Dick Cheney Reminds Us That Romney Still Has Stateside Messes to Clean (July 31, 2012)

Last week was a big week for Mittens and the damage control is in full swing. Remember back in 2008 when one of the biggest criticisms leveled against then-candidate Obama was that the junior Senator was light on foreign policy experience? The last three and a half years have generated many criticisms from the right but the POTUS’ deft handling of a variety of thorny issues such as last year’s Arab Spring Awakening and his wise choice of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State (not to mention the killing of public enemy #1 Osama bin Laden) has gone a long way toward establishing the President as a reasoned and thoughtful statesmen.

Mitt Romney has been a part of the American political canvas for nearly 30 years and yet to witness him committing unforced errors last week, like his offensive comments directed at London’s level of Olympic preparedness, was to experience a sense of Palinesque deja vu. Is there any weigh station between Mittens brain and his mouth? Wouldn’t you think he and his handlers might develop one after three decades? Even Pavlov’s dog was capable of learning. But after that mess, Romney wasn’t satisfied with just one pile of international dog doo. He also managed to wade into the long-running Israel/Iran conflict in a a manner that made him appear like a trigger-happy ignoramus while paying Palestine’s socialized health care system a backhanded compliment, oblivious to its implications again his “war” on Obamacare.

If it weren’t such an embarrassing week for America, I suspect those of us rooting for an Obama re-election would be engaging in a much-deserved happy dance. And yet today, the Crypt Keeper himself, former Vice-President Dick Cheney, popped out of his cryogenic chamber to remind the voting public that there are still plenty of Stateside imbroglios to which candidate Romney must attend. Truly it’s getting difficult to account for all of the issues to which the former Governor refuses or simply cannot respond with a satisfying answer.

In an interview with writer Jonathan Karl for Yahoo News, the topic of Romney’s cloak and dagger intrigue regarding the release of his tax returns was broached. When Bush and Cheney occupied the Republican ticket in 2000, both candidates saw the wisdom is releasing 10 years worth of returns. Romney as we know, will not budge on releasing above two years worth of information. The Cheneybot’s predictable response?

“If he had two years out, they’d want four. If he had four years out, they’d want six. If he had six years out, they’d want ten,” said Cheney. “It’s a distraction,” he added. “I’d say do what he feels like doing. If this is his decision, fine. Let’s get on with it.”

Dick Cheney was always a great believer in the Jedi Mind Trick. Just tell Americans that the Patriot Act, a revocation of their basic liberties, is necessary for national security and they’ll go along with it, the sheep. 9/11 is a great excuse to foment a war of choice in Iraq! And since the wealthy can be painted a job creators, let’s pass some unaffordable tax cuts while we’re at it. The American people won’t know the half of it. They’re too busy watching American Idol! It’s genius. Bwa ha ha!

Nope, not this time Cheney. The post-2008 electorate, better informed and inspired by a candidate who is not overrun by internal cynicism, won’t have it. For the last time, wanting to understand a man’s personal finances as a litmus test for predicting his handling of the country’s budget is not a distraction.

But thanks for reminding us that Romney can be every bit as disingenuous here as he can overseas.

Mitt Romney Tells America His Finances are None of Our Damned Business (July 10, 2012)

On Monday, New York Times Op-Ed columnist and economic guru Paul Krugman observed that “the contrast between George Romney and his son Mitt — a contrast both in their business careers and in their willingness to come clean about their financial affairs — dramatically illustrates how America has changed.”

George Romney unsuccessfully ran for President in 1968. At that time, the candidate got in front of questions related to his finances by releasing 12 full years of tax returns, a demonstration of transparency that ought to make those of us in 2012 nostalgic for a simpler time when the people who sought our vote actually treated us like adults. Instead this year, we have another Romney – Mittens – with a far more convoluted financial back story involving blind trusts, mysterious portfolios and offshore accounts, seeking to spoon feed the voting public a bunch of bull. Apparently if he tells America that “there’s nothing hidden there,” we should all act like the hypersensitized lemmings he believes us to be and take his word for it.

Romney has adopted the typical tactic employed by candidates who wish to dodge questions, calling repeated requests for information a mere attempt to distract voters.

Mittens, come on now: how could your refusal to come clean possibly be none of the voting public’s business? You are asking us to entrust you with our very nation and all its resources: military, financial, social and otherwise. Do we need to explain to you that in order to make the best judgment of your potential for stewardship, we need to understand your personal history in depth? If this is something your father understood, why can’t you?

And while we’re on the topic: can we talk about that blind trust? According to a report this morning from Yahoo! News, the “Republican nominee insisted he has little to do with his personal investments because they are managed by a blind trust.

‘I don’t manage them,’ Romney said. ‘I don’t even know where they are.’”

Can I see a show of hands from folks who find this credible? A man who has built a business empire and a Presidential campaign predicated upon his financial savvy, a quality that he claims is powerful enough to warrant the unseating of the highly-competent current Commander-in-Chief, would just love to have it both ways. He is both a wizard and a naive foundling, witlessly trusting those whose job it is to count his millions.

The Yahoo! Report goes on: “Responding to reports that some of his investments have been overseas, Romney insisted his ‘trustee follows all U.S. Laws.’ He added: ‘All the taxes are paid, as appropriate. All of them have been reported to the government. There’s nothing hidden there.’”

The double talk here is literally mind-bending. He is ignorant of his investments, can’t understand why we’re even interested, but rest assured, he hasn’t dodged any taxes. How do we know this? Because he says so. Stop it Mittens. Enough of this. Be a man and release ALL of your financial records and let us make decisions for ourselves, as we have been politically trained to do since we were old enough to vote. No one believes what you’re saying anyway – even the members of your own party. The best way to convince your constituents that you are not hiding anything is to stop hiding. It’s an idea that your father comprehended.

But what else should we expect from a man who has changed his tune on just about every issue before him? The Romney cynicism appears to know no limits.

Even the ‘Moderate’ Conservative at the New York Times Can’t Describe the GOP Healthcare Plan (July 3, 2012)

I have a cousin who posted this as his Facebook status this morning: “Sometimes I think, ‘this time David Brooks will write something that doesn’t make me want to punch him.’ And each time, I’m wrong.” I know the feeling.

Brooks has worked as a New York Times Op-Ed columnist since 2003, and while I appreciate that he is the paper’s purported moderate conservative voice and that all media outlets should strive for true “fair and balanced” representation, I join my cousin in his frustration. I am tired of being fooled by this guy. I do not pay for a New York Times digital subscription and it’s a waste to keep allotting any of my 10 free articles per month toward the writer.

Because the reality is that there’s nothing moderate or independent about Brooks’ ideology. Take this morning’s promising example. On the surface, to encounter a title like “A Choice, Not a Whine” seems to bode for real criticism. The headline carried this subtext: “Opponents of Obama’s health care law should stop venting about John Roberts and instead provide a credible alternative.”

Well then! A critical piece from Brooks that might clarify that Republican opposition to last week’s Supreme Court decision regarding the Affordable Healthcare Act isn’t wearing any clothes. Panderer extraordinaire Mitt Romney and his gang of GOP cronies have repeatedly claimed that, should Mittens be elected, they will repeal and replace Obamacare with….what? They won’t say, in the first place because specifics just can’t top the sort of general chest beating that has become the hallmark of Republican contrariness. The party of “no,” has had very little to say for itself beyond a simple negative for years now. It has worked well to a certain degree. The GOP was able to take over the House in the 2010 midterm elections with shockingly little to say for itself besides, “We don’t agree with anything the President says.”

In the second place, Republicans exist to uphold the status quo, the complex state of affairs that keeps siphoning money into the hands of corporations and the extremely wealthy while diminishing the prospects of the middle and underclasses. Pick an issue and look for the GOP’s corresponding cynicism: global warming is fake! Because energy companies are plying us with money to say so! Charter schools rule – forget about revamping public education! Because so many of the operations that provide these untested models of schooling are privately owned with excellent lobbyists!

And then there’s healthcare. For those of us looking to David Brooks to put his party (damn, I keep forgetting he’s independent) to the test, a click on this morning’s column yields this: “Critics of the bill shouldn’t be hating on Chief Justice Roberts. If they can’t make this case to the voters, they really shouldn’t be in public life. Moreover, there are alternatives. Despite what you’ve read, there is a coherent Republican plan.”

Let’s gloss over the fact that if the word has come from the pen of a middle-aged policy fart like Brooks, then “hating” has jumped the pop cultural lexicon shark, and cut to this supposed”coherent Republican plan.” Which is what?

Basically the same tired retread of non-specifics: patients should just say no to elaborate and/or endless procedures (because don’t we all know someone who gets mammograms and colonoscopies for giggles?), give people tax credits so they can purchase their own plans in a competitive, private marketplace. Then there are my two personal favorites: “Americans should be strongly encouraged to buy continuous coverage over their adulthood,” and “encourage experimentation in the states instead of restricting state flexibility.”

I have news for Mr. Brooks, the word “encourage” is rarely followed by concrete specifics. There is NO Republican plan for turning these ideas into reality. What makes you think you can delineate that which your fellow party members can only mumble?

Justice Roberts’ Health Care Decision: Just Say Yes to the Constitution (June 29, 2012)

It’s been a humdinger of a week for the old Supreme Court of the United States, hasn’t it? Fresh off another closely watched decision, and the unanimous vote to retain the central plank of Arizona’s abysmal 2010 immigration law, the nation hung in suspense as the court undertook a review of the hotly debated healthcare reform legislation otherwise known as Obamacare.

The pessimistic amongst us (including this writer) feared the worst. The right-swinging SCOTUS would surely shoot down the so-called “individual mandate” portion of the Affordable Healthcare Act, the piece that offers a step toward universal coverage while ultimately attempting to lower the burden of the insured to cover so many unsubsidized emergency room visits. Hell, there was every reason to suspect that the entire baby would be tossed with the proverbial bathwater. The partisan rancor which has engulfed Capitol Hill and all but quashed anything akin to rational, nonpartisan debate (name the topic) has migrated over to the Supreme Court Building in recent years. If the justices voted along two-party lines, which is no longer as preposterous a notion as it once seemed, then this thing could easily have gone 5-4 against.

But then an amazing thing happened: Chief Justice John Roberts played the spoiler. To underscore the unanticipated nature of Robert’s vote, consider that no less a bland source than Wikipedia has this to say about the predictability of the judge’s vote: “It is popularly accepted that Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito comprise the Court’s conservative wing.”

Now it is granted that Roberts’ decision to uphold the constitutionality of the individual mandate differed from the opinions offered by Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. While the latter viewed the provision of the Affordable Healthcare Act through the prism of Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce, Roberts offered that the mandate is actually a tax. Tomato, tomatoe – the law was upheld and people with pre-existing conditions can look forward to a day when they are released from the insurance penalty box. The reform is by no means a perfect piece of legislation and if anything, many Americans are left with the impression that President Obama did not go far enough to overhaul the nation’s inefficient and cruel system, but my goodness, if moderate steps are erased, what are the chances of a more revolutionary effort succeeding?

So what did happen with Roberts anyway? Was his a vote cast to mitigate the public impression that the SCOTUS is too politically partisan to continue assessing objective questions of law and liberty? Was it a closet endorsement of the President’s attempt to overhaul a greatly broken drain on our domestic spending (which a true fiscal conservative would support)? Was the surprise decision a confirmation of Robert’s genuine belief in the government’s right to tax?

These are questions that need to be pondered if we are to anticipate future outcomes from the Court, and we ought to remain concerned with the late partiality of certain justices toward pleasing a political base. But you know what? This is a week to celebrate the increasingly rare opportunities when we can take pride in our democratic system, the checks and balances installed by our ancestors. There are moments when it all works as it should. This is one of them.

Democrats Encouraged by the GOP’s Unceasing Grumbles About Romney (June 13, 2012)

One of the great stories of the 2012 Presidential election campaign that will find its way to history books and Wikipedia is the utter lack of enthusiasm for Mittens on behalf of his own party. It’s not just liberals and moderates who have found the former governor of Massachusetts equal to the excitement of a prostate exam. I am already nostalgic for this past winter’s primary season which witnessed the ascendance of a rotating bunch of crazies: Bachmann, Cain, Gingrich and lastly Rick Santorum before the GOP just gave up and decided that the least controversial candidate might be the best option. I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t seen it for myself. If the fad of Smell-o-Vision were alive and well today, one could have inhaled the desperation of the Republican party to find someone, anyone other than Mitt Romney to challenge sitting President Obama.

But now that Romney is poised to accept his party’s reluctant nomination in Tampa, Florida this summer, one might have expected the establishment to fall in line. However a recent bumper crop of GOP hardliners is making it clear that Romney still has a lot of work to do before November, and some of the criticism is coming from the strangest places.

Fresh off a successful recall challenge last week, an emboldened Scott Walker, Wisconsin’s union-hating governor told viewers of CBS’s Face the Nation, “I don’t think we win if it’s just about a referendum on Barack Obama.” Walker seems to be keenly aware that trouncing on a record that includes saving the auto and banking industries while taking out Osama bin Laden and moving GLBT rights forward, might fail be a totally effective strategy.

Not to be outdone, GOP it-boy Mitch Daniels, adored by such moderates as New York Times columnist David Brooks, shared his view of the Romney campaign with the Fox News Sunday audience. In an almost confrontational tone Daniels said, “The American people, I think, will rightly demand to know something more than he’s not President Obama…He better have an affirmative, constructive message, one of hope.”

If we didn’t know better, that sounds an awful lot like admiration of Obama’s “Yes, We Can” slogan of 2008. You know, that election won against a timid, pandering former Maverick.

However, I was most incredulous to find some straight talk from former Florida governor Jeb Bush. The younger brother of arguably the most polarizing and least effective President in U.S. history addressed a group of journalists this past Monday morning in Manhattan. And it was at the Bloomberg View breakfast that Bush took the piss out of the Romney campaign’s sole argument: that we can’t afford four more years of Obama and he is the man to kick off America’s immediate economic resurgence. Uttering two sentences that don’t leave much room for interpretation, Bush stated, “I think we’re in a period here for the next year of pretty slow growth…I don’t see how we get out, notwithstanding who’s president.”

Well now.

So although the deal is done in terms of the Republican party’s 2012 chosen one, the jury appears to be out as to whether the establishment is going to come together behind Romney. Take this Associated Press headline from early May: “GOP Leaders Start to Rally Around Romney (Sort Of).” The article goes on to say “Republican party leaders are starting to rally around Mitt Romney, but it’s not exactly a stampede of support for the expected GOP presidential nominee.”

I find all of this back door mumbling highly encouraging. There’s no arguing that the economy remains in dire straits and Obama’s second term requires more of a “take no prisoners” approach than has been the norm of the last four years. However, more than a slice of conventional wisdom suggests that this is finally the year the Tea Party-hijacked GOP gets taken to the shed. If some of the biggest Republican names are unable to publicly condone Romney’s candidacy, why should the mainstream voter be any different?

Where Are the Jobs? Ask the GOP (June 6, 2012)

Last month Mitt Romney wrote a column printed in the Cleveland Plain Dealer that presumed to pose an important query to President Obama: “Welcome to Ohio. I have a simple question for you: Where are the jobs?”

Ohio is a key battleground state in the November elections and like any politician worth his salt, challenger Romney is attempting to use the dismal job numbers of the last three months, including news released last Friday that the U.S. added a meager 69,000 positions to payrolls in May, to his advantage. In the course of his open letter Mittens makes an attempt at magnanimity: “I recognize, of course, as do all Americans, that you inherited an economic crisis. But you’ve now had three years to turn things around. The record of those three years is clear. Your policies have failed, not only in Ohio, but across the nation.”

Well I know the right is oh so tired of hearing this inconvenient truth, but the mystery of the disappearing workforce is owing not to the President’s leadership but to eight previous years of treasury looting and voodoo economic policy. Many pundits (some of whom I once considered liberal) and Republican mouthpieces are foisting a giant Jedi mind trick upon all of us, not entirely without success. It’s as if two wars paid for on the credit card, the rapid expansion of health care expenses and dimwitted tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans have nothing to do with our collective and personal debt load, of creating the impression that the American Dream and the middle class are endangered species.

It’s as though the giant bursting bubble of the housing market in 2008 and the foreclosure crisis that has yet to abate, a result of scandalous Wall Street malfeasance, was orchestrated under Obama’s leadership. Like the foundering of the automakers, partly the result of producing giant, fuel-inefficient cars that nobody wanted, a problem that has progressed a long way toward resolution (thanks to ahem, Obama) was the Commander-in-Chief’s master plan.

I know how the GOP will counter: but he’s had almost four years to fix things! He can’t keep using Bush as an excuse! I am the last person to argue that it’s not the responsibility of our current elected leader to correct our wayward path and put us once more on the road to prosperity. But do you know why they say Rome wasn’t built in a day? Because it wasn’t.

All of the aforementioned problems, issues that people forget brought this nation to its very knees in late 2008, have witnessed remarkable rebounds, even as pain continues. This is lamentable but how can there by any sane suggestion that a Romney Presidency, which would effectively serve as Dubya Part II, is the way to go? We’ve been there before. That one percent thinking almost got us killed – literally and figuratively.

Obama has not been a perfect President, but he’s been a pretty damned good one, cool under pressure and able to reform the state of our military involvement, banking regulations, auto industry standards and health care dysfunction even without the participation of the opposition. The housing market and unemployment, two quagmires in need of creative strategy, have a long way to go and the economy should not be considered stable until there has been sustained improvement in those areas. But let Obama have the same eight years to continue the hard work he’s started in resetting the economy, the same period voters afforded George W. Bush to dismantle the budget surplus and national peace he inherited from predecessor Bill Clinton.

Latino Voters Self-Deport Mitt Romney (June 2, 2012)

According to the latest round of NBC-Marist polls, President Obama and presumed GOP nominee Mitt Romney are locked in a virtual tie among registered voters in Iowa, Colorado and Nevada. This Midwest and Western states are considered by those in the know to be key battleground venues in the November elections.

In Iowa, Obama and Mittens polled at an even 44 percent favored rate, with 10 percent declaring themselves undecided. In Colorado, the President currently edges Romney by a mere percent while his lead stretches to two points in the home of Las Vegas. While the election season remains in its early stages (I know that may be difficult to believe given the oversaturation many of us already feel), the numbers are cause for concern to the President’s re-election team.

Meanwhile the results of a new Washington Post-ABC News sample ran with the headline, “Poll shows Romney becoming more likeable.” The challenger’s favorability rating registered at 41 percent, up six points from a month ago. This statistic may be less of a concern for the Obama camp, not simply because the Commander-in-Chief’s own likability index is 11 points higher at 52 percent. If there’s one thing that most members of our dysfunctional two-party political system can agree upon, it’s that Mitt Romney is a crushing bore.

So yeah ok, the race is becoming more competitive as we approach convention season and Mittens is doing courageous work trying to overcome liabilities that include anger from animal lovers (the whole driving to Canada with the family dog strapped to the roof bit – thank you Gail Collins), women (this year’s tone-deaf assault on female reproductive rights), the gay community, people who prefer their politicians to have genuine, stable positions on the issues and last but not least, Latinos. It makes me wonder who exactly these pollsters are speaking with when they collect their data.

This question could be posed relative to any of the groups mentioned above, but the results of an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo poll published last week indicate that Obama enjoys a staggering 34-point lead over Mitt Romney amongst Latino voters. How does the Romney Team think they can bridge that crater? Perhaps of even greater concern: only 26 percent of Spanish-heritage voters view the GOP candidate positively, while 35 percent reported a negative opinion. There are 50 million Latinos in this country with a 3.1 percent population growth between July 2008 and July 2009 alone. This is not likely to change and in the midst of many challenges faced by the Romney campaign, the lopsided nature of the candidiates’ perception within the Hispanic citizenry should be a five-alarm panic.

The aversion to Romney amongst Latinos is not entirely the Dull One’s doing. For this state of affairs, Mitten can thank members of his own party like Arizona Governor Jan Brewer who has helmed a crusade against her state’s prominent Spanish contingent, or former Republican Presidential candidate Herman Cain who offered an electrified barbed-wire fence on the US-Mexico border as the answer to out nation’s outdated immigration policies. Forward thinking like this from the new crop of GOP standard bearers almost makes one pine for the comparatively progressive views of Dubya.

Despite what general election polls suggest, the numbers don’t add up and history teaches us that statistics are themselves only another statistic when it comes to predicting U.S. Presidential contests. The insights are useful and needless with almost equal frequency. The doom spelled for the future of the GOP’s appeal in its alienation of women and minorities has yet to be experienced at its height. This gives us something to anticipate in future election cycles. But any Republican strategists who think that rich white men can carry Mittens to victory in November are kidding themselves. There’s only so much disenfranchising you can do, though I expect GOP lackeys to continue giving it the old college try.