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Archive for October 2012

2012 debate III: Does Mitt Romney have a foreign policy?

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Watching Mitt Romney during the foreign policy debate reminded me of George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential debate with the mysterious pack on his back. The likelihood was that Bush was getting answers piped in so he could seem smarter in the debate with John Kerry.

Romney could have used some help, and not just because he thought Syria shared a border with Iran.

You had the feeling that Dan Quayle would have been more prepared than Romney for the foreign policy debate. Even Gov. Bush had a foreign policy philosophy in 2000. Of course, Bush threw that out the window in 2001; thousands of Americans and Iraqis would still be alive today if Bush had followed through.

Romney should have been wearing a shirt that said, “Me too.” Watching Romney describe his thought process about Syria, the informed viewer would have been sitting there saying, “Uh, that is what Obama is doing.”

Romney or President Barack Obama will have to deal with the whole world, not just the Middle East. You wouldn’t have known this from Bob Schieffer’s obsession with that area of the world.

Nothing about Canada, the U.S. largest trading partner and the source of that “North American energy independent” mantra. Nothing about Mexico: trade, guns, drugs, gangs. And where was the European Union in a foreign policy debate.

Schieffer didn’t help things by letting Romney and then Obama slip back into domestic policy. I like Schieffer overall; Jim Lehrer, too. But Martha Raddatz and Candy Crowley kicked far more butt in their performances.

This format cries for newspaper reporters, bloggers, and other respected journalists to open up the field to cover a wider variety of issues. Watching the folks at the Fox “News” Channel whine about questions in different areas during the town hall event shows that the debates don’t help people figure out who would make the better president.

Romney is taking advantage of this idea that if it works, will be used as political strategy for the next generation of politics. The Romney you see in the debates is remnant of George W. Bush, 2000. “Hey. I’m a reasonable guy. I’ll change once I’m elected. And the MSM won’t dare call me a liar or a flip-flopper.”

No matter who Indiana elects to the Senate, the missing piece on the GOP side will be the loss of Richard Lugar. By far on the Republican side of the aisle, Lugar showed the deepest knowledge of the world. Even if Lugar were still in the Senate, Romney likely wouldn’t heed his advice.

A lot was made four years ago that Obama didn’t know much about foreign policy. But even though Obama’s time in the U.S. Senate was quite brief, he learned to listen to people who knew what was going on.

Obama drilled this point home, contrasting his trips abroad as a candidate in 2008 vs. Romney’s impression of Chevy Chase in “National Lampoon’s European Vacation.”

Obama picked Joe Biden to be his vice president. Kerry might be the next Secretary of State if Obama is elected. Hillary Clinton has made most of the world forget Condoleezza Rice’s less-than-stellar efforts at the State Department.

The vast majority of those helping the governor on foreign policy are Bushies, masters of tragic foreign policy decisions. If Romney is elected, he will have a foreign policy. But we saw what happened the last time a presidential candidate tried to improv on foreign policy. Worst. Foreign policy. Ever.

Romney had a much worse third debate than Obama had a first debate. That was ignored by the MSM as they continue to pound the message that Romney is plausible. In a battle of strong vs. plausible, strong should easily win. Either the MSM mentality is plausible in a Republican is better than strong in a Democratic, or plausible in a white president is better than strong in a black president. Either conclusion is abhorrent.

The consensus is that Obama didn’t have a good first debate because he wasn’t as attacking as Romney was. Well, Romney had fewer attacks in the foreign policy debate, had a near Gerald Ford moment, and copied off Obama’s paper in the foreign policy test. The deliberate blindness is why fewer people trust the media for rational, objective analysis.

2012 debate II: Mitt Romney can’t keep up with his multiple personalities

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If you were following Twitter and Facebook during the debate, you saw the rise of “binders full of women.” In watching the second presidential debate live, the line sneaked past me. When I saw “binders full of women” on social media, I realized I had missed something that was there all along.

John McCain had drafted Sarah Palin in part to appeal to those women frustrated by Hillary Clinton’s loss in the primary. Whatever you might think about McCain, Palin, or the McCain campaign, they were trying to get women to vote for them.

Soccer moms, security moms: these were the focus of past elections. Often ignored in the focus on women were single women. Married with children? Politicians cared. Single women? Uh, never mind.

President Barack Obama’s campaign has focused on single women with its policies, but the campaign people must realize that they are capturing single women by default. Transvaginal probes. Backlash against Sandra Fluke. The Mitt Romney campaign and the GOP have been driving away single women for the last two years. So even if you might wonder why “binders full of women” became such a big deal, this wasn’t about one comment in a debate; this has been building.

We found out later that Romney fudged when he said that this was his idea. An organization approached the Massachusetts gubernatorial candidates with the idea of employing more women. Yes, it could get even worse.

The second debate spotlighted Romney telling Americans that he doesn’t believe in something and that isn’t his position. Then again, the accusations against Romney are his positions. This would be the sign of a particularly bad candidate, but there may be something more.

Three Faces of Eve, Sybil, depending on your generational perspective: Mitt Romney has many signs of multiple personalities. And the second debate proved conclusively that he is having trouble keeping them straight.

Romney says positions such as employers should have the right to deny women contraception through the insurance program (Blunt Amendment). In fact, Romney went out of his way to confirm that stand earlier this year. In the debate, when confronted with the reality of this stance, his reply was that of course he wasn’t in favor of that.

After the debate, the Romney campaign ran an ad from a former Obama supporter saying that she researched this and found out that Romney is in favor of contraception. To be fair, you can find that online. And you can also find that he doesn’t. The “doesn’t” speaks louder than the “does.”

The woman in the ad points out that Romney supports abortion exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother. Paul Ryan does not, and Romney said he would sign into law a provision that doesn’t allow for exceptions. Yes, we are dealing with multiple personalities at work.

“Moderate” Romney has shown up during the debates, and can’t believe he would be accused of doing what “Conservative” Romney has been doing behind “Moderate” Romney’s back. As soon as the TV lights go out, he’s back to being “Conservative” Romney.

This isn’t funny, not just because Romney might be president, but because he comes across as sincere when denying his own stances. This is really sad.

Speaking of women and debates, Candy Crowley and Martha Raddatz proved their gender strong in hosting debates. Crowley was the first women to host a presidential debate since Carole Simpson hosted the town hall debate in 1992.

You might remember that Katie Couric was supposed to host a Democratic primary debate in North Carolina in 2008. Hillary Clinton agreed to the debate, but Barack Obama said no to the April 27 date. To be fair, the objection from the Obama camp centered around doing a date before the Pennsylvania primary (April 22). The original April 19 date fell on the first night of Passover, so that idea was scrapped. And the original original date of December 2007 in Los Angeles fell through because no one wanted to cross the picket line when CBS journalists threatened to join the Hollywood writers strike.

Regular readers know of my strong dislike for Katie Couric’s attempts at real journalism. If Couric had done a debate, unfortunately for women, she would have set their gender back a decade.

The flaw with the current debate mode is that four people control what gets asked and what doesn’t in the presidential debate format: Jim Lehrer, Martha Raddatz, Candy Crowley, and Bob Schieffer. Having women in the mix offers some representation. You have an African-American man on stage as the incumbent president, and yet no journalists of color get to ask debate questions.

Having journalists correct obvious mistakes in a televised scenario would be an obviously good thing, especially when democracy is on the line. The situation is bad enough when obvious lies hit the transcript without so much as a bat of an eye. I remember covering politics with three GOP operatives hit the airwaves saying that George W. Bush wasn’t in charge on September 11, 2001, and none of them were corrected on the air.

We wish this nuance applied to minutia that comes down the pike, but when the lie is obvious, journalists have an obligation to speak up.

Candy Crowley did the right thing in the right moment. I wasn’t thrilled that she let Romney bully his way through the early part of the debate, and cut off President Obama in the middle of his answer. But at that moment, Crowley did what a journalist is supposed to do.

Not to take sides, but the GOP counts on journalists not doing their job more than Dems do. And Republicans freak out louder when journalists don’t act like a bullfighter as the charging lies — olé — pass by.

After not running on his record as governor of Massachusetts, Romney has decided to suddenly run on his record, but again only during the debates. Since Romney had not mentioned his record and Obama’s team didn’t say much about that, we don’t know much about what Romney did as Massachusetts governor.

The man has been running for governor for 5-6 years and we don’t know much about his stint as governor. The alternative press has done some digging, but the MSM is slow on this point. If Romney gets elected, he may set a new precedent for burying part of a candidate’s record: just don’t talk about it and see what happens.

The MSM has to react to a bell in order to chase the cheese. Remember how little effort they put into searching for George W. Bush’s DUI in 2000.

2012 VP Debate: Joe Biden had to show when Paul Ryan was lyin’

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Somewhere in Alaska, Sarah Palin is pissed.

The former vice presidential candidate is working on a diet and fitness book while Paul Ryan enjoys “credibility” with the establishment. Palin can understandably be confused by a world where she was considered incompetent and Ryan is treated as a candidate not just for vice president but possibly president in 2016.

This isn’t to say that Palin was competent; just that the different between her and Ryan was studying a little bit harder before accepting the VP nominee.

Ryan comes across as smart, but the smartest thing Ryan has done is be better at Sarah Palin on the conservative mantra and in lying.

Palin wasn’t asked terribly hard questions. Charles Gibson and Katie Couric aren’t very good journalists and they weren’t even at their best. The press pounced on her in part because her early answers were so clueless.

Ryan has been at the deception and lying game much longer than Palin and he is much better at it. After all, Ryan dodged any specifics on how the tax cuts will be “revenue neutral” on Fox News — on Fox NEWS.

Since we don’t believe in coincidences, we did notice that the documentary “As Goes Janesville” made its debut on Independent Lens on PBS last week. Not that the documentary makers thought when they started the project that Paul Ryan would be the VP pick, but they sure benefited from his candidacy.

Independent Lens only showed ⅔ of the film. From what we saw, the powers that be in Janesville love putting their eggs in one basket. This was bad enough when the GM plant was the major jobs source. After the plant closed, they were trying the same strategy on a company that wasn’t even sure if they were going to build something. The other depressing point is that they get sucked up into Scott Walker’s union bashing tactics. The Koch brothers sponsored candidate wasn’t about job creation; just blaming the unions that didn’t vote for him. Remember that Walker spared those unions that supported him during the campaign. A politician of principle would have done the same thing to all public unions. Walker didn’t do that.

Mitt Romney was hyperactive and acting like a bully to the moderator in his debate. The MSM gave him love and kisses for that behavior. Joe Biden stood his ground, debating, and the MSM jumps on him for acting like a bully in his debate. Huh?

The MSM always wants a close race and you could feel the pressure on them when Obama was doing well and Romney kept putting his foot in his mouth. The funny part is people talking about the momentum Romney got after the first debate. His momentum was nothing compared to the momentum from the MSM. They went gangbusters on the campaign.

The MSM has always rewarded style over substance. The 2012 campaign has sunk to a new low, which we didn’t think was possible. Whether President Obama likes it or not, he now has to respond to that narrative to keep the MSM at bay. Mitt Romney may not bury Obama, but the MSM will. And the media isn’t on the ballot.

Big Bird did something on Weekend Update that Seth Meyers hasn’t been able to do: make me laugh.

Big Bird came up to defend, as it were, the coverage based on Mitt Romney’s call to defund Big Bird.

Big Bird came across as funny, charming, sincere, honest, and non-political. Though American voters secretly love the infighting that is a campaign, they say they would rather have behavior shown by Big Bird in their candidates. Don’t think Big Bird can run for president; some people are disappointed by that news.

The MSM admonished the Obama campaign for focusing too much on Big Bird. While these debates are filled with wonkish details of tax plans, small items such as Romney’s attack on Big Bird get more attention at the end of the debate. The Obama campaign pointed out an overlooked element in the Republican platform. They focus on deficits when the president is from the Democratic Party, and they are more concerned about ideology than reducing the deficit.

Spending a little money that turns into more money — investment — is something you want to keep in a budget. The small amount of money that goes to the Corporation of Public Broadcasting turns into much more money thanks to sponsors and pledges. And the cuts wouldn’t hurt Big Bird, but instead would shut down PBS stations in smaller markets, many of them in the red states.

Speaking of “Saturday Night Live,” when they were teasing the Thursday night updates, they played a clip of Jason Sudeikis doing an impression of Mitt Romney about the 47%. Yet the show never aired the actual comedy skit. Was censorship, self-imposed or otherwise, the reason why that never aired? After all, SNL has done an overbearing take on Obama, Biden, and the MSNBC team — all liberal targets. Ignoring Romney’s 47% is something even the SNL of 2008 would have failed to do. Airing the clip might be “too late, but in the spirit of fairness (and humor), NBC should still air it. At least, we deserve an explanation.

The MSM spent some time debating the viability of Martha Raddatz as a moderator because President Barack Obama attended Raddatz’s first wedding … in 1991. I discovered this by watching Morning Joe the morning of the debate. The discussion centered around whether Raddatz could be unbiased based on this information.

During the conversation, Joe Scarborough pointed out that if this had happened on the other side that The New York Times would put this on the front page. That fact that he appeared to say this without irony means he conveniently forgot what happened to his network four years ago.

Tom Brokaw was thrust into the spotlight in 2008 after the death of Tim Russert. NBC debated about various inside personnel (Chuck Todd, David Gregory, Keith Olbermann) before letting Brokaw handle duties on an interim basis.

The McCain campaign threatened not to have NBC involved in a debate because of their criticism of the coverage, most notably on MSNBC. Brokaw met with the McCain campaign to convince them to let the network have a debate. Brokaw also later put pressure on NBC to remove Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews as anchors of MSNBC election coverage. The network subsequently demoted Olbermann and Matthews.

Just before the debate that Brokaw moderated, he ended an episode of “Meet the Press” by falsely quoting poll numbers giving McCain an advantage he didn’t have.

Brokaw later was the moderator for the town hall debate in Nashville.

In reporting this story at the time, I remarked on how this would impact Brokaw’s reputation as a newsperson. Then again, his career wasn’t as remarkable as his reputation would lead otherwise.

“Brokaw was the milquetoast anchor of the Big Three in the 1980s and 1990s. Never the great reporter such as Dan Rather nor did he have the curiosity and worldliness of Peter Jennings, Brokaw was always the favorite son of the corporate media. He liked The Greatest Generation and wrote about them. He never stirred the pot, but never did anything great either.”

Steve Schmidt was on the set of “Morning Joe” as they were discussing the Raddatz story. Schmidt is a MSNBC contributor. Given Schmidt’s role in the McCain campaign, he either had some role in those Brokaw conversations or certainly has some idea what happened. Yet we heard nothing.

Scarborough is right in that The New York Times did run the story, though not on the front page. Very few MSM outlets picked up on the story.

Raddatz and Obama were at the same social event 21 years ago. And she was the bride, so she was presumably distracted that day by being the bridge. Brokaw and McCain’s people met about a month before the debate. Even Paul Ryan could figure out which incident shows bias.

2012 Debate I: Romney’s aggression impressed the masses

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President Obama would have been better off if Rob Portman had argued for him in Denver. Mitt Romney did a lot better than John Kerry ever would.

We would have better off watching Portman and Kerry debate each other. Jim Lehrer would have been a lot happier.

Al Roker tweeted about the license plate of the truck that hit Lehrer during the debate. This statement isn’t said too often: Al Roker was funny.

Romney wants undecided women to vote for him, but his hyper, aggressive bully approach appealed to undecided men and his base. You had a 51-year-old incumbent who came across like he was on Valium and a 65-year-old guy who doesn’t consume caffeine who was hyper.

Romney’s hyper nature came across in his response to the Middle East protests. His handlers don’t want to hear this, but if the race is close, their candidate will lose because he doesn’t look presidential. John McCain suffered from similar issues in 2008.

Obama left so much on the table. And when he came close, he didn’t land the punch. Obama might have won on looking presidential, but Romney came across as tough.

How could Barack Obama on a debate about domestic policy not bring up the auto bailout?

Barack Obama got a good taste of what would have happened if the far left ran a candidate in this year’s Democratic primary. Too bad that the other guy on stage that night isn’t running for president.

Romney came across in the debate as someone who was concerned about those who are suffering economically. Most of the campaign has been about Romney doing the complete opposite. Romney scored points in the debate for legitimate points against Obama’s record. The problem for Romney is that he has no intention of fulfilling those promises.

If you are looking for Romney’s cynicism beyond the shores of the first debate, check out his “admission” that was “completely wrong” about the 47%. Why now? Why only after the debate does he respond?

Romney is trying to make us literally forget the person he has been for the last 5 years in 90 minutes. He just might convince 47% of the people of this, but it won’t be the right 47% to make that work.

Many said Obama looked tired. Maybe he is brilliant and trying to lower expectations for the final two debates. Or he knew that incumbents never do well in the first debate.

The problem with the first debate for Obama is that he woke up two constituencies. His flank to the left, which he has steadfastly ignored since the fall of 2008, is more furious with him than ever before. The far right, even though Romney blew off everything they believe in, are more excited about the presidential race.

Obama’s master plan could involve the GOP being more excited about taking back the White House so they pour more money into Romney at the expense of the House and Senate races. This may indeed happen, but this is not the plan from the White House.

The GOP has had more consecutive years where they controlled the whole enchilada — 2001-2007 — under George W. Bush than the Dems have had in the last 32 years. Why Bill Clinton and now Barack Obama don’t fight harder to get their party to be in charge in Congress is absolutely befuddling.

Whether Obama gets re-elected or loses, the Democratic Party is going to want someone in its next leader who will fight up and down the ballot. Barack Obama has two more debates to show that he can be that person.

850 calories school lunch argument is right-wing political talking point

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If you’ve paid attention to the coverage of videos from high school students, you would think that most kids are starving at school, thanks to Michelle Obama.

Unfortunately for them, when you break down the numbers, the kids aren’t getting a significant difference in calories. They may not like the new food, but that complaint would sound bad from a PR standpoint.

The 850 calories approach has a simple PR-friendly take. Too bad the facts don’t back up the hype.

For more on the right-wing attack on school lunch reform, check out this column from our sister blog, BalanceofFood.com.