Archive for the ‘Obama’ Category

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The Great Communicator

December 17, 2012

I’m trying to put my thoughts together, in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut massacre. For most of the weekend, my feelings were best summed up by this article from The Onion:

“Well, I suppose we have to try to pick up the pieces and make some sort of sense of this tragedy and—you know what? Fuck it, I can’t do this,” said Connecticut resident Michael Zaleski, his remarks understandable given the circumstances, because, holy shit, what else can one say? “I’m sorry, but I can’t fucking do this. Can you? Can anyone?”

Only that bit of satire came close to expressing the horror and helplessness we all felt in the wake of this senseless, senseless tragedy. Looking for solutions beyond memes seemed impossible. And into this void stepped President Obama, doing what only a President can – expressing the feelings of the nation, mourning deeply, but demanding better. His remarks at a memorial yesterday laid the necessary foundation for the discussion we have to have, moving forward. If you haven’t heard his full speech, you owe it to yourself to give it the full 18 minutes; it’s a powerful, moving place to start.

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10 Things I Love Post-Debate

October 17, 2012

1. I love my President. I especially love him when he’s confident and on his game:

Read the rest of this entry ?

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A Word on the Debate – Not this One. The Last One.

October 11, 2012

I never got around to talking about last week’s Presidential debate, and here we are, moments from the VP showdown. Life is conspiring against blogging right now, but I feel the need to get in my two cents before the conversation shifts away, even if it is right under the wire.

It seems that ever since the final words were said last Wednesday, we’ve had two very different, equally useless conversations. The first is How Romney Beat Obama, also known as How Obama Lost the Debate. The second, and more bitter argument, is Why is the Media Saying Obama Lost When Romney Lied Again and Again?!?!? Here’s the thing, though. Obama DID lose. It’s not just because the media is spinning it so. He lost. He was listless and uninspiring, he let Romney say – over and over and over – that he had cut Medicare by 716 billion, and that Medicare recipients would be hurt by that cut. It’s a lie that’s been so thoroughly debunked I was surprised Romney had the balls to say it again – but not nearly as surprised as I was that Obama let him get away with it TEN TIMES. Yes, really. That’s how many times Mitt Romney mention “$716 billion in cuts to Medicare” during that debate – and the President never  challenged him. As for the assertion that the real story is that Mitt Romney lied, over and over – that’s not news. He repeated many of the same lies he’s told before. Now he says he’s going to use the next debate to “fact-check” the president. Outrageous, yes. Surprising? NO. The President had every reason to expect Romney to lie, every reason to be prepared, and he didn’t seem to be. So yes, cue wailing and gnashing of teeth….

Except for this… Romney had a bounce, but it’s almost gone. During the 2008 campaign, there were so many times when I – and everyone working that campaign with me – were frustrated that he wasn’t fighting harder when he was attacked, wasn’t getting angry. We wanted him to defend himself, we hated that he was letting himself get walked on. But every time, we were wrong. He didn’t need to get angry. He was smarter than that. (The sad truth is that this country may be ready for a black president, but it probably isn’t ready for an angry black president, and one flash of real anger could undo so much good.) Besides, it just isn’t who he is. When he was growing up in Indonesia, he learned to endure teasing and taunting without showing any reaction, and that surely has helped to endure the slander and garbage the GOP has attacked him with for years.

So next week, don’t expect Obama to come out angry. Do expect him to come out more focused, more in the moment, more ready to call Mitt on his lies. But even if he doesn’t – trust him. He knows what he’s doing. Pundits may shriek, and we may all weep and wail, but he’s the smartest man in that office in decades (and Bill was no mental slouch), and he’s not getting caught flat-footed again. Obama has a rebounding economy on his side. He has demographics on his side. He has the truth on his side. Americans like him more, and trust him more, for very good reasons. And whether he had the flu, or was just worn out from running the country AND a campaign, he’s not going to have another performance like that.

Of course tonight, I’m hoping to see Biden take Ryan to school.

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View Inside the Bubble

September 19, 2012

I just listened to the entire video of Mitt Romney’s remarks at a fundraiser in Florida, not out of masochism, but because I knew I’d be missing something important if I just read the transcript. There were certain specific lines I want to write about, but for today, I’m just struck by the surreal setting. A privileged group of people have convened in a palatial private home, eating a fine, fine dinner (reference is made again and again to the excellence of the food). They have paid $50,000 each for the right to hear and to talk to a Presidential candidate. $50,000 is the median household income in this country. They banter with Romney, he calls on them by name as he’s taking questions. Several commentators have noted that in this video, Romney sounds more relaxed and less robotic, and they’re right. This Romney is completely at ease; he cracks jokes (about undocumented immigrants), and laughs at the audience’s jokes (about Elizabeth Warren). This is his world, these are his people.

It was his second such fundraiser that day. Ann Romney was in Texas, at a similar fundraiser. At one point on the video, he states, “[on] a typical day,… I do three or four events like this.” This is what campaigning is, now. It’s not just Republicans, by any stretch. President Obama attended two fundraisers in New York yesterday – one with a price of $12,500 per family, the other hosted by Jay Z and Beyonce, at a cost of $40,000 per person.

I knew this. And you know this. We know that politicians – ALL politicians – complain that all of their time is consumed in fundraising, rather than more productive pursuits like meeting with regular constituents, writing intelligent bills, trying to break logjams in the legislature. I was always focused on the corruption that’s possible when you depend so much on people giving you money. What I didn’t grasp was that it’s so very very insular, and how damaging that can be to a politician’s understanding of the world. Hyper-wealthy people speaking to other hyper-wealthy people who all already agree with them. The people in the Mother Jones video have no concept of living paycheck-to-paycheck. They don’t KNOW anyone who does. They cannot fathom what the economic collapse of 2008 did to American families. They simply do not understand what it means to a middle-class family when the major breadwinner loses his or her job, and they see their lifesavings evaporate as they try to find work. They have no idea what it feels like to have no savings, no retirement plan, and no way pay for your kids’ college that doesn’t involve loading them with crippling debt. Full-time work at minimum wage leaves people well below the poverty line, yet the individuals who have all of the candidates’ time and attention are the very ones who send jobs overseas to avoid paying employees a living wage here. No wonder Romney found it so easy to dismiss those who receive any federal funds – no one he ever interacts with understands what it’s like to need help to feed your children. Instead, Romney and his donors have an overwhelming sense of entitlement, and the horrifically skewed perspective that comes with that. They speak the clubby language of wealth and self-congratulations, and eventually, that becomes they only language they can understand.

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Which 47%, Exactly?!?

September 18, 2012

By now, you’ve all heard or read the heinous remarks Mitt Romney made at a fundraiser in Boca. Everyone from David Brooks to the Daily Kos has weighed in on his remarks about the 47%. What surprises me, though, is that almost no one is untangling Mitt’s logic and pointing out that he’s talking about apples and oranges and bananas as if they were all grapefruit.

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax… My job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

What’s remarkable is not that Romney wrote off half the country (we knew that); what’s remarkable is that the mystical 47% refers, in the course of six sentences, to three very different things – Obama’s base, people receiving some form of government assistance, and finally to those who pay no federal income tax. Romney is referring to these as if they were all exactly the same thing, and of course, they AREN’T. But why would he do that? Look at the points one by one:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. It’s true. It’s also true that a similar percentage is locked and loaded for the GOP; there are far fewer “undecideds” in this race than in the past. This is the argument Romney fell back on in defending these statements to the press: he’s not trying to win over this 47%, he’s trying to appeal to the five-to-seven percent who still are undecided. There’s nothing inflammatory about this at all, it’s conventional wisdom that this election belongs to the candidate who turns out his base and captures enough undecided voters to close it out.

“All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement.” Wait – what?!?!? According to a libertarian think-tank at George Mason University, nearly half of American households receive some kind of government assistance. That includes food stamps and housing assistance, to be sure, but it also includes Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, as well as unemployment benefits. It includes all of the elderly who paid into the system all of their working lives, and are now receiving what they are, yes, entitled to. Yet Romney states this as if the “47 percent who are with [Obama]” is the same as the 47% “dependent upon government.” This clearly untrue. Many middle class and and wealthy voters receive no government assistance and yet support Obama, including me. More tellingly, large numbers of the working poor who receive some government aid still vote for Republicans. Some of them really do believe in trickle-down economics, despite decades of proof that it doesn’t work. Some of them are single-issue values voters, who will never vote for anyone pro-choice, or pro-marriage-equality. And some of them simply have what one article (the one link I can’t find) recently called  “a deep-seated personal antipathy towards Obama,” which is a really nice way of saying they are racist. In any case, there’s no truth to the idea that Obama’s base is entirely composed of those who receive benefits, or that those who receive benefits will automatically vote for him.

(No. I’m not even going to TOUCH the hateful assertion that those receiving government benefits “believe they are victims” or won’t “take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” I know Mitt Romney lives in a gilded bubble, and that he was speaking to a room full of similarly insulated hyper-wealthy individuals, but this is so desperately insulting to working people, to the elderly, and to our nation as a whole that it makes my brain explode. I’m saving that for tomorrow.)

These are people who pay no income tax.” There is quite a bit of overlap between those who receive government benefits and those who pay no taxes, simply because our tax system is (sanely and humanely) structured to limit the tax burden on the very poor. So yes, many elderly people receiving social security pay no income taxes. Many working class families pay income taxes and then receive a full refund because the standard deductions cover their liability. But you know who else doesn’t pay income taxes? Students working part-time while they go through college. U.S. soldiers in combat zones. Oh, and of course, Mitt Romney and the thousands of other households in the top 3% of incomes who manage to zero-out their taxes with deductions, credits, and manipulation.

The sad fact is, Romney is conflating these three ideas – Obama’s base, those receiving federal aid, and those who pay no taxes – for a simple and craven reason. This is their narrative, repeated again and again at the Values Voters Summit this past weekend:

“There’s a growing segment of the American population that is dependent on government funds and largesse,” says Dean Welty, an activist from Virginia. “Many of them give the Obama administration credit for that. We have the largest number of people on welfare we’ve ever had. We have the largest number of people on unemployment. It’s not good for the country, but it’s good for Obama.”

and again, from The Slate,

“Forty-seven million on food stamps and the regime is advertising for more,” said [Rush] Limbaugh in July. “We have 47, 48 percent who pay no income taxes. We have 3 million more off the unemployment rolls and on the disability rolls, and they all vote.”

Romney was speaking directly to this Republican narrative, stoking the fears of those who believe our black president is willfully destroying the economy to create a culture of dependence to expand his base. In this hateful scenario, Obama voters are all welfare queens, living off hardworking folks like you and me. They contribute NOTHING, they don’t even pay taxes, they refuse to take responsibility for themselves, and that’s the culture this president encourages….

It’s a sad and horrifying mash-up of Ayn-Randian narcissism, paranoia, and racism. It’s the crudest, basest dog-whistle, but it works, apparently even with multi-millionaires. I suppose they too may have “deep-seated personal antipathy” towards President Obama.

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Post-Convention Euphoria

September 7, 2012

Now THAT was a speech. I guess we got spoiled in 2008, when Obama trotted out a new, moving speech for every primary win… but I’d forgotten what this felt like – to truly believe that the man running for President really understood my values, my concerns, my hopes for the best in this nation. But now that he’s the POTUS, it seems all I’ve heard about is the Republican ticket. Attacks on women’s reproductive rights, vitriol over gays in the military, the promise to end Obamacare, the pledge to enshrine intolerance in our Constitution. And lies upon lies upon lies. Lies about Medicare, lies about taxes, lies about the President’s record, and lies about their own records. I don’t know what it’s like, experiencing a national election from a blue state, but here in Tennessee it gets scary. Sometimes it seems that no one in public life is willing to stand up with the President and embrace what he’s done, to be openly liberal and proud of it. To represent what Howard Dean once called “The Democratic wing of the Democratic party.”

Word cloud of Obama’s speech to the DNC (click to enlarge)

I was reminded of the euphoria I felt when Obama was elected. Not just the joy that came from having worked so hard for this result; I felt, for a moment, as if people like me were in the majority, for the first time in my adult life. People who wanted opportunities for advancement to be open to all in the United States, people who believe that the government can make a positive difference in people’s lives. People who believed that no one should be without a safe home or adequate food and medical care – that our society should provide a floor through which we let no one fall, and a ladder to help them achieve more. People who believe that we are all created equal and all deserve dignity and respect in our society, regardless of race or disability or sexual orientation or financial portfolio… This speech brought that back to me. Others set the tone so beautifully – Clinton debunked the Republican lies, Biden reminded us just how good Obama is at the hardest job in the nation – but Barack Obama did what he does best. Put our hopes into words, our faith in our country into sharp focus. Highlighted our potential for greatness, brought out the best in our nation. I’ve been struggling to articulate what is so obviously wrong with the GOP platform this year – it lacks empathy, it lacks inclusion… but there was something more I couldn’t name. And Obama named it. CITIZENSHIP. The idea that we have responsibilities, as well as rights, and that through our government, we work together for the good of our community.

[W]e also believe in something called citizenship, a word at the very heart of our founding, at the very essence of our democracy; the idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another, and to future generations.

We believe that when a CEO pays his autoworkers enough to buy the cars that they build, the whole company does better. We believe that when a family can no longer be tricked into signing a mortgage they can’t afford, that family is protected, but so is the value of other people’s homes, and so is the entire economy. We believe the little girl who’s offered an escape from poverty by a great teacher or a grant for college could become the next Steve Jobs, or the scientist who cures cancer, or the President of the United States, and it’s in our power to give her that chance….

Because — because in America, we understand that this democracy is ours.

We, the People, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which asks only what’s in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defense.

As citizens, we understand that America is not about what can be done for us. It’s about what can be done by us, together, through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government. That’s what we believe.

(full transcript at The Washington Post)

That’s what being a Democrat is all about. And we should never be ashamed of it. We ask for common sacrifice for the common good. We don’t hate business, or stifle success – we breed success by fostering dignity and opportunity. I feel at home again, back in the Democratic wing of the Democratic party. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.