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The Non-Passion of the Romney…

Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor with the alliterative Stan Lee-inspired name, made the following ringing endorsement of presidential candidate Mitt Romney in Iowa:

“If you’re looking for a candidate who agrees with you on everything, buy a mirror,” Christie told a crowd of about 150 at the headquarters of the Kum & Go convenience store chain. “I’m out here to tell you that I’m supporting him because I believe he’s the best qualified person to be president, and I believe he’s the only Republican who can win.”

The Romney campaign’s concern is that GOP primary voters’ passion is drifting toward Newt Gingrigh, who is surging in recent polls of early voting states. This is problematic as Gingrich is a trainwreck of a candidate — saddled with the baggage of an aging drag queen going on a two-month cruise to the Bahamas. A polarizing figure, he regulars ranks as “Republican Democrats Least Want to Have a Beer With Unless It Contained Arsenic” and that includes George W. Bush and Sarah Palin, whose “folksy” charm he lacks. Considering that defeating the incumbent president would involve persuading a good number of the people who voted for Obama in 2008 to switch camps, that’s an issue.

Although Christie trumpets Romney’s electability, GOP primary voters have consistently rejected it at the polls. And while it will serve as no consolation to the former Massachusetts governor, the reality is that as fickle as primary voters have been with their passions — initially playing footsie with Michele Bachmann, then flirting with Rick Perry before moving on to Herman Cain — they have been consistent in their lack of amor for Romney.

I never really got why Romney was dubbed the front runner in the race. Maybe he bought the title from the media at a silent auction. He’s never boasted the double digit lead and sense of inevitability that Hillary Clinton possessed prior to Obama’s Iowa upset in 2008. There was also a lot of passion among Clinton supporters for their establishment candidate. They didn’t just want to win. They believed in her. Does anyone really believe in Romney?

Romney can probably blame Obama for his current predicament. Christie is currently singing a similar tune to those Clinton supporters who warned that Obama would never win in the general election, especially against likely nominee John McCain. This advice was ignored and Obama eventually triumphed. So conservatives now might think there’s no need to settle. Their dream candidate, once they get around to settling on him or her, could actually win.

That’s insane, of course, because as everyone but the staunchest right-winger realizes is that Obama had appeal to the mainstream, independent voters who ultimately decide elections. They are the ones who candidates spend the general election trying to convince. They voted for Reagan. They voted for Clinton. They voted for Bush. And they voted for Obama. Meanwhile, primary voters are usually registered members of their respective parties who would not cross party lines even if the oppossing candidate were Jesus Christ. That’s your base, though, and you’ve got to win them over first before you can make it to the general election.

Romney’s hope all along has been that the GOP base’s hatred of Obama is so great that they will overlook their antipathy for him and put him forward because he’s the most electable candidate. The flaw in this thinking is that the candidate with the limp base has never sealed the deal. That was McCain’s problem. It was also John Kerry’s, which might also be a case study for GOP voters: Democrats turned from Howard Dean toward the more establishment and arguably more electable Kerry, and it didn’t get them anywhere.

Obama can also rely on a fairly solid base. The GOP primary has been one long horror movie in 3-D that will prove more effective in getting Obama supporters to the polls than his most soaring speech. Is there some disappointment among the liberal base regarding Obama? Yes, but disappointment is dfferent from dislike. The former is usually reserved for your son who keeps bringing home women who pop their gum when they speak. You’ll still support him in the end. Dislike is what McCain faced in 2008 and Romney might face in 2012.

Looking back at the Democrat’s 2008 primary race, you could argue that a protracted, bruising path to the nomination is not necessarily fatal. However, I think that fit the Obama narrative. Romney can never lay claim to being the underdog. Clinton vs. Obama was historic. Romney vs. Anyone But Romney is hardly that, but I am glad I have my free pair of 3-D glasses.

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Posted by on December 8, 2011 in Political Theatre

 

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The “Anyone But Romney” Sweepstakes…

The “Anyone But Romney” Sweepstakes…

If Herman Cain’s presidential campaign collapses under the weight of multiple sex scandals — similar to the effect of piling topping after topping on a thin crust pizza, it appears that Newt Gingrich is the likely beneficiary in the “Anyone But Romney” sweepstakes.

It must be hard for Romney. He’s clearly the guy but no one is all that excited about it. Democrats are afraid he might win, and even Republicans are afraid he might win. There’s a collective resignation about his inevitability. He’s the Greg Kinnear/Bill Pullman character in the romantic comedy, and the GOP is Meg Ryan, desperately waiting for Tom Hanks to show up and sweep her off her feet.

Alas,politics is just as disappointing as romance in the real world — your Tom Hanks turns out to be Rick Perry, who has grand plans of turning Congress into a part-time job (which, logically, would ensure that only the wealthy could afford to do it) but that plan is stymied by his not seeming to understand what the legal voting age is.

But even Tom Hanks made “Joe Versus the Volcano.” Let’s toss Perry into one and move onto the next possibility — Herman Cain. Sure, he’s less Hanks and more Denzel Washington but he’s still not Romney.

Mr. Cain, the former chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza, does not follow any of the traditional rules of presidential politics. He has no political experience. His campaign has raised almost no money and as a result has virtually no staff or infrastructure. And Mr. Cain appears to make few of the tactical calculations that drive most presidential campaigns.

OK, he doesn’t look that good on paper, but you know who does look good on paper? Romney, and we don’t like him. This is simple deductive reasoning. So, Cain’s an unconventional candidate — what could go wrong?

Hmmm, so on reflection, Cain might be less Denzel Washington and more George Jefferson.

This brings us to Newt Gingrich. I don’t blame you if you’re confused. The non-Romney front runners in the GOP race are harder to keep track of than the current best friend of a teenage girl.

Gingrich might seem an implausible choice — no “yesterday’s news” candidate has successfully claimed the White House since Richard Nixon in1968. Although his opponents in the primary have positioned themselves as outsiders to the Washington establishment, Gingrich is a former Speaker of the House. His primary business experience, which is Cain and Romney’s selling point, is receiving $30,000 per hour from Freddie Mac for advice (that sounds like a lot but Freddie Mac paid Ann Landers $50,000 an hour for advice regarding the least offensive way of turning down your mother-in-law’s yam bread). Gingrich is also not a particularly fresh candidate: If elected, he’ll turn 70 during his first year in office, which means he’ll only have time to remarry twice at most before he retires.

However, GOP primary voters might be weary of the “Snow White” remake the race has turned into with Dopey, Crazy, Horny, and Doc. Gingrich has no surprises. He’s already had his sex scandal, which is important to get out of the way early — like chicken pox. We also know how the Democrats would receive a Gingrich presidency, based on how they lamented his departure in 1998:

“We are mourning the loss of having Newt to kick around anymore,” said one White House adviser who did not want to be named. “Newt Gingrich literally was the best thing the Democratic Party has had going for it since 1994. . . . If anything, there’s total depression on my side of the fence.”

Yes, the GOP is settling. It’s a great ploy — one Kinnear or Pullman should have tried in those movies. Safe Guy No. 2 comes in and grabs Ryan away from Safe Guy No. 1 before dreamboat shows up. Could Gingrich, who left D.C. in disgrace more than a decade ago — banished to his high-paying private sector Elba, return to the White House in triumph? Of course not. What, are you high? It’s totally going to be Romney, as Nate Silver, who has a brain in his head, correctly points out:

This year, however, a candidate like Mitt Romney would have more time to regroup after an early setback. I’m not just picking Mr. Romney’s name out of a hat. It seems that the candidate who could benefit the most is one who had stronger “fundamentals,” like fund-raising, campaign infrastructure and institutional support, which could potentially outlast transient swings in polling. That describes Mr. Romney better than it does someone like Mr. Gingrich, who does not perform well in these areas.

So, the guy everyone suspects is a secret Democrat (arguably a step-up from secret Muslim socialist) wins the nomination and perhaps selects a Vice Presidential candidate who appeals to the base. If he repeats the McCain Mishap of someone like Sarah Palin, he’s toast. If he selects a charismatic empty suit like John Kerry did with John Edwards, he’s burnt toast. He could look to Ronald Reagan, who chose George H. W. Bush as his running mate in 1980 partly because of Bush’s international experience and ability to appeal to the political center. That center doesn’t really exist anymore, so Romney would need to flip the scenario and select someone with D.C. experience and who appeals to the party’s base, which brings us back to Gingrich.

I guess I’ll go dust off my mid-90s Gingrich material. Some of that stuff was gold.

 

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2011 in Political Theatre

 

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Money, Money, Who’s Got the Money?…

Warren Buffett wrote an op-ed piece for The New York Times on August 14 in which he suggested members of a new congressional “supercommittee” looking at ways to balance the budget to “raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, and even more for those making more than $10 million.”

President Obama immediately agreed with Buffett’s argument. Mitt Romney immediately disagreed, trotting out the old Vaudeville act that high corporate tax rates is the primary motivator for businesses either not hiring or sending jobs overseas (this has also been said about minimum wage laws and employee health insurance benefits). You could remedy this, of course, with tax breaks that benefit those companies that invest in American jobs but who has time for that?

Romney had to say something but he’s on shaky ground contradicting Buffett. It’s not like the guy made his money starring in action movies or kicking field goals. He most likely knows a thing or two about the financial world. Romney’s entire campaign is that the country needs a president with both experience and proven results in the private sector. Buffett’s success in that area makes Romney look like the assistant manager at the local Shop Rite.

Of course, Romney’s position was the epitome of rationality compared to Michele Bachmann’s, who openly and unabashedly attacked Buffett at a campaign event in (of course) South Carolina — to borrow from “Kiss Me Kate,” GOP primary campaigns “open in South Carolina/We next play Texas/Then on to 1950/Lots of closeted gays in 1950!/Our next attack is illegal immigrants/That stingy, dingy menace…”

“We also believe, unlike Warren Buffett, that taxes are high enough already,” said Bachmann … “I have a suggestion. Mr. Buffett, write a big check today. There’s nothing you have to wait for. As a matter of fact the president has redefined millionaires and billionaires as any company that makes over $200,000 a year. That’s his definition of a millionaire and billionaire. So perhaps Mr. Buffett would like to give away his entire fortune above $200,000. That’s what you want to do? Have at it. Give it to the federal government. But don’t ask the rest of us to have our taxes increased because you want to have a soundbyte. We want to have real job creation in this country and that’s what we’ll stand for as fiscal conservatives.”

We might claim that taxes are “high enough” already but evidence — such as our crippling debt — might demonstrate otherwise. This brings us to the two separate views of how the U.S. taxpayer relates to the national budget deficit. There is the conservative view that the government is an employee of the U.S. taxpayer. In that scenario, it’s inappropriate for an employee to demand a raise just because he’s behind on the car payments for his Mercedes and, worse, has a $200-a-day cocaine habit that might result in his dealer breaking his legs if he doesn’t pay him on time. His employee’s debts aren’t his issue. But the country’s debts are our issue. They have a direct impact on us and our way of life, and thus stating “our taxes are high enough” is in many ways tantamount to saying that you’ve paid American Express more than enough already even if your credit card is maxed out.

However, Buffett is not suggesting everyone’s minimum payments be increased in order to reduce the credit card balance — just those in the best position to do so. The vast majority of our debt is attributible to our imperial presence in Iraq and Afghanistan (by the way, it’s wise to consider what caused the fall of the British empire). As Buffett points out, it’s usually the poor and middle class who sacrifice the most in blood for these wars. It would then be in the spirit of “shared sacrifice” for the wealthy to chip in more to pay for the tanks.

Bachmann should know that Buffett has already written a “big check.”  She also ignores the actual substance of Buffett’s editorial when she talks about the “redefinition” of “millionaire” and “billionaire.”

Buffett did not suggest no one could make more than $200,000. President Obama has said he wants Bush-era tax cuts for those individuals making more than $200,000 and families making more than $250,000 to expire after next year. But those people would not have to hand over every dollar made over $200,000, just a higher percentage of that income. And, if the Bush-era tax cuts expire, they’d have to hand over a higher percentage of money made on the stock market.

In 2009, roughly 2% of U.S. households had reported taxable income of more than $250,000. They earned 24.1 percent of all income, and paid 43.6 percent of all personal federal income taxes. Here again we have two separate views on wealth in the U.S. One side believes it’s unfair that 2% of households would earn 24% of all income. While the other side believes it’s unfair that those who earn just 24% of all income should pay almost half of all taxes.

Bachmann would “prefer to lower tax rates for the rich and broaden the tax base, making more Americans pay tax. Currently, nearly half of Americans – those at the lower end of the economic spectrum – do not pay income tax.”

If that’s the case, Bachmann is actually running on a “higher taxes” platform — just one that she would deem more equitable and, curiously enough, would affect more of her potential voters than Buffett or Obama’s proposal would. The only problem is that Americans at the bottom of the income ladder are arguably “too small to fail” — increase their taxes and you don’t cut into disposable income, you cut into basic survival. You might be able to reduce expenses in the former category (less iPods) but in the latter category (food, rent), you are less flexible, so then you might wind up running up debt, which would benefit credit card companies and banks (all those interest rates! All those fees!) and would result in healthy profits and bonuses for the executives at those companies who I’m sure will create jobs or re-invest in the economy or whatever else it is they do that makes things so neat for the poor.

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2011 in Capitalism

 

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50 Candles…

50 Candles…

President Obama turned 50 on August 4 and the media celebrated by making every effort to utterly depress both him and anyone who happened to share the same continent.

From the Daily Times:

Obama turns 50 as gray hair betray political peril

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama turned 50 Thursday, marking a personal milestone that may offer only brief respite from a moment of political peril and rising threats to his bid for second term.

From the Guardian:

Barack Obama enjoys 50th birthday with burgers and banter

Barack Obama has not had much to celebrate in the runup to his 50th birthday, although he must wish his US poll ratings, currently 43% approval, outscored his years. But the US president, who in recent weeks has been battered by a debt standoff that ended with a deal no one liked, seems determined to enjoy the milestone.

“Determined” to enjoy the milestone? Is the Guardian suggesting he should just ignore his birthday? That’s not a politically viable option, as many Muslims do not celebrate birthdays (it’s considered a pagan tradition), which would just provide fodder for those who suspect he has a secret mosque in the White House basement (where George W. Bush kept the bowling alley). Is it really accurate that the guy with a loving wife and two beautiful kids does not have much to celebrate? Sure, his job sucks but that’s true of pretty much everyone who has a job. This is why the pagans or the Smurfs or whoever invented birthdays. It’s a time when you can reflect and say, “Yes, life is bad but at least there is less of it now.”

The New Post managed to link Obama’s birthday to the stock market plunge:

Obama celebrates 50th birthday on day stocks nosedive

WASHINGTON – President Obama celebrated his 50th birthday at the White House last night in celebrity-packed bash where revelers did the electric slide, on a night after Wall Street took steep slide of its own.

This somehow makes me think of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death” with Obama and his guests hiding from the recession at a gala ball but the recession shows up uninvited and bankrupts everyone.

FOX took it a step further with its headline: Obama parties with Chris Rock, Jay-Z and Whoopi while Rome burns. There were other guests — some of them even white — but it keeps to the narrative to call out the angry black guy, the rapper, and the black woman who is not Halle Berry.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus also took issue with the celebration:

“Right now our economy is in the ditch,” Priebus said, juxtaposing the pricey party against a national dilemma. He added the President is “in love with sound of his own voice.”

I have seen the adult film of Obama and his own voice on Cinemax (purely for research purposes, of course) and it was pretty filthy. So, according to Priebus, Obama is the only rich guy in America we can attack for enjoying life while the rest of the country feasts on stale ramen noodles without it being “class warfare.”

GOP presidential candiate Mitt Romney’s birthday tribute for Obama was a video detailing how he is basically worse for Chicago than Capone. The math is curious but apparently the 2% of policies that Obama manages to squeak past the Republicans is what’s destroying the nation.

Really, is this where we are now? We can’t let the guy celebrate his birthday? There’s no August 4th cease fire? Feuding nations do better than this.

Fortunately, the New York Times was able to put things in perspective:

CHICAGO — For many men, turning 50 can be a day of reckoning, marked by graying hair, a slowing step and the wistful recognition that you are probably never going to make it to the corner office. What could be better, at such a melancholy moment, than to celebrate at home, among old friends?

Geez! Is this a news article or “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”? This is worse than having dinner with a morose Jerry Seinfeld.

Mr. Obama, whose youth and relative inexperience were used against him in the 2008 election, has aged visibly, most noticeably in his hair color, now less salt-and-pepper than a generous dusting of salt. After two and a half years in which he soldiered through the Great Recession and sent a Seal team to assassinate Osama bin Laden, this president stopped seeming young a long time ago.

Yes, Obama won the presidency, steered the country through difficult economic times, and ordered the assasination of bin Laden but he still needs Just for Men and thus his entire life is a failure. I wonder how the author of this piece would teach history.

“So, Winston Churchill saved the world from Hitler but then he got fat and died, so what’s the point?” This would be similar to his lecture on Elvis’s impact on rock and roll.

Fortunately, the Business Insider knows how to celebrate a birthday and put together this slide show that allows you to watch Obama age before your eyes. Time to go roll up your trousers and hang yourself.

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2011 in Political Theatre

 

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