In a time when so much of U.S. foreign policy involves our global military footprint, ongoing engagements, waning engagements and threatening engagements, it’s easy to think that war is the sole function of that governing platform. Americans are conditioned that way; like a computer that insists on entering a discarded wi-fi password at your favorite cafe, many young voters cannot remember a time when it was not how we operated in war that ran our international relations, but how we manage our peace.
God, and the voters, willing, that period will return soon.
Certainly, there will be talk of trade with China and cross-border immigration as well. It’s a way to steer the conversation back to the economy, which is what most Americans care about. But mostly, in Monday night’s debate, we will likely hear about the end of the war in Iraq, the winding down of the war in Afghanistan, the drone attacks in Pakistan, killing Osama, pursuing al Qaeda, responsibility in Libya and the onus of oversight in the Arab Spring countries, and Israel and Iran. The entirety of those discussions is:
- Are we involved?
- Should we get involved?
- If we are involved, are we involved enough or too little? (Or too much – nah, that is not an admission we expect to hear.)
- If we are not involved, not if, but when should we get involved? (Iran, Syria and -gulp- Lebanon…Party like it’s 1982.)
- How much does Israel trust/distrust/appreciate/deprecate the current/future relationship with the United States, and who will do more to continue our relationship with our “most valued ally” in the region?
Part of President Obama’s closing statement has to be how much his administration’s leadership (and he must use the word “leadership”) has improved America’s standing in the world, with more rational approaches to diplomacy, in searching for active partners for non-violent approaches to global issues, and creating willing partners with whom to pursue peace (and new enemies, through drone attacks, but he won’t admit to that).
He has to show that given the hawkish, isolationist, Bush era foreign policy advisers that the Romney campaign employs, it is likely a Republican administration would return us to the “cowboy diplomacy” that got us into this Middle East mess in the first place. Like the Great Recession, he should explain, it is going to take us a while to extricate ourselves, and a President Romney, who still sees Russia as our number one threat, would dig us in deeper.
Romney will make it about the economy – oil drilling, trade, debt to China, jobs – and expect the word “apologist” to come up once or twice, in the context “American exceptionalism,” in a statement like, “America should not go around the world apologizing for our actions, which are always right.” It’s not that we never make foreign policy blunders, but he will pursue an agenda of our might making us right.
In the early days of my time at CNN, back in the 1980s, Ted Turner made a conscious decision to change the name of CNN’s foreign desk to the international desk. That tradition continued with the establishment of CNN International, a few years later. It symbolizes that just because the news takes place on soil that is outside the United States, it’s not foreign to the people who live in that country. It is an acknowledgement that we, as Americans, are part of an entire planet of people, made up of many nationalities and ethnicities. That move has been validated by the the success of CNN International, abroad, because even though CNN is struggling with 24 hour news competition at home, it is still the most important news station to most of the rest of the world.
The lesson? Our success doesn’t come from being “exceptional;” it comes from acknowledging that we are a leader of the team of nations – a leader, but still only a member. We succeeded in the two world wars, not because we thought of ourselves as the cavalry, riding to the rescue, but because we saw ourselves as standing shoulder-to-shoulder with other nations against a global menace. Sure, we showed military, scientific and industrial helmsmanship, but only Yankee braggadocio can turn a rise to leadership into being the country that knows what’s best for the rest of the world.
That imperialist attitude will get us nowhere, but it still could get Mitt Romney elected, which is the same thing.
“The most dangerous untruths are truths slightly distorted.”
-G.C. Lichtenberg, 18th Century scientist and satirist
Word has come, from a piece in New York Magazine, that former President George W. Bush has begun to paint, “making portraits of dogs and arid Texas landscapes” to occupy his time in retirement. It’s a good hobby for a 66 year old man to take up, especially one who used to represent a party that makes it its business to hold up a picture of what they want Americans to see, instead of what is actually there.
As Bill Clinton said last week in Las Vegas, in aping Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, over his sudden teleportation (not turn, because it was too sudden a shift to be congruous) from “severely conservative” to the political center, “Who ya gonna believe – me or your own lyin’ eyes?”
Whether, as Clinton suggested, moderate Mitt is back, or whether he just rejiggered his campaign because of the influence of of his family, as some have suggested, it seems rather apparent that the Republican party as a whole will continue to carry the hard right’s message, even as Mitt distances himself from it.
For the former Massachusetts governor, re-framing is second nature. For the GOP, re-framing is what they do when they want to distort a perceived chink in an opponent’s armor or shield their nominee from his own weaknesses.
Take the latest talking points on the tragedy in Benghazi, Libya, that occurred on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks on U.S. soil. Time after time, Republicans on the Sunday talk shows referred to the Libyan assault as “9/11,” making no effort to distinguish it from that tragic day in 2001. In fact, by using 9/11 here, they are insinuating that this 9/11 is an extension of that 9/11, and that killing Osama bin Laden – and other al-Qaeda leaders – did nothing to weaken the terrorist group.
Indeed, part of their mantra this week is “al-Qaeda is alive and well,” as if they are responding to Joe Biden’s declaration that all Americans need to know about this presidency is that “Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) went so far as to say that the Obama administration was only telling us that the terrorists were on the ropes, and that they were purposely deceiving us. “The truth is we’re not safer,” Graham told CBS’ Bob Schieffer, on Face the Nation, Sunday. “Al Qaeda is alive. Bin Laden may be dead. Al Qaeda is alive and they’re counter-attacking throughout the entire region.”
Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) put both talking points together well Monday morning, in a panel discussion with MSNBC‘s Chris Jansing. “I was in the top secret briefing with Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton,” he said, “ten days, or so, after the 9/11 attacks.” He said he thought “they were trying to hide something.”
“It flies in the face of what the President says, when he says, ‘al-Qaeda is on the run,'” Barrasso added. “Al-Qaeda is alive and well, and attacking the United States.”
There are several things wrong with the GOP’s distorted portrait of this administration’s handling of Benghazi, and its aftermath. First, at most it was mishandled politically, but not to hide the determination of terrorists to attack U.S. targets. That has never been denied. Second, you cannot paint a picture of intelligence breakdowns with catastrophic results without including the bombing of the U.S. marine barracks and the U.S. embassy in Beirut under Ronald Reagan, and, of course, the actual 9/11 attacks under President-turned-portraitist George W. Bush.
Finally, a consulate, or an embassy, is not a military installation. It is a diplomatic mission, and stationing a unit of heavily armored personnel and vehicles there changes its diplomatic nature. You cannot say, “The United States is your friend,” with any authenticity, if there’s a tank behind your gate.
Joe Biden’s misspoken response to Martha Raddatz at last week’s debate, that “we weren’t told they wanted more security,” only hours after there was sworn testimony to Congress that help was asked for and denied, has given more fuel to the conspiracy nuts. But if President Obama and Joe Biden continue to maintain the implausible explanation, as David Axelrod said on Fox News Sunday, that in Biden’s debate answer, “what he was talking about was what he and the president knew, because these matters were being handled at the State Department,” there will be no mitigation in the rising furor, and it could get worse. That would be bad for a president going into his final debate, October 22, on foreign policy.
It’s not that President Obama has to go so far as to reestablish his war and diplomatic credentials to convince independents, but he does have to close the chink in his armor, and blunt Romney’s jabs over Libya. The best way to do that may be to issue as complete a preliminary report as possible as to what really happened last month in Benghazi, before the election. Don’t just promise one you’ll deliver after the election – issue one now. Redactions will be okay; Americans expect that there are things about foreign involvements that need to remain secret. But if you keep rolling out denials, you allow the Republicans to frame their own picture of what happened.
A preliminary report before the final debate will not only destroy the Romney campaign’s frame of purposeful deception – it will also render the Congressional witch hunt, disguised as oversight, moot.
Otherwise, Joe might have to revive one of his big lines from the 2008 campaign, applying to the GOP what he said of then Republican primary candidate, Rudy Giuliani, “There’s only three things he mentions in a sentence — a noun, a verb, and 9/11.”
Given all the different positions that Mitt Romney has taken throughout his political career, it may be easy to label him a liar and a flip-flopper. But if voters are looking for the “real” Mitt, they will have a hard time trying to peer through the gauzy obfuscations to the man at the core. Mitt plays politics in a carnival funhouse, and one cannot tell with certainty if what they are looking at is the authentic Romney or one of a series of distorted reflections, each intended to please a particular block of voters.
Somewhere in the center of the rotating Romney record that spins on the public life turntable, needle dropping alternately (that’s like an iPod shuffle, to you Millennials) on the Senate candidate cut, the Bain cut, Massachusetts governor cut, the 2008 presidential candidate cut, the 2012 GOP primary cut and the 2012 official Republican nominee cut, is a tall, silver spindle that is unmoving and unmovable. It is the axis around which everything that is Mitt Romney swirls.
The first debate, in Denver last week, was the ultimate clue that the Romney campaign is both more and less than it seems. To attribute his polymorphic politics to mere pandering, is to imply a schedule of nefarious plotting by the candidate and his campaign. That is not only antithetical to the moral man he claims to be, it ignores the possibility of a simpler explanation, an Occam’s Razor, if you will. It is not only possible, but likely, that he sees no disconnection between his stoic center and the political characters he has trotted out on the stage throughout his life.
Romney considers himself a Mr. Fix-it. The PBS program Frontline, in an exploration of both Gov. Romney’s and President Obama’s upbringings and backgrounds that aired Tuesday evening, described the plight of Miles Romney, Mitt’s grandfather, and its contribution to the Romney family psyche. The program implies that, as he fled persecution of his faith’s polygamy, from Mexico to California to Utah, the Romney patriarch and father of thirty children – including Mitt’s father, George – made fortunes, lost fortunes, moved and made new fortunes.
That need to step back, start over and succeed is what drives Mitt, too. According to Frontline, he was enormously successful at rebuilding the Mormon mission in France, after the tragic death of the wife of the misson’s leader in a car accident in which Romney was driving. That brought “that which was naturally in him to then come to the fore,” Dane McBride, who served with Romney in France, told them.
And when it came to his role in shepherding the embattled Salt Lake City Olympics, in 2002, Ken Bullock, who was on the Salt Lake Olympic Committee, told Frontline, “He tried very hard to build an image of himself as a savior, the great white hope.”
In one article previewing the program, PBS writes, “As he developed in his career at Bain and as governor of Massachusetts, he would become known for his data-driven, case-study method towards approaching problems.”
Indeed, his business success may come from an over-willingness not to assert what his wife, Ann, guarantees us is his own supposedly generous, warm and fuzzy nature, allowing himself to be “buffeted by all this advice,” according to someone described only as a “family friend,” in an article by Politico’s Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei, discussing the Romney campaign’s shift to a more personable Mitt – “a ‘let Mitt be Mitt’ approach they believed more accurately reflected the looser, generous and more approachable man.”
The family friend goes on to tell the Politico reporters, “Romney takes everybody seriously. He thinks, ‘Well, gee, I’m talking to businessman X or C or Y. They’re really smart. That’s something I need to factor into my thinking.'”
If this is letting Mitt be Mitt, he is less panderer and more chameleon, by a nature he cannot control.
The supposed stiffness with which he was saddled since securing the nomination, according to the article, was meant to showcase what he would do as president. It was the campaign’s personality, there, they say – not Mitt’s. “You have to do it when you’re comfortable with it,” an unnamed campaign official told Allen and Vandehei. “Otherwise, it would seem forced.”
Yet the castigation of Obama’s policies is precisely what Mitt is “comfortable with,” if you believe SLOC’s Bullock, who told Frontline, “He was very good at characterizing and castigating people and putting himself on a pedestal.”
His family obviously stands behind him in that. Witness the Mr. Fix-it-in-waiting, Tagg Romney, who, according to Politico’s “family friend” source, “will basically call people out when they have something stupid to say. Because he’s the son, he’s in a different position to be able to really question people’s advice and question the decisions, but — more importantly — to drive them to make decisions.”
And another record drops on the Romney spindle. Turn. Turn. Turn.
In politics, you can’t hang your hat on a poll, because the winds of global events will easily send it tumbling away. In the battle for leading a nation, there are only two things you can plant at the top of a poll: a flag or your ass, and if one isn’t up there, the other soon will be.
It’s safe to say that following the revelation of the recent video with Mitt Romney speaking “off the cuff,” as he called it, at a high end fundraiser in Boca Raton, this spring, his keester is high in the breeze, hoisted with his own Mitt-tard, as it were. He just cannot get away from who he is. As Bob Marley sang, “You’re running, and you’re running, and you’re running away, but you can’t run away from yourself.”
But there are still seven weeks until the decision is final, and anything can happen.
What the Romney video, released through Mother Jones, reveals, though, is a confirmation of President Bill Clinton’s assertion, during his speech at the Democratic Convention, two weeks ago, that “We think ‘we’re all in this together’ is a better philosophy than ‘you’re on your own.'”
With international events potentially shaking the ground under the administration’s feet, it’s time for the president to make a statement about what it is we are all in together, especially in East Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. This is something that should come from three different press rooms, in a coordinated communication. Secretary Leon Panetta, at the Pentagon, Secretary Hillary Clinton, at the State Department, and President Barack Obama at the White House.
For Sec. Panetta, it’s not enough to explain the waves insider attacks, also known as “blue on green” violence, in Afghanistan, by calling the killings “a last gasp effort” by the Taliban, “to try to create chaos, because they’ve been unable to regain any of the territory that they have lost.”
For Sec. Clinton, it’s not enough to show sympathy for the victims of the ongoing violence against our diplomatic posts, and assert the administration’s obvious deniability of the “awful internet video that we had nothing to do with.”
For President Obama, it’s not enough that if the election were held today, he would probably win, because people think he is better for us than the twisted, insensitive, and out-of-touch social Darwinism of Mitt Romney. The president must approach these events in the way in which it is already being cast by his enemies – a crisis, and one he must demonstrate he is managing. It is not only a show of leadership; it is also wise, politically. For the people of the United States, it will at least be reassuring to see him in charge, as commander-in-chief, and for the undecided voter who is leaning toward Romney, it could rescue that vote.
It’s as if the administration, hiding behind a curtain with a huge presidential seal on it, is working together keeping a dozen or so different colored plastic balls in the air, just high enough above the curtain rod for the People to see things are being done. Then, all of a sudden, a wind gust comes and blows a couple of the balls into a mud puddle, thousands of miles away from the curtain. The people and the press, noticing the missing elements, are going to want access, to see what’s happened behind the curtain. As they creep up to pull it back, they fully expect to reveal Obama using every finger, toe and elbow to keep the juggling act running smoothly, with maybe a feed or two from Vice President Biden.
Instead, what they’ll find back there, behind the screen, is the way the executive branch of government actually works – a handful of cabinet members, assistants and others keeping the remaining balls in the air. Sec. Clinton is over at a sink washing off one of the mud-covered balls, and Sec. Panetta is huffing and puffing after hurriedly grabbing a dirty orb from one of his Afghan theater generals.
The administration continues to assert that, regarding the tragedy in Libya, “there’s an active investigation underway into what happened and why, and what the motivations were,” as White House press secretary, Jay Carney, told reporters in Tuesday’s briefing.
Carney re-iterated Obama’s remarks in the Rose Garden, last Wednesday, when, with Hillary Clinton by his side, he said, “We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done.”
In retrospect, though the president’s remarks were spot on, the Rose Garden setting may have been too casual, on its own, to meet the gravitas of the events that precipitated it. A better play, a more assertive play, may have been to allow Secretary Clinton’s remarks, earlier that day, to carry the message, until he could appear in the Oval Office, in prime time, to a national audience, and given the same message he actually gave that afternoon, adding that he was sending extra carriers to the region to monitor the situation. He could have followed that the next day with a press conference, and then waited until after the bodies were back from Libya to return to the campaign trail.
Granted, they have been doing this a lot longer than a humble blogger, and at a lot higher level, but it’s not like the president has a lot of leeway in the polls with which to play, and Romney made it clear, in the recently released video, that he would exploit a foreign crisis, if he had an Iran hostage kind of scenario, a la Ronald Reagan against Jimmy Carter in 1980. “If something of that nature presents itself,” he told the well heeled donors, “I will work to find a way to take advantage of the opportunity.”
Maybe that explains his lip biting grimace, last Wednesday night, while taking questions on his statement about the administration being weak and “apologetic” on foreign policy. As Wall Street Journal columnist and former Reagan speech writer Peggy Noonan remarked, “He looked like Richard Nixon.” Now that was someone with a pole up his ass.
He has been running for president of the United States for almost six years, and there are still so many doubts about his backbone and his political footing that opposing party partisans are not the only ones questioning his ability to be leader of the free world. But if he doesn’t belong in the Oval Office, where does Mitt Romney belong?
His bona fides may suggest Secretary of Commerce, or a modest financial adviser to the chief executive or the Treasury secretary, but the Republican party has pushed him to the fore, out of a bevy of imbeciles and a cattle call of kowtowers, to be their alternative to President Obama – a well liked, popular incumbent with exceptional social skills, and a record of modest improvement from the situation the nation was burdened with when he took office, almost four years ago.
The president comes across as being committed to the country’s success. Mitt Romney comes across as being committed to his own. The president has excellent political skills. Mitt Romney doesn’t. The president comes across as warm. Mitt Romney doesn’t. The president has the honor and respect of his party. Mitt Romney doesn’t.
What Mitt Romney has is mutability. Call it his “Etch-a-sketch-ness,” a way to fit his foot into any size shoe (or his mouth) and behave to all the world like it’s a perfect fit, and always has been. That ability to be manipulated, albeit by stumbling clumsily through policy changes and fumbling foreign faux pas and flip-flops, may piss off the public voices of the Republican party at the Weekly Standard and on Fox News, but there are those in the Grand Old Party who want a lemishkeh like Mitt in charge of our country.
“We are not auditioning for fearless leader,” Grover Norquist, the anti-tax advocate, famously told a group of conservatives, earlier this year. “We don’t need a president to tell us in what direction to go… Pick a Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen to become president of the United States… His job is to be captain of the team, to sign the legislation that has already been prepared.”
It was a book by Dan Senor, a neoconservative who is one of Romney’s key foreign policy advisers on the Middle East, that the GOP nominee alluded to at a fundraiser in Israel, two months ago, when he implied that Israelis were more successful than the Palestinians because they have a “cultural” determination that is lacking in the occupied Arab populace of the West Bank.
Aaron David Miller, a foreign policy expert who has advised secretaries of state from both parties, told the New York Times, after Romney’s Israel trip, that Senor is a “pragmatic hawk,” and, “clearly a filter through which… should he get to be president, Romney [will see] the whole panoply of issues in the Middle East.”
That is what Mitt is good for – following the direction of the neocon foreign policy experts, the big money defense industry, and the small government conservatives. It’s impossible to know if he ever had an original thought, because he jettisons his claim on his own ideas when they stop working in his favor. Sometimes, he changes his meaning within hours after he makes a statement, as he did on Meet the Press, Sunday, when discussing the parts of the Affordable Care Act he would like to enact, like coverage for preexisting conditions. Clearly, in issuing a “clarification,” hours later, the campaign did not want to appear to be endorsing any part of Obamacare, since that would make the base of the party, the ones who want to undo anything Obama, very unhappy. (Hell, they hate Obama so much, they’d salvage bin Laden’s body, stand it up against the Washington Monument, and shoot it again, if they could, just to discredit this president.)
Even Rupert Murdoch, the conservative media mogul, acknowledges that Romney is wasting time and resources on trying to make everyone accept him. “Stop fearing far right which has nowhere else to go,” he advised the former Massachusetts governor, in his Twitter feed, Tuesday.
But fear is what runs the 2012 Romney-Ryan campaign, and it’s not the fear of losing, though they certainly want to win. It’s the fear of being lost. They find themselves running through a twisted labyrinth of their own making, cut through the forest during their desperate escape from something they don’t even want to remember. (George W. Bush?) Romney is certain that the only way out is to rush headlong to every idea that seems to light a pathway through, but it burns out before they get there. They are a campaign in disarray, a party that, bodies bruised and khakis shredded, will finally stumble out of the woods, just before dawn on November 7, watching the sun come up over Boston Harbor, when Mitt will turn to Paul, and say, “Well, at least we were consistent.”
Sandra Fluke’s accidental celebrity, this year, may have come about over a Capitol Hill clash on women’s reproductive rights, and an unworthy epithet hurled at her from a right wing radio blowhard, but when she takes the podium, Wednesday night, at the Democratic National Convention, in Charlotte, she is going to reveal to the country that her interests in women’s issues goes, she says, “beyond the contraception conversation.”
In a quick briefing with bloggers attending the convention, Wednesday afternoon, Fluke, who has been campaigning for President Obama’s reelection, insisted that she also has conversations with “outraged” voters about Romney and Congressional Republicans reluctance to embrace a coherent policy on the issue of fair pay. “I was actually looking for a plan from someone running for president,” she said, somewhat sardonically.
“He doesn’t have any plan for how we’re going to close that pay gap, how we’re going to put that $400,000 back in each woman’s career, on average.”
“Mitt Romney won’t even say if he supports it,” Lilly Ledbetter, who lost a suit for pay discrimination because the law said she waited too long, and who’s name is on the first bill President Obama signed, to rectify the lawsuit issue, reminded those gathered in Charlotte, Tuesday. “President Obama does.”
To be sure, when Ms. Fluke talks, Wednesday night, she will cover the issue that earned her a feature role, this political season. “For me, this election is about information,” she said in the briefing, “If you understand the positions that Mr. Romney has taken, if you know that he vetoed a bill [as governor] that would give victims of rape access to emergency contraception in the ER, if you know [both Ryan’s and Romney’s] records, it’s a very clear choice.”
Besides the causes that she says she is “really passionate about,” what will probably come through the most will be Fluke’s gratitude for what her new found fame affords. “It’s really empowering,” she said,” and I’m just really thankful to have the opportunity to work for the policies that I care about, and to champion the cause of women that I care about, and to support this president.”
“Every one of us has the responsibility to do everything we can for the things we believe in.”
As a policy document, one could get lost in the weeds about NATO, North Korea and loose nukes, but the wonky bits in the 2012 Democratic National Platform don’t start until halfway through the forty page document. The first twenty pages of the platform, which the party will approve at their convention in Charlotte, Tuesday night, is all about one thing – growing the middle class.
On the very first page, they write:
“This has to be our North Star – an economy that’s built not from the top down, but from a growing middle class, and that provides ladders of opportunity for those working hard to join the middle class.
“This is not another trivial political argument. It’s the defining issue of our time and at the core of the American Dream.”
“Moving America Forward,” the platform’s title, is not just about their ideas for improving the economy and addressing unemployment. It also is another way to distinguish them from the Republicans, who the Obama campaign is painting as wanting to return to the trickle down economics of the past. “They still believe the best way to grow the economy is from the top down,” they write, “the same approach that benefited the wealthy few but crashed the economy and crushed the middle class.”
Compare that to the stump speech President Obama gave in Norfolk, Virginia, Tuesday, where he warned against embracing the GOP’s economic policies, saying, “[T]hey know you saw that happened when we tried it. You’ve lived through it, and you know we can’t afford to repeat it.”
While it doesn’t exactly scream Vice President Biden’s line, “Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive,” it does spend more than two pages talking about “President Obama and the Democrats boldly rescu[ing] America’s auto industry,” and it points out that “Republicans… opposed saving the auto industry.”
And it makes sure voters know, “As a consequence of the President’s decisions and the brave work of our military and intelligence professionals, bin Laden can no longer threaten the United States and al-Qaeda’s senior leadership has been devastated,” while making certain you remember that the Republican “Bush administration shifted its focus to Iraq, [allowing] Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda [to establish] safe havens across the border from Afghanistan, in Pakistan.”
The platform contrasts Romney, specifically, as being as out of touch as saddle shoes. “Republicans like Mitt Romney want to turn back the clock on the progress we’ve made, telling people whom they can marry, restricting women’s access to birth control coverage, and going back to the same economic policies that benefited the wealthy but crashed our economy.”
In fact, the GOP nominee’s name is mentioned twenty-two times in the Democratic Party document, included in lines like:
- “Mitt Romney and the Republicans have opposed commonsense [immigration] reforms and pandered to the far right.”
– “Mitt Romney would raise taxes on low- and middle-income Americans to fund his tax breaks weighted toward the wealthiest.”
– “Mitt Romney, would have preferred to leave tens of thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq in an open-ended commitment.”
– “Mitt Romney has been both for and against our timeline to end the war in Afghanistan.”
– “The Cold War mentality represented by Mitt Romney’s identification of Russia as ‘our number one geopolitical foe.’”
Reading the platform, the Democrats seem to be saying, will lead you to one conclusion: even if you’re not better off than you were four yeas ago, the Republicans aren’t going to help you.
Flip the coin over. The Democrats in Charlotte are planning what they consider a kind of antithesis of what the Republicans just did in Tampa, and, they believe, it’s as much about population and platform as it is about publicizing policy.
“I think it’s a little different than the Republicans,” offered Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaragosa, with little subtlety, Monday morning. The convention’s chairman said the party wanted the convention to “crystallize what’s at stake in this election – a choice between a candidate who wants to build the economy from the middle out, versus one who wants to build the economy from the top down.”
He said the quadrennial DNC celebration will be the most “diverse, in every respect.” And then he proceeded to list the cultures, classes and ethnicities that will be represented in the hall. “You’ll see people from every walk of life,” he told a roomful of reporters, “The rich, the poor, black, white, Latino, Asian, Muslims and Jews, Christians, all celebrating.”
“The face of our party will reflect the values of our party,” Villaraigosa said, adding that the party’s platform also “reflects our values.”
“Every single delegate will have a copy of our platform on their chairs, when they walk into the convention hall, tomorrow – nothing secret, nothing behind the back,” emphasized DNC Secretary Alice Germond, who is attending her tenth Democratic Convention. She called this year’s event “the most diverse, the most open, the most transparent.”
So look for a lot more references, this week, to the monochromatic Mitt Romney and the pale Paul Ryan, in reference to not only the prevailing pallor of the Republican Party, but also its Pleasantvillian, binary approach to economic and social policy that is not built to suit the majority of Americans in the 21st century.
“We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” Romney pollster Neil Newhouse, to an ABC breakfast panel, ahead of GOP vice presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan’s acceptance speech, Wednesday.
It is kind of appropriate that Aeschylus’ famous, fifth century, B.C., quote, “In war, truth is the first casualty,” was popularized by a World War I era, American politician. Who knows better than someone who has had to fold falsehoods into the fight for votes in this diverse country, what a nuisance the truth can be?
Last night, at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, commentators and rebutting Democrats pointed out lies in many of the speeches, but it was with the faux earnestness of the words presented by the featured speaker, GOP vice presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), that most took exception.
You have probably read, or heard, by now, how Ryan told the exuberant crowd that President Obama was responsible for the closing of a GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, where, Ryan said, “[a] lot of guys I went to high school with worked… It is locked up and empty to this day. And that’s how it is in so many towns today, where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight.” But Ryan buried the fact that the plant closed in December, 2008, when George W. Bush was still in the White House.
Other obfuscations in Ryan’s speech, according to a USA Today “Fact Check,” include that he:
“•Accused President Obama‘s health care law of funneling money away from Medicare ‘at the expense of the elderly.’ In fact, Medicare’s chief actuary says the law ‘substantially improves’ the system’s finances, and Ryan himself has embraced the same savings.
“•Accused Obama of doing ‘exactly nothing’ about recommendations of a bipartisan [Simpson-Bowles] deficit commission — which Ryan himself helped scuttle.
“•Claimed the American people were ‘cut out’ of stimulus spending. Actually, more than a quarter of all stimulus dollars went for tax relief for workers.
“•Blamed Obama for the loss of a AAA credit rating for the U.S. Actually, Standard & Poor’s blamed the downgrade on the uncompromising stands of both Republicans and Democrats.”
While it is true that, as the nineteenth century Prussian, Otto von Bismarck, said, “People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war or before an election,” Ryan’s ruse goes completely against the RNC keynote speaker’s assurances, just twenty-four hours earlier, that it is the Republican Party’s “duty to tell the American people the truth.”
Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), in his address to the convention, Tuesday, banged the drum of “hard truths,” and waved the flag of “simple truth.” He used the word “truth,” in fact, 20 times in the 30 minute speech, insisting that it was a trust Republicans held sacred and Democrats devalued.
“They believe that the American people don’t want to hear the truth,” he said of President Obama and his party.
“We have a nominee who will tell us the truth and who will lead with conviction,” he promised the crowd. That should have been the first clue that he and his compatriots were using “truth” rather loosely, since that claim, in particular, is a blatant example of political cognitive dissonance, ignoring the fact that his nominee, Gov. Mitt Romney, is notorious, even among the GOP base, for changing his own version of the truth to meet the times, and has the political convictions of a weather vane.
Christie concluded his speech with, “I’m here to begin with you this new era of truth-telling.” Now, many see the 42 year-old Ryan as that new era of the Grand Old Party, “the calling of my generation,” as he put it in his acceptance speech. If that is so, then the Republican rising star has decided that the torch of truth Christie is passing him is decidedly too bright for the battlefield of politics, lest it reveal the Romney-Ryan ticket’s actual positions.
Even with the fact checkers and the pundits challenging the facts Ryan and others have presented, so far, at the RNC, the lies are out there, and are likely coming to a campaign ad near you. “The sad fact is,” wrote Joe Rothstein, in an op-ed for E.I.N., a professional political news service, “that in politics, with enough money, enough repetition and a media largely too spineless or clueless to challenge bald face lies, truth becomes a severely disfigured casualty.”
It is up to the media, then, to continue the fight against blind ignorance, put the candid back in candidate, and reveal a campaign’s claim of truth for the illusion it is, rather than allowing the lies to percolate in the public airwaves, until they become the unquenchable fuel of conventional thought. Otherwise, politics becomes like religion, where colorized truth cannot bear the black-and-white of agnosticism, without the skeptic being labeled a RINO, a DINO or a blasphemer.
- Paul Ryan takes factual shortcuts in RNC speech (thegrio.com)
- FACT CHECK: Ryan takes factual shortcuts in speech – Businessweek (businessweek.com)
- Paul Ryan’s factual shortcuts in convention speech (csmonitor.com)
UPDATE: America Right to Life has launched a website, RepublicansAgainstRomney.com, with a series of Bible banging, highlighted lines, like: “If you fear Obama, you’ll vote for Romney. If you fear God, you won’t.”
Among the litany of reasons listed by the RTL for why they do not trust Romney, is a bullet item tracking his changing stance on abortion:
“pro-choice in ’94; pro-life in ’01; choice ’02; pro-life ’04; choice ’05; life in ’06; then funded abortion in ’06.”
“Romney has already implemented what Obama and Clinton only dreamed of: homosexual marriage, tax funded abortion by health care reform with the individual mandate, robbing religious freedom by forcing pro-life hospitals to administer abortion pills, etc.,” the website asserts, “Obama is the lesser of two evils.”
“Heaven sent a hurricane to hold off Gov. Romney’s coronation.”
– Troy Newman, president of the anti-abortion activists group, Operation Rescue, in a statement, Monday, August 27, 2012
Having to push the actual vote to nominate Mitt Romney from Monday night to Tuesday because of Tropical Storm Isaac is a gift from heaven, according to strident anti-abortion activists and delegates gathering at the Republican National Convention, in Tampa this week. Newman, and others, believe that Heaven itself has intervened to give them a chance to circle their wagons in support of the embattled U.S. Senate candidate from Missouri, Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), and urge the rest of the GOP to put its money where its platform is.
“We’re urging pro-life GOP delegates to abstain from any voting on Romney’s nomination until all GOP financial support for Todd Akin is reinstated,” Newman declared. He also is urging a vote holdout until “details of Romney’s income tax returns in connection with Bain’s Stericycle investment have been made public,” according to reports.
The Stericycle story, reported earlier this summer by Mother Jones magazine, as well as the Boston Globe, said that Romney signed Security and Exchange Commission documents on behalf of Bain Capital, long after he supposedly left, in connection with the firm’s $75 million investment in the medical waste disposal company, which also destroyed aborted fetuses.
Neither the party’s abandonment of the staunchly anti-choice Akin, nor its cognitive dissonance when it comes to Stericycle and the nominee, is making social conservatives very happy.
“To Gov. Romney we say… let’s not kill an innocent child or cut off good men like Todd Akin,” said Steve Baldwin, a former member of the California Assembly, and form director of the Council for National Policy. “I’d sooner take him or Paul Ryan as our party’s Presidential nominee than Gov. Romney.”
Baldwin is part of a group of dissatisfied Republicans who feel the nominating process has been hijacked by the Romney team, and the party establishment that has rallied behind the former Massachusetts governor. They think the Republican presidential nomination is still up for grabs, based on the delegate rules.
As for Akin, and his relationship to conservative convention delegates, Politico reported yesterday:
“At a breakfast meeting of Missouri delegates here in Tampa, a number were sporting ‘Akin for Senate’ stickers and stood strongly behind the six-term congressman’s decision to stay in the race.
“‘The party should not throw him under the bus simply because he made a misstatement,’ said Mitch Hubbard of Fulton, Mo.”
But Heaven hasn’t merely intervened on behalf of fetuses, apparently. Republican hatchet man and chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), thanked Isaac for keeping Vice President Joe Biden from doing his counter-event to the RNC, scheduled for Monday, in Tampa. “I would say from a standpoint of coverage, the hurricane already eliminated one blowhard,” he said.