Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Democrats Face Down the Velociraptors

Much of America stands by helplessly while a tiny minority of racist right-wing Tea Party radicals and their Republican sycophants has mercilessly shut down our federal government for three weeks, resulting in long-term increases in this country's borrowing costs that will result in billions in lost tax revenues, billions of dollars less in the private economy among employees and businesses, and the widespread shame and worldwide ridicule brought on by allowing America to come within hours of defaulting on its debts.

And they do it, they relentlessly tell us, to save us all from "the train wreck" of the Obama administration policies. That is only the most obvious of their many lies and traitorous plots to unseat a president they are unable to accept in any way, shape or form.

The price of this intentional, unnecessary government shutdown and looming default, in dollars, is estimated to be $23 billion. When the Senate bill to end this destructive shutdown was adopted in both houses of Congress tonight, Americans and the rest of the world could be heard breathing a collective sigh of relief and, if the past is any indicator, they will quickly lose interest in this latest evidence of systemic disfunction and a loss of decorum in the nation's capital. But fundamentally nothing in our system of governance or in the plotters' motives will have been changed.

The bill to end the shutdown and allow the debts to be paid through federal borrowing is limited to three to four month, after which another radical right-wing Tea Party shutdown and default threat will certainly loom large. And, again, President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress will be put in the position of standing by, holding their breath, while the small cadre of conservative shutdown advocates are allowed under current law to bring the country, and the world's economy, to its knees.

Despite what you are likely to hear on the major networks' evening news, the cause of this crisis was not a matter of Congress' and the president's inability to compromise, although that disfunction certainly has been more evidence of far right-wing opposition to anything the Democrats and President Obama might want to do to address this country's real problems. If we had a Republican Party that favored compromise, we'd be looking at Congressional committees setting the budget, rewriting our immigration laws, bringing our roads and bridges into safety compliance, and bringing about a national firearms background check law for which polls show 90 percent of Americans agree. Without such responsible governance, in effect, Sen. Mitch McConnell's promise to make Obama a one-term president is poised to be realized.

No, this dysfunction isn't Congress' fault, but rather it is a concerted, long-term conspiracy among a small and billionaire-funded right-wing cadre whose hatred of our first African-American president and America's progress in racial, gender, and ethnic diversity explains their willingness to shutter the government and sink us into an economic Armageddon. It is a reckless, desperate attempt by certain monied interests to regain their self-appointed entitlements -- the economic and political power once held primarily by wealthy, white Anglo-Saxon Protestant Americans.

This effort by Republicans to seize power and stop the Obama administration isn't coming primarily from inside the Beltway, as too many pundits like to mention and most citizens are all-too-willing to believe. And it isn't limited to the federal debt limit and spending. Because of the recent Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case, political campaigns are allowed to accept untold millions of dollars from private donors. Which contributors, do you think, have been able to use this ruling to their advantage? The super-conservative, super-rich, super-pissed-off men who, finding themselves on shakier ground at the top of the country's centers of power after the last two presidential elections in which a majority of American voters rejected their privileged world view and elected and re-elected Mr. Obama, have made it their primary goal to reverse his election and buy their way back into unchallenged power.

What policies would ensue if these wealthy radicals find they have successfully hijacked complete control of our three branches of government? Let's summarize the targets likely to be destroyed based on those items already under constant attack by the Republican Party: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, public education, empathetic immigration reform, a woman's right to choose, public-worker unions and pensions, the belief that the federal government's spending, effectively harnessed, can encourage job growth and increased incomes for working families.... We could go on, but those items are high on the radical right's hit list. Make no mistake, any and all such government programs that serve the interests of people like you and me are in their political sights.

Instead, what these far-Right conspirators would deliver is more of the policies of racial exclusion and economic exploitation, such as their campaigns to constrain voting among racial and ethnic minorities and the elderly through Republican takeovers in state governorships and legislatures -- takeovers which in recent years are aided by the unmitigated influx of wealthy right-wing money. Such business donors also have a strong interest in maintaining an illegal immigrant underclass in order to profit from their desperation, as well as effecting a reduced influence of labor unions -- both of which will continue to keep middle-class wages low.

So why do I assert, you may ask, that our democracy is in such dire straits? After all, we hear some pundits calling this latest battle with the radical Right a victory for President Obama and Congressional Democrats. The president himself won this round through uncharacteristic bluntness, effectively comparing the contemptible right's strategy to extortion, blackmail, and hostage-taking. Amazingly, no one on the arrogant radical Right tried to deny that charge or own up to the damage that continues to radiate from their party's attempt to light a government bonfire.

But the Right's wrong-headed strategy and lack of shame is a tipoff to the larger, long-term threat to civilized governance in this country. To understand how the scenario plays out in the coming years, allow me to make an analogy to the true nature of the radical Right's blood-thirsty behavior and its seek-and-destroy mission. Recall in the Steven Spielberg film "Jurassic Park" the main villains, the flesh-eating velociraptors. Recall also the park's electrified fence walling off the park's administrative offices from those hungry predators.

The velociraptors hunted in teams, and were determined to break through the fence. They continually tested the perimeter, never letting up until they eventually located an opening and swept through in an attempt to feed on the people. That is how we common-sense Americans must view these small-minded, vicious, radical right-wing Tea Party Republican politicians and their wealthy sponsors -- as voracious, prehistoric, and relentless. The will stop at nothing to subdue their prey, and we Americans who cherish a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people" can never let down our defenses. It is certain death for Democracy itself if these monsters break through.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Maitland, FL, United States

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Hillary Predicted Right-wing Onslaught on Government

Two days into the far right's shutdown in federal government, truth be told, Republican/Tea Party are proud to represent a sizable segment in this country who hate a black president and hate the federal government with a religious fervor and, after the 2012 election are so crazed they will bring the world economy to its knees unless the black president submits to their ransom demands.

Ironically, they use our constitutional system’s rules and built-in civility to lay waste to the system with little regard for the consequences because of how they’ve foisted the nefarious red-blue state divisions on a complacent society.

Hilary was right when she appeared on a morning TV show as First Lady and uttered the phrase “broad right wing conspiracy.” The current phase of their attack, well funded by the Kochs, etc., can be seen one of two ways:

1. They have in effect brought this country to its knees; or

2. The president has led the effort to shed daylight on this current episode of the traitorous far right conspiracy, and, like any true vampire, the monster will perish in ashes.

I remain hopeful of the second scenario.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Fairfax Dr, Arlington, VA United States

Saturday, December 1, 2012

How Republicans Are Like Crazy Lottery Winners

It's been only a month since I last posted, pre-election, about drastic cuts to education funding threatened by a Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan administration. Thankfully, that fear won't come to fruition, though the jury is still out on potential spending reductions for the nation's public schools in light of the stalemate over renewing federal tax rates and reducing the budget deficit.

With the re-election of Barack Obama and Joe Biden, we are now in the lame-duck Congress season politically, wherein the news is much the same as before the election — most of it highly ironic and filled with uncertainty. The ultimate irony remains that Republicans resist a deal on taxes even after last November's broad-based voter repudiation of the Romney-Ryan proposals.

One explanation of their obstinate behavior is this: Having successfully prosecuted the Citizens United Supreme Court case granting them unlimited political fundraising access to corporate contributions, Republicans now suffer from the syndrome well-known among winners of the Powerball jackpot, wherein all that sudden wealth makes them crazy and unable to think rationally. As Joe Nocera writes in Saturday's New York Times op-ed piece:
People who suddenly fall into extreme wealth — whether because of an insurance settlement, a professional sports contract, or a lottery win — rarely know how to handle their new circumstances.
I would simply add the Citizens United windfall to this phenomenon, which has reached directly into the Republican Party psyche and largely explains why they appear unable to side with President Obama and Congressional Democrats, who simply want to extend the so-called Bush tax cuts, that otherwise will expire at the end of the year, for 98 percent of Americans. It's hard to believe that, free of their newfound wealth conferred by the Koch brothers, Karl Rove, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce jackpot, and a plethora of political super pacs, Republicans otherwise would deny a tax cut for 98 percent of Americans. Isn't this what their Grover Norquist pledge is all about? Lower taxes? Like I said, the only explanation is that Republicans, like too many past Powerball lottery winners, have gone bonkers.

Still, even with such lunacy in this time of uncertainty in Washington, there is much good news. Let's review the highlights in a faux-Mitt-Romney-like five-point presentation:

1. The re-election of Barack Obama restoring the promise of hope and change around the globe. The viral mobile phone photo of a Nick Nolte-like Mitt Romney pumping his own gas does likewise.

2. The circus sideshow that is John McCain objecting to Susan Rice's Benghazi talking points. This partisan attack reveals the senator's hollow soul and Rice's ability to withstand the heat and potential to fill the pantsuits of globetrotting Hillary as secretary of State.

3. The release of the remarkable and inspiring Stephen Spielberg film Lincoln. Its depiction of our 16th president's moral courage and political wiles — in delaying the South's Civil War surrender and promising political patronage positions (talk about a Republican "job creator") in order to secure passage of the 13th Amendment to our Constitution outlawing slavery — stands as a shining example of steely resolve for President Obama's second term.

4. The ad nauseum mainstream media coverage of the so-called dangers of the fiscal cliff facing Congress. This reporting underscores an important new symbiosis, e.g., how dysfunctional both Congress and the media have become, since the "fiscal cliff" (referring to a combination of tax increases and heavy-handed spending cuts that would kick in beginning in 2013) was entirely fabricated by Congress and has become a key part of the story usually left out by the increasingly right-leaning, corporation-friendly MSM.

5. The slow trickle of Republicans repudiating their Grover Norquist no-tax-increases pledge. I like this one primarily for the "Grover is So Over" headlines. If Grover were smart, he'd get behind the tax breaks for 98 percent of Americans, release his Republican friends from his crazy pledge, and find a career in the carnival business.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Education, the Forgotten Campaign Issue

MAITLAND, FL - I live in central Florida in a suburban town known for its nationally-ranked public schools. As my wife and I did in moving here in 1988, the neighborhood's reputation for delivering a very good K-12 education is probably one of the chief factors in everyone's choice. The people who live in my neighborhood, mostly middle- to upper- middle income professionals with growing families, are rightly proud of their elementary, middle and high school. But when I walk my dog on these bucolic tree-lined streets these days, I see signs of disaster ahead for public education on a majority of the front lawns. That is, political signs indicating broad support here for the Republican ticket of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. These two confirmed enemies of public education promise to cut federal funding for public schools and, more ominously, would likely severely cut the U.S. Department of Education if elected. My neighbors, in other words, with their votes on Nov. 6, inexplicably threaten to crush their own children's future educational prospects along with the dreams of millions of young Americans today and for generations to come.

Romney and Ryan, of course, have a hand in this willful ignorance. Each of them has determinedly said as little as possible about education on the stump for good reason: They would cut federal education spending drastically, shifting costs onto already financially strapped states and families. When a student asked Romney earlier in the campaign season about his support for students struggling to pay off college tuition bills, Romney suggested that such students borrow money from their parents. His record as governor provides little promise as well. A program Romney championed in Massachusetts offering "free" tuition for the state's top 10 percent in student performance proved frustrating for many of the state's cash-strapped families because it didn't cover thousands of dollars in university student fees.

Ryan's own stated policy plans demonstrate an even more draconian intent. The Education Trust, a nonpartisan research firm, estimates the Ryan budget plan would cut almost  $170 billion in student aid over 10 years, wiping out aid for less-than-halftime students, severely limiting qualifications rules, and converting the entire Pell Grant program into a vulnerable non-discretionary line item that could easily get axed by a Republican-dominated Congress, where Ryan would be the tie-breaking vote in the Senate. About 1 million students would be out of luck if Romney-Ryan prevails. 

What would the impact be for my Florida neighbors? According to a study( by American Progress Action, the Sunshine State would lose $361 million in federal funding for education and job training in 2013 alone. The result of a Romney-Ryan victory threatens an added burden on Florida property taxpayers such as my friends in Maitland -- that is, a choice of cutting benefits or raising taxes. And in the Republican-dominated statehouse, chances are the only option left open for discussion would be cuts in education funding. After all, this is a state where the government-run lottery promised to bring salvation to education, but since its inception in 1988 has managed to deliver under 40 percent of its revenues to the state's Educational Enhancement Trust Fund, covering only one-twentieth of Florida's annual education budget, according to a CBS News investigation ( that also reports Florida's per-pupil education spending went from 37th to 46th in the U.S.

Why has this turned out this way? Shamelessly, the legislature simply replaced taxes shifted from the education budget with lottery proceeds, resulting in a net loss for public schools statewide over the last two decades. (61% to 53% of state spending between 1986 and 2003, as reported by the St. Petersburg Times here.

In stark contrast, President Barack Obama has expanded the Pell Grant program substantially, while also pursuing changes in elementary and middle school policy geared toward improving the public school system's effectiveness in delivering positive student outcomes. His policy plans include no cuts to higher education grants, in service to his belief that broad based public support for a college education correctly addresses corporate America's growing demand for better-trained work force as the economic recovery accelerates. Furthermore, the president substantially favors policies that address the rising cost of higher education -- which is the second largest pile of debt facing American families today. He does so by cutting in half the interest owed on federal student loans, limiting monthly payments by linking them to the students' post-graduation income, and by reducing the total lifetime outlay for such loans to $20,000. No one doubts that, like their promises to kill Obamacare, Romney-Ryan administration would eviscerate most if not all of those initiatives.

President Obama has also focused on pragmatic improvements allowing schools to deliver better service to children at the classroom level. According to the White House, "To date, President Obama’s Race to the Top initiative has dedicated over $4 billion to 19 states that have created robust plans that address the four key areas of K-12 education reform as described below. These states serve 22 million students and employ 1.5 million teachers in 42,000 schools, representing 45 percent of all K-12 students and 42 percent of all low-income students nationwide."

Like much of Mr. Obama's agenda since the 2010 election, his American Jobs Act proposals, with money to fund K-12 teaching positions lost to state budgetary shortfalls, have been ignored by Republicans in Congress who are intent on increasing already generous tax breaks for the very wealthy. "That's backwards. That's wrong," the president argued in a White House video seen here.

So why all the Romney-Ryan signs in my school-proud Maitland neighborhood? I'm sure some of the folks here must be too busy to delve into these inconvenient facts. Perhaps my alternate hypothesis about this issue, though, is best summed up this way:
 "It is possible to store the mind with a million facts and still be entirely uneducated." 
Alec Bourne

Thursday, October 11, 2012

An Open Letter to Obama: Why We Are Agitated

Dear President Obama,

I guess you’ve noticed, as I and some of my colleagues here on Daily Kos and elsewhere in the liberal punditocracy face the final weeks of the 2012 presidential race, that many supporters who were celebrating your lead in the polls merely eight days ago now are acting all jittery and agitated after you and Mitt Romney faced off last week for the debate in Denver. With all due respect, Mr. President, please allow me to explain our concern.

Mitt Romney clearly hosed you. Romney’s romp seems, overnight, to have moved the meter back toward the 48 Red-48 Blue division in America. That is a political precondition Mr. Romney and his minions wanted and needed again this election year, because it threatens to put the race for the White House, as in 2000, back into the Supreme Court, where Republicans know you will lose, 5 to 4. Even more incredulous for those of us who are counting on you, a 48-48 split in any swing state could put your fate into the hands of the many Republican voter-registration apparatchiks who are greasing the wheels of their political lives on the false accusations of voter fraud.

Mr. President, already, the resulting post-debate blowback provides a fairly obvious shift in the Right’s narrative. Your debate performance is fueling public vindication for the far-right-wing’s reality shape shifters, who are spending billions to restore the Reagan-Bush-Bush II reign of the 1%, by the 1% and for the 1%.

Your ardent supporters are mad because that unexpected debate debacle, Mr. Obama, was a stomach-wrenching turn in our political fortunes, not only yours. It was our worst nightmares realized. I can understand how this happened. You, Mr. President -- unlike the $220-Million-Dollar-Man and congenital liar that Mr. Romney surely is -- prior to the debate hadn’t arrived at the point of Electoral College Map desperation as the Romney-Ryan ticket had, and your campaign pushed you into following a run-out-the-clock game plan on debate night. Sorry to say, it was a disastrous decision.

Your supporters also are feeling knots in their stomachs today, knowing that something went terribly wrong on that stage one week ago, but not understanding exactly what was happening. The political uncertainty clouding your campaign, which has not been tamped down despite your new verbal thrusts on the campaign stump this week, may prove to be a new and corrosive element in the weeks ahead. Far from having “a bad night” as you admitted this week, the debate was an utter disaster. As Mr. Romney, Mr. Ryan and their surrogates themselves might gleely point out in the coming weeks, you built that.

Mr. President, we are angry that you apparently were prepared to debate an admitted “severe conservative,” and you appeared shell-shocked by the Moderate Mitt who showed up loaded for bear and cleaned your clock in almost every debate segment, His false attacks and reality-busting distractions (I’m talking Big Bird here) were designed to blur and lure --  blur the serious cuts to non-defense spending certain to come under a Romney-Ryan administration and lure your campaign’s brain trust into producing a “Romney Blames Big Bird” online video. We cringed today seeing that your campaign took the bait. Pathetic.

The Romney campaign took ownership of that stage appearance merely by being allowed to stand next to a great American president, before a TV audience of more than 60 million viewers. You perfunctory performance let them turn what should have been a stout defense of your policies of economic fairness into a classically misleading Republican political pitch full of false equivalency and prevarication. We feel sickened because the Republicans were, once again, proven to be the media savants who effortlessly spin fantasy and myth into focus-grouped middle-of-the-road pablum worthy of both George Orwell and Ayn Rand novels.

While you looked down, looked away, and looked disengaged, Mitt Romney attacked your policies, your promises, and your personality with almost no rebuttals. You know, rebuttals... arguments in response to debate attacks? This isn’t a “salesmanship” demonstration, as you tried to spin it yesterday. This was a heavyweight boxing match in which you, Mr. President, appeared unable to recover your footing for the entire night once Mr. Romney knocked you senseless before the first round was over.

This first debate was more than a “bad night” for the majority of Americans who are counting on you, in your second term, to keep this country of ours heading in a reasonable, forward-looking, pragmatic middle-class-jobs-building direction. We are sick to death seeing Romney’s snarky scion’s entitled smirk carry over into his numerous appearance in Ohio this week. Mr. President, we retch seeing actual voter sentiment for your campaign slipping away simply due to Mr. Romney’s demonstration of superior debating prowess.

Fact-checkers to the rescue? Hardly. Mr. Romney’s Etch-a-Sketch reversals, despite their factually specious nature, eviscerated your aimless talking points and other assorted ramblings. Like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, to name two prominent examples, Mr. Romney pretended to be the more reasonable man in the room. And while we know better, Romney’s dominance allowed uncommitted voters to take an imaginative leap to envision the upside of a Romney-Ryan administration projecting this brand of feigned forceful, confident bravado around the world.

So now we must acknowledge: Savvy political tactics, not policy wonkiness, wins the day. Fixing the strategy for your next debate starts with understanding what went wrong. I will begin the conversation here, and I invite my friends who care about your re-election to add their suggestions to this diary. Here’s some of what I think needs to be addressed:

• What to avoid: Too polite. Too cerebral. Too cool. Too disconnected. Too arrogant. Too above-the-fray.

• What one tactic to definitely nail: Going for the jugular.

• For everyone in the top tier of your campaign team, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and jettison this administration’s tendency to worship at the alter of cautious consensus. Say exactly what you feel. With passion. Sell yourself. Identify the majority voters’ attitudes where your policies coincide with public opinion.

• Don’t be shy or hang back because of any misplaced tendency to avoid confrontation. Your political strategists (should) know full well that any post-debate questions should be treated as incidental flare-ups easily mopped up in the weeks ahead, as Romney spokespeople and their paid shills at Fox demonstrate daily.

• Do your own 180-degree pivot on any and all political talking points in order to sound like the more reasonable man running for the presidency.

• Press issues and economic results during your first term that resonate with businesses, banks, and investment professionals. Don’t let Republicans define you as anti-business.

• Attend to your advantages as president. I expect Mr. Romney to keep bullying and disparaging you. Return the favor by touting your impressive results and comparing them to his spurious contributions as an entitled corporate raider and ineffectual and often absent Massachusetts governor.

• Attend to stage optics. Look directly into the camera, not at the moderator, and lean into the podium like you want to break out like a caged animal on attack.

• As I last wrote recently, I’d like to see you, Mr. President, turn in more scenes like the ones Jimmy Stewart had in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. Passionate. Directly attacking the discredited myths baked into the many years of Republican mendacity. Physically, act confident, even a bit dismissive toward Mr. Romney. Tell him to wipe that disgusting smirk off his face, to his face. Don’t call him “governor.”

• Keep this one thought in mind: that this time around, truth and good intentions must win out over lies and evil.

A week after the first 2012 Presidential Debate, one truth is clear: Being assertive and aggressive isn’t being unpresidential. For someone as resilient as you, President Obama, this should be a chance you appear hungry for. As you prepare for the rest of your campaign, look in the mirror every so often and admire the man who has courageously taken on al Qaida, taken out Osama and throttled the greedy excesses of the 1%. You have given this country a health-care plan that shows, for the first time in a generation, that government truly can do the right thing for all of us. Even the glib President Bill Clinton can't crow about that.

Sure, you’ll never be able to win the support of the Right-wing nut jobs who have taken over the Republican Party. In the coming debates, let the G.O.P. extremists seethe with hatred as you force them to confront each one of your past successes and your positive plans for future progress. Remind our citizens of the values you champion, such as compassion, justice, equal opportunity, and cautious, responsible vigilance.

One more thing. As long as I have your attention, Mr. President, I would like to thank you for all you’ve done and all you will accomplish in the coming years as president of all Americans.

Sincerely yours,

Fred Abel, blogger

P.S. My campaign contribution is on its way.

cc: Vice President Joe Biden, Michelle Obama, Jim Messina, David Plouffe, David Axelrod, Valerie Jarrett, Robert Gibbs, Dan Pfeiffer

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Romney's Advantage in Tonight’s Debate

As Democrats and progressives, let’s not kid ourselves about tonight’s debate. Mitt Romney is already the winner. Here’s why: superior stagecraft and tons of money.

Romney’s the winner not necessarily because his arguments were more persuasive. He’s better off merely because he showed up for the first audition and didn’t fall on his face, and the experience will only sharpen his image as a leading man in the next two debates. He’s won because, even if you don’t agree with anything he or his party espouses, Mitt Romney is a super-wealthy individual who appears to have the potential to fill the role one might imagine a Hollywood casting agent would seek for a presidential movie. He’s Michael Douglas with a taller forehead. A latter-day Ronald Reagan with a better command of tax avoidance, if not the delivery of his screenplay’s lines.

Now that Romney was able to stand on a Denver stage side-by-side with the sitting president and be treated with all the respect of that office and that event, undecided viewers, as well as advocates of the president who are professing lower enthusiasm for their choice this election season, received all the visual cues they needed to seriously allow themselves to consider -- perhaps for the first time -- Mitt Romney playing the most influential part any person could assume on the world stage.

Mitt Romney came out the winner Wednesday night because of some major built-in personal advantages he has in approaching these auditions. We have known, for example, that he himself strongly believes in his fitness for the role. He’s been angling for the part since, well, probably from the day his dad, George Romney -- the former head of a Detroit car company (American Motors Corporation), Michigan Republican governor (1963-1969), and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (1969-1973) -- was permanently furloughed on his path to the White House. That happened when George, a leading contender for the presidency in mid-1967, offhandedly described himself as being “brainwashed” by military advisors about the progress of the Vietnam War. It stands as one of the most memorable verbal turds of presidential politics in history, a gaffe heard around the world and certainly one that influenced young Mitt to tenaciously pursue the country’s highest office for much of his adult life. One could argue that George Romney’s famous abject failure back prior to the 1968 presidential primary is the foundation of his son’s passion for the part. Mitt Romney is on a mission, much like “W” was in going after Sadam Hussein, of finishing off what their fathers couldn’t.

Romney was the winner tonight because, despite new attempts at bringing common-sense rules to the 90-minute televised presidential debate format, the very form of formal debates infers a false equivalence that favors the challenger. Tonight’s debate locked the incumbent candidate in a place with no escape route from exposure to fallacious arguments or scripted attacks on his record. That is especially advantageous to Romney in light of this year’s particularly mendacious Republican campaign playbook. For the incumbent standing behind a podium on that stark stage tonight, there was no hunkering down behind the securely locked doors of the White House Situation Room or using the flag-draped backdrops of the office to burnish his message. By nature a cool customer, the president was exposed to subjective comparisons this particular man might certainly wish were ruled off limits: emotion, passion, ideological purity.

Romney and Ryan certainly have been failing -- up until the debate they were anywhere from three to ten points behind in key swing-state polls -- to make any of the G.O.P.’s well-funded scripted distortions of the president’s character or record stick. No matter. With the first debate under his belt, Mitt Romney and his supporters were smiling on the Republican talk-show victory tour on Thursday. Democrats may have had the advantage this summer and early fall, gloating over their opponent’s sliding poll numbers -- amid embarrassing videotaped sideshows showing Clint Eastwood bumbling through an imaginary inquisition of the president on stage at the Republican convention and Romney and Ryan both disparaging a large percentage of Americans as “moochers” and “takers.” The appeal of injustice among middle-class and more privileged whites has had a long history of political success in my lifetime, and it seems this year to have been given a rousing revival among a broad swath of voters who view an African-American president with suspicion if not downright scorn.

As we know from the daily tracking polls, however, Mitt has the support of 40-something percent of Americans who buy into the Romney-Ryan Republican narrative of lowering taxes on the rich purportedly to create jobs for the middle class. Why so many Americans believe that -- despite that very policy’s failure during several Republican administrations during the last 50 years -- is irrelevant, as are the arguments about it one way or the other. The month ahead will only open new opportunities for the Republican party to build their momentum and bring America, perhaps, a rerun of the 2000 election -- close enough to, um, squeak out a victory in November, by hook or by crook.

But, like all successful scripts, the next scenes certainly will come with their share of plot twists. Expect to see a barrage of Republican attack ads that will seek to put the president on the defensive over unemployment and worldwide Muslim unrest, drive up the incumbent’s negative ratings in the polls, and build on Romney’s “good first impression,” freshly viewed. The media will, of course, buy into the excitement of such a tightening race, thereby ensuring its fruition. How much money can we expect the Romney-Ryan campaign and its surreptitious SuperPacs to unleash? No one knows for sure, but with the Supreme Court Citizens United decision clearing the way for unlimited amounts of cash commitments from the wealthy, Republicans like Romney, who promise to permanently lower tax rates on the wealthy, stand to benefit.  “It will be no holds barred on the Republican side,” says a former political director at NBC News, Elizabeth Wilner, who is Campaign Media Analysis Group vice president for Kantar Media, considered to be the second largest global market research company. “All that money the Obama campaign has been expecting Romney to spend on ads will finally start to flow. The Obama campaign is betting on their message, while the Romney campaign is betting on tonnage.”

I hope I’m wrong about this prediction, but I fear I’m not. By Thursday, the presidential reelection campaign will be feeling the full force of the Republican Party’s media carpet bombing and the probable turn of voter sentiments toward their candidate, who, they will argue, they’ve successfully positioned as the “underdog.” The president’s reelection team will be scrambling to come up with a response as the race tightens. Let’s hope our president, with his extensive ground game and political campaign contributions of progressive friends in Hollywood and the business world, steps up his game and delivers a full-throated performance commensurate with the high stakes in this election.

Personally, I’d like to see Barack Obama turn in more scenes like the ones Jimmy Stewart had in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. Passionate. Directly attacking the discredited myths baked into the many years of Republican shapeshifting. Confident that this time around, truth and good intentions will win out over lies and evil.

Sounds like a great Hollywood movie in the making, but first we have to make sure we have nailed the script.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Imagining the “Presidential Zinger Debate”

Reportedly, Mitt Romney is preparing for his first meeting with Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential debates by learning to deliver what his managers describe as "zingers." As is typical for the inept Romney campaign in need of a quick injection of populist appeal, though, their very admission of his memorizing stinging remarks weeks ahead of the Wednesday night confrontation in Denver undermines the very definition of zingers as quick, witty and spontaneous. Do you wonder what a debate full of zingers might sound like? I have, and I think President Obama will be ready with his own retorts. So follow me to the first imaginary "Presidential Zinger Debate."

Romney: President Obama wants the American people to give him four more years even though the last four has been an abject failure to deliver for the middle class.
Obama: Gov. Romney’s campaign has shown great expertise in giving their candidate credit for my administration’s policies when they’ve worked, and blaming me when Republican policies haven’t.
Romney: America cannot afford more big government entitlements from an Obama administration bent on turning this country into a Paris on the Mississippi.
Obama: If Gov. Romney has his way with two terms in the White House, like President George W. Bush, American taxpayers will be on the hook for $6 trillion in debt -- all done in the name of “smaller government.” (He can be seen adding the quotes with his hands while saying this.)
Romney: President Reagan once famously said: “Government is the problem.” Mr. President, you are proving him correct.
Obama: The truth is, with the exception of Romneycare, your single term in office in Massachusetts, Gov. Romney, made that very point.
Romney: Look, my position on Obamacare is it’s a massive government takeover of health care. By definition that can’t work. It might have been right for Massachusetts, but most Americans agree it is better handled for less cost with private insurers giving the public what they ask for, unimpeded by government bureaucrats. 
Obama: Okay, so let me get this straight. You’re saying the Affordable Health Care Act actually works in practice, but as far as you’re concerned, it doesn’t work in theory?” Help us out here.
Romney: My economic plan is simple: Put people back to work by getting the government out of the business of picking winners and losers. That’s my top priority and the only road back to American prosperity.
Obama: Tell that to the hundreds of thousands of Detroit auto workers now back on the job because we believe in the American workers, who heard Gov. Romney call for America’s car companies to go bankrupt when the banks had already written them off.
Romney: Thanks to President Obama here, the amount of taxpayer spending on social programs over the last four years is greater than the New Deal and the Great Society put together. (Those are the facts, people!)
Obama: When Democrats spend money on the safety net, Republicans call it “unaffordable” and “wasteful.” Then they turn around and give billions in tax dollars to oil companies that don’t need the money and call it a “subsidy,” a “smart investment.” I call it "corporate cronyism."
Romney: The mainstream media has it wrong. Paul Ryan and I don’t favor the wealthy and big corporations over regular folks. We favor the all-American value of work rewarded.
Obama: I think Gov. Romney and Mr. Ryan have their words in the right place, but their policies not so much. An independent analyst found that their economic goals, if enacted, would cost every family in America about $2,000 a year more in taxes.
Romney: I promise you this: My administration will end the gridlock in Congress by calling for the passage of a balanced budget amendment by the end of my second term. (He smiles broadly and stares at the president.) 
Obama: Why is it whenever Republicans in Congress want fiscal responsibility and budget cuts, the discussion starts and stops with “non-defense discretionary spending” -- in other words, programs that support the 47 percent of Americans Gov. Romney says are, and I quote, “moochers”? (Again, he uses his hands for the quote marks.)
Romney: Mr. President, you want America’s needy to occupy Wall Street. I want Americans to occupy the assembly lines!
Obama: Now, I know one thing a majority of Americans doesn’t want: Mitt Romney occupying the White House!