Sunday, August 21, 2011

Bachmann wants to RAISE taxes!

In South Carolina today, candidate Michelle Bachmann held a town hall meeting at Myrtle Beach. She took a question about taxes. Here's her response:
“The question ‘What will I do to bring in the 50% of people who don’t pay taxes?’ It is unbelievable that today, the latest statistics we have, is that 53% of American’s pay taxes, 47% do not. It may even be worse than that this year. This is incomprehensible. Because every person in this county – I don’t care who you are – you have a stake in the success of the United States of America. Every single person should pay something!”
There you have it, folks. Michele Bachmann is in favor of raising taxes as nearly half of all Americans.

Let us not forget that Ms. Bachmann also promised to get gas prices down to under $2.00 per gallon. Everyone knows that the only way to get that is to have a serious recession. So, at least we know where she stands: raising taxes on half of the population of the United States and causing economic havoc.

Sure, we know she was a little bat-shit crazy before this. But that has been mostly on social conservatism issues, like cure-the-gay, and submissive wives. There is a dash of anti-intellectualism that spices up her views on global warming and evolution. But she presents as a serious woman when it comes to her tax bona fides. That was then, and this is now, and now she is running to out crazy a guy who wants to be the President of the country he wants to secede from.

And yet, people are still betting on Obama to lose the election.

“... and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Friday, August 12, 2011

“Give ’em hell, Barry!” Part 2

The Republican controlled Congress has brought the country to the brink of disaster. In Part 1, of this post, I argued that the clear path to victory for Barak Obama is to ignore the Republican nominee and run against Congress the way Harry S Truman did in 1948, earning for himself a second term and a place in history as one of the greatest upset victors in history.

As usual, the President does not seem to be taking my advice. I would not find this surprising in and of itself, but for the fact that Obama is such a smart man that I would have figured him to come to this on his own.

Instead, the President is said to be preparing a campaign that capitalizes on Romney’s shortcomings. People think Romney is weird. His business experience consists of buying companies, firing employees and selling the companies in parts – hardly the resume you want if the country is clamoring for jobs creation. Romney-care was the template for Obama-care, et cetera, ad nauseum.

Will it work? People hate negative campaigning but the fact is that it works, especially if the candidate isn’t perceived as the first one to go negative. But in the case of Obama there are special circumstances. First, as an incumbent, negative campaigning may be perceived as infra dig. Second, it is so counter to the President’s persona, as we have come to know it, that it may appear to be desperation. Beyond that, given Obama’s personality, whether or not he could pull it off is a fair question. Finally, there will be plenty of surrogates available to remind the public of why we don’t like Romney, and the question is what should the President do. What I have proposed is not inimical to surrogates attacking Romney.

But what would it look like if the President followed the advice of Big Mitch, and patterned his campaign after the 1948 campaign of President Truman? Let's take a look.
Harry Truman called a special session of Congress known as the Turnip Day session during his 1948 presidential campaign. The Research Division of the Democratic National Committee came up with the idea as a way to dramatize the differences between the Republican platform and the performance of the Republican Congress. The special session of Congress, which began on the day known as “Turnip Day” in Missouri, proved to be an effective strategy in Truman's campaign.
Batt, William L., Jr., Origin of the 1948 Turnip Day Session of Congress (Presidential Studies Quarterly, Vol 29 No 1 March 1999)

Today, in Michigan the President addressed factory workers. Here’s some of what he said:
You know, in the aftermath of this whole debt ceiling debacle, and when the markets going up and down like they are, there’s been a lot of talk in Washington right now that I should call Congress back early. The last thing we need is Congress spending more time arguing in D.C. (Applause.) What I figure is, they need to spend more time out here listening to you and hearing how fed up you are. (Applause.) That’s why I’m here. That’s why I’ll be traveling to a lot of communities like this one over the next week. That’s what Congress should be doing -- go back home, listen to people’s frustrations with all the gridlock. Listen to how frustrated folks are with the constant bickering and the unwillingness to compromise and the desire to score points, even if it’s at the expense of our country. And if they’re listening hard enough, maybe they’ll come back to Washington ready to compromise and ready to create jobs and ready to reduce our deficit -- ready to do what you sent them there to do.
Maybe he is just ignoring my advice. Or maybe he is laying the ground work for a call to convene Congress next summer. You know what they say in Missouri,
On the twenty-fifth of July, Sow your turnips, wet or dry...

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Romney is weird, but why mention it now?

Soon, I will post an addition to my previous post, “Give ’em hell!” But I want to quickly respond to the leaked news that Obama is planning to run a negative campaign against Romney. Look, this news didn’t leak out because of a slip of the tongue. Someone in the Obama corner planted it in the press for a reason. And what would that be?

Off the top of my head, they wanted to boost Romney’s chances of getting the nomination.

Here’s how it would work. Negative campaigning is perceived as a desperate tactic. Letting the story get out creates the impression that Romney is the only one that Obama is afraid of. That has to be good for Mitt.

Why would the President’s political team want to boost Romney’s chances of being nominated? They know any easy mark when they see one. They have been concerned about Huntsman for years, which accounts for why they sent him to the other side of the world. Gingrich is a capable orator, and he could damage the President even if he can’t win the election. After a little more exposure to wild-eyed craziness, a la Bachmann, Paul, and Cain, boring might start to look good, to the benefit of Pawlenty.

I didn’t mention Perry, because his craziness is of the squinty-eyed variety, redolent of George W. Bush. Suffice it to say of Perry, that the Bush people say he is “more interested in sound bites, than drilling down into the issues.” If you are too shallow for George W. Bush acolytes, you might as well have “No diving” tattooed on your forehead.

Of the three real potential candidates– Romney, Gingrich, and Pawlenty – Romney is easiest to beat.

Want an example? On the stump today in Arizona, Romney got laughed at for saying “Corporations are people.” Really, Mitt? Doesn't that mean that any corporation with a net income of more than $379,150 should be taxed at a marginal rate of 35%?*

Here’s another example: Tonight Faux News aired a debate in Iowa, in advance of the straw poll coming up this Saturday. Here’s Romney talking about withdrawing from Afghanistan:
Sometime within the next two years, we are going to draw down our troop strength and reach a point where the Afghan military is able to preserve the sovereignty of their own nation from the tyranny of the Taliban. That has to happen. It's time for the troops of Afghanistan to take on that responsibility, according to -- as I said in the last debate -- according to the timetable established and communicated by the generals in the field.

Those generals recommended to President Obama we should not start drawing our troops down until after the fighting season in 2012. He took a political decision to draw them down faster than that. That is wrong. We should follow the recommendation of the generals, and we should now look for the people of Afghanistan to pick up their fight and preserve that liberty that has been so dearly won.
Spoken like a real Commander-in-chief, Mitsy. You should just come out and say, “I will do whatever the Generals tell me to do, because I don’t know shit.” I realize that you can’t help to criticizing whatever the President does, but really, do you want to court the “we need to stay in Afghanistan longer” vote?

Good luck with that …

“ … and tell ‘em Big Mitch sent ya!”

* Tip o' the hat to my pride and joy.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Give ’em hell!

You could say that the midterm elections resulted in a shellacking. I’m talking about the 1946 midterm election which resulted in a Republican pick up of 55 seats in the House, giving them a majority. Democrats had controlled the house for 14 years. In the Senate, Republicans gained 12 seats and also took over the majority. The election was seen as a referendum on President Truman.

Two years later, Democrats regained control of congress and Truman, who had ascended to the presidency when FDR died, was returned to office. How did it happen, and what lessons does the 1948 election hold for us today?

In 1948, the Republican nominee was Thomas Dewey, popular governor of the largest state, New York. The easterner was chosen after a contentious convention rather than Senator Robert Taft of Ohio, who campaigned for the nomination as an isolationist. Harold Stassen, the wonder boy from Minnesota, who had knocked out any hopes of Douglas MacArthur’s supporters, could not extend his popularity beyond his Midwest base. When Stassen lost the Ohio primary to Taft, and then lost the first ever nationally broadcast debate to Dewey in advance of the Oregon primary, it was all over but the shouting.

Basically, Dewey’s success was as an eastern establishment Republican. He prevailed against challengers who wanted to abolish many of the New Deal social welfare programs that had been created in the 1930s, which they regarded as too expensive and harmful to business interests. Dewey had previous experience, having been the Republican nominee against Roosevelt in 1944, but he was unpopular with Republicans who considered him cold, stiff and calculating. He was compared to “the little man on the wedding cake,” by Teddy Roosevelt’s socialite daughter.

As you might expect, an incumbent President was the odds-on favorite to win the nomination of his party. However, Truman was not without detractors. Liberals were not enthusiastic supporters of Truman – the Progressive party had their own nominee, former Vice-president (under FDR) Henry Wallace. Nor was the Democratic Party popular in what had been called the solid south. Because of Truman’s support of civil rights, the southern Democrats peeled off and formed the States Rights Democratic Party, aka the Dixiecrats. They nominated Strom Thurmond.

Given the three way split in the Democratic party, and the fact that the Republicans had taken control of both houses of the United States Congress as well as a majority of state governorships during the 1946 midterm elections by running against Truman, it came as no surprise that public-opinion polls showed Truman trailing Republican nominee Dewey, sometimes by double digits, after the Democratic convention.

Interestingly, the conventional wisdom had it that the front-runner after the conventions would be the eventual winner. Accordingly, little attention was paid to polling in the run-up to the election, with the result that the 1948 election is remembered as one of the greatest upsets in the history of electoral politics.

Today, the talking heads are saying that Obama’s most likely opponent is Mitt Romney and that the President is a slight underdog. As of this writing, Intrade, the on-line betting site, calculates only a 54.8% chance of Obama winning.

The comparison between Romney and Dewey is obvious. Both are not beloved of the Republican Party. While Dewey was considered “calculating,” Mitt Romney’s flip-flopping is legendary. Basically, he will say whatever he expects his audience wants to hear. Although Romney never received his party’s nomination, he does have the experience considered necessary to get it this time. To do so, Romney will have to prevail over the most conservative elements in his party including crazies from Minnesota, who want to turn back the clock on the New Deal.

Moreover, in the general election, Dewey was so sure of victory that his strategy was basically “take no chances and don’t blow a good thing.” In its execution it amounted to speeches filled with mealy-mouthed assertions of the obvious, including the now infamous quote “You know that your future is still ahead of you.” Although Romney has made more aggressive statements about his putative opponent, he has a history of back-tracking and flip-flopping that leaves his words with no more gravitas than Dewey’s. Consider how long it has taken him to come up with a snappy retort to the fact that Obama-care was patterned after his program in Massachusetts. Has he yet?

And what of the comparison between Harry S-for-nothing Truman, and President Obama, who has been accused of standing for nothing? Truman was an unelected incumbent, while Obama – who won decisively in 2008 – has never been considered fully legitimate by certain elements in the country. It is foolish to discount the existence of racism in the Old South, but suffice to say, the old Dixiecrats are now Republicans.

It is widely reported that Obama faces a serious enthusiasm gap, but it is hard to imagine that it is any worse than the abandonment by the left that Truman experienced. Truman’s Democratic base in the solid south split off from the party. It is hard to think of Dems similarly walking away from Obama, especially since many in Obama’s camp are Black, and he remains overwhelmingly popular with them. Someone is sure to remind the African-American community that not too long ago—in Romney’s lifetime—the Mormon Church openly discriminated against those whom they regard as bearing “the mark of Cain.” Furthermore, many bigoted voters in the South have as much of a problem with Romney, whom they regard as un-Christian, as they do with Obama.

But Obama may have a problem that Truman didn’t. It’s the economy. Unemployment is at 9%, the credit worthiness of the United States has been downgraded. The deficit is large and recent kerfuffle regarding the debt ceiling has made lots of folk antsy for lots of reasons. As I write these words, investors are awaiting with dread the opening of the market on Monday morning.

Congress is so dysfunctional that Sen. Dick Durban (D-IL) commenting on the 14% approval rating said he was surprised that congressmen had so many relatives. And herein lies the reason the Obama should follow Truman’s example.

The key element of Truman’s re-election campaign was to run against that 80th Congress, whom he described as “do nothing, and good-for-nothing.” Truman’s attack was caustic and unrelenting. He toured the country and everywhere he went, enthusiastic crowds shouted, “Give ’em hell, Harry!” Although there were no debates in those days, nor even television, American movie theaters agreed to play two newsreel-like campaign films in support of the Republican and the Democratic nominee. Truman was strapped for campaign funds and so he relied upon public-domain and newsreel footage of him taking part in major world events and signing important legislation. For undecided voters, the Truman film reinforced the image or the President as being engaged and decisive.

Truman simply ignored the fact that Dewey's policies were considerably more liberal than most of his fellow Republicans, and instead he concentrated his fire against what he characterized as the conservative, obstructionist tendencies of the unpopular 80th Congress. If you think Romney will not move back to the center after his flirtation with the extremist elements in his party, you’re na├»ve. But if you are right, Obama is a shoe-in.

The problem with this advice is the same problem that condemns all good advice. To be useful, it must be heeded. Obama came to national prominence as an orator who extolled the fact that there is “not a blue America, or a red America, but only a United States of America.” He has tried to be the great compromiser, and this tendency may have been his undoing in the recent debt ceiling negotiations. He has tried to appease the right, appeal to the center and hold on to the left.

President Obama believes in the basic goodness of the American people, and he wants to govern from the middle of the road. But as Dan Rather in his inimitable way, pointed out today, “The only thing in the middle of the road is yellow stripes and dead armadillos.” So Mr. President, stand up and fight for what Americans believe in.

Give ’em hell, Barry! And remember what President Truman said: “I never did give anybody hell. I just told the truth and they thought it was hell.”

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”