Saturday, January 28, 2012

An Old Jew Hears Hitler in Gingrich

Tempting as it is, we Democrats should not root for Gingrich to be the GOP nominee. Even if he would be easier to defeat in November than Romney, he must not have the national stage for the rest of this year. He's far too dangerous.

My father's Jewish family in Warsaw was exterminated by the Nazis in the Holocaust. They could have escaped. In the midst of the Depression my father's family in America, frightened by the rhetoric of Hitler, scraped together boat fare for the Warsaw relatives to come to America. But they didn't come.

They couldn't believe that a comical little man and his ravings were anything to fear.

I didn't begin blogging to raise alarms. As an old woman, I wanted to encourage those to whom the future belongs. But as a lawyer and student of history -  and a witness to it  -   I can't ignore a very dark storm cloud gathering strength over America.

The rhetoric in the GOP presidential primary is not just rhetoric, especially that of Newt Gingrich in South Carolina. It isn't even just race-baiting, evil as that is.

It's Hitler.

It's Hitler in the early 1930s, stoking the anger of the German people who have lost World War I and are suffering an economic collapse. It's Hitler firing up a people who have been taught for centuries to despise and hate "the other" in their midst.

It's Gingrich in South Carolina.

In the CNN debate that won him the South Carolina primary, he brazenly played to the anger and hatred boiling in the studio audience and thus played to millions of TV viewers across the country who share that anger and hatred.

What do they hate? Blacks and other minorities. And, of course, Obama. Because he is the unthinkable: a black man as president of the United States.

What do they fear? They fear anyone of darker skin. They also have deep fears about the economy. Some of this economic fear is justified in a still fragile recovery, but Gingrich  -  and to even greater extent, Mitt Romney  -  is twisting that fear to align with the tactic Hitler used:  blame "the other".
Hitler talked about "the knife in the back", claiming that Jewish financiers had betrayed Germany into losing World War I. And he ranted about the Jews subsequently manipulating the economy into disaster. That's why, one might conclude, the GOP contenders keep saying that Obama has made the economy worse. In their rantings, they don't just claim he failed to make sufficient improvement. He's MADE it worse.  This charge is simply untrue and can  -  and should be  -  emphatically refuted in the general election campaign.

Gingrich and Romney actually know it's a lie. (They're misguided but not ignorant.) And they also know that to get caught telling outright lies and misrepresenting reality will hurt them with Independent voters, especially when each of them already has, to say the least, something of a credibility gap. So why tell such a very big and obviously refutable lie?

Because a significant number of Republicans are now full of racist hate. That's a sad thing to have to say and  -  in its own way  -  it too is stereotyping. But it is true. Polls taken even after Obama produced his long-form birth certificate showed that a significant percentage of Republicans still aren't convinced he wasn't born in Kenya.  Keep in mind too the constant demand last year by the likes of Donald Trump that Obama produce his college records, the clear implication being that no black could have succeeded in college without some special deals going on. Even before Trump's attack, Gingrich was talking about Obama's "Kenyan colonialism." From top to bottom, the GOP seethes with racism.

Claiming Obama has made the economy worse AND that he is "secretly" conspiring to take us into socialism is exactly the accusatory tactic adopted by Hitler against the Jews. It raises "the other" from being merely despised to being perceived as actively and imminently dangerous.

Add to this the fact that, demographically, America will soon no longer have a white majority. GOP whites see this very clearly. For many of them the "immigration" issue is one of defending white control of this country. For many of them, I do believe, this issue of crumbling white dominance  -  more than any other  -  is driving their passion.

What is despicable and ABSOLUTELY UNPRECEDENTED is the baldness of Gingrich's racist appeals to this passion and fear. Sure, Nixon had his Southern strategy and Reagan talked about "welfare queens", but Gingrich has gone way beyond any major party candidate ever in his words and their reach.

Beware. Should the economy actually collapse on a major scale, should the white GOP working class fans of Gingrich begin to hurt financially even more, all hell could break loose. Gingrich has given them permission to blame someone for all their ills. We may see mobs who make the Tea Party at its worse look like... well, like a real tea party. We may see mobs turn violent, urged on by the likes of Gingrich, just as those GOP House members cheered on the mob that spat on the Democratic House members as they entered the Capitol to vote for the health insurance bill.  We could see an overthrow of our democracy.

Don't tell me it can't happen here. It may be unthinkable to you, but Gingrich has made it quite thinkable to his followers if anything happens to push them more over the edge.

Beyond the blatant appeals to fear and racism, he has attacked our greatest bulwark against violence and chaos: the law. He has threatened that, as president, he would haul judges before some sort of commission to "explain" their decisions. Remember the film "Judgment at Nuremburg", which detailed how Hitler's "Final Solution" could operate because he had destroyed an independent judiciary? If you haven't watched that old classic, do so. The characters are fictional; the history is not. I lived through it, and I remember.

The first to go when a democracy splinters are the judges. Not just in Nazi Germany. Everywhere.

No candidate before Gingrich has, to my knowledge, ever urged on a national platform that judges be hauled before commissions and then promised that, as president, he would do just that. Even at the height of the right's outrage in the 50s and 60s against the Warren court, bumper stickers said "Impeach Earl Warren", a stupid idea but at least a salute to using a lawful procedure.  What Gingrich is saying now goes far beyond those bumper stickers.

And what of Gingrich's use of the word "permanent"'?

In his speech of triumph after winning South Carolina, he said that he would bring changes that his supporters could rest assured would be "permanent."

In all my years as an activist in politics and as an observer,  I have never heard a major candidate  -  or even a minor one  -  saying anything so frightening. Think about it! How does an elected leader make changes "permanent"? It's damn scary! You can't do it by any means I can think of that are consistent with a democracy.

And don't tell me that Gingrich was just being casual and careless in that victory speech. He is often careless in his ideas but he is a master of language. That speech was calm, cool, and deliberate. He said what he meant and meant what he said. It was his big moment to tell a national audience exactly what he wanted it to hear. Remember that he is the author of the political far-right's handbook "Language: A Key Mechanism of Control".

God help us all if Gingrich is a Hitler waiting in the wings, building a base that may stretch beyond any  failure this year, a base ready to act if conditions are ripe. At best, let us hope that he fails in Florida and is thereafter no longer a candidate with a national audience. Sadly, I fear he will continue no matter a loss in Florida, an egomaniac so aggrieved and resentful that he will perhaps sink to even lower levels of rabble-rousing.

An economic collapse, social chaos in America, a Hitler here?

I won't believe it could happen, but I can't ignore that it might.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Finally Someone Gets It About Obama!


Someone gets it about Obama.

The current issue of Newsweek (1/16/12) has a cover of Obama and a powerful, intelligent story about his presidency by Andrew Sullivan: "How Obama's Long Game Will Outsmart His Critics".

You have to read this article. It is one of the finest pieces of political writing that I have ever encountered in my long life.

Sullivan is a once-Republican who became an Independent and supported Obama in 2008. He's always been a very smart man, able to see the big picture, but he has been strangely missing from TV talk shows the last couple of years.

Apparently he was using the time to look at what Obama was actually doing. And why.

I've repeatedly said on this blog that Obama is one of the best presidents I've seen in my 75 years or read about as an historian of sorts. (See footnote. Historians always have footnotes.) Yet he has received virtually no recognition for his achievements even from commentators on the Democratic side. Nor has there been an adult-style recognition of the barriers he has had to confront. Why can't Democratic liberals and commentators get it through their heads that it takes 60 votes in the Senate to accomplish what they want? It also takes a Democratic majority in the House to get any spending/tax bills moving. Obama doesn't have the votes in Congress. This is reality.

Obama has painstakingly tried to get GOP cooperation. Liberals are thereby outraged, seeing this as "weakness" and not understanding that he had to try, and keep trying, until the American people saw him as the reasonable one, the adult in the room. He's done that now. In the hard, cold, racist reality of America  -  above all  -  Obama had to avoid coming across as "the angry black man." This was important not just to African-Americans who tell me of their dread of his failure; it was important to the rest of us. He needs the support of Independents if he is to finish what needs to be done for us by getting that crucial second term. And Independents do NOT like the all-or-nothing type of politics.

This is but one aspect of Obama's "Long Game". Andrew Sullivan recounts other aspects where Obama has done similarly well on substantive issues as well as style of governing.

Be glad we elected a poker player in 2008 and not John McCain, who claims craps as his favorite game.

These are, indeed, the times that try our souls. These are the times of hungry children in America. These are the times when a greedy and ruthless elite are grasping for ever more money and power at the expense of the rest of us. These are the times when the next presidential appointments to the Supreme Court can determine our freedoms for a generation.

And what is Romney's game? He's not a player at all. He's a front man for "the house". He represents the big purse the house holds, the odds that always favor the house, the game that is rigged. He represents the 400 people who own as much as the total owned by half the American people.

Yes, 400 people hold as much wealth as the total held by 150,000,000 Americans. Meantime, the American middle class is pinched and shrinking. And American children are going hungry. That's an outrage.

And the 400 want even more. They want to get it with further tax favoritism and more deregulation. Romney is their ticket to ride.

Only Obama stands in their way.

And you.    
Footnote: I've spent 50 years reading American history, written one book about it which is still in print decades later. and am currently working on a book which is in part about the 19th century Mormon attempt to take command of one-third of the Far West.

Friday, January 13, 2012

What If Bain Capital Had Taken Over GM?

Whatever Romney did at Bain Capitial, he does not have the outlook or brains to be president of the United States. No more than did President Carter, who campaigned in 1976 as a "businessman" peanut farmer and then mismanaged the economic crisis he had inherited from Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. In fact, next to Obama's record on jobs, any actual jobs Romney created through Bain Capital are just peanuts compared to what Obama did by saving General Motors.

The stark truth is that President Obama saved an ENTIRE INDUSTRY. Not just any industry either. He saved our BIGGEST manufacturing segment. And since he helped the auto industry, it has done spectacularly well. This past week GM announced a 13% gain in 2011 over the prior year. This puts GM back on top as the world's number one auto company and includes over 2 million autos it SOLD in China! Indeed, all the US auto companies had a damn good year in 2011. They are doing better now than they did for decades before the government stepped in. And, contrary to all the GOP screaming about "socialist takeover", the US government did not proceed to take over other companies. Obama recognized that this one thing had to be done and did it. It took guts. Every bit as much as okaying the Seals' attack on Bin Laden.

Once again, however,  Obama doesn't get the credit he deserves. Where's the front page stories about GM's great 2011?

At stake in the auto industry bailout were millions of jobs, far more than the 100,000 "net" jobs Romney claims he created but for which he has no proof. Beyond the auto plant jobs Obama saved were those of the suppliers, the shippers, the ad agencies, the salespeople. Plus all the stores and service people who relied on the spending of those who worked in the auto industry. It is generally held that the multiply factor of one paycheck is ten as the money circulates through the economy.

Keep in mind that Romney OPPOSED the feds helping the auto industry.

He believed it should be allowed to go under because, in his view as a businessman, that was the appropriate business move. Even though his father made a fortune in the auto industry, which is presumably Mitt's money now, Romney couldn't see saving GM as necessary to the US economy rather than a simple business decision.

There's more than irony here. His shortsightedness on this issue is deeply troubling. More than almost anything else it bespeaks a disastrous presidency for the economy should he be elected, for which we shall all pay the price.  

If he had been president in 2009, with his "businessman" thinking, he would have taken us right over the cliff into the Second Great Depression. It would have actually been worse than the one in the 1930s. At least back then GM managed to stay in business. In fact, my dad bought a new 1936 Chevy. Sixteen years later it became my first car, but it's not sentiment for Betsy (all good old Chevies were called Betsy) that makes me hostile to Romney for wanting to kill GM. Romney terrifies me on financial grounds.

Romney has all the wrong ideas about the economy, beginning with his basic assertion that his business experience as a takeover-cure-or-kill manager is relevant to the presidency. The United States government isn't some wobbly business ripe for a takeover.  It isn't a business at all. The purpose of business is to make money. There's a place for that in our society most certainly. The purposes of government are, however, far different. Not to understand that difference is to be, prima facie, disqualified to be president.

I support capitalism and the free enterprise system. They are fundamental to the success of the American story. But our government has been a major part of that success too. It's so obvious that it shouldn't need saying. And the two  -  government and business  -  are, I repeat, different. I've been in both at pretty high levels. Business is about making money. Government is for promoting the general welfare, and sometimes that involves taking a role in business, as in saving the auto industry. But running a business and running a government require different skills, different goals, different principles, and often very different decisions.

Obama understood that in 2009 when he made a governmental decision to save GM. Romney didn't and still doesn't.

Please also keep in mind that the last president we had who was a businessman (Carter wasn't really) was none other than Herbert Hoover.

And we all know how that worked out, don't we?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Newt Gingrich Wrote This For Me

One of my readers suggested a week ago that I write about Mitt Romney and his career with Bain Capital in which he and his cohorts sucked millions out of companies, left them to bankruptcy, and ruined the lives of the employees who lost jobs, health care, and pensions. I was diligently adding to my data on this when Newt Gingrich popped up and said, "Don't worry, kiddo. I'll do it for you."

And he sure is! No matter how Newt or Mitt finish tonight in New Hampshire, Newt has handed Mitt's head to the Democrats on a silver platter. All that he has said about Mitt destroying companies is on tape, as are the similar jabs from Mitt's fellow REPUBLICAN contenders! And apparently Newt is just getting started. He is so angry at how Mitt attacked him in Iowa with millions in ads about his past that he now intends do to the same to Mitt in South Carolina. To add to the joy, the $5 million check Newt just got for this purpose comes from a "casino mogul" in Las Vegas.

You can't make this stuff up. Only in America!

So lean back and laugh tonight as a lot of chickens come home to roost. No matter what the rest of 2012 brings, we'll always have this spectacle of Newt chasing Mitt around the chicken yard with a hatchet, leaving Mitt possibly decapitated to face Obama in the general election.

Oops! Mustn't count our decapitated chickens before they're dispatched! Now go get him, Newt!

P.S. Tiffany's reported today that their recent sales volume fell below expectations. Guess Newt's been too busy chopping to go shopping.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Democrats Win Iowa GOP Caucuses! Romney Heads For Monty Python!

The Democrats won big in the Iowa GOP contest, far bigger than Romney with his pitiful 8 vote margin. They won because the result not only shows the deep split in the GOP but because it trumpets how weak a candidate Mitt Romney is.

Mitt Romney and his super-pac spent over $10 million in Iowa, and what did he get? Six less votes than he got in 2008! Six votes LESS!

With a failure like that, Romney might just as well have stayed home and mailed in his campaign. His pathetic showing in Iowa is topped only by Rudy Guiliani's spending $40 million in Florida's primary in 2008 and getting one delegate.

The only pickup for Romney in Iowa is challenger Rick Santorum, who might give him real trouble in South Carolina's fast-approaching primary. If Santorum lasts long enough. With GOP candidates rising and falling every few minutes, will Santorum last? If he can make it to South Carolina, perhaps the evangelical churches can provide the campaign organization he presently lacks. But what happens to him in Florida and the other states after that? Are there mega churches everywhere waiting to volunteer for Santorum? And will Romney unleash his well-financed attack dogs on the sweater-vested, 1930s-looking college boy Santorum, who makes people weep with stories of his dead child. (I lost a son, and I would NEVER publicly exploit that boy's death the way Santorum does the death of his baby. Whatever happened to dignity and respect for one's dead?)

Santorum aside (and that's where he belongs), one things is certainly clear.

Voters don't like Romney. They just don't like him.

Even his own party members don't like him. Four years ago, 75% of Iowa's GOP voters rejected him. After four more years of his campaign in Iowa, 75% of his fellow GOP still don't like him. Six voters in Iowa liked him even less this time around..

Sure. the talking heads will tell you it's because the real hard-core, far-right conservatives don't trust his political flip-flopping. But it's more than that.

He's a jerk.

How much of a jerk? Let me count the ways:

1. He's the kid on the playground who stands on the sidelines and begs and pleads to be let in on the game. His whole being is pleading: stance and face and voice and gestures. "Come on, you guys! It's MY ball! How come I can't play?" You remember that kid? In my second grade class it was a kid named Norman, who was so clean and wore a jacket with a velvet collar. We couldn't stand him! Americans don't want would-be "leaders" who PLEAD with us, for gosh sakes! Romney couldn't lead a dog on a leash. "Come on, doggie. PLEASE!" (Again, whatever happened to dignity?)

2. He's a twit. Remember the Monty Python "Twit Contest"? Oh, yeah! He could take first place in that contest easily.

3. He's so patently insincere. He's trying sooo hard to look like a regular guy that he's now wearing jeans. Wearing jeans? Really? Has no one in his entourage the guts to tell him that men of a certain age and heft through the middle should not wear jeans? Not ever. It's as off-putting as little Norman's velvet collar. Moreso. Because Norman wasn't trying to pretend he was something other than what he was: a rich spoiled brat and a snitch.

4. Romney is Howdy Doody. You're too young to remember Howdy Doody, lucky you. He was a TV puppet in the '50s who swayed from side to side, bent from the waist, and held his lower arms out just like Romney, all the while grinning a barfy big grin painted on his face just like Romney's fake smile. His mouth was exactly the same shape as Romney's! He had big freckles painted on his face, one for each state in the union. That is sooo Mitt Romney, who recited "America the Beautiful" on his last days in Iowa in lieu of saying anything that was relevant.

5. Romney is selling. He's the guy at the front door with his foot in the door. He isn't even as dignified as a used car salesman. He's selling used shoes. Try turning off the sound on your TV and just watch him. Makes you want to slam the door on his damn foot.

6. He's telling us it's nighttime in America. Not Reagan's "Morning in America". Not Kennedy's "New Frontier". He's doom and gloom. Who needs that? The apocalypse-enamored far-right already have their gleeful doom-sayers such as the two Ricks and Newt, avidly telling us how we are plunging into "decay", moral and otherwise. It's a crock, of course, but evangelicals like being terrified by their preachers and politicians. The rest of us just want to get on with the job. We're a hopeful people. If we were to ever select a National Chicken (and why not?), it would be The Little Red Hen, not Chicken Little. (Oh, hell, we can't even agree on a national flower, let alone a National Chicken! But that's another story.)

There's plenty more about Romney that's repulsive, including his politics, but that's enough for now. Since he's likely to be the GOP nominee, there will be lots of time to recite his repulsiveness in the months to come.

"Oh, no," someone says. "That's not fair! We shouldn't judge a book by its cover. What does it matter how a candidate looks or gestures?"

Plenty, kiddo. Americans are who they are. Absent a king or a queen or George Washington, they have to feel okay about their president. And Romney makes their collective gorge rise. Think about it:  Would the guys at Valley Forge have stuck it out through that winter for Romney like they did for George Washington?

If you answer "yes", I have a bridge I'd like to sell you. But first, let me get Romney's foot out of your door.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Why the Big Guys Stayed Out of the GOP Primaries

The Iowa caucuses are almost history. Thank heaven!

No matter which candidate wins or even survives to go on, a lot of Republicans will be disappointed.

How the Republicans have longed for a real candidate for president. Not just any candidate  -  they've had plenty of second, third and fourth-rate wanabes. But nobody they dreamed of as "really good", such as Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Mitch Daniels, or Paul Ryan. Ann Coulter said months ago that the GOP had to nominate Chris Christie to win: "Nominate Mitt Romney and we will lose."

So why aren't the big guys in the game? One simple reason: they doubt that 2012 is their year. They don't want to waste a bid for the presidency by going against Obama. Much better, in their calculations, to wait for an open shot in 2016. Traditionally, beating an incumbent president is very hard. Clinton beat George Bush the elder because Bush was a lousy candidate. Obama is certainly not a lousy candidate. Indeed, he is superb.

But what about the economy, you say. Doesn't the economy doom Obama? Well, the economy's seemingly getting better. It doesn't have to actually be better by next summer; it just has to be clearly headed in that direction. The GOP big guys weren't willing to bet against the economy in advance in order to have a shot at the presidency. These are careful men.

Their caution also spared them the humiliating experience of sharing the debate stage with some of the wackiest people on the planet. As it is, the GOP brand has been brought very low by the likes of Michele Bachman, Herman Cain, Donald Trump, Ron Paul, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich. Standing next to this bunch for debate after debate is not where a serious candidate wants to be. Please note that it has done Mitt Romney no good. With such a gang of crazies, no one can shine who carries their party label.

Another compelling reason for the big guys to stay out is that their party is in shambles. Back in the days of Nixon and his Southern Strategy, the GOP made a deal with the devil. And as the old saying goes, "When you sup with the devil, use a long spoon." First embracing the white racist reaction of the South to civil rights in '68, the GOP then proceeded to embrace the evangelical right, beginning in the '70s and cresting in George W. From these elements came the Tea Party. And the Tea Party is now destroying the GOP.

If any of the big guys was thinking in 2010 of running in 2012, the Congressional election in 2010 was certainly a red flag. Sure, the GOP won big, but the way it won was alarming for the GOP. It was a victory of extremists. Most of the House seats that went Republican went to Tea Party candidates. The governorships that went Republican in Ohio and Wisconsin, two key swing states, went to extremists who have almost been run out of office.

This has been bad news for the GOP, making a GOP run for the president very difficult. The Tea Party House has played right into Obama's hands, clearly establishing the GOP as the party of a reckless"no" at a time when the economy desperately needs federal action. For his part, Obama has clearly established himself as a reasonable man. Independent voters like reasonable leaders, even if some of Obama's party members were "disappointed" that he couldn't do what he couldn't do. Then  -  at just the right moment  -  Obama began his crusade to save the middle class.

How do you run against that? How do you run for president as a Republican when your Congressional wing wants to increase taxes on the middle class while giving ever more tax breaks to the 1%? How do you run with Eric Cantor grinning right next to you?

Could the GOP big guys foresee all this back in 2010 when they might have been mulling a race for the presidency? You betcha! Reading political tea leaves (no pun intended) is what makes these guys into political big guys. They could see the outline if not the details.

So ignore the pundits who have been saying for three years that Obama is a one-term president. The GOP guys who didn't run think otherwise. They have seen him all along as a very, very formidable candidate for re-election. And they are the ones who know best.

And he is a formidable candidate as we start 2012.

Provided you are there this year to make it happen.