Sunday, September 02, 2012

Beryl and Isaac

I have a sister named Beryl and a son named Isaac. This year there was a Hurricane Beryl and a Hurricane Isaac. One received a lot of media attention because it disrupted the Republican National Convention.

At the Republican National Convention, Mitt Romney delivered an acceptance speech which was largely overshadowed by the weirdness of Clint Eastwood. (Memo to Clint Eastwood: The war in Afghanistan started under President Bush.) Rahm Emmanuel said that the reason anyone is talking about Eastwood is because Romney was so vapid, and so devoid of anything memorable in his acceptance speech.

It’s been a couple of days, and now is a good time to think about what Mitt Romney said. Let’s see if we can remember anything of substance.

Well, there was his defense of Bain Capital. Hans Christian Andersen couldn’t have done any better. As so fulsomely documented in the cover of the Rolling Stone, Mitt Romney made his fortune not by taking risks, but rather by breaking promises. (It’s a topic I discussed on May 22, 2012. See, Bailing on Bain.) 

His business plan was to borrow money, then re-neg on his promises and extort the government to suck up his obligations. It’s a fascinating look at what is the centerpiece of the Romney argument, and it totally disproves the raison d’etre for the Romney candidacy.

Romney's acceptance speech had some touching stuff about George Romney, who sought the Republican nomination for President in 1968. If you needed any persuasion that Dad would have made a better President than Richard Nixon, the story about the rose a day for Mitt’s mom, would have probably turned the trick for you. Speaking of Mitt’s mom, (as Mitt was) it is useful to recall (as Mitt didn’t) that she ran for the U.S. Senate as a pro-choice moderate (as Mitt did) which is what Mitt is not.

The problem with all this so-called biography stuff is that it can’t make the Automaton from the Uncanny Valley  likable, and, worse yet from the vantage point of the Romney campaign, people generally like President Obama.

There was a lot that was notable for its absence. For a man who wants to be Commander-in-Chief, it is fairly shocking that he neglected to mention the 70,000 service-members serving in Afghanistan, or the millions of veterans to whom the country owes a debt of gratitude. Not to mention a debt of Veterans Administration benefits.

A candidacy can survive all of the above, if the candidate delivers a couple of zingers that capture the public’s imagination and stick in the nation’s consciousness. Think: “Read my lips: No new taxes!” Of course, if it’s bologna, as it turned out to be for George H.W. Bush, there is a price to be paid.

To the best of my recollection, Mitt Romney delivered two possible memorable quotes. He dialed up his  “sincerity affect module,”  faced the camera, and intoned,
“Hope and Change had a powerful appeal. But tonight I’d ask a simple question: If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn’t you feel that way now that he’s President Obama?”
It was a good line because it was a re-formulation of the classic Reagan line, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” The problem with the original formulation is that it invites an analytical response. Let’s take a look, shall we?

Are you better off now than when the world economy was teetering on the brink of collapse, the U.S. was facing the prospect of a second great depression, and we were hemorrhaging 800,000 jobs a month, all while living in fear that Osama Bin Ladin would strike again?

We have ended the misbegotten war in Iraq, and we are in a glide path to end the war in Afghanistan. Our President is not an embarrassment abroad, as was his predecessor, and, for that matter, his would-be successor. Al-Qaeda's leadership has been not merely decapitated, but destroyed. We have played a successful role in the transition to democracy in Libya, and kept the Palestinians out of the United Nations, while vastly improving Israel’s defenses – more than in any previous administration, according to Romney’s former business partner, Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Arab Uprising has been notable for its lack of anti-American protests, and anyone who thinks that Romney can do a better job of managing the evolving situation needs a brain transplant. Our President won the Nobel Peace Prize and fellow laureate Desmond Tutu, has recently called for the President of four years ago to be prosecuted for war crimes

The stock market has roughly doubled on Obama’s watch, and although gas-prices are higher than when he took office, that’s because gas prices crashed as a result of the Great Recession which was brought about by the Republican policies which Romney wants to bring back. Today’s prices are roughly the same as they were under Bush before he brought us the Great Recession. Inflation is roughly zero percent. Republicans have decimated public employment, and if public sector employment had grown along with the economy at its normal rate, the unemployment rate would be around 7%. We’ve added half a million jobs in manufacturing under this President.

Exports have risen at a double digit rate throughout this President’s term, the best since the 1990s. And the United States is freeing itself from dependency on foreign oil, which for is now at 45%, compared to 57% when he took office. U.S. production of oil is higher than it has ever been.

Since I was a child, I have always believed that race was the over-riding issue in our country, and, while I don’t believe that we have reached the stage of “post-racial politics,” I think that we have made great strides during the administration of the first African-American President.

Taxes for the middle class are lower now than when the President took office. Corporate taxes – distinguished from nominal rates – are among the lowest of any industrial economy. And here’s the kicker: as a percentage of gross domestic product, the President has reduced taxes, federal debt, and the budget deficit. You read that right: the President has reduced taxes, debt and deficits.

Did I mention that under President Obama, insurance companies can no longer discriminate on the basis of a pre-existing condition? Or that children up to the age of 26 can stay on their parents’ insurance? Or that he closed the doughnut hole in Medicare Part D, saving 5,250,000 seniors an average of over $7,000 dollars and counting.

Yes, I’m talking about Obamacare, the program that provides preventative services and screening for free, reduces prescription costs for Medicare enrollees, improves the care and coverage provided to senior citizens, and extends the life of the program by keeping costs under control and paying for care more efficiently.

You get the idea: if you stick to the facts, there is no doubt that Americans are better off than they were four years ago. That’s why Romney had to frame the question in terms of feelings. By doing so, he can cash in on the negativism which has been the hallmark of his duplicitous campaign, and the propaganda of Fox and talk radio which is directed at the reptile brain. So, okay, Mitt, you get credit for one good line in your acceptance speech.

There was another line that I think might qualify as a zinger for Mitt:
“President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.”
Not bad, Mitt. It reinforces the Republican message which is that there is a choice to be made between protecting your family and the planet they live on. Republican Newt Gingrich took this to the logical extreme by suggesting we colonize the moon while we are at the business of reducing government spending.

Romney has taken – sit down for this – inconsistent positions of the subject of global warming. But the science is in, and the results are conclusive. Global warming is real, and human activities are a major contributing factor. (Contra: Mitt Romney’s latest iteration of his position with regard to climate change.)

I never really understood why it is necessary to add the fact that humans are part of the problem. After all, polio was not the result of human behavior, but I’m pleased that we recognized the problem, found a cure, and eliminated this horrible disease. Be that as it may, the fact remains that we have to address the problem of global climate change and we don’t have much time to do so.

How do I know? We see the evidence in the number of “hottest day” “hottest month” and “hottest year on record” headlines. We see evidence in the drought that is crippling the Midwest. We see evidence in the frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events. And this year, we got another data point.

On May 27, 2012, Hurricane Beryl made landfall in Florida. Beryl’s landfall in Jacksonville Beach was the strongest landfall in the United States for any pre-season Atlantic tropical cyclone on record.

Romney can ridicule caring about the environment, as Clint Eastwood tried to do. But let’s be clear. The reason I care about the environment is that I love my family. And that includes Beryl and Isaac. I remember when Isaac was born, and suddenly, environmentalism became no longer a theoretical concern, but rather a question of what kind of world would I leave for my progeny.

If you, too, want a better world for your family, don’t elect a candidate who ridicules your concerns. Instead, vote for Barack Obama …

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Elegantly said.