Video: The Plot Behind Mitt Romney's Debate Strategy

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Hello, my name is Steve Leser. I am a principal with Democratic Spring Strategies and a writer for Democrats for Progress and I am going to talk about the Romney strategy for the First Debate.

In the several weeks’ long run-up to the October 3rd debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney, the Romney campaign let it slip several times that they had been practicing for this debate since at least June. I remember reading that and wondering what he could be working on for so long.

I’ll get back to that in a moment.

One of the astounding things about the October 3rd debate is that it was a debate on domestic policy of which the economy is probably its most important component, and after the debate, we have no idea what one of the candidates would do with regards to the economy if elected.

Think about that.

If you are running in an election to become the executive of any country, state, province, county, city or village, anywhere in the world, you owe one thing to the people who may vote for you. You owe them a fair representation of how you intend to govern. In terms of the economy, the basics for this are all the same. Are you going to raise or lower taxes? Are you going to spend more in your term than is currently being spent? Are you going to cut spending? If you are going to lower taxes how are you going to pay for things? If you are going to raise spending how are you going to pay for the increase? If you are going to cut spending, who is going to bear the brunt of those cuts?

If you are having a debate between two or more candidates, the discussion of those specifics is a vital part of helping the people voting to decide which candidate to choose. The candidates challenge each other regarding their respective plans and tell the American people why their plan is good and why their opponents plan is lacking.

Mitt Romney stood in front of 60 million American people, denied the plan he had been touting for 18 months and didn’t name any plan in its place.

The real loser in what happened in the first debate is the American people. After the debate, virtually all voter groups said that they didn’t receive enough specifics about the candidates’ plans. Actually, there were several specifics outlined by President Obama, including tax breaks for everyone except the wealthiest Americans. There were no specifics from Mitt Romney.

So, back to the five months of practice put in by Romney and his campaign, I thought about it for a few days after the debate. What did they practice? They certainly didn’t practice selling his economic plan because he didn’t talk about one. So what was all that practice about?

Then it hit me.

Every Presidential election year in the US, you have debates with a similar dynamic on the economy. The Republican nominee attacks the Democratic nominee for (in the GOP’s opinion) proposing to spend too much and tax too much, and the Democratic nominee attacks the Republican nominee for proposing to cut taxes too much, increasing the deficit, and for potentially needing to cut programs like Social Security and Medicare.

The public knows about these lines of attack, voters already know where they stand on those issues and thus the debate doesn’t move many people either way. What if, however, you could make it completely one-sided? I think this is the question the Romney senior campaign staff was floating internally back in May and June. I think they tossed that question around for a few weeks, and then someone came up with the idea of denying his plan and not offering any specifics. Continue reading Video: The Plot Behind Mitt Romney’s Debate Strategy

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President Obama Announces Support for Marriage Equality

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” I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly . . . → Read More: President Obama Announces Support for Marriage Equality

Armistice Day

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Breezily shrugging off United Nations’ weapons inspectors and the largest antiwar protests in history, George Walker Bush ordered the invasion and occupation of Iraq, a war crime and crime against humanity premised on a series of outrageous exaggerations, cherry-picked intelligence estimates, rank forgeries, jingoist paranoia, crude and completely false conflations with the events of September 11, 2001, and a fetid heap of outright lies. Almost nine years later, President Obama this week made good on his promise to withdraw US troops from Iraq.

Currently, though, a lot of commentary is content simply to recite the glib contention that President Obama’s actions are merely fulfillment of the Status of Forces Agreement Bush hurriedly negotiated with the Iraqis just before the 22nd Amendment relieved the United States and the world of his baleful and illegitimate presence. To those taking this position, I say, hoping not to betray the spirit of the season: Screw you.

In the interest of brevity, I’ll take up just one example. Please feel free to Google for more; you won’t find any shortage of results, or any significant variation among them.

Appearing with Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh in October, Glenn Greenwald sprained his considerable intellect trying to downplay in advance the significance of the withdrawal:

Yeah, this is really one of the more misleading storylines that we’ve seen in some time, this idea that President Obama has heroically ended the war in Iraq as promised. First of all, as the Obama White House itself is continuously pointing out, because they want to immunize themselves from criticism, the agreement with which they’re complying is a Status of Forces Agreement that was actually negotiated and put in place and ratified by the Bush administration before Obama took office… More incredibly and more significantly, the Obama administration has spent the last six months doing everything possible to persuade and convince and cajole and bully the Iraqi government into waiving this deadline and allowing it to keep more forces in Iraq beyond the 2011 deadline, and failed to do that because the condition that they were demanding, which is full legal immunity for our troops—just, you know, we don’t subject ourselves to the rule of law—is something that they couldn’t accept. And even with the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, we are keeping what McClatchy called a small army of private contractors and others under the control of the State Department. So the Obama administration tried to keep troops in Iraq and failed, and now is claiming credit for withdrawing them.

Yes, that certainly is incredible. Of course, Greenwald cites not a single example of anyone anywhere proclaiming that the President has done anything “heroic” here, least of all the President himself, a man no more apt get trussed up in a flight suit and do a victory jig on an aircraft carrier than he would be to proclaim at his next SOTU that he is, after all, a Kenyan socialist who attained office fraudulently.

As Greenwald acknowledges, the Obama administration hasn’t shied away from noting that the withdrawal is in keeping with the Status of Forces Agreement. How that “immunizes” them from criticism, though, Greenwald doesn’t say, probably because it’s a contention that lacks foundation, as Greenwald himself goes on to demonstrate by criticizing them six ways to Sunday.

Greenwald adduces no evidence to support his claim of the administration “doing everything possible to persuade and convince and cajole and bully the Iraqi government into waiving this deadline and allowing it to keep more forces in Iraq beyond the 2011 deadline.” This feverish narrative has been bouncing around the Leftosphere for months now; I’ve read a whole bunch of iterations and come away unconvinced and rather regretful that I wasted my time considering them. If Greenwald has anything persuasive to offer in support of this supposition, I’d be glad to see it; it would be a refreshing change of pace, at least.

What seems more likely – and, crucially, not so nefarious after all – is that an excess of caution by the military’s top brass (and very possibly, too, an excess of caution on the part of State and the White House – horrors!) resulted in a lot of late-in-the-day negotiation with the Iraqi government about residual forces, extended deadlines, localized exemptions and so forth, set against the frightening and very real possibility of a renewed bloodbath. Yet Greenwald, for reasons best left to him to explain, prefers to spin such negotiation as “persuade and convince and cajole and bully.”

As to the request for legal immunity, there’s certainly an odor of realpolitik wafting up from such an issue. As an attorney, though, Greenwald might be expected to understand that no international negotiation involving troops would omit such a clause, and that even had the Iraqis acceded to it, residual forces would still have been subject to the provisions of the UCMJ and the Geneva Conventions. Greenwald could have made a case for why such an agreement would be insufficient, but that approach doesn’t seem to suit his narrative.

Lacking Greenwald’s penchant for hyperbole, Al Jazeera summarizes all this with cold simplicity:

US officials were unable to reach an agreement with the Iraqis on legal issues and troop immunity that would have allowed a small training and counterterrorism force to remain.

As to that “small army of private contractors and others under the control of the State Department” which Greenwald seems to be insinuating will continue a stealth occupation even as our troops head home, other assessments of the situation read rather differently: Continue reading Armistice Day

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Needed: One Christmas Miracle, Please

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Recently a cousin left a comment on his Facebook that our troops fought and died “so we could say Merry Christmas.” I don’t know why the right finds it necessary to conflate patriotism and Christianity, or pretend that Christ has gone missing from Christmas, or that anyone in America doesn’t know “the reason for the season” or at least the reason in this country.

In their quest, they miss so many joyous moments from other cultures and religions. For instance, we are in the Hanukkah season, the Season of Miracles. While I don’t know a thing about the religious customs of Hanukkah, or whether various cultures bring different perspectives to the holiday, I find it odd that these Christians can’t find enough camaraderie in this holiday to delight in the biggest Christian miracle of all, Jesus Christ. Certainly Hanukkah has nothing to do with Jesus, I know that, but I can rejoice in the celebration of miracles. Any Christian should be able to do that.

The biggest miracle of this holiday season will likely be in the homes of thousands of children whose parents will be home from war. I don’t think those children will particularly care what greeting mom or dad gives, or whether they say anything at all, just that they are there to say it will be enough. Especially when they can give a big hug and kiss and some giggles and tickles to go along.

Of course many of those same right wingers are not rejoicing, or worse, taking credit for the war ending while criticizing Obama for ending it. Confused? Well, Obama just carried out the exit strategy negotiated by W, doncha know? Never mind that the Tea Party opposes the exit strategy just as McCain does, saying Obama deserves “scorn and disdain” for pulling all of our troops out of Iraq. Continue reading Needed: One Christmas Miracle, Please

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To the Democrats Who Didn’t Vote in 2010

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When my children–grandchildren–great grandchildren were going through their early years, before I was in my dotage, I constantly barraged them with slivers of wisdom I hoped would steady them in their growing and as adults. Many of those bits were directly from my own parents and the rest were collected during personal lifetime experiences. In retrospect, though all of them seemed like gems, only three universal truisms are still sitting in my brain where meaningful things of that ilk are stored just in case they should be dusted off and presented one last time to one more generation.

One: Think before you speak. Words, particularly rude ones, can shut doors that you may need to open sometime down the road. And when you use angry four-letter words even strangers in a crowd slam doors.

Two: Loaning money to family or friends could possibly slam those doors even faster and tighter, especially following a mention that you are getting a bit tired of waiting to be repaid.

Three: If you volunteer to lead the march into battle, don’t be surprised, when things get tough, to find that you don’t have anyone watching your back.

Our President might have benefited from that last bit of wisdom. How soon after his election, after the signs were tucked away with the rest of the election hoopla, did so many of you begin your whiny campaign against him because one or two of your personal darlings were being overlooked in the murky afterglow of the campaign? Ah, his health plan did not include single payer. I remember that. It was when I was so excited that my grandson’s autism would still be covered. And that was when all those folks without any coverage at all were finally going to be allowed onboard. Oh, but he didn’t get the war stopped in as timely a fashion as you would have liked. And he didn’t get Gitmo shut down and all the prisoners transferred here to be dealt with at trials, etc. And he hadn’t anticipated the earthquakes and the tornadoes in areas that had rarely experienced such storms, and the massive floods, and a catastrophic BP oil spill, and the Texas fires, and… and… and… the huge problems with the banks and the auto industry and Wall Street and God knows what else. But, in spite of the difficulties piled on, and the brick wall of obstruction by the GOP and their fellow obstructionist Blue Dog Democrats, our new President managed to pass a lot of stuff that the opposition never would have passed. Continue reading To the Democrats Who Didn’t Vote in 2010

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Our Mission, if We Choose to Accept it...

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I remember quite well the beginning of each Mission Impossible episode, way back in the day. There, on that miniature tape recording, in the phone booth with the handsome super secret agent leader, was the team’s instruction for a particularly dangerous mission, deemed impossible.

After providing all of the required  background information, and the reasons why the mission was necessary to the national security of the country, the tape would  self-destruct. Then the famous Mission Impossible music would cue up.

There is a reason the show was a hit with all demographics and is now a classic that represents Americana’s (ask what you can do for your country)  finest. It was the recurring story of a group of fearless individuals willing to take on insurmountable odds, via a set of carefully planned actions, for the benefit of  the ultimate greater good. Each  member of the designated team was to utilize tried and true classic methods and/or  cutting edge technology, depending on the individual’s forte. But each role within the team had a specific irreplaceable value; each as important as the next; each interconnected; and if one’s actions faltered, the entire mission could fail.

We elected a community organizer back on that November day, almost 3 years ago. Perhaps he hasn’t been much of a super-duper secret agent, as we wished he was all along. I do, however, believe that he did deliver our instructions, and we now need to get the job done. Understand that our part has to be accomplished either now or never. I’ll add the understatement that millions of lives depend on our actions, if we so choose to accept this mission.

So in calling all Democratic Activists,  we have a job to do, and it involves dealing with a slew of bad guys who need tending to, and that’s our mission’s goal. Whatever role you will play in making sure that the villains and their bad ideas are destroyed, it must be executed to the best of your abilities, and in reality, to near-perfection. Once you accept the mission, there can be no turning back, no hesitation, and no slacking. This is a group mission and failure is not an option.

On that glorious election victory night, the President gave us our mission. I will now replay the tape, as I have a back-up copy in my possession. Continue reading Our Mission, if We Choose to Accept it…

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Misinterpreting a Man’s Strength is Our Weakness, Not His

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The strength of a man
isn’t in the weight he can lift.
It’s in the burdens
he can carry…

During a job interview, a question frequently posed to the job-seeker is, “What are your weaknesses?” That question is not asked in order to reveal weaknesses per se, but rather as a way for the interviewer to assess the strengths of the applicant based on the revelations the answer offers. The right response is never, “I have none,”  since we all do.

For the past few months, I have read and heard that our President is weak and doesn’t stand up, and has a habit of caving. This claim, in fact, has been a topic of political conversation for some time. I have reflexively rejected this  judgement, but I hadn’t fully analyzed why until now.

I do ask myself  how ironic it is that the strongest black man on the world stage today would be described as a weak man by his critics. But rather than denouncing the name-callers simply out of hand, I’m compelled to examine the meaning of this pronouncement and its intent. Are those critics correct in their assessment? What is weakness and what is strength? And who has it, and who doesn’t? What’s the measurement to arrive at such an adjective, one that is either a mean-spirited  put-down or is the unfortunate truth? How do we judge? Continue reading Misinterpreting a Man’s Strength is Our Weakness, Not His

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We All Have a Choice in the 2012 Election

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My choice come November 6, 2012 will not be a surprise, as I will vote to re-elect the incumbent President, Barack Obama.

The reasons why I will work hard to re-elect the President and try to give him an overwhelming congressional majority in both the House and the Senate are very clear to me, and self-serving as they are, I believe my actions will also benefit a majority of Americans; even those who don’t quite know it yet.  By reading the rest of my commentary,  the reasons for my stubborn partisan stance will be made clear,  and as the election cycle progresses, I shall often make myself clearer still.

What I’d like folks to envision in the meantime is what would happen if progressives woke up the morning of November 7th, and reality hit that the President-elect is not Barack Obama?

Sure,  some on the Left would feel vindicated to witness Barack Obama defeated, believing that they had won the battle of “principles” they’d waged for four years to show President Obama their disappointment in him.  They would inevitably blame him for their choice not to donate, not to work, and/or simply not to have voted.

I believe, however, for those progressives willing to be intellectually honest, and who understand the concrete reality of political consequences (see Election 2010), we must also be willing to ask ourselves hard questions before the election, as opposed to after the fact.

You see, these questions will be answered regardless, either now, or for four long years (or eight even longer years) following November 6th.

Again, if the worse-case scenario were to occur  and we end up with a President other than Barack Obama (which is not out of the realm of possibility, as there are powerful forces working hard on this as we speak), what will happen then?

Some will say that my questions are nothing more than my cynical attempt to use fear, but I strongly disagree.  I am only asking you to picture what could very well happen.  If it is something to fear, you should duly note it.

I respectfully suggest that some of the questions we should all ask ourselves, especially those who haven’t already done so, are as follows:

How will you feel when the new President nominates partisan cabinet members like Phil Gramm for Treasury, Jeb Bush for the Justice Department, John Kasich for the Office of Management and Budget, Scott Walker for Labor Secretary, Paul Ryan for Health and Human Services, Rudy Giuliani as Secretary of State, John McCain as Secretary of Defense, and Newt Gingrich as UN Ambassador?  Sure, it may not be those particular ideologues in those exact positions; in fact, it could be worse still.  Keep that in mind. Continue reading We All Have a Choice in the 2012 Election

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Dear Rep. Barbara Lee, Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Can We Talk?

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As a constituent who resides in your district, I just want to weigh in on the hatred and political divisiveness that I hear and read about on the news and on the Internet. There are forces working very hard at making sure that President Obama is defeated in 2012. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they took an oath or signed a pledge to that effect.

The newest political strategy is to turn the African-American community against the first black president. The idea is to get black folks to scream at the President and to threaten to withhold our support come November 2012.  Due to the very high unemployment rate in the black community, this could be an easy sell. The well-paid professional propagandists don’t ask African-Americans to lay the blame for the lack of employment at the feet of the business world (which is hoarding up a couple of trillions in their rainy-day fund), or to consider the fact that governors everywhere are cutting down on the public sector workforce (comprised of  large numbers of black Americans per capita), or to holler at the Republican-dominated House, which has blocked most of the job-creating programs introduced by Democrats. Instead, they want us to aim our fire solely at our President and to blame him for 30 years of white men’s policies.

Now, I have already informed myself on what this President has done to help the American population in general, and African-Americans in particular.

Considering 2.7 years as the current timetable of his accomplishments, I would note that President Obama has reformed the health care system, which will provide subsidies for lower-income individuals who may not currently be covered (many who are AA), and also provides funding for badly needed community clinics, while  doing away with pre-existing condition restrictions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and coronary heart disease,  all ailments suffered in alarming rates by members of the black community.

In addition, women will soon get birth control free of charge if insured, which means that women who were previously going to Planned Parenthood – because, even with insurance, they couldn’t afford the price of contraceptives – won’t need to anymore. This leaves women who are uninsured more resources to get birth control via Planned Parenthood. Plus, the stimulus saved the biggest health care provider to the black community, the various state Medicaid programs. As well, the President closed the Medicare donut hole in prescription drugs, reduced seniors’ prescription prices by 50% through the use of generic drugs, and sent $250 payments to seniors to make up to the lack of a COLA increase for two years now. Continue reading Dear Rep. Barbara Lee, Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Can We Talk?

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Rick Perry should thank Obama for Texas job growth

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I listened to Rick Perry give his Presidential announcement speech today. He bragged about job growth in Texas and claimed it happened because he cut state government spending. That’s an interesting fantasy, but the reality is . . . → Read More: Rick Perry should thank Obama for Texas job growth