Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What won't Perry say to raise cash?

By Bob Gaydos
God bless Rick Perry.
Well, I don’t actually mean that literally, but what the heck, a lot of spiritual leaders say it’s good to pray for people with whom you have … issues. That qualifies Perry in my book. But what I really mean to do is thank him for, in his usual bumbling way, providing a concrete example of what the Occupy Wall Street movement is about.
Money. The pursuit of money. The power of money. The endless pursuit of money in politics. The overwhelming power of money in politics.
Perry, a Republican, is the governor of Texas, a state that was content with Democratic chief executives for decades until the turn of the recent century. Perry was elected lieutenant governor to Gov. George W. Bush in 1999, then succeeded him as governor when the U.S. Supreme Court elected him president. Apparently, the Texas Legislature must have repealed the IQ requirement for governor shortly after Ann Richards left office.
In any event, Perry, reputedly a charming guy and a master fundraiser, has seen his presidential hopes dimmed because every time he speaks he sounds confused, evasive or just plain dumb. (Again, this has apparently not been a problem in Texas politics.) However, the fact that these things also hold true for many of his Republican primary opponents has kept his presidential dream alive.
It also took him to the feet of a man whose very name has become synonymous with what politics is about today -- Donald Trump. Big money.
Perry had dinner with Trump in search of an endorsement and maybe some campaign donation. The thinking behind such courting is that, if Trump anoints Perry, perhaps a lot of others who want a piece of the Trump action will follow suit, just to ingratiate themselves with the Donald.
The fact that Trump, who abandoned his fake campaign weeks ago, still has any influence at all in GOP politics traces to his name and bank account. But Perry took the ingratiating far beyond the power and prestige route. He actually let one of Trump’s dumber ideas slip into his own conversation -- the idea that President Obama was not born in the United States.
Yup, Perry fell into the “birther” briar patch, in, of all places, an interview with a reporter for Parade Magazine. Now, this is virtually impossible to do since the apple pie-America Sunday magazine doesn’t even approach Katie Couric on the tough interviewer scale. Here’s what was said in the middle of a lengthy interview that was edited for the print version, but appeared in full online:
“Parade: Governor, do you believe that President Barack Obama was born in the United States?
“Perry: I have no reason to think otherwise.
“Parade: That's not a definitive, ‘Yes, I believe he’--
“Perry: Well, I don't have a definitive answer, because he's never seen my birth certificate.
“Parade: But you've seen his.
“Perry: I don't know. Have I?
“Parade: You don't believe what's been released?
“Perry: I don't know. I had dinner with Donald Trump the other night.
“Parade: And?
“Perry: That came up.
“Parade: And he said?
“Perry: He doesn't think it's real.
“Parade: And you said?
“Perry: I don't have any idea. It doesn't matter. He's the President of the United States. He's elected. It's a distractive issue.
First off, kudos to reporter Lynn Sherr for a textbook interview, following each of Perry’s answers to the next logical question.
Second: He doesn’t have any idea if Obama’s birth certificate is real? Really? After Obama provided his long form birth certificate in April and Trump was laughed out of the campaign for sticking with that insulting argument? This is where Perry wants to go just because he had dinner with Mr. Moneybags? And voters are supposed to take Perry seriously when he talks about budgets and flat taxes and a lot of other more complicated issues?
The online version of the Parade interview also contained interesting comments by Perry on secession. He denied ever suggesting that Texas do it, as has been reported, but insisted that he could “understand” why some might suggest it: “Let’s say somebody stands up at an event and says, ‘Secede.’ My response would be that we have a great country. I see no reason that we would ever want to dissolve it, but I do understand why people get frustrated when government does not work the way our Founding Fathers meant for it to. I totally understand why people would shout that out. Do I think it’s a realistic thing? No.”
Not realistic? Why give the wackos any wiggle room? They claim to be patriots, so why not just say, “No. It would be an irresponsible act of war”?
Imagine if Texas, theoretically, decided to secede because residents got “frustrated” with the federal government and the president decided, as Abraham Lincoln did, that it was his duty to protect and defend all property of the United States?
Fort Bliss. Fort Hood. Corpus Christi Naval Air Station/Naval Hospital. Lackland Air Force Base. NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Can Texas hope to just take them over without a fight? How about the oil fields crucial to U.S. security?
This is arrant nonsense, if not treason, and the fact that Perry can’t just say so is evidence of a mind too confused trying to figure out what he can say and still raise cash from the loony fringe of the Republican Party. Which includes Trump on the “birther” issue.
Sarah Palin, God bless her, figured it out. She decided to keep saying whatever popped into her head, raise bundles of money from the faithful, and leave the campaigning to the suckers.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

A reasonable Republican candidate = loser

By Bob Gaydos
While seven of the usual suspects were in Las Vegas engaged in an all-out food fight centering around Mitt Romney, the only Republican presidential candidate who doesn’t come off as a cartoon of him or her self was in New Hampshire appealing to the reasonableness of the voters of the Granite State.
Poor Jon Huntsman. His campaign is just about out of money. He is polling about 7 percent among potential Republican voters. And yet he insists on trying to run a campaign grounded in what most people would regard as reality. He doesn’t stand a chance, not in the Mad Hatter tea party that is today’s GOP.
Huntsman was really in trouble from day one of his campaign and the fact that he is a Mormon was the least of his intra-party challenges. A staunch right-to-life, pro-gun, fiscally conservative former governor of Utah, Huntsman has also been an outspoken opponent of the war in Afghanistan, favors civil unions for same-sex couples, almost enacted a mandated health care plan in Utah and believes scientists who say the earth is heating up and that it is a problem.
Recognizing that some of those positions differ from some of the louder elements of his party, Huntsman nevertheless threw his hat in the ring, saying, “It's OK -- you've got to be who you are and march forward. Some people will like it. And I believe that in the end people will look at the totality of what it is you stand for, the totality of what you've done, and then make an informed decision."
Yeah, well, sorry about that, Jon. That reasonable-sounding approach to campaigning is probably Huntsman’s most serious disconnect from the reality of Republican politics today. If you do not adopt the orthodoxy of the outspoken, pro-religion, anti-government extreme right wing GOP minority these days, you do not get their primary support -- be it votes or dollars. It has led front-runner Mitt Romney, another Mormon former governor, to come across as a hypocrite. Romney has reversed his position on every possible issue since becoming a candidate -- and a wooden one at that.
It’s what happened to John McCain in 2008 when he captured the GOP nomination. Huntsman was one of McCain’s national campaign chairmen, so he saw how swallowing one’s principles is the key to success in the modern GOP. Yet there was Huntsman in New Hampshire Tuesday telling a Washington Post writer, “I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.”
We’ll leave that for Rick Santorum, Jon.
Huntsman’s boycott of the Las Vegas debate -- a statement about Nevada’s jumping in line ahead of the traditional first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary -- was accompanied by another moderate-sounding broadside in the Wall Street Journal.
In an opinion page article, Huntsman said President Barack Obama's Wall Street reforms did not solve the problem of "too-big-to-fail" banks. Noting that, three years after the financial crisis, “the six largest American financial institutions are significantly bigger than they were before the crisis,” he said imposing a tax on these large institutions would be one way to lower the risk of a future bailout by taxpayers.
Well of course it would, Jon. That’s why the rest of your Republican would-be presidents oppose it. But I bet you’d get a warmer reception for the idea with the Occupy Wall Street crowd.
That’s Huntsman’s problem. He can see when the emperor is naked and can’t stop himself from saying so. That, and the fact that he actually worked for Obama as ambassador to China.
This, too, is regarded as a negative in some Republican circles -- the fact that he was deemed qualified to handle one of the key U.S. diplomatic postings of the 21st century, by a president of the opposing party. Yet a pizza huckster with no government or foreign policy experience ranks among the leaders in the GOP primary polls based largely on a campaign that sounds like a TV ad: 999. One large pie with two toppings. Pickup only.
Huntsman says he hopes to convince the traditionally independent voters of New Hampshire to accept his reasonable brand of conservatism -- the way they did for McCain in 2000 -- then carry that victory to triumph in South Carolina.
Here again, I think Huntsman has lost touch with reality. If I’m one of the other seven candidates -- say Rick Perry -- I’m digging out Huntsman’s answer to a question at a GOP debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California on Sept. 7:
“Q: You have said the party is in danger of becoming anti-science. Who on this stage is anti-science?
“A: Listen, when you make comments that fly in the face of what 98 out of 100 climate scientists have said, when you call into question the science of evolution, all I'm saying is that, in order for the Republican Party to win, we can't run from science. We can't run from mainstream conservative philosophy. We've got to win voters; to reach out and bring in independents.”
Yeah, that’ll play well with the Bob Jones University crowd.

Friday, October 14, 2011

GOP's new flavor of the week: Vanilla

By Bob Gaydos
Don’t look now, but the flavor of the week for all those frustrated, angry, eager-for-change Republicans is … vanilla.
Not cherry vanilla or even vanilla bean. And no, sorry Mr. Cain, despite all the high-profile attention you’ve been getting from the media of late, not “black walnut with substance.” Plain old vanilla, aka Mitt Romney, is looking more and more like what he has acted like from the beginning of the tortuous Republican presidential primary process -- the eventual GOP nominee.
That won’t be because he has captured the imagination of the party faithful (whoever they may be), but because none of the other colorful, imaginative GOP candidates has offered anything close to a resume that screams. “Pick me! I know how to do the job.”
The anyone-but-Romney crown within the GOP had a rough couple of weeks as two of their more prominent, colorful potential candidates both opted not to run. Chris Christie, the larger-than-life governor of New Jersey, who likes to beat up on teachers, has regularly insisted he was not a presidential candidate, but apparently felt obligated to consider the pleas to run one more time when all the vanilla-haters in the GOP begged him. Mr. Rocky Road said thanks, but no, once again.
And Sarah Palin, the hot fudge sundae who has been running away from political office ever since she was John McCain’s partner on the 2008 losing ticket, proved she is smarter than a lot of folks (me included) give her credit for, by saying she’s not running for president either. Clearly, it’s much easier to travel around the country on a spiffy bus, picking up hefty speaking fees than having to campaign for office, never mind actually governing that country.
On her way out, Palin tagged Cain (erroneously calling him “Herb,” not Herman) as the next flavor of the week because Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann, a make-up-your own-sundae candidate, had fallen out of favor when Texas Gov. Rick Perry jumped into the race. But Perry quickly went from being the favorite anti-Romney candidate to melted butter pecan after terrible debate performances. Apparently even Republicans have lost a taste for affable Texans who don’t know what they’re talking about.
That leaves Rick Santorum hanging around, even though almost nobody’s buying what he’s selling, along with Newt Gingrich, and no one’s going to buy any ice cream called Newt. And of course, Ron Paul, the Libertarian in Republican clothing, is still in the race. He’ll never drop out and could even get flavor of the week some time, but when he goes all soft-serve on the wars in Afghanistan and against drugs the GOP hardliners will go soft-serve on him. But mostly, it will be because they’re not sure what flavor he really is.
This, we are told, leaves Republicans with Cain and Romney. Republicans love colorful, tough-talking, no-nonsense businessmen who are convinced they know how to do what the “professional politicians” don’t. Ross Perot. Donald Trump. Steve Forbes. They made their fortunes in business (the latter two with the help of Daddy) and, by golly, they could do it in the White House, too. Or so they said.
But they couldn’t get the nomination because they couldn’t do what politicians have to do in order to succeed -- understand the concerns of all the people and work with those who hold different views for the greater good. It is not just a matter of telling employees what to do in order to improve the bottom line. It is more a matter of improving all citizens’ bottom lines and, by the way, getting along with the rest of the world.
Perot ran as an independent, and a paranoid one at that. Trump was always just a TV act looking for ratings. Forbes proposed a flat tax on all Americans and said that would straighten out all our problems, not just the budget. He never got why that was unfair to those who were not born rich.
Cain has a version of this with his 9-9-9- plan. He also doesn’t understand why a 9 percent national sales tax on everyone disproportionately hurts those without a lot of money. Plus, it’s a tax, isn’t it? How is that Republican? He’s a black man who likes the up-by-your-own-bootstraps argument, which endears him to a lot of Republicans. Of course, he had parents who worked very hard to get him and his brother into college, where they could get the education to help them succeed. And for those who joke that President Obama (who didn’t see his father after age 10) never even delivered a pizza, Cain didn’t start at the bottom at Godfather’s Pizza; he came in as the boss and made it a success before selling it.
But Romney is also an incredibly successful businessman, who was also governor of Massachusetts and the guiding force behind the Winter Olympics in St. Lake City. He has had to deal with differing opinions and learn about compromising and raising revenues to keep things running. He even got a health plan passed for the good of all Massachusetts citizens. Unfortunately for him, these are seen as negatives by people who belong to one of the many vocal factions driving Republican politics these days, including the tea party folks. They dominate public debate and straw polls.
So Romney, who might really be more Neopolitan ice cream (vanilla, chocolate and strawberry), has stuck to plain vanilla until now so as not to seriously offend any of those factions and lose the nomination. (See: John McCain in 2008) In return, they have accused him of being a member of a cult, because he is a Mormon, and two-faced, because he won’t absolutely, positively toe the line on not taxing the rich. At the Republican candidates debate Tuesday, Romney said, “I'm not worried about rich people. They are doing just fine."
Geez, Mitt, that sounds almost vanilla bean. Or Democratic.