So we lost the Senate. Yea, it hurts. Pick yourself up. Dust yourself off. And get ready for the storm – the real storm -- coming in two years. You know, the political storm where Democrats take back the Senate and retain the White House. No, I’m not being overly optimistic. No, I am not riding on dancing unicorns jumping through candy-covered rainbows. I am saddled on a brute horse charging through the political lines of defeat. The Electoral College is on our side. The popular vote is on our side. The Senatorial election map is on our side. 2014 will be a contest quickly forgotten and 2016 will be our triumphant return to Rome.Read more
The other night while surfing various political sites and social media groups I came across a troubling Facebook page; “Democrats Done with Jim Matheson”. For those of you unfamiliar with Representative Matheson, he is a Democrat Congressman from the reddest of states, Utah. Matheson has been a political chameleon as of late, voting with the Republicans on several issues including the shutdown and the countless repeals of the Affordable Care Act. He represents Utah’s 4th district which overwhelmingly voted for Governor Romney over President Obama in 2012 by double digit margins. He also won a razor close election edging out his Republican rival Mia Love by .3%. Ms. Love has already announced she will run again, and this time Matheson does not have the help of a presidential election.
This Facebook group’s premise explains the reason for rejection, “This page is for Utah Democrats that are sick and tired of Jim Matheson. We see him for the real man he is. A DC politician only worried about reelection.” I completely agree -- Matheson is worried about re-election, and as a vocal Democrat, I am too. However, I am more worried about losing the seat than any floor vote Matheson casts. In fact I ENCOURAGE Matheson to vote with the Republicans every single vote where a majority is established (and with the Hastert Rule, that is every vote). For those of you balking at such a position let me explain further.
Irrelevance is being a minority party in the House of Representatives. A minority party cannot decide the floor agenda, appoint committee chairs, direct debates, or initiate votes. In setting up our government, the Framers designed the representative body of the House to work in a democratic setting. Unfortunately, what they did not take into consideration is the rampant gerrymandering that has undermined the intent and balance of the Constitution. In 2012 there were 1.5 million more votes for House Democrats yet today there are 33 more Republican Representatives. In order to return appropriate balance Democrats will need to flip those seats, many of which are anchored in steadfast red districts, to return the balance of power back to the majority.
Any primary challenger that successfully defeats Matheson will cost Democrats a congressional seat. Even an unsuccessful primary challenger will force Matheson to the left, which will be leveraged against him in the general election. Even more problematic than losing Matheson’s solitary (and inconsistent) vote is the daunting challenge for Democrats to flip one more seat and regain control of the House. If by small chance Democrats do achieve majority, and Matheson continues to vote with the Republicans, Democrats would still be in a much better place.
For all my Democrat friends in red districts the same strategy applies. Vote with the furthest right leaning candidate in primaries or the candidate that polls strongest against a Republican challenger. No one candidate is above control of the House, which should be the only priority for Democrats in 2014.
Yesterday I read something from a Republican that made a lot of sense in explaining Romney’s recent loss. Representative Pete Sessions explained:
“Mitt Romney appeared like a kid who showed up for his science project and the teacher said, ‘Explain it,’ and Mitt couldn’t do it. His ‘dad,’ Paul Ryan, explained it to him, but Mitt didn’t get it. … That’s why we lost the last election.”
Now with all due respect to Representative Sessions for coming up with his science analogy, Paul Ryan is not Mitt’s dad. George Romney is. Mitt was trying to follow his dad’s footsteps running for President driven through public service and some vindication for his father. Mitt outpaced his father by winning his party’s nomination which his dad had failed to do. George’s presidential failure came after his statement about “brainwashing” by generals in Vietnam, who tried hard to convince him that the war was winnable. It wasn’t a winning position for the senior Romney and he lost to Nixon.
Mitt did seem like a kid at a Science Fair, however, whose dad (George, not Ryan) had groomed him for public service, but somehow Mitt never understood his father’s core direction. This might sound harsh, but how does one explain his conversion from a moderate Republican into the neo-con, tea-party disciple that didn’t fit the George Romney mantra? His flawed strategy peaked in the first debate but was flooded with inconsistencies as the election moved forward.
History – and maybe me – can be a harsh judge. Eventually the Republicans will figure out who they are and understand the pivotal middle ground. In the meantime, it is refreshing to have them talking about science.
I saw a tweet the other day: “Only a Democrat could prevent a depression, end a war, get bin Laden, and double the Dow & then be told he can’t run on his record.” The economy is growing: we’ve added 5.2 million private sector jobs during 31 straight months of growth—including 500,000 manufacturing jobs—the most growth since 1997. The unemployment rate has fallen to 7.8% (the lowest since Dec. 2008), housing starts are at a four-year high, retail sales are re-accelerating, car sales are at their highest since early 2008, consumer credit is growing, the Dow is above 13,000 (it closed under 8,000 on the day President Obama was inaugurated and bottomed out at 6,629 in March 2009), consumer confidence is a five-year high, and home prices are on the rise again. I think President Obama is doing all right.
The President’s plan for the next four years is making education and training a national priority, investing in manufacturing, boosting American-made energy, reducing the deficit in a balanced, responsible manner, and ending the war in Afghanistan so we can focus on rebuilding America.
As a student of history, I see President Obama as having a firm grip on our national situation and where we need to go. At the end of World War II, the United States dominated the world in manufacturing output (and would dominate the global economy for the next two decades). Policy makers took deliberate steps through the Marshall Plan, the International Monetary Fund, and other institutions to help the rest of the world catch up, with the (sound) idea that if we’re all making & trading with one another, we will be less likely to go to war with one another. Now, however, the challenge is dealing with the consequences of this success. It behooves us today to build an economy that’s more substantial than financial manipulation and a society that gives equal opportunity to get ahead in a more competitive world. President Obama recognizes this, and his domestic policies have focused on five pillars: healthcare, education & training, manufacturing, investment in infrastructure, and an all-of-the-above approach to domestic energy production. These five work together to bring us back to full employment. For me, healthcare is the most important.
I see access to quality health care (along with opportunities for education) as a fundamental aspect of people having full agency in their lives. For those of you who have served on ward welfare councils, imagine the impact for those in need being able to get appropriate health care—and the fast offerings and time this frees up for helping them further their education and otherwise get back on their feet. The system of state exchanges (websites run by states where people without insurance can purchase insurance as part of pooled plans rather than as individuals) helps those who don’t receive benefits through employment. The mandate encourages personal responsibility and discourages free riding. Changes in Medicare help push us away from fee-for-service towards bundled forms of billing that have worked well for Intermountain Healthcare and Kaiser Permanente. Obamacare started as the right-wing Heritage Foundation’s response to Hillarycare back in 1993, and then became the foundation for MassCare under Governor Romney, before President Obama signed it into law in March 2010. It achieves near-universal coverage through a system than emphasizes the private market and personal responsibility, bringing together many of the best ideas of the last twenty years from both sides of the aisle. If President Obama is re-elected, it goes into full effect on schedule in 2014. If Gov. Romney is elected, he has promised to do away with it entirely: pre-existing conditions and lifetime benefit caps again become an issue, the Medicare prescription donut hole re-opens, and states lose crucial Medicaid funding for nursing home care. These are the stakes of this election.
For those of you who are sympathetic to President Obama’s aims but cannot vote for someone who is “pro-choice”: I hear you. And for me, “pro-life” doesn’t end at the moment of birth. We must also invest in the child so that they have at least a decent chance at living a full and productive life. I see the President as being much more likely to do this than the other candidate.
In addition, by securing health care for all, we reduce the number of abortions and teenage pregnancies. Read this dispatch from Canada, or this study from St. Louis. Or this report in the New England Journal of Medicine discussing how Romney’s MassCare— the template for Obamacare—reduced abortions in Massachusetts, even while it covered them, due to better healthcare access for the poor and otherwise desperate.
Finally, we are taught as Latter-day Saints to be frugal. Debt certainly has its uses, as Gov. Romney showed working in private equity, and there are sound economic reasons for some levels of publicly held debt (there’s a cool history of the U.S. debt here). But we must get our annual deficits under control. President Obama favors a balanced approach; one that mixes spending cuts with some tax increases. (Governor Romney has said that he would reject a deal that included any tax increases, and has refused to provide much detail of what he would cut.) The President, working with Congress, has already cut spending by $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years, or about 70% of the discretionary spending cuts outlined in the Bowles-Simpson plan.
Beyond healthcare and debt reduction, from new fuel-economy standards that will create jobs for engineers and make American cars globally competitive, to “race to the top” initiatives to modernize the educational system, to expansion of domestic natural gas, oil, and wind energy production, President Obama knows what we need to not only survive, but thrive in the 21st century. The CBO projects that we’ll have over 7 million new jobs in the President’s second term; Moody’s says it will be 12 million. We know President Obama and we can trust him to carry out the changes that will strengthen the middle class and the country as a whole. And that’s why I’m a Mormon who is proud to be supporting President Barack Obama. Forward!
What is the motivation for President Obama to lie about the Benghazi incident? The entire premise of the right's argument of cover-up falls apart with this simple question. In a court of law motive is everything -- any case lacking motive is deemed a weak position. In the case against Obama's handling of Benghazi, motive has yet to be established even though post-incident intelligence was less than desirable.
I have heard two responses answering my simple question I will address. The first is to cover-up the embassy requests to add more security. The second is the Benghazi attacks will weaken Obama's claims that we are winning the war on terror.
The first response is quite simple to refute. If this was a mob style attack over a video or an Al Qaeda directed terrorist attack, there would be intense scrutiny on the State Department and The White House if security forces were denied. In order to avoid any political blow back from ignoring such requests, President Obama would have stated that Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans were killed in a car crash, or some other non-security incident. Additionally, in the Right's sloppy analysis of the security requests, there are some critical facts that were omitted:
- The Benghazi security requests were made by employee Eric Nordstrom were communicated verbally to a Senior Officer who never passed the request along.
- The documented security requests were for the Tripoli Embassy, almost 400 miles away. These requests were met.
- Ambassador Stevens had access to more guards from Tripoli had he chose to bring them for protection.
- Even if the security requests from Eric Nordstrom were documented and met, there would have been no additional security detail at the Embassy at the time of the attack. Mr. Nordstrom requested five, which was the exact number at the time of the attack.
The is not about pre-incident inaction, it's about post-incident intelligence. It's not like 9-11 or WMD's in Iraq where there was a massive failure in understanding which people died due to bad decisions or ignored data. This is all about reporting the incident -- and President Obama had his facts wrong.
The second response is a bit more logical. Why wouldn't President Obama lead with a rouge terrorist attack explanation? It's not a political liability. If anything I would argue its in President Obama's best political interest to blame terrorists given America's propensity to "rally the troops". Everybody accepts that Al Qaeda is still plotting attacks. Everybody realizes we are not out of the woods (nor will we ever be) on terrorist activities. Just because we are winning the war on terror doesn't mean we are void of terrorist attacks. Imagine if President Obama stood up the day after and charged, "Our Embassy was attacked yesterday. We will bring these Al Qaeda operatives to justice like we brought Osama Bin Laden to justice." Game over.
To be clear, I really don't know why Obama did not have his facts straight. I also do not really understand his motives for not saying it was a terrorist cell attack from the start, there is no political liability for this explanation. What I do know is there is no evidence to logically hold Obama responsible for inaction and prevention which is where I think the Right is trying to blur the lines.
During the last Presidential election season, I wrote the following letter to the editor, which was printed in a prominent newspaper:
Lost amid the hype about Mitt Romney's religion speech and Mike Huckabee's surge is a story about a church that, unlike most contemporary Christian organizations, does not participate in partisan politics. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, otherwise known as the Mormon Church, has stated for years that it does not "endorse, promote or oppose political parties, candidates or platforms." The Mormon Church also does not allow its church buildings to be used for partisan political purposes; nor does it tell its members whom to vote for.Read more
When many evangelical leaders are eager to blur the line between church and state by endorsing candidates and tacitly (and sometimes explicitly) telling their followers whom to vote for, and when many churches allow candidates to use their pulpits, it is refreshing to know that at least one church is honoring a principle established by the Founding Fathers by keeping religion out of politics. As a practicing Mormon, I am a product of this political neutrality. (By the way, I will not be voting for Mr. Romney.)
In any case, for those who live in Utah and may be interested, the LDS Democrats caucus of the Utah Democratic Party is kicking off their organization in an event on October 1st in Salt Lake City. For more information, visit their website. The Salt Lake Tribune had a nice article today about the LDS Dems caucus.
This August was a crazy time for American politics. The debt ceiling debate (or debacle) along with the "compromise" bill where the Democrats essentially gave in to nearly all of the GOP's demands, followed by the stock market's precipitous drop and frightening volatility have resulted in hysteria among some of the political talking heads. One thing that annoyed me a bit was constant criticism of President Obama for taking a vacation after the debt ceiling crisis was finally solved. It seems to me that every time Barack Obama and his family take some vacation time, they are subject to relentless attacks by the right-wing media. Conservative pundits on FOX News and elsewhere assaulted the President for taking vacation during such distressing economic times. Of course after the debt ceiling compromise bill was passed, Congress took a three-week recess, and there isn't much the President can do about the economy without Congress. Even if the President recalled Congress, everyone should know by now that there is little chance the two parties could come to an agreement on measures to stimulate economic growth and fight unemployment anytime soon.
In hearing all of this criticism of the President and his vacation-taking, I wondered how he compared with his predecessors regarding the amount of vacation days he's taken. Fortunately, there are folks in the media who have nothing better to do than track Presidential vacation days.
CBS Radio's Mark Knoller observed the following in August:
So far, President Obama has taken 61 vacation days after 31 months in office. At this point in their presidencies, George W. Bush had spent 180 days at his ranch where his staff often joined him for meetings. And Ronald Reagan had taken 112 vacation days at his ranch. Among recent presidents, Bill Clinton took the least time off — 28 days.
Would FOX News care to publicize that comparison during their prime time shows?
According to the Fox News source, "there’d be a lot more money every concert to go to the cause if Hannity didn’t demand–and get–use of a Gulfstream 5 plane to fly him and his family/entourage to the concerts; a “fleet”... of either Cadillac or Lincoln SUVs for him and his family/entourage; and several suites at really expensive hotels for him and his family/entourage. The promoter apparently values Hannity’s star demands at well over $200,000 per event."