America’s president — “Sweet Home Chicago”

Last night’s Republican presidential debate cannot have made anyone happy. Many must have asked themselves, is that the best we have, is that the best the Republican party has to offer?

George Will, leading conservative columnist, does just that in today’s Washington Post, and concludes:

“Neither Romney nor Santorum looks like a formidable candidate for November.“

And Andrew Sullivan, conservative blogger, writes that the winner of the debate sits in the White House. Sullivan zeroes in on what he calls “lies” about president Obama’s foreign policy, and draws, correctly, parallels with the Iraq debate after 9/11.

”Santorum really does seem to be implying that Obama has some kind of secret agenda vis-a-vis Iran. And he pretty obviously would launch a massive war on Iran. We’re hearing the kind of language we heard after 9/11. Exactly the same language; exactly the same arguments; exactly the same paranoia.

There seems to be no memory of the Iraq war at all. It never happened. There was no error. There is nothing to explain. And yet they do not seem to realize that that catastrophic war is the reason Barack Obama is president. It’s like an etch-a-sketch party. Shake it one election cycle – and the past disappears completely! …This is a party about ideology, not reality.

…Newt attacks General Dempsey on the rational international conduct of the Iranian regime. Then Gingrich repeats exactly the same argument used for the Iraq war. Exactly the same. And blames the experts in the military for not “believing” what is apparently obvious. Romney then buys into the Santorum line that Iran wants to use a nuke against the US. He then lies about Obama “opposing” crippling sanctions. Does Romney believe that if he simply says that Obama hasn’t placed sanctions on Iran, it will somehow become true? So that’s another bald-faced lie.”

Liberal columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. is frustrated in today’s Washington Post that the Republicans continue to paint Obama as an ”alien.”

“Please forgive this outburst. It’s simply astonishing that a man in his fourth year as our president continues to be the object of the most extraordinary paranoid fantasies. A significant part of his opposition still cannot accept that Obama is a rather moderate politician quite conventional in his tastes and his interests. And now that the economy is improving, short-circuiting easy criticisms, Obama’s adversaries are reheating all the old tropes and clichés and slanders.”

Dionne ends:

“We are blessed with the freedom to say whatever we want about our president. But those who cast Obama as something other than one of us don’t understand him and don’t understand what it means to be American.”

Here he is, America’s president:


Oh, those terrible European socialist welfare states…

Mitt Romney on the stump often talks about Europe and the “European socialist welfare states” as something dreadful. That’s not what he — unlike president Obama — aspires to for America, Romney says.

Romney did it again in his victory speech last night in New Hampshire. Europe — that’s not what we want, he said.

Well, well. I say you can do worse. Just take a look at recent news coverage about maybe the leading “European socialist welfare state” of them all, Sweden. The editorial board of Bloomberg News recently praised it in a comment called, “Sweden Shows Europe How to Cut Debt, Weather the Recession.”

“Sweden faces a difficult year, like every other European economy, but unlike the rest of the European Union, it’s equipped to cope. There are lessons here, especially for the EU’s other non-euro countries. “

Sweden, “the rock star of the recovery,” Washington Post wrote last year.

“This Scandinavian nation of 9 million people has accomplished what the United States, Britain and Japan can only dream of: Growing rapidly, creating jobs and gaining a competitive edge. The banks are lending, the housing market booming. The budget is balanced. Sweden was far from immune to the global downturn of 2008-09. But unlike other countries, it is bouncing back. Its 5.5 percent growth rate last year trounces the 2.8 percent expansion in the United States and was stronger than any other developed nation in Europe. And compared with the United States, unemployment peaked lower (around 9 percent, compared with 10 percent) and has come down faster (it now stands near 7 percent, compared with 9 percent in the U.S.).”

Not bad, not bad, at all, for “a socialist welfare state”…

Republican “brawl” — can Romney be stopped?

Whatever you might think about the length of the American presidential election campaign and about Iowa’s and New Hampshire’s ridiculously out-sized roles in choosing the presidential candidates for America’s voters, the Republican primary campaign is becoming down right exciting.

“There’s no denying the Republicans are in a brawl, and it is becoming ferocious,” writes Peggy Noonan today in the Wall Street Journal.

Let’s see how that all plays out tonight in the big debate in New Hampshire!

The excitement lies in which of the Republican Party’s three equally powerful factions wins in the end:

— the moderate/conservative headed by Mitt Romney;

— the libertarian with Ron Paul, or;

— the social conservative with, yes, right now three candidates to choose from: Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Perry.

The moderate/conservative faction includes Jon Huntsman, who has invested everything in New Hampshire, but apparently without much success. If he does not succeed on Tuesday, he is finished.

Ron Paul reigns supreme among libertarians and can look forward to between 15 and 20 percent of the vote in the upcoming primaries. But no more. He has hit his ceiling and he has no chance to final victory. However, Republicans worry that if Paul decides to run for president as a third party candidate, he could seriously hurt Republican chances to beat Obama in November.

Among the social conservatives, there is right now a lot of confusion. Who to support? The intellectual conservative media elite, such as George Will, Charles Krauthammer and Michael Gerson, who in their columns have been brutal to Gingrich, now seem to have finally found their man in Rick Santorum.


“After every other conservative alternative to Mitt Romney crashed and burned (libertarian Ron Paul is in a category of his own), from the rubble emerges Rick Santorum. But he isn’t just the last man standing. He is the first challenger to be plausibly presidential: knowledgeable, articulate, experienced, of stable character and authentic ideology.”

Prior to New Hampshire on Tuesday the questions are: by how much will Romney win, who will win the battle between Santorum and Gingrich, and will Huntsman survive?

Rick Perry is a non-factor after Iowa. He should have quit but is still hoping for some kind of redemption in South Carolina on January 21. His fate will be decided that day, as will possibly the Republican presidential campaign. Another win for Romney there and the race is over.

The last debate before Iowa and the race heatens up

Tonight is the 16th, and final, television debate with the Republican presidential candidates before the Iowa caucuses on January 3.

Thank god, I often hear from friends, but the fact is that the debates have been popular with the American public, with an average of almost six million viewers. The debates have also saved money for the candidates, who have spent considerably less on political television ads – only three million U.S. dollars so far in Iowa compared to 27 million four years ago, and only 1.3 million dollars in New Hampshire against 17 million four years ago. For TV stations in the two states, however, this must be sad news…

I think this is a healthy trend for American political campaigns. I’d rather have the debates than the television ads with their dubious messages and outright lies. And anything to take the money out of politics…right!

Lately, the republican race has heated up and it’s downright exciting. Although many of the polls should be taken with a grain of salt, and national polls at this juncture are pretty meaningless, Gingrich now seems firmly in the lead in Iowa, while Mitt Romney maintains his lead in New Hampshire. Gingrich’s new popularity seems to have more legs than the previous upstarts — Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Herman Cain. This is deeply worrisome to many conservative columnists. The editors of the conservative flagship National Review warned today of what a Gingrich victory could do to, as they see it, the Republicans’ excellent chances to beat Obama next year:

“We fear that to nominate former Speaker Newt Gingrich, the frontrunner in the polls, would be to blow this opportunity.”

It’s a battle between between “ideology and electability” as the polls suggest — Obama would defeat Gingrich by 51 to 40, while the race against Romney would be much tighter, 47 to 45.

Still, could it be the case that none of the present seven candidates in the end will be the Republican candidate? Could someone else, in the end, capture the nomination? It is not inconceivable, according to Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the web site of the respected political analyst, University of Virginia professor, Larry Sabato. I don’t think so, but it’s interesting reading!

On political ads — sleazy has now become the norm

Speaking of political television advertising, I recommend the article “The Reinvention of Political Morality” by Thomas Edsall on today’s New York Times blog “Campaign Stops.”

Edsall, one of the most experienced political journalists in America who is now a journalism professor at Columbia University in New York, focuses on the Mitt Romney TV commercial recently where he falsely and misleadingly uses a quotation from President Obama by neglecting to point out that Obama was quoting his Republican opponent John McCain.

Romney’s ad is “the first irrefutable violation of ethical standards in the 2012 campaign,” writes Edsall. While outlining how political television ads have evolved over the years, for the worse, he adds that “what was once considered sleazy becomes the norm.”

And now the war of the TV ads is starting….

Political television ads have not played a particularly important role up to now in the Republican primary election campaign.  That’s different from previous years and an interesting phenomenon.

Instead, the campaign’s focus has been the constant panel debates between the eight, well, now seven, candidates, which have benefited those who can talk, like Newt Gingrich, and those without much money, again, like Newt Gingrich.

But Gingrich has now launched his first TV-ad in Iowa, at a cost of 250,000 dollars, and soon political TV ads will flood the media in the State ahead of the January 3 caucuses. There are many similarities with Gingrich’s ad and Ronald Reagan’s classic “Morning in America” from 1984. Take a look!



But Gingrich will surely not be allowed to play Reagan. Just take a look at Ron Paul’s scathing attack on the former Republican Speaker called “Serial Hypocrisy.” It takes me back to 1988 and the vice presidential debate between Loyd Bentsen and Dan Quayle.

Bentsen to Quayle: “you are no John Kennedy.” It seems to me that Paul is saying about Gingrich: you are no Ronald Reagan…

A conservative cries out about the Republican party…

Circus. Reality show. Watch and weep. Clowns.

Damning comments like these are heard frequently about the Republican presidential candidates as the primary election campaign is about to start in earnest on January 3 in Iowa. But they are, mostly, liberal voices, and they can be dismissed, and are, by  conservative voices.

However, today on Rick Lowry’s blog “The Corner” at conservative National Review Online someone calling him/herself “One American Conservative” cries out about a Republican party gone astray. I don’t know, of course, who this person is, and I generally don’t approve of anonymous comments. But, if genuine, it’s heavy stuff, and it deserves to be quoted in its entirety, for I am not sure it could be said any better.

It IS an embassarassment, and not only for the Republican party but for the state of American politics today.

One American Conservative : 12/05/11 02:25:

“Please, please…can’t we bring this embarrassing and self-destructive Republican primary to a speedy end? As a conservative member of this party, I am being humiliated by a roster of candidates that the media, the Democrats and the White House are exfoliating layer by layer – with toxins provided by the candidates themselves!

Cain: likable but inexperienced, immoral and unelectable. Gingrich: experienced but pathologically egotistical, immoral, unattractive and unelectable – he is his own characterization – over the decades, he has “written” his own negative ads again and again.

Paul: the outlier, the serial candidate – too old and too odd to be unelectable. Bachman: smart, attractive, seemingly moral, but unelectable, not presidential, not big league – you just cannot see her in the oval office no matter how much you squint.

Santorum: same as Bachman – smart enough, seemingly moral, but out of his league, unelectable – can’t see him as the leader of the free world – can’t even imagine him as a corporate CEO. News anchor, maybe.

Perry: next to Obama? No chance. His rate of speech and heavy Texas accent convey a dimwittedness. He’s a lousy debater for one reason: IQ- Cs and Ds at Texas A&M…it shows. And I worry…what’s in the closet? Criminal cronyism? An affair?

Huntsman: smart, experienced, seemingly moral but haughty, condescending, unelectable Plus, for some inexplicable reason, TV isn’t kind to him. Just doesn’t “work” on the flat screen – nothing comes across. Maybe it’s that eyebrow.

So it brings us to Romney. Seriously smart, squeaky clean, attractive, presidential, experienced though doing a poor job defending some of his positions. That said, he’s getting hit, and so far surviving, from all sides: Obama, the DNC, the other Primary candidates, the mainstream media, liberal and even some conservative cable shows, and even the anti-Mormons. No other Republican primary candidate could weather the depth and breadth of such an onslaught. Least of all Gingrich. And the General will be even worse. Romney is the best, strongest shot we’ve got at the oval office. He can win and Obama knows it. So far, the Obama campaign grasps the dynamics of this race a lot better than the Republicans – it’s Romney they’re going after. And the longer this Primary continues, with multiple factions helping Obama beat up Romney, we risk losing the whole game.

Meanwhile, I’m an embarrassed Republican having to explain why my party keeps pushing the dimmer-witted, the inexperienced, the arrogant, the immoral (throwing out one adulterer and then embracing a serial adulterer), tolerates religious bigotry with few voices in opposition, and, in general, doesn’t appear to want to win. I ask again, on behalf of many, many who feel as I do, who are running out of excuses for the party and thinking maybe we’ll just become Independents, please, please help bring this self-destructive Primary to an end. In the beginning, this was fun and interesting. Now, it’s scary. We will lose…and so will this country I love. Thank you.”

Elizabeth Warren, the communicator

In these times of communication disasters in the Republican presidential campaign, there is a rapidly rising star in the State of Massachusetts, Harvard law professor and Democratic Senate candidate, Elizabeth Warren. She can communicate.

Even Karl Rove deems it necessary to attack her in a series of TV ads. Take a look at her answer.

And take a look – and for those of you who have already seen it, take another look — at this video from one of her earlier voter rallies. Can it be said any better?

A long New York Magazine article about Warren under the headline “A Saint With Sharp Elbows” paints her as a real threat to unseat Republican Senator Scott Brown next year and recapture the “Ted Kennedy Senate” seat for the Democrats. She has already raised millions. Hundreds come to her campaign rallies. She has captured the mood of the times and she can explain today’s problems better than anyone else.

Obama strengthened by weak Republican field

The other evening, I walked over to the local high school in my little home town just outside Washington, DC for a big campaign event with the Democratic Party, which completely controls my home state of Maryland — the governor, both houses of the State Legislature, both Senators in the U.S. Congress, and six of the state’s eight members of the House of Representatives.

They were all there that evening, Governor Martin O’Malley, Senator Ben Cardin, and the whole range of local Democratic politicians. Democratic National Party Chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, showed up. Full house. Good atmosphere. Mobilization. “Four More Years.”

Suddenly, next year’s election felt near. Only a year to go, and only two months to the primary election campaign’s first battle, the Iowa caucuses on January 3.

Here in Maryland, the Democrats and President Obama have nothing to fear. Obama got 62 percent of the votes in 2008. There are many similar states where an Obama victory can safely be predicted already today – led by New York and California. But in many states, Obama’s victory is far from certain and certainty not in key states like Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida, which are a particular concern for Obama and the Democrats.

In general, despite his foreign policy successes particularly in the fight against terrorism, it looks bleak for President Obama. His average approval rating in the series of Gallup polls is now down to 41 per cent, while 51 percent disapprove of him. That’s not enough, according election guru Charlie Cook, who writes that an approval rating of 48 to 50 percent is necessary to win.

That’s not impossible for Obama to achieve, but it will be difficult and a lot depends on how the U.S. economy develops, and if Obama, in the eyes of the voters, will be seen to help revitalize the economy and reduce unemployment. Today, discontent is wide spread. Occupy Wall Street has spread across the country , also here to Washington — DC Occupy — with two tent cities in downtown.

In the end, Obama will be pitted against one of the eight Republicans now running for president. It’s a weak field and their general weakness will benefit Obama. The field is today led by, remarkably, Herman Cain, businessman and political novice, who is now fighting for his political life after reports of sexual harassment in his past. Cain shares the lead with Mitt Romney, who few Republicans really seem to like. Romney, the “pretzel candidate” according to conservative columnist George Will, constantly changes his position and does not stand for anything. Has conservatism come this far to settle for this, asks Will.

Dissatisfaction with the existing eight candidates is the reason for the large swings in the opinion polls, up and down, repeatedly. It happened to Michele Bachmann, and it happened to Rick Perry. And now, it is likely Herman Cain’s turn. Regardless of the veracity of the sex allegations, the general verdict on how Cain has handled them has been scathingly negative.

The search for the “real” Republican presidential candidate continues – the one that is both a pure Conservative and has a real chance of beating Barack Obama. Does he or she exist? So far, the Republicans have not found their dream candidate and they mourn those who never ran, like Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie and Haley Barbour, and even those who quit, like Tim Pawlenty — he shouldn’t have done that.

After January 3 in Iowa, followed on January 10 by New Hampshire, the field of eight will be cut in half, maybe even more. Mitt Romney will not be among them. He will still be the man to beat.

Bachmann wins in Ames but Perry is the story

Today’s most important political development within the Republican party was not Michele Bachmann’s victory in the Ames Straw Poll, or Ron Paul’s second place, or the fact that Tim Pawlenty came in a distant third and might have to throw in the towel, but that Texas governor Rick Perry announced that he is running.

The announcement came just hours before the poll in Ames. Its immediate effect was 718 write-in votes for Perry, more than the race’s favorite up to now, Mitt Romney.

Perry’s announcement at a conservative bloggers’ conference in Charleston, South Carolina, was almost as if George W. Bush — Perry’s predecessor as governor — had made a comeback, except that Perry is more Texas, more conservative, more God and country. He’s not my cup of tea, for sure.

Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky sees the Republican field as wide open and Perry as an instant front runner. His nomination could lead to a big battle between Obama and Perry in the culture war about the two Americas.

Perry’s start today must have been encouraging, and the weak field of Republican candidates speaks in Perry’s favor. But the race is long.

Here is how the 17,000 voted in Ames today:

Michele Bachmann 4,823 votes; Ron Paul 4,671; Tim Pawlenty 2,293; Rick Santorum 1,657; Herbert Cain 1,456; Rick Perry 718; Mitt Romney 567; Newt Gingrich 385; Jon Huntsman 69; and Thad McCotter 35.

Michele Bachmann’s victory in Ames did not come as a surprise. Neither did Ron Paul’s second place. Enthusiastic and motivated followers and a good organization can do wonders for a candidate this early in the campaign. And both have that. Still, their appeal is too narrow and too extreme right for neither tea party favorite Bachmann nor libertarian Paul to win the Republican nomination.

The Ames Straw Poll has in previous years provided some guidance as to who will ultimately capture the Republican nomination. But not this year. Or maybe Rick Perry’s 718 votes point the way?