Thursday was a busy day for the polls, with some bright spots for each candidate. But it made clear that Barack Obama maintains a narrow lead in the polling averages in states that would get him to 270 electoral votes. Mr. Obama also remains roughly tied in the polls in two other states, Colorado and Virginia, that could serve as second lines of defense for him if he were to lose a state like Ohio.The day featured the release of 10 national polls, but there was little in the way of a consistent pattern in them. On average, the polls showed a tied race. Furthermore, among the nine polls that...
A native Brit, I have lived my whole life in admiration and awe of the way Americans view the glass as half full. Your can-do attitude helped make your nation the leader of the free world.
Since the financial crisis, Americans have seen some incredibly tough times. However, to the rest of the world, America is still exceptional. From your military might to your Silicon Valley visionaries, many of us foreigners would love to have your level of decline right now.
In 1969 the United States' share of world GDP was around 25 percent. It still is. America has a total GDP of more than $15 trillion. China's is around $7 trillion. The United States is very much still world number one.
Since 2008, of the G7 countries, only Canada has debatably done better. This is in no small part down to Canada being the only G7 country to survive the financial crisis without a state bailout for its financial sector. Something to do with regulations...
We live in a globalized, interlinked, economy -- and compared to everywhere else at the moment, America is a good place to be.
At present, Europeans feel like passengers on the Titanic. Those not in the Eurozone are ensconced in first-class. In the middle there are Eurozone countries such as Germany and France (the latter encountering some pesky "pigeons" on deck), while those PIIGS are stuck in steerage.
What of the once much vaunted BRICs? Brazil has manufacturing issues, growth is not what it was and in August it launched a $66 billion stimulus plan. Putin has a glowering demeanor for a good reason. Unless oil is around $117 a barrel Russia can't break even, meanwhile the shale gas revolution is causing the country all sorts of potential problems since it is lowering the global price of gas. Added to which, the Russian middle class is rumbling. India's politicians make America's look functional and the power cut crisis this summer was a timely reminder of the structural problems it faces. Chinese growth has just slowed for a seventh consecutive quarter, as seven of the nine men who rule China prepare to handover power.
America has a bad unemployment rate? Yes. But in a recent report, of the 34 main industrialized countries, only Estonia and Iceland's unemployment rates are expected to fall faster, with rates increasing in most countries.
America's jobless claims have hit a four-year low. The U.S. is industrially competitive -- unit production costs are down 11 percent over the past decade, while costs have risen in almost every other advanced nation. The U.S. still invests more than anywhere else on innovation. A survey released in May by Accenture found that 40 percent of companies moving manufacturing operations in the past two years had moved them to the U.S., compared with 28 percent that moved facilities to China.
Home foreclosure rates in the U.S. are at a five-year low and housing starts are at a four-year high. American families have cut their debts to pre-recession levels, making faster economic growth a realistic possibility as long as America's politicians don't completely mess up the "fiscal cliff."
Owing in large part to issues with global demand, the stock market may have been wobbling over the past few days -- but since Obama took office, the Dow Jones has gained around 67 percent. Only four American Presidents since 1900 have had better results in a similar timeframe.
Small wonder that the latest Brookings Institution-Financial Times tracking index labeled the U.S. as "the brightest spot in the world economy." Surely some credit has to go to the man currently occupying the Oval Office for that?
Obama is under fire for not being specific enough for what he'd do in a second term. But Romney's plans are arguably vaguer and his figures full of holes. The president is at least running with a commitment to deal with the deficit fairly and a track record that currently compares favorably to every other world leader's.
America's glass is still half full. However November 6th will come down to whether Americans believe that it is.
By now you have probably seen the video where President Obama refers to Romney's complete forgetting of his previous political stances as "Romnesia." Obama supporters are finding this wordplay a breath of fresh air in an election that has seemed to stumble, most notoriously with the first round of Presidential debates. After a relatively dull campaign Obama is getting new energy and new life. And he is doing it by following the example of master wordplay satirist, Stephen Colbert.
In case you missed it, watch video here:
The recent pro-Obama spark started with Romney's gaffe phrase "binders full of women" during the second presidential debate -- a phrase Romney used to refer to the difficulty he had finding qualified women to serve in his Massachusetts cabinet. It was meant to reveal his concern for women in the workplace, but it backfired and left many thinking Romney was both sexist and completely unaware of the realities of women today. The phrase virtually exploded across social media and led to a still ongoing series of "Binders full of women" memes, not the least of which is the Facebook page created before the debate had even ended and liked by 250,000 people in its first 24 hours.
Obama caught the wave and followed the "binders full of women" gaffe by using a smart, funny neologism, Romnesia -- a reference to the idea that Romney cannot even remember his previous policy statements. And the result is a real boost of pro-Obama energy in social media, in public discourse, and in the realm of catchy slang that attracts young voters. Needless to say, the twitter hashtag #Romnesia is thoroughly viral, and its presence in social media is complementing the "binders full of women" memes.
Young voters remain the question in this race and, unlike in the 2008 campaign, Obama has yet to thoroughly engage them. Phrases like "Romnesia" are sure to help him connect with those young voters he so desperately needs to win. And a quick scan through the twitter feed shows that this phrase is having the effect of reminding young voters of the Obama that is hip, cool, smart, and on their side. Even though the phrase was first used back in March, it has been Obama's recent use of it in a speech that launched it to viral status.
While we can't be sure if the result of Obama using a neologism will serve to bring out the youth vote until the results are in on Election Day, we can be sure that it shows that Obama has finally learned a lesson from Stephen Colbert -- witty neologisms can go a long way to helping you engage and energize your audience. When Colbert launched his show in 2005, he introduced the neologism "truthiness." If you haven't seen it, watch the clip here:
One of the key features of Colbert's particular version of satire is his wordplay -- most visibly present in his recurring segment "The Wørd," but also obvious in the flow of words that swirl around his opening show graphics. All satirists want to get their audiences to think critically about things they have come to take for granted. And all satirists use smart language to mock their way into the audience's critical consciousness. But it would be fair to say, that Colbert has had particular success at this. Truthiness was named the Word of the Year by Webster's in 2006 --a sign of how it entered everyday language and made a major public impact. And other Colbertisms, like Wikiality, have also been powerful linguistic tools.
Colbert is not just notorious for his neologisms; he is also a master at reaching a young audience. It was not long ago that he encouraged his viewers to tweet round-the-clock non-facts about Jon Kyl, who had explained his misstatement about Planned Parenthood statistics as "not intended to be a factual statement." The call led to 18 million tweets in a one-hour period in the first day.
Obama has finally learned from Colbert that neologisms are not just snappy ways of packaging important ideas; they are also ways to get your supporters to play an active role in spreading them. Colbert has taught us that these new words are not just about him; they are about what the public does with them once they are released into the public domain. What makes them powerful is not that they are connected to perceptions of politicians or fake pundits. What makes them powerful is that they are used actively by citizens to comment on political issues. The point is that they become active tools of critical commentary by citizens thinking through the issues of the election. They start in the mouths of pubic figures but they then fall under the control of the people.
Examples of #Romensia tweets include this one: "Are you suffering from Romnesia? Call the law offices of Binder and Binder." Or this one: "If you believe that someone whose state was 47th in job creation is an accomplished 'job creator', you might just have #Romnesia." Even "serious" twitter users like Forbes are playing the game with tweets like "Does #Obamacare cure #Romnesia?" These tweets are jokes that pack a political punch, because they speak truth to power while allowing us to have fun.
Maybe Romnesia will be Obama's truthiness. Either way it is good to see him learning from an expert on how to get young people to think critically and engage with politics.
Why did Mitt Romney embarrass himself on Libya in this week’s debate? One possibility: Because he, and the Republican Party in general, have opened up an alarming policy deficit between themselves and Barack Obama and the Democrats.What I mean by that is that Romney, Republicans and conservatives have, in case after case, simply given up on crafting viable public policy. That wasn’t always the case. When Ronald Reagan took office, conservative think tanks were ready with a host of ideas for transforming what government did and the way it did it. As recently as the 2000...
The Romney campaign released a new TV ad Sunday contrasting Mitt Romney's tenure as governor of Massachusetts with President Barack Obama's first term in office, focusing on how Romney worked with a Democratic legislature while Obama has blamed his inability to "change Washington" on opposition from House Republicans.
The ad, called "Find a Way," is one of the few spots to highlight the Republican presidential nominee's record in Massachusetts. It seizes in particular on comments made by Obama last month, in which he expressed frustration at learning that he couldn't "change Washington from the inside." The argument was hardly new, but Romney quickly jumped on the statement as proof that Obama had failed to work with Congress and doesn't deserve another chance.
“Most Americans believe we are heading in the wrong direction," the narrator says in the ad. "Higher deficits, chronic unemployment, a president who admits he can't work with Congress.”
“But he's says he's only had 4 years. That's all Mitt Romney needed," he continues. "He turned Massachusetts around, cut unemployment, turned the deficit he inherited into a rainy day fund. All with an 85% Democratic legislature. Some can't live up to their promises. Others find a way.”
The Obama campaign had focused its efforts on Romney's term as Massachusetts governor earlier this cycle, charging that he was unable to meet his promises and spur job growth while governing the state from 2003 to 2007. In its response to Romney's new ad, Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith resurrected those points and attributed them to "Romnesia," the phrase the president's reelection team has coined to characterize Romney's recent pivot to the middle.
"If his latest ad is any indication, Mitt Romney’s Romnesia is only getting worse," Smith said in an email. "But he is right on one point - he only needed four years as governor of Massachusetts."
"That’s because in just one term, Romney drove the state down to 47th out of 50th in job creation, increased per capita debt to the largest in the nation, left his successor a $1 billion deficit, and pushed through a tax cut that overwhelmingly benefited 278 of the wealthiest residents while raising taxes and fees on everyone else," she added. "And he did all of this while refusing to work across the aisle. Mitt Romney wouldn’t make Washington better - he’d make it worse."
The unrepentant neo-cons and backbenchers on Mitt Romney's foreign policy team, such as Dan Senor and Cofer Black, always advise their candidate to attack signs of "weakness" coming from President Obama. The Administration's announcement of direct talks between the U.S. and Iran should be welcomed as good news by those who don't wish to see yet another bloodbath in the Middle East but Romney can be counted on to condemn the diplomatic breakthrough as insufficiently hawkish. The news that Obama has chosen dialogue over saber-rattling gives Romney the opportunity to vent his criticism at the sole foreign policy debate that falls on the 50th anniversary of the night when President John F. Kennedy first made public the existence of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba.
Fifty years ago, President Kennedy, after being informed that Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev had deployed intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Cuba, was able to move beyond his knee jerk reaction to bomb and invade the island. Fortunately, over the course of days Kennedy tempered his response by adding statesmanship to his brinkmanship. The idea of bombing Cuba followed by a ground invasion was sidelined in favor of more incremental pressures: seeking multilateral assistance while enforcing a Naval "quarantine" of Soviet vessels to give negotiations more time.
As the United States tries to assess the danger of Iran becoming a nuclear power the lessons of JFK's dealing with the Soviets over the change in the nuclear status quo is more relevant than ever.
The bluster and war mongering of repeating the mantra "all options are on the table" needlessly heightens tensions and makes war more likely if it is not accompanied by face-saving ways out of the crisis. The U.S.'s adversary du jour, (in this case the fallible clerics who run the Islamic Republic of Iran), typically do not respond well to military threats of air strikes, "red lines," or "axis of evil" rhetoric (thank you David Frum). These kinds of intimidating tactics coming from a nuclear power that can lay waste to Iran, although favored by the neo-cons who brought us the disastrous war in Iraq, if devoid of any links to a pathway out of the confrontation amount to little more than bullying and belligerence. In the case of Iran, the threat of "the use of force" after years of George W. Bush's calamitous policies in the region do nothing to dissuade the Ayatollahs from continuing their nuclear enrichment program.
Iran remains a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which has safeguards and allowances for the civilian uses of nuclear power. The best U.S. intelligence analyses conclude that Iran is not building an atomic bomb.
If President Kennedy could offer an off-ramp from disaster to Nikita Khrushchev, who was at the time the U.S.'s most bombastic ideological foe who possessed a nuclear arsenal big enough to do serious damage, then a sitting U.S. president today can give Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (a far weaker adversary) a similar face-saving out of the current "crisis."
Through secret backchannels, Kennedy offered Khrushchev sweeteners in the form of offering to remove the U.S.'s Jupiter missiles from Turkey and pledging not to invade the island in exchange for the Soviets agreeing to take their missiles out of Cuba. Any public ultimatum ("red line") against Iran absent of private offers of concessions amounts to nothing more than war mongering.
A wiser policy toward Iran more akin to the one Kennedy applied to Cuba during the missile crisis would be to take the military option "off the table," quiet down the noise level from actors in the U.S. and in the region (such as Bibi Netanyahu) who are screaming for a war, and deal with Iran on terms of mutual respect and a realist recognition of shared interests. This dual-track policy appears to be where President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton are heading. It is the only policy that can defuse the "crisis." There is no military solution.
Let's not forget that in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks Iran offered to help the United States track down Al Qaeda and has assisted in stemming the drug traffic out of Afghanistan. And let's also not forget that the Reagan Administration armed the government of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in the mid-1980s in an attempt (according to Reagan) to open up a "dialogue." And let's not further forget that it was the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency that in August 1953 overthrew the democratically elected government of Mohammad Mossadegh and installed the Shah Reza Pahlavi. The CIA coup d'état, organized from within the U.S. embassy in Tehran, re-wrote that nation's history denying Iran in the early 1950s what might be called today a "Persian Spring."
There has never been an adequate American acknowledgement that the U.S. was responsible for propping up a dictatorship in Iran under the Shah for 25 years, which set the stage for the 1979 revolution that brought the clerics to power in the first place. The recent history of American-Iranian relations, which has been a lengthy series of underhanded and failed policies, must be taken into account. A little humility on the American side could go a long way.
In October 1962, President Kennedy's sobering experience during the missile crisis led directly to his American University speech of June 1963 where he called for an end to the demonization and brinkmanship of the Cold War. The crisis also put the Atmospheric Test-Ban Treaty on the front burner of his priorities and Kennedy spent considerable political "capital" in prodding the U.S. Senate to ratify the treaty.
Had Kennedy decided to bomb and invade Cuba it would have been popular with the hardliners around him and with American public opinion. But it is also highly likely that one of the 98 tactical nuclear bombs on the island would have been detonated over the heads of U.S. marines. (There had been good cause for politicians and other residents of Washington to begin readying bunkers and bomb shelters.)
On October 22, 1962, in announcing the existence of the missiles President Kennedy chillingly told the world that any detonation of a nuclear device in the Western Hemisphere would be considered "an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union." Yet he understood that Khrushchev would have to brush back the hardliners inside his own government. Imposing a U.S. Navy "quarantine" of Soviet ships heading for Cuba and bringing in the United Nations and allies to help find a way out of the crisis was the least pugnacious of the military options and it bought time for negotiations.
Robert F. Kennedy was sent as his brother's emissary to privately talk to the Kremlin-connected journalist, Georgi Bolshakov, and to Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin. The U.S. offered to dismantle its Jupiter missiles in Turkey and agreed not to try to topple the Castro regime. In late 1963, Kennedy even sent out feelers to the Cuban government that normalizing U.S. relations might be a possibility if Castro agreed to certain conditions, such as limiting the Soviet military presence. Although these efforts were cut short by Kennedy's assassination they illustrate that he was willing to make substantial concessions and push against the Cold War orthodoxy of the period that took as gospel that the Soviets only respected threats of massive violence.
With the ongoing partisan attacks against President Obama when facing challenges in a more complicated world than existed a half century ago, along with his ill-advised escalation of drone attacks that only increase tensions and create new enemies, the last thing this country needs is to blunder itself into another misguided war. What's needed when dealing with Iran and its nuclear program is the cautious pragmatism and willingness to bend and make concessions that characterized President Kennedy's strategy 50 years ago.
During the missile crisis the United States and the Soviet Union sidelined regional actors who called for military actions that would be in nobody's interest (including those demanding it). And like the crisis of 1962 the tensions with Iran in 2012 can be lessened with a greater willingness to compromise, the offering of concessions, and a recognition that war will only bring added misery and hardship to the people in that part of the world who have already endured enough.
Romney will no doubt go on the offensive against Obama's new Iran initiative decrying it as "weak" and not aligned with his neo-con proclivities. The Right's echo chamber will denounce the timing of the announcement of talks with Iran as an "October Surprise." But we mustn't allow their shrill, politicized whining about sensible diplomatic overtures drown out the crucial need for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
Unfortunately, neither candidate today could make the kind of speech that President Kennedy delivered in June 1963 without enduring considerable political fallout. Kennedy said in his American University address:
"[H]istory teaches us that enmities between nations, as between individuals, do not last forever. However fixed our likes and dislikes may seem, the tide of time and events will often bring surprising changes in the relations between nations and neighbors. So let us persevere. Peace need not be impracticable, and war need not be inevitable. By defining our goal more clearly, by making it seem more manageable and less remote, we can help all people to see it, to draw hope from it, and to move irresistibly towards it... For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's futures. And we are all mortal ... [W]e shall ... do our part to build a world of peace where the weak are safe and the strong are just. We are not helpless before that task or hopeless of its success. Confident and unafraid, we must labor on -- not towards a strategy of annihilation but towards a strategy of peace."
Conventional wisdom holds that Barack Obama "lost" in Denver because he lacked intensity. He brought his A-game to Hofstra this week. There's still a problem. The most significant event in the 2012 presidential election remains the Romney miracle bump after the first debate. If Mr. Romney wins the election, analysts and scholars will spend years picking apart the Denver debate the way they have the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debate.
With the drumbeat of war coursing through American politics once again, a curious little documentary titled "The Iran Job" appears to provide a would-be path toward diplomacy.
By following Kevin Sheppard, an American basketball player, to Iran's Super League, we are exposed not only to Sheppard's own inimitable curiosity but also to an Iranian public that is bursting with love for America. Sheppard is black and extremely tall, two features which prompt endearingly earnest reactions from the locals ("I love black people!" shouts one bazaar shop owner).
But the film is more than a string of cute cross-cultural anecdotes. The documentary was shot in 2009, the year President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was reelected amid mass suspicions of fraud. Protests spread throughout the country and were met with brutal force, particularly in Tehran. Sheppard, his now-close Iranian friends (including Elaheh, a charming woman who at one point seems to fall for the disarming basketballer) and the theater audience witness the birth of the Green Movement.
As the promise of the movie is a hopeful one, of reconciliation and human interconnectivity, it's a jarring context to relive the despairing crackdown on Iran's young, freedom-hungry citizens. But for all of the disheartening scenes -- including the murder of Neda Agha Soltan -- a certain sense of possibility remains with the audience member, as though no matter how horrible things might be, they needn't stay that way.
If the idea of a basketball movie offering a window into better Iran-U.S. relations seems too heavy, rest assured of two facts: The film is full of hilarious moments, and stranger things have happened (see: Ping Pong diplomacy).
HuffPost Entertainment spoke with husband-and-wife director-and-producer team of Till Schauder and Sara Nodjoumi about the film and its grander implications. Due to overwhelming demand and sold-out screenings, "The Iran Job" has been granted a second week run at Manhattan's IFC Center. Information on how you can support the movie's bid for a wider release is available at the conclusion of the following interview.
Did you know as soon as the Green Revolution started rumbling that you would include it in the film?
Schauder: Pretty much, it was a question of how we can weave it in. But when something that momentous happens you can't ignore it. It was more a question of how can we organically weave it in without having it take over the whole story.
How soon into the time that you got to Iran did you realize that the Green Movement was such a force?
Schauder: Oh when I first started I had no idea. I think nobody did, because I remember quite clearly having a conversation with the girls and Kevin about the system. And I remember that one of the girls pretty much predicted exactly what would happen. She said there would be an election, it will be rigged and nothing will change. She said that half-jokingly, and of course at that time no one could know that's exactly what would happen. People were conscious of the upcoming elections but I don't think anyone had any sort of anticipation as to what would happen. I think the whole atmosphere in the last month before the election was a surprise -- even to most Iranians.
When you came back to the States, was there anything about the way that Americans interpreted the events in Europe -- in a way that didn't match up to what you saw in Iran?
Schauder: One thing that struck me as odd was how different factions were trying to take advantage of what was going on, politically. People where pressuring the administration to take a stance very quickly. The other thing that struck me was how the Iranian, so-called "experts" who were interviewed on television. How little in-tune they were with what was actually going on with their countrymen on the ground. I was surprised at how some Iranians living in L.A. or on the West Coast or even here in New York would make judgments about what their countrymen should do, sitting smug in their apartments without having to go through it themselves.
And how long did you spend with Kevin before you decided he would be a good subject for your film?
Nodjoumi: [Laughing] I spent five minutes with him on Skype before Till decided to fly to meet him and start shooting.
Schauder: After those five minutes, we looked at each other and I decided to get a ticket and go there. And that's where this German passport came in very handy, because I could make that decision on the fly -- I didn't have to go through some lengthy process of getting even a tourist visa. You can just show up at the airport in Iran and get an express visa.
How long did you spend in his hometown before he flew to Iran?
Schauder: Actually I shot that out of sequence. There was no other way of doing it, because the way that the contracts work in Iran, it gives neither the player nor the team any lead time. In other words, Kevin gets a call and signs and is expected to be there 48 hours later. So what I did was to go to Iran and spend a lot of time with him there, very much regretting that I didn't get his departure from home. But then, via a stroke of luck, the team had a pretty extended break for Norooz [Persian New Year]. So during that break he went home, and I went with him. Then what happened is basically when he left after that break, the exact same emotions came up in him, [his girlfriend] and his family.
There seems to be a love interest between Kevin and one of the young women, especially about halfway through the film. Was this as apparent to you when you were putting the film together?
Schauder: There was definitely a little bit of flirtation, interest or temptation. Who wouldn't be, with a beautiful woman like that and an interesting man like that. What I found remarkable about it was that it never trespassed a certain boundary. Instead, if you will, they made love intellectually -- with an exchange of thoughts. It sort of reminded me of "Witness," when Harrison Ford goes into an Amish community and falls in love with a recently widowed Amish woman. It would be completely inappropriate for the two of them to have any romance, and that what makes the film interesting, because they really can't. In that film, they end up having the romance, but in our case they don't. And I think that's incredibly exciting to see, because you sort of want them to have it but you also don't, and they take it to a very deep place of friendship.
In a perfect world, what do you hope people take away from your film?
Nodjoumi: I think my takeaway is for people to just take a moment to learn about each other's complexities. This sort of whole, us-versus-them or black-white rhetoric that has been instilled in our politics… Luckily it's fading a little bit, but during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, we really had no chance of understanding who we were going to bomb. I think if they do have a chance to understand a people of a country, at least there will be more of a conversation about what we will do rather than to just jump into war. And not just Iran -- Iran is our example, but really when it comes to any country or people, we should take a moment to understand them more before rushing to judgments.
Schauder: I think that during the Bush administration, after 9/11 was where this rhetoric was first introduced to us. I think that has deeper consequences than people actually realize. It's not like when Obama was voted in, the fear that was instilled in people would wash away. You still had fear of the other, of other religions, and in many cases it was more ingrained in people than they actually realized. It remains extremely important to demystify certain things. When you look at the way that people talk about Iran and our options vis-a-vis Iran, it is mostly dictated by fear. And the fear seems to be of information. One of the most striking things, when I went to Iran, was to find out just how much Iranians like us. If you take opinion polls there, you will find approval ratings in the 70 percent range. And so it's absolutely not understandable why these two countries shouldn't have really good relations -- not just normal, but very good relations. If you keep that sympathy away from the American public, while just feeding them the idea that these are just enraged Muslims that you can't reason with … it's so far away from the average Iranian and yet it dictates the way a lot of Western audiences view Iran.
"The Iran Job" is currently raising funds through Kickstarter in an attempt to finance a wider release. Ticket and showtime information is available here. More information is available at the film's website and Facebook page.
NEW YORK -- Like Chicago Cubs fans in spring, Jewish Republicans start every presidential election season hoping this will be their year. They hope American Jews, who have voted overwhelmingly Democratic for decades, will start a significant shift to the political right. But scholars who study Jewish voting patterns say it won't happen in 2012.
Although recent studies have found potential for some movement toward the GOP, analysts say any revolution in the U.S. Jewish vote won't occur anytime soon.
"I would be very surprised to find that this is the transformative election," said Jonathan Sarna, an expert in American Jewish history at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass.
Surveys confirm that growth in socially conservative Orthodox Jewish communities, who tend to be GOP voters, is greater than in Jewish groups from other traditions. Russian-speaking Jews are also emerging as a strong GOP constituency, as evidenced when Republican Bob Turner won the special election to succeed disgraced New York Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner.
But a generous estimate of the two groups combined would make them only a quarter of American Jews, with many living in heavily Democratic New York. Steven M. Cohen, director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at New York University's Wagner School, predicts "status quo ante" – the way things were before – for a decade or more, at least until the many Orthodox children reach voting age.
The enduring liberalism of Jewish voters has confounded Jewish conservatives, who tend to view support for Democrats as a youthful habit Jews should have outgrown long ago. In the 1970s and 1980s, when U.S. Jews were becoming more assimilated and wealthier, expectations rose that they would follow the pattern of other ethnic groups and start voting Republican.
It didn't happen. President Barack Obama won 78 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008, according to exit polls. The only Democrat who failed to win a majority of Jewish voters in recent decades was President Jimmy Carter, in a three-way race in 1980 with Republican Ronald Reagan and independent John Anderson.
This year, Republicans saw a new opening. Surveys found a softening of support for Obama among Jews, as his favorability also dipped with the American public over the economy and other issues. Polls have the president down anywhere from a few to 10 percentage points among Jewish voters compared with four years ago.
The Republican Jewish Coalition has been hammering away at Obama with ad campaigns such as "My Buyer's Remorse" and a video, "Perilous Times," on Israeli security under the president. The focus has been on Obama's frosty relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and critics' claims that Obama is doing too little to stop Iran's nuclear program.
Obama has repeatedly pledged his support for Israel. His administration considers military action against Iran an option but says all nonmilitary means of pressuring Iran must first be exhausted.
Billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson poured funds into the coalition, especially for outreach in the battleground states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Adelson, a staunch supporter of Israel, has said he would spend up to $100 million to defeat the president.
While American Jews make up only 2 percent of the U.S. electorate, they register and vote at a much higher rate than the general public. In Florida, the prize battleground, about 3.4 percent of state residents are Jewish.
Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, noted that since 1992, the percentage of Jews voting Republican increased in every presidential election except for 2008.
"Republicans have been making inroads and gaining market share," Brooks said.
However, Ira Sheskin, a University of Miami professor and director of the Jewish Demography Project, said Republicans aren't on the way to overtaking the Jewish vote. Sheskin argued that Jewish votes for Republicans are recovering from a low of 11 percent for President George H.W. Bush, whose policies toward Israel had upset many Jews. Of the 12 Jewish U.S. senators and 24 House members currently serving, only one, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, is a Republican, Sheskin said.
Rabbi Kurt Stone, an Obama surrogate in South Florida, accused the Republicans of creating a false impression that "the Jewish community is moving in droves away from the Democratic Party."
"Everybody's having these thoughts pounded into their consciousness over and over again," said Stone, spiritual leader of the North Broward Havurah, or worship community, in Coral Springs.
Overseas, many Jewish communities are, in fact, becoming more politically conservative. In Canada, Australia and Britain, Jews have shifted to the right in the face of liberal party stands against Israeli policy in the Palestinian territories. By contrast, in the United States, major-party candidates compete for the mantle of better friend to Israel.
"If you have two candidates for a political office that has an impact upon national security and both appear to be supportive of strengthening Israeli security and the American-Israeli relationship, the American Jewish community quickly addresses other issues that are of deep concern in the field of social issues and human rights," said Gordon Zacks, a founder of the Republican Jewish Coalition, who advised Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
In a survey conducted last month for the American Jewish Committee, an advocacy and humanitarian organization, Jewish voters listed the economy, health care and national security as their top concerns. Nancy Kaufman, chief executive of the liberal National Council of Jewish Women, said her group was organizing in Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan and elsewhere on issues such as supporting gay marriage, protecting abortion rights and opposing voter identification laws.
"Jewish voters' preferences depend on their views on economic justice and social diversity, things like fairness in taxes, health care and reproductive rights," Cohen said. "Once those views are taken into account, then their views on Israel – be they passionately for or not, dovish or hawkish – have little if any effect upon their vote."
Here comes another election. Someone will attain or retain the presidency. You can be sure that this is important for you. Not so much because America is a "superpower" but because leading executives change the national weave of everyday human energies. Every tug and remapping of the great national fabric alters thousands of lives, and within each individual life these changes can rarely be reversed. Be sure, too, that what we cannot have back can be really big. After George W. Bush, four thousand American soldiers will never not have died in Iraq; just months later, five trillion in stimulus funds could never have done the work of Barack Obama's $800 billion. While we rarely get what we want from a president, the chief executive decisively shapes what we actually get. Why, then, do most people fail to see what is at stake in a presidential election?
Ignorance has an infinity all its own. Self-destructiveness is an all-too-human motive. Set these aside for the moment. Another reason, easy companion to abundant information and moderate self-interest, is deception. Here's one way such deception comes about.
With an election nigh, everyone tells you to start your path towards the poll. They say listen to the candidates. Perhaps a "debate" is your moment. If, however, you depend on presidential aspirants for instruction you are already in trouble. When the candidates speak you first need to identify what language is being spoken. Across the spectrum from deficit, unemployment, voucher, and tax to honor, rape, and family, every key word operates within several ordinary versions of the political vernacular. If you're speaking Red you hear one thing, Blue another. In this criss-crossed world, power seekers seek words that reinforce the illusion of agreement. While agreement obviates choice, the illusion of agreement makes choice both more urgent and more difficult.
You are a normal person making a choice, and so of course you will be drawn by hammering appeals to your high opinion of yourself. Thus duped, the small "d" democrat may come to believe that all this hubbub is significant only if he or she gets to determine the meaning of the key words and to dictate the winner of the election. This is, of course, a stunning miscalculation. Elections and the political language in which they are conducted are profoundly impersonal and -- remember Alice in Wonderland? -- not in your control even when in your hands.
Elections are collective things, although not the way markets are (another common, deliberate, and false analogy). Elections are impersonal and collective because the realization of even the most trivial presidential program depends on how the fabric of national energies is mobilized. Your vote becomes a power not when you mark the ballot, not when the president swears his oath, but as all voters revert to citizens and life takes its next multiple and chaotic steps down your and our altered path.
Going into the election and coming out of it, nearly anyone can mislead you. Every day those with real or imagined stakes in the game will gleefully call black white, hate love, Cain Abel. The far-reaching opportunities and the big opportunists, however, work best with elements that establish the context, the situation, and the relevance of what is said. These elements are the frames of language. They can be used in similarly deceptive ways. When, for example, a candidate declares that on election day "the choice is yours" -- it is obviously not yours, it is ours -- that statement filters into our beliefs, those beliefs inform our political activities, infusing them with this meaning rather than that. A slight shift in the framing of language can change the public effect of your behavior. Politics is like that.
Framing matters even more for another reason. It is a registry of shared symbols and connotations. That is what makes every person's speech -- even as it comes out of Mitt's or Barack's or Ronald's or George's individual mouth -- a collective fact. Frames further infuse those facts with motives, motives that take over where action precedes or surpasses our individual control. If you need an example of this, consider some specific inequality between two persons; measure it with a yardstick or microscope and the stage set is inert; see, by contrast, inequality in the light of rights or property or dignity or advantage or numerous other frames and the scene comes alive; each angle of view makes that inequality a problem for us in a different way; the frame suggests or even imposes its own set of motives. In a cool hour, you know well that not all frames are amenable to your goals. Nonetheless, every normal person is sometimes deceived as the frames of language, even ones you pick for yourself, move you in a false direction, away from rather than towards your goal.
If deception by words is theft, deception by framing is fraud. And, as usual, in the current electoral drama fraudulent framing is rampant. Very general images do and must adorn every stage for debate and public discussion. One trick of framing is to make those images seem inert even when they are not.
At the center of this election is a trick of just this type, an image that frames the electoral confrontation in a way that seems free from the motivations around which the candidates are said to be divided. Let's listen in:
There is a deep philosophical divide between Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney about the role of government. The president believes it can be a force for good while Romney says it needs to get out of the way so business can get people back to work.
No American citizen in our time can be surprised by this kind of statement. Variations on this theme are repeated day in and day out. Mr. Romney has made this his brand. You can hear it from the likes of Grover Norquist, Bill O'Reilly, the Koch brothers, your Republican friends and cousins, economists, moralists, and every sort of self-styled expert... this risks to be a long list.
Let's call this the role-of-government frame. Now remember that frames are, among other things, agreements. A very deep agreement is supported by the role-of-government frame. It has remained in the background. To bring it now to the surface, consider the actual source of this quote.
On the day after the first presidential candidates' debate, the host of a prominent regional NPR radio show (Marty Moss-Coane in Philadelphia) opened the station's phone lines to calls with these words. Before long the discussion got another boost this way from Mark Nevins, a former communications director for candidates Hillary Clinton and John Kerry.
... I think that you have gotten to the fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats believe that there is... a positive role for government to play, and Republicans believe that government just gets in the way and mucks up the works. I think voters need to decide which perspective makes more sense for them... in our current environment, and decide. I think that's going to be part of the calculation they make.
Of course, you are well aware that people were talking like this all across the country. The fact is that almost everyone in America has agreed that the largest scale of political conflict, the one that is unfolding today, the one about which we have been called upon to make a judgment by electing a president, is defined by some "fundamental difference" concerning "the role of government."
But -- and this is the point, the perverse and pervasive intensity of our deceptive framing -- there is no such fundamental disagreement. Look around you. In reality, practically everyone understands and acknowledges that no modern society can exist without a state or without ordered collective action and coordination of one kind or another. You can read this fundamental agreement off of everyone's behavior, infer it from every other rational belief they hold or assertion they make. One might as well say that there is a fundamental disagreement about the presence of water in the human body.
The role-of-government frame is a huge deception because it is both effective and false. We, each one of us who reiterates this nonsense and swears by it, every time we frame and re-frame the discussion this way, we are building a giant and nearly impenetrable wall in front of the real and dire problems of our country.
Perhaps it makes sense for short-sighted Republicans to frame the electoral contest this way. Since Solon and Aristotle we have known that the 99 percent will try to use legitimate political power to take the rich down a peg or two. So, why wouldn't Romney and his I-made-this friends invent fables about a beautiful world without government? Why wouldn't they present an "alternative" even where there ain't one, and make reality look bad by imagining some other rosy world without conflict where everyone conveniently agrees with them?
Be that as it may, it is no reason for the rest of us to buy into this malarkey. The real issue in this election -- and it is both fundamental and urgently important -- concerns the proper uses of government. There is no real question about whether we should have a government or not. The facts of human nature and history settled this several millenia ago.
What we are left with is this: if honest citizens cannot expose this deceptive frame, it will continue to be nearly impossible for Americans to see what we actually are or are not voting for.
Barack Obama: Says his administration has created "5 million jobs … over the last 30 months in the private sector alone."
Early in the second presidential debate at Hofstra University, President Barack Obama answered a question from a young voter seeking reassurance that he will be able to find a job after he graduates. Obama responded in part, "And what I want to do is build on the 5 million jobs that we've created over the last 30 months in the private sector alone." Job-creation statistics have been bitterly contested terrain between the campaigns this election cycle, with each trying to frame the question in a way that paints their side most favorably. ...>> More
Mitt Romney and the U.S. coal industry are engaged in a very public love affair. In August, the Republican candidate stood on a stage in Ohio and condemned Barack Obama's "war on coal," backed by a group of beefy, safety-helmeted men who looked like they just stomped out of a coal mine. Those miners later appeared in one of Romney's two September ads focused on coal, the "way of life" that, in his telling, Obama is ruthlessly attempting to crush. "By the way," Romney said in his first debate with Obama, lest America miss the point, "I like...
Asked about fair pay for women during the second presidential debate, President Barack Obama was quick to bring up the first piece of legislation he signed into law -- the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Audience member Katherine Fenton asked Obama, "In what new ways to you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?" Obama talked about being raised by a single mom who put herself through school and of his grandmother, who worked her way up from ...>> More
Mitt Romney doesn't see dead people. But that's only because he doesn't want to see them; if he did, he'd have to acknowledge the ugly reality of what will happen if he and Paul Ryan get their way on health care. Last week, speaking to The Columbus Dispatch, Mr. Romney declared that nobody in America dies because he or she is uninsured: "We don't have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they don't have insurance." This followed on an earlier remark by Mr. Romney "” echoing an infamous statement by none...
A new Obama campaign ad urges middle-class voters to pay attention to Medicaid, the government health program most commonly known for providing care to the poor, and to the changes Mitt Romney will make to it. Against images of middle-age couples caring for elderly parents, a narrator says "It’s one of the hardest decisions a family can make, realizing a nursing home is the only choice." It continues, "for many middle-class families, Medicaid is the only way to afford the care. But as a governor Mitt Romney raised nursing home fees eight ...>> More
As you may have noticed, it's a presidential election year.
We're already long-since far enough along that the Electoral College geeks (among whom I number myself) are busily publishing maps showing which are the "key," "swing," "battleground," "purple" states which will determine the outcome of the presidential election, and which are receiving and will continue even more so to receive vastly disproportionate shares of advertising, candidate visits and other forms of attention from the campaigns.
Is this a good thing?
States come and go from the map, from month to month and from cycle to cycle. Minnesota seldom makes an appearance. But two states -- Ohio and Florida -- have consistently been on the battleground state A-list for the past six presidential cycles going back 24 years.
If you listen to enough political chat shows, you will soon hear one pundit or another flog a favorite PunditFact: No Republican has ever been elected president without carrying Ohio. (This is true, but not quite as powerful as it first sounds. Ohio used to be more a red-leaning state. Four Republican candidates won Ohio without winning the presidency. Think about it. It's unlikely that any Democrat can win the White House without winning Minnesota. But that doesn't make Minnesota a key swing state.)
Still, over recent history and as far ahead as one can reasonably see, any candidate who carries Ohio and Florida will become president. If the campaigns split those two states, then a second list of about eight states come into play.
Is this a good thing? That voters in two -- or maybe 10 -- states are the only ones that matter and the rest of us are chopped liver? I can't imagine a good argument for why that it is a good thing.
Anyway, these are just reminders of something you learned in roughly the fourth grade. Our presidential elections are not national elections. They are 50 (actually 56; I'll explain in a minute) separate elections for the electors who will actually vote for the presidential candidates.
The Electoral College system, as amended, is a sort of messed up accidental gift from the Framers of the Constitution. (The Constitution, by the way, doesn't mention the words "electoral" or "college." It uses the term "elector" to refer both to the most average voters who get to vote in election for the House of Representatives, and then uses it again to refer to the very special small number of voters whose votes count directly in choosing a president, but who have never really played the role the Framers intended for them. )
The Electoral College system distorts every presidential campaign in a variety of ways and holds at least the potential (it's more than potential, it has happened several times) to lead to a result that undermines the democratic legitimacy of the election.
Having fallen out of love with the Electoral College system sometime since the fourth grade, I should concede that it's not the biggest structural problem with the U.S. system. And some aspects of it are not as deeply embedded in the Constitution as you may think.
Almost impossible to change
Like other elements of the U.S. system discussed in this occasional series, you can understand the Electoral College system as something that is rooted in the Constitution. And those roots are almost impossible to change because the Constitution is so hard to amend.
But many aspects of the Electoral College system as we practice are not mandated by the Constitution. Rather, they are created by mere statutes. Those structural factors, plus those statutes and or formal rules, combined with powerful norms of U.S. political culture, constitute the actual system. If we want to understand the things that have become dysfunctional in our system, we have to look at all three levels.
Here's an example that will seem ridiculous: The Constitution does not require a popular vote in connection with the presidential election.
The Framers put into the Constitution a formula for awarding electoral votes to the states (and, by the way, that formula violates the otherwise sacred principle of one-person, one-vote). Then they wrote (Article 2; Sec. 2) that: "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct" that number of electors. For Constitutional purposes, the electors are "appointed" by each state Legislature, by whatever means each Legislature chooses. The Constitution doesn't say that the state has to hold an election.
Of course, there's a pretty powerful norm that requires each state to allow the people to vote, and they all do, by state law, although there is plenty of variation between one state and another over how the votes are conducted. (For example, states, like Minnesota, that have same-day registration, have more voter participation than those that don't.)
But, before that norm of popular elections for president was so powerfully established, not all states held a popular vote. Here's a weird fact: South Carolina -- which is after all one of the original 13 states -- never held a popular vote for president until 1868 (that was the 21st presidential election cycle). Before 1868, the South Carolina Legislature chose the electors directly, without input from even the white, male freemen who could vote at the time in other elections.
The Constitution has not been changed on this point. But, as we currently understand them, the political norms would make it unthinkable for a state to decide to appoint its electors without benefit of a popular vote. Not unconstitutional. Just unthinkable. That's how norms work.
Here's a less ridiculous example of how states could mess around with the Electoral College system without violating the Constitution. Many Americans probably assume that the "winner-take-all" practice of electoral votes, whereby the ticket that carries the popular vote in a state gets all of the electoral votes of that state, is embedded in the Constitution. But the attentive among you know this is not the case. States have the constitutional prerogative to divvy up their electoral votes however they like.
In fact, two states at present -- Nebraska and Maine -- do not have a winner-take-all rule. In those two states, the presidential ticket that carries each congressional district gets one electoral vote, and the overall statewide winner gets the two bonus electoral votes representing the two Senate seats. (In 2008, because of this wrinkle, Nebraska's electoral votes were split -- four for John McCain, who carried the majority in the state, and one for Barack Obama ,who carried the bluish congressional district that includes Omaha.)
That's how you get 56 separate electoral vote elections. One for each of the 50 states, plus one for each of the three Nebraska districts, plus two for each of Maine's districts -- -plus a 56th election for the three electoral votes allotted to Washington, D.C., since the ratification of the 23rd Amendment in 1961 gave the nation's capitol a say in presidential elections.
Winner take all
If we did nothing more than to abandon the fairly ridiculous state-by-state winner-take-all system of electoral votes, a couple of the silliest aspects of the Electoral College system would go away, starting with the dominance of the "swing states." The likelihood of a popular vote loser winning the presidency might decline a little. And Ohio and Florida would no longer rule the world. But then, why should Ohio and Florida agree to that, since it would cost them much of the special attention they get every quadrennium? Under the Constitution, Ohio and Florida get to decide that for themselves.
But it could get weirder if some big states adopted the Maine-Nebraska practice but others stuck with winner-take-all. Why would they do that? Well, seeking partisan political advantage would be one reason.
You might have missed it, but Pennsylvania had a big fight last year over changing from winner-take-all to the congressional-district-by-district method of awarding electoral votes. Democrats opposed it fairly unanimously, but most Republicans favored it. Why? Pennsylvania has given its electoral votes to the Dem nominees in the last five elections in a row. It's considered at least a blue-leaning state for 2012, which means the Obama ticket stands likely to get all 20 electoral votes. But, because of the way the lines are drawn and how well Republicans did in the 2010 election, 12 out of 19 of its House seats are currently held by Republicans. Under the district-by-district allotment system, the Mitt Romney ticket might get half or more of Pennsylvania's electoral votes.
Clear and potentially game-changing electoral-vote advantages could be gained by one party or the other by changing particular states away from winner-take-all.
In general, such a nakedly partisan manipulation of the system has been deemed too ugly and aggressive. That may be one reason the proposed change failed in Pennsylvania, despite strong support by the current Republican governor. But the norms they are a-changing. The state laws could be changing and the basic constitutional structure is just sitting there, waiting to be manipulated.
The Electoral College system is pretty weird. No other country has anything like it (and bear in mind, every country with a written constitution has had the benefit of the U.S. precedent when they designed their own system). And if we were starting over inventing U.S. democracy, I very much doubt that the jury-rigged Electoral Vote system would be the winning suggestion.
Furthermore, for all the hoorah given to the "original intent" of the "founding generation" behind the various provisions of the Constitution, the Electoral College system as practiced today has virtually nothing to do with the Framers' intentions or expectations or vision of how it would work.
That's a tale full of history going back to the Constitutional Convention, which I'd best leave for a subsequent installment of this series. In fact, I will.
Almost 4 years after it was published, his New York Times Op-Ed "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" is still the clearest statement of a sociopathic economic ideology that will be unleashed on the American public if Mitt Romney wins the election. President Obama would be wise to hold it up to the viewing audience multiple times in tomorrow's Presidential debate.
Published just after President Obama took office, Romney's article takes the cavalier position that the US government should not step in and help the auto industry that was at the time teetering on the brink of decline. As GM, Chrysler, Ford each fell to their knees clutching their chest, Romney was saying do not call the EMS unit, do not let anybody near them. Just let them fall to the floor, dead.
Why does Romney insist that GM, Chrysler, and Ford--three of the largest manufacturing firms in the history of the United States--be refused first aid at the very moment they fall to the floor clutching their chests? The answer lies in this Orwellian, bone-chilling phrase:
Detroit will need to drastically restructure itself.
"Restructure," economically speaking, is word that comes from bankruptcy law. When corporations go into default on their debts, companies have the option of submitting a newly organized business structure to the bankruptcy courts for approval. Airlines, for example, are infamous for reaching the point where they cannot pay their obligations, entering bankruptcy, and emerging restructured. Along the way, while consumers rarely even notice that restructuring has happened, several large and significant stake holders are often cast to the side of the road by the process of restructuring: labor and retirees.
For Romney, however, "restructure" is calculated political doublespeak, used to hide a frightening agenda he plans to force on the economy. It means: sudden, forced shock, pain, and uncertainty to working people in every sector of the economy.
In other words, as Romney sees it, painful collapse is the only true path to corporate resurrection. Painful, that is, not for those captains of vulture financing who have positioned themselves perfectly to be on the receiving end of all the benefits that come from restructuring, but for the workers, families, and communities caught in the maelstrom.
Mitt Romney's promise of a lightning fast recovery carries with it the guaranteed pain of forced restructuring to Middle Class families and communities.
For those workers whose jobs are lost when factories close, whose wages are slashed when contracts are renegotiated, whose healthcare is eliminated, whose retirement accounts are wiped out--these folks to Romney are not people with dreams that have been crushed, but just a "disadvantage in costs relative to foreign brands" that had to be eliminated.
Romney's use of "restructure" opens a window on a sadistic view of Social Darwinism brought forth by a man who amassed an obscene fortune by buying up weak firms, forcing them into decline, and positioning himself to profit from the collapse.
In that vision of the American economy, working families always lose and the big financial poker players always win.
And what happens when massive vertical industries with millions of employees across every state in the union experience the coronary shock of collapse and restructuring? That is the exact question Mitt Romney does not want a single voter in America to think about from now until the election in November.
When huge industries collapse the way Romney dictates that they must, the result is an explosion of uncertainty, fear, and suffering in the working communities built on the shoulders of employees who depend on those jobs, those health benefits, and those retirement accounts suddenly ripped out from under them.
This brings up a key distinction within the concept of "restructuring" that should help every voter in America make the choice to stand with the Republican ticket or with the Democratic ticket.
Romney does not just believe in restructuring--he aggressively advocates forced restructuring--rapidly putting in place conditions that will force all corporations in every sector of the economy to sink or swim.
Now, if we can imagine the collective pain and suffering that would have resulted from if just one sector of the economy--the auto industry--would have been forced to restructure rapidly as Romney had advocated, can we even contemplate what it would be like if every sector of the economy was to be rapidly forced through this same process? Healthcare, banking, oil and gas, education, agriculture, airlines, technology, service industries--what if all were forced into restructuring?
Job losses would be so great it would stagger the nation for decades. The retirement plans and healthcare benefits for an entire generation would be lost. Millions more foreclosures would flood the market. Divorce would skyrocket. Thriving communities would drop off the tradition economy and step into the crystal meth and crack economy. Soup kitchens would multiply. Homelessness and hunger rates would increase to levels not seen since the Great Depression.
All of this, of course, would not be experienced by men like Mitt Romney--men who were born into industrial and political royalty and have lived their lives hopping from one bubble of privilege to another.
Men with countless millions hidden in Switzerland, Luxembourg, the Grand Caymans, and Bermuda do not experience pain or fear when a sector of the American economy is forced into restructuring. Their families do not succumb to the stigma and shame of middle-age unemployment or the crippling psychology of losing both health insurance coverage and retirement savings in rapid succession. When the nation is forced to restructure, men like Mitt Romney close the gates of their mansions, redouble their private security, and reassure each other that the suffering of decimated communities is the product of the poor character of the poor.
Who will suffer--who will feel it the most if and when Mitt Romney is given the opportunity as President to force this country over the cliff of widespread forced restructuring? The very people whose votes he needs to win this election, that's who.
With the second debate as his most important stage to date, President Obama needs to explain a key difference between himself and Mitt Romney.
In contrast to Mitt Romney's world of forced restructuring, the President bases his economic vision on what we already know about the destructive effects of standing back and letting the sectors of the economy on which a middle class depends go into a stratosphere free-fall.
To present this contrast with Mitt Romney's sadistic world of forced restructuring, the President needs to do more than say he saved the auto industry or that he believes investing in the Middle Class is the key to economic recovery.
He needs to say that Mitt Romney looks at past suffering of working people and insists, "We need to repeat this right away" whereas Barack Obama looks at it and asks, "What can we do to make sure this never happens again?"
And in that moment, with the eyes of the country upon him, President Obama should explain that Mitt Romney can talk so easily about forcing restructuring on the economy because Mitt Romney has not and will never feel the pain of its effects--at which point, the President could say,"But you have felt it--you have felt it. And if Mitt Romney is elected President, you will feel it again at levels never before witnessed by this country."
The President has his own team of writers--they get paid much more than me to figure out the best way to phrase it.
Reminding--warning--the public about Mitt Romney obsession with forced restructuring is crucial point not to be missed by the President.
This is a great nation. More than any other nation on the face of the earth, we are and have long been the premier destination for people who want to improve their condition, who are willing to leave every comfort behind to invest in themselves and their ideas in order to build a better life for their family and, as a result, for all of us. A tolerant people, we have welcomed everyone from every corner of the earth, from every religion and every ethnic background who is willing to join with us in building a free society in which all have a chance to make the most of themselves. It is time now for all of us to make that kind of investment, on behalf of each of as individuals and all of us as a nation.
Our creativity and enterprise, our generosity and our capacity for hard work have been a beacon for the world. While we know that our bounty depends on our own effort, we have always known, too, that it depends on our neighborliness, on our willingness to help others when they are down, indeed to work together toward common ends that we can only accomplish as a community, from raising barns to educating our children. We have always balanced present consumption with investment in our future, individual effort with communal effort. That is how we got here. We are a practical people. One of the miracles of this great country is the way we have sometimes toyed with the extremes but always returned to the sensible center.
My opponent has been playing a dangerous game. Seeing that he could only be nominated by playing up to the extreme elements in his party, he did that. And now, knowing that he can only be elected if he swings to the center, he is doing what he can to persuade you that he did not mean what he said during the primaries, indeed that he did not mean what he has been saying during this campaign until the first debate, the first time he had to speak to the whole nation.
What does he really believe? More important, what would he really do if he is elected president? Does he know? Do you? Is he an extremist or a man of the center? Does he believe that we are all in this together? Or does he really believe that we only need government to fight our wars and keep the land safe for big business -- which he keeps referring to as "small business"? Are we going together into the 21st century or separately back to the days of the Gilded Age when it was every family for itself and a feast for those with the most money and power in our society?
You need look no further for an answer than Mr. Romney's assertion during the debate that he was not, as I said he was, proposing a $5 trillion tax cut. But he is proposing a $5 trillion tax cut. What he apparently meant to say was that his tax cut would be offset by cuts in expenditures. And therein lies the tale.
Mr. Romney professes to be concerned, as I am, about our growing deficit. I pointed out during the debate that Mr. Romney is proposing a $5 trillion tax cut, a return to the tax cuts granted by the Bush administration to the already wealthy, which would cost another $1 trillion, and an increase in the military budget of $2 trillion, an increase, by the way, that the military has not asked for. We all know that, if your costs go up, you have to cover them with an increase in revenue. If your revenue goes down, you have to cover that with a reduction in costs. If you don't do these things, the only way you can reduce revenue and increase expenses is to borrow more money, which means increasing the deficit.
Mr. Romney is proposing to increase cost and decrease revenue for a total of $8 trillion. But he is saying that he will not increase the deficit. Do you know what that means? It means a reduction in expenditures that would destroy much of the social safety net and many other public programs built piece by piece since FDR was president and it would mean the gross reduction or elimination of many services that virtually all Americans have taken for granted for decades. I am talking about maintaining our national parks, providing the technology needed keep our commercial aircraft from crashing into one another, providing loans to our college students, making sure the Coast Guard is there to rescue you when your boat catches fire, helping out families whose wage earners have lost their jobs, supporting the research that produces new drugs for deadly diseases and much more. Big Bird is just the beginning.
I encourage you to look at the arithmetic. My opponent is very coy. He says that the reason he can't tell you where he is going to make these enormous cuts is that they ought to be result of a process of negotiation with the Democrats. This is horse petuey. The reason he won't tell you where he would make the cuts is the same reason he won't let you see his tax returns for the last 10 years. He doesn't want you to know. He wants you to trust him. Do you trust him? Do you trust this man who clearly has in mind draconian cuts to the national budget but won't tell you where he would make them? His selection of a running mate should tell you what he has not himself told you, because Paul Ryan has not been shy about his intentions. Why do you suppose that the giant banks that nearly sank our entire country with their greed and amoral behavior are backing my opponent to the hilt? You don't suppose, do you, that they expect Mr. Romney to greatly relax the regulations I put in place to prevent the same thing happening again in another few years?
The only way Mr. Romney can keep his latest promises is to return this country to the days of Herbert Hoover, when one Republican administration after another believed that the condition of ordinary citizens was simply not their responsibility, who believed, in the words of a later sage, that what was good for General Motors was good for the country.
These people believe that the people who make the most money in our society are what they call the "job creators." Henry Ford, no socialist for sure, had a more complicated idea. He believed that he would sell more cars if he paid enough to his workers to enable them to buy his cars. The people paying for Mr. Romney's campaign are not the lobby for increasing the minimum wage or the lobby in favor of strong unions that see their job as making sure that the average worker gets his or her share. The fact is that wages in the United States for the average worker have been going down for years even while corporate profits have been increasing and executive salaries have been going through the roof. That is what you get when you put your trust in the hands of the "job creators."
I have news for you and Mr. Romney. Many of the jobs that we lost during the Great Recession are not coming back. The great "job creators" were sitting on enormous piles of cash during the great recession and they invested a lot of it. They did not invest it in jobs here in the United States, however. They invested some of it in jobs overseas where they thought the investment returns were higher, and they invested enormous sums in automating jobs here in the United States. If we wait, as Mr. Romney suggests, for the "job creators" to use their riches to create American jobs, we will wait a long, long time.
The jobs that are gone, the ones that can be done by machines, are the routine jobs. The jobs of the future, the jobs from which the next American industrial revolution will come, are the jobs requiring a great education, very high skills and a big dollop of American creativity. That means that, to succeed, to make the most of what matters most -- our people -- we will have to invest big time in getting our students to much higher levels of achievement. Not so long ago, we had the best education system in the world. Today we are just average. Not so long ago, we had the best-educated work force in the world. Not any more. We have to change that. One key is making sure that we are educating our students to standards as high as any in the world. Not Mr. Romney. He has pledged to end any federal effort to insist on internationally benchmarked standards for our students. His budget plan would cripple federal support to our schools and would do nothing to upgrade the skills of the people currently in the workforce. The time is now. If we do nothing to invest in our people, I can assure you the future will simply pass us by.
Mr. Romney says he wants to put our people back to work. He says the way to do that is to lower taxes on the "job creators," the wealthiest people in our society. Let's not do that. Let's let the taxes on the rich stay what they were in the Clinton administration rather then giving them a big tax break they don't need. Let's not give the military budget a giant a giant increase our military never asked for. And for sure, let's not savage the Coast Guard, the budget for medical research, the money needed to make sure our planes stay aloft, or even Big Bird. We don't need to do those things.
Why not replace our ancient water mains and sewers and bridges, construct a new utility grid that is much more efficient and much more resistant to sabotage from cyber terrorists, modernize our railroads and install a national Internet system faster and more reliable than any in the world? Now is the time, with interest rates lower than they will ever be again in any of our lifetimes. Instead of bombing the federal budget back into the Stone Age to pay for it, we could borrow the money to make this crucial investment. The key to getting our economy moving again is putting our people back to work and growing the economy. Do that and we will get our $4 trillion back with interest, just like we did when we invested in our auto companies when they were down on their luck. With interest rates where they are now, the money would cost us next to nothing. We will never have such an opportunity again. Think of how many people we could put to work with $4 trillion and think of how much more productive this country would be with more efficient transportation, communication and utility systems. With that kind of infrastructure, American business could once again conquer the world.
It is absolutely true that this country has to get its deficit and its budgets under control. But it is not the Coast Guard and Big Bird that is busting the budget. The single biggest driver is swiftly rising health care costs. The Republican solution to that problem is to shift a very large share of those costs to you, the individual, to make you, not Medicare or Medicaid, shoulder those costs. That is what Paul Ryan's budget does. If that happens, you will have less and less to pay for groceries, gas and a roof over your head. If you don't like that answer, try my answer. It is called Obamacare, which contains a whole gaggle of measures to reduce the cost of providing care without curtailing quality of that care, and, not incidentally, provides a remarkable range of new services to women that they have long deserved but never gotten till now. Go take a look.
The Republicans are using the deficit as an excuse to accomplish their real project, which is to radically reduce the size of government in the United States. That is fine for the very rich, who have their own airplanes, their own power supplies, their own security services, their own little enclaves, but it is not fine for the rest of us. Nor is it fine for those rich, like Warren Buffet, who still believe that we have obligations to one another, a sense of community, of fairness and justice.
Go back and look at the numbers, my fellow Americans. Since the end of the Vietnam war, year after year, one administration after another, the Republicans have added much more to the federal deficit than the Democrats. Are these the people you would now trust to reduce the size of the debt our children would have to bear? I repeat, this is not about the deficit. Their talk about the deficit is a smokescreen for demolishing the government, and, in the process, making the lives of most Americans poorer and meaner.
The fact is that American business and American government need each other. Business is our powerhouse. And a thriving private economy is the key to our personal freedoms for which we have fought so hard. But business cannot function without rules and regulations. Mr. Romney says he believes that, but in the next breath says that a key to American prosperity is getting rid of government regulations. Really? Are our memories so short? Have we forgotten why the first Roosevelt, a Republican, drove the Food and Drug Act through the Congress? Have we forgotten the unspeakable things that investigators found in the meatpacking plants that produced this legislation? Do we really think that we have to allow our electric companies to pollute our rivers and streams with acid and poison our children with mercury, in an age when low cost, clean natural gas is on the horizon? Do we really have to allow pipelines to operate here that would almost certainly make it impossible to control the temperature of the earth as sea levels continue to rise and imperil people worldwide who live by the sea? Is there no sense of balance here? I urge you to think about what kind of life you want for your children before you consider doing what is expedient in the short term and deadly for our children and our environment in the long term.
The way to get out of our financial mess is to grow our economy. The way to do that is to invest in our people and in our infrastructure. If I am your next president, that is what I will do. It is what I have been doing. It is what I would have done more of if the opposing party had not put up roadblocks at every turn. Mr. Romney chided me in the first debate because I had not, he said, done as president what he had done as governor of Massachusetts. As governor, he said, he had sat down with the Democratic House and Senate and worked with them to produce sound solutions to the state's problems. To which I say, you were lucky, Mr. Romney, to be dealing with Democrats, people who were willing to sit down with you and work together with you in the interest of the people of Massachusetts. Your crowning achievement was to put in place a health care plan that was the idea of Republican think tanks in Washington, D.C. When I put a virtually identical plan in front of the Republicans in the Congress, they simply refused to consider it, as they have refused to consider virtually all of my proposals. When they could not work their will when they were in the majority, they insisted on misusing the rules of the Senate to frustrate the will of the majority.
I suggest to you, the people of the United States, that the plan put forward by Mr. Romney is the economic plan offered by three Republican presidents in the years preceding the Great Depression and by the Republican president who presided over the onset of the Great Recession. It is the virtually the same plan offered by the current conservative government in Britain, which has now gone back into recession. The International Monetary fund has just announced a new set of projections for the leading industrial economies. They say that the United States is the only economy likely to enjoy reasonable growth this next year, among all the industrial economies. But all bets are off we adopt the policies recommended by my opponent. If you want a president who believes enough in you to invest in you and your future now, then vote for me. If you want a president who appears to want to go back to the policies of Herbert Hoover and George W. Bush, go for it, but don't blame me when the roof comes crashing down.
In the last 40 years of presidential politics, Democrats have often derided their Republican rivals as jokers and buffoons. But they have never before laughed in their faces on national TV. In that sense, Joe Biden made history with his weird, wired performance in the vice-presidential debate""but he did so in a way that could easily damage the Obama campaign. Though Americans eventually came to respect Gerald Ford for his decency and honor, the Carter campaign and its media allies happily mocked him as a dunce (despite his degree from Yale Law School) and a stumblebum. Carter...
Tonight Democrats got the show they wanted - and President Obama may have gotten the boost he needed. Appearing in Danville, Kentucky on Thursday night, Vice President Joe Biden gave one of the most aggressive, passionate, and substantive debate performances I can recall. I don’t know how it played with the public as a whole and I don’t imagine it influenced swing voters one way or the other. If I had to bet, the media will spend at least as much discussing Biden’s facial expressions as they will dissecting the exchange over Iran.
DANVILLE, Ky. –- Joe Biden did everything President Barack Obama did not last week, and a good bit more.
The vice president dominated the spotlight in the only debate between himself and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), charging at Republican Mitt Romney's running mate from the get-go and bombarding him with a flurry of eye rolls, interjections and accusations.
What it accomplished among undecided voters, if anything, is hard to tell and will take days to sort out. Two instant surveys of Americans watching the debate -- one by CBS, one by CNN -- showed mixed results. But since vice presidential debates often have a negligible impact on the overall race anyway, Biden's sometimes over-the-top performance probably accomplished what he appeared intent on doing: rallying the Democratic base after Obama's woeful debate performance last week.
Obama, at least, was cheered by the offensive.
"I'm going to make a special point of saying that I thought Joe Biden was terrific tonight," the president told reporters after stepping off Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, on his way back to the White House after a day of campaigning in Florida.
Biden looked as if he could barely stay in his seat for much of the night, interrupting Ryan repeatedly and sometimes making it difficult for the GOP nominee to get out his answers.
“He had his Red Bull. He certainly had his caffeine,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said after the debate.
It was a performance by the vice president guaranteed to amp up -– and buck up -– worried Democrats, who had fallen into a paralysis of anxiety after the president's debate. No one represented that Democratic angst more than blogger Andrew Sullivan, a supporter of the president.
Obama adviser David Axelrod said "Andrew is a unique thinker, and I can't speak for how he might react to this. I hope he is [reassured]," Axelrod said, adding that he had "high regard for [Sullivan] by the way."
Sullivan, for the record, called the night "a solid win for Biden" and called Ryan "competent."
The Obama campaign team, in the spin room after the debate, focused on repeating the theme that, as Axelrod said, Biden showed "passion" and that he showed "a great concern for the middle class." Passion was the thing Obama lacked last week, and Romney surprised the president and Democrats by talking constantly about how his policies would help the middle class.
By contrast, Romney operatives in the spin room said Ryan clearly won on substance and composure while Biden devolved into fits of laughter and audible groans.
“I think the way the vice president handled himself was condescending,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah). “He was constantly interrupting and trying to talk over people. When my 11-year-old tries to do that at the dinner table, it’s not tolerated.”
Democrats were intent Thursday night to steal back any edge Romney might have deprived them of in being the party who can appeal to working class and blue-collar voters, and to any voter who considers themselves middle class, which is a large number.
"These guys discovered the phrase 'middle class' during the last six months on the campaign trail," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md), who has sparred with Ryan on the House Budget Committee for years and who played Ryan in debate preparation with Biden.
Though it was Biden at the center of attention and who made it hard for Ryan to get in a word edgewise at times, the 42-year old kept his composure for much of the night and got in some well-aimed shots at the vice president, who at 69 is his senior by 27 years. Ryan seemed focused more on winning over moderate and independent voters who are still making up their minds, less than a month before the election.
The night's 90-minute debate, the only one for the two vice presidential candidates, fluctuated between domestic policy and foreign policy, with ABC's Martha Raddatz, a reporter with vast foreign policy experience, asking numerous questions about events overseas.
But the number one goal for Biden all night was obvious from the outset: push back. Hard. It was the number one thing that Democrats had said Obama should have done last week, and it foreshadowed how the president will approach next Tuesday's debate with Romney, the second of three debates for the two men running for president.
After Ryan finished his opening statement, responding to a question about the death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya in a terrorist attack in Benghazi a month ago, Biden responded: "That's a bunch of malarkey."
"Not a single thing he said is accurate," Biden said.
At times, Biden repeatedly butted in on Ryan's answers, refusing to let Ryan finish his thought. If it were anyone other than Biden, who is treated by the press as a lovable, half-crazy uncle, he would have been labeled insufferable. Instead, he got the aggressive label.
Republicans thought it was much more than that. Republican National Committee spokesman Tim Miller called Biden “unhinged.”
Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom tweeted: “Ryan: serious, sober, steady. Biden: smirking, mocking, immature.”
Some of the more experienced Republicans tried to resist talking about Biden’s behavior, knowing it would come across as complaining.
“Most people probably found the vice president’s performance a little -- well anyway, I think that people will judge for themselves,” said Ed Gillespie, one of the top advisers to Romney and one of the most seasoned Republican operatives in politics.
But not even Gillespie, when he was asked by a reporter where he was going before he cut himself off, could resist getting some digs at Biden.
“I don't know if his staff didn't brief him or not, but somebody should have told him that these debates are split-screen,” Gillespie said.
“There seemed to be some frustration on his part at times, and sometimes I got the impression that he couldn't defend the facts as they were, [so] raise your voice a little louder,” Gillespie said.
The Obama campaign, of course, relished in Republicans’ focus on Biden’s behavior instead of the substance of his remarks.
"Their side is all spending their time talking about laughing and facial tics," said Obama campaign manager Jim Messina. "You're going to do that when you've lost a debate. And that's what happened tonight: they lost the debate."
Of course, Biden was so demonstrative, so outsized, that it was hard to talk about anything else.
Biden did another thing Obama did not a week ago. He raised the issue of Romney’s comments at a fundraiser in May in which he talked disparagingly about people who receive government benefits, claiming that he could “never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
One of Ryan’s best one-liners came when he sought to explain these comments.
Ryan first told a humanizing story about Romney caring for a family whose children were in a car crash, a story clearly prepared to push back against the portrait of Romney as out of touch and uncaring. And he then added: “With respect to that quote, I think the vice president very well knows that sometimes the words don't come out of your mouth the right way.”
Although there were extended portions of the debate that focused on Libya, Syria, and Afghanistan, Biden and Ryan did engage in a lengthy back-and-forth in the middle of the debate on Medicare and tax policy.
Ryan was, as usual, knowledgeable and in command of the facts. But Biden, as expected, attempted to plow him over with broadsides.
“Stop talking about how you care about people. Show me something. Show me a policy,” Biden said.
Ryan smiled, and continued to work through a data-filled argument, mentioning the $831 billion stimulus, an 8 percent unemployment rate for 43 months, the 1.3 percent growth rate of the economy, the $90 billion for green energy programs in the stimulus, and the 12 million jobs he and Romney say their economic program would create.
Biden didn’t worry so much about numbers. Biden’s argument on Medicare was aimed at voters’ guts, much more so than minds. He acknowledged that Romney’s Medicare plan would not cost seniors an extra $6,400 a year, despite the claim in a recently launched Obama campaign ad.
The $6,400 figure is based on a study of one of Ryan’s earlier plans for Medicare, which he has since changed to make it more bipartisan.
Biden, aware of this, told voters they should be suspicious somebody “who would actually put in motion a plan that … added $6,400 a year more to the cost of Medicare?”
“Now they got a new plan: ‘Trust me, it's not going to cost you any more,’” Biden said. “Folks, follow your instincts on this one.”
Joe Biden: On ending the war in Iraq, "Gov. Romney said that was a tragic mistake, we should have left 30,000 troops there."
The vice presidential debate started off with questions about the Obama administration’s handling of the lethal attacks on the Libyan consulate in September 2012. Vice President Joe Biden sought to portray the commander-in-chief as ever-mindful of threats to the country as he answered questions from moderator Martha Raddatz. "When you're looking at a president, Martha, it seems to me that you should take a look at his most important responsibility. That's caring for the national security of the country. And the best way to do that is take a look at how he's ...>> More
Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican congressman running for U.S. Senate, said Wednesday he had not and would not sign the no-tax pledge from Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, even though the group says he already signed.
"The only pledge I'd sign is a pledge to sign no more pledges," Flake said at a debate with Democrat Richard Carmona and Libertarian Marc Victor. "We've got to ensure that we go back and represent our constituents in a way -- I believe in limited government, economic freedom, individual responsibility. I don't want higher taxes. But no more pledges."
Flake is listed as one of the 279 signers of the pledge against new taxes on the website of Americans for Tax Reform. The pledge is a promise to voters to "ONE, oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rate for individuals and business; and TWO, oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates."
But it often gets in the way of legislation, because any attempt to raise revenue can be interpreted as a tax increase -- putting pledge-signers in the awkward position of either thwarting debt-reduction efforts or breaking their word.
The debate showed an effort to shift toward the center for both Flake and Carmona. Flake emphasized his willingness to work with both parties, even though his record shows him consistently voting with his party. He said he is not a member of the Tea Party, although he is proud to have the conservative group's support.
Flake said he worked with Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) on immigration issues, but offered no legislation on the subject. Flake voted against the Dream Act, which would provide legal status to some undocumented young people, but said he supports a "version" of the Dream Act that would give states the option of charging in-state tuition prices to undocumented immigrants instead of out-of-state tuition. He is struggling with Arizona Latino voters, who by and large support immigration reform.
Carmona, meanwhile, emphasized his long history as an independent, saying he became a Democrat for this election because the Republican Party has gone so far right. He said he hopes to go bring change to the Senate.
Carmona said he would have voted against Obamacare as the law stands now, and would have instead encouraged Congress and the president to make adjustments. Republicans quickly pointed out that the statement contradicts previous statements that he would have supported health care reform, although he did say earlier that he would have wanted changes. Carmona said he stands behind the principle of health care for all, but does not view single-payer health care system as workable.
"The way it is, if the president and Congress was not willing to change it, I wouldn't have voted for it as is," Carmona said. "And the reason is I believe that it's unsustainable in the long run. ... But I'm fully behind the aspiration to make sure that every American has access to a basic set of health care benefits."
Priorities USA Action: Says Romney wants to "take away early childhood education, slash K-12 funding, and cut college aid … to pay for a $250,000 tax break for multi-millionaires."
A new super PAC ad accuses Mitt Romney of pushing deep cuts in education to finance a tax cut for the wealthy. The ad from Priorities USA Action, which supports President Barack Obama, shows images of children playing, along with these words: "Take away his toys, and he’ll play with a stick. Take away their bikes, and they’ll still find a way to get where they’re going. But if you take away early childhood education, slash K-12 funding and cut college aid for middle class families, they won’t go far. Yet that’s ...>> More