Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Archive for February 2012

Mitt Romney does know Canada, unlike other GOP contenders

leave a comment »

If the GOP nomination process came down to knowledge about Canada, Romney would have clinched the nomination long before now.

Romney’s family spent many summers in Canada. The infamous dog story was when Romney took his wife and kids to Canada. Then again, John McCain traveled to Canada during the 2008 presidential campaign to give a speech in Ottawa.

Canada is the United States’ largest trading partner, including oil (even without the Keystone XL pipeline). We haven’t had much about foreign policy in the 20 GOP debates (other than attacking Iran), so we don’t know where the candidates stand on too many issues, other than the Keystone XL pipeline.

For more, check out this analysis from our sister Web site, You can now access its Twitter feed #canadian_xing.


Billionaire influence from Super PACs weakens American democracy

leave a comment »

Political history geeks (myself included) are often fascinated by who ended up becoming president. The vice president was a place to hide a politician where they couldn’t do much harm. The most famous episode came when Theodore Roosevelt was picked to run on William McKinley’s re-election ticket in 1900. McKinley’s vice president, Garret Hobart, died in 1899.

The powers that be felt Roosevelt would be less of a nuisance as VP than New York governor.

John Tyler, Rutherford B. Hayes, Chester A. Arthur — each with their own odd tale of becoming president.

The modern primary and caucus system was designed to rid ourselves of smoke-filled rooms so the American people had more of a say. Thanks to Citizens United, we are back to those days once again.

We normally wouldn’t care about Foster Friese’s birth-control philosophy. After all, if your crazy uncle said something so backward and offensive about a Bayer aspirin between your knees, you’d slip him a shot of NyQuil and hope he falls asleep rather quickly to save the party.

Unfortunately, Friese’s position on birth control is part of the national political conversation because a) he’s extremely rich, b) he likes donating millions to political campaign, and c) he is heavily supporting a candidate whose views on birth control are severely antiquated.

The MSM follows the bark of the Republicans, so the focus isn’t on the economy anymore; suddenly, women’s reproductive health is our nation’s major concern.

Women’s reproductive health is a serious concern, but not for the actual reasons. Women’s reproductive health is an issue because Foster Friese makes it an issue.

Again, if Foster Friese were an angry old man who was financially struggling, we wouldn’t care about his views. Thanks to Citizens United, Foster Friese can give unlimited funds to Rick Santorum. Without Citizens United, we wouldn’t care about Rick Santorum’s views on birth control, since he would have no shot of winning the GOP nomination.

Newt Gingrich can also stick around thanks to his billionaire buddy, Sheldon Adelson.

Before Citizens United, the fate of Santorum and Gingrich would have been in the hands of the people who voted or didn’t vote for them, much in the same way that Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Jon Huntsman left the race. Thanks to Citizens United and the newly found power of billionaires, the perception of Santorum and Gingrich are skewed.

So now we are talking about birth control and women’s reproductive health … in 2012.

One person who wants to be a vice presidential candidate is Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. And McDonnell was staking that idea on legislation that would force women, full-grown women, to undergo transvaginal ultrasound before having an abortion. Does it matter if the doctor thinks that’s a bad idea? Does it matter if a woman has ever been raped? Does it matter if the woman says “no”? Not in Virginia.

Virginia may be for lovers, but if you get pregnant and you don’t want to be, get the hell out of there.

As disturbing and unsettling as the Virginia law would be, McDonnell and the delegates in the Virginia house and senate are accountable to the voters. Santorum and Gingrich aren’t. Neither are Friese and Adelson.

Super PACs allow for unlimited donations with no disclosure and no accountability. Foreigners can’t contribute to presidential campaigns but they can contribute to Super PACs. And they have. And even if a campaign coordinates with a Super PAC — which Mitt Romney noted would send him to the Big House — the chances of the Federal Election Commission being able to do something about it is highly slim, and the chances of doing something before November are virtually nil.

Though the rooms would no longer be filled with smoke, those days are awfully tempting. You might get stronger candidates if they don’t have to get dragged through the mud, such as in our current system. And if millionaires and billionaires are cut out of the equation, you might get candidates on both sides of the political aisle who will bypass the rhetoric about the middle-class and help the tens of millions who don’t quite make it to middle class. On paper, that might seem less democratic, but it would be more about the people.

Mitt Romney thinks he has Michigan cred, but without an economic program, GOP won’t win the state in 2012

leave a comment »

“I am a son of Detroit. I was born in Harper Hospital and lived in the city until my family moved to Oakland County. I grew up drinking Vernors and watching ballgames at Michigan & Trumbull.” — Mitt Romney

I listened to Ernie Harwell broadcast Tigers games. I’ve seen baseball games at Michigan and Trumbull and the new park. I grew up eating at Big Boy. I have shopped at Meijer’s, often at 3 am. I’ve been drunk in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti and Battle Creek and Kalamazoo and Portage and Benton Harbor and St. Joseph and Coloma and Eau Claire and Springfield and Watervliet and Troy and ….

Did I prove enough Michigan cred, yo? Like the former governor of Massachusetts, I grew up in Michigan. Wasn’t born there, didn’t live in the Detroit area. I eaten Detroit Coney hot dogs. And like the former governor, I haven’t lived in Michigan in a long time. Though Romney’s long time is longer than I’ve been alive, and I have spent more time there in recent years than he has.

And unlike Romney, I have spent time within the Benton Harbor city limits. Romney has come closer than any other presidential candidate, speaking at a senior citizens center in St. Joseph.

Romney tried to reprove his cred, a bad sign that maybe you didn’t have much cred to start. Proving your cred with a photo of the 1964 World’s Fair in New York and driving a car made in Canada down what we hope are Michigan streets didn’t work out so well.

Mitt Romney won Michigan in 2008 in the GOP primary, but he may have forgotten why he won the Great Lakes State. John McCain said “Some of the jobs that have left the state of Michigan are not coming back.” If McCain had said what he would do about that problem, he might have won the state. But he didn’t, and Romney took the state.

Mitt Romney had his McCain moment with an op-ed in The New York Times in 2008 and an op-ed in the Detroit News in 2012. Like McCain, Romney didn’t address what to do about those jobs.

Rick Santorum thinks he can pick off Michigan. After all, his campaign thinks the candidate appeals to blue-collar people. Virtually no one has said “Reagan Democrats,” but that is Santorum’s key audience. The people who got caught up in social issues while the economy around them burned is just who Santorum needs to beat Romney in his “home” state.

Santorum doesn’t have an economic program to help save or increase jobs in Michigan. Neither candidate has stepped up to say what should or shouldn’t be done about the auto industry, or manufacturing, or retraining. Either Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney will win the Michigan primary, even though both men would have voted against the Detroit bailout. That position will allow one of them to win the state, but will hurt them in November.

Ronald Reagan proved that Michigan voters will vote against their economic pocketbook, but while Michigan voted for Republicans in presidential elections from 1976-1988, they haven’t voted Republican since. As even Republicans will point out, none of the current GOP contenders are Ronald Reagan. If you throw out 2000 and 2004 (for obvious reasons), the last “loser” Michigan voted for was hometown guy Gerald Ford in 1976. Michigan is a state that looks good in the win column.

The GOP had a pretty good shot to take Michigan in the first half of 2008. The Democratic Party got off to a horrible start with Michigan in 2008. The “moving up the primary” and pressure to have candidates remove themselves from the ballot and not campaign in the state, and taking away delegates was a real ugly scene, as I wrote about back in 2008. Perhaps I wrote too much on that topic, but after two presidential elections that were almost certainly stolen, having an upfront election should be a top priority for the Dems.

Barack Obama took his name off the ballot in Michigan, and didn’t personally set foot in Michigan until May, yet he won the state in 2008.

In the end, Obama beat McCain in Michigan because he had the better economic message. Unless Romney or Santorum pull a 180, or in Romney’s case, a Romney, the GOP nominee won’t have a viable economic program to help Michiganders.

Unlike most of the states we’ve seen so far on the primary and caucus merry-go-round, Michigan is a good indicator state on how a candidate will do. The state has liberal pockets and conservative stretches. Hunting is a legitimate sport in this state, even by Democratic people. If the economy is the nationwide issue, Michigan is seen as more valuable since the economy suffers worse than in other states.

Michiganders are used to politicians telling them that their economy will get better. And lately, politicians who will not suck up to them. The citizens of Michigan want answers and success. Barack Obama helped save the Michigan auto industry. The voters are asking Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum what they will do for them. The overall winner will have to come back in the summer and fall and still deal with those questions. How the GOP nominee answers those questions will determine which way this key battleground state will go in 2012.

Maine objection: GOP obstruction leads us to believe Ron Paul might have won its caucus

leave a comment »

A cry of paranoia from the Ron Paul campaign isn’t news, unless for once, the paranoia was actually true.

The Maine Republican Party reported that Mitt Romney won the Maine caucus. This wasn’t hugely significant in the delegate count, but gave Romney a nice win after losing three straight contests. Except for one problem: Mitt Romney may not have won Maine.

You probably heard over the weekend that Ron Paul got more votes in Washington County than any other candidate, and that the winning margin for Romney was reduced. What was missing from the coverage, and what has been missing are vote counts from at least two other Maine counties.

Rachel Maddow of MSNBC pointed out that in the original release, Maine counties that filed numbers with the GOP didn’t have totals when the numbers were officially released.

The MSM underreports on the Ron Paul campaign in the face of obvious facts. For example, if Paul scores higher in a poll than another candidate, the graphic will feature the other candidate, but not Paul. Jon Stewart of the Daily Show has zeroed in on this inequity.

If Ron Paul did win Maine, the dynamic of the race would be different. For one thing, the MSM might have to say “Ron Paul” and “winner” in the same sentence.

We criticize the MSM for covering politics like a horse race. Then when it is clear that another horse might have won the race, they aren’t as concerned.

Mitt Romney may have indeed won Maine. The problem is the way the Maine Republican Party is behaving, you could easily think that Ron Paul won.

With Iowa, the race was between Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney, though at the time, Santorum ranked slightly ahead of Paul in the MSM radar. Even then, it took quite a while for the count to be official.

For a country that believes in democracy and the right of citizens to vote, the Iowa Republicans and now the Maine Republicans have done a lousy job of reflecting those American values. At least in Iowa, we eventually got an accurate count. The Maine GOP leaves a lot to be desired.

Ron Paul may have indeed won Maine. It would be democratic for the people to know whether that’s true.

Even if things are looking good for Obama, this isn’t the time for Dems to stop and smell the roses

leave a comment »

Barack Obama’s poll numbers are up, the economic numbers are better, Mitt Romney is doing worse with independents. You can hear the smugness on the part of liberal pundits. They feel really good about their chances of keeping the White House for 4 more years.

Even though February has an extra day in it this year, this is only February. Counting chickens before you have eggs is rather foolish.

These liberal pundits also forget that the House and Senate races are almost as important. And they also should consider that their chances in a number of House races are reduced because enough Republican governors got elected in 2010 to affect the redrawing of Congressional districts.

While the Dems retained control of the Senate, the margin is extremely tight and Harry Reid’s leadership can’t be as effective because of the pressures of representing a red state. And as poorly as 2010 went, everything else can go the Dems way and the GOP might still take the Senate. You can have Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi, but not much will get done with Mitch “Turtle” McConnell. If Antonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas die between 2013-2017, liberals want strong choices to replace them. In a GOP-controlled Senate, that might not happen.

Too often, the Dems focus on the White House and not Congress. To be fair, the Democratic Party went 40 years without having to worry about losing the House until 1994. In those days, even with the GOP would occasionally control the Senate, the Dems still had a lot more political control than they do now.

The Republicans play the way they do in part because they went so long without that control. They want to go beyond where they are, and they are never satisfied.

These liberal pundits remind me of a person being chased by a bear in the woods. The person loses the bear for the moment, and is so happy that the bear appears to be gone, even though the bear is still chasing after the person. Even if having the bear lose track of you, still need to keep running since you aren’t out of danger.

Barack Obama had some coattails in 2008, but under ideal circumstances (2008), the coattails weren’t that long. Even if Obama is re-elected, there will be no coattails in sight and the Dems need a more elaborate strategy to retake the House.

Yes, if the Republican presidential candidate seems inferior, even by standards outside Dem circles, the false sense of security could have some truth within it. Though, even Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum will still get 35%-40% of the vote. And they will still draw conservatives to the polls, helping other races down the ballot.

Though the Obama Administration and the liberal pundits think Mitt Romney would be the most dangerous threat, ironically, Romney offers the best hope of bringing down GOP turnout, improving the likelihood of Dem pickups (e.g., 1992, 2008) down the ballot. Romney, of course, has the best chance from the GOP side to win the White House.

Though the timeframe is different, Republicans at this point in 1992 thought they had nothing to fear from Bill Clinton and the Dems in 1968 didn’t think much of Richard Nixon in February. Races are won in November, not February. And even if the Dems can be a little confident, they shouldn’t gloat until all the votes are counted in November. Even after a little gloating, there is a whole lot of work to be done.

Whitney Houston was inspiration to read comics online

leave a comment »

One of the great ways that newspapers serve a useful purpose is a strong comics section. But even as a working journalist, I have read comics online for some time. And Whitney Houston is the reason why I made the switch.

This story goes back a few years when Aaron McGruder was still drawing “The Boondocks.” Though I am a white guy, I love the sensibilities of the characters and even watched the TV show.

In a particular storyline, I had read elsewhere that the Boondocks strips that I was reading in the Chicago Tribune weren’t the regular ones, but were reruns. I certainly didn’t know this from reading the Chicago Tribune. Turns out the newspaper censored the regularly scheduled comic strips because the storyline implied (inferred?) that Whitney Houston was on drugs.

Well, in reading the comic strips online, I didn’t think there was much controversy, except by the Chicago Tribune for censoring the strips. The Tribune was worried about being sued or a threat of a lawsuit for implying that the singer took drugs.

Even if somehow Whitney Houston wasn’t on drugs (the comic strip didn’t come out and say it), the chances of a lawsuit, much less a successful suit, were extremely slim. And again, the other issue was a lack of disclosure.

All of this may sound a little callous given what we did find out later about the singer’s drug use. In the end, the comic strip was on solid ground, and the newspaper looked foolish.

Comic strips have standards and are subject to libel, slander, and innuendo. Comic strips are distributed by syndicates that painstakingly make sure that their strips fall under compliance.

Censoring a comic strip or any other part of the newspaper should be an absolute last resort, and readers should always be aware of what you’re doing. That certainly wasn’t the last time the Chicago Tribune censored a comic strip.

The most recent example was earlier this month when the Chicago Tribune censored a Doonesbury strip. The censorship didn’t come from a fear of a lawsuit, but as a note in the Tribune pointed out: “The Tribune’s editorial practices do not allow individuals to promote their self-interests.” At least this time, the paper ran a note.

The Doonesbury strip had a QR code that went to Garry Trudeau says he doesn’t have a relationship with, pointing out that the Tribune did run a strip where a QR code went back to his Web site, an admitted self-interest. And if the Tribune had a problem with (too far to the left?), the newspaper ran a Doonesbury strip some time back that tied into the charity organization.

The Chicago Tribune stood virtually alone in not running the week of “Doonesbury” containing excerpts of the Joe McGinniss biography of Sarah Palin.

These examples are not severe moral dilemmas within a newsroom. The last one smelled of obvious political bias by the newspaper.

Sometimes the truth is ugly. Newspapers used to pride themselves on telling it as it is. As they struggle for relevancy, they run away from what made them great. And they’re running scared.

As much as I love newspapers, or the concept of newspapers, too often they have an arrogant sense of feeling like nobody can give them what they publish. For local news, this is likely true, though with newspapers cutting back, we get less and less and pay more for the privilege.

When it comes to comics, newspapers have lost this battle. Consumers can get a better comic strip experience bypassing the newspaper. Reading comics online offers some disadvantages: you can’t read a bunch at a time and you might get exposed to a new comic strip you otherwise may not have known about. However, reading comics online offers you color during the week, you can increase the size so you can actually read what the characters are saying, and most importantly, you get the comic strips as the creator intended.

Women’s health and reproductive rights might be primary female motivation to go to polls in November

leave a comment »

What will the women of 2012 be pigeonholed into doing so that the election coverage can reduce them to a tiny Stepford Wives type box?

“Soccer mom” is so 2008. But in the recent furor over the Komen Foundation cutting off funding to Planned Parenthood, we could be seeing the seeds of what is to come in 2012.

One major criticism of liberals is that they need to be enthused to get to the voting booth. Conservatives are really good at holding their nose and voting, though to be fair, the rich ones get one of their help to hold their boss’ nose during the voting process.

Abortion access and reproductive rights would seem to be a battle that needs to be fought on an everyday basis, but too often, liberals look at Roe v. Wade and see success.

Meanwhile, those on the right have been tremendously successful at chipping away at abortion rights and targeting reproductive rights in this country. And as much as they scream about how evils abortions are, they know deep down that keeping abortion legal helps drive conservative voters to the polls as a cause celebre.

If you watched the reaction from women to the Komen/Planned Parenthood saga, you saw the passion needed on the left to rally support for Democratic politicians in 2012. Too often, liberals see the battle as being about 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Rep. Cliff Stearns’ witch hunt investigation on Planned Parenthood, which started the dominoes fall, should be ample reminder of why the party that runs the House of Representatives is so important.

In 2008, we saw the most successful female presidential candidate and only the second female vice-presidential nominee. In 2012, we aren’t going to see women with that kind of visibility. Michele Bachmann only lasted through the Iowa caucus, and the GOP isn’t going to pick a woman for the #2 pick, even if they are tempted by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.

Still, women will be coveted … for their vote in 2012. Women’s health can be that catalyst to draw voters in November.

If Newt Gingrich is the Republican nominee, the Republicans drive to attract women to the polls would massively suffer. The GOP would hit new lows with female voters with Gingrich in the top spot.

Mitt Romney has married to the same woman for 46 years, putting him two steps ahead of Gingrich. All of Romney’s children are boys. Romney would do much better with female voters, especially in the general election, if we were seeing the 1994 or 2002 version of Willard Mitt Romney. As we’ve learned from the 2008 John McCain campaign, believing in what a candidate used to be will only break your heart.

The probable GOP nominee is shown on tape as being pro-choice, but he isn’t pro-choice any longer. He ran on being in favor of birth control, but as Massachusetts governor in 2005, Romney vetoed a bill to expand access to emergency contraception.

The Vanity Fair story about how Romney counseled his family’s former babysitter Peggie Hayes to give her baby up for adoption because she was not married ties in to authoritative white males in a dominant religious setting.

Mormons aren’t kind to equal rights for women, then again, most mainstream religions aren’t. While the voting public is familiar with Catholic misogyny, the Mormon version is lesser-known, and if Romney ends up as the nominee, more light will be shined on that topic.

“I also feel that the government should cut off funding to Planned Parenthood,” Romney said recently in a radio interview. Romney also wants to get rid of Title X. These are not female-friendly stances.

His stance on Planned Parenthood is harsher when you think about all the poor women whose only option for breast cancer screenings is Planned Parenthood, and Romney’s wife had a lumpectomy after her 2008 diagnosis of breast cancer. Ann Romney also struggles with multiple sclerosis, a disease more likely to affect women.

Even if you consider that Romney might be able to sway some female voters to his side, he will still have to go up against Barack Obama.

Only behind Bill Clinton, Barack Obama is the most female-centric president of modern times. Both were raised by single mothers and had only daughters. And unlike Clinton, Obama hasn’t had a whiff of scandal involving alleged affairs. This would be difficult to go up against, and we’re not even mentioning the ability to sing like the Rev. Al Green.

Obama is scoring extra points for requiring that religious institutions, if their primary purpose is not religious, to cover contraceptives in employee health plans. In other words, churches, where the primary purpose is religion, don’t have to cover contraceptives; hospitals, where the primary purpose is not religion, have to cover contraceptives.

Gingrich has made this about attacks on Catholicism, his latest religion. Romney has made this about religious freedom.

Catholic Church leaders made this about Catholicism, and made priests across the country read a letter from church leaders to their parishioners.

The best scenario is to not tie health care to employers, though you can see why conservatives like the tie-in so some can control the personal lives of their employees. Of course, individual religious freedom reigns since you aren’t required to use contraceptives even if you are covered for them.

Terrorism isn’t as important to women or men in 2012 as it was in 2004. The “soccer moms” of 2008 were worried about the economy, though not in the same way they are worried about the economy in 2012. And we might get a compelling angle more significant than women’s health/reproductive issues between now and November.

Not all women are on the pro-choice side and some women on either side of that issue are more concerned with the economy than reproductive rights or women’s health. This is why pigeonholing women is so messy. Women are complicated and also make up the majority of the population, even if we treat them as a “minority.” Like in 2008, the women of 2012 will be heard; this time, it will be just at the voting booth.