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Tom Rinaldo

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Member since: Mon Oct 20, 2003, 06:39 PM
Number of posts: 15,359

Journal Archives

One Crazy Too Many

No one exactly saw it coming, not then, not there anyway. And certainly not in the person of Clint Eastwood; who is widely viewed as a relatively down to earth and thoughtful man. .But it happened on prime time with the major networks watching – the Republican Party hit its crazy limit. Too many reckless charges made for far too long; Republicans finally maxed out on over the top, and the credit voters had given them is now overextended and in the process of being revoked.

The build up was slow, and steady. Rome wasn’t burnt down in a day, but the defining moment was precise and decisive; a uniform collective “WTF?” And though, in hindsight many could see it coming, the literal moment it happened was unsettling. That charge card had been used a hundred times before; often well beyond the normal limits. Why would it stop working now? That’s how it happens though. A clerk at a check out counter apologetically looks up one day and says, “I’m sorry sir but that account has been closed.”.

The Republican Party is branded now as just a wee bit unhinged. A large segment of the American people had been doggedly resisting reaching that conclusion for several years; But the Republican Party finally breached those lingering doubts, with a spotlight focused on center stage during the climax to their National Convention.

A point comes when thin ice cracks and it cracked that night. Mitt Romney thought he could skate past the danger, but he really should have known better. There were very recent sightings of Republican crazy, most notably in the persona of “legitimate rape” Akin, who believed “good girls” could shut it down. The public was primed for a Republican defining moment at the Convention, and it came. Unfortunately for Mitt Romney, it didn't come during his speech

Republicans have an old Party with a proud tradition. Getting pegged for being loony wasn’t easily accomplished. Republicans used to be thought of as the relatively sober team in politics, to the point of seeming staid at times. Wild eyes were seen as a Democratic trait. That hasn’t been true for a long time actually but conventional wisdom resists new data. It took a lot of new data on the Republican Party to set up that empty chair defining moment.

It took Pat Robertson blaming Katrina on gays, and Sarah Palin quitting as Governor with less than half of one term served. It took a 2010 Republican Senatorial Candidate warning about “Second Amendment Remedies” while another assured us she wasn’t a witch. It took Newt Gingrich calling Barack Obama a greater threat to America than al-Qaeda and Mitt Romney resurrecting the Cold War. It took Rush Limbaugh denouncing a young law student as a slut for defending the use of Birth Control, and Donald Trump sending private investigators to Hawaii to look for the President’s fake birth certificate.

It took all that and so much more but the hits never stopped coming in today’s Republican Party. As odd as Clint Eastwood’s performance was on Friday night, the oddest part was that somehow it did not seem all that out of place there once the initial shock wore off. The delegates in fact seemed to love it. It was just another crazy moment from a Party that rather predictably excels at them. But it was one crazy too many for a lot of Americans who tuned in to see whether they can trust Mitt Romney with the Presidency. The image of his Party is now an empty chair.

Of Course the Republican Convention Helped Romney - But Not Very Much

Every major party presidential year convention advances the agenda of the party holding it - they don't spend tens of millions for nothing - the only question is; how helpful was the Republican Convention that just ended? The answer this time should be reassuring to Democrats.

The Republican convention had been hyped for weeks as the first of 4 big chances (the debates are the others), that Romney will have to seize the narrative message of the campaign, to fire up his base, and to captivate undecideds voters with his leadership and with his vision for America. Instead the Convention warmed up Romney's base, gaffes and missteps partially muddied the Republican campaign narrative (think Clint, peanut throwing attendees, and speakers who glorified themselves as examples), and undecided voters know no more details about Romney's plans to change America's direction (other than changing the occupant of the White House) than they did before the Republican Convention. In other words they still know very little about Mitt Romney's plans.

Without Romney offering a compelling vision - something more distinctive and a little more specific than essentially loving America and hating unemployment, there is no strong reason for undecided voters to vote for Mitt Romney. Republicans are hoping they will be motivated by a desire to kick out the incumbent. Perhaps they will be but Mitt Romney has been counting on that dynamic since the day he officially declared for President, and the Republican Convention has come and gone with the President barely scuffed up by the proceedings. A good case can be made the Republican rising star new VP pick, Paul Ryan, landed as many blows against himself as he did against Obama by repeatedly and flagrantly distorting the truth and getting caught doing so.

For a supposedly good businessman Mitt Romney got a rather poor return on his investment in the Republican National Convention. Now Barack Obama gets to look forward to his own 4 day infomercial broadcast from Charlotte next week. The bar has been set exceedingly low for the Democrats to do better.

Some (my) Unsolicited Advice for Democrats

Just watched Stephanie Cutter being interviewed as a Obama campaign spokesperson this morning, and she is good, very good indeed. Can't fault her in anyway for how she handled herself in that interview. That said, she kept her emphasis focused on the Republican's gender liabilities; their extreme positions on birth control and no exceptions for rape and incest for abortions etc. Yes of course we have to hammer Republicans on that front - point granted.

But I believe that ultimately we will win or lose this election over Medicare and Social Security. The Republicans know that also. For reasons I went into in another DU OP Romney essentially had to pick Paul Ryan as his running mate. After doing so his campaign lost no time going on offense (always the best defense) regarding Medicare and Social Security. Ryan no doubt will do the same tonight. Every day that Democrats don't pound home our case regarding those two popular social programs we are giving the Republicans an opening to redefine themselves as the Party fighting to defend them.

Democrats are in danger of repeating the error made in 2004 regarding John Kerry's military service and heroism. We couldn't wrap our thoughts around Republicans turning that advantage around against Kerry. It just seemed too preposterous. Factually of course it was, but politically clearly it wasn't. It's as if our side never studied how the classic "Big Lie" functions. Democrats got caught flat footed then and we are in danger of having that happen to us again today.

Once a lie has legs it is difficult to run down and corner. Social Security and Medicare are the safety net for the Middle Class. They are the main event, and the battle over which political party emerges in the public mind as the one fighting to save them will occur in the center ring. Don't count on Republicans trying to run away from that debate. They will instigate it at every opportunity and by so doing attempt to define it on their terms. Forget the conventional wisdom that Democrats are viewed as the traditional defenders of those programs. Republicans will spend a billion dollars if necessary to turn that wisdom on its head.

Remember the Purple Heart band-aids Republicans used to mock John Kerry's heroism? Prepare for claims that Democrats are offering band aid solutions to preserving Social Security and Medicare while those programs hemorrhage red ink from potentially fatal budgetary wounds; one only Republicans are willing to address with the surgery needed to save them. Democrats need to focus our fire against the Republicans on this crucial front while we still hold the higher ground. Don't be lulled into a sense of false security by the republican prior track record. Tonight the Republicans begin in earnest to define themselves as the best friends Medicare and Social Security ever had.

I Hope Andrew Cuomo Got a Message Today

Just got back a little while ago from a March and Rally in Albany calling for a New York State wide ban on fracking for natural gas. Probably about two to three thousand people took part. That might not seem like a large number to some, but it is. Albany is not a very large city nor is it located near any larger ones. And remember, Monday is a workday. This wasn't a weekend rally with big name speakers and entertainers.

Almost everyone there, with very strong circumstantial evidence supporting it, believes Cuomo plans to go through with allowing fracking in the Southern Tier area of the State. Today was a warning to him of what lies ahead if he goes ahead and takes that path.

I can not in any way call myself a committed anti-fracking activist. I haven't put in the work to earn that distinction. I attended today though because I really care about this issue and I had the time and means to get there, so I went in support of those who organized it. I salute and applaud them for all the effort that went into the rousing call for action today event signifies.

While I haven't personally stepped up to become an anti-fracking activist (not yet anyway) I was an anti-nuclear power activist in the late 70's and early 80'. I was one of many grassroots organizers who brought a major energy industry to its knees for decades bu mobilizing ordinary people to do heroic things. I know a powerful grassroots movement when I see it and I saw one gathered in Albany today..

The anti-fracking coalition is broad, organized, fervent, and committed for the long haul. It is a true bottom up movement, with leaders emerging from farms and neighborhoods across the state. It is filled with the type of people that local people know well and greatly respect. They can not be marginalized or dissuaded by industry propaganda or scare tactics.

The event today culminated in the delivery of 3200 signatures on a pledge to resist fracking anywhere in New York State petition. Those aren't merely expressions of opposition to fracking, they are pledges to resist it by whatever non violent means necessary . The thousands of people who showed up today in Albany were the classic tip of the iceberg; because it was primarily a crowd of organizers who made the trip there today, come together from all across New York State and beyond. They represented far deeper ranks of hard core opponents to fracking who are busy organizing in their own communities but who could not all afford the time and money to journey to Albany on a word day.

This movement is growing and it is growing organically. It is also growing exponentially. The anti-fracking movement is deeply rooted at the community level where it can not simply be eradicated by energy corporation influence. I've been there before, I've seen how this grows, I know where this is heading and I can only hope Governor Cuomo has his eyes open and his ear to the ground, or he will be pained by what will soon hit him All Democratic elected State Senators in New York State (and they are one short of being in the majority) support a ban on fracking. Which side are you on Andrew? If you chose the wrong one you can forget about any Presidential ambitions.

Focused Like a Laser on a Mirror Ball: How a Paul Ryan Fiasco Became Almost Unavoidable

This is the Presidential Election that Republicans tried for three years to turn into a referendum on Barack Obama, It is rapidly becoming a referendum on the Republican Party instead. This is the Presidential Election that Republicans thought would be dominated by news about an anemic economic recovery and voter anxiety over stubborn unemployment numbers. Instead it has been dominated by news about Republican candidates and voter anxiety over the radical policy proposals they have embraced. Republicans worked so hard to set up this election on their chosen terms. What went wrong?

Instead of seeing a laser like focus on the economy, Americans watch the light show of a political party imploding. Pundits act surprised but they shouldn’t be. It’s been clear at least since the 2010 midterm elections that today’s Republican Party can’t be trusted with lasers. They don’t aim them where they say they will.

Remember “Jobs, jobs, jobs”, the Republican mid term mantra and proclaimed highest priority? Republicans never focused on job creation after their victory in 2010, and they never advanced an employment agenda either. The Republican laser instead focused on blaming Obama for a bad economy, even if that required blocking common sense initiatives Obama advanced to improve The Republican economic plan remained a retread of policies that gave us the Great Recession in the first place. Across the board tax cuts? That was tried before the Great Recession. Less government regulations? Republicans slashed those when they held the Presidency, and a less encumbered financial sector promptly crashed the world economy.

Simply put the Republican economic blue print is a hard one to sell, since only the wealthiest Americans actually benefit from it. So Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign sought to side step meaningful discussion about specific plans. After all, it doesn’t take a Keynesian to know that massive budget cuts don’t create jobs, yet slashing government spending is the only major new initiative Republicans have pushed since the demonstrably failed economic policies of George W. Bush’s administration.

Bottom line: Most Republican leaders never wanted a meaningful debate on either the economy or the budget (with the glaring exception of Paul Ryan who we will come to shortly). They only wanted a horrible economy to use against Obama. They might have gotten their wish had the euro zone collapsed this year as many were predicting, forcing the U.S. back into renewed recession. Paul Ryan wouldn’t be on the ticket today had that scenario materialized.

The Republican Congressional agenda revolved around obstruction in the Senate and distraction in the House, with all the hoopla several dozen attempts to repeal Obamacare plus myriad convoluted attacks on abortion could muster. While Republicans blamed Obama for a lack luster economy they deflected attention away from unsettling details of their own economic agenda. Balancing the budget is a relatively popular goal to advocate for, but far less so if it entails shredding the Middle Class safety net while preserving tax give-aways to Big Oil and rejecting the Buffet rule for millionaires.

Cue up the Republican Mirror Ball: Birthism? Check. Creeping Communism? Check. Sharia Law? Check. Obama’s Un-America Values? Check. Witch hunt for Voter Fraud ? Check. Anything other than a honest discussion about actual issues with real economic implications. Heading into summer Mitt Romney banked on a bad economy to effectively sink Obama. He campaigned on soothing sound bites with fill in the blank details, but mostly Romney blamed the President for everything that ails us. That was supposed to be enough to secure a Republican victory.

Paul Ryan though had his own personal agenda. His rise to prominence in the Republican Party was fueled by his reputation as a policy wonk, one who not only knew the numbers but was courageous enough to tabulate them in cold print on a national stage. For Paul Ryan substance, or at least the plausible appearance of it, is his political life blood.

The National Republican Party, the part not totally subsumed by the Tea Party at least, has a love hate relationship with Paul Ryan. They need Paul Ryan in order to appear credible in regards to budgetary policies. Without Ryan Republicans couldn’t wage scorched earth warfare for continuing huge tax cuts for the rich while portraying large budget deficits as leading to the inevitable downfall of America. Isn’t that a contradiction? Not to worry, Paul Ryan had a plan. Ryan crunched the numbers to support Republican bottom lines, and the Party preferred to just leave it at that. Don’t dwell on the pesky details.

Although the Paul Ryan budget has the added advantage of offering red meat to the Republican hard core base, it raises anxieties for voters outside that core when its provisions got looked at closely. In fact attacking the Ryan budget helped Democrats win seats in a string of special elections held after the 2010 mid term elections. The Democrats, it seems, needed Paul Ryan around as much as Republicans did; which is why most pundits never expected Mitt Romney to choose Paul Ryan as his running mate.

The Republican Mirror Ball helped keep voters from looking too closely at the Paul Ryan Budget, which Mitt Romney and Congressional Republicans have all formally approved. 2012 was supposed to be a referendum on Obama, not on Republican plans to privatize Medicare and Social Security. That scheme failed for two reasons. The first one is straight forward. The economic recovery under President Obama is still ongoing, albeit at a disappointing anemic rate. Had the U.S. economy begun retracting again, had a much feared double dip recession taken hold before the November elections, Republicans had good reason to believe Obama would be toast. All Romney had to do to win under that scenario was stay out of jail.

But Republicans weren’t counting on a literal U.S. fall back into recession to propel them back into the White House. A year ago they gladly would have forfeited that contingency if they somehow could have locked in an 8,3% unemployment rate for August of 2012. Republicans sowed the seeds of their own pending destruction by underestimating the American electorate.

Mitt Romney essentially thought all he had to do to defeat Barack Obama for President under prevailing circumstances was to present himself to voters as a successful businessman who “knew how the economy worked”. He stood as “Other” on a multiple choice question that had Barack Obama as the only alternate option. But it turns out the American people were resistant to the placebo effect. They actually wanted to understand more about the pill they were being asked to swallow. When they went looking for answers both Mitt Romney in specific, and Republicans in general, had precious few to offer.

Americans saw a presidential candidate tied to anti-gay and anti-immigrant positions in a Party beset by Birthers. And Americans weren’t ready to accept that one and a half years worth of tax returns was all they needed to see from a man who had amassed a fortune north of 250 million dollars while gaming the system to his personal advantage. They also didn’t go along with Romney’s logic that details about his economic plans were better left to be revealed and discussed after the November election.

Voters wondered where Mitt Romney stood on anything because he showed a disturbing ability to change his positions on everything whenever political winds shifted throughout his career. They saw a politician who either lacked in substance and convictions, or one who lacked enough faith in the voters to reveal either his core convictions or the real substance of his policy agenda.

Mitt Romney didn’t want to choose Paul Ryan as his Vice Presidential choice, Romney had to choose Paul Ryan. Ryan was the antidote to the downward spiral of the failed narrative that Mitt Romney’s campaign had become. Most voters accept that Paul Ryan, unlike Mitt Romney, actually has core convictions. Most voters believe that Paul Ryan, unlike Mitt Romney, actually welcomes public scrutiny of his policy proposals. Most voters think that Paul Ryan, unlike Mitt Romney, is willing to openly face controversy to advocate for measures he believes our nation needs. Mitt Romney needed to associate himself with someone like Paul Ryan to restore his credibility as a potential leader of the nation.

There are just two major problems with Mitt Romney’s VP pick strategy. The more the American people learn about Paul Ryan’s actual proposals and convictions, the less they like them. They actually strongly reject many of them but Mitt Romney owns them all now, since he personally picked Ryan from a plethora of VP options. Unless, of course, Mitt Romney forces Paul Ryan to disassociate himself from his own proposals and convictions, and become more like Romney himself. But that just brings us back to square one and negates the reason for choosing Ryan. Except today’s square one is even more toxic for Romney than the one from early July, since Democrats will make damn sure that voters know exactly what Paul Ryan stands for, and the sight of Mitt Romney running away from his chosen running mate does not build confidence in his leadership.

What type of nation are we?

When we discuss Social Security, when we discuss Medicare and Medicaid, that is the question that should be asked. Every society on Earth, for as long as there have been societies on earth, makes choices about how the elderly, about how the weak, and about how the youngest among them will be provided for. In almost every case there is a recognition that those who are healthy, able bodied, and in the prime of their adult lives, must collectively make sure that those who are not do not suffer when that suffering is avoidable.

For those who are Christian there is no better teacher for that need than Jesus Christ himself who in Matthew 25:31-46 said:

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

"He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

The Republican Party is always among the first to proclaim that the United States of America is the "greatest nation on Earth". Almost all agree that the U.S.A. is among the wealthiest, if not the wealthiest, nation on Earth. So when the lives of of our old, our young, and our ill lie at stake, what are our priorities?

For generations Americans, largely but not exclusively under the leadership of Democrats, have striven to protect our vulnerable by providing and seeking to strengthen an economic safety net to prevent them from falling through society's cracks to be dashed on the hard pavement below. That is a social value. That is a societal priority. But is it a higher priority in America today than the cry of "What's mine is mine!" coming from those least in need?

Numbers shift, budgets ink runs black or red, but reality doesn't change. Sick people always need medical care. The elderly always need safe housing Children always need food and a quality education.

As long as America can afford to provide tax shelters for the rich, we can afford to provide housing for the elderly. As long as America can provide tax incentives for the wealthiest among us to invest overseas, we can afford to invest in the education of our young. As long as America can afford to give tax breaks to Energy corporations making all time record profits, we can prevent people dieing in unheated homes.

I suppose a day may come when America as a whole is poor, when America can no longer afford to provide for it's elderly, ill and young. But any day America cuts Medicare is a day when America is far from being the greatest nation on Earth. The wealth exists in America to provide for those not in the prime of our lives. It is being hoarded by the one percent who for decades have redirected America's prosperity into their own off shore bank accounts. We are not a poor nation. Poor people understand the importance of sharing.

We are a nation with moral values. The question is, what are they?

On Romney Taxes - Speculate This

Suppose, just suppose, that Harry Reid's source has an agreement with Reid. What if, as a last resort, he or she is willing to go on record regarding Romney's taxes? Except that he or she really would rather not have to go there if at all possible. So first Harry gets out in front and passes on the claim made to him in private in a public attempt to force Romney to release more of his tax returns. The clock keeps ticking toward an agreed upon date. When time runs out Reid's source goes public if all other efforts fail to flush out the Romney returns.

What if that's the deal that has already been made? If so it could help explain why Harry Reid seems so very confident in his position. One way or the other Reid will be vindicated. I wonder how many people are in a position to spill the beans on Romney? I wonder how many people now or formerly close to him the Romney campaign is paranoid about. It must make life uncomfortable within his circle.

I don't know the likelihood of any of this being the case, but it doesn't matter what I do or do not know. Romney has created a gaping void that we all are free to speculate about as long as he keeps hiding his tax returns from the public. In fact it's hard not to. As long as taxes are a campaign issue, and Republicans love to campaign on tax rates as an issue, this will not go away.

No Apology - No Mistake in Raising Bain Issues

Romney wanted to cake walk into the White House on the strength of being "a successful businessman." He wanted to campaign on one liners like "I created 100,000 jobs". Romney wanted to win simply by not being Barack Obama; by blaming a sluggish economy on the incumbent and being the alternative. Unfortunately Romney doesn't have either the right or the power to insert his preferred narrative into the national debate unchallenged.

It is only mid July. Barack Obama has ample time to remind voters of his own strengths later in the campaign. What voters needed to be reminded of now is how the economy got so bad in the first place, and under which party's watch the ship of state was seized by pirates and corporate raiders.

Most Americans credit FDR with helping pull the United States out of a deep Depression. They also know that doing so fully took over 8 years and World War Two to accomplish. Republicans wrecked our economy. They handed the keys over to a business elite with its own narrow and self serving agenda, an elite with more than a few people in it quite similar to Mitt Romney.

Mitt Romney chose to run on his record at Bain Capital - but he preferred to keep Bain out of it. Romney wanted to run as a successful businessman without the details of his business being subject to public scrutiny. No deal. Romney could have run on his record as Massachusetts Governor instead, where he can take full credit for Romneycare, but he pushed that part into the shadows also.

America doesn't elect shadowy Presidents. We don't contract for a President C.O.D. The Obama team has been brilliant in both content and timing so far in this campaign. Americans knew a lot about Barack Obama but much less about Mitt Romney, who wanted voters kept in the dark both about the details of his past and his plans for our future.

Team Obama refused to play along with Mitt Romney's chosen game, and more power to them for that. Going so called "negative" might make a few voters think a tad less kindly toward Obama in the short run, but it was worth it, both for Obama and for our nation. This election won't be won by one guy being more warm and fuzzy than the other. Obama will win hands down among any voters who rank personality as a deciding factor, no matter what he does during this campaign.

This election will come down to the economy, and the questions: "whose fault is it that it cratered and still remains sluggish?" and "which candidate is fighting for my economic interests?" Every "attack ad" the Obama team has run raised questions about Romney's business record. What is the alternative, NOT raising questions about Romeny's business record? Seriously? It is the only thing Romney is willing to run on. It is why he thinks America should elect him President.

Obama raised the questions that needed to be asked about Mitt Romney at EXACTLY the appropriate time. The nation is better off for it as we now move forward seeking answers about both mens vision for America. Don't listen to the corporate apologizers no matter which Party they come from. Most corporations actually have little to apologize for, so the truth is not a threat to their business. Bain not only is fair game, it is essential that Americans study that business record for evidence on the priorities of a man who now seeks to lead all of us, not just a private equity firm. Thanks to team Obama, it is now all on the table.

Harry Reid often doesn't get much credit around here

But I've been thinking of late that he's been doing pretty damn well under all of the circumstances. I don't consider Reid weak or spineless. He isn't loud or flashy, but Reid is willing to stand his ground and forcefully speak his mind, soft spoken as he might be. There is never real talk about disgruntled Senators from any wing of the Democratic Party plotting how to potentially unseat him. I believe Harry has won all of their respect, and that in itself is a pretty impressive accomplishment.

Who will ask Romney these questions this summer?

Do you believe that Climate Change is real and that it can have a serious long term adverse impact on the United States? If you do believe that Climate Change is real, do you believe that man made changes in carbon emissions are a significant contributer to current Climate Change? If you are undecided on either the first or second question, as a man seeking the U.S. Presidency, how many more years spent researching this matter further do you advise America wait before you can decide whether significant actions are needed to mitigate against this "potential" threat?

I think it is a no win proposition for Romney to be confronted with these questions now. His hardest core base would be angry with him if he acknowledges that actions are needed to mitigate the changing climate. But even some of them (at the grass roots level) must be starting to worry about it more given weather patterns this year. Meanwhile everyone else is primed to hear what our leaders have to say on this, and the heat waves and drought are driving home the environmental message.
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