Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What Our Young Folks Need to Know About Ron Paul

He's the Republican Party's Howard Dean, right? The independent outsider who speaks his mind, takes unorthodox positions and appears to be afraid of no one. The kind of irreverent, in-your-face candidate young people find very attractive. But do they know about Ron Paul's history of making outrageously offensive, racist comments? Probably not. If and when they do they'll drop him like a bad check.

Ron Paul is the Bee Gees of politics. And just like young people in the 1970's were clueless that the hip "Saturday Night Fever" disco band had an even greater run as a 60's rock band, they're gonna find out that Paul has a big past as well, albeit a very dubious one. Right now he's benefiting from an upsurge in support following the implosions of the Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain campaigns, as well as the apparent swift failure of Newt Gingrich 2.0. In fact, new polls show him as the front runner in the Iowa caucuses, and a real threat to Mitt Romney, especially if he breaks off and runs as an independent.

But young folks need to go back and read the Ron Paul Political Report and the Ron Paul Survival Report from about 1989-1994 to gain further insight into the radical extremist mind of the candidate who's winning their hearts. Here are some examples of his incendiary remarks:

-"Given the inefficiencies of what D.C. laughingly calls the `criminal justice system,' I think we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal."

-"If you have ever been robbed by a black teen-aged male, you know how unbelievably fleet-footed they can be."

-"Order was only restored in L.A. (after the riots) when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks."

-"We don't think a child of 13 should be held responsible as a man of 23. That's true for most people, but black males age 13 who have been raised on the streets and who have joined criminal gangs are as big, strong, tough, scary and culpable as any adult and should be treated as such."

-"What else do we need to know about the political establishment than that it refuses to discuss the crimes that terrify Americans on grounds that doing so is racist? Why isn't that true of complex embezzling, which is 100 percent white and Asian?"

Paul's also written that black protesters should gather "at a food stamp bureau or a crack house" instead of the Statue of Liberty; that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. "seduced underage girls and boys;" and that people with AIDS "enjoy the attention and pity that comes with being sick."

Over the years Paul has either denied he's made these statements (claiming someone else wrote them) or says they've been taken out of context.

"It's typical political demagoguery," he said. "If people are interested in my character . . . come and talk to my neighbors."

Well, it's hard to imagine any other "context" for these racist rants. And as for whether he's the actual writer or not, the offensive comments were made in his newsletters under his byline. Claiming there was a ghostwriter is a pretty lame excuse for someone whose entire foundation and principles rest with personal liberties and responsibility.

Paul is a 1950's era Texan who's on record saying he doesn't believe in the 1964 Civil Rights act. He's an angry old man with dangerous views about minorities, civil liberties and how America should be governed. He's not just some awe-inspiring, patriotic Thomas Paine-like elder firebrand who deserves the admiration and respect of our youth. To the contrary, his virulent positions blatantly contradict what America truly stands for.

I know Howard Dean. I've supported Howard Dean. Ron Paul is no Howard Dean. The sooner our young citizens figure this out the better off they, and America, will be.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

House Bill to End Food Stamps for Millionaires....and Other Ridiculously Meaningless Measures

There was an actual headline in Tuesday's NY Times that the Republican led House of Representatives was taking up a measure to end food stamps and unemployment benefits for millionaires. I suppose their single-digit approval rating has finally prompted them into action to enact such truly meaningful legislation.

Thankfully, the House isn't wasting precious Chamber time on payroll tax cuts and
jobs bills. In fact, they've been quite busy this week. Below is a list of some
other critical measures passed by the House:

-A bill to end farm subsidies to NYC landlords

-A bill prohibiting Talmudic Law from being allowed in US courts

-A bill prohibiting ObamaCare from applying to pets

-A bill limiting the mortgage interest deduction to only people who own homes

-A bill banning fairies and mermaids from serving in the military

-A bill to secure our borders from space aliens

-A bill naming the Statue of Liberty the official statue given to us by the
French around 1886

-A bill restricting the presidency to only people with birth certificates

-A bill declaring the week during the Republican convention "Intelligence Amnesty Week"

-A bill to make English America's official language. Oh wait, this one's actually for real...

Monday, December 12, 2011

Democrats For Newt!

Ok, I admit it. I secretly support Newt Gingrich's bid for the Republican presidential nomination. I mean, I really really want him to win. I think he's the quintessential conservative and, gosh darnit, he's been around so long he truly deserves this honor. And the party deserves him, as do Republican voters. I can't think of a more fitting nominee to lead this party of hypocritical crazies off a cliff.

Oops, did I just give myself away there? Perhaps. Maybe I'm not so altruistic after all. Maybe I think President Barack Obama's re-election odds increase about a zillion percent if he runs against Gingrich. Quite frankly, I practically wet myself just thinking about it.

Once the Republican love fest with Newt reaches it's primary climax later next year (that is, of course, if he doesn't self-destruct before then), the reality of the general election will quickly set in. If the current crop of leading GOP'ers (including Sen. Tom Coburn, Rep. Peter King, John Sununu and former Rep. Guy Molinari) who've been outspoken in excoriating Gingrich is any indication, he's in huge trouble.

Imagine Obama going up against Gingrich and his record. Imagine what happens when the president and Democrats bang down his closet door and unleash the avalanche of skeletons that have been ever-so-vulnerably stored there for the past fifteen years (Wanna know the difference between Democrats, Republicans and independents? Republicans are the only ones forgiving of Newt's myriad personal and political transgressions).

Gingrich's "repentant sinner" routine may allow those self-righteous, sanctimonious evangelicals to excuse his serial philandering and multiple ethics violations in the interest of vitriolic partisan politics, but the rest of America has a tad more scruples than that. They expect that if you run as a values candidate, ya gotta have some actual values. Newt's core is as rotten today as it was when he crucified Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky affair while he was sticking his...er...um...hand in the cooking jar of infidelity.

While Newt would like to portray himself as the wise old user-friendly 68-year-old Washington outsider grandad who's finally found Jesus enough to keep his married shmecky in his pants, the rest of thinking America sees him for what he is: the bomb-throwing sabre-rattling morally-bankrupt career-insider who makes outrageously offensive comments about the president, the poor and Palestinians to name a few.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The GOP Candidates Do Monty Python's "Four Yorkshiremen"

The Republican presidential campaign has so far delighted us with sixteen debates in what has become the best reality freak show on television. And Saturday night's free-for-all in Iowa provided an extra special treat.

The candidates sparred over everything from the economy, health care and Palestinians to ethics and infidelity. There was even another huge "oops" moment, this time for Mitt Romney, who reinforced his reputation as a rich out-of-touch elitist by challenging Rick Perry to a $10,000 bet over his health care record (Perry would have lost the bet, btw). This blunder didn't go over well in a state where the average income is $40,000. What the hell was he thinking? This one's gonna cost him dearly.

But the most fun came at the end of the debate when the candidates were asked what financial sacrifices they had made in their lives. And as my friend Paul keenly observed, this is when the debate turned into Monty Python's hilarious "Four Yorkshiremen" sketch where a bunch of snooty aristocrats wax nostalgic about their difficult upbringings, trying to out-poor each other with one absurd claim after another.

Perry said he his house didn't have running water until he was six, and that his mother sewed his clothes until he went off to college. Gingrich said he was raised in an apartment above a gas station. Ron Paul told of growing up through the Depression. Michele Bachmann said she had to work at 13 because her single mom fell below the poverty line. Romney sheepishly admitted he hadn't been poor, but that his father had been.

If only the Repubs had had more time they surely would've ended up describing how they had lived in a rolled up newspaper or a shoebox.

By the way, here's what I think of Romney's $10K bet...

Friday, December 09, 2011

Donald Trump's Irrelevance Must Be Killing Him

What do Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman have in common? Besides seeking the Republican presidential nomination, they've all just very painfully reminded Donald Trump just how politically irrelevant he truly is. And I say "painfully" because Trump is a megalomaniac who'd rather slice of his left hand than be irrelevant.

The real-estate-tycoon-turned-buffoon is set to moderate the Newsmax ION Television 2012 Presidential Debate December 27 in Des Moines, IA. But only Rick Santorum and Newt "Holy-Shit-I'm-the-Fucking-Frontrunner!" Gingrich have agreed to attend. Understandably, Santorum would attend a crack-whores conference if it offered him a chance to speak. And Gingrich desperately wants Trump's endorsement and is sure to get it now (are there really folks out there dumb enough to vote for Newt just because Donald Trump said to?).

Someday we'll get to fully understand the genesis of Trump's massive neurosis. I'm not a shrink, but clearly this man has a very deep emotional hole. His insatiable hunger for attention, recognition and relevance is gargantuan and alarmingly self-destructive. Truth be told, he was once considered, and by this writer as well, to be a brilliant, innovative, straight-shooting independent thinker on the right side of many social and political issues. And then he apparently took asshole pills and turned from The Donald into The Douche. He's become an angry, belligerent, small-minded fool who will literally do or say anything if it means someone will stick a mike or camera in front of his horrifically-coiffed head. Whatever comes out of his mouth now just seems like it's been marinated in batshit-crazy-sauce.

Trump seems to have crossed the critical line where one loses an ability to realize just how insane they look and sound. He's now just an embarrassing punchline. One thing's for sure: you know you've become a pathetic joke when Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry won't have anything to do with you.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

This is Why Romney Won't Win the GOP Nomination

Mitt Romney, the 1%'er who was born on 3rd base and thinks he hit a triple, apparently suffers from an entitlement disorder so profound that it makes him believe he can run for president of the United States and not be challenged to explain his positions.

In an interview Tuesday with the usually softball-throwing Fox News, Romney demonstrated on national television perhaps his biggest shortfall: that he thinks the world owes him something. Furthermore, he thinks he has the right to do or say anything he wants in order to get it.

Romney was all smiles as he sat down for what he incorrectly thought would be the typically friendly Fox lovefest. But host Bret Baier apparently had something else in mind as he began grilling the former front-runner over his rampant policy flip-flops. Romney quickly became defensive, testy, condescending and quite fidgety as he nervously shifted in his seat and awkwardly crossed his legs.

Baier: Like the [New Hampshire’s leading newspaper, which endorsed Romney rival Newt Gingrich last weekend] “Union Leader,” your critics charge that you make decisions based on political expediency and not core convictions. You have been on the both sides of -- of some issues. And there’s videotape of you going back years speaking about different issues -- climate change, abortion, immigration, gay rights. How can voters trust what they hear from you today is what you will believe if you win the White House?

Romney: Well, Bret, your list is just not accurate. So, one, we’re going to have to be better informed about my views on issues. My view is you can look at what I’ve written in my book. You can look at a person who has devoted his life to his family, to his faith, to his country. And I’m running for president because of the things I believe I think I can do to help this country. And -- and I know in politics, there are going to be those who try in every way they can to tear down one another.

The former Massachusetts governor also strongly denied ever suggesting that his state's health care model of the individual mandate be adopted nationwide.

Baier: So, governor, you did say on camera and other places that, at times, you thought it would be a model for the nation.

Romney: You’re wrong, Bret.

Romney: No, no. There’s tape..the tape out there — continue to read the tape, and the tape goes on to say for each state to be able to look at it.

Baier on Wednesday said on Fox's The O'Reilly Factor that Romney was annoyed by what he claimed was his unfair questioning. He said Romney "was irritated by the interview after we were done." The feisty flip-flopper "made it clear at the end of the interview" that he was not happy. "He said he thought it was overly aggressive." He added that "as we were walking in the ‘walk and talk’ and then after we finished, he went to his holding room and then came back and said he didn’t like the interview and thought it was uncalled for."

Well, too bad Mitt. We're truly sorry that you think your record as a businessman and politician is above scrutiny. We're sorry that challenging you to explain your controversial record feels like an unfair 'gotcha' attack. We're sorry that you feel so entitled to the nomination that you believe the bright glare of the media should beat down only on others. We're sorry that you feel voters don't have a right to know who the hell they're voting for.

Romney's performance during that Fox interview was a revelation into just who he really is: an out-of-touch privileged whiner who will fold like a $2 beach chair the minute the real pressure's on. And most important it was a testament to his character, or lack thereof. It showed that behind all the youthfully black hair dye and pearly white smiles there's a highly pompous, arrogant CEO who simply doesn't get it that being president is very different than having the ability and power to tell everyone what to do. We can expect more of this outrageous behavior from him as these next few contentious weeks unfold.

Though I thought I'd never be saying this, let's hope the rest of the 'mainstream media" is as "aggressive" as Fox as they interview the various candidates.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hubris, Hubris, Hubris. Explaining Herman Cain's Downfall

Herman Cain is just the latest example of a politician's career imploding over a sex scandal. Such personal transgressions have sunk many a campaign since the days of the Roman Empire, so that's nothing new. But what's surprising, and inexplicable, is why someone with a walk-in-closet full of skeletons would run for high office, thereby putting at grave risk his family, career and reputation. The only answer that makes any sense is hubris. And a massive dose of it.

The dictionary defines hubris as excessive pride or self-confidence; arrogance. But with Cain I'd take it even further and toss in narcissism and megalomania. Those two conditions are defined as inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity and a mania for great or grandiose performance respectively.

With Cain, here's a guy who's alleged to have sexually harassed (and possibly molested) several women and engaged in a long-term extramarital affair with at least one other. Knowing this, what on Earth was he thinking in running for president? Did he honestly believe that his past behavior, unlike that of Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, Anthony Weiner, Eliot Spitzer and countless others, would not become public fodder? Did he think he was above scrutiny? Does he feel entitled? Is he in utter denial? Does he think that his version of "I did not have sex with that woman!" is going to bury the story any more than it did for Clinton?

Cain walked into this campaign with high stature. With a solid business record as a former Godfather's Pizza CEO and as a very successful corporate motivational speaker. He also came with his 43-year marriage and his family in tact. And while he has yet to drop out of the race, he is sure to in the next few days. His political career is now dead as a doornail, and he will leave the campaign with his conservative supporters and donors angry, his marriage wrecked, a family who he's hurt terribly, and a business reputation that's severely damaged. Who the hell would hire him to motivate their corporate troops after this mess?

And the biggest display of his hubris yet is in his unequivocal denials of any wrongdoing. In fact, he claims, as he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Monday, that there's a conspiracy hellbent on "derailing the Cain train." No, the train just went into the wrong tunnels, Herm. But Mr. 9-9-9 takes no responsibility for any of it.

To be sure, we've seen D.C's version of this Greek tragedy played out a zillion times before. First comes the salacious accusations, then the vociferous, unequivocal denials, followed by an eventual humiliating public mea culpa, perhaps with the shell-shocked Mrs by your side, and then a shameful resignation. I suspect we are going to see all of this from Cain very soon. The main question though is, why did he think things would end any differently for him? Hubris, hubris, hubris...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Cain Mutiny

There's only one thing that can actually make Newt Gingrich's history of marital infidelity seem trite, and its name is Herman Cain. The man who gave us bad pizza and an even cheesier tax overhaul plan is once again at the center of a new sex scandal, accused of having a 13-year extramarital affair with Ginger White, a single mother from Atlanta whom he me while running the National Restaurant Association (clearly, his tenure as head of this trade organization in the 1990's has not served him well, sexual-scandal-wise). Seems like women all over America are jumping off the Good Ship 999.

White said she came forward because of the way Cain's been disparaging the various women who've accused him recently of sexual harassment.

"It bothered me that they were being demonized, sort of, they were treated as if they were automatically lying, and the burden of proof was on them. I felt bad for them."

Cain has strongly denied the accusation, but in a very curious manner. In an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer Monday he confidently stated that he did not have a "13-year" affair as if inside he was giggling to himself saying "That's because it was a TWELVE AND A HALF YEAR affair!" Technically, he would not be lying, although that's a pretty pathetic defense. What's more, he issued his denial with the same sort of "I did not have sex with that woman!" arrogance of the 90's scandal-plagued Bill Clinton. And we know how that story ended.

It's hard to imagine Cain's campaign surviving this, especially on the heels of the harassment scandal. He's done. And it's a great day for Gingrich, who, by comparison, is starting to seem like an altar boy (not exactly hard to do in the Republican Party, where political, ethics and sexual scandals run rampant).

The GOP presidential pack is motley crew of misfits and miscreants. By default, Gingrich has found himself atop this garbage pile as he's watched the campaigns of Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and now Cain implode. His chief rival at the moment, Mitt Romney, is stuck at around 20% and is not liked by voters or GOP leadership. His reign at or near the top is misleading. It's not because voters want him there, it's because they've had no one else. That they've now jumped aboard the skeleton-filled NewtWagon is proof positive.

Newt may have cost himself much support among hardcore conservatives with his controversial amnesty-like position on immigration offered at the last GOP debate. Additionally, we've yet to see how his many past, well-documented political and personal indiscretions and transgressions will truly impact his campaign. They nearly sunk him once before. Gingrich is his own worst enemy. To be sure, his mouth, if not his past, will put him in the hot seat once again.

The question then is, who's next to lead this sorry pack? Is Jon Huntsman, the only Republican with the integrity, character and experience to be president, going to have his turn at the top? Will Romney win by default after Newt's next fall? One thing's for sure, the GOP campaign train wreck will surely provide more entertainment over the next several months.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My New Favorite Reality Show: "The Real Republicans of Washintgon"

I must confess: up until a couple of months ago I was addicted to Bravo's "Real Housewives" franchise. C'mon, what's more fun than watching Theresa Guidice in the kitchen with all her "ingrediences?" Or the Orange County and Beverly Hills ladies and their fake hair, teeth, boobs and plastic surgery claw at each other like a bunch of alley cats? But then I got sick of it all. Felt ashamed. Realized there's probably a million other things I can and should be doing with my time. Like watching the never-ending Republican presidential debates.

My new favorite reality show is "The Real Republicans of Washington." Who needs tough little Joe Guidice when we have the feistier-than-ever Newt Gingrich? Why waste time watching Camille Grammer embarrass herself when we can watch Michele Bachmann implode? Why listen to Kelly Bensimon say stupid things when we can watch Herman Cain take a week and a half to answer a question about Libya? Why listen to Texas airhead Gretchen Rossi when you can feast your ears on Texas airhead Rick Perry?

I'm telling ya, "Real Republicans" has more interesting stars, better catfights, more drama, more salacious scandals and airs weekly as well. There's sexual harassment, marital infidelity, botox, shameless hypocrisy, Mormons and libertarians (and who's nuttier than those guys, huh?). But maybe, just maybe, you might learn something about government in the process so it's not entirely a waste. Quick honey, wake up the kids....

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Is Gingrich Lying Over Freddie Mac Involvement?

Ya gotta give credit to Newt Gingrich. At least he's consistent in his colossal hypocrisy. Back in the 90's while he was crucifying Bill Clinton over the former president's sexual escapades with Monica Lewinsky, the then-House Speaker was simultaneously cheating on his wife. And now we learn from a Bloomberg News article, which cites former Freddie Mac officials, that while Gingrich was excoriating President Obama, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Democrats for their supposed roles in the Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae housing and financial crisis he knew that he had earned upwards of $1.8-million on Freddie's payroll to lobby their cause to his influential Republican pals on Capitol Hill.

On the hot seat after soaring recently in the polls, Gingrich's defense of his actions is lame at best and unethical and duplicitous at worst. At a GOP debate last week he claimed to have made only $300,000 from the relationship and that he was paid as a "historian," giving the federally-backed home mortgage company "advice on precisely what they didn’t do,” which was to stop giving high-risk loans to borrowers with no or poor credit history. He later expanded his role to "strategic adviser."

"First of all, it wasn’t paid to me," he said this week. "Gingrich Group was a consulting firm that had lots of people doing things and we offered strategic advice." So, we're supposed to accept on face value that Gingrich does not personally profit from Gingrich Group revenue? Furthermore, the Freddie officials confirmed to Bloomberg that he never warned of a housing bubble and offered no criticism of the business model.

According to the Associated Press, Gingrich’s work with Freddie Mac started in 1999 after being brought in by the company’s top lobbyist, Mitchell Delk, to consult on legislative and regulatory issues, the company said at the time. He was paid approximately $30,000 a month into 2002. Freddie brought him back again four years later at $300,000 annually to help defend against attacks from conservatives.

So Gingrich appears to be lying, which is clearly such a pattern for him that it consistently and ultimately brings him down, as it is certain to do again now.

Back in 2008 Gingrich aggressively challenged Obama to distance himself from Freddie and Fannie by returning all campaign contributions. And at the recent debate, he arrogantly charged that those responsible for the housing crisis should be put in jail: "You ought to start with Barney Frank. Go back and look at the lobbyists he was close to at Freddie Mac." Perhaps what's good for the goose is good for the Gingrich...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

David Brooks is Wrong About the Penn State Rape

I have to take great issue with today's New York Times op-ed column by David Brooks. Titled Let's All Feel Superior, Brooks addresses the alleged Penn State rape of a 10-year-old boy by Jerry Sandusky, and the failure by assistant coach Mike McQueary, who witnessed this heinous act in the locker room shower in 2002, to intervene on the spot. His main supposition is that none of us truly knows what we would do in that very same situation until we're in "McQueary's shoes," and that it's easy for us to judge and condemn others when we might actually behave in the same manner.

Brooks calls this lack of action "Motivated Blindness," which he defines as "they don't see what is not in their interest to see." He then goes on to cite cases, such as the infamous Kitty Genovese murder in Queens, NY in 1964, where bystanders watched silently and did nothing as victims were beaten and killed. But what Brooks is doing here is not only over-intellectualizing McQueary's shameful behavior, but making broad and unfounded generalizations about society overall.

Contrary to Brooks' bizarre semi-excusing of McQueary's inaction, I suspect there are very, very few people who would witness a young boy of ten getting anally raped and not be compelled to immediately intervene, even with physical force. Speaking for myself, and as someone with four children, I am 1000% certain of what I would've done in that locker room. And there are few things in this world that I am as certain about. My reaction would've been visceral and swift. Without thought. Without thinking of any personal consequences or safety concerns. I would've ripped into Sandusky with everything I had and would've then attempted to detain him until police arrived. And I can't imagine any other decent, compassionate, caring human being acting differently. I simply cannot fathom anyone seeing this brutal act of savagery on a child and walking away, leaving a monster to continue his incomprehensible attack.

Sorry Brooks, I think your Motivated Blindness Club has very, very few members.

Monday, November 14, 2011

How Jon Huntsman Jr. Could Be the GOP Nominee

I'm gonna go out on a limb here and make an early prediction that Jon Huntsman Jr. is going to be the Republican nominee for president in 2012. By all accounts, the odds are I will be proven wrong. But I'm not so sure. I think the former Utah governor and Ambassador to China truly stands an excellent chance of winning.

To be sure, the GOP pack right now is in a state of disarray. Voters on the right are switching their allegiances as often as I cut my hair (about every four weeks). First they showed the love for Donald Trump, then Michelle Bachmann, then Rick Perry, then Mitt Romney, then Herman Cain and now the object of their disaffection is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. A new CNN poll shows Mitt and Newt in a virtual tie for the lead, while Cain, embroiled in an embarrassing, campaign-killing sex scandal, has dropped from 25% to 14%. I suspect it's only gonna get worse for Cain.

But here's where it gets very interesting and wide-open. The current crop of Republican candidates are akin to the 'wild girls' you dated while single. They're fun, edgy and perhaps a bit more racy then the gal you plan to settle down with someday. But when it's time to walk down the aisle, you want someone mama will love. Hence, Huntsman.

Romney's problem is that he cannot break out of his 23% range because voters and the Republican establishment truly dislike him. He flip-flops so much that Birkenstock should name a sandal after him. And, he's a Mormon. Add all this up and you have serious voter apprehension, which explains his utterly stagnant campaign.

Gingrich, on the other hand, is the popular new "old" kid at the dance. He's got the momentum, and he's benefiting by the implosions of the Bachmann, Perry and Cain campaigns. But he's got more skeletons in his closet than a medical lab at Harvard. Let's not forget why his own campaign near-imploded early in the race. It's not that he's risen to the top, it's simply that the top has sunk below him. But those skeletons won't go away. He cannot be considered a serious candidate as a result. Too much personal baggage to overcome.

That leaves Romney, who is bound to stumble somewhere, somehow. But even if he doesn't, all it takes is for voters in New Hampshire to support Huntsman and he becomes the new front runner. And the rest, they say, could be history.

In the end, what it boils down to is this: will early primary and caucus voters ultimately dump the wild girls and bring a nice girl home to mama? Huntsman's smart, witty and squeaky-clean, and with his impeccable bi-partisan credentials, diplomatic and foreign policy expertise, and moderate positions he just may be the prom queen voters want to send up against President Obama next November. On paper, Huntsman certainly has the best chance of beating him.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Suspend Football at Penn State

For the past several days now I've been literally sickened by the Penn State sexual abuse scandal and all the horrific images that get conjured up as a result. Nothing short of criminal charges and jail time would be a just punishment for those involved. This pathetic group includes the legendary but now disgraced head coach Joe Paterno; Mike McQueary, the then-28-year-old graduate assistant coach who witnessed the rape of a 10-year-old boy; athletic director Tim Curley; university vice president Gary Schultz; university president Graham Spanier; and that filthy piece of perverted trash Jerry Sandusky, whose reign of sexual terror on young boys most likely spans several decades. They knew of the crime(s), chose to do nothing and, worse, built a protective wall of silence around it. That makes them as complicit as Sandusky.

First off, what kind of grown man (can we please stop referring to McQueary as a "kid?") walks in on another grown man ass-raping a child and doesn't run over and beat the living shit out of him? What kind of human being witnesses that kind of sick evil perpetrated on an innocent, helpless boy and simply turns and walks away? This piece of amoral garbage goes home instead and tells his daddy about it, as if he saw some kid harmlessly bullying another kid in a schoolyard. They then told Paterno, Curley and Schultz. All did nothing. And no one called the police. Their behavior is beyond unconscionable.

And the spin? The "details" of the incident might not have been properly portrayed by McQueary. That he may have told Paterno it was some kind of "horseplay" or that something "inappropriate" had taken place, and not made a specific reference to sodomy. But does that really matter? Was the fact that a 50+ year old man and a 10-year-old boy were both naked in a locker room shower not enough? Would the fact that they were simply alone in a locker room not enough to raise a serious eyebrow? But let's keep the proper perspective here. By McQueary's own account, he witnessed Sandusky ramming his dick into this poor kid's anus. That this crime got watered down on any fucking level is beyond comprehension. How he lives with himself, how he sleeps at night, is unfathomable.

And for what? Football. Football took priority over the savage brutality perpetrated on this young victim. It was more important to protect the venerable Penn State's prestige and reputation than to protect little children from a vicious sexual predator and rapist. Those in the power seats shamefully and selfishly used that power to maintain the status quo and the $70-million that the football program generates. So beyond the shame, beyond the firings, beyond the potential criminal charges and jail sentences, the last and perhaps most fitting form of punishment would be to suspend the school's NCAA football status for 10 years and force upon it the very moral, ethical and human decency priorities it so woefully failed to recognize on its own. At Penn State, this scandal was all about football. So there should be no more football at Penn State.

And as far as all the fuss about Paterno, and whether the God of coaching deserves better treatment here? Fuck him and his iconic status. What we'll remember him by now is not his illustrious five-decade career, but rather how he de facto sanctioned the rape of little boys and then let the rapist stand, with other little boys, victims for sure, on his sidelines watching more Penn State football games.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Gingrich Rises From the Ashes

A funny thing is happening in the Republican race for president: Newt Gingrich, with all his political and personal warts, is starting to look good again to conservative voters. I'm not sure it says more about the former House Speaker's credentials and overall appeal as much as it's a vote of no-confidence for the rest of the lame GOP pack. When Newt becomes your Great White Hope, you know your party's in trouble.

At the outset of the campaign Gingrich had promise, and then he quickly imploded. Appearing in May on NBC's Meet the Press Gingrich was asked about Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to scrap Medicare. "I don't think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering," Gingrich said. "I don't think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate." Though I think he was absolutely correct and rational in his thinking, he was widely criticized and attacked by Ryan, Rush Limbaugh and many others in the party. Two days later he back-peddled and disingenuously tried to spin his way out of it on On the Record with Greta Van Susteren.

Then came the Tiffany debt scandal and the staff defections. It appeared as though Gingrich's campaign was as dead as a doornail. And then the rest of the GOP pack started talking. And skeletons started falling out of closets. National polls now have Gingrich running third behind Herman Cain and Mitt Romney. But Cain, the faux frontrunner who never really had a believable shot at the nomination, is currently embroiled in a growing sex scandal which is sure to put the nail in his political coffin. Romney, the-frontrunner-who-no-one-really-wants, has several major obstacles to overcome: he's a Mormon, he's not liked and he's flip-flopped so much that Birkenstock should name a sandal after him. And Rick Perry, who was once the GOP's Boy Wonder, has been dying a painfully slow death. He's so in over his head he can't even remember all the government departments he hates and would immediately shut down. Wednesday night's colossal debate gaffe will probably be his campaign-ending moment. It's certainly gonna be something that poli-sci students study for years to come.

While Newt's opponents are floundering, the momentum is with him. He's a master-debater and his resilience seems to be paying off. And timing is everything. So it's not such a stretch that he could end up with the nomination, especially if something negative about Romney should surface, or if he should stumble on policy. Remember, it's usually not the early frontrunners who end up with the nomination. While the Republican Party spent much of this year seducing anyone who isn't Romney to run-- Chris Christie and Mitch Daniels among them--the answer might've been under their trunks all along. Everyone loves an underdog.

Monday, November 07, 2011

It's Not Because Cain is Black

It's because I'm black!, cries Republican presidential front runner Herman Cain. But the rampant racism which Herman Cain has recently said no longer exists in America but which he now claims is as the root of the sexual harassment allegations against him, has left other prominent black conservatives, including Michael Steele, Ron Christie, J.C. Watts, Alan Keyes, Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice, unscathed. Funny how those folks don't seem to be the victims of the same sort of "high-tech lynching" Cain supporters claim he's facing.

Cain has been the target of accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior towards three female employees of the National Restaurant Association while he headed that trade organization in the late 1990's. The scandal threatens to derail what was a high-flying campaign which recently landed him in the lead over rivals Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. The Cain camp, and the candidate himself, has appeared utterly unprepared and woefully inept at handling the fallout. Cain has stumbled publicly, appearing frustrated and combative with reporters when pressed for details, and has defended himself with charges of smear campaigns and racism by opponents, the media and liberals.

But what is bringing Cain down isn't his color, but rather his off-color comments and gestures he's been accused of by women who've felt harassed and threatened by him, and frightened and angry enough to have filled out complaint reports against him. And if the $45,000 he paid to one accuser for her silence is any indicator of what really happened, I'd say where there's smoke there's generally a fire ablaze...

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Remembering Adrienne Shelly

Today marks the 5-year anniversary of the passing of my late wife, the actor, writer and director Adrienne Shelly. Adrienne was the victim of a brutal murderer, a young construction worker, who attacked her while she was writing in the West Village apartment she once lived in and had kept as an office. She was a beautiful wife, a loving mother, an adoring daughter, a much loved sister, a fiercely loyal friend, and a very unique, gifted actor and filmmaker.

On this day we celebrate Adrienne's life, her accomplishments and the legacy she's left behind. It is in her honor that I started the Adrienne Shelly Foundation with a singular mission: to support women filmmakers. Since 2007 we've awarded 25 grants and scholarships through our partners, who include the Sundance Institute, Tribeca Film Institute, American Film Institute, Columbia University, Boston University, IFP, Women in Film, Rooftop Films and the Nantucket Film Festival. We’re very proud of these grantees, and even have among them Cynthia Wade, 2008 Oscar winner for her documentary, Freeheld, which ASF helped fund.

Tonight we launch our 4th Annual Celebrity eBay auction at 7pm EST. It's our biggest source for raising funds. Items up for bidding can be viewed at our preview site. We're offering breakfasts and lunches with folks like Paul Rudd, Jon Hamm, Michelle Williams, Meredith Vieira, Bill Hader, Cheryl Hines, Susie Essman, Rosanna Arquette, Mark Cuban, Jonathan Tisch, Andrew Tisch, Gina Gershon, Alison Brie and Danny Pudi, Rachael Harris & Angela Kinsey, and many others.

The auction also includes walk-ons on Community, Hung and the upcoming film "You Remind Me of Me;" set visits to Pan Am, Drop Dead Diva, Wrap Up Show (plus Howard Stern studio tour), The Good Wife and Castle; a Today Show tour with Al Roker (w/on-air spot); NY Giants Owners Box tix, plus field passes and signed Eli Manning helmet; VIP tickets w/Meet & Greets at Rachael Ray, Martha Stewart, Hardball with Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow, E! News, The Soup, Joan Rivers; and VIP tickets to Two and a Half Men, Ellen, Letterman, Colbert, Daily Show, Chelsea Handler, and Real Time with Bill Maher.

Tomorrow night, Nov 2nd, we're hosting the first annual Adrienne Shelly Foundation Woman of Vision Salute in conjunction with The Museum of Modern Art's Film Plus program. We're honoring filmmaker Nicole Holofcener (Walking and Talking, Lovely & Amazing, Friends with Money, Please Give). We'll be screening Lovely & Amazing, starring Catherine Keener. Following the film there'll be a discussion between Nicole and Catherine.

For Ticket information, or to make a donation, please visit www.adrienneshellyfoundation.org

Monday, October 31, 2011

Not Everyone in the 1% Deserves 'Occupy's' Scorn

I think its very dangerous, and quite frankly unfair, for the Occupy movement's "99%" to vilify the "1%" as if everyone who falls into that elite income group is (a) corrupt (b) greedy (c) selfish and (d) insensitive and indifferent to the needs and struggles of the poor and middles classes.

Let's get something straight: America is a capitalist nation. Our economic structure is such that there are going to be extremely wealthy people and a helluva lot more who aren't. Those who don't like this system are free to move to another country like North Korea where everyone is piss poor and living under a brutal dictatorship. America's problems aren't about rich vs. poor per se, but about those who care vs those who don't.

The Occupy protesters, in summarily indicting as evil everyone in the 1%, are doing a major disservice to the movement and their long-term cause. At the risk of sounding like a conservative, this broad stroke demonizing of everyone who's rich is class warfare and it needs to stop. There are plenty of kind, decent, generous, very wealthy people who also happen to care about the poor, the sick, the needy, the less fortunate. People who donate millions from their incomes annually to fund all sorts of social, health, education, environmental and child welfare programs, and whose money also goes to political organizations to fight for the little guy. People who've spent a lifetime in public service trying to make things better for those who need help. People who could've financially enriched themselves in the private sector but instead chose meager government salaries. George Soros is in the 1%. The Kennedys are in the 1%. Nancy Pelosi is in the 1% as is Alec Baldwin, Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn, George Clooney and all the notorious "Hollywood liberals" who are as bleeding-heart as you can get. Their wealth has not stopped them from giving a shit. To the contrary, it's provided valuable resources and a greater platform through which to help. These people are among the best friends and benefactors the poor and middle class will ever have. So it's terribly misguided and counter-intuitive to lump them in the same bucket as the self-serving cads who only care about lower taxes, less regulation and protecting corporate largess.

To be sure, there are many gross inequities in America's economic system which have justifiably been the focus of the Occupy protests. The income gap between the rich and poor is the highest in 80 years. The wealthiest 1% have seen their incomes increase 281% since 1979 while the poor and middle class have earned just 16-25% more. The CEO-to-worker pay ratio is around 350-1. Corporate America has been rewarded with astounding tax breaks while shipping millions of jobs overseas. And no one on Wall Street has yet to be penalized for creating the worst financial crisis in 85 years.

But that does not justify an across-the-board vilification of everyone in the 1%. There's nothing inherently wrong with being rich in America. What's wrong is when you use this wealth to disenfranchise and subjugate those who aren't. There are certainly plenty of legitimate gripes the Occupy protesters can and should be angry about. But it would be very wise not to alienate the very rich, connected and influential people who are among its biggest supporters and who it will need in the weeks and months to come.

Friday, October 21, 2011

"Jobs Bill Killers!!"

It's time President Obama and Democrats brand Republicans as "Jobs Bill Killers." They need to frame the debate by effectively accusing the GOP as simply refusing to pass any bill, even ones that include tax cuts, that will put struggling Americans back to work. They should repeat the term Jobs Bill Killers like a mantra and utter it in every sentence. Like propaganda. Just like Republicans do. Think "Job killers. Death Panels. Baby killers." It's time Democrats start speaking in soundbites and bumper-stickers. That's what voters understand.

Thursday night Republicans again voted in lockstep to defeat yet another jobs bill put forth by Democrats. In a 50-50 vote, GOP senators defeated a part of Obama's bill that would allocate $35 billion for states and localities to hire additional teachers, police, firefighters and other first responders while protecting existing workers.

"For the second time in two weeks, every single Republican in the United States Senate has chosen to obstruct a bill that would create jobs and get our economy going again," Obama said. "That's unacceptable. We must do what's right for the country and pass the common-sense proposals in the American Jobs Act."

And what got the Republicans' panties in a snit? Funding for the measure would have come from a 0.5% tax increase on people earning more than $1 million a year. That's a half a percentage point on millionaires. You'd think this would be small enough to get Repubs on board, right? As John Belushi would say in his famous Saturday Night Live rants, "But Nooooooooooooo!"

As Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor like to say, "Now is not the time to raise taxes on anybody." But I ask, is there ever gonna be a time when Republicans accept a tax increase? The "not now" excuse is just a lame tactic to protect their personal financial interests. It's the same old same old with these guys. Feed the rich, screw the poor and middle class.

The truth is, the Republican Party stands for nothing except low taxes and less regulation. This is the way it's always been and always will be. As evidenced by audience reaction in recent GOP debates, there seems to be zero compassion and empathy for the less fortunate. Republicans in the audiences have cheered and advocated people being left to die without medical coverage. They've cheered executions. They've cheered gays being discriminated against in the military. And they went wild when Herman Cain blamed people for their own state of unemployment. Welcome to compassionate conservatism, 2011 style.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Romney and Perry and Cain, Oh My!

If Sylvester Stallone ever decides to make Rocky VII perhaps he should cast Mitt Romney in the lead. The former governor of Massachusetts and sometimes Republican front runner came out swinging in Tuesday night's GOP debate in Las Vegas, deftly schooling Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Rick Santorum on how to dominate and control your opponents while still keeping your cool and looking presidential.

The evening began with Cain having to vigorously defend his controversial 9-9-9 plan which, according to the Tax Policy Center, would raise taxes on 84% of taxpayers, hit the poor and middle classes the hardest, and benefit the rich. When challenged by his opponents, Cain kept dismissing as incorrect such independent research and instead urged voters to look at "our analysis" on his website. Sure, why trust all those crafty outside wonks when you get all the truth you need right from the Cain camp!

The former Godfather's Pizza CEO also tried to justify his tax plan with a convoluted analogy about "apples and oranges" that I'm still trying to figure out. I'm not sure how he ran Godfather financials, but Cain clearly needs a math lesson in adding up his apples and oranges. As Romney quipped, "I’m going to be getting a bushel basket that has apples and oranges in it because I’ve got to pay both taxes..."

Throughout the debate Romney was attacked from all sides and at several points Santorum and Perry simply talked over him during his allotted time, which clearly angered him. The most heated exchange occurred when Perry accused him, to boos and hisses from the audience, of hiring illegal aliens.

"You lose all of your standing from my perspective, because you hired illegals in your home, and you knew about it for a year," Perry barked, calling Romney's anti-illegal immigration stand the "height of hypocrisy." He then interrupted Romney's reply, prompting an aggressive push back: "I’m speaking, I’m speaking," Romney asserted. "This has been a tough couple of debates for Rick, and so I understand that you’re going to get testy." He lectured Perry on debate etiquette a few moments later after another intense exchange: "You have a problem with allowing someone to finish speaking....And I suggest that if you want to become president of the United States, you have got to let both people speak."

The night was owned by Romney. He exposed Cain's 9-9-9 for the sham it is; won the alpha male contest with Perry; shut down Santorum; smartly ignored Michele Bachmann; and got uber-arrogant Newt Gingrich to sheepishly admit that he was for an individual mandate before he was against it. I can't imagine his poll numbers not rising while Perry's sink deeper into single-digit Bachmann country.

As for Cain, he simply appears like the clumsy two-left-footed Little Leaguer who no one wants to criticize and who gets condescending props just for lumbering out into the field. Clearly, despite his current faux-front runner status, no one, especially Romney, seems to take him as a serious threat. Unless there's some giant skeleton suiting up in Romney's closet, he'll coast to the nomination.

The low point of the debate? Perry repeatedly referring to Cain as "brother" in what sure as hell seems like way too familiar a term for a white politician with a Texas drawl to be calling a black man.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Herman Cain's Fuzzy Math

"Do the math!," Herman Cain incredulously replies when challenged by skeptical critics to explain how his mantra-like "9-9-9" tax overhaul plan doesn't lower taxes for the rich while increasing taxes on the poor and middle class.

But that's just the problem. Cain's math is so fuzzy it would make George W. Bush proud. As Cain explains it, he'd do away with the current tax code and replace it with a 9% personal tax, a 9% corporate tax and a 9% national sales tax. Through this overhaul, he says, most people will pay less taxes than they currently do. But his calculations simply make no sense to many experts including economists, the Wall Street Journal and even Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.

For example, there are 30-million Americans whose incomes are low enough that they don't pay any income or payroll taxes. So for them 9% is 100% more than they currently pay. Add a 9% national sales tax on top of the average 8% state sales tax they pay now and that's another 100%+ increase. So an individual earning and taking home $26,000 who pays about $2100 in state sales tax will, under 9-9-9, end up paying about $2400 in new income tax and a total of approximately $4800 in total sales taxes. That's a total tax bite of more than $7000 vs $2400. How can Cain with any degree of credibility claim that his plan won't increase taxes for the poor and middle classes?

Now take the rich, who currently pay the maximum 36% personal tax rate and 15% in capital gains taxes. In eliminating the cap gains tax and lowering the personal rate to 9% you don't need an economics degree from Wharton to recognize the enormous windfall 9-9-9 lavishes on the wealthy.

So one of two things is happening here: either Cain is stupid or he thinks we are. Let me assure you, Herman Cain is not a stupid man. 9-9-9 is nothing more than a plan in search of logic.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

My Conversation with One of Occupy Wall Street's Organizers On the Eve of a Possible Showdown

I spent some time Thursday night at Zuccatti Park in Lower Manhattan, site of the Occupy Wall Street uprising. I went there to observe and to get a better understanding of this nascent movement firsthand and to speak with one of the original organizers. I also wanted to gauge the mood and pulse of the place on the eve of what could be a very significant turning point in the movement.

Backpedaling from his promise last week that protesters can stay in the park indefinitely, Mayor Bloomberg, at the request of the park's owner, Brookfield Office Properties, has ordered demonstrators to evacuate by 7am Friday to allow for cleaning. Afterwards, people would be allowed back in, but would no longer be able to camp out. From those I spoke with and from what I could hear from others, the protesters were preparing for an intense resistance to the evacuation, a showdown with police that surely would've turned very ugly. But again Bloomberg has reversed position and cancelled plans for the clean-up and evacuation. This is a major victory for the movement.

While I was there I saw many people with brooms and mops, sweeping and bleaching the pavement in a self-motivated initiative designed to show the Mayor, Brookfield, the police and the nation that non-violent protest and respect for the park are not mutually exclusive things. "We can do this ourselves," one young demonstrator told me. "We don't need to be kicked out to keep the place clean."

Friday's victory will surely fuel the movement and empower it to build. I was told that a major announcement is to be made imminently, perhaps Friday, which will point to future direction. Right now OWS is at a critical crossroads. It is intentionally not a policy-incubating/advocating organization. It has no leaders, no demands, and is beyond fractured. It has gained national attention because it has been an encampment: a communal mini-society of disillusioned, disenfranchised, disparate, mostly young people sharing frustrations, anger, opinions, ideals, food and living quarters. They have their own news channel (at http://www.livestream.com/globalrevolution ) as well as a newspaper, The Occupied Wall Street Journal. Each night its General Assembly convenes at the park's Eastern end where anyone can address the crowd while everyone else in and around the ringlet repeats what is being said so those further from the speaker can hear.

But in the absence of a clear, coherent, consistent message, and spokespeople who can articulate that message in the media and to Americans all across the nation, it's largely been the novelty of the tent city phenomenon that's garnered much of the attention and propelled protesters into television sets across the country. It will need more organization and a shifting towards more traditional protest movements rather than serve as an emotional outcry. It's currently a highly fragmented kaleidoscope of ideas, passions and agendas--everything from unemployment, corporate greed, prison reform and fracking to anarchy and Marxism.

The aptly named Jeremy Bold is an extremely serious, committed and very likable, 26-year old librarian from Brooklyn who's been a prominent voice and presence since the movement's beginnings early last month (He's in the blue shirt seated at the table at the start of the above video, and is later shown being arrested). When we spoke across from the park he had one eye on me, and another frequently on his cell phone looking for texts alerting him to what was happening back at the protest. He seemed nervous and concerned about a possible confrontation with police in the morning, yet seemed fully prepared for that. Bold clearly shies away from being labeled an organizer or leader, instead classifying himself as one of "hundreds of people" of who helped get OWS off the ground. He's quite idealistic, yet is savvy enough to sense that the movement may need at some point soon to shift its focus, strategies and free form philosophies in order to evolve to the next level.

"I think there's a important change coming, and I wouldn't even call it a transition, but building a bridge basically. What we're doing now is focusing on dialogue amongst ourselves and amongst the sympathizers, and that's a really important stage. We have to build solidarity with each other. We have to recognize our common struggles and learn to trust each other. But in order to enact real change in a broader world, in a world that isn't just Occupy Wall Street, there's a bridge that has to be crossed. We have to build a bridge to figure out how the kinds of discussions that could be policy related, that could be conceptual, that could be cultural...those things have to translate into something broader and into the wider world. And the bridge has to be built to do that. What that is is like figuring out what the power is, how we can represent the power within Occupy Wall Street in the world that is not Occupy Wall Street. And I can't say very much specifically about it. I totally recognize it, and there's a lot of people that recognize it, but what we're doing right now, for one, is not making any demands for a very good reason because we are still learning to appreciate each other and appreciate what this movement can be."

Whether Occupy Wall Street can, or will, move beyond its current configuration and scale depends upon its desire and ability to transcend the Utopian communal spirit that currently dominates its thinking in order to grow into the kind of potent national force, like the Tea Party, that can infiltrate the political system and achieve legislative success.

This is the kind of Ad the Democratic Party Needs to Get Behind

With a critical election coming up next year, it would seem no longer feasible that the Republican attack machine could mount a successful campaign to brand President Obama and Democrats as being weak on national security. The killing of Osama bin Laden, in a major symbolic way, was the first step in eradicating that age-old myth. But Obama didn't stop there.

Earlier this month, the administration tracked down and killed two American-born Muslim terrorists, Anwar Awlaki and Samir Khan, by Drone attack over northern Yemen. And just last week, thе U.S. Justice Department announced it had thwarted a terrorist рlοt involving аn elite Iranian military unit tο assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador tο Washington. An Iranian-born U.S. citizen, Manssor Arbabsiar, іѕ іn custody.

There have been other instances where the administration's broken up various plots to kill Americans, and I'm sure there'll be others before next November. But in order to command this issue and rid themselves of a patently false label they've be historically slapped with, Obama and Democrats must effectively craft the right message and define the debate, and then use every media resource in its foreign policy arsenal to effectively spread this message to voters. Nothing's automatic in politics, and just because something is factual doesn't mean the voting public will view it that way.

Between now and the election I will be creating a series of 30-second campaign ads that will not only focus on national security, but domestic issues such as the economy and health care. The above video is our first, (which I wrote, directed and produced and is edited by Ben Guzman.) The message is simple: "Re-elect President Obama...and Keep America Safe." Our ads will not only carry a simple, strong message, but they will be delivered with the same type of bumper-sticker/soundbite effectiveness through which Republicans have been defining the debate for over a decade now. It's how Democrats need to be speaking.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Why this Democrat is Rooting for Jon Huntsman Jr.

Let me first be very clear about one thing: I am a life-long Democrat and I will be voting to re-elect President Obama next year. But I am also rooting for the smartest, sanest Republican in the race, Jon Huntsman Jr. Not to win the general election, but the GOP nomination.

So why am I supporting Huntsman? The state of politics today is the ugliest it's been in decades, if ever. The partisan divide has never been greater and is plagued by rabid, vitriolic hatred. We're no longer a society of Americans but instead one of two angry armies of blue and red. Our political system is broken, brought to a virtual legislative standstill by one party whose leaders are more obsessed with defeating Obama than they are with actually doing something to fix the economy, put people back to work and have government run as the Founding Fathers envisioned.

Which is why America needs an Obama/Huntsman election in 2012. The former Governor of Utah is a decent man. An honorable human being. A patriotic American who's served four presidential administrations on both sides of the aisle. He's exactly the sort of candidate conservatives should be nominating but likely won't because his party has been hijacked by it's radical fringe element which advocates everything from eliminating taxes and entitlement programs to eviscerating the EPA and Department of Education all the while seeking to turn America into an evangelical empire.

Huntsman, on the other hand, is a moderate who respects education and human/civil rights; understands climate change; appreciates diplomacy; is experienced with global economies; and has intelligent, rational positions on Social Security, Medicare, health care, immigration and Afghanistan.

Huntsman should be the Republican nominee not simply because he deserves to be, but because his candidacy would restore civility, integrity and sanity to a political process that has driven off a cliff in recent years. Americans deserve a presidential election with two candidates of substance and intellectual curiosity who would shift the critical issues of the day, and fixing America's problems, to the forefront of the debate rather than having them co-opted by the politics of personal destruction and distraction.

I may disagree with several of Huntsman's positions, but I wouldn't lose any sleep were he to become president. I know he would do right by America, as Obama's attempting to do. It's time the nation's presidential candidates star acting, well, presidential.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The "Occupy" Movement Should Follow the Tea Party Playbook

I was in Boston over the weekend and spent some time in "Occupy Boston" on
Rose Kennedy Greenway along Atlantic Avenue. What I saw there left me wondering just where this 'movement' was headed.

Set in Dewey Square in the Financial District near the touristy North End, about 99% of the occupiers are a hodgepodge of newly minted and aging hippies; fringe counter-culturalists advocating everything from class warfare to anarchy and Marxism (several were selling books on the latter two subjects).

There wasn't much protesting taking place either. Just a lot of people sitting around in tents, eating, relaxing and looking more like they were having fun than anything else. The scene looked like Woodstock without the music. You would think on a gorgeous Indian Summer day in a major city that this group would've capitalized on the opportunity to loudly voice its message to the throngs of people walking by. There was no visible anger, no visible frustration. No shouting, chanting or cries of "What do we want/when do we want it?" This was a demonstration in desperate need of populist Viagra.

Most of the signs were posted, not held. Virtually all of them were extremely radical, abstract statements such as:

"Eat the elite"

"The American dream is a pyramid scheme"

"Break up big banks"

"End the fed"

"I make your latte every morning and am in the other 99%"

That last one seemed to sum up their misplaced anger and confusion: the notion that everyone who goes to Starbucks is in the wealthiest 1%, or that no one who gets a latte before toiling at work all day can possibly be in the 99%. That's a terribly unfair and, quite frankly, disingenuous generalization.

The consensus seems to be that rich is bad, poor and middle class good. The message I heard most was 'We don't like rich people.' And if that becomes their overriding theme, they are doomed as a movement.

Which brings me to the broader protest movement. I haven't been down to Occupy Wall Street but it seems to be attracting supporters across all age, income, vocational, religious and ethnic groups. It appears sufficiently focused on key economic issues rather than waging a counter-culture revolution. I have great respect and admiration for this grassroots group, which is why I have such strong feelings about how they can become an even greater force that can actually achieve change in Washington.

Occupy Wall Street needs to tear a page out of the Tea Party handbook and start letting Washington and the media know exactly what it wants, which as of now is unclear. It should be demanding an immediate jobs bill. A bill to end corporate loopholes. A restructuring of the tax code. No repealing of Dodd-Frank. That is if it actually wants to have an impact on legislation instead of being just an emotional outcry.

The Tea Party message remains crystal clear: low taxes, less regulation and an end to entitlement programs. For the most part, the talking points and demands are consistent from Seattle to Sarasota and everywhere in between. And this is a movement that mobilized quickly, sending 63 Congressmen to Washington to legislate its hardcore agenda. No one needs to ask, "What do they want?" They've successfully transformed how government is working right now and they influence every politician from Eric Cantor to President Obama. Occupy Wall Street's leaders would be wise to follow a similar path to relevancy.

Lastly, a word of advice to OWS supporters: stop telling those who disagree with you, or who question some of the movement's strategies and overall effectiveness, that they "don't get it." It's rude, condescending and utterly obnoxious. You're no smarter or more "in touch" than anyone else. At its core, the movement itself is about the right of dissent and fighting oppression, so this sort of sanctimonious lecturing is rather ironic. Please respect that there are opinions that differ from yours. It doesn't mean that those who have them don't fully support the movement just like you.

Friday, October 07, 2011

The Occupy Wall Street Movement Needs a Clear Set of Demands

I have been awed and inspired by the raw energy, passion and commitment on the streets of lower Manhattan these past several weeks by the Occupy Wall Street movement. These are folks of all shapes, sizes, ages, races, religions, social classes, education levels, the employed and the unemployed, union workers and workers of all types, both blue and white collar.

These protesters are not a bunch of ragtag hippie freaks who have nothing better to do. These are people just like you and me. People who are fed up with the state of the economy, with high unemployment, slow growth and corporate greed. People who are either out of work or fear they may be soon if things don't change. And it's change that they want. Finally, people in this country are taking to the streets, and it's not just in New York but in cities all around the country. I suspect the movement will grow and tens of thousands will soon become hundreds of thousands, and maybe even millions. They should be a great source of pride to us all.

What concerns me is the messaging, or perhaps the lack thereof. What I hope to see come out of this movement, and soon, is a very clear set of goals. Demands which can be both easily heard and understood in Washington. It's not enough to simply march in the streets. You have to know what you want. And you need to let your opponents know that in precise terms. President Obama, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have to clearly understand what it is that the movement is fighting for.

Imagine these politicians in a room together, watching the protests on TV and asking each other, "What do these people want? What do they want us to do?" Well, they wouldn't be asking those questions if every time they turned on their TV's they saw hundreds of thousands of marchers chanting "Jobs Bill! Jobs Bill! Jobs Bill!" If they heard "Jobs Bill NOW! Jobs Bill NOW!" Or, Bill to End Corporate Loopholes!" Or, "No Repeal of Dodd-Frank!" But I'm afraid this type of goal is not being demanded.

Instead, the messaging is currently a hodgepodge of fanciful pipe dreams akin to Miss America's "I'd like to create peace on Earth." Here's some quotes that MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan got from protesters:

"I am choosing to no longer participate in what I perceive to be an abusive relationship," said Occupier Lopi.

"Our goal to create a massive independent weapon of mass help! We are not intent on destruction. We are intent on confronting and fixing what we all know is a bought government." another occupier told him. "This is our shared moment to seize prosperity."

"Our nation is too busy growing debt, poverty, homelessness, wars, oil spills, global temperatures and inflation on everything we need ­-- like food, education and healthcare -- to slow down, stop and fix the problem," another named Goldi said.

"I'm here because I love my family, and want to protect them from the thief with the gun on the street to the thief with the pen behind the desk!" said Calvin Roy.

It's this sort of broad, idealistic and unrealistic mission that could soon turn Occupy Wall Street into a failure if it cannot get a clear, specific agenda out. It must tell Washington in no uncertain terms, clear terms, what it wants. Because it is action, and effecting real change, that is ultimately at the core of any successful protest movement. And that would be an incredible legacy for this amazing group of people.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

The Legacy of Steve Jobs

I shed a tear this morning. It was for a man whose grieving family just lost a loving husband, father, son and brother. His name is Steve Jobs, founder and CEO of Apple. He was just 56. Why is that so many of the truly good die so young?

Jobs' death for me is no different than the raw emotion I feel when anyone else leaves behind an adoring spouse and young children who will grow up missing their father's love and presence. That's the real tragedy.

But through Jobs' death the world has been unjustly robbed of the kind of visionary of which there's unfortunately an abundant shortage. A man whose contribution to society ranks among those of the great innovators like Einstein, Edison and Ford. Someone who broke all the rules, and when he re-wrote them, broke them all over again...again and again.

This morning I watched his moving commencement speech delivered to the Stanford graduating class of 2005. To call it inspiring would be like saying Martin Luther King Jr. was a non-violent protester. Mere words do neither man the appropriate historical significance they rightfully and uniquely deserve. I urge everyone to watch this speech as well. His message about life, death and everything in-between is timeless.

In the interest of full disclosure I must admit I am anything but a technophile, and I have no great love for computers and computer geeks. Truth is, it took me five years to put down the vinyl and buy a CD, and I was probably the last guy to get a BlackBerry. If you look up "Man Least Likely to Embrace Technology" in the dictionary you'll see a picture of me.

But I now own an iPod, an iPad and a Mac. And I've become a full-fledged iTard, the very denigrating name I heaped on those who've been drinking the Jobs/Apple Kool-Aid for years. I am now drunk and happy just like them. And that's the true genius of Jobs' vision. He didn't just grab the geeks. He managed to win over the old school schmucks like me as well. Technology for the masses. That's his true legacy. It's mind-numbing to think how much he's changed how we live, work, think, create, read, write, communicate, relax.

Today we mourn the man, the mind and the memory. Let's hope somewhere out there there's the next young man or woman who will soon break all the rules, and change the world, only to break those rules over and over again.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

ChristieWatch: Is NJ's Big Man Getting Ready to Say 'Yes?' Why 2012 Makes More Sense than '16

It's another day of ChristieWatch, and another day of "will he or won't he?" New Jersey governor Chris Christie, the larger-than-life Republican who's literally being begged by GOP leaders to enter the 2012 presidential election and save the party from Rick Perry and Mitt Romney, told a local crowd Friday that while his state may have problems, the country has even bigger issues to contend with, hinting that America might benefit from his services more than his home state. And several people close to Christie confirm that he's reversed his position and is now seriously considering running.

I've been saying for months now and I will keep insisting that Christie will toss his hat into the ring, and maybe even early this week. And given the weak economy; high unemployment; Obama's plummeting popularity among blue color whites, Hispanics and seniors; Rick Perry's implosion; and a general disdain for Mitt Romney; the timing could never be better for him.

The conventional wisdom is that Christie's sitting this one out and is instead waiting for 2016. But that election could be a lot more difficult for Christie, with the challenge summed up in two words: Jeb Bush. The popular former Florida governor and a member of the Bush dynasty, which gave us two presidents named George, is the party favorite and has patiently waited his turn, focusing on 2016 in an open battle for the Oval Office.

There are other factors that could make '16 much more difficult for Christie.
For one, the national economy could be in a significantly better place by then. Economies are cyclical, and it's more likely than not that we'll be in a solid recovery with 3-5% annual GDP growth, unemployment around 6%, a strong housing market and consumer confidence in the 80's, almost double what it is today.

Additionally, Christie won't be the star-dusted new kid on the block anymore. By then he'll be into his second term as governor with a meaningful track record to scrutinize, and it may not be pretty. Remember, Jersey's economy remains weak and suffers from higher unemployment than the national average at 9.5%. And Christie's got a very big, abrasive mouth that's gotten him into trouble. The next four years could be a public relations nightmare for him if he's not verbally disciplined.

If Christie's smart, he'll realize his time is now. He'll strike when the iron is hot, not when he prefers there be an iron. And, I'd bet dollars to donuts that his running mate will ultimately be Florida's junior Sen. Marco Rubio, a Tea Party rock star, highly popular among his fellow Hispanics and who hails from a critical swing state. In appealing to blue collar whites, seniors, Hispanics and independents, a Christie/Rubio ticket would be very formidable opposition to President Obama. And if things don't markedly improve in the economy, it very well could be a winning ticket.

So keep on eye on The Big Man. The political landscape will never be more fertile for him than it is now. And if he does run, Sarah Palin won't. She knows he'd eat her alive, and I suspect she's waiting for him to make his decision before she announces hers. If he doesn't run, I still think she will, taking on a weakened Perry and Michele Bachmann for the Tea Party vote.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Chris Christie: "A Big Man for a Big Job"

If there's one thing I know about politics it's this: if a politician says black, it's white. Up, it's down. And if he says he's not running, that usually means he is. And in the case of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, there's a far greater likelihood that no means yes. And soon. As uber-conservative Bill Kristol said over the weekend, Christie "is a big man for a big job."

Right now the Republican leadership is courting Christie more relentlessly and shamelessly than I did Susie Smith in the 10th grade. They're beside themselves. They're like Jon Favreau in "Swingers" leaving a zillion pathetic "I love you" messages on his answering machine. They're kissing his ass more than the GOP sucks up to corporate America. And I believe it's working.

Imagine what they're saying: "Chris, this is your shot, man. The White House is yours if you want it. Bachmann's gone, Perry's finished, and even if Palin enters the race we know she'll say something horribly offensive and stupid within minutes and implode. You know we can't stand Romney. This guy's as fake as his hair color. You're the real deal. You're who voters want. Think of the narrative: a blue collar kid from Newark grows up to be president of the Unites States! How can you pass this up? Look at Obama's numbers. Look at the economy. Look at unemployment. Look at your record in New Jersey and how much budget-busting cred you have. A straight-shootin' workin' man for the people! You'll be like Fiorello LaGuardia, only bigger. And by bigger we of course mean taller. Look, we promise you this: if you enter the race we will shower you with gobs of money and support, and we guarantee you will win the nomination. There's nothing to stop you. And then it's just a short skip into the Oval Office over a weak, unpopular Obama. So whattya say, Mr. President!?"

And if you're Christie, as I've been predicting for many months now, this seductive entreaty is, ultimately, gonna be too attractive to pass up.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Is It Palin Time?

Tea Party Princess Michele Bachmann soared out of the starting gate, became the
instant frontrunner, and then started to speak. Her campaign then imploded. Tea Party King Rick Perry entered the race and overnight he became the new frontrunner. As Bachmann's fortunes fizzled, Perry was prematurely and naively anointed the eventual nominee and GOP savior. Then he started talking. And debating. And then he imploded. So with such Tea Party royalty fighting to stay alive does that make the landscape deliciously ripe for the Queen herself, Sarah Palin, to enter the race?

Perry, after three embarrassing debate performances where he's been trounced by Mitt Romney, is now a proven rank amateur on the national stage and is all but toast. As Bachmann struggles to regain some traction, albeit unsuccessfully, it's become the perfect moment for The Wasilla Wonder. Think about it: she's been sitting on the sidelines for months--spending no money and losing no political capital--waiting for Perry and Bachmann to kill each other off. Her timing could be genius.

To be sure, no Tea Bagger has more juice and star wattage than Palin. And with the implosions of the Perry and Bachmann campaigns there's no one to pick up the mantle and give the Tea Party a solid run for its money. Enter Palin. Were she to announce her candidacy she would surely leapfrog to the front of the pack and battle Romney for the nomination.

But here's where it gets real interesting. Given the general distaste for Romney among Republicans, his over sized RomneyCare baggage, and the liability of his Mormom faith, it is entirely plausible that Palin could end up the nominee.

But a Palin candidacy would virtually guarantee President Obama's re-election. Sshhhhh....hear that? That's the sound of Democrats everywhere screaming "Run Sarah Run!"

Friday, September 23, 2011

Thoughts on the GOP Debate

(note: not my voice at beginning!)

The Republican candidates for president took to the podium Thursday night in their sixth debate of the campaign season. The location of Orlando, FL was quite fitting, as this nine-ring circus was about as entertaining as anything at Disneyworld.

The current pack of GOP hopefuls mainly consists of a bunch of under-qualified loons, led by cracked Tea Pot queen Michele Bachmann. And I say "current" because I still believe there's more acts to come, like Sarah Palin, Rudy Giuliani, George Pataki and yes, maybe even Chris Christie.

The main draw was the rematch between the two front-runners, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. As in the previous debates, Romney came out the big overall winner. Not because he presented anything substantive in terms of fixing the economy and reducing unemployment, but because he projects the most presidential persona. But that's a fairly easy feat to achieve when your opponents are like the patients in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."

Perry and Romney battled over Social Security, healthcare, immigration and the factual accuracy of what's contained in their respective books. The sparring was so fierce at some points that it prompted former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.--the only true president in the bunch--to joke that these two were at risk of bludgeoning each other to death.

My favorite Perry moment came when he screwed up his well-crafted smack down of Romney's relentless flip-flopping. He got so tongue-tied that it was embarrassing. "Is it the Mitt Romney that was on the side of — against the Second Amendment before he was for the Second Amendment? Was it — was before — he was before the social programs from the standpoint of — he was for standing up for Roe v. Wade before he was against first — Roe v. Wade?" WTF, was he medicated?! Kinda makes you think of that other articulate Texas statesman, George W. Bush, who infamously opined, "Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again." And while he may be a rough and tough cowboy down in Texas, this verbal gaffe painfully highlighted his lack of sparring skills on the national stage. He utterly blew a well-rehearsed moment where he should've decimated Romney.

My second favorite Perry moment came when, under attack over his state's college tuition assistance program for the children of illegal aliens, he said to those who who oppose it that "I don't think you have a heart." When a guy who's heartless on every other social and entitlement issue claims you have no heart then you must be the freakin' Tin Man.

The truth is, both Perry and Romney emerged as big winners. Perry, who stands no real chance of winning the nomination, likely scored big with his radical fringe base: Tea Baggers who wish to eliminate taxes, the EPA, the Department of Education, Social Security, Medicare, all government regulation and any traces of sanity. The crazier he sounds, the more they love him. Romney no doubt gained traction with moderates and independents...the people who actually elect presidents.

The real trouble for Perry, even with his base, is that he needs to decide which role he wants government to play in their lives. When he seeks federal aid for border security, or when he unilaterally imposes a mandatory vaccination for 12-year-old girls to prevent cervical cancer, he clearly seems to favor government intervention. When the subject is taxes, regulation and entitlements he's a different Rick Perry. It can't cut both ways. It'll further confuse the easily confusable Tea Baggers.

As for the other candidates, I'll quickly sum up their performances:

-Huntsman: smart, knowledgeable, experienced, funny, rational, moderate, sane
-Bachmann: the complete opposite of Huntsman
-Newt Gingrich: more smug and ruthlessly partisan than the 90's version of himself
-Rick Santorum: way too angry and combative to be taken seriously
-Herman Cain: please stop saying "wif" instead of "with." That's not presidential
-Ron Paul: grass roots hero who needs campaign root canal
-Gary Johnson: really bad hair, dude. Maybe it got all messed up while crawling out from whatever rock you've been under?