Say Anything……. And if it Works Say It Again

I could comment on a number of incidents and events at the just finished Republican Convention, but I don’t think most of it holds much significance in the grand scheme of things election-wise,  If I’m wrong I’ll get back to it later.  However, I do want to say something about the Paul Ryan speech Wednesday evening and the media reaction because it relates to the central issue this blog is concerned with which, in case I’ve confused you, I’ll reiterate:   “….this blog is about becoming an informed citizen in the age of misinformation (as stated in my HEY! page above).

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on Februar...

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on February 10, 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’ll get to Ryan vs. the media in a moment, but  in terms of “post truth politics” (*1) more significant than Ryan’s speech was what Romney pollster Neil Newhouse said at an ABC News/Yahoo panel in Tampa on Tuesday. His comments regarded an ad accusing Obama of cutting the work requirement in welfare.   This attack ad was harshly criticized by several media fact checkers, but that didn’t phase Newhouse.  According to the Huffington Post he said  ” that the campaign doesn’t care its ad attacking Obama’s waiver policy on welfare has been labeled false by several media outlets.”

As Newhouse elaborated:  “We stand behind those ads and behind the facts in those ads…. And you know what? What these fact-checkers — fact-checkers come to this with, you know, their own sets of, you know, thoughts and — and beliefs. And you know what? We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.”

Of course, what he’s saying is the fact checkers are all too liberal to be believed- i.e. the enemy – so if we Republicans think some talking point is true, we’ll go with it (or more cynically, if we think we can convince others it’s true, we’ll keep going with it).  In other words, a research tradition “sifting and winnowing” in search of truth going back centuries was just cut off at the knees when it comes to politics.   In terms of the notion of post-truth politics, Newhouse has crossed the Rubicon into no-truth politics.

In other words, we have entered the wild, wild west of political knowledge and thought.  There are no sheriffs or judges we can rely on to referee accusations, no honest brokers, arbiters with sufficient impartiality to make a judgement worth listening to.  All of that is implied in what Newhouse said.   One thing he neglected to say is that the Republicans themselves have referred to those same fact checkers when it has suited their purposes, in the primaries and in the general election.

Now to Paul Ryan’s  speech Wednesday evening that got media fact checkers buzzing around like hornets trying to sting him with accusations of falsehoods.  It is just a guess, but perhaps the checkers were even more vigilent than usual after Newhouse called them irrelevant the day before.   In a Huff-Po piece Michael Calderone captures the gist of this fight nicely, including several links for those who want to delve deeper into yet another issue that could require a book to really sort out.  For the truly obsessive, you will find additional sources by Googling:  Fact checking Paul Ryan’s speech.

Here’s a couple of things to keep in mind if you wish to explore the issue further.   Most of the media opinion sides with the idea that Ryan took liberties with facts and made misleading statements in his speech.  The handful defending his speech are on the political right and their defenses tend to be narrow ones, meaning they defend him from charges he “lied” at various times.   I would say they are often right literally, but wrong figuratively.   He may not have lied strictly speaking as often charged, but he was often misleading enough to have the same impact.

Ah, but I’m spending too much time parsing this issue of truth when the real issue between now and Nov 6  is whether either side can sway enough voters to dislike or fear the  other candidate more than their own.

So, truth be damned!   The operative rule is:   Say anything………………………And if it works say it again.


(*1)  Maybe Paul Krugman came up with “post truth politics” as he used the term in an editorial last December.  There he attacked the Republicans for their distortions, but I would say the Democrats have come to match them on occasion since then.   And they still have time to catch up.

Take It Away Nate…..

I have a few posts in the works, but don’t feel like using any of them today because they deal with uncovering false issues in the presidential election like the future of Medicare.   I’m sick of uncovering false issues, made sicker by knowing we have 70 days left of this.

English: Nate Silver in Washington, D.C.

Nate Silver  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While I still believe the Republicans didn’t want Medicare to be a battle ground,  they seem to have gained traction with a couple attack ads – both misleading but if it works it works.   A couple of days ago, the  Republicans launched a clever new add portraying  Obama as  a two-faced flip-flopper when he attacked John McCain’s proposed cuts to  Medicare in 2008, and now has made “cuts” himself (a link is at the bottom).   Well, Obama’s attack back then was misleading and this new one is even more so.  It reminds me of the English nursery rhyme “there was a crooked man and he walked a crooked mile…”  Who has the time to straighten it all out?

The Republicans  are likely buoyed enough by this narrative success to pound out some more largely misleading sound bites.  I bet the Obama camp has  some effective sound bites of their own in the wings, largely misleading, too.   It boils down to who will win  the battle of the narrative, on Medicare and whatever else makes a good target for distortion,  neither side addressing our real problems in a real way.

Who can distort reality most effectively to win the Presidential game, the honor of becoming captain of our Titanic?   In terms of our overall fiscal problems, I doubt it matters much.  Unless one side sweeps the Presidency and both houses of Congress, which would amaze me, our ship of state will likely keep creaking along towards the big whirlpool of rapidly increasing debt.

No matter, I want Obama to win  for several reasons, the least patriotic being some bets I have on the outcome.   As I have indicated in other posts, the election handicapper I have most faith in is Nate Silver, whose gives Romney relatively little chance to win, which has been the case for months now.   I listen to Nate because he was right about 49 of the 50 states in the last presidential election and in reading his posts I see a very bright mind at work.

An example of that is his latest post examining Michigan and why he sees it favoring Democrats despite some poll evidence that it is a toss up.   His analysis is worth skimming, at least, as it illustrates the depth of his thinking and sophistication of his methods.

Since I’ve already read that piece, and it is a sunny day in Del Mar,  I’m headed to the beach with my lawn chair and a Racing Form.


P. S. – If you want to check out that ” two-faced” Obama ad, go to the Washington Post’s fact checker Glenn Kessler, who also offers lots of information to help clarify the so-called Medicare debate if you’re interested.

If you want a short, centrist perspective on the demagoguing of the Medicare issue by both parties, see Bill Galston, a fellow at Brookings, the most commonly cited research institute, arguably because it is the most impartial.

“Has God forsaken the Republicans?”

In my my last three posts I’ve considered the problems that the Romney/Ryan ticket has created for themselves.   Given the happenings over the past few days, Todd Akin in particular, I have pondered the difficulties the Republicans have had in launching an effective campaign from the beginning.  Has the divine hand of providence been backing the other side?  At least certainly not the group soon to meet in Tampa.


Medicare (Photo credit: 401(K) 2012)

Thinking of the hand of providence, I recalled the time a guy named Barack Hussein Obama, half black and half white, was elected President of the United States.  That remains a remarkable event even in this land of so yesterday.  I believe Barry Obama to be a unique combination of racial backgrounds that allowed him to win.  I would say he won because, in addition to running a great campaign, he transcends race.  He is the personification of the American melting pot, which has prompted the far right to work all the harder to  caricature him as a secret Muslim socialist  born in Kenya.

His winning the Presidency was remarkable, even if his Presidency has been far less so, though given the circumstances far better than the Republicans portray.   Given continued 8% unemployment and a sluggish economy, what I also find remarkable is the inability of the Republicans to mount a strong campaign against him.   To begin with they couldn’t  even find a candidate they really liked (too soon for another Bush and too early for Chris Christie), so they wound up with Mitt Romney.   There was some truth in Rick Santorum’s assertion that Romney was the “worst candidate” for the Republicans .  The problem was the others available, including Santorum, were worster.  If they wanted to win that is.

I wasn’t being entirely facetious in a previous post when I suggested that Romney chose Ryan as his running mate because he was dying to be liked by his own party.  Certainly if the pick was more rational, the campaign brains didn’t think it through, as I have also argued in recent posts.  And that was before the Akin factor.

Etch-a-sketch Romney combined with facts and figures and clear cut statements on record by Ryan has been like trying to stir together oil and water.  And one undissolved hunk is Ryan’s stance on Medicare, aimed at  saving some form of the program but at what cost to recipients?  This would  seem the last thing the Republicans would want as a banner item at their Tampa convention in the grayest state in the union.

But wait,  Missouri Republican Senatorial candidate Todd Akin topped that when bursting on to the national  scene like a hand grenade with his novel theory of a woman’s body being able to shut down and prevent conception as long as the rape is “legitimate.”   Trying to avoid the shrapnel from his statements, Republicans distanced themselves and one by one called for him to resign.  John McCain called him an “idiot” and the normally intemperate Ann Coulter, hearing that Akin refused to drop out of the race, outdid herself with:  “I officially hate him.”   Romney seemed to wait for others to demand the resignation before he felt it necessary to demand it as well.

Unfortunately, new VP candidate Paul Ryan can’t distance himself completely because he and Akin co-sponsored a number of bills limiting abortion, with no clauses exempting women who are raped, which also just happens to be a party plank at the convention that now has drawn unwanted attention as well.

Medicare, rape and abortion – all tied to Paul Ryan in some way –  just what the Republicans don’t want in the news right before their convention.  And of course you’ve heard about this budding hurricane working its way toward the Tampa area.  

I don’t know about God forsaking the Republicans, but he, she or it sure doesn’t have their backs at the moment.


P. S. –   I stole the title for this  post  from an editorial by Dana Milbank in the Washington Post a few days ago.   I had begun my piece when encountering Milbank’s and was going to just scrap my own and link you to his, as we cover much the same ground in a similar way.  But I wanted to add a few things of my own, so ……….    Also, his piece offers some additional details, so I suggest you read it as well.  Linked right here.

Finally, I think it curious that current Republican events seemed bizarre enough that both Milbank and I were prompted to look for para-normal explanations.

Romney/Ryan: Still Working Out the Kinks

(NOTE: – My previous post was largely a response to a comment from my post two back, a comment that has prompted two other comments at that post, so it has a little life of its own.  Meanwhile, another reader hadn’t  realized you could leave a comment.  It is easy to miss.  If you look at the bottom of a post, there are various tags, etc. and right at the end of that list is “comments”.  Just letting you know.   Whether or not I respond to a particular comment depends on what I’m interested in talking about at that moment. )

In my previous two posts, I suggested that while solidifying its conservative base and attracting more campaign money, the Romney/Ryan teaming created an awkward situation for themselves in that Romney has avoided specifics like I do robo-calls, while Ryan totes many specifics into the relationship, like step children.  These include a specific plan to “save” Medicare and come to terms with our national yearly deficits and national debt which has earned him a reputation as a fiscal hawk.  However, exactly what will be left of Medicare after he saves it is open to question as are his credentials as a fiscal hawk.

Official portrait of Congressman .

Official portrait of Congressman . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The general wisdom is that these issues take attention away from what Romney really wants to talk about and that is the sluggish economy and Obama’s failure to live up to his promise to reduce unemployment.   But when you think about it, what more has Romney got to say?   Being a very successful businessman, he understands the economy better and will do better at growing it and producing more jobs.  Period.  He has a plan with fantasized cuts, but once again he doesn’t want to be pinned down on specifics.  So, what more does he really have to say and what is there for reporters to focus upon?

With Ryan there’s plenty.   Democrats and reporters have focused attention on the details of  Medicare as described in Ryan’s most recent plan and the differences between Ryan’s plan to deal with the debt, which is detailed, and Romney’s which is not.

I don’t believe the R & R team wants to deal with either issue, but they are putting on a brave face and talking like they want to do battle on Medicare  since the topic won’t go away, sort of like General Custer and the Sioux.   Also, they want to pretend that their fiscal plans  are basically the same, even though there are noteworthy differences.  In the process, they have had difficulty integrating their past statements and coordinating their present overall message.

Yesterday they were in New Hampshire together.  A campaign spokesman emphasized how Romney is energized and made more personable by Ryan.  That’s nice.  But I think they needed to stick together like conjoined twins for a day or two trying to get their message straight.

Exhibit A:  Message, message, whose got the message?  Last Tuesday, Ryan was interviewed by Brit Hume on Fox, who doggedly questioned him about the differences between Ryan’s budget plan and Romney’s.   Questions Ryan did not welcome.  Matt Miller, a  centrist well familiar with Ryan’s budgets and who actually can do the numbers, describes the questioning better than I could in a two-page  Washington Post editorial I suggest you read.

There he makes two key points.  1)    Ryan did not want to say out loud that his budget doesn’t balance out until the 2030’s.   Twenty years to balance the budget?   That doesn’t sound like a  “fiscal conservative,” but it’s necessary if raising taxes is not an option.   2)  There are some key differences between Ryan’s plan and the more sketchy Romney one, but the fiscal wonk hadn’t gotten around to really integrating them.   As Miller puts it, Ryan was ” betting Hume is too dumb, uninterested or short on time to press ” these points.   Too bad, Paul.  Good for you, Brit.  Please read the editorial.

Exhibit B:   Do they really want the Medicare fight?  The Romney/Ryan campaign stop in New Hampshire yesterday began with this talking point regarding Medicare:  How Obama has robbed Medicare of $716 billion to pay for Obamacare.  Earlier that morning I heard a couple of campaign surrogates make the same point, while in unison asserting that this is a fight Romney welcomes.   If so, why have they kicked off the battle with a talking point that is both hypocritical and misleading?  Is that the best they got?

First, the Obama team was not alone in proposing these “cuts”.  According to ABC the $716 billion appear in the House Republicans’ FY 2013 budget, which Ryan authored.   There they were called “Medicare savings -achieved through reduced provider reimbursements and curbed waste, fraud and abuse, not benefit cuts “.

In other words, Paul Ryan’s budget plan included the same so-called  “cuts” by Obama, and like him, talked about them as “savings”.  Could Ryan’s railing at the Obama “cuts” be any more hypocritical?   Well, it should be noted that in the Brit Hume interview Ryan did make this distinction:  “We’re the ones who are not raiding Medicare to pay for Obamcare.”   They would use those “savings” (not “cuts”)  for deficit reductions or something else.

Point well taken, but that point is so yesterday.  It seems that all those ads attacking Obama for “raiding” Medicare of $716 billion has created a problem of its own.   If the “cuts” were bad, they needed to be cut from Ryan’s plan, too (which seems now the case), so  Romney could promise to restore those dastardly “cuts” when he becomes president.  Smearing Obama as cutting Medicare, Romney seems to feel implicated himself if he doesn’t promise to restore them, even if it doesn’t make sense to do so.  Click to see the short piece from ABC for more details.

If you find what I just wrote to be confusing, I admit that perhaps I could have said it better, but the subject matter is confusing in itself, because I believe the subjects are confused.

At times I think of trying to develop a sideline as a “message stylist,” someone who helps others trim and shape their message for more impact.  The Romney/Ryan team really could use a lot of help in that regard and I sure could use the money, but the “message” so far looks so disingenuous and contradictory that I doubt I’m up to the challenge.

Am I Just a Mouth Piece for Democratic Talking Points?

(I just noticed a second comment from John, a reader whose first comment to my previous post, spawned what follows.  This post would be different had I read his second comment, but I’m letting it stand as nothing is perfect and I don’t have time to rework this now.)

If you looked at Comments to my last post, a not-to-obvious button to click, mixed in with other stuff at the bottom of each post, you will have read a lengthy response, mostly critical of what I said, from reader John.   He accuses me of just reiterating Democratic talking points.   Here is what I think  I was doing.

Rush Limbaugh Cartoon by Ian D. Marsden of mar...

Rush Limbaugh Cartoon by Ian D. Marsden of (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Examples of my parroting ways, I suppose, is that I  talk of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan as being “artful dodgers” and Rush Limbaugh being a demagogue.  Well, I later regretted calling Romney an artful dodger.  He is more of an artless dodger, continuously tripping over his own feet.

John makes it seem like I am making a big deal out of his not showing more tax forms.  Actually Romney has made a big deal out of it (by making a big target for the Dems) because of his refusal to release them.   Obviously, there is something embarrassing there, but leaving it to the imagination likely makes it worse.  I’m just commenting on the election game here, like a commentator at a tennis match.   Holding tight to those records  is  one more misstep in terms of his campaign.  Realizing this, some prominent Republicans have suggested he release the returns.

Picking Ryan has shifted attention to our bigger problems of debt and deficit, but also to MEDICARE, which is a battle ground the Dems welcome.    And, as I said, I don’t think Romney’s tendency to stick with generalities (his form of dodging) will fit well with Ryan’s detailed record which the Dems are pouncing on like a cat with trapped mice.  There’s Ryan’s former tax plan, his revised section on Medicare and now the Romney Medicare plan making for a messy message.

By the way, I didn’t say Ryan was an artful dodger but likely to become one since he is now a Romney man.   But again, I should have said “artless,” as they make clumsy dance partners.   At least so far.  Of course with practice, they might get better, but the dance I think they want is to the tune of the sputtering economy not the Medicare waltz that they now find themselves forced to do.

Actually the artful dodger is Barack Obama, dodging much of the crap that the right have been tossing at him for years now.   Despite it all and the lousy economy, poll after poll suggests more Americans like him than Mitt Romney.   Now that is an artful dodger, which is not a Democratic talking point but simply my observation.

John points to two of those dubious Obama accusations:  1) “Obama’s school records are on lock-down at Columbia”…. and… “Michelle’s no-show $350K job”.   I admit not knowing about the latter – though I’d want to see proof from a centrist source to believe it.   On the second point, has done the work for me, analysing that assertion and judging it false (look to the upper right on the factcheck page).   And, John, if you haven’t visited this site, you should actually like some of it, since there are various pieces that find the Obama team’s adherence to truth lacking as well.   Actually, if you scroll down a ways there is an article in the center column bemoaning  “Whoppers of 2012,” ascribed to both camps.

By the way, John, I don’t think Obama has done a great job as President, but I never get around to discussing that because the attacks from the right are so often bogus I get bogged down with them.

I do think he took over an extraordinarily difficult situation, not like other recessions since WWII in that this one had been building for the last 30 years, as we have been losing jobs overseas and to technological advances, while covering it all up with cheap money from the Fed which aided both a tech boom and bust and a housing boom and bust that we are still trying to recover from.   A sunken housing market along with an economy that doesn’t produce jobs like it used to are the key economic obstacles, and that is not Obama’s fault.  That’s the Titanic he became captain of.

One criticism of Obama I have is that he did not put more effort into dealing with our sunken housing situation, but I give him slack because there have been so many other things to deal with, both foreign and domestic including an intransigent Republican party, which has done it’s best to make him a “one term president.”  I think a good case for that is made in It’s Even Worse than it Looks, a book by a couple of centrists that places the lion’s share of blame on the Elephants in the room.

For me it boils down to the fact we’re still afloat, things could be much worse  and I think Obama can do better.  I’d like to give him another chance, especially as I have no idea what Romney would do or even try to do in his shoes, domestic or foreign.   And, given likely more congressional gridlock in either case…..   ???????????

But I do digress.  John also faults my calling Rush Limbaugh a “demagogue” as contrary to my professed spirit of working together.  All along in talking about developing a “radical center”  I have always assumed it would not include Rush or numerous other far right types, like Ann Coulter, a demagoguette.   Just to be clear, a demagogue is ” an orator or political leader, who gains power and popularity by arousing the emotions, passions, and prejudices of the people.”   That’s exactly what Rushbo and Ann do.  Neither has a respect for truth or fairness.  Their business has been to play to fear and resentment, and business has been good.  However, as I indicated in a previous post, I believe the liberal media  have made Rushbo what he is by turning his nonsense into so-called news.

Despite my dismissing much that John wrote, I do think he has some valid points in terms of small business growth.  But given all of our fiscal problems, especially in upcoming months, it seems like a swimmer trying to avoid a jelly fish unaware there is a shark circling.

There is something called the Fiscal Cliff around the turn of the year and the fear businesses big and small have of that uncertainty (the shark as opposed to the  jellyfish) make the issues of small businesses small in comparison over these next few months.   I wonder whether the fear might actually prompt an economic down turn sufficient to nudge some voters away from Obama by election day…..

That’s just a whimsical thought but if it makes your day, John, I don’t mind.

“You Like Me. You Really Like Me!”: The Paul Ryan Selection

When I first heard of Paul Ryan’s selection as  Mitt Romney’s VP candidate, I didn’t know what to make of it, other than the campaign suddenly seemed more interesting.   In my previous post, I referred to Mitt as the “stealth candidate, ”  given his tendency to avoid the details of his personal history as governor, businessman and Mormon leader.


paul-ryan-grannie (Photo credit: Majordomo2012)

The Democrat dogs have stuck their teeth into the evasions, such as why he refuses to show more of his income taxes.  Every day we do not talk about the sludge-like economy is a good day for Democrats.   Well, to change the focus, how about a startling pick for VP ?   Especially if that pick reminds us that our problems go much deeper than Romney’s tax returns.

That seems part of the reason the  “artful dodger” picked someone like Paul Ryan, despite his having a specific history, often not in keeping with his public image as fiscal hawk, that is already being focused upon and flayed by the Democrats.   In picking Paul Ryan as his running mate, Romney moved the focus away from him to our overall financial problems.  Also, as columnist George Will wrote, he was “talking conservative.”   This was his way to prove to his conservative critics that he is indeed one of them.   Sure, he’s  been saying for months that he is a conservative, but his etch-a-sketch ways  hadn’t convinced them.

However, now that the warm, bonding moment has past, it will be interesting to see if Romney’s habit of not wanting to go into specifics  fits with his running mate’s coming equipped with all sorts of details for both reporters and the Democrats to dwell on.  Such as the what-will-happen-to-medicare question and what kind of fiscal conservative is Ryan if his plan takes us to around 2030 to balance the budget.   Sure, the Democrats are open to counter attacks, such as there is no foreseeable time they balance the budget, but there might be if the Republicans would bend on their no new taxes pledges.

Other than solidifying his base, taking the attention off such things as his refusal to show more tax returns and attracting more money for his campaign (but don’t they have plenty as is?),  I don’t see what good the Ryan pick will do for Romney.   They want us to  believe that in picking Ryan , Romney is not afraid to make the bold choices required in our time, but as I’ve indicated the Ryan image of fiscal hawk will not likely hold up after being gone over with numerous fine tooth combs in the days ahead.

What will hold up is the image of his destroying Medicare as we know it – shoving granny down the stairs – even though for fairness sake it should be noted that at least Ryan has a plan to save something akin to Medicare.  It is unclear to me how the Democrats will try to save it, so granny remains in jeopardy in either case.  But the Democrats  seem likely to win this battle of images.  MY CONFESSION:  I CHOSE THE PHOTO, WHICH IS TOTALLY UNFAIR, BECAUSE I GOT A KICK OUT OF IT.

Also, leaving all doubts about Ryan aside for a moment,  I doubt that the cautious Mitt can continue to reap benefits from his choice.   Romney doesn’t want to deal with specifics, so I bet Ryan becomes more like Romney than vice versa, another artful dodger.   And if Ryan stays too much like Ryan, i.e. a darling of the right, well, that can’t be good for Mitt, either.   The star shouldn’t be upstaged by his supporting cast, and doesn’t it feel like he already is?

Here’s my thinking, at base Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan because like most of us he wants to be liked and he has been running for months while mostly being just tolerated, as the candidate who wouldn’t go away and had the money and organization to just stay and stay and stay.  If his  strategy of being the Un-Obama had been really working of late, he would not have picked Ryan.   But that not being the case, why not  go bold?  Even button down types like Romney sport a wild hair.

Those old enough to remember Sally Field receiving an Oscar for Places of the Heart in 1985, probably recall that in her acceptance speech she screamed out:  “You like me.  You really like me!”

Well, Mitt, you’ve had your warm, fuzzy moment.  Now I will be curious to see if in November enough citizens overall will show they like you, they really like you.

From “Hope and Change” to Believe Nothing

I don’t expect to see much I like in this election.  Just a war of attrition with the  presidential candidate whom the public dislikes a bit less than the other to win.

I know this election campaign is more like watching a wrestling match than a contest between ideas despite both camps frequently mouthing the big differences between them and how this decision will shape America’s future.  I expect both camps to portray the opposition in the least favorable light.

What I didn’t expect is for the Democrats to dive deeper into the gutter than the Republicans AND feign innocence in the process.   I’m speaking about a Super PAC ad this week that has Joe Soptic telling of his wife’s death of cancer after he was layed off from a Bain Capital controlled company.    As the Chicago Tribute states in an editorial:  “What’s implied: Romney, who led Bain in the 1990s, is partly to blame for her death.”  The ad is shameful, made more so in contrast to the tenor set by Obama in the last election.   Even more shameful is the administration’s failure to disown it.  They seem to have decided that in this election Limbo dance, the’ll vie for how low can you go.

I  know, I know.  We could list a host of ads run by the Romney campaign as well as its Super PACS that include lies, but none quite reach the sewer level of accusing the candidate of being virtually guilty of participation in manslaughter.  Yes, the Republicans have been reprehensible in portraying Obama as foreign, un-American, a detached egg head who doesn’t understand our economy, etc. etc.

But what would you expect from a party that cringes whenever radio demagogue Rush Limbaugh takes one of them to task for not being sufficiently Limbau-esque? And,  in addition to the lying Donald Trump and the half-wits who refuse to believe Obama could really be an American, we’ve seen Republican party leaders  willing to keep the “debate” going with statements like “as far as I know he was born in Hawaii.”  Anything that can trump up disrespect for the President has been fine with most of them.

I still prefer Barack Obama to a Mitt Romney, who seems willing to campaign as the stealth candidate, given his three major credentials – Bain Capital, being governor and being a devout Mormon leader – are things he’d prefer not to talk about.   I could add the Winter Olympics of 2oo2, but he has already managed to turn that into a foreign policy faux pas.  He apparently is hoping that things will get just bad enough in the economy for him to be chosen as our hope for the future.

So, yes, I still prefer Obama, but if the Joe Soptic ad becomes a Democratic habit I might just get so sick of it all that I won’t bother to vote.  No big deal, I know, unless there are many other independents out there who feel as I do.

Did Obama ‘Approve’ Bridge Work for Chinese Firms?

The following is part of a spammed email forwarded from a reader yesterday that blames Obama for hiring Chinese firms to do American construction projects:

ABC World News

ABC World News (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Diane Sawyer reporting on U.S. bridge projects going to the Chinese…. NOT Americans.  The bridges are right here in the U.S. and yet Obama has approved for Chinese contractors to come in and do the work. What about jobs for Americans???

Watch this video. It doesn’t take long to view.

This one should be tough for the supporters of the current regime to swallow….AND it comes from ABC NEWS”

Well, I watched the video and it was tough to swallow, as Dianne Sawyer began by calling the hiring of Chinese firms “shocking” .    Next there is a  clip of Obama saying he wanted to “put construction workers back to work” in the U. S.  Ha, then why were Chinese firms being hired?   At that point I noticed the video was made Sept 23, 2011, so I Googled the subject and found a piece exploring the issue.   Here is the short of it according Factcheck:

Q: Is President Obama responsible for Chinese companies building U.S. bridges with stimulus money, as reported by ABC News?

A: No. A viral email distorts an ABC News report. California officials hired a Chinese contractor and rejected federal money to avoid federal “Buy American” laws (*1)

I watched the video again and wondered why I had missed the main point, that state officials made the call and that Obama was only guilty by inferences viewers like me made.  He could not force California officials to abide by “Buy American” laws if they rejected federal money (*2).

Part of the problem here is what often happens in TV news, they mix dramatic effects with a message which is often undermined by the impact of the  dramatic effects.  The beginning and end of a story are the two most memorable parts and a video usually has more impact than words.  Dianne Sawyer began with her “shocking news” about buying Chinese, especially shocking when compared with Obama arguing to buy American in a video.  And then the segment ended with a line about how Buy American laws weren’t going to work if states could so easily ignore them.  If you piece those three elements together, and mix in  some fuzzy mindedness, it adds up to Obama somehow seeming guilty.

For that to be true, he would need to be dictator, not president.  Using that image of Obama promising to create jobs was a poor choice by ABC, as it implied fault on his part regarding the Chinese hiring, which suggests to me ABC valued the dramatic feel of the piece so much they didn’t notice it implied blame where it did not exist.

And that is all the rabid right needed to go nuts over the issue as it did when it mistakenly thought Obama was in France over our 4th of July (noted in a previous post).   Whatever seems to support their animosity towards  him they will run with and, if proven wrong, no matter, they will pick up something else likely to be false and run with that, too.   It is like they keep throwing rancid spagetti on a wall figuring some of it will stick, and of course some of  it does.  The reader who forwarded the accusatory email ended his introductory comment with:  “The truth shall set us free!”   I agree, but in this age of misinformation, you sure have to work like hell to find it.


(*1) You can decide for yourself by watching the ABC video and then going to  The latter’s analysis covers other “hire Chinese” accusations as well.  Also, in response to the explosion of negative ads by Super Pacs, created another site aimed at prompting radio and TV station directors to pull the most fallacious ones:  Check  that site out as well, as it reveals a number of whoppers from both sides.

(*2)  Here we have a state exercising its rights to make certain decisions, such as to refuse federal funds so as to evade a federal law.   That’s the kind of states “right” that the right so often argues for, but if they don’t like the decision they ignore that, especially if they can  somehow pin fault on Obama in the process.

Representative LaTourette: A Man in the Middle Torn Apart

Among the many obstacles we face in saving our ship of state from sinking is our mixed minds about our elected officials.   The more frustrated we get with inaction, the more we want to throw the bums out, but then tend to replace them with others who have such a disdain for compromise that they make matters worse.  Can you spell “Tea Party”?

Tea Party rally to stop the 2010 health care r...

Tea Party rally to stop the 2010 health care reform bill in St. Paul, Minnesota  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course, our politics are a mess, with monied interests having more influence than ever, but the idea that the Tea Party has answers to our dilemma is  delusional, even if you are as smart as George Will.

The conservative columnist was positively aglow yesterday at the Texas Senatorial primary victory of Ted Cruz, a Tea Party candidate with uncharacteristically impressive academic credentials, over a fellow conservative Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, who had the solid backing of the state’s Republican apparatus.  Actually, part of his problem may have been he had too much backing, “as Tea Partyers and other conservatives look askance at persons who play too well with others,” according to Will.

The columnist used this opportunity to take us back to the days of Teddy Roosevelt and his trying to play fast and loose with our constitution, one indication of how progressives have no, or at least insufficient, respect for the limits of that cherished document.   To Will, electing Cruz to the Senate – to join the likes of Jim DeMint and Marco Rubio, will help ” preserve the Constitution from capricious majorities.”

I wonder whether it ever occurs to Will and other proud protectors of the constitution that they, the Tea Party in this case, would never have been able to come up with a constitution themselves.   Even the sophisticated Will conveniently ignores the complex combination of compromises required to create that hallowed document.  Foremost, as odious as slavery was to many, it was tolerated for the time being in order to come to an agreement.

In short, it was good that our founders could play well with others.

Ohio Republican Representative Steve LaTourette, who has been a nine-term Representative in Congress, has played well with others, including those across the aisle.    However, he has had enough of  the present climate in which “compromise” is a dirty word and resigned a few days ago.

His motivations for quitting may not be as pristine as that, in that he has also been frustrated by not getting a position he wanted.  But despite a Wall Street Journal editorial to the contrary, it seems clear that he is  has been a well respected, well liked centrist who has fought hard for his positions while also open to compromise, mostly supporting Speaker John Boehner,  but also going against him at times.  Of course, WSJ will have none of that, instead calling  him “a spender and earmarker, famed for currying favor with union special interests.”

He also curried favor with his district, receiving 65% of the vote in his last election and, though WSJ suggests his real reason for quitting might be  a redrawn district that could make “reelection more difficult”, that is a stretch.   The present Democratic candidate seems so weak that others in that party would like to replace him now that they have a better chance to win.

As to the resignation, The Cleveland Plain Dealer notes:  “Congress’ repeated failure to pass a long-term transportation bill was Exhibit A to LaTourette, a pragmatic conservative who believes infrastructure is a basic government function and one that might require, yes, higher taxes.”  Apparently not grasping the wisdom of Will, WSJ and the Tea Party, the Plain Dealer editorial called his resignation “bad news for greater Cleveland.”

While WSJ is  happy to see La Tourette go, as it “might be a chance to fill the seat with a more reform-minded member”, one more reformer who disdains compromise is the last thing we need in Congress.   Representative LaTourette is the kind of individual I believe a majority of us would like to see in Washington, someone not so blinded by ideological principles as to be unable to get something accomplished in addition to  protecting our constitution.