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“Mitt Romney’s Halloween Tricks”: In This Season Of Trick Or Treat, The Emphasis Is Definitely On The Trick

All Hallows’ Eve is upon us, but not in its ordinary annual form. Instead we’re in the midst of the quadrennial version where an implacable army of hollow-eyed zombies—political junkies—consumes each day’s latest poll numbers like so many handfuls of candy corn. Voters, especially in swing states, endure what must seem like a waking nightmare of endless negative campaign commercials.

In this season of trick or treat, the emphasis is definitely on the trick.

Consider, for example, the costume that former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has been running around in all month: Ever since the first presidential debate in Colorado, the self-described “severely conservative” pol has been parading around as Mitt the mild moderate.

That was never more starkly on display than Monday night during the foreign policy-focused presidential debate. He had spent most of his campaign growling out neoconservative rhetoric about American exceptionalism aimed at obscuring the fact that he had few if any substantive policy differences with the president. (“It sounded like you thought that you’d do the same things we did, but you’d say them louder and somehow that—that would make a difference,” Obama needled him Monday.) But wearing his “moderate Mitt” costume on Monday, the GOP nominee changed his tune—he tried to out-peacenik the president (“We can’t kill our way out of this mess”) when he bothered trying to express any differences at all. His parade of agreements with the president made one wonder whether he shouldn’t have just worn an Obama mask out onto the stage.

And it wasn’t just his previous national security rhetoric he hoped to Etch A Sketch out of public memory. Romney continues to fight a rearguard action against his own written and spoken words about the auto bailout. He and Obama got into a heated exchange about his November 2008 New York Times op-ed titled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.” A seemingly indignant Romney declared that “the idea that has been suggested that I would liquidate the [auto] industry, of course not. Of course not.” Of course not, indeed—Romney didn’t advocate liquidation; he simply advocated a course of action that would have led to liquidation. It’s true that his op-ed contemplated the federal government providing guarantees, but they were for “post-bankruptcy financing.”

But at the time the companies needed more than post-bankruptcy federal guarantees; they needed cash to get them through the process, and that money wasn’t going to come from the private capital markets in late 2008 or early 2009. It was either taxpayer money or nothing. And that Romney clearly opposed. “There’s no question but that if you just write a check that you’re going to see these companies go out of business ultimately,” Romney told CBS News then in a video clip turned up this week by the Huffington Post. Later, during the Republican primary portion of his never-ending campaign, he railed against the policy. “My view with regards to the bailout was that…it was the wrong way to go,” he said during a 2011 debate.

Romney’s opposition to the bailout was easy. It was popular. But now it’s dogging him like a cheap slasher-flick monster that he can’t seem to kill, “moderate Mitt” guise or no. It has probably doomed him in Michigan and it may well prove his undoing in Ohio, which seems likely to decide the election.

This despite another trick which is proving a treat for Republicans: the myth of “Mitt-mentum.” The first debate undeniably gave Romney’s effort a jolt and helped him capitalize on a race that was already tightening. But with Obama winning the latter two debates, the race has seemed to stabilize into a walking dead heat. However that hasn’t stopped the Romney campaign from very visibly assuming the posture of a group coasting to an inexorable victory.

This has ranged from explicit gamesmanship (“…for the first time in six years, Romney folks E-mailed, ‘We’re going to win,’ ” Politico‘s Mike Allen reported in his “Playbook”) to subtler head faints meant to signal strength. See, for example, last week’s announcement that the GOP was pulling resources (which proved to be a single staffer) out of North Carolina to drip-drip-drip discussion of maybe, possibly re-entering Pennsylvania. “If Romney acts and speaks like a landslide is on the way, perhaps he can create the atmospherics he needs for a small and meaningful win,” Politico‘s Alexander Burns reported this week. As New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait and Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall have pointed out, this is a classic campaign-closing bluff last seen in 2000 when Karl Rove had George W. Bush doing a pre-election victory lap in California with an eye toward creating momentum through buzz.

And to some extent the current Romney bluff is working. Asked Wednesday at an Aspen Institute event who is winning, ABC News Political Director Amy Walter said that if “you look at the news coverage and you look at the data…you get two different answers.” The news narrative, she said, is one of an “ascendant” Romney with the “momentum.” But the data­—state by state polls, for example—tell a different story. “The underneath numbers suggest that it’s still Obama’s race right now, that fundamentally he has got the edge in the Electoral College.”

Fables of Rom-mentum haven’t managed to crack that electoral lock yet. Neither has Romney’s transformation back into a moderate wiped away the damage he did to his electability during his conservative phase. But he still might solve that problem—and that’s the scariest Halloween news of all.


By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, October 26, 2012

October 27, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Why Race Is Still An Issue”: The Gorgeous Hybrids Of The Melting Pot

Perhaps it was too optimistic to think that the election of Barack Obama in 2008 meant that we were in, or at least entering, a post-racial society. Whatever racial elements were at play in the last presidential election, the tension and even anger now seems even more pronounced.

An ABC/Washington Post poll shows greater racial polarization among the electorate this year than in 2008, the first year an African-American became a credible presidential candidate, let alone the president. The tracking poll shows the president lagging behind Republican Mitt Romney among white voters by 23 percentage points—far more dramatic than the seven percentage points by which Obama was behind in the white vote in 2008, and even the 12 points by which he eventually lost the white vote that year.

Meanwhile, former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu, apparently piqued at former (Republican) Secretary of State Colin Powell’s endorsement of Obama, suggested that the respected general was making a decision based on some sort of racial solidarity. Said Sununu on CNN:

When you take a look at Colin Powell, you have to look at whether that’s an endorsement based on issues or he’s got a slightly different reason for endorsing President Obama. I think when you have somebody of your own race that you’re proud of being president of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him.

Sununu walked back the statement later, but it’s still disturbing. This is not some random angry person making anonymous comments on the Internet. This is a former senior White House adviser and a former governor, someone who is now advising Romney’s campaign.

Whites aren’t required to back a black candidate to prove they are not racist, any more than Powell and other African-Americans have to vote for a nonblack candidate to prove they are taking into account issues other than race. There is an argument to be made that really hating Obama because you don’t like his healthcare or economic policy represents an advancement in race relations. But the numbers suggest something deeper is still at play. African-Americans, for example, have been even harder hit by unemployment than whites, and have similar American concerns about foreign policy and education. If race were truly not an issue, the numbers would be a little more closely aligned among racial and ethnic groups.

Nor has the attack on Obama as “other” dissipated in the slightest since his election. Sununu himself has commented that Obama needs to be more of “an American,” and absurd rumors persist about Obama’s place of birth or religion. The tragic irony is that Obama, aside from the sheer example of his status as president, is hamstrung when it comes to actually talking about race, since on a political level, it’s more threatening coming from an African-American than a white candidate or official. Bill Clinton could talk about race in a way that sounded more palatable to white America. And yet Obama, if he were to engage in a frank discussion of race, would surely be castigated as divisive.

It’s common, historically, for social advances to be met with an immediate pushback before things start to settle in for the better. The abolition of slavery was followed by Jim Crow laws. The civil rights movement of the ’60s also was met with a backlash, though the fundamentals endured. There’s been a lot of social and demographic change in this country over the last 50 years, even over the last 25 years, and it’s perhaps a lot for some people to absorb. When the Tea Party candidates proclaimed they wanted to “take our country back”—and carried signs featuring the female former House Speaker, the gay former committee chairman, and the mixed-race president, that was no accident.

It does appear that some of the pushback is generational, and not necessarily coming from a position of pure bigotry. If you’re much older, it may be difficult just to get your head around all the changes that have occurred in your lifetime. A white man who is now 70 grew up with a different example—guys like him ran the country, and his country pretty much ran the world. Neither of those things is true anymore, and neither is likely to change. And while it’s not a defense of racism or xenophobia or unilateralism, it is an explanation of why it might be hard for some older people to adjust.

I have two young brothers, both of whom are mixed-race. One of them plays soccer at his school, and our father recently told me of watching Matty join in a pre-game huddle with his teammates. There they were—black, white, mixed-race, Cambodian—and they were all yelling, “Uno! Dos! Tres! Quatro!” to psych themselves up for the contest ahead. It was a lovely hybrid of the metaphorical melting pot and what former New York City Mayor David Dinkins used to call the “gorgeous mosaic” that makes up our country. We may end up taking one step back on race relations for every two we take forward. And eventually, maybe we just grow out of it.


By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and World Report, October 26, 2012

October 27, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Insecure And Delusional”: Donald Trump’s Racist Hassling Of President Obama

Ridicule Donald Trump if you will. But he has, in his self-aggrandizing, delusional way, earned his own place in history.

It’s not in the way he would like. Trump appears to imagine that he is some financial and political genius, someone who alone knows how to run businesses and by extension, government. Not so much: It doesn’t take any special smarts to make a lot of cash during an historic real estate boom, and Trump in recent years has focused mainly on attaching his name to buildings and events—usually in gaudy letters. Nor has Trump displayed anything close to thoughtfulness or sophistication when it comes to politics or public policy.

Trump, whose primary goal is promoting his own name, is indeed achieving that goal. He is establishing himself as the poster adolescent for the segment of the American public that just can’t, or won’t, accept that the country is no longer run entirely by rich white men like him. In the hateful campaign to define President Barack Obama as “other” in some way—absurd insistences that he is Muslim, not American, or a socialist—Donald trumps the crowd.

Trump was clearly pleased at his pivotal role in forcing Obama to release his long-form birth certificate—an undignified and demeaning move that the president should never have had to make. But there were enough people in denial over the fact that we have a mixed-race president that Obama, unfortunately, was pushed to release the document. Trump was thrilled at his own power in the situation, but that was not enough.

In the most recent, and really, most pathetic display of Trump’s irritation with Obama’s existence as president was Trump’s ballyhooed “bombshell” announcement this week. Was it Obama divorce papers? Some other “evidence” that Obama is not really one of us? No—it was, laughably, a TV hucksterish pledge by Trump to donate $5 million to the charity of Obama’s choice if the president releases his university records, including his applications. Trumps wants the documents by 5 p.m. on October 31, suggesting this might have something to do with Trump’s Halloween costume.

It’s no surprise that Trump thinks everything and everyone can be purchased. It’s getting a little tiresome that he thinks he’s raising legitimate questions about Obama’s academic record. Obama went to Columbia University and Harvard Law School, where he was president of the Harvard Law Review. Trump seems to think that Obama got where he was—Ivy League schools and perhaps even the presidency—through some elaborate web of lies and affirmative action. That’s not just insulting, it reveals the egomaniacal Trump’s true insecurities.

There have been a lot of misstatements and outright lies thrown around in this campaign, but Trump could set an example by revealing one truth. And that is that he just can’t stand the fact that an African-American man with an exotic name is smarter and more successful than he is. It’s part of what will hopefully be a last-gasp wave of racism and fear of “other” in American society. And in history books yet to be written, Trump will be included. And it won’t be flattering.


By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and World Report, October 25, 2012

October 27, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“What America Will We Pick?”: The Cleavage Between Those Who Have Held Power And Those Who Are Beginning To Attain It

This election is only tangentially a fight over policy. It is also a fight about meaning and identity — and that’s one reason voters are so polarized. It’s about who we are and who we aspire to be.

President Obama enters the final days of the campaign with a substantial lead among women — about 11 points, according to the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll — and enormous leads among Latinos and African Americans, the nation’s two largest minority groups. Mitt Romney leads among white voters, with an incredible 2-to-1 advantage among white men.

It is too simplistic to conclude that demography equals destiny. Both men are being sincere when they vow to serve the interests of all Americans. But it would be disingenuous to pretend not to notice the obvious cleavage between those who have long held power in this society and those who are beginning to attain it.

When Republicans vow to “take back our country,” they never say from whom. But we can guess.

Issues of race, power and privilege are less explicit this year than they were in 2008, but in some ways they are even stronger.

Four years ago, we asked ourselves whether the nation would ever elect a black president. The question was front and center. Every time we see the president and his family walk across the White House lawn to board Marine One, we’re reminded of the answer.

The intensity of the opposition to Obama has less to do with who he is than with the changes in U.S. society he not only represents but incarnates. Citing his race as a factor in the way some of his opponents have bitterly resisted his policies immediately draws an outraged cry: “You’re saying that just because I oppose Obama, I’m a racist.” No, I’m not saying that at all.

What I’m saying is that Obama’s racial identity is a constant reminder of how much the nation has changed in a relatively short time. In my lifetime, we’ve experienced the civil rights movement, the countercultural explosion of the 1960s, the sexual revolution, the women’s movement and an unprecedented wave of Latino immigration. Within a few decades, there will be no white majority in this country — no majority of any kind, in fact. We will be a nation of racial and ethnic minorities, and we will only prosper if everyone learns to give and take.

Our place in the world has changed as well. The United States remains the dominant economic and military power; our ideals remain a beacon for those around the globe still yearning to breathe free. But our capacity for unilateral action is diminished; we can assert but not dictate, and we must learn to persuade.

Obama’s great sin, for some who oppose him, is to make it impossible to ignore these domestic and international megatrends. Take one look at Obama and the phenomenon of demographic change is inescapable. Observe his approach to international crises in places such as Libya or Syria and the reality of America’s place in the world is unavoidable.

I’m deliberately leaving aside what should be the biggest factor in the election: Obama’s policies. It happens that I have supported most of them, but of course there are legitimate reasons to favor Romney’s proposals, insofar as we know what they really are — and the extent to which they really differ from Obama’s.

In foreign affairs, judging by Monday’s debate, the differences are too small to discern; Romney promises to speak in a louder voice and perhaps deploy more battleships, but that’s about it. Domestically, however, I see a clear choice. I consider the Affordable Care Act a great achievement, and Romney’s promise to repeal it would alone be reason enough for me to oppose him. Add in the tax cuts for the wealthy, the plan to “voucherize” Medicare and the appointments Romney would likely make to the Supreme Court, and the implications of this election become even weightier.

Issues may explain our sharp political divisions, but they can’t be the cause of our demographic polarization. White men need medical care, too. African Americans and Latinos understand the need to get our fiscal house in order. The recession and the slow recovery have taken a toll across the board.

Some of Obama’s opponents have tried to delegitimize his presidency because he doesn’t embody the America they once knew. He embodies the America of now.


By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, October 25, 2012

October 27, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Hanging In The Balance”: The Supreme Court, The Elections And Beyond

Just a few elections ago, I remember people wore button that said, “It’s the Supreme Court, stupid.” But during this fall election season, the future of the Supreme Court has received very little mainstream attention, even though decisions by that august body have an impact that can last far longer than the term of a member of the House or Senate and certainly longer than that of any single president. On the current court, four justices are 74 years old or older — two from each side of the ideological divide, and it is quite likely the next president will pick at least one new one.

What hangs in the balance? Many issues but of particular note is: Roe v. Wade. It need not be completely overturned for abortion to become out of reach for the vast majority of American women, or to undermine their autonomy in making this most personal decision. In fact 87 percent of all U.S. counties — counties in which 35 percent of all women in the US now live — already lack an abortion provider. Efforts to make abortion even more inaccessible continue apace, with many states passing huge increases in anti-abortion regulations after the election of 2010. The fate of those laws with this Supreme Court remains to be seen, but should any of them reach the court, a majority may well seize the opportunity to strike down Roe in its entirely or eviscerate it beyond recognition.

Years of progress on keeping the principle of separation of religion and state alive and well is also endangered. Despite a track record in the law that upholds government enforcement of anti-discrimination laws regardless of religious belief — for example, you can’t refuse to serve an African-American a cup of coffee based on a biblical belief of inferiority — the current court may give employers the right to cite their religious beliefs as a justification for discriminating against women by denying them insurance coverage for contraceptives, even when the employer isn’t paying for it.

Other reforms of the mid-20th century are also at stake. Laws that finally made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, religion, gender, and national origin are under attack. The basic principles may remain, but the ability to enforce them has repeatedly been weakened by the Supreme Court, most recently in the Lilly Ledbetter case when the court rendered an unreasonably narrow interpretation of the federal law against job discrimination. The long Supreme Court campaign against affirmative action could produce another setback by spring in Fisher v. Texas case heard October 10, if efforts to achieve diversity in higher education are overturned.

Voting rights protections, the bedrock of the 1960s civil rights revolution, are being unraveled in many states, and appeals to the Supreme Court are certain to happen in the next session. The new state laws undermine the idea that government should make voting as easy as is reasonably possible. The Supreme Court’s faulty 2008 decision in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, an Indiana case upholding photo ID requirement without any inquiry into their chilling effect, has reaped a whirlwind of efforts to disfranchise millions.

The Supreme Court’s willingness to reverse long-standing precedent in the service of an ideological agenda is epitomized by its decision in Citizens United where the court went out of its way to rule that corporations have the same free speech rights as living people. That ruling overturned a principle of 70 years’ standing and unleashed a flood of money into the election process that eclipses the Watergate era and has seriously altered the political landscape of this election.

A look back at the last decade is not encouraging to those who believe as I do that our courts should dispense justice in keeping with the progress we have made in upholding individual rights, ending discrimination, and adhering to our founding principles of liberty and justice for all. Often we can’t quite put our finger on the correlation between a judge’s background and life experiences and the rulings rendered by the courts on which he or she presides. But it is surely there. It is widely conceded that a majority of those who sat on the Supreme Court before the Civil War were in fact slaveholders. It’s pretty hard to imagine that their decisions weren’t influenced by that fact. The first black justice, Thurgood Marshall, did not serve until 1967; the first woman, Sandra Day O’Connor, not until 1981. Their life experiences, for centuries excluded from our judicial system, were certainly linked to their legal decision-making.

Today with the court polarized, every presidential nomination to the Supreme Court matters. Each can help further the progress our country has made in achieving equality and justice, or transport us back to a time when the courts ignored the rights of women and African Americans, of religious and ethnic minorities, of criminal defendants and others to equal treatment and due process. As voters, we bear the ultimate responsibility for making sure we know what kind of justice the candidates for president would likely appoint.


By: Nancy K. Kaufman, CEO, National Council of Jewish Women: Published in The Blog,The Huffington Post, October 25, 2012

October 27, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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