Friday, December 21, 2012

How Obama and Democrats Can Win Passage of An Assault Weapons Ban

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Back in 2001 following the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks, President George W. Bush, in greasing up his and Dick Cheney's war machine, declared to other nations that "You're either with us or against us." In the wake of another historic murderous rampage, the Newtown, CT school massacre, President Obama and Democrats would be wise to frame the gun control debate in a similar fashion: "You're either protecting children or you're not."

Newtown, the sleepy little burg an hour north of Manhattan that will never be the same, has been burying dead children and adults all week. Twenty-six victims in total who died a horribly brutal death at the hands of a demonic monster with a Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle. And following the bloodshed Republicans have been throwing up all sorts of diversions and excuses in the hope that they, fearing the NRA and it's 4-million weapons-obsessed members, can once again duck and hide from the subject of an assault weapons ban and stricter overall gun regulations. "Now is not the time," they say, to discuss such legislation. Stricter gun laws "won't stop crime" they claim. "It's time to mourn, not argue," they disingenuously suggest.

On MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Friday the convoluted rhetoric soared to new heights as Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) accused those seeking stricter gun laws as politicizing the shootings. Like most in his caucus who refuse to budge on the issue of assault weapons, Huelskamp then pointed instead to violent video games and the need for more "parental control" despite the fact that statistics disprove any direct correlation between gun violence and computer gaming.  

An incensed Joe Scarborough, the show's conservative co-host who's lately been an outspoken proponent of gun control measures, snapped back: "Do you dare come on my show and say I am using the slaughter of twenty little 6 and 7-year-old children...for political purposes?" Scarborough also accused Huelskamp of political double-talk by saying discussion of gun control is politicizing the tragedy while talking about video games is not.

Even after last week's unfathomable violence, Huelskamp had the audacity and temerity to declare "It's not a gun problem, it's a people problem."  But guess what? Take away the shooter's Bushmaster and give him a knife instead and we'd likely have one or two funerals at most, not twenty-six. That's not a gun problem?

It's time for Obama and Democrats to get smart and crafty, pinning against the wall the backs of Huelskamp and those ignorant, intransigent buffoons like him. In galvanizing support for an assault weapons ban and tighter gun laws they must make this debate all about the children. "A vote against a ban is a vote against children," is what the main talking point should be. And it should be repeated ad nauseam. It should be what "death panels" was to Republicans.

I believe we're at a critical tipping point. The sickening horror of the Newtown massacre has touched an empathetic nerve in all Americans, regardless of their political affiliation. Most of us are parents and grandparents, and the thought of sending our children off to kindergarten only to be slaughtered like animals by a ravenous diabolical maniac is beyond comprehension.

Conservative politicians don't want to think of little children's bullet-riddled bodies lying dead in blood-soaked classrooms. And at the end of the day I suspect few of them will want to be linked to this sort of carnage by their own unyielding inaction. That's why Obama and Democrats must inextricably connect the two at every turn. They have to guilt and shame Republicans into finally challenging them to cut ties with the NRA which, as its leadership continues to demonstrate, is woefully out of touch with the realities of modern days violence. This must be done all in the name of protecting children and working to save their lives. "You're either with the kids or you're against them..."    n

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Newtown Massacre: Time For Legislation Not Conversation

After a horrific bloody week of multiple massacres, the latest at an elementary school in Newton, CT where twenty 6-10-year-olds and six adults were killed, the tipping point has arrived. We need action. What we don't have the time, patience or stomach for is more stonewalling and can-kicking in the form of meaningless "conversation."

There's no rational or Constitutional basis for Americans to own military-grade weapons. Period. The Founding Fathers had Flintlocks, Muskets and single-fire rifles in mind when they drafted the Bill of Rights not 100-round Bushmaster AR-15's, Kalashnikovs or AK-47's. There's plenty of room in a civilized society for people to protect themselves, their homes and still shoot helpless deer if they so choose without allowing deadly combat-style assault weapons to end up in the hands of demonic, psychotic monsters.

There's no merit to any of the standard arguments made by gun enthusiasts to maintain the status quo. We are the most civilian-armed nation in the world, and not surprisingly the country with the most gun-related deaths as a result. We don't need more guns.  And if the shooter had a knife instead of a Bushmaster--as gun enthusiasts argue would happen if there were no guns--most of the twenty-seven Newtown victims would still be alive. What's more, increasing background checks won't really make a dent either considering that 75% of mass-murders in the United States obtained their weapons legally. What we need is legislation. And now.

As expected, we're once again hearing calls for improved mental health care--which could identify and treat these unhinged individuals before they kill--yet the Republican Party, which uses this topic as a convenient diversion from the issue of gun control, has vehemently fought against ObamaCare and any efforts to increase funding for health care. It's a convoluted philosophy akin to how they staunchly oppose abortion yet cut funding for sex education and contraception.

The solution to gun violence in America can be simple and quick, but it's made very complicated by a disproportionately powerful gun lobby that spends millions of dollars annually to hold lawmakers hostage while riling up their constituents with deceptive, purist propaganda.

After Friday's massacre, an extremely emotional and visibly shaken President Obama addressed the nation and called for Americans to "come together and take meaningful action." White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters after the shooting that there'd be time to discuss gun control but that he didn't believe that "today is that day." Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said on Fox News Sunday that we need "thoughtful, calm reflection" on gun control and the Second Amendment.

This is weak and ineffectual leadership in a time of national crisis. I'm sorry, but now is precisely the time to call for gun legislation. I'm sick and tired of hearing politicians talk about how "now is not the time" or that we need to have "meaningful conversations" or "thoughtful, calm reflection." Enough. We don't need anymore damn conversation. That's all we ever have is conversation. Every time some psycho sprays a mall, business, movie theater or a school with bullets we spend days and weeks talking about it and then it quickly becomes a forgotten subject until the next massacre. Then the go-nowhere conversations begin all over again.

And just what exactly do these "conversations" look like? Do they have a timeline? A clear objective? Or are they merely more of the same empty chatter designed to make politicians feel good about if they're actually doing something to stop the barbarism? It's time to stop talking. No more conversations.

Consider what New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said following the massacre:  "With all the carnage from gun violence in our country, it's still almost impossible to believe that a mass shooting in a kindergarten class could happen..We heard after Columbine that it was too soon to talk about gun laws. We heard it after Virginia Tech. After Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek. And now we are hearing it again. For every day we wait, 34 more people are murdered with guns...President Obama rightly sent his heartfelt condolences to the families in Newtown. But the country needs him to send a bill to Congress to fix this problem. Calling for 'meaningful action' is not enough. We need immediate action. We have heard all the rhetoric before. What we have not seen is leadership - not from the White House and not from Congress. That must end today. This is a national tragedy and it demands a national response."

And now we have twenty dead children. Twenty families that have to face each morning with the unimaginable sight of an empty bed where a sweet child once slept. Twenty-seven families who'll be putting their loved ones in caskets as they attend the saddest funerals imaginable. The Newtown families have lost wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters. As one who's wife was brutally murdered, I have a sense of the horror they're all going through. When will this unnecessary carnage end? That we can't pass laws that protect even our children at school is unconscionable.

It's time to bombard politicians with emails, letters and calls demanding they take immediate action in addressing gun violence. It's time to threaten them with the 2014 election if they fail to pass meaningful assault weapons legislation. It's time to stop talking. No more conversations.

And it's time to stop sugar-coating the details of this massacre in an effort to be politically correct. I want the the gun-rights crowd to clearly understand the huge cost of their intransigence. As these Rambo-wannabe's lay their heads down to sleep each night I want them to first hear the chilling screams of those helpless terrified children. I want them to see the images of those precious faces as they cowered at the feet of the devil-incarnate, as their innocent little bodies were riddled with bullets. I want them to see the blood-spilled classrooms. This is the price they must pay for their colossal selfishness.   

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein Sunday on "Meet the Press" announced she will introduce an assault weapons bill in the Senate, with the same bill to be introduced in the House, on the first day Congress returns in January. The odds are it will fail. And until our elected officials grow some balls, and can stand up to the NRA the same way some Republicans are now telling Grover Norquist to take his "no tax pledge" and shove it, the likelihood is that nothing at all will change. Maybe it'll take a deranged, diabolical maniac to shoot up the U.S. Capital, or the offices of the NRA, in order for the conversations to end and the legislation to begin.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

An Open Letter to Gov. Chris Christie

When I witnessed how you handled the post-Hurricane Sandy devastation in your state, and in particular how closely you worked with President Obama on disaster recovery and relief, several thoughts came to mind: (1) here's a truly effective governor reacting to a crisis; (2) here's a prominent Republican putting aside party politics for the good of his state's residents; (3) here's a guy who's his own man and doesn't care what the GOP elite thinks; and (4) all of which is exactly why so many people like and respect you.

Then came Rupert Murdoch's November 3 Tweet: "...Now Christie, while thanking O, must re- declare for Romney, or take blame for next four dire years."  And as the New York Times reported Tuesday, you've been taking it on the chin ever since from party leaders, fellow governors and large donors who, like Murdoch, hold you partly responsible for Obama's victory over Mitt Romney.

At a time when the nation is recovering from the most brutal presidential election in history and years of unprecedented partisan vitriol, and while your state, as well as several parts of New York, are still suffering the horrific impact of the storm, it's an utter shame that you have to expend any time whatsoever on further explaining your motivations and behavior during a time of catastrophic destruction.

Furthermore, given the results of the election and in particular your party's humiliating defeat in all of the critical swing states, it seems terribly counter-intuitive for Republicans to be pounding the partisan drum in your ear. What the election clearly demonstrated is that Americans are fed up with the bickering in Washington and the virtual deadlock it's created. Voters affirmed their desire to elect leaders who've demonstrated that they can reach across the proverbial aisle and get the job done. They want politicians who can enact meaningful legislation to grow the economy and provide funding for healthcare, education and clean energy while addressing immigration and protecting and preserving Social Security and Medicare. They also made it clear that they want politicians out of their personal lives...especially where it involves marriage, contraception and religion.

To be sure, the Republican Party, with its radical, intolerant, unyielding, stubborn base, is headed off a cliff unless it heeds the loud warning voters sent it on November 6th. Regardless, and more important, it is politicians like yourself who are your party's future. Men and women who can return Washington to the days when Democrats and Republicans disagreed, discussed, compromised, legislated, shook hands, had a drink together and then came back to the Hill the next day to do it all over again.

What you did during and after the storm was demonstrate true leadership, class and rarely seen political gravitas. Voters will remember that showing of solidarity with your fellow New Jerseyans and your president, whose response to the storm you hailed as "outstanding," "incredibly supportive" and deserving "great credit." In 2016 should you decide to run for president, you'll surely be able to tap that well of goodwill and capital. As for now, let the sore-losing, tone-deaf party crazies whine all they want about how you "sold them out" or became an "Obama surrogate."   They're dinosaurs headed for extinction.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Romney's Binders Full of Gifts

Two things were confirmed this past week: that Mitt Romney truly despises the poor and middle class, and that most Republican leaders despise Mitt Romney.

Now that the election is over, some of the long-lost truth is returning to politics. In a conference call Wednesday with campaign donors, Romney blamed his humiliating loss on what he implied were the bribes President Obama used to buy 51% of the electorate “especially the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people....In each case, they were very generous in what they gave to those groups...What the president's campaign did was focus on certain  members of his base coalition, give them extraordinary financial gifts from the  government, and then work very aggressively to turn them out to vote, and that  strategy worked."

He continued: "With regards to the young people, for instance," Romney told his big fund-raisers, "a forgiveness of college loan interest was a big gift. Free contraceptives were very big with young, college-aged women. And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents' plan, and that was a big gift to young people."

This latest embarrassing diatribe from the nation's whiniest sore-loser unequivocally proves what we knew all along: that when he delivered his now-infamous, campaign-sinking "47%" comments at a closed-door fundraiser in May he was speaking from his core. That despite spending the next six months desperately trying to convince voters that he didn’t mean to disparage almost half the population and that he represents "100%" of them, he last week demonstrated once again his utter disdain for the working class, veterans, the sick, the elderly, minorities, immigrants, women and college students. 51% is the new 47%. 

Romney's reprehensible outburst was swiftly denounced by many top  Republicans including Tim Pawlenty, Haley Barbour, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (NH), Gov.  Bobby Jindal (LA), Gov. Scott Walker (WI), Gov. Susana Martinez (NM), strategist Ana Navarro, Newt Gingrich and New  Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. All of whom regrettably lined up to endorse him before the election. But his latest outrageously offensive statements gave these reluctant supporters the opportunity to finally and publicly demonstrate what they couldn't throughout the campaign: how much they dislike him.

The truth is, Romney will go down as perhaps the worst Republican candidate in history, which is why so many of the party's prescient voices behind closed doors clamored for anyone but Mitt, but it was Mitt with whom they got stuck after the rest of the primary crazies imploded (’ceptin’ Jon Huntsman who, if the GOP base wasn’t so radical, might’ve actually become president). Now they get to distance themselves from him like a dreaded plague.

Some sage advice for Romney: don’t go away mad, just go away...  

Monday, November 12, 2012

My Rockaways in Ruins

I spent Friday afternoon in Far Rockaway, a little burg along the coast in Queens, NY where I grew up in the beachfront Wavecrest Gardens apartments. It was an idyllic place in the 1960's and '70's. The sea air. The sound of crashing waves. The boardwalk. The arcades. The Good Humor ice cream truck stationed all Summer in the circle. 9pm fireworks. Riding my bike all over town like Fred Savage in The Wonder Years. That was a long, long time ago. And now, because of Hurricane Sandy, my beloved Rockaways is in a state of disaster.

The extent of the crisis can be felt soon after crossing the Gil Hodges Bridge, traveling along Beach Channel Drive through Belle Harbor, a seaside community that’s been ravaged by the storm. There’s a palpable sense of the devastation as piles upon piles of housing debris become visible along the road, as bulldozers clear the washed out, burned out neighborhood. Further down the peninsula, in Arverne, there’s a convoy of National Guard armored vehicles that pass.

There's abandoned cars, damaged homes and cops at every corner. Even in the daylight the loss of power is stark, as all the stores, except for the rare bodega with a generator, are shut and the people's faces, as they mill about trying desperately to figure out when and where their next meal will come from, are full of anger, frustration and fear. In many ways the place more resembles war-torn Afghanistan than a borough of New York.

At the East end, in Far Rockaway, we dropped off food at several makeshift relief centers. At our first stop, God’s Pentecostal Church on Cornaga Avenue, we were greeted like family. Tables were set up for both clothing and food distribution. Within seconds of placing a dozen trays of hot food in front of the volunteers, a line of thirty people formed.

“Where you from?” one organizer asked me, smiling at me, my girlfriend Phoebe and my daughter’s Emily and Kim.


“Who are you with?

“We’re here on our own” I said.

“Thank you, man. We really appreciate you helping us.”

“I grew up here,” I told him, pointing to the recreation center next door. “I used to play basketball there.” His eyes lit up and he high-fived me.

“Alright man, so you know what we’re going through here. Welcome home bro.”

“You’re not alone,” I assured him.

We asked where another center might be, and he told us to head to St. Mary’s Church on Central Avenue. We arrived there in 3 minutes, but they weren’t as organized as the last site and, surprisingly, passed on our offer for hot food. I stood for a second staring across the property at the lawn where, over forty years ago, I used to play tackle football.

Back in our two-car caravan we headed out in search of another center, winging it this time. We stumbled upon a little outpost off Beach Channel Drive on Nameoke Avenue. It was starting to get dark, and the folks there were hurrying to shut the small operation. It, like many others, sits behind tall metal gates that are quickly shut once the sun sets. No one wants to be on the streets after dark, and I can understand why. There’s been looting, mugging and robberies, and people are afraid. It’s a scary place and getting scarier by the minute.  

A few people there said they needed food, so we dropped of some baked ziti and soup. Phoebe had been out in the Rockaways earlier in the week, and as she passed out food a sad little boy of about seven looked up and asked her, “Do you have any cupcakes?” Within two days she and our friend Daniela had gotten several Manhattan cupcake establishments-- Billy's Bakery, Molly's Cupcakes, Butter Lane Cupcakes, Buttercup Bake Shop and Georgetown Cupcake NYC—to donate dozens of boxes.  There were several small children hovering as the adults hurriedly packed up before complete darkness fell. We put the cupcakes down and the kids grabbed them with a fury.

A few blocks up Nameoke we came across what would be the most organized of the centers we visited, The Church of the Nazarene on the corner of Central. It occupies what used to be the Mel Chevrolet dealership where my parents bought their new yellow 1969 Impala station wagon for a mere $3500. There’s a FEMA presence there but the effort’s been organized and is run by the church's Orlando, Fl-based disaster relief team...a small army of committed folks who piled into a command trailer and mobile kitchen and drove 1000 miles to help. It’s run with the efficiency of the U.S. Army. They were thrilled to receive the grub and cupcakes. The hot stuff went right into the food line and the sugary treats were gone in a matter of minutes.

“Do you mind if I grab one of these for our volunteers?” the food director asked, holding a cupcake box. These volunteers deserve a helluva lot more than cupcakes for the incredibly selfless work they're doing.

There's talk that power and water may be out until Christmas. That's six weeks away. I can't fathom how the people of the Rockaways can handle that. They’re already terribly hungry, cold and unbathed. They’re afraid for their children, and at night, for their own lives. The elderly, many of whom are sick and needing medical care, risk dying if conditions don't improve fast.

It’s an absolute disgrace. The federal government isn’t doing enough. The City of New York isn’t doing enough. Relief organizations, like the Red Cross, aren’t doing enough. LIPA, the Long Island Power Authority, isn’t doing enough. Thankfully, there’s been an army of volunteers who’ve been filling the void as best they can. But it could be a very long, hard, cold and perhaps violent Winter if people’s lives aren’t restored, along with their electricity and water, back to normal soon.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The Real Takeaway From the Election

By now everyone in the world knows that President Barack Obama handily beat Mitt Romney to win re-election. The final electoral tally: 303-206. Obama took all the swing states. Independents apparently flocked to the Democratic incumbent. As they say, the fat lady has sung.

So what is the real takeaway of the most expensive, vitriolic, polarizing election in political history? Last night wasn't just a victory for Obama and Joe Biden. It was a victory for all of America and the world. It was a huge win for the poor, the sick, the needy, the middle class, and yes, the rich, even if they don't see it this way. It was a victory for education, for the environment and for decency. But most important, it was a victory against ignorance, intolerance, racism, misogyny, reproductive extremism, religious fanaticism, birtherism, homophobia, xenophobia, war-mongering and partisan obstructionism. A victory against the kind of ugliness that defies logic, reason and everything that our great nation truly stands for.    

As the above video so painfully illustrates, the biggest loser Tuesday was stupidity and fear. Let's hope the next four years shines a brighter light on America. 

Friday, November 02, 2012

Will We Hear THIS Speech From Moderate Mitt Before Tuesday?

The presidential election is Tuesday, giving Mitt Romney just four more days to convince voters that he actually has a core. That's no easy task given that he's been changing his positions as often as I change my socks.  Case in point: in the past week the formerly "severely conservative" Romney, in an effort to appear much less so, has unleashed Uber-Moderate Mitt, who’s shifted so far to the left he makes Barney Frank appear like a Tea Partier. 

For example, by embracing FEMA, teachers, single-mothers and bi-partisanship ("Democrats love America too!"), it's impossible to predict what could come out of his fork-tongued, co-opting mouth next. Perhaps, in the final hours of the campaign, as he gets even more desperate, we'll hear the following stump speech:

“Hello Florida! I love Jews! No, I mean that, seriously! I really love you guys! So much so that just this week I got a circumcision. That’s right, I lopped off a sizable chuck of my adult penis for you…and I’ll tell ya, I didn’t have much to start with! That’s the kind of president I’ll be….one who sacrifices his foreskin for Israel!

“And I love Rosie O’Donnell! She’s my favorite lesbian! And I love Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn and Alec Baldwin too. Why, just yesterday Ann and I were singing Kumbaya on the bus and we were saying how much we’d love to have those groovy liberals over to one of our homes for dinner sometime. But this election isn’t about hot lesbians…it’s about hot single mothers! (insert awkward Romney laugh). Hey, I’m kidding! It’s about the economy, and jobs and getting America back on track.

We’ve got to help the crack ho’s, the gang-bangers, the unemployed and those who don’t pay any taxes yet deserve the widest government safety net we can provide.  And it’s time our government starts paying for abortions! That’s right…I love abortion so much I’ve basically aborted every single position I’ve ever had. I want to merge Planned Parenthood with FEMA and the EPA and double its budget.

“And let’s get something straight: I love homos too! I love show tunes, flashy clothes and Tim Gunn. And I promise you this: if Ann and I ever divorce I’m goin ‘ gay! Me and my new little streamlined penis will tear up West Hollywood like Liberace on a drunken binge!

“Now let me talk foreign policy for a second. I’m not sure who this Ben Ghazi guy is, but we need to stop talking about him and start strengthening our armed forces. We need more cannons! In 1917 we had 2000 cannons and now we have none. And we need more horses. Have you seen ”War Horse?” Love that show. And we need to start talking with Iran. Maybe have Ahmadinejad over with Baldwin and those guys and smoke some weed. Loosen him up a bit.

“Lastly, I want to talk to you old folks about Medicare. You’ve got nothing to worry about. If my running mate Paul Ryan mentions his voucher program again I’ll smack him upside his head. That’s a black expression! (insert awkward Romney laugh). I love black people! Repeal Obamacare? Gosh, heck no!  I’m gonna expand that sucker! Lower the eligibility age. Increase the benefits. Think of me as Mitt Medicare!

“So please go out and vote…and vote for me! Because I’ll give you everything you ever wanted and make all your dreams come true. Just don’t hold me to it because I may need to change positions again…”

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

"The '80's Are Calling..."

Mitt Romney opened the debate hoping for some levity. Referring to last week's Al Smith Dinner in New York, he said: "Mr. President...we were together at a humorous event a little earlier, and it's nice to maybe be funny this time, not on purpose. We'll see what happens." Well, he saw what happened, alright. Obama "funnied" the life out of him as he put another notch on his debate-win belt.

Perhaps the biggest winner of the night besides Obama was the late former President Richard Nixon, who no longer holds the "sweatiest presidential debater" crown. Romney perspired so much he looked like Usain Bolt in mile 26 of the NYC Marathon. Although I'm not sure what was more humiliating for the Republican challenger, his obvious disregard for the "Never let 'em see ya sweat" adage or his repeated cries of "Attacking me is not an agenda!," which his campaign even tweeted throughout the evening. Nothing says "presidential" more than a sopping wet whiner.

After waking from his first-debate coma, Obama came back swinging in last week's second match. But it was Monday night's foreign policy debate that will be most remembered. Obama delivered a couple of verbal smack downs on par with Lloyd Bentsen's famous 1988 "You're no Jack Kennedy" barb to his Republican vice presidential challenger Dan Quayle.

"The 1980′s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back," Obama quipped in response to Romney's outdated positions. And when Romney charged that the Navy has fewer ships than it did in 1916 the president shot back with: "We also have fewer horses and bayonets."

It was about this point in the debate that conservative pundit Glenn Beck tweeted in frustration of Romney:  "He is not hitting anywhere. Is this to make him not scary? He is scaring me."

Obama also called out his opponent's Romnesia on several occasions, the most notable over the auto industry bailout, which Romney had opposed in his November 18, 2008 NY Times "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" op-ed. "If we had taken your advice, Governor Romney, about our auto industry, we'd be buying cars from China instead of selling cars to China. You can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye...Governor, the people in Detroit don't forget."

Romney, who is typically an attack dog at these debates, sat meekly for most of the night and seemed to follow a strategy that called for him to agree more with Obama than disagree. Surprisingly, the terrorist attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, where four Americans died including Ambassador Chris Stevens, didn't dominate the discussion as expected. Instead, Romney shared positions on China, Israel, Palestine, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, drone attacks and anti-terrorism so similar to the president's that at times it was hard to tell the two candidates apart.  It was interesting that virtually the entire foreign policy discussion focused on the Middle East, as if nothing else around the world matters. Not a peep about the European financial meltdown, for example, and how they'd help fix the collapsing economies of Spain, Greece and Italy.  

So who "won?" A CBS News poll had 53%-23% for Obama.  CNN's insta-poll showed Obama with a  48%-40% margin. Clearly, Obama was as calm, cool and collected as Kennedy was in his historic 1960 debate against Nixon. He demonstrated intelligence, a mastery of the facts and issues, discipline and control. He was presidential and a highly competent Commander-in-Chief. He was Muhammad Ali to Romney's Chuck Wepner.

To the contrary, Romney was agitated, befuddled, nervous, naive, inexperienced and yes, very, very sweaty. He had so little in his foreign policy arsenal that he tried to steer the discussion to the economy at every possible turn. He gave voters zero reason to believe he brings anything new to the foreign policy table, nor reasons why they should stop the Obama momentum abroad. And when Republican spinners all claim, as former Bush White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer did, that Benghazi (which they've harped on for weeks) and foreign policy doesn't matter and that it's the economy that Americans will vote on, or that the debate itself "doesn't matter," it's obvious they know their guy lost.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Why Obama May Have Lost Tuesday's Debate

Ok, so Democrats are happy that President Obama decided to show up for Tuesday night’s debate at Hofstra University on Long Island, his second match with his Republican opponent Mitt Romney. He certainly came out swinging and scored some decisive points. But was Obama’s feistier, more spirited performance enough to move the needle? Did he get the job done?

While the tragic deaths of four Americans in Benghazi at the hands of terrorists has consumed the right-wing punditry these past several weeks, Romney himself chose to focus on jobs and the economy, and for good reason.  A CBS Instant Poll after the debate showed that he won by 65%-34% on the economy. In the days ahead we’ll see a slew of new polls indicating whether or not either candidate received an appreciable bounce and if the debate in any way might impact the election. 

The president brought his A-Game, but it was his B-Game that was on display for most of the 90-minutes before an audience of eighty so-called independents (honestly, at this point in the campaign, how is it possible they’re still undecided? “Gee, as a woman, I’m still unsure whether I want to control what goes in and out of my vagina, or if I’m ok with rich old white men making those decisions for me!” Who are these people!?). The B-Game is all he has. He’s truly not a fighter. Deep down, he’s a gentleman, and gentlemen don’t street fight, which is how Romney battles.

But their roles and goals were switched from the last debate: the bar for Obama was set so low that he couldn’t fail, while the bar for Romney, fresh off his killer performance two weeks ago, was unrealistically high. Romney performs best when his back is to the wall, while Obama, given the monumental criticism he faced after the first debate, reignited his mojo. It was a lot easier for him to succeed given this landscape.  A CNN poll taken Wednesday found 73% said Obama’s performance exceeded expectations compared with 37% for who said Romney fared better than expected. But more telling was who "won:" the poll found that 46% went for Obama while 39% gave it to Romney. With a 4.5% margin of error, this certainly was no knock-out.

To be sure, there were moments that literally made me cringe. Mostly when Romney acted like an uber-entitled, duplicitous bully who believes that interrupting and shouting over the President of the United States, while also disrespecting the moderator and the rules, is acceptable behavior, if not de rigueur. To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, Obama fought the war with what he has. While I believe it would’ve been conduct unbecoming a president had Obama met Romney’s child-like petulance with similar loutish, combative behavior, I would’ve preferred to see more Bill Clinton-style passion and forcefulness—fire in the belly—as well as much more detail and vision, both of which, especially on the economy, were in very short supply.

So what was essentially missing from the president? He would’ve benefited from more directly and aggressively going after Romney on the issues and his positions. When “Moderate Mitt” spun his tall tales about how he’s pro-education, pro-women, pro-middle class, pro-Medicare and pro-jobs, for example, Obama could’ve challenged him with:

•    “No, Gov. Romney, you, Rep. Ryan and your party seek to cut or eliminate Pell Grants and similar government aid for college students.”
•    “No, Gov. Romney, your policies and statements aren’t supportive of education and teachers. You and your party believe the Department of Education should be dismantled, and that we have enough teachers.”
•    “No, Gov. Romney, you, Rep. Ryan and your party do not champion women’s rights…in the workplace or involving their health and their own bodies.”
•    “No, Gov. Romney, you, Rep. Ryan and your party care about one thing: providing massive tax breaks for the rich at the expense of the poor and middle class. You would like to cut all government assistance and give that money to the rich.  You’re like Robin Hood in reverse.”
•    “No, Gov. Romney, you’re not being honest about your statement, and my administration’s actions, about the auto industry. ‘Let Detroit Go Bankrupt’ is what you said.  This would’ve killed the auto industry. The banks weren’t giving them funding to survive. We bailed them out. We helped them survive and thrive, as their sales now prove. We saved a million jobs. You would’ve lost those million jobs.”
•    “No, Gov. Romney, you and your party are against every measure I and my Democratic colleagues in Congress have attempted to enact to create jobs.  I challenge you right now to tell Speaker John Boehner and House Republicans, before millions of Americans watching tonight, to pass my jobs bill!”
•    “No, Gov. Romney, you and Paul Ryan want to end Medicare as we know it, turning it instead into a costly and confusing voucher program, forcing seniors to go out shopping for insurance.”
•    “Gov. Romney, perhaps interrupting, shouting over someone and re-writing the rules is how it works for CEO’s in the boardroom, but that’s not how it it’s done in politics.”

Let’s be clear: the Obama we saw Tuesday night was infinitely stronger and more effective than the empty suit that showed up three weeks ago. He excited and fired up the base for sure. But better may not be what independent voters wanted or needed to see and hear. Next Monday night he’ll have another opportunity to close the deal. It’ll be fascinating to see which Obama shows up this time.  And, according to,  with Romney slightly leading in key battleground states such as Florida, Missouri, Colorado and North Carolina, and virtually tied with Obama in Virginia, Wisconsin, Ohio, Nevada and Iowa, the Democratic base would be wise not to be too celebratory just yet.

Monday, October 15, 2012

More Debate Suggestions for Obama Since He Clearly Didn't Listen to Me the First Time

The fate of the presidential election could hinge on the second debate Tuesday between Barack "I Was Too Polite" Obama and “Moderate Mitt” Romney, judging from the impact their performances in the first debate had on the media, voters and the polls. So without much fanfare I hereby offer my advice to Obama on how to win this one:

1. Do not, I repeat, do not look down. Period. Not even to write notes. At this point in your political career if you can't wing it you're in the wrong business

2. When he's talking, stare at Romney like you're on a deserted island and he's the last piece of food you’ll ever eat. Half smile, intent gaze. Practice this face in front of the mirror between now and then

3. Alternate between looking at Romney and looking into the camera to address voters directly

4. Be aggressive. Forcefully challenge Romney's lies and distortions. If he flips and flops on his positions call him out on it. Call him "Moderate Mitt" and contradict him with his own prior statements and positions

5. Defend government spending, and your policies in particular, as having saved the economy when neither consumers, banks or businesses were spending a nickel. New data out last week showed that consumer confidence is way up, unemployment and foreclosures are down, housing is recovering and Americans are feeling the country's headed in the right direction. Pounce on that! 

6. Remind them of how well their retirement accounts have done as the Dow and NASDAQ have risen 100% and %155% respectively

7. Proudly discuss the auto bailout and how you saved that critical industry...while reminding voters how Romney wanted to "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt"

8. Remind voters that while corporate America is enjoying record profits they're still not hiring, the private sector has added almost 5-million over the last 30 consecutive months

9. Hit Romney hard with his 47% comments. This is the proverbial gift that needs to keep on giving

10. Pressure Romney to give specifics on which tax loopholes and deductions he will cut/end. Press him hard

11. Do a Joe Biden and look into the camera and remind seniors that Romney/Ryan will end Medicare as we know it and privatize Social Security. Assure them that there’s only one party that ever does anything to protect and preserve Medicare and Social Security, and that’s the Democratic Party

12. On foreign policy, don't let Romney hang you up on Benghazi. Acknowledge the ongoing investigation to get to the bottom of what happened, assure voters that the terrorists will be brought to justice, and then remind them of how the world, because of you, is free of bin-Laden, al-Zawahiri and Qaddafi, and that al-Qaeda has been nearly decimated and that there’s been more Drone attacks into Pakistan than ever….all of which continues to keep Americans safe here at home.

13. Repeat the following catchall’s as much as you can: “Will end Medicare as we know it.” “Will privatize Social Security.” "The job creators aren't creating jobs." “Will return us to the same failed policies of George W. Bush.” “Detroit lives and bin Laden’s dead.” Huge tax cuts for the rich, increases for the middle class.” “The math simply doesn’t add up.” “Let women decide what happens to their bodies.” "Our enemies have been brought to justice." "The war in Iraq is over." "Our troops in Afghanistan will soon be home."

14. Act like being president for another four years is a job you actually want. Show some damn passion. Don't let Romney be the only bubbly one in the room

15. I know it's hard, but try to explain things as Bill Clinton would...with the same sincerity, clarity and brevity. You're a charming dude. Show it. Leave the wonky professor act home

16. And lastly...get some sleep tonight, for Pete's sake, so you don't look like you'd rather be on a hammock napping

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Here's How/Why Obama Must Proudly Defend Government's Role in the Economic Recovery

Big government. Those two words are uttered with utter disdain by Mitt Romney and Republicans. But go back to the Fall of 2008, when the U.S. economy was on the verge of bone-chilling collapse, and it was big government that kept us from falling into the abyss.

Let's give credit all around. It was former president George W. Bush who pushed through the initial $25-billion round of the auto bailout and $428-billion in TARP funds for Wall Street. President Obama continued the aid, injecting $787 billion more through his economic stimulus and job creation programs; over a trillion in additional investments in banks, corporate debt and mortgage-backed securities purchases; and another $60-billion into Detroit (while Mitt Romney was busy writing op-eds entitled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt").

Trillions were injected by government into the economy at a time when both consumers and businesses were holding onto every nickel, while banks froze credit and borrowing, as the nation's fiscal engine was sputtering off a cliff.

Four years later, corporate America enjoys record productivity and profits, yet the unemployment rate remains near 8%...with an average of just 150,000 or so jobs created monthly. Businesses still aren't investing in the economy despite their swollen coffers, and consumer confidence and spending, as well as housing, while increasing, is nowhere near what it needs to be for the economy to fully recover. Think about what America's economy would look like today without that emergency relief from government?

But the fact is, all over the country steady economic improvement is evident. Ohio, for example, a critical battleground state and one of the hardest hit by financial crisis, has seen unemployment drop from a 2010 peak of 10.6% to 7.2%. Over 70,000 of the jobs created have been in the auto industry. And while Ohio's Gov. John Kasich proudly boasts of his state's turnaround, he and other governors with similar progress claim that neither Obama or his policies deserve any credit.

So let's get this straight: it's Obama's fault on a statewide level when the nationwide economy tanks, but when it recovers it's the individual states, and their respective governors, who are responsible for the growth. If that sounds like disingenuous political double-talk, it is.

With less than a month before the election, it's time for Obama to stop the nice-guy routine and start acting like a man who wants to keep his job, and in particular, because he deserves to. He must proudly embrace his policies and the tremendous impact they've had on the economic recovery and stop allowing Romney and Republicans from controlling the narrative and defining him as a reckless tax and spend liberal.   

Here's what he needs to say when he's out on the stump:

"Are we better off today than we were four years ago? You bet we are! Do you remember how you felt in the Fall of 2008...when you feared for your job, your retirement savings dropped in half, and the value of your home sank 30%-40%? When you worried that your bank would collapse and with it your life's savings? Four years later there's been a swing of almost a million in terms of monthly jobs lost to jobs being created.  We did that. There's over 4.5-million private sector new jobs created in 30 straight months. We did that. The auto industry is alive and thriving. We did that. There's record profits in corporate America. We did that. Your 401K, college and investment accounts have doubled.  We did that. Your home value is increasing, and you're able to get credit again....which is why consumer confidence and spending is rising. We did that. And you know what else we did? We used government, your government, the government to which you pay taxes, to help this sick economy when no one else would. Ya know what America would look like today without your government helping you when you need it most? It would look like, would look like President Romney. The choice is yours America..."

And it wouldn't hurt to punch this out with the passion, sincerity and clarity of Bill Clinton.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

An Open Letter to Mitt Romney From Big Bird


Dear Mr. Romney:
I have to say, I am both shocked and disappointed by your desire to cut funding for PBS. You said at the debate that "I love Big Bird." But the sad truth is, you don't love me at all. You don't love any of us...not Bert, Ernie, Oscar, The Count, Grover or Elmo either...and who on Earth doesn't love Elmo? What's wrong with you?!

Can you please explain to me why you think it's more important, for example, to help private plane owners but not PBS? Where are your priorities? You're clearly more concerned with Wall Street than you are Sesame Street. But let me tell you something: investment bankers never taught kids how to read, write, count and to be caring, sensitive, thoughtful people. Did you know that children who watched our program have an average 16% higher GPA in high school than those who didn't? Our show also teaches them from an early age to appreciate and respect art and science.

Well maybe that's it. Maybe it's because you and your party don't appreciate and respect art and science? Maybe it stems from the desire to dismantle the Department of Education, and your statements that we don't need more teachers. Maybe it's because you've never needed outside help in your entire life because you came from a rich, privileged family who gave you everything you could ever possibly want...including the best private education available.

I'm sure you never sat on the floor of a ghetto tenement watching Sesame Street, or any other PBS program, on an old junky television with a hanger clipped to it for reception. For many of our viewers, our show is not just a free babysitter and tutor, but an entry into a world of culture and fantasy that only rich folks like you have at their fingertips every day just by waking up. Is that so hard to understand? Why is it so hard for you to grasp that some folks, and millions of children, simply need a little help in life?

Look, the government gives the Corporation for Public Broadcasting $445 million per year. As far as the $4-trilion U.S. budget goes, that's a pimple on Snuffleupagus's ass (sorry for using a bad word, but I'm very upset with you!).  Is this a road you really wanna go down?

Mr. Romney, unlike most of my other cast mates who are solid Obamacons, I am, or at least until Wednesday night's debate, was an independent. But you've pushed me--and I suspect millions of concerned moms and dads--into Obama's camp. You've lost my vote. I simply cannot fathom supporting someone who doesn't recognize the value in public television and it's tremendous impact on society....both in the near and long term. 

Oh, and one more thing. You should really love us because, with a name like Mitt, you could easily be one of the characters on our show....

Big Bird

Friday, October 05, 2012

Facts, Polls and Job Stats, Oh My!

First it was the assault on facts. Then came fact-checker-bashing followed by the vast left-wing poll conspiracy. And now the Republican War on Reality has opened another front: the U.S. Labor Department and its monthly employment statistics.

Moments after the September jobs report was released Friday morning, which showed 114,000 jobs created, unemployment dipping below 8% for the first time in almost four years and an increase in average hourly wages, the right-wing fact-attack was in full delusional gear.

MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, in the same breath that he said he was totally ill-equipped to understand and properly assess the numbers, boldly declared "they just don't make any sense."  

Former GE CEO Jack Welch immediately Tweeted "Unbelievable jobs numbers ...... these Chicago guys will do anything ...... can't debate so change numbers."  

That's right, conservatives, you've deftly cracked the case! That highly partisan Labor Department, together with that crafty President Obama, hatched the following brilliant scheme to get him re-elected: consistently put out really sucky employment numbers for four years, make Obama look totally inept as he relentlessly gets pummeled by the right, only to come in stealth-like a month before the election with a whopping 114,000 jobs created and a breathtaking drop of .03% in the unemployment rate to a near-invisible 7.8%. The ultimate fake out! Pure genius! If these numbers don't spell landslide I don't know what does.

And the Republican presidential candidate himself, Mitt "Chicken Little" Romney, while not stooping to the low of accusing the Labor Department of foul play, couldn't pass up the opportunity to be the nattering nabob of negativity:

"This is not what a real recovery looks like.... If I’m elected, we will have a real recovery with pro-growth policies that will create 12 million new jobs and rising incomes for everyone." 'And a chicken in every pot! Policies so incredible I'd have to kill ya if I told ya the specifics...'

Romney, the man who'd love to serve up Big Bird at the local Chick-fil-A, and fresh from his Oscar-worthy performance Wednesday night in "The Many Faces of Mitt," is apparently banking on Americans thumbing their collective noses at true, evident economic progress while buying into his "The Sky is Falling" politically-expedient rhetoric. Days from now, when the new polls show his debate bounce was as buoyant as Rush Limbaugh's gut, I'm sure we'll see another round of Etch-a-Sketchin' from the man who Rick Santorum so aptly accused of having no core.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

The Professor and the Pugilist

He came prepared to fight. He was smart, aggressive, engaged, charming and funny. He reassuringly spoke of his concern for the poor, the middle class, seniors, affordable healthcare, Social Security, education and teachers. He was substantive, forthcoming and seemed genuinely wanting to be there, demonstrating a clear passion for the job. If you said this was President Obama you'd be wrong. Mitt Romney delivered what pundits Thursday morning are calling the best Republican debate performance since Ronald Reagan in 1980.

The key question is, what the hell happened to Obama? Where was he? Where was his passion, his engagement, his desire to be in that room? The man who showed up instead was aloof, disengaged, ill-prepared (how is that even possible given all the sequestered pre-debate prep?) and passive. He hung his head down more than a guilty 6-year-old who didn't do her chores and hardly made eye contact with Romney. He appeared nervous, fearful and shocked by his opponent's clear domination and control of the narrative.  As MSNBC's Chris Matthews lamented, "He was ignoring the debate rather than fight it."

Romney's Alpha was evident from the get-go. He was energized and understood his mission, which was to paint Obama as a weak, big-government liberal who wants to raise taxes on the middle class as the nation's debt, gas prices and health care costs increase while personal incomes decrease (by $4300, Romney claimed). He succeeded. A CNN poll following the debate showed that 75% saw Romney as the victor.

And why would just 25% say that Obama won? Because Obama was as AWOL from the debate as George W. Bush was during the Vietnam War. There was no mention of Romney's infamous 47% statement. No mention of Romney's comments about sending poor, uninsured people to emergency rooms. No mention of Romney's desire to defund Planned Parenthood and overturn Roe v. Wade. No mention of Romney's statements about not needing more teachers. No mention of Bain and the layoffs of tens of thousands. No mention of Romney's "corporations are people" statement. No mention of Romney's personal taxes and his offshore investments. No mention of his running-mate Paul Ryan's plan to dismantle Medicare and privatize Social Security. 

How on Earth could Romney win on the subject of healthcare when (a) his Romneycare was the model for Obamacare and (b) he and Ryan would end Medicare as we know it, sending old folks into the streets shopping for insurance? Same as Bush and Dick Cheney, the guys who never served in the military, won the "tough guy" contest against decorated war hero John Kerry in 2004. The answer is simple: both Kerry and Obama allowed their opponents to define them without forcefully and effectively countering the rhetoric. 

In the end, Obama's performance was stunning in its ineffectiveness. What should've been a slam-dunk became a wild air ball from half court. Should he lose a month from now, historians will mark his defeat as having been snatched from the jaws of victory in Denver on October 4th.  

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

The Debate: What Would Ali and Frazier Do?

Tonight's the big showdown. The main event. Obama vs Romney. It's got the excitement and buzz of a heavyweight prize fight. Only in the past week, instead of staring down and psyching out their opponents, as boxers usually do at weigh-ins and press conferences, these two politicians, and their surrogates, have so effusively praised the other guy to the point of it being more over-the-top than a Lady Gaga concert:

"We know Gov. Romney has been practicing for months,” said Obama senior adviser David Axelrod. “I think the invasion of Normandy took less preparation than he's putting into these debates. So, I expect he'll be prepared and ready, and will be strong in these debates."  

"President Obama is a uniquely gifted speaker, and is widely regarded as one of the most talented political communicators in modern history," said Romney's campaign adviser Beth Myers.

Even the candidates themselves got involved in the verbal lovefest:

“No, no. Gov. Romney, he’s good debater. I’m just OK,” said Obama.

"He's great. He's competent.  He's experienced. He's done this. He's fantastic," gushed Ann Romney like a school girl.

But what if prizefighters did lavish the same kind of praise on their opponents before a battle? What would a typical Ali/Frazier press conference have sounded like back in the '70s?

Reporter: Muhammad, in what round do you predict you'll knock out Joe Frazier?

Ali: Knockout?! Are you kidding? Have you seen his left hook?! He'll probably knock me on my ass in Round One!

Smokin' Joe Frazier: Cassius, you are too kind. Your left jab's a killer and your rope-a-dope's gonna wear me out. You'll drop me with a right to the head  before I could say Howard Cosell!

Ali: Seriously, Joe's an incredible fighter. Probably one of the best, if not the best ever.

Frazier: No, it is Ali who truly is "The Greatest!" I'll probably suffer the same fate as Sonny Liston! Ali's gonna win.

Ali: No, Joe's gonna win. He's stronger, more fierce and a true warrior.

And with that they both hugged and wished each other a good fight...

Monday, October 01, 2012

Debate Suggestions for Obama

The first debate is just days away. Democrat and Republican strategists alike have been furiously spinning the other sides' verbal mastery in a highly calculated effort to lower the bar for their guy. President Obama simply needs to maintain the status quo; his comfortable lead in the national polls and in swing states and his overall popularity. Romney needs a game-changer. A "big and bold performance," as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said over the weekend.

To be sure, for Obama and Romney the stakes are extremely high. Obama must convince voters that he's the better of the two candidates to continue driving the economic recovery. Romney must coherently demonstrate that he's the viable alternative, laying out the specifics of his plan to lead America back to prosperity.

Here are some suggestions for the president:      

1. Be a strong, convincing, inspiring leader not a dull, pedantic professor  

2. Keep your answers brief and speak in language that the average voter can understand 

3. Don't get mired in minutiae; resist using too many statistics 

4. Watch the body language. Eye-rolling, head-shaking, sighs, smirks and cackles can kill a campaign 

5. Stay calm, cool and collected. Let Romney be the one who comes off animated, plaintive, erratic, rushed and desperate 

6. Don't be snarky and elitist. That too is Romney's job 

7. Know your facts and convey them forcefully, clearly and concisely 

8. Be sure to make your critical  "Are you better off..." case confidently and convincingly 

9. Smile...a lot. That's one of your greatest assets and why a majority of Americans like you       

10. Stay positive and sound reassuring. Romney's Chicken Little routine will be enough negativity for voters. Remember, Americans by nature are optimistic and do see your economic progress. Reinforce that progress and the better days ahead 

11. Draw as many parallels as you can between ObamaCare and RomneyCare. It will disarm Romney, box him into a corner and strip him of one of his major campaign themes 

12. Medicare, Medicare, Medicare. Play to the Democrats' and your strength on this extremely critical issue for seniors

13. Be careful when discussing social issues such as abortion, contraception and gay marriage. While most Americans (Republicans and independents included) really don't care who does what to their bodies and with whom, it's still a minefield that should be respected  

14. Don't appear defensive, don't raise your voice, and never, ever get angry. Americans don't like or want an angry president.

15. Be presidential. You're the one in the Oval Office. Commander in Chief. Leader of the Free World. You're the one who must be responsible, engaged, disciplined, restrained, sensitive, dignified and diplomatic. Let Romney continue to show irresponsibility, impulsiveness, political opportunism and a lack of empathy. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Is Mitt Romney a Master Debater?

I'll give him credit: Mitt Romney trounced his opponents in the Republican debates. But did you see that crop of crazies battling for King or Queen of the Parallel Universe? It wasn't too difficult to appear as the most electable candidate when the competition resembled the characters in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."  

With a week before the first debate with President Obama, Team Romney has been confidently touting their guy as a verbal warrior, a master debater if you will, who will handily win the three televised contests. But these events will be very different for Romney than his battles with Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman Jr. and Tim Pawlenty.

The GOP debates were woefully lacking logic, rational thought and the truth. A freak show filled with guns, God, gays, "999" and make-believe. The amount of lying and deception was unprecedented, but it surely made for excellent theater.

Romney won the nomination by default. That he walked away with the coveted prize says more about his kooky challengers than it does him. Months later, with the election just six weeks away, his overall political currency and cache is almost indication of how truly unpopular and unlikable he's been from the start.

Now Romney's about to step into the ring with President Obama, who will be armed to the hilt with policy, facts, figures and reality. He won't be able to kick back and hide behind Bachmann's crazy Jesus talk, Newt's outrageous racist rhetoric, Santorum's homophobia, Cain's fuzzy math or Perry's feeble forgetfulness.  He'll have to finally step out from the shadow of his own empty suit and provide specifics as to who he is, what he stands for, his plan for America and why he deserves to be president.

To be sure, Romney will be forced to explain his dubious past and present, including his tenure at Bain Capital, his term as Massachusetts governor, his taxes, the infamous "47%" debacle, Medicare, Social Security, the magical 12-million jobs he projects to create, his cure for a still ailing economy and how he'll deal with Afghanistan, Iran and the outbreak of Middle-East violence. The sideshow is over.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Mitt vs. Mitt: A Frank Conversation Between Romney and His Alter Ego

My Fellow Americans (and by that of course I mean you 53%’ers who aren’t home sitting on your fat, food-stamp-eatin' asses watching “Jerry Springer”). As you know, I am locked in a tight race with President Obama (Kenyan Tribal Leader in exile). The simple truth is, we both have a very different vision for America (Check this out…he actually cares about poor people!). He wants to “redistribute” wealth, taking more from you hard-working, salt-of-the-Earth Americans while I believe that, because “you built it,” (or “daddy” built it) you should keep it (C’mon, that’s your inheritance, not the government’s!).

The economic recovery is a disaster (well, it’s actually pretty damned good…but I’m not gonna say that publicly!) I will fight for the middle-class (if by middle-class we mean those making around a quarter-mil?). I will protect and preserve Medicare (honestly, I can’t wait to dismantle that sucker!) And I will ensure that every American has a safety net (ok, you 47%’ers, you parasitical military vets and seniors, just because you served your country and paid taxes your whole life doesn’t mean you get a free ride just because you get old and sick. Get out of that wheelchair and get a damned job!). I will ensure that everyone who wants a college education will get it (even if they have to sell some stock to pay for it). And I will cut funding to Planned Parenthood (because as everyone knows, the surefire way to end unwanted and teen pregnancies is to abolish birth control…er…wait…don’t quote me on that one…I’m still trying to work this whole “Personhood” thing out…).

On Foreign Policy, Obama and I also have major differences (that’s because he has great intellectual curiosity and I, well, I like cheese…). Take Iran for example (or is it Iraq…I always get those “Ira” states mixed up. Our new enemy’s the one with the “n,” right?). We’ll use military force if necessary to wipe out their nuclear-weapons facilities (just don’t count on my five strapping sons to fight that war…as they’ll be doing some other, more patriotic stuff like handing out “De-fund Planned Parenthood” flyers). Obama is a weak apologist (that is of course if killing and toppling bin-Laden, al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda, Qadaffi and droning the snot out of Pakistani terrorists means “I’m sorry”) who cannot protect America (and I know what being tough is…you think it was easy during the Vietnam War being in Paris so far away from my Trust Fund?).

Now I know my remarks from a recent closed-door fundraiser in Boca have caused a stir (and by “stir” I mean “campaign killer”) Let me be clear: I did not mean that nearly half the country is a bunch of lazy-ass, unemployed, government-raping leeches sucking our budget dry (ok, maybe about 44% of you are). You’re hard-working (yeah, hard at working stealing my 13.9% tax money!), patriotic (oh God…here comes that “I served in the military” crap again…oy!) and needy (“I’m 90 and need my Social Security and Medicare …wah-wah-wah…”) and need a little government assistance now and then (and by “now and then” we mean “all the time”). To you I say, don’t worry, I am not going to cut your benefits (that’s because I’ll have my veep Paul Ryan do it! Mwwuuuhaa ha, ha, ha, ha, ha…!)

So get out there and vote in November (unless of course you’re poor, black and Hispanic and are being disenfranchised by my party’s rapacious quest to enact Draconian voter ID laws that will prevent you from doing so).

I’m Mitt Romney and I endorsed this ad (wait, this isn’t an ad, right….) 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

We Are the 47%!

In one short, publicly released video clip we now know for certain a couple of previously assumed facts about Mitt Romney: that he has an utter disdain for the nation’s poor, working class and minorities, and that he believes every single one of President Obama’s supporters belongs to a parasitical underclass of voters sponging off the government. You know your campaign's in serious trouble when The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol calls you “arrogant and stupid.”

The man who recently told Meet the Press' David Gregory that every time he speaks 10-million people are watching, spoke before thirty supporters at a closed door $50,000 per person fundraiser earlier this year in Boca Raton, FL and forgot that tens of millions of people are watching.

Here’s an excerpt of what Romney told his rich, white benefactors:

"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right -- there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent on government, who believe that, that they are victims, who believe that government has the responsibility to care for them. Who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing. My job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

I happen to be in that 47% group Romney so effortlessly and summarily demeans and disparages. For the record, I am not dependent or reliant on government assistance. I do not receive unemployment checks, food stamps or Medicaid, nor do I reside in any sort of subsidized housing.  In fact, I not only have a job but own a business which employs forty people, which makes me one of those omnipotent job creators Romney & Co. claims to speak for ad infinitum.

Romney also took a cheap shot at Hispanics:

“My dad, as you probably know, was the governor of Michigan and was the head of a car company. But he was born in Mexico… and had he been born of, uh, Mexican parents, I’d have a better shot at winning this. But he was unfortunately born to Americans living in Mexico. He lived there for a number of years. I mean, I say that jokingly, but it would be helpful to be Latino.”

Hear that sound? That’s the blissful sound of Latinos saying “Hasta la vista, baby!” to El Grande Blanco CEO.

Just for an extra laugh, Romney also predicted that the stock markets would rise if he were elected. Sure, we all know how desperately the Dow and NASDAQ need that Romney Bounce, having increased just 107% and 155% respectively since Obama took office.

Realizing his silver foot was firmly back in his mouth yet again, Romney gave a lame press conference 10PM Monday night and, as has become his standard m.o., doubled-down, stood his ground and simply referred to his remarks as “not elegantly stated.” Just exactly how would he have “elegantly stated” that he thinks everyone who voted for Obama is a worthless unemployed piece of government-raping garbage?  

To be sure, Romney’s remarks underscore just how painfully out of touch he is with the average American…and with reality in general. He lives in a parallel universe, where privilege and elitism are just the sort of entitlements he contemptuously accuses the poor, blacks and other minorities of mooching from government.  I guess it’s easy to tell everyone else how to make it on their own when you’re a silver-spooner whose rich, connected daddy paved your road to success.

I have some advice for Romney: before you write off every Obama supporter as a lazy, shiftless leech who sucks America's budget dry...check the statistics on poor, uneducated, unemployed white men and see who they're supporting politically. These are your people, Mitt.

Monday, September 17, 2012

It's the Economy, Not Jobs, Stupid!

Every month politicians and pundits eagerly await the release of the latest government employment report like 'tweens awaiting the latest Bieber album. But is it worth the wait?

The 2012 presidential election is going to be decided on the economy, not unemployment. The reason? Because the unemployment rate, at 8%, means that most Americans are gainfully employed. And we're not going to discuss the  "underemployeds," those folks who look a clearly recovering economy and jobs market in the face and say "I'm outta here." Why anyone would think that now, amidst a healthy economic rebound, is the time to quit looking for work is a mystery.

There's a reason why the latest polls show that Americans (1) believe the country is headed in the right direction; (2) are feeling positive about the economy; and (3) are more confident with President Obama's financial stewardship than Mitt Romney's. It's because the economy, when not judged through the singular and misleading lens of the jobs market, is actually doing pretty well.

Anyone who has investments--in stocks, mutual funds, retirement or college savings account for example--has seen a meteoric 100% rise since Obama took office. For homeowners, there's been a stabilization of the housing market and a steady increase in value. Those looking to buy their first home are treated to low prices, historically low interest rates and plentiful credit. Consumers are more confident than ever, evidenced by strong retail and auto sales and record corporate profits. The hotel industry is booming, manufacturing is expanding and even the music industry is seeing strong sales. Overall GDP growth, at around 3% annually, is a far cry from the 6% contraction four years ago. Ok, let's talk employment finally. There's been 30 consecutive months of private sector growth with over 4.5 million jobs created.    

I know, you're saying "Get to the bad part." To be sure, the economy has a long way to go before we see the glory days again. But there's no escaping the simple truth that Americans are feeling good again about the present and the future.  They view their personal providence through the prism of their wallets. Right now that wallet seems secure and getting fatter. And that's very bad news for Romney. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Romney Sticks Silver Foot in His Mouth Again

If Mitt Romney loses his bid for president, chalk up Tuesday September 11th as the day, along with the moment he named Rep. Paul Ryan his vice presidential running mate, that it all fell apart.

In the wake of violent protests and terror attacks at U.S. embassies in Libya and Egypt where an American Ambassador, Christopher Stevens, and three other diplomats were killed, Romney deemed it politically expedient to criticize President Obama and the administration's "leadership" in protecting American citizens and interests abroad. In a statement issued late Tuesday night Romney said:

"I'm outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It's disgraceful that the Obama Administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks."

The "first response" Romney was referring to was an early Tuesday statement issued by the Obama administration in response to the outrage caused by the release of an amateur American film which offensively depicted the Muslim Prophet Muhammad:

"The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims -- as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others."

The problem for Romney is that while the administration's statement was issued before it knew about the attacks on the embassies and the deaths, his statement was issued after he knew...making it the most ill-informed, ill-advised, ignorant, reprehensible and irresponsible decision so far in the campaign, and a clear sign of pathetic desperation. It certainly wasn't presidential, and it was a glaring example of how Romney's in over his head, especially when discussing matters of homeland security and foreign policy. He's about as much a statesman as Mike Tyson. I take that back. Tyson's smarter and more eloquent.

But rather than admit that he spoke prematurely, Romney doubled-down on Wednesday, maintaining the appropriateness of his harsh criticisms:

"It's a terrible course for America to stand in apology for our values," Romney said in Florida. "I don't think that we ever hesitate when we see something which is a violation of our principles. We express immediately when we feel that the president and his administration have done something which is inconsistent with the principles of America."

Restraint, discipline, sensitivity, integrity, dignity, decency, diplomacy, stability. Those are precisely some of the principles and characteristics Obama rightly exemplified as he gathered the facts in this rapidly developing crisis; traits so utterly foreign to the sabre-rattling, red-meat-rhetoric-tossing Romney.

"There's a broader lesson to be learned here.... Governor Romney seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later," Obama said in response to the attacks. "And as president, one of the things I've learned is you can't do that." He added that it was critical "to make sure that the statements that you make are backed up by the facts, and that you've thought through the ramifications before you make them."

Romney's attack was sharply criticized by prominent Republicans such as Peggy Noonan, Steve Schmidt, John Sununu, Matthew Dowd and Rep. Peter King, and was absent any support by GOP leaders including Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and Eric Cantor. You know you're in serious trouble when your only support's coming from Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh.

It's one thing to fire off the inflammatory rhetoric when it's part of the day-to-day grind of a close election. It's another to shamelessly exploit for political purposes the deaths of Americans who've sacrificed their lives to make the world a better place. As with so many other blunders Romney's made, this latest strategic debacle, perpetrated amid the solemnity of 9/11, underscores a supreme lack of empathy and a mind-boggling inability to read situations.

Romney's actions this week highlight an unprecedented bankruptcy of character. Democrats can criticize Republican presidents and candidates such as Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and John McCain, but they were largely clear in what they stood for.  The only thing Mitt Romney stands for is getting elected president, a rapacious quest for which he'll do and say anything, no matter how dishonest, destructive and craven.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Romney: Afghanistan is Just a Word

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At eleven years old, it's the longest war in United States history. It's taken the lives of over 2000 American troops. It's cost U.S taxpayers $500 billion. But to Mitt Romney, Afghanistan is astonishingly just a "word."

Speaking with host David Gregory of NBC's Meet the Press, Romney, when asked if his omission of the war during his convention speech was a mistake, reiterated that he’d spoken about it the night before the convention to veterans at the American Legion. The Republican presidential nominee laughed and said it’s "interesting that people are curious about mentioning words in a speech as opposed to policy. I've been to Afghanistan and the members of our troops know of my commitment to Afghanistan and to the effort that's going on there. I have some differences on policy with the president. I happen to think those are more important than what word I mention in each speech."

Clearly for Romney, the man who's trying to convince voters he's worthy of being Commander in Chief, the war is an afterthought. It has such little significance to him that he limits discussion of it to an important yet small interest group like veterans rather than make it central to all Americans under the broader context of his foreign policy. Reserving his thoughts on the war exclusively for an American Legion audience is like talking abortion to evangelicals; energy and pollution to environmentalists; immigration to border states. Romney's reduced the war to a mere talking point.

It's unconscionable, and quite frankly unfathomable, that a candidate running for president when his nation's at war would fail to mention that war, and worse, the brave men and women who've sacrificed everything, including their lives, to fight it. Perhaps if one of Romney’s five sons had worn the uniform the war would have greater meaning and urgency to him.