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A Solidly Republican House Crashes Down on Grover Norquist

6:54 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

At this point all I can do is laugh when I think about how some of my friends on the far right were naive as to think that sensible Republicans in Congress had failed to heed the message of the 2012 election and the current political realities borne therefrom. The latest development in the fiscal cliff drama show to what degree some on the right have regained their senses and moved back to the center, in the direction of much needed compromise. Quoting political commentator Jennifer Steinhauer: “Ending a climactic fiscal showdown in the final hours of the 112th Congress, the House late Tuesday passed and sent to President Obama legislation to avert big income tax increases on most Americans and prevent large cuts in spending for the Pentagon and other government programs. The measure, brought to the House floor less than 24 hours after its passage in the Senate, was approved 257 to 167, with 85 Republicans joining 172 Democrats in voting to allow income taxes to rise for the first time in two decades, in this case for the highest-earning Americans…The decision by Republican leaders to allow the vote came despite widespread scorn among House Republicans for the bill, passed overwhelmingly by the Senate in the early hours of New Year’s Day. They were unhappy that it did not include significant spending cuts in health and other social programs, which they say are essential to any long-term solution to the nation’s debt.” Clearly and unequivocally the resolution of the fiscal cliff represents a major defeat for Grover Norquist and his Tea Party allies as well as a significant victory for president Obama.

And what of those Republican Congressman who voted to let tax rates rise? Remember how often we’ve been told that almost every Republican in the House had signed Grover Norquist’s “No Tax Pledge.” Quoting Politico’s Alexander Burns and Maggie Habberman: “…given the lopsided Senate vote in favor of the tax-hiking measure, as well as the 85 GOP House members who voted yes, members of the GOP have violated the party’s no-new-taxes orthodoxy for the first time in two decades. It’s a significant concession in the aftermath of Mitt Romney’s November defeat and a potentially existential moment for a party that has prided itself on a defiant and dogmatic dislike of tax increases. What remains to be seen is whether that is merely a tactical retreat — bowing to the unique circumstances of the fiscal cliff — or a more meaningful cave-in on the part of Republicans who believe that their anti-tax platform has become politically unsustainable, particularly after a presidential cycle in which the party found itself caricatured as the puppets of the rich and powerful.” Perhaps it was the fact that a large majority of Republican Senators had voted for a tax hike that finally drove home the political reality to the 85 Republican Congressional legislators who decided to follow suit. Why even such staunch conservatives as Congressman Paul Ryan and Senators Patrick J. Toomey and Tom Coburn voted in favor of raising taxes. The fact that, in the face of a growing fiscal crisis, that Republicans voted to raise revenue via tax hikes, should come as no surprise as 2012 election exit polling showed 75% of the voters supported said increases, including a large minority of those who voted for Mitt Romney. Fox News contributor and prominent conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer opined: “This is a complete surrender on everything” and “a rout.” Not surprisingly, Norquist himself appeared on the cable circuit claiming to Anderson Cooper, among others, that the “deal was technically not a pledge violation”, but then what would you expect to hear from a guy who just went off of his own political cliff.

Many on the right have been seen to try to spin this defeat as a tactical maneuver that takes taxes off the table thereby enabling the G.O.P. to be more hard-nosed in dealing with the debt ceiling / spending cuts debate that we’ll be revisiting in a few months. But this too may amount to nothing but wishful thinking. Again quoting Burns and Habberman: “The president’s party, meanwhile, has no intention of easing up on a GOP they believe is in serious disarray. And while Republicans take heart from the hope that they’ll have more leverage in the next showdown, emboldened Democrats say the demand for “balanced” deficit reduction — meaning both spending cuts and new taxes — remains a challenge for their foes. Democratic pollster Geoff Garin, who advised the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA, called the fiscal cliff deal “a band-aid on a serious wound” for Republicans. “The sane wing of the Republican Party recognized the GOP was playing a losing hand badly on taxes in a way that was deeply damaging to the Republican brand,” Garin said. “The Republicans will find themselves in a similar mess going forward if they insist on entitlement cuts while resisting new revenues from closing loopholes and tax breaks for those at the top.”

In the final analysis, when the spin and the political posturing is put aside there is one simple fact that comes through as the dust settles in the aftermath of the fiscal cliff and that is that Barack Obama has just cashed in on some major political capital and the sensible conservatives knew he had it to use and fully intended to use it. Obama ran, in part, on solving the fiscal crisis by raising taxes on the richest among us and won. America had two clear choices to pick from and they didn’t pick the conservative version. Much has been made of the fact that the G.O.P. had held onto the House but they only did so as a result of redistricting. In terms of absolute votes cast for those running for Congress, across the nation as a whole, “Democratic candidates for Congress won 1.1 million more votes than Republicans, according to a tally of the popular vote kept by David Wasserman, the House editor of The Cook Political Report.” The Republican leadership in Congress knows that winning as a result of map making means a lot less politically than does winning by popular appeal and presently the G.O.P. ranks near the low end of its historic popularity. More importantly, the American people have demanded compromise and they indicated that they are clearly fed up with Tea Party obstruction on Capitol Hill. This had to be a motivating factor for Republicans as it is they, not Obama and the Democrats who would have been blamed for the country’s sliding back into a recession. In the end President Obama wound up giving less in the way of concessions than he would have just two weeks ago when he bargained with John Boehner in search of a deal and dramatically less than he would have back in 2011 when he and the Speaker were on the verge of a “Grand Bargain.” Such is the measure of the political shift that has taken place since the Tea Party victories in 2010 and Obama’s re-election this past November.

Steven J. Gulitti
1/2/2013

Sources:
Jennifer Steinhauer: “Divided House Passes Tax Deal in End to Latest Fiscal Standoff”; http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/02/us/politics/house-takes-on-fiscal-cliff.html?pagewanted=2&_r=0&ref=todayspaper

“John Boehner, Eric Cantor Split On Fiscal Cliff Deal”; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/02/john-boehner-eric-cantor_n_2395593.html?utm_source=DailyBrief&utm_campaign=010213&utm_medium=email&utm_content=FeatureTitle&utm_term=Daily%20Brief

Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei: “BEHIND THE CURTAIN — Why the GOP caved: The politics are horrible on the backside of the cliff”; http://www.politico.com/playbook/

“Tea party backers swallow a bitter pill in ‘cliff’ bill”; http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/cliff-bill-is-a-bitter-pill-for-houses-tea-party-adherents-to-swallow/2013/01/01/5345286e-544d-11e2-8e84-e933f677fe68_story.html

“GOP anti-tax policy goes over the cliff”; http://www.politico.com/story/2013/01/gop-anti-tax-policy-goes-over-the-cliff-85657.html

Charles Krauthammer: “Cliff deal a ‘rout”; http://www.politico.com/story/2013/01/krauthammer-cliff-deal-surrender-85656.html?ml=po_r

“Why President Obama, Mitch McConnell took the deal”; http://www.politico.com/story/2013/01/why-mcconnell-obama-took-the-deal-85655.html#ixzz2Gr6BLtPZ

“Obama hails tax bill, warns GOP not to pick fight on debt ceiling”; http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/275123-obama-hail-cliff-deal-but-warns-gop-on-debt-ceiling

“How Maps Helped Republicans Keep an Edge in the House”; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/15/us/po

Can Mitt Romney Fix the Economy?

8:28 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

When Barack Obama first took office economist Ken Rogoff, who served on the International Monetary Fund and at the Federal Reserve, warned the president that the 2008 downturn was no ordinary event. Rogoff advised Obama that downturns resulting from bursting financial bubbles took a minimum of five years to resolve. That meant that recovery wouldn’t be expected to take hold until 2013. A compelling analysis of the crisis, the political stalemate in policymaking and possible solutions has been put forth by the New America Foundation, “The Way Forward”, referenced below. To wit: “The political stalemate is in part structural, but also is attributable in significant large measure to the nature of the present economic crisis itself, which has stood much familiar economic orthodoxy of the past 30 years on its head. For despite the standoff over raising the U.S. debt ceiling this past August, the principal problem in the United States has not been government inaction. It has been inadequate action, proceeding on inadequate understanding of what ails us.” The study is bi-partisan in its critique but to be honest, the solutions given, a substantial five to seven year infrastructure revitalization program, debt restructuring at the household and institutional level and global economic reform are not likely to be championed by a Republican administration in the present political environment. Throughout the entire Obama administration the Republican opposition has conceptualized the current crisis as a garden variety downturn made all the worse by what they believe to be the president’s incompetent policies and that if we could only return to conservative economic fundamentals everything would be alright. The election of Mitt Romney, a businessman, is he held forth as an obvious simple solution and therein lies the problem.

For one thing a nation isn’t a corporation, it has different problems and challenges, it isn’t driven by profit making. A nation is confronted with foreign policy, social and environmental problems that are beyond the scope of a corporation. Secondly, a corporate CEO is beholden to shareholders not the public and his focus is, as a result, rather narrow when compared to president’s. Conservative columnist David Brooks points out the difference: “At first blush, business success would seem to be good preparation for political success. A C.E.O. learns to set priorities, manage organizations and hone analytic skills. But these traits are more transferable to being a mayor, which is more administrative, than to being president…If you look back over history, you see that while business success can sensitize a politician to the realities other executives face, there’s little correlation between business success and political success.” We’ve had several businessmen in the White House, Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush and none of them stand out as great presidents. As such a compelling question arises when we examine Romney’s record and his claims that he’s well suited to the presidency due to his business experience. For one thing Romney’s never been able to quantify whether or not, as a result of his business activity, he created a net positive number of jobs. Quoting Mark Maremont of the Wall Street Journal: “Assigning jobs numbers to private-equity firms has been a fairly rare exercise among researchers…As a result, there is no widely accepted accounting measure. Some academic experts said the Romney campaign’s 100,000-jobs count is flawed, because it gives Bain all the credit, even though other investors also played a role in the four key companies, and includes jobs added long after Mr. Romney left Bain in 1999…Little noticed amid the debate is that the four companies at the core of Mr. Romney’s 100,000-jobs claim were relatively insignificant in the context of his 15-year Bain career. The total invested in all four was about $25 million, or about 2% of the money Bain invested during Mr. Romney’s tenure.” There have been other studies on the topic as well and that raises the question of why hasn’t the Romney campaign produced some hard results that prove that Mitt Romney is the job creator he claims to be? Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor, pointed out that if private equity companies were such efficient job creators they wouldn’t need all of the favorable tax treatment they receive. Reich pointed out that 98% of the investments channeled into the economy from private equity firms come from outside those firms and as such they aren’t effectively managing resources so much as they’re merely shuffling money around. To paraphrase Reich, through the vehicle of private equity we’ve replaced capital formation with casino capitalism and leveraged buyout firms greatly contributed to the overleveraging that brought us to the brink of disaster in 2008. The truth is that the goal of private equity isn’t to create jobs, it’s to create wealth and any job creation that results is secondary. Thus any claim made by Mitt Romney that his experience at Bain is proof positive that he’s a job creator is both intellectually dishonest and as of today, unsubstantiated.

Regarding Romney as public executive I find it interesting that he has in many ways downplayed his record as governor of Massachusetts and only talks in passing about his role in bailing out the Salt Lake City Olympics. His healthcare law is the obvious reason but his economic track record during that time doesn’t exactly burnish his image as a job creator either. An examination of several news articles reveals why Romney has chosen not to dwell on that record. Citing the Boston Globe and other sources: “Our analysis reveals a weak comparative economic performance of the state over the Romney years, one of the worst in the country. On all key labor market measures, the state not only lagged behind the country as a whole, but often ranked at or near the bottom of the state distribution. Manufacturing payroll employment throughout the nation declined by nearly 1.1 million or 7 percent between 2002 and 2006, but in Massachusetts it declined by more than 14 percent, the third worst record in the country.” FactCheck.org: “Payroll jobs in Massachusetts hit their low point in December 2003 at the end of Romney’s first year in office. And the number of jobs declined in seven of the remaining 36 months of his term, as measured by total nonfarm employment, seasonally adjusted, which is the standard measure of payroll employment used by economists and journalists. The claim that jobs increased “every single month” is false. Furthermore, Romney’s job record provides little to boast about. By the end of his four years in office, Massachusetts had squeezed out a net gain in payroll jobs of just 1 percent, compared with job growth of 5.3 percent for the nation as a whole.” The bottom line on Romney’s record as a governor who created jobs is that Massachusetts ranked 47th overall in job creation during Romney’s tenure, not exactly a winning track record on job creation. When it comes to Romney’s “turnaround” of the 2002 Olympics the one very salient fact that is constantly ignored is that Romney rescued the Salt lake City Games with $1.3 billion dollars of federal money. Beyond the billion plus that went to bail out the games there was an additional $32 million dollars in public funding for infrastructure improvement. Is it any wonder why Mitt Romney doesn’t want to spend too much time airing out the particulars of his turnaround of the Salt Lake City Olympics? After all it was almost totally a function of public spending and in today’s Republican Party that sort of idea is nothing less than heresy.

Beyond the very real questions which arise from Governor Romney’s questionable pitch that he has a track record as a job creator there are a host of questions that relate to policies on taxes and the deficit. Starting with taxes and economic growth, the link between the two is questionable at best. Citing a piece written by David Leonhardt, “Do Tax Cuts Lead to Economic Growth?” recent history shows a disconnect between taxes and growth: “The defining economic policy of the last decade, of course, was the Bush tax cuts. President George W. Bush and Congress, including Mr. Ryan, passed a large tax cut in 2001, sped up its implementation in 2003 and predicted that prosperity would follow. The economic growth that actually followed — indeed, the whole history of the last 20 years — offers one of the most serious challenges to modern conservatism. Bill Clinton and the elder George Bush both raised taxes in the early 1990s, and conservatives predicted disaster. Instead, the economy boomed, and incomes grew at their fastest pace since the 1960s. Then came the younger Mr. Bush, the tax cuts, the disappointing expansion and the worst downturn since the Depression. Today, Mitt Romney and Mr. Ryan are promising another cut in tax rates and again predicting that good times will follow. But it’s not the easiest case to make.” Now granted Romney has proposed to overhaul the tax code as an element in reinvigorating the economy but a detailed study of the plan by the Tax Policy Center has shown that “…achieving all of Mr. Romney’s top-line goals — a revenue-neutral overhaul that does not increase the tax burden of the middle class — is not arithmetically possible.” Moreover the TPC’s Donald Marron, a former Bush administration official said:”At the level of taxes we’ve been at the last couple decades and the magnitude of the changes we’ve had, it’s hard to make the argument that tax rates have a big effect on economic growth.” Another report from Congressional Research Service which analyzed taxes and growth shows: “The results of the analysis suggest that changes over the past 65 years in the top marginal tax rate and the top capital gains tax rate do not appear correlated with economic growth. The reduction in the top tax rates appears to be uncorrelated with saving, investment, and productivity growth. The top tax rates appear to have little or no relation to the size of the economic pie.” Even Reagan era senior economic policy advisor Bruce Bartlett called current Republican Party thinking into question in an article entitled “Taxes and Employment”; to wit: “Since the beginning of the economic crisis, Republicans have insisted that tax cuts and only tax cuts are the appropriate medicine. They almost never explain how, exactly, this would reduce unemployment other than to say it worked for Ronald Reagan in the 1980s…There is simply no evidence that cutting taxes at the present time will do anything to raise employment.” The further problem with Romney’s tax proposals, beyond the fact that they remain largely a mystery on the eve of the election, is that they have the potential to explode the deficit and take the economy back into recession as is detailed in numerous references detailed below. In fact when Romney was governor of Massachusetts that state had the highest per capita debt of any state in the union, a fact that hardly inspires confidence in his ability to manage the federal debt.

There are two additional flaws in Mitt Romney’s claim that he has the heft to turn around the economy. One is a misrepresentation of the problems with regulations. Again, quoting Bruce Bartlett: “Republicans have a problem. People are increasingly concerned about unemployment, but Republicans have nothing to offer them…They assert that Barack Obama has unleashed a tidal wave of new regulations, which has created uncertainty among businesses and prevents them from investing and hiring. No hard evidence is offered for this claim; it is simply asserted as self-evident and repeated endlessly throughout the conservative echo chamber…the number of layoffs nationwide caused by government regulation is minuscule and shows no evidence of getting worse during the Obama administration. Lack of demand for business products and services is vastly more important…These results are supported by surveys. During June and July, Small Business Majority asked 1,257 small-business owners to name the two biggest problems they face. Only 13 percent listed government regulation as one of them. Almost half said their biggest problem was uncertainty about the future course of the economy — another way of saying a lack of customers and sales. The Wall Street Journal’s July survey of business economists found, “The main reason U.S. companies are reluctant to step up hiring is scant demand, rather than uncertainty over government policies, according to a majority of economists.” In August, McClatchy Newspapers canvassed small businesses, asking them if regulation was a big problem. It could find no evidence that this was the case.” Again, what we are given as a way out of the problems of a less than robust economy is a solution in search of a problem to solve and that’s hardly a solution at all.

The second additional flaw in the Romney plan is it’s silence on how to deal with the structural changes that have occured in the world economy over the past forty years and how those chages have affected the American middle class. Other than to carry on about the currency of China, the Romney plan fails to address, as pointed out by Alpert et al.; “the steady entry into the world economy of successive waves of new export-oriented economies, beginning with Japan and the Asian tigers in the 1980s and peaking with China in early 2000, with more than two billion newly employable workers. The integration of these high-savings, lower wage economies into the global economy, occurring as it did against the backdrop of dramatic productivity gains rooted in new information technologies and the globalization of corporate supply chains, decisively shifted the balance of global supply and demand. In consequence, the world economy now is beset by excess supplies of labor, capital, and productive capacity relative to global demand. This not only profoundly dims the prospects for business investment and greater net exports in the developed world — the only other two drivers of recovery when debt-deflation slackens domestic consumer demand. It also puts the entire global economy at risk, owing to the central role that the U.S. economy still is relied on to play as the world’s consumer and borrower of last resort.” A number of studies have shown that these developments have wrecked havoc particularly on the middle tier of the job market, the very segment upon which the post World War II American middle class relyed on for it’s economic existence. These developments have further accelerated the “hollowing” out of the middle class as both jobs and technological innovation have moved from west to east and show little likelyhood of that trend reversing in a big way any time soon.

I closing there is little that would leave any informed observer with the any reason to believe that a vote for Mitt Romney is anything more than a leap of faith, on the part of the voter, that he can significantly effect the American economy for the better. His entire primary strategy was to outlast his advesaries by presenting himself as a safe, if not bland, alternative within an otherwise lackluster primary season. Likewise the same can be said for his contest with Barack Obama, he has stood there parroting stock conservative talking points while failing to produce much in the way of policy particulars all the while hoping that his business experience alone would somehow serve as proof positive that he could better manage the recovery. Thus there is little on offer from Governor Romney upon which a worried and weary electorate can pin theirs hopes on in search for a better tomorrow. According to James Fallows of the Atlantic this has been Mitt Romney’s stock in trade since his earliest days at Bain: “Romney also showed weaknesses that have persisted, even though he managed to minimize their effects in this year’s primary debates. His analysis of any policy rarely moved past the level of abstraction: the problem is too much regulation, so the solution is less regulation, lower taxes, and more incentives for small-business growth. In his Kennedy debates and afterward, this reliance on generalities seemed to reflect both a political and a professional outlook. Politically, a Republican skepticism of govern­ment in general reduces the incentive to learn the fine points of difference among public programs. Professionally, Romney’s background as a consultant and private-equity investor has conditioned him to offer his managerial skills and analytic ability, and to worry about specific answers only after he’s been signed on to deal with a troubled enterprise. Robert Walker, a former congressman from Pennsylvania who chaired the Ging­rich campaign in this year’s primaries, said that Romney’s trademark avoidance of detail arose from this aspect of his background. “Businessmen and consultants like to sell in glowing generalities, because they are never sure what unexpected things they’ll find when they dig into your problems.” Moreover, as per Ken Rogoff, in reality there is little reason to believe that if Mitt Romney had assumed the prseidency in 2009 that he or any other Republican would have done anything that would have produced radically different results. As such it would appear that neither Mitt Romney nor his lieutenants can provide the voting public with the evidence it needs to make a decision that they alone can create jobs and turn around the economy. The great irony of that is that Romney made business experience his trump card and yet his track record leaves so much to be desired and is, on its face and in its particulars, far from convincing. Perhaps that’s why he’s had so much trouble closing the sale with the voting public.

Steven J. Gulitti
11/5/12

Sources:

Kenneth Rogoff; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_Rogoff

Daniel Alpert, Robert Hockett, and Nouriel Roubini The Way Forward: Moving From the Post-Bubble, Post-Bust Economy to Renewed Growth and Competitiveness;

https://groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups#!topic/sid-l/ktC5NDrSE-Q

The C.E.O. in Politics; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/13/opinion/brooks-the-ceo-in-politics.html?emc=eta1&_r=0

Mark Maremont: Tally of Job Creation By Bain Proves Vexing; http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303292204577519293959381060.html

Mitt Romney Reticent About Bain Capital Debate; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/23/romney-bain-capital_n_1540948.html?ref=daily-brief?utm_source=DailyBrief&utm_campaign=052412&utm_medium=email&utm_content=NewsEntry&utm_term=Daily%20Brief

After a Romney Deal, Profits and Then Layoffs; http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/13/us/politics/after-mitt-romney-deal-company-showed-profits-and-then-layoffs.html?emc=eta1&_r=1&

Can Anyone Really Create Jobs?; http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/06/magazine/job-creation-campaign-promises.html?pagewanted=2&emc=eta1&_r=0

Robert Reich on the Role of Private Equity; http://www.wnyc.org/shows/bl/2012/may/25/robert-reich-role-private-equity/

Should Romney get credit for job creation through Bain, if “any job creation was accidental”?; http://althouse.blogspot.com/2012/05/should-romney-get-credit-for-job.html

Romney’s economic record; http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2007/07/29/romneys_economic_record/

Myrtle Beach Blarney; http://www.factcheck.org/elections-2008/myrtle_beach_blarney.html

Mitt Romney plays the jobs card Commentary: Looking at his record, it’s a losing argument; http://www.marketwatch.com/story/mitt-romney-tries-to-play-the-jobs-card-2010-02-23?pagenumber=1

Mitt Romney and the Olympic bailout; http://www.democrats.org/news/blog/mitt_romney_and_the_olympic_bailout

Romney and the Olympics: What the Salt Lake Games say about a Mitt Romney presidency; http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865559550/Romney-and-the-Olympics-What-the-SLC-Games-say-about-a-Mitt-Romney-presidency.html?pg=all

Do Tax Cuts Lead to Economic Growth?; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/16/opinion/sunday/do-tax-cuts-lead-to-economic-growth.html?emc=eta1&_r=0

Tax Topics: The Romney Plan; http://taxpolicycenter.org/taxtopics/romney-plan.cfm

Taxes and the Econom: An Economic Analysis of the Top Tax Rates Since 1945; http://graphics8.nytimes.com/news/business/0915taxesandeconomy.pdf

Bruce Bartlett: Taxes and Employment; http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/01/taxes-and-employment/?emc=eta1

A Tax Plan That Defies the Rules of Math; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/12/opinion/sunday/romneys-tax-plan-defies-the-rules-of-math.html?emc=eta1&_r=0

Under Romney, Massachusetts Had Highest Per Capita Debt Of Any State; http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2012/05/16/485035/romney-debt-massachusetts/?mobile=nc

Higher Deficits Seen in Romney’s Tax Plan, and His Rivals’, Too; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/19/us/politics/romneys-tax-bill-and-gop-deficit-problems.html?emc=eta1

CBO Report Says Deficit Reduction Will Cause New Recession; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/22/cbo-report-deficit-reduction-recession_n_1537774.html?ref=daily-brief?utm_source=DailyBrief&utm_campaign=052312&utm_medium=email&utm_content=NewsEntry&utm_term=Daily%20Brief

FACT CHECK: Romney’s Plan Would Slow The Recovery, Explode The Deficit; http://3chicspolitico.com/2012/06/12/fact-check-romneys-plan-would-slow-the-recovery-explode-the-deficit/

Bruce Bartlett: Misrepresentations, Regulations and Jobs; http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/04/regulation-and-unemployment/?emc=eta1

Don Peck: Pinched: How the Great Recession Has Narrowed Our Futures & What We Can Do About It.

90 Million Workers Won’t Be Needed By 2020, Study Says; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/19/unskilled-workers-2020-mckinsey-global-institute-study_n_1609767.html?utm_hp_ref=daily-brief?utm_source=DailyBrief&utm_campaign=062012&utm_medium=email&utm_content=NewsEntry&utm_term=Daily%20Brief

The Seismic Economic and Political Changes that Transformed the American Dream; http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/politics/july-dec12/smith_10-01.html

The Structural Revolution; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/08/opinion/brooks-the-structural-revolution.html?emc=eta1

James Fallows: Slugfest; http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/print/2012/09/slugfest/309063/

Stimulus Is Maligned, but Options Were Few; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/29/business/economy/republicans-malign-a-stimulus-but-the-plausible-options-were-few-economic-scene.html?adxnnl=1&emc=eta1&adxnnlx=1352030442-60rkb0Mri/Am1cGfZVvyIA

Romney & Co., Beyond the Pale in Politicizing Benghazi

1:55 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

I fully understand that Mitt Romney and his lieutenants want to capitalize on any and every political opportunity that comes their way, but in the case of the Benghazi deaths have they gone too far?

Ambassador Chris Stevens’ father has come out and asked that the Romney campaign cease and desist in politicizing his son’s death. To wit Jan Stevens: “It would really be abhorrent to make this into a campaign issue. The security matters are being adequately investigated. We don’t pretend to be experts in security. It has to be objectively examined. That’s where it belongs. It does not belong in the campaign arena.” Just last week the mother of the slain Navy SEAL Glen Doherty, Barbara Doherty, asked Romney to stop using he son’s death as a political prop with the following statement: “I don’t trust Romney. He shouldn’t make my son’s death part of his political agenda. It’s wrong to use these brave young men, who wanted freedom for all, to degrade Obama.” Republican candidates have a long history of using the American military as a political backdrop during campaign season but Romney’s use of the Benghazi tragedy is beyond the pale of politics as usual and that’s why it’s become so controversial. Moreover, with Romney having made some many missteps in the foreign policy arena one would think that he would pick his fights somewhere else.

I think we’ve come to a point of “enough already” especially as the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has taken responsibility for events and in doing so, has pointed out that requests for security aren’t the sort of issues that would go across the president’s desk. That said, it’s more than a bit disingenuous to try to pin failures in day to day embassy operations on the president. Its analogous to trying to tie the price of a gallon of gasoline to Barack Obama when gas and oil prices are set in a worldwide market controlled by hundreds of traders and economic factors and not in the offices of world leaders.

The other great irony in the Republican attack on the issue of diplomatic security is that they themselves voted to cut funding for it. When asked in an interview with CNN’s Candy Crowley about Republican votes that cut funding for embassy security Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), a Romney Surrogate said: “Absolutely. Look we have to make priorities and choices in this country. We have… 15,0000 contractors in Iraq. We have more than 6,000 contractors, a private army there, for President Obama, in Baghdad. And we’re talking about can we get two dozen or so people into Libya to help protect our forces. When you’re in touch economic times, you have to make difficult choices. You have to prioritize things.” What’s even more ironic about Chaffetz’s spin is that he sits on two committees that are directly involved in terrorism and security; Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security and the Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations. Chaffetz is Chairman of the latter. Should he have known better than to cut this type of funding, I would say so. If anything a guy who seems to be so in touch with the dangers arising in post-revolutionary Libya should have had the presence of mind to speak up against funding cuts then rather than to serve as a mouthpiece for ill considered criticism by the Romney campaign now. Rather than question Barack Obama’s judgment in commenting on the deaths in Benghazi recently, Congressman Chaffetz ought to look in the mirror and question his own lack of judgment and his current contribution in this crass politicizing of the four unfortunate American deaths in Libya.

No matter how you analyze this issue one thing is for sure, the Congressional Republicans look like the pot calling the kettle black and Romney and Co. look like a bunch of crass political operatives in continuing to use the Benghazi tragedy as a political prop. As I said above, enough is enough.

Steven J. Gulitti
10/16/12

Sources:

Ambassador’s dad says son’s death in Libya shouldn’t be politicized; http://www.cleveland.com/nation/index.ssf/2012/10/ambassadors_dad_says_sons_deat.html

Fox News, Stephanie Cutter, And The Politicization Of Benghazi; http://mediamatters.org/mobile/blog/2012/10/12/fox-news-stephanie-cutter-and-the-politicizatio/190596

Mother Of Navy SEAL Killed In Libya Demands Romney Stop Talking About Him In Stump Speech; http://thinkprogress.org/security/2012/10/10/986301/romney-navy-seal-mother-libya/

Honoring Slain SEAL’s Mom’s Request, Romney Will Drop Story On Stump; http://www.capradio.org/news/npr/story?storyid=162671671

Hillary Clinton takes responsibility for Libya US deaths; http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-19958739

Rep. Chaffetz says he “absolutely” voted to cut funding for embassy security; http://cnnpressroom.blogs.cnn.com/2012/10/10/rep-chaffetz-says-he-absolutely-cut-funding-for-embassy-security/

Mitt Romney: Conservative Trojan Horse or Political Chameleon?

11:16 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Romney caricature

Image: Donkey Hotey / Flickr

What became of Mitt Romney the “severe conservative” who so assured the American right earlier this year that he had long since slipped his moorings to a moderate political past in Massachusetts? Surely a “severely conservative” Mitt Romney wasn’t the guy who showed up to debate Barack Obama on the 3rd of October. Apparently this “pivot to the center” was widely observed but not universally accepted:

Jonathan Chait:

Tonight’s debate saw the return of the Mitt Romney who ran for office in Massachusetts in 1994 and 2002. He was obsessive about portraying himself as a moderate, using every possible opening or ambiguity — and, when necessary, making them up — to shove his way to the center. Why he did not attempt to restore this pose earlier, I cannot say. Maybe he can only do it in debates. Or maybe conservatives had to reach a point of absolute desperation over his prospects before they would give him the ideological space. In any case, he dodged almost every point in the right wing canon in a way that seemed to catch Obama off guard.

Conservative columnist David Brooks wrote of the contrast between the rhetoric of the Republican primaries and Romney the debater:

The G.O.P. did its best to appear unattractive. It had trouble talking the language of compassion. It seemed to regard reasonable political compromise as an act of dishonor. It offered little for struggling Americans except that government would leave them alone…on Wednesday night, Romney finally emerged from the fog. He broke with the stereotypes of his party and, at long last, began the process of offering a more authentic version of himself…Far from being an individualistic, social Darwinist, Romney spoke comfortably about compassion and shared destinies…Far from wanting to eviscerate government and railing about government dependency, Romney talked about how to make government programs work better…Far from being an unthinking deregulator, Romney declared, ‘Regulation is essential’ … Most important, Romney did something no other mainstream Republican has had the guts to do. Either out of conviction or political desperation, he broke with Tea Party orthodoxy and began to redefine the Republican identity.

MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell:

This move to the center, there’s no complaint from conservatives. Is it that they are so eager to defeat President Obama that they, right now, say, anything that works is okay with them?

Conservative columnist Ross Douthat:

What Romney executed on Wednesday night was not just a simple pivot to the center, as much of the post-debate analysis suggested. Pivot he certainly did — stressing bipartisanship and touting his record as the moderate governor of a liberal state, backing away from the more implausible spending cuts implied by his budget promises, explicitly breaking with the idea that upper-bracket tax cuts can be a self-financing free lunch.

Time Magazine’s Mark Halperin:

Is the ‘new’ Mitt Romney going to be on offer through Election Day, or might he backslide?

The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein:

Read the rest of this entry →

The G.O.P. and a Platform Built for the Past‏

7:04 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

To hear the pundits and political professionals talk about it, this election is all about turning out a party’s base. That’s because there are few if any undecided voters left and the only undecided voters that count are the ones residing in a handful of swing states. That said the only real purpose of a political party’s platform is to energize and excite the base so that it will turnout en mass to vote, volunteer and hopefully convince others to vote for the party’s candidate. However when you examine much of the Republican Party’s 2012 platform one thing is clear. It may excite the base but it’s not likely to broaden that base in any way that will make a difference this election day or on any election day in the future. If this election really turns out to be a battle of the bases and the Republicans lose then part of that loss may be a direct result of having structured a political platform that alienated more potential voters than it engaged. What’s most interesting is not how much the Republican platform differs from that of today’s Democrats, it’s how drastically it differs from their own of 1980 as detailed in “Republican Party Platforms, Then and Now” cited below. Today’s Republicans are heading back in time not forward and when you read their platform and observe their actions of late and it couldn’t be more obvious, particularly in issues of the culture wars.

Marriage: On the topic of marriage the platform states: “We reaffirm our support for a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” This position on marriage is in direct contrast to today’s social trends. If you analyze polling results over the past decade you see a distinct trend away from the idea that same sex marriages or civil unions should have “no legal recognition”, except among Republicans. However what’s interesting here as that even younger Republicans are breaking ranks with their party on social issues. Referencing a recent article “Young in G.O.P. Erase the Lines on Social Issues”, “In a break from generations past and with an eye toward the future, many of the youngest leaders of the Republican Party are embracing views on some social issues that are at odds with traditional conservative ideology…A poll this year by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that the percentage of Republicans ages 18 through 29 who favor same-sex marriage has grown to 37 percent, up from 28 percent eight years ago.” In fact what was even more striking about the RNC is the point to which gays and lesbians were totally absent from the proceedings as per New York Times columnist Frank Bruni: “It was striking because the Republicans went so emphatically far, in terms of stagecraft and storytelling, to profess inclusiveness, and because we gays have been in the news rather a lot over the last year or so, as the march toward marriage equality picked up considerable velocity. We’re a part of the conversation. And our exile from it in Tampa contradicted the high-minded “we’re one America” sentiments that pretty much every speaker spouted.”

Voting Rights: When considering voter fraud initiatives the 1980 Republican platform seems downright liberal: “Republicans support public policies that will promote electoral participation without compromising ballot-box security. We support the repeal of those restrictive campaign spending limitations that tend to create obstacles to local grass roots participation in federal elections.” Now contrast that to the 2012 platform: “we applaud legislation to require photo identification for voting and to prevent election fraud.” But what about those elderly inner city dwellers that no longer have or may have never had a driver’s license or any other form of photo i.d.? To many observers the current crop of voter photo i.d. initiatives and restrictions on early voting initiatives smack of the poll taxes and literacy tests of yesteryear. More to the point there seems to be little in the way of widespread and substantiated voter fraud. An article appearing in People Politico sums up what’s been revealed in other sources: “Again we find, as has been obvious in many other reports, that voter fraud at the polls is so minute and inconsequential that it should outrage all Americans that our politicians are wasting the valuable time they have to try to tackle an issue that doesn’t even exist…Not only did this article dive deep into the entire issue of voter fraud, it used the raw data collected by News21 and their new database to illustrate just how inconsequential in-person, at the polls, voter fraud is. The number of actual cases is somewhere near the 1000th’s of a percent range. That is .001%.”

Guns: Particular specifics of the language on gun rights are especially backward: “We oppose legislation that is intended to restrict our Second Amendment rights by limiting the capacity of clips or magazines or otherwise restoring the ill considered Clinton era gun ban.” While I fully support Second Amendment rights being a gun owner myself and a military reservist who trains with an assault rifle among other weapons, I can’t for the life of me see why anyone outside of law enforcement or the military needs an assault rifle or a high volume clip. Again polling shows that there is little support in the population for unrestricted gun ownership, the civilian use of assault rifles or high capacity clips. In fact polling shows a double digit decline in the opposition to stricter gun laws.

Health Care: The platform is backward looking on the issue of health care: “It states that a Republican president would use his waiver authority to halt progress in implementing the health care act pushed through by President Obama. It proposes a free-market-based plan that gives consumers more choice.” Americans, like the rest of the modern world have tried and failed to have the private sector be the primary engine in delivering adequate affordable health care. America’s Republicans are essentially the only conservative party in the world that is serious in suggesting that government supervised health care should be dismantled. Even the conservatives in Europe are seeking to balance fiscal reform with an underpinning of their country’s social safety nets. The great irony of this is that now, even Mitt Romney has begun to part company with his own party. On this Sunday’s Meet the Press Romney told David Gregory: “I’m not getting rid of all of health care reform. There are a number of things that I like in health care reform that I’m going to put in place. One is to make sure that those with pre-existing conditions can get coverage.”

Abortion: While deriding the role of government in our lives Republicans now propose a constitutional amendment to essentially outlaw all abortions: “we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed.” The backwardness of conservative thinking on reproductive rights hit a new high in the commentary of Republican senatorial candidate Todd Akin whose comments conservative writer Ross Douthat labeled as a blend of “superstition, sexism and stupidity.” While a slight majority of those polled now consider themselves to be pro-life, when the specifics of whether or not abortion should be legal are the issue, consistent majorities say abortion should remain legal to one degree or another. When the specifics of pregnancies due to rape, incest or where a woman’s life or health are endangered the overwhelming majority of poll responders favor abortion. In contrast, the number of respondents who feel that abortion should be “illegal in all circumstances” is seen to be consistently in the low double digits. Moreover, the Republican position on abortion is joined conceptually with backward thinking on the use of contraception and sex education as evidenced by the popularity of the idea that young people should practice abstinence until married as a way of warding off unwanted pregnancies. While the 2012 platform encourages adoption, which is part of the solution in minimizing abortions, it is completely silent on a woman’s right to use contraception and family planning services. It is also silent on the value of sex education as a way of mitigating the need for abortion.

Education: “Republicans support consumer choice, including home schooling, local innovations such as single-sex classes, full-day school hours and year-round schools.” Since when, in a democracy, has education, up to the level of grade 12, been anything but a function of government? Yes we’ve always had prep and parochial schools but they have not been the avenues through which the vast majority of Americans have obtained their educations. With regard to home schooling I’ve known people who have pursued that route and when the parents were well educated it’s worked and where they were lacking in a college education themselves one can only wonder what the final outcome could possibly be. Moreover it would seem to me that single sex classes would serve to retard the social development that coeducational schooling naturally provides. Suffice it to say that in an interconnected and technologically advancing world practices like home schooling and same sex classes would only serve to hinder American development rather than advance it. The bottom line is that ideas such as these belong to a day and age that we left behind long ago.

Taxes: For all of the rhetoric embodied in the 2012 Republican Platform, no matter how you spin it it’s nothing but the old wine of “trickle down” economics in a new bottle. One independent analyst after another has come out and said that the math doesn’t add up and there’s no way that tax breaks for the rich can be enacted without the middle class paying more. These are the policies that have already failed once if not twice already so why try them again?

Labor Unions: The Republican platform derides the current administration as being beholden to the era of union confrontation with management which is odd as only 13 percent of the private sector is currently unionized. It bemoans the now faded support of the card check while completely ignoring the established fact that companies, have for decades, engaged in sophisticated anti-union campaigns aimed at denying workers their rights under existing laws to organize and engage in collective bargaining. The platform claims it will “restore the rule of law” to our national labor relations system by “blocking card check” while remaining completely silent as to the need for restoring the rule of law as it pertains to enforcing existing laws on the books to protect workers in their right to organize and bargain collectively. It “demands” an end to Project Labor Agreements, a practice that has proven highly effective in moving the construction industry forward as it claws its way out of the financial bubble that burst during the last Republican administration. The platform promotes a “National Right to Work” environment which will do nothing but guarantee that non-union workers continue to earn significantly less than they would under a union contract. In a very real sense the Republican Party sees the economic disenfranchisement of America’s workers as a key ingredient in reviving America’s economic prosperity. Thus whatever rationale which previously existed for the so called “Reagan Democrats”, workers who could support the G.O.P., it has long since dissipated and the whole notion of such a thing has long since ceased to make any sense. In fact if you spent anytime watching the Tampa RNC you would think that everything good that ever happened in this country was the work of entrepreneurs. Odd but it never seems to dawn on conservatives that all of the great ideas and the financing that flows to entrepreneurs would amount to nothing if workers didn’t get out bed in the morning and go to work to make it all happen. Capitalism isn’t solely about the bosses; it’s about a partnership between capital, labor and public investment, an essential fact of America’s economic history that seems lost on American conservatives today.

This is not to say that the entire Republican platform of 2012 is completely backward looking. There are parts that acknowledge the need for government investment in infrastructure as an important element in ensuring economic growth but you sure don’t hear much about that from those running for office in this election cycle. Moreover, in a party so transfixed with cutting government spending where will the money come from to build this new infrastructure? Neither from the wealthy nor from the military based on the current rhetoric. The platform also addresses energy independence as if that’s something that the current administration has forgotten but yet this document is merely reiterating what the current administration has already put into motion. A recent article entitled “U.S. Inches Toward Goal of Energy Independence”, along with others cited below, shows how America is in the best position in terms of energy independence than it has been in decades, lying waste to the conservative lie that Barack Obama is not even remotely interested in this country’s energy security. The G.O.P.’s reaffirmation of the need for strong military engagement differs little from that of the present administration in realistic terms and any saber rattling on the part of the Republican Party and the NeoCons needs to be held up to the realities that the American people are tired of overseas military adventures that have yielded little or nothing in the way of enhanced security. In fact today’s version of “The Take Away” on PBS showed that two thirds of the American people felt that the country was no safer as a result of the war in Iraq. That’s sad commentary when assessed against the cost of that war in terms of lives and national treasure. Just imagine what would be if we spent all of the money that went to Iraq on America’s infrastructure, we might no longer even be in recession.

Those who take issue with this article will say that, generally speaking, party platforms aren’t that important. By and large that may be true but as it turns out, this year that’s not the case. Quoting an above referenced article on the 2012 Republican platform, “a poll by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found more people interested in the GOP platform than in the upcoming acceptance speeches by presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan. The survey found that 52 percent said they were interested in learning about the Republican platform, compared to 44 percent interested in Romney’s speech and 46 percent interested in Ryan’s.” That said it goes without saying that more people, especially independent voters are more likely to be turned off by what the G.O.P. has on offer than excited by it. The Republican Party lags the Democrats by around 10 points when it comes to favorability. The Republican Party in Congress is one of the least liked organizations in America. Combine that with the fact that Mitt Romney is hardly loved by his own party and a vote for Romney is really a vote against Obama and you have the makings of a major shortcoming for a party and a movement that, given public sentiment and the state of the economy, should be out in front in this election by 5 to 10 points.

In an article I wrote in February of 2009, “The Challenge of a New Morning in America”, I pointed out that the Republican Party was in a state of ideological exhaustion having little or nothing to say that was relevant for the age of globalized economic and political competition other than to watch you’re spending. When you look over the content of the G.O.P’s 2012 political platform it appears that this is still the case and that’s not good news for a party trying to recapture the government or a conservative movement that’s supposed to be ascendant.

Steven J. Gulitti

9/11/12

Sources:
2012 Republican Party Platform; http://www.scribd.com/doc/104221532/2012-Gop-Platform

GOP votes for tough-talking platform: http://www.onlinesentinel.com/news/in-focus-election-2012_2012-08-29.html

Platform’s Sharp Turn to Right Has Conservatives Cheering; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/29/us/politics/republican-platform-takes-turn-to-right.html?emc=eta1

Republican Party Platforms, Then and Now; http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/08/29/us/politics/republican-party-platforms-now-and-then.html?emc=eta1

Ross Douthat: The Democrats’ Abortion Moment; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/26/opinion/sunday/douthat-the-democrats-abortion-moment.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

Polling Report.com – Same-Sex Marriage, Gay Rights; http://www.pollingreport.com/civil.htm

Young in G.O.P. Erase the Lines on Social Issues; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/09/us/politics/young-republicans-erase-lines-on-social-issues.html?emc=eta1

Voter Fraud: More Evidence of No Evidence; http://www.peoplepolitico.com/index.php/2012/08/voter-fraud-more-evidence-of-no-evidence/

Election Fraud in America; http://votingrights.news21.com/interactive/election-fraud-database/

Frank Bruni – Excluded From Inclusion; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/02/opinion/sunday/bruni-excluded-from-inclusion.html?emc=eta1

Polling Report.com – Gun Laws; http://www.pollingreport.com/guns.htm

Romney, Easing, Says Health Law Isn’t All Bad; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/10/us/politics/romney-adopts-softer-tone-in-critique-of-obama.html

It Will Be Tricky for Romney to Keep Best of Health Law While Repealing It; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/11/us/politics/romneys-pledge-shows-repealing-health-law-to-be-complex.html?ref=todayspaper

Polling Report.com – Abortion; http://www.pollingreport.com/abortion.htm

U.S. Inches Toward Goal of Energy Independence; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/23/business/energy-environment/inching-toward-energy-independence-in-america.html?emc=eta1

Viewpoint: Gas Prices and the Great GOP Lie

http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2109474,00.html?artId=2109474?contType=article?chn=sciHealth

Gulf of Mexico activity continues to escalate; http://www.workboat.com/Blogs/Offshore-Outlook/Gulf-of-Mexico-activity-continues-to-escalate/?utm_source=NewsLinks&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=InformzNews

Massive oil and gas lease shows ‘Gulf is back’; http://www.workboat.com/Online-Features/2012/Massive-oil-and-gas-lease-shows–Gulf-is-back-/?utm_source=NewsLinks&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=InformzNews

The Challenge of a New Morning in America; http://open.salon.com/blog/steven_j_gulitti/2009/02/01/the_challenge_of_a_new_morning_in_america

Desperately Denying Reality

3:15 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Over the past few days we’ve witnessed a barrage of criticism aimed at Barack Obama for his comments on, and a televised feature commemorating, the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death. Mitt Romney and many of his allies on the right initially tried to downplay, minimize or spin the political significance of bin Laden’s removal or they have tried to frame Obama’s televised piece as a “cheap political ploy”, a mere campaign promotional.

Mitt Romney, while campaigning in New Hampshire and asked about Osama bin Laden’s liquidation replied that he, of course, would have done the very same thing, suggesting that Obama’s decision was a “no brainer” that even Jimmy Carter would understand. Oddly enough, Mitt Romney was actually against such a move before he was for it, sort of a reverse of the flip flopping once ascribed to John Kerry. Back in August of 2007 Mitt Romney was singing an entirely different song: “Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney criticized Democrat Barack Obama on Friday for vowing to strike al Qaeda targets inside Pakistan if necessary as the Obama camp issued a strident defense of his plan…I [Romney] do not concur in the words of Barack Obama in a plan to enter an ally of ours… I don’t think those kinds of comments help in this effort to draw more friends to our effort…” Another one of Romney’s comments of 2007 is also coming back to haunt him, his statement to the Associated Press that with regard to getting bin Laden “it’s not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person.” Romney operative and veteran conservative mouthpiece, Ed Gillespie, appearing on Meet the Press, claimed that Obama’s referring back to the bin Laden killing was somehow “divisive”, something that was driving a wedge further and further through American society. If Gillespie’s words aren’t representative of pure spin then what is, after all when is it inappropriate to acknowledge a military or security victory and how would it be considered divisive unless those doing the complaining had something to feel defensive about? Political commentator David Korn noted that Mitt Romney’s haughty and disdainful comments on Obama’s decision in the bin Laden hit give rise to the question of whether or not Romney himself appreciates and understands the gravity of the situation which Obama confronted in ordering the raid as well as whether or not Romney would be capable of performing as a Commander in Chief. To suggest that Obama’s decision was somehow obvious and apparent raises real questions as to Mitt Romney’s own judgment in dealing with matters of grave national importance regarding homeland security. After all committing special forces to this sort of operation can be a most dangerous endeavor as the experience of President Carter had already proven to be the case.

It’s obvious as to why Romney and his Republican minions are so desperately trying to underplay the importance of Barack Obama’s single greatest national security achievement, prior Republican administrations had almost eight years to achieve the same outcome and failed to do so. George W. Bush, after strutting across the deck of an American aircraft carrier under a banner touting the phrase “Mission Accomplished”, would go on to preside over the greatest foreign policy debacle in American history. That debacle, wherein which Iraq would be torn from end to end in an eruption of violence that would ultimately consume thousands of American lives as well as those of many more Iraqis came as a complete surprise to the Bush Administration who claimed that we would be welcomed as liberators. Its hardly a stretch to say that Bush’s war in Iraq coupled with rising isolationist talk among today’s right has had the effect of completely undermining the traditional Republican claim that they are the party best qualified to insure national defense and homeland security. This is a particularly vexing situation for the G.O.P. as it was on their watch that the country had gone from surplus to deficit, driven in a large part by the Bush Administration’s decision to go to war while at the same time cutting taxes, a first in American history. In today’s geopolitical calculus economic power ranks right along with military might in determining global power and to have severely undermined America’s balance sheet in pursuit of riding the world of Saddam Hussein factors in as much in the final analysis of Bush’s war in Iraq as does any military or political miscalculation. Just imagine how much different things would be here today if we had spent that $1.1 trillion dollars on roads, bridges and infrastructure in America rather than on two allies of questionable military and political value in South Asia.

Perhaps it is the reality that in many instances American conservatives have been consistently wrong in their approach to dealing with the changed world of Islam. They totally misread and misrepresented the connection, to the extent that it ever existed, between al Qaeda and the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. They totally misread the rise of the post war anti-American insurgency, labeling the insurgents, in Donald Rumsfeld’s words “dead enders”, when they were anything but desperate men who were running out of options. They initially declared that Iraq and Afghanistan would be model democracies in a region dominated by autocrats and that dream has yet to be realized as well. Dick Cheney would go on to warn us that electing Barck Obama would guarantee another terror attack on American soil and that hasn’t happened either. Lastly, the ultra conservatives in America have completely misread the Arab Spring and fallen for the notion that it was a front for al Qaeda’s drive for a new world caliphate which it most certainly is not.

As for whether or not deciding to go in for the kill on Osama bin Laden was a lay up or not, the after action analysis reveals that nothing, from bin Laden’s actual location to a high probability of mission success was anything but guaranteed. Michael E. Leiter, Director of the United States National Counterterrorism Center at the time of the raid said on the cable circuit today that there was never any unanimous consensus as to whether or not bin Laden was in Abbottabad when the decision to launch the raid was made, the probability was put at 50-50. Likewise is assessing whether or not to launch the raid, many of Obama’s advisers put the chances for success at 40 percent. Admiral Mike Mullen, the head of the Joint Chiefs at the time, also quoted on the cable shows today, said that the decision to launch the raid to kill bin Laden’s was Obama’s alone thereby laying waste to the idea that Obama was indecisive and prodded into action by his advisors. In fact if you look at Obama’s record there’s no way that his conservative critics can honestly make the case that he’s an appeaser or someone who’s been weak in handling America’s security concerns. Quoting Peter L. Bergen of the New America Foundation: “The president who won the Nobel Peace Prize less than nine months after his inauguration has turned out to be one of the most militarily aggressive American leaders in decades…Mr. Obama decimated Al Qaeda’s leadership. He overthrew the Libyan dictator. He ramped up drone attacks in Pakistan, waged effective covert wars in Yemen and Somalia and authorized a threefold increase in the number of American troops in Afghanistan. He became the first president to authorize the assassination of a United States citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico and played an operational role in Al Qaeda, and was killed in an American drone strike in Yemen. And, of course, Mr. Obama ordered and oversaw the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden…Mr. Obama’s readiness to use force — and his military record — have won him little support from the right. Despite countervailing evidence, most conservatives view the president as some kind of peacenik. From both the right and left, there has been a continuing, dramatic cognitive disconnect between Mr. Obama’s record and the public perception of his leadership: despite his demonstrated willingness to use force, neither side regards him as the warrior president he is.”

Whether or not Barack Obama should use, or to what degree he could use the bin Laden raid as a backdrop for his reelection campaign is a legitimate question as the same controversy arose when George Bush did the same thing when he used Ground Zero as a backdrop for his 2004 campaign. However, that’s where the debate ends and the commentary on who, how and why said decisions were made and whether or not Barack Obama exhibited any personal courage and sound judgment in making them is now beyond the pale of the debate as the after action analysis shows. When Mitt Romney or his lieutenants use the issue of Obama’s campaign piece as the takeoff point to belittle the president’s accomplishments in the war on terror they have clearly crossed the line of what constitutes intellectual and factual honesty. The inane prattle about Obama’s actions being divisive or demeaning to the significance of the operation are nothing more then the parroting of shopworn talking points being mouthed by people who have nothing of substance to say in the first place and those comments should be identified as such. Barack Obama’s actions in defending America are likewise unequivocal and conservatives, if they want to be taken seriously, would be better served looking elsewhere for their critiques. President Obama built on the accomplishments of the previous administration in the area of counterterrorist operations and scuttled most of that which was ill conceived or ineffective. That’s what’s called effective and efficient leadership and conservatives need to acknowledge that as well. In the long run Mitt Romney has probably done nothing but given the Obama reelection team another sound bite to use against himself, nothing altogether new there as it turns out.

Steven J. Gulitti

5/1/12

Sources:

Romney attacks Obama over Pakistan warning; http://in.reuters.com/article/2007/08/04/idINIndia-28811520070804

Romney’s 2007 Bin Laden Gaffe Comes Back To Haunt Him; http://2012.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/04/romneys-2007-bin-laden-gaffe-comes-back-to-haunt-him.php

President Obama Dings Mitt Romney Over Bin Laden Ad Complaints; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/30/obama-osama-bin-laden-ad-mitt-romney_n_1465232.html?ref=daily-brief?utm_source=DailyBrief&utm_campaign=050112&utm_medium=email&utm_content=NewsEntry&utm_term=Daily%20Brief

Warrior in Chief; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/29/opinion/sunday/president-obama-warrior-in-chief.html?_r=1&emc=eta1

The Plutocrats Versus the People‏

12:21 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Whenever I hear a professional politician in Washington talking as if he he really understands our lot in life I can only laugh at the disconnect. I mean how likely is it that a sitting U.S. senator, who’s probably at least a multi-millionaire or a congressman, who’s time is consumed with fund raising would even have the faintest idea of the trials and tribulations of us ordinary souls. Well this situation is even more dramatic when viewed through the lens of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t begrudge him his success or his money and I’m not exactly broke either, but when viewed against the lives that the vast majority of us lead, Romney’s comments reveal just how different he is from the average American. Romney’s presidential campaign has been plagued by a number of inopportune remarks about money and wealth that have cast him in the light of a privileged character. His public misstatements prove to what extent he is truly divorced from our reality: ”Corporations are people, my friend… of course they are”; ”I’ll tell you what, ten-thousand bucks? $10,000 bet?”; ”I should tell my story. I’m also unemployed.”;”There were a couple of times I wondered whether I was going to get a pink slip” and a comment which states that the $300,00.00 plus made on the speakers podium was “just a small part of my income” are all cases in point. Now I’ll give Romney a pass on the “I like firing people” and his comments on the poor, both of which were initially misunderstood by the media and thereafter grossly misrepresented. Jacob Heilbrunn writing in The National Interest said “Michael Kinsley famously defined defined a gaffe as something a politician inadvertently says that is true but also embarrassing. Mitt Romney’s remark yesterday about his not being concerned about the poor may fall into that category. It reinforces the perception that he is the 200 million dollar man–a politician who truly is out of touch with common folks.”
 
Now against this backdrop of Romney’s public pratfalls, there is another revelation that only serves to reinforce the image of his disconnected public persona, the fact that a relative few mega rich patrons are pouring millions into his campaign. An article recently written by Nicholas Confessore and Michael Luo, “G.O.P. Donors Showing Thirst to Oust Obama in November”, revealed “Close to 60 corporations and wealthy individuals gave checks of $100,000 or more to a “super PAC” supporting Mitt Romney in the months leading up to the Iowa caucuses…underwriting a $17 million blitz of advertising that has swamped his Republican rivals in the early primary states. The filings to the Federal Election Commission…showed his ability to win substantial backing from a small number of his party’s most influential and wealthy patrons, each contributing to the super PAC far more than the $2,500 check each could legally write to his campaign. All told, the group, Restore Our Future, raised about $18 million from just 200 donors in the second half of 2011.” A detailed look at who these few benefactors are can be seen in the aforementioned article and in “Who’s Financing the “Super PACs” cited below. A Washington Post article also shows how a relative few wealthy patrons are seeking to affect the 2012 political season: “There are probably fewer than 100 people who are fueling 90 percent of this outside money right now,” said David Donnelly, national campaigns director at the Public Campaign Action Fund, an advocacy group favoring limits on political spending. “When you think about the amazing impact that this small number of people have on deciding the election, on the information that people will have on who to vote for, it’s mind-boggling.” Thus it goes without saying that if 100 to 200 people can determine the outcome of an election in a society of over 300 million that clearly would fit the definition of a plutocracy influencing politics to suit its own narrow interests.  
 
That’s not to say that Barack Obama doesn’t have his own well heeled patrons who could pony up large sums of money as well as the campaign progresses, but presently the influence of a wealthy few on funding the Republican primaries is undeniable. And even though Obama has been forced to encourage supporters to create and fund pro-Obama super Pacs as a means of self defense, the president in contrast to Mitt Romney, has relied far more on a grass-roots network of the people, individuals who donate smaller sums and “bundlers”, those who aggregate individual donations and then forward those contributions on to the Obama campaign. That’s a distinct contrast to the Romney fund raising machine which shows that the Republican elite is “relying far more heavily on independent groups empowered by court decisions that have made it easier for wealthy individuals and corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to intervene directly in election contests.”

 
The contrast between the efforts of a few and the rest of the American electorate is seen within the G.O.P. as well and is evident in part in the continuing overall lack of enthusiasm for Governor Romney. The cyclical and recurring rise and fall of a parade of “not Romney’s” and the recent emergence of the cash strapped Rick Santorum as a serious contender buoyed by popular conservative support represents another side of the story in the contest of the people versus the plutocrats. Santorum’s recent sweep of Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota shows the extent to which there is a continuing revolt within the Republican Party between its own grass-roots, predominately the Tea Party, and the establishment G.O.P. elite. This intra-G.O.P. revolt clearly represents a rejection of the mega donor in the primary process and an assertion of individual will. Whether or not Santorum, or whom ever replaces him as the anti-Romney candidate, can outlast the well funded Romney remains to be seen, but if someone other than Mitt Romney emerges as the Republican nominee, it will represent a victory for the conservative grass-roots over the establishment plutocrats who have boldly and blatantly tried to sway the Republican primary and with it the 2012 presidential election in their favor. Likewise the same would hold true if Barack Obama can reassemble his 2008 coalition and defeat Mitt Romney if he becomes the president’s eventual opponent. In the end if Mitt Romney is to prevail and become our next president and he does so in a low turnout election and with a small margin of victory it could only be seen as a victory of the plutocrats over the people and that would be a further setback to popular democracy in America.
 
Steven J. Gulitti
 
2/11/12
 
 
 
 
 
Washington Post: Tiny group of super-rich donors dominate primary; http://politics.salon.com/2012/01/17/tiny_group_of_super_rich_donors_dominate_primary/
 

The Alinsky Obsession

4:37 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Have you ever wondered why the right is so obsessed with Saul Alinsky and why they always try to tie Barack Obama to him? Well for one thing perhaps they have finally come to the realization that Reverend Wright’s use to them has faded but they seem to have an affinity for Alinsky that just won’t go away. In fact, their attraction to Alinsky is so firm that they themselves have used his “Rules for Radicals” and have fully embraced Rule 13, something they appear reluctant to talk about.

There was an interesting discussion on MSNBC’s Hardball last night (1/27/12) between host Chris Matthews, Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun Times and Melinda Henneberger of the Washington Post where it was pointed out that Newt Gingrich has referenced Alinsky’s name so many times in his campaign speeches that it would be easy to lose count of same. It was also pointed out that Dick Armey had handed out copies of “Rules for Radicals” throughout his Tea Party umbrella group FreedomWorks so as to better equip his lieutenants and acolytes with Alinsky’s tried and proven tactics. What’s even more interesting is the historical footnote that Mitt Romney’s father, George Romney, when Governor of Michigan, called in Saul Alinsky to counsel his political leadership cadre after the Detroit riots in the 1960s. After conferring with Alinsky George Romney told his advisors that they “should listen to Alinsky.”

Now the right has tried to paint Alinsky as a radical bent on destroying American society and in some convoluted way tried to pin the same tag on Barack Obama. But let’s look at Alinsky’s biography: “Saul David Alinsky (January 30, 1909 – June 12, 1972) was an American community organizer and writer. He is generally considered to be the founder of modern community organizing, and has been compared to Thomas Paine as being “one of the great American leaders of the nonsocialist left. He is often noted for his book Rules for Radicals. In the course of nearly four decades of political organizing, Alinsky received much criticism, but also gained praise from many public figures. His organizing skills were focused on improving the living conditions of poor communities across North America. In the 1950s, he began turning his attention to improving conditions of the African American ghettos, beginning with Chicago’s and later traveling to other ghettos in California, Michigan, New York City, and a dozen other “trouble spots”. His ideas were later adapted by some U.S. college students and other young organizers in the late 1960s and formed part of their strategies for organizing on campus and beyond. Time magazine once wrote that “American democracy is being altered by Alinsky’s ideas,” and conservative author William F. Buckley said he was “very close to being an organizational genius.” Can you conclude from the above that Alinsky has as his goal the complete and utter destruction of the American way of life? I can’t.

Lynn Sweet, a Chicago native stated that “Saul Alinsky never wanted to destroy the system, he just wanted everyone to have a seat at the table” when it came to formulating solutions to this country’s problems. Sweet alluded to two other facts, one is that, in a general sense, the right has fully embraced and employed the tactics of Alinsky’s Rule 13: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it…In conflict tactics there are certain rules that [should be regarded] as universalities. One is that the opposition must be singled out as the target and ‘frozen’…Then, as you zero in and freeze your target and carry out your attack, all the ‘others’ come out of the woodwork very soon. They become visible by their support of the target…”One acts decisively only in the conviction that all the angels are on one side and all the devils on the other.” Now if this doesn’t sound like the tactics that the right has used against Obama since he arrived in Washington what does?

Sweet’s second conclusion is that of all the Republican contenders it is Newt Gingrich who has most closely adhered to the principles of Saul Alinsky. Gingrich rails against the “elites” in the liberal media, the Democratic Party and even those in the Republican establishment, by tapping into the populist anger on the right in exactly the same manner that Alinsky tapped into liberal outrage back in the 1960s. The great irony of this is that Newt Gingrich is the ultimate Washington insider who has now cloaked himself in the rhetoric of the far right so as to hide his past and hijack the current wave of ultra-conservative populist discontent in an attempt to win the presidency. The leadership of the Republican Party and their major allies within America’s conservative elite know this and you can fully expect that they will work vigorously to derail Newt Gingrich’s hopes and dreams. These conservative elites know that Gingrich is the Goldwater of today, a fact evident in Bob Dole’s comment: “In my opinion if we want to avoid an Obama landslide in November, Republicans should nominate Governor Romney as our standard-bearer.” The other compelling question here is just what does the far right hope to achieve by throwing their lot in with the political charlatan that is Newt Gingrich? As Joe Scarborough said on Meet the Press recently “Newt Gingrich is no conservative, all you have to do is Google his name to see his record isn’t that of a conservative.” So are America’s fired up conservatives about to be taken for another ride by a professional politician who is more than happy to use them to further his own megalomaniacal agenda while offering them nothing in the way of a guarantee that he will honestly serve them if he gets elected? Looks like it.

Steven J. Gulitti

1/28/12

Sources:

Saul Alinsky; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saul_Alinsky

Rules for Radicals; http://www.crossroad.to/Quotes/communism/alinsky.htm

The Unintended Consequences of Citizens United?

1:09 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Quoting Arianna Huffington:”Though the country is sorely in need of solutions, and the public hungry for real debate, that’s not what was served up in Iowa [or in New Hampshire] – either by the candidates or the vast pack of media covering their every word. What we got instead was a deluge of attack ads, largely financed by the super PACs allowed by the Citizens United decision. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, 264 super PACs have been spawned for the 2012 race and they’ve already spent almost half of the $32 million they’ve raised. Perhaps this disconnect between what people are really concerned about and what the candidates are talking about is why only 17 percent of Americans are satisfied with the way things are going” Campaign 2012: The Disconnect Widens; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arianna-huffington/new-hampshire-2012_b_1196161.html

So this brings up the question of what may be one of the great unintended developments resulting from Citizens United: Has its effect spawned an avalanche of intraparty attacks within the conservative movement that may cripple if not badly hamper the prospects of many of the remaining 2012 contenders? We saw Gingrich upended in Iowa and the same thing is already happening to Santorum. Now when Citizens was decided there was much jubilation on the right and dismay on the left as it open the doors for folks like the Koch Brothers to spend as much as they wanted to influence elections. And yes, the same is true for labor unions, Hollywood stars and George Soros.
 
But look at what is happening within the G.O.P. thus far. The unlimited amounts of money flowing into the primary process is creating unlimited opportunities for the well financed candidates, particularly Romney, to bury their competition alive in negative attack ads thereby closing out alternative conservative positions and leaving the radicalized Republican base with several inconvenient choices. The far right may very well be faced with voting for a Republican moderate, staying home which may result in the reelection of Barack Obama or voting for a third party splinter candidate which would amount to a vote thrown away. Then there’s also that ineffective procedure of the write in vote which serves as nothing more than a symbolic protest as the voter can say he performed his civic duty without having to take any responsibility for who is actually elected as it probably would never be his guy.
 
Now since Mitt Romney is a moderate and progressive Republican who has the most to spend and has thus far effectively done so, the unintended consequences of Citizens has, to date, been to short circuit those Republicans to the right of Romney. So that begs the question, if Romney has most of the money to spend on attack ads and the more conservative contenders are woefully underfunded, will Citizens United work to the detriment of the radical right and ensure that we have an election between two progressives, one a Democrat, the other a Republican? Moreover what does it say about the much feared influence of the likes of the Koch Brothers and other wealthy conservatives if their money flows to moderate and progressive Republicans thereby starving the radically right-wing contenders of needed funding? Could it be that America’s wealthy elite knows that some degree of progressive measures are required and desirable in a modern democracy and that the agenda of the radical right is just to extreme to be workable? Is this an indication that these same conservatives were happy to have the support of the radical right as a brake on Barack Obama’s thrust to the left but now that his momentum has slowed, they’ve largely shunted the right-wing radicals to the political periphery? While this may not seem all that evident now, the far right will have a hard time competing if it can’t keep up with the money flowing into the Romney camp or the Obama reelection campaign either, for that matter.
 
While a Romney victory in November wouldn’t be exactly what the Democratic base wanted, the precluding of a Tea Party backed presidential victory by the election of Mitt Romney would surely be a consolation prize for the defeated Democrats. If that’s the case then Citizens United will have harmed the radical right far more than it harmed any other element within the American political system. I Think it goes without saying that few if any on the left or the right ever saw this as the likely outcome of the Citizens United decision.
 
 
Steven J. Gulitti
1/17/12

The Bachmann Flameout Finale

11:55 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Well there you have it, one of the Tea Party’s own heroines, Michelle Bachmann has finally seen the light on her flawed and floundering pretense of a campaign for the American presidency. Quoting Bachmann: “I have decided to stand aside… I have no regrets, none whatsoever. We never compromised our principles.” Bachmann Ends Presidential Bid; http://thepage.time.com/2012/01/04/bachmann-cancels-sc-plans/
 
While its true, in her mind at least, that she never compromised her principles, what she should have realized is that she hardly ever answered a interviewer’s or reporter’s question directly which created a semi-comical aspect to almost every Bachmann interview. Choosing instead to use every question as a cue to spout off her own particular version of “Obama is a Socialist/Marxist/Fascist derangement rant”, Bachmann thereby avoided articulating a policy position that would differentiate her from her competition and one that voters could identify with in a meaningful sense. Perhaps Michelle Bachmann didn’t really have much of a policy platform anyhow. At any rate, you would think that Bachmann would have learned a little something from the disaster that was the Vice Presidential candidacy of Sarah Palin in 2008, that the majority of Americans don’t take the Obama as a Socialist/Marxist/Fascist rap very seriously. In the closing days of the 2008 election Palin ran around like a chicken without a head bleating that “Barack Obama is a Sooooocialist.” When all is said and done beyond riling up a certain segment of the Republican Party this sort of rhetoric is a non-starter if you want to appeal to the mass of independent voters who’s support you need to get elected.
 
When you couple Bachmann’s absurd political rhetoric with her constant misrepresenting and mangling of important facts of American history it’s a miracle that she got this far in the first place. Perhaps you may recall that just yesterday she said that she expected to do well in the Iowa Caucuses because “she believes in the one who creates miracles.” Well apparently that certain someone either voted for someone else or he skipped the Iowa Caucuses altogether. In any event one of the most bizarre episodes in recent American political life has come to a close and for the rest of the Republican Party, probably not a moment too soon. While Mitt Romney will certainly benefit from a continued field of pretenders who pander to the far right, they serve to split up the conservative vote and muddle his opponents prospects, Bachmann with such a low vote take hardly served that purpose anyway. Thus for Bachmann to have gone on would have only contributed to the often cited circus atmosphere which has at times characterized the 2012 Republican primary. That in turn would be a net negative for the G.O.P. brand as well as for the eventual nominee. You can bet your bottom dollar that the leadership of the Republican Party and their major financial backers are glad to see the back of Bachmann.
 
S.J. Gulitti
1/4/12