Tag: presidential candidates

Mitt Romney: Can You Help Us, Mr. Fix It? (Part 2)

Continuing my comments on Mitt Romney’s “very ample safety net” statement on CNN; see the first half of my post: Mitt Romney: Can You Help Us, Mr. Fix It? (Part 1)

So, as I said in Part 1, it’s very important to assess presidential candidates in a just and fair manner, and too often the news media is blaring the one sentence “not concerned about the very poor” sans context. But, to be honest, Romney’s answer is even worse when examined in its full context and nuance. Gail Collins over at the NYT wrote an excellent line-by-line breakdown of Mitt’s full statement. I won’t reprint her words here but I highly recommend you take a look.

Romney’s statement (read it here in full) singles out the 95% of Americans in the middle as his main concern. He’s not concerned about the top 1% and that leaves the bottom 4% he isn’t concerned about. Basic arithmetic shows the bottom 4% are those earning under $5,000 annually, a group politicians barely notice exist, much less spend time helping. This category would probably encompass mostly the elderly and disabled, and the homeless, including a lot of homeless veterans.

The most intelligent and spot-on post I’ve seen on this so far in the sprawling blogosphere is from the Columbia Journalism Review’s Campaign Desk: Three Thoughts on Mitt Romney’s ‘Very Poor’ Day : CJR
What makes it great is it actually does what journalism should, dig beneath the noise and the claims and try and unearth the facts. It points out that when Romney says the bottom 4% have a “very ample safety net” and it’s the middle class that needs help, it reveals a deep misunderstanding about the safety net in his brain. The article points out that social programs, for example Medicaid, spend more on long-term care for the elderly and disabled than on any other line item, and plenty of those folks qualify under medical assistance and Medicaid keeps them perched barely on the edge of a middle class quality of life. The article also cites data showing that many beneficiaries of Medicaid are actually middle-class families—certainly families in that broad “90-95 percent of Americans” that Romney says he wants to help—who “would otherwise be stuck with the full tab for care for their elderly and disabled relatives.” Medicaid is life support for the middle class as much as it’s a “safety net” for “the very poor.” More people should be cognizant of this data. Paul Ryan is: he hates that Medicaid is benefiting the middle class.

When pressed by CNN’s Soledad O’Brien after his initial “very poor” remark, Romney went on to say “We will hear from the Democrat Party about the plight of the poor.”
Essentially, he’s saying that’s their job, not Republicans’ role.

This references a political balance that may have existed 30 years ago, when Tip O’Neill and outspoken liberals controlled the House of Representatives and made sure the concerns of the poor were heard sometimes, but most certainly doesn’t exist now. No Democratic party leader that would remotely try to balance the scales toward the poor has existed since the era Tip O’Neill clinked high ball glasses in the Oval Office with Ronnie after 6 o’clock, and spent all his working hours before 6pm standing up to President Reagan, fighting for his blue-collar, poor base. He was by the unions, for the unions, and that doesn’t exist anymore. That is over; Tip O’Neill died in 1994 and no one remotely like him has succeeded him. Nancy Pelosi, the longest-serving Democratic Speaker of the House since O’Neill (she served four years) spends more time cozying up to corporate interests than unions. Instead of O’Neill, a hardscrabble Catholic boy from a poor Irish district, fighting the good fight for every day blue-collar people, we have Pelosi, an aloof elite holding a net worth of approximately $58 million in real estate, stock, and businesses she and her husband own, and is now facing an insider trading scandal. Sadly, Chris Hedges is right about the death of the liberal class.

When was the last time you heard Pelosi or Obama, or even the Clintons talk about the very poor? About the impoverished elderly? About people with disabilities? About the marginalized and excluded bottom 4% of Americans who have no apparent “trampoline out of poverty”? If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard “from the Democrat party [sic] about the plight of the poor” over the past 20 years, I doubt I’d have enough nickels to make a phone call. Democrats frequently speechify about “working families,” when the problem is American families aren’t working, they can’t find enough work to make ends meet; too much of our economic base has been off-shored, and there hasn’t been enough innovation to replace what’s been lost. Obama and Pelosi talk about the middle class, campaigning for that big demographic same as Mitt Romney is, minus mentioning the “very poor” at all.

So given the Democrats abdicating their past role as fighters for the poor, we have to ask the Republicans as well, Romney included, for assistance for those trapped at the bottom, for help fixing the safety net and the upward ladder.

Unfortunately, the video footage is coming out, showing that “the people who need the help most are not the poor” is a recurring theme in Romney’s stump speeches. This is really troubling stuff, particularly after all the data has again and again shown the U.S. to lead the developed world in poverty [Source]. Also, as Romney says “if [the safety net] has holes in it, I will repair them,” he’s simultaneously pushing forth a tax plan that would blow a hole in social programs’ funding like we’ve never seen: Romney Tax Plan Would Require Slashing Social Safety Net … Says Romney Economic Adviser. It is disturbing that Romney says we have a “very ample safety net” while the next minute pushing a tax plan that—based on the analysis of his own economic adviser—would require slashing the very social programs he’s saying he’ll “repair.” Yet another contradiction from Willard “Mitt” Romney, the human mystery wrapped in an enigma. I want to reform the system to revolutionize how it sees us and respects our individual freedom, we need a very big change, I like the possibilities in some of Senator Wyden’s ideas for replacing Medicaid—which he calls a “caste system”—with something better and more equitable; what we don’t need is to destroy the program, death from a thousand cuts.

Still, I hope for some kind of educational moment can come out of this. That’s why I’ve written Romney HQ a letter. I have nothing against Governor Romney as a person, I’m sure he’s a great, affable guy, and I’d love to meet him to work on bringing individualized funding, choice and competition to Medicaid/Medicare instead of “one size fits all.” We don’t really know what kind of Republican Willard is deep down or how he’ll really govern—is he a lefty Rockefeller Republican like his dad, a moderate pragmatist like George H. W. Bush, a hard-right Reagan-and-Ayn-Rand type?—we don’t know. So why not assume he can be very reform-minded like his dad; why can’t Mitt be the one to lead the way in revolutionizing Medicaid and Medicare to be completely different? Choice, competition, individualized budgeting, cash and counseling—let’s go!

After all, Romney supporters like to refer to Mitt Romney as “Mr. Fix-it.” I’ve seen dudes holding “Romney: Mr. Fix-it” signs prior to the debates on cable news. I found this image on mittromneycentral.com:

Mr. Fix- It, America needs a proven leader with a strong conservative message.
Fan art by MittFan12 (Steve Thomas)
In a bizarre interlude, me finding this “Romney Mr. Fix it” image led to me stumbling into the mittromneycentral.com chat room by accident. Most of the supporters in the chat were polite and cordial in answering my questions, and I left there with more respect for Team Romney than I came in with…

Mitt Romney, please fix the safety net.

Mitt Romney: Can You Help Us, Mr. Fix It? (Part 1)

Editorial cartoon: Richie Rich, the Monopoly Man, the Simpsons' Mr. Burns and Scrooge McDuck tell Mitt Romney he's embarrassing the rich 'you're making us look bad'


So, there’s been a dust up over Mitt Romney’s “I’m not concerned about the very poor” comments on CNN.  A lot of the blogosphere is mindlessly blasting this quote sans context, and the TV news even worse, so Team Romney isn’t wrong to protest how this has been “taken out of context.”  Cable news has been bad.  So bad: stopping short of breaking it down into a few syllables and grunts between prescription drug advertisements.

But, to be honest, Romney’s answer is even worse when examined in its full context and nuance.

Here’s Mitt Romney’s “I’m not concerned about the very poor, I’m not concerned about the very rich, I’m campaigning for Americans in the middle” the relevant part of his interview with Soledad O’Brien, with all the context and nuance he gave CNN:

ROMNEY: You know, just let people get to know you better. The nice thing about what happened here in Florida is I got a chance to go across the state, meet with people. They heard what I am concerned about. They understand how I will be able to make things better.

I think people want someone who not just throws an incendiary bomb from time to time but someone who actually knows how it takes to improve their life, get home values rising again, to get jobs again in this country, and to make sure when soldiers come home they have a job waiting for them. And make sure people who are retired don’t have to worry about what’s going to happen at the end of the week.

This is a time people are worried. They’re frightened. They want someone who they have confidence in. And I believe I will be able to instill that confidence in the American people. And, by the way, I’m in this race because I care about Americans. I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it.

I’m not concerned about the very rich, they’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of the America, the 90, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling and I’ll continue to take that message across the nation.

O’BRIEN: All right. So I know I said last question, but I’ve got to ask you. You just said I’m not concerned about the very poor because they have a safety net. And I think there are lots of very poor Americans who are struggling who would say that sounds odd. Can you explain that?

ROMNEY: Well, you had to finish the sentence, Soledad. I said I’m not concerned about the very poor that have the safety net, but if it has holes in it, I will repair them.

On CNN February 1st, Mitt Romney included a tangent about

O’BRIEN: Got it. OK.

ROMNEY: The – the challenge right now – we will hear from the Democrat Party the plight of the poor, and – and there’s no question, it’s not good being poor and we have a safety net to help those that are very poor.

But my campaign is focused on middle income Americans. My campaign – you

can choose where to focus. You can focus on the rich. That’s not my focus. You can focus on the very poor. That’s not my focus.

My focus is on middle income Americans, retirees living on social security, people who cannot find work, folks who have kids that are getting ready to go to college. That – these are the people who’ve been most badly hurt during the Obama years.

We have a very ample safety net, and we can talk about whether it needs to be strengthened or whether there are holes in it. But we have food stamps, we have

Medicaid, we have housing vouchers, we have programs to help the poor. But the middle income Americans, they’re the folks that are really struggling right now, and they need someone that can help get this economy going for them.

O’BRIEN: All right. Mitt Romney, congratulations to you on your big victory last night. Thanks for talking with us. appreciate it.

CNN, Transcript of Soledad O’Brien interview with Mitt Romney, Feb. 1, 2012

For me, the “not concerned about the very poor” comment is one of the least disturbing parts of his answer here.

First, it’s what he said immediately following that: “We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it.” That anyone who has been a leader in government can still essentially wonder aloud IF the safety net needs repair astonishes me. After all the tragic deaths (like the 12-year-old boy who died for lack of a dentist to simply pull a tooth) and horrible suffering that’s been well-documented and displayed, how can anyone not know our safety net needs a major shoring up if not—my position—a total rethinking and restructuring?

To quote from a 2007 blog post I wrote:

For those with severe disabilities dependent on Medicaid, the Republican cuts from 1995-2007 have had horrible consequences. I’ve had to fight like hell to survive. In 1996 in Alabama, Medicaid started gutting EPSDT (the federally-mandated program providing nursing care for those in need) and sending out termination notices to families in the mail. Then in 1999-2001 we had more aggressive cuts. They changed the rules so it’s only a temporary program to train caregivers to stay with their child 24/7, and they keep repeating that it is not the government’s role to “babysit” your child at all (even if your child is on life support and routinely coding). And now it is 2007 and Alabama barely funds it at all. We’ve almost been rolled back into the 1970s level.
I’ve had friends die. I’m sick of tolerating this evil like it is a valid policy position. It is in no way valid nor deserving of our deference and patience. It is nothing but immoral…

I have seen too much suffering and death because of inadequate supports and invisible safety nets and I am frakking traumatized that people are still pushing this destructive right-wing mythology that if we chip away at government funding even further, that this will magically increase services. It has been tried for years and has failed every time.

Excerpted from my post Vigorously Insisting On A More Perfect Union: Fighting Cuts, Demanding Universal Health Care | Nick’s Crusade
This “Demanding Universal Health Care” post was published by the Greenhaven Press imprint of Gale Publishing in the 2008 edition of Opposing Viewpoints: Health Care, if anyone is interested.

I think Romney needs to hear these stories, hear the details of how our lives are effected by the swiss cheese safety net.

Some of my other blog posts may prove instructive:
Feds Fiddling While State Medicaid Programs BURN | Nick’s Crusade (a critique of how ObamaCare will impact Medicaid, amid a report of budget cuts in the South leaving people with disabilities in their own waste)
Government-Sponsored Ablism and Segregation Tears Families Apart | Nick’s Crusade (an essay against state-sponsored institutionalization, segregation, and oppression)
Medicaid: Why It’s Broken and How To Fix It | Nick’s Crusade (highlights the broken parts of Medicaid, including funding disparities, poverty mandates and the ultra-expensive and antiquated practice of unnecessarily institutionalizing people, and lays out some solutions)

I plan to drop Willard “Mitt” Romney a note, you could do the same. Let him know what problems in “safety net” programs need his help, concisely and politely. Appeal to his “Mr. Fix-it” rhetoric. I don’t know if anyone will be able to connect and begin a constructive dialogue with Team Romney, but if even one person did, it would have a wonderful impact.


Mitt Romney for President
P.O. Box 149756
Boston, MA 02114-9756

More thoughts on Mitt Romney’s “very ample safety net” comments in Mitt Romney: Can You Help Us, Mr. Fix It? (Part 2)

The Closing Arguments For America’s Future Before The New Hampshire Primary

Just 10 hours after the debate Saturday night sponsored by St. Anselm College and ABC News, there was another debate put on by NBC’s Meet the Press and Facebook. They’re trying to pack in as many debates as possible before the New Hampshire primary Tuesday.  You can watch the Meet the Press Republican Candidates Debate in its entirety at mtp.msnbc.com
What follows below is my “retelling” of the Meet the Press debate yesterday morning, an attempt to nutshell the various arguments in a more accurate and humorous way that both captures the rich theatre of the absurdthese debates offer, and will stir up some discussion and rethinking.  While some of these are verbatim quotes, they’re mostly my perception of what the candidates generally meant.

I can’t endorse any of these guys. I am a left-leaning independent guided by the social justice messages in the Bible, and I don’t feel represented by either the Republicans or the Democrats; I can’t, in good conscience, support either side of this duopoly right now.  Both donkeys and elephants seem increasingly broken and corrupt.

But, to all primary voters, especially New Hampshire voters, please consider these closing arguments carefully, because the plans discussed may shape America’s future.  These six candidates are talking about big ideas, from changing Medicaid, Medicare and other social programs, to energy policy to economic policy, and, my funny retelling aside, this is super important because it could change the direction of the United States and your standard of living. I really care about the critical, often life and death, issues they are discussing. For that reason, I’m a policy wonk.  I hope you will use my “translations” of the debate below as a springboard for exploring and learning about the important issues Americans face.


Meet the Press Republican Candidates Debate, January 8th, 2012
A translation

First question from David Gregory: Romney is leading. Why do you other guys think he shouldn’t be the Republican presidential nominee?

Gingrich: “because of his moderate record, he’ll have a tough time debating Obama; they have very similar plans for America.”

Romney: “I’m very proud of my conservative record; it’s a beautiful thang. in Massachusetts I cut taxes 19 times and ordered the state police to start arresting illegal immigrants… That is some true conservatism right thurr”

Willard "Mitt" Romney, debating
Presumptive front runner for the Republican presidential nomination, Willard "Mitt" Romney, debating, January 8th, 2012.

Real screenshot I took from yesterday’s debate. NOT photoshopped!

Santorum: “if you are so proud of your record, why didn’t you run for reelection in Massachusetts? I ran in a 71% Democratic district, it was hard but I brought people together around love of Rick Santorum without giving up conservative principles. Mitt didn’t even try…and he ran to the left of Ted Kennedy in ’94…. Governor, you’re a wussy and a quitter.”

David Gregory: but Santorum, you yourself endorsed Romney for president as the true conservative in 2008

Santorum: only because fearful of John McCain

The candidates are talking to each other for once, really mixing it up.

Romney: “that isn’t accurate, Santorum. Too many things to refute one by one, but I will say this.. Career politicians like Rick Santorum don’t understand this, but I didn’t want to run again to get reelected in Massachusetts because it’s not about a political career, it’s about being a selfless hero for change. It’s about making a difference. no, wait wait wait, don’t interrupt me RickRoll, it’s still my time… ”

Santorum: “so, you’re not going to pursue a second term if president?”

Romney: “politicians shouldn’t stay in Washington and then become lobbyists, that stinks… they should go home. Term limits are good. no, no, of course I would run for reelection as president, of course…”

Gingrich: “you get to overrun your time because you’re the front runner, but can we please cut the pious baloney that you’re not about a political career? You ran for Senate in ’94 and lost or you would’ve been serving in the Senate all this time with Rick Santorum, and you didn’t try to run for a second term as Governor because Massachusetts hated you, your opportunistic self was out of state 200 days of your gubernatorial term running for president! While you were governor, shamelessly running for president! You’ve been running for office for YEARS AND YEARS AND YEARS, don’t try and front! Just level with the American people!”


*audience applause big*

Romney: Mr. Speaker, I’m all about citizenship. My dad was a governor when he was 54 years old. My dad said ‘son, don’t get involved in politics to pay your mortgage, but if you’re wealthy you have an obligation to run for office and make a difference.’ (see noblesse oblige). Now, I never thought I’d run for office, but in 1994 I hated seeing Ted Kennedy run unopposed, I thought, gee willikers, he’s pushing the policies of the liberal welfare state! So I felt I HAD to run. Now, I didn’t mean a word I said in 1994. I was wise enough to know that I didn’t have a ghost of a chance of winning. I told the fellas at work ‘BRB —don’t move my chair.’ But I was proud Ted Kennedy had to take out a second mortgage on his house to beat me. I’m proud that I fought for what’s best for America. I love this country.”

David Gregory: “Governor Romney, you’ve often called yourself a moderate. Let’s ask Ron Paul.”

Ron Paul: “How can anybody beat Obama without talking about spending and challenging imperial overreach overseas? This is how empires fall.”

Rick Perry: “The Tea Party understands that Obama has thrown gasoline on the fire, but the bonfire has been burning way longer than Obama’s term, and that it’s big-spending Republicans like Santorum who got us into this budget mess: I’m the candidate that will best lead the Tea Party to defeat Obama.”

David Gregory: “Governor Romney, how do you respond to past interviews when you described yourself as a moderate?”

Romney: “Look at my record as Governor of Massachusetts. As I watch government solutions fail, I’m more and more conservative over time.”

David Gregory: “Governor Huntsman, about policy, are you ready to demand painful austerity?”

Huntsman: “before I answer, let me respond to Romney. Last night he criticized me for serving my country. Attacking me for putting my country first and serving as ambassador to China under the Obama administration. Like my two sons in the United States Navy—they don’t ask what the president’s political affiliation is before serving—I’ll always put country ahead of party.”

Romney: “I think you serve your country by being a principled conservative, not by supporting Obama”

Huntsman: “attitudes like that, David, are why Americans are so divided”

*loud ovation of relief and approval*

Huntsman: “the American people are sick of it, they’re fed up with the partisanship and division, there is no trust left between the American people and their elected officials… We have had enough, and we need a new direction.”

17:27 mark

David Gregory: “name three programs you’d cut back to make the American people sacrifice. Real pain to balance the budget.”

Huntsman: “Well, Paul Ryan’s plan for Medicare ALL THE WAY! I think I’m the only one up here who would implement that in full, oh—sorry RickRoll—and no sacred cows… Medicare is getting rocked, and DOD is getting cut too.”

David Gregory: “not brutal enough. Name three programs where Americans will feel real pain, sir.”

Huntsman: “Across the board cuts in entitlements. And I’m willing to tell the higher income category they’re going to be cut off, Social Security and Medicare will be means tested…”

David Gregory: “Senator Santorum, same question: three programs you’d cut back to make the American people feel real pain. Real sacrifice to balance the budget—GO.”

Santorum: “Social Security, means testing—yes. And reduce benefits. Food stamps will be turned into block grants and given to the states completely. Medicaid: block grant that beast and send it back to the states. Public housing: block grant it and send it back to the states, and require work, everybody in public housing must work. And put a time limit. Those three programs, take them from dependency programs to transition programs to lift people out of poverty.”

Some relevant video sources on Santorum’s stated viewpoints on health care: Video: Santorum drawing parallels between Italian fascism and Medicaid, food stamps, welfare, during his Iowa caucus victory speech; also, Video: Insurers Should Discriminate Against People With Pre-Existing Conditions, Santorum Says: he said his daughter who has a disability is “very expensive to the insurance company” and thus her insurance should cost a ton. What about the non-millionaires, Santorum? You’ve made millions lobbying, so you can afford to privately insure a disabled child purely out of pocket, and that is great—I’d love you to adopt me; but what about everybody else facing disability?  Given current policies, only the uber rich can afford to insure a child with a “pre-existing condition,” i.e. a son or daughter born with a disability and not insured before the disability appears.)



David Gregory: “Speaker Gingrich, why are you hatin’ the Ryan plan?”

LOL Owl "Haters Gonna Hate"

Gingrich: “I like the Ryan-Wyden plan that just came out recently, because it gives seniors the ability to choose, a choice between traditional Medicare with premium support model, or new approaches, and it allows a transition in a way that makes sense. I find it fascinating how very, very highly paid Washington commentators and Washington analysts love the idea of pain, well who is gonna to be in pain?

*big applause*

Rick Perry: “The three programs to make reductions where Americans will feel real pain—Departments of Energy, Commerce, and Education.” *audience laughing*

Rick Perry: *answering actual question about government assistance from Facebook* “people don’t want government assistance, they want a job. We gotta create jobs, so people have the dignity of a job.”

David Gregory: “Romney, what about tax policy. Warren Buffet vs. Grover Norquist, who’s right?”

Romney: “Democrats want to take more of your hard-earned money so they can continue to grow government. We want smaller government. We gotta cut spending. Obamacare—gone. Like Rick Santorum said, Medicaid, Food stamps and Housing have to be turned into block grants and sent back to the states”

Huntsman: “No more tax loopholes and deductions. They encourage the lobbyists, and the convoluted tax code is dragging our economy down.”

Gingrich: “I can work with Democrats to get big, important things done. I have a long record of getting things accomplished under Reagan and Clinton.”

Romney: “in Taxachusetts, my legislature was 85% Democrat! Top that, Newtie! I still made friends and got really important things done.”

David Gregory: “Ron Paul you can’t get but one bill passed in 20 years in the House of Representatives. How do you expect to get anything done if president?”

Ron Paul: “I couldn’t get anything done because Congress is broken and completely out of touch with the American people. But I can build coalitions with people around freedom and the Constitution! And have. My plan gives people their freedom back, eliminates the federal income tax and rolls spending back to ’06 levels. The special interests getting special privileges and bailouts may feel pain, but the American people won’t be feeling pain.”

Santorum: *truly creepy grin* “Ron Paul can’t get anything done in Congress, but as president he could bring all our troops home as he has promised. He would create power vacuums all over the world and danger danger danger, fear fear fear!

Ron Paul: “We can’t afford 900 bases overseas!”

Huntsman: “The American people have lost trust in their elected officials. I’m the only candidate who will focus on ETHICS IN GOVERNMENT SERVICE. Campaign finance reform! if elected president, I will travel across the country stumping for term limits, and for closing the revolving door of members of Congress going right out and becoming lobbyists. There is no trust. We have to act.”

Rick Perry: “I’m an outsider and I’ll cut spending, cut Congressional salaries in half, send ’em back to live in their districts to live under the laws that they pass, and then a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.”

Andy Hiller WHDH-TV: “Energy prices are $4 a gallon for heating oil, and people in New Hampshire are suffering. House Republicans have proposed cutting the funding for federal home heating assistance in half, or entirely. Should the LIHEAP program’s funding be restored?” (See Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program—LIHEAP)

Huntsman: “yes, funding, but to get prices down we need a diversity of energy sources, break up the monopoly oil has on home heating.”

Ron Paul: “subsidies are bad economics, they use government force to take wealth from some and redistribute it to others. very harmful economically… good politics, yeah, but bad economic policy.”

David Gregory: “Governor Romney, what about the social safety net?”

Romney: “Poverty should be a state matter. Federal bureaucrats are terrible at managing these programs and little money gets down to people who really need it.”

John DiStaso, New Hampshire Union Leader: “Santorum, what about gay rights.”

Santorum: “I can be against the gay legislation and still be respectful of gays.”

John DiStaso: “what do you all think of Right to Work laws?”

Perry: “i’m lovin’ it”

Romney: “it’s crucial we destroy government unions as well”

Santorum: “I didn’t vote for the right to work thing because unions are important in Pennsylvania, but I would be good with a national right to work law that makes labor policies uniform in every state.”

Gingrich: “Massive oil drilling everywhere!”

Romney: “Obama has been anti-investment, anti-jobs, anti-business.”

Romney: “Natural gas, baby. Clean, cheap, awesome…let’s build a national natural gas network!”

Rick Perry: “We have a president that’s a socialist. I don’t think the Founding Fathers wanted this country to be a socialist country.”

Huntsman: “The American people are sick of the nastiness. They want a leader. I’ll attack the trust deficit as much as the budget deficit.”

*lots of meaningless personal bickering between Gingrich and Romney*

Santorum: “the decline in marriage is the cause of the economic problems in America. We need social conservative programs at the federal, state and local levels promoting abstinence and marriage in order to rebuild this country.”

Ron Paul: “as president, I’d use the bully pulpit to preach the gospel of liberty!”

Ron Paul, debating
Ron Paul, debating in the Meet the Press Republican Candidates Debate, January 8th, 2012

screenshot from the final moments of the debate

THE END—please comment below

you can check my source, the debate—in its entirety—at mtp.msnbc.com

Why I Voted For Obama

Today, November 4th is the big General Election in the United States.

Last week I mailed in my absentee ballot and voted for Barack Obama for president.


Here’s why:

While it’s always a bit difficult for me to vote for one of the two dominant parties (whose incompetence, lack of principle or outright corruption got us in this mess in the first place) I just can’t support any of our current third-party options. All the third-party candidates I’ve seen so far are scumbags, crackpots or extremists on the Lunatic Fringe who I don’t want near the White House, because most of their ideas are incredibly dangerous to the general welfare.

Instead of third-parties, I strongly support this concept: we sane, common sense people must HIJACK both parties and rebuild the system.

Rebuild the system!! Our infrastructure is shamefully decrepit. If you look at infrastructure and train stations in Germany and compare to ones here, you may mistakenly think the Germans won WWII. The people are willing to pay to modernize this country. Americans want to nation-build, but we don’t want to nation-build in Iraq on the other side of the globe anymore, we want to nation-build IN AMERICA. How about giving all the poor people a job rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure? I’ve met very few Americans who want a handout. Most want a good job where they can actually contribute. Let’s create jobs repairing it, and building the transportation network of the future (MagLev anyone?)

Rebuild the system!! For example, a good way to fix the health care crisis would be for a strong supporter of consumer choice and a dogged opponent of profiteering middle-men to take over at Department of HHS and spearhead a total redesign of the system with COMMON SENSE reforms.

Can Obama hijack the party and get stuff done? I’ll be pressuring him as much as I can to start. Amputating both the Clinton and Bush platforms from our politics is a very important first step, and I will give no quarter until I see a full exorcism of those dangerous old ideas.

I’m afraid of old, failed policies hanging around and sapping our country’s strength further. Pro-war “conservatives” do not support the amount of sacrifice required to make their foreign policy plans financially feasible (instead they fight tooth and nail against paying the tab they ran up) which will doom this country to insolvency. They want a grandiose foreign policy, but don’t want to pay for it.

Wars are very expensive, always have been, and always will be. War debt has driven numerous nations to economic collapse (ask the Russians about the Soviet-Afghan war). Read David McCullough’s books on early U.S. history, they make it clear how serious war debt can be. After the Revolutionary War, the United States government had to seize people’s houses to pay off the war debt, which led to armed revolt in Massachusetts. I wish pro-war advocates realized just how financially untenable their “two land wars in Asia plus no paying the tab” policies are. This can ruin your child’s quality of life, they’ll be the ones forced to pay up. Eventually. you’ve got to pay the piper.

My biggest problem with John McCain the neo-cons isn’t that their “Team America: World Police”-style foreign policy is immoral and doomed to failure (though this is close second).
My biggest problem is that they won’t pay for it, and I’m very worried that in 5, 10, 15 years when we must choose either to gut Medicare and Medicaid or not make good on our interest payments to China and risk an international incident, America’s (and my) quality of life will be ruined. It’s WRONG, deeply unfair to put your fellow Americans in that position. I don’t want to be punished for policies I hate and never supported (of course, upcoming administrations will be blamed because the Republicans wouldn’t pay the piper, and that’s unfair too).

Check out this great case study of the Missouri battleground in TIME Magazine. It seems the heartland is hurting, and hurting badly economically, and for pretty much everyone interviewed for this story, that’s meant a tidal wave of emotion against the Republican brand, and support for Obama (even among former Bush voters). After reading articles like this one, you can almost feel a 1932-style landslide afoot.

But this election is just the beginning of the battle. It will take extraordinary pressure, people DEMANDING real change, for any meaningful reforms to get past Congress, and it will be especially difficult with the next president hemmed in by events, but it can happen. I believe.

But Americans can’t just poke a voting booth, then go back to loafing on the couch and expect the government to fix itself. It won’t work that way.


Mitt Romney Confronted by Reality on U.S. Health Care

Wednesday, presidential candidate Mitt Romney was campaigning in a New Hampshire diner.

The waitress there has three sick children, and like most regular people, is struggling terribly to get the health care her family needs and is often not able to keep her head above the rising tide of costs.

Governor Romney was there telling people that to win the “war on terra” we need to win Muslim hearts and minds by giving Arab countries free American medicine and technology.

While I’m not opposed in all instances to foreign aid, it was positively SICK to put helping the other side of the world ahead of addressing the dire need mere feet away from him. He ignored his own countrymen!

And the waitress called him out on it! Here’s the video.

“How ’bout the USA?” she shouted. This is not someone pushing an ideology. This is a very sympathetic woman who just wants to survive, just wants some justice (the theme of this blog).
For her to be suffering like this in the richest nation on Earth is not just.

Romney debated her. Romney ad-libs some noncommittal blather about his state’s health plan, but gives no clear indication of what he would do as president to help (the issue isn’t even addressed on his web site other than saying “individuals have responsibility for their own health care”). Then he retreats from the woman and talks to other diners.

I loved this video. I LOVE IT when candidates (of any affiliation) run head-first into real people and the reality of their plight. This is one of the best moments of the ’08 primary season so far, which typically is inauthentic as hell, just canned sound-bites.

Mitt Romney got hit like a freight train. PWND.


I hope this spreads all over the ‘net (“goes viral.”)

Justice, justice you shall pursue!


Nick’s Analysis of the CNN / YouTube Debate

Obama, Richardson, Biden and Kucinich, prior to the CNN / YouTube debate Monday night.

The Democratic party has become so rotted out and ineffectual that I watched the CNN / YouTube debate not from a position of sympathy but from the perspective of wanting to see them pinned down and held to account. I want debates to make them squirm, and I want to make them answer the f@#king question, and enforce with a baseball bat if necessary. 😛

Why does the mainstream media always say Hillary “looked the most presidential?” What does that even mean? the most aloof? the most regal? are we electing a monarch?

I may never get past Hillary blaming the victim (Iraq) in previous debates, saying that the U.S. did everything right and the problem is that the Iraqis won’t step up. You can’t get much more cruel and unfair than that. WE preemptively invaded their country, killed tens or even hundreds-of-thousands of Iraqis, burned their infrastructure, and took the Sunni-Shia power pyramid that had been entrenched for like a millennium, and turned it upside-down; and we’re surprised that the aftermath is messy? We are such assholes. It’s like drop-kicking a dude in the balls and then talking smack about him because he can’t finish the track marathon on our timer.
Hillary was more subtle in blaming the Iraqis in this debate but it was still there.

I can only hope and pray we avoid inflicting worse damage to the Iraqis in the future.

Senator Joe Biden was at the debate. He said his plan is to divide Iraq into three states, which, while I had suggested going with this idea initially, it would be a disaster if he forces it on them against their will, which he suggests we do immediately as the “ONLY solution.” After browsing Iraqi bloggers, it’s clear that most Iraqis are nationalists (not regionalists) and will not tolerate losing their land; they won’t let the U.S. forcibly break apart their country. None of the biggest groups in Iraq, the ruling Dawa party, or, perhaps more importantly, the Sadrists, will stand idly by and allow this.

We’ve GOT to stop treating the Iraqis like children and trying to tell them how to run their country. This is the nation that pwnd the Roman Empire, these are the Babylonians who had gleaming cities, cuneiform and a code of law back in the 31st century BC, when Biden’s ancestors were running around Ireland in loincloths with basic flint tools.
Rome couldn’t subjugate the
Mesopotamians, the British couldn’t subjugate them, and they were much more skilled and devoted imperialists than we are.
You aren’t going to bend Mesopotamians to your will, period.

As I’ve said from the start, we need to get the F out and let the Iraqi people decide their future. It won’t be pretty, it will be horrific, there will be extremists purging other extremists even more than now, it will be partly cloudy with scattered genocide, but unlike our plan, it will have a beginning, middle and an end. Right now we are indefinitely delaying the inevitable in order to indefinitely loot and exploit Iraq. At least the bloody conclusion after we leave will be an Iraqi solution that the tribes will accept more readily than our newbie imperialist bullshit. Western powers drawing fake borders on Arab tribes? Brilliant! That’s what caused this mess in the first place (thanks Great Britain!)

What struck me most about the CNN / YouTube debate was the candidates’ continued talking about Iraqis as though they are children, and telling them how to run their country. “Iraq has to be this way or that way, we must do this or that or the other thing”—SHUT UP! We can’t even run our own damn country, and now we have to run Iraq too? Please! I really resent the government wasting countless lives and countless billions of our money ruining Iraq when there are desperate unmet needs on the homefront (chiefly health care).

The context and subtext of many of the candidates’ narratives is “how can we avoid admitting the bloggers and hippies were right all along about Iraq? I don’t want to sound like a hippie. I don’t want to be labeled weak or blamed for a defeat!”

They are hippie-phobic, and too often putting politics before principle.

They also need to stop treating us, the American people, like children. We can handle the truth. If someone would step up and say: “look, we can’t force our will on the Iraqis. And since we can’t accomplish anything further, the only responsible course is to stop wasting blood and treasure and leave” then I think Americans would accept it, and be grateful for some truth.

In the CNN / YouTube debate, Dennis Kucinich told the truth when he said “the Democrats have failed the American people.” Kucinich is one of the few fringers who, like me, opposed this war from the very start and fought it in every way possible, every step of the way. In the debate Monday he represented our side ably, and I think made some big gains. His “strength through peace” line was excellent, and I wish more candidates were as hardcore about ending the war as he is.

But who “won” the debate? If you’re looking for the most polished and poised candidate, the best style then Hillary was #1.

But I’m looking for substance.

On the things I care about most, here is how I rank the debate:

1) Barack Obama.
He hasn’t done well in the previous debates because his style is to build momentum over a detailed 15-minute speech, something impossible with the debate format of “30-second answer and you’re done.” So in the past he has looked flat and unclear.
But not tonight. He improved dramatically, I thought. He made the case well that he can build a movement to bring real change. It seems he may be our best bet to make a difference.

And he seems strong without being mean-spirited.

Like this, the best jab at Hillary all night:

“But, you know, one thing I have to say about Senator Clinton’s comments a couple of moments ago. I think it’s terrific that she’s asking for plans from the Pentagon, and I think the Pentagon response was ridiculous. But what I also know is that the time for us to ask how we were going to get out of Iraq was before we went in. (APPLAUSE) And that is something that too many of us failed to do. We failed to do it. And I do think that that is something that both Republicans and Democrats have to take responsibility for.” Transcript

Hillary got BaROCKED

2) I rank Kucinich second. I really want to end this war, and he isn’t afraid to stand up for his principles.

3) I rank John Edwards a strong third. He gained with me with his willingness to take on the entrenched plutocrats, and he scored the best line on health care of the night when he brought up the story of James Lowe, a man in Virginia who couldn’t get his cleft palette repaired so he could talk for FIFTY YEARS. He was genuinely outraged, as he should be, and even though the debate spent scant time on health care, he was able to break through.

4) Bill Richardson. I’ve got to give him props for his “no residual troops in Iraq” pledge.

5) Hillary. She wins on style points, but I still can’t forgive her for blaming the Iraqis, which is like burning someone’s house, then criticizing the victims for not putting it out in time.

6) Joe Biden, He doesn’t understand Iraq. Go away.

7) Mike Gravel. I love his passion, but at times he sounds like a crank, yelling “damn kids, get off my lawn!!!”

8) Chris Dodd. Senator Dodd would probably make a good president; he’s got a Kennedyesque thing going on. I like it. But he can’t move beyond lengthy, ponderous Senate speak, and he sounds like a legislator talking as though it is 1961 at a time of relative peace and prosperity , not 2007 during a Constitutional crisis. Dodd did particularly poorly Monday, and I don’t think he will be able to compete in this sound bite culture.

But, as many have pointed out, the YouTube questioners stole the show.
They injected some heart and some REALITY into the process, and CNN picked good questions and really made the candidates squirm.

Every debate should be a YouTube debate.

By the way, you can watch it here.


Politics: "Serious" Candidates?

So Hillary Clinton and John Edwards were caught off-mic after the latest debate
saying that they want smaller debates, with more “serious candidates” (read the details). “They’re not serious. They’re not serious,” Edwards said.

This whole concept of “serious” and “not serious” candidates and ideas really sticks in my craw. The political elite, the media and the pundit caste are wielding totalitarian control over the national discussion by deciding for us what is and what isn’t “serious.”

Atrios summed it up well, in this post:

Still, the media industrial complex has a great amount of power to determine what “serious” and “unserious” people advocate, simply by labeling people as “serious” and “unserious.” Right now the “serious” position is that some sort of open-ended occupation of Iraq is inevitable, and anyone who suggests otherwise is a very silly person. In fact, they’re probably the kind of very silly person who thought that this whole Iraq thing was a bad idea to begin with. Ridiculous!

But, yes, I would like the people who advocate this 50,000 forever model to actually spend a few seconds thinking about just what they imagine those troops spending their days doing.

For real, the media is ignoring what they deem “unserious” ideas.
Bring every soldier home and abandon a “humanitarian mission” where the objects of our benevolence are waging tireless guerrilla war against us? Preposterous! We can’t listen to hippies and defeatocrats like Nick! After all, leaving some small residual force in Vietnam worked out fine, right?

Why is the media imposing a perpetual blackout on such ideas?

Why are the grassroots candidates (Ron Paul, Kucinich, Gravel, etc.) being essentially ignored by the media?

Why is this? Who decided Hillary was “top tier” when almost EVERY liberal I know (including me) is uneasy to outright hostile toward her?

And Giuliani, he is the frontrunner for the Republicans. How the hell did an abortion-funding, cross-dressing womanizer get to be the frontrunner for the “traditional values” party? A big site for GOP activists. FreeRepublic, has purged all Giuliani supporters and deleted all pro-Rudy sentiments. And yet the media continues to treat him as the head of top tier! wtf?

To decide who is “top tier” are we supposed to robotically follow the polls? National polling at this point in the ’04 election cycle showed Joe Lieberman was the Democratic frontrunner.
I don’t think the “scientific” polls showing Fred Thompson (who has yet to even enter the race) ahead of Mitt Romney have any more credibility than MySpace polls at this point.

Personally, I think polls should be ignored in both primaries and policymaking. We are entering an era where more and more people are using cell phones (which are unlisted) and are out of the reach of pollsters, rendering polls increasingly unreliable.

Besides, would Thomas Jefferson or John Adams dither over whether or not their proposals had a 44% or 58% approval rating?

What happened to courage? We are not descended from fearful men! I wish we could move past the era where politicians won’t even change fashion styles without consulting pollsters (remember Al Gore’s focus-grouped “earth tones” suits?)

But I don’t think it’s the polls leading the media to ignore “lower tier” candidates (though that is a big part of it) and I don’t think the media has an inherent leftist or rightist bias (aside from some reports here and there, and glaring exceptions, like Fox News). I think it’s money and power. Like in many things American, the answer is this: the bottom line is the bottom line.

CNN, NBC, etc. have a conflict of interest. They want that $23 million Mitt Romney is sitting on and the $17 million Giuliani has to go to their stations for ad buys. They won’t spend much time on candidates that can’t funnel huge amounts of advertising money to them.

Once Romney led the GOP field in fundraising, and his fundraising success became a top story, he became anointed a “top tier” candidate. And now he’s embedded inside the media psychology as a top tier guy. If you wondered why a feature on Romney was above the fold on NYTimes.com recently, even though he’s polling at 12% and lagging behind Fred Thompson, that’s why.

Money buys ads which buys name recognition which gets you up in the polls (“hayyyyy, I’ve seen that name before, they must be competent!”) Then the media covers you more. Then the rank and file want to see only the “top tier” and ban the “crackpots.”

In order to be recognized, you must first have recognition, and in order to have recognition, you must first be recognized–which is shorthand for:
*robot voice* “only official party-approved candidates….*beep*…only candidates approved by the media elite….*beep*”

The media just cater to money and power. It’s like that famous moment in The Simpsons, when news anchor Kent Brockman sees a magnified ant on the screen, wrongly assumes space ants are invading, and tries his best to ingratiate himself to his new alien masters, saying “…one thing is for certain: there is no stopping them; the ants will soon be here. And I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords. I’d like to remind them that as a trusted TV personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground sugar caves.”

The message: most of the media will bow to whoever is on the throne, no matter how evil they are.

But because money = power in our system, it all begins with money.

If Kucinich or Ron Paul raised $15 million in a quarter, they’d have media all over them. Paul’s idea that gee, maybe bombing the Mideast throughout the Clinton years provoked 9/11 wouldn’t be demonized as “crackpot” and Kucinich’s bill for a non-profit health system would be viable. Having money behind it would give it clout.

To ever get serious change, we need more candidates with new ideas. Money is determining everything and stifling progress on nearly every issue. I don’t think this de facto oligarchy is what the framers had in mind.

If we want serious ideas viewed as “serious” again, we need to break down the money = power formula. We have to support public financing of elections!


Candidate Giuliani Visits My City

Guess who showed up in my city today ?

Rudy Giuliani.


I live in Mobile, AL, Alabama’s second largest city. The Port City.

Today Candidate Giuliani showed up here. As far as I know he didn’t meet with any real people, any disability or elderly groups, nor did he visit the parts of the county that were devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

What he did do was speak at a $1,000 per plate fundraising dinner in Theodore, a nearby wealthy exurb. He also spoke at the State Capitol.

Not that other candidates are much better. Most of the candidates, both Republicans and Democrats, are only talking to the uber rich who are contributing to them (*cough* bribing). It’s no wonder most young people feel apathetic and disengaged from politics. It really IS depressing, and the current legalized bribery makes everyday (read: poor) people feel they can’t possibly be heard. I don’t blame people for being cynical.

The system is huuuuuuuuuuurting us.

It’s past time for democracy funding, to publicly-fund our elections so that corporations don’t own the system lock-stock-and-barrel. It is way cheaper than the current system of corruption.


My Thoughts On Hillary

My Thoughts On Hillary

Last weekend Hillary Clinton announced she’s running for president. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson also announced. Senator Sam Brownback announced for the Republican side.
Barack Obama jumped in last week.
Senator Biden and Senator Dodd and Senator McCain got in weeks ago.

But about Hillary:

Although the hatred of Hillary in the South is often visceral, it’s also usually irrational and baseless. Like “Why do you hate Hillary?” “She’s a liberal!” “What’s that mean? John F. Kennedy said he was a liberal.” “I don’t know, I just hate her.” This senseless vitriol against Hillary should be shelved. It’s sound and fury signifying nothing. But we’ll see plenty of it for the next two years. Ugh.

But I’m not big on Hillary either. For the very different reason that I see little difference between her and the corporate Borg army taking over America.

And as I watched her video announcement the deepest core of my soul cringed as she recited the same tired talking points we’ve heard over and over and over and over and over and over and over for 20 years and I just wanted to choke myself with the mouse cord. For ONCE IN YOUR LIFE, SAY SOMETHING REAL! My G-d, make a mistake, have an extreme emotion, dropkick a staffer, do SOMETHING, anything, to show me you’re a real person and not a plastic airbrushed, animatronic creation from Disney World.

Hillary, Bill, Kerry, Gephardt, Bayh, etc. are all in the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), the corporatist wing of the Democratic party. They are in lockstep with a pro-corporate agenda (hence, corporate Borg army) and will never rock the corporate gravy boat. The fight between the corporate wing of the Democratic party and “the Democratic wing of the Democratic party” (i.e. the People party vs. Money party) is ongoing, and I predict will be front and center this primary season.

Please, please Hillary, I beg you: prove me wrong…

This just seems like more of the same. The country is in a mess. In this bizarre, psychedelic haze of a superpower that can’t build a levee, this non-stop festival of perfect innocence and perfect corruption, this America that no longer knows what it is, a politician giving us more of the same is like some sick joke. How can she act all poised and rehearsed when Rome is burning? We can’t afford more of the same.

We’re spending $200 million a day playing policemen in a sectarian bloodbath in Iraq while 1 in 6 American children grow up in poverty. If Hillary wants to atone for the last eight years of nodding and clapping for the corporate machine, and gain “street cred” among real liberals like me, she’ll go live in the Lower Ninth Ward for six months without her staff and blow-drier, and learn what reality in America really is. Or at least offer an aggressive plan to end poverty and rebuild our crumbling nation (this will probably come later). But the feeling of hopelessness that she would ever do ANY major status quo-shattering moves like these is why her announcement has been met with lukewarm to outright hostile responses on liberal web sites (they see her as not much different from Bush).

Barack Obama is so exciting because he is talking about real things in a new way. He engenders hope in whoever he talks to, because he wants to break through old barriers, breaking away from coloring within the lines and giving us talking points and spin. He’s not more of the same.

While I’m not commited to any candidate this insanely early in the process, I’m excited to hear what Obama has to say. I’ll also be closely monitoring all candidates and blogging about them here. Maybe Hillary will veer off and make it her mission to crush the status quo, and she’ll win me over. We’ll see.