Tag: Politics

I Agree With Wm Kristol? Yep. Romney’s Silence on Afghanistan is Tone Deaf

William Kristol and I are on the opposite end of virtually every issue and topic you can imagine. But I have to give the guy props today for making the following comments on GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s absolute tone-deafness when it comes to a major subject in American politics: our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The United States has some 68,000 troops fighting in Afghanistan. Over two thousand Americans have died in the more than ten years of that war, a war Mitt Romney has supported. Yet in his speech accepting his party’s nomination to be commander in chief, Mitt Romney said not a word about the war in Afghanistan. Nor did he utter a word of appreciation to the troops fighting there, or to those who have fought there. Nor for that matter were there thanks for those who fought in Iraq, another conflict that went unmentioned.
Leave aside the question of the political wisdom of Romney’s silence, and the opportunities it opens up for President Obama next week. What about the civic propriety of a presidential nominee failing even to mention, in his acceptance speech, a war we’re fighting and our young men and women who are fighting it? Has it ever happened that we’ve been at war and a presidential nominee has ignored, in this kind of major and formal speech, the war and our warriors?

This is just one more way in which Romney is the candidate in this race who is not in tune with his fellow countrymen, a charge he and his surrogates hurl at President Obama with boring frequency.

But I wonder perhaps if the real problem isn’t just with Romney but with our entire nation. The War in Afghanistan seldom makes the front pages of newspapers, in stark contrast to the Vietnam War which dominated the news for nearly a decade. You can hang out in a lot of coffee shops listening to conversations among all sorts of people from the broad spectrum of politics and never hear the war mentioned. It’s just not part of the national consciousness. This is one of the consequences of an all-volunteer military where it is not true that everyone knows someone who is serving, has served or could be called on to serve in combat. 

But Mr. Kristol is right that for a national party’s presidential candidate to ignore an ongoing war in a speech of such importance as was Mr. Romney’s last night is unprecedented. And it speaks volumes of the kind of leader Mr. Romney would be if he were to be sent to the White House.

Ryan’s Lyin’

Paul Ryan's speech to the Republican National Convention last night was breathtaking in its unending streams of lies both about him and his party and about President Obama. Think I'm exaggerating? The WEEK compiled a list of 15 different commentators who had 15 different ways avoiding the "L-word" in describing Ryan's clearly and intentionally disingenuous talk. 

Check the list. Even Fox News had to stagger back a bit. Ryan was apparently trying to "set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech," says Sally Kohn at Fox News.

We;ve been seeing this from the GOP for many years now. They obviously understand the basic principle of propaganda: tell a big enough lie loudly enough and often enough and it becomes accepted fact. Democrats aren't pure pure on this point, to be sure, but Republicans have brought this to a low art form.

Matt Taibi: Romney a Backward-World Version of Che or Trotsky

Matt Taibbi's upcoming (9/13) Rolling Stone piece on GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney is devastating in its detail, accuracy and laser-like focus. 

Far from being a bungling, gaffe-emitting lightweight, Taibbi wants us to see Romney for what he really is: "[T]he frontman and apostle of an economic revolution, in which transactions are manufactured instead of products, wealth is generated without accompanying prosperity, and Cayman Islands partnerships are lovingly erected and nurtured while American communities fall apart."

In his piece, Taibbi explains in lucid terms the leveraged buyout (LBO) business in which Romney and his firm, Bain Capital, were engaged, and precisely how it represents in business terms the very thing he inveighs against in the government: massive debt. "Mitt Romney is one of the greatest and most irresponsible debt creators of all time. In the past few decades, in fact, Romney has piled more debt onto more unsuspecting companies, written more gigantic checks that other people have to cover, than perhaps all but a handful of people on planet Earth," Taibbi charges.

We have forgotten, Taibbi says, that Romney is and has long been a part of the Wall Street gangs of thugs who looted the American economy, nearly brought the world's financial institutions to their knees, and made billions in the process. Not only that, but Taibbi says the highly touted rates of return Bain provided its investors were unspectactular at best and that, but for a provision in the tax code intended to help the middle class keep their homes, Bain would probably not have been able to make even that much of a return.

You owe it to yourself to read this piece. It's the most solid and precise indictment of the man who would be President of the 1% I've read.

FactCheck Blows Another Call

I read FactCheck.org assiduously. In 90% of what they say I agree, regardless of who they are correcting or chastising.

Today, though, they got another one wrong. In this piece, they accuse the Obama team of running false advertising claiming that the GOP supports a total ban on abortion with no exceptions for rape or incest. Their claim: that the GOP platform plank doesn't mention exceptions and therefore doesn't exclude them.

I took exactly the opposite position in a letter to the editor which I reproduce here for your reading amusement.

To the Editor,

I don't know why your editorial team seems so blind on the singular issue of the Republican Party's "official" stance on abortion bans and the provision of exceptions from such bans. In your piece "Another Abortion Falsehood from Obama’s ‘Truth Team’," you take Team Obama to task for claiming in an ad that the GOP opposes abortion even in the case of rape and incest.

Rather than clutter your emailbox with a litany of proposed legislation with nearly 100% party backing in the states and Congress over just the past two years taking precisely that position, I'm going to focus on the logic of your position.

If I propose a ban on handguns, that means or at least strongly implies a total ban. Unless I mention exceptions — e.g., for law enforcement officers, military personnel in some situations, target shooting or anything else — a ban is a ban is a ban. If I want to carve out exceptions from the ban, it's incumbent on me to state those exceptions clearly.

Mitt Romney's position on the subject of abortion ban has grown steadily more conservative over the years. If you search recent advertising and press coverage, you'll be hard pressed to find a place where he mentions the exceptions. His running mate, Paul Ryan, is vocally on record as opposing those exceptions and he, not Romney, has said lately that the Romney policy will allow for the exceptions because that's Mitt's view and he will be the President setting the policy. But presumably Romney chose as his VP someone he trusts and who will have his ear in the White House should they get that far. 

There is, then, no logical or factual basis on which to take the position you do that Obama's advertising that points out that position in the GOP platform (which by silence opposes exceptions) and in Ryan's long record (of which he is, he says, very proud), is false or misleading.

Your reporters should know better. You can't rely on the broad context of an issue to provide meaningful interpretations of policy intent.

Aikin’s Remarks Won’t Hurt GOP With Women

Missouri GOP Congressman Todd Aikin's completely misinformed "legitimate rape" comment over the weekend won't cost the Republican Party a single vote.

Not because women aren't offended, even outraged by the comment, which Aikin has since retracted. But because any woman who was still supporting the Republican Party after their year-long assault on women's health and reproductive rights has already clearly indicated that for her abortion is not a litmus test issue. And every woman for whom it is a crucial concern has already decided to support Obama. The Democratic ticket holds a wide lead over the GOP slate among women of all ages, particularly those under 50 who recently split 2-to-1 against the Republicans.

Short of proposing that they lose the right to vote or to own property, my guess is the GOP has done about as much damage as it can to the women's vote this year. 

Another Bad Afghanistan Plan: Copying Vietnam

The Obama Administration is apparently poised to repeat one of the dumbest tactics of the Vietnam War in its efforts to prepare Afghanistan for the withdrawal of American troops in 2014.

According to this report in the LA TImes, the administration plans to ignore the concerns of its military leaders and Afghan officials and enlarge a local paramilitary police force. It then plans to give them heavy weapons to fight off insurgents after the American troops go home.

Both the Pentagon and Afghan officials have expressed concerns that doing this will result in forming a bunch of small military clans that will defect to the Taliban or become marauding local gangs or both. This is precisely what happened in 'Nam when we stupidly supported the South VIetnamese Popular Forces. We initially gave them too few arms to be effective, then as the South Vietnamese and U.S. ramped up combat ops, the local forces often became part of the guerilla forces or defected to the North Vietnamese military units in their areas. (This is based on personal observation and experience.)

This is yet another way in which Obama has out-Bushed Bush and angered so many of us on the Left. 

I hope saner heads prevail and this plan is junked before it gets off the drawing board.

Obama Team Uses Outdated Ryan Budgets Against Him

FactCheck.org does a great job in a piece today pointing out that the Democrats are using two-year-old and revoked/revised budget plans against the Romney-Ryan ticket without being clear that it is doing so.

Ryan's 2010 budget proposal, made when the House was the minority party and it had no chance of passage, was apparently more Draconian (or, as FactCheck put it, "less generous") than his current proposal, which was passed by the House along strict party lines. Between the two budgets, Ryan apparently moderated some of the more severe parts of the plan. For example, he removed the original proposal to dramatically reduce capital gains taxes, which the Obama campaign is using in ads that are now running as if they were part of his current plan.

Similarly, the Democrats mis-position Ryan on Medicare somewhat. While the Dems are fond of saying that his plan "ends Medicare as we know it" and "does not provide any guaranteed coverage for seniors," those statements are false. Ryan's plan keeps everything as it is for folks who are 55 or older including everyone now on Medicare. For those arriving at Medicare's eligibility doorstep later, his plan allows seniors to choose between the then-existing Medicare plan and private insurance. It does this by granting a voucher which a senior can redeem for full Medicare coverage or choose a private plan. It even has a somewhat clever idea for controlling the cost ceiling on the coverage; check out the FactCheck article for that detail.

I still don't like the Ryan budget and I don't like Ryan much either. There's no doubt in my mind that Romney-Ryan would try hard to eliminate capital gains and inheritance taxes, two ways the rich are required to pay at least some reasonable approximation of their fair share. I also think they'll push for privatization of Social Security and that if they can find a way to do so, they'll make Medicare a far less useful and reliable program because they favor private-sector solutions to health care problems.

But for the Democrats to unfairly characterize their current thinking as if they hadn't changed their plan in the past two years is neither helpful nor in integrity. Surely there's enough true criticism to be levied here to go around!

GOP Dishonest on Medicare Cuts

So the GOP has all of its characters out accusing President Obama of "stealing" $700 billion in Medicare funds to pay for the Affordable Care Act. Not only is that a lie, it's also a pathetic attempt to distract from their own death-to-Medicare plans.

First of all, the amount in question was $500 billion, not $700 billion. Sure, Obama made the cuts but the cuts were from Medicare Advantage, hospital cost controls and by eliminating rampant fraud and waste. Medicare Advantage was a GOP ploy to get their buddies in the health insurance world more money; it doesn't benefit Medicare recipients one bit. Ryan picked up the President's proposal, stuck it into his budget, took credit for it and got his fellow Republicans to vote for it en masse. Now he and his running mate Mitt Romney and their avatars are attacking Obama for an idea they have embraced and couching it as thievery.

None of this can or should be allowed to distract from the differences in the two parties' plans going forward. The Democrats recognize the need for reform (thus the above-mentioned cuts) but they want to preserve and protect Medicare as it now stands: a source of direct medical coverage. The Republicans want to give the seniors a few bucks and let them shop in an "open" insurance market where they will be screwed over because of pre-existing conditions, actuarial tables and other schemes health insurance providers use to prevent them having to write any coverage checks.

Gutless Wonders in Sacramento on Death Penalty Issue

Both Attorney General Kamala Harris and Governor Jerry Brown have been strong public advocates in favor of abolishing the death penalty in their political careers. Nobody is surprised that they oppose it as unjust, too expensive and completely ineffective. 

So why is neither of them willing to come out publicly in support of the November California ballot proposal (Proposition 34) that replaces the death penalty with a maximum sentence of life without parole? 

Oooh, I know, I know! It's because they are cowards.

Or maybe it's because law enforcement officials, prosecutors and corrections officers are opposed to the initiative for their own selfish reasons.

Or maybe the latter leads to the former.

Gutless is the best word for these lightweights. How far Governor Moonbeam's star has fallen!

Funny Update to the Devil’s Dictionary

Former GOP leader and Congressional staffer Mike Lofgren's new book contains a brief, updated Devil's Dictionary that makes for hilarious reading unless, of course, you're an uptight conservative. In which case it might be fun to let me watch as you read it.

There are some gems in there, but this one became my favorite rather quickly:

Authentic: used to describe a candidate who is unaware of current events and doesn't read a newspaper, and is proud of it.