Moving Day

It isn’t good-bye!  Just a note to let you know that we’re moving to for another take on politics.  Hope to see or hear from you soon!

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It’s the message, stupid!

It’s the message, stupid!  How do you expect to attract voters when you vilify “takers” (the unemployed, elderly, veterans, disabled), glorify one percent of the population, call your political opponents “mendicants and moochers”,  threaten Latinos with the fallout from harsh anti-immigrant laws and try to put government’s nose in the bedroom but keep it out of the boardroom?   Continue reading

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Final Thoughts on the 2012 Presidential Election

The relentless campaigning is almost over. The negative ads are about to peter out and the aftertaste will eventually disappear. Sometime in the next few weeks we’ll find out who our next president is – probably. It could take until January if there is an electoral college tie.  This seems a good time to take stock.

What have we learned?

1. It is very hard to get a straight story on what you want to know. The candidates won’t release the detail of their plans both because they need to be negotiated with Congress and because the details won’t be to everyone’s liking.  The media get stuck on controversial elements of politics that create the best ratings. It is more exciting to talk about class warfare or the 47% than to cover the effects of a president’s policies on the environment and energy or even the economy. And it does not sell TV ads to talk about why the president has virtually no impact on the economy in the short-term or why financial system recessions take longer to recover than typical business cycle recessions. That’s why those discussions only occur on NPR and PBS Newshour!

Here are my recommendations.

  • Do as much homework on your own as you have time for.
  • List the issues that you really care about that the president (or candidates for other positions) can actually do something about.
  • Seek more information from CNN and PBS than from MSNBC and Fox but don’t trust any single source – look for the counter facts from sources that support the other side and figure out the conflicts. Political campaigns use facts to create affirmation, not information. And try to make the case for the candidate you are more inclined not to support.  See what happens!  Read Unspun by Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jameson.
  • Ignore the personal attacks. They usually have no substance and only serve to create easy-to-hate opponents rather that educating the public on real positions.
  • If you hear it from a Super PAC, it is almost certainly incorrect in its effect even if an occasional fact is accurate.  Keep an iPod in year ear so you can turn it up when a Super PAC ad comes on.

2. The country in s increasingly divided leading to more biased news sources, self selecting news sources and the ability to reinforce any point of view you’d like.  When the Tea Party begins poll watching and the Democrats begin watching the poll watchers, the level of trust has clearly sunk to historic lows.  If only your side can be right, it’s impossible to solve any problems on merit or with new ideas.  If the other side consists only of demons, you can’t give in to them.

It’s too late to change the candidates running in all the Congressional races – a very unfortunate situation.  That has to be done during the nominating process.  However, there are things that can be done now.  In particular, the group No Labels has proposed a 12 step plan to fix Congress and 11 steps to fix the presidency.  These include fixing several of the procedural blocking tactics used prolifically in recent sessions, the No Budget/No Pay act presently before Congress, making Congress spend enough time in Washington to learn to know each other and to do the committee work they are supposed to do.  There are similar steps in their plan to fix the presidency.  No Labels is promoting a number of Senators and Representatives who have taken steps to reduce the gridlock and attempted to work across the aisle.  I highly recommend them.

What’s happens now?

Who ever wins, there is no mandate.  The country is not uniformly crying for more of Obama’s policies any more than it is demanding major changes.  If I can read anything into the elections, it is this.  The right is comfortable with Romney’s general economic direction but split on defense and foreign policy and distrustful of him as a CEO that many find to be the Etch-a-Sketch of the uncaring, overpaid bank executives they blame for a large share of the recession.  A recent poll showed that about one-third of potential Romney voters are anti-Obama voters rather than pro-Romney.  The left will be voting for Obama with reservations due to squandered opportunities to achieve the “grand bargain”, resentment at not including a “Public Option” in the healthcare act or resentment at having dealt with healthcare instead of focusing on the economy and building fruitful relationships with Congress.  Independents will be in all of those groups.

Unfortunately, the first thing the next president is likely to do is to claim a mandate.

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In Defense of the Undecided Voter

Everyone from Leno to the local newspaper has made fun of the undecided voter.  They are uninformed, holding out for a better offer, dazed and confused (“Who’s running?”), they are those people who shouldn’t go to Starbucks because there are too many options (Watch “You’ve Got Mail” for a good description by Tom Hanks).  Most cable news pundits are also on the bandwagon.

I’m sure some undecideds deserve the jokes – but there are a large number who fall into other categories as well.  One category is those looking for some detail.  The other is those who want a buffet of choices from both columns R and D.  And yet another is those who like one candidate but don’t trust him to stand up to the extremes of his party.   Continue reading

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Final Evaluation – Election 2012: The end of an “undecided’s” path

This blog began as a personal, fun project to help me lay out my thoughts on the 2012 presidential campaign.  It turned into a lot of research and an understanding that no matter how much time you have on your hands, it is not possible to do a thorough job of researching all the issues.  That’s obvious but there’s nothing like reality hitting you in the face to make it sink in.  It is also the reason  politicians use sound bites that sort of mimic part of the truth but are never completely truthful.  They rely on the fact that there is too much to check and analyze and use the sound bites as short hand for very complex issues they never really address.

So how does one decide?  I propose a three-part analysis.   Continue reading

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Final presidential debate – Hooray, it’s almost over!

I missed a couple days of opportune time to review the candidates late season messaging. I am especially disappointed to have missed their final pandering – oops, I meant “debate” – to undecided and persuadable voters. But, I had an opportunity to check out the health care system that I couldn’t pass up. The system worked just fine and all’s well that ends well but it did take me away from writing for a few days. (You’re welcome.) I’ll have a separate column to write on that sometime.

Foreign Policy Wrap Up

Mr. Romney makes some statements, such as how he would work with the Syrian rebel leaders, that strike me as inexperienced and naive. However, overall he now reflects a much more nuanced approach than he showed during the Republican primary debates.

In their final debate, both men slipped stealthily from foreign policy questions to domestic policy. They had some justification because there is a connection between our international strength and our domestic strength. Our soft power is related to our moral standing in the world which is, in turn, related both to how we treat our own people and how we treat others. Romney would increase military spending and Obama would not but both believe in a strong military.

It seemed once that they had some differences on Israel but those differences disappeared in this debate. Both used the same words to describe our position on Israel if it is attacked – we will “stand beside” them – but both stopped short of saying an attack on Israel is an attack on the US. Interestingly, in the debate, neither of them emphasized Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations as a priority.

Their supposed differences on China also diminished. While Mr. Romney still vows to call China a currency manipulator, he spent far more time talking about counterfeiting goods and copyright violations than currency manipulation. Mr. Obama talked about being tough on Chinese trade violations and that there has been recent flexibility in letting the Chinese Yuan seek its own value versus the dollar. Most of the business community and economists would prefer that they not start a trade war and get nervous when they talk the “currency manipulator” talk. I’ve seen several articles complaining that neither of them actually understand the implications of currency manipulation and treat it as a political and not an economic issue.

Both see America as a leader in the world with Obama seeing a more restrained role with the US encouraging others to take a more active role and Romney seeing a more visible role. They agreed pretty furiously on getting troops out of Afghanistan and had a very strong argument about whether they agreed on getting troops out of Iraq or not. By the way, they both wanted a large draw down in Iraq and differed only in the number of troops they’d leave – 4,000 vs 10,000. Neither would leave troops there under the circumstances proscribed by Iraq so both agree we should be out now. Lots of argument for so much agreement!

Based on current statements, their foreign policies seem to be very similar and in practice would probably turn out to be even more similar. In my scheme of things, I’d give the foreign policy point to Obama because he’s done it longer and has shown generally a much stronger tendency to get the facts before making judgements. However, I suspect Romney in practice would do the same and has done the knee-jerk because this is a campaign and not reality.

So What’s Next?

The election is now less than two weeks away. In reality, there has been no new information for weeks or maybe months. We have looked at historical positions and the twisted contortions of those positions as they move from audience to audience. There are some very important items I haven’t touched such as the Supreme Court appointments, education, environment, character and trustworthiness. I’ll have some observations on those next time. Depending on how long that post gets, it may also contain the final review of the candidates against my requirements.

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Obama Foreign Policy Summary

Another debate!  This one included a little foreign policy but not enough to be informative.

Americans don’t give foreign policy enough respect!  The economy and jobs are important parts of domestic policy and affect our comfort and happiness.  Other elements of domestic policy impact how good our highways are or how much access we have to the National Parks.  For most practical purposes, though, only foreign policy involves us in wars or allows us to be victimized by international terrorists or causes us to be in danger if we travel abroad.  All of our policies are interconnected but to me, the keystone is foreign policy.

I’ll recap what I’ve learned of the Obama administration foreign policy in this post and then update both candidates after the next debate which will be focused on foreign policy.

Continue reading

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Romney VMI Foreign Policy Speech

Mitt Romney gave a major foreign policy speech on Monday.  Foreign policy affects our safety and security, the deficit, the structure of the federal budget, our defense policy and ultimately even the environment.  It’s how we attain and maintain influence in the world.  It determines whether others will see us as a fair arbiter of international events acting in the best interests of all parties, the bully of the imperial west acting only in our own interest or something in between.   Will we be seen as the supporter of democratic governments and self-determination?  Or will we be seen as supportive only of those governments that support us?  I’ve already been disappointed by Romney’s cynical, politically motivated, knee jerk reaction to the attack on the Libyan embassy.  This was his chance to redeem himself.   Continue reading

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Did the presidential debate answer my questions? Part 2 – Obama

Time to examine the how the president would have survived my inquisition.  Too bad I couldn’t ask the questions directly!  (Of course, neither candidate answered much of the questions they were asked but both were very successful “pivoting” to what they did want to answer). By the way, if any readers are wonkish enough to look at the transcript and have time to review 90 minutes of talk, you can find it at the NYTimes.  (Warning – It’s harder to read than it was to watch!) Continue reading

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Did the presidential candidates answer my questions? Part 1- Romney

Well, that was interesting!  The presidential debate offered a few insights on my questions.  This post was getting a little lengthy so I am doing it in two parts.  Today, I’ll look at the challenger’s answers and tomorrow, the president’s.    

The drift of the questions was to discover what really drives each candidate and what direction they may take when pressured by real life in the Oval Office.  They tried to hide it but I think a few useful tidbits escaped.   Continue reading

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