Friday, December 30, 2011

Mitt's jobs program for young people

WILDEST PROMISE BY any candidate in the race to oblivion called the Iowa Republican Caucuses:

Mitt Romney's reassuring words to a group of college students that their future would be so much brighter if he were elected. It went this way:

"What I can promise you is this --when you get out of college, if I'm president you'll have a job. If President Obama is reelected, you will not be able to get a job."

That earns Mitt the Grumpy Abe Linguistic Lunacy (GALL) award. If college students fall for this line, they need to go back to school for a refresher course on political hyperbole.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Yes, Dad was a a first-class Republican

I'M SURE THAT my late father would have been among the folks who have created so many front-runners in the Iowa Republican marathon. Depending on the day of the week and what he might have heard on the 6 o'clock news, he would have felt comfortable supporting whoever was "surging" in the polls at the moment.

Yes, Dad was a Republican like so many others in our extended family - aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. You know the kind. But for this glimpse of the political loyalities of the clan, I would caution you that I can only guess why Dad was a Republican. (Mom was different: She could never give me a clear answer on how she voted, and didn't think it was all that important anyway. She had things to do in the kitchen.)

For Dad, it was doubtless class consciousness, even though he never belonged to a country club, nor would he, a modest car salesman and grease monkey, have been invited to join one. For him, Republicans represented a better class of people, certainly better than Democrats. He believed that telling people that you were a Republican was the first step in approaching wider public approval. There was no point in trying to change his mind. He knew Republicans in our hometown and they all seemed to be doing a lot better than those fellows who trudged home from the coal mines each day.

He hated the Kennedys, which seemed to be a conversation gambit when a noisy quorum met in our living room. It was Kennedy this and Kennedy that, and the press coverup of Chappaquiddick.(He read every report in the local papers.) Meanwhile, Some of the family elders complained that they didn't make the long journey from the Old Country to be victimized by Washington's wasteful tax-hungry Democrats .

Fortunately, when another tall pot of coffee was being brewed, they would summon me to play the piano so that they could sing away their blues. On some evenings, they assembled in Uncle Alec's kitchen and with little prodding, he would leap from his chair, click his fingers and dance with a knee-bending motion through several rooms. I admired his energy, doubtless fortified by a half-dozen cups of strong coffee. This particular Uncle Alec - there were three in the family - had been a free-spirited steel worker and cared little about politics. There were also four Georges, each with a different surname. And three Abes! It could get confusing and led to some other issues. But that's another story.

My father's political convictions led to tense moments with his only son. He had seen some of my liberal writings in a magazine and could not believe how far I had strayed.. By then he had locked in as a Reaganite and somehow blamed Democrats for trying to abolish his Medicare.

There's a lot of this happening on the path to the Iowa caucuses. If he were alive today, Dad quite likely would be rooting for all of the candidates to win on Tuesday (Maybe not Romney!) It was time to defeat Barack Obama before he ended Medicare and Social Security. Not that the liberal media would ever tell you that.

From gun control to a "gay" reference

THERE ARE CHEAP shots. And there are cheap shots. And unless somebody can offer some pro0f to the contrary, I'd have to conclude that Christopher Evans' puzzling attempt at satire on the Plain Dealer's op-ed page is, um, a cheap shot. First, I should tell you that Evans is an associate editor of the PD's editorial page, which would lead you to think that he should know better.

But in his most recent column dissecting a move in the Ohio legislature to make life more miserable for gun sellers, Evans gratuitously notes that a co-sponsor of the bill is "openly gay".
(He does add "not that there's anything wrong with that" - the old Seinfeld routine.

So I must wonder how he went from gun control to slipping in a reference to the lawmaker's personal sexual preference. If I am wrong about this, then I would have to settle on calling the feathery column a horrible attempt at humor.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The GOP is playing politics and poker

ONE OF MY FAVORITE old Broadway musicals is Fiorello!, the lively comedy inspired by the political life of the former New York City mayor. He was an exuberant Republican who openly condemned Prohibition, read the funnies on the radio to children during a newspaper strike and did what he could to challenge the corruption of Tammany Hall.

At one point in the show, the forlorn Republicans assemble to choose a "victim" to run for Congress against the powerful Democratic machine.

Given the GOP's current comedy in trying to determine a nominee, it's worth repeating some of the stanzas from Fiorello! as the gang meets at the card table to sort out a candidate in a segment called "Politics and Poker".
How about Dave Zimmerman?
Davie's too bright
What about Walt Gustafson?
Walt died last night!

How about Frank Monahan?
What about George Gale?
Frank ain't a citizen
and George is in jail.

We could run Al Wollenstein
He's only twenty-three
What about Ed Peterson
You idiot, that's me.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

PD PolitiFact: Two Ohio lawmakers slammed

ON TWO CONSECUTIVE DAYS, the Plain Dealer nailed the top two Ohio Republican lawmakers for lies. On Monday, Aaron Marshall, in the PD's PolitiFact column, cited House Speaker William Batchelder for a hokey story about a Canadian provincial prime minister who sought medical aid in Ohio because his treatment in Canada was so slow that it would have endangered his life. After an intensive investigation of Bacthelder's claim, PolitiFact rated it "Pants on Fire." There is obvious method to Batchelder's madness inasmuch as Ohio's Republican leaders, from Gov. Kasich down, have made the new health care reform law a primary target for their attacks on President Obama in 2012.

Today, PolitiFact looked into the charge by Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus that Senate Bill 5's protestors deficated in the Statehouse.

The PD's Reginald Fields writes:
"As Senate President, Niehaus is one of the most influential people in the state government and when he speaks people listen. Yet his claim is beyond inaccurate. It's a ridiculous assertion that is unsupported by people who actually take care of the Statehouse."
Fields' rates Niehaus's claim: "Pants on Fire."

Oh, my! With all of the crap already flying around the legislature these days, you'd think that Niehaus would have found a different image to make his imagined point.

Memo to Kasich: an ailing Sears closing stores

WE RECENTLY NOTED in this space that there could be a positive side to Sears' rejection of a $400 million tax break offered by Gov. Kasich to lure the ailing company away from Illinois. We wouldn't end up with a lemon.

The report of the company's growing distress in today's Wall Street Journal confirmed the point: Sears plans to close upward of 120 stores and make other changes to cut its losses. Its stock has plunged 46 pct. the past year.

The WSJ quotes Credit Suisse retail analyst Gary Balter predicting the problems will only get worse:

"It begins and , some would argue, ends with Sears' reluctance to invest in stores and service, effectively asking customers to pay for a poorer shopping environment than available at competitors and on line. We do not see how that will turn around."

Much of the Sears story has been known in the retail world for a long time - as well as in the Ohio governor's office. So shouldn't we also assume that Kasich's feathery $400 million offer was hardly more than grandstanding? It is, after all, the Kasich brand.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Yes, Virginia, there are no Newt and Rick

HAS THE WINNOWING process begun for two of the Republican Supernovas seeking the presidency? The word from Virginia would lead you to think so. Both Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry have failed to file enough signatures to qualify them for the state's March 6 primary ballot.

That will deny each of them a chance to compete in an important delegate state (where Professor Gingrich was ahead in the polls before he flubbed the qualifying petitions.) We now await his version that election laws, like child labor laws, are stupid.

Is it possible that Mitt Romney, a man for all reasons, will win the GOP nomination by default? (I can't believe I just wrote that!) But with these dismal choices, in the party of the blind, the one-eyed man could be King.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

John Boehner, caveman

Well, at least he didn't cry!

Notes from the other world...

AS A DEDICATED chronicler of survival news for your civics classes, I am offering an updated memo on the current crop of patriots who want to lead our country. You will note that there is nothing of significance that escapes their vigilence and incisive reflection .

So let the wisdom flow:

Michele Bachmann: She warns that, according to a Tampa mother, her infant daughter suffered mental retardation after receiving HPV, the vaccine against cervical cancer.

Newt Gingrich: Child labor laws are stupid, and judges who hand down politically incorrect decisions should be arrested.

Ron Paul: A Libertarian, he would prefer to have all government eliminated. He also believes the Civil War was unnecessary because Lincoln could have avoided it by buying all of the slaves.

Mitt Romney: We mustn't be too specific here. Whatever he says today could be obsolete tomorrow.

Rick Perry: He supports gun control by advising gun owners to use both hands.

Rick Santorum: C0nsensual gay sex in the home is the same as bigamy, polygamy, incest and adultery. He explains: "That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing."

Sarah Palin: She's critical of the White House's "odd" Christmas card that has a seasonal setting of poinsettia and the Obama's dog, Bo, who is is reclining in front a fireplace framed by garlands. She complained that the card lacks the traditional values of "family, faith and freedom." (Should she be reminded that President Reagan's 1984 card pictured a snowy White House driveway with a dog's footprints?) Jeez!

Donald Trump: We saved the best for last. Always the player, he says he would be a formidable third party candidate because of his popularity among blacks , Hispanics and labor
unions. (Not to mention his face in the mirror!)

Well, I tried.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Arshinkoff: I'm not a candidate

Update: Got a call from Alex Arshinkoff today, the first in several years. He said someone had read to him
my post noting some reports that he
wanted to succeed Kevin DeWine as Ohio Republican chairman. No way, he said. Not true. He then quoted General Sherman's famous line on the presidency: "If drafted, I will not run; if nominated, I will not accept; if elected I will not serve." OK. It's not for me to challenge
General Sherman.

As the Tea Party goes, so goes (down) Boehner

OH FOR Santa's sake! Let's stop picking on John Boehner, the cipher who is otherwise known as the House Speaker. It isn't enough that he's lost control of the Tea Party- controlled House Republicans. Or that he has to contend with the persistent Cheshire cat smile of Eric Cantor, who figures to replace him. Or that he is being accused of being the grinch that stole Christmas from the middle class by bucking the two-month tax cut extension that most of the Republican senators supported. Or that he sobs a lot .

No. We now see the conservative Wall Street Journal accusing the House Republicans of "thoroughly botched politics" while fiendishly noting that President Obama is in a "stronger re-election position today than he was a year ago." As Seinfeld's Kramer would shudder, "Whoa,Mama". (Even John McCain said he fully agreed with WSJ)

Obviously it is taking a toll on Boehner. When Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer tried to forced an up-or-down voted on the tax cut extention, the C-SPAN live TV coverage was cut off, an obvious move by Boehner, who has control over the House TV cameras. The message: Boehner has not only lost control of the House, he's lost control of himself.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Walter Mirapaul, 89

SHORTLY AFTER I began this blog more than three years ago with the alias of Grumpy Abe, I discovered that a close friend was emailing it to his army of recipients. When I called him to suggest that it might not be a wise thing to do inasmuch as some of his contacts were probably conservative Republicans, Walter Mirapaul dismissed the question. "So what," he said. "If they don't like it, I couldn't care less."

That was vintage Walter M. He didn't care a wit about what people might have said about him. A self-made millionaire who rose from abject poverty, he enjoyed the prosperity derived from his enormously successful fruit juice company (Ohio Pure Foods) by living out his 89 years his - and only his - way. He was full of good humor, eccentric, impossible, thoughtful, generous, and a source for the smartest buys at supermarkets, discount stores and birdseed shelves while being a determined regular at Rex's salvage.

In the more than 40 years that I knew him as a friend among friends, I witnessed - exasperatingly so, at times - his pursuit of beating the system. Our home is filled with items that he bought God knows where - a shaving mug and electric razor to a porcelain teapot and magnifying glass. He would shop the year-round for gifts for a group of friends at his Christmas parties with three or four carefully wrapped items for each. We chose them from a pile by lot. His dear friend Louise was exhausted by all of the preliminaries and gift-wrapping for the annual event.

On those occasions, he was sort of the earth father enjoying his role as a Jewish Santa who wanted to send everyone home happy.

Despite our family-style relationship there was always one more surprise from him. As Nancy and I sat at a dining table at the Cascade Club, Walter headed toward us, forcing his way past a number of tables in the crowded room. He cradled in his arms a heavy plaster camel as his latest gift to us. The neck had been repaired, which indicated late modern Rex's salvage. Walter ignored the people who were staring at him. He proudly announced that the big camel would have a proper home with us.

He called on one of the hottest summer afternoons to ask about my ailing ankle. I said I really couldn't leave the porch for any reason. Minutes later he arrived with balloons, insisted that I get into his car with his help and took Nancy and me to get a Strickland's ice cream cone. "That will make you feel better," he said. He absolutely knew that would work.

At Severance Hall for the Cleveland Orchestra concerts, he always handed the parking garage booth attendant candy, which had become a ritual. Wherever we dined, he drew sketches of the servers to refresh his early student days in art classes. A fully committed
patron of the arts, he provided tuition for string players at the University of Akron and made sure that WKSU fund drives met their quotas. His grants went to other arts organizations without fanfare; Summa, where he was a board member, and to friends in need. He shopped at Mark's for unbeatable prices.

Finally he was a liberal one per center who grew more scornful each day of the Tea Party crowd and the Republican presidential candidates, accusing them of utter stupidity and greed. A wealthy man himself, he distrusted wealth. On the other hand, great art and music, some patient friends who put up with his playful antics, and a big office desk cluttered with cookies and candy boxes - these surpassed whatever wealth meant to others.

A few days before he entered City Hospital to stay, I drove him to his barber and on to a South Side deli (Primo's) where we ate superb corned beef sandwiches. I asked him whether he had eaten corned beef sandwiches at the Carnegie Deli in New York and Wolfie's in Miami - both of which were memorable. Indeed, he said he had. 'Their sandwiches were very good" he said. "But this one is better."

I learned long ago I could never top Walter on quality and price. On his word alone, this would be the greatest corned beef sandwich in the world. Even in his absence , I won't dare deny it.

Arshinkoff for State GOP chairman??????

CALL IT far-fetched, but politics has always been sympathetic to far-fetched ideas. So now I'm hearing about a subplot in Gov Kasich's well-organized scheme to drive out Ohio Republican Party Chairman Kevin DeWine. It rests on the March 6 primary election in which the state Republican Central Committeemen will be elected. Now that it is common knowledge that the Kasich family is trying to take control of the central committee as liftoff for a vote against DeWine, it naturally leads to speculation on his replacement if the governor succeeds.

In my Northern Ohio neighborhood, there's talk that Summit County Republican Chairman Alex Arshinkoff would be on the A-list to succeed DeWine. In this line of speculation, it has all of the signs leading to Arshinkoff. He has sought the job for decades, only to be rebuffed by
GOP marquee stars like George Voinovich. What's more, nobody has tried harder to serve the governor than Arshinkoff, for which he has lucratively added lobbying clients, including the University of Akron. So, yes, the name comes to mind.

Still, as one state Republican activist told me, "It will never happen." So it may be time for a political writer to take his ball and bat and go home. That won't stop Arshinkoff from trying to achieve the Ohio Republican dream. As I started to say, as far-fetched as it seems, on rare occasions far-fetched happens.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Boehner and Cantor: Good for a laugh!

Ho, Ho, Ho....Ha, Ha, Ha....Why are these two guys laughing, you ask? Well, they are in some way celebrating their succcess in blocking a two-month extension of a tax cut for you and me. Funny, huh? A real hoot? These Republicans are too much . And as Adlai Stevenson once said, "It hurts too much to laugh and I'm too old to cry." But as John Boehner and Eric Cantor tell it...Ha, Ha, Ha, Ho, Ho, Ho......... And Hee, Hee, Hee....

Ohio GOP: Elephants in the china shop

'TIS NOT THE season of good cheer for the Ohio Republican Party. Hostilities continue to erupt in the internecine battle of GOP Titans. In one corner is Gov. Kasich; in the other, state party chief Kevin DeWine. When it comes to clashing egos, this could go all 15 rounds.

The latest word reported by the Columbus Dispatch is that DeWine has accused Kasich's staff of recruiting candidates for the 66-member Republican Central Committee to set the stage for ousting him. According to the Dispatch, Kasich's forces started to plan DeWine's removal the same moment that he and Kasich moved into their respective new offices in January. Folks, such an artful move by the governor recalls his promise on entering office that people who stood in his way would be run over by a bus, train or, for that matter, locusts. Whatever worked. .

DeWine insists this is the ugly way that Kasich is treating central committeemen who "have just simply poured their blood, sweat and tears into helping get this guy elected. And the thanks they get is his staff working to gin up a contest in the re-election to the committee."

You get the feeling that there will be no holiday party in GOP quarters this year, don't you? I mean, "blood, sweat and tears"? Churchill couldn't have said it better. But an historical truth is that you simply can't have two elephants in the china shop at the same time.

TODD MCKENNEY, the newly apointed Summit County Probate judge, isn't expanding his earlier comments to the Beacon Journal about his decision not to seek election to the office next year. He told me on the phone today that he has nothing more to say about his odd decision to remove himself from contention a few weeks after the governor appointed him. .

When he spoke to the Beacon Journal upon his appointment, McKenney, a former state representative and ordained pastor, said his work as a probate judge would be distracted by a political campaign.

However, as I reported earlier, there has been a lot of back-channel talk among lawyers that he had offended Summit County Republican Chairman Alex Arshinkoff by making two appointments to county boards that were not on the chairman's A-list. In turn, Arshinkoff reportedly sent harsh word to McKenney that the county GOP would not support him with any money to run a decent race. McKenney declined to talk about it. But Arshinkoff is well-known for hardball tactics, which are in play again in this instance.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The GOP vendetta against Obama

IT'S REALLY TOO BAD that the most nonsensical presidential race in modern times isn't a Scrabble game. All of the GOP candidates could be tossed back into the pile and be replaced with a new lineup of tiles. Isn't that what we're hearing from polls showing that 70 pct. of Americans want the marathon to end quickly. Enough already.

That won't happen, of course. As front-runners come and go, there are still a few hanging around for their turns to be given first-class invitations to the TV talk shows.

Frankly, I haven't learned much from the serial debates, other than they continue to be driven by a long-standing, and frequently ugly, singular mission to dump President Obama. It began the moment he entered the office and was clearly expressed by Sen. Mitch McConnell, the party's imaginary Solomon who declared that his major mission was to defeat Obama four years hence. In the meantime, the business of government would have to wait as leading Republicans said the party would now be defined by what it opposed.

Traditional party rivalry has morphed into a vendetta. Think of it: a mere black Democrat defeated a Republican war hero! Obama's humiliated enemies could not process their historic loss. Still can't. Race became a conditioning factor the next three years, although the GOP found other ways to express its hostility that went well beyond the usual boundaries of party differences. So Obama's birthplace was loudly whipped around the news channels. As a likely Kenyan (Read: race) it was argued, he hated white Americans - thank you Rush Limbaugh, Trump et al. The vendetta only increased caustic words on the president's patriotism, honor and legitimacy.

Shameful. But a shameless GOP has lost any pretense of honor.. We're not watching a presidential race. We are watching a non-stop vendetta. Racism, by any other name, is still racism.

P.S. Latest from Mitt Romney: "I would be the ideal Tea Party candidate". (On the Pandering Scale of 10, that would get at least a 9. Not even the Tea Partyers believe him.)

And how about Michele wanting to get rid of 80 pct. of government? On Capitol Hill alone, that would eliminate 80 senate seats and 348 representatives. Maybe we could start in her Minnesota district.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Was Sears really interested in coming to Ohio?

THIS WAS THE WEEK that afforded Gov. Kasich the oportunity to do the Zorba dance about Sears not moving to Ohio. You may be aware that Zorba had a habit of trying to help folks in distress and when he failed he would burst into a raspy laugh and, when the spirit moved him, dance away his defeat.

So there was Kasich rising to his failed moment of trying to lure Sears with a $400 million tax break and then boasting about the state's effort, although one might assume that Sears never intended to move from Illinois in the first place. But it gave Kasich plenty of room to boast. Besides, he described the effort as "very exciting."

This sort of thing is habit forming and reminds one of his claim to have stopped Bob Evans restaurants from pulling out of the state although there were other published reports that the sausage place had no intention of leaving. From what I've seen from market analysts, Sears has been trending downward while its competitors like Home Depot, Lowe's and Wal-Mart have been moving upward. One analyst, Seeking Alpha, even urged its readers to dump the Sears stock.

If the trend continues, Ohio might have been spared the defeat of hosting a declining company. And the Illinois lawmakers who chose to offer Sears hundreds of millions in incentives will now have to figure out - as some of them are now conceding: What will they do to handle the dozens of other companies that will head to the Springfield capital seeking plum deals?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Did new probate judge fail to please the county chairman?

WHY WOULD A person accept an appointment by the governor to the top judiciary job in the county then declare within a few weeks that he wouldn't seek a full term in next year's election? Right. It made me wonder, too.

The authorized version from Todd McKenney, who resigned his seat in the Ohio House to succeed retired Summit County Probate Court Judge Bill Spicer, was that he didn't want to be distracted from the court's business by campaigning in "difficult" primary and general elections.

The unauthorized version is that Summit County Republican Chairman Alex Arshinkoff decided that the probate court wasn't big enough for him and McKenney. According to several politically active lawyers - Republicans and Democrats - that I talked to, the split occurred when McKenney made a couple of appointments to the MRDD and Metro Parks boards that conflicted with the chairman's well protected private stock..

It wasn't at all out of character for Arshinkoff to explode and send an emissary to McKenney advising him that he would not be supported by the party (i.e., Alex) in a primary race for the job. And indeed, there would have been a primary as Republican Common Pleas Judge Alison McCarty has declared her candidacy for the Probate bench. (Her opponent will be Democratic Common Pleas Judge Elinore Marsh Stormer.)

Without party money, it would have been so much harder for McKenney to hold on to the seat that has long been a gleam in the Democrats' eye.


What's wrong with this picture!!!!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Loews, Target just weren't anticipating...

I AM FOREVER puzzled by the dumb decisions by the front offices of major corporations. The very latest: the Lowe's home improvement giant's surrender to a wacky Florida Christian outfit by pulling its ads from a harmless TV series (The Learning Channel) on the routine lives of American Muslim families.

In a pathetic attempt at damage control, a Lowe's spokesman said the program had become a "lightning rod." If so, it was nothing like the lightning rod that flashed following Lowe's action. There have been buyer boycotts and coast-to-coast criticism by American Muslims, human rights groups and entertainment stars. And it appears it's just getting started.

Lowe's has a perfect right to choose the programs it will nourish with its ads. But for it to appear that it is shocked by the response suggests to me that very little thought and preparation went into the TV ad plan in the first place. Did anybody in the room raise the possibility that a show about Muslim families just might lead to grief these days when so many people can name their favorite enemies of wholesome American soil? The same can be said about the decision to pull the ads.

The so-called lightning rod was produced by a right-wing religious nuisance, the American Family Assn, that claims about 35,000 members - although we can never be certain about the numbers. We do know that it is intensely anti-gay and has stalked various other things that it considers a threat to American "biblical values." The group sponsored Rick Perry's prayer rally, which tells you something about its line of day-and-night jobs.

Last year, Target stores learned the hard way that you have to be careful about the segment of society that could be tarnished by a big company's direct, or indirect, action. In this instance, Target made a hefty contribution to an anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-whatever gubernatorial candidate in Minnesota.). All hell broke loose even though Target could otherwise defend its reputation as having a commendable record on human rights within the company.

Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel apologized to his employes saying "our decision affected many of you in a way I did not anticipate, and for that I am genuinely sorry."

The key word, I suppose, is "anticipate." Which is exactly what the brass at Lowe's didn't do, either.

Donald Trump's debate exit: He still won...

ALTHOUGH THE poor advance reservations for his scheduled TV debate forced him to give up the idea, it would be fair to assume Donald Trump is already planning his next stunt to reinforce his triumphant claim that he is the most magnetic person in the world. And the smartest, too. Oh, and the richest.

Exhibitionists are like that. The less imaginative ones know only to take off their clothes and sprint across baseball diamonds before the TV cameras are turned away. Others always show up for the next pizza-eating contest. Trump is way ahead of them. He dangles an idea like moderating a TV presidential debate before the media and before you know it, it has solidified his image as a smug American original (Including the trademark sweep of his hair). So even if only two of the Republican candidates agreed to a sit-down with him as moderator, no matter that he was left with Beavis and Butt-Head.

A legend in his own mind, Trump came out of all of this in good shape for his next venture. He had again given a national audience a glimpse of his titanic importance to the presidential race as a few even kneeled to his counsel and wizardry. And he teasingly projected himself as a major political player who, if it came down to that, would run for president himself.

Didn't he insist that if the Republican nominee didn't meet with his approval he could become a candidate himself? Imagine that: a major political party fretting over whether The Donald would carry out his threat. Is there room to barter? Might the GOP offer him the keynote speech at the nominating convention? He's like that. Or as he would tell you, his speech would attract the biggest TV audience in history (I think he might have been relieved to cancel himself as the debate moderator, an event that he claimed would draw a record audience. Now we'll never know.)

Whatever. You can count on this much: Donald Trump will return in his role as the
Wizard of Oz. Otherwise he could not go on and on about his unchallenged superiority.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Boehner stations troops in Canton area's remap

CONSIDERING THE current decline in property values, what would an entire congressional district be worth these days? $25 million? $509 million ? $2 million? Not even close. For John Boehner's real estate reappraisal team, try a skimpy $210,000. That's what the Timken Company has donated to Republican Rep. Jim Renacci, of the 16th Congressional District (Canton area).

According to media reports, Boehner's aides played a leading role to redraw the district from the earlier proposed map in order to include the Timken Company in the new boundaries. The Plain Dealer reported:

"Tom Whatman, executive director for Team Boehner, the Republican speaker's political team, was making key recommendations on how to configure Ohio's new congressional districts out of public view". His mission, of course, was to create the friendliest possible map for Republicans such as Renacci.

Emails recovered by the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting, which include the League of Women Voters and a coalition of progressive groups , revealed that the political mapmakers met secretly in a Columbus Hotel to lay out the new maps. The emails contradicted Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder's assurance that the entire process was transparent. And, as we have been told, Batchelder never lies. (But the people who swear to that do lie.)

The smoking gun for this back-room deal came from a Whatman email, in which he thanks the locals for agreeing to the last-minute change in the district's boundaries that now has Timken back in Renacci's district. "Very important to someone very important to us all," he says.

Nothing could be more transparent than those words.

Renacci, former Wadsworth mayor and adminstrator of a group of nursing homes, faces Democratic Rep. Betty Sutton in the new district. A wealthy (millions) conservative, he has become a corporate darling as an enemy of government regulations. With the big investors and the new district map on Renacci's side, Sutton, who has experienced trench warfare in the past, will face another tough race. But I have a feeling that he will, too.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Another GOP debate: O holy night

HOW GOOD OF THE Republican presidentials to visit us with one more Festival of Lights the other night. As these men and woman of good cheer - they even forced smiles while under assault - laid out their vision of a prosperous Obama-less future in the Oval Office, we were comforted by their compassion for what is left of, um, the American Dream. They were the seven swans a-swimming in pledges to rid us of the evils du jour.

I took a few notes to remind myself that America's oppressed as well as the one percenters will be in good hands after election day. (Have yourself a merry little Christmas...)

Some vignettes that gleamed like tinsel in this seasonally-adjusted stage production:

Newt, who obviously had some problems with marital skills, stepped up forthrightly and confessed that he had made mistakes, but they didn't include the $1.6 million he was paid by Freddie Mac to be an historian and NOT a lobbyist.

Michelle pledged to rid us of the Environmental Protection Agency and reassured us glowingly that she is well suited to be a businesslike president, having worked in the private sector in 50 of her 55 years on earth. I had hoped she would explain those missing five years, but she ran out of time. She did say that she was "unashamed and unapologetic" to declare her fealty to America. (O come, all ye faithful)

Not to be challenged, Mitt offered to bet Rick (Perry) a gentlemanly $10,000 that Perry was wrong about something he said about Mitt, who also said he loved America. In a rare moment of sanity, Rick turned him down. But it did make one wonder about how many people in TVland could have laid up that kind of risk capital on the spur of the moment. ( Jingle $$$ Bells)

Michele persisted in referring to Newt and Mitt as Newt Romney, which didn't have much to do with familial ties. Her cute point was simply that you can't separate their fabricated ideas. On the other hand, when Mitt said he was above the field because he wasn't a career politician, Newt turned up the best line of the evening by countering that the only reason Mitt wasn't a career politician was because he lost a Senate race to Ted Kennedy in 1994. Newt has an exceptional sense of history, don't you think?

Newt defended his recent scourge of "stupid" child labor laws and saw no reason why he should recant his Toynbee grasp of history by accusing Palestinians of being "invented." Mitt wanted everyone to know that Netanyahu was "my friend B.B". In a pandering appeal for Jewish support, several of the contestants insisted that all of the trouble in the Middle East was caused by...Obama. All of that would change when...

In various degrees of scorn, there was little disagreement over the invasion of illegal immigrants although Newt did hold some hope for those who have been in the U.S. 25 years. (Feliz Navidad)

Ron (paul) , the Texas libertarian. continued his assault on U.S. engagement in foreign wars, which was largely ignored by the others. And Rick (Santorum), the Pennsylvanian who lost his bid for reelection in 2006 by 18 points, insisted that he was the GOP's best choice at the top of the ticket because the party needed the Keystone State to win. (Joy to the World)

It was finally time for everybody to go and the stage darkened in peace. Mercifully, Silent Night.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Kasich/DeWine clash: Back to the Middle Ages

NOW THAT THERE is no post-season bowl hysteria to whip up the Buckeye football fans in Columbus, Republicans have generously - and uncommonly - offered their own blood sport to fill in the void. It's the clash of GOP Titans, namely Gov. Kasich & Co., and Ohio Republican Party Chairman Kevin DeWine. There is a strong medieval flavor to it, as when popes and kings duked it out over who was in charge of the masses.

Clearly, the unlikely power play that violates Republican tradition of never publicly slamming a member of your own party (while blistering each other sotto voce) is an open sore nowadays. A well- connected state Republican conceded on the phone with me the other day: "It's serious. It won't go away soon." Is it ego? I asked. "Exactly," he said, suggesting there were a number of moving parts. It's understandable only if you bring yourself to concede that with Kasich, the top tier of the pecking order is occupied by lobbyists, cronies and old friends.

That's the short version of the party's in-house hostilities that are worrying some of the faithful's bystanders. It will bleed into a busy political year with a presidential election at stake. Indeed, as the Columbus Dispatch's Joe Hallett keenly reported a few days ago, the State GOP's second-in-command has scorched the Kasich forces for splitting the party by openly trying to unseat DeWine. "It's almost become: we have met the enemy, and it is us," said Kay Ayres, state GOP vice chairwoman. Her message to the governor: Lay off this nonsense.

Nice try, but it won't be enough to satisfy the Kasich machine that is driven by lobbyists who are doing quite well with Kasich's aid, thank you. The governor has been joined by his buddy and torpedo, House Speaker Bill Batchelder to wield the axe. Batchelder has accused DeWine of working against the governor's best interests.

Meantime, no less than Kasich claque Alex Arshinkoff, the Summit County GOP chairman, took a strong stand for Batchelder's credentials in the Plain Dealer, offering a brief character sketch of Batchelder. Declaring Batchelder to be a great party leader ( by the way, Arshinkoff never fails to describe his political pals as great) said: "I've never known him to lie." But I digress.

The Columbus political blog Plunderbund offered some insight into the quarrel: "Kasich came into power with a plan: privatize everything in the state and enrich as many of his friends as possible in the process."

That point is hardly debatable. There have been numerous reports the past year of Kasich handing off lucrative contracts through well connected lobbyists to the sort of recipients who would be expected to reciprocate. That's how the governor has done business and continues to do so. On the other hand, DeWine is said to believe that too often state policy is being carried out by the governor's friends.

Lobbyists? Friends? Cronies? Here's one example cited by Plunderbund. Don Thibaut, who was Kasich's chief-0f-staff for two decades when Kasich was in Congress, now operates a lobbying firm, Credo Company with a boast on his "About Us" page "highlighting his very personal and long-term relationship with John Kasich. " So should we be surprised that when the state sold off a prison to a private buyer, the contract went to a Thibaut client?

God knows how much of this is going on. Yet wasn't it John Kasich, upon entering the governor's office, who warned lobbyists that he would not put up with them in the bright new era of progressive governing? Sure he did. And like Batchelder, he never lies.

The Donald-Newt Show, reality it is not

SMARTING FROM the attacks on his monstrous views on child labor, Newt Gingrich, with plenty of help from Donald Trump, has moved into an audacious level of damage control. "Let me help," Trump tells Gingrich. "I will put 10 good kids on my reality show to let everybody know that you and I want to help kids learn a work ethic to become school janitors."

"That's a good number," Newt purrs. "Even Bo Derek didn't get any higher than 10."

Leave it to The Donald to come up with a solution. And why not? He boasts that he has the most famous reality TV show in the world, with the biggest audience in the world, with the most successful business in the world, with the strongest hold on the tattered remains of the Republican Party. And he is mystically irresistible. "They all want my endorsement," he says of the GOP dead-enders, "and come to see me." He airily threatens. "If they choose somebody that doesn't please me, I will endorse somebody else." That, dear reader, sends shivers across his plantation.

His thing is audience. For the few stalwarts like Gingrich and Michele who have agreed to kneel before him in the Dec. 27 debate, he boasts they will have the biggest audience of any debate. That isn't to say he's not creating that audience for himself. As for his merit as an interrogator, he insists he knows all of the issues and will be eminently prepared to ask the right questions. Why would you ask? .

Meantime, Newt is well into appearance these days. . He says the Occupiers ought to first take baths and then look for a job. To be fair and balanced, Newt should also tell his sponsor Donald to get a decent haircut and go away.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Why is API spending money on this guy?

KEEP AN eye on Sen. Rob Portman, the so-called Republican "moderate" from Cincinnati, who is swinging hard to the right with the aid of outfits like the American Petroleum Institute, the mega lobbyist for the oil and gas industry. The API has been plugging Portman in TV ads that say he won't raise taxes. Read: He's on API's side on energy issues.

Why would it be spending money being goody-goody to a senator who still has 5 years remaining in his term? Could Portman be API's inside choice for the GOP s national ticket, say, at least as veep. Of course he could. You don' spend a lot of money on a guy who isn't running for reelection for years. In other words, he's a perfect fit for API's interests.

As one high ranking Democrat told me: "Portman wants to be the vice presidential candidate so bad that he can taste it." There is also the Kasich gambit. Gov. Kasich has been trying to position himself for the party's national ticket since the first day he stepped into the governor's office. It put him at serious odds with Portman. But Kasich has seen his fortune diminish as quickly as a candle in a windstorm with his clumsy move to destroy collective bargaining by public workers.

Portman, meanwhile, continu√ęs to reinforce his attachment to the party's right wing, voting down the line with his GOP colleagues. His name is buried in the roll call but his vote is solidly anti-anti-Obama on every issue - this, from a guy who was George W. Bush's budget advisor.

Of late, he's been declaring his opposition to the proposed appointment of Richard Cordray to the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau - another target of the right. The plan to the GOP convention is unfolding. But let's see no more references to Portman as a "moderate."

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cordray: The GOP threatens a filibuster

IN THE CURRENT chaotic state of the Republican Party, intelligence is never equated with public office. And so here we are , on the verge of another rejection of Richard Cordray, the former Democratic Ohio attorney general who had the terrible fortune to run for reelection in 2010 when Republicans of all measures waltzed into office, some whose only credentials were that they were the Other Party in bad economic times. Which is why we have a Republican, Mike DeWine, as our attorney general despite the fact that every major newspaper in the state had endorsed Cordray. (When the history of DeWine's term of office is finally written, he will be remembered primarily for having vigorously opposed the healthcare reform law.)

Cordray, exceptionally intelligent (Oxford scholar) , honest and progressive, has since been nominated by President Obama to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a product of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Law. When the confirmation of Cordray comes up in the Senate on Thursday, few Republicans say they will support him. But as everyone except a few Eskimos north of the Arctic Circle must know by now, anything that smacks of consumer protection at the expense of the financial industry is ghoulish. The GOP's price for their support: Across-the-board restrictions on the bureau's regulatory power. It would mean that Cordray would be all dressed up with no place to go.

Ah, the Republicans insist that it has nothing to do with whether it's Cordray or some parish priest. It's the threat of regulating their friends' daily bread.

But the aginners had better be careful about what they filibuster against. Obama's previous choice, Elizabeth Warren, pulled out under heavy attacks on her liberal reputation by the other side. (And we thought it wasn't the person but the agency that worried her opponents!)

She decided to run for the Senate in Massachusetts against Republican Sen. Scott Brown. It could cost the GOP a senate seat. She's running slightly ahead of Brown. Will this be an unintended consequence?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mandel: Sorry, I'm busy...and other stuff


Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel is the little senatorial candidate who isn't there. At least he won't be at the University of Akron Martin Center upon turning down an invitation from the Akron Press Club for a solo appearance. According to David Cohen, a UA political science professor who has been trying to lure Mandel to the lectern for months without success, the Republican will not accept the same invitation that U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (shown in photo) has agreed to. Brown will speak on Jan. 6. The program is co-sponsored by the Press Club, Bliss Institute and League of Women voters.

Cohen, who arranges many of the programs for the Press Club, said this on his blog:

"Despite the fact that I have attempted to schedule Mandel for a separate appearance since May, and despite that fact that his staff indicated in September that he was willing to come in, his political director informed me last week that he is too busy."

Sorry, Josh. I would have used your picture instead of Sen. Brown's, but you gave me no reason to do it.

* * * * * * * *
Rick Santorum, the theocratic Republican presidential candidate who is hardly there, finally has something to crow about. Both Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, two of the trade's deepest thinkers, speak quite approvingly of his quest. Palin effuses that voters looking for "ideological consistency" ought to look at Santorum. Beck goes much farther, declaring: "If there is one guy out there that is the next George Washington, the only guy that I could think of is Rick Santorum. I would ask that you take a look at him."...(OK,Glenn, we did. Any other silly ideas?)

* * * * * * * *

Despite the alleged good-will of the holiday season, the congressional carnivores are getting nastier by the minute. For instance, POLITICO reports that Speaker John Boehner shares Herman Cain's fondness for chicken salad. The blog notes that Boehner huffed that President Obama's proposal of a temporary payroll tax cut was "chicken shit" instead of chicken salad. On the other hand, he chirped that Republicans were doing everything possible to allow "more American families and small businesses to keep more of what they earn." Somehow, Boehner managed to make more sense when he choked up and sobbed on TV.


Gov. Kasich told the Plain Dealer in an interview that people have trouble figuring him out. That's debatable. His problem is that a lot of people have already figured him out during his first year in office, which explains his dismal approval ratings. Still, you get a sense from his recent remarks that after his Issue 2 disaster in the November election he is trying to cast a softer image, particularly as he told the PD: "I don't like when people are always so serious around me." And you have to wonder about his learning curve after so many years in
congress and now in the governor's office when he says: "You know, I haven't made any faux pas in really a long time. Have you noticed? You just learn. I learned that you have to be careful what you say. Everybody is listening. " (He's also learning that political Cialis is not for everyone!)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Iowa return of Donald Trump

THE DONALD IS BACK! Donald Trump, birther, BS artist and the only person with a bigger ego than Newt Gingrich, will be the host of still another debate before the Jan. 3 Iowa caucus. The Dec. 27 event, which will hype Trump more than the woebegone GOP candidates, will be in Des Moines and sponsored by Newsmax, a very conservative outfit that has puffed up Trump with a number of friendly references to his singular importance to the conservative cause. I think the Newsmax crowd would really like to see him back in the race, for which Trump is especially grateful. It keeps reminding everybody - including him - how really important he is.
Actually, this may be a first for a potential presidential candidate: Interrogating the others who would be his opponents as he does job applicants on his TV show. His ego could reach beyond the point of no return by looking at, say, Michele Bachmann and asserting, "You're fired."

For some reason, I am besieged by e-mails from Newsmax with warnings from a Dr. David Brownstein, often challenging the conventional wisdom of medical science. The latest warning is to avoid flu shots. Something about mercury in the serum. Or, "The one thing you do for your prostate every morning." Other than taking it with you when you go for a long walk, I don't know what Newsmax is proposing. Didn't open up the text.

Each day, scary health tips for someone like me, who was under the wing of two uncles who were very good physicians. But even scarier is the fact that The Donald is sitting in front of a TV camera and measuring the worth of each candidate on stage. Upstaging them, really.

But as the call from the control room softly summons the conductor the moments before the opera:
"Maestro to the pit. Maestro to the pit."
In this Des Moines opera buffa, Trump is handed the baton.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Maybe Cain should have tried ham salad instead....

THE REPUBLICAN efforts at Scrabble to make a word out of "winner" continue with one big difference: They can't turn in all of their candidates and draw a complete set of new ones.

On Saturday, the field shrank by one. Declaring that "politics is a dirty business,"(Oh?)
Herman Cain, the pizza guy, gave up his hopeless bid for the Oval Office. Cain's reason was not unusual in politics today: something about a female relationship (s). Think, Dem John Edwards. And GOP starlets Mark Sanford and John Ensign.

I, for one, will miss the Hermanator. He had a way with logic. "Listen," he once demanded. "You might just learn something." On another occasion, he soberly declared: "You need chicken to make chicken salad."

And that may explain why Candidate Cain laid an egg.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Newt has so much to tell us

WHAT ARE WE to do about Newt Gingrich? He would have us believe that he is the reincarnation of King Solomon, with the only difference being that Solomon had 300 wives and Newt a mere three (so far). No longer the underdog in the GOP presidential workouts - not for the moment, at least - he is enjoying his new celebrity by telling people about all of the ways he has played big roles in the best things that have happened in America.

For starters, as a congressman, he led the successful fight against Communism, he told Sean Hannity on Fox in a pattycake interview appropriately staged in Tommy's Country Ham House in Greenville, S.C. (Fox called it, um...a "candid conversation".)

There's more, only because we're talking about Newt and not Solomon here. He wisely helped the Democratic House speaker to balance the budget four times. He sagaciously helped both Ronald Reagan and Jack Kennedy develop supply-side economics and sagely reformed welfare entitlements. There would be more self-applied merit badges but the interview had to end at a reasonable hour. How disloyal the House, then, to fine him $300,0o0 and reprimand him for ethics violations!

"People want somebody with very substantial big ideas," Newt said modestly, reflecting on his own ascension as America's can-do Professor. He says these things in a matter-of–fact way as if to make you wonder why you didn't already know that.

What? An $1.8 million contract with Freddie Mac, which Newt had criticized for its manipulative mortgage investments? For Heaven's sake, he wasn't lobbying for the outfit, he says, but rather advising it on how to survive from the perspective of a historian.

I have a feeling that he is just getting started on his dreamy history tales, and there's so little time left before the election 11 months away. So in the standard version of a man who comes home to find his wife in bed with the plumber, Gingrich has developed his own escape hatch for his negatives, from a million-dollar credit line at Tiffany's to how he wowed all of his colleagues in Congress. Simple, he says: "I can explain everything."

Even Joe Scarborough, MSNBC talk show host and former Republican congressman himself, isn't quite sure. "He's out of control," Scarborough growled. "Give me a break. His comments are an insult to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush." Others have referred to Newt's "supersized ego" but seldom of his broad expanse of wisdom.

Take it easy guys. I at least want him to get to the place where he invented the forward pass. And how he led the assault on bin Laden. Even Solomon wasn't up to those feats.