Sunday, October 21, 2012

Romney's Dangerous Ship of Fools

One criteria undecided voters must consider in this presidential election are the people who will influence policy direction in either a second term for Obama or during a Romney presidency. Ultimately, we are not just electing an individual but an administration. Assessing the likely character of an administration is especially vital when determining which candidate would be the best commander and chief.

I suspect that even after tomorrow night’s foreign policy debate, since Romney is the challenger, his behind the scenes advisors are largely unknown to undecided voters. Perhaps undecided voters (yes they do exist!) have not given this a moment’s thought.

Hence, when discussing the presidential election with any un-decided voters who are your friends, colleagues or relatives, you may want to inform them of a few pertinent items. 

Mitt Romney’s campaign website identifies twenty-four individuals as “Special Advisers” that he announced on October 6, 2011.  There are also additional individuals not referenced on his campaign website. Reviewing the credentials and track records of these individuals whether acknowledged publicly as advisers or not is instructive. As the July 12, 2012, edition of Foreign Policy magazine reported,
“Out of Romney's 24 special advisors on foreign policy, 17 served in the Bush-Cheney administration. If Romney were to win, it's likely that many of these people would serve in his administration in some capacity -- a frightening prospect given the legacy of this particular group. The last time they were in government, it was disastrous.”
In September, ABC News reported that eight of Romney’s advisers participated in the Project For A New American Century co-founded by William Kristol in 1997. Some of you may recall this group was hoping for a “Pearl Harbor” in order to flex American muscle in the Persian Gulf and Iraq. This group of neocons exploited 9/11 to justify invading and occupying Iraq, costing America blood and treasure as well as jeopardizing our geopolitical position.

It is disquieting to contemplate any of these people enjoying access, influence and power in a Romney administration just as America is regaining its footing in the world. I’ve summarized six of them below:

Elliot Abrams

Not referenced on Romney’s campaign website but rumored to be an adviser in a Romney administration. In August, Abrams wrote an article for the Weekly Standard advocating that congress authorize the use of force against Iran.

Abrams was convicted in 1991 for two misdemeanor counts for withholding information from congress during the Iran-Contra affair while serving in the Reagan administration and later pardoned by President George Herbert Walker Bush.

Abrams served in George W. Bush’s administration as a Special Assistant and senior director for democracy, human rights and international operations. Of course George W. Bush's administration was infamous for serial abuses of human rights. This is a scary man who has demonstrated throughout his career that he is unfit for public service.

Cofer Black

Listed on Romney’s campaign website and Romney’s chief intelligence adviser. The Daily Beast profiled Black in its April 11, 2012 edition. While serving in the CIA he famously promised George W. Bush he would deliver Osama Bin Laden’s head on a pike. Bin Laden of course was not eliminated until President Obama’s national security team made it a priority. When Black left government service in 2004 he became the Vice Chairman of the infamous security contractor, Blackwater USA and managed a subsidiary called Total Intelligence Solutions. As some of you may recall, Blackwater USA. Blackwater USA employees repeatedly undermined American diplomatic efforts in both Iraq and Afghanistan with immoral and illegal conduct. Black essentially profited handsomely from blood money.

John Bolton

Although not referenced in Mitt Romney’s website as an adviser, David Sanger reported in the May 12, 2012 edition of the New York Times that,
”But what has struck both his advisers and outside Republicans is that in his effort to secure the nomination, Mr. Romney’s public comments have usually rejected mainstream Republican orthodoxy. They sound more like the talking points of the neoconservatives — the “Bolton faction,” as insiders call the group led by John Bolton, the former ambassador to the United Nations. In a stormy tenure in the Bush administration, Mr. Bolton was often arguing that international institutions, the United Nations included, should be routed around because they so often frustrate American interests.”
As with most neocons, Bolton is not inclined to favor the sort of coalition building that Obama has skillfully utilized during his presidency. Bolton was too controversial to be approved by the Senate and President George W. Bush utilized a recess appointment to put make this reckless buffoon America’s UN Ambassador.

Robert Kagan

Listed on Romney’s campaign website. Although Kagan rejects the neoconservative label, he was a co-founder of the Project for the New American Century with William Kristol. Put simply, you are who you associate yourself with, and Kagan’s friends are reckless and crazy war mongers. 

Daniel Senor

Listed on Romney’s campaign website, Senor was America’s former spokesman in Iraq and regarded in numerous accounts as a close adviser. In August, the New York Times reported that,
“In Mr. Senor, Mr. Romney turned to an advocate of neoconservative thinking that has sought to push presidents to the right for years on Middle East policy. (His sister, Wendy Senor Singer, runs the Jerusalem office of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, an influential lobbying organization.)”
In other words, Senor has been another advocate for the sort of reckless foreign policy and philosophy that isolated America diplomatically and undermined our national security.

Jim Talent

Listed on Romney’s campaign website and a former senator from Missouri. Wikipedia reports that,
“Although Talent was not in Congress at the time of the 2002 vote authorizing the war in Iraq, he stated in October 2006 that he would have voted for the war knowing that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. Talent did not support a timetable for troop withdrawal from Iraq until American troops are able to train up an Iraqi army capable of maintaining security within the country.

Talent has written that defense spending should remain at an elevated level, even after all American forces are withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Foreign Policy magazine reports that Talent is rumored to be a Romney’s choice as Secretary of Defense.

Simply put, with a Romney administration, America is more likely to engage in another conflict in the Middle East with increased defense spending when our resources have already been overextended in Iraq and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, our allies in Europe are in economic disarray and what will replace the old order in the Arab world is still evolving. Now is not the time to elect an untested leader who appears to be malleable to appeasing the extremist foreign policy views within the Republican Party.

So tell any friend, relatives or colleagues who are undecided to please use their heads this November. Our blood and treasure depend on it.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Stakes For Generation X

On October 17th, Martin Longman, the talented proprietor of the excellent community blog, Booman Tribune had a post entitled “Romney the Destabilizer”. His post referenced recent reports that Romney was encouraging CEO’s to scare their employees into voting for him. Longman was particularly focused on how the post-New Deal consensus between employers and workers that helped nurture the middle class had broken down and the danger Romney represented to our civil society. I posted the following comment in response to Longman’s fine piece:
“Liberalism at its most effective is the indispensable alternative to revolution and reaction. At its worst liberalism is a temporary place holder to extremism like the Provisional Government after the fall of the Czar in 1917 before Communism's ascendancy or the Weimar Republic in Germany when it preceded National Socialism.

What's scary about our country in this moment in time is that Obama whether he wins or loses may be the last finger in the dike before the tsunami that comes next.

What makes Obama's position even more fragile is that his political survival required he be co-opted by some of the same institutional forces that has disintegrated the consensus you described above. When that consensus was stronger such compromises could be more easily finessed as Clinton demonstrated. But not anymore. The stability we were taught in Social Studies class way back when is long gone and Humpty Dumpty can't be put back together again.

Obama is a good man and I hope he wins but through no fault of his own, win or lose his ability to stem the tide is fragile. Romney of course would unleash a tsunami immediately. Alas, that is America's choice in 2012.”
I have second guessed my response in recent days and believe the trajectory of this election as well as our country’s future is not merely a choice between Romney’s tsunami or Obama’s fragile hold on America’s equilibrium. Win or lose, America’s future is in the hands of my age group, Generation-X which at its best is represented by Barack Obama and worst by Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan.

Generation X is unique because our collective memory includes the experience of our parents and grandparents when a strong middle class existed and the gap between rich and poor was not as grotesque as it is today. We came of age following a post-80s hangover and early ‘90s recession, rode the boom until 2000 but also reaped the whirlwind of union busting, tax policy favoring the hyper-wealthy and deregulation of Wall Street.

In today’s politics we’re largely ignored even with a Generation X president and vice presidential candidate. Much of the focus is instead on preserving Social Security and Medicare for folks over fifty-five or lamenting the bleak future of today’s Millennials.

I do not overlook the importance of preserving a safety-net for seniors or establishing upward mobility for our young people. Indeed a whole lot of our seniors served in World War Two, Korea and Vietnam while our twenty-somethings risked their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of my peers are stretching their diminished resources to raise children of their own as well as take care of their parents and grandparents. We all want upward mobility and security for our young people and folks who have worked hard their whole lives.

Nonetheless it irks me whenever I hear Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan utter assurances that people over fifty-five “have nothing to worry about” with respect to Social Security or Medicare. I’ve managed to more or less be steadily employed since 1991 and paid FICA taxes into the system the whole time. Conceivably, if I’m healthy and remain employed, I can contribute another twenty plus years of FICA taxes into the system.
Should that not count for something? Or is my generation chopped liver?

It also irks me when hard working people in my generation with kids to support and aging parents to take care have their jobs callously tossed aside, outsourced, lose their pensions or are forced to live in trailer parks due to plutocrats like Romney and shenanigans on Wall Street. They exploited their influence to enrich themselves at the expense of our fiscal solvency, gorged themselves while claiming to worship at the holy temple of job creators and proceeded to undermine the livelihoods of millions of wage earners. They do this even while wrapping themselves in the false piety of morality and patriotism.

America has an abundance of wealth that was misappropriated. And the agents of these thieves, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want to “reduce the size of government” for the same reason thieves want less cops on the beat: so their friends can commit even more crimes.

A civil society cannot be maintained with that trajectory. The end result ultimately means more gated communities and police intimidation to preserve the wealth stolen by the top from what used to be this country’s middle class as well as the poor. That is the trajectory we are on and it’s the very young and senior citizens who will be the most vulnerable if civil society breaks down.

Demographically, seniors are more inexplicably inclined to vote for Romney and Ryan. Young people while they favor Obama obviously will not turn out with the same enthusiasm as 2008. Much of the get out the vote efforts in this campaign’s final days are understandably focused on undecided women voters. Yet I suspect get out the vote efforts with those Generation X voters inclined to support Democrats that is really the X-factor for both the presidency and down ticket races.

Win or lose in 2012, it will also be Generation X that determines our destiny. If Obama wins he and the Democrats will need to be empowered and supported by Generation X to restore the balance between capital owners and wage earners and not give in to Tea Party crazies or greed mongers. Otherwise even with a second term President Obama will be little more than a fragile finger in the dike against Generation X plutocrats like Paul Ryan.

And if Obama loses, Generation X will have to stand up for itself and demand not to be trodden on behalf of ourselves and generations to come.  Young people are still finding their way in this world and our parents and grand parents have done all they can.

It’s up to us.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

My Fellow Americans Do You Really Want To Find Out?

I have not blogged regularly in a long time. Demanding day job, personal obligations, fed up with politics and blogging burnout compelled me to put my activism aside. Life is busy and something had to give.

But I remain a believer in pursuing a more just economic and social compact. So even in my stupor I’ve phone banked recently and donated some of my salary to President Obama and candidates I truly believe in such as Massachusetts senate candidate Elizabeth Warren and incumbent Ohio senator Sherrod Brown. I do not earn much or have a lot of time but we all have to do what we can.

I am frustrated with the Democratic Party and President Obama but the other side is an atrocity machine. Seven years ago an old college friend who had fallen on hard times took to the Internet to expose truths about corporate malfeasance inspired me to start blogging. She is known in the blogosphere as Breaking Ranks and her recent postings on Daily Kos have inspired me again. Even before Americans witnessed Mitt Romney’s lyingthon in the first presidential debate she skillfully posted a meme about the foolhardiness of electing a lying CEO to be America’s commander and chief.

With respect to the presidency it comes down to the following:

  • Either Mitt Romney truly believes Social Security belongs in the hands of an unregulated Wall Street that created a global economic catastrophe or he does not have the stones to stand up to a crazy Republican Party that does. Do you really want to find out?
  • Either Mitt Romney truly believes Medicare should be replaced with a voucher system or he does not have the stones to stand up to a crazy Republican Party that does. Do you really want to find out?
  • Either Mitt Romney truly believes our foreign policy should return to the blustering and blundering that occurred when neocons ruled the day in George W. Bush’s administration or he does not have the stones to stand up to a crazy Republican Party that does. Do you really want to find out?
  • Either Mitt Romney truly believes 21st century equity capital robber barons like himself who profit off the misery of others when jobs are outsourced deserve even more tax breaks at the expense of the middle-class, working poor and impoverished or he does not have the stones to stand up to a crazy Republican Party that does. Do you really want to find out?
  • Either Mitt Romney truly disavows the healthcare reform he passed while governor of Massachusetts and served as the template for Obama Care or he does not have the stones to stand up to a crazy Republican Party that does. Do you really want to find out?
  • Either Mitt Romney truly believes that economic polices that have lowered unemployment and resulted in more Americans contributing payroll taxes to reduce our deficit $207 billion in 2012 should be reversed or he does not have the stones to stand up to a crazy Republican Party that does. Do you really want to find out?
  • Either Mitt Romney truly believes there should be more justices on the Supreme Court such as Antonio Scalia who believe it’s a “no brainer” to deny women the right to choose and also believes that corporations are entitled to more free speech then people or he does not have the stones to a crazy Republican Party that does. Do you really want to find out?
  • Either Mitt Romney truly believes global warming is a hoax or he does not have the stones to stand up to a crazy Republican Party that does. Do you really want to find out?
  • Either Mitt Romney truly believes oil companies such as Exxon and Mobil need to benefit from more corporate welfare at the expense of the middle class, working poor and impoverished or he does not have the stones to stand up to a crazy Republican Party that does. Do you really want to find out?
  • Either Mitt Romney truly believes there should be no separation between church and state or he does not have the stones to stand up to a crazy Republican Party that does. Do you really want to find out?
That’s it in a nutshell. I’m sure many of you reading this can come up with a far better list than what I posted above.

With respect to down ticket races I would remind my fellow citizens that Republicans deliberately executed a strategy to slow the economic recovery in order to blame President Obama and the Democrats while simultaneously challenging his patriotism. Hence voting for the Republican Party is tantamount to rewarding bad behavior.

These are not people who can be trusted with power as they have repeatedly demonstrated. You saw that during the Bush years. And only last year they held America’s fiscal solvency and credit worthiness hostage to their Ayn Rand cult fetish. Do you really want to find out what they would do with a rubber stamp named Mitt Romney?

Obama and the Democrats have certainly not batted a 1.000. I have my own disagreements with the administration and Democratic Party on both domestic and foreign policy. I’m sure many of you have as well. But as Joe Biden put it in the recent Vice Presidential debate, “folks trust your instincts.”

Under President Obama, Osama Bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive. My fellow Americans I do not want to find out who will be dead or alive if we turn the White House keys over to Mitt Romney. I hope you don’t either.