Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Winner Tonight--Nate Silver and Barack Obama

Nate Silver called Romney's vote to the percentage.

Barack Obama spent the day at the Washington D.C. Car Show, where he tried out the new models from Detroit and reminded the press that GM is the number 1 automaker in the entire world after facing bankruptcy. He pointedly referred to the Republicans opposition to bailing out the auto industry.

Also, the MSM is oohing and aahing at Romney's $24 million pull last quarter. Karl Rove did better with $51 million. And Barack Obama pulls in a measly $68 million. His small donors are coming in at a faster rate and in greater numbers than in 2008.

While Willard lied again in his victory speech about how Barack Obama is to blame for the economy and he would shove "capitalism" down Obama's throat, let's not lose sight of the terrible fact for the Republicans tonight that the turnout was 15% less than in 2008. That is a terrible sign for the enthusiasm gap.

Meanwhile PPP and Rasmussen (Democratic and Republican Mutt and Jeff) both have Obama beating Romney in a nationwide poll and the gap as of now is widening.

Fox News differs from the Washington Post analysis. The Post claimed Romney won over the tea party. Fox claimed that Romney won with the seniors and the Cuban-Americans and that conservatives went overwhelmingly with Newt and Santorum. You decide who is fair and balanced.

One observation--Frank Luntz warned the GOP not to overtly campaign this year on "capitalism" because it has negative connotations. Instead emphasize "free enterprise." Romney broke that bond tonight with his triumphant whoop about capitalism.

Another observation--if you are a Democratic operative, you would notice that Gingrich tightened the Florida race with his anti-Bain, anti-vulture capitalism ads. That was his high point and then conservatives made him back away. It was clear that the average voter liked the more populist Gingrich. In the general election, the Obama campaign should exploit this.

And another observation--the lower turnout might be a direct result of the negative ads run by Romney. How much of this is a laboratory for the general election when Romney will run negative ads galore at Obama? The GOP already know that it should be a close election. Already they have gamed it out with voter suppression measures in over two dozen state, which are aimed at the young, minorities and women. In short, how much of the Romney campaign is already aimed at a controlled electorate. If Obama can't mobilize his own base because of legal obstacles, then a campaign of negative ads would further depress the turnout, favoring Romney. Not a sermon, just a thought.

And the final thought for January. Newt's spokesman Russ Tyler said tonight that the problem with African-Americans is that they had no role models. I know this is the dog whistle for Newt's campaign. But what about Barack Obama, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Martin Luther King, Jr., Bayard Rustin, Muhammed Ali, Magic Johnson, Jimi Hendrix, Al Green, Jimmie Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Langston Hughes, Walter Mosley,Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,Eric Holder, Colin Powell, the Tuskegee Airmen,Charles Mingus,Stevie Wonder,Thelonious Monk,for starters?

Amid a Dreary Campaign--The Gift That Will Keep on Giving--Richard Nixon

Don Fulsom was a longtime White House reporter and the UPI Washington Bureau chief. He covered LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton. His Latest is "Nixon's Darkest Secrets: The Inside Story of America's Most Troubled President".

James Ellroy, our master of noir, has captured the seamier side of JFK in his novels. This book is like the non-fiction continuation of that saga, where mob allegiances switch sides to Richard Nixon.

My Nixon library, which is vast, extends over decades but I no longer buy every Nixon book that comes out. I general feel that they just go over the same turf again and again and nothing new is learned. This book brings back the Nixon we all know and love with all the gritty and sordid details. But there are some mysteries that are also solved--at least to my satisfaction.

Remember the strange plot to burn down Brookings Institute. It sounded like Nixon in a drunken rage against a liberal opponent. But Fulsom uncovers the strange logic of the plot. Richard Nixon knew hat LBJ had wired tapped his plane and had uncovered Nixon's deliberate sabotage of the Vietnam Peace Talks under LBJ. Nixon was terrified that when his rule was being challenged that the fact he committed treason would surface and doom him. He believed that Brookings had documents on his interference with the Peace Talks through Anna Chennault and her contacts with Van Thieu. A fake D.C. fire department would be dispatched to Brookings to put out the fire and under cover the Nixon operatives would rescue the papers. Didn't happen and we don't know whether Brookings had them.

Folsom got the most PR for this book with the revelations that Nixon and Bebe Rebozo had boy crushes on each other dating back to the days when Bebe picked up Nixon's gambling debts in Havana. But the fuller account of the relationship shows that while their homosexual tendencies were probably repressed Bebe was everywhere with Nixon and even accompanied him over sensitive overseas trips. Rebozo was the one man money laundering machine taking in Howard Hughes contributions and the mobs payoffs to Nixon. Fulsom does a good job of documenting how it was Bebe who oversaw the contractors on the Pacific White House, which became a scandal during Watergate.

Using documents only recently declassified, Fulsom points out something no one has ever discovered about the Watergate burglars--they were all assassins for the CIA. In fact, during the Church Hearings, Frank Sturges gave a closed door hearing on how to kill someone and not leave traces. He bragged about his days as an assassin. Likewise, E.Howard Hunt, the friend of William F. Buckley and the sauce CIA agent and novelist, was also an assassin.

Remember Nixon telling Dean about the hush money for Hunt, "Yeah, we can get a million. A Million cash. That wouldn't be a problem." Folsom finds out that Nixon almost immediately made a call to a Teamster rep, the tape of which has been erased. Then in the next tape, the famous gap appears, which probably reflected the conclusion of this phone call.

Fulsom suggests that the little blackmail Nixon pulled with Richard Helms of the CIA to get him to kill the Watergate investigation on national security grounds reflected an insider's knowledge of the Kennedy assassination. Throughout the Watergate tapes, there is frequent mention of "the Bay of Pigs". Because this made no logical sense in the tape, people have concluded that it referred to "Dallas" and the "Kennedy assassination". We will have to wait a few more years for the nearly 1 million pages on CIA documents on the Kennedy Assassination to be made public.

Fulsom's book also details Nixon's plan to kill Jack Anderson, the muckraking journalist in D.C. at the time. That Nixon was capable of this showed up in Spiro Agnew's phrase, "Go quietly, or Else" where he voiced his belief that he would be killed by Nixon's people if he didn't resign and just vanish from the scene.

While we are used to the Kennedy mob ties, Folsom does a a great service in detailing Nixon's own long-time connection to the mob bosses dating back to his gambling days in Havana. Nixon's favorite Godfather was Carlos Marcello, the mob boss in New Orleans, who Bobby Kennedy had kidnapped and taken to Guatemala. Later as he became senile, Marcello would talk about the Kennedy assassination.

For the more popular subjects, there are more revelations. Remember the old canard that Nixon couldn't hold his liquor and only one drink when he was fatigued would make him slur his speech. It turns out the Nixon was a binge drinker--had been one since college--and during the Watergate crisis became even a greater drinker, also taking seconal and other drugs. Once when Edward Heath, the prime minister of the UK called to inquiry about the Mideast War, he had to be put off by Henry Kissinger, who knew that Nixon had passed out drunk in the early afternoon. The episodes became frequent and often Nixon would call Kissinger and tell him to "Nuke" someone. Then Kissinger had to alert the military to ignore Nixon's orders at night, when he thought about nuking everyone, including Congress.

Remember when Nixon a angrily pushed Ron Zeigler back to answer the press questions. Apparently, everyone knew that Nixon would push and punch his aides, even pushing them down stairs. One Madison Avenue executive tasked with helping on his 1972 campaign was punched in the chest and suffering from a heart condition quit soon afterwards. The anger also was focused on Mrs. Nixon, who when not largely ignored was subject to physical abuse.

Folsom covers the Cambodia Bombings, the war against the press, the drama behind the resignation and the deal that led to Gerald Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon just as he was about to be hit with a flood of subpoenas. We get to see how Nixon courted Frank Sinatra and won his endorsement through Spiro Agnew and how Sammy Davis, Jr. got to perform at the White House. The book covers some of the greatest hits we remember with the private details we have been missing.

Is this what people mean when they say,"We want our country back?" To the great days when our Presidents were mobbed up and binge drinkers. Some of the dance between LBJ and Nixon is rich, with Nixon trying to cut a deal with Bobby Baker for more dirt on LBJ in return for a shorter prison sentence so Nixon could protect himself. Ah, the Good Old Days.

Flipper Wins Florida Sea World Contest

Willard Romney won the Florida primary with tea party support, prompting pundits to comment that he has refuted the notion he wasn't conservative enough to win the Republican nomination.

As Chris Matthews opined he Dresden Bombed his opponent. 63% of the television ads in Florida were Romney anti-Newt attack ads. Matthews also expressed the opinion--hope?--that Newt would somehow exact revenge in the process because he knows what was done to him and how.

Romney surpassed his 2008 totals in the state and at this time looks like he will outdraw McCain's vote tally from that year. Over 40% of the voters told exit polls they were dissatisfied with their choices.

Early in the afternoon Ron Paul, who did miserably, and Rick Santorum were out of state, already working Nevada where there is a caucus soon.

Author Charles Pierce summed up Romney as "a man with the charisma of grass seed and the political principles of a moray eel."

Greg Sargent earlier in the day wrote a fascinating piece in the Washington Post about one R. Bradford Malt, who manages Romney's wealth. Based on a Boston Globe report, Malt sold in 2007 before Mitt's run for the Republican nomination stocks in tobacco, casinos and the firms Mitt invested in with holdings in Iran. In 2011, before Romney pushed for tougher trade sanctions against China, he dumped a number of his holdings in China. He recently shed a money market fund that had invested in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. His account of closing the $3 million UBS Swiss Bank account actually made some sense--he was hedging against the dollar and wanted to put Romney in foreign currency so that Swiss france investments wouldn't depreciate if the dollar fell.

Coincidentally this happened about the same time that the DOJ was negotiating with UBS to reveal Americans with Swiss bank accounts.

But tonight belongs to Willard,the first businessman since Herbert Hoover who has a chance at the presidency. Or as others have noted--George Will and Frank Rich--this century's answer to Tom Dewey, "America's best administrator".

Meanwhile, Willard's behavior in Florida has cost him dearly among independents, where his negatives have taken off.

Primary Day in Florida

++The Pew Poll tells us that 46% of Republicans are satisfied with the candidates this year compared to 68% in 2008. This will affect the so-called enthusiasm gap.

++Romney is poised to win today. Nate the Great has it at 44%. Polls have varied the last day from 5-20% Romney lead. Early voting in Florida heavily favored Romney.

++Romney faces a few problems going forward. The empathy gap looms large--55% of voters think Obama cares about the problems they face; 33% say Romney does.

++An ABC/Washington Post poll shows that Romney's work with Bain Capital may also be an issue in the general election. Only 35% have a favorable view of his work there, 40% unfavorable. For Democrats, it is 18% favorable and 60% unfavorable. For Independents 36 favorable to 37% unfavorable; For blue collar voters 35% favorable to 38% unfavorable; moderates 32% favorable to 39% unfavorable. But it is an issue that still needs to be defined as almost 25% had no opinion.

++The last PPP poll had Romney at 39, Gingrich at 31, Santorum at 15% and Paul at 11%. PPP claims that their tracking poll has been consistent the last three days.

++In today's Washington Post, Eugene Robinson writes a column entitled,"Does Romney believe anything?"

++Roger Cohen in the same paper writes that Republicans have only themselves to blame. His piece says that "The GOP is brain dead." Cohen criticizes the established Republican paper for not stopping the "rampant anti-intellectualism" in the party. Cohen revisits the issues that have plagued the party this past year--abortion, taxes, global warming, evolution and more nonsense. The party has become a "mosh pit of madmen."

++We may expect Rick Santorum to drop out because of his daughter's illness, leaving the anti-Mitt forces in the hand of Newt.

++Like the good old days, the Catholic church is reading an anti-Obama letter from the pulpit, claiming the President in assaulting religious liberty because the Administration has ruled that health insurance companies must provide for contraceptives. The Catholic Church claims this has to do with policies provided by Catholic universities, hospitals and schools. Of course, no one is mandating people actually have to obtain contraceptives. It is very bizarre to argue it is an assault on religious liberty, when many of these institutions already received government funding. Perhaps, the proper thing for them to do is to refuse government funding en masse so we can actually have the separation of Church and State, instead of the constant erosion of freedom in the face of the diktats of a minority.Of course, Michael Gerson opined in the Washington Post about Obama's betrayal of his Catholic allies on this.

++We'll have more later as the primary results are known.

Monday, January 30, 2012

To The Moon, Newt

I have been off the grid this past week. Tomorrow with the results of the Florida primary I will resume.

We've had a powerful State of the Union Address by President Obama and a weak response by former George W. budget Director Mitch Daniels. President Obama channelled the optimism of Reagan, while Daniels captured the pessimism and gloom of modern conservatives. Did Obama go as far as I would have liked?- No but it was a powerful hour-long speech that basically laid down the language of the 2012 campaign.

He had the good fortune of following the GOP debate and the release of Mitt Romney's taxes, which showed him paying a 13.9% tax rate and stashing millions all over the place abroad, not just the Cayman Islands. Ann Romney complained that now people knew how much they were worth. For the curious, Romney's net worth is the last eight President of the United States combined times 2. While Romney has outspent Newt 50 to 1 in Florida, among conservative voters his wealth remains a problem.

I didn't blog on the last GOP debate. Mitt, now coached by Michelle Bachmann's debate teacher, went on the offensive against Newt. This apparently swung the momentum in Mitt's direction. But he still came off as a nasty, rich guy. Both men lied like hell about their stances on immigration to the Cuban crowd. Mitt brought a laugh from me when he said he couldn't be against immigrants because his mother came from Wales and his father was born in Mexico. Univision tried to get Mitt to admit he would be the first Mexican-American President. Even Mitt said that no one would believe it.

Both Mitt and Newt agreed they would get rid of bilingual ballots, thus depriving millions of Hispanic voters a clear choice. During the last days of bombastic attacks by both sides, Romney has jumped to a ten point lead, but Obama has jumped to a larger lead against both men. This morning Gingrich said that his pollsters were telling him that he was within five.

Since I have no skin in this game, it's interesting to hear that Newt vows to fight on until the Convention. The entire Republican establishment, punditry, and conservatives lambasted him this week in a coordinated attack orchestrated by the Romney campaign. It will be interesting to see whether the GOP base in Florida obeys their orders to toe the line. Meanwhile, John McCain is begging for the end of the GOP debates because all they do is magnify the candidates' negatives. Chris Wallace said all the debates have been stupid and that the audiences were just waiting for a car crash.

Since virtually every major Republican has endorsed or winked in Romney's direction, it is interesting to see that Herman Cain of 9-9-9 fame and Sarah Palin basically endorsed Newt. Newt is screaming that the conservative movement will not roll over dead for Romney. (Or maybe they will?)

Frank Rich, in this issue of New York Magazine, and posted on line at www.huffingtonpost.com today, has a must read about Romney entitled,"Who in God's name is Mitt Romney?", which dissects the enigma that is the GOP candidate. Rich calls him the "white shadow" because even though he has been around forever, no one really knows that he thinks about anything and that his Mormonism is the strongest key to understanding his worldview. His fellow Bain Capital people talk about how good a manager he was and how competent he is but they all remain baffled that they never knew what he believed about anything. Even those who worked with him when he was Governor said he never knew his aides' names and often physically kept them away from any area he would be.

Even with his Mormonism, he never calls his religion by name. In the speech he gave in the 2008 campaign about his faith in Texas, he only mentioned Mormonism by name once. As Rich notes,it is very unlikely that Romney would have worked on the Olympics if they had not been in Salt Lake City. Also interesting in the article is that Romney has held various positions in his secret, not just Bishop.

Rich praises the Boston Globe investigative reporters new book,The Real Romney, for its balance and praise of Mitt, but Rich notes that the book is languishing on the Amazon list as evidence that Republicans are just not that into Mitt.

Salon.com writes about Romney's Mormonism in a piece on the White Horse Prophecy, which was the prophecy of a Mormon coming to the rescue of the nation. This was the prophecy Glenn Beck relished talking about.

While Romney is enjoying the war against Newt, it is interesting that his support among Republicans nationwide has now dropped to below his normal 25-26%. The Florida campaign seems to be working, but among the rest of the Republicans, he still has not sealed the deal.

Monday, January 23, 2012

On To Florida--Newt Versus Willard

So to recap,the Republican race comes down to a former Bishop of an old American sect with his money stashed overseas,a thrice-married,former Speaker of the House who resigned in disgrace; a man who slept with a dead child; and a man who wrote racist newsletter and is implicated in the plot by the KKK to overthrow the Democratic government of Dominica and establish a libertarian paradise. The deadlines for new entries in the primaries has expired. So that's the choice for the next President of the United States.

Michael Steele, the former chairman of the RNC, says there is a 50-50 chance of an "open" or undecided convention. Because of the change of rules this time,it may be extremely difficult for one candidate to muster enough delegates without an intense floor debate. The closest parallel is the 1976 the convention which saw an insurgent Ronald Reagan go up against President Gerald Ford.

Like then the Republican party was torn between the conservative movement and the establishment types. Here you have an insider--Newt--running as an outsider and Romney, the so-called businessman outside, basically representing the establishment. Maybe Andrew Sullivan is right that this year marks the Republican crack-up as the Reagan fusion of fiscal conservatives, national security types and social conservatives falls apart.

By this morning Romney has declared war against Newt Gingrich, bombarding Florida with ads attacking Gingrich for his failed speakership and his days as lobbyist for Freddie Mac. Romney, who says let the foreclosure process continue, held a press conference near foreclosed homes to attack Gingrich and Freddie Mac in their role in the housing collapse. Romney also invested considerable in Freddie Mac and made millions.

The fireworks chased at least Jeb Bush away. He was rumored to endorse Romney but has backed away, saying he will be neutral. Governor Scott, who had been seen around Romney in the past year, has also stated he would remain neutral.

Romney had a huge lead in Florida before the South Carolina primary. Among early voters, Romney leads Gingrich. But now, you have two polls this morning with Gingrich leading Romney by 9 and topping 40%. PPP actually has the race closer. Romney is banking on his negative ads to destroy Gingrich like they did in Iowa. And Romney started the morning talking tough, which comes off as inauthentic also.

Only two weeks ago, Romney had a 23 point lead nationally over Gingrich. The new Gallup poll has Romney down to a five point lead. The constant slippage is worrying to the establishment types who see Romney coming out of the whole process as seriously damaged.

Romney will benefit down the road from the incredible sloppiness of Gingrich. If you can not secure enough signatures in your own home state--Virginia--to get on the ballot, you have problems. What the Romney people are banking on is that Newt will blow himself up--which is an almost sure bet.

The key number to remember is 100%--that's the number of Newt's name recognition--and 60%--that the number for people who have a negative view of him. Romney is at 53% negative. Both numbers are unelectable.

So,to actually get into this process, you have to suspend belief in a lot of fact-based reality. Then your decision on why you don't like President Obama. If you are for Newt, it's because having a black President is absurd. If you are for Willard, it's because he never had a real job and doesn't understand how the real world works. Now where you are at the end of this, no one knows. It's very hard to distinguish between two types of extremism.Frankly, it is very hard imagining any of the current candidates for the Republican nomination as plausible Presidents.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Newt Wins First Election in Nearly Two Decades

Throughout the day, the networks were chomping at the bit to declare Newt the winner. Basically, all the networks by this time have declared that Newt Gingrich on the strength of his two debate performances is looking to win by almost double digits over Mitt Romney, who kept the ads and the robo-calling to the bitter end.

The Romney camp leaked the exit poll results to the networks earlier in the day. As of 8:30PM EST, Romney still had the lead but all networks already had tabulated the exit polls.

In the exit polls, over 50% didn't decide until the last two days. The primary issues were jobs and the economy--so for that you vote for Newt? Earlier polls demonstrated that over 40% of voters wanted another choice. This finding appeared also in Iowa and New Hampshire, which shows the GOP is unhappy with the present group of candidates. Newt won handily the voters who said the number 1 issue in America is defeating President Obama. The idea is , as I suggested in past posts, Newt could crush Obama in a debate.

To show how dispirited the GOP is at this point is to know that the largest political rally during the primary season in South Carolina was held by Stephen Colbert yesterday.

Ann Romney was heard on robocalls blasting Newt. Young Mormons from D.C. and northern Virginia were bussed into South Carolina for the Romney campaign. And the Romney campaign kept ads going until the bitter end. One local woman begged to see a commercial for coffee instead of the political ads.

Last night's polls showed that Newt had peaked at the right time. PPP had Newt with a 40-26 lead over Romney. ARG also had Gingrich over Romney by 14. And lesser polls had solid single-digit leads. More ominously is the PPP poll of Minnesota, which shows that Newt is leading there, where Tim Pawlenty, Romney's leading surrogate hails from.

Newt tweeted about an hour ago that he would be holding a Money-Bomb tomorrow so he can "deliver the knock-out punch in Florida."

The Romney camp quickly reversed Mitt's initial reluctance to participate in the NBC debate this coming week. It would not look good if Romney started doing a Rick Perry. By early this evening, it looks like Romney will participate in both debates next week. He has already aired $7 million in ads in Florida. Remember as we watch these primaries, Romney had a double-digit lead in Florida, as he did in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. He saw only one lead--in a state where he lives--hold up.

The problem today is that it is becoming evident that Romney doesn't wear well on the stump. Almost all his leads vanish whenever he starts to spend real time in the primary states. It is increasingly evident from the polling data that Romney's negatives appear to be going up all the time. The latest PPP poll has 35% think of him positively, while 53% have a negative impression of him. The Pew poll had 33% positive and 47% negative. Romney's ace in the whole until now has been the inevitability cloak and the passive acceptance by Republicans he would be the nominee.

Now that the Republicans are throwing negative ad bombs at each other almost every candidate's negatives will increase. But Romney seems to have a structural problem of relating to the voter. Frankly,they might like Romney as an idea in abstract, they are cold to him up front and personal. And the feeling in reciprocated.

Tonight continues the streak of Romney losses in the South. Florida would be a natural breakwater because it is a more varied state but senior citizens seem to be warming up to Newt as their warrior. Remember Florida closes the first chapter in the primary process on January 31. Then we go to small caucuses and states before Romney can land on safe turf in Michigan on February 28.

If tonight comes out as expected and we have a contested primary in Florida, then we are in for a long and dull process. The Republican establishment aren't pleased at watching this thing drag on because the attacks on each other by the candidates are doing damage to the party brand, which has already been wounded by the tea party and the congress.

Friday, January 20, 2012

January 19 Re-Run

By this morning,Mitt Romney signaled he was about to accept not winning tomorrow's South Carolina primary. On Morning Joe, there was again talk about a brokered convention by the Republican establishment. The present field of candidates is now drawing dangerously high negatives, even among Republicans themselves. Romney has seen, according to Gallup, a collapse in his favorability rating.

Even if Romney should win tomorrow, it will come at a high price. Internal polls show that the attacks by Newt Gingrich on Bain Capital have done lasting damage, even though conservatives are upset Gingrich went after Romney's business experience. It was the sole qualification he was banking his candidacy on. If Romney doesn't win, it will throw the race up in the air. It would mean one of the candidates will have won one and Ron Paul will probably have come in second in three.

The day after reports confirm what some of us felt last night--Romney was beaten badly last night by both Gingrich and Santorum. Even his surrogates like Chris Christie are appearing everywhere pleading with him to release his tax returns. The longer this goes, there is more speculation on what Romney is hiding. This now ranges from the Cayman Island accounts, to his tax rate, to the contributions he has made to the Mormon church and , more nefariously about the nature of the Cayman Island trusts themselves--why there, why not Switzerland and other straight tax havens.

Newt's attack on moderator King may have drawn a standing ovation and the zip he needed to win the debate and maybe the primary. But is it really he Howard Dean Scream, the moment that sinks him later on. The Interview with Marianne actually let her hide the devastating thing should knows about Newt--while Speaker he had a nervous breakdown and his colleagues in the House demanded an intervention. If that actually gets discussed,and we have not advanced that far in accepting psychological distress, it will destroy his chances more than the rather pathetic attempt to have an "open party". By this morning, the Evangelical leaders said that their voters were the forgiving type. So, it's alright that Family values Newt had lapses along the way.

But if you are the party establishment, you now have a man sinking because of the perception about how he acquired his wealth and where he keeps it and another man known for serial marriages and affairs and having a nervous breakdown in a position of high authority and power. Then the war between the two men continue with Romney today challenging Newt to release the ethics report from the 1990s.

You supposed to be offering an alternative to Barack Obama. Instead, Mitt Romney looks like he can't handle pressure by his little tantrum with the Occupy demonstrator. He looks like he is melting down and this is only the third primary. And in the other corner, Newt says that Sarah Palin would play a major role in his administration. He would order out troops not to obey Supreme Court rulings. He would fire all liberal federal employees. And that was before he walked on stage last night. GOP insiders have voiced concern that the details of the FBI investigation into Newt in the 1990s will come to light.

Romney has been sidetracked by the Bain attacks. He is forcing up his political calendar like pulling down his celebrity endorsements like Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell before it is necessary. McDonnell has been rumored since the beginning to be on Romney's short-list for Veep picks.

Of course, the DNC has enjoyed Romney's discomfort at the Cayman Islands news. Since Romney's slogan is "Believe in America", it is rich that he holds his wealth on a tropical island.

Romney is looking toward Florida where he has had an operation since the last election. But in the Tampa Bay newspaper, the front-page story yesterday was about Bain's bad record in the region.

It's clear that yesterday's debate did nothing to advance the Republican positions for the fall. No one can remember what anyone really said. The impression left is of all four men fighting against themselves. The only positions I remember was that Mitt finally embraced Romneycare and listed all the qualities of Obama's health play he would not abolish; and the other was that all candidates want to deport by the millions all illegal immigrants--i.e. Hispanics. The first free primaries were fought in states largely white and only in South Carolina with a sizable African-American population. But no Hispanics. Florida should be an interesting challenge.

I thought it was funny that some blogger thinks Ron Paul should release his tax returns. I guess if he had a chance he should.

As of today, the Republican race looks like a bigger shambles than ever. If South Carolina produces a Newt victory, there will be a lot of internal debate whether to push forward another candidate. It is almost too late.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Too Mind-Blowing Day In Politics

Rick Perry bows out and endorses Newt.
Iowa declares Santorum won.
The Wall Street Journal, Reuters,AP all write how Romney's money in the Cayman Islands is a tax dodge.
Mitt blows up at Occupy Wall Street guy saying he favors North Korea. "America is right and you are wrong."
Newt leads in all polls in South Carolina.
Newt blows up at John King and gets a standing ovation at the debate. I couldn't tell whether the ovation was for "open marriages" or Newt's attack on the media. This is the state of the Luv Gov afterall.
Mitt was booed for his answer on taxes.
Newt calls Barack Obama the most dangerous President we have had.

And Meanwhile up at the Apollo Theater, Barack Obama sings Al Green.

Once the images simmer, I'll write about it tomorrow. Too tired.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Marianne's Revenge

Newt's second wife Marianne has been interviewed for two hours by ABC News. Marianne has always said she had enough on Newt to destroy his bid for the presidency. In an old Esquire magazine article, She outllined the fiscal troubles she and Newt had during his tumultous days as Speaker of the House, his "volcanic temper", and how the House Republicans asked for an intervention to get Newt back to having focus on his job. She also detailed at great length Newt's frequent infidelities and the war the two fought over the alimony and divorce agreements. She also described how she was diagnosed with MS and Newt's callous response to this. Since she was around for Newt's rise and then fall, she has plenty of dirt on her former husband. When she first told her story,the drama came from the details of the stories rather than her own tone. This was an intimate and not flattering look at a person who believes he is transformational.

Already Drudge, who is in the Romney camp, has alerted his readers about the impending destruction of Newt. Howard Fineman claims the interview doesn't reveal more than the Esquire piece did but for the public with short memories it could be destructive for a candidate who just boasted another endorsement by an evangelical preacher. Certainly in South Carolina, it could put a wrench in the candidacy that has seen several lives since the early days when his staff quit.

Perhaps, Newt had a foreboding about this when he said yesterday that if he doesn't win South Carolina than the race is over--his or the whole nomination process?

Meanwhile CNN still talks up a Newt surge,even though their polls show Romney with a comfortable 10 point lead over Newt. People were waiting for Rasmussen's poll taken after the debate, which people thought showed Newt at his feisty best and Romney at his most evasive. The DNC made an ad showing how the audience kept responding or reacting to Romney when he tried to evade direct questions. Romney was put on the defensive all night as the other non-Mitts took pot shots at him.

Apparently, the Romney handlers felt panic. Romney went off to a fund-raiser in New York,but had to return for more stump events--this time well choreographed and the candidate had to tow the line. No one quite understood the Romney camp's fears when Romney had such a commanding lead but some suggest polling was showing Newt coming on and Romney would be dinged. The other news that will be made public tomorrow is that a recount does give Rick Santorum an 80 vote victory over Romney--thus erasing the media line that no Republican has ever won Iowa, and New Hampshire and now South Carolina. If one just disappeared, a second could to and the nomination would be a long drawn out process.

Normally, the organizational structure and money would favor Romney in the long haul. But the last week has shown Romney has enormous liabilities--the manner he attained his wealth, his refusal to release his tax returns, and now the fact he and his wife have stashed funds in overseas accounts. Even the new Tweeter, Rupert Murdoch tweeted that Romney should not have used the tax loopholes he did. In fact, leaking through Fox News have been opinion pieces criticizing Romney and his business practices. Romney thought he had sewn up the deal when Mike Huckabee signed on as an adviser to his campaign.

Newt has not managed to persuade the other non-Mitts to drop out. Rick Perry still has alot of cash even though he is fading fast. Rick Santorum's social conservatism doesn't seem to be taking hold in South Carolina where the issue seems to be jobs and the economy. But to Romney's concern, these issues have raised interest in what exactly he did at Bain and how his actions led to the bankruptcy of businesses in South Carolina, something Newt has been feeding off.

The total disarray of the Republicans at this point is shown by Stephen Colbert now airing ads for Herman Cain and actually inserting himself into the process with greater success than Donald Trump. In fact, Colbert and Herman Cain are going to hold a joint event in South Carolina Saturday.

So tomorrow is a fateful day. The ABC interview with Marianne, the last debate before the primary vote and more revelations about Romney's finances. And no one is saying they will drop out as the campaign goes south to Florida.

Then the camera shifts to the President's state of the union address on the 24th. Already the Washington Post is raising questions about peoples' doubts about the President, the direction of the economy and naturally it is meant to create the dramatic tension of whether the President is up to the task. But for President Obama the occasion is to outline his main objectives for the coming year and to raise pointed questions of what kind of society are we and what do we want to become. It is a perfect time for him to command the air of political language.

House of Romney Under Seige

++Willard feels threatened by Newt today. Apparently,there is an upsurge of support for Gingrich after the debate and Willard had all his surrogates on a conference call trashing Gingrich. Observers note that when Romney doesn't feel threatened he attacks Obama but when he does he attacks his fellow Republicans.

++Meanwhile Newt cut a television ad from his remark on the debate that he just didn't want to make Obama's nose bloody, he wanted to knock Obama out. This was his fund-raiser this morning.

++Pew released a national poll showing Obama beating Romney 50-45. A three-way race is interesting: Obama at 44, Romney 32 and Ron Paul 18.

++But both Romney and Obama have someone else to worry about. Steven Colbert gets 13% and Obama 41 and Romney 38. The more likely third-party candidate will be the fomrer governor of New Mexico as a libertarian, Garry Johnson. He would take 7% away from the Republican.

++Willard is now facing more investigations into his financial history. Only yesterday, he bragged about being in the Investor Hall of Fame. Indeed, he may. But ABC News released tonight a report that he and his wife have between $5 and $25 million stashed away in the Cayman Islands through Bain Capital's special investments using tax shelters. The Romney camp is screaming that these investments are not tax shelters. But more will come. Allegedly, the Romney had $1 million from these investments in 2010.

++Newt didn't miss a trick with Romney's dodge that he would release his 2011 taxes in April, conveniently when the nomination race might be over. Newt is releasing his 2010 tax forms this week and announced he pays 31.5% income tax. This has triggered a flurry of posts on various websites to guess whether you pay higher taxes than Willard Romney. Romney is rumored to pay between 14 and 15%, which would make him in the rate equivalent of someone earning around $50-75,000. I am sure the 2011 income taxes will be made to look more respectable.

++But Mitt also lives with the ghost of his father. George Romney, who ran for the Republican nomination in 1968, was the forerunner of transparency and released 12 years of his taxes. Romney paid in those days an effective tax rate of 37%. In other words, his son may pay about one-third of his father's rate. What I found staggering was that George sometimes gave away more than 57% to charity and all his years he was far and away above the requirement of tithing, which Mormons adhere to. This will be the next interesting number of Romney's to check out.

++Mitt is also drawing fire for his past remarks that Bin Laden wasn't worth going after and his 2007 article attacking President Obama for wanting to go into Pakistan to get OBL.

++As Rick Perry drains away, he is getting some good lines off. Observers have noticed that several of the GOP candidates this year claimed that God told them to run. Perry at least had the good humor to suggest he told him to run but didn't tell him he would win.

Oh No, President Bush Still Blamed For the Economy

A Washinton Post/ABC News poll reports that Americans by wide margins blame George W. Bush for our economic woes rather than President Obama.

Of all Americans:
54% blame Bush
29% blame Obama
9% blame both
6% say neither men is to blame

Of Registered Voters:

Of Unaffiliated voters:

And, holy smokes, 1 in 5 Republicans blame Obama.

We know from recent polls that Congress now ranks the lowest since polling began and even before.

A New York Times/CBS News poll asked about gridlock.
60% of the public believes Obama has been trying to work with Republicans.
27% of voters say Republicans are trying to work with the President.

But Steve Benen of Washington Monthly warned that similar figures appeared prior to the 2010 election and the results went the other way.

Ballsy Move, President Obama

In the fight over the payroll tax cuts, the Republicans demanded that President Obama expedite the decision over the Keystone XL pipeline, claiming the pipeline would create 100s of thousands of jobs. At the time, the State Department argued that a decision could not be rushed because enviromental impact studies would not be completed then. Nebraska went into an uproar over the placing of the pipeline and made political moves to find a new compromise site.

Keystone XL would stretch from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast of Texas, bringing the tar sands oil to port. Environmentalists claim this would be an disaster because it would run through our agricultural lands,which also produce our leading exports in terms of foodstuffs. They argued that the pipeline would threaten the regional water supplies of the Midwest and sensitive habitats. The problem is that environmentalists know the record already of the pipeline's route to the Pacific in wilderness areas of British Colombia. What President Obama wanted was a study of alternative roots to avoid sensitive habitats and the water issue. But the GOP demanded he expedite the decision.

If you missed it, our oil industry went to the White House and literally threatened President Obama as if he were a Third World ruler. Basically, they said if he didn't approve the pipeline," he would face "huge political consequences". Over the past few months,the oil industry has run countless ads saying that the Keystone XL pipeline would generate hundreds of thousands of jobs, a theme picked up by House Republicans,especially John Boehner, who has substantial investments in the partner companies of the project.

For me, there are a few other odd facts of the project. The Chinese government owns a substantial piece of at least two of the major companies involved. The other issue is that the United States would not receive any of the oil from the pipeline. The whole idea was to ship it out of Texas for export to Europe and Latin America. I read one industry estimate that gas prices in the Midwest would rise as a result of the project. I have no idea how that can be. And, of course, everybody's favorite polluters are involved: The Koch Brothers.

So if no oil,then the idea is that it can create scores of high-paying permanent jobs. One report said that it would destroy more jobs than it created. Another more modest report from the State Department claimed it would create 1,500-2,500 new permanent jobs. But no report shows it will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

Politically,President Obama knew he would be giving the Republicans a weapon to use against him. They already were warned when they insisted on the expediting of the project that they basically had killed it because none of the appropriate reports would be done in time. More substantial is the threat of the oil industry--in this age where financial interests control our political life--to wage holy war on the President.

Since President Obama wouldn't be around when the pipeline turns out to be a disaster, he could have done the easiest thing and approved it. But he did the right thing and refused to approve the Pipeline in the time requested. This will also be a blow to the Harper Government in Canada, which had been pressuring the Obama Administration.

The President did the gutsy thing and made a decision in the public interest. Months ago I was worried about the XL process when it became known that the environmental impact report had been done by the American Petroleum Institute.

Now we wait the faux outrage.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Willard--America's Whitest Candidate

Have been off,juggling computers in the middle of a move and trying to avoid the GOP debates. Andrew Sullivan actually held on longer than I did, when he stop live-blogging in the middle of the Huckabee Forum because Willard made him ill.

++By the way, Andrew Sullivan has an excellent cover story on Newsweek aimed at moderates and independents in defense of President Obama.

++Willard's win in New Hampshire started the push to the inevitability theme in the media and the drumbeat by the GOP establishment to wrap this thing up early. Willard needs time to re-invent himself for the general election because I can't believe he is going to run on what he has already said.

++Willard continues his campaign as the Average American. Today, he said that his $374,000 speaker's fees were "not very much". He did fess up that he only paid a 15% tax rate, about half that of the average taxpayer. At 9am at a factory in South Carolina, he asked workers whether they got up this early. "Oh, I guess it's a work day."

++But to show he knows where the voters of South Carolina stand, he brought in his newest supporter--the author of Arizona's anti-immigration law. But this didn't appeal to the old Confederacy as much as Newt's statement that "blacks should receive paychecks not food stamps." This brought him a standing ovation at yesterday's debate.

++The GOP line-up continued their attacks on Obama for crimes mostly imagined. Rick Perry produced the winning line when he said that Turkey should be expelled from NATO because they had a "terrorist government". This provoked a diplomatic protest from the Turkish government. Turkey has been doing alot of the behind the scenes work for the United States on the Syrian situation.

++Rick Santorum said that women can't be President of the United States because it is against God's Will. Earlier last week, Santorum won the support of over 150 evangelical pastors. The primary opposition to Romney was that "Mormonism is as close to Christianity as Islam." Actually, a pretty true statement.

++The GOP candidates have hammered Romney about releasing his tax returns. The Obama White Housed chimed in on this saying that Romney's father was the model of transparency, having released his. I strongly believe the smoking gun is not the low tax rate but the millions of dollars stashed overseas in both Willard and his wife's Ann's name. The last candidate for President with an overseas money problem was Hillary Clinton because Bill had millions in Dubai, which he was forced to transfer to the United States mid-way in the campaign.

++I thought Newt's attack ads on Bain Capital ,"When Mitt came to town" were a perfect example of Swiftboating--very inaccurate but compelling. The net effect of these ads was to provoke conservatives and other Republicans to publically defend Romney in this. This benefits the Democrats because Vulture Capitalism doesn't have many supporters, especially not running for President.

++Frank Luntz warned Republicans not to use "capitalism" because it polled negatively. Rather use terms like free enterprise. But the Bain episode has provoked a spasm of GOP defending the most noxious practices of capitalism. Newt actually had this right--there are things you can do that are legal but they may not be moral. Newt drew the distinction between entrepeneurial capitalism and exploitative capitalism. It would have been nice to have a longer discussion on this issue. But,When in doubt, make sure you blame Obama for attacking capitalism--especially time this when he is hosting businesses who are now "insourcing" jobs to the United States.

++Willard continued his strange attacks on Obama saying that he is against ambition. Right, that will go over. And that Obama is trying to make us into a European social democracy. This is actually considered an advancement from birtherism, Obama as having an anti-colonial mentality, and Obama as a closet Muslim. Now he's sort of in Western civilization.

++I neglected to post after the New Hampshire primary that Willard seemed to be wearing a watch worth four times the cost of my car. With typical down home appeal, Willard said that people were envious of his success. Winning with only 37% in your own home state wasn't the biggest victory. Over 50% of New Hampshire voters said that Willard did play fair in the campaign. And he won the wealthier Republicans but had a hard time with the working and middle class. Part of his campaign strategy was to solicit voters who subsribed to Cuisine magazine and had a taste in gourmet foods.

++So over the last few days,several polls had the race between Romney and Obama basically a tie--because our media likes the sports event metaphor. But today PPP released its first national poll of 2012. President Obama is back at his best standing against Romney since May
just after the killing of bin Laden. It stands at 49-44. But among moderates, there is astonishing good news . Obama has a 68-27 lead, leads by 20 in those under 45 years of age, and has a whopping 66-30 lead among Hispanics. Given Romney's anti-immigration stance as re-iterated last night, that lead should increase.

++As evidence for the Hispanic vote, a poll in the Miami area has Obama with a 62-29 lead.

++The infighting among Republicans has begun to wear on the party faithful. The enthusiasm gap has narrowed. Republicans have lost 10 points in a month and Democrats have gained 6,while the GOP still has a slight edge.

++Meanwhile, as everyone stares at South Carolina, over 1 million citizens in Wisconsin have signed recall petitions against Governor Walker, the Lt. Governor and 4 GOP senators. The Democrats only need 1 of the Senators to take control. This is the result of a determined group of citizens responding to Walker's ham-fisted tactics to bust unions, end collective bargaining and to subdue the educational system.

++We say farewell to Jon Huntsman, who packed it in after winning the endorsement of one of South Carolina's leading newspapers. Huntsman's third place finish in New Hampshire just wasn't enough. He simply was too reasonable for today's Republican party.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Dixville Notch, New Hampshire Results

It appears it is another resounding victory for .....Barack Obama.
At the first voting tables in the country, the early returns are in.

Barack Obama 3 votes
Mitt Romney 2 votes
Jon Huntsman 2 votes
Ron Paul 1 vote
Newt Gingrich 1 vote

Monday, January 9, 2012

Quote of The Day--A Freeper about Mitt

"The Bain Stuff, preppy warmonger/ draft-dodger, flip-flopping--he's got loser stink all over him."

Afternoon Delights

++The latest Suffolk poll has Romney at 32, which was what he got last time. He keeps plunging in the New Hampshire polls but still leads. Andrew Sullivan is wishing for a three-way tie of Romney, Paul and Huntsman. He likes a New Hampshire surprise.

++Newt gave an interview to Byron York of the Washington Examiner, which actually worth a read. Newt tries to explain why Romney's vulture capitalism goes against Milton Friedman and Hayak. Actually, quite entertaining.

++Newt looks like he will press Romney on another issue. It is rumored that Newt will release his own tax returns and challenge Romney to do the same.

++Andrew Sullivan chastises all of us who pulled Romney's "I like to be able to fire people" line out of context. I'm not sure the context helps much as Romney was explaining how he likes the marketplace of having to fire health insurance companies that don't adequately service his family. But, the catch is that he thinks they should be able to fire unhealthy people--which got us into the problem we have in the first place.

++Rick Perry was campaigning in South Carolina today and having a hoot ,blasting Willard. Perry got off a series of one-liners zinging Romney. Stressing that Romney is probably one of the richest men to ever run for President and a son of a multi-millionaire, he was afraid if running out of pink slips when he ran Bain for all the businesses he was destroying. He said that Romney was "getting rich out of failure" by "looting companies" in South Carolina, which has the winning charm of being true. Bain Capital actually leveraged the debt of several companies in South Carolina, laid of its employees and eventually they declared bankruptcy.

++What was really lame was the Romney Camp's response. Rick Perry is acting like a Democrat (his former party affiliation) by " running against the Private Sector". I think Newt handled that one better--none of the economic icons of conservatism would have acted like Romney. Ouch!

++Jon Huntsman ran his first ad, which was his statement in defense of serving his country and his remark that Romney's attitude was what was polarizing America.

++For some reason, Romney's competitors all found their voice yesterday and today. As if on cue, Romney himself was confronted in New Hampshire by a woman,who worked with the UAW and who challenged him on his opposition to Obama saving the car industry. As Hunnfingtonpost headlined today, Romney was a "punching bag".

++While Romney has commanding leads in South Carolina and Florida, over 50% of those polled say they could change their minds. It's clear the field now senses Romney is not inevitable, even though the hard facts suggest he is.

++Rick Santorum is not finding that his brand of social conservatism is going over well in New Hampshire. Tomorrow is likely to see him disappointed. Remember independents and even Democrats can cast cross-over votes tomorrow.

++The thing to watch is whether Romney gets lower than 32%, whether Obama in the Democratic primary gets more votes than Romney, and whether Huntsman wins second place. Ron Paul will do what Ron Paul does. The flaps over his positions are relatively meaningless because he is not going to be the nominee and not going to run as an independent.

One Day Until New Hampshire and Citizen Bain

++Citizen Bain or Willard Romney appears en route to a shaky victory in the Live Free or Die state. The last PPP poll has Romney at 35%, Paul at 18% and Jon Huntsman at 16% with a bullet. The only one who has significantly moved is Huntsman because of yesterday's debate performance. Romney underperforms so expect him to dip to 32% about the same as he did last time.

++Citizen Bain got off to a rough Monday morning with a speech to the Nashua Chamber of Commerce where he won the hearts and minds of people, saying,"I like to be able to fire people." Only yesterday he told a crowd that he knew what it was like to fear being fired. He had been afraid of being fired at Bain, where he was the CEO, not an employee.

++Sunday saw the entire Republican field dissect and destroy Romney's character. By the end , his reputation as governor, as businessman and as a non-politician lay in tatters. In addition, his slam at Jon Huntsman serving as ambassador to China for President Obama boom-a-ranged on him as Romney said serving the conservative agenda and the Republican Party was serving the country better than being an ambassador for Barack Obama. Huntsman handled this perfectly addressing himself to the audience and saying that he would always serve the country first. And he coyly got in a dig at Romney by mentioning his sons who are serving in the armed forces. Romney's sons studiously ignored the military for a life in business.

++Willard also related the story his father told him that he should not run for office if he needed a paycheck and he had a mortgage. Good advice but it was delivered as if only the rich should run for office.

++Newt Gingrich got Romney when Willard started talking about how he didn't want to run for President, that he ran for governor and achieved his agenda and then went back into the private sector. Could we stop the Pious Baloney and Gingrich demolished Romney's myth of the reluctant politician, who just happens to be running for office since the early 1990s and during this last years as Governor was raising money for his presidential run. A bewildered Rick Santorum asked Romney whether he would run for re-election if he became President. Of course, the answer was yes.

++Gingrich has taken the Bain issue by the horns. Frankly, I felt that this would not be a real winner, even though Ted Kennedy used it to get effectiveness in the 1990s. But since Romney still receives millions a year from his time at Bain it remains relevant. "They apparently looted the companies, left people unemployed and walked off"said Gingrich. Gingrich's SuperPac has purchased a 40 minute film about Bain , which they will be running in South Carolina but the clip is up and it is devastating.

++The DNC went after Romney's bizarre explanation about whether or whether or not he saw his SuperPac's attack ads against Newt. Romney seemed to drift toward illegality when he said he raised money for the Pac himself and put his staffers to run it. He did and did not see the ads--sort of.

++Democrats have been urging their party to reply toi Romney's assertions he has created more jobs than Obama. They needn't worry as the Republican field is demolishing that idea by their attacks on Romney.

++Romney also showed his human touch by saying he doesn't care for the type of humor in The Onion.

++Romney's very peculiar habit of chonically lying hit again when he said that President Obama didn't sign any Free Trade Agreements. Let's see--Korea, Colombia, Panama, and what was the Asian summit about.

++A CBS poll is out this morning that shows five Republicans within five pts of each other nationally. Romney is at 20 and over the last several months had not topped 23%.

++The Americans for Legal Immigration claim Romney is not eligible to run for President because he's an anchor baby. Romney's father was born in Mexico and according to the Mexican constitution was considered a Mexican citizen. This is sort of fun. We went through this when George ran for the Republican nomination in 1968 and of course the whole thing was nonsense then as now. But it is rich considering the multi-year effort to discredit Barack Obama as some kind of foreigner.

++Maybe that's the reason Newt said Romney was "anti-American" and Huntsman said Romney's attitude was the reason the country was "polarized". Actually, the 'anti-American" remark was about only rich people should run for office and the polarized remark was about Romney putting ideology and party before country.

++Romney is significant leads in South Carolina and Florida, raising the question whether we want the Republican primary to end soon or not. For independent observers, it would be a mercy-killing. Others say that the Democrats would benefit by the constant warring and the attacks on Romney. I'm not so sure. Remember all these debates are free advertsing. Once Romney clinches it, he has to spend his own dime to keep in the news and compete with an incumbent President. The upside of this is that he can start pivoting away from his extreme positions to more acceptable ones for the general electorate.

++Thomas Frank, the author of What's Wrong with Kansas and Pity The Billionaire, urges the Tea Party to just accept Romney. He writes with some irony that Romney is their perfect candidate, a pure capitalist, which is after all what they really wanted.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Back-to- Back GOP Debates

It probably was not wise to schedule a debate during an NFL playoff game or for early morning television. In fact, at this stage, it probably would be a good thing not to have debates at all. Basically, the conventional wisdom is that Willard withstood the attacks and therefore sort-of won. But even when he was allowed to coast he did himself no good. Polls for Romney in New Hampshire show him losing ground every day and yet he will win. The man simply doesn't wear well.

The winners of the debates are Jon Huntsman, even though I thought he was too accepting of some of the more problematic GOP points and may himself look like he was pandering more to the right than necessary. Ron Paul really doesn't like Santorum and lambasted him throughout. Newt occasionally attacked Willard but shied away like Tim Pawlenty.

One wag said that "if you gave Romney a haircut and an enema, there would be nothing left." Romney will provide Obama with trouble because he's the perfect Nowhere Man. He doesn't seem to really believe anything. His flip-flopping on issues only plays to Republican audiences and probably not in a general election. But the issue here ,as Steve Benen noted this week, is the issue of trust. If you don't know what Romney believes, how can you trust his judgment, let alone decide what his judgment is.

The debates yielded some great ideas. Rick Perry wants to re-invade Iraq. Romney wants to re-negotiate the SOFA on Iraq and return some troops there. Romney seemed genuinely baffled about whether states can outlaw birthcontrol, even though the Supreme Court ruled on this issue eons ago. Everyone wants to overturn Roe v. Wade. None of the candidates will accept a deal on 10 spending cuts for $1 in tax revenue. None as yet has mentioned anything about the eight years of George W. Bush. But at least Gingrich got in that Romney had been a greedy investor. And of course, Obama is evil and wants to bring European Socialism to the United States.

Now, I actually gave myself a mental break from all this nonsense. I even caught Talkingpointsmemo wanting to let their reporters go because of the job of live-blogging this nonsense. Instead I read William Gibson's Distrust that Particular Flavor ( Putnam, 2012), a book of essays by the creator of Cyberpunk Sci-Fi.

William Gibson is one of the greatest writers of my generation. It's hard to believe he is two years older than I am given the freshness of his prose. But reading Gibson brought a new dimension to the GOP debates. Gibson writes about the future in our present and extrapolates the affect of our new technologies on our lifestyles and how it modifies our perceptions. He has a superb essay on Levender Bush, the creator of today's military industrial complex and how omniscient he had been about the role of new forms of technology in terms of the growing power and knowledge of the state. He also writes an essay on his own Filmless Festival, talking about the digital "films" being created by the younger generation and their implication for how we view reality.

All this leads to is that no one on the stage last night or this morning has the vagueless clue or even idea about the future of this society. William Gibson writes about today's Japan, one of his favorite locales in his novels, and notes that even though economists talk about their lost decade they neglect to mention that Japan has assimilated all the new technologies into their lives and that, despite their economic woes of the last ten years, remain one of the strongest economies in the world. What's implicit is that we may be buying all the new toys but we have not mastered them and our technologies are not evenly distributed.

Gibson argues quite persuasively that technology drives change and the future. But if you represent a political party that disdains science and technology, how will you even begin to comprehend what's happening in the world?

The GOP debates drive me crazy because they keep flogging the dead horse. To whom is birth control even remotely relevant today as a controversial issue? Why do you really want to re-visit the issue of Iraq? Why again would you suggest reviving torture when thankfully it has been abandoned? Why would you argue incessently about the national debt when all GOP candidates like their predecessors would plunge us even more in debt?

Of course, there are political reasons for the GOP to consolidate their base. But almost all these are irrelevant to a real national debate about the future of this society. All of the essays y William Gibson have nuggets on the elements that will affect our future. None of them are recognized by the GOP candidates. Our Geek-in-Chief President Obama has alluded to many of these in various speeches he has made but which are rarely covered.

Do you remember Richard Nixon dancing that crazy jig in front of the space capsule with the returning astronauts? There was a time political candidates embraced the future and the rhetoric of the future. When did that leave our politics? For the Republicans,one can date it to President George H.W. Bush's disdain for that vision thing. Since the 1992 election, no GOP candidate has argued the case for the future. It has been twenty years or more since we heard a Republican even allude to the changes being made via the InterTubes (Senator Stevens) or the personal computer. None of the present candidates dare mention the United States as playing a potentially positive role in the Pacific, where the center of the world's economic gravity is moving. And the list goes on.

The slogan "Take America Back" was never used until President Obama was elected. But I am not so sure this is just a reaction to a black President being elected. It's a reflection that the GOP knows it is inadequate to handling the future reality of the country. Sure there is a racial component, an age component, and even an economic class component. But it is deeper and citizens should be deeply concerned.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Shiny Object Tour '12

++Wired reports that there is a new conspiracy involving President Obama. Two people allege that they were Chrononauts--Time-Travelers--with a young Barack Oabam and they travelled to Mars on a secret mission planned by the C.I.A. to neutralize earth-destroying weapons on that planet. Obama was recruited while he attended Occidental College in California. The White House actually denied the claim. A little too fast from my opinion.But it might account why conservatives can't get a hold of his grades.

++Orly Taitz is celebrating the fact that a Georgia judge has OK'd hearing her birther claims about Obama's elgibility to be on the ballot this year.

++Ron Paul paid to win the Idaho straw vote today.

++Rick Santorum, not aware of Obama's Chrononaut history, accused the President of being a "tyrant" and "an elitist" for proposing that everyone should be able to go to college. Santorum, a coal miner's son, claims that working with your hands is an honorable way to make a living.

++President Obama lost a key constituency--the Nevada brothels. The Nevada brothels were disappointed that President Obama allowed horses to be slaughtered for meat. They now proudly sport signs "Pimping for Paul", having been won over by the 76-year old sweetheart.

++Obnoxious bloggers note that Willard Romney always quotes "America the Beautiful" which was written by a progressive Lebsian Katherine Lee Bates.

++Rick Perry has named Sheriff "Pink Panties" Arpaio, who is under investigation by the Justice Department for brutality against Hispanics and neglecting a rash of sex crimes under his jurisdiction, as his campaign manager in Arizona.

++Willard Romney denied he was a "Wall Street" person today, saying he never worked there. He went on to say that Obama has brought "big,bad things" to the country like the Dodds-Frank legislation ro regulate banks and Wall Street.

++Rick Santorum looks like he might even pick up Bill Kristol's endorsement so he's doomed. Kristol has given up getting another candidate into the race. Santorum is on a roll with ideas. He wants to abolish the estate tax, cut the corporate tax in half, and triple the child deduction. He also wants to abolish the courts that are "too powerful". Does that mean the Supreme Court? He also said that "gay marriage was like polygamy". This was a clever shot at Romney's religion, which all the Christian Right equate with polygamy.

++Jon Huntsman answered a question at a town hall meeting about whether corporations are people. "Of course, not, corporations are not people. Who would ever say a thing like that, especially if he was running for President." Willard Romney, for one.

++Depending on your source, did Ron Paul or Jon Huntsman's campaign itself show the ad criticising Huntsman for adopting daughters from India and China? Unlike Karl Rove's trick of planting ads against McCain showing he had a "dark child", an Indian daughter adopted by Cindi, this ad was shown in New Hampshire, a state not known for racism. Rove used it to good use in South Carolina.

++Salon. com posted an article today that Romney's Free and Strong America PAC paid over $1.3 million for some 35 political endorsements, including from South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. I suspected something was up when Christine O'Donnell, "I am not a Witch", endorsed him weeks ago. It was typical of Romney to believe her endorsement would bring the Tea Party along.

++While The Republicans are campaigning, President Obama is huddled at the White House to discuss "insourcing", companies bringing jobs home to the United States. this has been another unsung accomplishment for the Administration.

"President Obama will turn this country around"--John McCain

++Those footsteps you hear are progressive trying to sneak back into the Obama Camp because the President took some strong steps this week that convinced those who had been disappointed that he would put up a fight.

++Left-wing bloggers were screaming that the President should appoint Richard Cordray as Consumer Protection head during recess. Actuallly they were shocked that he filled the remaining seats on the National Labor Relations Board at the same time. They didn't realize that Obama actually laid a trap for Congressional Republicans when he asked them to raise the debt ceiling. These smart guys said they couldn't because Congess was in "recess", which Mitch McConnell claims the Senate wasn't when the President made his appointments. Yesterday, James Clyburn, Democrat from South Carolina,tried to introduce the bill to extend the payroll tax break for a year and he was shut down because the House republicans said, "the House was in recess."

++The U.S. Chamber of Commerce vows to sue the Obama Administration over these appointments. But the George W. Bush legal advisers, with the exception of Torture Memo author Yoo, and noted constitutional scholar Lawrence Tribe side with the administration. In any event, the Republican canididates, who denounced the appointments, clearly oppose consumer protection and labor rights--a real great place to put yourself in 2012. What's probably worse is that Richard Cordray came out firing on his plans to regulate non-bank lenders, who have abused customers.

++In case you missed it, President Obama dealt a death blow to neoconservatives with his announcement of a new defense strategy this week. For the first time, Obama put his mark on national security strategy amd moved away from the George W. Bush strategy, which some of us were uncomfortable with his following. Obama is moving our focus toward the Pacific, the center of economic gravity in the world, and downgrading the ability of the United States to fight prolonged land wars. His strategy comes in the face of severe budget cuts mandated by the failure of the Super Committee to reach an agreement over the debt. But he made a powerful case that defense spending has far outstripped anything over the past ten years and that the United States can adequately defend itself if its defense budget exceeded the first seven of its competitors combined. Interestingly, Steve Clemons was the only D.C. insider who picked up that this resembled Don Rumsfeld's original plan prior to 9/11. But it got howls of criticism from the Republicans but strangely is favored by the Republican grass-roots.

++Keeping on a roll, the President announced a program of Summer Jobs for 180,000 low-income young people and a total of 250,000 summer jobs for the young this summer.

++The President decided that he better give federal workers a slight raise, since they hadn't received one for the last two years.

++The President anounced a reform in Green-Cards, which will prevent families from being separated because one or more them are illegals. It's too complicated for me to understand but it will affect thousands of families. It takes off the sting of Obama's deportation record and only highlights the Republican struggle with the Hispanic vote.

++For me, Secretary of the Interior Salazar extended by twenty years the moratorium on uranium-mining around the Grand Canyon. The proposal for uranium-mining, which the Republicans have been presssing for the last two years, always remined me of the Honeymooners episode when Rakph Kramden invested in uranium mines in my Asbury Park. It was absolutely nuts and the threat to the integrity of the Grand Canyon was constantly shown in study after study. Good move.

++The unemployment rate dropped to 8.5% this week as 220,000 private sector jobs were added. A few brighter spots was that it looks like the drops of public sector jobs, a chronic syndrome caused by cash-strapped states with balance budget amendments, appear to be ending. The job number means that 2011 out performed all but one of George W's years and we have had 22 months straight of private job growth. Whether President Obama will get credit for this remains to be seen. Rick Santorum said the job numbers were the result of Americans believing Republicans will win the next election. And Mitt said he would bring the unemployment rate down to 8.9%--in other words make it go up.

++The Obama administration submitted its court brief to the Supreme Court arguing for the constitutionality of the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act. This month also kicked in the part of the health care bill that calls for insurance companies to spend 80-85% of their income on actual healthcare and not bonuses for their executives.

Will Santorum Get Sandusky'd

Rick Santorum actually won the Iowa Caucus because of a counting mistake that gave Romney 20 more votes. But Santorum's rise has only led him back to his fixation on sex. This is a man who spent his Senate career talking about the vagaries of female anatomy and health issues. With the win at his back, he has decided to crank up his old hobby horses.

In New Hampshire, college students challenged him on his assertion that gay sex was similar to man-dog sex. He doubled down on this observation and even said that children were better off with a father in prison than with two mommies, referring to same sex. He explained his absolutism on abortion explaining that banning abortion would solve the Social Security problem. See more younger people more Social Security revenue.

He alarmed his conservative audiences by criticising Ronald Reagan for not solving Social Security once and for all. In fact, Reagan's bipartisan agreement basically put Social Security on a sound financial footing for nearly 75 years. Santorum wants to slash Social Security now, even though it will cause great pain. (Of course, there is no reason to.)

Santorum criticized President Obama wanting "health care for everyone". He thought people with prior conditions should pay more for insurance and that was a penalty for not living a healthy life-style.

This week, hospitals linked to Santorum were accused of conducting exorcisms on a boy with autism. Santorum had also actively supported the charity of Coach Sandusky, who has been arrested again for a string of rapes of under-age young boys.

Santorum explained his position on why birth control should be made illegal. He said that people who think birth control is alright don't realize that using birth control will lead to couples exploring "unnatural" sex acts. I hope a reporter acts dumb and asks whether Santorum could be more explicit in what sex acts he has in mind--because you know he is thinking about them.

Rachel Maddow has done her usual good job in exposing how Santorum while Senator dealt with the sex scandals of his own party. When the cuckholded husband, who had served as a staffer for John Ensign, e-mailed Santorum about the Senator's affair with his wife, Santorum simply send on the e-mail to Ensign as a warning. John Ensign eventually had to resign from the Senate but not until the Ethics Committee was about to drop a bomb on him. Santorum also defended Senator Vitter's behavior with the Washington Madam and the New Orleans Madam. The Madam in New Orleans won the hearts and minds of all political watchers when she said in a soft southern accent "Mr. Vitters wore the most beautiful lingerie I have ever seen."

Santorum has captured the imagination of the Christian Right leaders, who now are asking Newt and Rick Perry to abandon the race and unite behind Santorum. Newt has espoused an alliance with Santorum to stop Mitt Romney. The Santorum upswing has made some pundits break out in fevers. Michael Gerson believes Santorum represents the return of "compassionate conservatism". Charles Krauthammer believes Santorum is a plausible candidate. Even David Brooks tried to make the case for Santorum's social conservatism as some new social ethos. I don't know what they have been smoking but I don't want any of it.

Washington pundits believed--before the South Carolina polls--that Santorum would appeal to the southern voter. But one reporter noted that while northerners have their own stereotypes of South Carolina, it is a state bristling with sophisticated political operatives and they did re-elect Lindsey Graham to the Senate. It's not totally a state of yahoos and the local Republicans are not all evangelicals. In fact, the polling shows the race is more a Romney-Gingrich race.

Both Santorum and Newt Gingrich brag about their roles in Welfare Reform. Their racist dog-whistles are meant to evoke that time. Santorum told the second-whitest state in the union that he would not "improve the lives of blacks at the expense of the taxpayer." Newt said that he would tell the NAACP that instead of food stamps they should ask for paychecks. And Newt loves to call President Obama "the foodstamp President".

Just a FYI--only 1.57% of Americans--that's right 1.57%--are on welfare. Of the millions of Americans who are receiving food stamps, over 70% are white. I humbly suggest Al Sharpton create an African-American support committee for white people. Every time in the 21st century that candidates play the race card, this committee should help whites discover which financial force is trying to pick their pockets. Like much of the social safety net, the problem is they are too weak, not too strong. And the primary beneficiary for them are whites.