Tuesday, January 31, 2012

In the wake of the dump truck

SOME TRASH THAT fell off the truck while the Romney campaign was spending more than $15 million on ads in Florida:

  • As the GOP's national chairman Reince Priebus continues to wave off his TV comment comparing President Obama to the captain of the ill-fated Italian cruise ship, he effortlessly ascended to first place as the party's Public Idiot #1. Where do Republicans find these silly hit men , anyway?
  • Speaking of waving garbage off, Florida Republican Rep. Allen West insisted he was misunderstood when he shouted to an audience that President Obama, Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi should "get the hell out of America." I'm not sure what there is to misunderstand about those words. If you know, tell me.
  • Haven't we had a enough of the "class warfare" whining from the right? When a party has no class, how can there be warfare over it?

  • When McNewt assures us that he plans to stay in the race until the GOP convention, you have to admire his mad rush to oblivion. As the only talking walrus in captivity, he offers a fresh supply of nonsense everyday. Now that we have become conditioned to it, we will miss him on Doomsday. (A third party McNewt/Cain ticket?)

  • When Fox's Lou Dobbs says the economy is improving, it's improving, folks.

  • Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, whose crass confrontation with President Obama stretched beyond absurdity, has updated her finger-pointing stunt, writing on her home site: "I was telling him, You have ONE more year. The president needs to be reminded that he is the president of the FEDERAL REPUBLIC and not a KING lording over state governors." As you might expect, Brewer is seeking re-election in her troubled state and what better way to get a photo-op than to jam into the president's face? It's a little surprising that she didn't bring a nasty anti-Obama protestor sign to close the deal with the voters. Jeez!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Priebus's abysmal attack on Obama

SINCE REINCE PRIEBUS became the Republican National Chairman in January 2011, I've shied away from mentioning him because there was a very good chance that I would misspell his name. That was easy to do because the name has two versions of "ei" and who could remember which came first?

But now we have to recognize that he is as irrelevant as the GOP chairman as I would be. Indeed, you could say that he is a disgrace to a party that has expressed its hatred of President Obama in so many beastly ways. Priebus came out of obscurity to compare the president to Capt. Schettino, the miserable coward who was charged with manslaughter after he abandoned the tilted Italian cruise ship in which at least 16 people have died.

In an abysmal non-apologetic explanation, he believed the comparison was quite appropriate and talked of how Obama has abandoned the needs of the public to campaign for reelection. As he put it earlier on a CBS-TV Sunday morning program, "We're going talk about our own Little Captain Schettino, who is President Obama who's abandoning the ship here in the United States and is more interested in campaigning than doing his job as president."

Look out, Reince. If that's how you want to play the game, somebody might well refer to you as the new Goebbels of the Republican Party.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mandel: Does money-raising trump all else?

IT'S GOOD TO note that Josh Mandel is taking a break from his ubiquitous fund-raising to speak at that Akron Press Cub luncheon on March 1. Mandel, the rookie Ohio Treasurer who has decided he would rather be a U.S. Senator, had put off an earlier Press Club invitation with word that he was "too busy".

(Full disclosure: Although I had long been active as a Club officer and chaired the luncheon programs for too many years, I am no more than a garden variety member today with no official duties - NONE! For that, I and maybe a few of the members today are quite satisfied.)

Now, back to our state treasurer pro tem, and probably longer. So far as I can tell, his greatest strength is raising campaign money, wherever it might raise its ugly head.

To this point, the Associated Press recently noted that one of Mandel's responsibilities as treasurer is to preside as chairman over the Ohio Board of Deposit, the group that decides where to deposit state money. Hold it right there.

The AP reported that Mandel has yet to attend a single meeting, earning him the claim to be the first treasurer in Ohio history to ignore his role on the board. Moreover, he missed the last meeting because he was fund-raising in Washington. Obviously we can't count him to be a multi-tasker.

Well, to take a little of the edge off his absence, he has boasted of high credit ratings for certain state portfolios. But as the Columbus prime blogger, Plunderbund, notes, the porfolios have always enjoyed such glowing ratings.

It does appear that Republican Mandel, who is challenging Sen. Sherrod Brown, the Democrat, will have loads to talk about at the Press Club. Do you think there's a chance that somebody will raise a question or two?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Romney joins Dems: Economy is getting better!

IF SOME REPUBLICANS worry about McMitt Romney's unedited campaign-speak when he isn't constrained by a debate, here's another example of the sort of stuff that has Democratic strategists reaching for their notebooks for future use:

Appearing on a Fox News interview with Laura Ingraham on a huge issue that Romney and others have used against President Obama, he opined that the economy is improving! Startled that a Republican presidential candidate would go so positive, Ingraham asked him if that's what he meant to say. Replied McMitt: "Of course, the economy is getting better."

Maybe he should stick to his talk about "self-deportation" and leave the economy to his script writers.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Plain Dealer: Punting out of trouble

FOR ANYONE wondering why the Plain Dealer's veteran Cleveland Browns writer, Tony Grossi, was yanked from the beat forevermore, Thom Fladung, the paper's managing editor, offered his explanation on a Cleveland radio show. Grossi, he said, had declared on Twitter that Browns owner Randy Lerner was a "pathetic figure" and the "most irrelevant billionaire in the world."

Grossi's remarks were intended to be private but they weren't shielded, to his later dismay. If he had used the same language describing Mitt Romney, give or take several million, he would have been spared his demotion. But pro football is very big business and despite the paper's denial that the Browns front office had called for the writer's put-down, surely Lerner had a lot to say about it through one channel or another.

It the Browns were at least competitive over the past decade or so, the editors might have been excused for telling Grossi to go to his room. Does anybody want to defend the owner's relevancy?

Oh, Fladung did concede that Grossi was indeed a "very good beat writer" but that his next assignment at the paper still hasn't been determined.

Fair warning to Grossi's successor.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Author Brewer: Photo-opping the president

OUR POLITICAL grandstanding award this week must go unchallenged to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who confronted President Obama as he deplaned in Phoenix. Within moments she was seen in profile pointing her finger at him in what appeared to be a severely aggressive mood until he turned away in the Republican governor's mid-sentence.

Oh, she has written a book titled Scorpions for Breakfast in which she was less than kind to Obama's immigration policy. So you could say it was a photo-op for her and it worked. Book sales reportedly shot up by 150,000 as the story made the rounds.

In an intellectual showdown between Obama and Brewer I'd be quick to bet on the President. But that's immaterial. Instead, rarely would you see such disrespect to an American president, whether it is Obama or any of his predecessors. Obviously such courtesy to the office has yet to reach the Arizona precincts.

Brewer did say that she found Obama threatening and "thin-skinned". OK, that might be a little less denigrating than, say, mentioning the color of his skin.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Callista: The first among equals?

FROM FIRST WIFE NANCY comes a presidential protocol question that I can't answer. She asks:

If Newt Gingrich is elected president, would Callista have the title of "First Lady"?

My view: The only way to resolve that touchy issue is to keep him out of the White House.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Jesus is coming to Summit County Lincoln Day dinner?

THE SUMMIT COUNTY Republican Party's steady drift to the party's wackiest right wing will be reinforced at its Lincoln Day Dinner on Feb. 18. It will be at that moment that Chairman Alex Arshinkoff will honor the presence of Rick Santorum as the $50 a plate dinner speaker. The former Pennsylvania senator, who was defeated by 18 points in 2006, is running for president at the moment and may or may not still be a candidate by dinnertime.

Debbie Walsh, the party's executive director, said she couldn't predict whether Santorum, who has strong theocratic tendencies, will still be in the race, "but we're optimistic."

Theocratic? Santorum referred to himself as Jesus recently in explaining why he is in the race. And you thought I was trying to be cute about this! I can't make this up.

Santorum has said a lot of other things that the county's Republicans will doubtless hear about after dinner. He is fully against contraceptives; opposes abortion , even for rape victims; describes the fight against Islam as "onward Christian soldiers" ; expresses doubts about whether Mormons are Christians; opposes welfare programs that "make people's lives better;" and - you do have to wonder abut this guy - questions the need for food stamps when so many people who get them are already fat.

Had enough? So have I. But so there should be no question about my slant on the Lincoln Day dinner (Lincoln has nothing to do with it, folks ), it's not for me to tell Arshinkoff whom to invite to the event. It's his party, lock, stock and whatever, and he can invite Pope Benedict if it helps him sell more tickets.

I'm merely recording another chapter in the once moderate county party led by the late Ray Bliss. Trending? Recent speakers have been Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, one of the speakers at Monday's March for Life, and Mike Huckabee, a former preacher and sworn enemy of Biblical impurity.

Yeah. I think theocratic is right.

What the hell is self-deportation?

THERE ARE SAID to be 600,000 words in the English language. Today, there are 600,001, with Mitt Romney's addition of "self-deportation." That's how he chose to solve the problem of illegal immigrants. They must deport themselves.

Well, anything goes in politics, I guess, but I'm not sure how self-deporting works, or even can work. Totally unexplored ground in immigration policy until last night. Does deportation have some legal force behind it that can't be assumed by any individual who simply wants to go home? For the time being, I prefer the frustration of a person who commented on a national blog: Will Mitt next propose that we have self-detention centers?

Meanwhile, rising once again from the shambles of the presidential contenders, Newt Gingrich insists he will no longer debate if the audience can't participate. (It was asked to remain courteously quiet before Monday's debate.) Translation: He wants his very own cheering section for his golden utterances from the stage. How daring of him!

The voice of a homeless Republican

A RECENT ISSUE of The Chronicle Review of Higher Education has a poignant glimpse of a shattered life on the homeless front. It was written in 2007 by a 53-year-old Houston man, Brian Lohse, and first appeared in a book Hard Ground by Michael O'Brien and Tom Waits. It says so much about today's human and political landscape that it demands a broader audience.

So here are the words of Brian Lohse:
"I'm formerly a Republican. Back in 1996 in Houston, Texas, I was sleeping in the field looking at the high-rise apartment that I used to live in. I couldn't believe that a few years earlier I had a nice apartment, I was driving a new car, I had an American Express card, a line of credit at the bank. I ate at nice restaurants and wore designer clothes. But now I was sleeping in the fields, eating at soup kitchens, getting clothes with vouchers, and riding the Metro. It did not make sense to me.

"But my problem wasn't logical, it was spiritual. I didn't think there was any such thing as a homeless Republican, but the Lord will get your attention one way or another."

Monday, January 23, 2012

A spectator's Horoscope for tonight's debate

AS A SPECIAL benefit to keep you well prepared for tonight's Republican debate, we offer, in part, the actual forecast from today's Jacqueline Bigar Horoscope:

Mitt Romney, Mar. 12, 1947, Pisces: Zero in on a problem by observing instead of asking questions. You could be surprised by what you find out. Also, note what is not being said. Your sunny manner can help take the edge off for now...

Rick Santorum, May 10, 1958, Taurus: All the possibilities that surround a project might overwhelm you. A new beginning becomes possible professionally, if you worry a little less. Keep smiling. Your insights are appreciated...

Newt Gingrich, June 17, 1943, Gemini: Reach out for someone at a distance. Your ability to zero in on an issue might not be as sharp as you would like. You could find that a relationship becomes far more touchy in the next few weeks...

Ron Paul, Aug. 20, 1935, Leo: Use caution with finances in the next few months. You easily could make an an error. Others seek you out, but they also want to have more control.. Let them have their way, and they will better understand the complexity of your responsibilities.

Sorry, Walter, but they're closing Rex's

A necessary report to my dear friend, the late Walter Mirapaul:

I'm sorry to have to tell you the awful news, Walter, that they're closing your old hunting grounds. Yep. Rex's Salvage will be history by mid-March. That's the word from Rex's owner, Recovery Management Corporation. What a loss! I know you would agree.

But RMC says it had no choice. You know, the economy. And something about the new ways of the trucking industry, of which I know little.

As a careful student of the wares that were available at Rex's, you might not be surprised by the news. In the past several months, you said more than once that the inventory was slipping. In your words, "It isn't as good as it used to be." (I assumed that was the reason that you drove me to Big Lots to buy a desk lamp.)

So we must be satisfied with the memories of the shopping visits over the years that could kill a couple of hours as you rooted through every bin at Rex's for truffles while insisting that a sport jacket at $10 was a fraction of its value. Or that the shampoo was a steal. Only someone who had memorized thousands of prices in stores around town could identify a steal from a mere bargain.

So I will cherish all the more the items that I bought for no particular reason when I tagged along to Rex's with you to honor your skills as a comparison shopper: Clocks, picture frames, DVD's, paper clips, the lonely bric-a-brac of truck salvage.

By the way, remember when I had cautioned you against buying an oriental rug at Rex's when you called my office. "How big is it," I asked. "BIG!" you said.

"What is its condition?" "It's rolled up. I can't tell."

I told you it would be wise to look at the whole rug before buying it.

You did, and I do remember what you said when you called back. "It had a hole in it. No deal."

But you did have a closet filled with the deals that ended up as multiple gifts at your annual Christmas Party. For that, we were all thankful. Particularly to Louise, who gave up so much of her time wrapping dozens of your hand-picked presents. Those were the days.

P.S. Another update: They never did reopen the Blue Fig restaurant where the gang met as your guests for your regular Saturday breakfasts. I noticed that it has been converted into a martial arts operation. So hard to imagine, I know. Does anything ever stay the same?

Take care....Abe

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Newt serves his own enchanted island

DURING THE COUNTDOWN OF the South Carolina Republican primary Saturday, we spent the entire afternoon at the Regal Theater in Montrose fully charmed by The Enchanted Island, transmitted live from the Met. The new opera is a fantasy that deftly combines the music of great Baroque composers - say, Vivaldi and Handel - with Shakespearean plot elements. It could have been a hi-tech mishmash of wafting mermaids and monstrously masked choristers intersecting the action of magical characters. Instead, it was a seamless aural and visual production with superlative voices that overcame any notion of cheap theatrical pageantry. What a day for this escapist!

With the island fantasy in mind, we checked into the Carolina vote at 7 to learn that, as forecast, Newt Gingrich, the slick-talking rabble-rouser, had carried the day without glorious asssistance from Vivaldi and Handel. We can hope that this, too, is a fantasy. No other presidential candidate from either party since the days of George Wallace is more of a threat to reasonably civilized political discourse. In fact, Gingrich is much better at his cleverly conceived game than the in-your-face racism of Wallace.

Gingrich, arrogantly - actually, snobbishly - lectures us with his prescription for a return to America's greatness reinforced by deep religious conviction - unlike secular Europe - with stops along the way to weave food stamps and unemployed ghetto kids into his dark libretto. Some of this may be shaped by his Deep South (Georgia) background. And it is effective with certain audiences. Two-thirds of the Republicans who went to the polls were Tea Partiers; 60 pct, born-again - and, my own figures, 100 pct. Obama-haters.

That raises a question: To those purists who cheer when Gingrich complains of an anti-religious bias in America, how can they apply their own Christian values to his tattered past? The man was forced out of the House of Representatives and paid a $300,0o0 fine for ethics violations; his exploits with wives are well-known, including the latest revelation by his second wife that he had asked for an open marriage. As an anti-governnment model, how can he justify raking in $1.6 million from Freddie Mac, a major government-insured culprit in the mortgage meltdown? And how could this hypocrite rise in the House to call for President Clinton's impeachment when he was engaged in his own cuddly affair?

The rap sheet is sordid. OK. It ain't a crime for a candidate to sound deranged at times.

Republicans, you have a problem.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Meet the New Newt: the explosive front-runner

WELL. the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse rode onto the stage for their final reunion Thursday night before the South Carolina primary. There were signs of battle fatigue and short tempers that didn't even consider a moment of silence for their newly fallen shock troop, Rick Perry, who decided life would be much more accommodating deep in the heart of Texas.

Still, performing before their Palmetto gallery in Charleston (close by Ft. Sumter, for what it's worth) Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum, seemed to agree on most things while making it appear that they didn't. Only Newt, my vision of Crazy Guggenheim, angrily exhumed an old enemy to enrapture the audience in the opening seconds: the media.

Of course, attacks on the mythical "liberal" media are nothing new. They are particularly effective when you have Gingrich's home-field advantage down south, where you can get away with posturing and pandering as the state's early celebrity pol, John C. Calhoun. Newt exploded with indignation at CNN moderator John King, accusing him and the network of despicable trash-talking by quoting Newt's ex-wife that he had asked for an open marriage. He steamed that the story was false. And the audience roared with approval. Great theater for the new South Carolina front-runner, according to the latest poll. But what can we really believe from a guy who wants to replace school janitors with kids and calls child labor laws "stupid."

As he has been doing, Romney found a way to respond to any question about Heaven, earth and the richest among us by insisting that all of the nation's problems can be traced to President Obama. He still didn't like the auto industry bailout, this on the day that the once-desperate General Motors boasted that it is now the leading carmaker. So if you get stuck in the snow this winter, spill your coffee on the carpet or step on your dog's tail, you know where the fault lies. Ready choir: Obama is the greatest impediment to progressive democracy.

You expect Obama's opponents to attack him as essential to the process. But for this gang of circuit riders, which relies on mythology by the minute, you have to wonder about the depth of their desperation. (Santorum: "Science is immoral".) I'll wait for the movie. It will be a riot. George Clooney as Mitt? Jack Nicholson as Newt?

Also... no...I can't go on. I just can't...

Part Two: A fun House divided

THEY'RE BACK FOR A NEW SEASON OF FUN-FILLED DEMOCRACY! (By the way, which one is Stephen Colbert?)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

By any other name $374,327.62 is a lot

MANY LINGUISTS agree that language is continually evolving, which is a relief. We'd sound silly walking around talking like Robert Burns' poetic ode to a mouse ("wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim'rous beastie").

The speed of modern communication has left us breathless in learning the evolved language of presidential politics. It wasn't that long ago the thoughtful pundits measured the candidates by something called "gravitas", which few people really understood other than to guess that if you had it, you were worthy of sitting in the White House. The word hasn't come up in the current mess of candidates, but others have evolved - "food stamp" president to replace "socialist" which replaced "Kenyan fugitive" which - well, you can see where this is going.

The biggest right turn in language evolution has now come from Mitt Romney, who shushes his critics by insisting that $374,327.62 is "Not Very Much". That's the operative figure for what he was paid in a single year for talks to friendly audiences. Besides questioning how sixty two cents were added to his fees, I imagine he belittled his take in contrast to Newt Gingrich, who shrugged off $1.6 million he was paid by Freddie Mac for "consulting". (Newt didn't mind the criticism at all as he headed back to Tiffany's.)

Still, I should warn you that "Not Very Much" only works in certain presidential venues as a substitute for "A Whole Lot". Keep that in mind when you ask for an estimate to repair a strange thlunk in your car's motor.

Barbour's final act of compassion

WHEN FORMER Mississippi Good 'Ol Boy governor Haley Barbour was asked to defend his pardon of 208 inmates before leaving office last week, he described his decision as an act of compassion to give the felons a "second chance."

"The pardons," the guv said, "were intended to allow them to find gainful employment or acquire professional licenses as well as hunt and vote." HUNT?

Barbour, once inserted on the A-list of possible Republican presidential candidates and a powerful force in the party, didn't anticipate the backlash from releasing eight inmates on the staff of the governor's mansion who were lifers for murder. The state's attorney general, Jim Hood, is considering a nationwide manhunt to retrieve the second-chance inmates who have vanished. Despite Barbour's best wishes, that may be the only hunting that will take place for awhile.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sullivan: Blistering Obama's critics

ANDREW SULLIVAN, the widely published author/blogger (Daily Beast), has opened a new front in this yakety political year by damning both ends of the ideological spectrum for failing to credit the successes of the Obama presidency. In a long cover story in the current Newsweek, Sullivan ventures deeply into the record of Obama'a first term, accusing his critics of being "simply - empirically - wrong."

That is not likely to win him a single style point from the folks - particularly Fox News and outraged right-wing blogs - who have been demonizing Obama since Adam and Eve. Nor will it earn him a prominent seat on the dais when he says,
"But given the enormity of what he inherited, and given what he explicitly promised, it remains simply a fact that Obama has delivered in a way that the unhinged right and purist left have yet to understand or absorb."
Sullivan, a self-described "conservative-minded independent," clearly believes Obama deserves a second term while at the same time conceding there have been days when the president ended up in Sullivan's doghouse. There have been moments when liberals like me (You didn't know?) shared the pain of seeing the White House stray from the page of what a progressive president ought to be doing.

It was, indeed, painful to see the Obama economic recovery plan include large loans to Wall Street, and bailout money to the auto industry which Bush delivered. Yet, as Sullivan asserts, , both initiatives succeeded, with much of the loans now returned to the U.S. Treasury. And where would the auto industry, now looking healthy again, have been without the bailout. Or for that matter, the hundreds of thousands workers up and down the line who would be unemployed today.

Sullivan notes that Obama's foreign policy has enjoyed the kinds of success that appeared out of reach - from Libya to the removal of Osama bin Laden - the latter of which Bush had earlier blithely written off as a bad debt.

At home, there was progress in recognizing the validity of gays in the military and other advances in equal rights.

Sullivan is happy to stress that "Under Obama, support for marriage equality and marijuana legalization has crested to record levels. Under Obama, a crucial state, New York, made marriage equality for gays an irreversible fact in American life."

The new health care reform law isn't everything that Obama wanted , but as Sullivan writes, the heavily assailed measure "crosses the Rubicon of universal access to private health care," noting that "making 44 million current free-riders pay into the system is not fiscally reckless; it is fiscally prudent. It is, dare I say it, conservative."

I long ago concluded that Obama, though exasperating at times, was a master chess player who had properly sized up his challenge by the vengeful Republican stonewallers and chose to take a more cautious and certainly more patient view of meeting his goals.

Perhaps Sullivan's most defining statement about the president is that to "understand Obama, you have to take the long view. Because he does."

The piece is timely, intruding on the series of Republican debates that have been geared for sausage lovers. Unless the GOP's level of discourse somehow rises from babbling inanities, the voter may reasonably ask: "Good grief! Is that all you've got?"

Monday, January 16, 2012

Operation outreach for Latinos - not

WELL, THE Republicans are up to their old war dance around the campfire by declaring they are seriously "reaching out" to Hispanics to help their man wallop President Obama in November.

The idea has been around for dcades in the GOP as they reached out to blacks and women to expand their base. It was common talk by local Republican leaders desperate to win an election here and there. And now I am reading that party's gurus (if here are any authentic ones left) are trying to cope with the towering problem of appealing to Latino immigrants while telling them all to go home - and take their undocumented kids with them. .

The conflict is so rigidly locked in the party's history that even some GOP dandies are saying that the assault on immigrants ought to be toned down. An AP report described the concern of New Mexico Republican Governor Susana Martinez, who wants her peers to "'watch their tongues" if they have any hope on luring Latino voters. At this stage of the harsh attacks on undocumented workers by these presidential candidates, she might just as well have suggested that they replace their genes.

Case in point: On the day the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King was being honored, Mitt Romney was hyperventilating on the campaign trail with his latest supporter, a guy named Kris Kobach. And why is that important to note? Kobach is known for his authorship of the Draconian anti-immigrant laws in Alabama and Arizona. Rising to his podium on Fox News, Kobach credited Romney for being much farther to the right on illegal immigrants than the other candidates.

As ThinkProgress notes, Kobach has a history of dumping on immigrants and was accused by his opponents in his losing campaign for congress in 2004 of "having ties with white supremacists."

It may be one more issue that Romney would prefer to discuss in a quiet room somewhere down the rabbit hole.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Gordon Gee and the Polish joke

YOU WOULD THINK that the highest paid public university president in America would know better than to crack a Polish joke before a live audience. But then, you don't know Gordon Gee, the Ohio State University president who is enriched by about $1.3 million annually to gracefully tend to the campus and not crack Polish jokes.

But as reported by the Associated Press, Gee told a Columbus audience that running a mega-university isn't as easy as you might think, even for a guy with his soaring skills. Let him explain:

"When we had these 18 colleges all kind of floating around [OSU], they were kind of like PT Boats, they were shooting each other. It was kind of like the Polish army or something. I have no idea what it was."

Sensing that he might have stepped into it, Gee breezily blew off his remark, saying: "Oh, never mind, who did I embarrass now....I'll have to raise money for Poland now."

He later apologized (always the escape hatch for an untoward moment). But it might be better if he spent a few minutes considering the cemetery at Monte Cassino, the burial site of more than a thousand Polish troops whose corps had bravely stormed the German army holdouts in the monastery atop Monte Cassino. It tells a different story.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Newt to Mitt: Cut the French, Monsieur!

WE SHOULD ALL BE GRATEFUL to Newt Gingrich for reminding us that Mitt Romney speaks French. Until now, we've been having some difficulty translating many of Romney's robust remarks on the campaign trail. But with a snotty reference to Romney's Francophilia in a TV ad (titled: The French Connection) running in South Carolina, Newt has contributed a major vein to be tapped in the days leading to that state's primary.

Aside from my late Aunt Della, who wrongly insisted that our family was French, I've never met many folks who had anything good to say about those people. It's a sort of reverse snobbery practiced by low-brows who can never explain why they hate the French - all Frenchmen! So Newt, who is playing the nasty Penguin to Romney's Batman, has decided to plow up whatever bad will that exists in the Palmetto State with his sniffing attacks.

Even in Catherine the Great's day, French was fashionable and she was quite fond of saying things like Mon Dieu and Bonjour to her Russian subjects when she wasn't purring other things to her many lovers. But an anti-French mood in America took a major plunge when France refused to support the U.S. invasion of Iraq. (Was its opposition so wrong?)

Led by right-wing megaphones (Rupert Murdoch among them), simpleton politicians decried all things French (fries, bread, kisses, Brigitte Bardot et al). Some of that dissipated under the weight of its own ignorance. Until now.

But there is a learning moment for Mitt in this: If he somehow learned to frame his answers in plain English, nobody would care a whit about the assault from the Penguin.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Senate Bill 5: When Romney chose to pivot

THE HERD OF Republican elephants hasn't even taken out visas for the South Carolina and Florida campaigns when the experts are already casting Ohio as a "swing state".
It is the eternal role of experts to be ahead of the curve and if they are fascinated by the swing in Ohio, who can argue? We will be reminded more than once that the Buckeyes have produced more presidents than anyone can remember mostly because a majority of them are not memorable.

So get ready for it. Your state is crucial, pivotal, a battleground state, a point of no return for the loser.

Now that we have designated Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee, we hope that he is listening to all of the talk about how suddenly important Ohio is to America's future. But pivotally speaking, he may face some troublesome moments when he starts making the rounds here. It's called Senate Bill 5, Gov. Kasich's ill-advised attempt to sweep public union workers off their feet because he was the governor and they were nothing more than public union workers.

The last time that Romney addressed the issue, he treated it as a multiple choice question. Back on Oct. 25, he visited a phone bank near Cincinnati where a Republican phone crew was
urging voters to vote against repealing the restrictive union law. Bad choice. So when he was asked about it, he said he really wasn't speaking against any ballot issue, with which he said he wasn't "terribly familiar." When he drew fire from both parties for waffling, he corrected himself the next day and declared in full body armor, "I am 110 percent behind Gov. Kasich and in support of that question." (The repeal was upheld by the voters by monstrous numbers.)

Wanna bet a lot of this will show up in the months ahead? On this and so many other issues, shouldn't Romney's managers insist that he stop being so pivotal?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Holy War on to South Carolina

WITH NEW HAMPSHIRE A mere blip in political history , they've all packed up their scripts and headed south to begin a new Holy Year in South Carolina. That's hardly an exaggeration, folks. Wasn't it Newt Gingrich who targeted Mitt Romney during a debate to cut the "pious baloney"?

Yes. The same Newt Gingrich, in an overcompensating search for a personal spiritual recovery plan, invoked the word "Catholic" several times to remind the listener that the Obama Administration had brutally choked Catholic Charities in an unyielding conflict over adoptions by same-sex couples.

Meantime, there was Rick Santorum playing Jesus and saying a lot of monstrous things that Jesus would never have said. In a effort to catch up with the pack, Santorum ran to the right of the New Testament.

Libertarian Ron Paul stuck fiercely to his freedom-and-liberty them, which made economical use of two words that always drew cheers.

We hadn't seen much of Jon Huntsman's output until he gave his post-election "victory" speech
that made his 17 pct. of the vote appear to be a landslide. I had never heard that many cliches in a single gushing monologue as he chose "greatest" to describe everything in America except, of course, President Obama.

But New Hampshire was actually a case of the Survival of the Mittest - Bibles, flags, patriots and all. Made no difference for Romney.

Also, shouldn't dismiss a requiem for Rick Perry. He got the one percent that we've been hearing so much about.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Pious news from New Hampshire


Along came candidate Santorum,

Who saddled up Jesus for his forum.

But when the votes were counted

Jesus had long dismounted

And Rick didn't even have a quorum.


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Preacher Santorum's vain bonfires

ONCE UPON A TIME, a 15th century monk named Girolamo Savonarola, driven by his own fiery vision of sin, sent his helpers door to door in Florence to collect books, artworks, knick-knacks, whatever, to purge society of evil. They made a huge pile in the piazza and torched it.
In those days, such spectacles were called 'bonfires of the vanities". Alas, in the end, not even the Dominican monk was spared the flames by his opponents.

And then we have Rick Santorum. He's now moved his pulpit into New Hampshire, where he unapologetically says we need a "Jesus candidate," and who better than Rick to fill that role.
That, of course, is not what non-Christians (and many Christians) have in mind for a president. Despite his over-the-top pro-Israel offerings, Santorum was even rapped by Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. Foxman huffed that Santorum's remarks were "unacceptable" and "un-American." I would add: crazy.

Maybe the time has come to ignore the hyper-righteous crusader on the stump. Wasn't it Santorum who once said the government ought to stop issuing food stamps because poor people were already too fat. So there!

* * * * *

Scam artists! Those are the beasts that Sen. Sherrod Brown says will have the most to fear from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In his talk to the Akron Press Club Friday, Brown praised President Obama's appointment of Richard Cordray to head the agency that congressional Republicans have stonewalled as an intrusion into the financial industry's privately operated free enterprise system.

Unless you are a scam artist yourself, who can argue with the appointment that will activate the oversight of the CFP watchdog? Well, the jittery GOP praetorian guard that looks out for Big Money's best interests, that's who. And if you're still in doubt about the cause of the home mortgage mess, may I recommend Gretchen Morgenson's book, Reckless Endangerment/How outsized greed, and corruption led to economic Armadgeddon.

Brown's appearance filled the room at the Martin Center with about 200 guests, who gave him a standing ovation. (His Republican challenger, State Treasurer Josh Mandel has yet to accept an invitation to appear at the same Press Club podium. He has already turned down an offer on grounds that he was "too busy". ) Josh, for God's sake, is that any way to demonstrate your interest in serving the people?

* * * * *

To all of the naysayers who suggest the unemployed aren't trying hard enough to find work, I'll refer you to some photos in the current Atlantic magazine. One shows a line as long as the Chinese wall that turned up for a job fair in Atlanta, Ga. Another shows a lineup of Trenton, N. J. (isn't that Chris Christie's state capital?) police officers who were among the more than 100 cops laid off. The caption says they are offering their "final salute" with their empty boots resting on the sidewalk in front on them.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Landslide Romney on the march!

ONE OF THE things we've noticed in Landslide Romney's response to issues is that he seldom thinks before he talks. It's sort of a daring frontier quick-draw style that shoots first and asks questions later. So it was on Mitt's post-Iowa blast at President Obama's announcement in Shaker Heights that he had appointed Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau - a hitherto leaderless government watchdog that dyspeptic Republican lawmakers have likened to Willie Sutton inside Wall Street's bulging vaults.

Upon hearing of the appointment of the former Ohio Attorney General, Romney erupted that the move was "Chicago-style politics at its worst". Having spent some time in Chicagoland and reporting on dead bodies of hoodlums exported from Gary, Ind., it's obvious to me that Romney knows very little about Chicago-style politics - a city that runs very well. Very little. Besides Obama's many opponents four years ago were using the same insults and nothing came of it.

On many other questions hurled at the president, Romney has a nanosecond response: "He's failed!" But he never really defines failure other than resorting to it as a form of verbal gadgetry so spare of moving parts that nothing more need be said.

As for GOP complaints that Obama was guilty of abusing recess appointments,
ThinkProgress provided some curious information. During his presidency, Reagan
Augustus made 240, contrasted to Obama's 28 during his first term in office. Reagan raised taxes in seven of his eight years and...well, let's not get into that right now,

P.S. Sen. Scott Brown, the Republican from Romney's home state, has congratulated Obama for the appointment. But as everybody knows, Brown is trailing Democrat Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard Law School professor who withdrew from consideration for the consumers' job after Republicans stonewalled her for being too antagonistic to the one percenters.

Disney World moves to New Hampshire

EVERYBODY... TAKE A DEEP BREATH as the wobbly Republican caravan hauls its version of Disney World from Iowa to New Hampshire. Is this the first bogus election that nobody won? Or should we heed Mitt Romney's aides who have been declaring, "a win is a win"?

Poor Michele. She said she had wanted to witness a miracle, but dropped out in a rout, losing any claim to sainthood. But she has promised that she will not be lacking in vigor to prove that President Obama is a socialist.

We first learned of the Romney 8-vote thing sometime after midnight, after dozing during the time-killing rehashing of the night's events by the TV news panels because there were long stretches when there was nothing new to report. (I tried to sleep, but my many years of actually getting paid to report on this stuff kept my eyes sort of open.)

The rightwing Christian groups - eh, social conservatives, to be perfectly respectful about it - have found nothing to be joyful about in Iowa's wake. Such "movement" groups as Focus on the Family and American Family Assn. are planning a meeting in Texas to coalesce around a single purist who can stop Romney and his 8-vote bragging right. The internal dynamics of the GOP race will become uglier as the party stages a dreadful contest between theocracy (think Santorum ) and hypocrisy (Yep, Romney).

There is growing evidence that the holier-than-thous will be plowing up more soil in a class war against America's minorities. So when Santorum says the Feds should stop trying to assist blacks with other people's (whites') money, that is from a page in sordid George Wallace history. Or the sophistry of Gingrich's attacks on ghetto kids for having no adult models who work for a living. All this while the Repubicans are seriously suppressing voting with shouts of fraud - which, like a lot of their other shrieks, has never been proven. There are probably more pink-cheeked Wall Streeters who find ways to cheat on their income taxes.

So crank up the ferris wheel and merry-go-round in the Granite State. They're sending in the clowns. You have to ask, though, what any state has done to deserve this.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

They're all tied

It woud be great if it finished this way!

Campaign 2012 | Iowa Caucuses
Iowa Caucus Results »
8:17 PM ET 0:44
Size of Lead
County Leaders


The bizarre dance to the mountaintop

AS THE IOWA CAMPAIGN mercifully crashed down on caucusing GOP conservatives, it seemed as though we were witnessing the final act of a bizarre Walpurgis Night, when witches climbed to the mountaintop to convene with their gods. OK, so all but one was a warlock - but you get the point.

There was no end to the savagery, as Newt went on Fox TV to call Mitt a liar, and Rick, as in
Santorum, described Ron Paul as "disgusting." Playing Mr. Cool without gravitas, Romney remained on cruise control and described Newt as a "good guy". Paul fired off the cheapest shot of all by calling Romney a "liberal". In another day or so, they all would have been challenging each other to produce birth certificates.

Meantime, I've been trying to catch up with everything else of less consequence that was going on in the world. I finally learned who Kim Kardashin is. But, damn it, I've already forgotten.

Looking to the future, the papers said the Cleveland Browns were quite upbeat about next season, which you might expect after a 4-12 season and a yet to be decided fill-in for quarterback.

Jenny McCarthy (you remember her, don't you?) kissed a cop in Times Square on New Year's Eve for a photo-op.

The Los Vegas Hlton changed its name to the Las Vegas Hotel and Casino.

And, Samoa lost a day by going past the International Dateline - a feat that I'll never understand.

Almost forgot: Pat Robertson told his 700 Club audience that God had confided to him who will win the presidency this year. Robertson was coy about it, saying he could not break God's confidence by revealing the winner. But the reverend, who is a past victor in the Iowa caucuses, said God wasn't at all pleased with Obama. With those odds against him, and coupled with the Koch Brothers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, you have to wonder why Obama would even run.

Monday, January 2, 2012

On to New Hampshire - from what?

AS THE SURVIVORS of the forever-surging waves of the Iowa campaign prepare for landfall in New Hampshire, there are now dismissive reports that America's Team was hardly what GOP voters had in mind. The mood seemed to be captured by an evangelical pastor, Jeff Mullin, quoted in Monday's New York Times:

"There's no perfect candidate. The question is what flaws can you put up with."

Such idealism suffers as a defining element in the noisy bid to win the minds, if not the hearts, of conservative Iowans. For too many weeks , they have been subjected to the most abject level of Manichean politics in which all issues are resolved within the eternal struggle between good and evil. There are limits to how far that can take a candidate, particularly when all are piously saying the same thing.

Despite the $6 million spent on TV ads to fetch the true believers to the polls, the turnout is projected to be something less than the crowd for an OSU-Michigan football game.

At least the fans in the stands arrive with their minds firmly set on separating the good from the evil on the field.

The less- than-enthusiastic audience has been asked to distinguish the undistinguishable - true conservative vs. unflinching conservative; original conservative vs. Reagan conservative; defender of freedom and faith vs. defender of unburdened freedom and more ardent faith. It's easy to see, if one thought seriously about it, why there were flaws everywhere.

Even the national pollsters have had some trouble tracking the less-flawed and the more-flawed. Take the word of Gallup, which has seen front-runners rise like jumping beans, only to be overtaken the next day by another bean:
"Historical comparisons can be problematic given differences in the number of candidates and the number of polls conducted each election. It still seems clear that this phase of 2012 Republican nomination process has been the most volatile for the GOP in the advent of polling."
Whoever wins Tuesday night - there has to be a winner, folks - the real question will be, what does it all mean? At the top of the heap will be candidate chosen by a relatively small group of voters in a turnout that is expected to be no more than 20 percent of the registered Republican voters in Iowa. As the candidates, their entourages and the media army pack up for the next stop in the Granite State, there will doubtless be many others who go to bed that night saying: "Good riddance."