For Obama, it’s really always been about unity

From VOA - Obama Victory Celebration, Chicago 11-7-2012
President Obama, Vice President Biden and their families celebrate their reelection, in Chicago, early Wednesday morning.
(From Voice of America video)

If there was ever a question about which commitment President Barack Obama has made in his life that will live beyond his presidency, it is his stubborn belief that a united America, without the distraction of division, can and will accomplish great things. Regardless of whether he is able to reach effective but difficult compromises with the Republican led House of Representatives over the next two to four years, he will always be remembered for the clarion call for unity he sounded in his 2004 speech to the Democratic National Convention. He doubled down on that plea early Wednesday morning, when, in victory, he addressed thousands of supporters in Chicago.

“I believe we can seize this future together,” he said, “because we are not as divided as our politics suggest; we’re not as cynical as the pundits believe; we are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions; and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states.  We are, and forever will be, the United States of America.”

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) can take the stage and argue with the White House and the Senate majority over revenues and deficits and the fiscal cliff, but in the face of a voting public hungry for Washington to set aside its differences, it makes them and their caucuses seem small and petulant, mice in the face of the human sized task of serious governance. It is a task the president seems ready for.

Indeed, while many argue that the closeness of this election does not deserve the mandate moniker, when one looks at the gains and losses in Congress, there were more seats picked up in both houses by Democrats than by Republicans. Among the GOP casualties, Tea Party firebrands Allen West (R-FL) and Joe Walsh (R-IL) lost their races, and even the arch-conservative, former presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) barely survived her contest. It could be argued that were it not for Congressional redistricting by Republican led state houses across the country, the Democrats would have had an even bigger night.

Yet Speaker Boehner insists that nothing has changed. After the House victories, Tuesday night, he declared that returning the GOP majority to the Congressional body was a statement from voters. “The American people want solutions — and tonight, they’ve responded by renewing our House Republican majority,” he told supporters. “With this vote, the American people have also made clear that there is no mandate for raising tax rates.”

Even at a press conference Wednesday afternoon, which many characterized as conciliatory, Boehner only referred to agreeing to revenue increases in the context of them being a benefit of tax reform – closing loopholes, simplification, etc. “By working together and creating a fairer, simpler, cleaner tax code, we can give our country a stronger, healthier economy,” he said. “A stronger economy means more revenue, which is what the president seeks. [W]e are willing to accept some additional revenues, via tax reform.”

And, he reiterated, “Feeding the growth of government through higher tax rates won’t help us solve the problem.”

McConnell similarly declined to embrace the results of the election, and the failure of his party to retake control of the Senate, as anything more than a chance for the president to “finish the job.” In a statement reminiscent of his “legislative realities” trope of 2010, he challenged Obama “to propose solutions that actually have a chance of passing the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and a closely divided Senate, step up to the plate on the challenges of the moment, and deliver in a way that he did not in his first four years in office.

“To the extent he wants to move to the political center, which is where the work gets done in a divided government, we’ll be there to meet him half way.”

Of course they will, if that center is farther right than the president is willing to go. Hey, Mitch. Here’s a “legislative reality” for you – when you woke up this morning, you still weren’t Majority Leader. Here’s another one – President Obama doesn’t have to agree to anything that renews all the Bush tax cuts, and it doesn’t happen unless he signs it. He could, as many have suggested, just let them expire for everyone, and only sign a bill after the beginning of the year that retroactively cuts taxes to the 98% of Americans who make less than $250,000 a year.

I don’t think it will go down that way, but it could.

See, for Republicans like Mitch McConnell, Speaker Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), the only unity they care about is the one that keeps their obstructionist bulwark strong. It never has been about unity. It’s always been about power.

That’s why people believe the president more than the Congressional leaders across the aisle. They believe him when he says, “I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together. We’ve got more work to do.

“The role of citizen in our democracy does not end with your vote.  America has never been about what can be done for us.  It’s about what can be done by us, together, through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government.  That’s the principle we were founded on.”

So if you really care about our government, the president is saying, stay involved. That unity of purpose is our bulwark. We are, after all, a nation of and by the people, that works together for the people – all the people. If we can coalesce this much diversity to elect one man to the presidency, we are capable of coming together to do so much more.



Sandy’s reality provides opportunity for Obama ‘One America’ redux

“For alongside our famous individualism, there’s another ingredient in the American saga, a belief that we are all connected as one people…

“It is that fundamental belief – it is that fundamental belief – I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sisters’ keeper – that makes this country work. It’s what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family: ‘E pluribus unum,’ out of many, one…

“…there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.”
– Barack Obama’s keynote address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention

Even in the face of an election season full of the most rancorous and extreme partisanship, there is a takeaway from the politics of the Hurricane Sandy tragedy, one that reprises President Obama’s seminal assertion that, eight years on, there is still only one America. With the recent praises of FEMA and the president’s leadership coming from the unequivocal Chris Christie, New Jersey’s no-nonsense Republican governor, it appears that the storm that devastated that state and region has done what no hard running politician could do – show that level headed and reasonable responses to responsibilities destroy divisiveness in favor of cooperation.

“The cooperation has been great with FEMA, here on the ground,” Christie told CBS, the morning after the storm hit, “and the cooperation from the president of the United States has been outstanding. He deserves great credit.”

President Obama took note of the spirit that is allowing state and local authorities to work together, at a campaign stop in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Thursday morning. “There are no Democrats or Republicans during a storm, there are just fellow Americans,” he told the Badger State crowd, “leaders of different parties working to fix what’s broken; neighbors helping neighbors cope with tragedy; communities rallying to rebuild; a spirit that says, in the end, we’re all in this together – that we rise or fall as one nation, as one people.”

There is no more room, in the face of a too real American tragedy, for drawing disingenuous political caricatures and mudslinging; the white caps of political turmoil get in the way of the productivity necessary to rebuild the northeast coast. Both the governor and the president realize that.

Voters seem to realize it, too. With less than a week to go until the election, a Washington Post/ABC News tracking poll, released Wednesday, found that 78% of likely voters had a positive view of Obama’s handling of the crisis, including two out of three Romney backers. More than seven-in-ten voters felt the same about the federal response to the hurricane, overall.

Obama and Christie visit NJ Storm Victims
President Barack Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie talk with local residents at the Brigantine Beach Community Center in Brigantine, N.J., Oct. 31, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

And that was before the president toured the New Jersey coastline with Gov. Christie by his side, meeting and talking with the shocked and frightened residents of the area. “I cannot thank the president enough for his personal concern and compassion for our state and for the people of our state,” the governor said at a joint press conference during the tour, doubling down on his acknowledgement of the president’s efforts.

President Obama understands that cooperation is a winning formula, not just for his reelection, but for the spirit which has built this country since World War Two. “I’ve shown my willingness to work with anybody, of any party, to move this country forward,” he said in Green Bay, “and if you want to break the gridlock in Congress, you’ll vote for leaders – whether they are Democrats, Republicans, or independents – who feel the same way.”

The president, then, has taken this opportunity to remind us of who he is, and who we are. At this late date in the process, he is exhorting our divided nation to make the true moral choice, and vote for government cooperation among the many over appropriation by the few, for partnership over partisanship, for reasoned dialogue in the public interest over filibuster and obstructionism for the monied interests.

For your country’s sake, he is saying, it is up to you to assert the strength of unity your vote can provide, regardless of your party. By all means, vote for whomever you prefer, but vote for those who see this as a government that works best when we all work together.


Commander in Chief vs Commander of Shift

“You said that, first, we should not have a timeline in Afghanistan. Then you said we should. Now you say maybe or it depends, which means not only were you wrong, but you were also confusing in sending mixed messages both to our troops and our allies.”
– President Barack Obama, talking to Gov. Mitt Romney at the third presidential debate, October 22, 2012

We have a Commander in Chief, and his name is Barack Obama. He successfully made the point that if Mitt Romney carries his knack for shuffling his positions into the realm of foreign policy, it will be a disaster for the United States’ standing in the world. Unless, of course, like a third world despot, Romney is telling us one thing and telling the rest of the world something entirely different.

On MSNBC, former 2008 McCain campaign adviser Steve Schmidt appeared relieved and happy as he declared, “Mitt Romney came across as reasonable, thoughtful, serious, presidential.” When challenged on the position changes, Mitt’s new, heavy lean to the center, Schmidt was unapologetic. Calling the move “a reset to a more traditional Republican style of foreign policy,” the GOP operative added that President Obama, “was unable to conceal his exasperation with Mitt Romney as he was pondering his previous positions,” and how those had changed.

When host Rachel Maddow described how Romney had changed his opinion of the date of the Afghanistan withdrawal, Schmidt didn’t see the position shift as a negative for the Republican nominee. “The Romney campaign has made a political calculation, and I suspect that they are right, there will not be a political price to pay for his flexibility on these issue changes,” he admitted.

Toy composite
Elephant Memories

“Flexibility” is a good euphemism, full of understatement and with an implication of reasonableness, but Romney is not so much Gumby as he is a man with a Hula Hoop, positions spinning around his waist, circling back around when convenient, shifting his narrow hips here and there, in such a way that his entire campaign won’t come crashing to his feet.

In doing so, of course, he has sent his neo-con base twirling dizzily on a Sit ‘n’ Spin. If you throw in an Etch-a-Sketch, and a Battleship game, he could occupy an entire shelf in a kid’s bedroom from the early 1960s.

Speaking of the early 1960s, they called, and told Mitt they want their stiffness back.


What’s so foreign about foreign policy?

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:

  1. Are we involved?
  2. Should we get involved?
  3. If we are involved, are we involved enough or too little? (Or too much – nah, that is not an admission we expect to hear.)
  4. If we are not involved, not if, but when should we get involved? (Iran, Syria and -gulp- Lebanon…Party like it’s 1982.)
  5. 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.

Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin at the Yalta Conference, February 1945
Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin at the Yalta Conference, February 1945. U.S. Army photograph.

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.


Administration Benghazi story consistent with intelligence docs

Fire burns in the U.S. consulate in Benghazi after the attack there on September 11, 2012. (Photo credit: Voice of America)

News reports appeared, Friday night, that it was not al-Qaeda that was involved in the terrorist attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, last month, but a local militia group that launched the assault after watching the violence in Egypt on television, earlier that day. “The attackers launched their assault opportunistically after they learned about the violence at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo,” an unnamed U.S. intelligence official told the Los Angeles Times, in an article published Friday.

In a similar story, the Washington Post’s David Ignatius writes, “The senior intelligence official said the analysts’ judgment was based in part on monitoring of some of the Benghazi attackers, which showed they had been watching the Cairo protests live on television and talking about them before they assaulted the consulate.”

That report seems to add validity to the administration’s claims that this did not appear to be a preplanned, terrorist strike, but instead part of the fallout from the internet posting of a video clip insulting to Islam and the prophet, Mohammed.

It also means that U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, was giving the information she received when she taped her appearances on the Sunday talk shows, the Saturday after the attacks. [Odd that the Republicans always ignore that she taped her remarks just four days after the attacks, when information was still coming in, and not five days later, when the interviews aired.]

According to Ignatius, the day Rice made her statements, a C.I.A. briefing paper advised:

“The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate and subsequently its annex. There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.”

Rather than a masterful, coordinated assault, that would indicate planning, the intelligence officials described for the L.A. Times “a high degree of disorganization. Some joined the attack in progress, some did not have weapons and others just seemed interested in looting.”

What lasting affect the Republican political exploitation of the Benghazi tragedy will have on the foreign policy debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, Monday, in the short run, or the presidential election, as a whole, in the long run, remains to be seen. Even if this becomes a political “win” for the president and his administration, it is an ugly win – not so much because Congressional Republicans have snapped into a shit throwing “gotcha” mode (though they have, and they have to deal with that mess themselves), but because four Americans were killed, while serving their country.

Still, some of the drama of the past five weeks has had a noted affect on communications from the State Department. After the dust up at the last debate about when the president called what happened in Libya “acts of terror,” it is not that surprising that following the assassination of a Lebanese intelligence official with a car bomb in Beirut, Friday, Secretary Clinton’s condemnation press release was headlined, unequivocally, “Acts of Terrorism in Beirut.”


Truth slightly distorted – the Republicans’ latest cobbled frame

“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.

U.S. propaganda leaflet used in Afghanistan, w...
U.S. propaganda leaflet used in Afghanistan, with bin Laden second from the left (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.”


It’s not the debates – it’s de base

Forget about a campaign “reset” from the Obama camp, Thursday evening, or anytime during the next twenty-odd days until the election results are final. Forget about the hand wringing and the forget about being nostalgic for September, when Romney was on the ropes.

Now is the time for all good activists to come to the aid of their candidates.

It’s not only because it’s the candidates for vice president who will be debating that makes tonight’s debate relatively meaningless. It’s because of how close the polls are, and how the fickle undecided of the electorate decide to move the few points difference in those polls. There are no more bumps in the polls – only nudges.

To be sure, the pundits will praise the debate “winners,” talk about a campaign getting its mojo back or having “the big mo'” heading into election day. But barring any major meltdown, we are neck-and-neck in the home stretch, and the race will only be won or lost by the strength of the tail wind the respective bases provide.

Americans fought the headwinds of voter ID laws, and have won those – for this election, anyway. Progressives have fought the headwinds of the insane amount of money that came pouring out of the Citizens United decision, and may have at least reached a push, due in no small part to the imperfections of and dissatisfaction with Romney as a candidate.

Even though we may fall into our couches are armchairs every night, and listen to political color commentary on CNN, MSNBC, Comedy Central or Fox, remember that elections are not a spectator sport. Victory does not rise and fall with the opinions of the pundits. It is up to us.

We are not just the twelfth man in the stadium screaming loudly when the opposing team has third and long; we are on the field lifting our own team on our shoulders and carrying them across the goal line. That is the strength of the American political process – that we don’t win just by being interested; we win by being involved, whether with money, with sweat or with service.

So after the debate tonight, regardless of who is declared the winner, make a list of just five things you can do between now and election day to help your candidate and your party to victory – just five things: 5 people to call; 5 donations to make; 5 days to commit to your local campaign office. It really is up to you. It always has been.


Now is the time for all good activists to come to the aid of their candidates.

Romney’s Core

English: CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Commi...
Mitt Romney, as CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.'”

Mitt Romney at one of his presidential campaig...
Mitt Romney at one of his presidential campaign rallies, with son, Tagg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.


Can’t hang your hat on polls when winds of crisis blow

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.


Come up with a position – Mitt will be along shortly

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.

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on Februar...
Mitt Romney speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on February 11, 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.”