Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santorum

Today in Michigan, Santorum may knock Romney on his backside. The latest polls show a neck-and-neck contest. If true, that's nice for the Democrats because the more these two beat each other up, the better for Obama.

But Santorum has given the Democrats a whole lot more than merely mussing up Romney's hair. Santaorum's angry and bitter rants about sexual practices, colleges destroying students' faith, and lots of other far-out stuff have tarnished the entire GOP brand. Even Jeb Bush wistfully said the other day, "I used to be a conservative...." (Now THERE'S a man who hopes to run for president someday but certainly not this year when Santorum and Gingrich have made being a Republican the equivalent of being loco in the coco.)

Reinforcing the damage Santorum has done, along comes the Virginia Republican state legislature with a  shockingly invasive law regarding women's inner space. This is not nice legislation, guys. But its timing was perfect. No one can assume now that the GOP craziness is confined to Santorum. Here's a Republican state legislature ready to go beyond the beyond in government interference with health care, trampling on women's rights in the most invasive way imaginable. And if this weren't enough, the GOP House has introduced legislation allowing any employer to opt out of contraceptive coverage OR ANY OTHER SPECIFIC of health insurance coverage for whatever reason comes into his wee little head.

So guess what? Women independents, who had veered from the Democrats in 2010, are swarming back to Obama. This is the key voting block in the most crucial voting sector. Due to this switch, plus the rising unfavorable view of Romney among independents, Obama is now leading Romney almost two to one among independents and, because of that, he is leading in the 12 swing states. Hurrah!

Thank you, Virginia! Thank you, Santa! I mean Santorum. Thank you, GOP House! Thank you! Thank you!

It's way too soon to crow, of course, about what this seems to be doing to GOP prospects in November. A lot of things could go wrong in the next eight months. Lots.

But it looks like we can count on two things. First, as long as Rick and Newt each have a billionaire friend, they will stay in the race and continue to make the GOP look really bad. Second, Romney will keep messing up. He doesn't seem to learn. He's been running for the presidency since 2007, and in five years he hasn't learned how to be a candidate. His feet are in his mouth so often that he has stopped wearing shoes. We can count on Mitt to keep counting his Cadillacs, measuring the height of trees and boasting of his rich friends who own NASCAR teams.

Will Santorum run out of outrageous ideas? Never! His most recent idiocy is  -  Catholic though he be  -  attacking JFK because the latter vowed in his 1960 presidential race to uphold separation of church and state.  Santorum said that when he heard about this, he wanted "to throw up."

Well, Ricky, I've got news for you. People don't like your incipient vomit being associated with their martyred and beloved JFK. Your unseemly statement makes them want to throw up on you AND your party. The vast majority of Americans over fifty remember with deep affection the radiant, dignified young president who spoke to the best in us and who saved us from nuclear war in the Cuban missile crisis by keeping a cool head. Back off, Santorum!

And how stupid of Santorum politically to attack the hero of his fellow Catholics! JFK's election ended the very real second-class citizenship of Catholics. They adore him for that! And he did it by pledging separation of church and state in order to counter the crazies of his era who claimed the Pope was offshore in a ship, waiting to land on inauguration day and take over the USA.

So how are your fellow Catholics going to react to your attack, Santorum, on THEIR president?

Are there any groups left for Romney, Santorum and Gingrich to alienate?

Don't worry. They will find some.

Now let's see what happens in Michigan today!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sex, Soup, Religion, Politics

A century ago it was declasse to discuss sex, religion or politics at a dinner party. George Bernard Shaw petulantly pointed out that those were the only topics worth talking about, but he was voted down.

Now we are engaged in a great election year, and suddenly we are all talking about the politics of sex and religion to the point of yawning in each others' faces or falling asleep in the soup. Most of us  -   excluding the evangelicals and the minority of Catholics so far right they might as well join an evangelical church  -   are bored to death with a discussion that has staggered along for half a century. By now even George Bernard Shaw would want to talk about something else.

There's nothing to debate any more, folks. It's over. The far right has lost the argument about government intrusion into the "most private" of our conduct, as a Supreme Court Justice has labeled sex and its outcomes.

And  -  listen up, far right evangelicals!  -  if you get a conservative GOP president, it won't make one bit of difference! A GOP president can't and won't change the law on this issue.

Sex and pregnancy, says the Supreme Court, are private matters. And it keeps on saying this. An admittedly liberal court said it in Griswold v. Connecticutt in 1965 when striking down a law prohibiting contraception. In 1973 two of Nixon's three appointees to the Court  were with the majority in Roe v. Wade. By 2003, in Lawrence v. Texas, the Court had become even more conservative in makeup due to Reagan's appointments but nevertheless ruled against the Texas law banning homosexual conduct. Through the years, the Court has had frequent opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade and the concept of the right to privacy .

It ain't gonna do it.

I won't bother you with the legal reasons. Nor the sociological ones. But let's just admit that the Court is a political animal and that GOP Chief Justice Roberts is not the stuff of which martyrs are made.  Obama put him on notice in a State of the Union address after the Citizens United decision that the Court can be the focus of some very hot political attack. Not since FDR attacked the Court's obstructionist "Nine Old Men" has the Court been openly challenged by the co-equal President.

Most of all, the overturning of Roe v. Wade, etc. does NOT fit with the GOP agenda. And Roberts and his GOP cohorts on the bench know that.

The GOP has NEVER made a sincere and determined effort inside or outside the Court to overturn Roe v. Wade and the right to privacy. And it NEVER will.

Roe v. Wade has been lifeblood to the GOP for almost forty years. The GOP has used it to corral hordes of very sincere right-to-life folks who would otherwise be Democrats. Promising an "overturn" of Roe  -  which it can't do short of Constitutional amendment  -  the GOP has baited and switched on this issue for  a generation. Three Republican presidents have had a collective FIVE presidential terms to name Supreme Court Justices. They did NOT choose nominees whom they knew would overturn Roe and the right to privacy. They could have, but they didn't. These presidents and their nominees made a big show of assuring the public they had never even discussed Roe v. Wade and how the nominee might vote. Oh, yeah, sure. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

Why would the GOP give up its best card? As long as the GOP can fulminate against Roe and the right to privacy, it can continue to corral the sincere but politically deceived evangelicals and some Catholics. Setting aside the merits of the Roe issue, one can only pity the blindness of the evangelicals in still trusting the GOP to do something it has failed to do for almost half a century. We can all respect the religious faith of these blind people, but their unwarranted faith in the GOP is ridiculous.

It's worse than ridiculous. It's tragic. By still trusting the unfaithful GOP, these voters are voting against their own self-interest on everything else. Most of these blinded folks are lower middle class, suffering mightily in the Recession, earning less real income year by year, devoid of good education, and facing even worse prospects for their children. The Democrats would help them on these issues; the GOP is their enemy on these issues.

So that's why sex and religion are now a hot topic in politics even when, as far as most Americans are concerned, the issues are settled. As soon as the economic numbers started to improve and Obama's favorability started to go up, Santorum grabbed the GOP's traditional distracting issues: the so-called "social issues".  It was very clever, not only because it stirred the constituency that harkens to this stuff, but because Romney can't fight him on these grounds. Romney certainly can't go further right on these issues than Santorum because there is no place further right than Santorum.

The far right evangelicals will never learn. Some of their preachers have, however, and decided a few years ago that maybe the true mission of their brand of Christianity is not to be a voting machine for the GOP. They even suggested that maybe their flocks should focus for a change on helping the poor or being good stewards of the environment. This radical idea seems to have fallen on deaf ears now that Santorum has blown the battered old trumpet.

But let me ask a question: IF the preachers and their flocks REALLY care so much about Roe v. Wade and the right of privacy, why haven't they spent the last 45 years getting a Constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's rulings?

They certainly know how to organize the troops and bring pressure. So why haven't they done it?

Because once the evangelicals are removed from the fray of national ELECTIVE politics and focused on securing a Constitutional amendment, the limelight for their now-famous leaders shrinks enormously. Constitutional amendments require muscle at the state level, not the national. Does anyone remember the gals who patiently worked the halls of state legislatures to get the amendment approved giving women the right to vote? Where there any enormous salaries and expense accounts for these women warriors as there are now for the evangelical leadership? No and no.

Call me cynical, but after almost half a century of the GOP and the evangelical leaders NOT doing the obvious thing, one has to wonder.

But don't mistake me. If a Romney or Santorum gets elected, there could be Court appointments that would result in the overturn of Roe v. Wade and the end of right to privacy. It could happen. Things are the same for half a century; then they change.

So let's not take any chances. Two seats on the Court, and maybe even three, could come open in the next four years. We can't take the chance of having a more conservative Court. Beyond the right of privacy are other hugely important issues that could come before the Court on the environment, rights of the accused, civil rights, and on and on. We have to work hard to be sure Obama is re-elected. If we doze through this campaign, figuring the GOP candidate is a born loser, we may end up drowning in that soup we fell asleep in at the dinner table.

And George Bernard Shaw would be so pissed!


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Romney in the Clown Car on Presidents Day

It looked like all the fun was going out of the GOP primary season with the departure of Herman Cain, Rick Perry and Michele Bachman. But not to worry! Romney to the rescue!

The jerk has decided to join the clown club. Or maybe he's just lost his mind? Or has no mind at all?

He's decided that it's important in this election year to tell us the "right height" for trees. He hasn't specified feet and inches, but he's found examples of exactly the right tree height. All we have to do is go to Michigan and see the trees there and we will know what the right height is for trees. (If we take our dogs along, strapped to the roof of the car, they too can benefit from the trees in Michigan.)

This tree information from Romney is meant to reassure Michigan voters that, this month only, Michigan is his true "home" just like New Hampshire was until its primary was over.  Not only are the trees in Michigan "just the right height", but the lakes are just right too. "The Great Lakes, of course. I love the lakes. And, and, and, and  [he sputters a lot, have you noticed?] there's all those little lakes, too, dotted around." Michigan overall is "just right" too, Romney happily assures us.

And then he laughs by SAYING the words "Ha Ha Ha". With a little pause between each "ha'.

This is the man who wants to be our president. Should he win, he will be in our living rooms for at least four years. That is as bad a result as the economic calamity his 19th century economic policies will bring us.

I can't face this.

George W. Bush was an idiot, but you could mute the TV and pretend he was a silent rendition of Alfred E. "What Me Worry" Neuman from the cover of Mad Magazine, to whom he bears a striking resemblance.

Merely muting Mitt doesn't work. You can still SEE he's SAYING "Ha. Ha. Ha."

It's Presidents Day weekend. I'll bet Washington and Lincoln never SAID "Ha. Ha. Ha." Can't we have a president we can respect? One that we can watch or listen to without contemplating a move to Australia?

Romney thinks voters will like him because he once wrote "Help" on a bridegroom's shoe in "Shocking Pink" nail polish. I will not repeat the entirety of this lame anecdote. You can watch Mitt telling it himself on some news clip while you give your cat a bath.

The man is feeble in his brain. He's gone beyond awkward jerk to demented. Chris Matthews thinks he's from another planet, but that's not fair to ET. ET knew how to stay on message: "Phone home". Romney doesn't even know where "home" is, veering away from message and across those lakes and into the trees (and those "crevasses" he loved in New Hampshire).

Listen to me, Mitt. Even though Michigan fondly calls its lower peninsula "The Mitten", your home is Wall Street, and your mucking around with a 1950s shade of nail polish and the height of trees is not going to change that. You are poster boy for the 1%.

And we don't want you talking to the Chinese or the Iranians on our behalf because you don't know how to talk. You have the mind of the 18-year-olds boys I knew at a Baptist College I weirdly attended for a brief time before going to Berkeley. Those guys thought stepping on each others' white buck shoes was hilariously daring and fun. So take your white buck shoes, Mitt, and your white a la '50s belt and take a walk.

As for the rest of you, PLEASE, have pity on this grandma! I can't spend my golden years looking at this demented, shallow, ignorant clown as our president. And I'm too old to move to Australia.

Don't let Romney win in November. Work hard for Obama. Please, oh please!

And lock up the nail polish!

P.S. Welcme to the new readers this month from India, Mexico, China, Moldova, Lithuania, Indonesia, and Hong Kong. And thanks to those from the other countries who have been reading along since last August. Good health to you all!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

No Dancing in the End Zone!

Hold on ! It's not time to celebrate a likely Obama victory this year!

Things could still go very wrong. Like with the economy:
... Rising gas prices are draining money from consumer spending. Not good.
... Banks may decide not to lend to expanding businesses.
... Greece may not get the deal it is always "about" to get, goes bankrupt, and pulls down Europe.
... Europe may go down anyway because of its economically stupid austerity policies, and we thus lose 20% of our overseas market.
... For whatever reason, unemployment goes up.

Or a lot of people who should vote in November just don't bother.

Democrats are not the greatest voters by a long shot. Republicans will crawl to the polls on two broken legs to vote. Democrats have to be driven with a whip. Or lured with cupcakes. (I not-so-fondly remember carrying an old lady to my car so she could vote, but I dropped her.)

If Obama's chances begin to look fairly good, it's likely a lot of Democratic voters will just yawn and stay home on election day.

So, Houston, we have a problem. If things get bad, Obama loses. If things get good, Obama loses. But it doesn't really have to be this way.

It's actually up to you.

Don't dance away into the end zone now or before November. Become involved. Work hard to get this eminently decent and intelligent man re-elected. No matter how rosy (or gray) the picture may look now or at any point, it's a long way until November. Remember that the Great Recession didn't crash down on us until September of 2008. So anything can happen at any time. And if nothing bad happens, remember that a lot of your friends and neighbors will doze off and not get to the polls unless you get them there.

Either way, Obama will lose without you.

For all the talk about big money in politics and the terrible influence of the super pacs, the most potent force in elective politics is still the precinct worker at the door.

That's you.

And I'll be explaining in the near future why you are so powerful. But remember that this is not a game with a 100-yard pass. It's a long slog of a ground game, and the end zone is a long way off.

"And, darlin', save the last dance for me."

Friday, February 17, 2012

You Can't Attack the Gingerbread Boy!

Mitt Romney has a big problem entirely of his own making. He can't use attack ads to slaughter Rick Santorum in Michigan, where Ricky is reportedly leading him in the GOP primary, without doing himself a lot of harm.

Because people apparently like Ricky. Well, a lot of GOP voters do. Having lived in Pennsylvania while Ricky was a U.S. Senator, I don't like him one bit, even setting aside his 19th century politics. Who can forget his intrusion into the Terri Schiavo situation seven years ago, where he tried to make political hay out of a brain-dead woman and her suffering family? Take it from one who has had to face an end-of-life quandry, the last thing you want is a United States Senator bouncing into the scene. Yet Rick Santorum is now fulminating about federal intrusion into health care decisions. Hypocrite bar none!

But those sleeveless sweaters protect him from Mitt Romney. He's so boyish and naive-looking that he's just a cute little ol' Gingerbread Boy for the GOP folks. And his grandfather had such big hands from digging for all that "freedom"! (Grandpa, always called "Pap" in Pennsylvania, was too stupid apparently to join the miners union.)

If Romney attacks sweet, boyish little Ricky as he attacked Gingrich, Romney will look like a monster. If he hadn't gone after Gingrich with such massive overkill in Florida, he'd have some margin now for destroying Ricky. Perhaps there's a penalty to having great gobs of campaign money, i.e. the temptation to overkill and look ugly.

So what's Romney to do? How can he recapture the lead in Michigan, one of his designated "home" states, where a loss would be really, really bad?

Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.  And I haven't the slightest idea.

I used to counsel candidates about political moves, but, baby, this one is a wowser. I guess my advice would be:  don't get in the situation in the first place. From Day One of the 2011 primary season, Romney should have spent every cent he could in Michigan on building the greatest on-the-ground campaign effort that the world has ever seen.

Because you always secure your base first.

There should have been Romney precinct workers in every Michigan precinct throughout 2011 and right up until now. He needed to make sure that he looked like "The One" to the Michigan folks from Day One so that Santorum, or any emerging challenger in Michigan, would seem like an intruder into a long-standing relationship. Only precinct workers can build that kind of bond for a candidate. Michigan should have felt courted and beloved by Romney as his own beloved base.

Because if Michigan is not Romney's base, what the hell is? He was born there, his father was governor there, and his family made its fortune in the state's signature industry. Further, since it's in the northern Midwest, there was even a possibility that the state's GOP voters are not as infected with the zany extremism that's radiating out of the South. If there was a GOP base anywhere for Romney, it had to be Michigan.

But because today's GOP are all hard-line ideologues, Romney pissed all over his chances in Michigan.

He should never have said he opposed the auto industry bailout in a state where the whole economy depends on autos. He thereby chose to court suicide. Yet he couldn't resist it because of today's GOP rigidity in sticking to its slogan-type ideology. When it comes to economics, the GOP cheerfully ignores reality and chooses to believe only its own you-know-what. It would be funny except that periodically they get the rest of the country to go along with the baloney, and then they crash the economy and take the rest of us down with them.

I'm almost 76 and I'm tired of GOP recessions. Other than Carter's (which he inherited from Nixon), every downturn of the economy in my life has been engineered by the GOP. So has every big deficit. So has every step toward the impoverishment of the middle class.

Why doesn't the American public ever learn?

For 44 years American politics has been warped by the 3 Rs of racism, "religion", and Republican ruthlessness. (That's actually 4 Rs.) Apparently it's so much more fun to hate some "other" than to THINK. Nixon's Southern strategy introduced the race card. Reagan played it further and added hatred of the poor. George W was the wolf in sheep's clothing, adding self-righteous born-again-ism to the mix.

But this is going to change. The young people coming up are better educated than their predecessors. They are also getting whacked harder by Bush's Great Recession than are their elders. They turned out in great numbers for Obama in 2008. Will they in 2012? That is the question, but it's for another time.

Meantime, let's watch the GOP Greek tragedy (comedy?) in Michigan.

And enjoy!  

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Romney Gets Even Worse and Here's Why

The worst political campaigner in 75 years just got a whole lot worse!

Granted that Romney can hardly distance himself entirely from the auto industry, given that it made his family rich. But does he have to rub voters' noses in how he would have let the whole industry go into bankruptcy, just like he did with companies acquired by Bain?

Mitt Romney now has an ad running in Michigan that shows three awful things. First, he's driving a car. Second, there's shots of a big "woodie" (a station wagon) pulling up to a house which seems to be his boyhood home. Third, there's auto show clips of the big old chrome-laden cars of the 1950s.

Mitt Romney apparently has a thing about ads showing him driving a car. He ran this sort of ad in New Hampshire for that state's primary. In each ad, the whole time he's driving, he's maundering on about the state being his "home". Each state. A TV talking head has noted that at this rate there will be five sets of ads declaring Mitt's love for his "home" state: Michigan, New Hampshire, California, Utah, and Massachusetts. So it's a little hard to credit Romney on the sincerity of his love for the old homesite. Which, of course, fits perfectly with his reputation for fickleness about political positions. 

But that's not the worst of the worst. The LAST thing Mitt Romney should want voters to associate with him is his driving a car. Sure, there's no dog shown strapped to the top of the car in these ads, but can we be sure the poor dog's not actually up there on the roof, just out of camera shot?

More important, ANY association between automobiles and Mitt Romney is bad political advertising. Didn't he watch the Super Bowl half-time? He's the guy who OPPOSED the Obama bailout that saved the auto industry, preserved a million jobs, and probably kept the US economy from the Second Great Depression. He's already in an indefensible position, given the soaring success of Obama's auto rescue. So why be portrayed driving a car and thus remind everybody that he opposed saving an industry dear to the hearts and economic health of the American people? He might as well be in an ad where he's kicking mothers downstairs and barfing at the sight of apple pie.

This takes me back to the question I posed in a recent blog:  Why in hell did Romney choose to run this year anyway? Of all the might-have-runs, he was the least-likely-to-succeed by any hard-nosed political assessment. All the political talking heads say he looked good on paper. No, he didn't.

The baggage he carries is heavier than Newt's. Newt's luggage is colorful stuff, but it's rather old. Mitt's is of the now. There's the Romneycare issue and his opposing the auto industry bailout. With these two burdens, even on paper Romney looked like a three-legged horse from the outset, not only among the GOP base he is unable to win over but in the general election against Obama.

Now his own ads underscore one of those two big problems.

But you ain't heard nothing yet!

There's the problem of that station wagon. Back in their day, station wagons were the vehicle of the rich. Maybe not the super rich (they drove Lincolns and sent the chauffeur for the kids). But the "rich" family in YOUR neighborhood, those snooty folks the rest of the working class neighborhood hated. The family that belonged to a country club! For voters of a certain age, Romney's ad reminds them that he grew up with a silver tea service in his mouth. So let's have an ad, Mitt, that reminds everybody that you are poster boy for the 1%! And always were.

And the shots of the old '50s cars, bless them? They emphasize how out-of-date a guy Mitt really is, how he has never moved beyond "Leave It To Beaver" America.  He is not only unhip and extremely uncool, he's antediluvian! He uses expression like "the Big House" for prison. No one has used that expression since James Cagney set fire to himself on that tower in the '30s film "White Heat".  And we have all noticed Mitt's fondness for such expletives as "Gosh" and "Golly". And his use of "crevase" to describe New Hampshire valleys as he drives in that ad? No one has used the word "crevase" on prime time since  Sir Edmund Hillary climbed Mt. Everest in the '50s. No New Hampshire resident has ever used the word.

Sixty years has passed Mitt by.

So has the last fifteen years.

With all the money in the world to hire a good staff, Romney hired the political team that served former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld. That was a dumb move!

Have you ever heard of Bill Weld? Likely not.

And that's the point. The man disappeared! Once a bright star of the GOP, Weld allowed himself to be sent to oblivion by crafty President Clinton. Seeing Weld as a future GOP threat to the Democratic party, Clinton offered Weld the ambassadorship to Mexico in 1997. Weld resigned his Massachusetts governorship and took the bait. I can remember saying to my husband, "What an idiot!"  Everybody in politics knows that ambassadorships exist so that presidents can send potential rivals off-stage forever, never to regain their spot. Just ask Jon Huntsman.

But Weld and his team didn't know this fundamental of politics? Oh, my. (As it turned out, Weld didn't even make it to Mexico but disappeared into Sen. Jesse Helms' grasp and never secured Senate approval.)

Let's hope Weld's old team continues to advise Mitt Romney about his ads and everything else, with the same non-astuteness they rendered unto Weld about taking the ambassador bait. From a Democrat's point of view, they're doing a hell of a job, Brownie!

P.S. Weld continued to be an odd duck. In 2007 he was one of Romney's early supporters for the GOP nomination. After McCain trounced Romney, Weld jumped ship entirely and endorsed Obama! Maybe Romney should now do likewise and jump from his own candidacy to support Obama? In the Weld-Romney playbook that fits right into their ongoing idiot grasp of politics!

Ain't we got fun!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Romney's Tax Returns, Mel Brooks, and Lawrence O'Donnell

So where's the rest of Romney's tax returns? Especially the ones for the Bain years?

I ask because there was a story going round briefly in the media that he and Bain bought companies on borrowed money, sold stock in them (this is the key part), then took the companies into bankruptcy and walked away with bulging pockets. This could have been sloppy reporting, of course. Bain might have been selling stock in Bain and not the purchased companies as was implied by the stories. The two are somewhat different in terms of risk to investors. So one wonders exactly what was going on.

If you sell stock to "sophisticated investors" as a private equity firm like Bain, the SEC doesn't pay much attention. The belief is that "sophisticated investors", such as those who buy into Bain, can take care of themselves, i.e. the very well-to-do are on their own. Nevertheless, if someone knowingly misrepresents what they're selling to anyone, sophisticated or otherwise, it can be fraud. All the requisite legal elements have to be present, of course, to constitute fraud, but one does not get off the hook for fraud just because the SEC was not exerting jurisdiction.

So what went on precisely in the Bain deals while Romney was part of the company? As far as I know, no one has expressly raised this issue of whether Bain solicited investments in the purchased companies that subsequently went under and, if so, how Bain had represented these companies to investors.

Of course, the statute of limitations on fraud has probably run on any dealings as old as these, if fraud there was. But prosecution is not at issue.

An election is.

Bain seems to have had a hard time holding on to its records from back then. It was asked some questions a while ago about Romney's role in the firm and replied that it didn't have the records any more.

That doesn't sound real great.

So maybe Romney's tax returns from then would show something. Like exactly which deals he made money on and how much. And what was the nature of the earnings. Were some of them fees for selling stock in companies Bain had acquired? Were some of them actual profits on such stock before Bain took the companies into bankruptcy? Was the stock that was sold in the companies, if any, taken from the companies' own stock or from that held in the companies by individuals at Bain? Perhaps all of this was subsumed into Bain's returns and won't show up on Romney's returns.

So how about a look at Bain's tax returns as well as Romney's?

That's not an outrageous idea. If a candidate for president is basing his claim to fame on his work for a company, hasn't he put that company on the block for scrutiny? After all, Romney claims that "corporations are people", so if people can be pressured to open their returns when they seek public office, why not the corporations that are would-be stepping stones to the White House?

I'm not beating a broken drum on this. This week the New York Times quietly noted that the SEC is no longer taking a hands-off approach toward private equity firms. It's been sending them letters asking questions in conjunction with what it terms an "aberrational performance inquiry".

I wouldn't like to get a letter like that, would you?

What the SEC is sniffing for, according to the Times, is misrepresentation of asset values when soliciting investments.

That's another way of saying what I've suggested above about Bain. In fact, the SEC may be taking an even broader view of these private investment firms. The "aberrational performance" could be that of the firms Bain purchased, i.e. they did worse than they were predicted to do by Bain when selling stock in them, if stock was sold. Or it could refer to Bain itself performing too well, i.e. raking in profits not predictable in light of the ACTUAL value of the assets it held. This last sounds weird, but think about it. If your company buys an old wrecked out Chrysler, let's say, and you persuade someone to invest in it by putting a high "value" on it as a potential classic car and then you sell it to a wrecking yard for virtually nothing, you can then declare the car deal a flop, i.e. the equivalent of a bankruptcy, and walk off with the investor's money.

This is, of course, a variant on the plot of Mel Brooks' classic "The Producers". (It's fun thinking of Mitt Romney prancing around like Zero Mostel, cardboard belt and all!)

As long as you declare a nice profit to the IRS on the transaction as manager of the deal and dutifully pay your income taxes, the IRS likely won't give a damn how you made the money because it's got its tax money. And the SEC would have been looking the other way, as we've noted because you're a private equity firm.

But maybe  -  just maybe  -  the SEC is now going to be looking for such "aberrational performances" on the way-too-high side, where the deal promoters inexplicitly did too well given the actual value of the underlying assets, while investors got nada. The profits and asset valuations reported to the IRS by Bain or Romney might show such a pattern, though it's doubtful the SEC will be looking back that far.

Therefore, let's urge our Democratic officeholders to start asking about Romney's tax returns for the Bain  years. And Bain's returns too. Even better, let's start asking the media.

Especially let's ask Lawrence O'Donnell. He's the handsome Irish guy on MSNBC who was once Chief of Staff of the Senate committee that writes tax law. He'll  know what we're talking about. And he's already suspicious about Romney's tax returns, wondering aloud on his "The Last Word" show how Romney reputedly transferred $100 million to his kids without any gift tax.

So do it!

E-mail O'Donnell and ask him to push these issues. Don't be like so many Democrats who choose to ignore business/financial issues. He who minds the cash register minds the store.

Let's find out if someone's hand has been in the till!

And watch the original "The Producers", with Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder. It's a great antidote for GOP yuckiness and our mutual dread that they will win this year.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Bishops v. Barack: Playing an Ace to Take a Deuce

We may all be a bit tired by now of the Catholic bishops' fight against Obama, but this contest holds out an extraordinary example of how NOT to engage in politics. I can't pass it by!

In the game of politics, as well as the game of life, it's a virtually fatal mistake to play an ace to take a deuce. It's also a dumb mistake (most of the time) to fail to declare a victory. And it's unforgivable to betray your supporters after they stuck out their necks for you.

In the present game of the Catholic bishops versus the White House, the Catholic bishops persist in making dumb moves. Let us acknowledge, for starters, that to them this is no game. They undoubtedly believe they are fighting for religious liberty and against the "sinfulness" of contraception. They therefore believe that their stakes in this fight are very high.

That's their first mistake.  In my last blog, I pointed out that there is NO issue of constitutional religious liberty in this fight. (I've taught law, and I've fought the religious liberty battle on behalf of Native Americans rather successfully, so I'm not just blowing smoke on this issue.)  Other writers are beginning to perceive this, e.g. the New York Times Sunday carried a column pointing out that Christian Science organizations routinely provide standard health insurance coverage to their employees even though a central doctrine of their faith opposes medical care as a failure of faith in God's healing power. This is a tiny example of the wide recognition in this country of our law and tradition that dates back to the Founding Fathers seizing Quakers' property when the latter, on religious grounds,  refused to pay a tax to finance the Revolutionary War. In effect, our country's birth involved the necessary recognition that, on some things of vital concern to the general welfare, religious convictions have to give way. This rule has been consistently upheld by our courts.

Thus, there is no legal nor traditional ground of "religious liberty" for the bishops to stand on. On this count, they are playing an ace not even to take a deuce. They are playing for a card that doesn't exist. And never has.

The second card they are playing for, i.e. fighting against contraceptive use, also isn't on the table. That play has already been made and is over. Their  Catholic flock removed the card long ago by ignoring church teaching and opting  -  almost 100%  -  for contraception. The bishops' present stance is not going to affect the behavior of Catholic women at all, not after approximately forty years of the Pill being available and used by Catholic women. And it's very hard to see how the bishops hope to convince these Catholic women to change their behavior by the bishops' denying contraceptive coverage to non-Catholic women employees.

So what is it the bishops hope to gain?

If you choose to enter the arena of politics (and so much of life IS politics of a sort), you have to recognize the rules.

The First Rule of Politics:  Don't go after a nothing! Not ever!

When you play an ace to take a deuce, or to gain nothing real, you lose all your credibility. You lose it with your opponents, and  -  even worse  -  you lose it with your supporters. And when you lose credibility, it's virtually impossible to get it back.

The game now is over, and the bishops could have declared victory after Obama announced that the insurance companies will have to pay for contraceptive coverage for employees of Catholic institutions.  He thus gave the bishops a face-saving victory while yet protecting what the White House and medical community believe is an important health care service for women.

But the bishops have broken yet another First Rule of Politics. (All the rules of politics are the First Rule.)

They are refusing to acknowledge their own victory! Instead, they are reportedly REJECTING their own victory and mumbling something about "sterilization".  WHAT?!

Sorry, bishops. You can't hold the attention of the American press or the public by meandering through a wish list of theological objections that may have some obscure relationship to a now-settled controversy.  You could have declared victory, walked away, and come back next time with some real stature to argue a point that people can grasp  -  like the church's opposition to capital punishment. Instead, you have chosen to look sulky and unreasonable. If you can't be satisfied when you get what you first announce you want, nobody will give you anything next time. That's how it works.

Even worse, the bishops have  -  knowingly or not  -  thrown in with John Boehner et al in the GOP cry that Obama's solution isn't enough and that only GOP legislation can save religious liberty. Why the Catholic bishops want to strengthen a GOP ploy is beyond knowing, given the GOP vow to cut programs for the poor and the sick whom the bishops have laudably cared for through all our history.

On top of imperiling its own wards who need care, the bishops have broken another First Rule of Politics:  Don't hang your buddies out to dry. Especially your buddies in the media.

When Mark Shields, Chris Matthews and other openly Catholic Democrats in the media went to bat for the bishops, they really, really stuck their necks out. So now the bishops are cutting their heads off by refusing to seem reasonable. Further, they make Matthews and Shields look stupid for having backed guys who seem determined, after a victory, to play the part of losers.

Next time the bishops need buddies in the media, do you think those buddies will be there?

If so, I have a blind camel I'd like to sell you.

P.S. Lawrence O'Donnell of MSNBC played it smart. Catholic Democrat though he be, O'Donnell didn't join Matthews and Shields in lining up immediately with the bishops but instead had  lawyer David Boies explain on camera why there's no religious liberty issue at stake in the contraceptive coverage fracas. You remember Boies from the fight over the Florida vote count in 2000 and his recent 9th Circuit victory against California's Prop 8 prohibition on same-sex marriage. On O'Donnell's show Boies relied on labor law to make his point. I choose to rely on law that is more directly about religious objection. So who's right? We both are. Mr. Boies is a famed advocate for big corporations and thus turns to labor law.  I worked pro bono for little bands of traditional Native Americans who live in the most remote corners of California  with virtually nothing of their own except their religion. So, David, different yokes for different folks! We come to the same conclusion by different roads, pal, so we must be right.  (I just wish you'd won the Florida vote count case!)



Saturday, February 11, 2012

Joan Baez and Three GOP Hypocrites

The GOP couldn't have three more hypocritical champions in the fight between the White House and the Catholic bishops over contraception insurance coverage. Romney, Gingrich and Santorum have each benefitted enormously from previous government "intrusion" into "freedom of religion".

Further, there is no freedom of religion constitutional issue in the current tempest.

Gingrich is the most obvious beneficiary of government "intrusion" into religious matters, chiefly the Catholic doctrine of the sanctity of marriage. In the mid-1970s the state of California pioneered no-fault divorce through a law carried to passage by my old friend John Vasconcellos, ironically a Catholic bachelor. Up until then the need to prove "fault" kept many marriages out of the divorce courts, thus buttressing the Catholic Church's prohibition against divorce. Once the barrier came down on the civil side, the unhappy marrieds flocked to divorce, including huge numbers of Catholics. The Catholic Church had to find a way to keep these people in the Church, especially if they remarried. It did so by liberalizing the grounds for annulment for the marriages that had ended in divorce, thus freeing the divorced Catholics to remarry within the Church. It's likely that Gingrich and Calista availed themselves of the new annulment standards in order to clear him of his prior marriages so he could marry her in the  Church. Without annulment, the Catholic Church considers any prior Christian marriage to be binding until death.

Rick Santorum has also benefitted from government "intrusion" into religious matters. Or he certainly could. If he and his wife get tired of home-schooling their kids, they can send them to public schools, confident that their Catholic children will not be actively proselytized by Protestant teachers and on-campus Protestant "Christian Crusades". Nor will they be made to feel outcast as the rest of their class recites the Our Father with wording different from the Catholic version. (These things were rough too on the Jewish kids and other non-Protestants.) All of these things went on in the public schools I attended in Illinois and in California so that Catholic neighbors of limited means had to scrape and skimp to send their kids to Catholic schools. Then the Supreme Court forbade religion in public schools. So how does Rick Santorum have the nerve to foment against federal "intrusion" into religion after Catholics received this enormous benefit from the Supreme Court decision?

Mitt Romney's story as a Mormon is equally important. In the late 1800s the federal government outlawed  polygamy, and the Mormon Church reluctantly "obeyed" but hedged its bets by ordering Mitt's ancestor and others to establish a polygamist Mormon colony in Mexico. You know the story. To be consistent now,  Romney would have to attack the federal law that prohibited polygamy and drove his family out of America. What greater intrusion on religious belief could there be than the banning of a fundamental Mormon practice? But he won't make this attack because it's pointless. It's not just politically stupid; it's baseless in law and in practicality for modern Mormons. Indeed, the Mormons would likely have no place in America society today had they continued polygamy because hatred of it historically enraged their fellow citizens to the point of murder and war. The federal law against polygamy probably saved the Mormons from near-extinction.

As an attorney and former law professor, I can assure you that there is NO absolute guarantee in the First Amendment of the right do do whatever you like in the name of religion. Quakers and Mennonites were jailed for refusing to serve in our wars. Parents have been jailed for failing to get medical care for their children because of their religious beliefs. Churches cannot be built in violation of city zoning laws. And because of this well-established principle of law, I had a tough job as an attorney arguing the religious rights of Native Americans to their spiritual sites on public lands.

In the 1990 Supreme Court case "Employment Division v. Smith", Justice Antonin Scalia, hardly a pro-government justice, noted the well-established principle that established religious belief doesn't outrank otherwise neutral law: "To permit otherwise would be to make the professed doctrine of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect permit every citizen to become a law unto himself."

What is at issue in the contraceptive insurance coverage matter is nothing near as compelling as the  issues of conscience involved in killing others in war, refusing medical help when one believes God should suffice for healing, or erecting a structure vital to the practice of religion. At issue in the present controversy is whether the Catholic Church should spend its money to buy insurance coverage for its employees in schools, hospitals and social services. The action at issue is the spending of one's money.

And so we turn to ol' Joan Baez.

In 1964 Joanie refused to pay the 60% of her federal income tax that she deemed was supporting the Vietnam War. Paying for war violated her conscience. At this time, some Catholic theologians were arguing that this was "an immoral war" and therefore sinful. But neither Joanie nor others who agreed with her had a leg to stand on. The IRS filed a lien on her home and collected her tax debt from the box office receipts at her concerts. Along with fines and interest. No court rushed to help her. In fact, I don't recall any attorneys stepping up to the plate on her behalf.

Why no help for Joanie? Because it's well-settled in American law that you can't use religious conviction as a reason for not paying what the law requires of everyone else. Freedom of religion does not extend that far.

And it never has. During the American Revolution, Quakers who refused to pay a tax for the war saw their property seized by the Founding Founders and the nascent American government.

So let's cut the baloney about "faith being crushed by the Obama administration", as Santorum so hysterically puts it. Hey, Santorum, try peddling your malarkey to George Washington, John Adams, and James Madison! Our Founding Fathers would think you were out of your mind!

And what kind of believers are Santorum, Gingrich, and Romney if they truly fear that our federal government can "crush faith"?

Religious faith doesn't live or die because of the Ten Commandments being displayed in a courthouse or a Nativity scene being in front of a city hall. True faith lives in the heart and mind, not in greeting cards that say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Hanukkah" instead of "Happy Holidays".

So shut up, Santorum, Gingrich, and Romney. Oh, ye, of little faith in faith. You should know, almost better than anyone, that from its very birth in the American Revolution this country has always required that we all, regardless of religious belief, pay our money just like everyone else as required by duly enacted law.

This is not war on religion. It's how we avoid chaos as a society.

Just ask Scalia.

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Political Hand of White House Bridge

President Obama can play basketball, but he's not a bowler, as was evident in 2008 when he rolled a gutter ball in Altoona PA in a silly attempt to look like a "regular guy", just like Hilary was tossing back shots of whiskey and talking about shooting sprees with her grandfather.

Sure, Obama can't be good at all the games. He's reputedly a good poker player and has become a very good chess player against the GOP Congress, but this week it's obvious the White House needs to learn bridge.

I'm referring to the entirely unnecessary brouhaha over the feds requiring Catholic institutions to provide employees health insurance coverage of contraception.

No sooner had Santorum roiled the political world by showing what a loser Romney is, trouncing him in a trifecta of caucus states, than the White House handed the media a substitute story to chew on that shifted attention from Romney's failure as a candidate. The "White House v. Christianity" became the new news, and the far right GOP leaped at this chance to motivate the far right voters to work their tails off in this election. "Obama is crushing faith," Santorum intoned on TV, eyes flaming and fist closing for all to see. Mitch McConnell and John Boehner promised contravening legislation. Romney summoned up some fake fury. And the large contingent of Irish Catholics among the TV talking heads, who normally are pretty liberal, joined the screaming about invasion of the constitutional protection of freedom of religion.

And it didn't have to happen.

The "sin" at issue here is not contraception. It's the failure of the White House to send one simple letter that could have turned the whole thing into a yawn.

Anyone who knows even a little bit about the game of bridge knows about "finessing a trick." The same thing can be done in striking a sale price in a deal or in enacting legislation or in getting an agreement about how Catholic hospitals and schools can provide contraception coverage to their employees.

How? It's simple. You co-opt the other guy.

If it's a question of bargaining on a price for something, you get the seller to make the first offer, thus avoiding offering more than you needed to as a buyer. You've also now engaged the other person in the process, got her gears rolling. In a subtle way, you have become partners in a process, each with a now-active role in making a deal. (If you're the seller, you get the buyer to make the first offer.)

The same thing works in writing legislation (which I used to do). If you anticipate opposition from someone, you invite the someone to sit in on the process. If they do, they can hardly complain publicly about the final product. Well, they can, but your answer is, "Hey, they were part of the process!" If they refuse to participate, you can counter their later opposition to the bill by pointing out that they had been expressly invited to be part of the process but had refused. They had had their chance.

So why didn't the White House do something similar with the Catholic bishops about contraception coverage?

It was so simple. BEFORE setting a foot out the door on this issue just quietly write the bishops a letter (and ALWAYS make such moves in writing), asking them to send their proposal IN WRITING for meeting the requirement. Mention up top in the letter that you're pleased to note the bishops have already reached accommodation with 28 states that require the church to provide the contraceptive coverage. And ask them which arrangement they prefer of these 28 in reaching an accommodation with the federal government. Hit hard on the Church's existing accommodation with the 28 states.

With this one letter, you have avoided all the tempest now churning over the issue. You have  planted yourself so firmly on the high ground that the bishops have nowhere to go with this issue. They can't say the feds are telling them what to do because you've ASKED them what THEY want to do. You have also put your best defense out there before the game begins, i.e  the Church has already reached accommodation with 28 states. From the outset, the bishops will look like idiots if they refuse to do unto the federal government as they have already done unto the states.

If the bishops are at all bright, they will see, from the moment they get your letter, that the game is over.

And if they still try to force the issue, the media will yawn instead of doing as it is now, i.e. gleefully stoking the fire. How can the media push a story with the headline: "Church Caves 28 Times But Balks at 29th".  There would have been little public outcry and far less fuel for the GOP candidates to rouse up their "social issues" voters.

Only belatedly is the information now coming out from the White House that the bishops are being two-faced in the current conflict, digging in against the fed requirement when they have already caved in 28 states.

The White House stupidly violated the First Rule of Politics:
                            The answer never catches up with the accusation.

Even if your response is prompt. In this case, unbelievably, it has taken the White House SIX days to tell the world that the bishops have already cut deals with the states. That  information should have been out last year, way AHEAD of the bishops taking charge of the issue.

How can the White House not know this?

All along, the Obama White House has managed public and press relations very badly and done a poor job of getting its side of the story out to the American people. Not just on this issue, but from the beginning, with the worst being the Affordable Care Act. It took MONTHS for the White House to deny the "death panels" spooked up by Sarah Palin. MONTHS! In its continuing inability to explain the new health care law, the White House plowed the field for the sprouting of the Tea Party. The same mishandling occurred regarding the bank and auto company bailouts.( In fact, I was blogging about the great success of GM weeks before the White House heralded it.)

Why this slow-as-molasses approach?

The White House had better get on the ball. It can't count on Mitt Romney continuing to bite off his own feet. He may stop doing dumb stunts like pretending a waitress pinched his butt. So the White House staff had better shape up. As for butts, it's way past time for there to be some butt-kicking around the White House.

It's very hard not to be angry at the staff that serves our good president so badly. We need to win this election, and their ineptitude could be snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

.......  So, how much do you want for that old bicycle you're selling? .....

P.S. There are no constitutional issues involved in the contraception coverage issue. More on that next time. Also starring Joan Baez.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Top GOP Hope: Romney (or Whoever) Loses in November

"If we don't run Chris Christie, Romney will be the nominee and we will lose." Thus spake Ann Coulter months ago.

This is actually what the top guys in the GOP are counting on, whether the eventual GOP nominee is Romney or one of the others currently in the field. (For the sake of convenience, let's assume it's Romney.) The GOP biggies could have made a run themselves for the GOP nomination but steadfastly didn't. Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels, Jeb Bush, and other GOP senators and governors were relentlessly beseeched to run last year by the GOP. Ann Coulter and the other beseechers were wasting their breath. Instead the might-have-run GOPers have their eyes on 2016.

If Romney loses in 2012, they will have a clear shot at the presidency in 2016 instead of facing an incumbent president this year who is one of the best campaigners of all time. In their self-centered calculations, it's better to have four more years of Obama than to wait eight years through a Romney presidency for a chance to run in 2020.

We know this is the way they are thinking because of the resounding silence that permeates the top tier of the GOP. Note, please, the total absence of a rush to endorse Romney. All along he has been the only semi-sane contender for the GOP nomination, and therefore the only sane endorsement for the top tier GOP to make. By this time in 2000, 88% of GOP governors and senators had endorsed a primary candidate. That figure is now 26%.

So where is the plethora of endorsements one might expect from the heavyweights among the GOP governors and senators?

They aren't forthcoming because these potential future nominees not only don't want Romney to win the presidency; they don't want to dirty their hands with him during his bid for the nomination. Why endorse a man who is an incredibly bad candidate, ineptly making himself the poster boy for the hated 1% while hopping around with one foot in his mouth? Why sully oneself by endorsing a man who is also deeply distrusted by the base of his own party? As yesterday's caucuses in Minnesota, Colorado, and Missouri clearly show, the GOP base likes Romney even less than they did four years ago.

Yes, there have been some endorsements. John McCain has no future in presidential politics, so he could go down to Florida to campaign for Romney (inadvertently upstaging him, which is easy to do with Romney). Chris Christie made an on-stage pitch for Romney a while back but likely because of a deal he seems to have made with Romney last year. Coyly flirting for a week or two with a run for the nomination and raising high hopes among the GOP, Christie then talked with Romney and afterwards announced he would not run. At least not for the presidential nomination. But I'll bet he made a deal to be Romney's pick for vice-president. The price? Don't seek the presidential nomination but instead endorse Romney. Christie has nothing to lose if he becomes Romney's vice-presidential pick. Should Romney lose, Christie becomes first in line for 2016. If Romney wins, Christie is first in line in 2020. Christie has put in one token appearance for Romney thus far. Don't hold your breath until the next one.

Because who in hell wants to actually hang out with Romney and campaign for him? Associating publicly with him is going to alienate the GOP base for any 2016 GOP primary candidates. Romney is so repulsive to the far-right that turnout for the Florida GOP primary and the Nevada caucuses fell dramatically this year as compared to 2008 even though the predictions were that the Obama-hating GOP base was fired up and would turn out in droves this primary season. (The increased turnout in Iowa was likely due to Santorum's year-long on-the-ground efforts, while that in South Carolina was likely attributable to Gingrich's fire-breathing demagoguery in the debates.) The GOP turnout in Missouri, Minnesota, and Colorado yesterday was dismal. Romney not only lost those caucuses; his candidacy has lost the GOP its energy.

On January 2, I posted a blog on why the biggies in the GOP had chosen to pass up a run for the nomination in 2012. One of the reasons I mentioned was that the economy might improve and Obama's numbers with it. That had been apparent all through 2011 behind the ups and downs of the monthly job reports, especially as the sales numbers came in on autos through the year. The GOP might-have-been candidates can read numbers as well as anyone, if not better. They also had plenty of chance to see Obama doing the right things about the debt ceiling debacle while the GOP House fell into the trap of looking like mindless villains, thus repelling independents. By September, Obama had closed the trap with his Kansas speech, making clear he would have a compelling platform to run on. He had used 2011 to convince the American public that he was the reasonable man in a roomful of reckless intransigents, and in Kansas he convinced them he is a fighter too.

Most important of all, Americans like Obama very much. Even those who disapprove of his performance still like the man, according to the polls. That was true in Reagan's first term. And we all know how that turned out when Reagan ran for re-election. The FIRST RULE in politics: American voters want a president they can LIKE!

And the top GOP guys know this. Thus they know that now is not their time.

Only a stubborn, self-deceived terrible candidate like Romney would care to run head-down at such a formidable wall. (The insane GOP contenders don't count, and they are all insane.)

So let him, the GOP biggies conclude. Let Romney bang his head against a wall. But they aren't going to the wall on his behalf. He's their Bob Dole of 2012, the guy none of them expects to win or wants to win. He's just a place-holder on the ticket until better days. When it's their turn, and when it makes sense.

Meantime they can sit back and see if the Tea Party and other crazies in the GOP run out of steam this year, or in the next four years, and drift off into the sunset. Tea Party type movements tend to do that. Without Obama to hate in 2016, the far-right may not be such a vociferous part of the GOP. This would give a somewhat moderate Republican a chance to run without going so far right in the primaries that he or she has no chance to make it back into the middle in the general election. In short, waiting for 2016 lets things settle down in the GOP. Or at least the potential future candidates can hope so.

So, run, Romney, run. May you enjoy the true loneliness of the long distance runner as your top GOP pals studiously ignore you.  And probably secretly snigger each time you stumble.

Their track event is in 2016.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Romney: Worst Politician in 75 Years Breaks His "Butt"

(This is a long blog because Romney is such a mess. Be patient: his "butt" fixation comes eventually.)

Why in the world did Mitt Romney ever think he should run for president?

In my 75 years, I've never seen any major contender as inept at politics as this strange man. It isn't just that he's a compulsive foot-in-mouth guy. He is without any political sense at all. He's ignoring every basic rule of elective politics.

RULE ONE:  Voters have to like you in order to vote for you.
            If you're unlikable, like Gingrich, you have to be a fire-breather. Or if you're unlikable as Nixon was, you have to represent a cause. Nixon was anti-communism in his earlier career and then (in code) anti-desegregation as the "New Nixon".  Romney is more unlikable than Gingrich and Nixon put together,  and he is absolutely not a fire-breather. Nor does he have a cause. He's got nothing. He's creepy. He's the guy everybody edges away from at a party. And he knows it! So he tries even harder. And that makes it worse.

RULE TWO: You have to like people.
            Just as with everybody else, voters will like you if you like them. Bill Clinton LOVES people. Obama LOVES that crowd and the folks on the rope line. Romney only pretends. People can tell.

RULE THREE: You have to fit your district.
            So why did Romney think that a political party with its heart and soul in Old Dixie would cotton to a Yankee from the most liberal state in New England? Yeah, the GOP may nominate him ever so reluctantly, faced as they are with really no one else to chose from, but how enthusiastic can those Southerners be about him when they still are resentful about the Civil War? I kid you not about this. Many Southerners still hate "those damn Yankees", and they ain't talking baseball! Added to this sectional resentment are the Massachusetts Romneycare and his prior pro-choice stand. He looks like the worst fit imaginable for the Southern/ evangelical/Tea Party-dominated GOP. Romney's win in Florida meant nothing because he lost the part of the state that is Southern in culture. The voters he won are transplants and snowbirds from the North. Florida is not the South. And while the South is reliably GOP, the segment of voters in such swing states as Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio who share the South's sensibilities are probably not going to break their backs to get Romney elected. They were George W's ticket to ride, but they likely won't be there for Romney in the fall to get out the vote. They may not even vote themselves.

RULE FOUR: You have to have a program, a reason voters should take you seriously. A message.
            What's Romney's message?  He seems to have no steady grasp on any sort of political agenda or convictions. In his disavowal last week of any concern for "the very poor", he managed to offend even his own party's conservatives (and who else is there in the GOP?) by saying he would "fix any holes in the safety net for the poor". This runs smack against the GOP vow to REDUCE such programs! It even runs against his own budget plan that would cut help to the poor even more than Paul Ryan's budget would. And it outraged his party: "No, Mitt, no! We're AGAINST these government programs!"  Doesn't he even know what his own party stands for, what his own budget plan is?  The guy is not just weird; he seems to have some marbles missing!

( A moment here please for the legendary Dick Tuck, the prankster of the Democratic party, who made a career out of harmless stunts to annoy Dick Nixon, like a line of obviously pregnant women to greet Nixon, each wearing a sign saying "Nixon's the One". As a lark, Tuck once ran for a state assembly seat in California with the slogan "The Job Needs Dick Tuck and Dick Tuck Needs the Job".  He did not win. Of course, he was just kidding around, but real candidates have to have a message.)

RULE FIVE: You can't buy an election.
           Yes, you need some money to run a campaign. Yes, you can destroy a Newt Gingrich with $16 million in Florida. But Gingrich was so destroyable that it was massive, ugly overkill on Romney's part. And the public noticed. They noticed the harshness and they noticed all that money being spent. Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina tried to buy seats for themselves in the 2010 election in California and flopped. People resent the wealthy buying themselves offices like new toys. New York's Mayor Bloomberg pulled it off last time out, but he already had a track record with voters. While Romney's superpac buried Gingrich in slime in Florida (deserved as it may have been), Romney's numbers sank in the national polls.

RULE SIX:  You can't lie.
            Well, you can, but you'll get caught. There are no secrets in this world. That was true long before  the Internet. If you are a candidate you are stuck with who you are and what you have been and what you have previously said. Romney apparently hoped to keep anybody from knowing that he is more than just a businessman but is, in fact, a very wealthy man. And one who knows which tax accountants know all the legal loopholes.  He also apparently thought no one would notice what his record was as a governor of Massachusetts or what his political positions have been in the past. Such assumptions are idiocy. There are no secrets.

RULE SEVEN: Timing is everything.
            If Romney had some political savvy, he'd have sat out this election like the more savvy GOP figures did. Why did he think that he, who did so poorly in the 2008 primaries against McCain, would do supremely better this year against super-candidate Obama? Yes, Obama has had serious problems with the economy, but economies can change, and it looks like this one is getting perkier. Meantime, Obama's "likeability"numbers have stayed strong. Being a businessman may have blinded Romney into seeing the economy, and only the economy, as the compelling reason a businessman should run.  After all,  didn't' James "I-know-everything" Carville famously say in 1992, "It's the economy, stupid!" But in 1992 George Bush, Sr. didn't have what Obama has:  a goodly majority of voters who LIKE Obama, even a number who have been critical of his performance. American voters want  -  MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE  -  to like their president.  People didn't like Bush, Sr. He was a weak-seeming president, a terrible campaigner, and a rather embarrassing and pathetic head of state. He threw up on the shoes of the Japanese Prime Minster. Bill Clinton probably could have beaten him even if the economy had been a whole lot better. (It actually wasn't all that bad by 1992.) And Ross Perot was in the race, taking votes from Bush, Sr. So this is definitely NOT 1992, and Obama is definitely NOT George, Senior. Obama is a hell of a campaigner, and people like him as a person. And that's why Chris Christie and Jeb Bush and the other GOP dream-candidates aren't running. The time to run, they concluded at the outset, is 2016.

RULE EIGHT: Have some dignity. No "butts" about it.
            The waitress-pinched-his-butt routine that Romney pulled last year was pathetic. And what is this fixation with butts? When his wife fell in Dubuque last year, he joked that "she fell on her butt in Dubuque". People don't want a president talking about butts. Most of all, they don't want a guy who pretends to be funny or pretends that his butt got pinched. It's a whole lot worse than Obama pretending he could roll a bowling ball.

RULE NINE: Don't fire the campaign staffer who put you on top.
           Romney says he likes to fire people. He must really mean it because last week he fired the guy who coached him so that he could beat out Gingrich in the Florida debates. Reputedly Romney was unhappy with some of the credit for his performance going to the staffer instead of to him. So he fired the guy who had saved his ass. Oops! I mean saved his butt.

RULE TEN: Just don't be Mitt Romney. Not if you want to run for president.