messages resonating throughout the debate.

This is a group of people that has a strong aversion to Mexican immigrants and would like nothing better than to round them all up and send them packing. It is a group that detests Planned Parenthood and would like to see it shut down…period. This is also a group that believes that the best way to deal with our problems in the Middle East, North Korea, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Iran and Russia is with military force. These beliefs stand in stark contrast with those expressed by the Democratic Party.

I don’t know who the eventual nominee will be for either party. But it is clear that the voters will have a clear contrast on which to choose.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Another Chance To Shine

The GOP will stage its second of twelve presidential debates tonight. CNN will host with Jake Tapper and Hugh Hewitt serving as ringmasters for what promises to be a three ring circus.

Tonight all eyes will once again be on Donald Trump. Trump’s ticked off anti-establishment message has resonated with the Republican electorate to such an extent that he enters this debate as the prohibitive frontrunner.

Trump denigrates politicians, women, immigrants, war heroes, banks, lobbyists, Mexicans, Chinese, Japanese, and Russians with equal fervor. Such candor would spell the end for most political careers; yet somehow Trump’s candidacy continues to surge. Trump was polling at 24% on the eve of the last debate. At this writing 42% of primary voters say they will cast their vote for Trump. Meanwhile, opponents who dared to criticize his not so politically correct rantings have found themselves plummeting in those same polls.

No longer viewed as a cartoon character by the Washington elite; tonight Trump will find himself the number one target of the ten other candidates on that crowded stage. Their goal…to find a chink in Trump’s amour that will hurt him with the electorate while at the same time making a statement that will gain traction and air time with the media.

While Trump will certainly hog the spotlight he will not be the only story.

Many “establishment" Republicans still believe that Trump will eventually crash and burn. They are looking for an electable alternative that can rise above the fray. Word is that Tapper and Hewitt will accommodate those concerns by asking questions that pit one candidate against another; forcing the candidates to actually debate the issues.

It promises to be an interesting evening.

Here are a few of the things that I will be looking for.

Will Trump be able to fight off the onslaught that is certain to come at him from all sides? Will he finally say or do something that will bring about the end that so many Republicans have been waiting for? Will anyone be able to get Trump to provide the policy specifics that never seem to come with all the promises?

Will Ben Carson say anything that will justify his sudden surge to runner-up status in the polls? Thus far he is Trump’s closest rival in terms of his lack of specifics and general lack of knowledge. Is there any “there” there?

Will Jeb Bush continue to look like he would rather be doing anything than running for president? Will he finally look like the impassioned candidate that donors have paid $114 million to see?

Will Carly Fiorina give a similar performance to the one that got her promoted from the kids’ table to the main event?

Can establishment candidates Rubio, Walker and Kasich do enough to break through or have they reached their ceiling?

Does this debate mark the end for Rand Paul and Chris Christie? Or will they will they find a way to hang onto their dream for just a bit longer.

Will Jindal, Pataki, Santorum or Graham give a Fiorina like performance on the “kids’ table debate” that will catapult them onto the main stage?

There are those who place little significance in these first debates. They say “it’s too early for these debates to have any significant impact on the race.”

I disagree.

It won’t be long before the holiday season is upon us. Nobody is going to be paying any attention to this stuff from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. No sooner does the calendar turn that the first real votes are cast on February 1 at the Iowa Caucuses. New Hampshire quickly follows on February 9.
It is important for the candidates to build some momentum going into the holiday season. You want to be a relevant part of the conversation during that dead period. You don’t want to enter that four week sprint to Iowa at the back of the pack.

There are a dwindling number of opportunities to make political hay between now and the holidays. One of those opportunities occurs tonight.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Do yourself a favor...

Are you tired of our politics?

Have you grown weary of the lies and obfuscation…the pandering and fear mongering……the sophomoric discourse, partisan gridlock and ineffective leadership that resides at the very core of our governance?

Then pull up the video of Stephen Colbert’s September 10 interview with Vice President Joe Biden.

Watch as a “real” person grieves over the death of his son and struggles with the decision to run for the most powerful office in the world.

This is what a genuine human being looks like…stripped of all the negativity inherent in our politics.

You may hate Joe Biden’s politics and laugh yourself silly at his at his malapropos. But the truth is we need more human beings like Joe Biden in our politics.

Do yourself a favor. Check out the interview.

There may be hope for us yet.

Friday, September 11, 2015

A Sequel Nonpareil

Lame duck presidents are not supposed to act like this.

Historically second term presidents are more about securing their legacy and planning their presidential libraries than getting much done. This is particularly true after the mid-terms when lame duck status officially kicks into gear. It’s hard to stay relevant when those who covet your office are measuring for new drapes.

Such is not the case with the second term of President Barak Obama.

Yesterday senate Democrats handed the president the 42 votes he needed to assure that his nuclear deal with Iran would go through. A few short weeks ago President Obama unlocked a door that had been closed for 50 years by resuming diplomatic relations with Cuba.

These two historic foreign policy achievements alone would make for a pretty historic second term. But there is more.

During his second term President Obama won major Supreme Court rulings securing access to affordable health care for all Americans and marriage equality for the LGBT community. He used his executive powers enact substantive standards for greenhouse gas emissions and protect 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation. He raised the wages for federal workers and federal contractors and made it easier for women and minorities to get legal relief from wage discrimination. He ended the ban on gays serving in the military and increased the tax rate on the top wage earners. Congress has granted him fast track authority to pursue a trade deal with the Pacific Rim.

By many accounts Barak Obama’s second term is has been even more transformative than his first.

One may disagree with the policies but there is no denying the historic substance of Obama’s second term.

A sequel nonpareil.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


Have you ever been in a situation where you witness an event so surreal that it literally leaves you speechless? I found myself in that situation yesterday…not once…not twice…but three times.

The first showcased the train wreck that can occur when opportunistic politicians insert themselves into the confluence of religion and the rule of law. The second provides proof that optics are often times more important than substance; and the third makes the case that we need to do more to address the mental health issues that plague our country.

EMBARRASSING - We start in Grayson, Kentucky where Clerk of Courts Kim Davis finds herself in jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. Mrs. Davis had twice refused a federal court order to issue the licenses on the grounds that doing so would violate her religious beliefs. The court ordered her incarcerated for contempt.
Presidential candidate and ordained minister Mike Huckabee saw this as an opportunity to flex his evangelical muscle. So he organized a political rally in support of Davis to be staged in front of the jail. Hundreds turned out bearing signs supporting religious freedom. Ted Cruz even showed up no doubt hoping to use the event to bolster his standing with the evangelical base.
As the rally was about to start word spread that Kim Davis was going to be released. It seems that Mrs. Davis’ deputy clerks decided to defy her orders and began issuing the marriage licenses. Since the Clerk’s office was complying with the law there was no reason to keep Mrs. Davis in jail.
Huckabee kicked things off with an impassioned speech on the importance of religious freedom; even offering to take Mrs. Davis’ place in jail to prove his convictions. Suddenly, Huckabee and Davis’ lawyer announced to the unsuspecting crowd that Davis was being released. Pandemonium broke out as Davis, to the strains of Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” emerged through the jailhouse doors. A sobbing Davis, overcome by emotions, took the podium as Huckabee and her attorney raised her arms in triumph. Davis gave a few brief remarks; imploring the crowd to keep up the fight; reminding them that God is with them. The ever present Huckabee close by her side like a second skin.
What about Ted Cruz. Cruz, never expecting to appear on the stage, tried to make his way to the gaggle of reporters near the podium. The goal…an impassioned comment of support for religious freedom caught on tape. But this was Huckabee’s event and his security guys were having none of it. Cruz gets caught on tape alright as he tries to sidestep his way around security only to be rebuffed at every turn. Cruz was said to be “incredulous” at the treatment.
My words cannot do justice to this embarrassing event or the sense of disbelief I felt as I watched it play out. Pull it up on YouTube and see for yourself. Truly a circus worthy of Barnum and Bailey.

OPTICS - The next event involves the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.
Over the past six months Mrs. Clinton has been dogged by an email scandal that just won’t go away. Her robotic responses to questioning have been cold, dismissive and steeped in legalese. Every call to apologize has been ignored. Until now.
The calculating Clinton Campaign informed reporters that they were remaking the campaign. From now on we would see a side of Clinton never before revealed…a more authentic, more genuine Clinton would soon appear. And it was so…
Last night Clinton appeared on ABC NEWS. When asked about her emails by interviewer David Muir she said that she was sorry. When asked why she was making a second run at the White House she choked up as she recounted how her mother admonished her to “fight for what you believe in no matter how hard it is.” Later she joined Ellen DeGeneres in a line dance.
If you read Mrs. Clinton’s remarks in the newspaper you would be inclined to take them at face value. But watching them on video you get a whole different perspective.
Clinton’s emotional reflection about her mother was raw, real and heartfelt. It is a side of her that supporters would like to see on display more often. However, the apology was a different matter. You know how when your kids apologize for something you can tell immediately whether or not they mean it or if they are just saying the words so you will leave them alone. This was that type of an apology. This was a hostage video where the prisoner is saying the words but you can tell that the kidnappers wrote the script. It was as if she was saying…”I’m sorry! Are you happy now?” It didn’t help matters that the apology was surrounded by a whole lot of “It was allowed…I did nothing wrong.” Legalese.
And then to suddenly unveil this light hearted, whimsical persona on Ellen’s show?
I bring this up because Mrs. Clinton, a smart and accomplished individual, is following the exact same path that cost her the nomination eight years ago. Clinton, the presumptive 2008 nominee was leading in the polls. Responding to charges that she was too cold and robotic, the 2008 Clinton campaign attempted a reset. A softer more genuine candidate was revealed. She even teared up as she spoke about her love of country and her desire to serve as champion for those who needed someone to look after their interests. She couldn’t pull it off then and I’m not sure she can pull it off now.
It is startling to watch her repeat the same mistakes that she made seven years ago.

MENTAL HEALTH – Last but certainly not least we enter the alternate universe that is Dick Cheney.
Cheney has been back in the news railing against the Obama administration for what he feels is a catastrophic deal with Iran. When he is not criticizing the nuclear deal or Obama’s “feckless foreign policies” Cheney is doing everything he can to re-write history.
Cheney blames President Obama for Iran’s influence in the region and the rise of ISIS. He ignores the fact that Iran’s rise to power and influence came as a direct result of the vacuum created by Bush administration’s wrong head decision to take out Saddam Hussein. He seems to have forgotten that as Defense Secretary under George H. W. Bush during the first Iraq War Cheney made that exact case for not following Hussein back to Baghdad; concerns over the power vacuum Hussein’s removal would cause in the region.
Cheney faults Obama for the advances made in Iran’s nuclear program; ignoring the fact that the program began in earnest under the Bush/Cheney administration. On FOX NEWS SUNDAY reporter Chris Wallace had the guts to confront Cheney when the former Vice President said that Iran began its nuclear build up under President Obama’s weak administration. WALLACE: “You dealt with Iran for eight years. During that time, from 2,000-2,009 Iran went from 0 operating centrifuges to more than 5,000. So in fairness, didn’t the Bush-Cheney administration leave President Obama with a mess?” CHENEY: “That was during Obama’s watch not ours.” WALLACE: “No, no, no. From 2000-2009. That was during your term in office.” Wallace also went back at Cheney over his assertions that President Obama was responsible for the rise of ISIS; reminding Cheney that ISIS arose out of the invasion of Iraq and the Bush administration decision to disarm and dismantle the Iraqi army.
Cheney is delusional and lives in an alternate universe. Republicans wish he would just go away. He needs help. Just another example of why we need to do more to tackle mental health issues.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

No Lesson Learned

School is back in session and so is the United States Congress.

Congress' first order of business…pass a funding bill to keep the government running beyond the fast approaching “we ain’t got no money” deadline on September 30.
Congress has known about this deadline for several months. They know that under the terms of the Constitution it is their responsibility to authorize funding for the government. But like most students they see no reason to work on an assignment until the eleventh hour.

Reasonable people, knowing full well the obstacles that will have to be overcome to reach a funding compromise, would have been working on this assignment since the last continuing resolution was passed a year ago. But these are not reasonable people. So here we sit, less than 30 days out, without even a hint of a substantive solution.

Oh, there have been a plethora of partisan funding proposals; none of which have a prayer of reaching the president’s desk. Republicans once again want to slash funding for entitlements and social safety net programs. Democrats want to raise taxes on the rich. Same old same old.

Republicans have come up with a bit of a new wrinkle this year. They want any continuing resolution to exclude all federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Republicans are convinced that Planned Parenthood uses the federal appropriations it receives to pay for abortion services. The fact that Planned Parenthood is prohibited by law from using any of the federal funds it receives for abortion services is of no consequence to the right. They want to defund Planned Parenthood…period. They have vowed to shut down the government if Democrats don’t agree to go along for the ride.

Defunding Planned Parenthood is a really bad idea. Not only is Planned Parenthood the largest provider of abortion services in the country it is also the nation’s largest provider of contraceptives, cancer screenings, HIV screenings and consultation services. Defund Planned Parenthood and the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions will rise. Defund Planned Parenthood and you will see a spike in the number and severity in cases of cancer and HIV.

Defunding Planned Parenthood is a dumb move. Shutting down the government for any reason is insane. The last time Republicans shut down the government 800,000 federal government workers were furloughed, the GDP took a $25 billion dollar hit and Moody’s handed the US government its first credit rating downgrade in history. So, yes, let’s do that again!

The federal government will run out of money in 21 days. There is absolutely no chance of meeting that deadline with a comprehensive budget. There simply isn’t enough time. So at some point congress will cobble together another short term continuing resolution that won’t address the country’s needs. What it will do is kick the can back down the road once more.

Our second rate infrastructure will continue to deteriorate. Our education system will continue to lag behind the rest of the modernized world. Our debt and deficits will continue to grow.

Congress is back in session. No lesson learned here.

Friday, September 4, 2015

So help me God!

Kim Davis is the duly elected Clerk of Courts in Rowan County, Kentucky.

Her duties as County Clerk include: processing civil and criminal cases, collecting and disbursing fines, accounting for child support collections, processing appellate petitions, conducting foreclosure sales, securing evidence and issuing permits and marriage licenses.

By all accounts Ms. Davis was good at her job. That is until she decided to allow her religious convictions to interfere with her duties.

It seems that the recent Supreme Court decision legalizing same sex marriage offends Ms. Davis’ religious beliefs.

Unlike most people who oppose a particular law or regulation; Ms. Davis decided to act. Mrs.. Davis declared that the office of the Rowan County Clerk of Courts would not be issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples. And in order to circumvent any charges of sexual discrimination; Mrs. Davis decreed that her office would not be issuing marriage licenses to heterosexual couples either.

Rowan county administration officials responded to her actions by asking her to step down. She refused. Federal courts have twice ordered her to resume issuing the marriage licenses. She refused to comply.

Yesterday Davis was jailed after District Court Judge David Bunning found her in contempt of court for failing to comply with the with a federal court order. She has since refused a compromise which would allow her deputies to issue and notarize the marriage licenses in her stead. Davis remains incarcerated at this writing.

The reaction to Mrs. Davis actions has gone viral. She has received all glory and praise from supporters applauding her steadfast religious convictions. Critics find her actions homophobic and discriminatory; lacking any faith based sense of humanity. And there are those who see Davis’ religious stance as hypocritical given her multiple divorces and children born out of wedlock.

In fairness it is probably fair to assume that most of her critics practice their own “cafeteria style” version of faith based behavior.

As for her supporters; I have to wonder if they would be so supportive if it were their lawsuit she refused to file or their gun permit that she refused to issue.

I respect Mrs. Davis religious convictions. But I find her methods flawed.

Mrs.. Davis is an elected official who who took an oath to abide by the law. The salary that she is refusing to relinquish is funded by tax dollars paid by the very people she refuses to serve. No one is forcing Mrs. Davis to engage in a homosexual lifestyle. She is merely being asked to do the job for which she freely sought election.

Mrs. Davis should follow her convictions and resign her post...

...or resume her duties and follow the law that she swore "So help me God" to uphold.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Rules are rules...

“Rules are rules.” Until they’re not.

Ever since FOX NEWS rolled out the arbitrary/unfair/semi-secretive rules for its Republican Primary Debate there has been a keening and gnashing of teeth within the Party.

FOX arbitrarily decided that the top 10 candidates in five “respected national polls” would be invited to appear on a nationally televised prime time debate. The remaining candidates would be relegated to a “happy hour” “kid’s table” “loser bracket” event to be held when most of the country was either working, commuting from work or eating dinner.

FOX refused to reveal which “respected national polls” they were using until a few days before the event. Then at the last minute they switched polls…removing one “respected national poll” and replacing it with another “respected national poll.” As far as anyone can tell FOX made the switch because the new poll provided a more definitive distance between the statistically tied #10 winner and # 11 loser. But nobody really knows for sure and FOX isn’t saying.

FOX also isn’t saying why they chose the “Top 10” candidates. Why not the “Top 5”…or "Top Half Dozen.”

At any rate…FOX held its two national debates. Donald Trump was anointed the winner by the media, the viewers who regularly mistake bombast for substance and of course…Trump himself.
However in the eyes of people who actually use their brain the real winner by a long shot was “happy hour” candidate Carly Fiorina. Fiorina gave a masterful performance that seemed to ignite her campaign. Fiorina surged to the point where she ranks in the top 5 of virtually every national and state poll.

None of that mattered to the host of the next Republican debate…CNN.

CNN had announced months ago that it would follow FOX NEWS” two debate format; 10 winners on prime time/”kids table” losers on during the dinner hour. Unlike FOX, CNN made public the arbitrary polls that they were using to set the stage. Full disclosure!
That’s where the problem started.

The arbitrary cutoff date that CNN used to calculate its arbitrary “Top 10” winners didn’t take into account Fiorina’s eleventh hour surge in the polls. Fiorina was still “out” while a handful of candidates whose polling number had plummeted were still in.

Too bad! said CNN. Rules are rules.

As the aforementioned keening and gnashing of teeth within Party circles rose to a crescendo the network stood firm. It was sticking with the arbitrary rules as written. One network spokesperson stated that once the arbitrary rules were made public the network was prohibited by law from changing them. To do so would violate FEC regulations. CNN was not changing the rules. Period!

Until they did.

Yesterday CNN announced that they were increasing the number of spots on the prime time “winner” debate from an arbitrary 10…to an arbitrary 11. One can only assume that the reason for this arbitrary decision was to promote Fiorina the adult table.

So Fiorina is in! Good for her!

But now there are 11! Eleven candidates vying for 90 minutes of air time. Donald Trump sucking all the oxygen out of the room.

If you are looking for a substantive debate on the important issues of our time…this ain’t the place.

When did we decide to let the media determine who gets to run for president?

I thought that’s what voters were for.

Rules are rules. Until they’re not.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

This & That

HILLARY – The State Department has released another 7,000 pages of emails produced by Hillary Clinton during her time as our nation’s chief diplomat. Subsequent to being retrieved from Mrs. Clinton’s personal server, 150 of those emails have now been marked by the State Department as “Confidential.” “Confidential” is the lowest classification applied to sensitive documents by State.

These 150 emails are in addition to the 305 emails that were marked as “Classified” after they were pulled from Mrs. Clinton’s server.

Mrs.. Clinton has maintained that she is innocent of charges that she mishandled classified documents as none of the emails sent via her personal email account and archived on her personal server were marked as “Classified” at the time they were transmitted or received. It is only now, years later that the State Department is considering them to contain sensitive information.

Here’s the thing…

If you are forcing those who wish to communicate with you to do so via your personal email account housed on your personal server in your home, you are effectively preventing the State Department from viewing those communications and determining whether or not they should be deemed “Classified.” Once the State Department finally had the opportunity to view Mrs. Clinton’s emails they found hundreds of sensitive communications that would have been considered classified had State ben allowed real time access.

Mrs. Clinton’s proffered defense is as damning as her reckless sense of entitlement.

OBAMA – The president is in Alaska today making his case for man’s effect on climate change. The president argues that manmade climate change is a real and present danger and that as the world’s second largest emitter of climate warming pollutants the US must act decisively.

The president has been consistent in calling out industry leaders to move away from fossil fuels and adopt more climate friendly sources of energy. So it seems hypocritical that at the same time he is making this ecological argument he has authorized Shell Oil to begin offshore drilling in the Arctic. The Artic region has always been off limits for oil exploration. That is until this president decided to put our most pristine ecosystem at risk.

CRAZY – A new PPP poll of Republican voters has Donald Trump in firm command of the race for their Party’s nomination. Trump received 29% of the vote. Surprisingly, it is Ben Carson that comes in a distant 2nd with 15% of the vote. Jeb Bush ranks 3rd with 9% and surging Carly Fiorina comes in 4th at 8%. Chris Christie is barely clinging to relevance in 10th place with only 2%. Oh, and Rand Paul can be seen falling into the abyss with 1%.

It is interesting that Washington outsiders Trump, Carson and Fiorina are surging while establishment candidates like Bush, Walker, Christie, Paul and Perry are failing.

What is more interesting are the responses to some of the other questions in this highly respected poll.

Republican voters were asked if they believed that Barak Obama is a Christian or a Muslim. Only 14% believe that the president is as he says he is…a Christian. 54% believe he is a Muslim. 32% aren’t sure. 86% of Republican voters nationwide question the veracity of the president’s faith.

Republican voters were asked if they believe that Barak Obama was born in the US. 29% say they believe Barak Obama was born in the US. 71% of Republican voters believe that he is not a US citizen and therefore an illegitimate president.

Perhaps answers like these explain why Donald Trump is the leading candidate for the Republican nomination. If nothing else they affirm the notion that more Republicans get their news from FOX NEWS than any other source.