Tag Archives: President Barack Obama

The National Debt, Srsly

6 Jul

Washington is debt crazy. But in modern, polarized and uber-politicized 2011, crazy means incoherent brinksmanship. Let me try to add a bit of sanity and food-for-thought to your grey matter as you try to make sense of the current fiasco involving the extension of the debt ceiling.

1) Don’t wish for compromise. Compromise and “bi-partisanship” is what got us in this mess (“this mess” being $14 trillion in total federal debt, $8 Trillion of which has come in the last 11 years, $4.5 Trillion in the last three). Bi-partisanship means Republicans get tax breaks and President Obama gets stimulus programs and the total debt get keeps going up. In an interview that starkly laid out the two sides, Tom Ashbrook of On Point on NPR talked with veteran Congressman Jim Clyburn (D-GA) about the way forward. His answer? We’ve always worked it out before and we need to do so again. Wrong. Working it out as before will make the problem worse. Our country is bad at solving big spending problems. Don’t fix it like before. Fix it a new way. If you are going to wish for something, long-suffering citizen, wish for a lightning bolt of rational planning and decision making to leap from the sky. If that sounds unlikely, then you get the idea.

2) Ignore anyone from either party that says the federal debt is like household debt. If citizens or businesses have to balance their books, then its “common sense” that so should the federal government, and the US government needs to “stop putting things on the credit card.” While Clyburn uses the last argument, Republicans are usually guilty of the former, especially Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH) on the NPR program noted above. Its a load of bollocks. Managing a national economy, defending the nation, making wise targeted investments, meddling in overseeing education, running social service program ad nauseum is a little more complicated than a mortgage and car payment, and there are legitimate (though few) reasons to borrow. More on that in a second.

3) Ignore the China argument. We’re not overly putting our security at risk by borrowing from China – we have their money, and the stuff we bought with it. They have a slip of paper. The worth of those slips of paper is directly related to the strength of our economy. The oligarchs who run China need the US to be strong at least as much as we do. We need to stop borrowing so much, but not because of China.

4) Clamping down the debt ceiling is not a political gimmick or trick. Republicans are not gaming the system or using some obscure parliamentary law to derail the system. They have “discovered” the third step in the funding process. First, Congress Authorizes an agency to spend a certain amount of money on a certain program. Then they Appropriate the funding to the agency, never more than the initial Authorization, and often lower. Then, in all of modern history, Congress votes to raise the debt ceiling to allow borrowing of sufficient funds to meet the Appropriation. Congress has FAILed at controlling themselves in the first two steps, but nearly always considered the third a formality. It is no crime to introduce rigor and provide an opportunity for redirection. However, that leads us to . . .

5) Republicans are about to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Prior to the 2010 election, President Obama was a stimulator, and the conventional wisdom agreed that significant borrowing was required to pull the country out of the Great Recession. Eighteen months later, with the two year old “recovery” yielding record corporate profits, wage stagnation and perhaps systemic high unemployment, President Obama is Deficit Cutter-in-Chief. Republicans successfully changed the conversation from stimulus to debt reduction, and are on the cusp of the “deal of the century,” to quote David Brooks. Now is not the time for tax policy puritanism. An honest discussion of revenues would examine the amount of money the federal government brings in from taxes, not the tax rate itself. Revenues are at 60 year lows, 15% of total economic output instead of the traditional %18, and $500 billion below their peak. Contrary to popular wisdom on both the Democratic and Republican sides, this is mostly due to the economy, not tax policy. Revenues peaked during the boom following (chronologically only) the Bush tax cuts. However, continued tax cutting since has hardly provided a spike to revenues or the economy. Republicans need to catch up with the times – even conservatives economists and experts are finally admitting tax cuts aren’t a cure-all for economic development. Republicans cannot, and should not, be taken seriously about their concern for the federal debt until they endorse increased taxes or reduced subsidies on someone, anyone, somewhere at some time. The initial thirty year old Reagan conservative idea of generally reducing taxes has morphed into an inflexible, irrational, extreme article of faith. Its like some quasi-religious telephone game – after cycling through eight series of Presidential elections, Reagan’s plan to reduce the top marginal rate from 70-ish% has yielded a packed stage at a recent CNN Republican debate where no one would raise a tax anywhere for any reason. As long as Republicans hold out on taxes, Democrats can accurately accuse them of gamesmanship and an utter lack of seriousness, and we stay stagnated. But bend on taxes, and the lack of any real independent competing Democratic plan is instantly unveiled. Will Republicans seize the opportunity? David Brooks, once again, lays out the scathing case for why they won’t.

6) If you are still wondering what the big deal with the debt is at all, ask yourself this question: under what circumstances is it moral and/or ethical to borrow money from your grandchildren? To invest in their future? To secure and defend the country for their safety? To allow their eventual prosperity? Compare those options, and your own answers, to our actual spending now. We’re borrowing to invest not in the future, but the past. We’re spending half our federal budget on social security and Medicare. We’re spending another third on military excursions and interest on the debt. We’re spending a pittance on research, development, education, infrastructure or any other program that could reasonably be called an investment. In other words, we’re borrowing from the future to maintain our (probably unsustainable) quality of life today. The first step in balancing the moral imperatives of providing what was (unreasonably) promised the elderly in their dotage and investing in our children and future is admitting how lopsided the ledger currently is, and where our borrowed dollars are currently flowing. . . even before the Baby Boomers really start retiring en masse.

On Reversing 30 Years of Falsity

14 Apr

Memo to Barry: Fight!!The President, yesterday, commenting on Representative Paul Ryan’s “deficit reduction” 2012 budget plan, which is just shorthand for “ending Medicare, Medicaid, and the social safety net as we know it, plunging the United States backwards into the 19th century”:

The fact is, their vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America. As Ronald Reagan’s own budget director said, there’s nothing “serious” or “courageous” about this plan. There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. There’s nothing courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill. And this is not a vision of the America I know.

The Republicans have doubled down on their obeisance to the superwealthy and powerful corporate interests. They have been quite adept at hiding their preference for oligarchy behind appeals to God, patriotism, and Reagan.  But abolishing the social safety net so that the very rich can pay de minimis taxes, so corporations can relocate freely to the Caymans, or game an system that is advantageous to the hyperwealthy to avoid all taxes, and paying for those tax cuts on the backs of the middle class and wage earners is the real class warfare being waged.

The Ryan plan, aside from directly benefiting do-nothing middleman health insurers – those feckless David Brents of the health delivery industry – promises to not touch Medicare for those now over 55.  So for those of us who have lived, say hypothetically, 42 years in a country with an expectation that at least some of our health care expenses in old age will be covered by a generous and well-run government single-payer health plan, we’d have been deceived. This is fundamentally unfair and unacceptable – simple pandering to the massive baby boomer vote at the expense of “everyone under 55”.  The Ryan plan completely avoid making any cuts to military spending – an unbelievable joke to presume that not even a dollar’s worth of savings might be siphoned off from the military-industrial complex.

Most Americans are politically middle-of-the-road, and economically middle class. The Republicans have spent the last 30 years duping regular folks that it’s critically important to make sure the superwealthy don’t pay a lot in taxes. I don’t quite know why that steaming, fetid pile of lies is still accepted as truth, or reasonable policy.

I know a lot of liberals, progressives, and others who supported Obama are disappointed at a lot of what he’s done, and more at what he hasn’t done. It’s been an intensely complicated three years, to put it mildly. I’m mildly disillusioned, but I’m not ready to abandon the guy yet.  Not when he can so succinctly make the case that the opposition has essentially abandoned regular folks.

Asking billionaires to pay 37% of their income versus 35% isn’t class warfare. It’s reverting back to the Clinton era, when the economy was booming and the government ran a surplus.

The Answer Is 42 Times

8 Feb

And the question is; “How many times can Bill O’Reilly interrupt President Obama during a 14 minute interview?”

During the Super Bowl pre-game show, President Barack Obama sat down for an exclusive, live interview with the King of Right Wing Self-Important Condescension, Bill O’Reilly.  The President must have known going into the interview that he was signing up for his part in the top-rated ongoing Fox News theatrical drama, “OsamaObama Is A Krazy MuslimSoshalista Who Wants To Take Yer Jerbs And Kill Yer Grandma!”  However, I think even he must have been taken aback with the contempt showed to him by O’Reilly during this interview.


O’Reilly was guilty of backhanded remarks, interruptions, snide asides, leading and loaded questions, and unbelievably, asking the President, “Does it bother you that so many people hate you?”  Talk about your passive aggressive insults which pander to the Fox audience.  I’m surprised O’Reilly didn’t ask him “Did you stop beating your wife yet?” or “They sell any mens clothes where you bought that suit?”

There is a difference between being an aggressive interviewer who asks follow-up questions and just being an old fashioned arrogant jerk.  O’Reilly doesn’t seem to understand that difference.  Before his next interview with the President, perhaps O’Reilly could watch a textbook example of solid, aggressive interviewing by an Irish reporter from 2006.


Unfortunately, he’ll probably just stick to pandering to his dummy audience and asking insulting questions.  Here’s a random sample of that nightly O’Reilly audience.


Afghanistan 2011

3 Jan

On June 7th of last year, the Afghanistan “War” became the longest war in the history of the United States.  As of this writing, our involvement in this conflict now exceeds the combined time we spent in a combat role in WWI, WWII and the Korean War, combined.


What is the goal?  How do we know what success looks like?  How do we know when we’ve “won”?  Lindsay Graham appeared on “Meet The Press” this past Sunday and alluded to our desire for permanent basing rights for the US Air Force and Army as preconditions to our “leaving”.

Is it about empire?  Keeping our pulse on nearly $1 Trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan including iron, copper, cobalt, gold and lithium?

After the surge of troops into Afghanistan, General Petraeus now alludes to a withdrawal of combat troops in 2014 and maybe longer.

Sometime in mid-December, the president will meet with his senior national security team to evaluate the war’s progress. It’s virtually certain that Obama’s year-end review will result in no change of policy, no course corrections, and a commitment to remain engaged in combat until 2014 and beyond.

That’s not because Obama’s strategy is working.

By all accounts – except the US military’s overly optimistic reports – that progress is nil. After tripling the level of American forces in a year and launching offensives in Helmand and Kandahar, the Taliban insurgency continues to grow, spreading from its southern stronghold and the areas east of Kabul into Afghanistan’s previously calm northern provinces.Kabul is surrounded to the east, south and west by Taliban-controlled areas, and the insurgents can strike the capital itself with gunmen and suicide bombers at will. The Afghan government has little or no influence over provincial and district administrations anywhere in the country, and the Afghan National Army is unable to operate except as a cosmetic accompaniment to the United States and NATO.

The government put in place by President Bush and supported by President Obama has little to no control over the vast country.  The Taliban is now in control of an estimated 40-50% of the country and they are well-funded through their role in hashish and opium production and distribution estimated to raise nearly half a billion dollars each year.

We’re fighting the war in much the same way the Red Army did, we attempt to control the urban centers while allowing insurgents and Taliban to control the rural areas where 80% of the population lives.  We’re simply not a military built for this type of warfare.

As Bob Woodward noted in his book, “Obama’s Wars”, Richard Holbrooke gave President Obama some stark advice, “The surge won’t work“.  It looks like the late Ambassador may have been right.  So, the question becomes when does this end?  How does it end?  Who has the courage to end it?

The president’s decisions are primarily based on domestic political calculations. The sweeping defeat suffered by Obama’s Democratic party at the polls in November greatly increased the power and influence of hawks in the Republican party in Congress, especially in the House of Representatives, where ultra-conservatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Buck McKeon of California will take over the foreign affairs committee and the armed services committee, respectively. Both are bitterly opposed to the July 2011 drawdown, and they’ve signalled their intention to form a political alliance with the uniformed military, including Petraeus, to quash it.

It’s time to reset the equation, look for different strategies and lay out definitive measurements for “success”.  Else, we’ll spend the next several years with Generals moving the goalposts and asking for more time.

Tax Cut Bill Brings Out The Best In Some Democrats

18 Dec

The Obama Tax Cut compromise-a-palooza bill was signed into law yesterday.  However, the weeks leading up to the passage of the bill were filled with passionate, full-throated defenses of the middle class from some very prominent Democrats on the floor of the house.  Most notably, the eight and a half hour floor speech given by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).


From his website:

At 10:24 a.m. on Friday, Sen. Bernie Sanders walked onto the floor of the U.S. Senate and asked to speak. More than eight and a half hours later, after speaking almost non-stop and never once leaving the floor or even sitting, the senator concluded his remarks in which he laid out why exactly he opposes the tax cut agreement between the White House and congressional Republicans.

“In my view, the agreement they reached is a bad deal for the American people. I think we can do better,” Sanders said. The senator discussed the greatness of the nation: “I know my father came to this country at the age of 17 without a penny in his pocket. He became the proudest American one could ever see. He didn’t have much of an education, but he knew this country gave him a great opportunity. That is the American story. That is what it is all about.”

“I think the American people are saying, with a $13.8 trillion national debt, let’s not give tax breaks to billionaires and drive up that national debt, forcing our kids to pay more in taxes, and at the same time have Republicans coming forward to start slashing Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security because of this large debt that we are making larger.”

About a week previous, Sanders had taken to the floor of the Senate to give another rousing speech about the middle cllass and the war between the haves and have-nots in America.  It was the most honest speech given on the floor of the United States Senate in years.  It is absolutely must-see internet TV.


Sanders wasn’t the only Senator or Representative to take to the floor to defend the middle class and argue against benefits for billionaires, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D, NY-28) also took to the microphone to explain why she was voting “no” on the Obama tax bill.


Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) also voted “no” on the Obama tax cut bill.

“I’m opposing this deal in its current form because right now we need to focus on the middle class, who are always left behind, not the people at the very top, who are doing just fine in this economy.

“Although this deal includes important measures I have fiercely advocated for, extending Bush tax cuts for the very wealthy will saddle our children with billions of dollars of debt. With unemployment near 10 percent and a growing budget deficit, every dollar in this deal should be spent in a way that creates jobs and gets our economy growing, and tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires do not create jobs and will not help our economy grow. This kind of fiscal recklessness is bad for our economy and bad for future generations.”

There are still some liberal champions in the Congress.

White House White Board – Auto Industry

19 Nov

In the fourth edition of White House White Board, Austan Goolsbee, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, discusses the President’s tough decisions on the American auto industry in light of the General Motors IPO.


While the topic of GM’s bailout and whether it was worthwhile is an interesting discussion, I posted this more to illustrate another point.  President Obama is terrible at politics.  Saving GM should be a slam dunk issue and a huge boon to his approval ratings, especially in rust belt swing states like Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania.  Instead, he’s a reactionary politician who spends more time defending and explaining his positions than presenting them.

President Obama's Director of Heavy Political Lifting

It’s something that I didn’t see coming during the 2008 election, Candidate Obama seemed so adept at messaging and politics while President Obama fumfers and compromises and reacts.  What happened?  What’s the difference?

Right now, this cartoon explains where the President is at poltically:

The white board videos that Goolsbee is creating are a return to that simplicity of messaging, but they are on YouTube and not part of a massive messaging effort.  Goolsbee has just the type of demeanor the American public needs to see from this administration.  Get him in front of the media at every opportunity, make him the point man on economic issues and jobs.  He’s smart, funny, and can speak in the bullet point, bumper sticker style most Americans need in order to understand complicated issues.

Republicans are arguing (with a straight face) against extending unemployment benefits for millions of Americans while arguing to keep the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans in place.  Doing so in the face of pluralistic public support for the President’s proposal.  He is being outflanked politically, he’s lost his narrative and he’s become the great compromiser.  He’s taken a conciliatory and defeatist approach to policy when we need a leader.  He’s alienating his base and a capitulation on the tax cut issue with the Republicans will only further disenfranchise the liberal and center-left base that got him elected.

This President needs to grow a set and soon or he’s going to find himself out on his ass in 2012.

The Big Lie

10 Nov

Andrew Sullivan, blogger for The Atlantic and traditional conservative, has emerged as one of the most sensible, centrist voices in America in recent years.  He absolutely nails the American political culture of recent years as the “triumph of untruth”

It seems to me that the last year or so in America’s political culture has represented the triumph of untruth. And the untruth was propagated by a deliberate, simple and systemic campaign to kill Obama’s presidency in its crib.

We have an opposition party who is not serious about governing; only winning elections and centralizing political power.  Ideas are not debated, policies not negotiated; positions only demonized.  All of this aided by a news media so afraid of establishing a point of view or making a judgement, that they simply focus on how policy decisions will affect the next election or the daily news cycle and ensuing polls.

Emergency measures in a near-unprecedented economic collapse…were described by the right as ideological moves of choice, when they were, in fact, pragmatic moves of necessity.  The health insurance reform – almost identical to Romney’s, to the right of the Clintons in 1993, costed to reduce the deficit, without a public option, and with millions more customers for the insurance and drug companies – was turned into a socialist government take-over.

Sullivan instead proposes an interesting thought experiment for his readers…

If a black Republican president had come in, helped turn around the banking and auto industries (at a small profit!), insured millions through the private sector while cutting Medicare, overseen a sharp decline in illegal immigration, ramped up the war in Afghanistan, reinstituted pay-as-you go in the Congress, set up a debt commission to offer hard choices for future debt reduction, and seen private sector job growth outstrip the public sector’s in a slow but dogged recovery, somehow I don’t think that Republican would be regarded as a socialist.

Instead, we have an opposition whose primary stated goal is to remove the President from power in 2012.  Sullivan then proceeds to filet right wing talking points on Obama and comes to the following conclusion…

A deliberate campaign of misinformation. A Big Lie.

I’ve spent the past week consuming exit poll data, analysis and thoughtful examination of the results of last week’s election.  I’ve come to several conclusions and I’ll discuss them on the radio later today with Brad Riter at 4PM on WECK1230 and I’ll follow up with a more lengthy post tomorrow.

What is most interesting to me is that the American voter has never been more susceptible to disinformation and is consequently willing to make voting decisions that don’t necessarily jibe with their stated opinion on policy.

A bizarre place to find our republic at a time of great distress…

Obama’s Weekly Address

6 Nov

President Obama addresses the issue of the expiring Bush Tax Cuts in his weekly address.


BTW, if you’re wondering what Obama is doing in India this week, he’s sealing up about $10 Billion in trade deals with the Indian government which will support an estimated 54,000 jobs back in the United States.  And, no, the trip didn’t cost $200MM per day…it costs less than that to run the entire war in Afghanistan each day.

In fact, the $200 million-per-day figure would, according to factcheck.org, be higher than the daily cost of the entire Afghanistan war, which the Congressional Research Service puts at about $190 million per day.

Smarten up, dummies.

The Election Season is Dead! Long Live the Election Season!

4 Nov

The fever wave gripped the nation far tighter than New York. As we head to a Thompson-Grisanti recount and a potentially split New York Senate, Schumer, Gillibrand, Higgins, Slaughter and Cuomo all cruised to their successes. Democrats nationally faired far worse.

Chris Smith recently asked where the GOP, in full embrace with the Tea Party, was ultimately headed. He projected a possible southern, regional party of dissention first. One hesitates to read too much into a single election, but the results on Tuesday were broad and deep. In Pennsylvania, where President Obama won by 10 points in 2008, Republicans gained the Governor’s mansion, a US Senate seat, four US House reps, and took over both chambers of the state legislature. That is Pennsylvania, not Texas, North Carolina or Oklahoma. Obama’s home state of Illinois went red, and brought Iowa, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin with it. When over 60 House and 7 (8 maybe) Senate seats are gained, few regions are spared. Republicans also gained big in state legislatures, so much post-census re-districting will be gerrymandered in their favor.

“How could this happen?” ask the Democratic faithful. The answer is easy, and based upon soon-to-be Speaker Boehner’s first public statements, he understands. First, accurately interpret the message of the electorate. President Obama was elected to bring competent government, after the debacles in Iraq, Afghanistan, the economy, and Katrina. Change was a Change to good government. Second, deliver on the platform you were elected on, even if it is slightly different than the one you ran on. Obama spent his political capital on healthcare, but a $2.8 Trillion budget deficit over two years does not look like progress, it looks like incompetence. Enter Tuesday Night.

So what now? Three thoughts:

Hope that Boehner and Obama learn to enjoy a martini together. It was my prediction that the worst possible scenario was a Republican House, but a Democratic Senate and White House. Each side could blame the other, shun governance, and wait it out to 2012. Now that we are there, then the best we can hope for is that Boehner and Obama develop a Reagan/O’Neill relationship, and the Senate is ignored. If Harry Reid, despite the odds, stays Majority Leader, then he should be marginalized. If Schumer challenges and becomes Majority Leader, then he would happily join the two-some, and there is a chance bills leave conference committee and make it to the President’s desk.

Don’t fear the money. Meg Whitman spent $150 million and lost the governorship of California. Linda McMahon spent $50 million in Connecticut and lost. Tim Keane, DNC chairman, roamed the cable new airwaves (oxymoron?) Tuesday night complaining that $64 million was spent by unknown groups on attack ads against Democratic Senate candidates. $64 million. Avant cost more than $64 million. $64 million is a down payment on Canalside. $64 million is a pittance by any national standard. And in any case, money may be speech, but it clearly is not votes.  

Will the Tea Party amoeba “learn” from its overreach. At what point did a fight against deficits require a litmus test of one’s Birther credentials, or a call for Second Amendment Remedies? The most egregious Tea Party recruits, and the Sarah Palin picks – O’Donnell, Angle, Miller in Alaska – all lost. A small second tier of fringe candidates – Rand Paul – won. The big Tea Party successes were in the House, where some more extreme candidates made the cut. This should not be overplayed, however, as it is not a unique Tea Party phenomenon. A couple off candidates make it every cycle (Grayson from Florida, anyone).

Several exit polls indicate the number one voter concern is deficits. If the Republicans grab this Tea Party issue (while somehow managing to restrain themselves from the Muslim sleeper agent talk), and embrace it with the President’s Debt Commission, then we have a rare chance to address long term entitlement spending. Of the 428 non-incumbents running this year for seats in the House, the number one background of candidates (109) was “small business owner.” As the White House is long on academics, and short on practitioners, the Republicans could do well to harness some of the new budget acumen that the freshman are eager to display. And this new Chris Collins-esque national image makeover is already beginning. Haley Barbour, astute Republican governor of Mississippi, said yesterday that Republicans are the party of small-business, but there is no party of Wall Street or Big Business. Wall Street always goes with the winner. Ask Cuomo.

Two years ago I predicted the Republicans would Clinton-fy, eschew Palin, and tack to the center. I was wrong, but maybe not entirely. It was a predictable outcome that Republicans would go more anti-Centrist McCain after the 2008 loss, but a two year flirtation with Palin is not yet played out. If the worst of the Palin-promoted fringe candidates are left in the rearview mirror, and fiscal conservatism alone is what rules the day, then Obama, Boehner, and America’s budgets will be the beneficiaries.

Sanity Restored

1 Nov

I watched a good deal of the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on Saturday, and was struck by the sheer size of the crowd – it rivaled, if not eclipsed – recent teabagging fiestas that have been held on the mall to protest … what, exactly?

A poll recently revealed

that by a two-to-one margin, likely voters in the Nov. 2 midterm elections think taxes have gone up, the economy has shrunk, and the billions lent to banks as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program won’t be recovered.

The reality is…

The Obama administration has cut taxes — largely for the middle class — by $240 billion since taking office on Jan. 20, 2009. A program aimed at families earning less than $150,000 that was contained in the stimulus package lowered the burden for 95 percent of working Americans by $116 billion, or about $400 per year for individuals and $800 for married couples. Other measures include breaks for college education, moderate- income families and the unemployed and incentives to promote renewable energy.

The meme that Obama is nothing but a tax-raiser is as false as the notion that he’s a soshulist moozlim sleeper agent.

Almost all of the TARP bailout money has been repaid.  The government will take a hit on AIG and the automotive bailouts, and the mortgage bailouts, but had those all been allowed to fail, it would have been an epic economic catastrophe along the lines of a great depression, or worse.

So, we can – and should – debate how we go forward to further grow and strengthen the economy, and how to help lower the unemployment rate.  But the rhetoric – much of it false and manufactured – needs to be tamped down.  Saturday’s event may have been a bit plodding, but it’s hard to play to a crowd of 250,000-ish people.  But it was a great reminder that many, many more of us are just normal people who think normal things about politics than are followers of cable news network pseudo-evangelists of hatred and falsehoods.