Monthly Archives: October 2012

Home Sweet Swing State.

“And again I say unto you: It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a Republican to win the Presidency without carrying the great state of Ohio.”

With apologies to Matthew 19:24

Ohio and the American Presidency have a very close relationship. In fact, there have been seven U.S. presidents who were born in the Buckeye State. Topping the list is my personal hero Ulysses S. Grant, followed by Rutherford Hayes, James Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, William Howard Taft and Warren Harding.

In the period after the Civil War, from 1869 to 1923, seven out of the eleven men who won The White House were Ohioans — including three presidents in a row: Grant, Hayes and Garfield, Civil War veterans all.

And one of the four presidents who weren’t from Ohio was named Cleveland!

Of course, presidential politics are fraught with contention on all levels – and that extends to the claim I heard as a Cleveland schoolboy that Ohio was the “Mother of Presidents”.

That rankles Virginians who point out, correctly, that eight Commanders in Chief were born in the Old Dominion. Ohioans counter by claiming an eighth president of their own, William Henry Harrison, who settled in Ohio and lived there until his death. Virginians counter that Harrison didn’t move to Ohio until after his marriage in 1795, when he was about 23 years old. Yielding to Virginia, Ohio now calls itself the “Mother of Modern Presidents”.

Would that all presidential disputes could be solved by the deft insertion of an adjective.

There’s another oft-stated reason for Ohio to claim the title of Mother of Modern Presidents. No Republican presidential nominee has won the White House without carrying Ohio — and no president has been elected without winning in the Buckeye State since Democrat John F. Kennedy in 1960.

Truly, my beloved home state is the mother of all Oval Office bellwethers.

In this election, Ohio is back at the epicenter of presidential politics.

As it was in the 2004 contest, Ohio is shaping up as the lynchpin among the remaining battleground states – where victory in the Electoral College will ultimately be decided.

The 2004 election was a low point for the practice of democracy in Ohio. Aided by a Republican Secretary of State who did all he could to thwart the desire of urban, minority and college voters to cast their ballots – President Bush defeated John Kerry by just 118,775 out of 5,598,679 total votes. A mere 2.1 % margin of victory gave Ohio’s 20 electoral votes to Bush – and with them, a second god-awful term in the White House for Dubya.

I hope that the election in Ohio is not that close on November 6th.

It certainly shouldn’t be.

Given President Obama’s steadfast support for middle class and working people – as exemplified by his courageous decision on the auto bailout – sensible, pragmatic and hard working Ohioans should give Obama their support.

Given President Obama’s support for women’s rights, freedom of choice and equal pay – Ohio women (and the men who love and respect their wives and daughters) should support the man who has been their champion.

I expect that a proud, blue collar state that has seen unemployment rates drop and manufacturing jobs rebound as President Obama pulled our economy out of the deep, dark ditch into which it was plunged by discredited Republican “top-down” economics won’t be fooled again by Romney’s magical plans, false promises, evasions and outright lies.

Please listen, my fellow Ohioans.

Under Romney, the nation’s deficit will no doubt rise — as the rich get richer, the middle class get squeezed, and the poor and disadvantaged among us get thrown under the bus. It’s been that way with GOP presidents since Ronald Reagan blew up the deficit and began the redistribution of America’s wealth to the fat cats at the very top of the economic food chain.

Don’t be fooled, Ohio.

Ohioans love the red, white and blue, and we salute our soldiers with pride and profound gratitude – but Romney never deals with our war veterans unless he’s using them for a photo op.

Romney said that he didn’t mention our warriors in Iraq and Afghanistan – or our returning vets – in his acceptance speech at the GOP convention because, When you give a speech you don’t go through a laundry list, you talk about the things that you think are important and I described in my speech, my commitment to a strong military unlike the president’s decision to cut our military. And I didn’t use the word “troops”, I used the word military. I think they refer to the same thing.”

Did you hear that, Ohio?

Mitt Romney doesn’t see the vital difference between the flesh and blood men and women who serve our nation heroically on the battlefield — and the corporate war profiteers who make billions building planes, tanks, ships and expensive weapons systems.

That’s why Romney wants to take our hard-earned tax dollars to plow another two trillion into military spending that the Pentagon hasn’t even asked for. Someone’s going to get rich off Mitt’s extra two trillion – and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that many of those guys are the same military-industrial complex billionaires secretly bankrolling Mitt’s Super-Pacs.

My fellow Buckeyes, Mitt Romney says he should get your vote because he’s a businessman. But why is that? What does being a businessman have to do with running the government?

Is it cost effective for the post office to pick up your Grandma’s mail at the end of a long rural road in the Appalachian mountains of southeastern Ohio? A bottom-line businessman like Romney would conclude that it’s not profitable – but our government is devoted to providing every citizen with postal service, regardless of where they live. That’s the American way.

I could go on and on about this “government should be run like a business” canard. It’s a fallacy. And Ohioans should know better than to listen to such garbage. The job of government is not to turn a profit — but to keep us safe, provide needed services, and promote the general welfare. Mitt Romney has no clue how do get THAT job done. It doesn’t interest him.

Business CEO Romney made his money as a “vulture capitalist”. I didn’t coin that term – Mitt’s Republican competitors did. Mitt and his Bain Capital cronies bought American companies, loaded them up with debt, and “harvested” them by selling off their assets and shipping the jobs overseas.

That’s a formula that made Mitt millions. But it’s not a formula made for Ohio workers.

C’mon, Ohio! Vote for your own interests on November 6th. Vote for your jobs, your homes, your communities, our veterans, your wife, your daughter, your children’s education – and so much more.

Vote for Barack Obama.

And then, we can claim Obama as one of our own. Along with William Henry Harrison, President Obama would be the 9th president from Ohio. We could drop the “Modern” and truly call our state the Mother of Presidents.

Go, Buckeyes! Vote!


Filed under History, Politics

Ken Burns: Obama vs. Romney = Bedford Falls vs. Pottersville.

There have been few times in the three years since I began this blog when I’ve devoted a post entirely to the words of someone else. I feel lazy leaning on the writings of others. But when my friend Ron Crawford sent me this open letter from Ken Burns today – I felt it would be a service to make sure it was read by as many people as possible. Below, the award-winning PBS documentarian nails the stakes in Election 2012 – and the many reasons that President Barak Obama should be re-elected.

Originally published in New Hampshire’s The Union Leader, October 18, 2012.

Why I am voting for Barack Obama


One of my favorite movies of all time is Frank Capra’s “It’s A Wonderful Life,” starring Jimmy Stewart.

In the film, Stewart’s character, a despondent and near suicidal George Bailey, who runs a small savings and loan in the town of Bedford Falls, is given a gift: the chance to see what his town would be like if he’d never been born — if he’d never extended a helping hand to his neighbors when they needed it most, never helped his community understand how much they depended upon one another.

In this alternative vision, the town’s plutocratic banker, Mr. Potter — without the decent George Bailey to counter him — rules everything. A bottom-line-is-everything, every-man-for-himself mentality runs unchecked, resulting in Bedford Falls’ metamorphosis into “Pottersville,” an amoral, soulless place.

The movie has a happy ending, thank goodness, but its themes endure to this day and echo in the current presidential election, which at its core asks the question: What kind of country are we? Are we Bedford Falls or Pottersville? Are we all in this together — and stronger and better because of it — or are we entirely on our own, with a few “makers” on the top of a heap of “takers?”

I’m supporting President Barack Obama because there is no question about his answer to that question. Having observed Mitt Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts, and then watching him in the Republican primaries as he tacked this way and that whenever it suited him (but mostly to the far right, the Tea Party radicals, even the birthers), I can’t be sure of him.

As a student of American history, let me give some perspective. Much like Franklin Delano Roosevelt (one of the subjects of a new documentary series we are working on — if Romney doesn’t get his way and PBS isn’t eliminated), President Obama took office at a time when lax regulation of the financial industry had brought us to the brink of a complete collapse, creating an industry that needed nearly a trillion dollars in President Bush-authorized bailouts. He also inherited two off-the-books wars that had further ballooned our budget deficit, an auto industry on the verge of bankruptcy, and a loss of prestige in the international community.

Like FDR, Obama has walked us back from the brink. He averted a depression, ended one war and put us on the path ending the other, rescued the auto industry, slowly building the sound footing necessary to have a sustained recovery — better, smarter regulation of those that brought this upon us, tax breaks to save a dwindling middle class, and a request that the very super rich, folks like Gov. Romney who have taken advantage of loopholes and deductions and off-shore accounts to amass their fortunes, pay their fair share. (Like FDR’s hero, Theodore Roosevelt — also part of the new series we’re making — Obama has deployed the shrewd combination of speaking softly and using a big stick. Ask Bin Laden.)

There’s a lot more work to be done, obviously, but history itself suggests that changing the trajectory of things takes time and patience and, as FDR demonstrated, intelligent experimentation. (All Mitt Romney seems to offer is a return to the very policies that got us into this mess in the first place.)

Unfortunately, unlike FDR, who had great cooperation from across the aisle for many of his programs, Obama has had to pretty much go it alone. As the Republican Party ignored his gestures of compromise and bipartisanship, they also moved further and further to the right, the furthest right they have ever been since the party was founded in 1856. Further right than the days of President Ronald Reagan, who in his second inaugural address in 1985 said, “Our two-party system has served us well over the years, but never better than in those times of great challenge when we came together not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans united in a common cause.”

How different, that attitude, from the Republican position of the last three years, which has taken the very process that forged our Constitution and created this great country — compromise — and tried to turn it into a dirty word.

More than a student of American history, I am also the father of four daughters. They mean the world to me, of course, and I’ve tried to teach them those timeless American values “It’s A Wonderful Life” promotes: a small-town hard-work ethic, holding to your inner principles and not changing with the first breeze of opposition, never lying, and loving both the country and its potentiality. And they constantly point me to the future, to the essential question George Bailey faced: What can one person do to make their community a Bedford Falls instead of a Pottersville? Well, there are many things. But one of them, I think, is to vote for Barack Obama.

Ken Burns, a filmmaker from Walpole, is director of “The Civil War,” “Baseball,” “The Dust Bowl” and many other documentaries.

* * * * * * * *

And now for something completely different…


Filed under History, Politics

The Election in 2 Videos..

Here are two videos that capture the essential issues in the 2012 Presidential race between President Obama and Mitt Romney. The first video lays out the stark contrast between Obama’s progressive agenda and Romney’s regressive, top-down, trickle-down approach to governing.

Now, here’s a more visceral take on Romney’s candidacy. Our good friend Shelly Goldstein put new words to the classic 1965 rock single by The Knickerbockers, written by Beau Charles and Buddy Randell. Enjoy!


Filed under Comedy, Music, Politics

A Satiric Salute to Mitt Romney

Our good friend Shelly Goldstein put new words to the classic 1965 rock single by The Knickerbockers, written by Beau Charles and Buddy Randell. Enjoy!


Filed under Comedy, Music, Politics

The VP Debate: How Joe Biden can take Paul Ryan to the Woodshed.

The Vice Presidential debate is coming up this Thursday evening, October 11th, from 8 to 9:30 p.m. EST. The debate will be held at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky where ABC news chief Martha Raddatz will attempt to moderate a discussion on both foreign and domestic policy issues. (Ms. Raddatz should be enlightened by Jim Lehrer’s feckless performance in the moderator’s seat.)

On Thursday night, Joe Biden will have an excellent opportunity to confront Paul Ryan about his chameleon running mate’s latest policy flip-flops. Keeping “Ryan on the defensive by challenging him to answer for Mitt Romney’s whopper of an Etch-A-Sketch performance in the first Presidential debate is the key to a Biden victory that can move the polls back in President Obama’s direction.

After Paul Ryan’s disastrous, fact-checker’s delight of a convention speech, he’s got his own image problem as a politician of dubious honesty.  And Ryan has yet to reconcile his own consistently uber-conservative policy positions, including his infamous Medicare-killing budget plan, with Romney’s shifting stances — which careen from the far right to the center depending upon Mitt’s audience.

With that in mind, here are some things that Fighting Joe from Scranton can say to take the fight to Pipsqueak Paul from Janesville.

How many years of tax returns did you give Mitt Romney when he vetted you as his running mate?

(Answer: 12 years)

So, if Romney felt he needed 12 years of your tax returns to decide on you as his running mate – why should the American people accept just two years of Mr. Romney’s tax returns?

Is it true that Mitt Romney has proposed a 20% across-the-board tax cut and a reduction in the corporate rate?

(Inescapable answer: Yes.)

Okay, we all heard you tell Chris Wallace on Fox News that it would take too long to explain the Romney-Ryan tax plan – but I’ll be happy to give you all the time you need to tell us the specific deductions and loopholes you’ll eliminate in order to close the 5 trillion dollar gap left by Mitt’s 20% tax cut and his cuts in the corporate rate?

Just days after you were announced as his running mate, Romney distanced himself from the budget you famously proposed in Congress. What parts of your budget does Romney agree with? For instance, does he agree with turning Medicare into a voucher system?

(Answer: Fumble, mumble, blather, obfuscate…)

How will cancer patients pay for all their needed care with a $6,400 dollar insurance voucher? And how will you stop insurance companies from simply raising their rates to swallow up that $6,400 voucher and grab even higher premiums?

In his debate with the President, Romney kept saying that your plans to end Medicare as we know it would not affect today’s seniors. Listen, Congressman Ryan, I’m a senior citizen. Do you think I’m willing to sell out my children as long as my benefits don’t change? If you think so, you don’t know the way America’s seniors – the folks we call “The Greatest Generation” – feel about the safety net that Franklin Delano Roosevelt created with the help of a Democratic Congress. You Republicans fought Medicare and Social Security all along the way – and you’re still trying to kill the New Deal, aren’t you?

In his recent foreign policy speech at the Virginia Military Institute, Romney said that President Obama hasn’t passed a single new free trade agreement. But the fact is that President Obama signed three free trade agreements a year ago — with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. Was your running mate unaware of the truth, or was he lying?

The Republican majority in the House of Representatives came into office two years ago chanting a mantra of “jobs, jobs, jobs” – so why have you, Speaker Boehner and the Tea Party majority in the House passed far more bills restricting women’s reproductive rights than bills that would’ve helped create jobs?

Just before the last Congressional session ended a month ago, Senate Republicans filibustered a bill that would have provided much-needed funds to help our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans find a job. Was that a good thing to do? Should Mitch McConnell have let that veteran’s jobs bill come to vote? Don’t we owe that to our nation’s warriors?

Do you agree with Senate Majority Mitch McConnell that, quote, “my number one priority is making sure president Obama’s a one-term president”? Did Senator McConnell kill the veteran’s jobs bill – and hurt our troops — just to deny President Obama a popular legislative victory in an election year?

That should be enough to keep the whelp Ryan back on his heels.

I don’t think older voters in the swing states – especially Ohio and Florida – will cotton to a young, untested punk like Ryan getting testy with an accomplished elder statesmen like Joe Biden.

Like I said, Joe doesn’t need to be polite or deferential with Ryan. Not like he had to be with an untested, overmatched woman like Sarah Palin. Ryan needs to show respect for his elder. And that means Joe can take the fight to Ryan without fear of being too aggressive.

America may not yet tolerate an angry black man (even if he’s the President) – but a righteously angry old white dude can be quite loveable.

C’mon, old Joe. Put up your dukes! And knock that pretentious, puffed-up, overconfident, Ayn Rand-worshipping pup out of the ring!


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What Ohio Voters Must Know…

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October 8, 2012 · 11:19 am

Obama’s Opening Remarks in the Second Debate: Rope-A-Dope!

On October 16th at 9:00 PM Eastern Time, President Obama and challenger Mitt “Etch-A-Sketch” Romney will tee off their second Presidential debate.

For this second round in the Obama vs. Romney heavyweight contest, the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates has planned a “town meeting” format in which “undecided voters” chosen by the Gallup Organization will ask questions on topics critical to our nation, including foreign and domestic policy.

After the poorly moderated, constipated and confused “six 15-minute pods” framework of the first debate, Presidential Cage Match Round Two – driven by questions from “real people” — may be more enlightening, exciting and decisive.

Just maybe.

As a progressive Democrat, I must honestly admit that I came away from yesterday’s first debate full of anger and frustration that President Obama didn’t immediately counter Mitt Romney’s shocking shape shifting, evasiveness and outright dishonesty with force, passion and prosecutorial specificity.

Damn. I really, really, really wanted Obama to take Romney’s head off in that first debate. PBS’ grand venerable gentleman Jim Lehrer certainly wasn’t going to do it. But there’s an argument to be made that Obama was playing “Rope-a-Dope”. There’s an old axiom in war and politics that if your opponent is hurting himself — don’t get in the way.

In one of the most celebrated heavyweight bouts in boxing history, beastly strong, aggressive and overconfident George Foreman wore himself out throwing punch after punch at the cagey veteran, Muhammad Ali, who settled into the ropes in a defensive crouch. When Foreman’s bulging, muscled arms finally tired, Ali put his exhausted foe away with canny, savage, and well-timed counter-punching.

If we equate whole new policy positions, bald-faced lies, equivocations, mischaracterizations and a chronic lack of specifics with lunging punches thrown without a knockout – then President Obama has set Mighty Mitt up for a ferocious counterattack.

With that in mind, here’s what I’d like to hear President Barack Obama say in his opening statement in the second debate.

“Thank you, Candy Crowley, for moderating this debate, thanks to Hofstra University for hosting us – and thanks to everyone watching for taking the next 90 minutes out of your very busy lives to listen to what Governor Romney and I have to say about our drastically different visions for the direction we want to take our beloved country.

I know you just got home from work and that you need to get up and go back to work tomorrow morning — so I won’t waste your valuable time by saying a bunch of things that sound good tonight – but that the fact-checkers will easily prove are a lot of crap tomorrow morning. I’ll leave that game to Governor Romney: whichever Governor Romney shows up tonight.

Tonight’s debate is supposed to be a town hall meeting — in which citizens ask the questions, and Governor Romney and I have agreed to answer your questions. I promise to answer your questions honestly and candidly, consistent with everything I’ve said from the time I sought the Presidency in 2008 until tonight. Tonight, I challenge Governor Romney to answer your questions in a manner consistent with what he’s been saying in the past year, in the last few months, and in our last debate.

Governor Romney’s not an easy guy to pin down on policy. It’s impossible to know what his plans for our nation are. In fact, Mitt Romney is the biggest flip-flopper in American political history.

Mitt was for Obamacare before he was against it. He was for a 5 trillion dollar tax cut before he was against it. He was for lowering taxes on millionaires and billionaires before he was against it. He was for voucherizing Medicare before he was against it. And he was for his VP pick Paul Ryan’s Medicare and Social Security-killing budget before he was against it.

And Governor Romney did all that flip-flopping in our last debate less than two weeks ago. I wonder where Mitt Romney stands now?

I wonder which Mitt Romney will show up tonight? And what new tales will he tell?

Maybe tonight we’ll get the real story of Mitt Ronmey’s plan for the American middle class? Like a “CSI” or “Law & Order” mystery – it’s worth staying up for the next hour or so just to find out.

Since Governor Romney and I faced off in our last debate, there have been a lot of independent analysts who have been confounded about two things:

Why did Governor Romney run away from so many of his previously held positions? And why won’t he say what upper-income tax loopholes and middle-class tax deductions he plans to eliminate to pay for his huge tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires?

My fellow Americans, I look forward to your questions this evening. And I look forward to seeing which Mitt Romney will be with us tonight – and how that version of Mitt Romney will answer the questions that are so vital to the health, growth, safety and success of our blessed nation.”

Post Script: The first national poll after the first Presidential debate from Ipsos/Reuters shows that President Barack Obama didn’t lose much ground.

Before the debate: Obama 48 Romney 39

After the debate: Obama 48 Romney 43

On the face of it, that’s a four-point jump for Romney – but let’s look at the numbers among independent voters. (Rope-A-Dope may be working.)

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A Call To Arms Vs. Voter Suppression…

Our friend Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ father, William Louis-Dreyfus, took out a full-page ad in The New York Times yesterday to rally support in the battle against insidious voter suppression efforts in many states.

In his broadside, William points that some Republicans have been blunt about their motives for passing legislation requiring photo IDs, reducing early voting, striking people from registered voter rolls, and other vote suppression tactics. Republican Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, for instance, famously bragged about passing “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.” (Too bad for Turzai, he told the truth on tape.)

The fight against voter suppression is critical. As an Ohioan, I remember the 2004 Presidential election all too well. Kerry lost Ohio by the narrowest of margins – but how many votes for Kerry were lost because the Republican Secretary of State made sure there were too few noting machines in Democratic-leaning districts? The long lines of lower income working folk and students waiting for many hours to vote were an embarrassment – and a very real danger — to our democracy.

Voters in inner-city precincts in Columbus, Cleveland and Toledo — which were voting for Kerry by margins of ninety percent or more — often waited up to seven hours. At Kenyon College, students were forced to stand in line for eleven hours before being allowed to vote. According to an article by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on the Common Dreams website, “Republicans prevented more than 350,000 voters in Ohio from casting ballots or having their votes counted — enough to have put John Kerry in the White House.”

William Louis-Dreyfus knows this. You can check out his ad at the website of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. Make a donation if you can. This is an important fight.

You can also check out an interview with William in the Huffington Post.

Bravo, William, for leading the charge!


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Mitt Romney for President???

Emma and Elizabeth model their t-shirt.

A bright young friend of ours, Elizabeth Weinstein, has come up with a fun way to call GOP candidate Mitt Romney on his bull@#%* and raise some money for President Obama’s campaign.

Elizabeth and her friend Emma Joshi have designed and produced t-shirts declaring, “Romney for President of The Cayman Islands”.

It’s a fun way to highlight multi-millionaire Mitt’s tax-avoidance schemes, make fellow Obama supporters smile, and put a frown on the face of Romney-Ryan voters – all at the same time.

The shirts cost $20 (or $24.99 with free 1-5 day shipping). $10 from the sale of each t-shirt goes to the Obama campaign.

Shirts come in small, medium, large, extra large and 2X.

You can order your “Romney for President of The Cayman Islands” shirts at their eBay store:

You can see and order men’s shirts at this link.

You can see and order women’s shirts at this link.

So get a “Romney for President of The Cayman Islands” t- shirt and wear it loudly and proudly this election season. And if Romney can’t win in The Cayman Islands – maybe he can try a run in Switzerland?

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