Tag Archives: Obama

Romney's First Foreign Policy Test: Fail.

13 Sep

The last 48 hours have displayed the best and worst in American handling of urgent foreign crises. 

Secretary Clinton and President Obama are deftly handling a crisis caused by idiots. Romney and certain Republicans – but not all (to their credit) have chosen politics over patriotism.

An absolutely horribly produced movie was posted to YouTube in July by a convicted fraud in California. We know how movies like Passion of the Christ insulted Jews, and we know how Life of Brian and Last Temptation of Christ insulted Christians – although I’m not aware of these movies inciting riots, murder, and international crises. But then neither of those movies clumsily accused their central deity figures of being murderous pedophiles. The movie itself was shot on a budget reaching into the dozens of dollars, and the actors were completely duped – none of them had any clue they were filming a movie defaming a major religion’s prophet.  They’re understandably horrified that the movie resulted in riots that led to the deaths of American diplomats in Libya. 

And about those riots in Egypt and the murders in Libya – they are inexcusable and unacceptable. Secretary of State Clinton said all the right things and hit the right tone: 

We must be clear-eyed even in our grief. This was an attack by a small and savage group, not the people or government of Libya. Everywhere Chris and his team went in Libya, in a country scared by war and tyranny, they were hailed as friends and partners. And when the attack came yesterday, Libyans stood and fought to defend our post. Some were wounded. Some Libyans carried Chris’s body to the hospital and they helped rescue and lead other Americans to safety. Last night when I spoke with the President of Libya, he strongly condemned the violence and pledged every effort to protect our people and pursue those responsible.

The friendship between our countries borne out of shared struggle will not be another casualty of this attack. A free and stable Libya is still in America’s interest and security. And we will not turn our back on that.

President Obama had this to say: 

There was controversy, however, thanks to the shoot-first-aim-later reactionaries in the GOP. Chief among them, Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who broke a 9/11 campaign truce to release a hit piece on Obama after 10pm that day. 

I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.

At precisely midnight 9/12, RNC Chair Reince Preibus Tweeted, “Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic.”

But the statement of “sympathy” that Preibus and Romney are criticizing didn’t come from Obama. It came from the diplomatic staff in the American Embassy in Cairo well before the actual rioting began as an effort to prevent it. They were trying to calm a bad situation, unfortunately it didn’t work. But Obama didn’t write it, nor did he condone it

There should be “civilized demonstrations of the Egyptian people’s displeasure with this film,” the Brotherhood spokesman said, according to the newspaper Web site. “Any nonpeaceful activity will be exploited by those who hate Islam to defame the image of Egypt and Muslims.”

Bracing for trouble before the start of the protests here and in Libya, the American Embassy released a statement shortly after noon that appeared to refer to Mr. Jones: “The United States Embassy in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions.” It later denounced the “unjustified breach of our embassy.”

Apparently unaware of the timing of the first embassy statement, the Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, put out a statement just before midnight Tuesday saying, “It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.” Mr. Romney also said he was “outraged” at the attacks on the embassy and consulate.

As Andrew Sullivan points out, the Romney camp’s vicious criticism of Obama while an international crisis was still going on wasn’t just based on a lie and tone-deaf in every way, but it’s indicative of the fact that Romney is simply unfit to govern. Romney’s 3am call resulted in shooting from the hip without having even a small amount of the facts. 

Predictably, the conservative reactionary commentariat is outraged, likening Obama to Carter (?!) and heaping scorn and derision on the entire Muslim world as being a bunch of clumsy medieval murderous barbarians. 

Because, evidently, that’s how you handle international incidents – you dehumanize the enemy, turn them into something unfit for life. Even though some semi-intelligent cretins yelled “fire” in the most crowded theater in the world. 

TPM has a comprehensive timeline of the events

  • 7:35 p.m. ET: Reuters confirms that an American consulate staffer has been killed in Benghazi. This staffer is later identified as Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith.
  • 10:09 p.m. ET: The Romney campaign issue a statement from Mitt Romney himself condemning the Obama administration for the Cairo embassy’s repudiation of religiously insensitive speech. It falsely suggests that the Cairo embassy’s condemnation came in response to the attacks in both Egypt and Lybia. 

    I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It’s disgraceful that the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.

    The statement is embargoed — meaning the press cannot report on it — until midnight, Sept. 12 — the moment the Obama and Romney campaigns’ Sept. 11 truce is scheduled to end

  • 10:10 p.m. ET: An Obama administration source disavows the U.S. embassy in Cairo’s statement of condemnation to Politico.
  • 10:25 p.m. ET: Without explanation, the Romney campaign lifts its embargo on Romney’s statement and it becomes public.
  • 10:44 p.m. ET: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemns the attack in Benghazi. 

    I condemn in the strongest terms the attack on our mission in Benghazi today. As we work to secure our personnel and facilities, we have confirmed that one of our State Department officers was killed. We are heartbroken by this terrible loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and those who have suffered in this attack.

    This evening, I called Libyan President Magariaf to coordinate additional support to protect Americans in Libya. President Magariaf expressed his condemnation and condolences and pledged his government’s full cooperation.

    Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet. The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.

    In light of the events of today, the United States government is working with partner countries around the world to protect our personnel, our missions, and American citizens worldwide.

  • Just before midnight ET, the U.S. embassy in Cairo removes some its tweets, from both before and during the protests, condemning religiously offensive speech. It does not remove one posted at 4:29 p.m. ET: “3) Sorry, but neither breaches of our compound or angry messages will dissuade us from defending freedom of speech AND criticizing bigotry.”

Sept. 12

  • 12:01 a.m. ET: Just as the campaigns’ Sept. 11 detente ends, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus tweets, “Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic.” Unlike Romney’s statement, Priebus’ tweet is silent on Libya.
  • 12:09 a.m. ET: The Obama campaign fires back. “We are shocked that, at a time when the United States of America is confronting the tragic death of one of our diplomatic officers in Libya, Governor Romney would choose to launch a political attack,” spokesman Ben LaBolt said, in an emailed statement.

It’s absolutely unbelievable. Romney has found almost no support whatsoever among elected Republicans, most of whom condemned the attacks without throwing political bombs. In fact, they went on the record criticizing the President for attacks that were still taking place at the time. in response to Romney’s disgusting criticism, President Obama said

There’s a broader lesson to be learned here: Governor Romney seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later and as president one of the things I’ve learned is you can’t do that. It’s important for you to make sure that the statements that you make are backed up by the facts and that you’ve thought through the ramifications before you make them.

Weird, because the Romney campaign issued a bunch of talking points to surrogates that included

Questions & Answers:

Don’t you think it was appropriate for the embassy to condemn the controversial movie in question? Are you standing up for movies like this?

– Governor Romney rejects the reported message of the movie. There is no room for religious hatred or intolerance.

That’s sort of exactly what the Cairo embassy wrote before the rioting began. Isn’t that what Romney was criticizing them and Obama for? In any event, Romney seems quite pleased with himself

To Republicans who are trying out the meme that attacks on American diplomatic missions are reflective of a perceived weakness

June 14, 2002, U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan
Suicide bomber kills 12 and injures 51.

February 20, 2003, international diplomatic compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Truck bomb kills 17.

February 28, 2003, U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan
Gunmen on motorcycles killed two consulate guards.

July 30, 2004, U.S. embassy in Taskkent, Uzbekistan
Suicide bomber kills two.

December 6, 2004, U.S. consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Militants stormed and occupied perimeter wall. Five killed, 10 wounded.

March 2, 2006, U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan
Suicide car bomber killed four, including a U.S. diplomate directly targeted by the assailants.

September 12, 2006, U.S. embassy in Damascus, Syria
Gunmen attacked embassy with grenades, automatic weapons, and a car bomb (though second truck bomb failed to detonate). One killed and 13 wounded.

January 12, 2007, U.S. embassy in Athens, Greece
A rocket-propelled grenade was fired at the embassy building. No one was injured.

July 9, 2008, U.S. consulate in Istanbul, Turkey
Armed men attacked consulate with pistols and shotguns. Three policemen killed.

March 18, 2008, U.S. embassy in Sana’a, Yemen
Mortar attack misses embassy, hits nearby girls’ school instead.

September 17, 2008, U.S. embassy in Sana’a, Yemen
Militants dressed as policemen attacked the embassy with RPGs, rifles, grenades and car bombs. Six Yemeni soldiers and seven civilians were killed. Sixteen more were injured.

Possibly this explains what’s going on in the brazen, party-first, country-last GOP: 

Romney’s First Foreign Policy Test: Fail.

13 Sep

The last 48 hours have displayed the best and worst in American handling of urgent foreign crises. 

Secretary Clinton and President Obama are deftly handling a crisis caused by idiots. Romney and certain Republicans – but not all (to their credit) have chosen politics over patriotism.

An absolutely horribly produced movie was posted to YouTube in July by a convicted fraud in California. We know how movies like Passion of the Christ insulted Jews, and we know how Life of Brian and Last Temptation of Christ insulted Christians – although I’m not aware of these movies inciting riots, murder, and international crises. But then neither of those movies clumsily accused their central deity figures of being murderous pedophiles. The movie itself was shot on a budget reaching into the dozens of dollars, and the actors were completely duped – none of them had any clue they were filming a movie defaming a major religion’s prophet.  They’re understandably horrified that the movie resulted in riots that led to the deaths of American diplomats in Libya. 

And about those riots in Egypt and the murders in Libya – they are inexcusable and unacceptable. Secretary of State Clinton said all the right things and hit the right tone: 

We must be clear-eyed even in our grief. This was an attack by a small and savage group, not the people or government of Libya. Everywhere Chris and his team went in Libya, in a country scared by war and tyranny, they were hailed as friends and partners. And when the attack came yesterday, Libyans stood and fought to defend our post. Some were wounded. Some Libyans carried Chris’s body to the hospital and they helped rescue and lead other Americans to safety. Last night when I spoke with the President of Libya, he strongly condemned the violence and pledged every effort to protect our people and pursue those responsible.

The friendship between our countries borne out of shared struggle will not be another casualty of this attack. A free and stable Libya is still in America’s interest and security. And we will not turn our back on that.

President Obama had this to say: 

There was controversy, however, thanks to the shoot-first-aim-later reactionaries in the GOP. Chief among them, Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who broke a 9/11 campaign truce to release a hit piece on Obama after 10pm that day. 

I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.

At precisely midnight 9/12, RNC Chair Reince Preibus Tweeted, “Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic.”

But the statement of “sympathy” that Preibus and Romney are criticizing didn’t come from Obama. It came from the diplomatic staff in the American Embassy in Cairo well before the actual rioting began as an effort to prevent it. They were trying to calm a bad situation, unfortunately it didn’t work. But Obama didn’t write it, nor did he condone it

There should be “civilized demonstrations of the Egyptian people’s displeasure with this film,” the Brotherhood spokesman said, according to the newspaper Web site. “Any nonpeaceful activity will be exploited by those who hate Islam to defame the image of Egypt and Muslims.”

Bracing for trouble before the start of the protests here and in Libya, the American Embassy released a statement shortly after noon that appeared to refer to Mr. Jones: “The United States Embassy in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions.” It later denounced the “unjustified breach of our embassy.”

Apparently unaware of the timing of the first embassy statement, the Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, put out a statement just before midnight Tuesday saying, “It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.” Mr. Romney also said he was “outraged” at the attacks on the embassy and consulate.

As Andrew Sullivan points out, the Romney camp’s vicious criticism of Obama while an international crisis was still going on wasn’t just based on a lie and tone-deaf in every way, but it’s indicative of the fact that Romney is simply unfit to govern. Romney’s 3am call resulted in shooting from the hip without having even a small amount of the facts. 

Predictably, the conservative reactionary commentariat is outraged, likening Obama to Carter (?!) and heaping scorn and derision on the entire Muslim world as being a bunch of clumsy medieval murderous barbarians. 

Because, evidently, that’s how you handle international incidents – you dehumanize the enemy, turn them into something unfit for life. Even though some semi-intelligent cretins yelled “fire” in the most crowded theater in the world. 

TPM has a comprehensive timeline of the events

  • 7:35 p.m. ET: Reuters confirms that an American consulate staffer has been killed in Benghazi. This staffer is later identified as Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith.
  • 10:09 p.m. ET: The Romney campaign issue a statement from Mitt Romney himself condemning the Obama administration for the Cairo embassy’s repudiation of religiously insensitive speech. It falsely suggests that the Cairo embassy’s condemnation came in response to the attacks in both Egypt and Lybia. 

    I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It’s disgraceful that the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.

    The statement is embargoed — meaning the press cannot report on it — until midnight, Sept. 12 — the moment the Obama and Romney campaigns’ Sept. 11 truce is scheduled to end

  • 10:10 p.m. ET: An Obama administration source disavows the U.S. embassy in Cairo’s statement of condemnation to Politico.
  • 10:25 p.m. ET: Without explanation, the Romney campaign lifts its embargo on Romney’s statement and it becomes public.
  • 10:44 p.m. ET: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemns the attack in Benghazi. 

    I condemn in the strongest terms the attack on our mission in Benghazi today. As we work to secure our personnel and facilities, we have confirmed that one of our State Department officers was killed. We are heartbroken by this terrible loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and those who have suffered in this attack.

    This evening, I called Libyan President Magariaf to coordinate additional support to protect Americans in Libya. President Magariaf expressed his condemnation and condolences and pledged his government’s full cooperation.

    Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet. The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.

    In light of the events of today, the United States government is working with partner countries around the world to protect our personnel, our missions, and American citizens worldwide.

  • Just before midnight ET, the U.S. embassy in Cairo removes some its tweets, from both before and during the protests, condemning religiously offensive speech. It does not remove one posted at 4:29 p.m. ET: “3) Sorry, but neither breaches of our compound or angry messages will dissuade us from defending freedom of speech AND criticizing bigotry.”

Sept. 12

  • 12:01 a.m. ET: Just as the campaigns’ Sept. 11 detente ends, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus tweets, “Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic.” Unlike Romney’s statement, Priebus’ tweet is silent on Libya.
  • 12:09 a.m. ET: The Obama campaign fires back. “We are shocked that, at a time when the United States of America is confronting the tragic death of one of our diplomatic officers in Libya, Governor Romney would choose to launch a political attack,” spokesman Ben LaBolt said, in an emailed statement.

It’s absolutely unbelievable. Romney has found almost no support whatsoever among elected Republicans, most of whom condemned the attacks without throwing political bombs. In fact, they went on the record criticizing the President for attacks that were still taking place at the time. in response to Romney’s disgusting criticism, President Obama said

There’s a broader lesson to be learned here: Governor Romney seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later and as president one of the things I’ve learned is you can’t do that. It’s important for you to make sure that the statements that you make are backed up by the facts and that you’ve thought through the ramifications before you make them.

Weird, because the Romney campaign issued a bunch of talking points to surrogates that included

Questions & Answers:

Don’t you think it was appropriate for the embassy to condemn the controversial movie in question? Are you standing up for movies like this?

– Governor Romney rejects the reported message of the movie. There is no room for religious hatred or intolerance.

That’s sort of exactly what the Cairo embassy wrote before the rioting began. Isn’t that what Romney was criticizing them and Obama for? In any event, Romney seems quite pleased with himself

To Republicans who are trying out the meme that attacks on American diplomatic missions are reflective of a perceived weakness

June 14, 2002, U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan
Suicide bomber kills 12 and injures 51.

February 20, 2003, international diplomatic compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Truck bomb kills 17.

February 28, 2003, U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan
Gunmen on motorcycles killed two consulate guards.

July 30, 2004, U.S. embassy in Taskkent, Uzbekistan
Suicide bomber kills two.

December 6, 2004, U.S. consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Militants stormed and occupied perimeter wall. Five killed, 10 wounded.

March 2, 2006, U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan
Suicide car bomber killed four, including a U.S. diplomate directly targeted by the assailants.

September 12, 2006, U.S. embassy in Damascus, Syria
Gunmen attacked embassy with grenades, automatic weapons, and a car bomb (though second truck bomb failed to detonate). One killed and 13 wounded.

January 12, 2007, U.S. embassy in Athens, Greece
A rocket-propelled grenade was fired at the embassy building. No one was injured.

July 9, 2008, U.S. consulate in Istanbul, Turkey
Armed men attacked consulate with pistols and shotguns. Three policemen killed.

March 18, 2008, U.S. embassy in Sana’a, Yemen
Mortar attack misses embassy, hits nearby girls’ school instead.

September 17, 2008, U.S. embassy in Sana’a, Yemen
Militants dressed as policemen attacked the embassy with RPGs, rifles, grenades and car bombs. Six Yemeni soldiers and seven civilians were killed. Sixteen more were injured.

Possibly this explains what’s going on in the brazen, party-first, country-last GOP: 

Hope and Change 2.0

7 Sep

Last night’s speech by President Obama was not among those seminal, high-minded speeches that he’s known for. The oratory wasn’t soaring, and the themes were considerably more grounded. But two things stuck out for me: 

1. Citizenship is more than just self-interest. With rights come responsibilities, which we must share to make a better America and to build the foundation for a better future; and 

2. Don’t mock hope.

The Democratic convention was everything the Republicans’ wasn’t. It was well-organized, it saw no sectarian drama, and it was enthusiastic. The Democrats triumphantly trotted out their most recent ex-occupant of the White House; the Republicans didn’t dare. (Indeed, Bill Clinton said more nice things about George W. Bush than any RNC speaker).  The only part of the Republican Party that has any enthusiasm is the tea party, and its enthusiasm is inherently negative. Negative in the sense that its entire ethos, such as it is, has to do with reversing the last 100 years’ worth of consumer protections, social safety net, and the other building blocks that make up a first world industrialized nation. 

Now, our friends at the Republican convention were more than happy to talk about everything they think is wrong with America, but they didn’t have much to say about how they’d make it right. They want your vote, but they don’t want you to know their plan. And that’s because all they have to offer is the same prescription they’ve had for the last thirty years:

‘‘Have a surplus? Try a tax cut.’’

‘‘Deficit too high? Try another.’’

‘‘Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning!’’

Now, I’ve cut taxes for those who need it— middle-class families and small businesses. But I don’t believe that another round of tax breaks for millionaires will bring good jobs to our shores, or pay down our deficit. I don’t believe that firing teachers or kicking students off financial aid will grow the economy, or help us compete with the scientists and engineers coming out of China. After all that we’ve been through, I don’t believe that rolling back regulations on Wall Street will help the small businesswoman expand, or the laid-off construction worker keep his home. We’ve been there, we’ve tried that, and we’re not going back. We’re moving forward.

You don’t get to be part of the first world if you don’t feed the hungry, treat the sick, and help the needy. He brought our social contract as Americans back into play – a direct assault on the Randian “every man for himself” mindset that the right has begun to espouse. 

The DNC brought about a triad of speeches building up to last night. Michelle Obama’s speech contrasted her family’s story with that of Mitt Romney. Bill Clinton’s speech was an incredible upload of Democratic arguments. 

– Bill Clinton explained that, since 1961, Democrats are twice as good at creating jobs than Republicans. True.

– Clinton argued that Romney’s plan to cut taxes on the richest Americans would increase the deficit and obliterate the budgets for national parks, clean air, clean water, and education. True.

– Clinton said that the Republicans quadrupled the national debt under Reagan and Bush Sr., and doubled it again under W. Bush. True.

– Clinton asserted that the Obama economy has created 4.5 million private-sector jobs in the last 29 months. True.  

The takeaway from President Obama’s speech was shared responsibility, shared sacrifice, citizenship. Hope. Future. Forward. He has a duty to explain why everything hasn’t already turned around from the 2008 free-fall. I think he did that, with President Clinton’s help. He looked forward – restoring domestic manufacturing, reworking how we produce and consume energy to be less dependent on foreign oil, improving education, “nation-building” here at home, he called it. 

If we can spend a trillion dollars to build Iraq, we can do at least that here. 

The RNC spent a few days mocking hope and change – making fun of the President for not “delivering”, (whatever that means), and all but mocking people who believed in it in the first place. The RNC ignored the fact that the mess we’re still not completely out of, is one which they brought about through their failed policies. 

But even if you’re a Republican and disagree with Obama – is it really smart to denigrate the notion of “hope”? The RNC kept saying America was in decline – an assertion that any self-respecting national politician would never make. Well, if we’re in “decline”, wouldn’t change be a good thing? Their whole argument is flimsy nonsense. 

One of the big themes in this election is going to be Republicans reassuring businesses that “you built that”. To counter that, Obama last night struck a theme of you (collectively, America) did this. You don’t bring about change by giving up. 

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.

So you see, the election four years ago wasn’t about me. It was about you. My fellow citizens— you were the change.

You’re the reason there’s a little girl with a heart disorder in Phoenix who’ll get the surgery she needs because an insurance company can’t limit her coverage. You did that.

You’re the reason a young man in Colorado who never thought he’d be able to afford his dream of earning a medical degree is about to get that chance. You made that possible.

You’re the reason a young immigrant who grew up here and went to school here and pledged allegiance to our flag will no longer be deported from the only country she’s ever called home; why selfless soldiers won’t be kicked out of the military because of who they are or who they love; why thousands of families have finally been able to say to the loved ones who served us so bravely: ‘‘Welcome home.’’

If you turn away now— if you buy into the cynicism that the change we fought for isn’t possible. well, change will not happen. If you give up on the idea that your voice can make a difference, then other voices will fill the void: lobbyists and special interests; the people with the $10 million checks who are trying to buy this election and those who are making it harder for you to vote; Washington politicians who want to decide who you can marry, or control health care choices that women should make for themselves.

Only you can make sure that doesn’t happen. Only you have the power to move us forward.

Government and policies are what you make of them, as citizens. The choice has become quite stark, as the corporatist reactionist policies of the opposition becomes more and more expressly hostile to the interests of average Americans. 

It was a subdued speech that finished strong, and if the theme of citizenship wasn’t getting through to you, the closing song was Bruce Springsteen’s “We Take Care of Our Own”. 

The reasons why I support this President are myriad – I support expanding and improving education so that we can compete with Europe and China.  I support reducing our dependence not only on foreign oil, but also expanding our use of alternative energy so that we lay the foundation for future sustainability of our energy needs. I support a foreign policy that is less bellicose and more rational. I support expanding medical insurance to all Americans. I support equal rights for LGBT Americans, and marriage equality. I support re-working our immigration laws so that law-abiding undocumented workers have a path to citizenship, so that we have a proper guest worker program for certain industries, and so that we get better at attracting and keeping skilled, educated immigrants we’ve always welcomed. I support clean water, clean air, and not befouling our environment. I reject the idea that people who choose not to “believe” in objective scientific fact can somehow dictate what the rest of us do, believe, or teach our kids. 

But as I stand here tonight, I have never been more hopeful about America. Not because I think I have all the answers. Not because I’m naïve about the magnitude of our challenges.

I’m hopeful because of you.

The young woman I met at a science fair who won national recognition for her biology research while living with her family at a homeless shelter— she gives me hope.

The auto worker who won the lottery after his plant almost closed, but kept coming to work every day, and bought flags for his whole town and one of the cars that he built to surprise his wife— he gives me hope.

The family business in Warroad, Minn., that didn’t lay off a single one of their four thousand employees during this recession, even when their competitors shut down dozens of plants, even when it meant the owners gave up some perks and pay— because they understood their biggest asset was the community and the workers who helped build that business— they give me hope.

And I think about the young sailor I met at Walter Reed hospital, still recovering from a grenade attack that would cause him to have his leg amputated above the knee. Six months ago, I would watch him walk into a White House dinner honoring those who served in Iraq, tall and 20 pounds heavier, dashing in his uniform, with a big grin on his face; sturdy on his new leg. And I remember how a few months after that I would watch him on a bicycle, racing with his fellow wounded warriors on a sparkling spring day, inspiring other heroes who had just begun the hard path he had traveled.

He gives me hope.

I don’t know what party these men and women belong to. I don’t know if they’ll vote for me. But I know that their spirit defines us. They remind me, in the words of scripture, that ours is a ‘‘future filled with hope.’’

And if you share that faith with me— if you share that hope with me— I ask you tonight for your vote.

If you reject the notion that this nation’s promise is reserved for the few, your voice must be heard in this election.

If you reject the notion that our government is forever beholden to the highest bidder, you need to stand up in this election.

If you believe that new plants and factories can dot our landscape; that new energy can power our future; that new schools can provide ladders of opportunity to this nation of dreamers; if you believe in a country where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules, then I need you to vote this November.

America, I never said this journey would be easy, and I won’t promise that now. Yes, our path is harder— but it leads to a better place. Yes our road is longer— but we travel it together. We don’t turn back. We leave no one behind. We pull each other up. We draw strength from our victories, and we learn from our mistakes, but we keep our eyes fixed on that distant horizon, knowing that providence is with us, and that we are surely blessed to be citizens of the greatest nation on earth.

The choice this year is even clearer than it was in 2004 or 2008. In retrospect, the 2000 election was the most important in recent memory. Now that the wars it brought about are winding down, the 2012 election sets the stage for a crucial debate about the direction of our economy, our government – our very civilization. We don’t fix what’s broken, educate kids, clean up the environment, move forward with energy, strengthen Social Security and Medicare, and lift citizens up by drowning the federal government in the bathtub

I didn’t need Obama’s DNC acceptance speech to help make up my mind to vote for him, but it was good to be reminded of the reasons why. 

Ryan, Romney, Regression

13 Aug

So, Mitt Romney selected Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan to be his Vice Presidential candidate. Ryan is popular among conservatives, so this should help shore up some rightist support for the wishy-washy Romney. Ryan’s popularity comes despite the fact that his policies are all about doing more for those who have everything and doing less for those who have nothing. 

Don’t say there’s no difference between the Republican and Democratic tickets this year. The difference couldn’t be starker. 

Forward!

Tax Cuts For Thee, Tax Cuts For Me

1 Aug

There is an impasse brewing in Washington over the Bush-era, post-9/11 stimulus made up entirely of income tax cuts. 

This is the same stimulus plan that has been in effect throughout the current economic uncertainty, and the recent global economic meltdown that took place, and has done little to make sure wealth trickles down, or to create jobs. 

It’s becoming part of the NY-27 race, in particular. Republican Chris Collins paints himself as the small business everyman, and called on Representative Kathy Hochul (D) to vote to extend tax cuts even to the wealthiest Americans.  Collins claims millions of small businesses, who aren’t hiring now, would be forced to not hire people (what, like even worser?!) if the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy aren’t extended. Essentially all of the $1 million+ earners in the country are not “small business owners”;  only about 2.5% of small businesses would be affected.  It would also expend the deficit by another trillion dollars, so it’s what we call “fiscally not particularly conservative”.

In fact, since Reaganomics and trickle down/supply-side economics became de rigeur,  wages haven’t stagnated for average Americans – they’e “plummeted”. Wealth hasn’t trickled down to anyone, unless maybe you own a Bentley or yacht dealership. 

No, we shouldn’t begrudge the rich their wealth. However they got it, they’re quite entitled to it. By the same token, we need to stop the hagiography about them being “job creators” without whom our civilization would crumble. Ayn Rand isn’t the treasury secretary. 

President Obama and the Democrats would like to put an end to the tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. What does that mean? 

What it means is that everyone gets to keep the Bush-era tax cut up to the first $250,000 of annual income – even notable job creators like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian.  Here’s the average annual tax savings if the middle-income cuts are maintained, but the high-income cuts are abolished: 

Still a pretty good deal, right? Anyone else getting the idea that Collins’ argument is more about self-interest than policy?  The problem is that many genuine small businesses rely on the middle class to buy their goods and services – directly or indirectly. The best way for that to happen is for people to have money in their pockets and the confidence to spend it. Millionaires never, ever have a problem with either of those factors. As we see above, extending the middle-class tax cuts provide a significant benefit across the income spectrum.

The Dog-Whistle Election of 2012

26 Jul

It was reported yesterday that an un-named advisor to Mitt Romney complained to a foreign publication how President Obama doesn’t share or “appreciate” the shared “Anglo-Saxon heritage” of America and Great Britain. The Romney campaign itself later disavowed this unbelievably stupid comment, but that’s not dissimilar to a celebrity apologizing for an insensitive Tweet. 

You know they meant every word of it. They just realized that it was inconvenient. 

First of all, Anglo-Saxon Britain ended in 1066 with the Norman conquest at Hastings. Like their persistent use of “Soviet” and “Soviet Union” to describe the country known as the “Russian Federation”, the Romney folks need to brush up on their history. 

Secondly, this is all part of a wider theme that’s taken hold of much of the American right since Obama’s nomination and election. It all has to do with painting Obama as a foreign savage devil. How that characterization is made depends somewhat on the person making it, and the intended audience. It may also have something to do with the intelligence of the person making the characterization. 

For instance, the extremely dumb and ignorant – oft racist – will simply aver that the President is a foreign-born Kenyan who was raised at a madrassa in Indonesia as part of a worldwide Communist/Muslim conspiracy to take over the United States – a plot dating back to 1961 at least. People mildly more intelligent will simply “ask questions” about the President’s birthplace and loyalty. 

The less stupid will say they don’t doubt the President’s birth certificate is real, and “take him at his word” that he’s Christian. The scale slides as people more benignly accuse Obama of “not sharing our values”, or being “socialist”, or going around the world “apologizing for America”. 

All of it has a central theme of Republican omniphobia, and of being so fundamentally out of ideas – ideas that plunged the world into a couple of quagmire-y wars and a crushing, long-lasting worldwide economic crisis – that this is all they have to fall back on. Literal demonization of the foreign usurper President, and urging reversion to the very policies that got us into this mess in the first place. 

Obama may not be perfect, but he’s not a foreign Communist savage, either. Mitt Romney, however, is by no means the answer to any sane or rational question. 

Corporate Welfare King Complains About Socialism; Obama Looks Forward

25 Jul

A couple of weeks ago, President Obama gave a speech in Virginia where he somewhat clumsily made the assertion that even self-made businessmen didn’t get successful on their own. They had teachers who inspired them, firefighters and police who protect them, roads that help them engage in commerce, and that ours is a society in which we are somewhat interdependent on each other; i.e., “government” to help private enterprise thrive. It is thus everywhere, despite the current fad among some to denigrate government and everything it does. Fox News is, naturally, at the forefront of this phony nontroversy, even trotting out a couple of little kids to discuss how N0bama is nationalizing their lemonade stand, or something. 

So, Mitt Romney – who purports to be a self-made businessman, facts notwithstanding – put out this ad: 

Jack Gilchrist, the New Hampshire business owner Romney features in that ad, is right out of Republicanland central casting. He whines that the President is “demonizing” people like him, who, with his father, built his business, “through hard work and a little bit of luck”. Also, the black Kenyan guy doesn’t “believe in America”. So, there’s that. 

Yet Jack Gilchrist didn’t just get where he is thanks to hard work, luck, teachers, roads, and civic protection services. He also got there thanks to thousands of socialist government dollars

In 1999, Gilchrist Metal received $800,000 in tax-exempt revenue bonds issued by the New Hampshire Business Finance Authority “to set up a second manufacturing plant and purchase equipment to produce high definition television broadcasting equipment,” according to a New Hampshire Union Leader report at the time…

Last year, Gilchrist Metal also received two U.S. Navy sub-contracts totaling about $83,000 and a smaller $5,600 Coast Guard contract in 2008, according to a government web site that tracks spending.

Gilchrist also is a recipient of an SBA loan of about $500,000, with matching funds from the federally-funded New England Trade Adjustment Assistance Center.  In other words, Gilchrist got where he is thanks to hard work, a little bit of luck, and over a million dollars in federal and state corporate welfare. Out of all the businesspeople available in the country to use to send this message, Romney’s campaign didn’t even adequately vet their Obama-hating generic middle-aged blue-collar rich guy. 

By contrast, in the wake of the Aurora shootings, the Obama campaign took the opportunity to speak frankly to the American people about what’s really at stake in this election, and he also directly addressed Romney’s clumsy rejection of civic society: 

Obamacare: The Mandate And the Taxing Power

29 Jun

Oftentimes, the federal government finds itself wanting to promote a certain behavior as part of a national program, but without the direct power to do so. By way of example, in the 1980s, the Reagan Administration decided that it wanted the drinking age to be raised from 18 to 21 nationwide. But the drinking age isn’t a federal, but a state statute. In order to persuade states to raise the drinking age, the federal government passed an incentive plan. If a state failed to raise its drinking age to 21, it would find itself with a diminution in federal highway funding. 

“The power to tax involves the power to destroy”, wrote Chief Justice John Marshall in 1819. With respect to the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare”, the power to tax also involves the power to build something. Under the law, beginning in 2014, Congress will require most Americans to obtain health insurance, or – if you don’t, you pay a fine to the government. The mandate was, ironically, a precondition set by the insurance industry, without which they would not be able to economically justify offering insurance to people with pre-existing conditions at no penalty.

The key part of Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion yesterday reviewed the constitutional justification for that mandate to purchase health insurance.  Congress’ powers are specifically limited and enumerated in Article 1 of the Constitution. 

Roberts turned first to the Commerce Clause (Article 1, Section 8), whereby Congress has the power to “regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.”  Roberts rejected the argument that the government could regulate the absence of commerce; you cannot regulate that which does not exist.  His analysis seems somewhat limited, however. After all, there is not a personal alive who isn’t engaged in the health care market now, or inevitably. Even if you’re not seeking medical care, you’re paying for others’. 

Right now, you and I (and everybody) are taxed to help pay for uninsured people’s emergency room visits. ERs can’t turn people away, and oftentimes the poor and uninsured use them for primary care.  Those hospitals seek reimbursement for the cost of providing those services through two Federal Programs, Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) and Upper Payment Limit (UPL)–that require a 50% local share match. So…instead of forcing the cost of health care provision onto the people who don’t have insurance, you (a taxpayer, or a person with insurance) are paying for them to get health care with both your federal and county tax dollars. 

Secondly, Roberts turned briefly to the “Necessary and Proper” Clause, also in Article 1, Section 8, it reads, “The Congress shall have Power – To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.”  Roberts declined to go along with this, reasoning that…

Each of our prior cases upholding laws under that Clause involved exercises of authority derivative of, and in service to, a granted power. For example, we have upheld provisions permitting continued confinement of those already in federal custody when they could not be safely released…[t]he individual mandate, by contrast, vests Congress with the extraordinary ability to create the necessary predicate to the exercise of an enumerated power.

And so, the last resort – the “in the alternative” argument – was most persuasive to the 5 members of the Court who voted to maintain the ACA mandate. The very first Congressional power enumerated at Article 1, section 8 involves the power to tax and spend. Roberts wrote that Congress’ mandate isn’t the issue – it’s the “penalty” imposed on people who refuse to purchase insurance. While the dissent argued that the government is semantically blocked from calling the “penalty” a “tax”, Roberts argued that the word “penalty” assumes some sort of fine for illegality. Yet the refusal to purchase insurance isn’t illegal – it isn’t a crime. It is merely a choice, and a person’s choice to opt to pay a tax instead of buying insurance is one that government can regulate under its taxing power. 

…the Government asks us to read the mandate not as ordering individuals to buy insurance, but rather as imposing a tax on those who do not buy that product…

…None of this is to say that the payment is not intended to affect individual conduct. Although the payment will raise considerable revenue, it is plainly designed to expand health insurance coverage. But taxes that seek to influence conduct are nothing new. Some of our earliest federal taxes sought to deter the purchase of imported manufactured goods in order to foster the growth of domestic industry

Because Roberts invoked the taxing power, dumber pundits and lazy politicians have pivoted to calling it all – the whole law – a “huge tax”.  Perhaps they should read the law, and then read the Court’s opinion. It’s not a “huge tax”. It’s a mandate that you have health insurance. Chances are, you already have it – it’s not like you’re being forced to buy super-more health insurance on top of what you may already have. And if you don’t have it, you’ll have much easier and cheaper access to health insurance. And if you choose not to have any at all, then you’ll be assessed a fine, a tax, whatever you want to call it. 

The ACA’s “shared responsibility payment”  is a tax only on people who choose not to hold insurance. Anyone who says otherwise is ignorant, mistaken, and/or lying. 

With the mandate in place, no longer will the person without health care get away with not paying hospital bills, and no longer will taxpayers be “mandated” to subsidize those choices. Instead, the person making the choice to avoid insuring himself will be assessed a tax in the eventuality that he becomes ill and can’t afford to pay his bill. Do you want the person without health care to be taxed, or do you want to continue to be taxed because they don’t have health care?

In the olden days, “personal responsibility” was a conservative talking point.  Now, we’re essentially codifying it through Obamacare – you’re responsible to get coverage, or for the consequences if you don’t. Now? 

The remaining portions of the decision dealt with (a) the Court’s analysis of whether the issue was ripe for decision (it is); (b) whether striking the mandate meant invalidating the whole law (they didn’t have to reach it); and (c) a provision dealing with the expansion of Medicaid, holding that States can reject federal funding and therefore not comply with the new rules. 

The misinformation and disinformation being spread over the last 24 hours has been simply mind-blowing. For instance, here’s a fundraising email that Republican congressional candidate Chris Collins (who, incidentally, never, ever has to worry about not being able to afford anything, ever, including health care) sent yesterday: 

Dear friend,

The Supreme Court has confirmed what we already knew – ObamaCare is nothing more than a massive tax increase that will hurt hardworking families and continue to act as a wet blanket on economic growth and job creation.

Today, I’m asking for your donation of $27 dollars to protect the residents of the 27th Congressional District from this massive tax hike and help end ObamaCare.

I need your help to stop Kathy Hochul and Barack Obama from raising taxes on thousands of Western New York and Finger Lakes families. 

$27. 

$27 is how we can protect our families in the 27th Congressional District from massive tax increases.

When I go to Congress, my first order of business will be to lead the fight to repeal ObamaCare and replace it with common sense solutions that protect seniors and don’t crush small businesses and cost us jobs.

$27 can get us there.

Whether it’s $27, or $5, $10, $50 or $100 – anything you can do to help us stop Barack Obama and Kathy Hochul from raising taxes and cutting Medicare by $500 billion is so important.  Will you consider donating today?

There’s so much at stake, and I need your help.

Sincerely,

CHRIS COLLINS

Congressional Candidate, NY-27

No, it’s not one side or another that won or lost – everybody won. Everybody will benefit from the implementation of Obamacare. It isn’t at all a huge tax increase, and the only reason Medicare funding goes down is because the ACA picks up the slack. Obamacare isn’t a “huge tax increase”, indeed it will help families by reducing the most common type of bankruptcy – ones brought about through medical expenses. Is this law a boon to insurers? Yes. That’s why many progressives didn’t like it much, and that’s why the law is something of a Frankenstein’s monster. But Obamacare, like its progenitor, Romneycare, is a fundamentally conservative idea. Because it’s been adopted by a Democratic President whom the Republicans are determined to ruin, it is now characterized as something it’s not. 

And make no mistake – the Republican drive to ruin Obama is so concentrated and driven, that it doesn’t matter what collateral damage there is to average Americans, or the economy. 

It’s not surprising to see a politician lie, but when mere puffery, (“I’m the best”), turns into brazen lying, (“I poop rainbows and spit unicorns”), you have to wonder what the politician thinks of the people who are going to vote for him. I heard some of our right-wing omniphobe media personalities liken the United States under the ACA to North Korea. There was heavy emphasis on “Hussein” yesterday, because “Hussein” is a foreign, Muslim name, and because somehow that correlates with socialism. Or something. I wish I was a professional psychologist so I could better analyze what was taking place.  Even Mitt Romney noted that the Court didn’t hold that Obamacare was a “good policy”. That’s jaw-droppingly dumb – Palin dumb. 

Requiring Americans to buy private health insurance from private corporations is socialist? Spreading the risk across most Americans so that health insurers can’t refuse to insure people with pre-existing conditions is like living in a Stalinist dictatorship with no market, no freedom, no food, no money, closed borders, and extensive gulags? How dumb. Almost as dumb as the many people who took to Twitter to decry the loss of America’s freedom and announce that they’d move to Canada, which has true single-payer socialized medicine. 

Set aside the crazies and the liars – Americans won today. The ACA – Obamacare – isn’t a perfect solution. No solution is perfect, after all. But it will make our health insurance in this country more affordable, with better coverage, and no longer will you live at the mercy of health insurance companies, fearing arbitrary rate hikes, lifetime payout maximums, or being barred from buying insurance due to a pre-existing condition if you change your job. This is good for people

Clownshoes

11 May

When professional Facebooker Sarah Palin quit her last public employment as Governor of Alaska, it was because the media were intruding too much and too far into her personal space, and her family. 

So it’s somewhat ironic to find Ms. Palin’s single-mother abstinence advocate, Bristol, criticizing the Obama family for helping the President arrive at his acceptance of same sex marriage. 

“Is anyone really surprised by the fact that President Obama came out of the closet for gay marriage? What was most surprising is when he explained how his position (supposedly) “evolved,” by talking to his wife and daughters“, wrote Bristol

The single mother of one, who is estranged from her babydaddy, went on to write, 

While it’s great to listen to your kids’ ideas, there’s also a time when dads simply need to be dads.  In this case, it would’ve been helpful for him to explain to Malia and Sasha that while her friends parents are no doubt lovely people, that’s not a reason to change thousands of years of thinking about marriage.  Or that – as great as her friends may be – we know that in general kids do better growing up in a mother/father home.  Ideally, fathers help shape their kids’ worldview.

In this situation, it was the other way around.  I guess we can be glad that Malia and Sasha aren’t younger, or perhaps today’s press conference might have been about appointing Dora the Explorer as Attorney General because of her success in stopping Swiper the Fox.

Sometimes dads should lead their family in the right ways of thinking.  In this case, it would’ve been nice if the President would’ve been an actual leader and helped shape their thoughts instead of merely reflecting what many teenagers think after one too many episodes of Glee.

At what point does Tripp‘s dad get to be dad? The irony and cognitive dissonance here is so incredible – so palpable -as to be infuriatingly hilarious. It’s got everything, starting with the irony of a single mother lecturing the President – who is in a longtime monogomous marriage – about family values.

She lectures the Obamas about how to parent; she trivializes the societal and political import of same-sex marriage – which is critically important to many people, and does no one any harm; she clumsily throws up the idea that teenaged kids and their perhaps more progressive opinions about social issues are akin to a toddler recommending fictional cartoon characters to occupy cabinet posts; and finally, she passive-aggressively attacks Glee, which is a conservative bogeyman representing popular culture’s acceptance of LGBT people as valuable members of society. 

But what I want to know is something I Tweeted shortly after learning of this astonishing criticism by America’s Walking Contradiction: 

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/200644393131196416″%5D

Prez in Gay Flip Flop Flap

10 May

The headline is tongue-in-cheek. Last night, that’s what I predicted the New York Post’s headline would be. I had to put myself in the mindset of an alliterative Murdoch-paid wingnut headline author.  Instead, the Post went with a Travolta massage story

Yesterday, I wrote

Obama is caught between a rock and a hard place here. If he follows his head and comes out in support of same-sex marriage, he risks alienating a huge swath of the electorate – especially those in swing states. This is all about independent and undecided voters, and a vicious campaign based on a selective, phony reliance on obscure Biblical passages ensures that the homophobic drive to oppose same-sex marriage will continue to be strong, and risk Obama’s re-election. 

Unfortunately, this is the perfect opportunity for Obama to led on this particular issue. It’s a great chance for him to give one of those barn-burner, epic, historical speeches he’s known for where he appeals to people’s decency and common sense to try and change minds. 

Later that same day, President Obama said that he had come around to the opinion that, in his opinion, gay couples should be able to get married. This was a shift from his previous opinion – that civil unions would do the trick.  As we learned during the debate in New York over same sex marriage, civil unions don’t do the trick very much at all. 

I’ve seen lots of reaction over Obama’s change of opinion. Some Republicans accuse him of flip-flopping.  But that only works when the politician has changed his view to something safe.  I don’t think this is safe at all – I think it’s risky. This is not a poll-driven thing – this came up unexpectedly thanks to Joe Biden’s appearance on Meet the Press last weekend. The White House took only a few days to get its act together on it.  Mitt Romney reaffirmed his position that marriage can only be between a man and a woman, thus further alienating a particular population – something the Republican field (including Swiss-American Michele Bachmann) had been doing throughout this campaign. 

But it’s clear that Romney is a bit irked by the attention Obama’s getting. 

 

Some Republicans quip that Obama has become – at long last – a clone of Dick Cheney.  For Republicans, that would be valid were it true that Cheney’s view was the mainstream Republican position, but it isn’t.  But even though Obama’s statement in support of same sex marriage didn’t come right out and advocate for any change in legislation – state or federal – it’s a pretty big deal. And it’s quite risky. 

But one thing it might do for Obama is reignite youthful enthusiasm for his re-election. The acceptance of same sex marriage isn’t just geographical or philosophical – it’s generational. 

I don’t know whether Taibbi’s right about this race being a yawn-fest. At the very least, it’ll be fun to watch the Republicans begrudgingly fall behind one-size-fits-all Romney, and I’m sure the attacks on Obama will be as ridiculous as they will be ubiquitous. But Obama has many vulnerabilities, and it will be a test of Romney’s … “managerial” bona fides to see how he exploits that.