Thursday, December 6, 2012

About A Change In My Blogging

      Given the opportunity to write frequently for The Huffington Post, I will be doing so now on a regular, but not daily basis.  My columns can be accessed by clicking onto the words Huffington Post just to the left on this web page,  or via www.huffingtonpost.com/william-laney

 This "Homeless Isn't Hopeless" space will remain active for access to previous "Homeless Isn't Hopeless"  columns in the archives.

Thanks, as always, for your interest.

Best,    Bill

Friday, November 9, 2012

The American Electorate -- No Rest For The Weary

     Is there anyone in these United States of America who hasn't had enough politics for a while?

I think not.  There is a nationwide need for time off from talk by pundits and politicians; time off from thoughts of  policies, proposals, and positions.

So how much time off do we have between the election cycle just ended, and the start of the next?

All of five days.

Less than a week after election day 2012, the first move by a probable 2016 presidential candidate will be made in Iowa--always the state with the first event of the primary season,

 Florida's junior U.S. Senator, Marco Rubio, will speak there during what will be only the first of  many visits to the Hawkeye state over the next four years.

Expect New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and former Florida Governor, Jeb Bush, to soon make it a trio of Republican presidential hopefuls piling up frequent flyer miles in and out of Iowa.

It will be interesting to see how soon Democratic presidential possibilities Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton find reason--in actuality an excuse--to make the same trip.  And most likely there will be any number of "new" Democratic and Republican presidential wannabes testing the waters and perhaps expanding the field. 

The race for The White House--the 2016 edition--begins Monday.  Enjoy  the time off.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Charlie Crist -- 2014's Comeback Kid?

     Seeing Charlie Crist serve as an energetic, enthusiastic surrogate for President Obama in the waning days of the presidential campaign tells me we may soon be witness to another change of political allegiance by the former Republican Florida governor.

Now operating as an independent, Crist could quite possibly effect a return to prominence and power were he to join the Democratic party.

Charlie Crist fell out of favor in GOP circles when he embraced Barack Obama--literally and figuratively--when, as Governor, he met with the President to voice his approval of the controversial  federal stimulus program. 

 That act of "treason" caused the Republican party to favor Marco Rubio over Crist in a subsequent primary fight for a U.S. Senate seat.  Charlie Crist lost that bid, and his political career seemed to be over.

Meanwhile, Florida's current Republican Governor, Rick Scott, faces a difficult reelection campaign in 2014.  His woeful job approval polling numbers and his personal unpopularity left him ostracized during the presidential campaign,  Mitt Romney appeared with him but once in 11 months.

Pitting Crist--still popular with Floridians--against Scott in the race for governor in 2014 makes sense--for Crist and for the Democratic party.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I Won't Soon Forget Those Long Lines Of Voters

     Each presidential election has its memorable moments.  For me, there is one 2012 happening that stands out from the rest, and which I definitely won't forget.

It was late afternoon on Friday, four days  before election day, and my lady friend, Carol, and I were about to enter "Harry's" in downtown Gainesville.

First, however, we became engaged in conversation with two young ladies,  at a sidewalk table,  who had just come from casting their votes--doing so under Florida's early voting program. 

Across the street, a long, long line of voters stretched from the entrance to the Board of Elections to around the corner and well down the block.  The line moved painfully slow, and the wait was not minutes, but hours.  And therein was something that made that long, long line memorable.

Florida has suffered this election from well-documented and oft discussed voter suppression.  Voter rolls have been subjected to a questionable and controversial purging.  Early voting days have been cut in half.

That intended obstacle has been overcome, however, by voter determination--the willingness to do whatever it takes to be able to cast a vote.

There was no grumbling in that long, long line--during that long, long wait.  There was only an air of what I would call happy defiance.

Monday, November 5, 2012

About The Winner & Loser Come Wednesday

     We are scant hours from election day, 2012,  and soon--finally--it will all be over.

For one of our presidential candidates, the results will be the cause of nearly inconsolable sorrow,  and will almost certainly mean the abrupt end to a political career.

One of them--Barack Obama or Mitt Romney--will exit the publc arena with cancelled dreams--tortured by thoughts of what might have been.

The thunderous ovations from adoring, massive crowds on Monday, will be but a melancholy memory as of Wednesday.

The loser will, however, have a choice of paths to follow.  He can fade into relative obscurity--retiring from public life.  Or he can follow the lead of defeated presidential candidates John McCain and John Kerry and continue to serve his country.

For the winner tomorrow, a myriad of challenges awaits.  But,  those challenges are also opportunities, and hopefully the President-elect will seize them and carry us forward.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Early Voting Should Be Expanded -- With The Rules The Same Everywhere

     There's an idea for improving the presidential election process that is gaining support and getting some traction.  Election day should be a national holiday, some say, so as to make it easier for workers to get to the polls.

Bad idea and not necessary,  Another holiday would hurt the economy.  No need to do that.

Instead, make the two weeks before the first Tuesday in November early voting days--in all 50 states.  Make the dates and the hours and the rules the same everywhere.

Making the process uniform and easier would improve the currently anemic percentage of Americans who vote, and would make for a more enthusiastic electorate,

Saturday, November 3, 2012

How The GOP Of 2012 Will Be Remembered

     Only days before the presidential election, the Grand Old Party is, indeed, a confusing mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

There's a wonderful example of the good that is emanating from the unfolding, tragic aftermath of hurricane Sandy,  It's often sharp-tongued Republican Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey being effusive in his praise of Barack Obama for his handling of this historic natural disaster.

Christie is a strong, vocal supporter of Republican challenger Mitt Romney, and he has been highly critical of President Obama's past performance, policies,  and proposals.

But he is now relating to all who will listen how political opposites can work together in a non-partisan way when the need for cooperation arises,

As Governor of the state hit hardest by Sandy, Christie has been called on for comment by virtually every TV network.  And with each interview about the handling of the crisis, Christie gives credit where credit is due, and no one is given more credit than the President.

Noteworthy,  also, is Christie.s appreciation for the speedy assistance provided by the federal government, in general, and FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), in particular.

Coming near the end of a bitter presidential election cycle, Governor Christie's words are most welcome.  Something good about the Republican party.  Something  encouraging for America.  Perhaps even something hopeful for the gridlock in Congress.

But while Chris Christie's remarks show the good of the GOP, a bold-faced lie by Mitt Romney  is a sad example of the bad. 

Campaigning in Ohio, Romney has told audiences that a Jeep automobile plant is about to close, with its jobs being outsourced to China.  Even though he has been called out for the lie by the press and the pundits, Romney has doubled down by running  an ad making the same false claim.

And then there is the ugly--the continuing innuendos and suggestive remarks that keep the race card in play.

 John Sununu--former Governor of New Hampshire, and a Romney surrogate--attributed Colin Powell's endorsement of President Obama to their both being men of color.

There is much that is good about the Republican party.   But sadly, the good is being marred by so much that is bad--and ugly,  And that is how the GOP of 2012 will be remembered.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

For Democrats A Beautiful Sound -- The Fat Lady Warming Up

     "It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings", but she's warming up,  and she may as well start warbling now.   This presidential race is over.

At least that is what I take away from a close look at the latest polls--those released yesterday and today, and conducted just prior to the arrival of hurricane Sandy.

There are polls, and then there are polls.  There are left-leaning and right leaning polls, and then there are strictly non-partisan, independent polls, conducted and produced by straight shooters, who have a history of accuracy.

Delving into polls of the latter kind is to see a second term as President for Barack Obama.  Numbers don't lie.

President Obama, who most politicos acknowledge has been assured blue state wins, totaling 237 electoral college votes, from the outset, has been  building a firewall of three mid west battleground states, which--no matter what  happened elsewhere--would get him to the 270 electoral votes needed for victory.

There's Ohio, where the President enjoys a five-point lead,  There's Iowa, where he has widened his lead to six points.  And there's Wisconsin, where his lead is three points.

Should  Obama supporters think the three-point lead in Wisonsin is too close for comfort, they can substitute on their mental tally sheet Virginia, where the President leads by four points.  Then there's Nevada, which is strong for Obama, and trending away from Romney, and which, when combined with New Hampshire, provides further backup.

Important to note, and all the more reason to think the race is over, is  the dwindling number of undecided voters in the President's firewall states--only four percent in Ohio, two percent in Iowa, and three percent in Wisconsin.

The Obama camp doesn't need Florida, but the Sunshine state is up for grabs--currently a statistical tie.

All of this good news for Democrats comes before the national bump for the Democratic ticket that is expected by both parties as a result of the President's impressive handling 0f the hurricane Sandy disaster.

More and more in the days ahead, Democrats will be enjoying the fat lady's singing, as Republicans cover their ears.

 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Romney's Lying & Buying Ain't Working In Ohio

     Those Romney campaign advisers who have been going on TV with predictions of  a surge, and a win, in Ohio can cancel their dreams.

With less than a week to go before election day, the latest polls show President Obama holding onto that same five-point lead he has held for a month, in what, for Romney, is a must-win battleground state.

Moreover, the polls indicate that Romney scare tactics--such as the false claim that Jeep automobile jobs in Ohio  will be outsourced to China during an Obama second term--have backfired.

 The Jeep story has been debunked by pundits and the prying press, and the auto company has come public to lambaste Romney for lying.  And that has cost Romney dearly in what is normally an area of strength--white blue-collar males.

The Republican presidential candidate continues to dump a ton of money into the Buckeye state for TV and radio ads; but apparently to no avail.

Meanwhile, down south, the President is faring better in three important swing states,  He now has a slight lead in Virginia, and he has pulled into a statistical tie with Mitt Romney in North Carolina and Florida.

Could the buying by Romney--the broadcast advertising--be fallling on deaf ears?  Could the lying by Romney--at long last--be catching up with him?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Feeling Sorry For Voters In "Safe" States

    Yesterday, in Gainesville, Florida, where I live, the excitement of a hotly-contested presidential election was in the air--literally.   MSNBC was reporting live--two hours worth--about the record setting early voting turnout throughout the Sunshine state.
    It was a carnival atmosphere,  as music blared while long lines of eager voters moved slowly on their way to the ballot box.  Before  and after their visit to the polling place, these Floridians were bombarded at home by the deluge of political ads that now saturate the airwaves.  In this final week before the election, rallies on behalf of the presidential candidates will add to the excitement.
       It's all because Florida is up for grabs. It's a swing state, a battleground state.  It could go red or blue.  It could decide the election.  Hence the attention.

I can't help thiinking how unfair it all is.  Most states--those that the politicians know are safe, those that are already known to be red or blue--do not get to share in the excitement.

There's something wrong with that picture.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

About The President's Olive Branch

     The larger than normal number of comments posted by readers following my Friday column in The Huffington Post tells me something in black and white that does not come as a complete surprise,  An awful lot of people don't agree with my left-leaning point of view, in general, and my presidential preference in particular.

Happily, for me, many of those comments are reassuring in that they let me know there is also a lot of  support for what I wrote.

The column titled, "For Sale Cheap After The Election -- My 19-Inch TV" (in the Politics section October 26) apparently struck a nerve with Republicans and Democrats alike.

The point is that the divided, vociferous response to that column is one more indication to me of the need for our country to come together when this contentious election is over.

President Obama took a step in that direction yesterday when he offered an olive branch to his Republican opposition.  He said that post election--if reelected--he would immediately offer to wash GOP Speaker of the House John Boehner's car, and walk GOP Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's dog.

A little bit of humor that should be taken seriously.  Consider it a step toward the civility, cooperation, and compromise that will be needed to get us safely past the fiscal cliff,

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Election Results Should Mean The Majority Rules

     It is quite possible that incumbent Democratic President Barack Obama will win a second term in The White House despite a majority of Americans preferring Republican challenger Mitt Romney.   

That's because the only voting that counts is that of the electoral college, where each state has a total of votes based on the number of U.S. Representatives and Senators.

Personally, I would be happy with an Obama win however it comes about; and for the Democrats to win the election without winning the popular vote would be poetic justice.  It would be payback for the presidential election of 2000, when the Republicans and George W. Bush won The White House while losing the popular vote.

But the archaic system that has our presidential election decided by electoral college voting should be replaced by a nation-wide popular vote.  It is entirely unfair--and ridiculous--for Ohio and Florida and a handful of other toss up states to,  election after election,  get all the attention from the presidential candidates.

Switching to a popular vote would assure that the majority rules and that presidential candidates would have to consider the best interests of all of the states.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

An Election Reform Wish List

     It seems as though most everyone finds one fault or another with our presidential election process.  I find five.

My handful of suggested changes in the way we elect our president is as follows:

1.  Have one national primary election day in the late spring of the election year.  All states same day.

2.  Initiate a constitutional amendment to put a cap on the amount of money that any one individual or corporation or organization can contribute to a candidate and require full disclosure of each transaction including name of donor.  Ban all political advertising except that which is paid for by the candidate.and place a cap  on the amount that can be spent during the campaign.  Authorize Congress to set the amount of the caps prior to each election year.

3.  Have the same dates and rules for early voting in all 50 states.

4.  Schedule all debates prior to the start of early voting.

5.  Elect the President by popular vote.  

Monday, October 22, 2012

Let Me Say Again -- It's Over -- It's Obama

     Listen to the vast majority of political pundits and you are led to believe that the presidential contest is a real horse race--neck to neck approaching the finish line.  A lot of those pundits see the Republican challenger inching past the incumbent President..

Hogwash!  It has been, it is, and it will be President Obama winning a second term. 

In recent days, the "experts" have claimed to see a tightening in the polls.  They say they see momentum on Romney's side.  

So what?  The most important thing to consider is not a word.  Not "tightening".  Not "momentum".  The most important thing to consider is a number--270.  And Barack Obama has a lock on enough electoral college votes to exceed that number on election day.

The pundits, the press, and partisans of both parties have long acknowledged that 237 votes have been safely in the blue column almost from the outset.  Then came those polls of late September that showed the President leading by eight points in Iowa.  And that was it.  Game over.

On September 25, I wrote words to that effect in The Huffington Post.  That column, titled, "The Importance of Iowa",  pointed out that the six electoral votes of the Hawkeye state increased the President's total to 243.  Add Wisconsin's 10, and Ohio's 18, and there you are--271.

Show me where there is a  tightening or significant momentum in any of these three states.  Figures don't lie and where we were September 25 is where we are now.   And where we are now is where we will be when the polls close November 6.

It's over.  It's Obama.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Shocking Presidential Endorsement

     It's that point in time--a couple of weeks before election day--when America's newspapers take sides and endorse one of the presidential candidates.

In Florida, a Tampa paper says vote for President. Obama.  An Orlando paper says no, go with Romney.  Out west, the Denver Post has just endorsed the President.

There will be many more to come, but no endorsement will be more shocking than that of The Salt Lake City Tribune, which has just recommended a second teerm for the President, saying that Mitt Romney should not be president.

That embarrassing slap down is not the only problematic Romney rejection.   He is losing in his home state of Massachusetts iby landslide numbers.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Obscene Waste Of A Billion Dollars

     To this point in time in the presidential election of 2012, some $800 million has been spent to promote the candidacies of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.  And by election day that figure is expected to exceed one billion dollars.

Is it possible that some day soon, sanity will return to the political process, and leaders wiser than those we have now will put a cap on political spending?

Is it possible that some day a sizable portion of that billion dollars will go to better purpose--say research to prevent or cure Alzheimer's disease?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

47 & 30 -- The Numbers Don't Lie

     While the Republican presidential duo of Romney & Ryan continue to lie, some important numbers don't. The numbers of 47 and 30 tell a true story that is alarming because of what they signify.

It's not just the Dems who are increasingly hollering foul as the GOP ticket continues to mouth falsehood  after falsehood.  Republican nominee Mitt Romney and sidekick Paul Ryan are being called out for their disregard for veracity by the media, independent fact-checkers, and even members of their own party.

There are so many examples of compulsive lying by Romney and Ryan that it would take much more than the space of a single day's column to chronicle them.

Perhaps the one that troubles me most is Mitt Romney's misuse of  a navy seal's death for political gain.

Romney claimed--emotionally--on the campaign trail over a period of 48 hours that he had been close to one of the victims of the attack on the U.S. consulate in eastern Libya.  There was, for many, an air of hyperbole in the telling.

Then came a plea by the victim's mother for Romney to cease and desist from using her dead son to disparage President Obama and further his own presidential ambitions.

 Her request was followed by a statement from a close friend of the victim denying Romney's version of the story.  The friend went so far as to say that the navy seal Romney was misusing had only briefly met Romney--and didn't like him.

Then there's the old adage that numbers don't lie.  Mitt Romney has infamously said that "my job is not to worry about those people"--those people being those who don't pay federal income tax.  Paul Ryan recently  said that 30 percent of Americans are "takers".

The 47 and 30 numbers include millions of Americans on social security and millions of armed services men and women--many of whom are currently risking their lives in Afghanistan.

Both Romney and Ryan are now claiming that they are for 100 percent of the people.  But the numbers don't lie, and the 47 and 30 remarks are on tape for all to see and hear.

Friday, October 12, 2012

About Last Night's Vice Presidential Debate

     There was much food for thought provided by the trio of participants in Thursday evening's Vice Presidential debate;  and much of that will be covered in next week's overall presidential campaign update for The Huffington Post, after Tuesday's second presidential debate.

But some observations taken from last night's event deserve mention in the here and now.  "Breaking news", as the cable news outlets say to ad nauseam.

Perhaps the most unusual and important aspect of the debate is the fact that there were, indeed, three participants.  As moderator,  ABC's Martha Raddatz went beyond the call of duty in magnificent fashion, as she interjected herself into the proceedings,  insisting on answers,  and pressing for specifics.

Joe Biden performed admirably if you are an Obama supporter; but he was a pain in the butt if you are a Romney fan.  On both style and substance, he was clearly the winner.

Paul Ryan managed to get across a couple of interesting points of view--most noteworthy his criticism  of embassy security in Libya.  But even here, he was thwarted by Biden's reminder that Ryan was instrumental in the Congressional slashing of the Obama administration's request for embassy security funding. 

The Congressman also got in a couple of zingers, but these came off as rehearsed sound bites.   And some of his answers, or lack of answers, set up some problems for Mitt Romney, come the next presidential debate..

The Republican ticket's continuing refusal to give specifics on its economic game plan is one area sure to be exploited by President Obama.  And Paul Ryan's handling of the abortion and medicare issues could spell real trouble for Mitt Romney next Tuesday, and beyond.

In the first presidential debate, the President listened and "learned" , as Mitt Romney reversed his position on major issues.  Look for Barack Obama this time around to be the teacher.

President Obama will fare best if CNN's Candy Crowley moderates like Martha Raddatz--seeking the truth, and demanding answers.  Mitt Romney is surely hoping that she adopts, instead,  the easy-going style of Jim Lehrer.

In the final analysis, last night's debate will likely change little in the race for The White House.   It's still all about Ohio, and everything there continues to go the President's way.

One out of five Ohio voters has already cast a ballot, and two out of three of those has voted for Barack Obama.  Swing states Iowa and Wisconsin also appear to be safely blue. and that means that sooner rather than later, it is game over.  That's the fat lady you hear warming up in the wings.

As for Republicans who have hopes of a Harry Truman type upset, they had best get ready to cancel their dreams.  Political science, like all of science, has come a long way since 1948.
 











Sunday, September 30, 2012

Questioning Romnney Strategy

     The Romney presidential campaign owns the airwaves in Florida.  The frequency of his TV ads is driving Floridians to distraction.

In fact, some folks are complaining about the saturation, the repetition, to the point that there is talk of a backlash that could cost the GOP nominee votes.

I doubt that will happen.  Even those who complain the most and the loudest about the commercials may very well be swayed by them.  One thing is certain, the ads are too numerous not to be on voters' minds.

 I do question the wisdom of the message selected for the preponderance of Romney TV ads.  Most are about China, which is not foremost in the minds of most voters--especially in Florida.

What is most important to Floridians is the economy, and then medicare, and after that, immigration; and the President is favored over Romney to handle all three issues.

It would seem as though that is where Romney's money should go.

China???

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Five Weeks To Go -- And All Eyes Are On Ohio

     No Republican presidential candidate has won The White House without winning the state of Ohio since Heaven knows when;  and it will take some hurry-up help from above to save Mitt Romney from losing the Buckeye state--and the election--this year.

With all of this week's polls showing President Obama leading his challenger by anywhere from five to ten percentage points, and the internal numbers all going the President's way, it would seem as though it would take a minor miracle for Romney to capture Ohio's 18 electoral collage votes.

The odds are against a sufficient closing of the gap for a variety of reasons.  First, the polling has been trending toward the President and his approval rating has climbed to 50 percent, while Mitt Romney's popularity has been plunging.

Two miscues continue to haunt Romney in Ohio.  There's the "47 percent" debacle that is adversely affecting Romney everywhere; and there's "the miners mistake" that is especially damaging in Ohio. 

A group of Beallsville, Ohio coal miners are airing complaints about the GOP candidate that have resonated state wide.  The miners lost a day's pay when they made a mandatory appearance, and acted as a backdrop for TV cameras, at a Romney rally.  They felt used--in more than one sense of the word--by Mitt Romney.

The really big problem for Romney in Ohio, however, is his opposition to the auto industry bailout at the height of the great recession.  One in eight Buckeye state workers is employed directly or indirectly by the auto industry, and to these folks, Barack Obama saved their jobs and is, therefore, their hero.

Add in the facts that the unemployment rate in Ohio is lower than the national average, and voters there are more optimistic about the economic outlook than other parts of the country.

In-person voting begins in Ohio Tuesday, and the timing is better for the Obama campaign in that the President can "bank" votes while surging in popularity.

And as if all this wasn't enough to keep the Romney boys in Boston awake at night, an Associated Press report--out today--definitely will.

According to the AP, if President Obama wins Ohio, as now appears likely, he can lose the swing states of Nevada, Colorado,  Virginia--and even the biggest battleground prize, Florida--and still win the election.

 

  

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Best "Decider" -- Obama Or Romney?

     The most important question of this presidential election year is an obvious, generic one:  Who is best qualified to be Commander In Chief ?

To answer that question requires an opinion as to who is likely to make the best decisions once in office.  And reaching that conclusion is accomplished by looking at the aftermath of important decisions that have been made to date by our incumbent Democratic President Barack Obama, and by his Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

One very important and revealing example of  decision making is the selection of vice presidential candidates--running mates who, if elected,  would be the proverbial heartbeat away from the presidency.

Four years ago, Barack Obama tapped U.S. Senator Joe Biden for his running mate.  Seldom has the person chosen to run for the office of vice president brought a better resume to the presidential ticket. 

His more than three decades in Congress had given him valuable experience and expertise in both domestic and foreign affairs.  And his propensity for coming out with what critics often consider the wrong thing to say was, and is, part of the total honesty and personality plus that have made Joe Biden so popular with constituents, Congressional colleagues, the American electorate, and world leaders.

Since becoming Vice President, Joe Biden has executed the duties of his office in admirable fashion and has been as involved in, and valuable to, the workings of the executive branch of government as anyone in history.   He is well-known and well regarded around the globe.  And most important, Joe Biden is well qualified to become president should the need arise.

 Barack Obama's choice of Joe Biden to become his running mate, and vice president, was an excellent decision.

This election year, Mitt Romney tapped Congressman Paul Ryan for his running mate.  Seldom has the person chosen to run for the office of vice president brought a weaker resume to a presidential ticket.

 Zero business background.  Zero foreign policy or national security experience.  Little known beyond his Congressional district.  Completely unknown abroad.  An uncompromising, divisive member of Congress.

Paul Ryan's only claim to fame at the time of his selection was his now infamous economic plan that has been faulted by most independent analysts, including the non-partisan Congressional budget office.

Ryan was thought by Romney to be able to deliver his home state of Wisconsin, and its 10 electoral votes.  But it's not happening.  Wisconsin is now projected to be safely in the Obama column.

Paul Ryan definitely has a way with words, but in his case, that is not an asset.  His propensity for lying kept the fact checkers busy, and the media buzzing, after his acceptance speech.  His continuing outrageous claims and distortion of the truth have cost him credibility with voters.

Especially damaging was his appearance at the AARP convention in New Orleans,  where his remarks were met with a cascade of boos.  Ryan's national unfavorable rating with the electorate is now higher than his favorable rating.

Mitt Romney's choice of Paul Ryan to become his running mate was a terrible decision   It contradicts Romney's success as a CEO, and raises one more question as to  his decision making were he to become Commander In Chief.

So who is the best "decider"--Barack Obama or Mitt Romney?



Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Fifth Year Of The Obama Presidency

     It's looking more and more like voters will give Barack Obama four more years.

 If so, what will it be like, that second term?   Where will we be as a nation a year from now? 

It's certain to be an eventful 2013--the fifth year of the Obama presidency.  It will be another difficult year in many respects.   Americans, and their elected representatives, will finally be forced to painfully face a myriad of problems that can no longer be kicked down the road.

But next year at this time, we will have survived the fiscal cliff, and we will be seeing a steady, albeit still slow, strengthening of the economy. And we will have made strides toward the balancing of the budget and the reduction of the national debt.

What have I been smoking, you ask?  What makes me think that better days are in the offing?
Won't the fifth year--like the first four under President Obama--be one of acrimonious partisan politics, with nothing getting done, nothing getting resolved?

Well, I don't smoke anything--legal or otherwise.  I just believe that Republicans--yes Republicans--as well as Democrats, will be moved, in great part out of desperation, to get about the people's business after the November 6 presidential election.

Act two of the Obama presidency will be much different than act one.  Barack Obama will not have a sudden change in his convictions, but he will be wheeling and dealing, coaxing and compromising, so as to rack up a list of accomplishments that have long been part of his master game plan.

Some of what he will do may not be popular.  Some of those who support him now may rue the day they voted for him. 

But what he accomplishes will be done with two things in mind--what is best for the American people long term, and how history will judge his presidency.

As for the opposition party, 2013 will be a time of change for Republicans.  Mitt Romney will be forever gone from politics.  Paul Ryan will be viewed as damaged goods--his once highly-touted economic plan discredited, his credibility damaged, his popularity down.

Grover Norquist's no taxes pledge demands of Republicans will be a thing of the past.  The likes of Jeb Bush, who opposes such pledge demands, will quietly, but quickly, provide new GOP leadership.

The inability of the GOP to take back the Senate, and the loss of House seats, along with public pressure to cease and desist from non-compromising obstinacy, will effect a change in attitude among Republican members of Congress.

Yes, 2013 will be a somewhat painful year.  But as they say in body building--no pain, no gain.

And for all Americans, the long term gain in resolving our problems is well worth the short term pain.

 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Random Thoughts Of A Political Nature

     Governors Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, and Chris Christie of New Jersey have taken time off from their home state duties to campaign for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in Iowa.  Their presence in the Hawkeye state has made me more than a little curious on two counts.

 I question why.  I question the wisdom of their spending time in a state that would appear to be already lost.  President Obama's lead is now outside the margin of error and most political pros have moved Iowa from swing state to the Obama column.

 It seems to me that these political pros could make better use of their powers of political persuasion in a battleground state where the decision is still in doubt.

I also question their motives.  Both Jindal and Christie were on the short list for Mitt Romney's running mate, and both have presidential ambitions. Both are almost certain entries in the 2016 presidential sweepstakes if Romney loses November 6.

Iowa has a lock on being the first contest in every primary season, and I have to wonder if these potential presidential candidates went to Iowa to sell themselves as much or more than Mitt Romney.

Still looking for a gaffe-free week, Mitt Romney kept his streak of bloops and blunders ongoing with the "airplane" remark he made after the flight his wife was on made an emergency landing due to a fire on board. 

Well-educated, and definitely an intelligent man, Romney inexplicably bemoaned the fact that windows on planes can not be opened.  And no, he wasn't kidding.

 Republicans have been living a "Murphy's law" life ever since their convention--seemingly nothing but bad news.  The Democrats, meanwhile, have had most everything go their way.

But the Dems could have some big time trouble lurking over the horizon, in the form of all-but-forgotten Monica Lewinsky.  She's shopping for a book deal and the bidding is reportedly up to $12 million.

The Lewinsky story is said to be explosive, with the inclusion of some juicy correspondence.  Making the best-seller lists is a given, and the fallout could influence Hillary Clinton's decision over whether to make a run for The White House in 2016.

President Obama and the Democratic party should thank their lucky stars that a book deal wasn't consummated earlier, and therefore won't be out in time to affect the election.  An earlier release, say mid summer, and Bill Clinton doesn't deliver a convention speech that's a game changer.

Today the Huffington Post picked up another of our election year articles:  "Iowa Just Became More Important".

Monday, September 24, 2012

Political Afterthoughts From The Week That Was

     Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus incredulously told George Stephanopolous on ABC's "This Week" Sunday that the Romney presidential campaign had experienced "a good week". 

Later in the day, Mitt Romney told Scott Pelley on CBS's "60 Minutes" that his campaign was going well, and that he and the President were tied.

Those two attempts to reinvent recent history were an appropriate way to end a wacky week.  Truth be told, it was a very bad week for Romney, and in actuality, he trails President Obama in the polls.  

As for how the week really went for Republicans, in general, and Mitt Romney, in particular, the daily columns of the Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan give a more accurate account.

A Republican herself, she called the Romney people "incompetent" early in the week, and then doubled down at the end of the week--describing the GOP presidential campaign as "a rolling calamity".  But most telling, and damaging, was the distancing from Romney of Congressional candidates.

The really big story to come out of the past week, of course, was the release of a tape showing Mitt Romney dissing 47 percent of all Americans, whom he said considered themselves victims and wanted to remain dependent on the government. His remarks about those who did not pay federal income tax insulted the elderly, the working poor, students, and armed services men and women.

The most interesting, and amusing to some, revelation was that--amidst all the blunders of the past three weeks--already well-paid staffers were rewarded with bonuses totaling $200,000.

The most puzzling thing to me about the last seven days has concerned Mitt Romney's choice of words.  Every time he tries to explain away what he said on that fundraiser tape, he says his remarks could have been more elegant.

Since elegant refers to refinement and grace, I must assume that he really intends to say his remarks could have been more eloquent, which means they could have been better expressed.  With speech writers on the payroll, it is amazing that no one has whispered in Romney's ear about the continuing misuse of a frequently uttered word.

Then, late in the week that was, came a reminder of the obvious--that Mitt Romney never read that book about how to make friends and influence people.  Though trailing badly in the polls among women voters,  he took on and insulted the female hosts of a wildly popular TV show that is targeted to women. 

He said that the ladies of "The View" " were "sharp-tongued women" who were "not conservative"--as though that was a crime.  Romney's remark makes for another case of bad timing.  The President and First Lady are scheduled to appear together on "The View" Tuesday.

What a week it was. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Random Thoughts About The Political Present

     This current election cycle is moving along so quickly, with so much happening each and every day, that it's hard for this political junkie to keep up with it all.

There is neither time nor space to cover everything of interest or importance; so occasionally from now until November 6,  this space will be given to random thoughts about the political present.

One newsworthy item that does not require a full column of commentary is a quote for the ages from Mitt Romney.  The Republican presidential nominee will be forever remembered for derisively stating, "It is not my job to worry about those people".

"Those people" are the 47 percent of the electorate whom Mitt Romney says are dependent on the government and can never be convinced to take responsibility for their lives.   He cites the fact that they pay no federal income tax. 

"Those people" include countless numbers of his own supporters--many of America's white working poor, elderly citizens who have earned their place on social security and medicare rolls, and this nation's veterans, who have paid a heavy price for the government help they now receive.

Romney is said by critics to have done what he has falsely accused President Obama of doing--dividing the country.  The extent of the fallout over Romney's remark is yet unknown, but it could be the proverbial dagger, a self-inflicted fatal wound that the best of debate performances can not heal.

CNN political analyst David Gergen, who has been an advisor to four presidents, and who has written words of praise for Romney in Parade Magazine, said yesterday that Romney's latest blunder means that the President "could win this thing bigger than anyone could ever have imagined".

Another story in today's news that requires little detail concerns the latest polls.  For the first time, the NBC poll has the President now even with Mitt Romney on the question of who can best handle the economy.

On a different subject--but one that has a political connection--the National Climatic Data Center finds that the first eight months of 2012 is the hottest such period in recorded history.  In his convention acceptance speech, Mitt Romney mocked concerns over global warming.

The final random thought for today is nothing new about the political present.  It is merely a reminder about this blog's editorial content.

A column many months ago answered questions about the preponderance of political blogs at the expense of other subjects.  Since then, this space has become devoted almost exclusively to politics.

That is because, in this presidential election year, there is not a subject which is not affected by politics.  Who wins and who loses on all levels of government, and the policies they pursue, affects every area of everyday life.  Post-election, this space will again feature articles on a variety of subjects.

Then there is the matter of this blogger's political preference.  Over the years it's been sometimes Republican; sometimes Democrat--always for whom was perceived to be the best person for the job.  That voting pattern will likely continue in years to come.

But this year, it's no secret.  This blog leans to the left.  This blogger believes that President Obama deserves a second term, and more important, he is the best man for the job for the next four years.




Tuesday, September 18, 2012

It's NOT The Economy, Stupid!

     It  couldn't be said just a couple of weeks ago, but it can be said now.  It definitely isn't the economy.  To say it is, in the light of recent economic news, is to sound stupid.

No, the economy is off the table as an issue Mitt Romney can use to win The White House.  Even two more disappointing jobs reports before election day won't help the Republican challenger.

Americans have come to grips with slow job growth and an unemployment rate hovering near eight percent.  Voters have accepted as a sad fact of life that coming all the way back from the depths of the great recession will take years--not months.   

Meanwhile, there is sufficient economic good news to have the electorate thinking it best to stay the course with President Obama at the helm.  CNN reports online today that President Obama's jobs record is actually better than that of George W. Bush, and the proof is there in black and white.

Anyone with a 401K is hollering "hell, yes" when asked about being better off than four years ago.  Stocks are up, way up. over what they were when President Obama took office.  Oil prices have plunged.  Signs of recovery have replaced predictions of doom and gloom.

So with the election just seven weeks from today, Mitt Romney needs a new issue to campaign on.  To attack President Obama over the economy would be--well, just plain stupid.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Romney -- Pressure From His Peers And The Polls

     It seems like every week in the past 30 days has appeared in advance to be a really big week, a most important  week, a break out week,  for Mitt Romney.  But each and every one of those recent weeks has come and gone with naught but major disappointment.

There was the week when the announcement of a running mate was supposed to put a charge into the Romney campaign.  It didn't happen.  The selection of Paul Ryan, in fact, hindered, as much as helped the GOP presidential ticket.

Then came the week of the Republican National Convention, when Mitt Romney was to be humanized, and shown to be a lovable leader.  It didn't happen.  The lies of Paul Ryan and the failure of Mitt Romney to mention our troops are what is remembered most about the GOP acceptance speeches.

And then came last week's tragedy in Libya, and the turmoil in Egypt, when the Romney/Ryan team saw what they thought was an opening, an opportunity,  to bolster their foreign affairs standing with the electorate.  Instead, their reaction drew a wave of rebukes from the press, the pundits, and politicians--even some from their own party.

And now, here we are at the start of another "big" week.  The boys in Boston who run the Republican presidential campaign tell us that they spent the weekend developing a fresh approach that they will try out beginning today.  New ads. New emphasis on the economy.

They are correct in thinking that something had to be changed.  They are political pros who can see that their nominee is in trouble.  Pressure is mounting from both peers and polls.

The list is long of Republicans--especially conservatives--who are becoming more vocal in their criticism of Mitt Romney--the candidate and the person.  Joe Scarbrough--himself a Republican--rattled of  a number of Romney detractors on MSNBC this morning.

  Meanwhile, the polls show alarming trends that are more ominous than the numbers themselves. And those polls were taken prior to Mitt Romney's mishandling of his response to events overseas.

So, yes, something needs to be done--something that will stem the tide that threatens to wash away realistic hope long before November 6.  The new ads might help.  Concentrating on the economy might help.

But there is something else the Romney/Ryan campaign might want to try.  How about a little more honesty.  I suggested this in Saturday's blog titled, "Memo To Mitt -- Thou Shalt Not Lie".

And last night,  Don Lemon, an anchor for CNN's weekend "Newsroom", launched a blistering attack on Mitt Romney over his propensity for lying.  It came during commentary relating to the GOP nominee's controversial reaction to the recent events in Libya and Egypt.

Lemon deplored what he called "a rush to judgement", and the false accusation that the Obama administration sympathizes with those who are attacking America's embassies. Lemon did not mince words.  He employed the correct one--saying that Mitt Romney was "lying".

Don Lemon predicted that Mitt Romney "dealt a major blow to his campaign".    I agree.











 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Memo To Mitt -- Thou Shalt Not Lie

     Most political campaigns--Republican and Democratic alike--have their fair (or unfair) share of little white lies and distortions.

But the Romney/Ryan campaign is something else--it must surely be setting a new high for the number of "pants on fire" claims, and a new low for credibility.

And the GOP truth-stretching modus operandi will continue right up to election day; for as one of Mitt Romney's advisors defiantly declared, the Republican campaign will not let itself be affected by the critical comments of fact checkers.

Hopefully, though, those fact checkers will indeed,  have an effect on the way the electorate views the Republican presidential ticket.  Hopefully, voters will begin taking Romney/Ryan claims with a grain of salt.

Yesterday, a neighbor asked me about something Mitt Romney said this week at a rally in Ohio.  My neighbor wanted to know if it was true that President Obama had run up almost as much debt in his first term as all other American Presidents combined.

My neighbor was referring to an emphatic statement by Mitt Romney that our national debt under President Obama had increased by six trillion dollars in less than four years; while all of his predecessors over more than two hundred years had accrued ten trillion in debt.

The facts are that twelve years ago a Republican President--George W. Bush--took office with a surplus.  Ten trillion dollars in national debt then came under his watch.  And a large part of the six trillion incurred in the last four years was due to two wars and a tax cut for the wealthy and the great recession--all of which had their beginnings during the Bush presidency.

My neighbor walked away shaking his head.  Hopefully, there are are many more voters like my neighbor who are hearing the truth, and shaking their heads.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Dems Are Winning This Political Chess Match

     Michelle Obama is coming to town.  She will be speaking at the University of Florida here in Gainesville on Monday.

The other half of America's first couple will also be in Florida next week, as the President makes appearances at rallies in Tampa and Miami.  And Vice President Joe Biden--as well as other surrogates--will be at Florida rallies in the week ahead.

But with the President now leading his Republican challenger by five points in the latest polls of Florida voters, some pundits are questioning the wisdom of devoting so much valuable time and personal attention to the Sunshine State--time and attention that could be spent in some of the other battleground states.

At this point in time, however,  there is no more important state than Florida and its 29 electoral votes.  Should Mitt Romney lose Florida, it would take a minor miracle for him to win the election.

So with the President's sudden surge in the Florida polls, the Obama campaign team smells blood in the water and is seizing the moment to close in for the kill. They see an opportunity to widen their advantage to an insurmountable lead.

And it's not just the in-person visits that the Obama team is relying on to seal the deal.  There's a most convincing fellow speaking to Floridians multiple times a day via TV--and the Bill Clinton message is resonating well with voters.

This all-out Florida effort by the Dems will dictate strategy for Mitt Romney.  He desperately needs this state, and so he will be forced to spend more valuable time here--pulling him away from Ohio and other swing states where he also trails.

The Obama reelection team is winning this political chess match, and they could soon be calling out to Mitt Romney, "checkmate".

  



Friday, September 7, 2012

Final Thoughts About The Democratic Convention

     The frequent fervent roaring of a raucous partisan crowd is an enduring memory I take away from the Democratic National Convention.

If there ever was an enthusiasm gap problem for the Dems, a baker's dozen of outstanding speakers provided a cure.  The old pros of political conventions, including independent-minded pundits and the press, called some of the speeches among the best ever. 

Near unanimous rave reviews were accorded the addresses of The First Lady, former President Bill Clinton, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, Massachusetts U.S. Senator and former presidential candidate John Kerry,  Illinois congressional candidate and Iraq war heroine Tammy Duckworth,  and Vice President Joe Biden. 

"Workmanlike" is the word most often used to describe the acceptance speech of President Obama, who chose to forego stirring poetic oratory for a more businesslike address.

I was impressed with the patriotism on display throughout those three days in Charlotte.   Loud chants of "USA--USA--USA" erupted spontaneously throughout the proceedings, and the American flags many held seemed never to stop waving.  And then there were those camera shots of tears--genuine displays of emotion in response to the words of the speakers.

The host of MSNBC's "Morning Joe"--Joe Scarbrough--who is a conservative former member of Congress, called the just concluded 2012 Democratic Convention the best convention ever.  I agree.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Paul Ryan -- Asset Or Liability?

     Back on August 18, when Mitt Romney announced that Paul Ryan was his choice for a running mate, the press, the pundits, and the GOP fully expected that the Republican presidential ticket would get a bounce in the polls.  It didn't happen.

Then, on August 28, when the hurricane-delayed Republican National Convention finally got underway, the press,  the pundits, and the GOP all reminded us that the three days of national prime time TV exposure would produce the bounce in the polls that political parties can always expect post convention.  It didn't happen.

Meanwhile, the media--egged on by the Democrats--chastised Paul Ryan for numerous less-than-truthful remarks in his acceptance speech.  But the most embarrassing put down for a false claim had nothing to do with politics.

Paul Ryan does some running as part of his fitness program, and so an interviewer inquired as to his marathon experience.  The GOP vice presidential candidate claimed to have run multiple marathons, but actually participated in only one.

When questioned about his best time, Ryan claimed a finish of under three hours--"in the high twos".
The records show, however, that his time in his only marathon was over four hours.  And that is a slower  time than what Sarah Palin has turned in for a marathon.

Paul Ryan's propensity for falsehoods has already earned him the nickname "Lyin Ryan"--
a moniker that will be a career killer if it sticks.





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Friday, August 31, 2012

Final Thoughts About The GOP National Convention

     Reflecting on the three-day Republican National Convention just concluded, my first thoughts are of the surprises--the happenings that I didn't expect.

I certainly didn't expect the show-stealing performance by Clint Eastwood.  And I didn't expect to see him looking, sounding and acting older than his 82 years.

 His bizarre behavior gets a pass from me because I have to believe--perhaps it's more like I want to believe--that senility or something even more sinister was responsible.  This was not the Clint Eastwood America knows and loves.

I didn't expect to come away from this convention feeling better about Mitt Romney the man, the human being.  But I've learned a lot about his good side, and I now find myself  excusing such incidents as teenage bullying and pet mistreatment as character imperfections--which we all have. 

I didn't expect Mitt Romney to do as well as he did with his acceptance speech.  He was poised, but being under control didn't keep him from an impressive, forceful delivery.  I only wish he had been more honest.

I didn't expect Mr. Romney to continue his distortions of the truth.  I thought that the fact checkers criticism of Paul Ryan's speech would make him more cautious.  But false statements such as the claim that President Obama would raise taxes on the middle class were sprinkled throughout the address.

I didn't expect the excessive self promotion that so many of the speakers shamefully displayed.  It was as though Mario Rubio,  Chris Christie,  and Rick Santorum were selling themselves to America's voters, with 2016 in mind.  

I didn't expect the extent of the apparent disinterest in Paul Ryan by the American electorate.  Whereas 40 million people tuned in to catch Sarah Palin last year, only 22 million were watching Paul Ryan Wednesday evening.

Lots of surprises in Tampa.  Now it's on to Charlotte and the Democratic National Convention--where we should probably expect more of the unexpected.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Questioning Romney Strategy

     Mitt Romney currently owns the airwaves in Florida.  His campaign, and the super PACS supporting him, are driving Floridians to distraction with a nonstop barrage of TV ads.

The frequency is such, however, that one wonders if the saturation, the repetition, could cause a backlash.  There's already a definite feeling of annoyance that's becoming a part of everyday conversation.

But I don't question the Romney camp's thinking as far as the number of ads is concerned.  People may complain, and yet be swayed by the ads.

What I do question is the message that is being delivered. A preponderance of ads is being devoted to "China", and that isn't anywhere near the top of the list of issues folks in these parts are interested in.

In Florida, it's the economy, and then medicare, and after that immigration.  With the President leading Mitt Romney on all three, it would seem logical that more money, more ads, should be given to these issues.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Random Thoughts About The GOP Convention

     The Republican National Convention has been gaveled into the flurry of fiery speeches that  will ask voters to buy what the GOP is selling--a controversial political platform, and a struggling presidential candidate.

This abbreviated 2012 version--three days instead of four due to Hurricane Isaac--is a story with the same plot as all conventions.  Execute a (hopefully)  well-conceived plan to win the hearts and minds of voters.  And like all conventions, this gathering has a variety of intriguing sub-plots.

One that spells trouble for the Republican party this year, and potentially for the American electorate in future years, is the inexcusable and shameful treatment of Ron Paul and his supporters.

As a GOP presidential candidate who fought the good fight, and  finished second to Mitt Romney in the delegate count, Ron Paul was deserving of respect at the convention.  First and foremost, he should have been given time at the podium.  But an equally galling affront was not permitting his name to be spoken during the roll call of delegations.

That display of disrespect brought to mind the first Republican national convention that caught my attention way back in 1952  . One of the things that was fascinating, and got me interested in politics was the roll call.

 Each delegation gave the name and vote total for all of the candidates, and it was exciting.  "The Buckeye state of Ohio casts __votes for its native son, Robert Taft; __ votes for Dwight David Eisenhower"--and so it went on.

Ron Paul put forth a lot of ideas and proposals--some good, and some that many folks would consider not so good.  But he earned the right to be heard.  And his treatment does not bode well for future grass-roots campaign efforts.

Another development on the first full day of convention activities was the contrast in the back-to-back speeches of Ann Romney and keynote speaker, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

In speaking in support of her husband, Ann Romney took a speech with wonderful material and made the most of it.  She said at the outset that her speech was about love.  Ann Romney was immediately followed by Christie, who drove home his opinion that respect trumps love.

Most of the speakers Tuesday evening seemed to be more interested in promoting themselves than their presidential candidate.   It was as though 2016 was paramount in their minds.  It was not until very late in their speeches that Rick Santorum or Chris Christie even mentioned Mitt Romney's name.

The Republican platform provides a number of intriguing sub-plots--most notably the one concerning abortion--absolutely no abortions, even in the case of incest and rape.

And now the pressure is on for Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan to sell himself Wednesday evening.  His speech is sure to provide more food for thought for political pundits, and political junkies like me.  

     

Monday, August 27, 2012

Charlie Crist -- A Moderate Looking For A Home

     Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist's endorsement of President Obama is being treated as big news, as breaking news.  It is neither.

That's because Charlie Crist's dissatisfaction with the GOP--which not all that long ago considered him a rising star--is nothing new.

Since losing his U.S. Senate race to Marco Rubio, Crist has left the Republican party and become an Independent.  For a couple of years now, Charlie Crist has been a former moderate Republican looking for a home.

Moderates are a vanishing breed in today's GOP, and the takeover of the party by the far right has spelled the end of many a middle-of-the-road, willing-to-compromise Republican career.

The beginning of the end for Charlie Crist as a Republican politician came during a visit to Florida by newly elected Democratic President Barack Obama. 

Charlie Crist had endorsed the President's stimulus legislation and had welcomed stimulus money sent Florida's way.  For the far right of the GOP, insult was added to injury when Republican Governor Crist warmly embraced the Democratic President.

So now Charlie Crist will speak at the Democratic National Convention, and will urge his Florida followers to likewise support the President at the polls. 

The extent of Charlie Crist's political influence with Sunshine State voters is an unanswered question at this point, but in a sure to be close election in a critical swing state, his endorsement of the President is sure to help.   

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Hurricane Isaac -- The Great Equalizer

     The hurricane watch has now become a hurricane warning, and Key West is only hours away from heavy rains,  and winds of 74 miles per hour or more--quite possibly much more.  And Hurricane Isaac, like hurricanes of years past, will serve as a great social equalizer.

Key West, with its highest elevation only 18 feet, and most of the Island just  three feet above sea level, is especially susceptible to storm surges.  IN 2005, it was the flooding after Wilma that caused the most destruction of any hurricane in recent years.

Key West High School will be serving as a shelter beginning today, but should Isaac intensify and the forecast grow to a category three hurricane--or four or five,  the mandatory evacuation and mass exodus to the mainland will immediately begin.  The destination will be the shelter at Florida International University in Miami--some 150 miles, and at least four hours away.

Whether it is Key West High School or F.I.U., those seeking shelter will find that a hurricane is a great social equalizer.

There will be those taking refuge who are the poorest of the poor.  But there will also be some of the wealthiest of citizens seeking a safe place from the storm.

That's because there is seldom enough time to get to a hotel or motel that is safely removed from the path of the hurricane.  And even if time permits, there are never enough hotel and motel availabilities to accommodate everyone who can afford them.

So there they will be this weekend, the rich and the poor, on equal footing in a shelter with few amenities.  Some will have cots.  Some will sleep on a cold tile floor.  The temperature will necessarily be kept low--making for a chilly overnight.

A fat wallet and a lot of credit cards won't help.  Everyone will share whatever food the Red Cross can provide. Cell phones won't work for the rich and the poor alike.  There may be one TV--if the Island still has electricity--and that one TV will remain tuned to hurricane coverage.

All in all, it's a miserable way to spend a weekend, but the folks in Key West will have that special feeling that comes from shared misery--knowing you are all in this thing together, and that you are collectively making the best of it.

Oh, that such a feeling could spread throughout America--the feeling that through these troubled times, rich or poor, we are in this thing together.





Tuesday, August 21, 2012

If We Had It All To Do Again.....



Most of us seldom have the time, or take the time, to reconsider the life-changing choices that we've made along the often bumpy, ever winding road of life.

But ever so often, something happens that takes us back in time, and brings to mind an intriguing question.

 If we had it all to do again, what, if anything, would we change?  And today, a certain something happened  that has me asking myself that question.

The U.S. News and World Report is out with it's annual listing of the top party schools among America's colleges and universities.  And my school, West Virginia University, tops the list for 2012--the third time in five years that WVU has "earned" this dubious distinction.

I attended West Virginia University as a journalism major for two years a very long time ago.  I always mention that fact during speaking engagements.

I find that audiences enjoy a little self-deprecating humor, and I always get a collective laugh when I say that after two years, I changed my major from journalism to beer drinking 101.

It's a funny story, but it's also the bitteersweet, somewhat sad truth.  WVU was already known as a party school way back then, with fraternities and sororities consuming much too much of students' time.  And after a freshman year with high marks, I succumbed to beer-hoisting camaraderie at the expense of my studies.

So about now, I'm guessing that most readers assume that this flashback has me full of regret--telling myself that if had it all to do over, I would stay in school and hit the books and walk away with a degree.

Not exactly the case.  With all the ups and downs since those college days of long ago, I don't know that I would change a thing.

There are those students--the vast majority to be sure--for whom the classroom is the best teacher.  And for them, the everyday life at a party school can be a ruinous distraction.

As for me, attending a party school was in some ways ruinous, but in other ways the beneficial beginning of life experiences that enable me now to feel a worthy use of borrowed time.















 


















Sunday, August 19, 2012

Remembering The Courage Of Walt The Barber

     I first met Walt the barber at his shop in Billings, Montana in August of 2009.   Since then, I have written five columns which were entirely, or partially, about Walt.

Yesterday, I received a call from my friend Bruce in Billings, telling me that Walt the barber has passed away--another victim of Alzheimer's disease.

I  have been working on a column about Alzheimer's for the Huffington Post that includes Walt's story.   My reason for writing about the courage of Walt the barber, and others afflicted by this horrific killer disease,  is to add one more voice--albeit a small one--to the growing chorus pleading for Congress not to slash funding for medical research.

Some of the monies that some Republicans propose giving to the wealthy in the form of further tax breaks should be given instead to causes such as Alzheimer's research.  That would be in the best interest of all Americans. 

I'm wondering today, as I do from time to time, if  the members of Congress and our wealthiest of Americans ever stop to consider that they are just as susceptible to the ravages of Alzheimer's as the poorest of our people.   
 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

There's Something Nixonian About The GOP Ticket

     Let me say at the outset that the Obama reelection team is not exactly a paragon of virtue.  Example A is the TV ad that shamefully attempts to link a woman's death to Mitt Romney's modus operandi at Bain Capital.

But the boys--and girls--at Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago come off looking downright squeaky clean when compared to the Mitt Romney team.  The GOP also displays an aversion to the truth in its negative ads, but there are more troubling aspects than that to the Republican presidential campaign

The Romney team is guilty of arrogance in the first degreee.   Questions that the electorate has a right to have answered go unanswered, and information that voters have a right to know is blocked from public view.

There's the lingering matter of Mitt Romney's tax returns.  And now there's the issue of the details of the Romney economic plan.

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan have both defiantly stated that the public will see no more tax returns.  And incredibly, both candidates have said that some of the details of the Republican economic plan will not be revealed before the election.

Wednesday morning on MSNBC,  Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Phebus reaffirmed the Romney/Ryan stance on disclosure--or lack thereof.   Time Magazine's Mark Halperin pressed the issue--stressing the need for transparency, and arguing for the voters' right to know.   Phebus didn't budge--and didn't seem to care.

The GOP leadership is operating with another kind of secrecy that borders on the sinister.  It's a troubling situation that could be labeled Nixonian in nature.

Three days after being introduced to the nation as the Republican Vice Presidential candidate, Paul Ryan flew to Las Vegas to meet with the GOP's billionaire backer Sheldon Adelson.  The get-together took place in a private meeting room in Adelson's casino.  No media coverage.  No photographers.  Shades of  "The Godfather".

Sheldon Adelson has committed unlimited millions, or in his words, whatever it takes, to defeat Barck Obama.  Sheldon Adelson has been, and still is, under federal investigation.

It sounds more than a little like a movie plot.  Politicians in need of money and their financier in need of a little help.  It may all be completely innocent, but it sure doesn't look good.

Could we possibly have reached the point where one man,  one billionaire--or a handful of billionaires--could buy an election?











   

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Dangerous Time For Paul Ryan And The GOP

     The joint appearances are over, and Paul Ryan is on his own.  For the foreseeable future, and possibly all the way to the Republican national convention, there will be no more sharing the stage with Mitt Romney. 

From here on out, the GOP candidates for President and Vice President will go their own ways, with separate campaign schedules.  And so, while Mitt Romney is winding up his bus tour in Florida and Ohio,  Paul Ryan will be appearing  alone in Iowa.

The Wisconsin Congressman will be the sole focal point at his campaign stops--and the target for all of the "gotcha" questions that are sure to come.

Paul Ryan is good on his feet and he appeared quite comfortable at the podium over the weekend as he was introduced as Romney's pick for a running mate.  And he has always handled himself quite well answering the tough questions he has fielded as a Republican leader in Congress.

But now Paul Ryan has made it to the big leagues and it's a brand new ball game. His expertise is in economics and that strength may turn out to be a liability. 

You can safely bet your bottom dollar that the always prying press spent much of the weekend digging into the details of the Ryan budget plan, looking for a question that might stump or embarrass him, and make news.  There are myriad items in the plan that run contrary to public opinion and preferences, and the possibilities for gotcha questions are too numerous for mention here.

But where Paul Ryan is most vulnerable to gotcha questions lies outside the realm of taxes or budgets or economics. 

As the man Mitt Romney has selected to be a heartbeat away from the presidency, Paul Ryan will be expected to be knowledgeable in other areas--among them foreign affairs and national security.  Count on the media to thoroughly test a candidate they know is green as grass in those other areas.

Campaign advisers will be giving Paul Ryan crash courses on unfamiliar subjects, but while he is cramming, it will be nervous time, a dangerous time, for the GOP.







Saturday, August 11, 2012

It's Paul Ryan -- And The Dems Are "Salivating"

     Earlier today I wrote and posted the preceding column predicting that Tim Pahlenty would be the choice to be Mitt Romney's running mate on the GOP's  2012 presidential ticket.   It seemed to me, then  and now, that Pahlenty was the logical choice.

Mitt Romney, however, has just told us that he has decided otherwise, and that Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan will be the Republican party's candidate for Vice President.   And so for the second time in four years, the GOP is announcing a runnimg mate whose selection is being made in large part to add some energy to a bland campaign that is trailing in the polls. 

Last time around, the addition of Sarah Palin did add vigor to John McCain's 2008 presidential bid, but she soon showed that she was far from  ready for prime time, and she hurt as much as she helped the Republican ticket.

This presidential election year, Paul Ryan will also energize  Republicans, in general, and ultra conservatives, in particular.  How he performs and how voters--especially Independents--react is a story with its many chapters yet to be written.

But suffice it to say that the selection of Paul Ryan serves to emphasize the differences in the policies,  proposals, and plans of the Democratic and Republican parties.  There will be a clear choice for voters come November 6.

As for the logic behind Mitt Romney's choice? 

Well first of all there's the question of whether the choice was really Romney's, or a selection that was forced upon him by right wing columnists, commentators, and conservative bigwigs.   In recent days there has been a growing chorus of calls for the pick to be Ryan.

It is being reported that the decision was made August 1 after the conclusion of Romney's less than spectacular trip abroad.  If these reports are true, then the Paul Ryan pick is all  the more puzzling  from the standpoint that Paul Ryan has zero foreign affairs or national security experience in his resume.

But that's not the only reason I see Mitt Romney's choice as a mistake.  To sum up the several reasons why Paul Ryan's selection is a mistake,  I quote CNN White House correspondent, Brianna Keeler, who said a few hours ago that Democrats are "salivating" over the prospect of enlightening the electorate about Ryan's proposed budget plan.

It is being argued by many economists--including some with no political axe to grind--that the Ryan budget plan will not only drastically change medicare and social security, but will actually increase the deficit and health care cost.

Perhaps the most noteworthy, and politically damaging attack on the Ryan budget plan has come from a Republican who will be speaking at the GOP convention.

Newt Gingrich, who worked with a Democratic administration to produce balanced budgets, has criticized the Ryan budget as "right wing social engineering".

Paul Ryan's inclusion on the GOP presidential ticket also takes away something Mitt Romney has been selling for nearly six years--himself, Mitt Romney, as a Washington outsider.  Paul Ryan is a career politician who has been a Washington insider since his early 20s, and he has never, ever worked in the private sector.

There's an old expression that says, "be careful what you wish for", and no one knows for sure how Paul Ryan's place on the Republican ticket will play out;  but for now, the Dems see Paul Ryan as a wish, a dream, come true.



Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Looking Back At The Bull Moose Party

     With the 2012 national political conventions fast approaching, it's fun to use the intervening weeks to think back to other, earlier  conventions--those we remember firsthand and those we have read about,

One of the latter is a unique and historic convention that took place one hundred years ago this week.  It was a third party gathering in August, 1912 that resulted from a split in the Republican party.  The inspiration for the movement, and its presidential candidate, was Theodore Roosevelt, who had already served nearly two full terms as President.

Officially named the Progressive Party, it became better known as the Bull Moose party  following one of the most  bizarre incidents in presidential campaign history.

 An assassination attempt just before election day failed, but left Teddy Roosevelt with a bullet in his chest.  Later, on the same day he was shot, he delivered a planned speech, and then afterward proclaimed himself to be as fit as a bull moose.

Growing up I didn't know all that much about Theodore Rosevelt, and I remember wondering why he was given prominence on Mount Rushmore with the likes of Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln.

But then, through my travels on Greyhound, I came to know about Teddy Roosevelt's foresight in, and dedication to, setting aside and preserving the lands that comprise so much of our national parks system.  That admiration led me to learning more about the man, and discovering the amazing political event that was the Progressive--Bull Moose--convention of 1912.

It should be noted that the story of  the Bull Moose convention would not be considered a success story in the minds of many people.  Teddy Roosevelt lost the presidential election of 1912.  He finished behind Democrat Woodrow Wilson, and ahead of the   Republican candidate, William Howard Taft.  A late start and lack of big money donors were too much to overcome.

But when judged by the forward thinking of the party platform, the Progressive--Bull Moose--convention  of 1912 must be considered one of the most meaningful in American history.

Teddy Roosevelt and his team were the first ever to call for national health care--doing so 98 years before Obamacare.  And social insurance was a plank in the platform a quarter of a century before social security was enacted into law.

The Progressives went on record in favor of women's suffrage and a minimum wage for women; as well as an eight-hour workday for all employees.

A plank sought to establish a federal securities commission and regulate industry.

The platform called for a constitutional amendment that would allow for a federal income tax.  There was also a proposal for an inheritance tax.

There was a plank endorsing the ideas of primary elections and recall elections and a plank calling for thedirect election of United States Senators.

Teddy Roosevelt and his Progressives were ahead of their time in a myriad of magnificent ways.

 In addition to the aforementioned far reaching, forward looking proposals, they bucked the isolation sentiment espoused by many Americans and promoted instead a vigorous foreign policy, and a strong military.  They made it clear that their platform was all about protecting the middle and working classes.

The Bull Moose convention of 1912--one of the reasons  Theodore Roosevelt deserves his place on Mount Rushmore.







  

Friday, August 3, 2012

The GOP -- And Voodoo Economics

     The GOP is under a 32-year old spell that may prove to be a curse.

This presidential election year, Republicans are once again selling something they call trickle down economics.  It's a plan that says take care of the wealthiest of our citizens with lower tax rates and tax breaks and tax loopholes, and their prosperity will eventually trickle down to the rest of Americans.

Trickle down economics is the way to go,  they say, because the wealthiest among us are the job creators.  And as everyone knows, they add, improving the economy is all about jobs, jobs, jobs.

Back in 1980, then GOP presidential candidate George H.W. Bush coined the phrase "voodoo economics"  as a more appropriate name for the trickle down idea being promoted by Ronald Reagan, But when Reagan won the Republican nomination that year, and George H.W. Bush became his running mate,  the word voodoo all but disappeared from political vocabularies.

Republicans have remained,  through ensuing campaigns,  under the spell of voodoo economics, which they still sell under the better sounding "trickle down" economics.

But cal it voodoo, or trickle down, the GOP economic plan may turn out to be a curse.  The polls show voters moving from Romney to Obama as the man with the best economic plan.  That's because President Obama has been hammering away on the truth about trickle down economics,, and the truth is it doesn't work.

 George W. Bush's version of trickle down economics gave generous tax breaks to the super rich in 2001 and 2003--with Bush promising that these incentives would create jobs.  At the end of the Bush presidency, however, trickle down economics had given us a net loss in jobs, and turned a surplus at the beginning of the Bush years into a deficit when George W. left office.

President Obama has also been hammering away on his own economic plan, which is based on first improving the job prospects for the middle class as the best way to promote prosperity for all Americans.

 His oft-repeated message is apparently getting through to voters and is largely responsible for the President's swing states surge in the polls. 



Thursday, August 2, 2012

Two Lone Star Latinos To Keep An Eye On

     Eight years ago about this time, the Democrats gave the coveted, and oh, so important job of keynote speaker at their national convention in Boston to a virtually unknown state senator from Illinois with the funny sounding name of Barack Obama.

His speech electrified the audience and, a scant four years later, Barack Obama became America's 44th President.

That amazing, meteoric rise from a state house to The White House comes to mind today as two  politicians from Texas--one a Republican, and the other a Democrat--burst upon the national scene. 

Ted Cruz  has won a Republican primary runoff, and is heavily favored to defeat his Democratic opponent in November and take a seat in the United State Senate.  Cruz, with strong Tea Party support, came from nowhere to upset the Republican establishment candidate.

Julian Castro has been tapped to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic national convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, the first week in September.  Castro is currently the mayor of San Antonio.

Both men would seem to be on the way to long and  promising political careers, for they are young--Cruz, 41, and Castro, 37.  Both are Hispanic, and therefore all the more valuable to their respective parties, as the importance of the burgeoning Hispanic population continues to grow.

Two Lone Star Latinos to keep an eye on.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

This WeekThe Media Favors Obama By 25 To 3

     Talk to the national media today, and you will find President Obama favored over Mitt Romney by a count of 25 to 3.  The lopsided favoritism is a matter of accessibility.

The 25 is the number of random questions Barack Obama took from the traveling press corps during his pre-election overseas trip in 2008.  Three is the number of random questions Mitt Romney took from reporters during his just-concluded travel abroad.

Both presidential candidates had sit down interviews during their trips, but the traditional shouted questions were welcomed and fielded only by Obama, while Romney awkwardly and unwisely turned a deaf ear to reporters whose news gathering organizations had invested heavily in order to cover his foreign affairs  learning experience.

Turning his back on the members of the fourth estate who are covering his campaign was an insult to them, and an injury to him--to his image.


Monday, July 30, 2012

Women Voters And Planned Parenthood

     A new Obama campaign ad here in Florida is getting a lot of air time and a lot of reaction.

 It's an ad in which  Mitt Romney says what he would do about Planned Parenthood if elected.  He says he "would get rid of Planned Parenthood". 

It's a move that the Republican Presidential candidate says is a necessary part of trimming federal government expenditures.  As a converted pro lifer, Romney also opposes Planned Parenthood due to its involvement with legal abortions.

That's disturbing news to a lot of women voters   Opposition to abortion is one thing, but opposition to Planned Parenthood is something else.  There are  Floridians who are pro life, but are aware of the good work done by Planned Parenthood for countless numbers of women.

Assisting women with safe, well counseled abortions is only a small part of the work done by Planned Parenthood.   Prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, and cancer screenings are services that are performed much more often.

And one of the major areas of service provided by planned parenthood is birth control, and that fact begs a question.

How can Mitt Romney and other pro lifers not see that encouraging and assisting with birth control reduces unintended pregnancies, and therefore, reduces the number of abortions?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sandra Day O'Connor And The Subject Of Civics

         Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has retired from the bench, but not from public service. 

At 82, the first woman appointed to the high court is still active and relevant on the national stage.  Her work deciding cases of national importance has been replaced by a new labor of love--something that places a conservative lady on this left-leaning blogger's list of favorite  American heroes.

Sandra Day O('Connor has been speaking this week about a cause I've held dear since high school days.   That would be, in the least, continued inclusion, and better still,, expansion of the teaching of civics in our nation's schools.

  Her words echo those of C.C. Kraus, a teacher who spoke of the importance of civics and left on me a lasting impression.

In this ongoing period of technological revolution, and government budget shortfalls, social studies, in general, and civics, in particular, have taken a hit to the point that they are now nearly non-existent in many a public school curriculum.

Following a quarter of a century on the Supreme Court, and then  three years as a caregiver for a terminally-ill husband afflicted with Alzheimer's, Sandra Day O'Connor founded in 2009 a nonprofit organization named iCivics. 

Its mission is to provide schools with free materials about civics and make students more familiar with government.   Three areas of educational need that are timely, and therefore stressed in this election year are the Constitution,  Presidential elections, and how and why our government is structured.

To emphasize the importance of, and the need for the teaching of civics, Sandra Day O'Connor reminds audiences of a recent study showing that less than one third of eighth-graders know what the Declaration of Independence is all about..





Friday, July 27, 2012

"Mitt The Twit"? -- Ouch, That Hurts!

       "Do Us Proud" I urged Mitt Romney in yesterday's blog.

I closed out the column by saying, "as Mitt Romney travels abroad this week, all of us, regardless of (political) party, should wish him well".  I still feel that way, and I sincerely hope the rest of his week long tour of England, Poland, and Israel goes better than his first day.

As a Presidential candidate, who could be our Commander In Chief, and the leader of the free world less than six months from now, Mitt Romney, at this point in time, represents all of America as he travels abroad.  And what he says and does reflects on all of us.

That's why it is embarrassing and painful for all Americans when less than 24 hours into the Romney trip, a London newspaper, The Sun, streams and screams the headline, "Mitt The Twit".  Other British media outlets were equally critical, and, arguably, unnecessarily cruel.

What makes such disrespectful British treatment of an American Presidential candidate embarrassing and painful, instead of invoking anger, is the plain truth that Mitt Romney invited the abuse being hurled his way.

His questioning of London's readiness for the Olympics is reason enough for the negative reaction, but for me, two other less mentioned blunders were self-inflicted wounds that are of a more serious nature--and will be long lasting.

It is incomprehensible that neither Mitt Romney nor anyone else in his entourage knew that it is a strict and absolute no-no to divulge having visited with MI6--the British Secret Intelligence Service that is the equivalent of our CIA. 

And just as inexcusable is arriving for a talk with the British opposition leader without knowing his name.   Unable to address by name, Ed Miliband--a man who could one day be the British Prime Minister--and forced instead to say "Mr. Leader", Mitt Romney presented a picure that was far from Presidential.

    

 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Romney's Position On Abortion Is Fair Game

     Yesterday's blog was about a new  political ad with a message that is positive--a rarity this election year.

The ad put out by the Obama reelection team simply calls attention to a choice voters have this November.   The ad briefly states the way the incumbent President and his challenger, Mitt Romney would go about improving the economy if elected.

The President's road to a stronger economy and prosperity would begin with help for our struggling middle class; while Romney's route would begin with further benefits for our wealthiest citizens.  The ultimate goal of both candidates is a stronger economy, and a better life for all Americans.

This morning, a neighbor agreed with me that this particular Obama campaign ad is a welcome change from the political poison regularly foisted on us by both parties; but my neighbor called my attention to another Obama ad that is running at the same time here in Florida, where we live.

It's an ad which my neighbor believes is proof that "the Obama people are still running negative ads".   The ad in question reminds Floridians that Mitt Romney has vowed to work for the overturn of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.  And the ad is a further reminder that Mitt Romney has said he will work to shut down Planned Parenthood.

Revealing or calling attention to a candidate's stated positions on the issues of the day does not constitute negative campaigning.  The ad my neighbor was talking about is in no way an attack ad.

Romney's position on abortion and Planned Parenthood is something women, especially those who are pro-choice, need to take into consideration; just as those who are pro-life, need to know the President's position on divisive issues.