Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Why Mitt Romney Should Never Be President

If you need a reason for why Mitt Romney should never be President of the United States, I can give you one straight from the "horses mouth".

Mitt Romney to Jay Leno on Tuesday, March 27th. "...Well, if they’re 45 years old, and they show up, and say, I want insurance because I’ve got a heart disease, it’s like, `Hey guys, we can’t play the game like that,’” Romney answered. “You’ve got to get insurance when you’re well, and if you get ill, then you’re going to be covered.”

There you go.  That single statement should exemplify why Mr. Romney should never, ever, be President of the United States.  First of all,  this is not a game. We are talking people's health care and subsequently, life or death issues.

Mr. Romney is so out of touch with the majority of the people in this country it is astonishing.  First of all, he's coming at this from a standpoint of hypocrisy since the law he signed when he was Governor of Massachusetts is as Rick Santorum says, the blueprint for "ObamaCare".  Secondly, the idea that he as president would essentially say "tough luck" to the hypothetical person described above shows a monumental lack of understanding of what the office of the Presidency is for.

Mr. Romney has consistently said he is the best guy to replace Obama because he understand the economy and understands business. Okay,he let's say for a moment that it is true he understands the economy and understands business.  He doesn't understand governance.  What he wants us to believe is because he was very adept at financial manipulation of companies when he was at Bain Capital, and that he served four years as a Governor, and that "he saved the Olympics", that he is better qualified to be the leader of the United States than the current occupant of the White House.  This is so far from the truth it is silly.  There are many, many businessmen who are likely as or more competent in business than Mr. Romney.  Carl Icahn, Rupert Murdoch, George Soros, Warren Buffett, the list is essentially endless.  That doesn't make them qualified to lead the country.   In fact, the training and experience they have accumulated can actually hurt them when it comes to seeing the whole cloth of presidential governance. The principle reason is that they operate is such a narrow community of people they have little to no understanding of how the majority of people in this country live their lives.  They do not understand the issues a normal, middle class person has attempting to pay their bills, keep their jobs, get health care for their kids, and on and on and on.  Romney in particular is so far away from the middle class that he has lost any sense of empathy for the majority of the people in this country.  That is of course, assuming he had some empathy at one point in his life.

Harry Truman probably characterized the office the Presidency and its role in terms of leading America better than any other President.  He said:  "The legislative job of the President is especially important to the people who have no special representatives to plead their cause before Congress and that includes the great majority. I sometimes express it by saying the President is the only lobbyist that one hundred and fifty million Americans have. The other twenty million are able to employ people to represent them and that's all right, its the exercise of the right of petition but someone has to look after the interests of the one hundred and fifty million that are left."  

What Truman was saying is just as true today as it was then.   But the important point here is that Truman really understood the life of a normal, everyday, working citizen.  Before he went into Politics, he ran a clothing store, and had a very pedestrian life with not a lot of money.   He could relate to the plumber, the milkman, the farmer, etc. etc.  His worldview informed him that his job was to be the advocate for the majority of the Americans in this country.  He had empathy.

Romney doesn't possess this quality, and it is not simply because he is wealthy.  Several, very wealthy presidents have understood the job and what it entails with respect to how government can improve other peoples lives.  Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican is a good example of a patrician, aristocratic president who had empathy.  His cousin, Franklin Roosevelt was the same. 

Romney has a blind spot for this in that he cannot relate to people in general.  They are either wealthy business people or they are employees of wealthy business people and he really, really doesn't understand those folks at all.

The job of the President is to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.  There are several requirements in the job description that detail what the leader of this country is supposed to do, but one of them, in the preamble of the Constitution is probably the single most important job requirement in the document.  The words that essentially tell Congress, the President and the Judiciary that they are supposed to do: 

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

That's it in a nutshell, the rest of the document is process and an explanation (through the Bill of Rights) on how we "provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity (meaning our children)"

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Romney has made idiotic statements such as "I like firing people", and "I'm not worried about the poor", that I simply assumed were dunderheaded gaffes from someone who wasn't fast on their feet when speaking.  I'm now beginning to believe this is part of his core makeup, and the only way I want this guy in the White House is if he bought a ticket and took the tour.

Author's note on the Supreme Court hearing on the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare).

The Supreme Court of the United States has been hearing arguments on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act since Monday of this week.  Arguments on the constitutionality of the so-called "mandate" were heard on Tuesday and the questioning was hard and pointed.  The government's position and defense of the mandate seemed like it was not reasonating with the Supreme 9.  What will happen after they issue their opinion, which is expected to be in late June of this year?  Will they declare the entire law unconstitutional? Will they simply negate the mandate?  Will they kick the can down the road for a couple of years because the "fines or penalties (tax) for not buying insurance wont kick in until 2014, and according to an 1867 law on the books a law cannot be found to be unconsitutional until someone has actually been injured by it. So, theoretically, one would have to not buy health care, incur the fine, then sue for relief, which by then the court system could actually judge on the constitutionality of the question.   That is highly unlikely, as the law is pretty weak tea and no one wants this to drag on. 

However, let's suppose for a minute that the law is declared unconstitutional.  What then?  Does it strike a death blow on the Obama presidency?  This is the President's most significant legislative victory and he and his administration spent 18 months working on its passage.  Does it signal a weak executive?  Will it carry Romney to victory in November?

I think not.  Remember, there is history here to reflect on.  In the early stages of the Roosevelt administration, a law was passed to attack the Depression that was known as the National Recovery Act, or the NRA.  The act was passed in 1933 by a congress eager to fight the terrible economic situation at the time.  However, in 1935, the Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional and it had to be dismantled.   The law was fraught with problems that ultimately were solved in a future piece of legislation that established the Works Progress Administration, but that's not the point.  Charles Evan Hughes, the Chief Justice of the Supreme court and his fellow jurists, gave a gift to Franklin Roosevelt, whether intended or not.  They gave to probably the most charismatic man to occupy the office up to to that time a "bully pulpit' to rail against the rich and powerful and set them up as the enemy of the people.  Here was an extremely wealthy president, taking dead-aim at the business people, lobbyists, bankers, etc and laying the obstruction of government intervention to improve the economy right at their feet.  Little of that was true, but it gave FDR a bullhorn to castigate the wealthy every weekend on his fire-side chats.   The end result was continued victories in Congress with legislation and electoral battles, and we know by our junior high school history that FDR is the only president to have ever been reelected 4 times.

So, Conservatives, Tea Party acolytes, and all anti-Obama folks out there.  Be careful what you wish for.  If "ObamaCare" goes down and the President does indeed get re-elected in November, he can say "Look, I've tried it your way. I was bi-partisan. I took a plan engineered by the Heritage Foundation and conservatives and created ObamaCare.  I pushed back my own base who wanted Single-Payer and a Public Option. I essentially took a Republican Plan and got it passed that will generate 30 Million new customers into the private sector insurance business.  Ok, you don't like that? Well here we go. I'm going to use the Press, the Internet, FaceBook, and any other means necessary to take my message to the people to say that the GOP has just sold you all down the river.  They could give a rat's behind that 50 million people are without health-insurance.  How do I know?  They don't have a plan!  They only want to defeat ObamaCare and defeat me.  Well, they didn't defeat me, so guess what?  Game on, and welcome to Single Payer Health Care!"

The GOP leadership right now, need to get on Wikipedia or look in their old college dictionary for the definition of Pyrrhic Victory.

Tell me what you think,

Regards,
Dennis.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Theocracy and Democracy

On Saturday, March 24th, Rick Santorum won the Louisiana Primary defeating Mitt Romney by a substantial margin (49% vs 26.7%) and claimed 10 delegates compared with Romney receiving 5 delegates.  The current delegate count between Romney and Santorum sits at 568 and 273 respectively.  Romney is about 49.6% of the way to the 1144 delegates required to capture the GOP nomination.  Santorum follows in second with about 23.8% of the delegate percentage. 

And so it goes on.  We have 22 primaries to go from now to the GOP convention in Tampa.  There are essentially 1145 delegates remaining in the upcoming primaries.  Of those 1145, the southern states where Rick Santorum has done so well and his home state of Pennsylvania have a total of 363 delegates. As the majority of states are proportional and not winner-take-all states, it looks like more and more Mitt Romney will be the GOP nominee for President. 

Like the 2008 Presidential race, this election will be a historic one.  For the first time, unless something unravels the Romney campaign at the last minute (and he seems to be trying very hard to sabotage himself), then a candidate with a religious affiliation other than Christian will be a candidate for president.  I know, I know, many of you will say that Mormonism is an extension of Christianity and indeed it is. However, there are many of the faith that claim it to be a fringe group or at worst, a cult.

The presidential race this time around has an interesting level of religiosity flowing through it that we've not seen for some time.  The 3 people most likely to be candidates (I'm including Santorum in this discussion for now) have all had their religious affiliations looked upon with suspicion.  We all know about President Obama's situation; a large segment of the Republican Party believe he is a
"secret Muslim", and in Mississippi and Alabama, more than 45% of GOP voters polled believe he is a Muslim.  Rick Santorum is Catholic and Mr. Romney as mentioned earlier is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Of the three, only Mr. Obama, who incidentally has professed to being a Christian for over 20 years is a member of  a Protestant denomination called the United Church of Christ.  Interestingly, Mr. Obama's affiliation with a Protestant faith more closely resembles the make up of the faithful in this country.   Some data for your consideration.   A Pew Poll done in 2007, called the US Religious Landscape Survey on religious make up of the US shows that about 78.5% of the people surveyed considered themselves "Christian". Note:  All three candidates religious affiliation shows up in the 78.5%, so Mormonism is considered a denomination of Christianity in this poll.  Catholics amounted to 23.9% number considering themselves Christian with Mormons accounting for 1.7% of the group.  Protestants made up 51.3% of the 78.5% and of that 51.3%, 26.3% considered themselves "evangelical".  The population of the survey was 35 thousand people across the US.

So, it is pretty evident that the US is a fairly religiously affiliated country. Whether or not these numbers represent devout belief or simply familial or social affiliation is not discussed, but the numbers indicate that the US does indeed take religious affiliation seriously.  By the way, non-believers like me accounted for about 12% of the populations surveyed who had no religious affiliation identified.  Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and other non-Christian percentages totaled 4.7%.

Well, we are going into an election where religion is up front and center, thanks to the conservative right wingers who won't let go of the "Obama is a secret Muslim" meme, and thanks to Mr. Rick Santorum's public declaration of faith on the campaign trail. Mr. Santorum has made this campaign not an issue of economic recovery, but seems to be fully intent on saving us from ourselves.  He is a proud and devoutly religious member of the Catholic Church.  Mr. Santorum is associated with a sect of Catholicism known as Opus Dei.  Mr. Santorum embraced the teachings of the founder of the Opus Dei movement, a Spanish priest named Josemaria Escriva.  Mr. Santorum is genuine in his faith, I'll give him that. I do not see any "Elmer Gantry" in his discussions of his religious faith and how it guides his view of the world and government. 

Mr. Romney's faith is also well documented though not discussed as much in this campaign.  I think it is not discussed much because Mr. Romney's team doesn't want to create the collision between fundamentalist evangelical Christians and his faith which would inevitably surface if he made a show of his faith while on the stump.  It is true that Mormonism is not well understood by those who have not bothered to do the research.  It is also true that Mr. Romney seems as devout in his faith as Mr. Santorum and presumably Mr. Obama is in his.

For the first time in a long time, we have a national campaign where religion will have some level of impact on who is voted in as president-elect in November.  Not since 1960 and the churn around the religion of candidate John F, Kennedy was a hot topic have we seen this much discussion on the faith of who will become President.  It stands to reason that whomever the GOP nominee turns out to be, religion will once again become a major talking point in the general election.  The "nutters" who continue to think the President is some type of Manchurian Candidate who is a Muslim will keep up their blather. That's a given.  But, if Mr. Romney becomes the nominee what will the religious community in this country think about him?  Mormonism is definitely not well represented by numbers in the United States. The aforementioned survey found only 1.7% of the survey population were affiliated with the Mormon Church.  What are Romney's core beliefs?  Mr. Romney is over 60 years old and has been an elder in the Mormon Church for sometime. Did he hold with the creed and canon of the Church that Black Men could not be priests? This doctrine was repudiated in 1978 with the Revelation on Priesthood, but the question remains. Did Mr. Romney hold with the law of his Church and believe that Blacks were not worthy of being priests?

I used to think it didn't matter a tinker's damn what religious affiliation a candidate for President held.  As long as the person would honor his oath of office as put forth by the Constitution of the United States, I didn't care what they believed.   But, I've changed my mind a bit on this.  I do care if someone like Rick Santorum gets elected president because I do not think he can separate his beliefs from his governance.  I do not think he can protect the first amendment of the Constitution guaranteeing freedom of religious belief while at the same time attempting to govern from his religious morality.  It does make a difference to me now, and I will indeed pay close attention to what these candidates say and how they act. 

What do you think about the rise of religion in our political discourse today?  Tell me what you think.

Regards,
Dennis



Saturday, March 24, 2012

Game Change

If you have not had a chance to read "Game Change" or see the HBO movie of the same name, I highly recommend you do so.  The book is the better of the two, as it covers the entire scope of the 2008 presidential campaign while the movie focuses on the GOP decision to select Sarah Palin as the Vice Presidential candidate and then the subsequent results of that decision.   The book is much, much more detailed on the overall campaign and the first half covers the Democratic campaign focusing on the candidacies of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards.

Written by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, two veteran reporters covering the political landscape in this country for several years, it is a detailed history of the campaign of 2008 and shows the high points, the low points and everything in-between of all the candidates as they vie for the nomination of their parties to become the President of the United States.

Of course we know what happened, Barack Obama, a freshman Senator from Illinois won the election handily, defeating John McCain by a significant margin to become the 44th president of the United States and the first African American elected to this office.  What this book and the movie illustrates however is the journey to this historic destination.

Heilemann and Halperin take a very objective view of the various candidates in this campaign. They show the upside moments and the downside moments of each candidate through the time from the announcement of their candidacy to the eventual completion of the election.  What is described in the book is a laundry list of teachable moments for anyone interested in politics and something that should be required reading in high-school government classes.  The book is not a polemic, rather it shows the nuts and bolts of how we elect our leaders to the highest office in the land and shows the consequences of big money, big media, and big ambition.

What struck me as so important in the book is the lesson that these elections need to be taken very seriously by the public at large.  As one will see when reading the book  or even watching the movie, these people are not one-dimensional, and the office of the presidency or even vice-presidency is a complicated and difficult task.  The lesson here:  It's not a popularity contest. It's not a matter of who the voter "feels comfortable with".  It is instead a matter of who can deal with a multitude of issues, none which are easy and none which come to the office of the presidency at a time the occupant of that office desires.  It is a whirlwind of decisions many inter-related that are difficult to make.  Many of them have no "good" outcome, it is rather, the lesser of two evils.  The TARP decision made in the fall of 2008 is a prime example of this.  Politically, TARP was a big stinking pile of refuse that helped no one, but if the decision hadn't been made, first by the Bush administration and followed up again by the nascent Obama administration, the country would have been much, much worse off than it was as a result of the bail-out being pushed through.

The other telling point in the book is how the candidates (now just McCain and Obama) handled their roles as titular leaders of their party during this crisis. Many of you may remember, the decision by the McCain campaign to suspend activities so he could go back to Washington to try and broker a deal.   McCain called President Bush and a meeting was set up with the principals in the Bush administration, attended by the president himself along with Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, other members of the cabinet, the Democratic and Republican leaders of both houses of Congress and finally the two candidates themselves.  Paulson had come forward with a request for $800B with little to no oversight from congress.  Publicly the House balked at this but Senate Democrats, House Democrats and Senate Republicans were essentially on-board.  What remained to be seen was if the House Republicans could be brought around.

 McCain had organized the meeting, and ostensibly had something to say with respect to how and address the matter. But, it was candidate Obama, who after President Bush opened the meeting and asked Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid for their comments, and was told that "Senator Obama will be speaking for us", who had the most to say. He came to the meeting prepared, he had previously held several conversations with Secretary Paulson, congressional members and members of Private Industry who understood what was happening with the economy. He discussed key points that any "rescue"must have including dealing with "golden parachutes", executive compensation, oversight and flexibility, and  it was indicated in the book that a unnamed Republican in the room said "If you close your eyes and listen, it sounds like Obama is already president".   The meeting had lasted fort-five minutes before John McCain said a word. Senator Obama asked for McCain's input, and he replied with a set of talking points that didn't provide any clear direction on where he stood.  Minority leader Boehner said he wasn't sure the Republicans in the House would get on board and provided a smaller level of relief.  Congressman Barney Frank asked McCain where he stood on the issue.   he said:  "The House Republicans have a right to their opinion on the matter".  Frank asked again "Do you agree with their position?"  McCain, said "No, but they have a right to their opinion."  So, McCain had no clear stance on the matter, had called the meeting and essentially had sat quiet throughout the session with little input.  The following Monday, September 29th, the Paulson bailout was voted down in the House with every Republican voting against the measure.  The next day,  the DOW industrial dropped by 800 points, and five days later, the Congress voted in a smaller $700B aid package.  But, but this time confidence on Wall Street was gone and the following week, the DOW dropped another 2000 points or almost 18% of its value.  This was the single largest weekly drop in value in the 112 year history of the Exchange.

The point of this story is that it illustrated the differences between Obama and McCain on the issue.  As the book discusses, McCain formed the meeting essentially to save his campaign, and did little else to prepare. Obama, not enthusiastic about suspending campaign activities to go to Washington in the first place, came well prepared and essentially took charge of the meeting.  The differences in approach between the candidates, not just McCain and Obama, but Clinton and Obama, Edwards, Palin, Biden, etc.  were significant and telling.   Had the public had insight to what was going on throughout each of these campaigns, we might have seen a faster rise of the populism that occurred in 2009 with the Tea Party and later with the OWS movements because much of these decisions made by these candidates were about perception, one-upsmanship and how they can paint the "other guy" as weak, ineffectual, or in Obama's case: unAmerican.

The book shows very unflattering moments from all the candidates and their surrogates.  Bill Clinton does not come off well in the book. Neither does Elizabeth Edwards.  But the worst, by far in the book is Sarah Palin.  The section of the book that describes her selection by campaign strategists Steve Schmidt and Rick Davis as a potential "game-changer" for the McCain campaign was a teeth-grinding, blood pressure raising and "throw the book at the wall" level of cynicism that is almost beyond belief.  Down in the polls by as much as 15 points to Obama in the summer of 2008, McCain's team had decided that they had to make a moment, create an event that shook up the momentum of the Obama campaign and give them a chance to claw back some of the distance between the two camps.   The Vice Presidential selection would be that moment.  McCain and Mark Salter, one of McCain's most trusted advisers, were heavily in the Joe Lieberman as the VP camp.  Both felt this was "McCain as Maverick" at its best, and that Lieberman would show that McCain was indeed "Putting Country First" as his campaign slogan shouted.  Schmidt and Davis, data analysts to the core, had run polling and came up with the opposite conclusion.  A liberal, Democratic, Orthodox Jew, would split the party and it would be game over for McCain.  They suggested that it had to go in another direction, and find someone who would ignite the core base, who was more conservative socially than McCain.  They said they needed to close the "gender gap" because Obama was polling far ahead of McCain with women.  So, McCain said: "Find me a woman".  The eventual result was the first term governor from Alaska, Sarah Palin.  The McCain camp had gone so far into the year that only a very short vetting period was available to look into Ms. Palin and determine whether or not she was the person they needed to select.  The vetting team did weeks worth of vetting in a period of 5 days. On the big issues, she seemed to be willing to align with McCain's views. However, the team didn't probe far enough and the things they missed soon turned out to be another in a series of "Game-Changers" that affected the election.  Out of the gates, it became apparent that Palin didn't have a very large fund of knowledge on world issues, let along specific things such as how the economy worked. She didn't understand what the Federal Reserve was as an example.   But, she was dynamite in front of a microphone.  Her convention speech where she declared that the difference between a Hockey Mom (herself) and a pit-bull was lipstick was fantastic. She was electric.  Immediately polling bumped in favor of McCain after the convention speech.  She was the medicine the campaign needed as far as Schmidt and Davis were concerned.  But, as fast as she took off, she came down to earth quickly with a marginal performance in front of Charlie Gibson, where she uttered the infamous "You can actually see Russia from some parts of Alaska" when responding to Gibson's question about how her foreign policy views were informed.  Immediately, Tina Fey of Saturday Night Live seized upon this with the excruciatingly funny but damning "I can see Russia from my house!" bit on the weekend comedy show.  It got worse.  Her interview with Katy Couric was a disaster and became more fodder for the SNL troupe.  The campaign was in almost panic mode as Palin sunk into a deep depression, refused to work with the team to shore up her amazing lack of knowledge. She became almost catatonic in briefings where Nicole Wallace, former Bush White House Communication Director was attempting to prep her for interviews and public appearances. Palin wasn't eating, losing weight alarmingly, and continually worried about her poll numbers in Alaska, a safely Red State for the campaign.   What becomes evident to Schmidt and others (Wallace couldn't vote for her in the general, so refused to vote at all.) was what they had done. They created a "Frankenstein Monster" who, while charismatic and ready to go all out and attack Obama on Bill Ayers or Jeremiah Wright, had no clue or no interest in substance. She also had no trouble lying. She had yelled at Schmidt to get the Alaska Press to retract a story about her husband's membership in the Alaska Independence Party (AIP), a secessionist party that wanted to leave the union.  She said first that Todd had not been a member of the party, had only checked the party registration by mistake and it was retracted later, when in actuality, Todd had been a member of the AIP for seven years. 

The result one gets from reading this book depend upon one's political perspective.  As everyone who reads my blog knows, I'm a liberal and in the tank for Obama, so from my perspective he comes out looking very good in the book.  However, regardless of political affiliation or bias, this story shows how close we came to electing a woman with literally a 5th grade level understanding of the world and how government works to being a heart-beat (a 72 year old multiple cancer survivor heart-beat) away from the presidency.  It literally sent shivers down my spine while reading this.  It is so vitally important, that we as a people get seriously engaged in who we send to Washington, regardless of role, in order to make sure they are prepared and ready. Obama was prepared, Palin was not, that much is clear.  What we need to do as an electorate is ask extremely serious questions of our candidates.  It really doesn't matter what political party the person has when that 3AM call comes (the Hillary commercial castigating Obama's inexperience), it matters what the person does when they answer the call.

Read this book, see the movie. It will entertain, inform, and terrify you all at the same time.


Tell me what you think.

regards,
Dennis

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Answer My Polls, Please!

Well, we're getting close to Super Tuesday, which is next Tuesday by the way.  10 states and 480 delegates will be at stake with either primary elections or state caucuses.  480 Delegates is about 42% of the 1144 required to get the nomination of the GOP to run against Obama.  So who is going to get it?  Please, please let me know by answering my poll on the blog.  It's open until March 31, so you've got time to let me know what you think.

Also,  please let me know who you watch for political coverage?  I'd be interested to see who the folks are tuning into to find out about who is winning or losing this contest.

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK!  Answer my poll.  please.