By John Parisella - Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 0 Comments
In the wake of Obama’s Inaugural Address, there is much talk of the Republican…
In the wake of Obama’s Inaugural Address, there is much talk of the Republican Party and its inherent tensions. The immediate post-Obama speech talking points slammed the president’s militant tone, and decried the return of liberalism and its big government component. With the debt ceiling and budget talks ahead, it is fair to say these arguments will dominate the rhetoric of Congressional Republicans.
Outside the proverbial Washington Beltway, however, other Republican voices are being heard. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal keeps repeating that the GOP must not be the “stupid ideas” party and open itself to new realities. Respected Republican TV host Joe Scarborough and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush continue to push their party toward a more centrist, fiscal conservativism. Columnist David Frum is another voice of reason heard on the airwaves.
By John Parisella - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 12:35 PM - 0 Comments
He’ll need more than vision and good intentions to succeed, writes John Parisella
When President Obama was elected in 2008, many believed American liberalism was about to make a comeback. The economy was in shambles, more than 40 million Americans had no healthcare coverage and the United States was involved in two unpopular wars. Barack Obama spoke of hope and change, as well as an activist government.
Throughout his first term, many on the American left were terribly disappointed that Obama failed to push the liberal agenda. Obamacare did not contain the public option; the stimulus purchase did not include public works programs; the Obama administration was increasing its involvement in Afghanistan.
By the November 6, 2012 election date, the American left made the only rational choice and voted to keep Obama in office instead of staying away from the polls. Many, realizing the systematic obstructionism of the Republicans, preferred to keep Obama in place rather than roll back many of the progressive policies created since the FDR years.
In his second Inaugural Address, President Obama laid out the most progressive agenda since FDR. Even John F. Kennedy did not go as far. The speech was philosophical in tone, militant in terms of priorities and delivered in a manner that many early Obama supporters would have wished. “We the people”, and the words ‘citizen’, ‘democracy’ and ‘equality’ figured prominently. It was clear Obama was talking legacy, but he was elaborating on an agenda for a changing America, and an America whose thirst for more change will not end with his term in office.
Gun control, immigration reform, deficit and debt issues will dominate the first half of his second term. Foreign policy will also continue its shift to a greater emphasis on soft power, diplomacy and multilateral engagement. A close reading of this speech, and you can understand even better the coalition that gave Obama such a sweeping victory. He has chosen to seize the moment.
The U.S. is the longest-living democracy, and the most difficult one to govern. Even when one party controls the White House and Congress, the President is subject to an array of checks and balances. But Obama will need more than vision and good intentions to succeed. He will need skill.
In the first half of his first term, Obama had trouble finding his footing in the complex world of Washington. In the latter half of his first term, he seemed more assured and more willing to use the bully pulpit. Since his re-election, Obama has shown a more pro-active and combative style. This can serve him well, as second-term presidents soon face lame-duck status.
Is this progressive agenda laid out so eloquently just a mirage? The GOP, going through its post-election pains, will not react favourably to such a blatant progressive agenda. However, the President seems to have grown in his job and appears more determined as we saw in the Hagel nomination as Secretary of Defense and the December fiscal cliff debate. At the end of the day, his agenda may well depend more on his political skills than his ideas.
By John Parisella - Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 4:29 PM - 0 Comments
Why Obama’s tougher gun laws are likely to get watered down
The parents of a murdered seven-year-old boy were interviewed by CBS journalist Seth Doane this week, one month after the Sandy Hook shooting. It was a heartbreaking interview where the father, Mark Barden, described his late son Daniel as an optimist. The mother, Jackie Barden, speaking and holding back the tears, admitted that the pain was unbearable and conceded that there was little likelihood she will feel better for some time to come.
The interview came after both parents had a conversation with Vice-President Joe Biden and they said they were hopeful that new measures restricting easy access to guns would eventually come to pass. Jackie also confided to Doane about her recent efforts to purchase a kitten. An elaborate background check and a request for a series of references led her to complain that it was “easier to buy a gun than a kitten in the U.S.” It was also easier to get a gun than to get a driver’s license, she said. Continue…
By John Parisella - Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 11:47 AM - 0 Comments
What is happening with the Republicans?
The “fiscal cliff” deal between the Obama administration…
What is happening with the Republicans?
The “fiscal cliff” deal between the Obama administration and Congress perplexed many Americans. Cliff averted, they were told–except for the other cliffs on the horizon. President Obama and the Democrats claimed victory while Republicans argued they had gained leverage in the exercise.
It is hard to argue with Obama’s gain on the tax deal since it fulfilled his election promise to raise taxes on the top two per cent. It is difficult to see what the Republicans gained.
Most Senate Republicans endorsed the Biden-McConnell compromise, while more than 60 per cent of the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives broke rank with Speaker John Boehner to vote against the Senate compromise. Republican Boehner, facing re-election as Speaker, won by just two votes after a brief mutiny by some Tea Party types.
Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie condemned the Speaker for failing to bring to the floor an appropriations bill on behalf of Hurricane Sandy victims. He also complained that Boehner failed to take his calls. Christie then held a press conference to attack Boehner and House Republicans saying “this was an example of why Americans hate Congress.” The spontaneous outburst spoke volumes about Republican disarray.
Meanwhile, the soul-searching continues within conservative think-tanks and among Republican pundits. All seem to agree Obama won the election and that America is changing, they just can’t agree what the GOP should do about it.
Over the years, the Republicans have remained the conservative party in a two-party system. From Lincoln (abolished slavery) to Teddy Roosevelt (the ultimate environmental conservationist) to Ike Eisenhower (war hero and fiscal conservative) and Ronald Reagan (father of modern conservatism with a pragmatic streak), the GOP has gradually transformed into a party where social conservatives impose debates on such cultural issues as abortion and gay marriage, and where economic populists threaten to challenge moderate GOP incumbents. The fiscal conservatives have little influence beyond their voice, and neo-conservatives are relatively overshadowed by a more isolationist view of world politics.
Republicans face Congressional conflicts, polarizing base politics, two consecutive White House losses and an electoral map that favors a Democratic coalition. If winning the next two “cliff battles” is the goal, Republicans may be giving up on winning the future. In this case, a vibrant American democracy would be the loser.
By John Parisella - Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 10:03 AM - 0 Comments
President Obama can’t lead from behind after the Newtown tragedy
The horrific tragedy of Newtown, Connecticut, and the immediate emotional reaction of President Barack Obama seem to have become a part of a routine when these events occur. From the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona in January 2011, to the tragedy in Aurora in July 2012, to the Wisconsin Sikh Temple ,and now Sandy Hook Elementary School, it all begins with breaking news, followed by words of sympathy, a visit of consolation by the president, funeral services, and yes, talk about gun violence and how we must address the issue. Yet, nothing is really done to curb growing gun violence.
When Barack Obama was running for president in 2008, he spoke about renewing the ban on assault weapons without preventing legitimate access to firearms, as accorded by the Second Amendment. Unfortunately, once in office, and with the strong gun lobby spearheaded by the NRA, Obama has been missing in action. The Newtown tragedy is about to force Obama’s hand. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has once again called for action by both the president and Congress.
The media coverage and the depth of this December 14 tragedy has renewed the pressure on politicians to do more than offer words of consolation and tears. This senseless tragedy is not easy to address as it involves so many factors – mental illness, access to guns, and a culture of violence that permeates the lives of Americans. As Canadians, however, we should not be smug and overly judgmental about our neighbours to the south. Sure, the statistics in the U.S. are devastating, but gun violence has no boundaries. This being said, the tipping point may have finally arrived for both President Obama and Congress to summon the courage to act and begin a process that, while it may not eliminate gun violence, will reduce the probability of more mass murders.
Speaking on Meet The Press, California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said she would introduce legislation to eliminate loopholes in existing federal legislation, increase background checks, and, possibly, limit civilian access to weapons meant for the battlefield. No one expects an assault on the Second Amendment of the Constitution, but the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed for restrictions. Just as we have restrictions on our driving behavior, and in our consumption of alcohol, it is feasible that some be placed on the exercise of the right to bear arms.
President Obama must not lead from behind on this one. This could be “his Katrina moment,” akin to when former president George W. Bush failed to show leadership during this terrible natural disaster in 2005, and saw his presidency become largely irrelevant in his second term. Obama’s failure to act now could result in a premature lame-duck status.
Obama can act through executive action and supporting new legislation. He could even set up a bipartisan commission to start the wider conversation about how to prevent such tragedies in the future. This conversation needs to address issues including mental illness, the culture of violence and institutional support for people with mental illness.
Granted, Obama has much on his plate — the fiscal cliff, immigration reform and Middle East issues, including Gaza, Syria, and Iran. But the president is not just the consoler-in-chief. He is the commander-in-chief and, in his final term, he has greater flexibility. Just as he has the ultimate responsibility to keep Americans safe from an external menace, he must be as vigilant about internal threats.
Twenty children lost their lives on December 14, 2014. The new year should begin with a president who is ready to provide leadership on reducing gun violence.
By John Parisella - Monday, December 17, 2012 at 1:42 PM - 0 Comments
American voters want want compromise and results, writes John Parisella
In the days after Barack Obama’s decisive re-election on Nov. 6, we began to see some real soul searching among leading Republicans. Encouraging messages seemed to indicate a change in the political climate. There was talk of compromise on the so-called fiscal cliff, the possibility of revisiting immigration reform, and the general admission that the loss to Obama meant that the GOP had to take note about its losses with minorities, urban voters, single women and the young. But that was before anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist began to hit the airwaves. Now, Republicans seem to be back to their pre-election orthodoxy on taxes and spending cuts and are playing politics once again, just five weeks after their defeat.
While some Republicans, such as Senator Saxby Chambliss, took some distance from Norquist, it seems that House Republicans and their Speaker, John Boehner, began to feel the heat. Boehner has chosen to stake his positions through media interventions, essentially repeating his election campaign mantra that spending cuts must be the primary solution to avoid the fiscal cliff at the end of the month. Only spending cuts will bring long-term growth to the U.S. economy, Boehner argues.
Republicans can rightly argue that Obama did not appear any more intent on working out a deal by continuing his campaign-style demeanor in certain segments of the country. Obama has continually repeated that he has a mandate to build on his balanced approach, and to increase taxes for the top two per cent. Fortunately, in recent days, both Obama and Boehner have finally begun talking and Boehner made expected concessions over the weekend.
Like it or not, Obama’s approach seems to be working for voters. Recent polls have indicated that Obama has clear support to raise taxes on the very rich. While some spending cuts are expected, these same polls indicate the public wants the president to protect the entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. The Republicans, on the other hand, seem unable to develop a coherent position that accounts for their disappointing election results and a changing electorate. The polls are now reflecting decreasing support for the GOP positions.
This erratic behavior on the part of Republicans has surfaced in another unrelated issue. The Republicans have decided to target UN Ambassador Susan Rice on the embassy incident in Benghazi last September. In this case, Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham have led the crusade against Rice, questioning both her integrity and her competence. Available verifiable evidence indicates that McCain and Graham are off the mark, and that Ambassador Rice had intervened in the days following the Benghazi events, using authorized talking points. Ambassador Rice has since withdrawn from consideration to be Hillary Clinton’s successor as Secretary of State in order, to avoid a long and divisive confrontation process in the Senate.
Playing politics five weeks following an election defeat will not endear the Republicans to the electorate. Attacking Rice — a qualified, experienced and respected diplomat — based on questionable evidence, will also do little to make the GOP appear inclusive. Repeating the anti-tax rhetoric of a failed campaign will not make the Republicans a constructive force for compromise. The American voters have spoken: they want compromise, they want a balanced approach on the fiscal cliff issue and they want results. Those were the lessons of campaign 2012 as Obama won with more than 50 per cent of the vote and made gains in the House and Senate. The Republicans still don’t get it.
By John Parisella - Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 10:46 AM - 0 Comments
She says she won’t and history is against her. But that Clinton name is magic.
In a few weeks, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will leave her post for a well-deserved rest, and certainly a new challenge. She has truly earned the accolades coming from within her country and beyond. She is the ultimate public servant—selfless, loyal, determined, persistent, and effective. Now the early speculation is that she will run for the presidency in 2016.
Clearly, today’s Democratic party remains very much sympathetic to the Clintons. President Bill Clinton’s enthusiastic support of Barack Obama in the last campaign did much to consolidate the Clintons’ standing with the rank and file of the party. Hillary’s stewardship of the State Department and her loyal service to her 2008 rival reinforces the Clinton brand. It is fair to say that the 2016 nomination is hers for the taking.
The question is: Will she run? She will be 69 years come 2016. The reelection of Barack Obama does indicate that America is changing rapidly which favours the Democratic voter coalition, but will the American voter be inclined to return to a baby boomer generation leader? On the basis of competence, the answer is yes. However, four years out of politics is more than an eternity, and one should not underestimate the Republican bench for 2016.
Senator Mario Rubio, Governor Chris Christie, Congressman (and former governor) Jeb Bush, and former vice-president candidate Paul Ryan seem to be already testing the waters. Should all these candidates make a run, and begin to bring the party more to the center, it is plausible that the American voter would consider the Republican alternative—especially after two consecutive terms of White House Democratic rule. Since 1945, only Republican George W.H. Bush was able to add a third consecutive White House term for the governing party.
Democrats have some other notable candidates as well. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, Virginia Senator Mark Warner, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and Vice President Joe Biden are potential contenders. At this stage, it is doubtful any of those Democrats could defeat Hillary, but if Hillary is true to her word, and stays out of the race, the Democratic bench looks respectable at this point—and strong enough to compete with the GOP crop.
My Democratic friends, who supported Hillary Clinton in 2008, remain hopeful that she will run one more time. Many, while supportive of Obama, believe Hillary still has a rendez-vous with history. It was Obama who said that Hillary made him a better candidate. And in an ironic twist, by choosing Hillary as his secretary of state, Obama makes her a potentially better president than had she won in 2008. She is now more-than-qualified for the big job.
It is too early to predict her future. She will certainly not fade from the scene, and she should not. Whether she runs or not, her voice will be needed in the public forum, both in America and in the rest of the world.
By John Parisella - Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at 3:32 PM - 0 Comments
Historical fodder for the festive season
With the holiday season upon us, certain presidents and their historical records are capturing audiences. Newsweek’s Jon Meacham on Thomas Jefferson, Evan Thomas on Dwight D. Eisenhower and Chris Matthews on John F. Kennedy, are all the New York Times’ best seller lists—and Stephen Spielberg’s Lincoln is major historical fodder for the festive season. And with the recent reelection of Barack Obama, historians like Michael Beschloss, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Bob Woodward are hitting the airwaves to speculate on whether this president is an accident of history, or about to be a significant figure in the progress of his country.
The campaigns are over, and all the spin has been heard ad nauseum. While the Republicans are doing some soul searching in preparation of the next go-round, the Obama crowd is busy preparing for the inauguration and establishing the new cabinet. It is clear that this second term will not be any easier than the first. The only difference is that Obama seems to be finally relishing the job, and growing into it—especially when faced with adversity. The recent Israel-Gaza ceasefire deal, brokered through the active role of Hillary Clinton and Egypt’s President Morsi, had Obama’s fingerprints all over it.
Second term presidents since WWII have had somewhat complicated records: Nixon and Watergate, Reagan and Iran-Contra, Clinton and impeachment, George W. Bush and the Great Recession. All proof that second terms do not ensure a stronger place in history. They can afford the consolidation of first-term achievements, and second terms usually begin with optimism—and the confidence that the reelected president will be even more effective. But events can easily overtake the best-intentioned president and the most ambitious agenda.
Obama will face his first test with the fiscal cliff. He needs a bipartisan deal by the end of December. Immigration reform, energy independence, and the ominous threat of a nuclear Iran are on the horizon. It has the makings of great historical advances, but it also carries the risk of a paralyzed presidency that could lead to a premature “lame duck” status. The ineffective management of the fallout of Hurricane Katrina in the summer of 2005 immediately transformed George W. Bush into a lame duck president. The bad economy that occurred in 2007-2008, and the prolonged wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, further sealed his fate in the history books.
If there is ever a moment where core convictions and principle must rule the day, it is during a second term. And Obama, a student of history, is very conscious of the traps and obstacles awaiting him. Historical references abound, including one captured in Spielberg’s Lincoln. In January 1865, a reelected Lincoln was faced with closing a civil war that his Union forces were winning, and pushing for a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery. Ending the war before amending the constitution on slavery made Lincoln worry that passing the amendment would be less urgent and more susceptible to obstructionist politics. He chose to seek the amendment first and got the needed bipartisan support to do it. The lesson is clear: look beyond the events of the day, act on core convictions, and seize the moment to make a difference for future generations. That’s how Obama will make history and could eventually attain greatness.
By John Parisella - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 5:20 PM - 0 Comments
Losing an election you were certain to win is never easy. Up against a…
Losing an election you were certain to win is never easy. Up against a President who had a sustained high level of unemployment for all his term in office, Republicans had an opportunity to make this a one-term administration. They also believed they would make gains in the Senate, if not win it outright. None of this happened, and Republicans have offered divergent views about what went wrong, and what needs to be done.
In the aftermath of an electoral setback, the priority must be directed to finding the reasons for the defeat before embarking on the quest to victory in 2016. Here, the GOP has had a range of conflicting explanations, from outright denial (Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh) to acceptance that the GOP went wayward (David Frum, Bobby Jindal, Newt Gingrich ). And Mitt Romney’s post-election conference call to a group of large donors, in which he explained his loss by alluding to Obama “gifts” to specific voting blocs has only added to the confusion—and to a further divergence of views—among leading Republicans.
The prevailing short-term interpretation for the Republican loss on November 6 fails to admit that the party had moved so far to the extreme that moderate Republicans failed to apply for the 2012 nomination, with the exception of former ambassador Jon Hunstman. Romney, originally a moderate Massachusetts Republican governor and son of a moderate Republican governor, strayed so far out of his ideological comfort zone in order to gain the nomination that he came across as disconnected, insincere, and unprincipled. Bill Clinton referred to him as a Cirque Du Soleil contortionist. He will soon become a footnote in the history books—as most losing presidential candidates do—or maybe he’ll be held up as an example of what not to do to: flip flop on your core convictions and pander to an extremist party base.
The fiscal cliff debate will be the first test not only for the reelected Obama, but also for the Republican Party. Here, the GOP congressional leadership of John Boehner and Mitch McConnell have the upper hand—an opportunity to steer the direction of their party. Should they strike a workable deal with the Obama administration, hope will begin to surface that maybe, just maybe, the Republicans are paying attention to the expectations of the political mainstream, and not just the far-out lunatic fringe led by Rush Limbaugh and no-new-taxes guru, Grover Norquist.
The next test would be immigration reform, an issue President Obama will want to deal with before the mid terms in 2014. The Republicans, especially potential 2016 aspirants, are expected to be open to reform, so as to remove the issue from the next presidential campaign. If the Republicans were to participate in bipartisan immigration reform it would make the Latino vote more competitive down the road.
The Republican Party base, however, remains susceptible to ideological movement conservatives or interest groups such as Grover Norquist, the Libertarians, religious right conservatives, the Tea Party, and the re-emerging neo-conservatives—all of whom are responsible for forcing the GOP outside the mainstream. This being said, if there is a deal on the fiscal cliff and immigration reform in the short to medium term, the lure of the presidency in 2016 may finally lead Republican candidates to emerge with an agenda that brings the party base closer to the political center and gives them a better shot at the White House. The alternative is a repeat of this year’s results—and no Republican wants that.
By John Parisella - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 12:32 PM - 0 Comments
What can and will this second-term president accomplish?
Barack Obama becomes the fifth President (and only the second Democrat) to be reelected to a second term since the end of World War II. The post mortems have begun, but winning a second term usually ensures a place in history based on consolidating achievements. While, failure to obtain a second term often makes a one-term President appear as an accident of history.
While the popular vote numbers were close, Obama can claim to be the only Democrat since the war to win consecutive terms with over 50 per cent of the vote. His victories in the electoral college were also decisive, giving him a clear mandate to deal with the major issues facing his administration. On the other hand, the disappointed Republicans, and Mitt Romney, seemed to be taken by surprise with the result.
After that stellar first debate performance by Romney on October 3—against a lackluster President Obama—the polls did tighten dramatically. But the Republicans continued raising issues such as contraception, abortion, and rape—only to reduce their potential advantage on economic issues. In the end, those internal overly optimistic GOP polls lead conservative pundits like Karl Rove, Michael Barone, and Dick Morris to embarrassingly predict a decisive electoral college victory for Romney.
What the results did show was the superior quality of the Democratic organization under the leadership of Obama’s close circle of operatives, such as David Plouffe, David Axelrod, and Jim Messina. They fought a strong ground game, an effective and innovative Internet operation, and raised the art of micro-politics to a near science. The new winning coalition, which Obama’s team had been driving at for over two years, includes single women voters, minorities (Latino, Asian, and African Americans), and the youth.
Despite the initial Republican lack of introspection about the electoral loss, their continued justification of the no-tax mantra—and even lingering talk of the “fictional” Obama (the European socialist with the fake birth certificate!)—there is the possibility of bipartisan accommodation on the U.S.’s priority issues. The President must use the obvious momentum associated with winning a second term and begin using the bully pulpit as the instrument to build support and put pressure on the Republicans. Meanwhile, good sense Republicans like David Frum and Chris Christie, as well as NYT conservative columnist David Brooks, will hopefully be able to pull their party back from the more extreme elements.
We know that second-term Presidents soon become lame-duck occupants of the White House. Yet, Obama’s victory has ensured the safety of his first-term signature achievements—Obamacare, pay equity for women, student loan reform, financial reform, repealing DADT for gays in the military, and winding down the combat role of the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, there are plenty of crucial issues to tackle over the next four years—these include dealing with the deficit and debt issue (the famous fiscal cliff is beyond the horizon), immigration reform, energy independence, climate change, and stopping Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Once the Republicans digest this defeat, see its enormity and its ominous signs for the future of their party, its own leadership may soon conclude that it is in their interests to put country first and work with the reelected President.
By John Parisella - Tuesday, November 6, 2012 at 6:28 AM - 0 Comments
In politics, the general thrust is that campaigns matter. While the outlook at the…
In politics, the general thrust is that campaigns matter. While the outlook at the outset is often similar to the outcome, events and circumstances can affect the result. The poor debate performance of President Obama on October 3 transformed a campaign, which he seemed to be winning handily, into a horse race.
Hurricane Sandy allowed Barack Obama to show his steady hand as the Commander-in-Chief. The support, which he later obtained from NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, reinforced the perception of a President in control of the situation. Republican Governor Chris Christie was also effusive in his praise for Obama. Both the independent Bloomberg and the GOP Christie brought a measure of bipartisanship at a crucial moment.
By John Parisella - Saturday, November 3, 2012 at 7:20 AM - 0 Comments
John Parisella explains why a Republican victory on Tuesday night is a real possibility
When a presidential campaign comes down to talk about voter turnout, and the concentration on fewer than nine states in the Electoral College, you know it is a cliffhanger.
Barack Obama has all the advantages of incumbency, which history shows has its assets, but Mitt Romney is making his own victory a real possibility. A sluggish economy and a sense that little will improve under existing policies may lead America to choose a different path, just four years after making that very consideration.
Mitt Romney has had a good month of October. His debate performance on Oct. 3 against a lackluster President Obama will ultimately have the effect of a knockout win in history, should he triumph Nov. 6. Was it that he was so good in the exchange, or was Obama so bad? Obama has rebounded since and Hurricane Sandy seems to show his steady hand and experience, but Romney has stayed the course. He is a serious challenger and the national polls attest to that.
When one looks at the Romney of the primary season and the “moderate Mitt” of October, we see two different candidates. It is, as one of his close advisers said, an “etch a sketch” transformation. He veered to the center without much challenge from Obama in the first debate, and nearly parroted Obama’s positions in national security during the third debate on Oct. 22. The effect has been to place the strident Republican Party voice of recent years in the background, and present an image of a competent, successful, and strong family man able to take on the most important challenges of the leader of the free world. It may actually work.
It is somewhat ironic that the Romney of moderate Massachusetts governor days had to hide during primary season and be replaced by the Romney of Bain Capital days, and the Romney of flip- flopping fame over such core issues as abortion rights, healthcare, and gun laws only to see a semblance of the former Massachusetts governor resurface in the closing days of the campaign. There is now talk of his record in job creation in Massachusetts. There is also repeated mention of his positive relations with a Democratic controlled Assembly in Massachusetts. The only thing missing is saying that Romneycare would become his national healthcare program. Oh! That would be Obamacare!
When one takes a closer look at his policies, however, we see greater consistency with the Romney of the primary season. On cultural issues such as abortion rights, he has indicated his intent to appoint judges that would likely overturn Roe v. Wade. He remains adamantly opposed to gay marriage, and remained ambiguous about Obama’s policy about DADT and gays in the military. The tone and style has changed, but the essence of where he wishes to take America has not.
On deficit, debt and tax matters, he may refer to the Simpson-Bowles Commission and how Obama failed to endorse it, but his running mate Paul Ryan also voted against it. He endorsed the pledge against any new taxes as did his GOP opponents in the primaries. To be fair, he promises to change the tax code, which could produce more revenue, but fails to be specific about which tax deductions he would eliminate. The Bush tax cuts set to expire this year would remain in place. There is not much change from Bush era economic policies.
As he repeated in the last debate, he intends to increase military spending which should appease neo-conservative supporters and advisers such as noted neocon and former UN Ambassador John Bolton. When Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush left office, however, the very policies of tax cuts and higher defence spending had led to the greatest deficits in U.S. history. In fact, the majority portion of the current U.S. deficit can be attributed to the Bush tax cuts, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the unfinanced universal drug prescription program.
The strongest argument for a Romney presidency may well be the fact he may be in a better position to deal with a Republican Congress. With the so-called fiscal cliff on the horizon, this may represent a distinct advantage for Romney and independent voters.
Romney may well win this election, but there is no doubt his victory would represent an important change in direction for the nation in economics, cultural, and national security areas. He may even break the partisan gridlock in Congress. A victory by Romney, however, will clearly lead many to ask: which is the real Romney, and which one will America get after Nov. 6? That has been the consistent question that has dogged him since day one of his candidacy, and makes one wonder whether he has successfully closed the deal.
By John Parisella - Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 6:23 AM - 0 Comments
In the closing days of this tight election, the candidates are concentrating on the…
In the closing days of this tight election, the candidates are concentrating on the swing states. While this election was meant to be close, it seemed President Obama was heading to a decisive victory less than a month ago. But Obama’s poor debate performance on Oct. 3 turned the race into a nail-biter.
Morphing Mitt Romney into the “moderate Mitt” of Massachusetts days in the course of one debate shows that the Tea Party and the Republican hard right had essentially blown the race up to that point. The Romney brain trust knew its candidate had to transform the campaign dynamic or face certain defeat.
The Mitt Romney that veered more to the right than any recent Republican nominee in the primary season had to give way to a candidate with greater appeal to the political centre. On such cultural issues as abortion rights, Romney had to stray from his own party platform, the positions of running-mate Paul Ryan and GOP Senate candidates such as Todd Akin in Missouri. Keeping a swing state like Florida in mind he also had to water down the medicare voucher program that Ryan proposes. After the first debate, Romney narrowed the gap significantly, thereby giving hope to the Republican declared goal for a one-term Obama presidency.
The case for Obama’s second term has not been without difficulty. His historic victory in 2008, based on “hope and change,” appeared to place America on the road to a transformational presidency. His obvious oratorical skills inspired new voters, and consequent high expectations of voters combined to make America dream once again of a better future even in the heart of the Great Recession. Four years later, the economy may be better, but it is still in slow recovery. Deficits and debt, ballooned under George W. Bush and increased under Obama, will need to be addressed urgently after November 6. And the political climate is highly polarized.
World political events remain uncertain as we saw recently in Benghazi and Egypt, and the short-term fixes of new policies and program have not been felt throughout the nation. The midterm election (2010) debacle, which resulted in the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives, only made the dreamy days of November 2008 seem that much more far away.
Yet Obama has a record that is both defendable and promising. Obama’s economic performance has been to transform an economy losing 750,000 to 800,000 jobs a month to one that has had 31 consecutive months of positive private sector job growth. His economic stimulus program of $840 billion in 2009 is seen by a consensus of all economists to have avoided an economic depression, and the argument that lingers on the stimulus is really only about its size.
The Dow Jones, which was trading at 6,000 points in 2009, is now over 13,000. GM and Chrysler are now making profits as the domestic auto sector was revived, the financial sector has been saved, and the United States has never had a more promising energy future with renewables and the less polluting fossil fuel, shale national gas, representing hope for more independence in energy sources from less friendly parts of the world. In addition, private sector corporations today have enormous reserves for job creation in the years ahead.
Other significant achievements include healthcare reform (Obamacare), financial institutional reform (Dodds-Frank), eliminating DADT policy for gays in the military, appointing two eminent women named to the SCOTUS, bringing in student loan reform, instituting ‘Race to the Top’ in education, and making recent overtures on immigration reform . These advances are important for economic viability, economic security and social progress.
In foreign policy, the U.S. is no longer in a combat role in Iraq, and it is winding down its combat engagement in Afghanistan. Obama’s approach to changes in Egypt, Libya, and leading the way for sanctions on Iran regarding its nuclear program show the right mix of strength, restraint and wisdom. His record on terrorism including killing Osama bin Laden and decimating the leadership of Al Qaeda remains a significant achievement. Finally, it is fair to say this President clearly considers all options before committing “boots on the ground.”
In 2008, America may have thought it was getting a transformational leader. It did to some extent in terms of health-care reform and energy policy, but it did get a leader who became a problem solver, who displayed a steady hand at the wheel, and a person who has vision and resolve to keep America strong both at home and abroad. This is why it can be argued that Obama deserves a second term.
By John Parisella - Sunday, October 21, 2012 at 1:57 PM - 0 Comments
This election has turned into a “base” election in which the turnout of the party base will be the deciding factor.
With the presidential debate season drawing to an end, campaign emphasis will soon shift to getting out the vote.
It is estimated that by Nov. 6, between 30 per cent and 40 per cent of eligible voters will have done so since early voting began at the beginning of October. The influence of the first debate, which challenger Mitt Romney clearly won, has turned what seemed like a sure bet for Obama’s re-election into a tightly fought race that will come down to a small number of key states.
Popular vote polls are generally within the margin of error. It is likely the final result on Nov. 6 could be close to an even split. However, a president is chosen by the Electoral College and here we are reminded of the most dramatic outcome in U.S. history: the Gore-Bush election of 2000. As we all recall, Democrat Al Gore won the popular vote, but George W. Bush became president when the Supreme Court of the United States decided to end the recount saga in Florida, thereby awarding the 27 electoral votes of that state to the Republican challenger.
A similar scenario could emerge in which the popular vote total may not translate into the Electoral College outcome. The general consensus is that Barack Obama clearly won the second debate, and has kept his lead in a key battleground state – Ohio – as well as maintaining his edge in other swing states to pull off an Electoral College majority (270 votes ).
It seems the outcome in three states that could decide the next President are Ohio, Florida, Virginia. Latest polls give Ohio to Obama and Florida to Romney. Virginia is a toss up. Obama will likely win such small swing states as Iowa, Nevada and Wisconsin, which could make Ohio the deciding state for the presidency.
This election has turned into a “base” election in which the turnout of the party base will be the deciding factor. A “wave” election where independents break for one candidate seems less and less likely.
For non-Americans, winning the Electoral College seems an awkward way to choose arguably the most important leader on the planet. But it is in the U.S. Constitution, and America remains the oldest and most stable democracy in the world and in history.
By John Parisella - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 at 6:47 AM - 0 Comments
John Parisella on what’s at play in tonight’s debate
While presidential scholars argue over the influence of debates on presidential results, there is no doubt the first Obama-Romney debate turned the campaign into a horse race. Democrats have barely recovered from President Obama’s lackluster performance on Oct. 3. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney is attracting larger crowds and is now leads in such key battleground states as Florida and Virginia.
With the vice-presidential debate behind us, momentum favors Romney. It is clear the former Massachusetts Governor has changed the perception created by his mixed performance on the campaign trail since the debate, and the image created by the Obama campaign ads. The final two debates could go a long way in making Romney appear presidential enough to become the third challenger since 1932 to beat an incumbent President.
Following a spirited debate performance by Vice President Joe Biden, Obama must now display similar energy and engagement to seize the advantage he had less than two weeks ago. He must show passion for his achievements and present a vision for the next four years. Biden made a valiant and effective effort against Republican Paul Ryan, but voters choose the top of the ticket and not the running mate.
I still consider Romney a more natural debater than the professoral and aloof President. Tonight’s debate features a town-hall format and deals with national security, which brings the contenders in direct contact with the voter. The answers and the arguments must be crisp and focused. No time for hesitation or fumbling through notes. And all this must be done in a congenial, voter-friendly manner.
For Obama to stage a debate comeback and possibly win the encounter, he must show, as Bill Clinton did so expertly at the Democratic National Convention, that the first four years of an Obama administration improved the lot of Americans. He must show how he has made the world more respectful of America as a world power, and made it safer by hunting down Osama Bin Laden.
Obama must also argue passionately that economic recovery and economic security are essential ingredients to a strong nation. Obama must show how Obamacare was part of a grander scheme as was his financial institutional reform. A revived economy, improved national security and a more inclusive vision for the future of America is better than a return to Bush-type policies that appear to be in Romney’s policy playbook (deregulation, lower taxes, higher military spending and a more aggressive stance with China and the Middle East ).
Obama should expect a continuation of the new, moderate Romney backtracking on two years of what his detractors call “flip flopping” and hard right positions. He should never forget that when his opponent speaks, he is still on camera with the split-screen. Finally, it is a given that the political centre is where elections are won in America. This political centre is what Obama must defend, displaying his passion for the road travelled under his leadership, and a vision to where he intends to bring his country in the next four years. This is the best path for winning this presidential contest. Anything less means losing the debates and possibly the election.
By John Parisella - Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at 2:59 PM - 0 Comments
It’s up to Biden to regain the advantage for the Democratic duo
Normally, the vice presidential debate is a secondary news event. After all, voters choose the top of the ticket on election day. Vice presidential nominees are mostly meant to balance the duo.
The only memorable vice presidential debate moment in recent memory occurred in 1988, when Democratic nominee Sen. Lloyd Bentsen delivered a masterful retort to Republican challenger Sen. Dan Quayle who had tried to equate his comparative young age of 42 with John F. Kennedy’s quest for the presidency at a similar age. Said Bentsen to Quayle: “I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.” Still, the Dukakis-Bentsen ticket lost the contest to the Bush-Quayle duo. So much for vice presidential debates and their impact on the election’s outcome.
This debate may be different, though. It is already creating more hype than usual in light of President Obama’s (under) performance on Oct. 3. Polls clearly indicate Americans think Romney won the first debate and that Obama’s advantage is narrowing . Some even have Romney in the lead.
By John Parisella - Friday, October 5, 2012 at 10:24 PM - 0 Comments
It was not a KO, but nor was it a game changer. But in…
It was not a KO, but nor was it a game changer. But in the post-debate furor, it is safe to say Mitt Romney is back in the race and has Barack Obama to thank for it.
How can a man who has been President for four years with acknowledged achievements leave his game at the door?
Was the Romney gaffe of the 47 per cent an imaginative development as to not merit any mention? Did the Republican party become the moderate, centrist replica of the party of Lincoln and Eisenhower during the space of a 90-minute debate? Obama supporters and mainstream media across the U.S. want to know.
It is not that Mitt Romney was that good. Sure, he seemed focused and presidential, but he didn’t get beyond talking points and was actually fabricating policies on the fly.
But Obama didn’t really challenge him on his job-creation record as Massachusetts governor (47th in the nation), or raise the mixed Bain record on jobs that Romney likes to tout. At times Romney appeared the undisputed champion of a growth economy, the sole promoter of small business, and the architect of a streamlined government. (No reference by Obama that Romney was advocating the same Bush-type policies to spur the economic recovery.)
To be fair, Obama was not a complete disaster as he spoke of healthcare reform, financial reform, job creation and 31 months of continued growth after the worst recession since the Great Depression. And he did make a respectable case for medicare over the Republicans’ voucher program. The problem was his content, rather than its form. No clear message surfaced about his opponent’s policies nor about his own successes as President.
Historically speaking, debates have not determined an election, but they have influenced conversation. Granted, there are few undecided left, and there are two more debates between the two aspirants. With today’s positive job numbers of 7.8 per cent, it is likely Obama’s advantage may return to pre-debate status. The risk, however, is that the President’s lackluster performance may begin to play to the Republican narrative of an “out of touch” chief executive, whose “lack of leadership” was on display in the debate for all to see.
A slow recovery, the uncertainty of world events and the perception of a disconnected President are the last things the Obama campaign needs. The next debate will be crucial. And the pressure will be on Barack Obama to prove he wants four more years.
By John Parisella - Monday, October 1, 2012 at 5:47 PM - 0 Comments
John Parisella on what’s at stake in the first presidential debates
The Romney and Obama campaigns are lowering expectations on the eve of the first presidential debate on Wednesday. It will be the first occasion to take a measure of the aspirants as they go toe-to-toe on key issues facing Americans.
By John Parisella - Tuesday, September 25, 2012 at 2:47 PM - 0 Comments
Almost but not quite, argues John Parisella
A very difficult 10 days in the Romney campaign has brought forward criticism from both Democrats and Republicans. Nothing to fret about on the former, but when the harsh words come from the latter, it hurts big time. The attacks came from respected Republican columnists like the Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan, who called the campaign “a rolling calamity,” and the New York Times’ David Brooks, who referred to Mitt Romney as Thurston Howell Romney, the prototype of a rich snob.
Clearly, Romney’s recent reference to the 47 per cent of the electorate “who don’t pay taxes and would never vote for me,” along with his mediocre performance around the attacks tied to the film “Innocence of Muslims,” made both the candidate and his campaign look dangerously incompetent. The “week from hell” ended with Romney divulging his 2010 tax returns, which only raised more questions and drew additional criticism from the right about the timing of the release.
All of this has given late night humorists a field-day of stand-up material. And though national polls still show a tight race, local ones indicate there’s a growing lead by Obama over Romney in swing states. With less than six weeks to go in the campaign, what we are witnessing is GOP grumblings threatening to blow an election Romney should have been able to win.
By John Parisella - Monday, September 17, 2012 at 5:08 PM - 0 Comments
Canadians are mourning the passing of Peter Lougheed, premier of oil-rich Alberta from 1971…
Canadians are mourning the passing of Peter Lougheed, premier of oil-rich Alberta from 1971 to 1985. He was a Progressive Conservative leader, so his legacy reflects a progressive and a conservative current of governance, reminiscent of the Republican Party in pre-Reagan days. Reflecting on Lougheed’s contributions, I can’t help but consider what lessons today’s Republicans could draw from his governance.
By John Parisella - Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 4:29 PM - 0 Comments
It might be Romney’s last chance
Once you take into account the usual post-convention bounces in poll numbers, it is fair to say that the gap between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney remains within the margin of error—though Obama has built some momentum. Last Friday’s weak job numbers, however, guarantee that the economy will remain the priority issue for most voters, and the race is expected to stay a close one until the first debate between the two candidates.
This being said, this election will be about more than economic indicators at the end of the day. Character and vision will take on an importance of their own when we enter debate season. So far, this appears to be playing in the Democrats’ favour. According to polls, they managed to change the dynamic of the race with a more successful convention than the Republicans (Clint Eastwood’s performance notwithstanding). Republican nominee Mitt Romney still hasn’t succeeded in conveying a clear idea of the kind of president he will be. His feeble attempt to exploit events in Libya on September 11 only further puzzled Americans voters trying to understand who he really is.
Obama may not have regained his luster of 2008, where his historic quest attracted a horde of new voters, but he did succeed in showing that he has a record and accomplishments to defend. Meanwhile, the Republican account of a Carter-like leader with a socialist agenda seems to be a narrative that plays only to the party’s base. A more compelling Romney would have given the GOP a decided advantage coming out of the convention season. But that did not happen.
By John Parisella - Friday, September 7, 2012 at 6:04 PM - 0 Comments
It should be about the future of America than the president’s record
In 2008, it was all about hope and change. After an unprecedented and historic primary season where either the first woman or the first African American would be the nominee of a major political party, delegates gathered in Denver to nominate their presidential hopeful and celebrate history in the making. The campaign that followed did more to excite and inspire new voters than at any time since 1960.
With President Obama’s first term coming to a conclusion, it is fair to say that the bloom is off the rose. The energy and the dreams associated with the first Obama candidacy have given way to conventional and tactical political campaigning, where money is a paramount factor, truth often becomes a casualty, and blows below the belt are very much part of the game. Even Democrats concede that the country’s polarizing divisions have not subsided under Obama. And while the Obama administration can point to real achievements, the state of the economy and the continuing debate over Obama’s most controversial policies, such as Obamacare, are guaranteed to make this a closer call that it should have been.
What can the Democrats do to make this a race about direction of the country and rather than simply a referendum on the president? Voters know their candidate better after close to four years in office. The majority of them appear to like him, and acknowledge that he was dealt a hard hand. They like his family too, and have not bought into the birther idiocy promoted by some of his opponents. Yet, you can sense some widespread disappointment. A lot of this disenchantment may have also much to do with the extraordinarily high expectations Obama set in his 2008 “yes, we can” campaign, but it is clear that Americans have become less certain that what the future hold will be better than the past.
By John Parisella - Wednesday, September 5, 2012 at 4:21 PM - 0 Comments
Anti-Obama sentiment seemed to be the only energizing emotion
The balloons have fallen, the speeches are over, the pundits have pontificated, and the Republican National Convention has now given way to its DNC counterpart in Charlotte, N.C. Here’s what the Republicans showed us.
Romney’s wife Ann presented a more personal side of him – the father, the grandfather, the husband, the philanthropist. The picture she drew was warm, quite unlike what the candidate himself has been projecting. Her speech was the highlight of the convention, and had the event ended there, it might have produced a GOP bounce-back in the polls. But the convention went on for two more days, and things deteriorated.
Complaints by Bush aide Matthew Dowd that “the truth should not become a casualty in this campaign” did not keep Paul Ryan from claiming that a GM plant had been closed in his district under President Obama, when in fact the decision to shut it was taken under the Bush administration. Ryan then went on to chastise Obama for failing to endorse the bipartisan Bowles-Simpson Commission Report on the debt, which he himself opposed in Congress, and proposing $715-billion worth in Medicare cuts, something the vice-presidential hopeful had proposed as well.
By John Parisella - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 at 3:27 PM - 0 Comments
John Parisella looks at what’s at stake in Tampa
Mitt Romney will soon step on the podium to accept the Republican nomination to try to become the next president of the United States. In and of itself, this is no small feat. If he succeeds, he’ll become the first Mormon to occupy the White House — again, no small achievement for a party with a strong Christian bent. Some Christian leaders in the GOP have referred to Mormonism as a cult, which explains why Romney rarely raises his religious affiliation.
By John Parisella - Tuesday, August 21, 2012 at 1:12 PM - 0 Comments
There will be blood — all the way to Nov. 6
The cover story in this week’s Maclean’s argues that Mitt Romney can win the presidency. Author Luiza Ch. Savage is right: While Canadians fixate on Barack Obama and his meteoric rise to power, the Republican standard bearer is within the margin of error in most national polls. His choice of Paul Ryan may have re-energized the conservative base both organizationally and financially.
Speaking of money, Romney is building a comparative advantage over Obama. With the rise of Super Pacs, campaign funds will play a larger role in this campaign than in 2008, especially as things kick into high gear during the final 60 days before the vote. Big Money close to former Bush operative Karl Rove and the billionaire Koch brothers won’t spare Obama any punches (including those under the proverbial belt).
The case for a Romney-Ryan win, though, has much to do with the economy. While Obama’s record is far from the unmitigated disaster the GOP describes, the unemployment rate is stuck at 8.3 per cent and the recovery remains sluggish. With three more job reports (September, October, November) before ballots are cast, it is safe to bet the economy will remain the No. 1 issue of the campaign.