Tag Archives: election 2012

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

By: KEN BURNS

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…

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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!

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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!

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Visions of Election Night…

Sometimes it helps to have a vision.

If you can see in your mind’s eye a picture of the future as you want it to be – then you’re steering the universe in that direction. Or something like that. It’s called “creative visualization”.

Athletes and salesmen have been using creative visualization for decades. Wikipedia defines creative visualization as “the practice of seeking to affect the outer world by changing one’s thoughts and expectations.”

So, let’s practice a little creative visualization by conjuring up a wonderful, satisfying vision for Election Night, Tuesday November 6, 2012.

Picture in your mind and heart the moment the television networks announce the shocking news – early in the evening — that President Obama has carried South Carolina. Not just North Carolina, but also the Cradle of the Confederacy. (The most recent poll gives Romney only a 6-point lead in South Carolina, down from double digits not long ago.) Visualize people, visualize!

Now, picture yourself on the couch with your loved one, Chardonnay in hand, as Barack Obama sweeps the swing states of Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin – and MSNBC (who else would you be watching?) projects that Obama has been re-elected as President of the United States.

But it gets even better, if that’s possible – because now comes the wailing and gnashing of teeth among the soundly defeated and thoroughly demoralized GOP/Tea Party. With their House majority lost, their Senate minority reduced – and the White House back in Democratic hands – Karl Rove is the first to appear on Fox News and stick a knife in Romney’s back. All the tens of millions that Rove raised from all those undisclosed Super-Pac donors couldn’t sell the Romney-Ryan ticket to the American people. And “Bush’s Brain” isn’t blaming himself.

Next in the pathetic parade of Republican ruin comes GOP Chairman Reince Priebus. With an angry Tea Party mob preparing the tar and feathers outside his barricaded doors, Priebus announces his resignation as GOP chair – and his immediate departure for the Cayman Islands, where he will go into hiding along with Mitt’s money.

Then, just before we hear from Mitt Romney, the nation’s TV cameras turn to Janesville, Wisconsin, where we double our fun – because not only has Paul Ryan lost the Vice Presidency – he’s also lost his Congressional seat! Pop some more popcorn! Uncork another bottle of Chardonnay! Sales of “Atlas Shrugged” are plummeting even as he speaks…

And now, it’s Romney’s turn to concede defeat. Socially, Mitt tried to drag us back into the 1950’s while economically trying to return us to the fiscal glory (make that “gory”) days of George W. Bush. America sent him packing – just like Mitt and the Bain Gang packed up so many American factories and sent those jobs overseas. Mitt announces that his wife Ann is turning him out to pasture along with her dressage horse, Refalca – both losers this year. (Ironically, Mitt didn’t even get 47 percent of the vote.)

And now, goodnight and sweet dreams.

And visions.

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The Bounce!

Now that both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions are over – there are two things have become increasingly clear as the national tracking polls roll out day after day.

Mitt got no significant bounce out of his convention.

President Obama got a very healthy bounce. As of today – Obama’s bounce is anywhere from 5 to 7 points depending upon the poll. Now, the polls all show Obama leading Romney by anywhere from 4 to 6 points – and Gallup has the President at 52%

It’s possible that Obama’s numbers will continue to rise as the weekly tracking polls no longer include any days after the RNC and include more days during and immediately after the Democrats’ very successful convention.

But while progressives like me celebrate Obama’s bounce, there are a couple of things we liberals should begin to focus on.

1. It’s all about GOTV – Get Out The Vote.

Obama’s leads in the Gallup, Ipsos, Rasmussen and CNN polls mean nothing if Obama voters don’t – or can’t — vote. We must avoid the kind of liberal apathy that allowed the Tea Party to win so many Congressional seats in the 2010 mid-term elections – and we must overcome voter suppression efforts in Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania, among others.

2. The down-ballot elections are vitally important. Democrats must keep their Senate majority — and we’ve got to reduce the GOP lead in the House.

Dear home state Ohioans! Re-elect Senator Sherrod Brown!

Hopefully, we can take over the House and make John Boehner a minority leader. Wouldn’t that be a joy?

Watch those Senate races in Massachusetts, Ohio, Missouri and Virginia!

But, for the moment, you have my permission to pause a moment and enjoy The Obama Bounce.

Boing!

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Top Ten Political Bumper Stickers of 2012

I can’t remember who sent them to me*, but not long ago I was sent a link to dozens of new political bumper stickers. These are the ten best.

This first one says it all. “He Won, Get Over It”. Now, I don’t want to say that all the Right Wing resistance to President Obama is based on race – but it’s hard to ignore the virulence that has characterized the GOP response to Obama’s three years of bipartisan outreach. Obama has taken a lot of heat from the left for trying to work with Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader McConnell – but it’s hard to escape the notion that the Old Boys simply won’t (or can’t) play ball with the Jackie Robinson of the American Presidency.

George W. Bush took Democratic President Bill Clinton’s big budget surplus and turned it into a multi-trillion dollar deficit. Remember how George W and his evil henchman, Dick Cheney, mislead (lied) us into the war in Iraq? Now you’ll never hear a GOP candidate mention his name. But we must not forget. George W and his GOP Congress dug us into the impossibly deep hole that President Obama has been trying to dig us out of.

The more you know – the more you’re liberal. That’s why conservatives are dead set against public education. Ignorance is a winner for the GOP. Is it any wonder that Republicans are always attacking public schools? Liberals don’t burn books. Liberals don’t home school. Liberals don’t adopt an anti-intellectual, anti-science pose. Progressives believe the vast majority of scientists on the reality of man-made global warming – and the simple minded folly of “Drill baby, drill!”

I was raised Roman Catholic. So were the 90% of Catholic women who use birth control. The Catholic faithful don’t subscribe to everything the Bishops tell us anymore. Those old men in robes lost the moral high ground even before we knew they looked the other way while priests were buggering children. And don’t even get me started on those 6,000 year-old Earth freaks. I love Jesus and I honor his message of compassion for the poor, the sick and the oppressed. But I don’t believe that so-called “conservative Christians” have any clue about what Jesus was trying to tell us. According to the four Gospels, Jesus said nothing about homosexuality – but he had plenty of negative things to say about divorce. Based on the Gospels, Newt Gingrich’s marital history is far more unchristian than the same sex marriages he opposes.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt turned the American economy around after three Republican Presidents (Harding, Coolidge and Hoover) ran us into a deep, desperate ditch known as The Great Depression. President Bill Clinton built a budget surplus after 12 years of increasing national debt under Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. And now, President Obama is turning George Dubya’s Recession around. Given the evidence of the past century, the GOP has NO credibility on the American economy, public spending, or the national debt.

Again, I was raised Roman Catholic and attended Catholic school from Kindergarten through 12th Grade – and I do not recognize Right Wing Jesus. If the Jesus of the Gospels had been a U.S. Congressman, He would’ve written the legislation that established Social Security and the social safety net. (Sorry, Newt, but He would have also tried to outlaw divorce.)

Both House Speaker John Boehner (R. Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R. Kentucky) have stated their primary objective is to make Barak Obama a one-term President. To that end, they’ve done all they can to depress job growth. Unfortunately for Boehner and McConnell, Obama’s Stimulus Package, the Detroit auto bailout, the extension of unemployment benefits, and other economic initiatives against which the GOP fought and lost have led to positive job growth and a slowly but steadily growing economy. Now, the GOP is in the sorry position of having to root against American progress.

Big Blue liberal states like New York and California pay more in Federal taxes than they get back in Federal funds. However, backwater Tea Party states like Alabama and Mississippi pay less in Federal taxes than they receive in Federal funding. So, let’s make a deal, all you Red State conservatives. We in the Blue States will keep 100% of our tax payments – and you good ol’ boys can keep 100% of yours. Good luck building a highway, or a school, or a hospital, you principled Tea Partiers. You’ll be lucky to get your garbage picked up.

‘Nuff said. George W. Bush said he didn’t really pay much attention to Bin Laden. Obama did. Game over.

I hate to say that this virulent Right Wing animus toward President Obama is due to race. (And I’m willing to overlook all the Tea Party rally posters depicting Obama with a bone through his nose, etc.) But the GOP mainstream didn’t accuse President Bill Clinton of being a fascist and a communist and a socialist all at the same time. So, what drives that kind of unreasoning hatred? When Newt Gingrich calls Obama “the food stamp President” – I think his motivation is clear. Am I wrong? Sadly, I doubt it.

Election 2012 is shaping up to be an epochal contest. But don’t assume the good guys will win. Fight. Argue. Vote. We have nothing to fear but our national ignorance.

* Turns out it was our good friend Rob Mendel who forwarded the bumper stickers to me.

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