About those debates

Is Mitt Romney a good debater?  Is President Obama too “cool” to come across well in a debate?  Will the primary debates help Romney?  Does Obama has too much rust on his debating skill?  We won’t know the answers until next Thursday, but today’s Washington Post has a great piece by Gwen Ifill about debates.  Titled Gwen Ifill debunks five myths about presidential debates it is worth a read.  Here are some highlights.

1. Voters use debates to decide.

For many voters, televised presidential debates serve to focus the mind. Seeing the men who would be president — yes, always men, so far — face off helps viewers finally choose a side.

But debates are only part of the American voter’s political diet. Like 30-second ads or stump speeches, they do as much to confirm impressions as to alter them. Think back to some memorable debate moments. Did George H.W. Bush glancing at his watch really persuade people to vote for Bill Clinton, or did it confirm the worst suspicions of those already leaning away from him? Did Lloyd Bentsen dismissing Dan Quayle as “no Jack Kennedy” lose the election for Michael Dukakis, or did it speak to an existing worry that Bush lacked the judgment to pick a No. 2 who could assume the presidency?

Minds were already made up. Gallup polls going back decades show precious little shift in established voter trends before and after debates. The major exception: 1960, when Gallup suggests that Richard Nixon’s lackluster, sweaty performance against John F. Kennedy moved a dead-heat campaign into the Democrats’ column — and that’s where it stayed.

2. Candidates approve the questions ahead of time.

As if. I get asked this question more than almost any other. (That, and “Is Sarah Palin really as pretty close up?”)

As a moderator, I took my cue from Jim Lehrer, who has moderated a dozen debates and has become the gold standard for the job. He advised me to keep my questions to myself. I went to such extremes to do so that in hindsight, it seems a bit paranoid. Not only did the candidates not see my questions before the debates, but precious few other two-legged mammals did.

3. The moderator should pick fights with the candidates.

When John Edwards slyly slipped a mention of Dick Cheney’s daughter’s sexual orientation into an answer in 2004, or when Palin blithely assured 67 million viewers that she did not think it was her responsibility to answer my questions, I let it pass.

Why, after all, are there two candidates on stage if not to debate each other?  Cheney took Edwards to task. Biden let Palin slide.

4. He who zings, wins.

This one is almost too easy to debunk. Lloyd Bentsen. Lloyd Bentsen. Lloyd Bentsen.

In the 1988 vice presidential debate, Quayle was apparently miffed at being asked for the third time by the moderators whether he was prepared to be president. The 41-year-old candidate replied that he had as much experience in the Senate as John F. Kennedy had when he ran for president in 1960.

When Judy Woodruff turned to Bentsen for his reply, he pounced. “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy,” he said sternly. “I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.” The audience hooted. The exchange went down in history.

5. Debates are the last best chance for candidates to define themselves.

No, “Saturday Night Live” is.

And of course Queen Latifah was spot on as Gwen.

 

More on race in Massachusetts

Yesterday we heard from the Cherokee Nation.  Principle Chief Bill John Baker didn’t endorse either candidate but he issued this statement.

The Cherokee Nation is disappointed in and denounces the disrespectful actions  of staffers and supporters of Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown. The conduct of  these individuals goes far beyond what is appropriate and proper in political  discourse. The use of stereotypical “war whoop chants” and “tomahawk chops” are  offensive and downright racist. It is those types of actions that perpetuate  negative stereotypes and continue to minimize and degrade all native peoples.

The individuals involved  in this unfortunate incident are high ranking staffers in both the senate office  and the Brown campaign. A campaign that would allow and condone such offensive  and racist behavior must be called to task for their actions.

The Cherokee Nation is a  modern, productive society, and I am blessed to be their chief. I will not be  silent when individuals mock and insult our people and our great nation.

We need individuals in the  United States Senate who respect Native Americans and have an understanding of  tribal issues. For that reason, I call upon Sen. Brown to apologize for the  offensive actions of his staff and their uneducated, unenlightened and racist  portrayal of native peoples.

Of course Scott Brown has not apologized and his staff has not apologized.  I gather he put them all on “double secret probation.”*

And since Bill John Baker was a delegate to the Democratic Convention why would any Republican pay any attention to him.  According to the CherokeePhoenix

Not all Democrats get to attend the Democratic Nation Convention to nominate the party’s presidential candidate. Even fewer get to announce his or state’s delegates vote during the convention’s roll call. However, Principal Chief Bill John Baker got to do both during this year’s DNC held Sept. 4-6 in Charlotte, N.C.

Baker said he represented the Cherokee Nation in his official capacity and that during the vote to re-nominate President Barack Obama for president, he announced Oklahoma’s vote.

“I was honored to attend the convention as principal chief of the Cherokee Nation and on behalf of the Cherokee Nation’s federal interests,” Baker said. “To stand on a national stage as principal chief of the Cherokee Nation and cast my delegate vote for President Obama on behalf of the state of Oklahoma helped shine the national spotlight on the Cherokee Nation.”

The final reason Scott Brown and the Republicans need to pay no attention to the Chief is that he is probably not really Native American.  Scott can tell just by looking at him.

Notice anything, Scott

*Double Secret Probation” is a quote from the movie Animal House. 

Race in Massachusetts

Who knew that the Massachusetts race for the United States Senate – and maybe for Democratic control of the entire Senate – would come down to race?  When I wrote about this last May I thought this was a one-off remark and since it didn’t move the polls, I figured the whole thing would die.  A lot of people who are part Cherokee didn’t register for many reasons including fear of being targeted if they were open about Native American ancestry.

But now Scott Brown has made Elizabeth Warren’s race the centerpiece of  his campaign.  He has decided that the path to re-election is to question Warren’s family heritage.  He has not produced any proof that her having “checked the box” made any difference in her tenure at Harvard Law School.  On the other hand, Warren has produced people, including Republican Charles Fried, to say either they didn’t know or if they did it made no difference.  Where’s the beef, Senator Brown?

After her initial fumbles at a response, Warren has settled on a great answer and produced a good response advertisement.  But this is not the end for Scott Brown.  This is the opening of this mornings Boston Globe story

In a tough new ad and in his attacks at last week’s debate, Senator Scott Brown has stoked questions about ­Elizabeth Warren’s professed Native American ancestry. But the difficulty of seizing on the controversy without crossing into uncomfortable racial territory became apparent Tuesday with the release of a video showing Republican staff members, including an aide in Brown’s Senate office, performing tomahawk chops and war whoops outside one of his campaign events.

Brown said such behavior is “not something I condone,” but declined to apologize.

“The apologies that need to be made and the offensiveness here is the fact that Professor Warren took advantage of a claim, to be somebody, a Native American, and used that for an advantage, a tactical advantage,” Brown said.

Does he really think this is going to get him re-elected?

Race is a difficult construct and, no, Elizabeth Warren’s family never registered to be members of a tribe.  On the other hand, one cannot simply look at someone’s physical characteristics and say she is obviously no a person of color as Brown did when he opened the last debate.  Melissa Harris-Perry talked about this the other night on the Rachel Maddow Show.

But I actually think that what we need in part is a conversation about what race is.  Race is a social construct, not a biological reality.  So, you know, when we think about blackness, which is the one most can put their finger on, yes, most Americans think they can tell a black person when they see one based on hair texture or how broad your nose is, or how brown your skin is.  But in fact, there`s no clear distinct line that makes one black or outside of black or inside of indigenous identity or outside of it.

It’s not our blood that makes us those things.  It’s our social constructs.   —MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry on Scott Brown’s peculiar racial attack on Elizabeth Warren

Brian McGrory is not quite calling the election yet, but his column in today’s Globe is not kind to Senator Brown.

Go ahead and stick a fork in the image — or, more ­accurately, the illusion — of Scott Brown as the affable everyman, the consummate good guy who folds laundry before pointing his pickup toward the docks to shoot the breeze with his fishermen friends.

It took him less than 30 seconds at last week’s debate to try and claw the eyes out of his opponent by questioning her character, honor, and truthfulness. He summoned the press corps he generally disdains to his office the following morning to distort ­Elizabeth Warren’s work on an asbestos case. He released his first negative ad on statewide TV Monday. His daily schedule on Tuesday included the line that he was “available to the media to address today’s revelation that Professor Warren worked on behalf of LTV Steel Company.”

And then, of course, there are his idiotic underlings filmed making tomahawk chops and reciting ridiculous Indian chants at a Dorchester rally. Nice.

It brings new meaning to being a Scott Brown Republican.

Boston is atwitter with half-cocked pundits wondering whether Brown is taking too big a risk by going too negative too soon. Here’s what they’ve got wrong: It may not be a strategy. It’s probably just who he is. When things went well, when he glided into the Senate on the wings of a short campaign and a hapless opponent, Scott Brown was as charming as they come.

McGrory concludes

I’ll say again what I’ve written before: Campaigns are long for a reason. In this case, Brown isn’t wearing well with time. So much of it comes down to whether ­Warren can rise to the moment, whether she can lift herself above an increasingly ugly fray.

The Mayor with Warren

There are a lot of serious issues to talk about and Scott Brown picks Elizabeth Warren’s heritage?  Give me a break.  Let me end with a quote from Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.

Mayor Thomas Menino of Boston, who threw his valuable political support to Ms. Warren last week, said in an interview on Monday, “When candidates go negative, it means they have nothing to talk about.”

He continued: “Education, public safety, jobs, housing — my God, he won’t talk about any of it. He voted against a jobs extension bill three times.”

Photograph Elise Amendola/Associated Press

Who benefits from government programs?

Interesting post today on the New York Times Bucks blog.  Posted by Anna Carrns, asks readers to figure out how many government programs each has benefited from.  She writes

Mitt Romney stirred up a hornet’s nest with his comments about the 47 percent of Americans who he thinks are dependent on the government.

It turns out, according to 2008 data from the Cornell Survey Research Institute reported Monday in a Times opinion piece, that 96 percent of Americans have taken part in government benefit programs in one form or another.

Listed below are 21 programs referenced by the researchers. Numbers 1 through 13 are “direct,” meaning that the aid comes directly from the government; the remainder are considered “submerged,” in that they come indirectly, through government tax policies. (For instance, the money you put in your workplace 401(k) plan grows tax-deferred).

  1. Head Start
  2. Social Security Disability
  3. Social Security Retirement and Survivors Benefits
  4. Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  5. Medicaid
  6. Medicare
  7. Welfare (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or T.A.N.F.)
  8. G.I. Bill
  9. Veterans’ benefits
  10. Pell Grants
  11. Unemployment Insurance
  12. Food Stamps
  13. Government Subsidized Housing
  14. Home Mortgage Interest Deduction
  15. Hope and Lifetime Learning Tax Credits
  16. Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit
  17. 529 accounts (qualified tuition programs) or Coverdell education savings account (Education I.R.A.’s)
  18. Earned-income tax credit
  19. Employer subsidized health insurance
  20. Employer subsidized retirement benefits
  21. Federal student loans

I count 8 for myself:  Social Security, Medicare, Pell Grants, Home Mortgage Deduction, Lifetime Learning Tax Credit, Federal student loans, and employer subsidized health insurance and retirement.  Not only that but I spent almost the entirety of my working life administering various government programs or being paid by government grants.  I guess I really am dependent!  How about you?

2011 10 06 - 1237 - Washington DC - Occupy DC

2011 10 06 – 1237 – Washington DC – Occupy DC (Photo credit: thisisbossi)

Reinhold Niebuhr explains Mitt and the 47%

By now we are all familiar with the remarks made by Mitt Romney on that fundraiser tape.  Here is the Mother Jones transcription

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. And I mean, the president starts off with 48, 49, 48—he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. And he’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean that’s what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people—I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

My husband and I have a large library and one of my retirement projects is to get them onto a database. It is hard because I keep getting distracted by having to read parts of almost everything – like browsing at a bookstore.  Anyway, I came across a copy of Reinhold Niebuhr’s Moral Man and Immoral Society and looked through the table of contents.  Chapter V is titled “The Ethical Attitudes of Privileged Classes”.  Caught my eye.  So, I wondered, does he explain Mitt?

Turns out yes.  Even though he was writing in 1932, Niebuhr’s words still have truth.

He begins by explaining his understanding of classes.

Classes may be formed on the basis of common functions in society, but they do not become sharply distinguished until function is translated into privilege.  Thus professional classes may be distinguished by certain psychological characteristics from other middle-class groups; but these psychological distinctions will be ultimately insignificant in comparison with the common political attitudes which professional groups will have with other middle-class groups on the basis of their similar social and economic privileges.

Later

Whatever may be the degree of the self-consciousness of classes, the social and ethical outlook of members of given classes is invariably colored, if not determined, by the unique economic circumstances which each class has as a common possession.  This fact, regarded as axiomatic by economists, still fails to impress most moral theorists and ethical idealists.  The latter, with their too unqualified confidence int he capacity of religious or rational idealism, persist in hoping that some force of reason and conscience can be created, powerful enough to negate or to transcend the economic interests which are basic to class divisions.  The whole history of humanity is proof of the futility of this hope.  The development of rational and moral resources may indeed qualify the social and ethical outlook, but it cannot destroy the selfishness of classes.

The reason wy privileged classes are more hypocritical than underprivileged ones is that special privilege can be defended in terms of the rational ideal of equal justice only, by proving that it contributes something to the good of the whole.  Since inequalities of privilege are greater than could possibly be defended rationally, the intelligence of privileged groups is usually applied to the task of inventing specious proofs for the theory that universal values spring from, and that general interests are served by, the special privileges which they hold.

This seems to have become the reason we need more tax cuts for the 1% who have branded themselves as the job creators.  This is where we get trickle down.

On the other hand it has always been the habit of privileged groups to deny the oppressed classes every opportunity for the cultivation of innate capacities and then to accuse them of lacking what they have been denied the right to acquire.

Mitt Romney is clearly of the privileged class and he is not, although he sometimes pretends to be, one the few members of  his class who, in Niebuhr’s words, is an “able man”, one who transcends his classes and uses his educational and economic advantages for good.

47  253/365  Niebuhr contemplates

47 253/365 Niebuhr contemplates (Photo credit: stratoz)

 

A Conservative History Lesson

This is from yesterday’s Shouts and Murmers column by Jack Hitt blogged in the New Yorker Magazine.  I thought about posting the entire thing, but decided on trying to pick some highlights.  The interesting thing is that often Shouts and Murmers is fictionalized or even pure fiction but Hitt has included approprite citations.  Let’s start at the beginning.

1500s: The American Revolutionary War begins: “The reason we fought  the revolution in the sixteenth century was to get away from that kind of  onerous crown.”—Rick Perry

1607: First welfare state collapses: “Jamestown colony, when it was  first founded as a socialist venture, dang near failed with everybody dead and  dying in the snow.”—Dick Armey

1619-1808: Africans set sail for America in search of freedom: “Other  than Native Americans, who were here, all of us have the same story.”—Michele  Bachmann

Bet the folks at Jamestown didn’t know it was socialist venture.  I always thought they were looking for things that would make them rich.

1776: The Founding Synod signs the Declaration of Independence: “…those fifty-six brave people, most of whom, by the way, were clergymen.”—Mike  Huckabee

1787: Slavery is banned in the Constitution: “We also know that the  very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no  more in the United States.”—Michele Bachmann

1801: “Thomas Jefferson creates the Marines for the Islamic pirates  that were happening.”—Glenn Beck

And the blog helpfully includes a picture of the “Founding Synod.”

conservative-history.jpg

Illustration courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Moving on to the Civil War, I bet you didn’t know this.

1861:Civil  War breaks out over pitting “individual rights as proclaimed in the  Declaration of Independence against collective rights.”—The Weekly  Standard

More recent history doesn’t fare much better.

1916:Planned  Parenthood opens genocide clinics: “When Margaret Sanger—check my  history—started Planned Parenthood, the objective was to put these centers in  primarily black communities so they could help kill black babies before they  came into the world.”—Herman Cain

1950: Senator Joseph McCarthy saves America from Communism: “Joe  McCarthy was a great American hero.”—Representative Steve King

1963: G.O.P. clergyman delivers his famous “I have a dream” speech: “It should come as no surprise that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a  Republican.”—Human Events blog

1964: Republicans fight for the Civil Rights Act: “We were the people  who passed the civil-rights bills back in the sixties without very much help  from our colleagues across the aisle.”—Representative Virginia Foxx

1967: Indonesia brainwashes its first Islamic terrorist spybot: “Why  didn’t anybody ever mention that that man right there was raised—spent the first  decade of his life, raised by his Muslim father—as a Muslim and was educated in  a Madrassa?”—Steve Doocy

And to the Clinton years.

1993: Hillary Clinton claims her first kill, Vincent Foster—Jerry  Falwell video

1994: Bill Clinton tops Hillary with twenty-four murders: these people  died “under other than natural circumstances.”— Representative William  Dannemeyer.

1998: Actually, the Clinton murders number forty people: “There was  talk that this would be another body to add to the list of forty bodies or  something that were associated with the Clinton Administration.”—Linda  Tripp.

1998: Update: Clinton murders eighty people: “In recent months, a list  of more than 80 deaths associated directly or indirectly with Clinton has been  the buzz of the new media.”—Joseph Farah

And finally to things I know you didn’t know that President Obama can add to his list of accomplishments.

2011: Arabic is declared America’s second language: “Some of our  state’s educational administrators joined the feds in seeking to mandate Arabic  classes for Texas children.”—Chuck Norris

2011: Obama outlaws fishing: people “can’t go fishing anymore because  of Obama.”—Rush Limbaugh

2011: Obama provides health insurance for dogs: “In the health care  bill, we’re now offering insurance for dogs.”—Glenn Beck

All I can say it is a good thing that the President included health care for dogs because Seamus could have probably used it.

Read more http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/shouts/2012/09/a-conservative-history-of-the-united-states.html#ixzz271B7Vxj5

 

 

Cartoonists look at Mitt and the 47% and his quest for the White House

Some of my favorite cartoonishs came out with their takes on the Mitt Romney remarks about the 47% who are victims and think we are entitled to food and shelter, plus we don’t pay taxes.

Tony Auth depicted some of the people who don’t pay taxes.

Dan Wasserman

<br /><br />

Signe Wilkerson showed Romeny supporters.

Signe Wilkinson's Editorial Cartoons 09/19

Finally Tom Toles with Mitt trying to figure out how to get to the White House.

It is hard to figure out how Mitt Romeny goes from here.  The latest polls in the swing states are not looking good for him.  The President’s approval rating is at or near the magic 50%.  And given his track record, I’m not sure how he wins a debate with Obama.  The Republicans are saying that he needs to be specific.  Well, I think he was plenty specific in the the fundraiser video tape.  He told us what he thinks and what he wants or doesn’t want to do.  I am not calling the race yet, because one never knows what can happen in the the month, but I will say that he has dug himself a hole that I don’t think he has the skills to get out of.

[And I’m sorry that Dan Wasserman’s cartoon isn’t very clear.  His website moved and now I can’t edit the pictures.]