Daily Archives: December 28, 2011

Glenn Greenwald on Obama

Vote Obama – if you want a centrist Republican for US president

by Glenn Greenwald

American presidential elections are increasingly indistinguishable from the reality TV competitions drowning the nation’s airwaves. Both are vapid, personality-driven and painfully protracted affairs, with the winners crowned by virtue of their ability to appear slightly more tolerable than the cast of annoying rejects whom the public eliminates one by one. When, earlier this year, America’s tawdriest (and one of its most-watched) reality TV show hosts, Donald Trump, inserted himself into the campaign circus as a threatened contestant, he fitted right in, immediately catapulting to the top of audience polls before announcing he would not join the show.

The Republican presidential primaries – shortly to determine who will be the finalist to face off, and likely lose, against Barack Obama next November – has been a particularly base spectacle. That the contest has devolved into an embarrassing clown show has many causes, beginning with the fact that GOP voters loathe Mitt Romney, their belief-free, anointed-by-Wall-Street frontrunner who clearly has the best chance of defeating the president.

In a desperate attempt to find someone less slithery and soulless (not to mention less Mormon), party members have lurched manically from one ludicrous candidate to the next, only to watch in horror as each wilted the moment they were subjected to scrutiny. Incessant pleas to the party’s ostensibly more respectable conservatives to enter the race have been repeatedly rebuffed. Now, only Romney remains viable. Republican voters are thus slowly resigning themselves to marching behind a vacant, supremely malleable technocrat whom they plainly detest.

In fairness to the much-maligned GOP field, they face a formidable hurdle: how to credibly attack Obama when he has adopted so many of their party’s defining beliefs. Depicting the other party’s president as a radical menace is one of the chief requirements for a candidate seeking to convince his party to crown him as the chosen challenger. Because Obama has governed as a centrist Republican, these GOP candidates are able to attack him as a leftist radical only by moving so far to the right in their rhetoric and policy prescriptions that they fall over the cliff of mainstream acceptability, or even basic sanity.

In July, the nation’s most influential progressive domestic policy pundit, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, declared that Obama is a “moderate conservative in practical terms”. Last October, he wrote that “progressives who had their hearts set on Obama were engaged in a huge act of self-delusion”, because the president – “once you get past the soaring rhetoric” – has “largely accepted the conservative storyline”.

Krugman also pointed out that even the policy Democratic loyalists point to as proof of the president’s progressive bona fides – his healthcare plan, which mandates the purchase of policies from the private health insurance industry – was designed by the Heritage Foundation, one of the nation’s most rightwing thinktanks, and was advocated by conservative ideologues for many years (it also happens to be the same plan Romney implemented when he was governor of Massachusetts and which Newt Gingrich once promoted, underscoring the difficulty for the GOP in drawing real contrasts with Obama).

How do you scorn a president as a far-left socialist when he has stuffed his administration with Wall Street executives, had his last campaign funded by them, governed as a “centrist Republican”, and presided over booming corporate profits even while the rest of the nation suffered economically?

But as slim as the pickings are for GOP candidates on the domestic policy front, at least there are some actual differences in that realm. The president’s 2009 stimulus spending and Wall Street “reform” package – tepid and inadequate though they were – are genuinely at odds with rightwing dogma, as are Obama’s progressive (albeit inconsistent) positions on social issues, such as equality for gay people and protecting a woman’s right to choose. And the supreme court, perpetually plagued by a 5-4 partisan split, would be significantly affected by the outcome of the 2012 election.

It is in the realm of foreign policy, terrorism and civil liberties where Republicans encounter an insurmountable roadblock. A staple of GOP politics has long been to accuse Democratic presidents of coddling America’s enemies (both real and imagined), being afraid to use violence, and subordinating US security to international bodies and leftwing conceptions of civil liberties.

But how can a GOP candidate invoke this time-tested caricature when Obama has embraced the vast bulk of George Bush’s terrorism policies; waged a war against government whistleblowers as part of a campaign of obsessive secrecy; led efforts to overturn a global ban on cluster bombs; extinguished the lives not only of accused terrorists but of huge numbers of innocent civilians with cluster bombs and drones in Muslim countries; engineered a covert war against Iran; tried to extend the Iraq war; ignored Congress and the constitution to prosecute an unauthorised war in Libya; adopted the defining Bush/Cheney policy of indefinite detention without trial for accused terrorists; and even claimed and exercised the power to assassinate US citizens far from any battlefield and without due process?

Reflecting this difficulty for the GOP field is the fact that former Bush officials, including Dick Cheney, have taken to lavishing Obama with public praise for continuing his predecessor’s once-controversial terrorism polices. In the last GOP foreign policy debate, the leading candidates found themselves issuing recommendations on the most contentious foreign policy question (Iran) that perfectly tracked what Obama is already doing, while issuing ringing endorsements of the president when asked about one of his most controversial civil liberties assaults (the due-process-free assassination of the American-Yemeni cleric Anwar Awlaki). Indeed, when it comes to the foreign policy and civil liberties values Democrats spent the Bush years claiming to defend, the only candidate in either party now touting them is the libertarian Ron Paul, who vehemently condemns Obama’s policies of drone killings without oversight, covert wars, whistleblower persecutions, and civil liberties assaults in the name of terrorism.

In sum, how do you demonise Obama as a terrorist-loving secret Muslim intent on empowering US enemies when he has adopted, and in some cases extended, what was rightwing orthodoxy for the last decade? The core problem for GOP challengers is that they cannot be respectable Republicans because, as Krugman pointed out, Obama has that position occupied. They are forced to move so far to the right that they render themselves inherently absurd.

Mario Piperni Does Ron Paul

Ron Paul’s Candidacy

December 28, 2011 By

Whatever happens in Iowa come January 3, the next Republican debate should be a doozy. Here’s Newt Gingrich unloading on Ron Paul.

“I think Barack Obama is very destructive to the future of the United States. I think Ron Paul’s views are totally outside the mainstream of virtually every decent American,” Gingrich said Tuesday in a CNN interview with Wolf Blitzer.

Could he vote for Paul? “No.” If it came down to Paul vs. Obama? “You’d have a very hard choice at that point.”

“As people get to know more about Ron Paul, who disowns 10 years of his own newsletter, says he didn’t really realize what was in it, had no idea what he was making money off of, had no idea that it was racist, anti-Semitic, called for the destruction of Israel, talked about a race war – all of this is a sudden shock to Ron Paul?” he asked. “There will come a morning people won’t take him as a serious person.”

With Paul now leading in Iowa (Romney’s in second with everyone else but Huntsman tied in third position), the spotlight is now on the cranky old man with the radical positions and the bigoted-tinged past. To hear Paul disavow any knowledge of the content of newsletters which earned him a little fortune ($1 million or more), does serious damage to his credibility. It’s a point which Gingrich, Bachmann and Perry will hammer away at over the next while.

Interestingly, a poll released this week shows that only 51 percent of Paul’s supporters come from the Republican side of the ledger. That compares with Romney’s 87 percent and Gingrich’s 85 percent Republican support. The breakdown for Paul supporters in New Hampshire is as follows: 13% Republican, 36 % independents and 26% Democrats. No other candidate attracts non-Republicans like Paul does.

Is Ron Paul going to win this thing? Not likely…but here’s an interesting thought to ponder:

[A] semi-successful Paul 2012 run means that there is now a whole network of party activists who love the Paul brand and know the ropes. They’re ready to go if Kentucky Senator Rand Paul – Ron’s son – wants to run. He’s also a fairly pure libertarian in many ways and could easily pick up that wing of the party. If the social conservatives burn out in 2012 and 2016, by running against Democrats during the peak of the business cycle, then the GOP may be ready to let Rand Paul run in 2020 and he might win. The real legacy of Paul’s 2012 primary run may be laying the groundwork for Rand Paul presidency.

Chew on that.

BuzzFlash on Mr. Mittens

Mitt Romney is the Epitome of “Entitlement”

ROBERT CREAMER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Earlier this week, Republican Presidential candidate Willard Mitt Romney delivered a speech framing the 2012 presidential election as a choice between an “entitlement society” and an “opportunity society.”

It really takes chutzpa for a guy who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth to rail against an “entitlement society.” Here is a guy who got his start in life the old-fashioned way – he inherited it.

Now I realize that you don’t get to choose your parents. He had no role in deciding that he would be born into the family of an auto executive and Michigan Governor – but at least he should have the decency not to attack “entitlements.”

This is not a guy who pulled himself up by his boot-straps. His name, his family connections and – not incidentally – his money gave him a real leg up when he decided to go into the investment banking business. And let’s not forget that when he did go into business for himself, he didn’t make money building things or inventing things – or designing new products. He made money buying companies, and often breaking them up, or firing employees.

Last Sunday’s New York Times reported that Romney continued to make money from his old firm Bain Capital through his time as Governor and his attempts to run for Senate and President. It noted that much of his income is likely taxed at only 15% — though we don’t know for sure since he refuses to release his tax returns.

He is the poster boy for the one percent – and he is talking about “entitlements”?

If you ask someone on the street which kid in high school Mitt Romney reminds him of, he is likely to tell you it’s the kid who drove to school in a Ferrari and got all the socially “in” girls. He was the smug guy who knew he was set for life.

As humorist and political commentator Jim Hightower used to say of the first George Bush – Romney is a guy who was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple. And he is lecturing America about the “entitlement society”?

And let’s look at what he refers to as “entitlements.” Mainly he’s talking about Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Let’s remember that Social Security and Medicare are not “entitlements” at all. They are earned benefits that people pay for through their payroll taxes throughout their working lives.

And Medicaid? It’s the program that guarantees that if you’re a child who is not lucky enough to be born into the household of an auto executive and Michigan Governor you still get health care. It’s the program that assures that if you weren’t lucky enough to have a trust fund – or if some investment banker bought your company and fired you – that you can still get treatment if you get hit by a bus. It’s the program that assures that when you’re 80 years old and get Alzheimer’s but your 401-K disappeared because a bunch of Wall Street sharpies made reckless investments and sunk the economy – you can get long-term care instead of being left to die on the street.

Then again that’s not something a guy like Mitt Romney would know about. In fact he admitted the other day that he didn’t really know the difference between Medicare and Medicaid until he was 55 years old. Guess a guy who has about $200 million in assets doesn’t have to worry about such things.

You see, a guy like Romney doesn’t have the foggiest that the government initiatives he attacks are precisely the things that actually do create “an opportunity society.”

It was the GI Bill that sent the generation of Americans that fought World War II to college. It is Pell Grants and government-guaranteed student loans that allow most middle class Americans to send their kids to college.

It was Medicare and Social Security that rescued American seniors from poverty and provided guaranteed health care and a guaranteed base income for retirement. Romney, of course, wouldn’t know how important an average $14,000 annual Social Security benefit is to an everyday senior – that’s an hour’s compensation for the high-flying Wall Street types he hung around with at Bain Capital.

No, Romney is much more interested in privatizing Social Security and Medicare so his Wall Street buddies can get their hands on the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds – even though that would eliminate the guaranteed benefits that are so critical to the health and welfare of America’s seniors.

Romney and the Republicans in Washington don’t seem to give a rat’s rear about the unemployment insurance or payroll tax holiday that will expire in ten days because the House Republicans have refused to pass a two-month extension while the terms of a year-long extension can be negotiated.

Forty dollars a paycheck – the cost of the increased payroll tax bite that everyday families will experience the first of the year – may not mean much to a multi-millionaire like Mitt Romney. But to ordinary families, $40 is the electric bill or several bags of groceries – and after just a few pay periods, it begins to add up pretty fast.

Turns out that when Republicans in Washington talk about taxes, they’re not so worried about a $40 increase ordinary people will have to pay in payroll taxes every time they get a paycheck. They’re worried about million dollar tax breaks for the gang on Wall Street.

Romney doesn’t even seem to have a clue that it is funding for public education and the public infrastructure that allows everyday Americans to have an opportunity to succeed – or that government has a responsibility to jumpstart the economy so that everyday, middle class people can get jobs.

In fact, he seems to agree with the Republican leaders of the House who say that unemployment benefits discourage people from looking for work. Guess Mitt has never been one of the five people competing for every available job. Oh, I forgot, Mitt says he is “unemployed” too. Talk about out of touch.

No, Romney’s view of an “opportunity society” is one where the government does nothing to help prevent foreclosures “so the market can bottom out.” It is one where the government stands by while the American auto industry collapses and costs a million Americans their good middle class jobs.

Then again, maybe Mitt’s idea of an “opportunity society” is having the “opportunity” to win the lottery – or maybe that would be a $10,000 bet. Doesn’t everyone make those?

Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the book: Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on Amazon.com. He is a partner in Democracy Partners and a Senior Strategist for Americans United for Change. Follow him on Twitter @rbcreamer.