Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Climate change - is it about words or deeds?

About midway through the presidential debates, a meme emerged on the left about climate silence - the idea that neither candidate was talking about climate change enough. That meme has only grown in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

As this meme was developing, Michael Grunwald - author of The New New Deal - wrote this:
...while it’s absolutely fair to complain that Obama doesn’t talk about climate change anymore, except at rallies when he’s firing up his liberal base, it’s also worth noting that he’s probably done more to prevent climate change than anyone else on the planet. His stringent new fuel efficiency rules for cars and light trucks are expected to reduce emissions by 6 billion metric tons by 2025, the equivalent of wiping out an entire year of emissions. As I’ve written here, and in The New New Deal, Obama’s stimulus bill also launched a quiet clean-energy revolution, with unprecedented investments in wind, solar, geothermal and other renewables; energy efficiency in every possible form; blue-sky research into low-carbon technologies; the smart grid; electric vehicles; advanced biofuels; and the factories to build all that green stuff in the U.S. It almost goes without saying that Republicans opposed all of these shifts towards a greener economy, as well as a cap-and-trade plan that had been part of McCain’s agenda. They’ve blocked Obama’s efforts to kill tax loopholes that benefit the oil industry, and extend tax credits that benefit the wind industry. But U.S. emissions are still falling even though the economy is growing.

The point here is not to excuse Obama’s climate silence. He’s got a big megaphone, and what the president says and doesn’t say matters. It would be nice to hear him talk about clean energy as a planetary imperative as well as a source of green jobs, and hear him call out Romney for backing away from climate science to pander to Tea Party activists. But if his words have been unsatisfying, his deeds have been impressive. Which matters more?
That's a pretty bold statement up there...that President Obama has "done more to prevent climate change than anyone else on the planet." But as he says (and has literally written the book about), "Obama's stimulus bill launched a quiet clean-energy revolution." It is only quiet now to people who haven't read what Grunwald wrote.

What he hasn't written about is the part of this quiet clean-energy revolution that has interested me...the fact that the Department of Defense is going green. As I quoted there, Pike Research had the following to say about the military's efforts to develop renewable energy.
The various composite branches of the DOD, as an organization, combine to form the single largest consumer of energy in the world – more than any other public or private entity and greater than more than 100 other nations. Energy consumption is the lifeblood of the U.S. military – and the supporting governmental infrastructure that facilitates and controls it.

Military investment in renewable energy and related technologies, in many cases, holds the potential to bridge the “valley of death” that lies between research & development and full commercialization of these technologies. As such, the myriad of DOD initiatives focused on fostering cleantech is anticipated to have a substantial impact on the development and growth of the industry as a whole.
So you take the fact that the largest single consumer of energy in the world going green along with the quiet clean-energy revolution underway as part of the stimulus bill and its hard to argue with the fact that President Obama has done more to prevent climate change than anyone else on the planet.

What these climate silence propagators are looking for is a spokesperson for their cause. There is a time and a place for that (Al Gore anyone?) But what's even more important is to roll up your sleeves and get something done about it. That's where President Obama has excelled.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

State of the Race: Florida is in play!

With everyone focused on Ohio! Ohio! Ohio! it seems that no one is paying much attention to the other big battleground state - Florida. But according to the folks at places like Huffington PostTPM, and Five-thirty-eight, Florida is actually a closer race than Ohio.

Nate Cohn breaks down why.
With Romney all but assured to make enough gains to cover Obama's modest 2.8 point win [in 2008], Obama's path to victory requires him to compensate for losses by capitalizing on demographic changes, and particularly Florida's growing black and non-Cuban Hispanic populations. Voter registration numbers show that the white share of Florida's registered voters declined from 69 percent to 66.5 percent over the last four years. More than 150,000 more African Americans are registered than four years ago and the number of registered Hispanics increased by 300,000. The number of registered Hispanic Democrats increased by 131,000 compared to just 30,000 for Republicans. If Obama can turnout these newly registered voters, it could go quite a ways toward making up for losses elsewhere.

It's hardly apparent whether demographic changes will provide Obama the state, since it depends both on turnout among newly registered voters and the extent to which Romney can make gains among the rest of Florida's electorate. But polls conducted since October 15 show Romney ahead by a slight .9 point margin in the Sunshine State, making Florida one of the best picks for "closest state" on Election Day.
To see why this matters so much, go play around a bit with the electoral map at 270 to win. President Obama could win the election if he wins Florida but loses Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, Iowa and New Hampshire.

All of this is why I was fascinated to watch the quiet determination on display as early voting got underway in Florida this past weekend.  It's obvious that things are still too close to call in the Sunshine State. But lets be honest...President Obama has a much better chance there than Romney does of taking Ohio. So why all the media focus on Ohio? Because its the only way for the media to continue pretending that the election is a "dead heat."

Government serving the people - a novel idea in this age of obstruction

Over the last few years what has been most disturbing about the Republican position of obstruction is their willingness to sacrifice the good of the American people for their own political gain. Its happened over and over again - but never more explicitly than in their attempt to take the global economy hostage when it came time to raise the debt ceiling.

It is against that backdrop that Governor Christie's response to the support New Jersey has received from President Obama and FEMA seems so striking.


Christie offered a fairly detailed assessment of conditions in the Garden State, including the fact that there have been three reported fatalities thus far. But when Lauer asked about the efficacy of the federal response, the governor said it's been "great," noting that he spoke directly to President Obama at midnight and FEMA again this morning. Christie said Obama "has been outstanding."

The governor made similar remarks on CBS, saying, "Cooperation from the president of the United States has been outstanding. He deserves great credit."

What's more, Christie told reporters yesterday that he'd spoken to Obama, "and he told me that if, at any point over the next 48 hours, I was not getting something from the federal government that I should call him directly at the White House and that he was going to be there. And I should just not worry about dealing with anybody else, call him. So I appreciate that call from the president. It was very proactive. And I appreciate that type of leadership."
But should we be surprised by this? People's lives and livelihoods are on the line. Of course a Governor is going to appreciate the support of the President and the federal government at a time like this. But the truth is - it hasn't always played out that way.

And so we are a bit shocked when a Republican Governor expresses his appreciation for President Obama's support and assistance. We might naively hope that this kind of thing creates a "new normal" of what it means to govern in a way that actually serves the people. But like you - I'm not going to hold my breath. Perhaps the best we can hope for is that Governor Christie's response will blunt any attempt by Mitt Romney to try to play games with this one.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Preparing for disaster - that's what good government does

Sitting here on a clear crisp late fall day in the midwest, its hard to imagine what life is like today for people in the northeast as hurricane Sandy hits.

But I do think of something I noted during hurricane Irene...FEMA has prepared for this.
If the possibility of escaping from New York seems like something only for Hollywood to you, you probably do not work for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

In May 2009, the Obama administration conducted a simulation exercise around the possibility of a Category 3 hurricane hitting New York City, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Friday.

The National Level Exercise, as it is known, was part of a coordinated effort by federal officials to prepare for a variety of disaster scenarios, including one very similar to what is likely to take place this weekend. President Obama himself participated in the exercise, one of the first of its kind by the new administration.

"The federal government's preparation for this storm didn't just begin as the clouds started to gather and form a tropical depression," Earnest told reporters traveling with President Obama to Martha's Vineyard.

"The federal government and this administration in particular is constantly exercising and preparing and testing and evaluating our readiness for situations like this," he said.
Preparation can't stop the toll the winds, rain and snow from Sandy will bring. But it does mean that when our fellow citizens need us the most - our federal government will be there representing the helping hand each of us would like to offer.

I can't imagine a more powerful message about what is at stake over the next 8 days in this election.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Poll Crazy?

Are the polls and the prognostication about the polls driving you crazy?

If so, I have some great news. Here's one poll that absolutely cannot be refuted.
I was in our local bakery, Colozza’s, today here in Parma, OH. They are selling cookies with portraits of Obama and Romney on them, and tracking the number of sales. As of this afternoon, Obama was up 283 to 270.


That's IT. Obama has Ohio in the bag!

;-) Just a little levity to take the edge off.

Souls to the Polls...a quiet determination


From Reuters:
Errol Thompson, a Baptist pastor in Orlando's black community, acknowledges that the excitement over Barack Obama becoming the first black U.S. president has cooled.

But with the Democratic president locked in a tight race against Republican challenger Mitt Romney, Thompson still expects voter turnout in Florida for the November 6 election to be equal to or greater than it was four years ago.

To make sure of that, he and other black church leaders across Florida are organizing a mass effort, dubbed "Souls to the Polls," to get thousands of people in their flock to vote early - right after Sunday's morning service.

This weekend's voting drive carries special importance as it is the only Sunday included in the state's truncated early voting period - which begins on Saturday - after it was cut this year from 14 to eight days.

Legislators eliminated voting on the last Sunday before the election, the day black churches traditionally mobilized in a final push to get voters to the polls.

The reduction in early voting days in Florida was among several changes to election laws in this state and more than 20 others that Democratic activists contend were designed by Republican-led legislatures to suppress voting by low-income and minority residents who tend to vote for Democrats.

That - along with the opportunity to re-elect Obama, who many in the black community feel would not have been so stonewalled by Republicans in Congress if he were white - is what Thompson is counting on in his push for early voting.

Thompson said the concerns over voting issues arise as many in his community are still seething over the state government's perceived slow response in February to the killing of an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin, in central Florida.

"It's all these kind of things that are quietly pushing people to the polls. It might not have the same exuberance, but it is a quiet determination," he said.
So the Republicans in Florida thought they pulled a fast one on African American churches by eliminating early voting the Sunday right before the election - they day "Souls to the Polls" is typically organized. Did they really think that would stop them?

Let me add a word to these racist's vocabulary...B-A-C-K-L-A-S-H...one of quiet determination. And its happening as we speak!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Photo of the Day: Let My People Vote

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Via The Obama Diary

I have to wonder if the Republican's attempts to suppress voting rights are going to backfire.
Before the supervisor of elections opened the main polling site here in Duval County at 7 a.m., a line of almost 100 people had already formed, snaking its way along the sidewalk of a strip-mall parking lot.

All but three voters in line were black. As they waited, they held hands and prayed.

“Our father, our God,” began the Rev. R.L. Gundy of Mount Sinai Missionary Baptist Church. “Our ancestors paid a dear price to have a right to vote, and we don’t take it for granted. Yet the enemy does all it can to disenfranchise us. God, go with us into these polls and every poll around the country.”

He continued, “We are not fearful. We are not afraid. We will not be turned away.”

And the crowd said a somber “Amen.”

Then, in a more jubilant mood, someone screamed, “Fired up?” And a chant began: “Ready to vote!” “Fired up” … “Ready to vote” …”Fired up” … “Ready to vote” …

Racism: whose problem is it?

Thanks (?) to John Sununu, racism has become a topic in this election once again and Charles Blow used the opportunity to point out how racially polarized this election has become.

Right on cue for that conversation comes the release of a poll by the Associated Press suggesting that racism has actually increased since President Obama was elected.
Racial prejudice has increased slightly since 2008 whether those feelings were measured using questions that explicitly asked respondents about racist attitudes, or through an experimental test that measured implicit views toward race without asking questions about that topic directly.

In all, 51% of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes, compared with 48% in a similar 2008 survey. When measured by an implicit racial attitudes test, the number of Americans with anti-black sentiments jumped to 56%, up from 49% during the last presidential election. In both tests, the share of Americans expressing pro-black attitudes fell.
There are people who take this information and assume it is somehow President Obama's fault or that he should have been the one to fix the problem.

I don't happen to agree with either of those assumptions. When I read that article, I immediately thought of a blog post by my friend Robinswing titled We Can't Fix Ya! I hope she won't mind if I quote a good bit of it...we need the reminder.
The blackwoman has been thinking it might be time to seek out some solutions for eliminating racism. A more difficult project than I imagined.

Race is a problem for white people to solve. If black people or brown people could have made racism go away it would have long since disappeared back into the nothing-ness from which it came.

Nah, it’s on white folks to make the necessary moves to kill and bury, once and for all, the notion of race. I think in a generation or two this just might happen.

For one thing no small part of the fear rising in the hearts of some our finest race-baiting carbon units is the realization that within a generation they will be the minority. This idea causes folk like Pat Buchanan to go to sleep at night clutching at his gonads. He’s been ringing the white folks we’re about to be outnumbered bell for a really long time. With the election of America’s first black president, many of the dull-normals suddenly got it.

In the America they grew up in, such a thing was not possible. A black president was not a notion the mouth-breathers ever considered. It couldn’t happen...

Settling the question of race must fall on the shoulders of those who have most benefited by racial divisions. It’s called white privilege and if you are white you have enjoyed this privilege whether or not your parents are recent immigrants, held slaves, didn’t hold slaves, ancestors fought for the Union or the Rebels...White privilege belongs only to your race and only your race can call back the privilege by extending it through law, institution and practice to everyone. So far there has been no real effort in that direction. We got law. We understood you cannot legislate feelings. Only behavior.

We took what we could get...

White people have to come up with the solution to racism. Some of these folk are family. Some are neighbors. Some are friends. Talk to them. Don’t let them get away with the stereotypes. Challenge them on privilege. Point out that as long as this privilege exists, racism has a home.

If all else fails, remind them that they are soon to be the minority and that karma is a bitch.
President Obama is one of those black people who "took what he could get." The fact that in doing so he made some white people uncomfortable is THEIR problem - not his. What he is responsible for is to continue being the president of ALL of America and doing that to the best of his abilities - just as he has done the last 4 years.

The people who continue to harbor fear of the imminent loss of their privilege are just going to have to deal with it.

THIS is what Hope and Change look like

The political narrative we hear these days is that those of us who support President Obama have given up on hope and change. That's a lie!!! The truth is that we agree with what the President said in his convention speech.
...not blind optimism, not wishful thinking but hope in the face of difficulty, hope in the face of uncertainty, that dogged faith in the future which has pushed this nation forward even when the odds are great, even when the road is long...

As citizens, we understand that America is not about what can be done for us. It's about what can be done by us, together — through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government. That's what we believe.

So you see, the election four years ago wasn't about me. It was about you. My fellow citizens — you were the change.
Nothing I've seen lately demonstrates better what that hope and change looks like - on the ground in a very real life - than the story of Eric Smalls. Please take a few minutes to hear what he has to say.



That's what we're fighting for...that's the hope and change I believe in!!!!!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Forward!

Let's get this one viral...FAST!!!!

He's no bullshitter - and they know it!

Did you read the interview with President Obama by Douglas Brinkley in Rolling Stone? If not, you should.

Before he gets into the actual interview though, Brinkley tells a couple of stories.
Over the summer, I brought my wife and kids to an Obama rally in the Ohio town of Maumee, not far from where I grew up. The president delivered a speech about how bailing out GM and Chrysler saved thousands of jobs in Ohio. When he started working the rope line, two young African-American girls began squealing with joy. Playing the good Samaritan, I escorted them to the front of the line so they would be sure to meet the president. The younger girl asked Obama to sign her T-shirt with a Sharpie.

"How old are you?" he asked.

"Eleven."

He gladly obliged.

The older girl had the same request. Obama, however, eyed her with warm parental disapproval. "How old are you?" he asked.

"Fourteen," she replied. The same age as Malia Obama.

"Oh, no," the president said with a broad smile, crouching down to make eye contact. "You're too old to have someone writing on your clothes. Do you understand? That's a nice shirt you have. Take care of it. I'll give you a fist-bump instead."

It was a wonderful moment to witness. This wasn't a president who merely kissed babies for votes. Even though the commotion all around him was louder than a Sousa band, Obama was able to differentiate the ages of the two girls, and then offer the older one a lesson about being a young woman and having self­respect.

I was reminded of this incident when our interview with the president ended. As we left the Oval Office, executive editor Eric Bates told Obama that he had asked his six-year-old if there was anything she wanted him to say to the president. After a thoughtful pause, she said, "Tell him: You can do it."

Obama grinned. "That's the only advice I need," he said. "I do very well, by the way, in that demographic. Ages six to 12? I'm a killer."

"Thought about lowering the voting age?" Bates joked.

"You know, kids have good instincts," Obama offered. "They look at the other guy and say, 'Well, that's a bullshitter, I can tell.'"
Brinkley captures it all with his reference to President Obama being "able to differentiate." What it says to me is that - as much as possible - he approaches each person (especially children) individually...relating to them eye to eye, human to human. And of course when it comes to young people, with the eye of a responsible adult.

Some of you might think I've taken too big of a leap, but it made me think of something Derrick Jensen said in his book The Culture of Make Believe. He was talking about the corporatization of America and the way that enables hate.
He said, "They're cousins." I just listened. "Nobody talks about this," he said, "but they're branches from the same tree, different forms of the same cultural imperative...

"Which is?"

"To rob the world of its subjectivity."

"Wait - " I said.

"Or to put this another way," he continued, " to turn everyone and everything into objects."
President Obama might not be very good at the objectifying art of back-slapping the power brokers and glad-handing the DC elite. But when it comes to interacting with everyday folks, his focus on getting outside of that bubble is all about maintaining a sense of subjectivity in every interaction. That's why he does so well with the 6-12 year old demographic...he's no bullshitter and they know it.
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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Your First Time

A light went out that day - but the legacy lives on

I remember it like it was yesterday. Ten years ago today I was having lunch in the employee lounge at work. Someone came in who had just heard the news. I ran to my office and turned on the radio. It was true...Paul and Sheila Wellstone, their daughter Marcia and three campaign workers had been killed in a plane crash. I wept for most of the rest of the day.


As I cried, I asked myself why. Paul and Sheila weren't friends/loved ones - even though I'd had the distinct honor of spending time with them. But I did love them - just not as one loves family/friends...as one loves someone who brings light, energy, life and hope into a world that is often too dark. And on this anniversary every year, I shed tears for that loss again.

For those who need a reminder about just how special these two people were, take a few minutes and listen to this tribute.



I will simply add that Paul Wellstone wasn't a perfect Senator - nor was he a perfect man. He demonstrated that in 1996 when he voted for DOMA. I remember how pissed off most of us were by that. We ranted and raved - but never once questioned our support or his integrity. Later, in his book Conscience of a Liberal, he questioned himself.
What troubles me is that I may not have cast the right vote on DOMA. I might have rationalized my vote by making myself believe that my honest position was opposition. This vote was an obvious trap for a senator like me, who was up for reelection. Did I convince myself that I could gleefully deny Republicans this opportunity? . . . When Sheila and I attended a Minnesota memorial service for Mathew Shepard, I thought to myself, 'Have I taken a position that contributed to a climate of hatred?' . . . I still wonder if I did the right thing.
That's the best we can hope for from fallible human beings.

The solace I find in my grief about this loss is that Paul and Sheila left a legacy that lives on today. I think about that when I watch Sen. Al Franken at work. I know he is motivated primarily by his desire to live up to the legacy of his friend...Paul Wellstone.

Around these parts we still see these bumper stickers occasionally...reminding us of the legacy.
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And then there are people like Pakou Hang - someone I'm proud to call a friend - who carry on the legacy as well.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

President Obama: Off the record

This morning the publisher and editor of the Des Moines Register had an off-the-record interview with President Obama in order to make their decision about who the paper should endorse. Following the interview, the editor wrote a lengthy article suggesting that the content should be made public. Shortly thereafter, the Obama campaign made the entire transcript available.

I would suggest that you read the whole thing. Its nice to hear President Obama responding off the stump and outside of debate formats.

But there was one portion that particularly stood out to me. The question was about how the President would handle the partisan gridlock that has consumed Congress for the last 4 years.
In the short term, the good news is that there’s going to be a forcing mechanism to deal with what is the central ideological argument in Washington right now, and that is: How much government do we have and how do we pay for it?

So when you combine the Bush tax cuts expiring, the sequester in place...we’re going to be in a position where I believe in the first six months we are going to solve that big piece of business.

It will probably be messy. It won’t be pleasant. But I am absolutely confident that we can get what is the equivalent of the grand bargain that essentially I’ve been offering to the Republicans for a very long time, which is $2.50 worth of cuts for every dollar in spending, and work to reduce the costs of our health care programs.

And we can easily meet -- “easily” is the wrong word -- we can credibly meet the target that the Bowles-Simpson Commission established of $4 trillion in deficit reduction, and even more in the out-years, and we can stabilize our deficit-to-GDP ratio in a way that is really going to be a good foundation for long-term growth. Now, once we get that done, that takes a huge piece of business off the table.
What he's saying is that the debt ceiling deal - the one where Boehner claimed he got 98% of what he wanted and WAY too many progressives called a "cave" - has provided him with the leverage to get a "grand bargain."  President Obama has known all along that facing an end to the Bush tax cuts AND a $500 billion reduction in military spending would force the Republicans to the table. When it was clear they wouldn't work with him on it in August 2011, he simply played the long game and now is comfortable predicting that they'll have no other choice in the coming months.

The second thing he mentioned might be a bit optimistic when it comes to Republicans. But its a fascinating calculation.
The second thing I’m confident we’ll get done next year is immigration reform. And since this is off the record, I will just be very blunt. Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community. And this is a relatively new phenomenon. George Bush and Karl Rove were smart enough to understand the changing nature of America. And so I am fairly confident that they’re going to have a deep interest in getting that done. And I want to get it done because it’s the right thing to do and I've cared about this ever since I ran back in 2008.
What he's counting on is an awakening in the Republican Party that continuing their nativist stance against undocumented workers is bound to lead them to being a permanent minority party in this country.  In other words, he thinks they'll start listening to people like Jeb Bush and immigration reform will become possible. I might not be willing to bet $10,000 of Romney's money on that - but who knows?

Anyway, there you have just a bit of a window into President Obama's thinking about a second term.

The media need a story...dammit

Back in mid-September when it looked like President Obama had a commanding lead in the polls, his campaign kept trying to tell us that this was a close race. I know, I didn't believe them either. I had mistaken what amounted to a poll-driven bounce following the conventions for a permanent trajectory in the race. And I thought the Obama campaign was simply calling the race close in order to combat any complacency people might feel if they thought it was going to be a rout. I was wrong.

And so perhaps it behooves us to listen to what the Obama campaign is saying about the race right now.
Obama aides insist they are either tied or winning in all the battlegrounds — and that Romney has succeeded in locking up nothing. And they say the early vote continues to bode well for an Obama victory.

“Anybody who thinks those states are in the bag is half in the bag themselves,” top Obama adviser David Axelrod said of North Carolina, Virginia, and Florida. “We have added millions to TV spending in each of these states. We are doubling down. We are not pulling back at all. We believe that Florida is an incredibly competitive state. North Carolina is a competitive state. Virginia is a competitive state. These are states Republicans were expecting to have wrapped up and they’re battling to hold on to them.”
Much of this is in response to the lie the Romney campaign is trying to spin that they have momentum and are therefore winning. The truth is, the media gave them that opening by their irrational reporting following the first debate in Denver.

Yesterday Alex MacGillis joined Kevin Drum in being one of the few pundits to take on the lie of that particular narrative. MacGillis rightly points out that up until the first debate, the media was longing for a more compelling story about the election. And how on October 3rd - they got it.
But then: our mile-high salvation! Denver, O Denver. As the dynamic of the first debate began to register just a few minutes in—the crisp and hopped-up Romney against the wordy and listless president—we sang our relief across the Twitterverse. The true partisans among us, the Maddows and Sullivans, rent their garments, but most of us were barely able to suppress our glee: we had ourselves a story. Never mind that the debate had produced no great knockdowns, or that, as some noted in the days following, Obama had actually made a decent substantive case in some areas, if not others. No, we had our story...

And lo, in the days that followed, the power of our story bore out across the land. Romney surged in the polls, in a post-debate bounce unlike any ever recorded. Never mind that closer inspection suggested that his rise had begun just before the debate, as Obama’s prior bounce abated. As we like to say in private company, this story was too good to check.
Those who suggest that the media has either a liberal or conservative bias miss the whole point. Their bias is towards a compelling story that attracts eyeballs and clicks and the Denver debate-as-turning-point was ready made for those purposes. After all, how boring would it be to listen to folks like Nate Silver and David Plouffe when they're basically saying that the state of the race is still stable? What kind of eyeballs actually pay attention to that kind of thing?  ;-)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Photo of the Day: Everyone on board!


Dr. Jill Biden hanging out with a couple of Obama/Biden supporters

I think the one in white is singing "How do you solve a problem like Romnesia?"

Romney's incoherent message last night (updated)

After all we've seen of Romney over the last few months, I suppose it shouldn't surprise us that the candidate who showed up to the debate last night was completely unrecognizable. And yet most of us are left with scratching our heads and asking "Who the hell was that guy?"

But the thing is...he didn't just shape-shift once again. He made no sense.

Overall, his argument was that President Obama has done an awful terrible job in handling foreign policy.
Yes, but let me — let me — let me come back — let’s come back — let’s come back and go back to what the president was speaking about, which is what’s happening in the world and — and — and the president’s statement that things are going so well.

Look, I — I look at what’s happening around the world and I see Iran four years closer to a bomb. I see the Middle East with a rising tide of violence, chaos, tumult. I see jihadists continuing to spread. Whether they’re rising or just about the same level hard to — hard to precisely measure, but it’s clear they’re there. They’re very, very strong.

I see Syria with 30,000 civilians dead, Assad still in power.
He said this kind of thing over and over again.

And yet - when it came time to discuss these issues specifically, he basically said he agreed with everything President Obama has done. Other than wanting to take our military back to 1917, his one big idea that distinguishes him from what the President is already doing would be to indict Ahmadinejad for "genocide incitation." What?????

Otherwise, when it comes to Afghanistan, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Al Qaeda and everything else, he agrees with what the President is doing.

How do you reconcile those two arguments...things are going so badly and I'd do more of the same?

I know that sometimes Bill Maher says stupid stuff. But last night he nailed it.
UPDATE: And of course, the Truth Team is ON IT!

Monday, October 22, 2012

You Don't Own Me

Cornel West abandons purity for strategy

Cornel West has made no secret of his criticisms of President Obama. As a matter of fact, he went far beyond a critique of his policies and made it personal.

However, as the election nears, it seems that Mr. West has made the calculation to abandon purity for strategy.
We have to prevent a Romney takeover of the White House. No doubt about that. It would be very dangerous in terms of actual lives and actual deaths of the elderly and the poor. Those people who are dependent on various programs would have to deal with the ugly damage of the further redistribution of wealth from the poor and working people to the well off.

I’m strategic...American politics are not a matter of voting your moral conscience—if I voted my moral conscience it would probably be for Jill Stein. But it's strategic in terms of the actual possibilities and real options available for poor and working people.
I welcome Mr. West into the fold of those who will cast their ballot to re-elect President Obama. Every vote counts.

But I want to ask him why it is that he can claim the mantle of being strategic for himself when he so emphatically denies it to President Obama.

For example, Mr. West often talks about the failings of President Obama to take on the oligarchs and plutocrats of Wall Street. Perhaps he could have understood the strategy needed to get Dodd/Frank passed. He wouldn't need to be satisfied with the outcome, but at least he could have understood what it takes to get that kind of legislation passed by a Congress funded by Wall Street.

When it comes to politics, there is one outcome for those who embrace purity over strategy...loosing. Mr. West now understands that when it comes to his vote in this election. Perhaps he'll learn something from that going forward.

Prelude to a foreign policy debate: These Guys

You might remember where the previous season ended.



Here's how season two opened.



Coming soon...the season finale.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Little Fun with Romnesia

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Mitt's Romnesia on Benghazi

You have to wonder how much Mitt Romney is going to want to get in to the whole Benghazi story tomorrow night after his epic fail on that one in the last debate.

Since then, all the news has basically exonerated the Obama administration's story about how the whole thing unfolded. Meanwhile, Rep. Issa's document dump may have endangered the lives of some Libyans who are working with the U.S.

Overall, Republican insistence on trying to make some political hay out of a tragic situation is backfiring on them.

But I'm reminded today of how this whole thing started - with Mitt Romney stepping in to shoot first and aim later. We know that folks in his campaign were on the lookout for a moment they could paint President Obama with the same brush Reagan had painted President Carter on the Iran hostage situation. And so on September 11th - before we even knew that Ambassador Stevens had been killed - Romney released this statement.
I'm outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It's disgraceful that the Obama administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.
Notice that he didn't use the words "terror attacks?" As a matter of fact, when he suggests that the Obama administration's first response was to "sympathize with those who waged the attacks," he was linking what happened in Benghazi to the protests in Egypt over the infamous video and the unauthorized statement by the Cairo embassy.

And then in his press conference the next day Romney never referred to a terror attack and continued to conflate the protests in Cairo (over the video) with the attack in Benghazi.

I'd suggest that when Mitt attacks President Obama for blaming the Benghazi attack on the video protests, he's displaying a bit of Romnesia with regards to his own statements about it.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Power of One

At least one Republican knows math

That one Republican would be Jeb Bush.
Sitting down across from me, he assumes his role as party Cassandra, warning of the day when the Republicans’ failure to tap an exploding Hispanic population will cripple its chances at reclaiming power—starting in Texas, the family seat of the House of Bush.

“It’s a math question,” he tells me. “Four years from now, Texas is going to be a so-called blue state. Imagine Texas as a blue state, how hard it would be to carry the presidency or gain control of the Senate.”
I gotta admit...I'm dreaming of a blue Texas :-)
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It's all about the ground game, baby!

 You wanna know how we win this thing? Here's how.
...one final factor matters more than all the rest in a close race: ground game.

It’s the ability to get your voters to the polls—a way of moving soft support into actual votes.
We don't need no steenkin' poll to tell us who's winning that game.

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Click here for an enlarged version.

The latest WaPo/ABC poll captured the difference these efforts are making.
More swing-state voters say President Obama’s campaign has contacted them in the past month than have heard from Mitt Romney’s campaign, and a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds Obama leading by a whopping 40 percentage-point margin among voters contacted by an Obama representative. Romney leads by just 16 points among voters reporting contact with his campaign.
A couple of weeks ago Jim Messina said "We're going to make 2008 on the ground look like Jurassic Park."

If you're not part of this already, better get involved or miss history in the making.

After all the drama - could the state of the race still be "stable?"

Way back in July, I suggested that the state of the presidential race was stable. Watching the poll bouncing and the freak-outs over the last few weeks, it would certainly be understandable if people think I got that one all wrong.

It is interesting, however, to take a look at all this from the perspective of what Nate Silver and David Plouffe said about it the other day. Here's Silver:
It continues to be noteworthy, in my view, that in slow news cycles — as in most of the spring and summer months — the polls have generally converged to show an overall advantage for Mr. Obama of about two percentage points. After his best news cycles, like after the Democratic convention, Mr. Obama pulled ahead in the polls by four to five points, while Mr. Romney remained about tied with Mr. Obama after his best series of events. But some of these effects could be artificial, as a result of nonresponse bias.
Let's take a look at some graphs that demonstrate what Silver is talking about. First of all, here is pollster's graph of the national polling on this race.



If you scroll over the graph until you get to August 31st, you'll see that on that date the race was Obama 46.2 to Romney 45.2. Over the course of the next two weeks you'll notice a big bump for President Obama following the conventions (and the release of the 47% video) followed by a tightening of the race as that bounce receded and then the first debate - after which Romney "bounced" to a one point lead - which is now receding as well.

Now lets check out how that played out in a couple of the battle ground states. First of all - Ohio.



There you see the exact same pattern. On August 31st Obama's lead was 2.6. Then came the bounces and its at 2.9 today.

You'll find this same pattern holds no matter which battleground state you look at - Colorado and Wisconsin are two good examples.

All of this might indicate that it has been the polling that has been bouncing rather than the actual state of the race. In other words, it could be that the best prediction of where we are today is actually what was happening around the end of August before the bounces took place. That's essentially what Silver and Plouffe were saying - which is terrible awful bad news for tv networks, blogs and pundits who depend on the drama for eyeballs and clicks.

But if its right, we're back to the idea that the state of this race is stable. And as I ended that posting back in July...its all about the ground game, baby!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Why the "Romnesia" meme seals the deal

Whoever came up with the Romnesia meme needs to have their own place of honor in the history of this campaign. There are a several reasons why this one hits it outta-the-park so thoroughly.

First of all, Romney's etch-a-sketch of himself since the first debate was nothing short of stunning. And yet the media seemed to be allowing him to get away with it and some recently tuned-in voters were buying it.

Who wants to hear President Obama having to spend a lot of time pointing out the differences between what Romney said on one occasion and then completely contradicted himself later? Boring! They needed a meme for that. Hence...Romnesia. By the end of today, almost every voter in the country will know what that means.

Secondly, it fits a theme that has already been developed about Romney's biggest liability - being a flip-flopper. That's one of the reasons it will catch on so quickly and cement the idea in voter's minds.

The third - and perhaps most important reason this works so well is something Steve Benen nailed.
There are a lot of ways to go after a rival, some more aggressive and abrasive than others, but to paint an opponent as someone who deserves to be literally laughed at may be the most brutal approach of them all.
This is quintessential Obama. He's not the type to be good at aggressive or abrasive. But he's great with using humor against his opponents. If you doubt that, take a look at my very favorite moment from the 2010 elections when President Obama went to Nevada to stump on Sen. Harry Reid's behalf against his opponent Sharon Angle.



He's really good at this!!!!

Besides that - after a brutally long campaign that he has been waging while carrying on his responsibilities as President (not to mention as husband and father), I'm sure it boosts his energy to be able to have a little fun with all this. And boy...in that speech today where he rolled out the Romnesia meme - it was clear that he was having a blast with it. Great stuff!

Finally, complaining about your opponents flip-flops sounds like a whiny looser. Laughing at him for them is a sure sign of a winner.

So enjoy yourself with this one Mr. President. You sound like a winner to me!

Romnesia

What can I say? There are no words that describe how outta-the-park President Obama hit it this morning. Just watch!!!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

State of the Race: When Plouffe and Silver agree...take it to the bank

In his Abbreviated Pundit Roundup today at Daily Kos, Greg Drowkin put a couple of quotes side-by-side that back up what I've been saying about the latest national polling. It just so happens that the two come from guys that - together - trump the savvy of all of the rest of the commentariat on this issue combined.

David Plouffe:
Polls in September that showed Mr. Obama with a lead of eight or more percentage points in Ohio and elsewhere were a “fantasy,” [David Plouffe] said. The president’s margin of victory in battleground states was going to be “one, two, three, four points at most.” “In those states, if the election were held today, I’m as confident as anything I’ve been in my life, that we would win the election,” Mr. Plouffe said. “I assume tonight’s debate performance will strengthen that a little bit. I think it will provide some more excitement for Democrats and our supporters as Romney got additional enthusiasm off his debate.” 
“But the structure of the race is pretty established,” he added.
Nate Silver:
It continues to be noteworthy, in my view, that in slow news cycles — as in most of the spring and summer months — the polls have generally converged to show an overall advantage for Mr. Obama of about two percentage points. After his best news cycles, like after the Democratic convention, Mr. Obama pulled ahead in the polls by four to five points, while Mr. Romney remained about tied with Mr. Obama after his best series of events. But some of these effects could be artificial, as a result of nonresponse bias.

Perhaps the New York debate — viewed as a modest win for Mr. Obama by instant reaction polls — will reset the news cycle to a neutral enough point that the potential effects of nonresponse bias will be reduced...

On the other hand, it’s possible that Mr. Obama’s “win” in the debate will seem more definitive in the coming days, and that he’ll get a bigger bounce in the polls. If so, there will be some reason to be suspicious of it.
If you want to know what Silver is referring to when he talks about "nonresponse bias," you can read what I wrote about that in a piece titled The Anatomy of a Bounce.

The sad truth of it is that we've all spent the last month riding a rollercoaster of highs, lows and back to highs again based on a quirk in polling that overstates the public's reaction to political events...while all along the reality is that "the structure of the race is pretty established."

How the right wing media brought Romney down

Regular readers here know that I check in with a couple of right wing web sites to see what they're up to. I've actually picked up some interesting stories that way. But lately I haven't found much because ALL they've been talking about is trying their hardest to spin a political story out of the attacks on the consulate in Benghazi. They're consumed with it.

I didn't pay much attention because I never thought that they would manufacture anything that would reach anyone other than their rabid base. In a way, I was wrong about that.

Apparently Mitt Romney has been reading their garbage about it. And on Tuesday night you could see him reveling in the idea of a "gotcha" moment against President Obama because he bought into it all rather than paying attention to the actual facts. And boy...did he pay a price for that!

In a much less noticed exchange, he did the same thing with the story the right wing media tried spinning for months on the Fast and Furious controversy. The fact that he even brought it up - in a question about whether or not he supports an assault weapons ban - only reinforces the point. Even the wingnuts pretty much dropped that story when the Justice Department's inspector general released a report acquitting the administration of involvement.

That's the price you pay for listening to these idiots, Mitt. But as President Obama said at the debate..."Please proceed, Governor."

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Luck or Genius?

In reading around the internet about the Obama/Romney debate last night, I was struck by a word Kevin Drum used twice..."luck." It came as his response to what were probably the two most memorable moments of the debate.

First was the way Romney's attack on President Obama about the Benghazi incident backfired.
Obama played this really, really well. He let Romney dig himself into an ever deeper hole, and just smiled when Romney tried to get him to directly deny it. This turned out to be either lucky or smart, because it gave Candy Crowley a chance to fact check Romney and confirm that she was there and she heard Obama refer to Benghazi as an act of terror on the very next day.


The second was in using a quote from Andrew Sprung  on President Obama's response to the last question.
Lord-a-mercy, Obama just killed Romney on the 47%. Was it genius, or luck that he saved it for the end, when there was no time for rebuttal?


I've written before about this tendency to ascribe President Obama's success to luck. To be honest, what Drum did in these two instances is merely raise the question. So I don't want to be too hard on him. I just think it offers an opportunity to answer the question.

What we saw in both of these instances is a President who doesn't feel the need to jump the gun on the attack. As Drum noted in the first example, he was willing to let Romney dig himself in. And then, confident of his own position, he crushed him.

Ain't no "luck" about any of that...its pure genius.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Choice

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What I'll be looking for in tonight's debate: authenticity

It seems as though we've completely given up on the idea of measuring a debate based on content and instead are much more concerned about the theater of it all. I think that is a very telling indictment of our culture. But it is what it is.

Today the internet is full of advice for President Obama on what he needs to do in the debate. I would suggest that most of that is focused on what would please the particular pundit or partisan who is expressing their opinion. In other words, what most of these folks are suggesting is that the President needs to do/say what THEY want to hear. They've had it up to their eyeballs with Romney's lies and flip-floping. They're mad about that and want some punches thrown.

But there are several problems with this kind of advice.

The real audience for this debate is not the pissed off partisan. Those folks already know who they're going to vote for and one debate is not going to change their minds.  So I would suggest that the President won't be taking their advice about what they want to hear.

Secondly, I haven't heard any of these advice-givers acknowledge the one important difference between this debate and the last one - the format. In both the first presidential debate and the only vice-presidential debate, the candidates were speaking to each other and/or the moderator. This one will be a town hall format and the candidates will be speaking directly to voters. That changes the dynamic completely. Much of the advice we're hearing tends to focus on fixing things people think the President did/didn't do last time rather than acknowledging the difference.

Finally, all of the advice misses the one most important thing that President Obama needs to communicate tonight...authenticity. As we saw with Paul Ryan's stunt yesterday, that is his most powerful tool against the Romney/Ryan ticket. He actually knows what he's talking about - and cares. They're too busy faking it.

President Obama has expended a tremendous amount of energy over these last 4 years trying to keep himself from being consumed in the Washington bubble. He does that by reading at least 10 letters from ordinary Americans every night, visiting people in their homes/small businesses, having dinners with supporters and - to the dismay of the DC villagers - avoiding too much backslapping with them. I'd suggest that he does all that in order to keep his heart attuned to what really matters and why he chose to do this job in the first place.

That's the well he will be drawing from tonight.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Obamacare voters

The other day I told the story of a Republican mom in Florida who will be voting to re-elect the President because of Obamacare. In case you missed it, here's the story.
Jill Thacker was dying for a cup of coffee when she recently ran into a 7-Eleven convenience store. To her pleasant surprise, the coffee was free -- as long as she would commit to drinking it in either a red Mitt Romney cup or a blue Barack Obama cup.

"Which are you going to choose, Mom?" her son asked.

Which, indeed. A gun-owning, big-government-hating Republican, Thacker's every instinct told her to buy a Romney cup. But Thacker, 56, and her daughter have asthma -- a pre-existing condition -- and with Obama as president they'll be guaranteed the ability to buy insurance.

Thacker stood in the 7-Eleven and stared at the red and blue cups, stymied by the choice they represented...

She thought about her insurance, which covers her only if "I get hit by a bus." It's the only insurance she can afford given her preexisting condition.

She thought about how she's still paying off a $22,000 emergency room bill from last year.

She thought about her 25-year-old daughter, who's on her father's insurance only because of Obamacare.

But she also thought about how, in many fundamental ways, she just doesn't like Obama.

Then she reached for the blue cup with Obama's name on it.

"I really do feel conflicted," she said. "But for me, it's all about health care. It's my number one thing."
And now we hear from the other side of the political spectrum. Clancy Sigal would probably fit in that category of people I call "purists." He is a liberal who's been pretty pissed off at the President. But when Sigal's own life was on the line, he realized the importance of re-electing Obama/Biden.
For the past year, I've been in a death spiral without knowing it. The occasional fainting spell, sprawls on the street and a dramatic weight loss were shrugged off as merely a cost of doing a writer's business. Denial is a most powerful analgesic. Even when paramedics first rushed me to the hospital, I angrily argued with the doctors.

But when a lightning-bolt sciatica pain, triggered by a car accident, brought me down like a bull under the matador's sword, more or less paralyzing the left side of my body, the health gods decided it was time to shut down my hubris. Like something out of the TV's "House" or "General Hospital", suddenly there were midnight ambulances, emergency room traumas, drip feeds, oxygen tubes up my nose, renal failure, suspected meningitis, pneumonia and a minor heart attack...

I wasn't threatened with recission, but almost daily, and sometimes several times daily, my doctors were interrogated about practically every measure they took to keep me alive. Again and again, I saw caregivers, even the most skilled and courageous, retreat with an embarrassed, impotent shrug of resignation that said, "what can I do; it's 'the system'?"...

Need it be this way?...

Granted, that all depends on this upcoming election day. If Romney and Ryan win – the latest polls tell us this is a real possibility – they, a vengeful Republican Congress and their insurance lobby allies have sworn to sabotage healthcare-for-all. As for repeal and replace, Mitt's prescription for uninsured folks is that emergency room care is a good enough substitute...

Here and elsewhere, I have written bitterly attacking Obama's serial betrayals. He's no street-scrapper, our Barack. Prior to falling sick, I pined for a third-party candidate, and seriously thought about not voting. But a drug-induced vision of a Romney/Ryan medical hell changed my mind. On 6 November, I'm pulling the lever for Obama: my arrogant, self-sabotaging, drone-happy, compromise-addicted war president
Certainly many of us would find much to critique about the political positions of Ms. Thacker and Mr. Sigal. But on November 6th - they'll both be voting to re-elect President Obama. That might have been unthinkable in November 2010 when so many on both the left and right were assuming that Obamacare was a political disaster. What a difference two years makes! But it probably comes as no surprise to our President who held to his North Star of fixing this problem and always plays the long game.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Who's doing the polling lately?

As I wrote about last night, there are some questions that need to be raised about whether or not the first presidential debate is the reason the polls have started swinging in Romney's direction. And so this morning, I decided to take a look at which polls are contributing to the change. I used TPM's list of the polls they aggregate because its one of the most comprehensive.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who's been paying attention that Rasmussen and Gallup dominate with a total of 12 polls each since the beginning of October. Running a close 3rd is Reuters/Ipsos - who uses web-based polling - with 11. Next in line would be Rand with 9. But its the 5th place finisher that caught my eye. Beginning just the day before the first presidential debate, IBD/TIPP has weighed in with 5 polls in just 2 weeks - when they had previously been polling once-a-month.

Those are the big players. YouGov has 3 polls in the mix while Clarus and CVoter have 2. Eight organizations have conducted one poll during that time, including Monmouth, Fox, American Research, Zogby, PPP, Pew, Politico, and McLaughlin. But there's not one from the big guns at NBC/WSJ or CNN or ABC/WaPo.

So lets take a look  at these pollsters that are contributing to Romney's "bounce." We've all heard enough about Rasmussen, so I'm not going to go there.

Gallup is interesting because during this time period, they switched from polling registered voters to using their screens to try to determine likely voters. As Zandar points out this morning, that accounts for most of the shift in their results. As a matter of fact, Gallup actually has this comparison of their weekly tracking polls with registered voters over the exact time period we're looking at. What you see there is NO CHANGE.

I'm not going to comment on the Retuers/Ipsos results because I don't know enough about web-based polling. But I think its pretty safe to say that - of all the forms of polling - it has to be the least reliable.

I'll come back to Rand in a minute. But first, I want to talk about this explosion of polls from IBD/TIPP. In case you didn't know, IBD stands for Investor's Business Daily and just as the title says, its a newspaper specifically devoted to "detailed information about stocks, mutual funds, commodities, and other financial instruments aimed at individual investors."

Here's what Nate Silver had to say about IBD/TIPP polling:
As we learned during the Presidntial campaign -- when, among other things, they had John McCain winning the youth vote 74-22 -- the IBD/TIPP polling operation has literally no idea what they're doing. I mean, literally none...

There are pollsters out there that have an agenda but are highly competent, and there are pollsters that are nonpartisan but not particularly skilled. Rarely, however, do you find the whole package: that special pollster which is both biased and inept. IBD/TIPP is one of the few exceptions.
So its important to note that a polling outfit that is "both biased and inept" decided to flood the aggregates with polls over the last 2 weeks.

Lets get back to Rand for a minute. Take a look at the trend line of their polling.
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I'd suggest that if you get rid of the "noise" created by Rasmussen, Gallup's switch to likely voters, and the infusion of polls from IBD/TIPP, this would be a pretty good look at what is actually happening in this race. Things started tightening a bit by the end of September after the bounce Obama got from the conventions was extended with the release of Romney's video talking about the 47%. But the fundamentals of this race haven't changed.

Oh, and according to Rand, that big bounce Romney got after the first debate? Gone already.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

It wasn't the debate

For months now I've been saying that I don't pay attention to national polls. But I want to talk about them right now to make a point.

Everyone is assuming that the swing in the polls towards Romney is because of the first debate. But no matter how many times people say that - its just not true.

Take a look at this graph of the national poll averages since September 1st.



If you scroll over it, you'll find that the movement towards Romney and away from Obama started on Sept. 27th and 28th. The first debate wasn't until Oct. 3rd.

So if we're assuming this has all been a result of President Obama's performance at the first debate - we're missing the story...big time.

Today Kevin Drum is the only pundit I know of who is asking the important question: What happened at the end of September that changed this trajectory?

Truthiness

Years ago I remember watching Jim Wallis as a guest on The Daily Show. He said something that stuck in my mind...that comedians like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are modern prophets. That struck me as very true.

Who can forget Colbert's performance at the White House Correspondent's Dinner? I defy anyone to name a critique of President Bush that was so thorough and devastatingly accurate.

I also think regularly about Colbert's coining of the word "truthiness." I'm not sure anyone has better captured our culture's failure to deal with this information age any better than he did.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word - Truthiness
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

I suggest that truthiness is a reaction to the information age because as human beings - we have to find a way to sort through the implosion of information we are bombarded with every day. One of the ways we've done that is to blur the lines between our feelings and thinking.

This is - of course - why Romney/Ryan can lie and flip-flop to their heart's content and some people will continue to support them. Their "gut" is telling them that President Obama is a threat (see polls that demonstrate most of Romney voters are actually more interested in defeating Obama than they are in electing Romney) and they don't want to examine that. To do so might take them on a journey into confronting their own biases. That is a dangerous proposition. And so, in this age of information, they simply cherry-pick what they let in to confirm what their "gut" is telling them.

Too often those of us on the left assume this is a matter of people trusting feelings over believing facts. And so we emphasize our facts. But that seriously misses what's happening here.

Truthiness is actually an attempt to ignore our feelings and pretend like they are thoughts. That's what makes Colbert's treatment so prophetic. If we could face our feelings (usually anger driven by fear and hurt), we could acknowledge our biases and think about them...thus diluting how they drive us. But as long as we deny them, they have control over what we let in and what we keep out.

Years ago I taught a parenting class that was focused on the stages of child development. Part of the curriculum included the idea that one of the lessons we are meant to learn as toddlers is that we can think about our feelings. I'm afraid that in this culture of "I got so angry I couldn't help myself," we've lost that art. In doing so, we are likely to fall prey to truthiness.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The entire Republican argument is slipping away

From the first words ever uttered about the 2012 presidential election, the one and only argument the Republicans have had against the re-election of President Barack Obama has been the economy.

And now even that one is slipping away. Not only did the unemployment rate drop to 7.8% - the lowest its been in almost 4 years. But that news was quickly followed by:

Unemployment claims  fell to their lowest level since February 2008.

The latest Federal Reserve Report showed broad improvement in the housing market.

Consumer confidence rose to its highest level in five years.

Federal tax receipts are up and spending is down.
The Treasury Department said Friday that the deficit for the 2012 budget year totaled $1.1 trillion. Tax revenue rose 6.4 percent from last year to more than $2.4 trillion, helping contain the deficit.

The government's revenue rose as more people got jobs and received income. Corporations also contributed more tax revenue than in 2011.

Government spending fell 1.7 percent to $3.5 trillion. The decline reflected, in part, less defense spending as U.S. military involvement in Iraq was winding down.
I have no doubt that as this reality sinks in, the Republicans will respond with more hyped-up spin and blatant lies.

But them's the facts, Mam. They got nuttin.

Don't mess with Grandma!!!!!!

We know that there are all kinds of people who are enthusiastic in their support for President Obama in this election. But recently Michelle Obama singled out one group that she knows a thing or two about.
It is no secret that a large segment of the African-American community put President Obama in office, with 95 percent of African Americans voting for him in 2008. And according to the NY Times, “Virtually every Black woman who voted did so for Mr. Obama,” making African-American women the largest voting bloc among all groups...

"So there is a seriousness about the direction of the country but let me tell you, older Black women love Barack Obama! Don’t mess with Barack Obama! There’s a lot of prayers going out and when you see the secret service, they’ve got to bolster up because they [Black women] are not going to let that go!”
I'd suggest that over the decades Black women have put an awful lot of their lives and energies into protecting their sons. Now they are not only proud of their adopted son - Barack Obama - they are fierce in their determination to both support and protect him.

Michelle is simply saying something that has been evident from the get-go. And we all know that you don't mess with Grandma ;-)






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I need somebody to talk me down on this

Last night Paul Ryan picked a very interesting story to tell in attempting to humanize Mitt Romney. It was about a family's devastation after a car accident involving their children. My gawd, a car accident - when debating Joe Biden?????

The truth is that Joe handled it beautifully. He took a moment to collect himself and then said this.
Look, I don't doubt his [Romney's] personal generosity, and I understand what it's like. When I was a little younger than the congressman, my wife was in an accident, killed my daughter and my wife, and my two sons survived. I have sat in the homes of many people who've gone through what I went through because the one thing you can give people solace is to know they know you've been through it, that they can make it. 
But don't we HAVE to ask ourselves whether this was simply Ryan being unbelievably insensitive or was he being devastatingly devious in an attempt to throw Biden off his game?

P.S. This story from Ryan came after Biden's first reference to Romney's remarks about the 47%. Ryan knew that was coming and this is the story he picked to use as a response. So it didn't just surface in the heat of the moment. It was planned.

Winners in a debate? Depends on the audience

I feel the need to inject a note of caution in the analysis of last night's debate. But first, let me join my Democratic colleagues in saying how much I enjoyed watching Vice President Joe Biden. Because - if you're a Democrat - how can you not love this guy?
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But overall, I have to say that I agree with something Greg Sargent said.
It was, compared with last week’s tame affair, much better television. Did it “work”? That entirely depends on the goal. If it was to change minds, no, that seems unlikely. If it was to re-invigorate Democrats who were despondent over Romney’s recent polling surge, or those who were angry with the president for a flat performance last week, then it probably did what it was meant to do.
There is something to be said for soothing the panic that had broken out in the Democratic ranks over the last week. To be real honest, that panic pissed me off. Kevin Drum has a point - there is a "hack gap" - and if you didn't believe him before, last night was pretty good proof. No one on the right is gnashing their teeth this morning that Paul Ryan got played.

But given the Democrat's tendency to form a circular firing squad at the first sign of trouble, VP Biden did what he needed to do to calm them down. Thank you Joe!!!!!

Going forward though, we need to think more broadly than that. Too many Democrats are using their own reactions to the debate last night to suggest that attacking the opposition is the way to win. I have my doubts about that. Most Democrats are already convinced that they should vote for Obama/Biden. Seeing our candidates go on the attack makes us feel better. But does it change anyone else's mind? That's the question we need to ask ourselves.

To try to answer that one, this morning I watched CNN's video of the debate with the dials from undecided voters. What I saw was the approval go up when either candidate spoke to the people about their situation and what their proposals were to do something about it. And I saw the approval plummet when either one attacked the other side's position. That's just a fact.

As an example, I read/heard many Democratic pundits express dismay that President Obama didn't bring up Romney's remarks about the 47%. Joe Biden did. Partisan Democrats loved it and undecided voters hated it.

When it comes to thinking about what President Obama should do in the next debate, we need to keep two things in mind. First of all, this one will be a town hall format. The candidates will not be talking to a moderator or each other. They'll be talking to voters. That changes the whole dynamic.

Secondly, President Obama is sure to be focused on who his main audience is for this debate. I doubt he'll be thinking about how to rev up the Democratic base with attacks. I suspect he'll be focusing on connecting with average voters who want to hear from someone who understands their situation (something he didn't do well last time) and is clear on what he's going to do about it.

In other words, he'll be going for the win on November 6th - not simply to convince the partisans and pundits that he can land a blow on the opposition.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Muslim American Makes the Case for Obama

We've seen purists like Glenn Greenwald and Conor Friedersdorf attempt to make the case about why they will not support President Barack Obama in his re-election this November. Their arguments rest mainly on foreign policy and national security issues - especially as they relate to the Muslim world.

That's why I found an article by Zaheer Ali in the Islamic Monthly to be so compelling. He agrees with the purists on their critique of President Obama when it comes to national security issues. And yet he makes a case for why Muslim Americans should still support the President.
But foreign and national security policies do not tell the whole story of Obama’s presidency, nor do they account for the totality of the Muslim-American electorate’s priorities. Muslim-Americans are one of the most ethnically and socioeconomically diverse religious communities in America, and their complex and competing political interests cannot, and should not, be simply boxed up and outsourced to concerns about foreign policy or national security. Like all Americans, Muslim-Americans must also concern themselves with the full range of domestic policies that affect the material conditions of their everyday lives. A closer look at Obama’s first term reveals major legislative accomplishments and policy implementations from which all Americans, including Muslim-Americans, benefit. When compared with his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, Obama’s performance and proposals for the country – while not perfect – offer Muslim-Americans their greatest chances for economic security and growth, social mobility, health and well-being and political advancement.

Is Obama the perfect candidate? No. Most elections present imperfect choices, and this one is no different. The higher the office, the larger the majority needed to win, the less likely any single candidate will offer everything that the voters want. People seeking to vote on the basis of single issues, ideological puritanism or even principle, will most likely find neither of the two major party candidates appealing...

...the case for Obama is predicated on politics, pragmatism and realism, and rests on the following premises: First, though the Democratic and Republican parties are beholden to special interests, there are notable and critical differences in policy between the two parties and their standard bearers; and in these areas of difference, Muslim-Americans’ interests are better served by an Obama presidency. Second, where significant policy differences do not exist (especially in the area of foreign relations and the national security state), significant discursive differences do; and a Romney defeat is necessary to repudiate the discourse of Islamophobia (along with rampant xenophobia) running through the veins of the Republican Party. Third, the White House is not a site for radical change: Obama’s presidency has exposed the limited transformative power of the office, while offering instead incremental, liberal reforms. Because of the limitations on presidential powers, voting is only one, although necessary, aspect of electoral politics (beyond Election Day, lobbying and constituent services are just important); and electoral politics is only one of several important kinds of political activity.
Zaheer Ali then goes on to expound on those three points he outlined in the last paragraph. In the end, he demonstrates a more keen awareness of something that the history of our forbearers should have taught us, but we so often forget...the idea that the struggle continues and voting is simply one method by which we engage.
A vote for Obama is a vote for president, not messiah or mahdi. It is not overly concerned with personality and (un)likability. It is a strategy that recognizes the need for continued struggle by those with principles, ideologies and idealism seeking to create a better America for all its people. It is based on acknowledging that within the whole that is political activity, an Obama presidency is a crucial piece that still necessitates other kinds of electoral activity beyond Election Day, including voter education, mobilization, constituency development and lobbying.

So on Nov. 6, 2012, vote Obama. And agitate, organize, educate and mobilize, because the struggle will continue.
I don't share this to suggest that I agree with Zaheer Ali on his analysis of all of President Obama's positions. I do so because this is one Muslim American who has a lot to teach the rest of us about citizenship and democracy.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The good, the bad, and the ugly of punditry

In the aftermath of last weeks debate, many in the political pundit class revealed just how shallow they can be. And as we all know by now, the hair-on-fire about style over substance wasn't limited to those who lean conservative.

The freak-out by folks like Chris Matthews and Ed Schultz on cable was followed by the likes of Andrew Sullivan (meltdown central). But others joined the fray as well. As representative of that group, I would point to Michael Tomasky's ridiculous column asking Does Obama Even Want to Win the Election?

All of that goes to show why E.J. Dionne passed on this little bit of wisdom from an unnamed pollster.
“When you give conservatives bad news in your polls, they want to kill you,” he said. “When you give liberals bad news in your polls, they want to kill themselves.”
That rings pretty true based on much of what we've seen over the last few days.

I decided that this incident gave us an opportunity to evaluate some of our liberal pundits and see who is able to keep a cool head rather than react emotionally in the moment. I personally am not interested in listening to those who panic at the first sign of trouble, lose their perspective, and try to infect the body politic with their own doom-and-gloom.

As many of you know by now, I'm a big fan of Steve Benen who writes for Rachel Maddow's blog. During these last few days, he hasn't let me down. He's been rational in his critiques and fair-minded in his analysis.

But there is someone new on my blog roll over to the left that has impressed me a lot lately. He's not a new name to most of us - but he definitely stood out since the debate with his calm rational perspective. Its Kevin Drum who writes for Mother Jones. Here are some links to his excellent analysis over the last few days.

Groupthink and the Great Debate

The Hack Gap Rears its Ugly Head Yet Again

The Hack Gap Revisited

Less Theater Criticism, More Content Criticism, Please

Should Obama Call Romney a Liar?

Let me be clear, I'm not suggesting that I agree with everything Drum says. But if you'd like to read someone who is stepping back and providing some rational critique of what is happening right now in this presidential race, folks like Benen and Drum are definitely the place to go.