Monday, September 24, 2012

Brooklyn Book Festival: The Far-Left Exposes The Left On Obama

I attended the just concluded Brooklyn book festival. The festival was a complete domination of authors in the left and far-left with not even a nod to accommodating any opinion from the center-right let alone the conservative right. The book stalls and the audience were firmly in the radical camp. A conservative would be an endangered species there. The most interesting part of the day was the interplay between Obama loving authors and leading critics from the far left

Far left Marxist author Tariq Ali scolded the liberals "if a Republican president had killed an American citizen (referring to Anwar Al Awlaki) without due process using drones would you be quiet". He asked why liberals are silent about Obama's use of drones abroad and at home. Mr Ali wondered what moral authority liberals would have to scold a republican president in case Romney gets elected and pursues what are commonly thought of as republican policies of national security. To rub it in Mr Ali added, for effect, Obama acts like what one would expect of Putin. OUCH.

The discussion featuring Gail Collins, from NYT, Jodie Kantor, author of widely praised and very Obama sympathetic bestseller 'Obamas' and John A MacArthur was the most revealing for sheer fireworks.

The discussion opened with a question about what good does a long election season do for the people with regard to knowing the candidates. Gail Collins, working for New York Times and therefore a confirmed Obama sympathiser dived right into the video of the season. A surreptititously taped Romney talking to fundraisers that 47% of voters do not pay taxes and therefore will vote only for Obama as Romney's message on tax cuts has no relevance for them.Romney is right and that too only partially. It was a bad statement and one that might cost him the election. The Brooklyn audience tittered in agreement.

John MacArthur expressed disappointment that Obama broke his promises on renegotiating NAFTA and raising dividend taxes to 25%. MacArthur chided the liberals for focusing on Romney's much debated 15% tax rate on $22 million income but giving Obama a pass on his failure to raise the taxes on dividends when he had the majority control to do so. MacArthur also added that Obama was told sternly not to do so by Democratic party big-wigs because that tax increase would alienate their rich donors. He also flung the gauntlet to Gail Collins asking her to write a column on that. When Obama launched his attack ads on Romey's private equity career many Democrats distanced themselves from attacking an industry that was a rich source of donations. MacArthur alleged that the famously foul mouthed and self-confessedly vindictive Rahm Emmanuel was the 'enforcer to sideline the more radical elements within the party. He asked "where is Howard Dean today? why do we not hear a protest at redistricting Kucinich's constituency?"

Jodi Kantor then opened a can of worms with what she thought was a profound observation. Kantor said "Obama came into office with no experience, no foreign policy experience, no senate experience, no governing experience and yet he is very reluctant to talk about his 'learning curve' in the Presidency. Obama does not open up on talking about what he learned as President". I was stunned to see a columnist and author basically say that Obama had no experience and stumbled into office. Her naivete in expecting a sitting president to talk about 'learning curve' during campaign season is simply breathtaking.

All three talked of the debt ceiling fight last summer. None mentioned the fact that Obama, as senator, happily voted against Bush's request to increase the debt ceiling. He reasoned "the President had the requisite votes so I felt free to cast a 'no'". Bob Woodward in his book "Price of politics" and his interviews thereafter chided both sides for the brinkmanship. Woodward had tougher words for Obama though for failing to lead and to use the office of the presidency to lead. None mentioned any of that.

MacArthur spoke of how much Obama was ready to cut in entitlements. True, but MacArthur did not add that Obama was ready to cut until he discovered that his own party will not go with him. MacArthur then added how Obama cold shouldered a Dennis Kucinich sponsored bill to raise minimum wage, a pet cause for leftists. Never mind that even liberal economists have debunked the theory of minimum wage. That a democratic President fails to even mention it in campaign speeches was MacArthur's point. He finished with a sting "Obama is not there for working people".

Kantor felt compelled to join issue and opined "I disagree with that". She narrated how Obama grew up in poverty (so did speaker and GOP rep John Boehner). Kantor then trotted out the famous excuse of liberals "he is not good at communicating to people and translating policy into a speech that people can relate to". Liberals want to have to have the cake and eat it too. On one side they are breathless about his eloquence and in the same breath add that he is not good at explaining policy to people. So, is eloquence to be defined as stringing empty rhetoric and unconnected to articulating ideas to a skeptical audience?

Not satisfied with excusing Obama's unpopularity to a simple messaging issue Kantor continued that Obama loves dealing with 'intellectual complex issues' where there are no clear options and any course of action come fraught with political problems. She cited the auto-bailout and killing of Osama. Basically she echoed Vice President Biden's famous bumper sticker phrase 'General motors is alive, Osama is dead". The implication being that the other non-complex issues do not interest the President. The president hates 'retail politics' we were informed. Collins added 'he looks down on retail politics'.

MacArthur sliced that excuse "if he dislikes politics so much and dislikes working with congress, including his own party, why is he the President?". Kantor jumped in to say "I spoke to Robert Gibbs, he said if you ask 'Michelle Obama a hundred times if he should run for the Presidency she would reply a 100 times 'No'". MacArthur sneered "Robert Gibbs was the White House spokesman and you would expect him to talk like that". No self-respecting journalist would take a spokesman's word as character witness.

I don't know what was intellectual and complex about bailing out Detroit which has hundreds of thousands of votes for Obama. The process of the bailout was nothing but a write off of Detroit to his union buddies. Wall Street bailout returned money to tax payers. Detroit bailout has tax payers still on the hook. Ask Ford and Alan Mulally over how the bailout was a giveaway to the unions.The killing of Osama was a brave gambit. But it was more tactical than a question of policy. Any American president would have gambled that. Kantor basically said that talking about jobs, deficit etc are 'unintellectual' for this supposedly intellectual president.

Both Kantor and Collins spoke of how Obama tried to be bi-partisan and failed. MacArthur sizzled in response "McCain sponsored a truly bi-partisan bill with a democrat to re-instate Glass-Steagall act and Mr bi-partisan refused to sign or lobby for that bill". I wish MacArthur had drawn a contrast citing how Bush worked with his ideological nemesis, Ted Kennedy, to reshape how America educates its children. Bush, a Republican, signed into law the bipartisan Mcain-Feingold bill that attempted to reform campaign finance.

Collins then imitated Harry Reid and said how this Congress was stymied by 380 filibusters compared to just one during Johnson's presidency. She also added that Obama hated working in the Senate. MacArthur shredded that excuse asking Collins to "read Caro's biography 'Master of the senate' to learn how LBJ worked with the senate to achieve his goals. That is why he could get things done". During 2008 campaign Hillary Clinton said "you campaign in poetry but you have govern in prose" and cited how LBJ shepherded the civil rights bill through the congress. She was right as Robert Caro detailed in his magisterial yet to complete 4 volume biography.

Jodi Kantor joined saying "Obama prefers being community organizer" and that "he does not belong to the  political machinery". MacArthur became livid and demolished that detailing how Obama was very much a part of Chicago's Democratic political machinery especially the much feared Daley's political machine. Obama broke with his controversial pastor only when the pastor committed the unforgivable sin of calling Obama "just another politician" in a widely telecast national TV press conference. Obama guards his "I am no politician" image with a zeal.

I will never agree with MacArthur or Tariq Ali, especially on their tirade against free trade and capitalism. Do I cheer their criticisms of Obama just because I disagree with Obama? No. Those are all criticisms I've articulated too. When it comes from the far-left camp it carries a heavy stamp. What is noteworthy is MacArthur is tearing down the image building by two journalists who are more intent on giving excuses for Obama instead of holding him accountable. Mr Ali is shining an inconvenient spotlight on the hypocrisies of the left and it carries a moral weight when he utters those words instead of coming from Obama's habitual ideological opponents.

I congratulated MacArthur for holding Jodi Kantor and Gail Collins to account. With Kantor, in ear shot, I told MacArthur that she was a disgrace to journalism. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

GOP And Romney Will Defeat Romney.

In the aftermath of 2008 presidential election the Republican party lay in complete disarray and in tatters. George Bush bears a lot of responsibility for destroying the GOP brand. McCain drove the last nail into the coffin of GOP's image as the party of ideas with his selection of Sarah Palin. For nearly 4 years thereafter until the day she announced that she will not be a presidential candidate Sarah Palin remained as a poster-girl for populism run amuck and her shadow on the GOP completely destroyed any semblance of intellectual rigor in the party of ideas. Seeing Obama demolish the Clinton dynasty, 'without raising his voice', many republicans resigned themselves to writing off 2012 and only talked of 2016. There was no hope for a GOP nominee in 2012 seen from 2008. But things changed.

In the heat of healthcare reform debate the tea-party insurrection breathed new vigor into the GOP. The bail out of Detroit and Wall Street added flavor to the debate on the role of government in the economy and lives of citizenry. The tea-party led GOP delivered a crushing blow to Obama in the mid-term elections. Under Obama the Democrats lost more seats in the Congress than the previous rout in 1993 under Bill Clinton. The tea-party also cleaned house in the GOP. Some of it was not pretty and sowed the seeds for Obama's own resurrection for 2012.

Sarah Palin and the tea party are largely responsible for the caricature of air-heads that the GOP became. With the fight for controlling the senate in balance the tea party defeated GOP's establishment favorite and veteran Mike Castle in an upset primary in Delaware that launched Christine O'Donnell into limelight. O'Donnell had confessed to having indulged in witchcraft in her youth, wondered if church-state separation was in the constitution, released an ad that declared 'I am not a witch, I am you". She was trounced and GOP was left with a stigma.

When Michelle Obama campaigned against obesity, an epidemic that costs the US economy billions of dollars, Sarah Palin asked school kids to eat cookies and resist 'government intervention in their lives'. Libertarianism was tarnished by the fathomless depths of Palin's vacuity . When Palin spoke of Obama's death panels in the health care reform bill Krauthammer wrote "let's have a serious discussion and lets begin by asking Sarah Palin to get out of the room". Explaining how GOP would stop Obama's agenda Palin crowed "we are not the party of no. We are the party of 'Hell!! NO!" The tea-party congressmen wore it as a badge of honor that they were elected to be uncompromising. When US faced the debt ceiling many tea-partiers went on TV to announce pompously "a US default will not be catastrophic". Congresswoman and presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann proclaimed that it will be a good idea to 'default'. Blogger and talking head Erik Erikson counseled GOP on CNN to 'hold the line'. Bob Woodward in his latest book chides both the President and GOP speaker John Boehner for not leading in debt ceiling talks. Obama came in for a rare direct rebuke from Mr Woodward. But the idea of uncompromising, devil may care attitude of GOP is stuck in the minds of the voters.

The GOP candidates for presidency were an exercise of how low can the party really go.

A former Federal reserve member Mr Herman Cain made a caricature of himself with his 9-9-9 plan that he parroted even for a question like if the sun was too hot. Cain was swept out in a barrage of rumors of sexual affairs

Michelle Bachmann was in a league of herself.She used to crow 'I want to make Barack Obama a one-term-president' in all debates. She bowed out after the Iowa primary after tarnishing GOP as the anti-science party by expounding her loony theory that vaccines cause autism.

Then there was the 'oops' heard around the world from one-time favorite Texas governor Rick Perry who forgot what departments that he wanted to abolish and said 'oops'. Rick Perry flamed out after it became known he had 'mandated' HPV for girls in school and more importantly he had allowed illegal aliens who came to USA as kids to study in Texas universities paying the much lower in-state tuition fee if they had gone to school there. Latino's had loved that but in a republican primary that humane gesture became apostasy.

Rick Santorum, with degrees in Law, declared Obama to be a 'snob' for wanting kids to get a degree and for good measured reminded voters of the cave man with his harping on social values. Rick Santorum stepped down after it looked like he would lose in his home state PA to Romney.

Newt Gingrich won South Carolina only because he skewered John King of CNN who asked Gingrich at a debate before the primary about the charges Gingrich's wife made on ABC that he wanted an 'open marriage'. When Newt Gingrich appeared to demolish Romney, after a victory at South Carolina, the GOP establishment watched in horror. Former GOP nominee Bob Dole wrote a stinging op-ed on why Gingrich as nominee will be disaster.Then there was the pseudo revolutionary Ron Paul who attracted a Obama like following amongst the youth with his outlandish ideas of ending the Federal reserve and having an isolationist foreign policy. Ron Paul's use of libertarianism was often a fig leaf for either muddled outdated ideas or plain racism. Each month saw the rise and later, fall of a that month's not-Romney candidate.

Finally Romney became the nominee by default.

Mitt Romney is not an instinctive politician, much less a conservative in his bones. Romney remains Romney's first nemesis. When Rick Perry needled him about illegal aliens working in his home once upon a time, Romney blurted "we had sub contracted the work. When we found out that illegals were employed we told the contractor 'for Pete's sake I am running for office I cannot have illegals working on my property". At another debate Romney challenged Perry to a $10,000 bet. When asked whether he, like his father, would release ten years of tax returns Romney gave the most awkward guffaw to say "maybe". Romney threw the kitchen sink at Gingrich to win Florida and having won he told America the next morning "I am not concerned about the poor they have a safety net, the rich are doing just fine its the middle class I am worried about". The impish anchor pressed him if he did not care about the poor and Romney said "if the net has holes I will fix it". Conservative commentators went into a fit of rage. That no-one but the very weakest should rely on any safety net but be productive individuals is the conservative orthodoxy.

Romney is a very successful businessman but his success rate as politician is pathetic. Reacting to Romney's claims about not spending his life in the government Gingrich snarled "that not just baloney but pious baloney". Romney had chosen not to run for re-election as governor but instead run for president in 2008 because his ratings were falling in MA. Previously Romney had lost a senate race. His 2008 bid ended very quickly.

Life is unfair. Obama learned that fundraising conference calls, supposed to be private and with supposedly friendly people, need not be so. An attendee recorded Obama saying that people sometimes vote against their economic interests because they 'cling to their guns and religion'. When the tape surfaced Obama had by then become the darling of the media and had an unassailable lead in the delegate count in the primaries. Romney, like an GOP candidate, is not the darling of any media save Fox news. A surreptitiously recorded video of Romney at a fund raiser is dominating the news now.

Analyzing how he can win the election Romney told a group of very rich fund raisers that 47% of Americans who pay no tax (actually they pay payroll tax but just not Federal income tax) are 'dependent' on the government and feel 'victimized' and 'entitled' and that his message of 'tax cuts' will not resonate with them and therefore he would not pay attention to courting them. The complete put down of a large swathe of America left everyone speechless and many seething with rage. Peggy Noonan, speech writer to Reagan, wrote a stinging op-ed in Wall Street Journal. Romney, to be fair, was sizing up the problem of how he can win the election. The CEO was looking to see how he can reach 51% vote. He was looking at a problem and was presenting possible solutions. That an American Presidential candidate is looking to win just 1% above the 50% mark is itself pathetic and it is beyond speechless to see him write of 47% of the electorate. Ironically amongst that 47% are a large percentage of seniors who live on Social security and mostly vote GOP!!!! The guy does not even  know who his voters are.

A man running for the Presidency is politically dimwitted to have offshore accounts in Sweden. Its not illegal but it clearly shows that he is running for the presidency as an after thought and is not running with his heart and soul in it. Responding to a heckler at a rally Romney yelled back "if you want free stuff go vote for the other guy". In a GOP primary that sounded good but it showed a deeply flawed candidate.

Romney is a very, very rich man. Despite both Obama's and his GOP opponents's propagandaAmericans, by and large, do not begrudge him that. It is Romney's utter failure to convince Americans that he will be President of all Americans that will defeat him.

When Romney harps on his credentials as problem solver and as CEO it often comes across as "I'll fix the problem and if it requires patchwork solution I'll take it". It also translates into "I've no core belief that I'll go to mattresses for". When Obama repeatedly scolded the Clinton era for the acrimonious debates Bill Clinton responded "we fought the fights that had to be fought". No CEO does that. And thats why CEO's do not become politicians. The Presidency is much larger than anything anybody could cite as experience. Romney's total silence on how he governed as governor of MA and perpetual harping on his ability as CEO can only carry him so far. Romney actually governed more from the center than this right wing version of Romney that he is presenting himself to be. Romney became the laughing stock of conservatives when he said that he was 'severely conservative' as governor. 'Severely conservative. What's that?" chortled conservative talking heads.

The GOP convention also highlighted another problem. The GOP does not have a Bill Clinton they only keep talking of Ronald Reagan who left office 24 years back. There is no elder statesman in GOP who can rally the base and make the case for the incumbent to the undecided.

When the camera panned across the audience in Tampa the GOP crowd was almost exclusively caucasian though they paraded a popular woman Hispanic governor, a wildly popular Hispanic senators, two Indian-American governors, an Afro-American congressman etc the crowd did not reflect that diversity. The GOP has a demography problem that was accentuated by Romney's strident rhetoric against Hispanics who form the largest group of illegal aliens in USA. Susannah Martinez, Hispanic republican governor of New Mexico mocked Romney's 'self deportation' idea 'self-deportation? what's that?" Jeb Bush warned against such rhetoric and cautioned that the nominee cannot win unless they can match George Bush's the Latino vote share. Romney pretended he never heard it. The only way Romney could get the nomination in 2012 was by rooting for some extreme right wing positions in order to convince primary voters of his 'conservatism'.

While Obama was giving away free contraceptives for women (paid by the much hated insurance companies) Rush Limbaugh smeared a university girl student, Sandra Fluke, with an obscene epithet. Whatever her policies might be she did not deserve that. Romney, afraid to antagonize Rush Limbaugh, soft pedaled his condemnation saying "I would not choose those words". To be fair Obama is equally silent when his supporter Bill Maher heaps despicable caricatures of Sarah Palin but then the media, his lap dogs, give Obama a pass. The democrats unleashed a propaganda about GOP's 'war on women'. Adding fuel to that was GOP senate candidate Todd Akin's comment that in a 'legitimate rape' the woman's body has 'ways to shut that whole thing off'. The GOP became apoplectic and asked Akin to withdraw. Akin is still staying in the race. Making matters worse is Paul Ryan's sponsoring of an anti-abortion bill with Akin that refused the three most common exceptions to abortion, 'rape, incest and life of mother'. Virginia state legislature considered passing a bill, encouraged by its GOP governor, to compel women to undergo a physical probe examination to see and hear a heartbeat prior to going in for abortion. All of this snow balled making the GOP look like a party of old caucasian misogynists.

In a week when US embassies were attacked, in what is now called a 'planned attack', and an ambassador was killed in an embassy that was not protected very well despite being in war ravaged Bengazhi we find that Obama is doing no explaining but it is Romney who is being pilloried for his rush to blame Obama. When Romney scolded the Obama administration the attacks were still underway and it would be a few hours before ambassador Richard Stevens would be killed. Romney could have exercised restraint and appeared 'presidential' by not seeking to upstage the commander in chief. But he acted like a schoolboy. That said, again the national media ignores the more important issues to focus on Romney. Then came the 47% talk and now nobody talks of Obama's foreign policy that is in tatters. Killing Osama bin laden is not foreign policy.

I've donated to Mitt Romney and I'll vote for him. But I do not see him winning and actually I am beginning to wonder if he can be a better president. So why should I not vote for Obama? Just yesterday an old taping of Obama was unearthed where Obama declared unambiguously ''I believe in redistribution". I'd any day take Mitt Romney over Karl Marx. By the way Andrea Mitchell of NBC said that the reason NBC is not airing that clip of Obama is because they have not authenticated it. I bet if it was a Romney video NBC would have it on a day long loop.

Romney is not Bill Clinton to get elected despite a string of women claiming, and proving, that he is an adulterer.There is still slim hope for Romney though. The upcoming debates are his last chance. Today the topics for the first debate were announced, they are, healthcare, role of government and governing. If Romney does not ace it then its all over. And the reasons for his defeat will be the GOP and himself. The gods are smiling on Obama now.