Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Yesterday's big news

When the history of the 2012 Presidential election is written, few will note that November 28, 2011 was the day when it became unassailably obvious that Barak Obama would be re-elected.

What was the news break? Was it Manchester Union-Leader’s endorsement of Newt Gingrich? Or was it when Ginger White revealed her long and recent affair with Herman Cain?

None of the above.

Newt Gingrich was the soup de jour on the Any-But-Romney buffet. But New Hampshire is near Massachusetts, and the editorial board of the Union-Leader was familiar with Romney. Familiarity had the predictable multiplier effect on contempt, and nobody was surprised when the paper gave Mitt the back if its hand. That Gingrich would be the beneficiary, may have been an unforeseen godsend to the President. After all, Alex Wagner, hostess of the MSNBC morning news show, Now, actually uttered this sentence: “‘Loathsome’ is a word often used in connection with Newt Gingrich.” And yet, there are those who believe that Gingrich can actually win the election.

Herman Cain had no chance of being President for reasons too numerous to catalogue here. It could be argued that his demise as a candidate helps the Republican party because it shakes up the field and may advance the day when a real competitor will be sifted out.

The real news that was an answer to my question and to the President’s prayers came on the Rachel Maddow show, when guest Buddy Roemer announced that if he didn’t win the Republican nomination, he would run on the America Votes ticket.

Buddy Who? Roemer was a member of Congress before he became the governor of Louisiana. He was the CEO of a private company and made his fortune there. Legislative experience, executive experience in government and private enterprise – call it the tri-fecta. He has been an advocate for election reform for many years and he has limited contributions to his campaign to under $100. As a result, he has not been invited to any of the Republican debates because those who sponsor the debates only invite viable candidates and hold that any candidate who has not raised a certain amount of money is not viable. It has been said of Roemer, that he is “a dynamic orator who could light up an audience with his first two sentences. When he got wound up it was truly evangelical and, he made sense. His wiry, five foot seven, one-hundred thirty-five pound frame would seem to uncoil and grow as he outlined his vision as a fighter against crime, corruption and waste in government, poor education, taxes and industrial pollution.”

As governor, Roemer called a special session of the legislature to push an ambitious tax and fiscal reform program for state and local governments. He vowed to slash spending, abolish programs, and close state-run institutions. Voters ultimately rejected his proposals, but times have changed, and what he served up is just what the Republicans are hungry for. Roemer vetoed an anti-abortion law, on grounds that it was unconstitutional. His veto was over-ridden, but in the end, he was vindicated because the law was, in fact, ruled unconstitutional. Though he is twice divorced, and thrice married, his personal life does not have the baggage connected with the salacious details and hypocrisy of Newt Gingrich.

In short, he is a perfect match for America Votes.

America who? America Votes is a grass roots organization that seeks to change the way that we select Presidential candidates. It intends to have a national internet primary. It promises the victor 50 state ballot access. Given Roehmer’s go-go (good government) credentials, he seems like a prohibitive odds-on favorite to win the internet primary.

What does it mean? It means that in every state, Republicans who are disenchanted with their candidate will have a choice other than voting for the President or staying home. It is obvious that a lot of Republicans who don’t like Romney will hold their nose and vote for him. But a good two or three percent of Republicans are either too bigoted to vote for a Mormon, or just simply feel, as I do, that Romney doesn’t care about people like me. A one or two point decline in support for Romney in key states is all it takes to deliver them to Obama.

Gingrich’s road is an uphill, long shot battle as is, but if one or two percent of his hoped-for voters defect to Roemer, he can wave goodbye to any hope of being elected. Thanks, Buddy!

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Sunday, November 20, 2011

If you are a one issue voter, and your one issue is Israel

A friend of mine, whom I respect greatly, recently said that any one of the Republican hopefuls is preferable to Barack Obama. Maybe this is because she thinks that Obama is not a staunch enough supporter of Israel.

I was thinking of this while watching the Sunday talk shows today. This week, the Defense Minister and former Prime Minister of Israel, Ehud Barak appeared on the Sunday morning talk show, Fareed Zakaria GPS. The host is editor-at-large and a columnist for TIME magazine, and a columnist for The Washington Post.

 I found this exchange particularly interesting:

ZAKARIA: You know that there are people in the United States who've criticized President Obama for not supporting Israel strongly enough. Do you believe that President Obama is a very strong supporter of Israel?   
BARAK: He is extremely strong supporter of Israel in regard to - to its security. Traditionally, the president will support in Israel in keeping its collective military edge and taking care of its security needs. But this administration is excelling in this. And it could not have happened without the immediate direct support of the president. So I don't think that anyone can raise any question mark about the devotion of this president to the security of Israel.  
It doesn't mean that we cannot have difference of opinion at this or that point about this or that other aspect of what happens around us, Middle East or the peace process. I would love to see the American president agree to everything that comes from  our government, but I think that's too - kind of idealistic. 

 What does Ehud Barack know, that my friend does not?

It should be recalled that President Obama has successfully fought off Palestinian membership in the General Assembly, and is the first President to explicitly recognize that Israel is a “Jewish State,” (i.e. no right of return for Palestinians.)

To help insure the safety and security of Israel, the Obama administration has realized unprecedented levels of military cooperation with the state of Israel. The administration’s request for $2.775 billion to aid in Israel in fiscal year 2010 was the largest request in history. In F.Y. 2011, the administration requested even more: $3 billion.

“We’re talking about the realization of the Iron Dome missile defense system that will be funded out of this money and it will be saving Israeli lives from rockets, wherever they come from. That is real-that is not just a number, folks, that is a real live tangible impact on Israelis’ lives," according to Jarrod Bernstein, the President's Jewish community laison.

The President is winning the diplomatic war over Iran’s nuclear program. “On Iran, the president has spent more time trying to block Iran’s nuclear ambitions than any other foreign policy issue,” Bernstein said. “And it’s something that he raises every single time he’s in a room with a foreign world leader, about what more we can be doing.”

 “He’s also galvanized the international community to impose the toughest set of sanctions on Iran to date. In fact, he made the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad acknowledge in the Iranian parliament how hard of a time he’s having because of the American sanctions. And that is not something you hear very often in Iran, folks,” said Bernstein.

Finally, President Obama called for a “non-militarized” Palestinian state. No President has ever taken such a pro-Israel stance, and it is remarkable that this position has not drawn more attention. What has drawn attention is his call for a return to pre-1967 borders, with agreed upon swaps. This is essentially the same as  President G.W. Bush's demand outlined in a press release dated January 10, 2008 in which he referred to the Israeli presence in all of Jerusalem as an  “occupation.”
“The point of departure for a permanent status negotiations to realize this vision seems clear: There should be an end to the occupation that began in 1967. ... While territory is an issue for both parties to decide, I believe that any peace agreement between them will require mutually agreed adjustments to the armistice lines of 1949 to reflect current realities and to ensure that the Palestinian state is viable and contiguous.”
And of course, this is the position of the Israeli government, too.

 Well, maybe my friend thinks that there is a Republican who is a better candidate than Obama on Israel or some other issue. So let’s take a look: For some time now the Republican presidential hopefuls have been campaigning and debating in hopes of being the last man or woman standing at the end of the nominating process. Mitt Romney has never been able to attract a following of more than 25% which is not surprising when one considers he is the spiritual godfather of individual mandates in healthcare reform.

Tim Pawlenty was seen as a reasonable alternative, except for the small problem that no body wanted to hear from him, much less give him money. So, after a flirtation with birther Donald Trump, the search for an alternative began in earnest.

 First up was Michelle Bachman, who, as I pointed out in these precincts wants to raise taxes on the poor in spite of her signature on a Grover Norquist pledge. She’s hoping for a second look now, but during her first pass, she could not think of anything to say other than “Make Obama a one-term President,” and repeal health care reform.

 The Republicans called out for another candidate and they got Rick Perry. The Texas governor who accused Romney of being a magnet for illegal aliens gives in-state tuition to illegal aliens attending college in his own state, and called anyone who disagreed with him “heartless.”

His pathetic debate performances highlighted the fact that he is not ready for prime time. A main ingredient in his stump speech, and, indeed, in his philosophy of government is that it should be streamlined by cutting out three government departments. On the test question, “Can you name them?” he got 67% right.

As if the comedian’s-full-employment-act had suddenly been signed into law, up popped Herman Cain, who clearly didn't know what is meant by “Palestinian right of return,” when asked about it.  Long before Cain was running for president and getting attention for his “bold 9-9-9 plan,” the residents of SimCity 4 -- which was released in 2003 -- were living under a system where the default tax rate was 9 percent for commercial taxes, 9 percent for industrial taxes and 9 percent for residential taxes.

During a debate in Iowa, the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza recited his favorite inspirational quote: “A poet once said, ‘life can be a challenge, life can seem impossible, but it’s never easy when there’s so much on the line.’”

 The poet? It’s from the theme of Pok√©mon: The Movie 2000, sung by the great disco queen Donna Summers.

Then came the sexual scandals, which, bad enough though they were, were not the worst of it. That would be his disastrous handling of the accusations which included thinly veiled threats aimed at other women inclined to come forward, and statements to the effect that there were thousands of women who he did not sexually harass.

The shameless invocation of Justice Thomas’s memorable phrase “high tech lynching,” was especially offensive because (1) I believe Anita Hill, (2) Our attitudes and understanding about sexual harassment has evolved since then, thanks, in part to Dr. Hill's bravery, (3)Thomas should not have been confirmed, and should in fact be impeached, and, (4) Cain was pretty darn quick to play the race card when it suited him.

What seemed like it must be the final stake through his heart was his gaffe in which he responded to a question about Libya with no apparent idea if he was talking about a country in Africa, in which President Obama had masterfully overseen the ousting of a vicious dictator/terrorist, or the tattooed lady made famous by Groucho Marx:  

You might think that was the end of Cain, but as it happens he managed to go downhill from there. Recall, if you will that Cain had once campaigned on a promise that all bills would be required to be no longer than three pages. Jon Stewart did an impersonation of Cain and then threw up a mock billboard that read: “HERMAN CAIN 2012 - I DON'T LIKE TO READ.”

Frankly, I thought it was hilarious. But in the immortal words of Ron Popiel, “Wait! There’s more!”

Cain tried to explain away his Libya gaffe by saying that the American people want “a leader, not a reader.” As goofy as the notion that Americans don’t want an informed President is, he trumped that, too! It turns out that the line was stolen from – wait for it – The Simpson’s Movie!

Next up is Newt Gingrich. The former lobbyist for Freddy Mac is hoping that he can get the nomination for President by vilifying his former client who paid him millions of dollars. This is the same Newt who said in September of 2008, “I think Senator McCain should have turned and said, ‘Senator Obama, are you prepared to give back all the money that Freddie Mac & Fannie Mae gave to you?’”

Things aren’t going well for Newt when Jack Abramoff accuses him of “engaging in the exact kind of corruption that America disdains.” Gingrich who has worked with Al Sharpton and Hillary Clinton also worked for the Heritage Foundation from whence Mitt Romney got the idea for individual mandates.

Gingrich has got more baggage than an airport carousel, but he has tried to excuse his serial philandering by saying that it was partly because of his “passion for this country.”  I can understand that excuse: I’ve seen Calista and I understand the joke to which the punch-line is “Do it for Old Glory." But what was Calista’s reasoning?

Maybe she is drawn to men with power – he was the Speaker of the House at the time that they began their affair. Maybe she just likes a guy with a million dollar line of credit at Tiffany’s, but that’s not the point. The point is the brazen hypocrisy of carrying on an affair while impeaching the President for – well, we all know what for.

I could go on for hours about Newt Gingrich’s personal failings but why bother? The guy is a pathetic liar, but that’s not why the Republicans will reject him. His real problem is that he is trying to court the religious right, most of whom are devout Southern Baptists. That’s the faith that he rejected when he converted to Roman Catholicism, a church which many Southern Baptists believe is headed by the anti-Christ.

 To me, they’re all gentiles, which I suppose is another thing I have in common with Jon Huntsman, besides the fact that neither one of us can get more than 3% support within the Republican party.

Luckily for Ron Paul, the media refuses to take him seriously, because if he ever gets the spotlight, his ugly association with his racist followers will pull the scab off an oozing wound on the Republican body politic.

Rick Santorum is the only guy I haven’t mentioned, and perhaps by the time you read this he will have run out of money. After all, he seems to be trying to be too conservative for the Tea Party, and his steadfast opposition to abortion and equality for gays is so extreme that even they realize that he is unelectable. The next President will probably have to win Pennsylvania, and Perry has already lost in state-wide election there.

So, what does it all add up to?

First, if you would be honest, you must admit that Obama is a staunch and able ally of Israel.

Second, he is going to be re-elected because there is no Republican who can win, and darn few that can be considered serious candidates.

Third, if you want to be a friend of Israel, give your support to Obama, so that he will continue to honor the opinions of “Lovers of Zion,” like myself and the friend I referenced above.

 “… and tell ‘em Big Mitch sent ya!”