McKay Coppins' new book The Wilderness bills itself as a deep dive into the Republican Party's quest to take back the White House. Although my personal politics lean to the left, I found the book a captivating read that helped me better understand the current chaos in the Republican Party and the challenges we face in the United States regarding wealth, gender, and racial inequality.Read more
The Seahawks beat the Packers last night in this amazing down-to-the-wire knuckle-biter, (the finger nails were all gone by the end of the third quarter,) where Russel threw a 24-yard touchdown to Golden Tate. Clearly, there were angels in the endzone to solidify this miracle of epic proportions. (For optimum effect, reread that last line imagining Sean Connery's voice.) Of course, this wasn't without controversy: football fans all over the country called foul (baseball?) in that M.D. Jennings maybe/probably/most-likely had a hold of the ball before Tate got his hands on it, making the play an interception, not a touchdown, as it was called by the high-school-football-type referees called in to replace the striking professional refs.
After the call, all of us in Seattle jumped, cheered, and high-fived each other, and even if us Hawks fans acknowledged that it might have been an interception, we sang together in one unified harmonious chorus: "We'll take it."
And President Obama also jumped into the fray, calling the outcome "terrible," and Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan tried to score a political touchdown of his own by comparing the amateur-refereeing to the Obama administration.
Well, Ryan's comments seem to further the assertion that the Romney campaign is struggling and desperate. The way I see it, Mitt Romney is running out of ways to get himself to the White House. While all roads lead to Rome, there's only one or two that'll get him to D.C. With a series of missteps in the past few weeks (admittedly, no-apologies-Romney doesn't publicly refer to them as that,) Romney's image as an out-of-touch, privileged, and somewhat surly rich man continues to surge in inverse proportion to his chances of winning the election.
I am starting to think that he really only has a few ways to win at this point:
1.) Voter suppression. I used to be unconvinced that this was a real thing. However, I can no longer pretend this isn't actually happening. Read here for an article on its effect on Latino voters. We even have reports of people trying to register ONLY Romney voters. See below:
But I have to admit that my heart goes out to this cute little girl - I swear she looks like a Mia Maid I knew growing up. And plus, the woman with the camera is so mean! She yells at her and calls her honey bunch! My opinion (although patronizing and sexist) is that we should give this poor girl a pass because she seems so nice and sweet, and I think that her father probably made her do this.
2.) Money. Now that Romney and Obama are the nominees, spending on the part of both candidates is astronomical. According to PBS News Hour yesterday, the rates of spending on TV advertisements has doubled the amount of what was spent in 2008. Both candidates are after that (unbelievably) undecided middle-voter, and these ads target them without regard to truth or reality. And of course, this says nothing about the Super-PAC money out there. Michael Moore predicted a Romney win for just this reason: "Mitt Romney is going to raise more money than Barack Obama. That should guarantee his victory." True enough; he does have a lot of dough to spend, and if Romney ever needed his wealth to buy something, the time is now.
3.) A miracle. I believe in miracles, but I don't know that the Republicans should wait for seagulls to swoop down and gobble up the elderly and minority voters in those states that have overturned the voter-suppression laws. However, that doesn't mean that some other natural disaster or man-made calamity couldn't set the president off of his stride. Just look to Bush (W.) in 2000. A bunch of hanging chads and that Michelle Bachman look-alike handed him the election - and of course, this was subsequently confirmed by the Supreme Court. But all of that refers back to point number one. So could more poor job numbers or an uptick in the Middle East conflict send voters fleeing for Romney?
But alas, pondering on a Romney win causes me to think about that wonderfully awesome football game from last night with its game-winning Hail Mary pass; while Republicans would celebrate if Romney was elected in November, somewhere deep in their heads they might recognize that it came about through happenstance, a bad call, or even nefarious means. And just like in 2000, when the presidency was given to George W. Bush by the Supreme Court, the Republicans will intone simultaneously, "We'll take it."
PART TWO: MEASURING THE MAN
My thoughts in my first post were basically introductory to talking about specific issues; for my own sake as much as anything else I wanted to think through why there are conservatives and liberals within the Mormon camp and how there is room for both (for both government and church, for both progressives and traditionalists). New converts will bring their own backgrounds and beliefs with them when they join the Church—and we’re only talking about American Mormons in all this anyway—but I think that understanding the long history of Mormonism’s relationship with American politics can help us situate our current Mormon moment as it relates to Mitt Romney’s candidacy. So I was excited Thursday morning to see that another friend, Dan Wotherspoon, had posted a discussion on this exact subject on his podcast Mormon Matters, with a lot of people who are a lot more informed than I. It’s definitely worth a listen. If any readers were underwhelmed with my thoughts they’ll certainly be much more satisfied by the four gentlemen on the podcast.
So that was where I started, and in the rest of my posts I’ll look at specific issues that face our country and how my faith informs my beliefs about them. But what I hope to do today is look at what kind of political leaders I think the Lord wants us to have—and in a democracy what kind we should strive to elect—regardless of their specific platforms or the form of government in question. I guess I’m asking whether we should have specific moral standards for our public officials—if that’s even relevant—and then, to liken these standards unto ourselves, how Governor Romney and President Obama measure up. It’s a mixed bag and therefore I think a profitable discussion to have at this point in the campaign.
So what do the scriptures say? It makes sense to begin with Doctrine and Covenants 134, a statement of belief regarding the Church’s position on government, usually ascribed to Oliver Cowdery and written in Joseph Smith’s absence during a conference in 1835. This was when Mormons were first beginning to be seen as un-American because they allegedly sought to govern themselves autonomously, akin to South Carolina in the Nullification Crisis of two years earlier. Section 134 thus seeks to define what the Church believes to be the proper role of government and of religious societies, and it only briefly touches on the desired character of government officials: verse three reads: “We believe that all governments necessarily require civil officers and magistrates to enforce the laws of the same; and that such as will administer the law in equity and justice should be sought for and upheld by the voice of the people if a republic, or the will of the sovereign.” Hence, rulers and civil officers should be equitable and just, broad terms that encompass a trove of character traits: someone who is equitable and just must, perforce, be honest and forthright, which is one of my chief concerns with any elected official. Being equitable and just means regarding oneself as an equal to and a servant of the people: hence, not attempting to deceive the electorate or seek personal gain through position. It means seeking what is best for the country over a single political party, special interest group, or campaign donor. It means they will always put their country and their people ahead of themselves.
LDS readers may make the connection with Doctrine and Covenants 121, part of an epistle written by Joseph Smith three years later while languishing in prison, having been betrayed by some of his closest associates. He wrote that “it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion,” (v. 39) which, in civil as well as religious government, consists of undertaking to “cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness” (v. 37). Power corrupts, and it is a difficult task to find anyone who chooses to seek after civil authority for the public good yet who can remain untouched by the perks and power that accompany that authority. That’s why the Nephites “did wax strong in love towards Mosiah; yea, they did esteem him more than any other man” (Mos. 29:40) and why King George III described his rival General Washington as “the greatest man in the world”: both men relinquished the power they could have seized.
I think I can summarize all this into two qualities: one, honesty; and two, humility—perhaps the hardest qualities to find in politicians of any political stripe. In my mind these qualities mirror those described by King Mosiah in characterizing a righteous sovereign: “If it were possible that you could have just men to be your kings, who would establish the laws of God, and judge this people according to his commandments . . . then it would be expedient that ye should always have kings to rule over you” (Mos. 29:13). He holds up his father Benjamin as an example of this and says he himself has “labored with all the power and faculties” (v. 14) of his soul to reach the same standard. The scriptures give us numerous other examples of righteous rulers—Nephi, Alma, Helaman, Hezekiah, Lamoni, Josiah, Lachoneus, Emer, Melchizedek, Anti-Nephi-Lehi, Enoch—and even righteous bureaucrats and civil servants—Daniel, Nehemiah, Gideon, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Joseph in Egypt. The Book of Mormon’s oft-repeated promise about our continent—that if we keep the commandments we will prosper in the land—is personified in our executive leaders and their own humility; as Mosiah says, as the king goes so goes the nation (Mos. 29:16-23), and the national decline has visibly followed the moral decline of initially great leaders like David and Solomon, let alone the likes of King Noah, Jezebel, and Herod.
We want leaders who are righteous, but that’s hard to gauge. After all, when Samuel was looking for a king the Lord told him that only he could look on David’s heart (1 Sam. 16:7). But trying to look holistically into politicians’ hearts is a dodgy business, so on a very practical level I’m quite satisfied limiting my inquiry to candidates’ honesty and, when possible, perceived humility. The latter doesn’t change much from person to person—all candidates promote themselves with monumental bluster—but the former, honesty, does. James says that if a man misuses his tongue it defiles his whole body; though “a little member,” it can give us insight into a man’s entire soul (Jas. 3:5-8). I wouldn’t want to be judged exclusively on what leaves my mouth, but bearing in mind our limited time as voters and that we’re not judging someone for their eternal disposition but just for a few years in elected office we can look at what they say as a pretty accurate measure of the man.
I suppose I’m fairly stern about this. When I catch a politician issuing public lies then I lose all esteem for them. I really admired Anthony Weiner’s ability to destroy ignorant reporters and galvanize constituents around important issues, regardless of his strength as a legislator. But when he started producing feeble lies to cover his very public tracks, the respect went out the window; likewise there was no way I was going to vote to re-elect my representative Charles Rangel after his financial improprieties and factually flimsy self-defense. The national example par excellence is Watergate, with major instances going back through the Gulf of Tonkin all the way to the XYZ Affair, but my most personal experience came with Bill Clinton. In August 1998 I returned from my mission to discover the country embroiled by the President’s misdeeds, leading to his impeachment that December. I was surprised but not particularly moved by his sexual indiscretions; I thought it reprehensible on a personal level but largely irrelevant to his ability to govern. His perjury, however, was another matter. Though not naïve about the relative honesty of all politicians, I thought Clinton’s perjury so inexcusable that it turned me against Al Gore in 2000. I supported Gore’s positions in every way over George W. Bush, but in my post-mission zeal I thought he had handled the Lewinsky affair poorly: when the full breadth of Clinton’s perjury and obstruction of justice became known, the only honorable thing I thought Gore could do was to resign in protest—or at least condemn his boss in the strongest of terms. He did neither, and the result was that I voted for a Republican for one of the only times in my life. (Imagine how I later felt when that new President repeatedly lied about the infinitely weightier issue of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.)
And that brings me back to Mitt Romney. I mentioned last week how frustrated and even a little angry I get regarding his platform, but the thing that really ticks me off is his perpetual dishonesty, dishonesty that makes President Clinton look like Abraham Lincoln. I’m trying to broach this some way besides just as a blatant personal attack, because it’s important to remember what a good person Romney is. Eric Samuelsen, one of the best writers in Mormonism, one of my mentors at BYU, and one of the most liberal Mormons I know, touched on this on his blog in July:
I actually like Mitt Romney. In fact, one thing I'm grateful for in this fall election is that we're genuinely choosing between two moral, decent guys; family men, good folks. This isn't by any means inevitable. It's not terribly hard to imagine this election being between Newt Gingrich and John Edwards, for example. Scary thought, that.
I know we're not supposed to like Romney, we liberals… [But I don’t] see his policies as suggesting some core of rottenness in his character. He's a Mormon patriarch writ large. I know fifty of them in my stake. Call him Friday night and tell him you having a moving van arriving Saturday morning, and he'll be there, bright and early, work gloves tucked into his belt, a smile on his face.
This is a hypothetical testimonial; here’s a real one, courtesy of Glenn Beck. (Sorry it won't embed here on Wordpress. Feel free to start around 3:50 and end by 5:15, and as a filmmaker I really have to apologize for all those endless sea-sickness-inducing tracking shots; perhaps someone could donate a tripod to the show.)
If that’s the kind of person Mitt Romney is on a personal level, why is his public persona so different? He is, for example, just incredibly negative. All candidates have to differentiate themselves from their opponents, but Romney spearheaded the most negative primary election in the history of presidential politics. Clear back in January analysts in Florida, where he poured $15.3 million in one month on ads that were 92% negative, were saying things like, “I have absolutely never seen television advertising so negative in a Republican presidential primary.”
And it’s kept going of course, with all the force of Citizens United behind it. Mudslinging is unbecoming any candidate, and it is, of course, not Christlike in any way. Here’s a verse (6) from Doctrine & Covenants 134 that I don’t think I’d ever noticed before but which applies specifically to how we citizens should regard our government officials, of either party: “We believe that every man should be honored in his station, rulers and magistrates as such, being placed for the protection of the innocent and the punishment of the guilty; and that to the laws all men owe respect and deference, as without them peace and harmony would be supplanted by anarchy and terror; human laws being instituted for the express purpose of regulating our interests as individuals and nations…” Romney is certainly not honoring the station of the President through this fog of negativity, nor is he paying respect and deference to the laws like the Affordable Care Act that seem to be in his crosshairs. To be sure, President Obama has been dipping in the muck as well, but claims that his campaign are as negative as his opponent’s are more spin than fact.
This is all bad enough, but unfortunately it gets worse. Romney seems on track to run the least honest campaign in history as well. There’s Paul Ryan, of course, who’s blatant dishonesty has even drawn criticism from Fox News along with CNN and the traditional suspects, and who can’t even discuss his marathon running without including two lies, about the number of races he’s run and his finishing time, last week trying to clean up the mess by admitting that he just made up the facts. No harm in that, right?
Romney is not Ryan, but he is responsible for him and they’re running to be in the same administration. And Romney doesn’t need Ryan's help to dabble in dishonesty. There are the truly famous moments, like taking credit for how President Obama saved the auto industry despite the New York Times op-ed he wrote in 2008 unequivocally condemning government involvement, arguing instead for a “managed bankruptcy.” But there are smaller Etch-a-Sketch moments weaving their way throughout his campaign, on everything from abortion to global warming.
The sheer number of lies is unbecoming any candidate, but I'm afraid that it’s downright disgraceful for a priesthood holder; like I said last week, I'm afraid it's rather difficult to not subconsciously hold him up to a higher standard. But I don't even need to do that. In June The Guardian wrote up a laundry list of falsehoods emanating from Romney’s own lips, blaming the President for touring the world to apologize for America (not true), saying the stimulus didn’t create private-sector jobs (it did, over three million of them), saying Obama's grown government (both government spending and the number of government employees are down), saying he’s raised taxes (they’ve gone down), saying Obamacare will consume 50% of the economy (not true), etc., etc. The connections to reality become increasingly tenuous, with New York magazine even publishing an article entitled “Romney Just Making Stuff Up Now.” And that was before the RNC.
How bad is it? On Friday Steve Benen at MSNBC published the thirty-fourth installment in his series totaling up Romney’s weekly mendacities. This week Romney told at least thirty-six verifiably indisputable lies. His incredible change of position on healthcare reform—that he wouldn’t get rid of all of it, an Etch-a-Sketch move toward the center to pick up moderate voters—came not just after several years of claiming that he would get rid of all of it, but just one day after claiming on the record that he would get rid of all of it. This week he claimed he balanced Massachusetts’ budget even though he left the state with a deficit. This week he said the federal deficit has doubled under Obama when it’s actually shrunk by $200 billion. And so on and so on, just this week.
The amazing thing is that Romney continues to hammer away at the same falsehoods, despite their obvious inaccuracy, over and over again. This is supposedly on the theory that if enough voters hear the same lies repeated on Fox News and conservative radio enough, the facts won’t matter: hence, his campaign will not be dictated by fact checkers. And it’s this point, quoted here from the Guardian article but raised by many commentators, that I as a Latter-day Saint observing another Latter-day Saint candidate, find the most unsettling:
This is perhaps the most interesting and disturbing element of Romney's tireless obfuscation: that even when corrected, it has little impact on the presumptive GOP nominee's behavior. This is happening at a time when fact-checking operations in major media outlets have increased significantly, yet that appears to have no effect on the Romney campaign.
What is the proper response when, even after it's pointed out that the candidate is not telling the truth, he keeps doing it? Romney actually has a telling rejoinder for this. When a reporter challenged his oft-stated assertion that President Obama had made the economy worse (factually, not correct), he denied ever saying it in the first place. It's a lie on top of a lie.
Do you remember that old Homefront Jr. spot, a Church-produced PSA from the 1980s that sang, “If you tell one lie it leads to another. Then you tell two lies to cover each other. Then you tell three lies—oh brother, you’re in trouble up to your ears.”
If I as a Latter-day Saint refused, on moral grounds, to vote for a candidate who served as the vice-president for a man who got caught telling one admittedly horrendous lie, how can I possibly justify voting for a man who himself told thirty-six equally horrendous lies just this week, many of them again and again and again? Reporters like George Stephanopoulos have given him ample opportunity to repent and come clean, but he refuses to do it. “Thou shalt not lie; he that lieth and will not repent shall be cast out” (D&C 42:21), not elected to the highest office in the land.
I haven’t even talked about avoiding the very appearance of evil. By only releasing one set of tax returns Romney leaves the door open for us to assume the worst about the rest of them. As one outlet, I forget which, wrote a few weeks ago: “It’s a pattern of secrecy, and this [the Boston Globe’s revelation that Romney was still actively running Bain Capital two years after he claims to have left] is just the latest example of him trying to hide the truth from voters.”
And then there’s Libya. The gall Romney had on September 11th, to use the death of American diplomats abroad to score a political point, was affronting. The fact that he misrepresented the truth in a way that everyone understood when he made the statement that night was more jarring. That he and his campaign have doubled down on the lies throughout the rest of this week is truly affronting. Andrew Sullivan at the Daily Beast analyzed Romney’s statement with its inaccuracies and concluded:
[Romney’s] people are simply unfit for the responsibility of running the United States. The knee-jerk judgments, based on ideology not reality; the inability to back down when you have said something obviously wrong; and the attempt to argue that the president of the US actually sympathized with those who murdered his own ambassador in Benghazi: these are disqualifying instincts for someone hoping to be the president of the US. Disqualifying.
Maybe, maybe not, but it’s certainly troubling. The photo of Romney leaving the dais with a smile on his face didn’t do him any favors. When Captain Moroni’s men were suffering abroad, the chief judge Pahoran wrote him saying, “I do not joy in your great afflictions, yea, it grieves my soul. But behold, there are those who do joy in your afflictions . . . and it is those who have sought to take away the judgment-seat from me . . . for they have used great flattery, and they have led away the hearts of many people…” (Alma 60:2-4) Now, of course Romney doesn’t joy in the death of Chris Stevens and the other American diplomats, but he’s given us no way to know that or reason to suspect it.
Contrast this situation with 1980, when President Carter’s attempt to free the American hostages in Iran went horribly wrong. As reported then, candidate Ronald Reagan “urged Americans to ‘stand united’ and to pray . . . He also said it would not be appropriate for him to express his reaction to the action. ‘This is the time for us as a nation and a people to stand united.’ George Bush was also campaigning in Michigan, saying he completely supported Carter’s actions. ‘I unequivocally support the president, no ifs, ands or buts. This is the time to support him,’ Bush said. ‘This is not a time to go one up politically. He made a difficult, courageous decision.’”
Hillary Clinton gave a moving and forceful response to the Libyan and Egyptian attacks, akin to these men in 1980. Romney, in contrast, gave a mean-spirited and fallacious attack on President Obama for events beyond his control, then hunkered down this week by saying the attacks would never have occurred were he President and his Republican allies in control of the State Department. Honest? No. Humble? No.
Such assertions sound like the “great flattery” described by Pahoran, or those used by Amalickiah (Alma 46:4-5), or by Akish (Ether 8) or Gadianton (Helaman 2). I do not and cannot believe that Mitt Romney is anything like these men. I believe the descriptions we’ve heard of his deep concern for people, his kindness, his charity in the best sense of the word. What I can’t yet do is square that private individual away with this public figure who we’ve seen so smoothly and consistently bend the truth for his personal ends. Of course he’s not evil, but he hasn’t sufficiently avoided the appearance thereof to gain my trust or my vote. And I really wish that the LDS candidate would have set the standard for excellence. I feel America is in better hands with the President who has consistently treated us like adults, expanded executive transparency, and who is already navigating us through these crises.
Next, given the events of this week, foreign policy.
Post by Joseph M -
Bill Clinton spoke truth this evening; the mists of darkness that covered the land have dispersed and scattered, and America's collective memory of last week's confusion and half-truths (and even lies) at the RNC has cleared. Clinton solidly reviewed and dismissed the misinformation from the RNC speakers, and he highlighted Obama's record in so many areas. View the speech or read the transcript, if you have not already. By the way, the pundits keep referring to policy wonk, and they're saying that Clinton's speech was full of it. Can I admit that I am already tired of the word, "wonk?" When Romney or Ryan say wonk or wonky, it seems like a desperate attempt to sound cool, but it's completely uncool instead. However, Bill Clinton took cool into the 21st century: he had swag. Paul Adams tweeted: "Usually they tell you not to cram in too many statistics. Different rules apply to Bill Clinton. He makes them sing."
But beyond the wonk or the wonky, Bill Clinton gave us inspiration like this:
"Now -- but he has -- he has laid the foundations for a new, modern, successful economy of shared prosperity. And if you will renew the president’s contract, you will feel it. You will feel it. Folks, whether the American people believe what I just said or not may be the whole election. I just want you to know that I believe it. With all my heart, I believe it."
This doesn't bode well for Romney and Ryan. President Clinton has given President Obama a load of talking points to take to the debates and every campaign rally from here until November. (And FINALLY we even heard about the proposed cuts to Medicaid!) Having watched three days of the RNC, I am surprised by the tepid drone of the Republican speakers compared to what I have seen in just two days of the DNC. (I am biased here?) I don't think so - check out this article from Smart Politics that reports that Michelle Obama's DNC speech was seven grade levels higher than Ann Romney's. This also is fascinating because Michelle Obama's speech was "written at a higher grade level than all but 11 of the 70 orally delivered State of the Union addresses delivered since 1934." Of course, the Democrats have an advantage because their convention was held a week after the RNC, but more than that: they have the lucky benefit that Truth is back in style and trending on Twitter this week.
And we Mormons are taking to the internet, (Twitter and Facebook), our phones, and even to the streets (of Charlotte NC!) to make clear our message: we are Mormons, and we are voting for Barack Obama for a second term. (See our previous post for links to news articles about the Mormon Democrat gathering in Charlotte.) This article from the Las Vegas Sun may have misunderstood a portion of our purpose when it wrote, "having a Mormon candidate at the top of the Republican ticket will only make it that much more difficult for Democrats hoping to win over the Mormon vote this year. But some felt that even if winning over LDS voters was a longshot, the political circumstances make it worth trying."
You see, Mormons have voted for the Republican ticket in high numbers for some time, and having a LDS candidate doesn't necessarily change that. Besides, change, as Bill Clinton aptly pointed out tonight, is a "long, hard road," and each of us will find our own way. (I haven't always voted Democrat, and neither have many Mormon Obama supporters.) So our goals are beyond convincing other Mormons to vote for Obama - (seriously now) - but we aim to add our unique voices to the wealth of diversity of those supporting President Obama; we understand that we are breaking from the expected, the norm, or even the stereotype. However, this also is part of why we hope to make ourselves heard - and to find strength from one another, because we are "all in this together," and we are not "on (our) own."
With so many reasons to vote for Obama this November, (and thank you Pres. Clinton for spelling it out so clearly,) we Mormons also feel to press forward and do what we can to get him that second term. In this regard, Bill Clinton asked this question during his address: "Are you willing to work for it?" We answer with the delegates at the Charlotte convention: "Four more years!"
Read Hannah's post here to find out how you can get involved.
Post by Joseph M -
Sadly, I must put Condoleezza Rice's excellent speech to the side and take aim at Congressman Paul Ryan's 30-minute roller-coaster ride of soaring platitudes, sharp condemnations, and sad flat metaphors. I like metaphors; I like to use them, read them, and hear them, but Paul Ryan proved to be a very poor man's Neal A. Maxwell when it came to spinning a yarn and using a metaphor. (Seriously, his "ships sailing" line came straight out of a worn-out Barry Manilow song.)
That said, the RNC loved the guy. The cheering and woo-hooing at his speech caused a few light-emitting diodes on my flat-screen TV to blow out. But really, if we Mormons had any question about Ryan, he settled it with his admission that his iPod playlist "starts with AC/DC, and ends with Zeppelin." Ever since we attended youth conference in the 1970s, we've all known that AC/DC stands for "Knights in Satan's Service," and that the song, Stairway to Heaven, has backmasking - (For proof, I tried to play it backwards on YouTube, but I couldn't find the reverse button.)
But in short, Paul Ryan's speech was mean-spirited and nasty. I guess this is the standard operating procedure: the VP nominee is supposed to be the bulldog, while the P nominee is the nice one. But Ryan's sarcasm and coloring of Obama's message of hope and change as "fading" and "tired" grated on me and affirmed what I already knew: I will not be voting for Paul Ryan when he runs in 2016. He even took a stab at the youthful electorate who came out en mass to vote for Obama in 2008: “College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life.” He also stated that "you have not failed, your leaders have failed you." But these lines do not acknowledge the deception that Romney and Ryan have nothing in their bag of Trix to assist young graduates beyond cutting taxes for the wealthy and slashing government programs that help the poor.
Ryan went on to state that, "none of us have to settle for the best this administration offers – a dull, adventureless journey from one entitlement to the next, a government-planned life, a country where everything is free but us." In saying this, he denigrated the real experience of people in poverty; he somehow believes that utilizing the safety net leads to a decrease in freedom rather than a decrease in suffering for families and children. Ryan demonstrates this disdain for the poor with his proposed $1.4 trillion cuts in Medicaid. And to clarify, Medicaid is the insurance for children in poverty and adults with disabilities. Thus, Ryan and Romney hope to diminish the already-lacking health care program for people in poverty. Apparently ending Obama's healthcare expansion is not enough for them - he said that Obamacare has "no place in a free country," and I suppose this exposes what Republicans think of our northern neighbors: Canadians, with their socialized medicine, are all lazy slaves under the fetters of a government intrusion in their lives.
So here is my problem with the whole speech: Paul Ryan lies. I am getting tired of this. The stories continue about Obama raiding Medicare; I don't even remember hearing this line of attack before Romney picked Ryan, the real Medicare cutter. But it is a cunning move; if you are weak in an area, then attack your opponent in this same area to cover your own backside. The $716 billion is an actual cut to Medicare recipients under the Ryan plan, but it consists of cuts to medical providers under the Obama plan. So now Paul Ryan presents himself as the defender of Medicare, and he even enlisted his "role model" mother as the Floridian face of his plan to save old people. But in reality, he is devising a plan to usher in a new era for our seniors: Vouchercare.
And I am tired of all the "you did build that." This obfuscates the meaning behind President Obama's original statement, and it pushes American individualism (every man for himself!) to the extremes of ugliness.
The deception doesn't stop there: Ryan used the example of the closure of a GM plant in Wisconsin to illustrate the failure of Obama's policies; he even related how Obama spoke at the plant in 2008 and pledged to work to keep it open. The part that Ryan did not mention: the plant closed in December of 2008, a full month before Obama's term began. How can this anecdotal evidence be interpreted as anything but deception when Obama cannot possibly be held responsible for a plant's closure that happened before he took office?
The following are a few more quotations from the VP nominee that float precariously on top of a half-truth or a full-blown lie:
"(Obama's presidency) began with a perfect Triple-A credit rating for the United States; it ends with a downgraded America." What Ryan fails to acknowledge is his party's and his own obstructionism in getting work done in congress to have prevented this downgrade.
"(His presidency) began with a housing crisis they alone didn’t cause; it ends with a housing crisis they didn’t correct." The housing market continues to improve; it is being corrected, and for Ryan to state otherwise is false.
"He created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing." This is misleading because Ryan himself opposed Bowles-Simpson’s report.
Read this report from the Washington Post about the falsehoods in Ryan's speech. I need to sleep.
But in closing: Paul Ryan posed this question - "Without a change in leadership, why would the next four years be any different from the last four years?" What Ryan doesn't understand is that we asked for this. America voted for Obama because he promised us Obamacare. Obama did exactly what he said he would do, and his has been a presidency of fulfilled commitments. We don't want Ryan's kind of change, we want the change that Obama promised and has delivered on. Four years later, it may sound trite, tired, or faded to Ryan, but for us, it is still change we can believe in.
I won't even go into the details of how or what or why I disagree with Paul Ryan (and not just in one area - but in so many many ways.) I don't feel the need to; just do a google search on "Why Paul Ryan is Wrong" and you'll see an explosion of articles and links describing the problems with this congressman.
This is what I don't get: why Representative Paul Ryan? I don't understand how the formerly moderate Governor of Massachusetts could pick such an extremely right (meaning wrong) conservative as his running mate. Maybe I really bought into the Etch-a-Sketch comment. I somehow believed that Mitt Romney would right his boat into the political center after he won the Republican nomination. There is an oft-stated idea that the Romney of yesteryear (Governor of Massachusetts) would not have voted for the Romney we see now running for president - and the VP Ryan pick really bears that out. So I do apologize for my naiveté on this one. It's not like I would have voted for Romney regardless of who he picked, but I did find myself caught off guard by his Vice President choice.
In fact, a friend of mine has been pranking me with random text messages these past two weeks proclaiming fake Romney VP picks; the first one said, "Romney picks Sarah Palin as his VP!" I paused for a moment, and then realized it was a joke. The second one even came with a fake abcnews.go.com link: "Romney picks LDS President Thomas S. Monson as VP." I knew that was false - but I clicked on the link anyway just to make sure. So when I got his latest text message on Friday night, I figured "Ryan selected as VP" was leaning towards the ridiculous just like the previous two texts. Alas, this is not the case.
But still I can't help mulling it over in my head: what is Romney hoping to accomplish by picking Paul Ryan? Is he not convinced that he has the conservative vote in the bag? Well, maybe this is Mitt Romney's vice (if we can call it that): his willingness to do anything and everything to please the conservative wing of his party. Because if there is some middle ground of voters still to be won over - or the undecided - (is that another word for people who don't pay attention to politics until the week before the election?) - how does Ryan help them choose Romney? Clearly Romney really likes the guy - and maybe he'll just adopt Ryan's fiscal plans as his own since that would be easier than coming up with one - (or maybe he'll just adopt Ryan as another one of his sons, since he kind of looks like them anyway.) Regardless, I don't get how Ryan's politics will do anything more than alienate a large majority of the electorate.
Maybe I'm wrong. But my bet (and my vote) is on Obama for 2012. It feels good to be on the right side of history on this one (again.)