William Black Goes Ballistic

I’ve been reading William Black’s essays and posts, watching his video interviews and You Tube presentations, ever since I saw him on Bill Moyers Journal speaking frankly, no holds barred, about how the financial industry had brought the country to its knees and gotten away with it.  He spoke frankly again during his Congressional testimony last year when he came right out and called the mortgage debacle that nearly finished the US economy . . . fraud.  Yes he used the ‘f’ word!  This was unlike other ‘experts’ who insisted there was no inkling of trouble on the horizon, that the financial meltdown was ‘an act of the economic gods,’ a huge surprise, the product of overly optimistic financial predictions.

No, Black said.  It was fraud.  It was criminal.  In case you missed that testimony, you can watch below.  It’s worth a second go-around.

Too bad Black’s comments were basically ignored, caught up in the razzle-dazzle of excuses, half-truths and political posturing that’s become all too familiar to anyone paying attention.  Business as usual is still the acceptable mantra.  In case, you’ve forgotten [time flies when we’re having so much fun], William Black headed Poppy Bush’s forensic audit team during the S&L scandal, which ultimately led to 1000 elite felony convictions.

Black’s investigative team wasn’t kidding around.

William Black came out yesterday morning with his own take on President Obama’s SOTU announcement of a Task Force [The Let’s Try It Again Task Force], quoting POTUS:

And tonight, I am asking my Attorney General to create a special unit of federal prosecutors and leading state attorneys general to expand our investigations into the abusive lending and packaging of risky mortgages that led to the housing crisis. This new unit will hold accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance to homeowners, and help turn the page on an era of recklessness that hurt so many Americans.

Black suggests we look at the wording, the avoidance of using the ‘f’ or ‘c’ word.  That would be fraud and criminal.  His response to this and Eric Holder’s follow up memorandum:

The working group will not “investigate … abusive lending” and it will not “hold accountable those who broke the law … [by defrauding] homeowners.” It will not “speed assistance to homeowners.” It will not “turn the page on an era of recklessness” – and fraud, not “recklessness” is what prosecutors should prosecute. The name of the working group makes its crippling limitations clear: the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group. Attorney General Holder’s  memorandum about the working group makes clear that the name is not misleading. The working group will deal only with mortgage-backed securities (MBS) – not the fraudulent mortgage origination that drove the crisis (the only exception is federally insured mortgages).

Clearly, he’s not impressed.  No, instead he’s disgusted and enraged.  In fact, the essay nearly jumps off the page with genuine anger.  He goes on to say:

The working group is a symbolic political gesture designed to neutralize criticism of the administration’s continuing failure to hold accountable the elite frauds that drove the crisis. Neither the Bush nor the Obama administration has convicted a single elite fraud that drove the crisis. This is a national disgrace and represents the triumph of crony capitalism. Remember that the FBI warned in September 2004 that there was an “epidemic” of mortgage fraud and predicted that it would cause a financial “crisis.” There are no valid excuses for the Bush and Obama administrations’ failures. The media have begun to pummel the Obama administration for its failure to prosecute. The administration could not answer this criticism with substance because it has nothing substantive to offer in prosecuting elite mortgage origination frauds. The ugly truth is that we are three full years into his presidency and Holder could not find a single indictment to bring that Obama could brag about in his SOTU address. Who doubts that Holder and Obama would have done so if they had anything in the prosecutorial pipeline? Why do Holder and Obama have nothing in the pipeline?

One of the other things that deeply disturbs Black is President Obama’s willingness to play politics in this matter, float the gambit of the Task Force /Working Group and the reputation of Eric Schneiderman to create the appearance of a genuine hands-on effort.  But this move is not genuine as far as Black is concerned and contradicts the very essence of President Obama’s SOTU address, conjuring up the Seal Team that took out Osama Bin Laden—a team effort, concentrating on the mission.

This is no more than vulgar propaganda, Black claims.

He also refers to a disclosure made by Scot Paltrow for Rueters 10 days ago, revealing that US Attorney General Eric Holder and Lanny Breuer, heading the DOJs criminal division [also a co-chair of the ‘Let’s Try It Again Task Force], had been partners at Covington and Burling, a well-established and well-heeled law firm that represented many of the largest banks, providing cover for their clients through key arguments on the MERS debacle.

Conflict of interest anyone?

The state Attorney Generals?  They were lobbyied, leaned on, even offered [as was the case of AG Kamala Harris, CA] $8 billion to assist damaged California homeowners in a bid to agree to the original deal, which would have offered the big banks immunity from liability.  All so the President could announce ‘a deal’ in his State of the Union address, even though homeowners would be left out to dry and bank executives, who led deliberate “accounting control frauds,” could continue their conduct with absolute impunity.

This is ugly, made all the uglier in that it was sanctioned through and by the White House.  Black suggests that Eric Schneiderman recognized the leverage he had, agreed to join the Task Force as a co-chair with the stipulation that the original deal be modified, specifically concerning civil liability in mortgage origination fraud.

This might explain Jamie Dimon’s whine last Friday, pouting and claiming bankers are the objects of unfair discrimination.  Really?  Here’s the average American’s response:

Of course, you would think that this mess would be a window of opportunity for Republicans in an election year.  What an incredible club to use on President Obama to win the WH, maybe the House and the Senate by gargantuan majorities.

No fear there because for every compromised Democrat there is an equally compromised Republican.  Both the Democrats and Republicans rely heavily on campaign contributions from the financial sector.  Neither side is willing to cut their bankers [crooked or not] off at the knees.

What to do?  What better reason to support any and all actions to get money out of the political arena.  Until we do?  The world belongs to the highest bidder.


The Big Ugly

Hard to say what’s been worse this past week—putting up with a stomach virus or watching the ongoing GOP train wreck.  In years past, the Gingrich factor would have been an instant tonic because the possibility that Newt Gingrich would pitch himself and his tainted legacy against a sitting Democratic President would be too, too delicious.

But that was then.  This is now.

Though I’m no Mitt Romney fan, the very idea of Uncle Newt in the oval office makes me shudder.  Though I’m no Barack Obama fan, Uncle Newt makes POTUS look immensely attractive.  No small feat.

So where I might have jumped with joy in the past  [oh please, let the Republicans nominate the ugliest, least electable candidate of the bunch], instead I’ve been thrown into a miserable funk.

The choices suck, the conversations continue to move to the extreme right and the American electorate flails in desperation.

If there’s any bright spot it is this: the longer Uncle Newt basks in glory, the more ugly he will reveal, namely the Republican penchant for the politics of petty grievances—the howl of the entitled patriarchy, still wounded by Paradise Lost; the claim of religious bigotry—the war on Christianity—while dismissing or denigrating any religion but their own; and the aggressive promise that if they can’t win, they’ll make damn sure no one else does.  In addition, Newt’s recent success exposes the Tea Party for what it has truly become—a group of mindless obstructionists.

Sorry, you cannot make lemonade out of this one.  Not when a voting group is willing to endorse and support a serial liar, a hypocrite without shame, a man willing to blow the dog whistle on all the old prejudices and wounds of race and gender, or conjure up the ghost of Andrew Jackson, a man Gingrich says knew how to deal with his enemies: he killed ‘em.

Native Americans, I suspect, have a different take.

Uncle Newt’s declarations might sound good in a John Wayne movie but not for the White House, not in the year 2012 when the country and the world is precariously perched on a knife edge.

But there’s more.  The Newtster has taken on capitalism itself, exposing the underbelly of Republican economics—the mythical ‘free’ market, the unchained melody that without restraint will bring a Renaissance of prosperity and goodwill to hardworking Americans.  Or so the tune goes.

Sing that to the unemployed, the homeless.  Better yet, belt the lyrics out loud and clear to the nearly 50 million Americans now collecting food stamps, Uncle Newt’s favorite whipping boy.  Or sing that discordant lullaby to the children [over 20%] now designated food insecure.  Because unfettered capitalism has been the GOP’s clarion call for the last 40 years.  Think about ‘trickle down’ economics, stagnating wages, the unfunded wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the call for ever-lower taxes because the ‘job creators’ need that extra revenue to make things right.  Now recall the financial meltdown of 2008, where Wall St. took the unregulated ball and ran right off the cliff.  Screaming ‘liberty’ on the way down doesn’t quite cut it for most of us.

This is the plus side of a Newt Gingrich, who with a magician’s flourish has pulled back the curtain on the Big Ugly.  The lie is massive and cruel.  The lie has inflicted pain and suffering on millions, both here and abroad.

The Hopemeister

The counter to all this is convincing the public that Barack Obama is a socialist/Marxist in hiding.  President Obama is many things but a socialist and/or Marxist he is not.  Barack Obama is a brand, a man marketed to the American public as a national savior.  He was and is not.  He’s simply a marker for the status quo.

And that’s where my ongoing funk comes in.  On one side, we have Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul all extolling the Big Lie as the disease that will cure us.  And on the other side we have President Obama pretending he’s Teddy Roosevelt reborn, ready to slay the Dragons of Monopoly.  Only his words do not match his actions.  They never did.

And then there’s us, the American electorate, the Consumer Nation brought low by dwindling expectations, the super-power made suddenly and irrefutably mortal.  Will the election of 2012 rouse us from the trance that brought us to this moment?  Will we see the Big Ugly for what it is rather than what we dreamt it to be?

Or will we tumble back into a dark and endless sleep?

Not to be overly depressing, there are glimmers of light on the horizon.  Citizens are standing up, questioning the lack of justice in the system, the ongoing extraction of wealth by the top 1%.  Despite the lack of coverage, the Occupy Wall St. movement still survives in small towns and cities across the country.  Grassroot efforts are pushing ahead to remove the influence of money in government—Superpacs writ large.  Several Constitutional amendments are gaining signatures and support to upend the Supreme Court’s ‘corporations are people’ decision and more and more voices are rising up in books and magazines, on the blogs and in tweets to push back the Robber Baron mentality of our corporate, government and financial institutions.

Will it be enough?  I don’t know.  The Big Ugly has a hell of a head start.  But if Aesop is any guide, the Hare who dismisses the Tortoise should be well advised: We’re coming.  Slow and steady, We the People, are coming nonetheless.


When Newt Gets Cranky, Really Cranky and then . . . Goes Nuclear

Ahhh.  The Day of Reckoning is upon us.  Again. The clown cars come out, circle the ballot box and we all . . . wait the results with bated breath.  But until all those votes are counted, we have Uncle Newt’s latest reincarnation:

The Anti-Capitalist!

It’s amazing to watch the GOP race.  We ‘ve had stars rise and flame out before they streak across sky.  But Newt Gingrich took the super-nova route after Iowa’s humiliating results.  Still, the latest attack on Mitt Romney for making money, lots of money, while heading Bain Capital is really off the charts for Republicans.  Any Republican. Here’s what Newt said to a group of reporters in Manchester, NH:

“You have to ask the question, is capitalism really about the ability of a handful of rich people to manipulate the lives of thousands of people and then walk off with the money?”

Okay.  I can certainly appreciate that statement.  But I’m a Democrat Wandering the Wilderness.   Better yet, back in the 90s, my husband and I had a run-in with a corporate raiding mission that took down a 100+ year-old company in Philadelphia.  A lot of wreckage left behind with displaced workers and economic ripples to the wider community.  It’s called ‘creative’ capitalism, which is a nice, almost fuzzy phrase that takes the sting out—for those that create the mess, and then walk away, pockets a-jingle.

But Uncle Newt?   He’s a champion of capitalism, even the ugly, crony kind.  I’m not sure how Gingrich squares this attack on Romney, particularly with the latest reveal that, back in the day, Gingrich himself was involved with leveraged buyouts.

Upon leaving Congress in 1999, the former Speaker joined private equity firm Forstmann Little & Co. as a member of its advisory board.

It is unclear how long Gingrich served on the advisory board, or how much he was paid. The campaign has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Hummm.  Wonder if the firm hired him as a historian?  Inquiring minds want to know. Btw, in the CNN Money piece, Forstmann, Little & Co is cited as one of the original leveraged buyout firms.

To steal from Rick Perry–Oops!

Gingrich’s attacks were signaled earlier, of course, when he publicly vowed a blood feud, retribution for the carpet-bombing Mitt Romney’s Super-Pac delivered in the run up to the Iowa caucus.  Hell hath no fury like a foiled presidential candidate.  Especially when the candidate in question has such a high regard of himself [often referred to as hubris] and for whom hypocrisy is second nature.  We’ve seen this side of Newt Gingrich before when he righteously carried the impeachment standard against Bill Clinton, all the while carrying on his own illicit affair.

But considering how the entire Republican establishment has worked with such diligence, sworn absolute allegiance in making Barack Obama a one-term president, this strategy seems short-sighted, flawed.  Unless, of course, party politics takes a back seat to personal vendettas.

Gingrich has not gone uncritiqued by the party faithful.  Some of the responses I’ve picked up in columns and online are: disgraceful, disgusting, unhelpful and my favorite—he sounds like an Occupier [you know those people who need to take a bath and get a job].

Gingrich’s daughter, Jackie Cushman, attempted to defend her father’s bomb throwing when pressed with the question—won’t this undermine the GOPs’ conservative message [ya think?]:

I think the process that we’re going through — the whole primary process — the whole point is to figure out who is the best candidate to beat President Barack Obama.

That must be the official line from Gringrich’s campaign people because the prickly candidate said much the same thing.

Gingrich yesterday defended his new attacking posture, saying it is better for Republican voters to know the truth now and to force Romney to aggressively back his record.

“If somebody is going to crumble, they better crumble before the nomination,’’ Gingrich said.

So, it’s for the good of the party?  Tear Mitt Romney a new one and voters will come to their senses, see what they’re missing in not voting for Newt.

Good try but no cigar.  Although as Minx mentioned last night, Newt Gingrich has one solid fan, Todd Palin.  Someone [a small-minded person, no doubt] suggested that Todd’s endorsement was in exchange for Alaska’s Independence.  I cannot verify that.

True, I’m merely a spectator [a biased one at that] to the ongoing fracas.  But what I see in Newt Gingrich is pettiness, a hair-trigger temper and envy, none of which is becoming in a presidential candidate.  Still, I can almost feel sympathy for Uncle Newt—Mitt Romney appears untouchable, unflappable.  He’s handsome, calm, in good shape and from all reports, far richer.  It really isn’t fair.

Here’s the thing: I’m guessing Gordon Gekko would be downright stunned and heartbroken by these blistering attacks.

Greed is not good?  Predatory capitalism should be shunned?

Newt, we hardly knew ye.

New Hampshire will decide now.


Doublespeak, the Devil’s Advocate and Diogenes’ Endless Quest

Just when you think current events and various public utterances cannot get any more ridiculous, they do.  Often, much of what we hear and are expected to take seriously is wrapped in doublespeak, deliberately vague, obscure language to hide the speaker/writer’s true intent.

We’ve had examples galore as the 2012 election looms over DC, political candidates twisting themselves into pretzels to find the right combination of words to seduce voters.  Newt Gingrich, for instance, referred to his lobbying involvement with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac [for which he was paid handsomely] as providing advice as an ‘historian.’  John Boehner has taken a page out of Frank Luntz’s cannon, repeating the phrase ‘job creators’ as if it were a magical incantation.  Democrats are certainly not immune to this form of prevarication.  Every time I recall Nancy Pelosi’s infamous statement about the Healthcare Reform Bill, I wince: We have to pass the bill before we know what’s in it.

That being said, there’s a special spot in Doublespeak Heaven or Hell for John Yoo, who often writes for the American Enterprise Institute.

John Yoo.  Name sound familiar?  Mr. Yoo, the infamous legal advisor to the Bush Administration’s inner circle, recently jumped up, expressing considerable distaste for and worry over President Obama’s overreaching his authority, abusing and doing considerable damage to the US Constitution.  A reasonable person might conclude this is in reference to the recent indefinite detention clause in the National Defense Authorization Act, the one POTUS claimed he would not sign.  But then did.

But we’re not talking reasonable.  We’re talking John Yoo, deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel [OLC], Department of Justice from 2001-2003.

John Yoo helped strangle the English language, managing to transform the word torture into ‘enhanced interrogation,’ a smoke screen phrase that former Vice President Cheney is still defending, so he and his buddies can sleep at night.

Let’s recall the past.

John Yoo spun out legal arguments for wiretapping, warrantless surveillance on all communication coming in or out of the country as well as warrentless surveillance against American citizens; defended the use of torture [excuse me, enhanced interrogation], authoring the infamous ‘torture memo,’ in which he cited permissible techniques, including assault, maiming and drugging on orders of the President as long as they do not result in death, organ failure or impairment of bodily functions.  He also advised the suspension of the Geneva Convention, War Crimes Act, indicating that the US is no longer restrained by International Law in our endless War on Terror; declared that the President is empowered to make war without Congressional permission and, in fact, has the power to order military strikes inside the US.  He defended the President’s right to order rendition without Congressional approval, etc., etc., etc.

That John Yoo.  He was a very busy man while he held tenure as the Devil’s Advocate.

Mr. Yoo now says President Obama has exceeded his powers by his recess appointment of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  As you may recall this is the nefarious agency, the wicked brainchild of Elizabeth Warren, to protect American consumers from the labyrinth of confusing language offered in loan and credit agreements.  For example, credit card agreements and home loans.

According to Mr. Yoo, who wrote a piece for the National Review Online, President Obama is making a sweeping claim in the very definition of ‘recess.’

But President Obama is making a far more sweeping claim. Here, as I understand it, the Senate is not officially in adjournment (they have held “pro forma” meetings, where little to no business occurs, to prevent Obama from making exactly such appointments). So there is no question whether the adjournment has become a constitutional “recess.”

And,

This, in my view, is not up to the president, but the Senate. It is up to the Senate to decide when it is in session or not, and whether it feels like conducting any real business or just having senators sitting around on the floor reading the papers. The president cannot decide the legitimacy of the activities of the Senate any more than he could for the other branches, and vice versa.

I find this argument particularly startling coming from Yoo, considering his defense of all things related to the expansion of presidential authority.

But there’s more,

Even with my broad view of executive power, I’ve always thought that each branch has control over its own functions and has the right — if not the duty — to exclude the others as best it can from its own decisions.

Broad view is an understatement because John Yoo is on record, as early as March 1996, declaring that the President has the right to declare war, not Congress.  During his tenure with OLC, he asserted that a President can suspend First Amendment Freedoms in wartime and that the power of the Executive is virtually unlimited in times of war.

You can’t have it both ways.  We’re still engaged in Afghanistan, involved in a seemingly perpetual state of war.

Yoo further states that in view of President Obama’s gross overreach:

Most importantly, private parties outside government can refuse to obey any regulation issued by the new agency. They will be able to defend themselves in court by claiming that the head of the agency is an unconstitutional officer . . .

Now to be clear, I am not a lawyer. I cannot comment on the legalistic merits of the argument.  Others have done that.  But I do think I have a fairly good eye for hypocrisy.  And then there’s this, in reviewing Mr. Yoo’s past declarations, summaries of his memos and advice on matters of war, torture and the suspension of civil rights, this recent charge against President Obama seems out of proportion.

And duplicitous.

It’s okay when neo-cons play with the boundaries and definitions of the Constitution but not when our presumably Democratic President does the same thing.  That’s not to say I agree with either political class redefining, remaking and declaring right and true what is and what is not permissible under the Constitution for very distinct political purposes, merely extending a particular agenda.  But once this questionable threshold is crossed?  The results are what they are.

What neither side refuses to speak to is the considerable danger there is in not accounting for what the next elected Executive is likely to do with ‘expanded’ powers, the establishment of a unitary president. This falls under the heading: Short-Term Goals. It should be noted that redefining the scope of the Executive Office was all the rage during the Bush years, something that Obama vowed to change.

But he did not.

Recalling Mr. Yoo’s penchant for reinterpreting the US Constitution during 2001-2003 [not a pleasant journey], I felt as if I’d literally entered a parallel Universe, one in which language is weaponized.  In this strange, ever-evolving cosmos, white is black, up is down, evil is good and ultimate power [with no accountability] is the Law.

George Orwell is screaming from the Heavens to be named a true prophet.

As for the US Constitution?  It can mean anything you want it to mean. It depends on which side of the political divide you’re standing on.

John Yoo is not a person I would ever turn to for legal advice.  Not for the world I wish to inhabit or wish available to my children and future grandbabies.  In fact, I would think after all the damage Mr. Yoo  [admittedly, he was not alone] did during the early years of the Bush Administration, he’d be reluctant to level charges against anyone ever again.

And yet, a quick check through the archives found that Yoo had weighed in on President Obama’s proposed Executive Order on Federal contractor disclosure.  This proposal would require contractors to provide their political-giving history, any gift over $5000.   The proposal, it is argued, will make the Federal contract system more transparent and accountable to the public.

How radical!

Yet Mr. Yoo suggests the proposal makes some of Richard Nixon’s ‘dirty tricks’ look quaint by comparison.  As an example, he conjures up the humiliating fate of anyone tempted by Presidential overreach, undoing the time-honored, Constitutional right of anonymous political speech [conveniently avoiding the issue of money-giving, as in, swamping our elections in massive amounts of payola].  Namely, the consequence of these sins leads to impeachment.

I’m falling down a rabbit hole.  A really dark rabbit hole.

A case in point, Mr. Yoo ties his concern for poor, vulnerable corporations to MoveOn’s boycott of the retail operation, Target, in Minnesota.  The boycott and subsequent bad press disclosed that Target had made a contribution to a conservative group supporting a gubernatorial candidate opposed to gay marriage.  Yet Target had repeatedly proclaimed itself a gay-friendly corporation.

Ian Millhiser at Think Progress summarizes Yoo’s analysis this way:

In other words, Target misled the public by calling itself a gay-friendly corporation, when it actually was secretly funding an anti-gay effort. Yet, because of disclosure, it was no longer able to maintain this charade and forced to end its two-faced practices. In Yoo’s twisted understanding of the world, this is a great tragedy and not a compelling argument for why disclosure laws are necessary.

I would like to think there’s a place in the Universe where bad actors are rehabilitated, where they reconsider bad decisions, damaging policies that serve only to injure the weak and/or take advantage of human vulnerabilities. Yet reviewing the twisted logic of John Yoo has given me real pause.  If fact, all these political players give me great pause.

This is particularly true with a primary season trudging along, Republican candidates making whacko statements and mean-spirited declarations. We’ve witnessed:

Michelle Bachmann’s delusions, the Eye of the Newt’s vindictive nature, Romney’s spinning positions, Santorum’s woman and gay problem, Perry’s aphasia, Jon Huntsman’s [sadly] invisible campaign and the cuddly libertarian Ron Paul, who yearns to return to the good ole days of 1900. We have not had the benefit of listening to the likes of Buddy Roemer, a voice that should be heard. But now add John Yoo to the brigade of howling voices, then mix a large measure of contradiction, deception and slick language games.

President Obama [who certainly has employed doublespeak with flair, spun numerous fantastic tales of his own] begins to look grounded, normal.

Which means, of course, I’ve definitely entered an alternate Universe.  Maybe this one:

The crazy season just goes on and on and on.  Which makes me think of Diogenes, wandering ancient Greece with lantern in hand, searching for that one honest man.

That was nearly 2500 years ago.  We haven’t learned much.


When Newt Gets Cranky, Really Cranky

One of the most startling events I witnessed during the Iowa caucus coverage was Newt Gingrich [who I lovingly refer to as Eye of Newt] revealing the true depth of his vindictive nature.  Gingrich rode the bubble of ‘The Man Who Would King’ for the briefest of moments.  Even Herman Cain and his absurd 999 mantra lasted longer than Newt’s claim to fame, his self-anointing as the Republican Nominee.

This is what a wolf looks like

But after a reported blitzkrieg of negative advertising, financed by Mitt Romney’s Super-PAC buddies, Gingrich’s numbers plummeted.  He ultimately finished a limping 4th in the Iowa ugly contest, 13% of the vote.

Oh, how the self-elevated fall!

When I was a kid we were taught the lesson of losing with grace, regardless of what the contest was.  It’s one thing to be disappointed, we were told.  That’s normal, human.  But there was something called being a ‘good loser,’ a certain nobility inferred by shaking the winner’s hand, walking off the field with head held high and chalking it up to . . . life.  You win some, you lose some.  You go on.  [Note to Newt: Hillary Clinton certainly knows how this works.]

Gingrich obviously never learned this valuable lesson.  And yes, politics has been called a ‘blood sport.’  But if a candidate is not ready to suffer the slings and arrows that political combat inflicts, then what the hell is he/she doing running for the highest office in the land?  Did Gingrich think he was immune to this sort of criticism, these pointed [and I’m sure painful] barbs?  Gingrich’s reaction has a certain irony, considering that he helped usher in this generation of ugly political tactics–the nasty personal attacks, the language one uses to inflict the most damage. Politics in America has never been polite but the nasty, personal, take-no-prisoner attacks has been taken to a new level in recent years.

How shall I slice thee?  Let me count the ways.

Anger and disappointment are surely typical reactions to a humiliating loss.  But hate?  What I saw on Gingrich’s face was the sort of rage you’d expect to see on the face of a psychopath.  And then the vow.  That he would work with his ‘ole buddy Rick Santorum to block Mitt Romney’s nomination.

If he can’t have the prize, he’ll make sure Mitt Romney doesn’t have it either.  This is reminiscent of Middle School battles, not Presidential politics.

Which leaves the Republicans where exactly?  Santorum?  Ron Paul?  Huntsman? [Who is a credible candidate but can’t get off the launch pad.]  Well, there’s always Rick Perry who has effectively tripped over his tongue in every debate.  Rick hasn’t given up, even though he should.

I read Gingrich described elsewhere as a GOP suicide bomber.  A startling analogy but not terribly off the mark. Because what I saw in Gingrich’s face the other night, heard in his voice and words was nothing short of a blood feud, a very personal and bitter vendetta, the sort that destroys not only the object of the hate but the hater as well.  And anyone standing on the periphery.

The idea that someone so emotionally volatile and hostile is running for President is a scary thought.  This is someone who should never be taking those 3 am calls or considered capable of making rational decisions in a stressful moment.

Think of JFK during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Transpose Gingrich’s face.

Now think crispy critters.

The Republican field is in such disarray that a group of fundie conservatives in Texas has scheduled an emergency meeting to find a ‘consensus’ candidate to save the GOP’s 2012 election cycle.  It should be noted that this meeting will be hosted by the likes of James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family and Don Wildmon, onetime chairman of the American Family Association.  Oh yes, I’m sure they’ll come up with a reasonable candidate.  It’s been suggested that Rick Perry’s candidacy was, in fact, their brainchild.

This is what a cranky wolf looks like

After three years of missteps, President Obama should be nervous as hell about his reelection chances.  He’s highly vulnerable in the areas of performance, competence and results, particularly in domestic issues [though Obama has continued the Bush/Cheney militaristic postures around the world, even added a flourish with indefinite detention that includes American citizens]. Thank you, Mr. President!  Obama has considerable weaknesses with poll numbers to underscore the point.  But now?  The Administration must be stomping out the Happy Dance in the West Wing.

How this all turns out is up for grabs. We have nine months before Election Day. But assuredly, there will be blood.


Live Blog: Iowa Caucuses

Political signs in Des Moines, Iowa

The caucuses are just wrapping up, and it looks like I may get my wish.  Ron Paul seems to be leading at the moment with Romney second, and Santorum third. I can’t wait to see the elite Republicans freak out if Paul wins. From CBS News:

Doors have closed at caucus precincts across Iowa, and early results from CBS News entrance polls show a three-way race for the Republican presidential nomination among Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.

Entrance polling reveals that Paul’s voters are male, younger, and many are first-time caucus goers. Romney’s voters are looking for someone who can beat President Obama, while Santorum’s voters looking for a true conservative.

Much data has yet to be collected, and those arriving earliest may not reflect the total caucus voters. The precincts closed their doors at 7 p.m. CT, leaving Republican voters in the Hawkeye State to be the first to weigh in on this year’s presidential contest. Mitt Romney took the lead among the early entrance polls four years ago, but finished second in the caucuses to Mike Huckabee, who was then the choice of evangelical conservatives.

USA Today has a Live Blog of events in Iowa, and so does CNN. CNN also has live video from several caucus sites.

I’m listening to MSNBC on satellite radio. What are you watching or listening to? What are you hearing? Who do you think is going to win this thing? Let us know in the comments. If you have found a good place to watch on-line, let me know and I’ll post it up here.


A Tale of Two Speeches, A Tale of Two Men

On Tuesday, Barack Obama delivered a speech in Kansas.  Osawatomie, Kansas to be exact.  With little subtlety, this was an attempt to conjure up the spirit of Teddy Roosevelt, the TRex of the early 20th Century, the scrappy yet privileged pugilist, who pitted himself against monopolies, rabid financiers and proudly defended the American ‘square deal.’  In truth, TR was no saint.  But he was a man of conviction.  And action.

Barack Obama has proven himself a weak sister by any comparison.  Yet, he and his handlers, his ever-present speechwriters saw fit to mirror Roosevelt’s words.  We’re to believe that Obama is a populist at heart, a Roosevelt clone, calling on the Nation to embrace progress over privilege.  The square deal becomes the fair chance.  The review of abuses and lawlessness that TR was not afraid to call destructive become a wrong.  Legislative solutions and regulatory oversight that TR specifically cites are mentioned in passing or given more credit than they’re actually due, eg., the stripped down Dodd-Frank bill.  Notice there was no mention of reinstating Glass-Steagall, something that wouldn’t solve the entire mess we find ourselves in but would be an important first step in the reform process.

Let’s get real.  Barack Obama has no intention of reforming anything.  Unlike TR who said:

“Words count for nothing except in so far as they represent acts.”

And Barack Obama?   He’s countered with words leading nowhere.

He was against the Iraq War, only there’s no record of his opposition.  His ‘just words’ speech—a steal from an earlier Deval Patrick oratory—said everything the man has proven himself to be, an empty talker.  Where is the evidence that Barack Obama is or ever was a defender of the ‘ordinary man and woman?”  Oh yes, he was a community organizer.  And what exactly were his accomplishments?  He was a State Senator.  Accomplishments, please [beyond representing the interests of slum landlords].  And as a US senator?  Accomplishments?

Nada.

Let’s line this up against a few of Teddy Roosevelt words made flesh:

  • Successfully prosecuted the Northern Securities Co. for the merger of the Northern Pacific, The Great Northern and the Chicago, Burlington and Quincey railroads under the Sherman Antitrust Act.
  • Restored public confidence in the government’s ability to hold the country’s most powerful men accountable to the law.
  • Frequently warned conservative critics that revolutionary upheaval was likely to be inspired by an ‘attitude of arrogance on the part of property owners and their unwillingness to recognize their duty to the public.’
  • Pushed through Congress legislation establishing the Department of Commerce and Labor and within that Department the Bureau of Corporations, authorized to investigate and publicize suspect corporate activities.
  • Challenged the corporate view that business records be kept in secrecy and that employers had a right to deal with employees as they saw fit [one need only review the deplorable working conditions and wages of the era to understand the need for reform] with no interference from the Government.
  • Brokered a peace between Russia and Japan, for which he earned the Nobel Peace Prize.

There’s more, of course—the good, the bad and the ugly.  TR was not perfect but unlike the present occupant of the White House, he had a vision that was his and his alone.  He was the public face and voice of the American Progressive Movement that would eventually lead to improved working conditions, a woman’s right to vote, union legitimacy and new attitudes regarding our environment–conserving our national, natural treasures for the future–among other things.

Teddy Roosevelt was a man of the moment and a man with a legacy.

Now think of Barack Obama, the lack of vision, the broken promises, the man in search of an identity:  JFK, FDR, Abraham Lincoln.  And now Teddy Roosevelt.  This is the blank slate upon whom everything has been written but nothing has stuck.  Oh yes, we have the healthcare reform bill, a legislative mystery written behind closed doors then sealed with secret insurance industry deals and wet kisses to Big Pharma.  We also have wars continued and financed, record unemployment [jobs which will not be replaced by pretty words],  nearly 46 million Americans receiving food stamps [1 in 7], houses still underwater with few promised modifications and/or relief and 20+% of our children classified as ‘food insecure.’

This is not a vision.  It’s a disaster.  I’ll leave you with Teddy Roosevelt’s words, from his own Kansas speech:

I stand for the square deal. But when I say that I am for the square deal, I mean not merely that I stand for fair play under the present rules of the games, but that I stand for having those rules changed so as to work for a more substantial equality of opportunity and of reward for equally good service.

And,

The object of government is the welfare of the people. The material progress and prosperity of a nation are desirable chiefly so far as they lead to the moral and material welfare of all good citizens.

And,

One of the fundamental necessities in a representative government such as ours is to make certain that the men to whom the people delegate their power shall serve the people by whom they are elected, and not the special interests. I believe that every national officer, elected or appointed, should be forbidden to perform any service or receive any compensation, directly or indirectly, from interstate corporations; and a similar provision could not fail to be useful within the States.

These are words most of us can believe in, spoken August 31, 1910.  I’d encourage readers to take a few moments and read TR’s words in their entirety.

Then read Obama’s speech.

Two speeches.  Two men.

If President Obama wants to slip on the mantle of Teddy Roosevelt, become a born-again populist in 2012, he’ll need action to prove his words.

Why?

Because the days of blind faith are over.