Friday, June 29, 2012

Thank You Republicans!

Since he took office, Republicans have accused President Obama of squandering the first year of his administration on health care reform instead of focusing like a laser on creating jobs and fixing the economy. And now Republicans are doing the exact same thing. When it comes to their intemperate ideology, they simply can't help themselves. And it will cost them the election.

Rather than fixate on the nation's economic challenges, offering voters a substantive alternative plan for getting America's employment and growth back on track, Mitt Romney, the GOP leadership and Republicans in both the House and Senate are making ObamaCare, Attorney General Eric Holder, immigration, abortion, contraception and gay marriage the campaign centerpieces of this election.

Where's the Republican jobs bill? Where's the Republican plan to stimulate economic growth? Where's the resolution on college loans, as interest rates are set to double July 1? They've got nothing. What they do have is a deep, intense hatred of Obama and that trumps the obligation of acting responsibly and with civility. As Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell infamously declared in 2010, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." Their motivation has been crystal clear. Oh, they're focusing like a laser alright, but it hasn't been about what's best for America.

So I say, thank you, Republicans. Thank you for being unyieldingly stubborn, monumentally petty, manically obsessive, irrationally dogmatic, divisively partisan and, most of all, woefully transparent. See you in November.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

"Send Him Back Home to Kenya?"

As a kid growing up in blue-collar Queens in the 1960's and '70's it wasn't uncommon to hear some bigoted fool say "If they don't like it they can go back to Africa" when referring to black peoples' frustration and anger over racial inequality. And now here we are some forty plus years later listening to the same sort of ignorant, racist crap from people who are seeking election to the U.S. House of Representatives.

In North Carolina's 11th District runoff scheduled for July 17th, Republican candidates Mark Meadows and Vance Patterson spoke at a Blue Ridge Tea Party Patriots forum this week and, while denying they were 'birthers', made outrageous comments that clearly contradicted that claim and demonstrated just how little we've changed in over four decades.

Asked by a member of the audience if they, if elected, would investigate Obama’s birth, Patterson, with a smirking Meadows seated to his left, replied: "I hate the thought of being led by somebody who is not an American.... There's something there that’s not right. Yes, he's produced a birth certificate but it’s not the one that I’ve got and that most of us here in the room have as far as proving our origin. I don’t know where he is from. Chicago, which bothers me enough just in itself."

And if that wasn't offensive enough, it was then Meadows' turn. He simply answered “yes” and slid the mic away to laughs from the crowd, before continuing with:  "If we do our job from a grassroots standpoint, we won’t have to worry about it. We will send him back home to Kenya or wherever it is."

Yup, just like the '60's.  Let's send Blackie back to Africa. It's unconscionable that statements like these are made in 2012 America. What's even more incredible is that they're made as open, unapologetic campaign speeches. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Time for a New Kind of Gay Pride Celebration?

In the forty or so years since the initial Gay Pride parade in Manhattan, the event has mainly become associated with raunch: public, often times drunken displays of nudity, kink and camp so high you'd need a satellite to photograph it. And that's the problem. At this annual parade and others in Los Angeles, San Francisco and elsewhere, gay "pride" has been co-opted by the wild and crazy and has become synonymous with promiscuity and debauchery.

Maybe I'm just an old fart, but virtually every gay person I know leads the same sort of life I do: hard work, family, kids, good times. No one I know who's gay took to the streets this past weekend. They took their kids to parks, saw movies, ate at restaurants, sat around pools, BBQ'd and/or got together with close friends to celebrate. And I don't think any of them condone the kind of Sodom and Gomorrah-like revelry that fills our nation's streets each June.

I'm not gay, so I don't know what that sort of "pride" feels like and perhaps therefore don't understand the need to let loose like Rip Taylor and Grace Jones on Ecstasy. But I'm just not so sure that a large segment of the homosexual population wants their pride symbolized this way either. They don't share in that form of celebration, and many have told me they feel as alien from this annual event as I do.

Maybe it's time for a new kind of gay pride where gay and lesbian couples could feel safe, comfortable and honored to attend with their small children. As the nation increasingly moves toward accepting homosexuals into the mainstream, maybe a more mainstream celebration would be more fitting as well.

The Perfect Stump Speech for Obama

Back in early Spring, gas prices in many parts of the country hit $4.50 per gallon. The Republican attack machine warned  of imminent $5.00 per gallon prices which would destroy America's fragile economic recovery and push the nation back into recession. And, it was all President Obama's fault. The fact that no president can control the price of fuel didn't matter. It made for a great soundbite. So with gas prices down to an average $3.48 per gallon, with prices dropping $.15 in just the last two weeks alone, why isn't Obama, and his Democratic surrogates, taking credit for this precipitous drop in price? As Obama's GOP challenger would say, "Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander." .

The prevailing wisdom should be that, if you cause the price of gas to rise, then you also are responsible when it drops. And with just four months until the election, and with the economy still the number one concern of most voters, why the heck isn't Obama giving this speech ad nauseum:?

"Several months back my opponents on the right accused me of causing gas prices to climb near $5.00 per gallon. Well, under my watch, prices have now fallen below $3.50 a gallon.  That's right...I've worked with my Democratic peers in Congress to help you fill your gas tanks for a third less cost. That's money that goes right back into your pockets. We did that. My opponent said you'd soon be paying five bucks a gallon. Shows you how much he knows about how to fix the economy. And that's why you should keep me as your president for another four years..."

Of course, he could go on about the 4-million jobs he's created, the turnaround in GDP growth, the historically low interest rates, growth in housing, the auto industry recovery, record corporate profits, the doubling of the Dow, yada, yada, yada...

So why are Obama and Democrats so inept at spin? Why can't their rhetoric be as effective as the GOP's? Why would they stand by and let Obama be accused of driving up gas prices and not create a media blitz when they fall? This would seem like a no-brainer. A gift-horse. Rhetoric handed to him on a silver platter.

If Obama's to renew his lease for the White House this Fall he better start figuring out a simple, bumper-sticker-effective way to tout his accomplishments or he'll be handing over the keys to Romney. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

What is Mitt Romney's View of Government?

What do you think the political impact would be like for Mitt Romney if his central campaign narrative went something like this:

"Hello, I'm Mitt Romney, and I want to be your president. My father was head of an automobile company and was governor of Michigan. And that afforded me an incredible start in life. A start which gave me a Harvard education, an influential network and a powerful career in business. I am very grateful for that. But I realize that not everyone gets such a start in life. In fact, very, very few people do. Most Americans are not born into wealth and privilege. They have to work...sometimes two jobs or more...just to house and feed their children. For them, education and good health care are luxuries not a right of passage. And as president, I will fight to help those who've been less fortunate than the wealthiest Americans like me. It's time for America to take care of it's own..."

Just imagine the appeal of a Republican who demonstrated genuine compassion for the little guy. In the current climate, imagine Romney embracing his elite stature and using it to his advantage rather than sounding like the proverbial rich kid born on 3rd base who thinks he hit a triple. George W. Bush took a stab at "compassionate conservativism" but it was half-hearted and short-lived. Unfortunately, today's conservative politician seems to care as much about the poor, the sick, the elderly, the needy, education, immigrants and minorities as Kevin Durant would like to help Lebron James win his first NBA title.

Republicans rail against "big government" and any sort of assistance or program designed to help the 99%'ers. Which begs the question, just what is government for? I'd like to ask Romney what exactly he thinks government does? And who is supposed to benefit from it? Is there anything that government does that he believes is good? Is there any money that government spends on the poor and middle classes that he thinks is important? Does government have an obligation to help those who can't help themselves? Or is all government spending, save for Defense, wasteful? Is government designed to benefit only the rich? Does government exist solely to keep taxes low and regulations few...except when those regulations are intended to control women's bodies, who people marry and who they sleep with?

Who needs government, right? Forget building roads, highways, tunnels, bridges, hospitals and schools. Forget protecting the environment. Forget controlling air traffic. Forget the Centers for Disease Control. And garbage collection. Or cops, firefighters, teachers and other public servants (ya know, all those lazy, hand-out grabbin' folks Romney doesn't include in his "helping Americans" speeches).

And job creation. Where would our economy be if President Obama hadn't injected $787 billion into it three years ago? Romney would like voters to believe that it is business, and in particular his brand of private equity experience, that creates jobs. But that's the furthest thing from the truth. Businesses exist for one reason: to create profit and wealth for its owners and investors. They do not exist to create jobs. Just the opposite, in fact. I'm sure many small business owners and corporate CEO's would readily admit that their ideal scenario is one where productivity and profit increases without having to hire additional staff. Which is exactly the problem with the employment landscape in post-recession America. Earnings are at record levels, and there's an estimated $2-trillion in cash sitting in corporate bank accounts. So why should businesses hire more people if they can achieve record profits without it?         

I somehow think the Founding Fathers would have a very serious problem with Mitt Romney's idea of government. I don't think they'd subscribe at all to conservatives' mantra of screw the little guy and protect the rich.  In Mitt Romney's simple, self-serving view of government the rich get richer, government is essentially an ATM, and only the wealthiest 1% get a debit card.          

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I Hate Facebook Part II

Three years and several hundred million users ago I wrote a critique of the #1 social networking site called "I Hate Facebook." Since then, my feelings about Facebook have not changed. In fact, I hate it even more.

Once again, I will, in the interest of full disclosure, cop to having two Facebook accounts.As a writer and political pundit I promote my blog,, and my pieces that appear on Yes, shameless self-promotion. The other account is for brand awareness and communication for the non-profit I founded and run, the Adrienne Shelly Foundation, named after my late wife who was murdered in 2006. More promotion, yes, but I think that's Facebook's real value.

Facebook began in 2004 as a site for nerdy Harvard boys to check out the campus girls who offline wouldn't give them the time of day. Its popularity quickly spread across the country to other colleges and universities and then expanded into the mainstream worldwide. It now has over 900-million users. But getting inside the statistics reveals a company facing major hurdles:

-Half of its users have migrated to mobile devices, and Facebook has no clue how to monetize them
-Major advertisers like General Motors have pulled $10-million+ campaigns citing little or no return
-Growth has slowed precipitously; monthly unique U.S. visitors have been on the decline
-A recent Reuters/Ipsos Public Affairs survey showed that a third of users were spending less time on the website than six months ago, while just 20% were spending more. 80% never buy from an ad on the site; 1 in 3 users say they've grown bored of the site
-The threat of privacy legislation hangs like a dark cloud
-Teens are defecting to other, hipper social networking sites like Twitter and Tumblr (who the hell wants to be 'friends' with mom, dad and the grandparents?). It's losing its grasp on the critical 18-34 segment
-It's stock, valued at 100 times earnings, is down a third from its IPO last month     

I won't go into the main reasons why I hate the site. You can read my original piece for that. But what I will say is the rampant narcissism that dominates Facebook now threatens to infect children under 13, as the company seeks ways to attract them, according to the Wall Street Journal.  Will we soon be subjected to endless photos of Mac n Cheese? Status updates of "Kaitlyn is cranky?" Will our little ones brag that they have 5000 friends? And will some of those friends be 50-year-old guys living in their mothers' basements? 'LittleFacebook' seems like a pedophile's dream come true.

Yeah, let's do away with playdates and playgrounds and just have the kiddies sitting at home sharing their every underdeveloped thought on Facebook. Just think of how it will also improve communication with their parents. "Mommy wishes Jack would clean his room," he'll see on his Facebook. "In a minute, mom," he'll reply. "We're so sorry you have to clean your room, you poor thing, we're here for you!" his 'friends' will comment.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Marketing Advice For Obama

President Obama, if he's to boost his chances of winning re-election, needs to take off the gloves and start swinging. He's got five short months left, and statistics indicate that Americans will spend more time during the first part of this period worrying more about BBQ's and swimming than they will politics. Come Labor Day many will have already made up their charred-meat-filled minds.

Obama needs to do two things: prove he's the most qualified steward of the economy and shore up support among women. In both cases he must swiftly and deftly define Republicans as obstructionists who care more about defeating him than working earnestly to fix the economy, putting people to work and championing the rights of women. He needs to put the GOP's back to the wall so that he can more clearly and effectively draw distinctions during the campaign's 11th hour.

Obama needs to think like a brand marketer and act like a Republican. As such, he needs to immediately rename his Jobs Act the "Jobs Creation Bill." Sounds like a minor change? Hardly. One simple word will change the entire tenor of the debate. The president is being relentlessly attacked by the right for not creating jobs. While re-branding won't get House Speaker John Boehner, Whip Eric Cantor and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to act responsibly in America's best interest, it will afford Obama a killer soundbite: "How do they expect me to create jobs when they kill my Jobs Creation Bill?

Next, Republicans had their Defense of Marriage Act. Obama should put forth his Defense of Women Act, which would protect women from acts of violence, pay inequality, and reproductive intrusions. When defeated, Obama would have yet another killer soundbite: "Republicans voted against defending women."

And if he's successful in this effort he will, by default, appeal to the highly coveted independents as well.

It's the branding, stupid.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Democrats, Be Afraid...Be Very, Very Afraid

I've talked to a great many Democrats who are 100% convinced that President Barack Obama will be re-elected. They very intelligently, and almost to the point of arrogance, site electoral maps, the gender polls and the youth, black, Hispanic and senior votes. It all makes perfect sense. But these folks are in denial. Obama could be in serious trouble, especially if Friday's horrible employment report is a precursor of things to come.

While analysts expected at least 160,000 jobs created in May, the economy added just 69,000, while the unemployment rate ticked up to 8.2%. There was a significant downward revision in April's jobs number to 77,000 from the initial 115,000. That's three months in a row of tepid job growth. Lastly, labor force participation remains near 30-year lows; the unemployment rate that counts discouraged workers increased as well; and long-term unemployment also rose sharply. Not very good news for the administration.

Yes, Obama inherited a colossal mess from George W. Bush. And yes, the economy has pulled back from the precipice of disaster. And yes, there's been strong signs that the economy is in a sustained recovery. But Summer is right around the corner, and July and August have historically been challenging months, so there's little reason to expect that much will change. And right around the corner after that is the election. There's simply not a lot of time between now and November to expect a serious uptick in the economy's metrics. And that's precisely Obama's problem.

When it comes to voters, it's perception over reality. The key question is, will voters believe the economy has turned positive enough to keep Obama at the helm for four more years or will they believe that the economy's stalled and that it's time for change? He will need something positive to point to; a reason why voters should stick with him. The enthusiasm factor is critical. But with the kind of numbers we've been seeing these past few months it may be difficult for him to create excitement about another term. The fact is, no sitting president has been re-elected with unemployment as high as it is.

To my very confident fellow Democrats I say, be afraid. Be very, very afraid. I remind you of how certain you were in 2004 that, with a challenged economy and the nation fighting two wars, John Kerry would win and you were shell-shocked when he didn't. Be afraid that Mitt Romney could win. Do not discount the the power of his narrative: the fiscally conservative business guru who built Bain Capital, saved the Olympics, successfully governed the liberal state of Massachusetts and is just the guy to turn around America's economy. That most Democrats know he's a moderate in conservative's clothes--evidenced by his former positions on health care, gay rights and abortion--doesn't hurt. And, let's not forget he's white which, sadly, could be a huge factor this time around.