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Monthly Archives: September 2012

Sure, people with mental illness can do horrific things with little rational provocation. Their worlds are lopsided, fragile and unpredictable. However, I think this 24/7 media slugfest of constant distortion, lies and hyperbole cannot be seen as innocent bystanders in a tragedy like the Peterson killings. How many senior citizens have quietly had fatal heart attacks sitting in front of a TV blaring Fox News’ insanely slanted coverage? How many angry lefties have had an aneurysm listening to Rachel Maddow twist current events to some form of mild hysteria? Cable news and the blogosphere has been poisoning balanced news coverage to the point that people live in an echo chamber of the propaganda that best aligns with their causes, their fears and their hopes. I long for the days when right vs. left was a nuanced argument over the role of government, the best economic policy and how to protect our borders. Not which candidate is a secret Muslim socialist and which candidate straps his pooch to the sun roof of his Caddy.

Albert Peterson shot dead his wife and two sons hours after going to church because he dreaded the thought of Obama winning the election, a family friend has revealed.

A confidante of the family for the past 25 years has spoken to MailOnline about the strength and grace of the Peterson family, as well as the torment that plagued Albert which drove him to shoot dead his wife Kathleen and his two sons Christopher and Mathew at their suburban home in DC on Sunday.

A history of mental illness, the loss of a dear uncle, and a growing fear of Obama winning a second term in the White House took its toll on the mind of Mr Peterson, a wealthy defense contractor, the friend said.

‘He just did not want his kids inheriting this mess,’ Maggie L, who did not wish to reveal her last name, told MailOnline. ‘Sometimes we thought he might take his own life when he was so depressed. We never thought he would take Kathie’s.’

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It reads like the ravings of a mad woman. A very mad woman. I’m referring to Peggy Noonan’s latest column decrying Romney’s cluster of a campaign. Peggy Noonan is an articulate, nuanced pundit with an ability to turn a phrase and a tendency to come across a little overly earnest. What she is not is someone who randomly tosses out disparate, random, hamfisted bits of advice. To say it another way, she is not a ranter. Until now. This Romney thing has got her goat. She critiques everything from the boringness of Romney ads to boringness of the man himself. Then, in a week where Romney’s been caught cynically and cold-heartedly dismissing half the electorate as victims incapable of taking responsibility, Noonan’s offers this bit of stark counsel: Don’t be so darn nice. Be more like Reagan. Really? Seriously?

It’s time to admit the Romney campaign is an incompetent one. It’s not big, it’s not brave, it’s not thoughtfully tackling great issues. It’s always been too small for the moment. All the activists, party supporters and big donors should be pushing for change. People want to focus on who at the top is least constructive and most responsible. Fine, but Mitt Romney is no puppet: He chooses who to listen to. An intervention is in order. “Mitt, this isn’t working.”

Romney is known to be loyal. He sticks with you when you’re going through a hard time, he rides it down with you. That’s a real personal quality, a virtue. My old boss Reagan was a little colder. The night before he won the crucial 1980 New Hampshire primary—the night before he wonit—he fired his campaign manager, John Sears. Reagan thought he wasn’t cutting it, so he was gone. The economist Martin Anderson once called Reagan genially ruthless, and he was. But then it wasn’t about John Sears’s feelings or Ronald Reagan’s feelings, it was about America. You can be pretty tough when it’s about America.

I’m not so sure that Romney’s problem is he is too loyal to his campaign advis0rs. It seems like the problem isn’t who is running the show below him. The GOP’s problem in this election is who’s at the top of the ticket of this fiasco. Sometimes the victor of the primary season isn’t such a winner after all.

Even though the GOP has tried to lay claim to uniquely American values like hard work and responsibility, they are actually becoming a party of angry old men, rich fat cats and small business owners. Not working people. Paul Krugman explores:

By now everyone knows how Mitt Romney, speaking to donors in Boca Raton, washed his hands of almost half the country — the 47 percent who don’t pay income taxes — declaring, “My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” By now, also, many people are aware that the great bulk of the 47 percent are hardly moochers; most are working families who pay payroll taxes, and elderly or disabled Americans make up a majority of the rest.

But here’s the question: Should we imagine that Mr. Romney and his party would think better of the 47 percent on learning that the great majority of them actually are or were hard workers, who very much have taken personal responsibility for their lives? And the answer is no.

For the fact is that the modern Republican Party just doesn’t have much respect for people who work for other people, no matter how faithfully and well they do their jobs. All the party’s affection is reserved for “job creators,” a k a employers and investors. Leading figures in the party find it hard even to pretend to have any regard for ordinary working families — who, it goes without saying, make up the vast majority of Americans.

Am I exaggerating? Consider the Twitter message sent out by Eric Cantor, the Republican House majority leader, on Labor Day — a holiday that specifically celebrates America’s workers. Here’s what it said, in its entirety: “Today, we celebrate those who have taken a risk, worked hard, built a business and earned their own success.” Yes, on a day set aside to honor workers, all Mr. Cantor could bring himself to do was praise their bosses.

Lest you think that this was just a personal slip, consider Mr. Romney’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention. What did he have to say about American workers? Actually, nothing: the words “worker” or “workers” never passed his lips. This was in strong contrast to President Obama’s convention speech a week later, which put a lot of emphasis on workers — especially, of course, but not only, workers who benefited from the auto bailout.

If you ever wondered what the 1% really thinks of the 99%, now Mitt Romney has provided an answer—at least of what many of well-healed 1%  think about about a good half of the country. Joe Klein compares Romney’s candid camera moment with the much repeated Obama gaffe about crackers clinging to their guns and religion:

In context, Obama was talking about small-town America, a place where the jobs“have been gone for 25 years now” and “nothing has replaced them.” Both Republican and Democratic administrations have failed to address this central economic problem, he said, and so the residents grow “bitter” and start to cling to their guns and Bibles. But Obama, the Whole Foods arugula shopper, ignored the fact that a great many gun owners are not bitter but joyful in the hunt — indeed, that they derive as much pleasure from their sport as Obama does from basketball or golf. Nor did he understand that in many small towns religion is a source of service and good deeds and community, of drug treatment and food banks, as well as the pure peace of prayerful meditation. But Obama was right about the larger picture: there was a fear and bitterness in white small-town America that had its roots in the changing economy and expressed itself in anger that some people — immigrants, welfare recipients (and especially, now, those on Social Security Disability) and those lazy folks at the Department of Motor Vehicles — were getting over. Those sentiments, obviously, gave rise to the Tea Party. They are undiminished today. And clearly, Obama was saying something he really believed, although — to borrow a Romney locution — inelegantly.

I’m not so sure about Romney. I’m pretty sure he’s smart enough to know that the 47% he summoned was in the category of “damned lie” statistics. I’m pretty sure he knows that the vast majority of those people work their butts off, pay federal payroll taxes (and a raft of state and local levies) or are senior citizens receiving Social Security and Medicare. I’m not sure that he has put two and two together: that a great many of the 47% — the white working-class voters and senior citizens — are Romney voters. Or that they don’t pay income taxes because of Republican tax cuts and Republican child and earned-income tax credits. But I am absolutely convinced that Mitt Romney has been inured to Republican fat-cat audiences complaining about how much they have to pay to keep the American enterprise afloat, and that he was well aware of the Fox-Rush echo-chamber formulations about food-stamp growth and dependency and people not paying federal taxes, and he was playing to those prejudices. The exigencies of fundraising have forced him to spend more time with plutocrats than average citizens this year. It’s not surprising that he’s lost track of the world as most people see it. Hell, he’s spending today — the day after this momentous gaffe — fundraising rather than trying to change the topic.

Apparently, the Romney campaign believes that there is no national tragedy so big that it can’t be spun to lambast the current President.  On September 11th, of all days, Romney suspends his suspension of politicking to… well…politick: “I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi,” Mshamer. Romney said in a statement. “It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”

Except, Obama never sympathized with Ambassador Christopher Stevens’ assassins. He didn’t sympathize with the demonstrators. He did none of that. But, as usual, the GOP’s Invisible Obama was out there apologizing for the US of A and doing all sorts of mischief. Candidate Romney will, one day, have to stand and debate the real Barrack Obama. Until that day, I guess he will shamelessly stay on script and continue to pound away at the America-hating Obama of myth. The American Conservative blogger Daniel Larison has warned us of Romney’s hapless crusade against foreign policy of the make-believe Obama:

I have been saying something similar about the “apology tour” and Romney’s part in perpetuating this lie for the last two years. Beyond the basic dishonesty of it, the frequent reliance on the “apology tour” attack tells us a lot about mainstream Republican foreign policy arguments. Obama has largely continued Bush’s national security policies, and he has not made very many departures from Bush’s foreign policy, except on Russia (where the departure has been fairly successful) and to a much lesser extent on Israel (where he has nothing to show for it). There isn’t very much that Obama has actually done abroad in the last two and a half years that clashes with what Romney thinks the U.S. ought to be doing, which is why he has to exaggerate the few differences that exist and otherwise repeat nonsense about Obama’s non-existent apologies.

When Romney started using this attack, I didn’t understand why Romney was focusing so much attention on issues related to foreign policy. Romney is notoriously bad when it comes to the substance of foreign policy, which is all the more striking given his reputation for being a quick study and technocratic, wonkish type, so it didn’t seem to make sense that he would make this one of his main critiques of the administration. Later on, I realized that this rhetoric about apologies and other conservatives’ charges that Obama didn’t believe in American exceptionalism were never meant to refer to anything that Obama had actually done. Instead, they were opportunities for the people making these charges to wrap themselves in the mantle of American nationalism, define belief in American exceptionalism in such a way that it could only apply to people who agreed with them, and to impute anti-Americanism to anyone else. The entire exercise is clearly fraudulent, but it is also one that many Republicans find quite satisfying. Romney can reconcile his habit of saying whatever people want to hear with his need to satisfy partisans during the nomination contest: who better to make an absurd falsehood into the core of his campaign than Romney? Looked at this way, Romney’s shameless willingness to say anything could be more of an advantage in securing the nomination than anyone thought possible.

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Remember, John McCain’s awesome Karaoke singing, lo, those many years ago? So are the sanctions working against Iran? They kinda are. David Frum gives the President qualified props:

Andrew Sullivan, Noah Millman and I have been debating whether the United States truly does face a stark alternative: either acquiesce in Iran’s nuclear program -or bomb it. I’ve been arguing that it’s way premature to give up hope that sanctions plus sabotage can work. Business Week reported yesterday more evidence that sanctions are biting:

 

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s currency hit a record low against the U.S. dollar in street trading, the semiofficial Mehr news agency reported Sunday.

Mehr says the rial dropped nearly 7 percent in a single day, to 24,300 rials to the dollar. Street traders say the rial rose slightly later on Sunday to around 23,900 rials to the dollar.

At the beginning of 2012, the rial was trading at around 18,000 to the dollar; in the summer of 2010, at 12,000.

 

This loss of one-third the currency’s value in the course of less than a year – of one-half its value over two years – represents a mighty blow against the regime. It is the product of tightening international financial and economic pressure.

 

That pressure would not have occurred in the absence of credible Israeli threats of force, which is why the Netanyahu government’s policy should been as a force for stability and security, contra some of that government’s detractors.

 

Andrew asks, shouldn’t I say that I support the Obama administration’s policy then? The answer is: as that policy stands now, yes.

Not since President George W. Bush was nearly taken out by a flying shoe has a Secret Service detail felt more…I dunno…awkward? But the weirdest thing about this drive-by hugging is it involved a guy who is both a Republican and a small business owner. Wasn’t this who Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan were busy chatting up in their convention? Clearly, this small business owner, didn’t get the memo: Obama–Bad, Romney–Good. The Daily Beast interviews the said hugger:

Were you expecting the president to walk into your shop today?
We had no idea. I had an 18-minute notice that he was there. [Secret Service] came in and made sure the place was safe. Once they secured the building, they called me and I had 18 minutes to get there.

Were you planning to give him such a big welcome when he got there?
Not at all. That’s the funniest thing, too. Everyone thinks it was scripted. Everyone thinks I asked the Secret Service. I didn’t ask the Secret Service anything. I didn’t know what I was going to do. You know what I mean? He just came in, and the way he came in was so genuine and warm. He came over to me like he had known me for 25 years. He said, “Where’s Scott?” He opened the door and I was standing right there. He gave me a big high five, and started talking about my biceps and muscles. He said, “If I eat your pizza, can I get some muscles like that?” We were just fooling around. He gave me this pat on the shoulder, and that’s when the big hug happened.

So you were just caught up in the moment?
Yeah. Very much so. I never understood what that means. You think, Caught up in the moment, what does that really mean? But last week, I was watching the Democratic Convention, and now here the president of the United States walks into my pizza shop in Fort Pierce, Fla. It was pretty amazing.

So what is the workout routine like for someone whose biceps are complimented by the president?
I just try to stay fit, man. I actually, a few months ago, I took four kids with me and we rode bikes for 1,100 miles from West Palm Beach to Washington, D.C. So that kept me in shape for a few months.

What’s your reaction to the angry people who are flooding your restaurant’s Yelp page with bad reviews because you hugged the president?
You see the good and bad in people. That’s what’s wrong with our country. I tell people, whether you’re Republican or Democrat, he’s both of our president. He should be treated with respect, and that’s what’s wrong with our country right now. I don’t think it has to be that way. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, and you don’t have to be ugly with yours. You know what I’m trying to say? You have the right to do what you want to do. I’m all for free speech—don’t get me wrong there. But if you don’t have nothing good to say, then don’t say nothing. You know what I’m trying to say? You’re entitled to your opinion. Exercise your vote. That’s the bottom line.

And you’re a registered Republican?
I am registered Republican, believe it or not. That’s why I think there’s all the uproar.

Who are you voting for in this election?
I’m going to vote for Obama. The reason why I voted for him last time is I liked his enthusiasm. I like that he tried to get young people to vote, and involved in community service and politics. I just thought he was the right man at the right time. When he came in today with that same enthusiasm when he came in initially. I still think he’s the right guy at the right time

So you’re not one of the people who feel like he’s let the country down in his first term?
The bottom line is this: I own a small business. I take accountability for my business. I’m not looking to blame the government. And if people had the same mentality of taking care of their own businesses instead of looking to blame somebody when things are a little bad—just tightening things up and doing the best they can—I think we’d be better off that way, too. The whole world is not in a good place right now, and I’m not looking to blame someone. I think that’s the problem. We’re looking more so to blame him for our misfortunes.

The Republican Convention was at a definite disadvantage. They went first. Never ideal. They lost a day, thanks to Isaac. And they built their entire convention on a lie. They are running against a figment of their collective imaginations. The Obama who hates success, hates America and hates taking responsibility for the economy. It is an Obama as nonexistent as the straw man floating above Clint Eastwood’s empty chair.

The Democrats, by contrast, are building their convention on Obama’s record and agenda: expanding opportunity. Equal pay for equal work, equal access to healthcare, Pell grants for greater college opportunity, the rescue of jobs tied to the US auto industry and the overturning of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell so homosexuals can openly fight for the country they love. These are accomplishments that move the country forward. And accomplishments tend to make for better speeches than trumped up fear mongering.  But what was striking about the first night of the Democratic convention was the unbridled patriotism of it all. The Democrats’ love of country is positively passionate! Just as the Republicans tried to build an entire convention around a gaffe in an Obama speech, this convention is taking Romney’s premise that the best we have felt about Obama was the day we cast our vote for him and deftly turned it on its head. The Democrats feel just fine about Obama. And some seem as smitten with him as the First Lady, who, as it turns out, may be the best orator in the Obama household.