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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 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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Mitt Romney’s Lehman Moment?

3:21 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Did Mitt Romney, in his ill timed and ill conceived commentary on the violence in North Africa, just doom his presidential aspirations the way John McCain did in 2008 when he said that the economy was on sound footing just as Lehman Brothers collapsed? In a twinkling of a political eye Mitt Romney through his remarks on the death of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans has taken his focus off of the one topic where he has an advantage over Barack Obama, the economy, and redirected it to foreign policy, a subject where his campaign performance thus far has been woefully inadequate if not outright abysmal. As a result Romney has introduced the issues of his own lack of foreign policy heft and judgment into the race at what couldn’t be a worse time.

By now it is more than evident that Romney jumped to conclusions, those based on an absence of chronologically verifiable facts, in framing his condemnation of the president for a statement put out by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. The subject statement appeared six hours before the first protests and well over twelve hours before the deaths of American diplomatic personnel in Libya. The chronology of those events can be found in “What They Said, Before and After the Attack in Libya”, referenced below. This raises three fundamental questions. One, was Romney compelled to act in haste in addressing developments in Libya and Egypt as a result of the scathing criticism that he received from the far right and those conservatives who had raised questions about his chances of success only the day before, particularly those who suggested that he hasn’t been forceful enough? Or is it the case that Romney just doesn’t have the requisite background and temperament to adequately deal with fast moving foreign policy issues and as a result is prone to poor decision making when these issues are front and center? Lastly, is Romney too influenced by a claque of Iraq War era Neoconservatives who have him simply parroting those old canards that Obama is an “apologist” for America, a sympathizer who cares more about radical Islam than his own country and someone who doesn’t truly believe in American Exceptionalism?

If the answer is yes to any of these questions then Mitt Romney has proven one thing to the American people and that is that he is a deeply flawed candidate when it comes to foreign policy and crisis management and thus ill suited to be this country’s Commander-in-Chief. It’s more than a bit ironic that after doubling down on his ill conceived comments, Romney has yet to come out and condemn the man who produced the controversial film that mocks the Prophet Mohamed or the incendiary pastor, Terry Jones, whose previous actions in threatening to burn Korans set off a wave of earlier violence across the Muslim world. Political columnist Howard Fineman, appearing on MSNBC’s Hardball, summed up Romney’s performance as follows: “He got the facts wrong. And it’s a classic case of jumping out ahead of a fast-moving story, chasing what you think is some kind of immediate political gain. He [Obama] never sympathized or apologized. Mitt Romney is pursuing a political strategy that is so nakedly and obviously political…I don’t see Mitt Romney having studied his career as that much of a foreign policy guy. He never has been. He was plugged into the NeoCon view in about 2007, and that was the beginning of his foreign policy education, and that’s still where he is.” Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson appearing on the same program stated that Romney’s actions gave rise to questions about his overall judgment and character.

Another ominous development for Romney’s is the almost total silence on Capitol Hill and among the Republican establishment where almost no one has come to his defense. In fact most of the support Romney has received thus far has come from the very critics who just three days ago where suggesting that his campaign was doomed to failure. In stark contrast to the questionable support Romney is getting from the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Bill Kristol, Laura Ingraham et al., is the flak he taking from those on the right who you would expect to be in his corner. Here are several examples. Reliable Republican cheer leader Peggy Noonan: “When you step forward in the midst of a political environment and start giving statements on something dramatic and violent that has happened, you’re always leaving yourself open to accusations that you are trying to exploit things politically.” Mark Salter, a former McCain operative and regular critic of Obama’s foreign policy none the less criticized Romney’s actions: “However, his [Obama's] policies are not responsible for the attacks on our embassy in Cairo and our consulate in Benghazi or the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. In the wake of this violence, the rush by Republicans — including Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin and scores of other conservative critics — to condemn him for policies they claim helped precipitate the attacks is as tortured in its reasoning as it is unseemly in its timing…Moreover, the embassy’s statement was released before the attack, and was not, according to administration officials, approved by the State Department. If that’s true, it cannot be fairly attributed to the president…I understand the Romney campaign is under pressure from some Republicans to toughen its attacks on the president…But this is hardly the issue or the moment to demonstrate a greater resolve to take the fight to the president. Four good Americans, brave and true, have just died in service to their country…Nothing said or done by the president or anyone in the U.S. government is responsible for the violence that led to their deaths.” The National Journal’s Ron Fournier: “Romney’s actions are ham-handed and inaccurate.” Ben Smith of BuzzFeed: “If you think the eye-rolling at Romney is just coming from the MSM, call up some Republican foreign policy hands.” Former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough: “I’ve been inundated with emails and calls from elected GOP leaders who think Romney’s response was a mistake.” Bush era Ambassador Nicholas Burns: “I was frankly very disappointed and dismayed to see Governor Romney inject politics into this very difficult situation, where our embassies are under attack, where there’s been a big misunderstanding in the Middle East, apparently, about an American film, where we’re trying to preserve the lives of our diplomats — this is no time for politics.” Conservative writer David Frum: “The Romney campaign’s attempt to score political points on the killing of American diplomats was a dismal business in every respect.” And even Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly: “I’m not sure the governor is correct on that. The embassy was trying to head off the violence” with their statement.” The bottom line is this, Mitt Romney has violated a cardinal rule of American politics, one promoted by Republican Senator Arthur Vandenberg, that politics stops at the shoreline.

As serious a mistake as Romney has made this week it’s hardly an isolated incident. Earlier in the year when the Obama administration was locked in a controversy with the Chinese Government over a dissident who had taken refuge in the American Embassy and who then left it as part of a diplomatic deal, Romney inserted himself into the proceedings, again jumping the gun on events, saying that it “was a day of shame for the Obama administration. Romney was rebuked for his “foolish” remarks by none other than William Kristol of the conservative Weekly Standard. The dissident is now residing in the United States. Romney’s misguided approach to understanding foreign policy was on display again when he stated that Russia is America’s primary foreign policy concern: “Russia, this is, without question, our number one geopolitical foe”; a statement that would lead to Colin Powell’s blunt rebuke: “I don’t know who all of his advisers are, but I’ve seen some of the names, and some of them are quite far to the right, and sometimes they, I think, might be in a position to make judgments or recommendations to the candidate that should get a second thought. For example, when Governor Romney not too long ago said, you know, the Russian Federation is our number-one geostrategic threat. Well, c’mon Mitt, think. It isn’t the case.” Earlier this summer Romney would question to what extent President Obama understood our special relationship with Great Britain only to then embarrass himself by publicly criticizing the London Olympics which, in turn, resulted in his being publicly scolded by the both the British Prime Minister and the Mayor of London. The remainder of Romney’s European tour was marred by misstatements and missteps culminating in a world wind tour of self inflicted political pratfalls.

Romney has been peddling the fantasy that if he were president or if elected that somehow he’d be able to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons. At the same time he’s blaming Obama for the nuclear progress that Iran has thus far made. This of course, on its face, is seen to be an act of intellectual dishonesty coming from a candidate who is willingly ignoring the facts. In the words of veteran foreign affairs correspondent David Sanger, “The economic sanctions Mr. Obama has imposed have been far more crippling to the Iranian economy than anything President Bush did between the public revelation of Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities in 2003 and the end of Mr. Bush’s term in early 2009. Covert action has been stepped up, too. Mr. Bolton has called efforts to negotiate with Iran “delusional,” but other advisers — mostly those who dealt with the issue during the Bush administration — say they are a critical step in holding together the European allies and, if conflict looms, proving to Russia and China that every effort was made to come to a peaceful resolution.” Sanger in his op-ed “Is There a Romney Doctrine?” lays waste to the claim that the president has pursued a policy of appeasement showing how “the arrival of the general election requires Mr. Romney to grapple with the question of how to attack a Democratic president whose affection for unilateral use of force — from drones over Pakistan and Yemen to a far greater role for the Special Operations command — has immunized him a bit from the traditional claim that Democrats can’t stand the sight of hard power.” To this one should add the fact that Obama engineered the removal of Muammar Gaddafi without a single American casualty and that from Osama bin Laden down to rank and file Al Qaeda operatives the Obama Administration’s actions have killed hundreds of America’s enemies. This alone stands in stark contrast to conservative claims that Barack Obama is prone to appeasement. Sanger in the “The Inheritance: The World Obama Confronts and the Challenges to American Power”, published in 2009, detailed how both Iran and North Korea had greatly expanded their nuclear programs as America was distracted by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That said it’s somewhat odd that Romney has resurrected the saber rattling of the now discredited NeoCons in calling for a more muscular American military posture overseas and that just when two thirds of Americans feel that the war in Iraq did nothing to make the country safer and at a time when America’s infrastructure is in need of serious investment at home. With regard to relations with Israel Romney’s criticism amounts to nothing more than the same old sound bites on the one hand and a pandering to the Jewish vote on the other. This is hardly the commentary of one experienced in the complexities of the Arab-Israeli conflict and certainly not one that accounts for the changed political landscape of the Middle East and North Africa in the wake of the Arab Spring.

In his quest for the Oval Office Mitt Romney has attempted to sell himself to the American people as an accomplished businessman who would use the skills acquired in private equity to better run the business of government. Yet to date there has been little in the way of “actionable intelligence” that would lead the American voter to see Mr. Romney’s electioneering as anything other than a plea to take a leap of faith in casting one’s vote for him. This is particularly true with regard to his ability to intelligently address matters of foreign policy as Commander-in-Chief, a role where the president can affect events far more significantly than he can when dealing with economic affairs. For you see America isn’t a corporation where a CEO is beholden only to shareholders. A president has roles and responsibilities to fill that are far beyond the scope of a corporate leader. We’ve elected businessmen to the presidency before, Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush and none of them have been considered in the long run to be great presidents. Romney has now come under fire from John McCain for failing to articulate his own detailed foreign policy program. Then again Romney hasn’t detailed anything in the way of a detailed program as to how he would turn the economy around, an area of his supposed expertise, so why would anyone be surprised that he’s not even outlined one for foreign affairs, a subject where he has proven himself to be wholly out of his league? David Ignatius of the Washington Post described Mitt Romney as a man having “no grasp of foreign affairs” whose approach to the subject amounts to a “series of sound bites” all of which portray a candidate who knows little about a subject of the utmost importance. With Mr. Ignatius’ observations in mind I believe we may have reached a tipping point in the 2012 election much the same as we were in September of 2008. The latest polls show Romney falling behind the president in key swing states and events in the Muslim world may still go against Barack Obama. However, the poll results that hit the newswires this morning are based on data that predate Romney’s latest gaffe and as a result Americans may still favor Obama when the see the next round of polling and especially when they consider this latest episode in a recurring series of Romney foreign policy disasters.

Steven J. Gulitti



What They Said, Before and After the Attack in Libya;

Koran-burning pastor Terry Jones backs anti-Muhammad movie;

Hardball with Chris Matthews for Wednesday, September 12th, 2012;

Peggy Noonan: “Romney Is Not Doing Himself Any Favors”;

Noonan: Romney not helping himself;

Don’t Politicize Embassy Attacks;

Romney and Foreign Policy;

Even As Experts, GOP Figures Criticize Romney’s Embassy Statement, Right-Wing Pundits Blame “The Media”;

Mitt Romney Response To Libya, Egypt Attacks Called ‘Irresponsible,’ ‘Craven,’ ‘Ham-Handed’;

Bloody Bill Kristol Calls Romney’s Attacks Over Chinese Dissident ‘Foolish’;

Romney: Russia is our number one geopolitical foe;

Why Colin Powell Bashed Mitt Romney’s Foreign-Policy Advisers;

David Sanger : Is There a Romney Doctrine?;

Marist Polling:

9/13: Obama Leads Romney by 7 Points in Ohio

9/13: Obama with Advantage Over Romney in Florida

9/13: Obama Up Five Points Over Romney in Virginia

Rasmussen Reports;

True Republican Mavericks‏

1:21 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Retiring Republican Senator from Maine,  Olympia Snowe seems to be taking a parting shot at the right wing extremism currently infecting the G.O.P. She recently said that she will not necessarily give her $2.36 million dollar war chest to another Republican. Quoting an article from the Kennebec Journal “outgoing Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) may be using her campaign cash to aid candidates of her choice rather than her party. In a letter written last week but released Tuesday, Snowe told campaign donors that she planned to give leftover cash to candidates in the “sensible center” rather than pledging that money to Republicans, signaling that the eventual GOP nominee may not be moderate enough for her taste.”

Olympia Snowe. Photo by John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV.

Snowe’s profile in courage in standing up to radical rightwing extremism was picked up by the leader of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, a guy named Matt Canter, who opined: “Mitch McConnell and national Republicans have disenfranchised moderates in Maine and across the country…So it should not be a surprise that Sen. Snowe is questioning whether to give her money to support the extremist, right-wing Republican agenda.”

Few would deny that Olympia Snowe has the courage of her convictions and she can only be seen as a leader of what’s left of the “sensible” right. Is she a fading voice in the wilderness or is she one of the first among an emerging element of Republicans who are seeking to “take their party back” from the political amateurs on the far right? Could it be that those radicals who may have shot their bolt in 2010 and whom have since proven only that they can succeed in obstructing government when the American people want bipartisan compromise and results have created an opening for the sensible conservatives to reassert themselves?

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Senator McCain Condems Citizens United

8:13 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Arizona Senator John McCain appearing on this morning’s “Meet the Press” told commentator David Gregory that the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision was one of the worst decisions that the high court has ever rendered labeling it naive and ill conceived. McCain pointed out, as an example, how one individual, in this case Newt Gingrich’s benefactor Sheldon Adelson has totally distorted the primary process by propping up a candidate that has little real appeal and no chance of winning the nomination. This in turn has contributed to a tainting the entire process of the Republican primaries and hurting the G.O.P.’s brand among the critically important independent voter.
In the analysis of the show’s moderator David Gregory Mitt Romney is a weak candidate that can’t put away a field of weak contenders and seal the deal on the nomination. He sees this as a direct result of the influence of the amounts of money pouring into the campaign by a handful of super rich donors who are distorting the wishes of ordinary Americans. Political columnist Bob Woodward stated that we have not seen this degree of political distortion in our politics since the age of the Robber Barons.
The great irony of all of this is that those on the far right may be faced with voting for Mitt Romney, hardly a bona fide conservative even though he’s parroting their talking points, because the super rich donors have long since swamped the true conservative candidates who really represented the beliefs of the ultra conservative wing of the G.O.P. What’s even more ironic is that it’s conservatives who usually complain about activist judges rendering decisions that distort the will of the people and now they themselves may be victims of that same judicial activism as a result of Citizens United.
Is this anyone’s idea of popular democracy?
S.J. Gulitti

The Flawed Logic of William Kristol

8:10 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

In a recent Washington Post article titled “A Good Time to be a Conservative”; Mr. Kristol made a bold assumption, claiming the “center of gravity” within the Republican Party would shift farther to the right, propelled in that direction by a collection of conservative personalities from beyond the Beltway. Indicating a lack of faith in the G.O.P.’s elected leadership, Kristol says: “Even if Republicans pick up the House in 2010, the party’s big ideas and themes for the 2012 presidential race will probably not emanate from Capitol Hill. The center of gravity, I suspect, will instead lie with individuals such as Palin and Huckabee and Gingrich, media personalities like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, and activists at town halls and tea parties. Some will lament this — but over the past year, as those voices have dominated, conservatism has done pretty well in the body politic, and Republicans have narrowed the gap with Democrats in test ballots.” Kristol’s logic is derived from two polls. First, the Gallup Poll of October 26, 2009 that puts the percentage of Americans identifying themselves as conservatives at 40 percent, and an earlier Rasmussen Poll indicating that the only 2012 Republican presidential prospects polling double digits are Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney. When one looks inside the numbers, it would appear that there are more than a few flaws in Mr. Kristol’s math and intuitive reasoning.

The Gallup results show that the net increase in the percentage of people identifying as conservatives had taken place within that subset of the electorate classified as independents. Quoting Gallup: “Changes among political independents appear to be the main reason the percentage of conservatives has increased nationally over the past year: the 35% of independents describing their views as conservative in 2009 is up from 29% in 2008. By contrast, among Republicans and Democrats, the percentage who are "conservative" has increased by one point each.” In spite of the shift in independents identifying as conservatives, the actual percentage of voters who identify with the G.O.P., which is the defacto conservative party, has fallen to historical lows. The latest political identification polling results available on reveals that just 25 percent of those polled identify themselves as Republicans. That percentage improves when registered and likely voters are polled, but the G.O.P. still trails the Democrats here as well. To date, had independents firmly embraced the principles of the conservative movement generally or the G.O.P. in particular, the percentage of voters identifying as Republicans would show a marked increase and so far that is not the case. I would argue that the shift to the right among independent voters is far from solid and is conditional, being subject to a set of factors that will likely change by the time of the 2012 election. In fact an even newer Gallup Poll reveals just how transient independent political attitudes actually are. That poll: “Race for 2010 Remains Close; Democrats Recover Slight Lead”, which came out on December 14 states: “The current generic-ballot results are similar to those Gallup found in July and October of this year, and indicate that the Republican gain observed just after the Nov. 3 elections was not sustained. Shifts in candidate preference for Congress typically occur primarily among independents, whose "unanchored" status makes them much more vulnerable to short-term events in the political environment than are those who claim allegiance to either major party.” I would go beyond the latest Gallup findings to suggest that the number of independents identifying as conservatives will decrease proportionately to the degree to which the G.O.P. moves to the right, especially if the Republican Party finds its public image welded to the personalities of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin or the Tea Party crowd.

In his reliance on the results of the above cited Rasmussen Poll, Mr. Kristol is in effect betting the house on a collection of would be candidates that, in spite of polling in the double digits, leave much to be desired when it actually comes to getting elected. Kristol is one of Sarah Palin’s most passionate cheerleaders, but in suggesting that the future of the conservative movement might lie in the fortunes of Ms. Palin, he seems to be gambling on a horse not worth the wager. Mid-December poll results from both and Polling show Palin registering an unfavorable rating of 48 percent. An ABC poll of November 15th showed that 53 percent of respondents would not vote for Palin with 60 percent saying she was not qualified to be president. More damaging still is a CBS poll of November 15, which revealed that 62 percent of those Republicans polled felt that Palin lacked the ability to be an effective president. At the time of Palin’s resignation from elected office, Republican strategist Mike Murphy opined: “If the Sarah Palin we perceive today wins the nomination in 2012, the G.O.P. will lose. Most Americans don’t think Palin is ready to be President. The base loving you is not enough to get you elected.” Conservative columnist Michael Gerson, reflecting on Palin’s resignation said: “She really alienated women and the college educated on both coasts and that is not how you rebuild the Republican Party.” The reality is that the Republican Party cannot hope to win without the support of independent voters, whom Palin clearly alienates and whose ranks are, according to Pew Research, now at a seventy-year high. Recently, two Republican heavyweights: Haley Barbour, former Chairman of the RNC, and Congressman Eric Cantor (R-VA) both declined to endorse a 2012 Palin presidential bid when they appeared on MSNBC and Fox News.

In spite of the fact that Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have double-digit support among Republicans, none of them breaks a 40 percent favorability rating among voters generally, except Huckabee. However, Huckabee’s 40 percent approval rating was registered before Maurice Clemmons, an inmate pardoned by Huckabee, gunned down four police officers in late November. That said, we might see a decline in Huckabee’s overall standing in the polls. Poll numbers aside, in the 2008 Republican primaries, Huckabee was only able to win in the south and thus his viability as a national candidate is questionable. Furthermore, Huckabee’s past equivocation on the topic of evolution works to his detriment when it comes to appealing to that large segment of the population that believes in science as well as religion. Mitt Romney, as a result of his Mormon faith, had problems with the evangelical base of the G.O.P., which plays a crucial role in the early primary states of Iowa and South Carolina. Moreover, Romney may well run into formidable headwinds from the far right as a result of his relatively moderate approach to politics and policy positions. Newt Gingrich, who’s favorable ratings are the lowest, at 14 percent, has a closet full of skeletons of his own which led in 1998 to his stepping down as the Speaker of the House and his departure from Congress altogether. Needless to say these issues will surely be resurrected and they will be in the forefront of the debate in the event that Gingrich becomes a serious presidential contender.

It is in his rather absurd suggestion that the G.O.P.’s center of gravity might travel further to the right as a function of the influence of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck or the Tea Party Movement, that Kristol, having slipped his moorings to reality, has embarked on what can only be considered a voyage of political fantasy. Neither Limbaugh nor Beck are particularly compelling personalities beyond the realm of their audience. Both traffic in the sensational, often blurring the lines between fact and fiction with their primary purpose being incendiary commentary rather than legitimate hard news analysis. The media watchdog, Media Matters for America has compiled fifty-three pages of citations detailing Limbaugh’s distortion of facts or their deliberate misrepresentation for political purposes. For Glenn Beck there are forty-two pages. The latest NBC/WSJ poll (June 2009), which I was able to find on Limbaugh’s popularity, showed that 50 percent of those responding viewed him in a negative light. A similar poll in September showed Glenn Beck registering a positive rating of just 25 percent. In spite of the fact that both Limbaugh and Beck have a committed following, accurately measuring the true size and composition of their respective audiences and the extent to which they actually reflect more than a thin slice of this country’s political spectrum is almost impossible. Paul Farhi of the Washington Post attempted to plumb the length and breadth of Limbaugh’s audience and therefore his influence, in a March 2009 article: “Limbaugh’s Audience Size? It’s Largely Up in the Air.” Relying on interviews with media industry sources, Farhi claims that Limbaugh’s audience fluctuates between 14 to 30 million, depending on the issues of the day. Quoting Michael Harrison of “Talkers Magazine”, Farhi puts Limbaugh’s average audience at 14.25 million listeners per week, which is just under 5 percent of the population. Glenn Beck’s audience is far smaller and his largest audience to date was roughly 3.4 million viewers on September 15, 2009, which amounts to just 1.1 percent of the population.

When it comes to the Tea Party Movement, it is equally difficult in coming to an agreement as to just how many people are involved here and to what extent they really reflect more than a microcosm of American political life. According to the conservative Americans for Tax Reform, a pro-Tea Party group, just 578,000 people participated in the 2009 April Tax Day Protests. Their website does not display figures for the July 4th protests nor does or any other pro-Tea Party website that I came across. The largest number I remember seeing is in the neighborhood of 215,000 protestors. Regarding the September 12th Washington D.C. protest rally, Talking Points Memo described the turnout as follows: “FreedomWorks, the main organizers of the Tea Party event in Washington this past weekend, has dramatically lowered its estimate for the size of the crowd at the event from 1.5 million, a number the group now concedes was a mistake, to between 600,000 and 800,000 people — though this is still substantially more than the tens of thousands that most mainstream media outlets have estimated, and which FreedomWorks wholeheartedly rejects.” Thus if we add up the total attendence at all three Tea Parties, using the higher estimates, we come up with a gross attendence of roughly 1.6 million or just one half of one percent of the population.

What the math reveals is that the actual number of people who either participate in Tea Parties or who listen to Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck, presumably many do both, is a rather small percentage of the overall population, even considering that portion that would identify as conservative. That said, its a bit of a strectch to assume that such a statistically insignificant number of people is either enough to move the Republican Party further to the right or that it is likely to do so.

There is one final flaw in Kristol’s analysis and that is his ignoring the rising tide of moderates within the party that are opposing any suggestion that the G.O.P. needs to be purified of any moderate tendencies via litmus tests that even Ronald Reagan would fail, that political orthodoxy should be the face of the G.O.P. or that Republicans can only win elections when they embrace ultra conservative ideas. The now formidable array of moderates seeking to stem any drift to the far right encompasses a spectrum of Republican notables from sitting Senators to strategists and political commentators including: Olympia Snowe, Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Bob Inglis, Mickey Edwards, Christie Todd Whitman, Newt Gingrich, Tom Ridge, Colin Powell, David Frum, Andrew Sullivan, Kathleen Parker and a host of Republican strategists. Gingrich, appearing on Meet the Press (5/24/09) stated that the G.O.P. has to be “broad enough to incorporate divergent views and can’t be purged to the smallest conservative base.” Tom Ridge stated that the G.O.P. “needs to be less shrill and less condeming of those who don’t hew to a far right view.” Following the departure of Arlen Specter from the Republican Party, Olympia Snowe, in a New York Times editorial opined: “There is no plausible scenario under which Republicans can grow into a majority while shrinking our ideological confines and contiuing to retract into a regional party. Ideological purity is not the ticket back to the promised land of governing majorities.” At an April debate over the future of the G.O.P. Lindsey Graham made the following observation: “We are not losing blue states and shrinking as a party because we are not conservative enough. If we pursue a party that has no place for someone who agrees with me 70 percent of the time, that is based on an ideological purity test rather than a coalition test, then we are going to keep losing.” I could go on, but anyone who has been paying any attention to the civil war within the Republican Party knows that there are more than enough voices and intelligent arguments being made to more than call into question the logic and wisdom of people like Bill Kristol and their fanciful notions that the redemption of the G.O.P. lies in the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck or the rank and file Tea Party participant. All one has to do is examine the results of the 2009 off-year elections and what is evident is that where Republicans won elections, in the gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey, they did so by running moderate campaigns that played to the centrist voter. In contrast, the great and financially costly effort by the far right in trying to influence the congressional election in New York’s 23rd Electoral District resulted in a conservative failure with a Democrat capturing a seat held by the G.O.P. since as far back as the Civil War.

Over the course of his career, William Kristol is a man who has backed more political losers and also-rans than winners and it would be nothing less than disastrous for the Republican Party to heed his advice or put any stock in his predictions. Kristol worked for former Secretary of Education William Bennet, the voice of personal responsibility during the Reagan Administration, who subsequently lost much of his credibility when he admitted to losing over a million dollars in Las Vegas slot machines. He was Vice President Qualye’s Chief of Staff. Kristol managed the failed Senatorial campaign of Alan Keyes in 1988 and Keyes would go on to fail twice more in seeking a seat in the Senate and then two more times when running for president. Kristol championed the pardon of Scooter Libby and the nomination of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate, a decision that McCain’s staffers would later admit to be his single biggest mistake. But it is in an examination of Kristol’s unabashed cheerleading for the War in Iraq that his predictive abilities are revealed to be so totally lacking. It was Kristol who predicted that the removal of Saddam Hussein from power would unleash a chain reaction of democratic reform across the Middle East that to date has failed to materialize.

Bill Kristol represents that desperate sort of conservative that can’t abide the dynamics of political change wrought by the election of Barack Obama. Likewise, the relatively rapid decline in the influence of Neoconservatives since the 2004 election can’t bring him much joy either. To my mind, Bill Kristol falls into that category within the Conservative Movement that is firmly wedded to the notion that their orthodox ideology is the only one acceptable for America and that anything else is either politically irrelevant or treasonous. Kristol’s faulty logic gives rise to the notion that he is engaged more in wishful thinking than objective political analysis. His prediction as to future direction of the G.O.P. amounts to nothing more than a political “Hail Mary pass” in hoping beyond hope, that somehow or other the Republican Party can be moved to embrace the orthodoxy of the far right. In my opinion, having watched him over the past decade and read his articles, he seems to be increasingly assuming the role of a shill for ultra conservative ideas, becoming as a result less objective in his political analysis. Republicans would be well advised to part company with Mr. Kristol, least they find themselves facing a future of continued electoral defeat and a decline in the party’s appeal among that now indispensable factor in American politics, the unaligned independent voter.

Steven J. Gulitti
New York City

The Political Suicide of Sarah Palin?

7:14 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Sarah Palin’s departure from the forefront of American politics is just part and parcel of the continuing kaleidoscope of chaos on the right. In my opinion, her selection as a Vice Presidential candidate was nothing more than a political stunt aimed at capturing the disappointed female supporters of Hilary Clinton. As the current article in Vanity Fair revels, prominent McCain staffers say that her being picked as a running mate was the single biggest mistake that McCain made in his bid for the presidency. Her selection may have actually led her think that she had the heft and substance to be a major player on the national scene, but her comments and analytical viewpoints show that she was clearly out of her league and well off of the mark in possessing what it takes to be Vice President of the United States, or more importantly what is required to step into the role of Chief Executive. During the 2008 race, Fred Thompson lauded Palin for her prowess as a hunter, saying that: “She could field dress a moose”. That would be a great leadership credential if we living in the Stone Age, but it is nothing more than an interesting Read the rest of this entry →