Lier, Lier

The few remaining pretenses of civility are about to be dropped from the presidential race.  There’s several reasons as to why they’re all happening rather suddenly, but one prevails over the others: we’re getting close to the race.  They’ve manifested themselves in a few ways, and they  all kind of piggyback off of one another, let’s take them sequentially.

Let’s start with the act of vandalism at the Obama campaign office in Des Moines, Iowa.  Someone spray-painted the epitaph ‘Muslim lier’ on a banner on the headquarters.  You stay classy Iowa.  That whoever in question would do such a thing is an idiot goes without mentioning, but, I do enjoy the fact that this troglodyte at least put not only his hate on display, but also the fact that we’re dealing with someone who is, for all intents and purposes, functionally illiterate.

In keeping with the theme of President Obama lying, the new unemployment rate was released this morning: 7.8%, the lowest it’s been in over four years.  The right wing punditocracy had a common refrain as to how this was calculated: the President’s a lier!  Joe Scarborough was at it this morning, and so was Jack Welch.  I don’t know what was on Fox, but I can’t imagine that they weren’t on their soapboxes about this calling the President a lier as well.  They’re incapable of restraining themselves.  Without any sort of substantive proof, calling the President a lier is a stretch, even for Republicans.

Frankly, it’s pretty rich that when these numbers painted the bleakest picture thinkable, when unemployment was hovering around 11%, conservatives were giddy, absolutely gleeful at the prospect that it might hobble the President.  It’s become so ingrained in their worldview that the Muslim lier is destroying the US economy that a case of cognitive dissonance sets in whenever they see something that goes contrary to their worldview.  In their warped realities, it’s just not to be believed if it doesn’t gel with their reality.  And this isn’t the only thing that they’ve worked themselves into a veritable lather over: they think that all of the pollsters, with the exception of Rasmussen, are rigging their findings to hurt Romney’s chances.  They can’t get their heads around the idea that their second tier candidate, utterly devoid of any sense of charisma, who’s going up against an immensely talented politician who has presided over the salvation of the American economy, might be losing.  No, it’s the every single polling outfit, including even Fox fucking News, that’s out to get Romney.

And finally, while we’re talking about character, I’d like to touch on this video.  It shows Mitt Romney walking up to the podium at this week’s debate, taking something out of his pocket that resembles notes, and placing it in front of him on the podium.  Romney’s campaign claims that it was a handkerchief.  I don’t recall Romney using a handkerchief during the debate.  I think it’s far  more likely that it’s notes, which are explicitly banned by the rules of the debate.  Not to mention the plethora of fact checkers that were slamming Romney for fibbing with such gusto that it was borderline sociopathic.

There’s a Lier in the race, and he’s not a Muslim, but he is a Mormon.

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*The misspelling of the word lier throughout this is intentional.

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Eat Your Vegetables

The television equivalent of eating your broccoli was watching the debate between President Obama and Mittens last night.  And what we watched was the about as thrilling as watching grass grow.  The two most closed off, non-emotive and intellectually buttoned-down contenders in modern politics shared the stage and talked, not with each other, but past one another (not to mention completely ignoring Jim Lehrer – more on that later).

Obama continued with his very dry, very monotonous style of delivery of a rote regurgitation of facts and figures, with no compelling vision, narrative or emotion in order to connect on a visceral level with everyday Americans.  ‘Let’s be clear…’  Sweet Jesus, please, just for a night or two, channel Bill Clinton, just a bit.

And Romney gave what was about his billionth ‘getting to know you’ session with the American public.  Odd, seeing as he’s been running for President for the past six years.  Mittens demonstrated as much ideological coherence as a paranoid schizophrenic, repudiating past positions and trying to stake out yet even newer positions in the center, and his android-like, utterly mirthless laugh was borderline scary.

I’ll be blunt.  I was nuts about Obama in ’08.  I favor him, but I no longer consider myself the Obama zealot that I once did.  He is, at this juncture, the lesser of two evils.    What both men fundamentally lack is a passion for politics.  Mind you, I’m not talking about policy, they both seem pretty keen on that front.  What they both dislike is the process of getting to yes, so to speak.  Frankly, neither of them was very good at it either.  They view it as a distraction, something that is to be tolerated, rather than enjoyed.  Both lack the gregarious nature that one would expect from someone in the position.

And, pardon my french, but where the fuck was Jim Lehrer?  Let’s, for a moment, talk about the complete pussification of the role of the debate moderator.  Republicans bitch about the ‘lamestream media,’ and Democrats watch Joe Scarborough on MSNBC and feel smug about it because they’re listening to a RINO.  Fine.  But the debate last night was a study in the failure of the media to hold our political leaders accountable for their statements and actions.  In addition to letting both Obama and Romney run roughshod throughout the debate, Lehrer allowed them to run roughshod over him as well, and by extension us.  And in so doing, we didn’t get shit from the debate last night.  We had a regurgitation of talking points coming from both sides.  Blah blah blah.  Eat your vegetables.

Further Getting Ahead of Myself: 2016

Making predictions about politics is tricky.  It’s tricky because doing so usually involves making certain assumptions about events that have not yet happened and then predicating said predictions on even more assumptions about the future.  To make predictions about an upcoming presidential election is a feat in and of itself, but to do so for an election cycle that’s more than four years out is fraught with even more complications.  Despite having illuminated all of the potential pitfalls, I’m going to go ahead and do just that, and then we’ll see where the chips fall.

I’m going to make a few assumptions about the coming election cycle, and then set up a scenario for how Democrats could potentially structure their next four presidential campaigns.  As of now, I do believe that the President will be elected roughly along the same lines as he was in 2008, albeit on slightly smaller margins.  I think that Democrats will retain control of the Senate, and they may even pick up a few seats in the House.  In conjunction with a moderately improving economy, voter approval of the President will remain steady throughout the duration of his second term, and he’ll be able to cajole, threaten or force an obstinate array of Republicans in Congress to pass a series of relatively major legislative packages, likely after the midterm elections in 2014 on such issues as the tax code, the budget, and possible immigration, energy, healthcare and education.

It’s not going to be the lofty rhetoric to which we’ve become accustomed from him, but the President is going to have to double down on Congressional opposition in order to justify voter approval of him.  Bare knuckled, transactional politics will have to be the lynchpin that girds the duration of his second term.  So then, what?

Well, we then have the prospect of an open Democratic field.  Vice President Joe Biden has said that he’s not going to rule out another run, but then again, neither has he explicitly embraced the prospect.  There’s a whole slew of other candidates that could offer a credible run for the White House, such as Govs. Martin O’Malley of Maryland and Andrew Cuomo of New York.  But the elephant in the room is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  Long story short: if Hill runs, there’s not going to be a contested primary contest for the Democrats.  Bill is still the de facto elder statesman of the Democratic party, and his speech at the convention did a lot to underpin just that position.

As Republicans are wont to nominate the guy who is next in line, I have a feeling that we’ll be seeing Congressman Ryan again.  He’s young, he has seniority in the party, and, apparently, he’s their ‘ideas’ guy.  My preference would be a Hillary Clinton/Andrew Cuomo ticket, which, assuming that Hillary did well in office, would make Cuomo the most sensible candidate in 2024, which would give us a shot at occupying the White House for the foreseeable future, a period of one party dominance that may be inevitable because of demographics and extremism within the GOP.

But, who’s to know?  I’m probably getting ahead of myself, and there’s lots that can happen in the coming two months, let alone the next twelve years.  But I do know that the Democrats have a shot at putting their guy (or gal) in the Oval for every contest that’s coming up, and that if I were a Republican, I’d either start thinking about how to moderate my own party, or switching parties.

The Fallout Is Only Just Beginning

The more that I think about the events of this past Monday wherein Mitt Romney basically unloaded on anyone who, in his mind, is getting a free ride by  not paying any federal income tax, the more I’m convinced that the election was just decided in favor of President Obama.

Throughout the duration of the campaign, Republicans have said that if we would only let Mitt be Mitt, we’d see his appeal, and the national dialogue would begin to shift in his favor.  And they’ve had a point.  Romney faced a very grueling primary campaign, during the course of which he combined political contortions the likes of which we regular folk could only begin to get our heads around.  Then, once the primary was settled, he had the added task of perpetually throwing out read meat to the far right base of the party.  Demographically speaking, in today’s America, when you’re dealing with the right of the political spectrum, we’re dealing with a binary situation.  You can have either the far right, or the center.  Not both.  They are, by outlook and constitution, incompatible.  In attempting this impossible balancing act, we never got a sense of who Mitt Romney was, either in terms of policy (he’s frankly pretty thin on them) or his personal convictions (in which he also seems lacking).

At some point after the Republican National Convention, the Romney campaign made a gambit to shore up what they viewed as flagging support: they opted to pander to the conservative base of the party.  And in so doing, the picture of rich guy Romney holding a $50,000 a plate fundraiser at one of his hedge fund buddie’s swank compounds sets the scene for him to start speaking about how he really feels.  He spoke off the cuff and honestly due to one fact, and one fact alone, I believe: he didn’t think he was being recorded.  When you’re preaching to the choir, you don’t have to worry about what the sinners think of the sermon, so you can get as fundamentalist as you’d like, and in this case, he did.

We finally got a sense of who Mitt Romney is this past Monday.  The country doesn’t like it one bit, and yesterday’s news cycle was dominated by discussions of Romney’s sentiment.  Romney committed another political blunder wherein he held a press conference, said that he had spoken ‘inartfully’ but didn’t disagree with his original sentiments.  Republicans have rushed to distance themselves from his comments in droves, and only Romney, out of some stubborn, misplaced concept of consistency, clings to his original, damning statements.

Put it on your calendar folks.  Barring a catastrophe for our country, the election was decided on September 17th, 2012, not November 3rd, as we had anticipated.

This Week: The 2012 Tipping Point

I have a hunch that we’re about to witness a wholesale change in this election in the next ten days and that Romney’s campaign is on the verge of losing it.

At this point in the campaign, the narrative is set.  And for the first time in decades, it was Democrats who succeeded in framing the debate.  From the Republican fight for the nomination, Democrats were busy staking out the territory that they were going to occupy and  have kept the Republicans on the defensive the entire time.  Were the Republicans to win, it would have been almost solely due to the stagnant economy.  With an incumbent President who’s acquitted himself very, very well on the foreign policy and defense fronts, that was about the only front on which Romney could have hoped to best the President.

But that’s not happening.  Obama has pulled ahead of Romney on perceptions of who would better handle the economy, according to a recent poll.  If you take that away from Romney, you have, basically nothing.  He can’t run on gravitas (he doesn’t have any), like ability (he’s not) or other policy sectors in which the President has a clear and growing edge.  At this point, he’s becoming very much like the Republican convention: erratic, not all that pleasant, and totally lacking in specific plans.  Romney, from his comments on his Olympic trip to Britain to his comments last week on the death of consular staff in Libya, to his most recent gaffe wherein he stated all Obama supporters were dependent on the government, he has repeatedly fumbled the ball at a time when he can afford zero errors, particularly those of the unforced variety.  And what’s more shocking for a candidate that’s demonstrated such a striking sense of self control is that he appears to be making them at an even faster rate than before.

If the current trajectory of the campaign continues, we may well be headed for a landslide for the President, a feat not achieved for Democrats since 1964, and one that may spill over into Congressional races as well.

Having said that, I’m going to go ahead and give you all of the reasons as to why I might be wrong.  This is a hunch.  It’s not based off of any real data, and there’s no science to this.  Looking at the factors I mentioned, this is all just my gut telling me how Americans are going to react, on average, to Romney and some of the things that he’s said or done over the past few weeks.  Being that there’s no real equation into which you can stuff all of these variables, it may well be that I’m suffering from a case of confirmation bias, and that I’m just seeing what I want to see, and in so doing, projecting an ultimate outcome on a election which, as a partisan Democrat, I care a lot.

But I doubt that’s the case, and I’ve got a hunch Mitt Romney’s polling numbers are about to do a swan dive into the toilet.

42: Making the Case for 45

Bill Clinton is a rare politician indeed.  He combines a powerful intellect with a genuine love of politics.  He also possesses an ability to translate seemingly confusing economic themes into human terms, which, speaking as a graduate student of economics, is another very rare talent.  Political observers know what Bill Clinton is capable of, and we have been since his time as President.  The problem was, we just forgot about how he can get a crowd up to their feet.  In short, Clinton’s speech last night was electrifying, and it, probably more than any single speech that President Obama can give, did more to ensure his reelection this coming November.

Bill Clinton and Barack Obama cut two very different figures.  Clinton, the proverbial backslapper and political junkie, presided over a period of unprecedented growth, peace, and, largely, prosperity.  Obama, by comparison, has had to contend with a tanking economy, global military conflicts in the Middle East.  Not only are the conditions in which they must govern different, they’re two very different men at their cores.  Clinton feeds off of the energy and adoration he gets from working a crowds.  Obama does not.  I don’t think this point could have been driven home any further when Clinton’s speech last night ended and he was joined on the stage by Obama.  When they exited, Obama went first, and headed straight for the door.  Clinton, people person that he is, lingered to shake hands and bask in the glory of the political equivalent of a home run.

They’re two very different men.  In some ways, I miss the grit and determination that Bill Clinton, the sheer passion that he’s able to muster to battle that far right conspiracy that’s been haunting this country since the early 1990s.  But the fact of the matter is that we’re running with Obama, and while this piece is largely based off of nostalgia for the Clinton era, it sets the stage for Obama’s reelection, and also something to come in another few years.

Right now, we’re wrapping up the second of two political conventions that determine who we elect this coming November.  Our focus is on 2012, and that’s where it should be.  But what Clinton did last night was even more impressive when you think about the election after that.  Bill Clinton single handedly set up his wife to run in 2016.  He demonstrated that the Clinton aura is still alive and strong, and in helping the President get reelected now, he also set the stage for his wife to remind of their legacy and to succeed her boss.

Such is the political genius of our 42nd President.  He overshadowed the sitting President last night, but, hell, who cares.  Bill Clinton gets the job done like no other.

A Bailout for Mitt

We’re smack dab in the middle of the Republican National Convention.  Needless to say, I don’t agree with much of anything that is being said on the stage.  But what I’m learning from watching coverage is that people have a tendency to view things in very, very different ways.  Even when Republicans and Democrats are looking at the same thing, they come away from it with totally different opinions.  And while that’s fine there are some things that you just can’t dispute.

Rolling Stone published an account of Mitt Romney’s time as the titular head of Bain & Co., the consulting firm where he first began his career.  Romney left Bain Capital, the private equity fund in late 1992 to run a turnaround operation at his previous employer.  The company was in serious financial trouble, and if significant actions were not taken, it would have run out cash and ultimately been forced into liquidation.  So, here’s a bit of background.

Bain Capital was spun off of Bain & Co. in the early 1980s when the leveraged buyout boom was going strong.  By the early 1990s, the partners had sold their equity in the firm off, and saddled the company with tons of toxic debt.  Business had started to decline due to the recession in 1991, and Bain & Co. found itself in a downward spiral.  During his efforts to revive the company, Romney began restructuring the debt to make it more manageable for the firm to pay off.  That effort soon failed, and Romney then demanded even more generous repayment terms from the creditors.  The banks refused, and Romney then began pumping even more cash out of the firm in the form of bonuses to management.  The banks, terrified that they were not going to see any of their money from a firm that Romney was intentionally stripping of assets, soon relented.

One of the banks Bain & Co. owed money to at the time was under the stewardship of the FDIC.  Romney left the bank, and ultimately the FDIC, on the hook for $30.6 million dollars that he just walked away from.  The FDIC paid out the amount to the bank.  For those of you that are unaware of how the FDIC is funded, it receives its money from banks, which ultimately pass off the costs to you, the consumer.

We’re hearing a lot about self-reliance from these clowns in Tampa.  That’s fine.  It’s politics.  The people watching the convention are voting for Romney anyways.  But when President Obama gets up on the state and rebuts the outright falsehoods that are coming from the podium in Florida, the discrepancies are going to come to light, and the facts just don’t align in favor of the Republicans.  The same thing is going to happen once the debates take place this coming fall.  The fact of the matter is that the media has failed, utterly and totally, when it comes to holding Republicans accountable for their fabrications, lies and distortions of the truth.

To the bases of the respective parties, frankly, it doesn’t matter.  You can say whatever you want and get away with it.  But presidential elections are fought and won in the center of the political spectrum, and the center of American politics still cares about this thing called the truth.