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?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Obama Finally Gets Tough

Finally there's some tough love in the Oval Office. President Obama came out swinging on Monday, heeding the advice of his critics in taking a firm stand on his positions for fixing the economy and reducing unemployment in the face of intense, unyielding opposition from Republicans. He boldly declared that there would be no cuts on spending without an increase in taxes on the wealthiest Americans and corporations, and issued a veto threat to back up his new found mojo.

Speaking from the Rose Garden, Obama was uncharacteristically uncompromising as he set his bar high while confidently warning House Speaker John Boehner and his merry band of GOP obstructionists to play ball or face being branded as the party of millionaires:

"The speaker says we can’t have it ‘my way or the highway and then basically says my way — or the highway," Obama said, adding, "I will not support — I will not support — any plan that puts all the burden for closing our deficit on ordinary Americans. I will veto any bill that changes benefits for those who rely on Medicare but does not raise serious revenues by asking the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations to pay their fair share."

As the Washington Post's Dana Milbank wrote, "At last, the president hasn’t conceded the race before the starter’s gun, hasn’t opened the bidding with his bottom line, hasn’t begun a game of strip poker in his boxer shorts."

Obama put forth a plan to cut an additional $3-trillion in spending cuts--in addition to the $1-trillion proposed during the debt ceiling debate--to help close the budget deficit. His speech certainly made Democrats and progressives happy. While his plan of attack calls for $320 billion in Medicare and Medicaid cuts, that's much less than what Republicans have sought. And, he removed a proposal to slowly raise the eligibility age for Medicare to 67 from 65. He also took Social Security cuts off the table, and seeks the expiration of the Bush tax cuts for individuals making more than $200,000 and couples making more the $250,000. Additionally, his proposal would cap itemized deductions and some exclusions for these same taxpayers. And as he proposed last week, his "Millionaire's Tax" would seek to end the inequity in the tax code and force the richest Americans to carry their fair share of the nation's tax burden, thus reversing a gap that has widened precipitously during the past thirty years of largely Republican control of Washington.

"It is wrong that in the United States of America a teacher or a nurse or a construction worker who earns $50,000 should pay higher tax rates than somebody pulling in $50 million," he said.

It's good to see Obama finally drawing his proverbial line in the sand with his enemies. With his poll numbers tanking, Americans' confidence in his economic stewardship evaporating, and with a Republican Congress hellbent on making him a one-term president by rejecting every single thing he proposes including tax cuts, what he's now done is clearly warn them, "Get real and work with me or else." And it's damn nice to see Obama doing the threatening for a change.

Monday, September 19, 2011

You Bet It's Class Warfare

Its called the "Millionaire's Tax", and its pure genius. Finally, President Obama and Democrats have caught on to the power and importance of branding. My God, it's almost Rovian in its sheer simplicity and potential impact.

The tax is a brilliant scheme by the president to achieve his goal of taxing
the rich and creating more equity in the lopsided tax code, and in the process funding his American Jobs Act. Also called the "Buffett Tax," because it was inspired and advocated by Nebraska Billionaire Warren Buffett who recently noted that many of America's wealthiest individuals' effective taxes rates are lower than those of their secretaries.

The beauty of the tax, which as expected has been broadly criticized by Republicans, is that it defines the issue more clearly than anything the administration has tried in the past and it forces politicians into one of two boxes: the rich one and the one with the poor and middle class. To paraphrase former President George W. Bush, "You're either with millionaires or you're against them." And that's a message that could resonate quite loudly with average Americans as they struggle through this challenging economy. But self-serving Republicans are crying foul.

"When you pick one area of the economy and you say, we're going to tax those people because most people are not those people, that's class warfare," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) said over the weekend.

Is it class warfare? You bet. But not in the way Sen. Graham and the GOP leadership would like you to believe. The truth is, the rich have been waging war on the poor and middle class for decades now, and it's time the tide turns. Income inequality in the United States has never been more glaring. According to the Wall Street Journal, "the average tax rate for the top 400 earners in the U.S. fell to as low as 16.62% in 2007 from a recent peak of 29.9% in 1995. It ticked up again in 2008 to 18.11%, according to the latest annual Internal Revenue Service analysis of returns. Capital gains represented a very high proportion of the top earners' incomes—about 56.7% on average." And those dividends and capital gains are taxed at a favorably low 15%. The problem is, the poor and middle class are not flush with either, so this is a very generous tax loophole enjoyed primarily by the nation's wealthier earners.

What's more, according to 2010 Census data, the top-earning 20% of Americans--those making more than $100,000 each year--received 49.4% of all income generated in the U.S., compared with the 3.4% earned by those below the poverty line. That ratio of 14.5-to-1 was an increase from 13.6 in 2008 and nearly double a low of 7.69 in 1968. To be sure, the rich have never been richer, and the poor have never been poorer. So what are Republicans constantly complaining about?

The Republican mantra these days is to rant about the evil of "big government" and how it's destroying America. Texas Gov. Rick Perry promises voters that if he's elected president he will "make government as inconsequential in your lives as possible." But how exactly do they define big government? Does this include Social Security and Medicare? The military? The National Weather Service? Air Traffic Control? The Centers for Disease Control? The U.S. Postal Service? Which "inconsequential" services would they suggest killing off? And the bigger issue is, who pays for them? Is it the secretary who forks over 25%+ of her pay, or Warren Buffett and the nation's rich who pay 16%? If that isn't class warfare I don't know what is.

It's time the rich stop whining about class warfare and start paying their fair share of taxes to pay for this country's essential services and to help reduce its debt. How about we borrow from Sen. John McCain and piggyback the Millionaire's Tax with the slogan, "America First." The nation's rich needs to stop thinking about their own pocketbooks for a second and show some concern for the country in which they've amassed their colossal wealth. If the Obama administration is smart, it will hammer home this Millionaire's Tax rhetoric until it becomes the sort of highly effective propaganda Republicans have been successfully regurgitating for years.

On a side note, I wonder how many of our nation's richest inherited most of their wealth? Being born on third base doesn't mean ya hit a triple, so how about sharing that good fortune by paying more taxes and reducing the income gap? Also, what do folks like Alex Rodriguez, Alec Baldwin, Jerry Seinfeld, Katie Couric and Salman Rushdie have in common? With the exception of perhaps a maid and a personal trainer, these millionaire's don't create jobs, so let's stop the disingenuous rhetoric and quit calling them "job creators." They're just very rich people who, thanks to the lowest tax rates in history, get to keep more of their money than their maids and personal trainers.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Still Think Obama's Job Speech Was a Success?

It's been a week since President Obama's much hyped jobs speech and it's safe to say, aside from some mildly impressive oratory and attempts at strategic partisan posturing, the speech is a failure in terms of what truly matters (I've re-posted my video analysis of the speech).

Americans are fed up with the economic status quo. The country's been slammed by the worst economy since The Great Depression, 14-million people are out of work, and by the president's own estimations the unemployment rate will remain at 9% by next year's election. Furthermore, Americans are sick of the political gamesmanship and partisan chicanery that's prevented anything material from being legislated that will help them. That explains Congress's abyssimal 13% approval rating.

So a week later what we're faced with is the ugly truth that plagues Washington politics and the nation's economic health: that Obama's "American Jobs Act" has zero chance of passage in the House; and that the partisan vitriol, which has paralyzed D.C., is more intense than ever. That fact's been made quite clear by the words and actions this week by Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, among other GOP leaders. And that's why the president's speech has failed. Nothing has changed, and nothing will.

Voters want and need a fix, not a fancy speech that puts a political marker in the ground. Maybe, and I mean maybe, the speech might in some way help Obama's re-election efforts as it showed a more passionate, aggressive leader who's pitted himself against an obstructionist right wing and is now semi-forcefully framing the debate. But Americans didn't watch the speech because they hoped it'd boost Obama's chances of winning another term. Americans are desperate for action. Action which will help lift the struggling economy out of its miserable trough. People want to be put back to work, to see their home values increase, and want the country to grow and prosper again and invest in its future so it can compete on the global stage. And they want their leaders to stop the juvenile bickering and, put bluntly, stop fucking around with their lives as they further their selfish political ambitions.

So what's next? America simply sits back for the next year as Obama is neutered by a salivating GOP which, in the homestretch and with it's rapacious eyes transfixed on the White House, is going to say "no" to everything he and Democrats put forth? This doesn't fix the economy and it doesn't help Americans. It's a pretty bleak picture.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Weiner's District Goes Republican for First Time in 90 Years. Hillary, Are You Listening?

The news just keeps getting worse for President Obama. With the economy threatening double-dip recession, unemployment at 9.1% and his approval ratings at the lowest levels of his presidency, his prospects for re-election are dimming by the minute.

Obama can't seem to gain any traction anywhere. His much ballyhooed jobs bill has been initially rejected by House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and its eventual passage, in any truly meaningful form, seems highly improbable. Additionally, new income stats out this week show that the poverty level rose to its highest level in almost 20 years. And on Tuesday came the potentially deadliest blow of all: former Congressman Anthony Weiner's heavily Democratic and Jewish 9th district voted for Republican Bob Turner, a Christian, over Jewish Democrat David Weprin. Democrats have held the seat since 1921. For the left, this special election loss to replace the scandal-plagued Weiner may be a chilling foreshadowing of next year's election. It's hard to imagine Obama winning if Democrats can't hold onto bastions like the 9th. Hillary, are you listening? I'm re-posting my video here urging you to run.

Secretary Clinton, the decision needs to be made now. There isn't a sane Democrat alive, or a truthful one, who believes, given the current political landscape, that Obama could survive against a strong, rational, pro-business, moderate Republican such as Mitt Romney who can also convince Jews that he, unlike Obama, will unequivocally support Israel. Make no mistake: losing diehard Queens and Brooklyn liberals, a great percentage of them Jewish, spells disaster for the president. Which is precisely why you must run and ensure that the Oval Office remains in Democratic hands. Without you, I firmly believe we are going to lose.

Don't discount Romney's inevitability as the GOP nominee. He handily beat his opponents in Monday's GOP Tea Party debate. He once again appeared presidential, and wiped the floor with them on a broad range of issues including the economy, jobs, Social Security, healthcare, immigration and national security. And, he's not batshit crazy like the rest of them (with the exception of Jon Huntsman Jr.). Lastly, as much as people would like to deny the racial factor, Romney is also white. For these reasons, he is going to appeal to a great many disaffected Democrats and Independents. New polls show Obama has lost white and Hispanic support by as much as 50%.

To be sure, the Republican strategy of opposing Obama on every level since 2008 has worked exactly as they planned. They have him against the ropes and there's no reason on Earth to believe they're gonna take a dive now, no matter that it could lift the economy out of its doldrums and help struggling Americans. Their ideological zealotry and obsession with winning the White House isn't going to stop now that they can actually see the finish line. There is nothing, I repeat nothing, that Obama is going to do that will achieve Republican support and passage. Which means there's little reason to believe that there will be any material changes to this dire political landscape of Obama's. If he plays his cards right, and it surely seems like he's doing that quite well these days, we're gonna be looking at President Mitt Romney next year. Again, this is why Hillary Clinton must run for president against Obama in the 2012 primaries.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Why Obama's Jobs Speech Failed to Deliver

President Obama had two goals for last night's jobs speech before a joint session of Congress: to instill confidence and hope in a shaken, economically ravaged, unemployment-plagued electorate, and to convince House Republicans to put aside their partisan vitriol and immediately pass his "American Jobs Act." On both counts I think he failed.

This was not supposed to look, sound and smell like every other speech. It needed to be a grand slam. The kind of speech that materially moves the needle. The kind of speech that makes Americans watching at home feel that this time things will change. A speech that would need to transcend the political gamesmanship and GOP obstructionism that has crippled Washington. A speech that would be remembered, in a time of dire crisis, like those passionately delivered by the likes of FDR, Truman, Kennedy and Reagan. A speech that would truly inspire and result in action. Again, the speech failed to achieve these goals.

To be sure, the $447-billion jobs bill has elements that analysts say will give some boost to the economy. Anytime employees and employers get tax cuts it will have a stimulative affect. Giving an incentive to employers to hire workers, especially those unemployed over 6 months, is also a good thing. And of course, government spending to put constructions workers, teachers, teens and others to work will have impact. But for the people sitting at home, those who needed to change their perceptions of where the country was/is heading, I suspect it had little or no effect.

The president made a huge strategic error in addressing a joint session of Congress. The speech should've been short and sweet. Fifteen minutes. And delivered from the Oval Office, where Americans would've taken it much more seriously for it's focus and gravity. Instead what we got was the standard pomp and circumstance show, complete with all the smiling, cheering, glad-handing, back-slapping and odd merriment that typically accompanies these bi-partisan charades. The inappropriately festive setting utterly contradicted what was supposed to be the dire message and tone, and set the event off on the wrong foot. I sat at home like millions of others I'm sure and said, "Arrgghh...a bunch of shifty politicians patting themselves on the back again while the rest of us suffer."

But since he did speak before Congress, he blew major opportunities to call out Republicans for their clear and obvious lack of support for what he was presenting. He should've said, "Look what happens when I say the government should spend money to help you, to help put people to work, to help re-build America's infrastructure, to put more teachers in schools, and get kids off the street and working...just look what happens when I say all this. Half the room, the Republican side, sits stone faced with arms folded sternly while Democrats are cheering. Remember that, America. Remember next November who is trying to help you and who is not. I challenge you here tonight Speaker Boehner, Rep. Cantor, Senate Minority Leader McConnell to pass this bill and stop playing games with people's lives, money and with America's financial health. People will remember next November whether you rose above your partisan rancor and passed this bill or whether you simply didn't care about them. America will be watching what you do after tonight."

As for the House Republicans, mere lip service was paid after the speech by Boehner: "The proposals the president outlined tonight merit consideration. We hope he gives serious consideration to our ideas as well.” Translation: "That's what I have to say to not look like a complete obstructionist jackass. But, just like with the debt reduction debate, whatever ultimately passes my House, if anything, will look nothing like what Obama presented tonight. And it will be more of what we want...which is to not spend more of our rich constituents' money or tax them further."

In the speech Obama challenged Republicans to rise above their rigid ideology and simply do what's best for America: "The question is whether, in the face of an ongoing national crisis, we can stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy.” Guess what my money's on?

He continued: “There should be nothing controversial about this piece of legislation. Everything in here is the kind of proposal that’s been supported by Democrats and Republicans.” What this shows is that he still doesn't get it. He still believes that somehow Boehner, Cantor & Company are gonna say, "Ya know ...he's right. Just as in years past, we really don't have any opposition to these measures....so let's go with them and help him help the unemployed." Fat chance. With fourteen months before the election, the GOP's singular focus and goal is to oust Obama. He could find the cure for cancer right now and they will reject it on the grounds that it will put undertakers and hospice workers out of work.

Judging from the overall reaction Thursday night in that glaringly divided House Chamber, this bill has a microscopic chance of getting passed...especially as presented and desired by Obama. And if we ask folks on the street today about the speech I'm sure they will say "What speech?" And if they actually did watch it, they'll probably sum it up with, "eh..." Over the next several days, I'm sure the national polls will show just that.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Ostroy on MSNBC Wednesday Morning at 11:30

Check out MSNBC Wednesday. I'm scheduled to be interviewed by anchor Thomas Roberts at 11:30 EST regarding my blog urging Hillary Clinton to take on President Obama in next year's Democratic primaries. Catch it if you can...

Why Hillary Clinton Must Run

Dear Secretary Clinton...
It's time for you to announce that you'll be running against Barack Obama in next year's Democratic presidential primaries. Your party and your country need you now more than ever.

Yes, we all know how rare it is to take on a sitting president from your own party. But this is no normal election year and the circumstances are dire and the stakes too high. By next November if there isn't significant improvement in the economy and appreciably reduced unemployment, President Obama will likely lose to a Republican. And it might be a Tea Party Republican like Michele Bachmann or Rick Perry, who will set America back 200 years from an economic, policy and social standpoint. Government as we Democrats know it will be unrecognizable, and the advancements we've made in the areas of education, healthcare, science, environmental protection and civil/human rights will fall to ignorance, intolerance and religious zealotry. We simply cannot lose next year's election, and you must be a part of the strategy to keep the White House in Democratic hands.

You've seen Obama's poll numbers. You know the state of the economy. You saw Friday's employment report that showed zero job growth for August. The Obama administration projects that unemployment will be at 9% by the election, yet no president since FDR has been elected when unemployment tops 7.2%. And you've seen how Obama's former supporters are hugely disappointed and disillusioned by his constant caving to the right. Most Americans now believe our government is broken and not functioning properly. Democrats need and want a president who knows how to fight. A president who knows what she stands for, has a vision to achieve her goals, and the passion and gravitas to battle the ruthless obstructionist GOP machine to push through her agenda. A president who'd rather wage war with Republicans than succumb to them. There are tens of millions of voters ready to dump Obama and support you.

There's been much speculation that you'll be running in 2016. But that will be too late. Your time is now. Regardless of whether a Republican or Democrat is in office, the economy is sure to turn around well before the 2016 election. Economies are cyclical, and this one too will improve. And if Obama loses next year, a Republican incumbent running in a strong economy will no doubt win re-election. Which means your next real chance to actually occupy the White House will be 2020 when you will be seventy-three; too old to be president and too old to want to be.

If you run next year you will win. Remember how close you came to beating Obama in 2008. Think of how easy it will be to beat him this time. And I'll bet my life savings on a match-up between you and any Republican. Should you run, I and countless others will do everything in our power to support you...from blogging to raising money to campaigning in the streets.

Madam Secretary, please run. America's future depends on you.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Obama's Huge Mistake on the Jobs Speech

Several weeks ago President Obama announced he'd be addressing the nation after Labor Day to outline his plan to create jobs and kick start economic growth. For independents, Democrats and his progressive base, the speech needs to be a grand slam full of substance and viability and not merely another dispassionate Obama professorial lecture which lacks substance.

But even if Obama knocks it out of the park and delivers a solid blueprint for putting Americans back to work, House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and the rest of the rabidly anti-Obama Republican House will vehemently oppose it. As Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell proudly declared last year, their mission is to make Obama a one-term president. He could find the cure for cancer and they'll argue how it's gonna put undertakers out of work. So curing the nation's jobs problem is not something they're going to support.

Case in point the battle that was waged this week, and lost by Obama, over the scheduling of the president's jobs speech. Originally set for September 7th, Obama sent a letter to both Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid requesting to address a joint session of Congress. Of course, Reid said yes. And of course, Boehner said no. The reasons? Because the GOP presidential debate is scheduled for later that night, and that there'd be little time to properly secure the Chamber on such short notice. A tug of war ensued for several days before Obama acquiesced and moved the speech to the following night.

But make no mistake, this debate wasn't about scheduling or security. It's about the Republican tactic of saying "no" to anything Obama requests and proposes. And it's precisely this sort of partisan chicanery and vitriol of which Americans are sick and tired.

And it was a huge mistake for Obama. He caved. Again. Without a real fight. Just backed off the way he's done repeatedly these past two and half years. And it's enraged his base and continues to make him appear weak, scared and lacking vision. What should he have done? Quite frankly, he should've told Boehner to fuck off. He should've kept the 7th and addressed the nation from the Oval Office instead which would appear more presidential than standing before a bunch of jeering Republicans in a pomp and circumstance show. Given the unprecedented level of disrespect they've shown this president since he took office, is there any reason to think they're gonna show him any respect that night?

As for the speech itself, he needs to go right for the jugular. He's gotta take of the gloves and attack Republicans for driving our economy off a cliff. He can't worry about coming off combative. He must appear tough and resolute, placing blame squarely on the GOP's shoulders, while instilling confidence that he knows how to combat both unemployment and his Republican enemy. It needs to sounds something like this:

"My fellow Americans....I am speaking to you tonight to offer an aggressive plan to put you back to work. A plan that will create jobs and rev the nation's economic engine again and put us back on the road to prosperity. Make no mistake, the economy stinks. It's been devastating to many, and I understand how it's been affecting each and every one of you...especially those of you who remain unemployed, with houses foreclosed or under water, and savings depleted. I'm fed up, just like you. And you know what I'm most fed up about? The constant partisan obstructionism of Republicans that's preventing me from helping you. I cannot do my job, I cannot end unemployment, if my opponents in Congress are hellbent on making me a one-term president more than putting you back to work. And that should anger you as much as it angers me. I can fix this economy and I can put you back to work, but I can't do it alone. Republicans have to stop worrying more about their own political interests than they do yours. They've got to stop worrying more about the wealthy and corporations instead of the poor and middle class. Republicans have to stop saying "no" to everything I propose solely because they want me out of office. It's infuriating that they're putting their political goals before the good of the country...and it's hurting you and it's hurting America. They're standing in the way between you and prosperity. So this is a critical time in our nation's history. A time when we can act to restore America's strength and prosperity or time for more political gamesmanship by those who are against America and root for it and you to fail. I speak to you directly right now House Speaker Boehner. I speak directly to you right now Majority Leader Cantor. I speak directly to you right now Senate Leader McConnell. It's time for you to stop obstructing and start working to put Americans back to work. They want you to stop targeting me and start targeting job creation. That's what they elected you to do last November. It's time to stop fighting me and start fighting unemployment. It's time to be Americans first and Republicans second. Enough is enough. So here's my 10-point plan to achieve full employment. I say to the Republican leadership, you can either approve this bill and get people working again or you can continue to obstruct this process and play games with America's future. The choice is yours, and I guarantee you, voters will be watching your every move. Point #1....."

And he better have a solid, actionable plan and not merely more of the same vague, over-intellectualized, esoteric drivel that he's blandly delivered multiple times. He needs to start looking at the polls which have Tea Baggin' Texas Gov. Rick Perry up 44% to his 41%. He needs to appreciate that, with the unemployment rate projected at 9% in November '12, no president since Ronald Reagan has been re-elected with a rate over 7%. He needs to accept that 72% of Americans now believe our government is not functioning properly and that our system is broken. He needs to recognize that only 45% of Americans approve of his performance, and just another 29% are happy with his handling of the economy. He's got to start accepting the ugly truth that there are people like Boehner, Canter and McConnell--those who he's misguidedly tried to make bi-partisan nice-nice with for almost three years--who were probably watching Friday's release of the zero job growth stats while shouting "Yeah!" and fist pumping in excitement. Because zero job growth is their political dream come true.

Obama's gotta stop looking and acting like he's thrown in the towel. He's gotta stop caving. He's gotta finally realize who his enemy is and fight them accordingly. He's gotta stop acting like "the only adult in the room" and start acting and sounding like a warrior. He's gotta grow some balls.

Next Thursday night's speech is Obama's FDR moment. It's just a week away. There's plenty of time for him to pull this out and demonstrate true leadership and regain some control of the debate. Let's hope he does. But I'm sorry to say that I, and millions of others, have lost faith and aren't so sure.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Being Michele Bachmann Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry

Tea Party Queen and GOP presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann continues to make bizarre public gaffes which portray her as either crazy, ignorant, bigoted, hypocritical, insensitive, callous or all of the above. Her latest bout of foot-in-mouth disease stems from comments she made in the wake of the East Coast earthquake and Hurricane Irene.

Speaking to a group of Tea Party supporters Bachmann said: "I don’t know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We’ve had an earthquake; we’ve had a hurricane. He said, ‘Are you going to start listening to me here?’ Listen to the American people because the American people are roaring right now. They know government is on a morbid obesity diet and we’ve got to rein in the spending."

Forty-five people died from this past weekend's storm, including children. Towns were completely devastated, with an estimated $1-billion+ in total damage. People lost homes and businesses, and five million were left without power. The suggestion that God was punishing these people to send a message to politicians to stop their profligate spending is beyond irresponsible and reprehensible and shows the extent of Bachmann's evil. It's another shining example of how she, like so many of her fellow Tea Baggin' loons, use and abuse religion for political purposes and to spread her vile, hate-fueled dogmatic propaganda.

After taking much heat over her comments what does Bachmann do, apologize? Fat chance. The word "apology" does not exist in her vocabulary. Culpability is not in her DNA. She simply cannot say "I'm sorry...what I said was wrong and insensitive." Incredibly, what Bachmann chose to do instead was dismiss her offensive remarks as an attempt at humor.

"Of course I was being humorous when I said that. It would be absurd to think it was anything else. I am a person who loves humor, I have a great sense of humor," she said.

So let's get this straight: Bachmann denies being an exploitative Jesus freak but she thinks Irene's devastation is something to joke about? I love humor too. In fact, I did stand-up comedy for twelve years. But there's nothing I find funny about the entire Eastern seaboard being ravaged by death and destruction from a Hurricane's violent fury.

What is it about these Tea Baggers like Bachmann, Sarah Palin and Rick Perry that not only causes them to say the most outrageously offensive things but also renders them incapable of taking responsibility for their words and actions? In Bachmann's case, her irrational indifference to large-scale human suffering is unconscionable and is the antithesis of presidential.