Obama’s Place In History–Douglas Brinkley’s Rolling Stone Interview

Stump speeches and television commercials provide far less insight into the thoughts of the candidates than in depth interviews, for obvious reasons. I wish that this message from Barack Obama wasn’t buried on the last page of his interview with Douglas Brinkley for Rolling Stone.

Bill Clinton – how important is he as a surrogate for you? What’s your friendship with him like these days?
Our relationship is terrific. He did a masterful job, obviously, at the convention. He has been a tireless surrogate on our behalf. I’m talking to him regularly, and he’s given me good advice. Not only is he a great politician, but he’s also somebody who has a lot of credibility with the public when it comes to how the economy works. Because the last time we had healthy, broad-based growth was when he was president, and people remember that. So he can say things that people immediately grab on to. And one of the things he said during the convention that I thought was very helpful was to put this whole economic crisis in context.

The biggest challenge we’ve always had is that unlike FDR – who came into office when the economy had already bottomed out, so people understood that everything done subsequent to his election was making things better – I came in just as we were sliding. Because of the actions we took, we averted a Great Depression – but in the process, we also muddied up the political narrative, because it allowed somebody like Romney to somehow blame my policies for the mess that the previous administration created. Bill Clinton can point that out in ways that are really helpful and really powerful.

The beginning of the second paragraph is especially important to remind voters of the situation we were in when Obama took office. While more economic growth is necessary, the current economic situation is far better than full fledged depression we would likely have experienced if not for Obama’s actions.

Obama’s political views have been somewhat difficult to characterize. He has taken a centrist approach on economic issues while appearing to be on the left to the radical right. In the introduction to the interview, Brinkley has a good way to describe how Obama fits on the political spectrum:

Viewed through the lens of history, Obama represents a new type of 21st-century politician: the Progressive Firewall. Obama, simply put, is the curator-in-chief of the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the New Frontier and the Great Society. When he talks about continued subsidies for Big Bird or contraceptives for Sandra Fluke, he is the inheritor of the Progressive movement’s agenda, the last line of defense that prevents America’s hard-won social contract from being defunded into oblivion…

It was the election of Ronald Reagan that started the Grand Reversal. Reagan had voted four times for FDR, but by 1980 he saw the federal government – with the notable exception of our armed forces – as a bloated, black-hatted villain straight out of one of his B movies. His revolution – and make no mistake that it was one – aimed to undo everything from Medicare to Roe v. Wade. Ever since Reagan, both the New Deal and the Great Society have been under continuous siege by the American right. Bill Clinton survived two terms only by co-opting traditional GOP issues like welfare reform and balanced budgets. Unlike Clinton, Obama must hold tighter to the Progressive movement’s reins. There are no more moderate Republicans left in Congress to do business with; today’s GOP conservatives want to roll back, not reform. Having brought Obamacare this far, the president must find a way to close the deal in his second term.

Paul Nitze, the foreign-policy guru of the Truman administration, once told me that the problem with historians like myself is that we’re always hunting for a cache of documents to analyze. What our ilk tends to forget, he chided, is that inaction is also policy. Under this criterion, Obama must also be judged by the things he won’t allow to happen on his watch: Wall Street thieving, Bush-style fiscal irresponsibility, a new war in the Middle East, the reversal of Roe v. Wade, the dismantling of Medicare into a voucher program – the list is long. The offense-driven, Yes-We-Can candidate of 2008 has become the No-You-Won’t defensive champion of 2012. Obama has less a grand plan to get America working than a NO TRESPASSING sign to prevent 100 years of progressive accomplishments from being swept away, courtesy of Team Romney, in a Katrina-like deluge of anti-regulatory measures.

No wonder the right has such a gleam of hatred for Obama – he is the roadblock to their revolution. The conservative movement, however, has a crippling problem: If they can’t beat Obama with a 7.8 percent unemployment rate, then how can they hope to derail Hillary Clinton in 2016 when presumably that number will be substantially lower?

If Obama wins re-election, his domestic agenda will be anchored around a guarantee to all Americans that civil rights, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, affordable health care, public education, clean air and water, and a woman’s right to choose will be protected, no matter how poorly the economy performs. Obama has grappled with two of the last puzzle pieces of the Progressive agenda – health care and gay rights – with success. If he is re-elected in November and makes his health care program permanent, it will take root in the history books as a seminal achievement. If he loses, Romney and Ryan will crush his initiatives without remorse.

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The Final Two Week Drill For Team Obama

After the inspirational campaign of 2008, the Obama reelection campaign was a let down. Considering the dire consequence of a Romney victory to the nation, Obama supporters generally tolerated the campaign based upon attacking Romney as long as it was working, but it was not the type of campaign most of us really wanted to see. Few people were going to second guess the campaign as long as Obama had a secure lead, but it seemed like Obama should be doing more to respond to the Republican attacks and doing more to say why voters should vote for him as opposed to against Romney. Now that we are in the final two weeks with Obama clinging on to a slim lead in the battleground states, the campaign has begun to do these things:

Over the weekend, after seeing yet another ad blaming Obama for the economic conditions created by the Republicans, I suggested on Facebook that the Obama campaign should run an ad with “Bill Clinton placing the blame on Bush for crashing the economy, the GOP House for obstructing recovery, and crediting Obama for keeping us out of a full fledged depression.”

“The stuff some folks are saying about President Obama sound kind of familiar. The same people said my ideas destroyed jobs—they called me every name in the book.”

“Well we created 22 million new jobs and turned deficits into surpluses.”

“President Obama’s got it right. We should invest in the middle class, education and innovation. And pay down our debt with spending restraint and asking the wealthy to pay a little more. Sound familiar?”

They did this slightly different, tying Clinton’s ad into another ad released this week, spelling out Obama’s plan for the economy, but they did see the value in having Clinton do such an ad. Of course there is no reason why Clinton couldn’t do additional ads now that he has backed Obama’s policies.

The ad above reiterates what Obama has already been saying, but putting it together in one place helps counter Romney’s claim that Obama does not have a plan for his second term. The new ad was accompanied by a booklet on Obama’s Blueprint for America’s Future.

In the final two weeks, the ground game is receiving more attention. Molly Boll described how this gives Obama an advantage. The Field-Office Gap is far more important than the Bayonet-Gap of the third debate.

While Obama’s office in Sterling is one of more than 800 across the country — concentrated, of course, in the swing states — Romney commands less than half that number, about 300 locations. In the swing states, the gap is stark. Here’s the numerical comparison in what are generally considered the top three swing states — Ohio, Florida and Virginia:

But the difference isn’t just quantitative, it’s qualitative. I visited Obama and Romney field offices in three swing states — Ohio, Colorado and Virginia — dropping in unannounced at random times to see what I could see. There were some consistent, and telling, differences.

Obama’s office suite in Sterling was in an office park next to a dentist’s office. The front window was plastered with Obama-Biden signs, the door was propped open, and the stink bugs that plague Virginia in the fall crawled over stacks of literature — fliers for Senate candidate Tim Kaine, Obama bumper stickers — piled on a table near the front reception desk. In rooms in front and back, volunteers made calls on cell phones, while in the interior, field staffers hunched over computers. One wall was covered with a sheet of paper where people had scrawled responses to the prompt, “I Support the President Because…”, while another wall held a precinct-by-precinct list of neighborhood team leaders’ email addresses.

Only about a mile down the road was the Republican office, a cavernous, unfinished space on the back side of a strip mall next to a Sleepy’s mattress outlet. On one side of the room, under a Gadsden flag (“Don’t tread on me”) and a poster of Sarah Palin on a horse, two long tables of land-line telephones were arrayed. Most of the signs, literature, and buttons on display were for the local Republican congressman, Frank Wolf. A volunteer in a Wolf for Congress T-shirt was directing traffic, sort of — no one really seemed to be in charge and there were no paid staff present, though there were several elderly volunteers wandering in and out. The man in the T-shirt allowed me to survey the room but not walk around, and was unable to refer me to anyone from the Romney campaign or coordinated party effort.

These basic characteristics were repeated in all the offices I visited: The Obama offices were devoted almost entirely to the president’s reelection; the Republican offices were devoted almost entirely to local candidates, with little presence for Romney. In Greenwood Village, Colorado, I walked in past a handwritten sign reading “WE ARE OUT OF ROMNEY YARD SIGNS,” then had a nice chat with a staffer for Rep. Mike Coffman. In Canton, Ohio, the small GOP storefront was dominated by “Win With Jim!” signs for Rep. Jim Renacci. Obama’s nearest offices in both places were all Obama. In Canton, a clutch of yard signs for Sen. Sherrod Brown leaned against a wall, but table after table was filled with Obama lit — Veterans for Obama, Women for Obama, Latinos for Obama, and so on. The Obama campaign uses cell phones exclusively, while the Republicans use Internet-based land line phones programmed to make voter calls. Every Obama office has an “I Support the President Because…” wall, covered with earnest paeans to Obamacare and the like.

Even many Republicans realize they are at a disadvantage:

Some Republicans admit that the ground game is a weakness for the party. In Colorado, one top GOP consultant who has worked on presidential campaigns told me he mentally added 2 to 4 points to Obama’s polls in the state based on superior organization.

David Gergen also sees the ground game as an advantage for Obama:

Coming into a 14-day scramble, Obama can now rely upon an additional weapon in his arsenal: a strong ground game. Because it drove away any potential challengers in the Democratic primaries, his Chicago team not only got the jump on the GOP in advertising this past summer, but also constructed what appears to be a superior field organization.

In the pivotal state of Ohio, for example, the Obama campaign has three times as many offices, often captained by experienced young people. By contrast, a major Republican figure in the state, throwing up his hands, told me that the Romney field team looked like a high school civics class. The Romney team heartily disagrees, of course; we’ll just have to wait and see.

Contacting the voters directly might be one reason for Obama’s big lead among early voters:

The latest Reuters/Ipsos tracking poll finds President Obama had a lead of 53% to 42% among the 17% of the surveyed registered voters who said they had already cast their vote.

In the crucial swing state of Ohio, a new Time poll finds Obama holds a two-to-one lead over Romney among those who have voted early, 60% to 30%.

Ads and the ground game should dominate the final two weeks. Interviews are less likely to play a part. It looks like Romney might not give further interviews (but BuzzFeed did reveal how Romney looks so tan). Even Obama was initially reluctant to release the content of his interview with the Des Moines Register, but did ultimately release the transcript. Obama started with the same message in the ad and booklet mentioned above:

Obviously, I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished over the last four years. A lot of it was responding to the most severe economic emergency we’ve had since the Great Depression. And whether it was saving the auto industry, stabilizing the financial system, making sure that we got into a growth mode again and started putting people back to work, we have made real progress.

But people are obviously still hurting in a lot of parts of the country. And that’s why last night I tried to reiterate a very specific plan that we’ve put forward to make sure that the economy is growing, we’re bringing down our deficit, and we’re creating jobs.

So, number one, I’m very interested in continuing to build on the work that we did not just in the auto industry but some of the other industrial sectors, bringing manufacturing back to our shores; changing our tax code to reward companies that are investing here. There is a real sense that companies are starting to make decisions about insourcing, and some modest incentives I think can make a real difference in terms of us seeing continued manufacturing growth, which obviously has huge ramifications throughout the economy, including in the service sector of the economy.

Number two, education, which has obviously been a priority for us over the last four years — I want to build on what we’ve done with Race to the Top, but really focus on STEM education — math, science, technology, computer science. And part of that is helping states to hire teachers with the highest standards and training in these subjects so we can start making sure that our kids are catching up to some of the other industrialized world.

Two million more slots in community colleges that allows our workers to retrain, but also young people who may not want to go to a four-year college, making sure that the training they’re receiving is actually for jobs that are out there right now. And we want to continue to work — building on the progress we’ve done over the last four years — to keep tuition low for those who do attend either a two-year or a four-year college.

Number three, controlling our own energy. This obviously is of interest to Iowa. Our support of biofuels, our support of wind energy has created thousands of jobs in Iowa. But even more importantly, this is going to be the race to the future. The country that controls new sources of energy, not just the traditional sources, is going to have a huge competitive advantage 10 years from now, 20 years from now, 30 years from now.

So in addition to doubling our fuel-efficiency standards on cars and trucks, what we want to do is make sure that we’re producing new technologies here — long-lasting batteries, making sure that we are developing the wind and solar and other energy sources that may provide us a breakthrough. In the meantime, we’re still producing oil and natural gas at a record pace, but we’ve got to start preparing for the future. And as I said, it creates jobs right now in Iowa.

Number four, I want to reduce our deficit. It’s got to be done in a balanced way. I’ve already cut a trillion dollars’ worth of spending. I’m willing to do more. I’m willing to cut more, and I’m willing to work with Democrats and Republicans when it comes to making some adjustments that bring down the cost of our health care programs, which obviously are the biggest drivers of our deficit.

But nobody who looks at the numbers thinks it’s realistic for us to actually reduce our deficit in a serious way without also having some revenue. And we’ve identified tax rates going up to the Clinton rates for income above $250,000; making some adjustments in terms of the corporate tax side that could actually bring down the corporate tax overall, but broaden the base and close some loopholes. That would be good for our economy, and it would be good for reducing our deficit.

And finally, using some of the war savings to put people back to work on infrastructure — roads, bridges. We’ve fallen behind in that area. And we can — this deferred maintenance, we can put people to work, back, right now, and at the same time make sure that our economy is more competitive over the long term.

So that’s sort of a summary of the things I want to accomplish to create jobs and economic growth. Obviously, there are other items on the agenda. We need to get immigration reform done, and I’m fully committed to doing that. I think there’s still more work on the energy efficiency side that we can do — helping to retrofit our buildings, schools, hospitals, so that they’re energy efficient — because if we achieved efficiencies at the level of, let’s say, Japan, we could actually cut our power bill by about 20-25 percent, and that would have the added benefit of taking a whole bunch of carbon out of the atmosphere.

So there are some things that we can do, but obviously the key focus is making sure that the economy is growing. That will facilitate all the other work that we do.

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Democratic Convention Day 3: Osama bin Laden is Dead, General Motors Is Alive, and Mitt is a Twitt

It was another strong day for the Democrats, leading up to Barack Obama’s acceptance speech. While Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton, and ultimately Barack Obama dominated their evenings, there were many other strong speakers throughout the convention. The Democrats’ “second string” did a better job than the major speakers at the Republican convention. There was a wide variety of speakers, but they all showed a fundamental difference between the parties. The Democrats offer a big tent while the Republicans tell you to buy your own umbrella.

The two speakers who I have met in the past each did an excellent job. Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, spoke on Obama saving the auto industry:

The entire auto industry, and the lives of over one million hard-working Americans, teetered on the edge of collapse. And with it, the whole manufacturing sector.

We looked everywhere for help. Almost nobody had the guts to help us – not the banks, not the private investors, and not Bain Capital. Then, in 2009, the cavalry arrived: our new President, Barack Obama! He organized a rescue, made the tough calls, and saved the American auto industry. Mitt Romney saw the same crisis and you know what he said: “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”

Sure, Mitt Romney loves our lakes and trees. He loves our cars so much, they have their own elevator. But the people who design, build, and sell those cars? Well, in Romney’s world, the cars get the elevator – the workers get the shaft. Mitt Romney says his business experience qualifies him to be President. Sure, he’s made lots of money. Good for him. But how did he make that fortune, and at whose expense? Too often, he made it at the expense of middle-class Americans.Year after year, it was profit before people.

President Obama?

With the auto rescue, he saved more than one million middle-class jobs all across America.

John Kerry had a strong speech on foreign policy, turning around the classic Ronald Reagan line: “Ask Osama bin Laden if he’s better off now than he was four years ago.” Full video of Kerry’s speech is above.

Joe Biden  returned to the line he has used many times: Osama bin Laden is Dead and General Motors is Alive.  Biden was brilliant to tie in Romney’s position on the auto industry to the Bain way:

When I look back now on the President’s decision, I also think of another son of an automobile man–Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney grew up in Detroit.  His father ran American Motors.  Yet he was willing to let Detroit go bankrupt.  It’s not that he’s a bad guy. I’m sure he grew up loving cars as much as I did.  I just don’t think he understood—I just don’t think he understood what saving the automobile industry meant-to all of America.  I think he saw it the Bain way. Balance sheets. Write-offs.

Folks, the Bain way may bring your firm the highest profit. But it’s not the way to lead your country from its highest office.

When things hung in the balance, the President understood it was about a lot more than the automobile industry.  It was about restoring America’s pride.   He knew what it would mean to leave 1 million people without hope or work if we didn’t act. He knew the message it would have sent to the rest of the world if the United States of America gave up on the industry that helped put America on the map. Conviction.  Resolve.

He was similarly hard on Romney’s mistaken view on bin Laden as he described Obama’s strength:

We sat for days in the Situation Room.  He listened to the risks and reservations about the raid. And he asked the tough questions. But when Admiral McRaven looked him in the eye and said– “Sir, we can get this done,” I knew at that moment Barack had made his decision.  His response was decisive. He said do it.  And justice was done.

But Governor Romney didn’t see things that way.  When he was asked about bin Laden in 2007, he said, and I quote, “it’s not worth moving heaven and earth, and spending billions of dollars, just trying to catch one person.”

He was wrong. If you understood that America’s heart had to be healed, you would have done exactly what the President did. And you too would have moved heaven and earth–to hunt down bin Laden, and bring him to justice.

Biden summed up the different visions offered by the two parties: “A future where we promote the private sector, not the privileged sector.” So much for more  bogus Republican framing.  As he demolished Romney’s poor decisions, perhaps BIden should extend his line to “Osama bin Laden is Dead, General Motors Is Alive, and Mitt is a Twitt.”

Finally the man smart enough to marry Michelle Obama (as Clinton called him yesterday) came on.  It was a terrible moment for Mitt Romney. There was no empty chair. Barack Obama showed how successful he can be by campaigning on his record, demolishing a common Republican bromide. First he summarized the differences between the parties and had the best line of the evening:

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

“Have a surplus? Try a tax cut.”

“Deficit too high? Try another.”

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

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

Obama countered the Republican false framing that Democrats are the party of big government. Instead he explained that Democrats are the party which understands that there is a role for government:
We know that churches and charities can often make more of a difference than a poverty program alone. We don’t want handouts for people who refuse to help themselves, and we don’t want bailouts for banks that break the rules. We don’t think government can solve all our problems. But we don’t think that government is the source of all our problems – any more than are welfare recipients, or corporations, or unions, or immigrants, or gays, or any other group we’re told to blame for our troubles.
In contrast, Obama pointed out that Republicans are the party of big government intruding in the private lives of individuals, warning about “Washington politicians who want to decide who you can marry, or control health care choices that women should make for themselves.” He promised to prevent Medicare from turning into a voucher program, to protect seniors, and to protect the middle class:

I refuse to ask middle class families to give up their deductions for owning a home or raising their kids just to pay for another millionaire’s tax cut. I refuse to ask students to pay more for college; or kick children out of Head Start programs, or eliminate health insurance for millions of Americans who are poor, elderly, or disabled – all so those with the most can pay less.

And I will never turn Medicare into a voucher. No American should ever have to spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies. They should retire with the care and dignity they have earned. Yes, we will reform and strengthen Medicare for the long haul, but we’ll do it by reducing the cost of health care – not by asking seniors to pay thousands of dollars more. And we will keep the promise of Social Security by taking the responsible steps to strengthen it – not by turning it over to Wall Street.

This is the choice we now face. This is what the election comes down to. Over and over, we have been told by our opponents that bigger tax cuts and fewer regulations are the only way; that since government can’t do everything, it should do almost nothing. If you can’t afford health insurance, hope that you don’t get sick. If a company releases toxic pollution into the air your children breathe, well, that’s just the price of progress. If you can’t afford to start a business or go to college, take my opponent’s advice and “borrow money from your parents.”

Republicans avoided talk about Afghanistan and supporting veterans. Obama joined other speakers in warning of the dangers of making someone as inexperienced and uninformed as Mitt Romney become Commander-in-Chief:

So now we face a choice. My opponent and his running mate are new to foreign policy, but from all that we’ve seen and heard, they want to take us back to an era of blustering and blundering that cost America so dearly.

After all, you don’t call Russia our number one enemy – and not al Qaeda – unless you’re still stuck in a Cold War time warp. You might not be ready for diplomacy with Beijing if you can’t visit the Olympics without insulting our closest ally. My opponent said it was “tragic” to end the war in Iraq, and he won’t tell us how he’ll end the war in Afghanistan. I have, and I will. And while my opponent would spend more money on military hardware that our Joint Chiefs don’t even want, I’ll use the money we’re no longer spending on war to pay down our debt and put more people back to work – rebuilding roads and bridges; schools and runways. After two wars that have cost us thousands of lives and over a trillion dollars, it’s time to do some nation-building right here at home.

This election is far more about the economy than foreign policy, but will Americans elect a president who is so clearly over his head on issues of national security?
It will be interesting to see what effect this convention has on the polls. I’m not sure that there are many voters left who haven’t made up their minds to provide the types of convention bounces we have seen in the past. Romney received little to no bounce after his convention. The Democrats put on a far better convention and we will soon have an answer as to whether any convention can provide a big bounce. Gallup has shown Obama with a one point lead through the entire Republican convention and into today. As they use a seven day average it will take a few more days to see whether their is a bounce. Reuters is receiving a lot of attention in the conservative blogs for saying there has been no bounce for Obama, but this was after only one night, before the speeches by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
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Democratic Convention Day 2: Bill Clinton Makes The Case

Two nights into the Democratic convention and we have seen two incredible speeches, with Barack Obama still to come. The Democrats certainly were not afraid to bring up their former presidents as Republicans must be. Clinton has a 69 percent approval rating in a recent Gallup Poll, hopefully putting him in a position where persuadable voters will listen to him. Clinton came out to the music of “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow.” The Republicans might as well have played, “If I Could Turn Back Time” at their convention.

Bill Clinton did an amazing job of explaining why Barack Obama’s policies are better for the economy and better for the nation than what the Republicans propose.  The full text is here. As Obama demolished al Qaeda over the last few years, Clinton demolished all the Republican talking points and lies in less than an hour. Clinton spoke of cooperation, appealing to swing voters, contrasting the desire of Obama to work with others with the actions of the Republican in Congress who consistently tried to block any efforts to improve the economy. Clinton’s speech was based upon presenting the facts, such the basic economic fact that spending on infrastructure, education, and science create wealth. Tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy do not.

Clinton systematically went through multiple Republican talking points and the recent lies they have campaigned on. I was happy to see Clinton debunk Paul Ryan’s lie that Obama cut money from Medicare to pay for ObamaCare. (While this particular charge is untrue, it is a major difference between the parties that Democrats do pay for their plans while Republicans increase the deficit). Even better, Clinton went on to explain how the Romney-Ryan plans to cut Medicaid will not only hurt the poor. It will harm seniors, as well as middle class families faced catastrophic costs.

Clinton debunked the Republican argument that they should be put back in office because Obama failed to clean up the mess they left behind quickly enough. Clinton explained that the Republicans left such a mess that no president (not even Clinton) could have cleaned up the mess in four years–especially with the Republicans blocking efforts to recover the economy. The increase in jobs under Obama, while not enough, is a welcome change to the losses under Bush. We could have done even better if the Republicans had not blocked Obama’s jobs plan.

There were other good speakers, but it is Bill Clinton’s speech which will be remembered. There were many calls for “Four More Years” during his speech, and I’m not sure if they meant Obama or Clinton. Having Clinton out campaigning for Obama, along with filming commercials, should give a boost to the Obama campaign.

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An Honest Republican On The Failure Of Republican Economic Policies

Bruce Bartlett, who has been an adviser to Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Ron Paul, and Jack Kemp, debunks the Voodoo Economics now practiced by Republicans. He began by showing that Americans are right when “43 percent of them hold George W. Bush responsible for the current budget deficit versus only 14 percent who blame Mr. Obama.”

The American people are right; Mr. Bush is more responsible, as a new report from the Congressional Budget Office documents.

In January 2001, the office projected that the federal government would run a total budget surplus of $3.5 trillion through 2008 if policy was unchanged and the economy continued according to forecast. In fact, there was a deficit of $5.5 trillion.

The projected surplus was primarily the result of two factors. First was a big tax increase in 1993 that every Republican in Congress voted against, saying that it would tank the economy. This belief was wrong. The economy boomed in 1994, growing 4.1 percent that year and strongly throughout the Clinton administration.

As for tax cuts over the past decade:

The 2001 tax cut did nothing to stimulate the economy, yet Republicans pushed for additional tax cuts in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2008. The economy continued to languish even as the Treasury hemorrhaged revenue, which fell to 17.5 percent of the gross domestic product in 2008 from 20.6 percent in 2000. Republicans abolished Paygo in 2002, and spending rose to 20.7 percent of G.D.P. in 2008 from 18.2 percent in 2001.

According to the C.B.O., by the end of the Bush administration, legislated tax cuts reduced revenues and increased the national debt by $1.6 trillion. Slower-than-expected growth further reduced revenues by $1.4 trillion.

However, the Bush tax cuts continued through 2010, well into the Obama administration. These reduced revenues by another $369 billion, adding that much to the debt. Legislated tax cuts enacted by President Obama and Democrats in Congress reduced revenues by an additional $407 billion in 2009 and 2010. Slower growth reduced revenues by a further $1.3 trillion. Contrary to Republican assertions, there were no additional revenues from legislated tax increases.

Bartlett concluded:

Putting all the numbers in the C.B.O. report together, we see that continuation of tax and budget policies and economic conditions in place at the end of the Clinton administration would have led to a cumulative budget surplus of $5.6 trillion through 2011 – enough to pay off the $5.6 trillion national debt at the end of 2000.

Tax cuts and slower-than-expected growth reduced revenues by $6.1 trillion and spending was $5.6 trillion higher, a turnaround of $11.7 trillion. Of this total, the C.B.O. attributes 72 percent to legislated tax cuts and spending increases, 27 percent to economic and technical factors. Of the latter, 56 percent occurred from 2009 to 2011.

Republicans would have us believe that somehow we could have avoided the recession and balanced the budget since 2009 if only they had been in charge. This would be a neat trick considering that the recession began in December 2007, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.

They would also have us believe that all of the increase in debt resulted solely from higher spending, nothing from lower revenues caused by tax cuts. And they continually imply that one of the least popular spending increases of recent years, the Troubled Asset Relief Program, was an Obama administration program, when in fact it was a Bush administration initiative proposed by the Treasury Department that was signed into law by Mr. Bush on Oct. 3, 2008.

Lastly, Republicans continue to insist that tax cuts are highly stimulative, often saying that they add nothing to the debt, when this is obviously ridiculous.

Conversely, they are adamant that tax increases must not be part of any deficit-reduction package because they never reduce deficits and instead are spent. This is also ridiculous, as the experience of the Clinton administration clearly shows. The new C.B.O. data confirm these facts.

Andrew Sullivan, another conservative who now debunks the lunacy of those who have taken over the conservative movement, commented:

When you check reality, rather than the alternate universe constantly created by Fox News and an amnesiac press, you find that Bush had a chance to pay off all our national debt before we hit the financial crisis – giving the US enormous flexibility in intervening to ameliorate the recession. Instead, we had to find money for a stimulus in a cupboard stripped bare – its contents largely given away, by an act of choice. I’m tired of being told we cannot blame Bush for our current predicament. We can and should blame him for most of it – and remind people that Romney’s policies: more tax cuts, more defense spending are identical. With one difference: Bush pledged never “to balance the budget on the backs of the poor.”

Mitt Romney has no qualms about doing that very thing. And he will, if he is given the chance.

 

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Why Do Conservatives Oppose Deregulation By Democrats?

The Boston Globe ran a story on the banking industry backing Romney, preferring the candidate who supports only limited regulation of banks over Obama. This comes as no surprise, but it is something to keep in mind when Republicans raise their dubious argument blaming the financial crash on Clinton (for deregulating banks) as a diversion to try to keep the blame off of Bush and Republican economic policies.

If conservatives think that deregulation of banks by Clinton was bad, shouldn’t they support Obama over Romney? How come they almost always oppose deregulation, except when done by Bill Clinton?

(And yes, there are arguments from the left that the regulation supported by Obama is too little, but he still favors far more reforms than Romney. Despite his centrist economic views, Obama will not lose a meaningful number of votes for being too moderate.)

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Private Sector Jobs Increase More When Democrats Are In Office

I’ve posted numerous analyses showing that the economy has done significantly better under Democrats than Republicans. The data is clear that if you want a shot to make more money or want to improve stock market returns, vote Democratic.  Today Bloomberg has analyzed the data to also show that if you want more private sector jobs, vote Democratic.

The BGOV Barometer shows that since Democrat John F. Kennedy took office in January 1961, non-government payrolls in the U.S. swelled by almost 42 million jobs under Democrats, compared with 24 million for Republican presidents, according to Labor Department figures.

Democrats hold the edge though they occupied the Oval Office for 23 years since Kennedy’s inauguration, compared with 28 for the Republicans. Through April, Democratic presidents accounted for an average of 150,000 additional private-sector paychecks per month over that period, more than double the 71,000 average for Republicans.

For example, lets compare Obama and Bush:

Through April, private employers have added an average of about 900 jobs per month since Obama’s inauguration. During the two terms of his predecessor, Republican George W. Bush, private payrolls shrank by an average of 6,700 jobs per month.

Here’s data on a few other former presidents:

On a monthly basis, Democrat Bill Clinton averaged 217,000 new private-sector jobs. Democrat Jimmy Carter had an average of 188,000, followed by Republican Ronald Reagan’s 153,000, according to Labor Department data.

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Republicans Can’t Handle The Truth: Bin Laden is Dead and General Motors is Alive

The Republican Party has been playing politics with terrorism since the 9/11 attack, in a manner similar to how they played politics with anti-Communism in past decades. Republicans are now upset and in denial about two things: the Democrats have been far more successful on national security and, even worse, they dare to promote their success for political gain. The web ad by Bill Clinton which points out that Barack Obama made the decision to kill bin Laden, while Mitt Romney would not have done the same, has the right wing especially upset.

Right wing blogs are full of utterly senseless arguments to deny credit to Barack Obama for his accomplishment. Many come from a rather irrational post at Breitbart.com–a site which specializes in distorting the facts to support right wing narratives. Their argument comes down to attacking Obama for wanting information on the risks involved before proceeding. This sounds quite prudent and provides no evidence of their claim this was to avoid taking the blame if the operation did not succeed. If only George Bush had not ignored warnings about the risks involved in occupying Iraq before rushing to war.

John McCain, the war-mongering jingoist who has never shown reluctance to use war for political gain, actually had the chutzpah to attack Obama for promoting his success against bin Laden. There are endless examples of McCain and the Republican Party using national security for political gain, even managing to capitalize on Bush’s massive failure on 9/11, and claiming “Mission Accomplished” as their policies failed in Iraq. Digby has provided a handful of videos demonstrating how Republicans have used national security. Far more could be added.

Just as the Republicans, who wrecked the economy and have been doing everything possible to slow down recovery, are trying to claim can do more for the economy,  Republican who have gravely harmed our national security are trying to turn this into a political plus for them. It was the Republicans who tried to block Bill Clinton’s actions against al Qaeda, but despite this Clinton showed successes, such as stopping the planned Millennium terrorist plot. George Bush ignored both recommendations passed down from the Clinton administration for handling al Qaeda and ignored CIA warnings before the 9/11 attack. After ignoring numerous warnings before 9/11, Bush made matters even worse by going to war against the wrong country. Even when he had an excellent chance to kill or capture bin Laded at Tora Bora, Bush managed to mess it up.

Republicans object to Obama taking credit for his success because they do not want the facts to intrude upon the false narratives they create to run on. They want to claim to be stronger on national security despite their disastrous record. They want to run on fiscal responsibility despite their policies which are responsible for the deficit as they try to place the blame for their actions on Obama. They want to run as the party of small government and freedom despite a record of increasing the size of government and increasing government intrusion in the private lives of individuals.

Looking at the facts, there is really no question as to which party has been more successful in recent years, as the Republicans have increasingly ignored reality. Democrats have been successful in protecting the country against terrorism, while Republican policies led to a preventable terrorist attack succeeding and to a war which we never should have engaged in. Republican economic polices have been similarly disastrous for the country. Republicans will continue to whine and try to distort the facts, but this does not change the reality that bin Laden is Dead and General Motors is alive.

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Bill Clinton On Obama vs. Romney As Commander In Chief

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No Surprise: Republicans Moving To Far Right While Democrats Moving Towards Middle

The Republican Party has moved to the far right in recent years–far to the right of Barry Goldwater and even Ronald Reagan–while the Democrats have moved towards the middle. The voteview blog has analyzed recent presidents and the result is exactly what we already knew:

Our findings here echo those discussed in a prior post that Republicans have moved further to the right than Democrats to the left in the contemporary period. Indeed, as seen below, President Obama is the most moderate Democratic president since the end of World War II, while President George W. Bush was the most conservative president in the post-war era.

On the other hand, in many ways Obama has had success at passing liberal polices in some areas where other Democratic presidents have failed. This success might be partially because of his moderation, and that a more liberal Democrat might have had fewer successes.

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