Person of the Year: Barack Obama

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This was a rather obvious choice in an election year. As Time points out, Obama is “the first Democrat in more than 75 years to get a majority of the popular vote twice. Only five other Presidents have done that in all of U.S. history.” Time‘s explanation:

There are many reasons for this, but the biggest by far are the nation’s changing demographics and Obama’s unique ability to capitalize on them. When his name is on the ballot, the next America — a younger, more diverse America — turns out at the polls. In 2008, blacks voted at the same rate as whites for the first time in history, and Latinos broke turnout records. The early numbers suggest that both groups did it again in 2012, even in nonbattleground states, where the Obama forces were far less organized. When minorities vote, that means young people do too, because the next America is far more diverse than the last. And when all that happens, Obama wins. He got 71% of Latinos, 93% of blacks, 73% of Asians and 60% of those under 30.

They left out the more important fact that Obama ran against a Republican Party which has moved to the extreme right and very well might never again be able to win a national election until the party changes. (Some Republican apologists might counter by claims that John McCain and Mitt Romney are moderates but in reality both ran on platforms which were bat-shit crazy, even if the Republicans do have even worse lunatics among their ranks.)
Time’s interview with Obama gives indications we are living in a world which the authoritarian right just cannot handle. Obama took time to announce his support for gay marriage, but we may have reached a tipping point where any candidate who does not support marriage equality would be seen in the same light as someone who didn’t support interracial marriage. Obama is more conservative than many of his supporters on drugs, and it is a disappointment that he is not ending the drug war, but at least does not intend to use government resources for prosecution of marijuana users:

I have a couple of policy questions growing out of that shift. Do you expect your administration will join the gay marriage cases at the Supreme Court?

We are looking at the cases right now. I’ve already been very clear about DOMA, so there is no doubt that we would continue the position we’re on, that DOMA is unconstitutional and should be struck down. And I think the Prop-8 case, because the briefs are still being written, I should probably be careful about making any specific comments on it.

One of the other big things that happened in the election was in Washington State and Colorado, marijuana for recreational use was legalized. And, again, the same base — the younger people, more progressive people are in favor of that. Is a recreational marijuana user who is following state law someone who should be a federal law enforcement priority?

No. And I think what the Justice Department has consistently asserted is that it’s got finite resources. Our focus has to be on threats to safety, threats to property. When it comes to drug enforcement, big-time drug dealers, folks who are preying on our kids, those who are engaging in violence — that has to be our focus.

Now, obviously, you’ve got a challenge, which is federal laws that are still on the books making marijuana a Class I drug that is subject to significant penalties, and you’ve got state laws now that say it’s legal. We’re going to have to have a conversation about how to reconcile that, because it puts the Department of Justice and the U.S. attorneys in a pretty tough position; they don’t want to look like they’re nullifying laws that are on the books; their job is to carry out the laws of the federal government. On the other hand, I think not only have these states indicated that they’ve got a different view, but what’s also true isthat the public as a whole — even those who don’t necessarily agree with decriminalization of marijuana — don’t think that this should be a top priority for law enforcement.

So this will be something that we navigate over the next several months and next several years. I think that the broader lesson to draw here is that substance abuse is a big problem in oursociety, and we should be doing everything we can to prevent our kids from being trapped by substance abuse. I think a law enforcement model alone, or an emphasis on a law enforcement strategy and not enough emphasis on the public health approach and treatment has not yielded the kind of results that I think we would like. And we’re going to have to have a serious discussion about that.

There are many pictures worth viewing accompanying the articles:
Obama Clinton
Obama Spiderman
Obama from Behind
Obama Chicago
obama white house
Obama Families 911 Victims
Obama Bo
Obama 3D Glasses
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Inflated Bills From Romney Campaign–Dishonesty or Incompetence?

For some reason I don’t find it to be at all surprising that the Romney campaign ripped off news organizations:

In a coda to the often contentious relationship between Mitt Romney’s staff and the press, news outlets are preparing to file a formal complaint to the Romney campaign contesting some of the seemingly inflated charges that were billed to them from the campaign trail.

It is standard procedure for presidential campaigns to arrange and prepay for meals, bus travel, and charter flights, then bill the news outlets afterward for their share of the cost. In order to travel with the candidate, reporters and their editors must agree upfront to pay for the cost of the trips, as determined by the campaign.

But many of the bills from the Romney campaign — which have continued to trickle in since Election Day — are much higher than during other campaigns.

For example, on Oct. 11, each reporter was charged $812 for a meal and a rented “holding” space, where the press waited before moving to the next event. On Oct. 18, the bill for a similar set of expenses was $461. And on the night of the vice presidential debate, the campaign planned a “viewing party” for the reporters with Romney, complete with a large rented room with a patio, massage tables, fresh cut flowers, and lots of food and booze. One campaign aide told BuzzFeed that campaign officials’ orders were to “go big” — a nice gesture, perhaps, but one that wasn’t discussed with every media outlet.

I might buy the explanation that this was due to incompetence on the part of the campaign rather than dishonesty:

One campaign aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the bills were not artificially inflated, but rather the product of a generally mismanaged campaign. The aide said the advance team — which was tasked with arranging meals and accommodations for the press — failed to communicate with other elements of the campaign and consistently spent more money than necessary.

Indeed, reporters on the trail grew accustomed to having five or six catered meals offered to them every day, with long tables full of food awaiting them at each campaign stop. The meals often went untouched and were sometimes consumed by campaign staff. It remains unclear whether those aides shouldered some of the costs of the meals.

In another case of apparent overspending, the campaign rented four “mini-busses,” seating 20 to 30 people apiece, to transport the press after a campaign event in Pennsylvania. According to an aide, the total cost was around $5,000 — divided among just 23 reporters.

An aide said they raised concerns about the costs early on — once media outlets began complaining about the outsize bills — but senior campaign officials dismissed them.

Perhaps Mittens should pick up the bills.

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PolitiFact Lie of the Year: Romney Campaign Ad On Jeeps To Be Made In China

Mitt Romney may have lost the presidential election but he does hold the title for running the most dishonest campaign in modern history. To add to his accomplishments in this area, PolitiFact has awarded him their Lie of the Year:

It was a lie told in the critical state of Ohio in the final days of a close campaign — that Jeep was moving its U.S. production to China. It originated with a conservative blogger, who twisted an accurate news story into a falsehood. Then it picked up steam when the Drudge Report ran with it. Even though Jeep’s parent company gave a quick and clear denial, Mitt Romney repeated it and his campaign turned it into a TV ad.

And they stood by the claim, even as the media and the public expressed collective outrage against something so obviously false.

People often say that politicians don’t pay a price for deception, but this time was different: A flood of negative press coverage rained down on the Romney campaign, and he failed to turn the tide in Ohio, the most important state in the presidential election.

PolitiFact has selected Romney’s claim that Barack Obama “sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China” at the cost of American jobs as the 2012 Lie of the Year.

Romney lied so frequently that it is hard to choose just one lie. This was a good choice as it was a blatant lie which Romney repeated despite considerable media coverage of the fact that he was lying. It is a perfect example for an outfit such as PolitFact to use in that it highlights the role of fact checkers in exposing a lie which wound up hurting the lying candidate. However if I were to choose the Lie of the Year I would choose one which the Factcheckers exposed with far less success–the distortion of Obama’s didn’t build it statement. While Obama was speaking of government infrastructure which businesses benefit from, the Romney campaign twisted this to claim that Obama was saying that businessmen did not build their own business. I would give this lie the award because of the audacity of the lie and the frequency with which Republicans repeated it. This including making this lie the theme of the Republican convention in 2012.

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Quote of the Day

“Earlier today Mitt Romney was spotted on a Costco shopping spree. Romney ended up buying 14 Costcos.” –Jimmy Fallon

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Quote of the Day: Conan On The Obama/Romney Lunch

“President Obama had lunch with Mitt Romney. There was an awkward moment when Romney looked around and said, ‘So how much do you want for the place.'” –Conan O’Brien

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The Danger Of The Republican Denial Of Reality

With the conservative movement now firmly under the control of ideological fanatics, the most significant difference between liberals and conservatives is basing opinions (and ultimately public policy) on facts versus ideological wishes. The conservative denial of facts has been seen in many areas, such as false belief of threat of WMD in Iraq justifying war to their mischaracterization of the Affordable Care Act as a government takeover of health care. The recent election highlighted this difference when liberal predictions of the election based upon objective information proved to be far more accurate that conservative predictions which ignored facts. Besides ignoring actual polling data, Romney also showed he was out of touch with reality with his view on the 47 percent and his post-election claim that Democrats voted based upon wanting to get things.

While liberals typically saw the odds as being well in Obama’s favor, we also realized that Romney could have won provided that he out-performed the polls in several swing states.  In contrast, many conservatives acted confident of a Romney landslide, with Romney being so confident of victory that he had prepared a victory speech but no concession speech. Noam Scheiber obtained Romney’s internal polls which led to this over confidence. Objective observers felt odds were in Obama’s favor because he had many routes to victory even should he lose some of the states which were close. Romney’s belief in victory was based upon an unrealistic belief he was leading in six of the close states (with Obama winning five), but this still would have placed place Romney three votes short of winning. To actually win, he would also have had to win in Ohio where his polls underestimated his deficit but still had Romney behind:

Together, New Hampshire, Colorado, and Iowa go most of the way toward explaining why the Romney campaign believed it was so well-positioned. When combined with North Carolina, Florida, and Virginia—the trio of states the Romney campaign assumed were largely in the bag—Romney would bank 267 electoral votes, only three shy of the magic number. Furthermore, according to Newhouse, the campaign’s final internal polls had Romney down a mere two points in Ohio—a state that would have put him comfortably over the top—and Team Romney generally believed it had momentum in the final few days of the race. (You see hints of this momentum when you compare the Saturday numbers in each state with the Sunday numbers. Romney gains in five out of the six states, though Newhouse cautions not to make too much of this since the numbers can bounce around wildly on any given day.) While none of this should have been grounds for the sublime optimism that leads you to eschew a concession speech—two points is still a ton to make up in a state like Ohio in 48 hours—you see how the campaign might conclude that the pieces were falling into place.

I could see Romney using such an argument before the election to motivate his voters, who might not have turned out if they realized how unlikely it was for Romney to win. I could see this providing some optimism. It is a different matter for Romney to actually believe he would win based upon these polls which were out of line with more objective data. Nate Silver found that internal polls have typically favored the candidate commissioning the polls by six percent over more objective polls. Even the Nate Silver haters on the right should understand the idea that pollsters might be biased towards whoever was signing their paychecks, or do they have a fantasy of a perfect market in polls? Perhaps they believe that Adam Smith’s invisible hand will intervene to correct any errors by those hired to conduct internal polls.

Steve M points out the danger of extending this mind set to government decisions:

… this is the kind of hubris that leads to Iraq-style quagmires: you believe everything that confirms your worldview and disbelieve everything that doesn’t; you get pleasing data stovepiped to yourself, draw conclusions you like, then bump those conclusions even more in your own deluded head.

Can you imagine Romney and his crew in a situation that affected us rather than themselves? What would they have done to America, given the chance, with this kind of power-of-positive-thinking nonsense driving their decision-making?

Romney was supposed to be the data-driven business genius — but maybe the business in which he made his fortune is so rigged in favor of the dealmakers that you don’t have to be particularly good at it to get stinking rich. Maybe he’s just not that bright, even in the area that’s supposedly his strength.

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Bruce Bartlett on Reality vs. The Conservative Movement

The conservative movement suffers from being dominated by extremists who drive out anyone who does not agree with all the counter-to-fact and irrational views which they now hold (which are very similar to the extremist views which William F. Buckley, Jr. purged from the conservative movement in the 1960’s.) Bruce Bartlett, who worked in the Reagan Administration, has found that it is not possible to simultaneously look at reality and be welcomed by other conservatives:

I’m not going to beat around the bush and pretend I don’t have a vested interest here. Frankly, I think I’m at ground zero in the saga of Republicans closing their eyes to any facts or evidence that conflict with their dogma. Rather than listen to me, they threw me under a bus. To this day, I don’t think they understand that my motives were to help them avoid the permanent decline that now seems inevitable.

Bartlett described his days in the conservative movement. His earliest disagreements were criticism of the second Bush administration, along with Congressional Republicans, from the right for their fiscal irresponsibility. This led to him writing the book, Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy.  While MSNBC sometimes criticizes Obama from the left, the right wing noise machine didn’t have room for dissident views on the right:

Among the interesting reactions to my book is that I was banned from Fox News. My publicist was told that orders had come down from on high that it was to receive no publicity whatsoever, not even attacks. Whoever gave that order was smart; attacks from the right would have sold books. Being ignored was poison for sales.

I later learned that the order to ignore me extended throughout Rupert Murdoch’s empire. For example, I stopped being quoted in the Wall Street Journal.* Awhile back, a reporter who left the Journal confirmed to me that the paper had given her orders not to mention me. Other dissident conservatives, such as David Frum and Andrew Sullivan, have told me that they are banned from Fox as well. More epistemic closure.

Bartlett’s analysis of the economy after the economic crash found him agreeing with Paul Krugman, and disagreeing with the right’s mischaracterization of Obama as a socialist:

Annoyingly, however, I found myself joined at the hip to Paul Krugman, whose analysis was identical to my own. I had previously viewed Krugman as an intellectual enemy and attacked him rather colorfully in an old column that he still remembers.

For the record, no one has been more correct in his analysis and prescriptions for the economy’s problems than Paul Krugman. The blind hatred for him on the right simply pushed me further away from my old allies and comrades.

The final line for me to cross in complete alienation from the right was my recognition that Obama is not a leftist. In fact, he’s barely a liberal—and only because the political spectrum has moved so far to the right that moderate Republicans from the past are now considered hardcore leftists by right-wing standards today. Viewed in historical context, I see Obama as actually being on the center-right.

He understands that the conservative echo chamber is largely responsible for Romney’s loss:

At least a few conservatives now recognize that Republicans suffer for epistemic closure. They were genuinely shocked at Romney’s loss because they ignored every poll not produced by a right-wing pollster such as Rasmussen or approved by right-wing pundits such as the perpetually wrong Dick Morris. Living in the Fox News cocoon, most Republicans had no clue that they were losing or that their ideas were both stupid and politically unpopular.

I am disinclined to think that Republicans are yet ready for a serious questioning of their philosophy or strategy. They comfort themselves with the fact that they held the House (due to gerrymandering) and think that just improving their get-out-the-vote system and throwing a few bones to the Latino community will fix their problem. There appears to be no recognition that their defects are far, far deeper and will require serious introspection and rethinking of how Republicans can win going forward. The alternative is permanent loss of the White House and probably the Senate as well, which means they can only temporarily block Democratic initiatives and never advance their own.

I’ve paid a heavy price, both personal and financial, for my evolution from comfortably within the Republican Party and conservative movement to a less than comfortable position somewhere on the center-left. Honest to God, I am not a liberal or a Democrat. But these days, they are the only people who will listen to me. When Republicans and conservatives once again start asking my opinion, I will know they are on the road to recovery.

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Why You Should Be Thankful That Barack Obama Was Reelected

Addicting Info has a rather long list of reasons to be thankful that Obama was reelected, accompanied by links.

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Happy Thanksgiving

Today we can be thankful that George Bush isn’t in the White House and that Mitt Romney, the man who wanted to return to his policies, was defeated.

Here’s a trip back to a past Thanksgiving in the Bartlet White House:

The pardoning of the turkey:

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Mitt Romney Is Turning Out To Be The 47 Percent Candidate

Mitt Romney showed that he was unfit to be president with his 47 percent comment to a group of donors. This was wrong for so many reasons. Barack Obama was at 47 percent in the polls but this did not coincide with the approximately 47 percent of the country who do not pay federal income taxes. These not paying income taxes include retired people, students, many in the military, and many working people who pay payroll taxes but don’t earn enough to pay income taxes. Many of these vote Republican–poorly educated, low-information white males make up a substantial portion of the Republican base.  Despite what Romney might believe, party affiliation is only weakly correlated with income.

Democratic voters such as myself don’t want to take anything–we want to get government out of the private lives of individuals and we want a government which bases policies upon facts, not deranged right wing ideological views. If we want to look at takers, look at how the red states receive more federal benefits than they pay in income taxes. And yes, us Democratic voters might not like paying income taxes but we do realize that this is the cost of living with the benefits of the modern world.

Romney’s 47 percent comment has created a narrative that Mitt Romney would be the president of half the country if elected and not care about the other half. That is not true. Mitt Romney would have been the president of less than one percent of the country, not half. Most people who voted for Romney would find that they are much better off under Obama’s policies if they are willing to look at the facts.

With all the publicity around the 47 percent number, it is increasingly looking like that this is where Mitt Romney, not Barack Obama, will wind up when all the votes are counted. From Greg Sargent:

When all the votes are counted, could Mitt Romney really end up achieving perfect poetic justice by finishing with 47 percent of the national vote? Yup. Dave Wasserman of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report says new votes in from Maryland put Romney at 47.56 percent. He predicts with certainty that with all of New York and California counted, Romney will end up below 47.5 percent of the vote.

Rounded, of course, that would put the final tally at 51-47. Anticipating this moment, Markos Moulitsas has inaugurated the “Romney 47 percent watch.”

There is one disturbing factor here. Considering how harmful Romney’s policies would be to the country, 47 percent is far too much support for him.

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