By John Parisella - Monday, August 13, 2012 - 0 Comments
It was a risk — but a calculated one
Rarely have I seen the choice of a vice presidential candidate rally the base of both political parties as much as Paul Ryan’s has. The Republican base, including social conservatives and Tea Partiers, is clearly ecstatic. The Wall Street Journal, with Rupert Murdoch leading the chorus, got the choice it wanted. Movement conservatives like Bill Kristol and talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, who were never warm to Mitt Romney, will become more vocal in their support of the GOP ticket, and possibly more strident.
Democrats, however, also could hardly contain their glee. Ryan’s nomination, they believe, means shifting the focus of the race from a dangerous referendum on Obama’s policies to one on the direction of the country, including the future of Medicare. This is welcome news. The Romney-Ryan ticket seems to espouse policies similar to those of the Bush administration, and Ryan’s budget proposal goes even further. This means Obama and Biden can go on the attack by pointing to the state of the American economy at the end of the Bush era and questioning why the job losses were averaging around 750,000 a month when they took office. Plus, Democrats believe Ryan’s views on Medicare and Medicaid won’t play well in swing states like Florida and Ohio.
By John Parisella - Monday, August 6, 2012 at 2:04 PM - 0 Comments
Nothing works like a baseball analogy to explain U.S. politics in an election year.
Nothing works like a baseball analogy to explain U.S. politics in an election year. In a few days, Mitt Romney will use a smart application phone device to announce his running mate. Many are called but only one is chosen.
You can bet Romney has been meticulous, so don’t expect some far-out surprise like Sarah Palin in 2008. Dick Cheney: Where were you when the GOP needed you?
Last week, Cheney inadvertently set the table when he criticized John McCain’s choice of the former Alaska governor. Romney is a much more thoughtful politician than McCain and his choice will be more conventional. He will choose someone competent, compatible and capable of stepping in should circumstances dictate it.
And so to baseball. Although Romney should try for a home run, he’ll probably go for a double.
The Republican candidate’s campaign is strong on money but not much else. If the economy were robust, the race would already be over. As it is, Romney is within the margin of error against Obama with less than 100 days to election day. So the choice of running mate is all important. Romney’s campaign has yet to convey an appealing or compelling personal narrative. By most standards, his recent foreign trip was a failure. On policy, he is nowhere.
The tax-returns issue lingers and will be back when Romney’s would-be veep is asked to divulge his returns. The demand may be questionable, but just four years after the Wall Street debacle, people want to know more about their future president. Right now, Mitt is banking on “it’s the economy, stupid.” But it will take more than, “I’m rich and successful, now trust me.”
Chris Christie, Jeb Bush or Condeleeza Rice would be home-run choices for running mate. Each is a personality and, ironically, Americans seem more comfortable with each than they are with Romney. Each is more moderate and mainstream than the average GOPer and would appeal to the political centre while help deliver women and minorities, constituencies the far right has consistently alienated. But, in turn, such candidates could alienate the Tea Party and social conservatives, which explains why Romney won’t go there. And yet any one of the three could be a gamechanger.
Less spectacular names in play include Ohio Senator Rob Portman, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, Kelly Ayotte from New Hampshire, Marco Rubio from Florida and New Mexico governor Susan Martinez. A more controversial choice would be Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan.
Portman and Pawlenty are the most predictable choices at this writing. Portman could help in a swing state and in the ways of Washington. He could probably hold his own in a debate with VP Joe Biden. Pawlenty is newer, fresher and his recruitment would remind me of when Clinton chose Gore. Compatibility, conformity, and the political calculation of a swing state may be hard to resist.
Ryan’s deficit-cutting plan makes him an interesting choice, but his medicare reform could focus the campaign on issues favorable to the Democrats.
At the end of the day, I’d give the edge to Portman, but he and Pawlenty are more likes doubles than home runs. Of course in baseball you can still score from second base. Play ball!
By John Parisella - Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 6:36 PM - 0 Comments
All he had to do was be gracious to his hosts
Running for president of the United States requires that a candidate show some foreign policy moxie. In 2008, Barack Obama, up against John McCain, needed to convey a new vision for America’s role in the world after eight years of the Bush administration. He did not, however, need to make new policy as a presidential contender on foreign soil. And he certainly had to make sure to be gracious to his hosts. Overall, Obama’s foreign travels during the 2008 campaign were just a big photo opportunity — and by all indications he succeeded at that.
Mitt Romney, taking a page from Obama’s 2008 playbook, embarked on his very own foreign trip last week. All he needed to do was to be gracious. After all, he is up against an incumbent and foreign leaders don’t want to be seen as interfering in a campaign that could very well end up with the reelection of the incumbent.
Romney, however, was off to a risky start. His choice of countries to visit –England, Israel and Poland– betrayed an attempt to transpose his campaign narrative to foreign soil. A trip to London would put the spotlight on his credentials as an Olympics organizer, in Israel he would score points domestically with American Jews, and flying to Poland would be an obvious nod to the neo conservative foreign policy establishment.
By John Parisella - Tuesday, July 17, 2012 at 12:58 PM - 0 Comments
Romney seems determined to stay the course despite a devastatingly negative ad by the Obama campaign
Back in 2004, Democratic presidential contender John Kerry came off his party’s national convention with better than reasonable odds to make George W. Bush a one-term president.
A political ad called the Swift Boat veterans for Truth took direct issue with the Kerry narrative of the war hero “ready to serve” once again for the greater good. The ad had a devastating effect not so much for its content, but for how the Kerry campaign managed the fallout. The contents were ultimately shown to be incorrect, but the initial inaction or slowness to respond to the ad by the Kerry campaign resulted in a drop in support for the Democratic contender at a crucial moment in the campaign. He never fully recovered, despite solid debate performances in the weeks that followed.
The Bain controversy involving Mitt Romney’s record and his disclosures between 1999-2002 continue to dominate the news and are creating an unnecessary diversion to his candidacy. Even noted conservative commentators like George Will and Bill Kristol are urging Romney to release his tax records for the past 10-12 years to put the issue at rest.
Romney seems determined to stay the course despite a devastatingly negative ad by the Obama campaign released this past weekend. Did he not learn from the Kerry experience? Does he not know that having his opponent define him is usually catastrophic in an election campaign?
Most voters would prefer a contest dominated by the issues, the assessment of the record of the incumbent, the policy choices, and the character of the contenders, especially with high unemployment and a slow economic recovery. Negative advertising, while a fact of political campaigning, has had the effect of turning off voters and adding to increasing cynicism from voters.
Yet, this Bain issue is not the result of a negative ad. It is the result of the Romney campaign not anticipating that running on the Bain record contained some risks. Romney, aware of his controversial healthcare law that served as the forerunner of Obamacare, chose to run more on his business experience and downplay his government record. It soon became fair game when he used his Bain record to show the failures of the Obama record.
Now Romney is faced with trying to change the subject. But holding back on divulging tax returns, or having Swiss bank accounts, or having money in the Caymans with its tax havens, are bound to raise questions after the 2008 financial meltdown and the TARP bailouts that followed to salvage Wall Street. The media is following the story not because Romney is rich , but because the issue of transparency is raised.
Just like John Kerry, Romney is a qualified candidate. He may not be politically agile as a politician, but he did win the primaries and the nomination will be his officially at the Republican National Convention in late August.
It is too early to think the unthinkable that Romney may have to reconsider his candidacy. However, transparency, integrity , and a compelling counter-narrative to Obama remain the best ways to the White House against an incumbent who is vulnerable on the number one election issue—the economy.
Romney has the tools to turn this around. Or, has he unconsciously chosen to “self-Swift-boat”? Time will tell.
And on this note , I will be off for a few days with family and friends. Enjoy your summer.
By John Parisella - Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 6:38 PM - 0 Comments
‘People have to feel like they’re getting to know the real you and they cannot wait much longer’
You are a successful man with a great looking family. By all indications, you are a man of honor.
It is clear you could win this election. Your fundraising results have been spectacular in recent weeks. And you are within the margin of error in most presidential polls, including swing states. But the truth is, you could be ahead.
The economic recovery seems stalled and people are losing faith in the American dream. Being in an election year and being the challenger, it is fair game that you blame the incumbent, Barack Obama. Also, politics being the bloody sport that it is, you can take some liberty and attack the fictional Obama as well–you know, the one with the “questionable” birth certificate and the socialist program of healthcare, although this can be risky with an already cynical electorate.
You can even do fundraisers with people like the Koch brothers, whose father began the libertarian crusade back during FDR’s times, or Donald Trump, who is more a joke and a celebrity that a real businessman. You can even be excused for running from Romneycare or your less-than-spectacular record on job creation as governor (47th in the nation). But this will not be enough to sell yourself to the voter looking for an alternative to Obama.
By John Parisella - Wednesday, July 4, 2012 at 6:03 PM - 0 Comments
Murdoch and Welch are overlooking one key detail about why the GOP’s team is underperforming
It’s a bit rich for Rupert Murdoch, of News Corp. and Fox News fame, to give advice to Mitt Romney and his staff. After all, Murdoch did not handle his very own public relations hot potato all that well last summer. But when Jack Welch of General Electric fame weighs in, it makes for big headlines and it actually may be indicative of more “beneath the surface” grumbling.
Earlier this week, a Romney political aide commented on the Supreme Court’s decision on Obamacare. He disputed Chief Justice John Roberts’ rationale that the individual mandate was constitutional because it was within the power of Congress to tax. The aide makes the point that Romney in his Massachusetts health care law never saw the mandate as a tax, and those who failed to fulfill their obligations under the law suffered a penalty. The remark went against the Republicans post-SCOTUS talking points that the president’s health care reform, albeit constitutional, amounts to a tax. Obama could not be happier.
In unrelated but equally damaging news, this week’s July 4 festivities showed a vacationing Mitt Romney on a luxurious powerboat, reminiscent of John Kerry’s windsurfing off Nantucket in 2004. Meanwhile, Vanity Fair comes out with a devastating story on Romney’s bank accounts in the Cayman’s Islands and beyond. Overall, not a good week for Romney.
By John Parisella - Friday, June 29, 2012 at 1:18 PM - 0 Comments
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts may have transformed the presidential campaign when he…
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts may have transformed the presidential campaign when he cast the deciding vote on the Affordable Care Act. The Democrats appeared surprised the conservative Roberts would side with the court’s liberal bloc to validate the individual mandate. At best, Democratic leaders expected the individual mandate would be declared unconstitutional, but the ACA would survive.
The Republicans were clearly anticipating the SCOTUS would declare the individual mandate — and quite possibly the entire law — unconstitutional. It would have fit neatly in the Republican strategy to attack Obama’s legitimacy on his signature legislative achievement. Were it declared so, it would have added to the larger narrative about Obama’s legitimacy to be in the White House. A bad economy, so the strategy goes, would help seal the deal.
During the past 3 1/2 years, the GOP has consistently questioned Obama’s legitimacy as President. Take the issue of his birth certificate. The birther movement would have faded in a second had the Republican leadership not tacitly tolerated it. Donald Trump, a strong Romney backer, has kept the myth alive. No president has been subjected to a such a constant barrage about his qualifications.
When Osama bin Laden was killed in a breathtaking venture, Republicans found ways to minimize Obama’s role and his daring decision to press against world’s foremost terrorist. It seems Republicans have chosen to set up a fictional Obama calling him a socialist, the most radical President ever, unAmerican, and lately accusing him of selectively choosing to observe the laws he likes.
The campaign against Obamacare was primarily launched immediately in the courts to question its legitimacy, despite the fact it was modelled along Republican Mitt Romney’s law in Massachusetts. And in so doing, that of its principal instigator, Obama.
The health care ruling may go a long way to derail the wider GOP attack on Obama’s legitimacy. And it is this that may be Obama’s ultimate victory in the SCOTUS ruling.
The decision also gives Obama a historic achievement after more than a century of attempts by successive administrations to expand heathcare to an overwhelming majority of the population. Had the Court ruled otherwise, the Republicans would have claimed the President wasted the nation’s time and energy during the throes of a major recession. It would also have given new life to the “Obama is illegimate” narrative.
How will Obama’s victory affect the campaign and his chances for a second term? It certainly creates momentum and adds to his list of first-term achievements that includes preventing an economic depression, getting bin Laden, saving GM, reforms in education with Race to the Top,getting out of Iraq, building a coalition to bring down Gadhafi, and putting in place a plan to withdraw from Afghanistan.
But it is early to draw conclusions. Already, the Republicans are promising to repeal Obamacare. Mitt Romney vows to replace it. The Tea Party will re-energize and GOP ranks are bound to close. The only caveat is that overdramatizing the SCOTUS ruling reduces time spent on attacking Obama’s economic record where he is most vulnerable.
Now that the “Obama is illegitimate” narrative took a beating with the constitutionality of Obamacare and an earlier ruling in the week generally supporting the Obama administration’s position against the Arizona Immigration law, it obvious the man in the White House is having a good week. And this cannot hurt his chances at this stage in the campaign.
By John Parisella - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at 6:58 AM - 0 Comments
The polls have consistently shown a close contest between President Barack Obama and Republican…
The polls have consistently shown a close contest between President Barack Obama and Republican standard bearer Mitt Romney as we approach the summer convention season. Political conventions usually allow the presidential challenger to present himself and his vision, along with illustrating his decision-making capacity in his choice of his vice presidential running mate. It can be a defining moment. John McCain remembers it well.In recent weeks, Mitt Romney has avoided presenting specific policy initiatives only raising doubts about whether the state of the economy will be sufficient to beat Obama in November.
A recent poll shows the American voter sees little difference between Romney and Obama in dealing with economic issues and claim neither candidate will impact the economy if he wins. This is not good news for Romney who has made the economy his wedge issue. It is still early to dismiss the economy as the primary campaign factor, but it does illustrate that Romney must do more than just making it about “the economy, stupid.”
After his ill-fated campaign run in 2008, one would think Mitt Romney would have done more to introduce himself to the American voter in this campaign cycle. The Republican primary season did little to improve our knowledge of whom Romney really is. The GOP field was weak and extreme. Actually it added to the ambiguity and confusion about Romney. Having to veer farther to the right than in 2008 to win the nomination, Romney comes across as a hardline right winger on immigration issues, gay rights and women issues. Yet, his Massachussetts record would indicate a more moderate, mainstream candidate. Which is it-far right or moderate right? No one knows for sure.
Therein lies Romney’s problem. No one knows ‘the real Romney’ despite the recently published book with the same title. Some have argued that it matters little as he is within the margin of error in matchup polls and this election will ultimately be about the President. They add that revulsion against Obama policies and dissatisfaction about the state of the economy will be enough to close the deal.
When one matches Romney’s identity problem with the president’s , one finds that Obama holds a distinct advantage. As an incumbent, he is far better known. His meteoric campaign of 2008 also did much to foster his identity by the time he entered the White House. A compelling narrative coupled with a hard-fought primary battle against an outstanding opponent called Hillary Clinton made him one of the best-known candidates to challenge for the presidency and eventually win.
Recent polls illustrate that Obama has an added advantage — the likeability factor. The man remains well liked and is much more popular than both his policies and his party. The Romney people would do well to address this aspect of the campaign. Their insouciance about Romney’s identity should be pause for concern and will start to be felt as we near the closing run of the campaign from September to November.
Currently, Obama leads in many swing states giving him the edge in electoral vote count. In a close contest where no one issue favors one candidate over the other, it is better to enter the final stretch with a likeability factor than an identity problem. And here Obama is clearly in the lead.
By John Parisella - Tuesday, June 19, 2012 at 9:58 PM - 0 Comments
It was 40 years ago this week, yet the biggest scandal in America’s history…
It was 40 years ago this week, yet the biggest scandal in America’s history has not faded from memory. Watergate was unraveled by sound journalism and, ultimately, by the workings of the American constitution. Americans do well to revisit this unique chapter in history.
The ultimate success of bringing a corrupt president to resign had a lot to do with an underlying tenet of the U.S. constitution– bipartisanship. Republican President Richard Nixon did not resign because the Democratic party was out to get him for approving clandestine efforts to spy, bug, burglarize and defame opponents.
America survived Watergate because the Republican leadership in Congress and members of the Nixon administration drew a line between the exercise of power and respect of the U.S. constitution. After doing so, they worked with the Democratic leadership and majority in Congress.
Not long after Nixon’s overwhelming re-election in 1972, the five Watergate burglars appeared in front of Judge Sirica’s (a registered Republican) and severe sentences were imposed. The judgment prompted one of the accused–James McCord, formerly of the CIA–to divulge the larger conspiracy.
The Special Senate Watergate Committee composed of Democrats and Republicans began hearings in 1973 that put on display the extent of the conspiracy. The ranking Republican, Senator Howard Baker (a moderate), asked probing questions: How much did the president know? And when did he know it?
In the spring of 1973, a Republican aide, Alexander Butterfield, divulged the existence of a White House taping system that corroborated much of the testimony. The latter, who resisted the release of the tapes and actually fired two attorney generals in the process–Elliot Richardson and William Ruckelshaus in the famous Saturday Night Massacre–was soon on the path to impeachment.
In the spring and summer of 1974, the House Committee charged with investigating the scandal considered some articles of impeachment. A compromising tape disclosure was followed by a visit from influential Republican Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, who made it abundantly clear to the president that he would not survive an impeachment trial.
Nixon resigned Aug. 9, 1974.
Gerald Ford was sworn in as U.S. president and within a month, issued a presidential pardon, The controversial decision may have cost him the 1976 election. However, history sees Ford’s gesture as one of healing. Nixon never recovered his glory, and history still regards him more for Watergate than his many accomplishments.
Sirica, Baker, Goldwater, Richardson, Ruckelshaus and Ford were all Republicans. They had to deal with a president who won 49 of 50 states in 1972 and could boast of such major achievements as détente with the USSR, an end to U.S. involvement in Vietnam, full diplomatic recognition to Communist China, the creation of Amtrak and EPA and the start of a Mideast peace process. Yet Republicans and Democrats were inspired by ethics and the spirit of the constitution to place justice above the retention of power while they worked together.
In so doing, they saved the Republican party. Make no mistake, the crimes were serious and deeply imbedded. Nixon committed a constitutional coup d’état against his own government. But bipartisanship triumphed and members of both parties worked together for the greater good.
Many in the U.S. long for days in which principle wins over expediency and polarization gives way to compromise — days in which being American is more important than being a Republican or Democrat.
A look at the Watergate scandal 40 years later provides hope.
By John Parisella - Tuesday, June 12, 2012 at 9:58 PM - 0 Comments
The Obama campaign seems to be taking a page out of the George W. Bush playbook
Last week’s debacle in Wisconsin had me thinking Barack Obama’s re-election hopes were in trouble. The Republican strategy of turning the presidential contest into a referendum on Obama can only work if the economy tanks and he fails to present a compelling view of the future. Granted, the Obama mystique has generally worn off after nearly four years of governing. The Obama of 2012 must take responsibility for his policies and decisions, he has a record to defend, and needs to contrast with what Mitt Romney brings to the debate.
Mitt Romney is on the attack, proposing few new policy initiatives while hammering Obama’s management of the economy. The attacks are ferocious, backed by the astronomical power of the Super PACs. The latest results show Romney is ahead on fundraising.
By John Parisella - Wednesday, June 6, 2012 at 2:04 PM - 0 Comments
Money and the state of the economy give every reason for the U.S. president to worry
With the Wisconsin recall election over, and Republican Scott Walker reelected, it is clear the reelection of Barack Obama next November is far from certain. For the labour movement, this is a serious setback, and for Democrats, it’s a warning signal that the Republicans have shown strength in a state that has voted for the Democratic presidential candidate in the last 6 elections. And we are less than 6 months from the presidential election.
Republicans have every right to be jubilant. Governor Walker took on the public service unions, withstood a 1-million plus recall petition, and was able to keep the governorship in a state that gave Obama a 13% vote margin in 2008. This can only add to the already phenomenal fundraising efforts of the pro-Romney Super Pacs. The Wisconsin result has shown that the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision regarding election finance from corporations is certain to change the parameters of this presidential election.
True, the Citizens’ United decision allows pro Democratic constituencies to regroup and form Super Pacs. But all the evidence points to the overriding strength and wealth of corporate America over the union movement.
Another factor in the GOP win has to do with Democrats being unable to present a coherent alternative to the GOP outside of the more traditional rhetoric of the past. As much as the Democrats and Obama were inspirational in 2008, they have resorted to tactics and a political discourse that is more reminiscent of past glories than of a promising future. It is fair to ask, despite Republican obstruction: What has happened to change and hope?
The economy, which remains the major issue for much of the electorate, seems to be sputtering at a very inopportune time for the Obama Administration. Despite some obvious achievements by the Obama team, the general mood of polarization and negative attacks has soured the electorate on politics this time around.
President Obama himself cannot escape some of the blame for the Wisconsin debacle. Some will point to his absence in the recall campaign for the defeat. The margin appears too wide for this hypothesis to be viable. Besides, an incumbent President running for reelection should not be distracted by a state conflict despite national implications. What Obama has to reflect upon is not his presence in Wisconsin, but his message to the country. He needs to do more than try to define the unimpressive Mitt Romney.
The American electorate continues to show respect and affection for a President who is facing the slowest post recession recovery since the 1930’s. They may not be satisfied with the state of the economy, but they are willing to cut Obama some slack. After all, the Bush years remain a bad memory.
Despite the disappointing results last night in Wisconsin, Obama still has plenty of time to recover. His Republican opponents continue to hammer a negative, un-inspirational message, alienating in the process some key constituents. Their attacks on a ‘fictional’ Obama lack ingenuity, and seem increasingly so over-the-top as to be risible.
Yet, Obama remains vulnerable as Wisconsin has shown. Money and the state of the economy give every reason for Obama to worry.
By John Parisella - Tuesday, May 29, 2012 at 5:52 PM - 0 Comments
Some polls show that Biden’s ‘favorables’ are lower than his ‘unfavorables’, leading to speculation about his future
In August 2008 when Joe Biden was selected as Barack Obama’s running mate, I characterized what Biden brought as “gravitas”. The young upstart Senator from Illinois was wise enough to choose a man of experience whose electoral assets were not the main consideration. Biden’s state of Delaware was already a Democratic bastion and his short lived candidacy for the Presidency was modest, to say the least. Yet, he was a man of experience, respected by colleagues, and able to step in if something happened to the President. It was a wise choice.
In July 2009, I later wrote that Joe Biden could be a one-term vice president, and could be asked to take up some new functions in a second Obama administration, thereby paving the way for Hillary Clinton and her potential candidacy for 2016. This was not based on competence, but rather on continuity, where the Clinton name had more potential to resonate beyond an Obama presidency.
Throughout the Obama administration, Biden has been seen as an active vice president, involved in all the major decisions. In fact, Biden is seen to have ambitions of his own and could very well be a candidate in 2016. Just recently, he is seen to have been instrumental in pushing the Obama “evolution” on same sex marriage. Some reports, however, indicate that the Vice President may have overstepped his role in forcing the President to take a position much earlier than he was prepared to do.
In recent days, some polls show that Biden’s ‘favorables’ are lower than his ‘unfavorables’, leading some speculations about his future.
Joe Biden represents much of what Obama doesn’t naturally bring to the campaign – passion that energizes the base, identification with blue collar workers, and retail politics. In a White House correspondents’ activity in Washington in the spring of 2010, I was able to see first-hand the Biden room magic. This is a man who can literally wow a crowd with his simplicity and his accessibility. It made me realize the wisdom of his selection as Obama’s veep.
The question is: has Biden outlived his usefulness to the ticket? With the speculation about Romney’s eventual choice and the tightness of the race, maybe Obama should consider an alternative choice in the buildup to the September convention. Hillary’s name usually surfaces. The general consensus among Democratic operatives, however, is that Obama will want Joe Biden to remain as his running mate.
There are compelling reasons to do so. Firstly, Biden mobilizes the liberal base and comes across as the “regular Joe” in a bid to motivate middle class voters. Secondly, Biden has earned his spot and one could argue that the less experienced Obama benefited from the judicious advice from his vice president. Thirdly, Obama needs the complementary skills of Joe Biden with his well documented experience in both domestic and foreign policy.
Ultimately, this election will not be decided by the running mates on the national tickets. At the end of the day, it will be Obama against Romney. The vice president choices can occasionally either reinforce the top of the ticket or bring it down, but rarely do people choose their president on the basis of the vice-presidential candidate. One may argue that Sarah Palin was a bad choice, but so was Dan Quayle in 1988 with George Bush senior. Yet, the latter won the election.
So Obama will either win or lose on the basis of his performance in office and on the campaign trail. And ultimately, in dealing with the economy and the future course of the nation. In this regard, Biden is not an obstacle to Obama’s election prospects in 2012.
By John Parisella - Wednesday, May 23, 2012 at 10:08 PM - 0 Comments
The phrase “silly season” was coined by candidate Barack Obama in the 2008 primary…
The phrase “silly season” was coined by candidate Barack Obama in the 2008 primary season. It is the period where the electorate is not focusing , the opinion polls are fluctuating, speculation about choice of the vice presidential candidate of the challenging party is rampant.
It also is a period where political sideshows, and talk about what is fair game in the campaign take place. It is likely that none of this will have any bearing on the showdown in the autumn. The latest flap about what is fair game in a campaign signals the start of this year’s version of the “silly season”.
Some pro Romney donors seem willing to revive Reverend Wright’s past association with President Obama as evidence that Obama was not properly vetted in the 2008 Presidential campaign. Fox News host Sean Hannity and former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin actively encourage such an initiative.
Not to be outdone , the Democrats had a controversy of their own involving a prominent Obama supporter, Newark Mayor Cory Booker. This past weekend Mayor Booker criticized the Obama campaign for attacking private equity funds, notably Bain Capital of Romney fame, as being “nauseating” to him and drew a parallel with the GOP rekindling the Wright controversy of 2008.
Obama operatives were not pleased. As a result liberal pundits have been merciless on Booker’s deviation from the party line. Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod even added that the pro-Obama mayor was just “plain wrong” in his criticism of the Bain attack ad .
The truth is this presidential campaign will be long, arduous, highly negative in tone and largely funded beyond normal means because of the Citizens United decision.
Democrats can claim that the Reverend Wright episode is off limits just as Romney’s Mormonism is supposed to be, but it will not prevent pro Romney supporters from using it if needed. Obama’s campaign has clearly decided that Romney’s Bain Capital record is fair game, and will not rescind the website entitled Romney Economics to dispute the former Massachusetts Governor’s claim that he was a job creator at Bain.
So we might as well get used to these personal attacks in this campaign. It is fair to say that we are far from “Change we can believe in!” and are closer to “corporations are people” along with the mad dash for campaign “over financing”.
It can be argued, as Democrats are doing, that Romney has made his business career and job creation the centerpiece of his campaign, and Obama has every right to make it an issue. But it can also be argued that the Obama-Wright issue is indicative of character. However, at the end of the day, these sideshows will not replace what will be the main issue in the campaign – the state of the economy.
In the Bain ad versus the revival of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright controversy, it is possible that Obama may have the edge. Reverend Wright is past tense, and actually served Obama well in that he made his historic speech about race at a crucial moment in the 2008 primary season.
Romney’s Bain Capital record was initially raised by rival Newt Gingrich, and it has been flaunted by Romney as a showcase for economic savvy and competence. This is why the Obama campaign is exploiting it directly as opposed to letting a pro-Obama Super Pac do the work.
Ultimately, however, the voter will expect more from the campaigns. They will decide whether the candidates are over the top with these personal attacks, and which is more worthy of their trust. By November, Bain and Wright will be faded memories of the silly season.
By John Parisella - Thursday, May 17, 2012 at 5:36 PM - 0 Comments
Romney will likely equal, or exceed McCain’s showing. He may even win. Why?
By all standards of conventional campaigning, John McCain’s candidacy in 2008 was one of the least inspiring in modern times. This bona fide war hero was unable to make the case for moderate conservatism that would have set a different course for the Republican Party. He lacked focus, seemed unable to articulate a coherent position, could not rally his party base, and showed an appalling lack of judgment in choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate.
Still, he did get 47% of the vote and for a brief moment before the Lehman Brothers’ debacle, led in the national polls. Much of this respectable showing had more to do with the notion that America is closer to being a 50-50 nation than McCain’s personal resumé or his campaign. Up against the candidacy of Barack Obama, who had galvanized new voters and benefitted from a relatively favorable press, to achieve 47% of the popular vote in a year of economic recession and financial meltdown says much about the solidity of the GOP vote and the nature of the current American electorate.
Mitt Romney seems to have similar issues about his candidacy. He too has appeared uninspiring, and he has yet to articulate a convincing message about where he intends to lead the country. While he is rallying his primary opponents, the endorsements are tepid and lukewarm to say the least. In addition, the lingering question about his authenticity as a person continues to remain a current topic. Yet, despite an arduous primary season which seemed to diminish him as a candidate rather than enhance his fortunes, it is fair to predict that he will do as well, if not better than McCain come November. He may actually win. Why is this so?
By John Parisella - Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 3:25 PM - 0 Comments
The President could have chosen the safer path by continuing to ‘evolve’
Sure, the economy remains the number one concern of the voters down south, and with good reason. But choosing a president in a free market democracy entails more than observing and responding to the monthly job statistics, the price of oil, or the Dow Jones. It involves looking for leadership and the sense of direction for the country. Barack Obama, by endorsing gay marriage, illustrates the kind of moral, presidential leadership that he needs to bring forward in an election year.
Already, the analysts are assessing his historic statement. Was it Vice President Joe Biden’s Meet The Press interview that forced the President’s hand? Was it the liberal base pushing Obama to take a stand? Or, was it the commentators like former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, telling Obama on national T.V. to man up?
The Republicans, on the other hand, appear perplexed and confused. The religious right, showing no understanding or tolerance of an opposing view, is always talking about “radical social engineering”, dixit Rick Santorum. Rush Limbaugh calls Obama’s stance a war on traditional marriage. Others interpret this rather risky decision by Obama as petty politics.
Actually, Obama could have chosen the safer path by continuing to “evolve”. After all, the swing state of North Carolina just voted for an amendment to the state constitution, banning same sex marriage. Obama won that state in 2008, and it is now a toss-up in 2012. The same can be said of another state Obama won in 2008 – Iowa –where there is a strong conservative religious fervor. In other words, ambiguity may have served him better, in what everyone agrees will be a close election.
His opponent Mitt Romney, who has flip flopped on so many core conviction issues, remains adamantly opposed to same sex marriage. The religious right, already fairly lukewarm to Romney’s candidacy, may suddenly find a reason to get excited for Mitt after all.
At the end of the day, Obama’s thinking is very much similar to America’s as a whole. Americans are also reflecting, evolving, and some, like Obama, have come to the conclusion that gay marriage is a question of civil rights and now support it. Polls show those in favor of gay marriage may number over 50 per cent. Obama may have taken a risky decision for close swing state politics, but it is the right decision in terms of equality, respect and compassion.
It is fitting that the first African American President should advance the cause of civil rights even further in the 21st century. The hopes and dreams he inspired in 2008 have been severely tested by a slow economic recovery. Yet he was elected to take the difficult decisions. Capturing and killing Bin Laden, saving GM, bringing in healthcare reform and financial institutional reform were important decisions in the governance of a nation gripped by a severe recession and a war against terrorism.
Moral courage is a fundamental tenet of leadership, and it is required in expanding civil rights. By his latest act of political statesmanship, Obama passed the transformational leadership test.
By John Parisella - Monday, May 7, 2012 at 1:38 PM - 0 Comments
Romney is criticizing Obama policies as if the Bush legacy was just an asterisk
Last Friday’s job numbers indicated the creation of 115 000 new jobs, the second straight month of sluggish job growth. With strong headwinds from Europe and unpredictable political events in the Middle East, it is clear that the issue of the economy will not be a lesser factor in deciding who wins in November. In light of these factors, Barack Obama launched his “official” reelection bid in the swing states of Virginia and Ohio.
True, the unemployment rate figure dropped to 8.1%, but Americans opted out of the job search process in greater numbers. So the economy is still hurting. Despite 26 months of consecutive private sector job increases, and the creation of over 4.2 million jobs since Obama took over, fewer than 25% of the jobs lost from the Great Recession have been recovered. Compare this to Canada which has recovered over 100% of the jobs lost.
We know that the Great Recession of 2007-09 did not hit us as hard as it did our U.S. neighbors, but it is becoming evident in this election year that the Obama economic policies will be judged as having a modest impact, and Obama will have to defend his record on its own merits whether he likes it or not.
The President did introduce a stimulus plan, he did reform healthcare and financial institution, and he has put in place programs to stimulate new job creation and new industries. At the end of the day, he has to expect that he will be judged on his performance in office.
Mitt Romney, with his legendary business acumen, is relishing the fact that the job numbers have stalled somewhat in recent months to illustrate that Obama policies have failed. Four million jobs were lost in the last 3 years of the Bush administration, but Romney is criticizing Obama policies as if the Bush legacy was just an asterisk. Weak job numbers also allow him to fudge the fact (raised by his GOP opponents) that Massachusetts under Governor Romney ranked 47th in job creation. So if this election is to be a referendum on Obama and job growth, Romney stands a better chance of winning the presidency by going on the offensive—or so he thinks.
Despite the sluggish recovery, latest polls in swing states and reflecting on the electoral vote count place Obama in the lead to re-win the presidency, which means that the U.S. voter may be more discriminating when it comes to electing a President. This explains why Obama has been so active in pushing his foreign policy achievements, campaigning on student tuition interest rates issue, and reminding people about how he has fought the war on terrorism. Commemorating the capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden last week was a convenient reminder that a President does not focus on only one issue.
Romney, since “clinching” the GOP, has remained relatively absent in proposing an alternative to Obama policies. And this will soon become a handicap. He can send his surrogates, obtain endorsements (some of them, very tepid), and criticize Obama, but at the end of the day, the voter will choose between the two men, the two tickets and the two visions. He too, will be judged on his performance as a candidate. How different will his policies be from those of George W. Bush?
Since the autumn 2011, Obama has generally set the agenda while the Republicans were in-fighting in the primaries. He won a concession on the extension of the payroll tax cut, has introduced a jobs bill, and has got the nation to focus on his fairness doctrine by promoting the so-called Buffett Rule where tax rates would rise on millionaires and billionaires. All of which shows the advantage of both incumbency and the bully pulpit.
So despite the weak job numbers, Obama launched his campaign this past weekend and he will be aggressively pursuing his quest for reelection. Romney will have to do more than just criticize or blame the President, hoping Americans forget the mess Obama inherited, if he is to win. He will have to present an alternative.
By John Parisella - Monday, April 30, 2012 at 4:30 PM - 0 Comments
In an election year, one important criterion in evaluating an incumbent is whether he/she…
In an election year, one important criterion in evaluating an incumbent is whether he/she has grown in office. Barack Obama entered his presidency with a strong narrative and a compelling personal history, but with little or no experience as an executive. Suddenly, on November 4, 2008, he became the world’s most powerful individual—in the midst of a major financial meltdown and economic recession, along with two inconclusive wars (Afghanistan and Iraq) and a burgeoning debt.
There will be other instances as we get closer to the 2012 election when his record will be assessed in more detail. The question that must be posed now is: Has President Obama grown in office? Has he learned from his mistakes? Is he acting with greater assurance in the exercise of his duties?
We know President Obama started with a 60 per cent plus approval rating in much of his first 100 days, and six months from his re-election rendez-vous, he is slightly under 50 per cent. Many pundits blame the slow economic recovery for this drop. Others believe Obama made a major mistake in pushing universal healthcare at a time when people were still feeling the recession. Ultimately, the November result will give much material for historians of the Obama Administration.
Surely, Obama has not had an error-free administration. On healthcare, he may have passed his landmark legislation, but he failed to win much support for it in the process. On the economic stimulus plan, he may have compromised unnecessarily to get Republican votes in Congress, and the sluggish recovery has obscured the fact that his Administration has created more jobs in three and a half years than his predecessor Bush did in eight.
Yet despite mixed results, we can observe the maturing of Obama in office. While he seemed more detached in the first two years—depending a lot on his rhetoric and foregoing the traditional strength of the Presidential bully pulpit—he now seems more engaged.
In December 2011 and later in February of this year, President Obama faced the hostile Republican majority in the House of Representatives to win an extension of the payroll tax-cut for an extra year. He has since promoted the ‘Buffet rule’ which sets a floor of 30 per cent on the income rate for millionaires and billionaires. Obama has yet to win this battle, but he framed this issue for the campaign, and placed the GOP on the defensive. Just recently, the President took the offensive on women’s issues after a disastrous Republican primary season, and has all but won the fight on freezing tuition interest rates for students. His approach on the Jimmy Fallon show, where he engaged in “slow jamming the news” on the issue, represents an Obama reminiscent of his better 2008 days.
In the area of national security and foreign policy, the president has increasingly demonstrated a sure-footedness in dealing with a complex, ever-changing and dangerous world. As we recall the daring elimination of Osama Bin Laden a year ago, we are reminded that this President has done much to improve America’s standing in the world. Over 50 per cent of Americans approve of Obama’s performance on the international stage.
With Romney the soon-to-be-crowned opponent, Obama is now setting the agenda—unlike last summer’s battle on the debt ceiling where he appeared weak and ineffective. He has since changed the political climate and is now showing more presidential poise and confidence with each outing.
This being said, the economy remains a problem, and the mood of America is not positive. Americans may soon conclude that the Obama presidency has failed, and may want to return to the GOP policies of the past. However, at this moment, the GOP challenger is still trying to define himself, while Obama is showing increasingly that he is on an upward learning curve. At the end of the day, this could be the determining factor in winning President Obama a second term.
By John Parisella - Monday, April 23, 2012 at 7:10 PM - 0 Comments
These days, the Vice President’s job is worth more than a bucket of warm spit
The recent chatter since Mitt Romney has all but been served up the Republican nomination has begun to revolve around who he will choose as his vice-presidential nominee.
History has shown that voters tend to vote for the top of the ticket more than the ticket itself. However, there have been instances where a vice-presidential choice has made a difference. Lyndon B. Johnson is credited with delivering his home state of Texas for John F. Kennedy, enabling the latter’s election as president.
There is no one dominant criteria for choosing a Vice Presidential nominee. The constitution does not provide for much beyond being “next in line” should the president be unable to fulfill his functions, as well as presiding over the U.S. Senate.
In recent years, some vice presidents have played a more substantial role than that described by John Nance Garner, Vice President to Franklin D. Roosevelt, who referred to his job “as not worth more than a bucket of warm spit”. Al Gore, Dick Cheney and now Joe Biden are examples of the new trend in Vice Presidents: engaged and highly influential.
There’s no denying the potential importance of the position. Lyndon B. Johnson replaced John F. Kennedy, and passed significant transformational legislation such as civil rights, Medicaid and Medicare. Gerald Ford, who replaced Richard Nixon after Watergate, played an important role in soothing the wounds of the nation. And finally, Harry S Truman, who took over after Roosevelt’s death, brought World War II to an end.
Today, we often hear speculation about what a vice-presidential candidate can bring to the ticket. Will the candidate carry his or her home state? Will the candidate attract particular constituencies to help the ticket to victory? Does the candidate fill a need that the Presidential candidate does not?
It should be noted that in 10 of the last 16 Presidential elections, the vice-presidential candidate has failed to deliver his home state. In recent years, the choices of Democrat Geraldine Ferrero and Republican Sarah Palin have failed to provide the impetus among women to help the national ticket.
Romney will take all these factors into consideration.
Governor Mitch Daniels, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Ohio
Senator Rob Portman are often mentioned as potential veep selections.
Add Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and you can see Romney has a respectable bench to choose from.
But the deciding factor in the election remains the presidential candidate himself. Mitt Romney is not very charismatic, has yet to deliver an articulate program for the future, suffers an enthusiasm deficit with his party base, and comes out of primary season with higher unfavorables among key voting blocs such as women and Latinos.
None of the aforementioned candidates appear to improve substantially on Romney’s liabilities at this point. At the end of the day, Romney holds the key to his victory. Choosing his running mate will be his first major decision of a presidential nature. The economy makes President Obama vulnerable and we all know this will be a close and hard fought campaign. So how and whom he chooses his running mate will matter.
Ironically, once chosen, the veep candidate will not be the major factor in the choice of voters—unless someone of Sarah Palin’s stripe becomes Romney’s sidekick. That kind of candidate selection would say more about the character and judgment of the presidential nominee, and with that in mind, you would not want him as president.
By John Parisella - Thursday, April 19, 2012 at 8:09 PM - 0 Comments
Romney’s campaign goal: to make this election a referendum on the president
With Mitt Romney now the unofficial Republican nominee, the endorsements from the GOP leadership are rapidly coming forward. Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have given their blessing to the eventual standard bearer. Romney himself now directs all his attacks against President Obama. The Republican contest is nominally over, and the search for a potential Vice Presidential nominee is on in the Romney camp.
President Obama has been in campaign mode since the debt ceiling debate of last summer. Buoyed by better economic numbers and a discourse about greater economic fairness, Obama has recovered his approval ratings of a year ago after the disastrous summer showdown on the debt (47% according to Real Clear Politics average of polls ). Those ratings may be modest, but they are clearly more encouraging to the incumbent than a few months ago.
Despite these gains in recent months, Obama is still facing a close election unless Romney collapses from the scrutiny and the pressures of a Presidential campaign. This is unlikely, and noted Republican professional operatives like Ed Gillespie, Karl Rove, Charlie Black and others who have been closely involved with the Romney campaign will make sure it won’t happen. While the primary season and the Santorum challenge showed cracks in Romney’s candidacy, it is clear that a sluggish economy remains the front-and-center issue of the campaign. And here Obama is vulnerable.
Recent polls show Obama’s lead over Romney falling to a near toss-up. How Romney has been able to reduce the gap has little to do with his message or his skills. It has all to do with questions of jobs, economic security, and what Obama promised in 2008, hope. The goal of the Romney campaign is to make this election a referendum on Obama and his handling of the economy.
Poll numbers show this to be a potentially winning strategy, especially if last month’s job creation numbers of 120,000 (down from 230,000 the month before) become a trend. The Obama people are acutely aware of this and are countering with a strategy pitting their vision of the direction of the country against the one from Romney. They are quick to point out that Romney intends on continuing Bush type policies. The rhetoric on both sides leaves little ambiguity.
Referendum on Obama or on the direction of the country? It is unlikely that either strategy will win the day outside of their respective bases. The Democratic base will rally enthusiastically to the Obama approach, fearing the rule of the hard right of the GOP over the White House and Congress as well as eventual appointees to the US Supreme Court . The Republicans will do their best to blame all that is wrong in the US on Obama, and camouflaging the Bush policies that had a lot to do with the debt problems and the economic meltdown of 2007-2009. Independent voters will be caught in the middle with no clear winner in sight. Then, what will be the deciding factor?
I believe that the candidates themselves, their character and their temperament will play a role with independent voters. Here, a recent CNN poll showed strong favorables for Obama, and higher unfavorables for Romney. The primaries took their toll on Romney. Also, the question of the voting intentions of key constituencies in swing states will play a role. For instance, much is said about the current advantage Obama holds with women voters and the growing Latino vote. So this election is far from over and difficult to predict at this juncture.
We can say that it appears we’re heading for a cliffhanger. However, one should not underestimate the power of incumbency, temperament and character, and the likeability factor associated with the candidates. And here Obama currently has the advantage. The gloves are now off.
By John Parisella - Wednesday, April 11, 2012 at 7:07 PM - 0 Comments
Rick Santorum showed that Romney is not as strong as we all thought
Rick Santorum has announced his withdrawal from the Republican nomination contest, much to the relief of establishment Republicans. While Santorum came from far behind and put up a valiant battle, it was clear he had neither the financial nor organizational resources to stop Mitt Romney. But he does finish as the strongest conservative contender after the former Massachusetts governor, and this can only give him some leverage down the road.
Santorum’s voice was that of the social conservatives, arguably the most vociferous of the GOP rank and file. His voice was more authentic to the party’s base, despite the fact that his views carried little favor with the overall electorate.
He was able with few resources to win Iowa, and perform with aplomb in the other primaries and caucuses. In so doing, he portrayed himself as the most solid and reliable conservative in the race. Newt Gingrich may have tried to be the Romney alternative, but his past failings made him unreliable to the socially conservative base. Santorum was seen as one to be trusted.
Santorum, however, did little to help the Republican brand. If anything, his diatribes on the separation of Church and State were out of step with today’s political values. His battle against the contraception policy of the Obama Administration may have been framed as one in favor of religious freedom, but it only alienated women in general, and contributed to the GOP’s current challenge attracting women voters. Obama could only have wished for Santorum to stay in the race longer, as he was unconsciously becoming the president’s best ally.
As for Romney, Santorum made the former governor appear unsteady and too reactive. To a large extent, he attacked Romney more on content and values than the other candidates in the race did, and did some serious damage. As a result, Romney emerged more vulnerable to Obama attacks later in the campaign. Today, Mitt’s unfavorables are higher mostly because Santorum proved to be a far more effective and authentic campaigner. His withdrawal can only be good news for Mitt.
What next? Gingrich has all but conceded this past weekend. Santorum will eventually endorse Romney. Neither will be vice-presidential material, but they will both be making speeches at the convention in Tampa this summer. The hard right, made up of Tea Party types and social conservatives, will now use the party platform at the convention to make sure Romney does not re-morph into the “moderate” former Massachusetts Governor. You know, the one he (Mitt Romney) was pretending not to be and hoping we would forget.
Obama, ironically, comes out of the Republican exercise stronger. But Romney no longer has to fight on two fronts. He can now concentrate on Obama, in light of the sluggish economic picture, and try to make this election a referendum on the President. This in itself may appeal to independent voters and thus reduce the gap Obama has established in recent weeks.
So we can expect Romney to climb in the polls soon, but Santorum showed that Romney is not as strong as we all thought.
This, the Obama people have noticed as well.
By John Parisella - Wednesday, April 4, 2012 at 2:50 PM - 0 Comments
Reality will soon catch up to Romney’s opponents in the Republican primaries
The general consensus in U.S. Republican circles (outside of the usual pundit spin) is that the primary season did little to advance the GOP cause. Last autumn, a generic Republican candidate was generally ahead of President Obama in matchup polls.
This Tuesday, Romney won three races and most importantly, Wisconsin. Now we know Mitt Romney’s win in the GOP nomination contest is inevitable, yet his unfavorables are currently at 50 per cent compared to 32 per cent favorables in a recent Washington Post NBC poll. A gender gap of 18 per cent in favor of Obama has also developed. And lest we forget: Hispanic voters are at 14 per cent support for Romney.
With Romney’s win in Wisconsin, we should expect an earlier withdrawal of Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich from the race than was anticipated a few weeks ago. Ron Paul, the Libertarian standard bearer, may stay in the contest but he is a negligible factor. Recent signals from both Santorum and Gingrich indicate that they would be willing to serve in a Romney administration. Meanwhile, Romney is picking up endorsements from establishment Republicans by the handful. Should Santorum and Gingrich stay the course, they would demonstrate a lack of judgment. And that will make them less attractive to Romney down the road.
However, reality will soon catch up to Romney’s opponents. Money still plays a major role in U.S. politics and will actually increase in the months ahead. Here Romney maintains a significant edge. Gingrich has lost his principal benefactor and recently fired his principal campaign director. The outlook for him is greater campaign debt and becoming more marginal than he already is.
Santorum is no longer trashing Romney to the same extent, and says he would consider the Vice Presidential nod with Romney. Santorum has proven to be an effective campaigner, but his views are clearly out of the mainstream and in the minority within the Republican party. The best he can do is drive Romney’s unfavorables higher. Not a good prospect if you want a future in the GOP.
So we can expect Romney to be confirmed much earlier than was anticipated a few days ago. This may not be good news for Obama, who prefers a longer Republican race. In addition, Obama is wrestling with higher gas prices, a fragile recovery, and approval figures in the 40s. The earlier it becomes a two-person race between Obama and Romney, with a nearly 50-50 type electorate, and unlimited access to huge amounts of money, the more this race will be polarizing and tight this autumn. This is the wish of the Republican establishment.
Finally, Romney may have proven to be a weaker candidate on the hustings than was originally thought, but his current GOP opponents have far greater liabilities. Romney has been merciless in his attacks on Santorum and Gingrich. He owes them little right now. An early withdrawal could be enough for him to begin gravitating to the centre (remember the ‘Etch a Sketch’ metaphor), and thus become even more competitive against Obama in the presidential showdown next November. Time for Santorum and Gingrich to go.
By John Parisella - Saturday, March 31, 2012 at 9:22 PM - 0 Comments
Opponents to Obamacare have yet to propose an alternative should the Court strike it down.
The arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court on Obamacare are now over, and all bets are off. Observers who tried to assess the mood of the Justices seemed to be more perplexed at the end of the hearings. One thing is certain: it will be a close call.
The Court is essentially divided along ideological lines with conservatives (including Chief Justice John Roberts, Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito) fairly consistent with the right of center viewpoint.
Progressives include Justices Ruth Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonja Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan who also seem in tune with their ideological bias. Justice Arthur Kennedy, a George H.W. Bush appointee and a conservative, has occasionally crossed the ideological divide.
At issue: is Obamacare constitutional?
Much is made about the political implications of the eventual ruling, expected in early summer of this year. Little, however, is discussed about the possibility that Obamacare be ruled unconstitutional and what that would mean.
Let us recall that Obamacare is the most far-reaching healthcare reform since Medicare and Medicaid, passed during the 60’s under the Lyndon B. Johnson Administration. The U.S. system is a hybrid model with a mix of public and private monies. The U.S. spends more public money per capita than any nation in the world.
Yet, many of its citizens are covered by private insurance companies. Currently, it is estimated that close to 1/6 of the U.S. population are uninsured (50 million).
Obamacare tried to address that problem by bringing forward an idea from conservative think tanks, and once supported by Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich – the healthcare mandate.
The mandate would require by 2014-15 that the uninsured buy insurance or suffer a penalty. Using the commerce clause in the U.S. constitution, the Obama Administration believed that their approach was constitutional since all citizens are at one point consumers of healthcare.
It is important to recall that even the uninsured get full services should they go to the emergency wards. But someone has to pay at the end of the day.
Currently, healthcare represents about 18% of GDP in the U.S. compared to approximately 10% in other OECD countries. Costs are escalating and the U.S. remains the one country in the Western World where getting sick can bankrupt you.
Like it or not, Obamacare was meant to address the problem. Obama chose the mandate approach as opposed to the single payer approach that we in Canada have since the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. He was encouraged back then in 2009 by former Governor Mitt Romney to adopt this approach which had become the norm in Massachusetts under the said Governor’s Administration.
Obamacare has since become a lightening rod for the Republican Party and the conservative establishment. What is disconcerting and confusing to many is that no one has an alternative in the event Obamacare is struck down.
Obamacare currently eliminates pre-existing conditions as a factor for private insurance companies to refuse coverage. It also allows young people under 26 years old to stay on their parents’ plan.
In addition, it provides seniors as they begin retirement with financial help with their medication costs.
If the law is judged unconstitutional, do all provisions fall, or just the infamous mandate provision? The fact is the mandate provision provides private insurance companies with the risk pool to provide for the more popular aspects of the law and possibly bring costs down.
Whatever happens and whatever the merits, it is sad that opponents to Obamacare have yet to propose an alternative should the Court strike it down.
Maybe the only alternative left is the single payer system which we know conservatives and the GOP abhor and consider socialism.
By John Parisella - Friday, March 23, 2012 at 11:56 AM - 0 Comments
Has this primary season already inflicted permanent damage to the GOP cause and Mitt Romney—or can it be erased?
One of Mitt Romney’s communications advisors admitted in an awkward manner that his candidate will veer towards a more centrist position, once the primaries are over and the actual campaign against President Obama has begun. His use of the Etch A Sketch image to describe such a movement gave both Rick Santorium and Newt Gingrich a much needed respite from their devastating losses in Illinois. In so doing, Romney’s advisor played into the Santorum-Newt narrative of the lack of authenticity of candidate Romney, and the need for the party to select a true conservative to lead the charge against Obama in the fall.
Quite frankly, this verbal lapse will not be long lasting in terms of news cycles. Most veteran observers would agree that once the primary season is over, playing to the party base must give way to appealing to independents. Romney’s people are aware of the damage the primaries have done to their candidate. His unfavorables are up, he has veered more to the right that he wanted, and some important constituencies such as women and Hispanics have begun to shift support to Obama. What seemed to be a winnable election has turned into a brand destroying exercise for the Republican party. Not a good turn of events for the eventual GOP nominee this late in the election cycle year. So, it is to be expected that Romney, once he has the nomination sewed up, will begin to broaden his appeal.
The problem with the Etch A Sketch metaphor is that it reinforces the absence of core conservative convictions with Romney. He is, by far, the best candidate in the GOP field, yet he cannot close the deal. His religion, his flip flopping, his pandering, and his inability to define himself have essentially turned what should have been an easy and earlier victory into a long drawn out contest with his eventual victory only coming in late spring. He is now facing an emboldened opposition, who will try to make sure the Republican platform in the Tampa convention is definitively more to the right.
The more the campaign progresses, the more it seems error-prone. Romney seems off his game when he is not scripted. His handlers avoid mainstream media interviews and do only Fox News. His debate performance has not really been tested. Rick Perry and Herman Cain are not Barack Obama. Both Santorum and Gingrich are too polarizing for a general election anyway, and too often inconsistent on the campaign trail for Romney to claim he has been tested and has become a better candidate. Even the GOP admits Obama became a better candidate in 2008 because of Hillary Clinton.
Romney is steadily building his lead and the endorsements by Jeb Bush and Senator Jim DeMint make it even more evident that the Stop Romney movement is running out of steam. Both are correct in their warning of permanent damage if this contest continues without a clear winner to June, or the Tampa convention. The question is: has this primary season already inflicted permanent damage to the GOP cause and Romney, or is it just temporary as in Etch A Sketch and be erased?
By John Parisella - Friday, March 16, 2012 at 1:22 PM - 0 Comments
Despite Republican struggles, the President faces key challenges that make the next election anything but a lock
In the wake of Mitt Romney’s lacklustre performance in Mississippi and Alabama, the discussion has centered on how the Romney campaign must retool as he is emerging as a weaker candidate from the primary process. Both Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have indirectly pushed this narrative with their attacks on the frontrunner, despite Romney’s obvious delegate advantage for the nomination. In light of this, however, it would be foolhardy for Obama supporters to conclude that this election may not be as close as predicted with the President pulling off an easy win.
The reality is that recent polls show a decrease in Obama‘s approval members, largely attributed to the gas prices. Romney has actually narrowed the worrisome gap of recent weeks, and in some polls, he is actually ahead. Even Obama’s lead over the more polarizing Santorum is not wide enough for the President to feel any comfort. It is clear from these poll numbers that America is still fundamentally a 50-50 country.
Whether it is a President from one party, or a House from another, when the presidential results hover around the 50% mark, no party or ideology clearly dominates the political landscape. Many would be tempted to predict that the Democrats with President Obama may win next November, but few would predict that he will recapture the House in the process. This is why the Republican primary spectacle, disheartening as it is to many veteran Republicans, is not a forerunner of an electoral defeat for their nominee come November.
There are three factors that the Obama campaign see as being serious obstacles to reelection. One is the Republican obsession with defeating Obama at all costs. The animosity directed against an incumbent President has never been as vitriolic in recent decades. His birthright has been questioned, he is described as a radical, European socialist, and there is the implication is that he acts un-American when he apologizes to other countries about America’s role in past conflicts. All this is part of the fictional Obama syndrome created by GOP spin-meisters, but it is also an indication that even an unloved Mitt Romney is by far more acceptable to Republicans than Obama. Expect Republicans to rally around Romney because their dislike for Obama far surpasses their reservations about the former Massachusetts Governor’s conservative credentials.
A second factor is the economy, considered by all as the overriding issue in the fall campaign. Despite encouraging job numbers in recent months, the recovery is still not robust and gasoline prices are beginning to modify the rhetoric of a sound economy. With Americans travelling more in the summer months and with events in the Middle East remaining uncertain, it is possible that higher gasoline prices could spark an economic slowdown in the months leading up to the election. This accounts for Obama’s increasingly public presence to explain why gas prices are on the rise, and how his energy policy is not to blame.
A final, even more uncertain factor is events in Syria, Afghanistan and Iran. At best, it is difficult to predict circumstances in each country. At worst, events could mushroom out of control with Obama appearing weak and ineffective in the process. Granted, foreign policy rarely trumps domestic issues, but there could be a cause-and-effect outcome on the U.S. economy if the situation deteriorates in those countries.
President Obama remains the best campaigner of the lot and he has recovered much of the mojo lost in the debt ceiling debate of last summer. The Tea Party is less of a factor than it has been, and the Republican alternative fails to impress. But when key factors are somewhat beyond the full grasp of the White House, it is fair to conclude at this juncture that Obama’s reelection prospects are on an uncertain road.
By John Parisella - Thursday, March 8, 2012 at 12:50 PM - 0 Comments
It may not have amounted to Mitt Romney’s best case scenario for Super Tuesday,…
It may not have amounted to Mitt Romney’s best case scenario for Super Tuesday, but winning a clear majority of delegates and a close race in the battleground state of Ohio, is near enough. Rick Santorum showed staying power with impressive victories in Tennessee and Oklahoma. Newt Gringrich tried to bask in the sunlight, but winning his home state is just a consolation prize. The race will last longer because there was no knockout blow, but at the end of the day, Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee.
So why are Santorum and Gingrich staying in the race? The primary rules this year work against declaring an early victor. There are very few “winner take all” states, with most opting for a proportional allocation of delegates. Romney will keep building his lead—but it’s going to happen more slowly than it would have in previous years. Another reason is the role of Super PACs, which allow rich benefactors to keep a doomed candidacy going. Finally, both Santorum and Gingrich see themselves as the only true conservatives; to them, Romney an impostor that needs to be checked and followed. This alone is enough to keep them in the race. Continue…