A fellow blogger and like-minded political liberal recently bemoaned the current Benghazi, IRS and Associated Press “scandals” engulfing President Obama, writing:
“Suffice it to say that we are witness to a collision behind some slipshod, misguided or errant acts by officials inside the Obama administration and a take-no-prisoners, draw blood first – ask questions second, facts-be-damned modus operandi by a band of freelance members of the opposition who will seize any opportunity to discredit people and destroy careers in the service of future electoral victories.”
Much as I hate to argue with a fellow Democrat, describing the actions taken by the White House, the State Department, and the IRS as “slipshod, misguided or errant” is like Richard Nixon saying the Watergate break-in was just a prank. It is unreasonable not to assume that the State Department and the White House made a concerted effort to misguide Congress and the press by trying to hide the terrorist responsibility for the Benghazi attack, or that the IRS targeting and obstructing the tax deductibility of right wing organizations and the demands for names of contributors was not politically motivated and probably encouraged by people in the president’s circle, or that the invasion of the AP’s email was not a blatant attack by the White House on a free (albeit irresponsible) press. The president personally may not have been a party to these acts but his subsequent “outrage” is far from enough of an admission and acceptance of his responsibility.
Beyond that, while I agree with my colleague’s description of “the opposition,” it would, to be fair, also serve to describe the modus operandi of some of the left wing’s reactions (including my own on occasion) to various aspects of George W. Bush’s presidency although I will defend most of my “take-no-prisoners” tendencies as largely justified, even if sometimes intemperate.
As I wrote back to him, if all this had been going on (and certainly worse did indeed occur) during W’s time, we’d be screaming bloody murder and defining it as evidence of his incompetence if not malfeasance. I will continue to give Obama the benefit of that particular doubt, but can only conclude, this late in his presidency, that for all his intelligence and good intentions, he has learned nothing thus far (and seems not to care) about how to construct/execute his office, and is simply incompetent as a manager of the executive branch. The current fiascos reach a level of organizational dysfunction not seen since Jimmy Carter.
I agree with my friend’s call for the resignations or dismissals of Attorney General Eric Holder as well as other IRS and White House staffers directly involved, and with the demotion of Valerie Jarrett who, as he so pithily put it, is one of many around the president who “see the fifth face on Mt. Rushmore when they look inside the oval office.”
At the end of the day, this is the president’s own fault due to his inability or unwillingness to deal with the administrative logistics required for the effective execution of presidential leadership and action. In this regard, not even his predecessor was so Bush league.
Not quite twenty years go, a lawyer named Philip Howard wrote a book called “The Death of Common Sense.” His thesis was that government bureaucracy produces so many laws and attendant regulations so absurd as to stifle innovation and productivity, and by failing even the most cursory application of common sense, is counterproductive in pursuing their impossible goal of mandating minute details of behavior, although ostensibly for the public good. In trying to anticipate, account for, and adjust the activities of individuals and institutions to achieve a predetermined social, political or economic goal, much legislation has, according to Howard, totally abandoned common sense as a guideline governing what should or should not be encouraged, permitted or outlawed.
When looking at such government endeavors as he examines, it is hard to disagree with his premise. The U.S. federal tax code and a wide variety of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations are just two living examples. And when applying his criteria to the current deliberations and decisions of today’s U.S. Supreme Court, the death of common sense is alive and kicking as its virtual everyday motto.
One ongoing attack on common sense by this Court is the so-called “originalist” theory of constitutional interpretation whose application defies any notion of rationality. It is incomprehensible to believe, as Justice Scalia and his judicial doppelganger, Justice Thomas have advocated, that the Founding Fathers intended the Constitution to be interpreted primarily according to the knowledge, beliefs, and values of men (absent women and any other people not Caucasian, predominantly Protestant, wealthy, and of European descent) living in the eighteenth century. The fact that the Constitution itself provides for amendments suggests the Founders understood the absurdity of allowing them eternal guidance from their graves, which would have perpetuated slavery and the denial of a woman’s right to vote, among other quaint policies of our revolutionary leaders.
The idea that corporations are people entitled to the same constitutional protections as individuals — the basis for the Court’s ridiculous decision in the Citizens United case that has trampled on the long established will of Congress and previous Court precedents, unleashing unrestricted and anonymous corporate wealth in political campaigns — is just one recent example of common sense strangled at the hands of Chief Justice Roberts and his four henchmen (Justices Kennedy, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito) of the right wing apocalypse — an alliance of reactionary Republicanism that threatens to turn the Court into a political arm of the radical right.
The recent reversal of the Chief Justice’s apparent intent to side with his gang of four in striking down the Affordable Health Care mandate for universal healthcare insurance was far more a political panic attack than an act of common sense, as he saw his legacy developing as the leader of a Court that has in almost every major decision become an adjunct of a Republican Party that by its own admission is out of touch with the majority of Americans. And while I did in fact predict his eventual vote, I did not envision the Chief Justice’s contortions of legal logic that enabled him to agree with his Republican-appointed cohorts that the mandate was unconstitutional as a matter of interstate commerce but acceptable as a right of Congress to enact taxes. In fact, he was wrong on both counts. Virtually all Court observers believe that according to prior cases, the mandate was clearly sanctioned by the precepts of interstate commerce. And by any reasonable definition, it does not levy a tax but rather offers the choice to be insured or pay a fine if you’d rather not. (The unintended consequence of the Chief Justice’s mangled logic is to prove that at least in this case, two wrongs do indeed make a right.)
And now, we are about to witness two more major flights from common sense that have become the hallmark of the Roberts Court. In a flurry of legal mumbo-jumbo, the Court is desperately trying to avoid a decision on whether California’s popular vote against same-sex marriage violates the constitutional rights of gays and lesbians, as lower courts have ruled. Instead of enjoining the issue, the Court spent most of its oral argument time on whether the lawyers arguing the case had “standing” to debate the question at all. If, as they seem to prefer, the Court can conclude there is no “standing”, then they don’t have to worry about the extent to which homosexuals are, or are not, protected by the Constitution, which common sense suggests should be their job. And when the Chief Justice this time inanely suggests that same-sex marriage is a non-issue because marriage is just a “label,” common sense is left for dead.
Obviously, it is far more than a “label” because the other case — the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) — centers on defining marriage as only between a man and a woman and denying same-sex couples the federal legal benefits of marriage. Here again, the Chief Justice leaves common sense in the dust when stating that the president lacks “the courage of his convictions” and should defy the law by refusing to enforce DOMA since he doesn’t believe in it. It is beyond belief that the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court would suggest that the president should decide which laws to enforce, or not. And here again, the Court will likely dodge the issue of whether same-sex couples have a Constitutional right to marry by ruling that DOMA illegally denies benefits of marriage in those few states that have legalized such marriages, not because it is morally wrong but because Congress indeed has no right to supersede a state’s judgment that same-sex marriage is legal.
However, the Supreme Court does have the right — in fact the obligation — to override any state law that prohibits an American from enjoying his or her constitutional rights as a citizen. The central issue, which the court flouts common sense by desperately trying to avoid in both cases, is not whether same-sex marriage is morally acceptable, or whether or not God forbids it, or whether it is good or bad for children, or anything other than whether denying marriage and all its legal benefits to gays and lesbians violates their constitutional rights. While the Constitution clearly leaves issues of marriage to the states to decide and administer, the Court needs to rule on whether or not that rightfully includes a state’s prerogative to prohibit same-sex marriage. I believe it is a common sense conclusion that if homosexuality is not illegal (and not even this Supreme Court could avoid that conclusion), then neither should a marriage between homosexuals be illegal.
I am not suggesting that there are no legal restraints on our basic rights and legal activities. Even our precious freedom of speech is sometimes rightfully limited. Smoking and drinking are legal, yet so should be the many circumstances when they are not permitted. But unlike yelling “fire” in a crowed theater, smoking and drinking, homosexuality harms neither the participants nor anyone else. Denying same-sex couples their liberty and pursuit of happiness (which I recall reading somewhere are unalienable rights endowed by their Creator) through marriage seems — in the century in which we are living — unjustifiably and blatantly discriminatory, and therefore unconstitutional.
To me, that’s common sense, which if not already dead at the hands of this Court, is certainly moribund.
Now that the Newtown tragedy has prodded the president and a mostly reluctant Congress to bring gun control, for at least as long as it titillates the media, to the surface of current priorities, I find myself (oddly for a liberal) in basic agreement with those who argue that more stringent gun controls will do little, if anything, to stem the violence people in America perpetrate with guns.
The opportunistic rush to re-institute the ban on assault weapons, adding to it the prohibition of ammunition magazines that allow firing of multi-rounds per second, as well as universal and more stringent background checks on gun owners are the easy pickings for politicians posturing to “do something.” However, even these obviously sensible actions may fail as they will be hotly contested by the combined efforts of the NRA, the gun manufacturers, and the demented souls who believe that guns are their protection against their government, and beyond that, their God given right, aided and abetted by a Supreme Court majority that apparently cannot understand English (comma or no comma) in their reading of the Constitution’s second amendment.
Actually, while I believe the individual citizen’s “right to keep and bear arms” as defined today (having nothing whatever to do with the intent of the founding fathers), is in no way guaranteed by the second amendment, I also believe that responsible people ought to be able to own guns for protection and for sport, neither of which would be compromised by a ban on military-style weaponry nor in-depth background checks. I also think that every weapon should be registered and their owners held responsible for their use. (As to those paramilitary kooks running around in camouflage, camping out in the woods, and mowing down their conspiracy-induced phantom Feds, let me add that I understand their paranoia that this would make it easy for the government to confiscate people’s guns, but if our democracy allows such a government to take power, we deserve enslavement and our personal arsenals will certainly not prevent it.)
Yet while I support these proposals because if nothing else they will show us as a more civilized society less committed to and governed by a gun culture, I believe they totally miss the point if the intended result is a meaningful reduction in mass murders and public gun violence in general. Unless and until we address the fact that Newtown and every other horror we’ve witnessed in recent years were acts committed by people who are insane (regardless of any legal definition to the contrary) and whose lives have offered ample evidence of their sickness which has gone unnoticed, unreported and untreated, we will not stop the next slaughter of innocents. We desperately need to find ways to effectively recognize, treat and stop such people short of their mental collapses into lethal violence.
And we need to ask why so many more people than ever seem to be driven to such levels of anti-societal desperation as to become mass murderers. I believe it goes much deeper than the fact that we — more than most other nations — worship guns and commercialize the most extreme forms of violence for the so-called entertainment of adults and children alike. I believe it goes beyond these obvious manifestations, which may be more symptomatic and less causal of what actually pushes people over the brink of derangement, opening fire on a society that has driven them mad. I believe it goes to the very soul of the disparate factions that characterize the dangerously divisible nation we have become socially, economically, politically, philosophically and psychologically.
We didn’t used to be this way. There’s something rotten in the state of America and until we understand what’s changed, and why, and how we can mitigate the problem, and in fact take action to do so, we face an existential threat as ominous as any nation or terrorist group that wants to destroy us. Unfortunately, it is an issue intellectually far beyond legislatures elected by media and money, and of no interest to those who control either, since there is no audience for sociology compared to the moronic stream of congressional and pundit blather.
In any event, whatever passes for gun control will be no answer.
America’s foreign policy and defense establishments have long concerned themselves with the threat to our nation and to global stability posed by weapons of mass destruction in the hands of adversaries, enemies, and governments of questionable sanity. But in the wake of the latest national tragedy of people, including primarily children, slaughtered by a manic committing mass murder using semi-automatic weapons, our country desperately needs to address the domestic use of WMDs by Americans against ourselves. Because unless you want to quibble about how many people constitute a “mass” when they are being destroyed, certainly automatic and semi-automatic rifles and handguns are specifically designed as WMDs, intended to kill as many people as possible and as fast as possible.
Our Supreme Court regularly reaffirms the ostensible right of Americans to own and operate guns, including these WMDs. As debatable as this interpretation of the Constitution remains, generally outlawing citizen ownership of guns is both politically impractical and likely indeed unconstitutional. But clearly, we ought to be able, even within the constraints of the most gun-toting interpretation of the second amendment, to significantly regulate who qualifies for gun ownership, what guns they are qualified to own, and the terms under which they may own them.
Which bring us to the National Rife Association and their partners, the gun manufacturers, who own and operate enough legislators to thus far prevent any effective regulatory restraint on their mission of putting the most possible guns in the hands of the most possible people, to the point that they aid and abet the current insanity of state legislatures encouraging our return to Tombstone, with a gun on every hip. Their justifications for virtually unlimited and unregulated gun ownership would be laughable if their intent was not so tragically insidious. The paranoid wing argues that they need military-grade assault weapons to protect themselves from some fantasized totalitarian takeover (no doubt by an army of ivy league liberals). They will even tell you that registration of such weapons would allow power-mad feds to specifically target the weapons of these modern-day minutemen, thus eliminating all resistance to the loss of their freedom to pursue their cherished libertarian anarchy. The more sane community of hunters claim they should be allowed the fire power of modern weapons, which seems to suggest less of a sporting chance for their prey, or the need to defend themselves from an attack by a crazed mob of deer. They insist that even for target practice, semi-automatic weapons are necessary, as though having to re-chamber a bullet is just too tedious and time consuming.
And then we have the gun lobbyists who try to put the latest massacre “in perspective,” telling us that guns are among the least frequent causes of violent death and that there is no provable correlation between increased gun control and any decrease in murders. And while that may in fact be true, except for the possibility of reducing membership in the NRA and the profits of the gun manufacturers, it totally misses the point of what sensible regulation, strictly enforced, could accomplish.
It seems to me the legitimate reasons to own a gun can be arguably limited to (1) an apparent need for self defense, (2) the sport of hunting, or (3) the recreation and/or competition of target shooting, none of which should be significantly hampered by increased gun control. I cannot imaging how self defense, hunting, target shooting or even Justice Scalia and his disciples would be constrained by (a) banning ownership by the general public of the myriad of murderous assault weapons now available to any crackpot in kakis with a catalog and a credit card, (b) requiring a license for the purchase of a gun, (c) conducting a reasonably thorough background check of prospective gun owners, (d) registering every gun to its owner who would be legally responsible for its use unless and until it was reported lost or stolen, and (e) making illegal possession of a gun a major felony. Some states may indeed have such laws, but they need to be federally mandated and enforced by the FBI.
Would any or all of the above result in less gun violence and fewer episodes of mass murder? It seems logical to think so, but in any event, it would surely make us look and feel like a more civilized society, instead of questionably using our Constitution to protect the revenue of the NRA and the gun makers by justifying arming ourselves to the teeth, and then piously lamenting the deranged lunatics who for whatever demented reasons turn their personal arsenals of WMDs against us and our children.
At a time when a political label is often used to libel, I offer the following verse in the spirit and hope that everyone enjoy a Happy Holiday season and the best for the New Year:
For three hundred sixty-four days of the year,
He and his laborers work with good cheer,
So that on one night he can travel the land,
Bringing equally to all, gifts that are planned.
No ask goes unanswered, no letter unread,
No one is excluded and to all he has said,
“You have only to want and reach out to me,
All will be granted and all will be free.”
He fulfills every wish, all hopes and all needs,
In welfare for all, he forever leads,
In his giveaway program, no one is missed,
By none other than Santa, the socialist.
Note: With the GOP in well-deserved disarray, I temporarily turn my attention to another subject. A Google search came up with nothing related to the painting referenced in the anonymous passage reproduced below. Does this sound to anyone like an artist you could identify, speculatively if not definitively?
Some who doubt my art look at my work and see nothing. They therefore assume there is nothing to see. They accuse me of artistic fraud, painting randomly and without meaning, Shakespearian according to one such heathen, “signifying nothing.” They attribute my renown to the mindlessness of critics, dealers, collectors, and curators rushing to praise and pay for whatever they think au courant, deeming it the avant-garde expression of high intellect and deep emotion. Beyond my work, they consider the entire genre a farce. I have no words for such inchoate fools.
They have no capacity to appreciate my latest and seminal work, “The Palette” — a depiction of virginal oils arranged with original colors flowingly emanated from their tubes interspersed with a variety of texturally brushed mixtures of various hues — and are incapable of experiencing envelopment by the exquisitely elegant notion of art as art before it becomes art. Such boorish insensitivity would similarly remain unmoved by my inspirations for this work — a photograph taken at an immeasurable micro-moment before a sperm cell impregnates an egg, or the incomprehensible nothingness yet omnipotence of an infinitesimal instant before the creation of the universe, both expressions of the pre-existence of creation which, in “The Palette,” I have captured in an iteration beyond the physical world.
In their plebian lack of sophistication, they look at “The Palette” seeing only a literal palette, crassly dismissing it as a non-descript, common mélange of colors and textures with no apparent graphic plan or intent. They cannot discern that my uniquely distinctive painting of my singularly inimitable palette is on any level of perception a self-portrait, above all else a universally particular expression of intellect that I alone possess, which could not be replicated in its exact conception at any time, in any place, or by any other organism, hence its intrinsic oneness. They do not understand that with this painting alone, I have compressed to its origin my entire oeuvre at the very moment of its greatest purity of portent and power. It is the final instant in which the idea has reached its highest development and exists unrestrained by the physical limitations and imperfections of the human anatomy which can only degrade and devalue the artist’s cerebral conception in what inevitably dissolves in a futile effort of expression to minds that can only defile it with inadequate interpretation sullied by whatever perverse combination of experience and belief constitute their flawed psyches.
Irrespective of the inane speculation as to other forms of life or intelligence elsewhere in the universe, which have no relevance whether thought of as God, nature, or an immense incendiary accident, the speculative idea exploding into the consciousness of insight that infuses “The Palette” defines me alone, creating an eternal continuum of time and space unencumbered even by infinite undiscovered dimensions, achieving a unified theory of existential reality far simpler in expression yet vastly more complex in creation than the total of all mathematical equations, erroneous in their relativism in attempting to describe a universe bounded by the certitude of absolute individual comprehension, the subjectivity of which notwithstanding becomes the objective truth of being, in the same and every instant forever both one and all.
Thus, with the completion of “The Palette,” I have come to the realization that all I have done before, no matter how captivating to the art world and personally rewarding to me, was merely the prelude to a consummate opus, and nothing I can do hereafter could equal the cosmic revelation of this vision. I have outdone and undone myself and now face an existentially crippling irony from which there is no escape. And, should irony devolve to depression, and depression to unbearable pain, I will, at the height of the most glorious self-realization and the unfathomable power to express it, have created both my artistic and corporeal demise.
With their second consecutive defeat by Barack Obama, the Republican Party heads for a few rounds of recrimination as they tumble past their “tipping point” toward a free fall into irrelevance.
Some among them already claim their loss resulted from their failure to nominate a “true conservative” (whatever that may be) instead of a previously moderate Governor of a liberal state who spent the primaries claiming to be a “severe conservative” and pandering to every far right audience he could find, only to then revert to his more centrist past in order to distance himself from his party’s crackpots. I believe taking that crooked path, careening from left to right to center, more than any other reason, is why Governor Romney lost.
Yes, his verbal gaffs, blunders, patrician tone deafness and financial secrecy didn’t help. Nor did his lack of warmth and charisma (despite Ann Romney’s many attempts to paint his portrait as a fun-loving frat boy — the mischievous Mitt with an impish sense of humor that no one else seemed able to discern). But if President Obama could overcome his disastrous performance in the first debate in front of tens of millions of voters, not to mention the palpable disappointment of so many of his supporters, to the point where most Americans simply didn’t want him in the White House any longer, so might the Governor have overcome his low level of likeability and even his often shameless dishonesty, denying his well documented flip-flopping. What Governor Romney could not overcome was the carnival of clowns (with the one exception of an intelligent but befuddled Jon Huntsman), with whom his party surrounded him for months, each trying to outdo him in a torrent of imbecilic, stupid, ignorant, untruthful craziness that left the electorate untrusting about where he stood on anything.
Being at least compassionate, if not conservative, I had some sympathy for the only person in that maelstrom of madness with a shred of good intentions, personal decency, and for his party, any hope of defeating President Obama. But being a supporter of the president (disenchanted but not to the point of desertion), I was a delighted viewer of that primary freak show.
Can you imagine a major party’s contenders for the presidency of the United States defined by a Congresswoman who, among a host of beliefs ranging from bizarre to demented, thinks that homosexuality is a reversible state of mind? Or by a Governor of one of our largest states, whose lack of intellect was painfully evident in his inability to put togeether a grammatically correct sentence, much less remember what he wants to say? Or a defeated ex-Senator whose religious zealotry harkens back to the Middle Ages? Or a life-long lunatic who mixes anarchy with isolationism and who, as it turns out, is also a bigot? Or a philandering huckster whose “bold” economic vision wouldn’t pass muster in a convention of snake oil salesmen? Or a failed Speaker of the House who outdid every one of them in soaring flights from reality and the more down-to-earth ability to look the camera straight in the eye and lie. This is the party that Governor Romney came out of the primaries representing.
Is it any wonder that he and his Tea Party favorite son did little better (two more states and no more votes) than an often doddering Senator McCain and what’s-her-name with the house ten miles from Russia? Is it any wonder that the GOP is nationally teetering on the brink?
In retrospect, and with admittedly pure hindsight, Governor Romney’s one path to the presidency would have been for him to have early on gathered the GOP congressional leadership, the Tea Party goers like Grover Norquist and the Koch brothers, the Sheldon Adelsons and others ready to fork over tens of millions to defeat the president, and given them an ultimatum: “Either get this collection of morons off the stage or I’m going home and you can see how well you do with one of them running against the president.” In that way, he would not have been pledging allegiance to the nuthouse wing of the Republican Party and to the anti-Hispanic, anti-women, anti-anything-the-government-does-to-help-people-in-need policies for which it stands. He would have been able to define himself instead of having to defend himself for his misguided alliance with the radicals of the far right.
But that would have required foresight, strength, leadership and courage practically unknown in American politics today and certainly not part of Governor Romney’s resume.
Would it have led to the president’s defeat? Probably not, because at the end of the day, Governor Romney and his advisors offered nothing new, only the time-worn clichés of failed economic and anti-regulatory policies from a party that was responsible for the Great Depression and the worst recession since — two economic debacles that brought the country to its financial knees, requiring Democratic administrations to dig us out of the Republican economic debris.
And regarding the even greater concerns of governance, the Republican Party exists in what my daughter calls an “alternate universe” and which I more specifically describe as being out of touch with a nation struggling to recalibrate its moral, ethical, and humanistic compass. Their detachment from the soul of our democracy has nothing to do with deficit spending, military might, taxes, abortion, gay marriage, border fencing, gun rights, state’s rights, drilling rights, taxes, flag burning, school prayer, national exceptionalism, climate planning, so-called socialism or our Christian identity (really?), or just about any issue about which Republicans of recent generations have been obsessing. It has everything to do with an America that is losing its heritage of opportunity for all; an America built by immigrants, many millions today illegally encouraged as a source of cheap labor, now demonized for the diversity they represent; an America where too much white collar crime goes unpunished while prisons overflow from an unbalanced judicial system of regressive criminal laws and unequal representation; an America that values fame and fortune more than fairness and fraternity; an America in which the few grow ever more obscenely rich as many more fall into poverty while the vast majority struggle to make ends meet; an America in which ever more money buys increasingly undemocratic and corrupt political power, while public service starves for lack of funding; an America that is failing its people’s health, education and upward mobility; an America that substitutes anger and invective for civil discourse; an America in which the media abdicates its duty to inform the public, replacing facts and issues with mindless sensationalism; an America hungering for some modicum of her former success and status; an America that for all her historical greatness, today faces more problems than ever, with one of its two political parties unable and/or unwilling to address these fundamentally nation defining issues, pursuing instead their clueless dedication to the wealthy, the white, and the wacky.
At least President Obama understands this. What he can do about any of it in a second term is another question. The first left almost all of it still to be addressed. But at least he says he’s learned a few things and now he has nothing left to lose except a legacy of missed opportunity. We’ll see.
As for the Republicans, if Paul Ryan is their next great hope, they’re screwed. And all the money unleashed by their Supreme Court won’t help them. Or the rest of us.
Not that I suppose you have missed my blogs of late, but I admit to being stunned into silence by the outright cynicism of Mitt Romney and the astonishing ineptitude of Barack Obama.
Governor Romney’s campaign began with him re-inventing himself as a redneck, toeing the Tea Party line as what must qualify as the worst collection of candidates (with the exception of Romney himself and Jon Huntsman) in the history of our nation spewed their socio-economic nonsense in a series of debates so moronic as to almost give liberalism a good name. Admittedly, sharing the stage with Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, and the ever crazier Newt Gingrich would be enough to unhinge anyone, but that wasn’t Mr. Romney’s problem. He needed first and foremost to prove to the increasingly dominant and crackpot wing of the Republican Party that he was a “severe conservative,” nothing like the liberal-come-lately Governor of Massachusetts who supported universal health care, women’s rights, gun control, and most of Ted Kennedy’s agenda. So now, among other proclamations of economic absurdity, this paragon of business acumen and fiscal responsibility raised his hand, pledging along with his fellow budgetary hypocrites, not to accept even one dollar of increased taxes in return for ten dollars of reduced government expenditures. Then, having won the nomination by default, each of his opponents (again excepting Huntsman who never had a chance) self-destructing under the weight of their own idiocy, the Governor, as admitted by his own top advisor’s “etch-a-sketch” analogy, began the latest reincarnation of his political persona, not in his stump speeches where he continued to shamelessly pander to the biases of whatever audience he addressed, but in national exposure, where he turned left, away from virtually all his primary campaign positions, to the more moderate center, culminating in the born again Romney of the debates.
That alone might have explained President Obama’s incredibly poor appearance in the first debate, facing someone he did not prepare for, because until then, the Romney on that stage didn’t exist. Unfortunately, that was only part of the story of the president’s ridiculous performance. The bulk of it can be attributed to his arrogance in believing he didn’t have to seriously rehearse, the craven cowardice of his closest advisors not calling him out on it, and the inexplicably stupid advice of his top staff, apparently negating their successful strategy of painting Romney as a threat to America, and now having the president avoid challenging Romney’s untruths, half-truths and inconsistencies, for what reason I cannot fathom. As the Republican’s heroine of their previous presidential debacle might say, “How’d that work out for ya, Mr. President?”
If Governor Romney wins this election, President Obama will have those ninety minutes of debating infamy to blame for it, along with his startling inability throughout the campaign — in addition to showing Governor Romney as someone totally lacking in principles or practical policies — to frame his own actions and record in a clear, consistent, unequivocal message, which should not have been particularly difficult for a person of his oratorical skills.
It should go something like this:
I came to the White House with the nation in the throes of the worst recession since the Great Depression, with unemployment rising to more than ten percent, the housing market in free fall, the auto industry headed for bankruptcy, the banking system teetering on failure, and our people frightened and unsure of their future. We were fighting two wars that have added more than four trillion dollars to our national debt. We had a health care system whose costs were out of control and that left forty million men, women and children with no medical coverage. We were a nation whose allies had less and less faith in our leadership and whose values and very safety were under threat and attack by people all over the world who looked at us with hatred and malice.
Are we better off today then we were when I took office? The war in Iraq is ended. The war in Afghanistan will end. Our auto industry is in full swing again. Our banking system is secure. The housing market is rebounding and employment is growing again, both not as fast as we had hoped, but on the upswing nonetheless. We have a health care law that will bring affordable medical insurance to every citizen. And we know how to bring down the costs of health care if only the Republicans will dedicate themselves to the good of the country instead of their knee-jerk votes against anything we propose. The world again cares about and wants American leadership. Yes, our debt has grown more than anyone would like, but that is only because in order to end our downward economic spiral, caused by Republican policies allowing an unregulated financial industry to run wild, we had to make unprecedented investments to stop our economy from going over the cliff, investments that will be repaid by the economic growth now under way.
This is a record I am proud of, that I stand by, and which Governor Romney and the Republicans want to reverse by going back to the very policies that brought us so near to ruin — policies that brought us the Great Depression that President Roosevelt had to dig us out of, and five years ago, brought us the devastating recession that we are now putting behind us.
And they have no interest and no ideas for tackling the other critical issues that need our attention — immigration reform, rebuilding our infrastructure, improving our educational system, rewriting our tax codes to insure not just the survival of the richest, but the opportunity for all Americans to improve the standard of living for themselves and their children.
I gladly put this administration’s record and agenda up against Governor Romney’s and the Republican’s failed policies, and I confidently leave it to your good judgment as to where America goes from here.
I’ve already cast my vote for President Obama, and I think he will win, whether or not he says this, or something like it. But if he does, I think a lot more Democrats and independents will join me.
Until that first debate, the president’s strategy, with which I completely agreed, of showing Governor Romney for the empty suit that he is, had worked to the point of what seemed like an insurmountable lead. And then, most of it was gone. In the next two debates, he slugged it out, probably necessary to recoup some of his losses but not very presidential in tone or attitude and allowing Governor Romney to at least show he could stand toe-to-toe in style if not substance. The cumulative effect is still a huge gain for Governor Romney.
In these last two weeks, President Obama needs to roll down his sleeves, put on his suit jacket, lower his voice, cut the folksy, down-home crap, and just be Barack Obama, the president of the United States.
It doesn’t take too many of my blogs for anyone to realize where I stand in this year’s presidential election. And having spent most of my life in advertising, it is only natural for me to try and create ads for President Obama. So I’ve done that and sent my ideas off to his campaign, at their invitation.
Not being part of the advertising team, I do not expect any of my ads to be used as written, but clearly we are on the same wavelength in the strategic need to attack Romney. The ads are admittedly “negative” which I believe is fair game as long as they are based on fact and not “Swift Boat” fiction. And to the extent that anyone reads this, it will function as the ad campaign designed, even if preaching largely to the converted.
So, following are ads I submitted which I hope will have some meaning to those who are undecided and those, like me, who are disappointed in President Obama’s first term, but aghast at the prospect of an empty suit, devoid of any original thought, leading a combination of Republican neocons and Tea Party anarchists back into The White House.
“Survival of the Richest”
America has never faced a more critical choice between our two parties. What Mitt Romney and the Republicans believe is pretty simple: It’s “everyone for themselves” and “you’re on your own.” They’re happy if the rich get richer, and it’s not their problem if everyone else can’t keep up. They say “government is the problem.” Really? Social Security is government. Medicare and Medicaid are government. A loan for college is government. Healthcare for people who are sick or can’t afford it is government. Food for people who are hungry is government. Unemployment insurance is government. And keeping Wall Street from running wild again and wrecking our economy again is government. Romney and the Republicans want to cut the government programs that help people and protect Americans from financial predators and scam artists. President Obama and his fellow Democrats believe government is supposed to help. Romney and the Republicans believe the government’s most important job is to insure the survival of the richest.
“The War for the Wealthy”
When President Obama supports people in America who are fighting for their economic survival and asks the very wealthiest to help by paying a little more, Mitt Romney and the Republicans call that “class warfare.” Well, “class warfare” began when the wealthy declared war on the rest of America. And only the wealthy are winning. For decades, the vast majority of the American people have made no economic progress, while the rich, in Romney’s own words, “have been doing pretty well.” Well, he ought to know. Obama supports American companies, large and small, who create jobs, deliver products and make profits that grow our economy. But he and the Democrats are against greed and a CEO making hundreds of times more than a company’s workers. When the rich get richer and the rest of America gets poorer, that’s “class warfare.” And Romney is pretty good at it. That’s why Republicans want him as commander in chief in their war for the wealthy.
“Wall Street Running The White House”
Most people agree that this great recession that has hurt so many Americans was mostly caused by the irresponsibility and greed of a bunch of big Wall Street companies and the Republicans who let them have their way. They cared only about their profits and their management bonuses, and not about what was good for the rest of America. This is the culture that has cost Americans millions of homes, millions of jobs and resulted in the terrible recession from which we are now recovering. Do you want to give our country back to someone who comes from this culture of greed, and who cares more about Wall Street than Main Street? Profit-hungry bankers, lobbyists pouring money into Congress, and a Republican administration that encouraged them were the major cause of our economic collapse. Those are Mitt Romney’s people. And now they want their man to be president. Do you think America can afford to have Wall Street running The White House?
“There’s For, There’s Against, and There’s Romney”
You’ve heard Mitt Romney say he knows how to create jobs. He said he created 100,000 jobs when he ran a consulting company. He doesn’t say that any more, because it’s not true. Then he was against saving the millions of jobs in America’s auto industry. President Obama supported American car companies and kept our autoworkers working. Now Romney says he’s not worried about America’s poor because they have government programs to help them. But he says he’ll eliminate or cut most of those programs. Democrats believe we must do everything we can to help people in trouble and support those trying to get ahead, and that the wealthy should pay a little more to help their country. Romney and the Republicans want to keep giving tax cuts to the rich. On healthcare, women’s rights, gun control, immigration, Romney’s flip-flopped so much; no one knows what he believes. On the issues, seems like there’s for, there’s against, and there’s Romney.
“Great Business Experience”
Mitt Romney and the Republicans like to talk about his business experience. Okay, let’s do that. The company Romney ran was in the business of buying other companies that were failing. The first thing they usually did was cut people and the benefits of those who survived. Then, if the company became profitable, they sold it off. President Obama certainly has nothing against making money, especially if you’re doing some good along the way. And once in a while, Romney’s firm actually developed a company that grew into something bigger and better. But mostly, they got control of a company, cut it to the bone, and made a chunk of money getting rid of it. And a lot of people got hurt in the process. Millions of homeowners and unemployed people in America today need help. And there’s not much of that in Romney’s business experience. Remember, the last great business experience we got from the Republicans was the great recession.
“Taken Over by the Tea Party”
Now that the Supreme Court has approved the healthcare law, Mitt Romney and the Republicans are shouting louder than ever about repealing it. But the choice is yours. A vote for them is a vote against 30 million men, women and children getting healthcare insurance when they couldn’t otherwise afford it. A vote for Romney and the Republicans is a vote against American families who can now have healthcare without scrimping on food and clothing. A vote for Romney and the Republicans is a vote against people with medical problems who will now have coverage because the insurance companies can no longer refuse them. A vote for Romney and the Republicans is a vote against the most important benefit for the American people since Social Security and Medicare. As we all know, Romney once supported this same healthcare reform. But then he got taken over by the Tea Party. A vote for Romney and the Republicans is a vote for handing your healthcare back to the insurance companies.
“Death by a Thousand Cuts”
Mitt Romney said recently this election is about jobs and kids. But what jobs is he talking about? The millions of jobs in America’s auto industry he wanted to sacrifice by letting our auto companies go bankrupt? President Obama saved those jobs by investing in Detroit. Or maybe it’s all the jobs Romney’s company got rid of to make their investments more profitable. And what kids is he talking about? The millions whom we’re helping get medical insurance but will lose it if he gets rid of Affordable Healthcare. Or the millions more who will not be able to afford college when he cuts our loan programs that support their education? We’re fighting to insure that our kids get the medical care they need and the opportunities that a college education can provide. Ever hear the expression, “death by a thousand cuts?” If Romney and the Republicans have their way, that’s what they’d do to our programs for jobs and kids.
“Romney’s Buddy from Bain”
There’s a new book by one of Mitt Romney’s buddies from Bain, the company where he made his money. This guy says it’s great when the rich get richer because it’s their investments that create jobs. Really? Romney’s investments in the stock market don’t create jobs. Helping people who are struggling creates jobs because they have to spend their income to buy what our companies produce. Romney’s offshore investments don’t create jobs. They help him pay a lot less income tax, which just means the rest of us have to pay more. Romney’s company didn’t create jobs — not when you count all the people they fired and all the jobs they shipped offshore. This book by Romney’s buddy from Bain is what Romney and the Republicans believe — the more money the rich make, the better it is for everyone else. Now ask yourself: After all these years when the rich have gotten a lot richer, are you better off?
“I’ve Got a Secret”
In recent years, every nominee for president including Barack Obama has released his tax returns covering many years of financial information. But Mitt Romney refuses. Why? Maybe he doesn’t want people to know how much money he keeps offshore. Or maybe he doesn’t want anyone to know how much he’s still making from all the companies that he shut down or sold off when he ran his investment banking company. Or maybe he just doesn’t want you to know how big his income is and how little he pays in taxes. We don’t know, because if Romney doesn’t want America to see his tax returns, there must be things about his finances he doesn’t want us to know. Voters have a right to know how someone who wants to be president made his money, and who, what and where his finances are tied to today. Remember the old TV show “I’ve Got a Secret”? That’s the game Romney is playing.
Well, if nothing of the above convinces you how dangerous a Romney/Republican presidency will be, just add to the mix his trip to Europe, from which he returned with his foot planted firmly in his mouth, having insulted our greatest ally and undermined our credibility in trying to establish peace in the Middle East.
Sounds like a next commercial.
I recently heard a press reporter tell the following story. I don’t recall her name or the town she was talking about, but I almost cannot believe what she said happened.
She was writing about teens in an affluent suburban community, buying and consuming liquor. At one point in her investigation, she became aware of a party at the home of a teenager, where alcohol and drugs would be available. The party began with about eight kids and quickly grew to about eighty teenagers partying into the night, drinking, popping pills and turning the house into what could pass for a downtown bar. The police raided the house, arresting most of the underage drinkers.
At the police station where the kids were held, their parents were called to come and get their children who would be facing various charges related to their illegal consumption of alcohol and drugs. The reporter described the reaction ofthe parents as a combination of outrage at the police for arresting their kids and anger at their children for getting caught instead of fleeing the house as some of the partygoers had done. She said only one parent took a kid to task for being at the party and drinking.
When she wrote her story about the party, the parents’ behavior and the teenage drinking that was going on in the town, she was subsequently bombarded with hate mail and threats against her and her family.
So the next time you hear someone blame the decline of morals, ethics, family values, or whatever constitutes decency on broken homes, fatherless children, minorities on the dole, or the unemployed being people who just don’t want to work, think about this well-to-do town with its good schools, fine houses, church-going families and the kind of example its parents are setting for their children. These are the kids who will grow up thinking the law is not for them to worry about, except how to circumvent it for their own gain. These are the kids for whom whatever money can buy is their entitlement even at the expense of the rest of society. These are the kids who will make up the next generation of greed and corruption that will enrich them while bringing our economy to its knees. These are the kids who will become the new Madoffs, spawn the next Enrons, buy their way into office and graduate to the companies of K Street to own our government.
And we, their parents, will have helped create them.