Friday, August 31, 2012

When Mitt met Dirty Harry in Tampa version

AS THE TV cameras channeled the final night of the Republican convention into our home,    I remembered reading of Dean Martin's opening line for his show at the Sands in Las Vegas:
"Who are  all of you people and what are you doing in my room?"
Some thoughts:

Romney surprised nobody with his warm and fuzzy references to God, motherhood, America and, of course,  businessmen.   It was part John Wayne tough guy and part the caring small-town  preacher with no limit to his blessings.    It was the stuff of sermons for hawkish frontiersmen heading out to  dispatch  the horse thieves from the range. God and guy stuff.

Still, he lost me immediately with his description of  Paul Ryan that went: "He represents the best in America."

He said what?   Forgive me for asking,  is this the same Paul Ryan who was ripped from coast to coast for telling so many lies in his own speech?  I have a feeling that Ryan's recklessness with the truth will make him a high maintenance guy as the campaign  moves on in earnest.

 But the fellow who gave the benediction, Cardinal Dolan, doesn't mind.  He had said earlier that he found Ryan to be an "upright guy".  Even when he bears false witness?

And how about Mitt insisting that America "united" behind Obama when he was elected, hoping for a better America.  Who wrote that whopper in his speech?  Who ignored the truculent threats by the big guys in the GOP to block Obama from Day One on any  initiative  - which the Tea Party controlled House of Representatives and their parrots have done for four years.

My notes also show:    Romney attacks Obamacare without mentioning its predecessor,  Romneycare. In your face!

Turn now to the most pathetic appearance of the night: Clint Eastwood's embarrassing off the cuff drivel that stumbled, mumbled and struggled in a way that did no favors for guys his age (82).  This was Dirty Harry going after Obama.  You remember his Hollywood role of Dirty Harry Callahan, don't you?  He was the terrorizing cop who broke all of the rules of police work in nailing the bad guys.  I kept hoping that the lights would go out in the hall for a few seconds and when the place lit up again, Clint would have mercifully vanished - for his own good. It was an ugly scene in an arena where you can always make an allowance for a little goofiness. But not this.  My notes:  The delegates seem delighted.

Another note:    Why is Newt Gingrich still hanging around the action?  The media can't resist him, nor he, they. Alas, will we never see his promised permanent base on the moon in his "second term"?

Finally, back to Romney:  Would it be a kinder, gentler nation under him?   Morning in America?  Compassionately conservative?  Don't know about you, but even as cliches, none of them seemed to fit this orchestrated, tightly-strung mystery  candidate on this night.  He was simply the old Romney being the old Romney. Oh, and another thing in my scrawl: If there's so much out there against Obama's "failed" presidency,  why did Romney &  Co. make so many things up?

If you watched this spectacle of empty suits and a spent old incoherent Hollywood actor,  can you say that you are better off now than you were before it began?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A shameless platform is today's Tea Party GOP

The shameless Republican Party platform has broken the mold on what we long believed:  Platforms are written to be shelved in a backyard shed to await the next windstorm.  After being an increasingly reluctant political writer at several  national conventions, I never  considered a party platform to be part of the fertile landscape for reporters to write home about.

That has changed this year after the GOP capitulated to the Tea Partiers and presented us with a manifesto drawn up by self-absorbed fringe groups who unblushingly insist on warning us  how we are entering  the bravest of new worlds under their command.  We've also been told by party establishment people like John Boehner to calm down because nobody reads  those documents anyway.  Oh?

In the past it was easy enough to dismiss platforms as meaningless treats  that kept them out of the way of important  business.    If they said they wanted to move the Nation's Capital to the Cayman Islands, it didn't  raise an eyebrow.  But times have changed.  The new political and religious culture bearing down on the country means business.  The people at the convention are the true believers who form the hearts and souls of the old Republican Party from Congress to the Statehouses to the courthouses and county organizations.  (Think: Summit County's Republican Party)

That's not  only my description.  It's Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell 's version of the hardest core planks. He happily called  the platform the "heart and soul of the Republican Party."  He should know .  He presided over its drafting.

The current party spirit is demanding, humorless, unthinking and restless to move the horror show to next level.  The French called it Grand Guignol theater, which based its narrative on fright scenes.  Today, what's left of moderate Republicans are certainly aware of strange noises in the attic, fluttering curtains and moon-lit silhouettes.

The national pundits have already called the weird handiwork the "most conservative" platform in history.  But there have always been conservative voices in the land back to the days of the Founding Fathers and their behavior could never fall to the mindless level of the Tampa convention.

Abortion, birth control, contraceptives, gays, anti-gun control, Medicare, ultrasound, ban on same-sex marriage --- on and on  with intrusions into  individual liberties that conservatives have long opposed are now in fashion. Even though his Etch-a-Sktech hasn't worked, look for Romney to back off a little of it here and there - confusing us even more on his positions.  But some of his people  were involved in creating the monstrous document. And he will learn to live with it while calling for self-deportation to solve the illegal immigrant problem.  Jeez.

At one the conventions I attended in New York, I had long sidewalk conversations with people passing out Jews for Jesus flyers. I enjoyed the interviews.   There were restaurants to visit , store windows to look at while a colleague and I tried (successfully!)  to  ignore the sidewalk whores on our way to Madison Square Garden.   It took some of the edge off having to write another dull column about the convention itself.

The political culture today won't allow any distractions.  Still, who were  the two people  at the convention who threw nuts at a black CNN camerawoman with the warning:  'This is how we feed animals."  Police reportedly expelled them.  But there was a message there somewhere.

A generation ago Republican officials were trying to convince me that they were deeply engaged in a plan to include  minorities in their tent  A recent NBC poll reported that African-Americans supported Obama 94-0.

As a matter of fact, count Mitt's guy out

There's been a lot of serious competition for the Grumpy Abe Linguistic Lunacy (GALL) award this week, what with all of the stuff going on in Tampa .  But the panel of one (me) decided by acclamation that the most deserving recipient was Neil Newhouse, Mitt Romney's pollster.  Said he:
"We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tonight's GOP convention sing-along

Let me close tonight's over-ripe outpouring of Republican convention speeches with a tribute to the Romney/Ryan ticket,   with some updated words from Stephen Sondheim's "A Little Night Music":

Aren't they rich?
Aren 't they a pair?
They're at last on the ground,
Down from mid-air. 
Send in the clowns.

Another ill-wind from Rushbo

We can expect a lot of silly things to come out of the Tampa  convention, but who can top Crazy Rush Limbaugh's charge that President Obama was responsible for the first-day cancellation of the event?  He accused the president of tampering with weather forecasts to make it appear that the city  would be struck Monday by Hurricane Isaac.  He said although he wasn't a conspiracy theorist, "It's the government.  It's Obama!"   No, it's a radio-TV host whose fans believe that Rushbo, not Obama,  is God.  

Coal mines: No pay for mandatory attendance among friends

Remember that Republican candidates' day earlier this month in Ohio coal mining country that featured Mitt Romney, Josh Mandel and the gang telling a group of miners how much they cared for the welfare of the workers?

The back-channel story in the Plain Dealer  is much more interesting.  It  reported the backlash to the event  by some mine employes to Radio Station WWVA (Wheeling) over how the political love-in   was orchestrated.  The miners in attendance lost a day's pay because their mine closed that day in their absence.

The Pepper Pike owner of the Century Mine conveyed  word down the line that the event would be  mandatory and unpaid,  according to the company's  chief financial officer Rob Moore. "No one was forced to attend".  (In the companies I worked for over the decades, mandatory implied force.)

Moore did try to engage in damage control by  telling WWVA host David Bloomquist there was nothing wrong with having the miners show up for the GOP tourists.   "We are talking about an event that was in the best interest of anyone that's related to the coal industry in our area."

Lest I forget:  The PD reported that the Center for Responsive Politics "show that Murray Energy  [ the mine 's owner] has contributed more than $900,000 to Republican candidates over the past two years."
With that kind of money up for grabs,  you'd think that the company would find a way to pay the miners for their mandatory attendance to hear Romney assail Obama for his "job-killing war on coal."


What is rape? The white guys seek official definition

In the current maelstrom over the abortion "debate," it's interesting to note how much of the expertise about women's bodies is  being issued in public places by white guys. We all know about Rep. Todd Akin's authoritative insights into what constitutes "legitimate rape"  and the Romney/Ryan camp's broken-field scampering to find an official  definition it could agree on.  (Ryan saved his side's  day by repeating President Obama's affirmation that "Rape is rape". Thank you.)

Over  in Pennsylvania, Rep. Tom Smith, Republican senate candidate, entered the linguistic lunacy marathon by taking the abortion issue to the next opaque level.  He opined that rape could be compared to "having a baby out of wedlock".  That may be a bigger challenge to the next white  guy who was planning to claim that rape  was a purely defensible act by men just being men.

Monday, August 27, 2012

With Josh: Global warming a fraud

When I reached for the Plain Dealer today for my first word from the  outside world, I found this headline commanding the front page:

    Mandel blasts president, Brown, calls global warming 'inconclusive'

Whoa there, pony. Was Republican Josh off the reservation again? Well, it's true that he was down in Tampa to impress his GOP friends that he's a candidate of  action wherever there's trouble on the planet.

I pressed on to read the story, but got no further after I arrived at this paragraph:
'The state treasurer [Mandel] thinks scientific research on the matter is "inconclusive and riddled with fraud."
It quickly recalled Mandel's recent visit to Ohio's grimy coal mining district where the whiz kid  promised on the bible of his billionaire energy princes that he would end the "war on coal."  As one who grew up among coal mining families I wondered why he didn't bother to mention  the early deaths of miners  in the hands of negligent mine owners.

The above photo of melting ice fields  is from the on-line National Geographic, the left-wing, radical pubication that has never seen a global warming report  that it didn't embrace.  The heading on the photo said...

          The planet is heating up - and fast

Josh, Josh:  Among the magazine's listed advisors is a guy you doubtless know:  David Koch.  He couldn't be happy with National Geo.  But at least he can be confident that he has you in his pocket.

UPDATE:  Late word from the NY Times Monday afternoon:

"The amount of sea ice in the Arctic has fallen to the lowest level on record ,  a confirmation of the drastic  warming in the region and a likely harbinger of larger changes to come."

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Armstrong's words won't resonate in Tampa; Husted again

The week end called our attention to  events that  contrasted two visions of the American experience.   The laudatory remembrance of  the late Neil Armstrong told of the optimism of the first astronaut to walk on the moon, who spoke to the entire planet of Earthlings  when he said:

"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

The words came back to haunt us with a different  vision, that of the Republican Party arriving in Tampa with plans for no steps for man and a giant leap backward for mankind.

* * * * *

Update:  Secretary of State Jon Husted made a last-minute cancellation as a speaker  at the True the
Vote Summit in Columbus, sponsored by a right-wing outfit known for  supporting voter suppression and other questionable policies.  You can find the full report on, which includes a report from NBC News.  Husted has been busy these days dodging critics of his own voter handiwork in Ohio.   We wonder if he'll ever get it right. Also, we wonder why he didn't vet the group before he agreed to be programmed as a speaker along with former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell and other.

* ** * **
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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Mandel campaigning in light of full moon

At first glance, I once thought that Josh Mandel was simply  careless about his words and actions because so little of either made much sense.  But as the whiz kid's  campaign against Sen. Sherrod Brown  becomes more visible, I''m now convinced that his  every move as a walk-on to the political stage is calculated with steaming caldrons by the light of a full moon.

The latest example - and there have been many - is his moronic charge that Brown is "un-American" - something Joe McCarthy would have said long before Mandel was born.  And we all know what happened to Tailgunner Joe, whose name is now an eponym for the worst in political assassination.  Will Josh be remembered  from the ashes of his ruthless campaign as  Mandelism?  Give him time,  He's only 34.

His disloyalty charge against Brown was reported by the Columbus Dispatch  in a piece following  a Brown-Mandel sitdown with editors and reporters. He based his troubled remark on Brown's support of the auto industry bailout.  The story reported that Josh never answered directly when he was asked what he would have done differently than Brown on the loans that saved the auto industry and thousands of jobs. His calculated accusation against Brown was so locked into his psyche that he couldn't come up with a reasonable alternative  other than to mention "regulations,  energy production and the U.S. Tax Code," the paper said. Strictly GOP boilerplate.

Josh, please.  You are the Republican/Tea Party nominee for the U.S.Senate.  You are running in Ohio.  Auto industry recovery of jobs is even making Governor Kasich  look better (though he didn't
 have a damn thing to do with it).

Tone it down, Josh.  Check Brown's birth certificate.  Find out whether he's  ever been to California.
Ask him whether he's ever skinny-dipped in the Sea of Galilee.  And why he's never sent a Christmas card to Netanyahu.  Show, for God's sake.  Many of us won't vote for you but maybe when you run for president someday a few  people will forget your  un-American crap that you laid before the Dispatch people.

Romney: the closet birther in him emerges

That McMitt Romney is a real card, don't you think?.  In Michigan,  where I  don't question that  he was born, he quipped that no one has ever asked to see his birth certificate.  It broke me up.  We can always use a bit more humor on the campaign trail.  Even when it calls attention to the demonic  question about President Obama's birth certificate, which Romney's birther pal Donald Trump  refuses to let die.  My only response is: I will send you a copies of my tax returns if  you agree to send me yours.  I will even include  a photo ID. Funny, huh?  C'mon.  Be a sport.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Chairman Arshinkoff is keeping the faith

Well, you can't say that Alex Arshinkoff isn't fully aware of his party's Limbaugh-like code words.  In a letter to his  Republican mailing list to announce the party's finance committee dinner,  the first words out of the echo-chamber are a reference to Barack Hussein Obama.  How clever!  Or should I say, How childish.  And shopworn  for an alleged  clear-thinking Ryanista soldier.    (We can only guess whether it's time to refer to Alex as a Romneyista, but I don't know because he won't talk to me since he says I'm an "ass-kicker" - which, of course, he's never been.)

Anybody  out there who thinks I'm too harsh as an Arshinkoff critic should know that as long as the chairman in perpetuity  of the Summit County Republican Party does childish things,which includes his unending tantrums on the Board of Elections,  I will continue to treat him as an incorrigible child.  And there are many in his own party who would agree. Let his friends say that he is not.

Meantime,  his announced speaker for  the Sept.18 dinner continues his shift to the party's religious right.  Past speakers included Mike Huckabee, who is vigorously defending Todd Akin on his broadcasts these days, as well as Rick Santorum, guys whose New Testament Biblical  affiliation ranges across  the entire social landscape.

Now coming to dinner is Sen. John Thune, the South Dakota senator, known as a professed evangelical Christian (with a Canadian mother) and graduate of Biola University  near Los Angeles. The school,  Biola boasts,  that has all Christian students.  It's doubtful that Arshinkoff has ever heard of Biola, so Thune was probably hand--picked by one  of his party's candidates for sainthood.

In his letter, Arshinkoff goes all out with  his superlatives, saying that Thune is "one of the Republican Party's most dynamic and engaging leaders...a solid no-holds-barred conservative".  It wasn't that long ago that  a Republican leader in a Democratic town would rather boast of candidates  whose fathers were rubberworkers.

I know.  Times change, so the Republican brand hereabouts is less discreet about its acquired faith.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Husted, Blackwell: Doubling down on 'voter fraud'

Secretary of State Jon Husted will find an audience that will believe him when he appears  at the True the Vote and Ohio Voter Protection summit conference on Saturday in Worthington, Oh.  The mission will be to "discuss election integrity  within the  state," the sponsors say.  And to reassure eveyone that the event will stay on message Husted will join former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell as one of the conferees.

Well, now.   We all know that nobody screwed up the election process more than Blackwell in 2004, from lack of voting machines to challenging the weight of the paper ballots.  I doubt that Husted will want to write home about his noble role at the meeting, particularly now that he is being challenged to show that his new restricted hours policy for early voters is bearing heavily on black voters.  .

Among other speakers will be Anita MonCrief, identified as"ACORN Whistleblower and publisher of something called ''Emerging Corruption'" and a few other self-important defenders of the ballot - as they know it - even though they will have an enduring reputation as elephants in the chicken coop.

Catherine Engelbrecht, the founder and president of True the Vote,  reassuringly tells us that that one must "make sure that every vote is counted," She says she's excited that  the panel of speakers  "will provide us with thoughts about the challenges related  to voter fraud in Ohio". Isn't that  how Dubya used to warn us about all those non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

 By the way, reporters  can't crash this love-in unless they  have, it says here, media credentials and  "photo ID".   It's a start.

PS:  My column on the anemia of the Republican Party  with candidates like Josh Mandel and Todd Akin has been posted with a (few words about the Summit County GOP) on Plunderbund.Com.

Will the bells toll for the GOP revelers?

It was good to see that Ohio will get some attention at the Republican Convention, even if it's for all of the wrong reasons.  On Tuesday night,  Gov. Kasich will be wedged into the program to speak on  something that might be called, "How to succeed in business - no matter what Barack tells you." It's been one of "Myth" Romney's theme songs to satisfy  his uber-capitalist base  even if he was born with a big silver spoon in his crib.

It matters not to him that his quest for the Oval Office is being heavily financed by  some of America's richest right-wing escorts, without whom he would be a footnote to presidential history.

Meantime, we can only hope that Kasich won't rely on his previous word for Californians as "wackadoodles" even though many of that state's delegates probably are.

Until then, we turn to John Donne, the oft-quoted English poet, lawyer and clergyman, for inspiration  in hopes that somebody down in Orlando will  repeat it to the "we built it"  GOP revelers:

Here, in full and not out of context, are the words of John Donne:

No man is an island
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent.
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea.
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine  friend's were .
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

The PD: Now aware of week-end early voters

It is always rewarding to note that my friends who write for editorial pages can increase their level of awareness of a problem within a matter of four days.  That seems to be the case at the Plain Dealer in the Husted Hustle to eliminate week- end early voting.  On Saturday , the PD said "Husted's decree is acceptable"  even though a "weekend  or two"  of of early voting would be "preferable."

Preferable, but not terribly necessary?

But on Wednesday,  it returned to the scene of the crime to report editorially that there is "considerable evidence - notably by a study by the Franklin County Board of Elections - that in-person early voting during evening and week-end hours is especially popular among black voters."

Oh?  The PD  needed a study to convince it of something most folks have known for a long time?

The remedy for Secretary of State Jon Husted's half-a-loaf decree (uniform weekday hours but no week-end hours to accommodate early voters)?

From the PD came this idea for Husted on Wednesday:  "consider adding at least one week-end day for early voting".

Thank goodness for that Franklin County study , or some papers would have never known!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Phyllis Diller, or how I gave up gin for life

If I may:

The passing of Phyllis Diller recalled a moment  that produced the biggest headache that I've ever suffered.  Not that she  cared when I told her about it later in a note.  She doubtless responded with her shrieking guffaw, which was her patented version of how people should laugh.  

As a movie and theater critic for a Columbus newspaper, I was invited to a mid-morning interview in the comedienne's hotel room.  She greeted me at the door in a lumpy housecoat, floppy slippers and  a batch of blonde hair in curlers. "Fang," she said of her husband, "is still in bed, so I'll have to do." (That laugh again.)

Once both of us had sat down, she reached for the telephone to call the front desk. It went something like this:
"Hi, this is Phyl...Right. Phyl....Fang's wife.... I'd like to order a pitcher of martinis....Right.  A pitcher!  Don't you have any pitchers in this place? " (That laugh again.)
I'm thinking, what's this all about?   Good Lord. It's 10:30 a.m. when sane people drink coffee.  Besides I was nothing more than a social drinker.   She turns to me and says, "Where were we?", as if I knew.

The martinis arrive.  She pours a glass for each of us,  and the disconnected interview begins. Sort of.

She fills up a glass again and we talk.   I struggle through a third one, but who was counting?  Mercifully, the pitcher is  finally  empty.  I try to conclude the interview.  She kills me with laughter and wild anecdotes, like the one about how the New York City police tried to arrest  her  because her dog defecated on a Manhattan sidewalk.  "They finally let me go when I explained that my dog wouldn't do something like that. It was me!" (That horrific laugh again.)

The headache began when I returned to the office.  It got worse that evening.  The next day the pounding continued.  Finally, on the following day, after heavy doses of aspirin, it calmed down.

I have never tasted gin again. But the memories of this extraordinarly funny woman remain. With a world so somber, people   like her should never die.

P.S.Weeks later she sent me a card with a lot of happy faces and said how much she enjoyed the interview. Ha, ha.)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Ryanakin, that's one way of putting it

I had planned to start the  the coverage of the GOP convention by offering Mitt  the edgy new name for Paul Ryan - Ryanoceros.  But since evidence grows regarding his long-standing relationship with Todd Akin's abortion views,  I think I now prefer Ryanakin, which is catchy even if it's stupid.   But if you consider the two guys it represents, who can honestly say that stupidity isn't involved here?

Scarborough: The GOP is "incredibly stupid"

Morning TV host Joe Scarborough, the former Republican congressman from Florida, is incensed by Todd Akin's "ligitimate rape" comments and complained that he's weary  of his party being called "incredibly stupid."

Lay off, Joe.  That's my line, all the way down to the county level.

But thanks for trying.

For America's cash cows, the ticket is a bargain

With America's fattest cash cows pouring money into Mitt Romney's campaign, the addition of Paul Ryan to his ticket seems irrelevant at this point.  In fact, it's shaping up as one of those popular retail BOGO promotions.  You know,  Buy one, get one free.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Legitimate rape, Akin's moronic non-sequitur

Problem solved.

When Rep. Todd Akin ,  the Missouri Republican authority on something he called "legitimate rape,"  he  turned his senate race against Democratic incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill upside down and inside out.  To the hysterical boos from the clubhouse of his terrified GOP brethren for his rock-headedness, he retreated to his cave to declare that he "misspoke."

Listen up:  If I referred to my sister-in-law as Patricia instead of Mary, I misspoke in a senior moment.

If I innocently told a visitor to turn right and not left at the next traffic light, I misspoke.

If I told someone that palm trees couldn't possibly grow in Ireland, I misspoke.

But in Akin's case, he went and  and on about the "legitimate rape" fantasy.

In a TV interview, the Republican nominee said it was rare for women who have been legitimately raped to get pregnant.
"From what I understand from doctors, that's really rare," he said.  'If it's a legitimate rape the female body has ways to shut the whole thing down. But let's assume maybe that didn't work or something.  I think there should be punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist."
There was enough comment there to indicate he really believed what he was saying when he said it.  He's the full Right-to-Life and Tea Party package, who  didn't back off from their  support of the six-term congressman.

I heard he was back on the Mike Huckabee show. Back in the Republican primary, Preacher Mike described Akin as a "courageous conservative" and "Bible-based Christian".

Meantime, I still haven't figured out the legitimacy of rape.  Folks, take care.    The swamp on the right is spreading.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A satisfied media accepts the Husted Hustle

They had me going for a moment. The vigilant Ohio urban newspapers, I mean. When Secretary of State Jon Husted delivered his mandate that all voting hours should be uniform, who besides cynical pests like me  could challenge the political correctness of the Husted Hustle?

The Plain Dealer's editorial follow-up to his ruling concluded  that the decree was, um,  "acceptable".  After all, it said, "What Husted has ordered may not completely satisfy anyone, but  it at least  treats everyone equally." Of course.

That's after it opined that it would have been "preferable " if Husted had "included a week end or two" for early voters."  Shucks, he didn't.  And isn't that at the  heart of the problem?

Not fully dismayed, the PD's closing argument meekly ended: "Imperfect though it may be,  this solution will suffice."  Imperfect?

Down in Columbus, the Dispatch's editorial declared: "Vote for fairness".  The paper didn't waste time in sharing its satisfied view, beginning the editorial with...

"Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has struck a fair compromise by standardizing  early-voting hours throughout the state." Whoopee! Compromise!  Who could complain?

Meantime, the Beacon Journal conceded that the ruling "has not pleased everyone and even recalled that in 2008 the early voting proceeded "smoothly."  However, it  said Husted has "leveled the field for early voting hours."

What the editorial writers  didn't level about was the ugly  source of this year's election scandal.   None of the papers bothered to mention  that the Republicans had set out early to suppress minority voters.  African-Americans,  in particular.  And they slyly confiscated a  system that worked four years ago and found an "acceptable" way to fix it to increase their party's chances against President Obama.    'Tis a fact that was buried in much of the latest round of editorial page coverage, where outrage was replaced with studious defenses of a political plot that can't be remedied by uniform voting hours.

But wait!

Over the week end Plunderbund, ThinkProgress and other sources reported more evidence that the GOP mission all along was to shrink the black vote.

That word came not from those awful libs  but from  Doug Preisse, the Franklin County Republican chairman and member of the board of elections.    In an email to the Dispatch, he conceded:

"I guess I really actually feel we shouldn't contort the voting process to accommodate the urban - read African-American - voter turnout machine.  Let's be fair and reasonable."


This is the same perp who, according to the Dispatch, said claims of unfairness were "bullshit. Quote me."

In fairness,  I will.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Did Wilde have Willard in mind?

MITT ROMNEY'S mannered style of slipping out of his biographical noose apparently will be with us until Election Day.  Whether it be his braided for-and-against positions on health care, abortion, taxes and various other twists dating back to his days at Bain Capital and as Massachusetts governor, Mitt insists that we join him in denial of his critics as well as the actual accounts of his rise to be the face of Republican politics.  But we prefer what  Oscar Wilde once wrote about folks like Romney:  
"No man is rich enough to buy back his past."
Not in Wilde's day.  Not now.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Husted Hustle: All's fair in Ohio voting hours

To anyone who might still be wondering about Secretary of State Jon Husted's  decision to make voting hours uniform throughout the 88 counties, I have  a simple explanation to help you clear away the debris.   It's called the Husted Hustle, a move  that allows him to claim fairness to all voters but effectively helps only his Republican Party.

The losers:  the big urban counties that wanted extended early voting hours, including the week end before the election.  They merely called for repeating past voting practices.   That gave relief to minority voters, the elderly  and people who couldn't get away from their jobs before the polls closed.

The winners:  All of the Republican rural counties with much smaller populations who can live very well with the excised hours.

The Husted Hustle began with other Republican complaints -  voter fraud that called for instant remedies.  When the fraud couldn't be shown, the GOP perps stopped mentioning it and turned  to other supposed threats to democracy, some of which can safely be called voter suppression to elect Mitt Romney.  Some loose-lipped Republicans are now conceding as much.

So where's the fairness?  That's what the Husted Hustle is supposed to morph into.

No one will be more delighted by the outcome (if it works) than Summit County  Republican Chairman Alex Arshinkoff, who peeled off a cool $150,000 from his county party's treasury to help Husted win the state job in 2010.  Happiness loves company.  So does misery.

PS:  You might be interested in my column on re the Republicans attempt to score big points in Northern Ohio.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

In Santorum visit, the thrill is gone

The old house across Market Street from the Tangier Restaurant was still sprouting one of  those 1950s rooftop TV antennas.  A few paces away a low-slung building was separated from the world by closed venetian blinds.  Its lettered message above the door  told of the availability of pinballs, pool tables, juke boxes and other once-wildly-popular diversions, although it wasn't immediately clear that the place was still open for business.  To one side facing the street rose a large sign promoting the 65th annual Italian-American Festival, July 13-July 15,  This was Aug. 15.

The Tangier marquee bore a welcome by "Romney-Ryan, Oh., for Senator R. Santorum.'"  But like the scene across the street,  there was an equally strong sense of yesterday  as the small crowd awaited the arrival of their honored guest in a room just off the lobby.    It was on Feb. 19 that Santorum, the darling of the Buckeye Tea Party, drew 1,350 well-wishers to the Summit County  Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner.  His supporters shunned Mitt Romney by anticipating a big Santorum sweep in Ohio.  As Bryan C. Williams, a veteran factotum in the local GOP and Tea Party admirer, put it, the event would "kind of cement his front-runner status in Ohio."  Besides, Ohio Atty. Gen. Mike DeWine had astonished many of his party's brethren by abandoning Romney's ship to endorse the former Pennsylvania senator.

But as anyone who has aspired to political greatness knows, you must first win the front-runner election, which didn't come close to happening, even as Santorum barked that Mitt was the "worst Republican" his party could nominate.

He didn't repeat that harsh assessment at the Tangier muted pep session.  He was even less demonstrative as he peered out at a standing audience of no more than 75 (!) listeners that included at  least a dozen dutiful local candidates who are never more than a phone call away from one of these events, reporters and Obama's own monitors.   Explaining that county GOP chairman Alex Arshinkoff would not be available (he was ailing), Williams worked to keep the program moving by introducing each local  with the party's trademark musical bump by a small  outfit that managed Stars and Stripes Forever with a guitar, electronic piano and drums, if you can imagine that.

Santorum revived his speeches from the primary season to a courteous group,  many wearing
Romney lapel stickers.   But he was less than connective as he assailed Obama as a lawbreaker, a warrior on religion  (got that, Catholics?) , and a divisive character who was in the game simply to collect votes.  "You have a right," he said, in his insistence on pulpiteering, "to live your faith out."  But his biggest applause line was his promise that the  Romney-Ryan campaign would go after the media. It's a standby promise, but it usually works with the right crowd.
On the whole he did seem less energized than the time he stood up  before the Lincoln Day dinner crowd.   But he had so many more listeners in February and considered himself the frontrunner.  Today he will merely be the supernumerary on the Romney-Ryan Comeback America Team.

Losers tend to draw much smaller crowds. And, likewise,  that Italian-American festival is history.


A great cartoon worth ten thousand Tea Partyers

This cartoon is a classic microcosm of the Tea Party's influence on the  Republicans' presidential campaign.  It is by Clay Bennett, the Pulitizer Prize-winning cartoonist of the Chattanooga  Times Free Press and titled "The Republican Revolt".   It also is a profile in courage for a newspaper operating in the heart of Civil War country where the tourist attractions are Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain.  If you scan the on-line responses to his work, you will quickly sense the right-wing   disdain for his work , though I doubt Bennett much cares.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Solving gun violence by 'thoughtful consideration'

One of the unheralded benefits of presidential campaigns is that they occasionally provide  solutions to some of America's most troubling problems. I will mention just one, Mitt Romney's courageous response to the  recent multiple shooting sprees  that have claimed so many victims.  But when Mitt turned up at a press conference in Florida after another bloodbath  in College Park, Tex., he proved to be a presidential candidate ready to lead us out of Plato's cave.

Stricter gun control laws?  Naw, that won't do.  Then what do you suggest, Mitt?  Let him explain:
"This raises once again the question of what can be done to help prevent events like this from occurring.  I guess I'm not referring to any particular legislation.  I'm just saying this is  something that needs to make thoughtful consideration."
After thoughtful consideration, we decided to haul out the Grumpy Abe Linguistic Lunacy (GALL) Award, which might make him a multiple recipient over the past year.

Another Romney moment for the grandchildren's scrapbook

Couldn't resist this slice of life from the Romney annals.  It's Romeo and, um, Jezebel in a most friendly moment, although I'm not sure that she is  entirely swept up by Mitt's  fixed smile. (In case you are wondering, she is the Arizona governor who used another close-up photo to point an accusatory finger at President Obama upon his airport arrival.)

Ryan now included in Limbaugh family

It was left to Rush Limbaugh to define Paul Ryan in the most succinct manner that matched Socrates' ''Know Thyself" for pithy brevity.  Exclaimed a delirious Rushbo of Ryan:

                                                        "HE'S US!" in them and us?  The campaign has been headed in that direction for a long time. At least we now have the authoritative word from  Rush


Monday, August 13, 2012

What can I do? Reince is back

 Oh, I see how it works.  Now that Mitt has chosen Paul Ryan to be his hood ornament,  he can rely on Reince Priebus to be his torpedo.  I really hate to keep bringing up Reince, but he is the unpleasant chairman of the Republican National Committee and it appears that he will be ready on a moment's notice to point to new evidence of evil  in the Obama camp.

Priebus is the guy who referred to Senate Majority leader Harry Reid as a "dirty liar" - the sort of reference you might hear in a schoolyard or a gangster movie.  And Sunday  on Meet the Press he described the President as a felon who  "stole $700 from Medicare to fund Obamacare."

But the stealing part has been quickly consigned to the trash bin  by the non-partisan Politifact, which said  the  money didn't  come out of the current budget, "they are not actual cuts, and nowhere does the bill  actually eliminate any curernt benefits."

But, folks, it could have been worse.  Priebus could have accused Obama of being a survivor of Jonestown who managed to escape  by swinging from tree to tree.

Or that he was born in  Saul Alinsky's basement  while   Harry Caray led a noisy Cubs crowd in "Take me out to the ballgame"  during the seventh inning stretch.

Or that Obama's long rap sheet said he was arrested  on Chicago's South Side for attempting to  sell a used (!) condom  to a priest,

Or that the number on his Visa card is 666 - the Biblical reference to Satan.

But it's still August, and with Priebus, anything is shamefully possible.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

It takes a career pol to know one

Meanwhile, back at the  farm now that we all know it's Paul Ryan:

We are amused by all of those Josh Mandel TV ads accusing Sen. Sherrod Brown of being a "career politician".

Career politician?  Look who's talking.   At the whiz kid age of 34, Mandel has already managed a succession  of political jobs as (1) Lyndhurst City Councilman (2) Ohio state representative and (3) currently, Ohio Treasurer.  Given his urge for higher and higher offices,  he may run out of available new rungs on his political ladder by the age of 40.  Either that, or his financiers will run out of campaign money.

It wouldn't at all be an exaggeration to note that Josh has  already made a career of his career.

Mitt's game change doesn't change very much

Well, at least Mitt didn't land on the battleship Wisconsin in flight gear to announce his Mission Accomplished. His political histrionics also began with another  "game change"  with him announcing, and later correcting, Paul Ryan as the "next president of the United States."

With Mitt Romney, you never know.

As I watched Act One of the media cliff-hanger finally played out, I must admit that it all gave me a sense of Yogi Berra's "deje vu all over again".  As some of the pundits  quickly defined  Romney's  choice as the means to ignite his skeptical conservative base - why must conservatives always have to be ignited? -  I recalled the moment from the 2008 GOP presidential convention in which Sarah Palin bounded  onto the stage  to be introduced as John McCain's exciting runningmate.  There was a lot of talk at that time that this firebrand from Alaska or somewhere could be counted on to invigorate McCain's languishing campaign.  Some of the white guys in the the convention crowd showed up wearing buttons teling us that Sarah was "hot".

That, too, was to be the "game changer'", which ultimately led to a not-so-flattering  book and movie.  The irony of it was that it in fact changed Palin's  game of rising  celebrity to that of a slighted  - if wealthier -  bystander in today's political crowd.

Ryan, the right-wing "blue collar" Wisconsin congressman, has a long paper trail that will be fully vetted in neighborhoods  across America by November..  For now, we're content to  conclude that  McMitt Romney has been handed a partner by the hard right, succumbing to, say, William Kristol, the Koch Brothers, Karl Rove,  Wall Street Journal and Tea Party gurus.

You have to wonder.  Haven't the currents polls been telling us that independent voters are giving President Obama a wider edge over Romney?  They have.  But when you've become a captive of a well-nourished radically ideological base, this isn't really isn't something that worries him.

One of these days I may be forced to take Paul Ryan's advice and read Ayn Rand.

Friday, August 10, 2012

When pandering, politics becomes a religion

We thought Mitt Romney might take a little time off from his pandering  to the faithful after his dash through Israel to convince Jews that he's really one of their guys.  But now he has found a new quarry -  Catholics - in his latest campaign TV ad featuring the words and picture of the late Pope John Paul II counseling former Polish President Lech Walesa to "be not afraid".

In case you aren't up on modern Polish history Walesa was a shipyard labor organizer who faced up to the Soviet Union with a  trade union force  called Solidarity. It  won him a Nobel Prize.

Trouble is,  Romney has shown little  use  for American unions and even endorsed Senate Bill 5 in Ohio, which would have restricted  unions.  But somebody must have informed him that a lot of Poles live in the Buckeye State  and could come in handy on Election Day.

It's uncertain where Romney will turn next in compartmentalizing various faiths.  He's got a lock on the Mormons.  There remain Zoroastrians, Buddhists,  Baha'is, and maybe some storefront cults,  to name a few untapped resources.

Not to question a candidate's reach for friendly believers, but it might be fairly asked why Mitt, a most secretive and skittish sort,  has ignored Pope John Paul's advice to the Polish union leader to "be not afraid".

(P.S.My column on the confusion that has overtaken northern Ohio redistricted voters has been posted on 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Word game of guilt by association.

Although word association tests are not within my comfort zone, they might be just what the political doctor ordered for Grumpy Abe on a balmy August afternoon.  So here is my effort of pregnant associations , which could be augmented if you are one to enjoy word games (my life story!):

Mitt Romney:  Stuff, a neutral non-commital word which is what he said he bought at a hardware store.  (It is also a word that  a friend once complained of having "too much of" in his house).

Newt Gingrich: Food stamps, which Newt accused President Obama of being the biggest provider ever.

Josh Mandel:  Money. No need to elaborate.

Rush Limbaugh: Slut, as in...

The Rev. Pat Robertson:  Godless, describing everyone who isn't on his page.

Sheldon Adelson: Israel, one of the few areas where he and Robertson agree.

Rupert Murdoch: Power, as in "fair and balanced is not what you think"

Gov. Kasich:  Idiot, his  reference to a cop that arrested him for a traffic violation.

Koch Brothers:  Uber wealth,  like Doublemint gum,  Romney's  right-wing "double your treasure" guys.

Sarah Palin:  Front porch, which is where her esoteric worldly vision begins.

Josh Mandel: Money.  Oops.  Already said that.  Still, worth repeating, don't you think?


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Priebus heading for Comedy Central?

When Reince Priebus, the nutsy Republican National chairman referred to Democratic Senate Majority leader Harry Reid as a "dirty liar",  it sent us back to the days of the silver screen when a lot of  of folks  were being scripted to use a negative adjective to describe  a negative noun.

For instance, there were tough guy Jimmy Cagney  hissing that somebody was a "dirty rat" and hoodlums  referring to other unpleasant people as "dirty doublecrossers".  Like that.  It simply wasn't enough to be a rat or a doubecrosser. Nor a liar.  You had to be dirty, too.

But because Priebus is unforgivably  stupid, he tried to explain to George Stephanopoulos that he "wouldn't go down that road" of talking about Reid because he didn't want to "respond to a dirty liar".  How good of this man , who has said  before that he doesn't want to engage in name-calling. A puzzled
Stephanopoulos failed to get Priebus to clarify this contradiction.

This is hardly the first time that the RNC boss has demonstrated exuberant nonsense.  A few days ago, he accused President Obama of purposely reviving Rev. Wright as a campaign piece  to distract voters from Obama's other failures.  Or he likened a "war on caterpillars'' to critics accusing  Republicans of a "war on women".

And he defended Rep. Allen West, the noisy right-winger  from Florida who accused Obama of wanting folks to be slaves so they could be dependent on government.  Oh, and West's turn   to McCarthyism to declare there were 80  communists in Congress.

"Allen West," Priebus asserted, "is an important member of Congress from South Florida.  I'm not going to throw Allen West in a ditch".

He won't have to.  West is already there. But we don't know where Reince is these days.  Republicans, you have a problem.

Proud Buckeyes, Kasich is Plain Dealer's "rising star"

In our ceaseless effort to bring you all of the significant news that will enable you to cope with Planet Politics, we will direct you to today's Plain Dealer. It is there that our governor Kasich was described as a "rising star" in the Republican scheme of things.  Rising star?  Yep.  You can't make this up.

The Kasich-friendly  paper was all aglow because as the big headline on its Metro page boomed:
Kasich to be  featured speaker at the Republican convention
As one who left the hall to find some trivial news at too many conventions to avoid the drone of puffed-up featured speakers, let me tell you that unless you are the nominee, your chances of being heard on the floor diminish  according to  name, rank and the hour on the East Coast.

Of course, if Kasich looks at the California delegation and calls them "wackadoodles,"  a reference in his State of the State speech,  it could get interesting. Even more so if he mentions his support of the anti-union Senate Bill 5, now deceased.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Is he really Izod Windsock for president?

I've concluded that Willard Mitt Romney  is not the candidate's real name.  He was born Izod Windsock on Rarotonga  in the Cook Islands and showed such brilliance as an infant  that his  parents decided he would someday run for president as Willard Mitt Romney, a serviceable Anglo-
Saxon name inspired by Washington's plush Willard Hotel that Nathanial Hawthorne  referred to as the "center of Washington".  Lincoln liked the place, too,  which couldn't hurt.

It's  also true that Izod Windsock is such an absurd name that it might confuse those who couldn't remember whether Izod was his given name or surname in the heat of a nominating convention when some of the delegates had yet to sober up from the night before.  And it would be nothing less than a blistering talking point for Rush Limbaugh (nee Limbot) who reminded his listeners that Izod was not only a trade name but also the 19th Century  leader of an African terrorist group.

Some historians  today suggest that as Willard  was growing into puberty, he became very protective  of his words against playground bullies who taunted him for repeatedly reversing his place on a seesaw.  But it wasn't  until he ran for class president that  his opponents began questioning the birth certificate provided by his parents , particularly after Donald Trump Sr. had insisted that his probers  had discovered that Mitt's parents were actually named Wendy and  Winston Windsock (of the Rarotonga Windsocks) according to the old Rarotonga media files.

By now I know what you are thinking, that all of the above  is very silly.  I  couldn't agree more.  But you must remember that I am referring to Izod Windsock, the Republican candidate for president.  As candidates go, you can't get much sillier than that, can you?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

There's an upside to seeing double in Falls

I know.  We offered this photo yesterday of Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don Robart in a celebratory mood  and wondered (wrongly)  whether he was rejoicing over a half-million Federal grant to hire more firemen.

But today, the Beacon Journal is reporting that the Falls has received a new $1.135 million  grant from the Federal Highway Administration that opens the vault for a  a long-delayed State Road project.

As you know, the Tea Party embracing Republican mayor ("the fiscal and moral conscience of America,"'  he once greeted them) has not  had anything good to say about Federal spending and budget deficits and all, and here his town is with all that money arriving from Uncle Sam.

I know, again.  It will be argued that the project has been delayed for six years so the Falls has waited long enough to take a bite out of the Federal treasury.

Still, I wouldn't be surprised that the mayor is in Romney's quiet room (where Mitt believes only politically sensitive things  should be considered)  and happily humming the old Bill Monroe Bluegrass favorite, "Roll on,  Buddy....Roll on."  

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Robart's photo: No, not what I first thought!

I hope you happened to see this photo in today's Beacon Journal capturing a triumphal Mayor Don Robart of Cuyahoga Falls with upraised arms  like a quarterback celebrating a a game-winning touchdown pass.

What, Dear Reader, could that be all about as he looked own  on his witnesses from a scissors hoist (crane?)?

Had this conservative Republican critic of Federal spending just received another half-million-dollar check from Uncle Sam to hire more firemen?

Was he announcing a new contract with Chick-fil-A to move its headquarters to Portage Crossing?

Had he been named the Mayor of the Year by the Tea Party for his rousing welcome to their members earlier this year  at the Riverfront Centre Mall?

Had he won a bet and tossed his buddy Summit County Republican Chairman Alex Arshinkoff into the Natatorium pool as a fund-raiser for his next campaign?

Or was the mayor thinking about his success in blocking a Natatorium  family rate for a wounded Iraqi veteran in a same-sex marriage?

Or had he just heard assurances from Mitt Romney that mayors are people, too,  even if the GOP candidate had once insisted that we don't need  more firemen.

Alas, none of that.  The mayor was lighting  the Municipal Flame heralding the opening of the Falls' Bicentennial Celebration.

For  progress at City Hall,  where the mayor has been known as a quasi-Olympian himself for his marathon  jogging,  the human side will have to wait.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Whatever turns a killer on...

Columbia Journalism Review, one of  the few remaining guardians of lucid journalism, offers this headline from the The Messenger, of Athens, Oh:
Police:  Dismembered woman lived with killer

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Yes, bipartisanship created the Cuyahoga Valley National Park

REP. STEVE LATOURETTE'S decision to not seek reelection was a reminder of an earlier day  when non-partisan cooperation created one of Northern  Ohio's prized public amenities - now called the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  It's a stretch of pristine beauty reaching border to border from Akron to Cleveland that is drawing more than 3 million visitors each year.

LaTourette indicated he was fed up with the stalemate in Congress,  much of it generated by the arrival of the Tea Party hordes that descended on Capitol Hill from the  2010 elections.But there was a time when good things could come our way from a collegial attempt to serve the public good.  So it was in December 1974 when the federal parkland was set aside by Congress and signed into law by President Ford.

Even then, it was a close call - but it did end on a positive note.(Yes, it can happen!)   The three Northern Ohio congressmen who sought the protected acreage were John Seiberling of Akron, a liberal Democrat, and Ralph Regula, a centrist Republican from Navarre in Stark County.  They got a helping hand from another Democratic representative, Charles Vanik of Cleveland.

But as it began to appear that resistance was growing in Congress that would allow the law to die without Ford's signature, 11th hour calls were exchanged among the congressmen, Sens. Robert A. Taft (R)  and Howard Metzenbaum (D that led to a clinching call from Akron's Ray Bliss , the former Republican chairman,  to Ford, who was vacationing in Vail, Col., over the Christmas holiday.  "Get it done," Bliss told the president, or you'll lose the election in 1976. Pure political pragmatism. the sort of influence that made Bliss a towering figure in his party with a lot of folks except Nixon.

It was a textbook example of how government can work for the common good.  Unfortunately, LaTourette doesn't think it is working now.  And we can understand why.

(For my dissection of the resulting political scramble  from LaTourette's impending departure, you might read my overview column in

At least one positive side to Romney's gaffes?

Growing up in the newspaper business I was occasionally reminded by some older pros that it was bad manners - ungentlemanly, really - to  criticize other members of the press.  Newspapers generally are not comfortable about negative references to their line of work, particularly self-reported negative references to their line of work

So I will qualify today's Grumpy Abe's wisdom by saying it is not intended to be criticism but rather  entry level reporting about views expressed by another columnist.

FACT:  Such conservative stalwarts as Karl Rove and  Charles Krauthammer were stunned by Road Scholar Mitt Romney's widely reported gaffes on his overseas trip.  Rove said Mitt blew it; Krauthammer found the Republican candidate's verbal behavior  "incomprehensible," "unbelievable" and "beyond human comprehension."

But in fairness, I should also tell you that at least one editorial board conservative columnist at the Plain Dealer lauded Romney and blamed  his image problems on the always suspect national media.

So here, without further comment, is the conclusion of Kevin O'Brien, while admitting that one of my bad habits, culturally speaking,  is to occasionally read from the bottom up:
"The national media can't get over Obama, so they'll never be your friends.
"Final scorecard:  "You [Romney] visited allies we've badly neglected these last three years, said things that made sense and offended people who don't like you, anyway.
"Good road trip."
Take that, libs  Krauthammer and Rove!