What Does the 2012 Election Mean?

Don’t expect me to tell you in a post.  It is the kind of question that prompts books to be written and I’m sure many will be.  For starters, though, liberal columnist  E. J. Dione of the Washington Post touched upon most of the issues in his column yesterday, so I’m handing the ball off to him for those interested.

Here I want to focus on a couple of things the election does not mean and one or two which I hope it does.

English: President Barack Obama signs the Tax ...

See.  They can work together: President Barack Obama signs the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 at the White House. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No Mandate:   When about 121 million people vote and one side ends up with about 3 million more (about 2 or 3%), that’s just a victory not a mandate.   The electoral landslide distorts the picture, revealing mostly that the Democratic organization was more effective than the Republican one in swing states.

This is not to say that the Obama win was not significant in various ways, just that “we the people” are too divided about too many things to really back any one thing, except perhaps higher taxes on the rich.  That is not reflected in the vote as much as in exit polls, and the pre-election polls as well which have consistently listed a 60% plus approval rating. (*1)

Adding to the difficulty of interpreting this election are two things:   Obama was strapped with the image of a do-too-little president given our still weak economy and high jobless rate, which would make the win seem even more significant except for this fact.   He beat a candidate that even Republicans had trouble embracing, but could agree on no one better who was willing to run.   This was the most curious election of my lifetime.

But Not A Split Decision:   Trying to bolster their position, the Republicans argue that their winning more seats in the House indicates a basic “split decision” by the voters.  What they neglect to point out is that this is more a matter of Gerrymandered districts they created when taking over a number of state legislatures in the 2010 elections.

Overall the Democrats received more votes for their congressional candidates this year.   For example, in Pennsylvania, “although citizens cast almost 100,000 more votes for Democratic than Republican candidates for the House, partisan gerrymandering enabled Republicans to 12  of the 18 seats in the House of Representatives.”   So, those increased House seats are not a true measure of support for Republicans.  Just as the Electoral College overstates the strength of the Obama win, the House elections provide a misleading picture of Republican voter support.   Read more here.

A Small Victory for Truth:   I have often bemoaned the  “post truth politics” of our time, but we haven’t seemed to reach “no-truth-matters” just yet.  The Romney camp went with one lie too many and held on to it until the bitter end in Ohio.  The Obama win there might have been clinched by the Romney team not only lying in a TV ad about Chrysler  shipping Jeep production jobs to China, but maintaining that lie in radio commercials even after several newspapers and the head of Chrysler called it a falsehood.

As I pointed out in an August post when the Romney campaign was criticized for a  total lack of truth in an ad, a Romney pollster responded:  “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.”  As I indicated then, this was a final blow for truth in politics.  Distortions and lies have always been part of the political game, but this was the first time I had ever seen a campaign say we don’t care if others call our “facts” lies.   In Ohio this position was taken to its end conclusion and seems to have backfired.     I like to think of it as poetic justice:  A campaign that lived by the lie, died by the lie.  (And yes, the Democrats spun, distorted and lied, too, but not as persistently and consistently and never did they insist that external fact checks don’t count.)

The Hope for a Better Republican Party.   I believe the Republican Party lost its identity during the G. W. Bush years because he ignored issues of overspending while fighting two wars, creating big tax breaks and creating a drug support program that, like the wars, was unfunded.   That, and the Republican refusal to work with the president, rather than Obama ineptitude, is why we continue to run trillion dollar budget deficits.

The Republicans have complained about “tax and spend liberals” for decades, but G. W. came up with something novel.  He was a no-tax and spend Republican, you might say the best of both worlds until one has to pay the piper, which is what we are doing now. (*2)

As many others have pointed out, this post-Bush party has developed its identity as the party of  “no”.    The Democrats are considered the big tent party, but the Republicans have developed a pretty big tent themselves.   Anyone who dislikes Obama, big government and more taxes is welcome, including all the Tea Party folks who are the biggest naysayers of all.  Some extreme examples earned primary victories over more moderate sorts who likely would have won Senate seats for the Republicans.    It is  generally believed that the Republican candidates defeated in the primary would likely have won enough seats to give Mitch McConnell the gavel in the Senate.

This is but one issue that has already begun to prompt soul searching in the Grand Old Party.  Immigration is another.    I do not know what that party will look like in upcoming months, but I think they will not be as easily labelled the party of “no.”   That hasn’t worked for them.

Perhaps they’ll become the party of “maybe” and then maybe they can work with Democrats and actually accomplish something significant vis-a-vis our economic problems.

This, of course, if the Democrats don’t get too full of themselves and think they have a bigger mandate than they actually have.


(*1)  President Obama insists he will not give ground on allowing the Bush tax cuts to end for the richest Americans, which I think is symbolically important more than anything else.   Allowing their Bush era tax breaks to expire will only raise a fraction of the money needed to deal with our deficit problems.   The key here is to break the hold of the pledge most Republican politicians have made to not raise taxes.   Raising the bar for measuring yearly income for “the rich” to $500,000 or even a million would provide something for both sides and perhaps open the door for various other negotiations dealing with our financial issues.

(*2)  Isn’t it curious how George Bush Jr. could not be found in the election  landscape?  He’s a political version of “Where’s Waldo”.  Both he and his fellow Republicans obviously wanted it that way, acting as if he never existed.  That being the case, it made it easier to blame Obama for everything and forget about Bush.

FREE AT LAST! Post-Election First Reflections

Free from all those nasty commercials.  Free from all that political junk

Barack Obama presidential campaign, 2008

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

mail.  Free from all those phone calls pushing one candidate and trashing another, though I did appreciate President Clinton calling me.   I felt honored, but I still didn’t pick up.   I haven’t picked up in two months which have been jammed with so many unwanted calls that I almost cancelled my land line.  Unfortunately I often need it to locate my cell phone.


Yeah, and don’t tell me about how Romney was smeared as well.  Romney was portrayed as a very wealthy guy out of touch with the average American and our concerns, an image he cemented with his behind closed-doors speech to big donors in which he indicated at least “47%” of us think of ourselves as “victims” expecting government to solve our problems.   That is not smearing him. That’s who he is.

Carl Rove complains that Romney was portrayed as “a rich guy who only thinks about himself.”  O. K., that’s not complimentary, but I don’t think it prompts hatred.   Not compared with Obama being profiled as a secretly foreign-born, anti-American Muslim socialist who made-everything-worse as president.  That’s more than smearing; it’s sliming.

So, despite the fact that this has been a  “six billion dollar status quo election”…….   (Same president, same Democrat “managed” Senate and Republican “controlled” House ) …….   I feel so much better that I can begin to focus on what is happening in terms of addressing our nation’s problems, rather than defend Barack Obama’s last four years in office. (*1)

I have had criticisms of the president;  but I was so busy clearing away Republican distortions and lies I never got around to them.  In any event, I’m glad he has been given a second chance to do better on a number of fronts, and I think he will.   But more of that in upcoming weeks.

And more election reflections, too.   I have plenty to think about.

One more thought for today:

The #1 Issue was the Economy:    I find it ironic that, according to just about everyone, the economy was the key issue, but I found the economy almost never talked about in any real way during all of those months of babble.   Obama didn’t want us to dwell on the slow recovery and Romney didn’t want to detail how he would improve it.   Better to just be the Un-Obama, he seemed to think.   Perhaps he recalled how the rope-a-dope worked for Ali vs. Foreman so many years ago.

I often heard how the Obama campaign had sidetracked Romney from talking about the economy, but when Romney did talk about it, he never really said anything.   Maybe he liked being sidetracked.  He did indicate that he had created 100,000 jobs through Bain Capital, but never gave any proof and stopped saying that when pressed.  (If that were true, don’t you think each of us would have received in the mail a multi-colored booklet highlighting all those jobs?).

Otherwise Romney just made assertions like when he became president he would create 12,000,000 jobs, but never how he would do it.  As it turns out, that is what many economists predicted anyway.  No matter who would be elected.   Maybe even me.  (Thanks again for your vote, reader.)

So maybe Obama will “create” all those jobs, but if so, than Republicans will not give him credit but instead point to the natural cycling of the economy that Obama cashed in on.   And there would be some truth in that.

The booming economy during the Clinton years had already begun to turn around right before his first election, but not enough so the public really noticed.   So, George Bush was out (whom I think of as Bush the Better), and  Clinton was in and got to ride the rising tide.   In short, praising or blaming presidents for the shape of an economy imagines much greater powers than they have and ignores luck, lots of luck. (*2)

Given the shaky world economy, we can’t assume continued improvement in our own, but it would be ironic, and unfair, had Romney been elected and the improvement be called the “Romney Recovery.”  In that case, the Republicans would have forgotten economic cycles.  Fareed Zakaria points that out in a Washington Post piece that should cheer you up about our economic future, if you don’t think too much about it.

His is a lonely view compared to most you might read right now, especially with THE FISCAL CLIFF looming.  But save that other reading until later.  For now, take Daniel L. Reardon’s advice:  “In the long run the pessimist may be proved right, but the optimist has a better time on the trip.” (*3)

Have fun this weekend.


(*1)   I do realize the election produced significant changes, but not in terms of the balance of power in our central government.   For example, in keeping Obama in office the composition and politics of the allegedly apolitical Supreme Court figure to change down the line.

(*2)  I know Democrats would argue Clinton did a number of things to prompt the growth of the economy and a budget surplus.   My point here is his policies didn’t turn the economy around; it was turning before he took office.

(*3)   I don’t know who he is or was, either.  If curious, you’ll have to do your own search.

Why I am Voting for Barack Obama

Although regular readers of this blog know that I have favored Obama for reelection as opposed to Romney, I have never painted a coherent picture as to why, but only given glimpses of my reasoning here and there.  Not that I think I will sway anyone at this point.  It is likely that all of you have decided what you will do, including not vote.  (One reader voted for me, which was heart warming, but I’m trying to see if I can shift the vote to Obama somehow, like they do in conventions).  I do want to put down some thoughts, for possible future reference if nothing elseAfter that I plan on shutting up until Nov 9, the Friday following the election.   I am about as sick of all this as you probably are.

The Short Version:

I began to describe my reasons for supporting Barack Obama and the piece began to look like a booklet, not a post.  So, though this is not short (you might want to grab a beverage before continuing), it is the shortened impressionistic version:

English: Cropped version of File:Official port...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Republicans have consistently painted Obama’s term with every ugly color they could find.   On the more absurd side has been coloring the president as un-American by birth or in spirit or both and dabbing on the reddish hue of a socialist.  No matter that Warren Buffet, who has made his huge fortune thanks to capitalism, is a staunch supporter.  The Republicans also blame him for the slow recovery we have had from a recession which the Bush team left at the White House door step when they left.

To evaluate the president’s performance one must understand this was not just another recession, but the worst since the Depression.  No other had to repair a collapsed housing market, with millions of mortgages going under water, a market which is only beginning to come back now.  The Republicans continue to blame the president for trillion dollar deficits each year but a 2011 study in the NY Times described the primary sources of  those deficits as  “the Bush-era tax cuts, war spending in Iraq and Afghanistan, and recessions.”

The same Republicans who now act holier-than-thou regarding fiscal responsibility went along with billions in unbudgeted spending by Bush and we are still paying for that while the recession has sharply reduced government income also prompting greater deficits.   Add to this the Republican congressional resistance to anything Obama has proposed, even if they had proposed similar things before.  Factor in their refusal to consider raising taxes along with budget cuts – a combination most economists and financial types think necessary if we are really going to confront our budget problems – and most of their criticisms are misleading at best, lies at worst.

Under an Obama administration an economic collapse was averted and, while there is plenty that might be criticized, we are still a float and the economy is slowly on the mend.   And, yes, despite the Republican talking point to the contrary, the 800 billion stimulus did work according to a large majority of studies.  Of course, the amount of national debt remains a huge problem dead ahead, but it is not as if Romney/Ryan have the answer, despite the pretense of having a detailed plan.   Again, their plan does not include tax hikes, so it lacks a basis in reality according to most serious opinion on the issue, including some figures on the right, though not on the far right of course.  At least Obama begins with a sense of reality, despite his vagaries.

I would sum up Obama’s domestic performance as decent amidst awful conditions, which makes decent relatively good.   His performance in foreign policy was even better I think, but that is debatable.  In any event, Mitt Romney’s foreign policy isn’t much different as he articulated in the third debate.  Those willing to give Obama a fair shake would have to admit that all in all, he’s done a fair job, which is why moderate Republican Collin Powell is endorsing him once again – not because he’s also black as Romney surrogate John Sununu has suggested.   Sununu being one of many Republicans whom I find disgusting.  Donald Trump would be another.

Whatever his short-comings as president, Obama is a student of history and I believe he can learn from his mistakes, such as remaining aloof from the nitty gritty of congressional politics.   Prior to the last election he was often criticized for his inexperience, both as an executive and in foreign policy.   Now he has four years of experience in both arenas, as president no less, something I think he will build upon.  In comparison, Mitt Romney is a rookie.

Which reminds me that I am not only voting for Barack Obama, but against Mitt Romney.  I have paid close attention to him over these past seven months as indicated in several of my 60 posts, and I still do not know who Mitt Romney is.  NO, REALLY!  The frequent chameleon-like portrayal is not a caricature but a crystal clear image of Mitt’s positions and stances which swirl around like an old lava lamp.  It all just keeps changing in front of our eyes.  I love that one comment of his to a reporter who questioned him about a previous statement.  Romney said:  “I’m not familiar precisely with exactly what I said, but I stand by what I said, whatever it was.”

I do think he has some impressive accomplishments and if president, he might add more, but I can not predict what they would be.  At their convention his wife Ann assured us in her speech that if Mitt was elected “he will not fail.”  And I thought, fail to do what?   He says if he is elected he will create 12 million new jobs, but many economists predict that is the amount of new jobs that will be created no matter who is president.

More often Romney simply asserts that in every area he will do better than Obama.  He is slipperier than a greased pig when it comes to what and how, but apparently he thinks the Obama brand has become so tainted (with tons of help from Mitt’s cronies of course) that it only takes a relentless effort to portray himself, Mitt, as the Un-Obama to win the day.

The following Romney comment said behind closed doors regarding those who do not pay federal income tax is enough for me not to vote for him.  “There are 47 percent who are with him (Obama), who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”

But putting all that aside, even judging by the lowest denominator, I’d vote for Barack Obama preferring the devil I know to the etch-a-sketch one I don’t.  This is especially so as I believe the one thing we can depend upon in a Romney presidency is more conservative nominees to the supreme court which already tilts in that direction.  At least a couple of judges seem likely to retire over the next four years.

Do you really want our Supreme Court to become more conservative than it is now and to remain that way possibly for decades?

I don’t, a final reason why I will vote for Barack Obama.

Polling an Undecided

While watching both a baseball pennant series’ final and a pro-football game at a local sports bar Monday night instead of the third presidential debate, it occurred to me that I should take my own poll of undecideds to see what insights I might garner.

Logo, ESPN Monday Night Football

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Obviously, both campaigns are trying whatever they think might blow more swing voters their way in last ditch efforts.   Team Obama, for example, has come up with a shiny new little booklet with pretty pictures to show that they really do have a plan to improve everything in the next four years.  This to combat the Romney team’s claim that they don’t.   The numbers don’t seem to quite add up, but Romney’s numbers don’t, either.  My guess is that nobody trusts anyone’s so-called facts at this point anyway.   Not that this phenomenon is exactly brand new.  As Winston Churchill once said:  “The only statistics I believe in are the ones I make up myself.”

At this point, for swing voters, it is all about last minute impressions.  A number of liberal commentators, and the not so liberal Andrew Sullivan, have concluded  Obama routed Romney Monday.   I’m convinced they have no sense how little that might help  his chances, even if in some sense they are right.  They seem to equate winning the debate with winning over undecideds, which may not be the case at all.   In my previous post I described one undecided, Wendy, who had her balance tipped in the opposite direction, towards Romney.   Of course, that is only one, but why couldn’t there be many Wendys out there?

Let’s return to that sports bar Monday night where I  hatched my plan to do my own poll.   In addition to my desire to understand was the thought that if I conducted my poll  in bars I might be able to deduct part of my bar tabs as research expenses on my taxes.

That’s how the bartender, who we will call Bob, became my first respondent.  When asked if he was likely to vote, he said he was, and that he was undecided.  Perfect.   I went on to ask if he leaned one way or another and he said:  ” I don’t really like Obama, but I can’t vote for a Mormon.”

Why?   “Do you know much about Mormons?    Below the surface, they are into some strange sh_t, man.”….and Bob just shook his head while walking to pour a drink for another customer.  He then looked back and said:

“I might just vote for my dad.  He’s a good man.”

Bob doesn’t seem totally sold on voting for his father, so he remains an undecided, except for the fact he is clearly leaning away from Romney, leaving the choices Obama, his father or someone else, or just not voting.  I do not have a clue what he will  do at this point.  I’ll ask him after Nov 6.

Liberals tend to have too much faith in reason.  Wendy, mentioned in my previous post, is an indication that you can “win” a debate and still lose voters.   My guess in her case is that it was primarily Obama’s sarcasm at times which swayed her the other way, just as she probably did not care for Joe Biden’s derisive giggles while Ryan spoke in the VP debates.  I believe undecideds are more swayed by likeable or unlikeable impressions than specific facts, especially in this age of “post-truth politics.”

Bob adds another dimension to that,  the possibility that a number of undecideds are sufficiently idiosyncratic when it comes to voting for a president that one can’t predict what they might do or what might sway them.

Bob has prompted me to end my poll, as the task of understanding the range of undecideds now seems mind boggling.   If  the other pollsters turn out to be significantly wrong here and there on election day, I’ll think of Bob.


P. S. – I imagine that most of you are sick of hearing about this election just as I am in writing about it.  Just in case it matters to someone besides me,  in next Tuesday’s post I will lay out the reasons I will vote for Obama and not Romney.   Then I plan to take a break until Nov 9th, the Friday after the election.   Finally, after all this time, energy and money spent to just pick  the captain of our leaking ship (and his congressional crew), we’ll begin to see if much can be done to save it.

As Wendy Goes so Goes the Nation?

Instead of watching the presidential debate last night, I opted to watch the Giants clobber the Cardinals in baseball (for my foreign readers) and the Bears win a defensive battle over the Lions (in American “football”).   I like sports when the games feel meaningful, i. e. they have high stakes, which is why I don’t get interested in pro-baseball or pro-basketball until the playoffs.   Two many games, each with too little meaning.  As far as I’m concerned the regular seasons are just a very long sorting process to see who really counts.   I’d rather watch curling if the two teams are battling for a gold medal.

I’m drawn to the competition of the presidential race even though I deplore its nature.  Unlike sports, though, while  watching this game, it is not clear who is winning overall, or  even in the case of the debate last night.

English: Seal of the President of the United S...

Seal of the President of the United States  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Political pundits and pollsters have analyzed the campaigns to death, but nobody knows for sure who will win.   Nate Silver, who seems the most sophisticated of the poll watchers (he is linked in my Blogroll to the left),  gives Obama a 70% winning chance  today, so I’m glad my money is on the president.  But I don’t feel completely confident.

This morning cable pundits and columnists have post mortemed the debate aplenty, with all sorts of analyses as to who won and by how much.   The predominant reaction seems to be that Obama won the debate, though most Romney backers seem to think otherwise.  The consensus there was Romney did what he needed to do to maintain the momentum that began by winning the first debate.  Rather than appearing unreasonably pugnacious on topics like the Benghazi tragedy, he spent more time saying “me too, but better” to Obama’s policies.    To his defenders, he “looked presidential” and that “he can handle the role.”

To Ron Reagan on MSNBC, Romney’s comments were so “banal” that if “he wore a sash and a tiara he could run for Miss America.”   However valid Reagan’s points may have been, that sarcastically over the top characterization detracts from his criticisms.   At least for me and I think there are many like me. Obama was sarcastically dismissive a time or two as well.

In recent posts I have dwelt on the “undecided’s, those swing voters who seem to go back and forth like a pendulum.  If enough of them swing the same way in the right states on election day, Romney might surprise Nate Silver and me by winning.   It is with them in mind, that I’m not so sure Obama won the debate.   At least he didn’t win over Wendy,  a previous undecided who now leans towards Romney.

Wendy has been used as an example “undecided” on FOX.  She is an articulate, likeable woman with four children, seeming to me in her 30s.  In announcing her post-debate swing towards Romney she said:    “He just has an idea of what the economy needs…. nothing has gotten better.  Everything’s gotten worse.”  Catching my attention even more was her saying:   “Obama came across as a bully.”

I would not say “bully” but to me Obama was too often dismissive to the point of condescentional overkill.   In response to a Romney criticism, the president said:   “You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916,” Obama said. “Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military has changed.”

That comment has gone viral and zealous Obama backers probably love it, but they aren’t the much coveted swing voters, one of whom has just swung towards Romney.   While Obama had a big lead in the polls  with women voters, the gap has narrowed significantly in recent weeks. Perhaps this is an expression that even more than reproductive rights, equal pay and the like, many women are concerned with the sluggish economy and how a candidate comports himself.   Handling the economy is the one issue in which Romney regularly rates higher in the polls.   Handling oneself as a gentleman (or as a good father) counts especially with women as far as I can tell.

If many undecided’s  cast their ballots while imagining a sarcastic, bullying Obama and a laughing hyena running mate, especially women but men, too………?    Well, I don’t like to think about it.

“Utterly Inadequate”

Official photographic portrait of US President...

( Wikipedia)

That was how Tom Brokaw summed up President Obama’s performance at the debate, and that seemed to capture much of the public reaction, especially from the staunchest of Obama supporters.

Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts,...


Political wit Bill Maher, who has donated one million dollars to an Obama Super PAC,  sounded liked he might want his money back in several tweets, including  “i cant believe I’m saying this but Obama DOES look like he needs a teleprompter.”   In the end he proclaimed Romney the winner of the debate.

Chris Matthews, of MSNBC, who undoubtedly remains convinced he is a hard hitting interviewer, but to me has morphed over time into a cheer captain for the Obama team, was almost apoplectic over the Obama performance.   “Where was Obama?” he yelled.  “He looked like he was enduring the debate.”  The President often stared down and sometimes grimaced while Romney focused his eyes and his zingers on him.

Of course, pundits have mentioned that challengers of a President have usually won the first televised debate, and we know how that worked out for John Kerry, for example.  Recently the pollsters have generally been tossing dirt over Romney’s chances like his campaign is already dead, so how is the President supposed to get up for the challenge?  Maybe being the leader of the free world has taken a little out of Obama lately, and he just couldn’t get past the feeling of having to endure an obvious etch-a-sketch loser like Mitt Romney.   Any athlete knows you don’t want to play a weak team because it doesn’t pump up the competitive juices.

Tied to that is the coaching Obama got or didn’t get for the debate.   Apparently, they did not want him to come off as too aggressive at or dismissive of Romney  (no mention of the 47% or Bain).  That succeeded.  He came off as blah instead.   But certainly they did not coach him to often look down nor to grimace.   He seemed to come up with those techniques on his own.

O. K., so most agree Obama’s performance was “inadequate”, but let’s remember one thing.  We are talking about ONE NINETY MINUTE PERFORMANCE.   Given all there is by which to judge the two candidates, this really shouldn’t mean that much.  Or should it?  Apparently it did to several members of a focus group of 24  “undecideds” who discussed their reactions to the debate on Fox TV.

Frankly, I’m a bit surprised that after months and months of us being inundated with political blitz, they could find 24 undecideds.   I’ve been assuming what few there are must be in a coma or lost somewhere, like in the Amazon basin.  But pollsters say I’m wrong, estimating that 5% of likely voters are still undecided.  Anyway, pollster Frank Luntz gathered 24 of them, 13 of whom had voted for Obama in the last election.  By the end of the debate, though, a big majority of the group either seemed to favor Romney, or at least hadn’t decided.   Obama didn’t seem to pick up a vote.  One guy had become very decided, saying he would vote for Romney because he showed a better “grasp of the facts”.

What facts?  There are millions of related facts and Romney chose some and was crisp and sharp in selling them.   Given more time and attention (as numerous commentators have done in postmortems), those “facts” reveal more holes than Swiss cheese.  But for whatever reasons, Obama failed to bite into them, barely even a nibble.

O. K. then.   The Emmy for best Presidential performance in a TV debate goes to Mitt Romney.   Now that the West Wing is no longer on the air, the competition is slim.   What I wonder about is how many swing voters are as impressionable as that Luntz focus group?   Many did not seem to realize that acting more presidential than the President for 90 minutes, by appearing more energized and in better command of the facts, is not equivalent to being the President and doing presidential things, especially when many of the so-called facts are essentially fictions.

This focus group of “undecideds” did make me wonder whether many of those swing voters come election day will vote  as whimsically as me choosing sweet and sour pork on a Chinese menu over beef and broccoli.  I don’t know why.  Broccoli just seems less appealing at the moment.

One thing for sure about that debate is that Mitt Romney acted like the guy who wants the presidency more.   This is partially because Barack Obama already is the President.  He already has the bone that Romney wants.   The problem in debating might be that Obama has come to believe that he has already won.

Given the capriciousness of some American voters, though, the race may not be a done deal, especially if between now and Nov 6, Mitt adds to his collection of my imaginary Emmy’s.


I had almost completed a post, one which reconsidered Mitt Romney’s achievements and how, in some ways, he might make a good president.  But foreign events have interceded.    In any case, my speculation was largely a matter of guesswork since Romney steadfastly remains vague about what he would do regarding the budget deficit and job creation and, when you think about it, everything – except repealing Obamacare.  Recently, he has even been criticized for this by conservative allies such as the Wall Street Journal:  “Mr. Romney’s pre-existing political calculation seems to be that he can win the election without having to explain the economic moment or even his own policies.”

Mitt Romney - Caricature

Mitt Romney – Caricature (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

Of course, the attacks Tuesday on our  embassies in Egypt and Libya have thrust the foreign policy dimension of the presidency to the fore allowing the economic ones to fade momentarily to the background.   As petty as it is, I feel put out by having to write a more relevant post, and I am struck by how, to an exponentially greater degree, these events must be changing President Obama’s plans as well.  Not just politically, of course, but in terms of his guidance of our overall response as a nation to these events.  That’s the kind of thing a president has to deal with almost daily.  There is always something unexpected coming in, and we usually don’t  hear anything about them unless they are handled badly.   I for one prize Obama’s proven coolness under these pressures.

Of course, from the Republican point of view, everything Obama does is handled badly, so it is no surprise that  the Romney team uncovered something “disgraceful” immediately after the crisis broke out.   Amidst puzzling events unfolding, Romney seized upon a public statement made by someone in the embassy in Egypt prior to their walls being breached (someone who it now appears, acted on his own).  A statement that he calls “akin to an apology’ for American values  and a “disgraceful” act.

Four American diplomats murdered in Libya and a continuing tumult for the President to deal with throughout the Arab world  and Mitt Romney takes an on-line release by an embassy worker and makes it seem a revelation of our basic problem with the Arab world…….  We apologize too much (*1).  I assume you have a general sense of the issue and if you want a detailed one, I provide a couple of links at the bottom.

Peggie Noonan, a conservative commentator and former Reagan speechwriter, summed up on Fox News what I hope is the reaction of a majority of Americans:    “I don’t feel that Mr. Romney has been doing himself any favors, say, in the past few hours, perhaps since last night….   Sometimes when really bad things happen, when hot things happen, cool words or no words is the way to go.”

Good advice Peggie, but Mitt is  desperate to win votes at this point and will say anything to get them.   I don’t see that tactic working here, but we’ll wait and see.

For now, I suggest you read the outline of those initial events in the Outside the Beltway blog, which appear to be presented impartially (*2).  Read it and decide for yourself whose actions have been disgraceful.


(*1)  You might also want to read this Washington Post editorial today which covers the same ground especially attentive to the notion that Obama often “apologizes” for American values.

(*2)  I read several pieces  about the Romney reaction, but chose this one as it seems more detailed than others and not particularly pro-Obama .   I infer not too  “pro-Obama” because in a short survey of its readers regarding the president’s overall performance, 50% judged it as “very unfavorable” and only 26% “very favorable.  I myself was among the 15% judging it “somewhat favorable.”  Though, as with all surveys, I’d add a caveat, somewhat favorable under very unfavorable circumstances.

What’s Good for the Goose…..

I ended my previous post promising to “lighten up” in this post in response to a reader’s suggestion I do so, but lighter will have to wait until later as it now seems appropriate to fact check the Bill Clinton speech, since I referred to the fact checked criticisms of Paul Ryan’s address at the other convention in a previous post.  As we used to say in what a friend’s daughter calls “olden times”, what’s “good for the goose is good for the gander.”

Bill Clinton and Abel Herrero

Bill Clinton  (Photo credit: qnr)

Especially because this gander, slick Willie, got mostly rave reviews for his persuasive rebuttal of  most things Republican a couple of nights ago.  Well, Rush Limbaugh said the speech was boring, what little he watched, and that it wouldn’t help Obama at all.  So, there is one vote against (not to mention hours of talk show fodder as Rushbo reveals why he alone sees what others do not).

A persuasive speech, but how much was true?  It is too much to cover fully, but having read a handful of fact checkers, I’ll try to give an integrated gist.   Glenn Kessler, fact checker at the Washington Post, gave what he called “an initial take”, which was a quick survey of what he found faulty or misleading.  The Democrat/Obama plan to cut $4 trillion in the budget over a decade, Kessler described as  a “major budget gimmick”  and he called the 4.5 million private sector jobs produced during the last 29 months of Obama’s administration a “cherry picked” figure.   He had several other criticisms, including one mentioned below, not so much of Clinton but of what others said at the convention, too much to go over here.

In concentrating only on the flaws in the speech Kessler  gives no sense of much that was true, more or less.   My guess is after carving up Paul Ryan he didn’t want to be seen as soft on Bill Clinton.

One of  Kessler’s major criticisms – crediting the ACA with slowing down the growth rate of health care costs –  seems most shared by other checkers.  As Factcheck.org wrote:  “The worst we could fault him (Clinton) for was a suggestion that President Obama’s Affordable Care Act was responsible for bringing down the rate of increase in health care spending, when the fact is that the law’s main provisions have yet to take effect.“  The causes of this decrease are somewhat debatable, but there seems general agreement not to credit the ACA for it.

However, it is noteworthy  that Factcheck.org viewed that as the worst exaggeration of the speech, calling “other exaggerations and missteps …. minor by comparison.”  In fact, they said despite running down Clinton’s many statistics and factual claims, they found  little to write about.

CBS checked out seven claims made by Bill Clinton and found most of them more or less correct, while giving the Obama administration more credit than  Kessler does in creating that $4.5 million jobs.

From reading these three sources (and a couple others as well), my impression is that, considering all the facts and figures Clinton mentioned over the course of his speech, he remained mostly in the ballpark of truth, implying some things that may not be true and are unlikely, but in this age of misinformation not bad at all.  Especially given all that he talked about.

That’s my sense of it all, and I am happy to report that  Melanie Mason of the LA Times seems to agree with me.   She did her own survey of the fact checkers and concluded:  “Bill Clinton courts fact-checkers, earns mostly praise.”  Check it out as she offers additional insights.

Obviously, I think highly of Ms. Mason’s ability to analyze and synthesize.  Next time I want to check something out, I’ll Google to see if she already has.   It could save me a lot of time and energy.

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.

“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.