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Jackie Gingrich Cushman and the Epitome of Anti-Obama Animus

8:59 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

I was scrolling through the various commentaries on offer at yesterday when I spied one written by Newt Gingrich’s daughter Jackie Gingrich Cushman titled “Are We Sick of Him Yet?” Being all too familiar with the anti-liberal, anti-progressive and rabidly anti-Obama venue that TownHall has devolved into I wasn’t the least bit surprised when I opened the article to find just what I had suspected to be contained therein. In this stock and shop worn anti-Obama diatribe Ms. Cushman likens Obama’s decline in popularity of late to a story she once heard about a woman who wanted a divorce from her husband, not for any of the usual reasons, but because she had grown sick of him. So much for family values and the sanctity of marriage among conservatives.
Cushman went on to juxtapose from the marital to the political: “Relationships that begin bright and shiny can fade into dark and gloomy when events occur that change one’s interactions, perceptions and hope for the future. Hope was gone — the relationship could get no better.” She then went on to try to force fit this juxtaposition, derived from her friend’s failed marriage, into a broad brush analysis of Obama’s present public relations predicament: “He has fallen furthest among 18- to 29-year-olds — down 7 points within the last week to 42 percent. More telling than his 40 percent overall approval rating (Gallup), is his disapproval rating, which has reached 53 percent…the 53 percent disapproval rating marks a new high. Simply put: More people than ever before disapprove of the job that Obama is doing…What can’t be determined is if Obama can get back that loving feeling or if it’s just that finally we’re sick of him. Maybe we need a divorce.” Thus reading Ms. Cushman’s piece we are left to conclude that vast swaths of the American people have grown sick of Barack Obama and are desperately in need of relief from this most onerous, if not debilitating relationship. However, short of impeachment, which is thus far unlikely no matter how strong the flights of fancy on the right are about such a thing, there’s no divorcing Obama for the next three years so get over it.

But as novel an approach to dealing with Barack Obama as Ms. Cushman’s might be seen to be, she has stumbled pathetically in her analysis of our collective gastrointestinal maladies by failing to examine the extent to which the American people have grown sick of Obama’s critics on the right. A simple examination of polling numbers from Real Clear Politics or Polling on the public approval of Congress shows that while Obama’s popularity has fallen the popularity of the Republicans on Capitol Hill remains stuck near historic lows at 21% and that 73% disapprove of how they are handling their job. While those numbers are off the absolute lows, its only by a few points and that with all of the problems besetting Obamacare already factored into the latest numbers. These results for Congressional Republicans are consistent throughout all of the recent polling, even that of the right leaning Fox News Network. And when it comes to the popularity of the regularly reliable anti-Obama movement that is the Tea Party the results are pretty much where they’ve been for quite some time, at the historic lows in terms of both popularity with the American people and those who consider themselves members of the movement.

Speaking of things that make voters sick, the plight of the political right is hardly anything to cheer about and it’s certainly nothing to be overlooked if your in the business of intellectually honest political commentary, which apparently isn’t the case for Ms. Cushman. Am I being trite in suggesting that it’s probably a good thing that Ms. Cushman isn’t in the medical profession as her methodology when it comes to formulating a diagnosis leaves much to be desired?

In the past few days much has been made among conservative commentators about the numbers of young people who are dissatisfied with the participation mandate of Obamacare. This has given, I believe, many on the right a false sense of hope that they might now capture the votes of those 18- to 29-year-olds. That’s a giant leap of faith when you stop to factor in where these voters are on issues such as climate change, same sex marriage, reproductive rights, immigration, minimum wage reform and voter identification issues, all issues where the G.O.P. is definitely out of step with young voters. Republicans and their fellow travelers still have the albatross of the government shutdown around their necks and the negative aspects of that will far outlast the Obamacare website rollout debacle or a few million cancelled insurance policies as a issue to reconcile before the voters in 2014. Why, because the technical glitches of the ACA website and cancelled insurance policies are far less debilitating politically than are those of the Tea Party afflicted government shutdown or the track record that comes with five years of political obstruction. That being understood, is there any reason to think that these young voters are well on their way to becoming conservative voters? I seriously doubt it. Read the rest of this entry →

The Tea Party and the G.O.P.: From Rescue to Wreck

7:58 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

In the immediate aftermath of the 2010 mid-term elections, Peggy Noonan, tireless cheerleader for all things conservative, published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, “The Tea Party to the Rescue” In it Noonan gushed effusively as to how the emerging Tea Party movement had miraculously injected new energy and direction into a politically lethargic G.O.P. Coming just two years after the decisive 2008 defeat and after a period of strident conservative reaction to the Obama administration’s handling of the 2008 economic crisis, federal spending increases and the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Noonan, like so many others, had misinterpreted the 2010 elections. In these events she saw a return to a more conservative national trend seeing the election of Barack Obama as an aberration. As history played out it would be just the opposite. Today, in the wake of the stunning defeat of the Tea Party backed government shutdown and its failure to derail Obamacare one could reasonably conclude that, for the G.O.P., the rescue had turned into an undeniable and abysmal political debacle. In the words of conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer: “For conservatives this was a complete defeat. They will not try to shut down the government again. They’ll have less leverage in the next round.”

The defeat of the Tea Party backed government shutdown is just the latest setback to be sustained by the Tea Party backed Congress and along with it, the G.O.P. The question is how we got to this point. The answer is to be found in that now famous statement uttered before the Civil War by Kentucky Senator Henry Clay; “If you can’t compromise you can’t govern.” The need to compromise when operating under divided government has been completely lost upon congressional Tea Party Republicans. In fact, they reject compromise-seeing obstruction as a viable and operative strategy. This refusal to compromise in favor of continued obstruction has only worked to guarantee continued political defeat. To quote conservative columnist Ross Douthat opining on an earlier deficit spending impasse: “The inability of the Republicans to make even symbolic concessions has turned a winning hand into a losing one.”

Looking back since Obama was first elected we can see the futility of the original Republican goal of obstruction politics. The goal of making Barack Obama “a one term President” failed in 2012. The G.O.P.’s failure to accept defeat in 2012 and to go on pretending that elections do not have consequences and that Obamacare could be destroyed through defunding or delay has only further deepened their predicament. Likewise, the same is true of their unwillingness to accept the Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. The present Republican dominated congress is on track to be less productive than the last, which was the least productive on record. Congress has failed to pass a farm bill or appropriate needed infrastructure spending. Immigration reform is sidelined and forty some odd attempts to repeal Obamacare stand as a public record of wasted legislative effort. In an opinion piece titled “House Republicans prefer sabotage to real solutions” conservative commentator and Fox News regular Juan Williams pointed out, “There is absolutely zero chance that ObamaCare will be repealed while Democrats control the Senate and President Obama is in the White House. Reality also compels some mention of the fact that the GOP has never held a vote on any alternative plan for dealing with the nation’s out-of-control healthcare spending. But reality is a nuisance to Congressional Republicans intent on a brazen strategy to trip up the healthcare program before it can take its first step.” Likewise Newt Gingrich in an interview with Bloomberg News pointed out that Republicans had “zero answers” as to how they would replace Obamacare. Thus the government shutdown, engineered in another forlorn effort to upend Obamacare, can only be seen as the latest act in the thus far failed policy of obstruction politics, a strategy that has been years in the making.

In the political “Danse Macabre” that is political obstruction the government shutdown left ample room for both sides to posture and politic until that fateful moment during the second week of October when the reality of the Republican mistake came more clearly into focus. During that week the political poll numbers showed that, despite the public’s disgust with Washington in general, their dismay with the Republican Party specifically and more specifically with the Tea Party was just too much to be ignored. Citing a NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll: “By a 22-point margin (53 percent to 31 percent), the public blames the Republican Party more for the shutdown than President Barack Obama… Just 24 percent of respondents have a favorable opinion about the GOP, and only 21 percent have a favorable view of the Tea Party, which are both at all-time lows in the history of poll… Yet what is perhaps even more worrisome for the GOP is the “boomerang” effect: As the party has used the shutdown and fiscal fight to campaign against the nation’s health-care law and for limited government, the poll shows those efforts have backfired.” The net effect of these poll findings is that President Obama’s ratings went up as did support for the A.C.A. In fact, Obamacare was seen to be more popular than both the G.O.P. and the Tea Party. Disapproval of the Republican Party topped 70 percent vice 59 percent for the Democrats and 48 percent for the president.

The sinking popularity of the Tea Party was replicated in other polling results: “A Pew Research Center poll released this week showed public favorability for the Tea Party dropped to its lowest level since driving the Republican takeover of the House in the 2010 elections. An AP-Gfk poll showed that 70 percent now hold unfavorable views of the Tea Party.” The Gallup findings, which replicate other polling further found that there is a growing ambivalance among Republicans for the Tea Party that was supposed to be it’s savior. Whereas three years ago when two thirds of Republicans supported the Tea Party today it’s down to 38 percent as per the latest Gallup Poll. The agony of public opinion would turn out to be too much to bear for the Republican esthablishment and it’s media supporters. Gone were the usual defelective commentary about an “oversampling” of “progressives” of the usual allegations about a liberal bias in the polling. A good barometer of how things are going within the conservative movement is Fox News and the arrival ot this disquieting news led to a distinct change in the commentary on that channel. Conservative stalwarts like Charles Krauthammer, Jonah Goldberg, Stephen Hays and Kristen Powers went from the usual scathing criticisms of Obama and the Democrats to publicly bemoaning the self destruction of the House Republicans to a veiled appeal to Obama himself not to rub their noses in defeat by spiking the ball in the end zone and dancing when compromise was finally in view.

The fallout from the Tea Party backed failure to defeat Obama via government shutdown is by now well documented and amply referenced below. The single best analysis that I found came from Stuart Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report: “They got nothing. This was a disaster for them. They picked a fight that they could not win. Moreover, in fact, all the political benefits accrue to the president and to the Democrats. The Republicans caved. The president did not have to compromise, so the Republicans start off with a weaker hand when they have to engage again. The Democrats are going to benefit from recruiting in congressional races. Republican money may dry up. I mean, this is a mess for Republicans… primarily the chaos in Washington and the fact that the Republicans are now more easily demonized and defined as the guys who are against anything and everything. Republicans are worried about both small-dollar fund-raising and big-dollar fund-raising. They’re concerned with the small-dollar folks because those are the true blue grassroots Tea Party conservatives who now have nothing — there’s no benefit from — the Republicans caved. They didn’t get anything…And the big donors, who are more pragmatic, are petrified at the thought the Republicans are going to drive the party and the country off the economic cliff. If you looked at — you also have to look at what the Republicans gave up. They gave up arguments over the past few weeks about the rollout of Obamacare and what a mess it was. And they’re just in an inferior position now.”

In the end, the Tea Party achieved nothing except inflicting further damage on an already ailing conservative movement, the American people and the economy as well. I predicted in a piece written before the 2010 elections, “An Impending and Inevitable Train Wreck” that what we have just witnessed would be the most probable outcome of the rise of the Tea Party Movement. I believe that my prognosis has proven to be far more accurate than that of Ms. Noonan who apparently is still in rescue mode. In her latest piece on the shutdown, “Now Obama Rescues the GOP” Noonan once again misses the mark in suggesting that the mistakes, and hence the consequences, to both sides are equally the same and thus the GOP will be bailed out this time, not by the Tea Party but by Barack Obama himself. Of course nothing could be further from the truth as the polls and the post mortems reveal. The debacle that has now befallen the GOP extends far beyond the pale of public opinion polling to responsibility for inflicting billions of dollars worth of damage to the economy, figures range from $3.1 billion to $24 billion as estimated by Standard and Poors and a shaving of one half of one percent of growth from GDP.

Politically the GOP is seen to be adrift and rudderless, wracked from within, in full public view, by intensifying conflict between the Tea Party faction and the Republican esthablishment. Having twice lost in retaking the Senate there is talk about losing this opportunity a third time and an outside chance that they will lose the House in 2014 as well. Alexandra Jaffe writing for The Hill noted,…” polls showing voters primarily blamed Republicans for the crisis have even GOP strategists acknowledging that the prospects of a Senate takeover have dimmed.”

Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report has said that 14 existing seats in the House are now more likely to swing to the Democrats in 2014. Fears of a drop off in campaign contributions to the GOP are now very real as is the prospect that the Party won’t be able to recruit atteactive candidates for 2014. Meanwhile the Democrats have seen an increased interest among those willing to run as well as the money flowing into the party in political contributions. While the Tea Party and the G.O.P. were going down to defeat on Capitol Hill, their candidate in the New Jersey special election for the Senate was defeated by Newark Mayor Cory Booker. Their candidate for Virginia Governor is trailing in the polls while the moderate Chris Christie of New Jersey, who said that the Republican dominated House of Representatives was “the definition of failure” is surging in his reelection bid. And even more consequential is the change in tone among business leaders who feel shut out of the political process by the very allies they bank rolled. From the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to industry trade groups down to individual C.E.Os there is talk about primarying Tea Party radicals with conservative centerist candidates.

One of the grat ironies of the Tea Party era is that for all of their commentary about taking the country back to the principles of the founders they have shown little in the way of respect for the political process they purport to defend. They have willingly and knowingly disregarded the results of elections and the decisions of the Supreme Court when those decisions don’t suit them. They have willingly and knowingly misrepresented public opinion polls claiming that a majority of Americans oppose Obamacare while ignoring the fact that a third of those who do, favor a single payer system, which in turn means that a majority of Ameiricans oppose their ideas on scuttling Obamacare. To some they have threatened the very essence of the democratic process. Tom Friedman in a pair of articles, referenced below, opined “What is at stake in this government shutdown forced by a radical Tea Party minority is nothing less than the principle upon which our democracy is based: majority rule…When extremists feel that insulated from playing by the traditional rules of our system, if we do not defend those rules — namely majority rule and the fact that if you don’t like a policy passed by Congress, signed by the president and affirmed by the Supreme Court then you have to go out and win an election to overturn it; you can’t just put a fiscal gun to the country’s head — then our democracy is imperiled.” Friedman in his second piece went on to compare the Tea Party to extremists in the Middle East saying: “The Tea Party is not a terrorist group. It has legitimate concerns about debt, jobs and Obamacare. But what was not legitimate was the line it crossed. Rather than persuading a majority of Americans that its policies were right, and winning elections to enact the changes it sought — the essence of our democratic system — the Tea Party threatened to undermine our nation’s credit rating if the Democrats would not agree to defund Obamacare. Had such strong-arm tactics worked, it would have meant that constitutionally enacted laws could be nullified if determined minorities opposed them.”

So what in the end did the Tea Party do to the G.O.P. and the rest of the country? Far from rescuing, it wrecked havoc on the party and the political process as well. Democratic political systems rely on the competition of ideas to move society forward or keep it from moving radically off course into the dangerous waters of extremism. The Tea Party has effectively crippled the Republican Party’s ability to compete politically on a national scale, in the process it has bailed out both the Democrats and Obama as all they need do is point to the chaos on the right, and ask the majority of the electorate if that is what they want. There is distinctly less need for politically competitive ideas to come out of the Democratic Party or the Obama administration in this political enviornment. Yes, it is true that the G.O.P. has made great strides in statehouses across the country but many of those state governments have parted company with the Tea Party movement choosing to participate in the federally funded expansion of Medicare and setting up health care exchanges. And it’s also true that most of the core Tea Party congressmen and women come from gerrymandered safe seats but in the long run that won’t save the movement either. Why, because what we just saw in crafting the compromise that ended the shutdown was moderate Republicans joining with Democrats to move legislation forward. This could be the template for the future that will effectively sideline the Tea Party faction and allow the Republican Party to function more effectively going forward. The unrelenting tide of demographic change will also, in the long run, work to change the voter composition in many of those districts now seen to be reliably Republican.

The politics of extremism have also sabotaged much of the original conservative agenda of 2010 and that is bad news for the Tea Party. Quoting political analyst David Fahrenthold, “Now, after forcing four national crises, the House GOP can count one major victory. One major defeat. And a large number of opportunities lost.” Has all of this affected the public perception of the G.O.P. in a politically dangerous way, the answer seems to yes or at least things may be trending that way. A recent CNN/ORC poll that came out after the shutdown showed: “A majority of Americans think it is bad for the country that Republicans control the House of Representatives, and even more want House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to be replaced by another Republican…Fifty-four percent think it’s bad that Republicans control the House. That’s up from 43 percent in December 2012, during the last fiscal standoff. The figure is the first time a majority thought Republican control was bad for the country since CNN started asking in December 2010.” It appears that things are only getting worse for both the G.O.P. and the Tea Party on Capitol Hill. Commenting on the latest Washington Post – ABC Poll, the results of which were published today, Dan Balz writes: “The survey highlights just how badly the GOP hard-liners and the leaders who went along with them misjudged the public mood. In the aftermath, eight in 10 Americans say they disapprove of the shutdown. Two in three Republicans or independents who lean Republican share a negative view of the impasse. And even a majority of those who support the tea party movement disapprove… There was little in the findings for the GOP to feel good about. The party’s image has sunk to an all-time low in Post-ABC surveys, with 32 percent of the public saying they have a favorable opinion and 63 percent saying they have an unfavorable view. Almost four in 10 Americans have a strongly unfavorable view of the GOP. The tea party fares just as badly. Barely a quarter of the public has a favorable image of the movement, the lowest rating in Post-ABC polling.”

I have many friends and family members who belong to a Tea Party organization and they truly love their country and are legitimately concerned for it’s future. But what seems to be lost on so amny within this movement is that they don’t represent a majority of what the rest of the people want or how they want to achieve it. Ted Cruz stated after the shutdown defeat that the leadership on Capitol Hill had ignored the will of the people. But how could Cruz or anyone else make such a claim when 70 percent of those responding to opinion polls show disatisfaction with the Tea Party movement and only 21 percent view it favorably? If the Tea Party were so popular they would have a president in the White House and control both houses of Congress but they don’t. If you don’t control the government you can only be successful through compromise and the Tea Party can’t abide such a thing so they’ve effectively put themseleves out of the business of effecting positive change thereby opting instead to participate by subverting the democratic process. While this may be an essential tenent of the movement and it’s stated goal of cleaning house in Washigton in the long run it’s counter to American political culture. This strategy can only lead to further defeat and a further weakening of the Republican Party. Far from being the saviors of the G.O.P. the Tea Party is politically an albatross round it’s neck.

In his farewell missive to Indiana voter’s Senator Richard Lugar pointed out the problems that result from extremist politics and positions and in doing so he echoed that long ago phrase of Henry Clay that is still relevant today and that the Tea Party crowd just dosen’t seem to understand, “ If you can’t compromise you can’t govern.” Does that mean that we are witnessing the G.O.P. in its death throes? Not neccesarily but there’s no denying that the Party and the conservative movement is politically behaind the proverbial eight ball. However, all factors considerd, one thing is for sure, and that is there’s nothing to say that a given political party has to last for ever. Vote for any Whigs or Federalists lately?

Steven J. Gulitti


Peggy Noonan: “The Tea Party to the Rescue” Wall Street Journal 10/22/10

Compromise as Liability;

Ross Douthat: The Republican Retreat;

Taboo in Today’s GOP? Realism and Compassion;

Farm bill setback opens House GOP up to new attacks about ability to lead;

The dysfunctional House;

Juan Williams – Opinion: House Republicans prefer sabotage to real solutions;

Gingrich Scolds Republicans for Not Offering Alternatives;

Tea party lawmakers see the culmination of years of effort in shutdown;

A Federal Budget Crisis Months in the Planning;

GOP lawmakers bridle at calling Affordable Care Act the law;

Obamacare fight reenergizes tea party movement;

NBC/WSJ poll: Shutdown debate damages GOP;

Poll: Six in 10 would replace every member of Congress;

Support for tea party slips;

Tea Party Support Dwindles to Near-Record Low;

Senate Republicans: GOP Didn’t Gain Anything By Forcing Shutdown;

House GOP extracts no concessions;

Republicans grapple with stinging defeat;

Winners and losers of the debt-limit fight;

Republicans reassess after shutdown debacle;

Fiscal Crisis Sounds the Charge in G.O.P.’s ‘Civil War’;

Shutdown showdown widened GOP-tea party rift;

House tea partiers not anteing up for 2014;

GOP unity frays, frustration builds;\

An Impending and Inevitable Train Wreck;

Peggy Noonan – Now Obama Rescues the GOP;

Shutdown to Cost U.S. Billions, Analysts Say, While Eroding Confidence;

Gridlock Has Cost U.S. Billions, and the Meter Is Still Running;

Pelosi to GOP: Was tantrum worth $24B?;

While GOP ‘picked a fight that they couldn’t win,’ Democrats emerge reunited;

The GOP is adrift, floundering;

G.O.P.’s Hopes to Take Senate Are Dimming;

Fiscal Armageddon could remake Hill in 2014 elections;

Far-Right Republicans Could Hit A Tipping Point As Support Falters;

Democrats hope GOP chaos in fall will help them win back House;

GOP In Danger Of Losing House As Popularity Plummets;

Democrats Have A Shot At Taking Back The House As Republican Popularity Continues To Drop: Poll;

Election prospects put a spring in the step of Senate Democrats;

Opinion: Independents desert GOP;

Conservative groups struggling to recruit candidates in key 2014 races;

GOP fears fundraising disaster;

Republicans’ issues give Democratic recruiting a boost;

In budget and debt fight, White House finds unlikely alliance with business groups;

Businessweek’s Ted Cruz Cover Will Haunt Your Dreams;

Business Voices Frustration with GOP;

Majority Of Americans Think It’s ‘Bad For The Country’ That Republicans Control The House;

October 2013 Post-ABC poll – Obama, Republicans and shutdown fallout;

Poll: Major damage to GOP after shutdown, and broad dissatisfaction with government;

Tom Friedman – Our Democracy Is at Stake;

Tom Friedman: From Beirut to Washington;

David Fahrenthold – Amid four national crises, many of GOP’s goals after retaking House have been ignored;

GOP Could Pay a price for Gerrymandering;

Cruz: No surrender;

The Importance of Dick Lugar’s Farewell Warning;

Beyond Benghazi

11:00 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

As we navigate our way through this season of political scandal there are questions which have begun to arise, surrounding events in Benghazi, as to motives, both on the part of the supposed architects of failure and those likewise ascribed to their accusers. The Benghazi affair is both fraught with conflicting stories and muddled facts as to what happened and why and what role, if any, was played directly by President Obama and his immediate lieutenants. Beyond discerning what the president actually knew and when he knew it there are numerous questions as to what are the real motives of those on the right who are leading the charge to get to the bottom of it all.

Looking back to this past February, Senator John McCain, appearing on Meet the Press demanded: “Shouldn’t these people [the Administration] be held accountable for the deaths of four brave Americans? We need answers.” More recently Congressman Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, appearing on that same program, made his case for going after whomever it is determined to be responsible. Issa has publicly alleged that the CIA has been manipulated to get the truth that the administration wanted and that the American people had been lied to. That lying, deception, false statements and cover up are all actions of this administration that are legitimately within the scope of Congressional oversight. Issa has demanded to know what the State Department had failed to do to protect American lives. And lastly he, along with the rest of the American public, has lamented the needless loss of four brave Americans.

The maelstrom that Benghazi has become is now easily seen as a politicized contest between the G.O.P. and the Obama administration in their respective efforts to shape a message to the American public. That message, to paraphrase BBC Washington correspondent Katty Kay, is one in which the American people are now completely either missing the point or can’t discern what constitutes a clear picture of what actually happened and why. Are we engaged in a political witch-hunt to bring down the Obama administration or are Republicans engaged in a legitimate inquiry so as to preclude future Benghazi’s or is it both? Is this really about establishing ineptitude on the part of former Secretary of State Clinton or a rightwing ploy to torpedo her chances in 2016? After all Rand Paul, a potential contender for the presidency, has gone on the record as saying, before guilt has been unequivocally established, that Hillary Clinton is unqualified for the presidency. Former Vice president Dick Cheney has publicly asserted that the Obama White House is engaged in a cover up, David Brooks of the New York Times has disputed that, saying that the CIA is trying to shift blame to the State Department. White House sources have alleged that Republicans have altered e-mails so as to create “support” for their position. In the froth and foam of all of these charges and countercharges some on the far right, as in the IRS scandal, have clamored for Obama’s impeachment while other voices within and from outside of the G.O.P. have cautioned restraint until all of the facts are known. The House Republican leadership has asked that Congressman Issa to cease and desist with his personal attacks.

If it is truly the goal of Issa and his allies to rectify, for all time, the shortcomings that led to the Benghazi, tragedy then I say he deserves our support and if it leads to the impeachment of the President Obama and / or the end of Hillary Clinton’s political career so be it. But if Issa’s efforts are just the latest iteration of “gotcha” politics or just another attempt at partisan attack for its own sake then it is almost certainly guaranteed to yield little in the way of benefit to either the American people or the Republican Party. For you see the issues that surround the tragedy in Libya are far from unique to the Obama Administration. This isn’t the first time something like this has happened. Political columnist Bob Cesca in his article “13 Benghazis That Occurred on Bush’s Watch without a Peep from Fox News” detailed numerous attacks on American interests which took place during the Bush administration and which received little if any attention from those now clamoring for accountability in the Benghazi incident. Likewise in his interview with Congressman Issa, David Gregory, moderator of Meet the Press, pointed out a litany of past attacks on U.S. interests abroad and asked why Issa wasn’t interested in establishing responsibility for those attacks as well only to have Issa ignore past history in his focus on the present.

The central and most important question to be raised here is whether or not Congressman Issa and his political allies will seize this opportunity to examine all of the recent failures in protecting American interests abroad so as to establish a sound and effective policy for protecting those interests going forward, or will they succumb to the politically attractive alternative of short term political gain that might be had from tying up the Obama administration in endless rounds of hearings over scandals real or imagined? Conceivably and legitimately, this line of inquiry could extend to an analysis of the run up to and the conduct of the War in Iraq as well which contained elements of manipulated intelligence, lying, deception, false statements and cover up of the ineptitude of the Bush administration’s lack of a game plan to manage Iraq after the end of hostilities. After all couldn’t it be said that hundreds of Americans died needlessly there as well?

I’m not a big believer in “multitasking” so I say let Issa and his consort make a thorough examination of Benghazi and let the political chips fall where they may. But after that let Issa and his associates go through the list of other past security failures as outlined by Bob Cesca and as suggested by David Gregory so that they can prove to the American people that their motives aren’t purely, or even largely, political. Anything less than that would leave the American people with only one plausible conclusion and that is that Issa and the Republicans had only one goal in mind when they launched the Benghazi hearings and that was the pure politics of a continual campaign of obstructing the Obama Administration through whatever means were handy at the time.

Steven J. Gulitti
7 June 2013


John McCain: Meet the Press – February 17, 2013:

Darrell Issa: Meet the Press – May 12, 2013;

New Benghazi probe evidence puts spotlight back on Clinton;

Serious Investigations, or Partisan Ploys?;

Boehner calls for release of Benghazi emails as pressure grows on administration;

13 Benghazis That Occurred on Bush’s Watch without a Peep from Fox News;

Benghazi emails put pressure on White House;

Rand Paul: Hillary Clinton does not deserve higher office due to Benghazi;

Benghazi: A Desperate GOP Attack;

Cheney: White House ‘lied’ to hide Benghazi ‘incompetence’;

White House: GOP fabricated leaked Benghazi email;

State fretted over Benghazi talking points;

White House releases Benghazi emails;

White House: Benghazi emails have different quotes than earlier reported;

Redacted truth, subjunctive outrage;

Benghazi witness points finger at Clinton on lapses in consulate security;

Petraeus’s role in drafting Benghazi talking points raises questions;

Rep. Chaffetz: Administration covering up on Benghazi terror attack;

Benghazi Depositions To Examine Hillary Clinton’s Role In Response To Attacks;

Defense bill presses Pentagon on lessons learned from Benghazi failures;

House Republicans grill Benghazi auditor on blame for security lapses;

GOP to Darrell Issa: Cool it;

The IRS Scandal and the False Hope of Tea Party Revival

1:05 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Amid all of the sound and fury bubbling up from the IRS examination of the various conservative organizations there’s hope among the Tea Party faithful that this controversy will somehow breathe new life into their movement. But will it be enough to reinvigorate a movement considered to be in disarray, if not politically stalled? Yes the vast majority of Americans holds the IRS in low esteem and is troubled by the revelations that the agency has, if nothing else, tangled rightwing organizations in excessive red tape, even if it hasn’t moved to cripple them altogether. However, as Sam Tanenhaus of the New York Times pointed out, this isn’t the first time that an administration has used the IRS against the opposition, even though, to date, there’s no evidence that President Obama ordered any such action.

While the wild eyed voices on Capitol Hill have been bellowing for the impeachment of the president, the more level headed among them, and among conservative political pundits, have counseled caution least the Tea Party claque in Congress overplay its hand with negative consequences for 2014. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in a meticulously detailed piece outlines the vast differences between Watergate and the current IRS controversy. It is an analysis that undermines the very argument being made by the far right for the impeachment of President Obama: “Those who bother to read these historical snippets will find many important departures and only tenuous parallels between the Obama Administration’s IRS affair and Richard Nixon’s Watergate-era IRS scandal. A principal distinction is the ingredient of direct presidential involvement. President Nixon was the fulcrum, the visionary and the principal conspirator in his various capers to use the IRS as a political weapon. Nixon personally directed and persistently harangued his staff to audit, investigate and gather dirt on his enemies for personal purposes. Nixon went to reckless extremes even punishing IRS agents who refused to participate in his vendetta. A mean-spirited viciousness and his contagious enthusiasm for law breaking were also distinctive Nixon bailiwicks. In contrast, there is no evidence that Obama even knew of the IRS investigations which were presided over by Donald Shulman, a Bush appointee. The most recent evidence indicate that the Tea Party audits resulted not from intentional political targeting of conservatives from the sheer preponderous of Tea Party applications among the hundreds of 501(c)(4) tax exemption requests that deluged a tiny understaffed IRS field office.”

But while it’s important to note the fact that, to date, the current scandal doesn’t even come close to approximating the severity of Watergate as an assault on the Constitution, there is evidence that Tea Party organizations have pushed the limits of what was politically legitimate. That in turn has increased the attention given these groups by the IRS, which isn’t necessarily unwarranted or beyond the pale of legitimate agency operations. In the article “Groups Targeted by I.R.S. Tested Rules on Politics”, referenced below, two political reporters, Nicholas Confessore and Michael Luo, detail the many activities undertaken by conservative organizations over the past few years that have given rise to legitimate questions on the part of IRS agents who have conducted these examinations. Have those agents been overzealous, perhaps, but at the same time those agents wouldn’t be looking into these groups if they didn’t have a reason to believe that somehow these organizations hadn’t run afoul of the law. The IRS simply doesn’t have the luxury of excess manpower with which to carry out such a political wild goose chase no matter who might have requested such a thing. Likewise the claim by conservative columnist Peggy Noonan, a tireless critic of Barack Obama, that conservatives generally have been singled out for IRS harassment has been debunked prima facie as well by Nate Silver, as referenced below.

With all of the above being understood, what affect, if any, has the IRS scandal had, to date, on the public perception of the Tea Party movement as a whole? Is there any reason thus far to believe that this controversy is breathing new life into the Tea Party? Presently the answer is emphatically no. Jon Cohen and Dan Balz of the Washington Post, analyzing the results of the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll concluded the following: “The IRS scandal has brought the tea party back into the spotlight, but it has done little to change the public’s impressions of the political movement. In the poll, 40 percent of all Americans say they support the tea party movement and 43 percent oppose it, numbers stable back to last year. A record high of 17 percent express no opinion on the question. About 73 percent of conservative Republicans say they support the movement, but that’s the lowest percentage to say so in polls going back more than two years.” Moreover, when you go inside the results of this poll 74 percent of the respondents saw the IRS actions as inappropriate and 56 percent of respondents see this activity as deliberate harassment; 54 percent see the Federal Government as threatening the individual rights of the average citizen.

One would think that for all of the public discomfort being generated by the actions of the IRS that the American people would see anew some value in the Tea Party and its ideas. Ironically that has proven not to be the case. Likewise you would think that these same Americans would now be looking to throw Obama, the far right’s new Nixon, under the bus but that hasn’t happened either. Obama’s poll numbers have actually edged up since this controversy began. In fact if you examine the bulk of the data compiled by, referenced below, the Tea Party movement has seen, in net terms, its popularity and acceptance decline overall since 2010 and it is, thus far, in no way positively affected by the current spate of scandal and revelation.

One would ask why, with all the unpopularity surrounding the IRS and big government generally and with all of the sensational media coverage and the mainstream media’s new found interest in challenging the Obama administration, why is it that the Tea Party seems to be getting little if any traction from all of this? I think that to for many informed observers the answers are self-evident if not outright obvious. For one thing, even though Americans are wary of “too much government” they have little stomach for deliberate government gridlock and when it comes to gridlock they see the Tea Party movement is the chief culprit in affecting the dysfunctional state of affairs that has come to characterize Washington D.C. generally and Capitol Hill in particular. Gridlock aside, the Tea Party’s penchant for economic austerity works to the movement’s disadvantage as this economic policy has come to be seen as a failure, even among serious conservative thinkers in organizations like the American Enterprise Institute. Finally, the movement is now beset by scandal as well, its onetime Congressional standard bearer Michelle Bachmann has decided not to run for reelection with a scandal of her own as a backdrop.

The essence of American democracy has always been compromise and it has been at those junctures in American history where the practice of compromise broke down that our democracy has been seen to fall short, sometimes with disastrous results, the Civil War being the most obvious example. In the current era it has been the Tea Party movement that has epitomized the belief put forth by Henry Clay, the Great Compromiser of pre-Civil war fame, who famously stated, “If you can’t compromise you can’t govern.” Today the American people know that there is little in the way of real political progress being made in Washington D.C. They see the Republican Party and the Tea Party specifically as the reason why. Furthermore, after three plus years on the American political scene, serious Tea Party missteps at the level of Republican Presidential politics and in Senate races have cast Tea Party politics and politicians in a less than flattering light. All one need do is think back over the clown fest that was the 2012 Republican primaries or some of the absurdities surrounding Tea Party backed candidates for the U.S. Senate during the last two election cycles and it’s not hard to see why, even in the wake of the current scandals and with issues that play right into the anti-government creed, that the Tea Party could still fail to benefit from this current state of affairs.

Scandals have rocked Washington before and they will rock it again. That said there’s another reason that the current round of scandal may fail to reinvigorate the Tea Party movement. The reason for this is that voters have had over three years to get to know the movement and there seems to be little coming out of it that those who don’t already support it find compelling. In fact if you go back inside the data in you find that the numbers prove that those respondents who claim they don’t know enough about the Tea Party have been halved since data collection began in 2010, sometimes falling to single digits. It could be that even though the average American is disgusted with the state of American politics, those same Americans may see the Tea Party movement as part of the reason for that disgust and therefore the movement isn’t seen as part of the solution. After all one of the chief complaints about Washington today is gridlock, a word synonymous with the Tea Party and that’s not a good thing.

If the aforementioned is in fact the case, and I for one strongly believe it is, then there is little in the way of hope to be had from all of this that will ultimately bode well for the Tea Party. Yes voters can punish the Obama and the Democrats in 2014 at the ballot box, but that doesn’t mean that they’ve finally and firmly embraced the ideas of the Tea Party and the far right. We can see a replay of the 2010 elections which I believe to have been nothing more than a protest against the perceived excess of the first Obama administration rather than a rejection of progressive ideas. For if in fact the 2010 elections had been a rejection of the essence of the first Obama administration there would have never been a second one and as we all know it was Barack Obama and not a champion of the far right who was elected in November of 2012. In other words, as far as the fortunes of the Tea Party movement are concerned, the more things change the more they seem to stay the same.

Steven J. Gulitti
30 May 2013

IRS targeting scandal a political ‘gift from heaven’ for Tea Party groups;

Tea Party Looks to Gain Momentum in IRS Scandal Aftermath;

Sam Tanenhaus: The Government’s Worst Face;

Confusion and Staff Troubles Rife at I.R.S. Office in Ohio;

IRS Scandal Letters: Other Offices Sent Requests To Target Tea Party Groups, NBC News Reports;

Trio of Scandals Puts Obama, Holder in Hot Seat;

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: Obama and Nixon: A Historical Perspective;

Groups Targeted by I.R.S. Tested Rules on Politics;

Nate Silver: New Audit Allegations Show Flawed Statistical Thinking; The Tea Party;
Obama’s rating steady in face of controversies, likely buoyed by rising economic hopes;
Obama, politics, IRS and Benghazi;
Obama’s poll numbers hold up despite the storm of scandal;

The Intellectual Dishonesty of William Kristol

10:02 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

No American with a basic understanding of this country’s military history could not have been anything but taken aback by William Kristol’s intellectually dishonest criticism of this statement in President Obama’s second inaugural speech: “But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war, who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends, and we must carry those lessons into this time as well.” Kristol, the public face of the Neoconservatives, who like most of his likeminded peers, is lacking in military experience, regularly advocates a muscular use of American military power abroad. Thus few would be surprised that he might construct his own historically inaccurate critique of the president’s remarks: “Two points: First, our forebears were only able to “win the peace” because they first crushed our enemies in war. But under President Obama we’re not committed to winning our wars. We’re committed to ending them. Does Obama really think we’re going to win the peace after not winning the war? Second, think about the formulation-”and not just.” Surely President Obama should have said this: “we are also heirs to those who won the peace as well as the war…” But he didn’t say that. The formulation Obama chose-”and not just the war”-suggests that Obama believes that it’s no big deal to win a war, and the greater achievement is winning the peace. With respect to World War II, this view is ludicrous. With respect to today’s world, this view is dangerous.”

First and foremost the very notion that our forbearers regularly “crushed our enemies in war” doesn’t correspond too closely with accepted history. The truth is that the majority of wars fought by America were settled with negotiated peace treaties that left our defeated enemies more or less intact as nation states. In the American Revolution, where victory was anything but certain, it was the introduction of French forces, especially naval, combined with significant material aid from Britain’s European adversaries that turned the tide in favor of the American cause and which led to the British surrender at Yorktown. Moreover, it was a vote taken in the House of Commons in April 1782 that provided the impetus to finally end the politically unpopular war in the colonies rather than any crushing defeat of British military forces in North America. Even in defeat, Britain with the rest of its empire intact could hardly be seen as having been crushed. Following the American Revolution two wars with the piratical Barbary States in North Africa were ultimately settled through negotiation. The final military measures which lead to the long term demise of pirate activity in North Africa was a function of British, not American, naval action. The Quasi-Naval War with France from 1798 to 1800 ended in a negotiated settlement which left Napoleon Bonaparte anything but “crushed.” The War of 1812 devolved into a stalemate where Washington D.C. was burned, American invasions of Canada failed and the new American Navy won impressive victories at sea and on the Great Lakes. The negotiated settlement that ended the War of 1812 happened to fall between two important military victories for the British. In 1805 Horatio Nelson defeated the French and Spanish navies at Trafalgar thereby assuring British naval supremacy and in 1815 Wellington would defeat Napoleon at Waterloo thereby eliminating Britain’s chief land rival in Europe. Again with Britain militarily ascendant and its empire intact, no one but a fool would claim that the Americans had “crushed” the British.

The War with Mexico comes closer to Kristol’s idea of America crushing an enemy but even then we forgave or alleviated the defeated Mexican government’s $30 Million dollars in owed reparations. In the American Civil War Union forces definitely crushed the small government states’ rights advocates of the Confederacy and in all of the Indian Wars that preceded it and took place thereafter the American Army certainly crushed the Native Americans in ways that many of us would find questionable today. In the Spanish-American War we defeated obsolete Spanish naval squadrons in the Caribbean and in the Pacific but our ultimate victories in Cuba and the Philippines were greatly aided by long running and deep seated indigenous insurgencies in both theaters and which saw Filipino’s not Americans doing almost all of the fighting ashore. While Spain lost its feeble grip on its overseas possessions Spain itself was never invaded nor was its more modern home fleet ever challenged at sea. Again, based on history, it’s hard to see the negotiated outcome of the Spanish-American Wars as one in which the enemy was crushed.

In World War I the entrance of the United States into the conflict finally tipped the balance in the favor of the Allies but Germany’s war machine had run up against so many failures to break through the stalemate on the Western Front that continuing was no longer tenable. Beset by internal dissent at home and a breakdown in trust between the Army and the ruling autocrats an armistice was sought. Germany itself was never invaded and German arms had put Czarist Russia out of the war, thrown back the Italians on their southern flank, defeated the Romanians and with the Turks, stymied the British and French in Asia Minor. With the British and French forces doing most of the fighting and dying it is again, hard to conceive of the Germans having been essentially “crushed” by America alone. Kristol’s image of America crushing its enemies certainly obtains a high degree of historical accuracy when analyzing World War II in the Pacific, particularly if you downplay British Commonwealth operations in Burma and the war in China. America along with Britain and Russia certainly crushed Nazi Germany and beat the Italians into submission in Europe. But while British and American bombers pulverized Germany from the air and their navies chased the Germans from the sea, one can’t ignore the fact that 80% of all of the German soldiers who perished in WWII were killed by a Russian. That said it would be intellectually as well as historically dishonest to claim that America alone or even largely crushed the European Fascists. In the immediate postwar period, the Korean War ended in a stalemate, settled in negotiated armistice. Despite the fact that every major city, village and town in North Korea was heavily bombed, one could hardly say the Communist regime in North Korea had been crushed, certainly not when they’re toying with nuclear weapons today as I write this post. The only parties crushed in the Vietnam War were our allies the South Vietnamese and the Cambodians. George H. W. Bush showed definite restraint in refraining from invading Iraq after dislodging Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait even though we decisively won the First Gulf War. While we seriously degraded Saddam Hussein’s forces in 1991 we didn’t crush his Baathist regime until the Second Gulf War. In Afghanistan we routed the Taliban out of the country and into Pakistan ten years ago on George W. Bush’s watch but based on the continued threat posed by them one could not contend that they’ve been crushed. Retiring theater commander General John Allen has recently said that the Pakistan based Taliban remains the single most significant operational threat facing American forces and the long term stability of Afghanistan.

Likewise Kristol is historically far afield when he tries to portray Obama as being uniquely “not committed to winning our wars.” Dwight D. Eisenhower, a national war hero, traveled to the Korea just weeks before his inauguration, determined the war unwinnable and then came home to set in motion the military and diplomatic actions that would lead to an armistice. That settlement would leave a badly battered Communist regime in power in the north. Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger telegraphed to the diplomatic community at the time that they had no intention of trying to win the war in Vietnam when they said that their goal was to affect “a decent interval” within which military operations could be turned over to the government of South Vietnam. The ultimate political goal, citing Stanley Karnow, author of “Vietnam: A History” was to create enough space for America to disengage from the conflict leaving its ally in Saigon to fend for itself thereby absorbing alone any defeat that might follow. George Veith in a more recent book on the fall of South Vietnam titled “Black April” detailed the many factors that contributed to the fall of the Saigon government. Among those factors was Nixon’s failure to honor the pledge to intervene with massive air and naval support and how the drastic reduction in material aid would result in southern forces losing air mobility due to a shortage of spare parts and fuel. In 1983 Ronald Reagan was quick to pull American Marines out of Lebanon after their barracks were bombed and showed little interest in trying to forge a victory in that country choosing instead to cut his losses and change direction.

Kristol’s notion that it was only by crushing our adversaries that we were able to “win the peace’ is also to be seen to be anything but accurate in historical hindsight. While we had little to worry about from Mexico after 1848 the westward expansion resulting from our victory only served to fuel the slavery / states’ rights controversy that would eventually boil over into the American Civil War. The Federal victory over the Confederacy far from eliminated problems of race and discrimination in the southern states. The crushing of Indian tribes east of the Mississippi did little to convince those to the west to surrender without a fight. Our victory over Spain in the Philippines in 1901 was followed by an insurrection against occupying American forces that didn’t end until 1913. Few would consider the peace won in 1918 to be anything but a setting of the stage for a more horrific war in 1939. One could hardly see the Iraq affair as anything but a misadventure in which no one apparently has won the peace, not unless your idea of peace comes with regular car bombings and domestic terror or one in which the power of our arch enemy in the region, Iran, has been greatly enhanced. With regard to Afghanistan the jury of history is still out but the prospects for a lasting peace there are far from bright.

Nothing in the foregoing is meant to downplay the triumphs of American arms or the sacrifice of American fighting forces from the founding of the country to the present. Nor is it meant to give short shrift to the benefits that many in this world have derived from those sacrifices and triumphs which have done so much to further the cause of democracy and freedom through the ages. Those who know American military history are well aware of those achievements and there is nothing new in the way of knowledge for them to gain in paying serious attention to William Kristol. Kristol is best viewed as a man who is forlornly pushing a much discredited Neoconservative agenda that has been seen to have largely failed. Anyone who is in search of a good overview of American military history has more than enough in the way of good scholarly research from which to choose and suffice it to say the writings of Bill Kristol wouldn’t be listed among them.

What is at issue here is either a deliberate misuse of history for the purpose of furthering a now discredited political agenda or a willingness to engage in intellectual dishonesty in a continuing campaign of perpetrating lies and falsehoods related to the actions and character of the president. This sort of behavior needs to be called out so as to prevent these ill-conceived ideas from gaining any further currency in the nation’s political discourse. It goes without saying that neither of the aforementioned motives does anything to advance the cause of freedom and the esthablishment of democracies. Kristol’s commentary can only be seen for what it ultimately is, the musings of a malcontent whose chief political accomplishment to date was to advocate for a war that is considered, thus far, to be America’s greatest foreign policy disaster. Kristol is a man who continues to be adversely obsessed with the political success of Barack Obama, unable or unwilling to see the president as anything but a political bogeyman. Kristol continues to advocate for a type of foreign policy that is unsustainable in the current fiscal and political environment. The American people, as a whole, are war weary and defense budgets are being cut back around the world with few exceptions. Of late the Neoconservatives can add yet another failure to their track record and that would be their role in the failed presidential campaign of Mitt Romney where they dominated his foreign policy staff. As one would recall, beyond Romney’s ill-advised comments about the 47%, his trips abroad and his positions on foreign policy turned out to be among those most damaging to his prospects for electoral success. That said is it any wonder as to why Bill Kristol and the Neoconservatives continue to fade in importance on the political scene both here and abroad. Is there any reason for the informed among us to pay them any mind? I think the answer to that question is more than obvious at this point in time.

Steven J. Gulitti

February 25, 2013

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

Jennifer Steinhauer: “Divided House Passes Tax Deal in End to Latest Fiscal Standoff”;

“John Boehner, Eric Cantor Split On Fiscal Cliff Deal”;

Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei: “BEHIND THE CURTAIN — Why the GOP caved: The politics are horrible on the backside of the cliff”;

“Tea party backers swallow a bitter pill in ‘cliff’ bill”;

“GOP anti-tax policy goes over the cliff”;

Charles Krauthammer: “Cliff deal a ‘rout”;

“Why President Obama, Mitch McConnell took the deal”;

“Obama hails tax bill, warns GOP not to pick fight on debt ceiling”;

“How Maps Helped Republicans Keep an Edge in the House”;

The Growing Revolt Against Grover Norquist

1:57 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Grover Norquist - Caricature

Grover Norquist - Caricature

Two weeks ago I penned a short piece titled “Grover Norquist Collateral Casualty of 2012?” where I broached the question of whether or not Norquist would become a casualty as a result of the coming fiscal cliff negotiations and where I said, “…look for Grover Norquist to politically take a major hit in the resolution of the fiscal cliff crisis.” The way things are playing out I think that we can pretty much assume that Norquist is already taking on water and his support and influence seems to be fading with each passing day. Let’s review a few recent developments, staring with this:”Grover Norquist: Washington Enemy No. 1 :The man who enforces the no-new-taxes pledge is under fire like never before. Why he still expects Republicans will hold the line”; To wit: “Republicans are facing an avalanche of pressure from the White House, the media and even many on Wall Street to abandon their antitax principles to avoid a “fiscal cliff…The pressure on Republicans to repudiate this oath has never been as intense as it is now. Mr. Obama is claiming a voter mandate to raise taxes, while the media and liberals are declaring that the days of “Norquistism,” as they derisively call it, are over. A New York Times story this week claimed that more Republicans are ready to violate the pledge. After the 2011 debt-ceiling debacle, the election losses and the prospect of getting blamed for going over the fiscal cliff, the conventional wisdom is that the GOP has no choice but to fold…I remind Mr. Norquist that the election exit polls show that voters, for the first time in two decades, favor higher taxes on the rich.”

In the Senate, several prominent Republicans have already broken ranks with Norquist publicly, Lindsey Graham (R-SC): “When you’re $16 trillion in debt, the only pledge we should be making to each other is to avoid becoming Greece, and Republicans — Republicans should put revenue on the table…We’re this far in debt. We don’t generate enough revenue. Capping deductions will help generate revenue. Raising tax rates will hurt job creation…So I agree with Grover, we shouldn’t raise rates. But, I think Grover is wrong when it comes to [saying] we can’t cap deductions and buy down debt…I want to buy down debt and cut rates to create jobs, but I will violate the pledge, long story short, for the good of the country, only if Democrats will do entitlement reform.” Tom Coburn (R-OK): “I’m all for the very wealthy paying more taxes…Senate Republicans — and many House Republicans — have repeatedly rejected Mr. Norquist’s strict interpretation of his own pledge, a reading that requires them to defend every loophole and spending program hidden in the tax code…As a result, rather than forcing Republicans to bow to him, Mr. Norquist is the one who is increasingly isolated politically.” John McCain (R-AZ) said Sunday, “that he would support limiting deductions.” Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) who said last week that “the pledge is outdated and unhelpful for reducing the national debt…I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge.” Bob Corker (R-TN): “I’m not obligated on the pledge…I made Tennesseans aware, I was just elected, the only thing I’m honoring is the oath I take when I serve, when I’m sworn in this January.” The senior Republican Senator from Tennessee, Lamar Alexander said that the only oath he’s taken is his oath of office.” Regarding taxes Alexander said’ “I think Republicans have done plenty of talking about revenues on the table…We’re ready. It’s time for the president to step up.”

Of even greater significance is the fact that the defections have now moved beyond the Senate, where Republicans are in the minority, to the Republican controlled House of Representatives. Even fiscal hawk Eric Cantor (R-VA) has publicly distanced himself from Norquist, “When I go to the constituents that have reelected me, it is not about that pledge…It really is about trying to solve problems.” While Cantor, like Graham isn’t a fan of raising the tax rates he is unequivocally in favor of increasing revenues and he doesn’t necessarily tie that to matching adjustments in deductions as required by the Norquist pledge. Peter King (R-NY) said, “everything should be on the table in negotiations to avert the “fiscal cliff.” Jeff Flake (R-AZ): “The only pledge I’d sign is a pledge to sign no more pledges…We’ve got to ensure that we go back and represent our constituents in a way — I believe in limited government, economic freedom, individual responsibility. I don’t want higher taxes. But no more pledges.” Quoting the political magazine “The Hill” on the comments of Congressman Tom Cole (R-OK): “Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a respected party strategist and former chairman of the National Republican Campaign Committee, became the most prominent House Republican to suggest that the GOP do what has long been unthinkable within the party: lock in the George W. Bush-era tax rates for annual incomes up to $250,000 without simultaneously extending them for top earners.” Diane White (R-TN): “I answer to my constituents, not to a pledge.”
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Grover Norquist Collateral Casualty of 2012?

9:34 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

In light of the election post mortems taking place among conservatives, perhaps no one is more delusional, with the exception of Karl Rove, than Grover Norquist. Norquist, a high priest of limited government, is having nothing to do with the reality borne of Mitt Romney’s defeat. Rather than to see in that defeat the rejection of four years of anti-government attacks and ideas, Norquist would have us believe that Tuesday night’s results have simply “confirmed the status quo of the 2010 election.” That’s an odd way of thinking about the election when one considers the fact that the entire contest was framed as a choice between two different paths for America and that roughly 60 percent of Americans agreed with president Obama’s views on taxes. If you read the National Review piece, written by Jim Geraghty the morning after, you would more likely believe that the Republican victory of 2010 was the anomaly and as such hardly represents the status quo. If Norquist’s political and economic arguments had taken hold, as many on the right believe they had, then Romney and the Republicans would have won by a landslide. Hence the notion that what we have here is a “confirmation” of the recent past is nothing more than a salve for bruised and disconsolate conservative egos. That said, while we may all be focused with laser like attention on the upcoming fiscal cliff, I fully expect to see Grover Norquist among the collateral casualties littering the political landscape in the aftermath of 2012.

Grover Norquist is famous for the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” which obligates its signatories to “oppose increases in marginal income tax rates for individuals and businesses, as well as net reductions or eliminations of deductions and credits without a matching reduced tax rate.” In the abstract the pledge might seem a sound and reasonable approach to taxation, in reality it has little utility in the current economic and political environment and therein lays a fundamental problem for Norquist. In light of the looming fiscal cliff, with its necessity of raising revenues, coming as it has in the wake of Barack Obama’s victory, the likelihood that Norquist’s ideas will be adhered to are remote at best. Added to that reality is the fact that Americans want their entitlements to remain essentially intact while business leaders are now open to increasing revenues through tax reform. It is of particular significance that responsible business leaders see a need for increased revenues as they should normally be Norquist’s natural allies. To wit: “On Thursday morning, more than 80 executives of leading American corporations signed a statement calling for a deficit reduction compromise that would “include comprehensive and pro-growth tax reform, which broadens the base, lowers rates, raises revenues and reduces the deficit.” Several members of the group, which includes highly paid chief executives of financial and industrial corporations who will stand to pay more if President Obama succeeds in his effort to raise taxes on the wealthy, then helped ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange to draw attention to their coalition, Fix the Debt… But the business leaders’ position also contradicts the stand of Mitt Romney and other Republicans, who say that all tax increases are “job killers,” that the federal budget can be balanced with spending cuts alone and that any overhaul of the tax code should be “revenue neutral,” neither raising nor lowering the government’s total tax collection. “To say that you can solve this without increases in taxes is ludicrous,” said David M. Cote, the chief executive of Honeywell, a Republican and a member of Mr. Obama’s Bowles-Simpson fiscal commission in 2010. “Most wealthy people get it.” The underlying change in tone is clearly evident when even a stalwart critic of the Obama administration, the NeoCon Bill Kristol noted on Fox News “It won’t kill the country if we raise taxes a little bit on millionaires.”

In what can only be seen as a further weakening of Norquist’s anti-tax appeal is the fact that many of the Republican members of Congress who originally signed the pledge have by now distanced themselves from it. Those who have not have suffered politically: “While not all races have been called, at least 55 Republican House incumbents or candidates who signed the pledge — and 24 Republican Senators or hopefuls — lost on Tuesday. Linda McMahon (R-CT), Senator Scott Brown (R-MA), Treasurer Josh Mandel (R-OH), Secretary of State Charles Summers (R-ME), former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R-WI) all signed the pledge and were attacked by their Democrats opponents in face-to-face debates over the issue. All five were defeated in their Senate bids. State Sen. Tony Strickland (R-CA), Rep. Bob Dold (R-IL), State Sen. Richard Tisei (R-MA), and Rep. Frank Guita (R-NH) were also attacked by their House race opponents in debates for signing the pledge in this campaign or in the past. All four were also defeated. In fact, of the fifteen-plus House Republican incumbents who apparently lost re-election, every single one had signed Norquist’s pledge.” In another indication of the changing mood on taxes, a senior aide to one House Republican leader said, off the record, “The president won, and the tax cuts are ending, whether we like it or not. So we have to figure out how to deal with it.” Beyond this weakening in the commitment to the no tax pledge among individual members of Congress there is a renewed interest in the “Grand Bargain” on the part of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight”. These senators, who in the summer of 2011 had crafted a deficit compromise that was a combination of revenue increases and spending cuts, are already meeting to discuss the way forward. When considering the work of the “Gang of Eight” the operative word is compromise, something that the American people have overwhelmingly endorsed and one which Norquist and his followers have opposed. In the words of Tom Friedman who wrote a compelling article as to why Obama was reelected: “The country is starved for practical, bipartisan cooperation, and it will reward politicians who deliver it and punish those who don’t.” Grover Norquist are you listening or are you content with being on the wrong side of this issue?

Speaker of the House John Boehner has already signaled his willingness to compromise on fiscal reform to the point of raising revenues by eliminating loopholes as part of overall tax reform. While he may oppose raising marginal tax rates, and it’s not certain that he will prevail, Boehner’s willingness to increase revenues overall is a direct blow to Norquist’s anti-tax pledge which eschews any idea of revenue increases unless those are offset by further corresponding reduced tax rates. That said it would also appear that the results of 2012 have strengthen Boehner’s hand in dealing with the Tea Party crowd in the House. Former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, detailed the setbacks suffered by the G.O.P. in this election and concluded that considering all of the Tea Party induced setbacks: “Tuesday wasn’t exactly a repudiation of the Tea Party, and the public’s rejection of Tea Party extremism on social issues doesn’t automatically translate into rejection of its doctrinaire economics. But the election may have been enough of a slap in the face to cause Tea Partiers to rethink their overall strategy of intransigence. And to give Boehner and whatever moderate voices are left in the GOP some leverage over the crazies in their midst.” Apparently a significant number of House Republicans are already coming around to Boehner’s way of thinking as is indicated a recent New York Times article, “Boehner Tells House G.O.P. to Fall in Line”, referenced below. Ironically, if not almost comically, Grover Norquist himself seems to have sobered up to the new political realities stemming from the reelection of Barack Obama. He is now on the public record as saying “I’m for additional revenue. I’m not for tax increases.” But Norquist is also banking on the hope that any increase in revenues will be offset by a corresponding reduction in overall tax rates thereby conforming to his tax pledge philosophy. If that doesn’t happen then his pledge will have seen to have been violated by House Republicans. Seeing as House Republicans has evidenced much less in the way of loyalty to the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” look for Grover Norquist to politically take a major hit in the resolution of the fiscal cliff crisis.

In the upcoming deficit reduction fight, Barack Obama presently holds most of the tactical advantages. For one, a central theme of his reelection campaign was tax fairness and it is he who won the election not the advocates of limited government. In staking out his position the president said: “I’m not wedded to every detail of my plan. I’m open to compromise. But I refuse to accept any approach that isn’t balanced…and on Tuesday night, we found out that the majority of Americans agree with my approach.” Secondly, Obama and the Democrats can force House Republicans into a compromise by using the fiscal cliff as leverage, threatening to allow higher tax rates and spending cuts to go into effect on January 1st and thereafter proposing tax cuts for the majority of Americans. Republicans will be put in the position of opposing tax relief for the bulk of the taxpayers in the event that they don’t agree to compromise with the Democrats. The last time we went to the brink of a fiscal cliff, it was the Republicans, not Obama and the Democrats who paid the price politically. This time the damage to Republicans can only be worse, particularly as the electorate demands bi-partisan compromise as noted above. Conservatives have their backs to the wall on this issue for other reasons as well. Several studies have come out and have “found no correlation between top tax rates and economic growth, a central tenet of conservative economic theory…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. However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution.” The gravity of such a finding and its threat to Congressional Republicans is underlined by the fact that their leadership on Capitol Hill had the report withdrawn. Moreover, two recent reports from the Congressional Budget Office also bode ill for Republicans. One shows that the deficit can’t be reduced by spending cuts alone and that “significant deficit reduction is likely to require a combination of policies”; i.e. both spending cuts and revenue increases. The second details the damage that will be done if we go off the fiscal cliff: “According to CBO’s projections, if all of that fiscal tightening occurs, real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP) will drop by 0.5 percent in 2013 (as measured by the change from the fourth quarter of 2012 to the fourth quarter of 2013)—reflecting a decline in the first half of the year and renewed growth at a modest pace later in the year. That contraction of the economy will cause employment to decline and the unemployment rate to rise to 9.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013.”

From a political standpoint I hardly think that the Republican Party wants to be blamed for sending the economy back into recession and unemployment back over 9 percent and therein lays another advantage that favors the president. The bottom line is this, politically and tactically the president holds a better hand of cards than do his adversaries. With their most powerful card being politically unpopular continued obstruction they really don’t have a very powerful hand to play after all. The weakness of the Republican hand is particularly relevant as the upcoming fiscal negotiations will take place at the same time the G.O.P. is undergoing a period of deep soul searching as to why they lost an election that they theoretically should have won and to what degree Republican obstruction on Capitol Hill contributed to that defeat. That said look for Grover Norquist to be found among the collateral casualties that will result from a deficit reduction deal. There’s a better than average likelihood that Norquist and Co, are going to be going over their own political cliff and that his ideas will become less and less compelling as we move forward as a nation.

Steven J. Gulitti



How Stand the Correlation of Forces in American Politics?;

Jim Geraghty: And Now, the Most Depressing Morning Jolt Ever;

Grover Norquist;

Business Leaders Urge Deficit Deal Even With More Taxes;

White House Plans Public Appeal on Deficit;

More Republicans Rejecting Grover Norquist’s ‘No Tax Increases Ever’ Pledge;

GOP rookies buck Grover Norquist;

How Grover Norquist’s Radical Anti-Tax Pledge Sunk Top Tier Republican Senate Candidates;

Axelrod calls Boehner ‘encouraging’ ahead of ‘fiscal cliff’ negotiations;

The Looming Compromise on Revenues;

Tom Friedman: Hope and Change: Part 2;

Obama must lead effort to avoid fiscal cliff: Boehner;–business.html

Obama, Boehner Open to Budget Bargain;

The Fever and the Cliff;

Robert Reich: Why John Boehner May Have More Leverage Over the Tea Partiers in Congress;

Boehner Tells House G.O.P. to Fall in Line;

Norquist OK with Boehner tax stance;

Pressure Rises on Fiscal Crisis;

Sen. Murray: Dems would let Bush-era rates expire before taking ‘unfair deal’;

Congress Sees Rising Urgency on Fiscal Deal;

Nonpartisan Tax Report Withdrawn After G.O.P. Protest;

C.B.O. Choices for Deficit Reduction;

C.B.O. Economic Effects of Policies Contributing to Fiscal Tightening in 2013;

Obama, Boehner Open to Budget Bargain;

Conservatives at a Dead End?

1:02 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Election day has finally arrived and to true conservatives the final outcome will probably be nothing more than a mixed blessing at best. First and foremost Mitt Romney is hardly a rock ribbed conservative, not if you base your assessment of him on his political track record. He has migrated politically from a Northeastern liberal Republican to a faux “severe conservative” and then back to the center as the political winds have necessitated. Just look at his political maneuvering in the post primary run up to today. He may have disavowed the “Etch-a-Sketch” comments of Eric Fehnstrom but he has surely followed just that strategy, even to the point of largely agreeing with the foreign policies of Barack Obama as evidenced in the third presidential debate. In short there’s little reason to believe that Mitt Romney is anything but a shrewd political charlatan.

For conservatives whatever happens tonight there will still be several nagging questions to address. For one, what became of the “conservative counterrevolution of 2010″? In the wake of the widespread Republican by-election victories we were treated to all manner of editorials and op-eds, both written and on talk radio and Fox News about how America had seen through and rejected the “Socialism” of Barack Obama, returning to a more conservative political mindset. I however always believed that 2010 represented more of a protest vote than anything significant in the way of a fundamental shift in the political paradigm. Support for the notion that 2010 amounts to a protest vote rather than a fundamental shift in the American political landscape can be seen in the decline in popularity of the Tea Party Movement, the increased frustration on the part of the public with Republican Party obstruction in Congress and the increasing numbers of Republicans who have distanced themselves from Grover Norquist’s no tax pledge. Neither does Norquist’s idea that “all that we need is a Republican president with enough digits to sign what’s put before him” appear to resonate very well with the voting public. While more people identify as conservatives than identify as liberals, the net number of those who identify as conservatives is roughly around one third of the American public. If conservative thoughts had really taken hold you would see the numbers of people identifying as conservatives being north of 50% and the presidential race would look a lot different than it does today. Likewise the conservative attacks on Obama’s handling of the economy and posture as a world leader have failed to register with a majority of Americans. If they had Mitt Romney would be ahead by at least 6 to 10 percentage points rather than trailing within the statistical margin of error.

The myth that America is a “center right country” has been faithfully kept alive in the warrens of conservative media but as the polling numbers show on the day of the election, there’s no reason to believe that that idea has anymore validity today than in did in 2008 when Dick Morris claimed the same thing on the weekend before the election saying that: “Republicans were coming home and John McCain would win the election.” If there was anything in the way of a true conservative counterrevolution then where were the true conservative leaders during the Republican primary process? Out of the length and breadth of the conservative movement not a single viable candidate arose to challenge Barack Obama, instead Mitt Romney merely waited out the self destruction of one flawed conservative challenger after another till he was the last man standing. Quoting political commentator Steve Bogden: “Normally, you have a competitive primary. This year, it was an ongoing audition for whoever was going to be the anti-Romney. Almost everybody had their surge, but there were no credible challengers. Cain? Ging­rich? Santorum? Romney didn’t have to ‘win’ this year. He just waited for everyone else to lose.”

If Mitt Romney is lucky enough to win tonight it will be a squeaker and being the shrewd politician that he is he will continue to drift around the center no matter the tone of his rehtoric. He’ll have no other choice if he hopes to be reelected in 2016 and that bodes ill for conservatives who will be hoping that he pushes their agenda forward. I seriously doubt that Romney would ever subscribe to Grover Norquist’s notion that he should be a rubber stamp for a Tea Party Congress. I doubt that Romney sees Norquist and his anti-tax movement as anything more than a political sideshow to the big show of governing. If Barack Obama is lucky enough to win this evening I fully expect to see the usual crisis of confidence reemerge among conservatives when they beat each other up over the idea that “every time we nominate a candidate who moves to the center we lose.” The great irony of this debate is that if they did nominate a far right conservative, and why didn’t they, they would lose anyway. Like the Romney-Ryan economic plan the math just doesn’t add up for conservatives. For all of the bluff and bluster that one hears on Fox, Limbaugh, and across the entire spectrum of right-wing media about the American people being fundamentally conservative it just ain’t so. If it were true we wouldn’t be in essentially a dead heat and Romney would be way out in front. However in spite of four years of a visceral anti-Obama diatribe on the right, a lackluster economy and a threatening world scene there just aren’t enough conservative votes out there to make it happen.

Steven J. Gulitti

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.” “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


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;!topic/sid-l/ktC5NDrSE-Q

The C.E.O. in Politics;

Mark Maremont: Tally of Job Creation By Bain Proves Vexing;

Mitt Romney Reticent About Bain Capital Debate;

After a Romney Deal, Profits and Then Layoffs;

Can Anyone Really Create Jobs?;

Robert Reich on the Role of Private Equity;

Should Romney get credit for job creation through Bain, if “any job creation was accidental”?;

Romney’s economic record;

Myrtle Beach Blarney;

Mitt Romney plays the jobs card Commentary: Looking at his record, it’s a losing argument;

Mitt Romney and the Olympic bailout;

Romney and the Olympics: What the Salt Lake Games say about a Mitt Romney presidency;

Do Tax Cuts Lead to Economic Growth?;

Tax Topics: The Romney Plan;

Taxes and the Econom: An Economic Analysis of the Top Tax Rates Since 1945;

Bruce Bartlett: Taxes and Employment;

A Tax Plan That Defies the Rules of Math;

Under Romney, Massachusetts Had Highest Per Capita Debt Of Any State;

Higher Deficits Seen in Romney’s Tax Plan, and His Rivals’, Too;

CBO Report Says Deficit Reduction Will Cause New Recession;

FACT CHECK: Romney’s Plan Would Slow The Recovery, Explode The Deficit;

Bruce Bartlett: Misrepresentations, Regulations and Jobs;

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;

The Seismic Economic and Political Changes that Transformed the American Dream;

The Structural Revolution;

James Fallows: Slugfest;

Stimulus Is Maligned, but Options Were Few;