Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Bitten Hands of the GOP

Decades ago the GOP embraced the anti-civil rights racism of the South, then subsequently embraced the evangelicals' posture on social issues.

When you sup with the Devil, use a long spoon.

In cynically embracing the far right in order to win elections, the GOP made a very bad bargain. And this year the bad bargain sprang two monstrous and devilish heads, both of which have sunken their teeth into their GOP progenitor. First, the fever of the far right has created a prolonged and damaging GOP primary, with a pack of crazies/candidates tearing apart the lead candidate and ignoring the old GOP maxim forbidding Republican candidates from speaking ill of other GOP candidates. This prolonged and bloody contest also has given Mitt Romney such extended exposure that he has had ample opportunity to alienate voters all by himself. (The longer he has campaigned to secure the far right vote, the lower his favorability numbers.)

A second self-inflicted wound on the GOP is the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United. Far-right-pleasing appointees to the Supreme Court have made our political system a free-for-all for well-heeled zealots. Now corporations and the super wealthy can finance campaigns independently of the political parties, opening the door to the two weird billionaires who kept Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum alive as candidates for months, much to the damage of the GOP.

The GOP elephant has become a rampaging rogue. No matter that Romney will likely survive as the nominee-apparent. No matter if he wins the presidency  -  heaven help us!  -  due to Democrats being as slack in voting in November as they were in 2010. No matter these outcomes, a roaring mass of enraged know-nothings and some irresponsible, filthy rich power seekers (including the Koch brothers) have found each other. It is an unholy alliance, wounding to the GOP but perhaps fatal to the rest of us.

We stand in horror with Ebenezer Scrooge before the specter in Dicken's "A Christmas Carol", as the  Spirit reveals the two snarling figures lurking beneath his robes: Ignorance and Want. The ignorance of the evangelical far-righters and the insatiable lust for power and money of the billionaire class. May dread fill our souls.

Is it too late to ask, as did Scrooge, whether these are shadows of things that might be or whether these are things that will be?

Can we change this ominous picture? Or are we helplessly doomed as the hijacked GOP and the billionaires carry us all over the brink into a very dark future where sensible politics and sensible governance are no longer possible?

What can we do? As individuals?

Think about it. I will too.

For now, I'm squeezing $20 out of my Social Security to send to Obama on this last day of the quarter. From running campaigns, I know that $20 CAN do something significant in a campaign. Maybe two large pizzas for precinct workers? (You gotta feed the troops!)

But I also know it's not enough to banish the darkness shadowing our future. Can we find other ways to fight back individually and collectively?

Yes. We can.

And more on that is coming soon.


Friday, March 30, 2012

Get It First! Get It Right!

That's the goal of good journalism. And this blog, opinionated as it is, is grounded in my journalism training: accuracy and timeliness.

So I'd like to give a pat on the back to this blog and some reassurance to you.

On the same day the insurance mandate was argued in the US Supreme Court, the New York Times, ever the gold standard of journalism, led the commentator pack by declaring that the mandate's constitutionality had taken a bad beating. All major commentators immediately fell in line. They all agreed that Justice Kennedy, the Court's swing vote, was dead set against the insurance mandate.

But I read the transcript of the hearing and disagreed with the media's conclusion in a blog posted March 28, analyzing (from my legal training) Justice Kennedy's use of the phrase "uniquely proximately"as indicative that he might see the uninsured as being already part of a stream of commerce and therefore constitutionally subject to a federal mandate. (I won't repeat the analysis here.)

Now  -  two days later  -  the top story in the on-line New York Times belatedly makes the same point. It's clearly a case of having second thoughts on the part of Adam Liptak, the Times' lead reporter on the Supreme Court health care case. Liptak rightly backpedals from his original pronouncement that Kennedy is clearly against the mandate. (Note that Liptak and I are not predicting how Kennedy will finally decide.)

It's gratifying to know that when I stuck my neck way out and publicly disagreed with all the "experts" in the media I wasn't completely off-base. I wanted you to know this and not just so I could boast. You have a right to know if you are reading idiocy or substance.

Is someone in the shadows reading this blog? It increasingly appears so. The authors of the recent book "Millennial Momentum" read a posting this winter and twittered about it. So they aren't among those in the shadows; they're out front about reading "outfrontpolitics." But are there other "big shots" or their staffs who read this blog, use something from it, and don't acknowledge they have? (Which is just fine actually.) What is intriguing is the pattern that has emerged: something said in this blog is unique in political commentary but only for a while. Several days or several weeks later, the same insight or conclusion appears, even word for word, on MSNBC or in print or in a White House statement. This last situation occurred when I wrote about the great success of GM and how Bain Capital and Mitt Romney would have let GM go bankrupt because business thinking is not the same as governing. Up to that time the White House had been completely silent on the stunning success of its bailout of GM, a success that had been evident for months if one reads the business pages. A few weeks after my blog, the President was  -  finally  -  trumpeting the success of GM. Coincidence? Yes, of course.

Most likely all the incidents were coincidence. Most likely there's no one in the shadows monitoring this blog. But it's fun to think so! As Fats Waller would say, "One never knows, do one!"

What is of more substance is the reassurance on the front page of the New York Times today that I haven't been leading you down the garden path. It's the most recent confirmation that this blog is doing the job of getting the story or the analysis first and getting it right. It is, to quote Lina Lamont in "Singing In the Rain", clear evidence that my efforts "ain't been in vain for nothing."

Best of all, it is clear confirmation that you haven't been wasting your time reading "outfrontpolitics". And that's the most important consideration of all.

Now go do something really useful!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

It's a Great Day!

Let's be happy! The sun is shining. The forsythia and daffodils are gilding the landscape. My neighbor saw a mountain lion in his lane. And the 18 degrees the other night didn't kill the peach blossoms in the area orchards. It's spring!

There's lots for us politicos to be happy about too. Let's count the blessings, ever aware that things can change but resolute to bask in this one golden moment while it lasts.

1. Romney's favorable rating is in the 30s; Obama has just topped 50%.

2. Unemployment filings fell again this week to the lowest level since before the crash in '08.

3. Obama has a substantial lead over Romney in Ohio and Florida and an average 8% lead in all the swing states. (The GOP cannot win the presidency without Ohio; never has, never will.)

4. The GDP growth rate has jumped to 3% after being at 1.8%.

5. Iran has shut up.

6. Oil prices came down a couple of dollars a barrel today.

7. The House GOP just cut its collective throat by passing the latest Paul Ryan budget today, thereby announcing that it will effectively destroy Medicare if given the chance. Medicare,  the darling of us seniors who are the most reliable voting block.

8. Newt's sole financial backer closed his checkbook today, and the media is suggesting it won't be covering Newt the Toot any more.

9. Income has risen, including disposable.

10. The Dow seems to be reasonably comfortable at its above 13,000 level, thus being almost back to where it was before the "08 crash.

There's lots more to be happy about, much of it more truly important than the good political news. Look around you. Surely there is something good going on! And if not, adopt the slogan of this isolated old woman: "Damn, the sons of bitches! I'm going to be happy anyway!"

It's your choice. And it works. But only if you're a Democrat.

Because we're the dreamers and believers.

Hark also to what Adlai Stevenson once said: "I had always hoped a time would come when I could sit beneath the trees and watch the young people dance." So get out that wine, kiddo, and salute the dance of life.

Better yet, join the dancing! It's spring!

GOP at War with Business!

Politics not only makes strange bedfellows; it also makes strange enemies. Or to put it another way, the far-right small-government GOP in the House is screwing the business community. The Tea Partyers are biting the hand that financed their key to political power.

Isn't it wonderful! Yes, Virginia, there is some justice in life (if not in the Supreme Court).

Business generally has liked the GOP because of the latter's "business friendly" policies. This has taken the form increasingly of, not just more deregulation of the private sector, but lots of private business access to taxpayer money. The business community, a la Halliburton, has been scooping up a bigger and bigger share of public money. Witness the ever-increasing push of business into charter schools and privatization of everything from military support operations to running prisons. And think how much the financial community would earn if Social Security were privatized! All those buy and sell fees!

But suddenly the public trough has been yanked out from under the noses of the business community. And not just the "privatization" stuff. We're talking hard-core ol' timey stuff here, such as road building and federal business loans.

All thanks to the Tea Party members of the House.

Remember them? The ones too dumb to understand that not raising the debt limit had nothing to do with preventing further deficits. Idiots! We ALREADY owed the money at issue! One of them even said he was going to vote to LOWER the debt ceiling! Sure, baby! And then go out and fly by flapping your arms.

This gang of uninformed-but-don't care Tea Party House members has surprised the hell out of business by REALLY meaning what they said in the 2010 campaign: no more government spending. In fact, many of them want no federal government except for the military.

At this very moment these House members are sitting on the funding of two programs dear to the heart of the business sector. One is the transportation bill, whence cometh all that lovely money to build things, money that goes into the pockets of business and American workers. And from which we all benefit.

The second holdup by the Tea Ps is the re-authorization of the Export-Import Bank, which actually earns PROFITS for the federal government. It lends money so companies in other countries can pay for orders of American-made goods. It charges a very low interest but nevertheless earned $3.4 billion in the last five years for the federal treasury. Far more important than these earnings, however, is that it facilitates the sale overseas of American products. It's the oil that helps keep our export engine running. And it doesn't cost us a dime! It earns money for us! Shut it off and American workers are going to lose jobs!

But it's a government program and, as such, is anathema  to the Tea Party.

Business lobbyists are swarming all over the recalcitrant TPs, trying to get them to grow up and pass the transportation bill and the export-import measure. Good luck, you lobbyists!

As ye sow, so shall ye reap. You GOP-backing business folks brought these TPers to the dance. Now you are stuck with them. May they continue to step all over your feet. And your wallets.

A big, big war is brewing in the GOP between the small-government idealogues and the business-minded contingent. It's much bigger than the battle the far-right is waging against the "establishment" GOP over the Romney nomination. It has nothing to do with social values or mandates, as does the nomination fight. It has everything to do with MONEY. And that, my dears, is the most important thing of all to the powerful in this country.  

The Tea Party threat to the business community may lead to a major political shift sooner or later, with the business contingent working to oust Tea Party incumbents even if that means supporting Democratic challengers. After all, it's far better to have a rational, persuadable opposition than a lunatic, know-nothing ally that is totally opposed to your most cherished objective.

There's no business like show business except for politics, which is even more riveting.

So let the show go on!


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Roberts and Kennedy Support the Insurance Mandate?

The talking heads decided on Tuesday that the insurance mandate in "Obamacare" had taken a beating before the Supreme Court, based on the "hostile" and heavy questioning of the administration's attorney by the justices. They also thought the administration's chief attorney, the Solicitor General, came off badly during the questioning. One prominent commentator twittered that the session was a "train wreck" for Obama's side.


Even if the foregoing were true, none of it matters. Contrary to TV and the movies, judges are seldom  swayed by oral argument. Legal folk are trained to the written word in law school, and judges generally decide cases on the attorneys' briefs. They nevertheless like to work the attorneys over the coals, especially the attorney seeking to overturn a lower court decision, as the administration is here. In part the justices want to be sure that they send a message to their fellow judges on the lower bench that the Supremes have really respected the lower court and therefore have put the appellant through the mill. So it is always difficult to predict a decision on the basis of the Supremes' questioning because in reality they are talking to multiple audiences. (More on that perhaps in a later posting.)

Nevertheless, there may be two flags in yesterday's argument that might be predictive. In all the "expert"commentary about yesterday's oral argument, virtually all the court watchers overlooked these two statements by the justices.

One comment was by Chief Justice Roberts in addressing the attorney opposing the mandate: "I don't think you're addressing their main point, which is that they are not creating commerce in health care. It's already there, and we are all going to need some kind of health care. Most of us will at some point."

Roberts is NOT saying he agrees with the administration's argument but that the opponents haven't met the argument to Roberts' satisfaction. That's a biggie. Maybe Roberts will reread the briefs (or his clerk will) and conclude that the administration's argument was indeed met. But maybe not. What is seemingly clear is that Roberts has grasped the central point of the administration's argument. This is very important, especially when Scalia and Alito refused to admit that this is the central point and instead preferred to talk about broccoli, i.e. fool around with hypotheticals based on the premise that the feds are creating a new form of commerce and thereby could perhaps push the Commerce clause even further someday to force everybody to eat broccoli.

Even if Roberts has recognized the administration's central point, it doesn't mean he will consider the presently uninsured to be now part of health care commerce so that they can be regulated, i.e. made to buy health insurance. Are the uninsured PRESENTLY in or outside of the commerce of health insurance? That's the next question.

It is tantalizingly addressed by Justice Kennedy in a most remarkable comment that, also remarkably, got little notice: "The young person who is uninsured is uniquely proximately very close to affecting the rates of insurance and the costs of providing medical care in a way that is not true of other industries. That's my concern in the case."

Both of Kennedy's sentences are somewhat astonishing. In the first, his use of "uniquely proximately" is very heavy stuff. In legal argument, each of these words is heavily freighted. "Uniquely" doesn't just mean "sort of unusual" as it often seems to in common parlance. In the strict sense, something can't be "very unique" because something is either unique or it isn't. It's like being pregnant. You are or you're not. Here Kennedy is saying that the uninsured at issue in the case are absolutely unlike other non-users of some commercial product such as the non-broccoli eater or the non-car buyer that opponents of the mandate hypothesized. Thus, he seems to be saying, we don't have to worry that upholding the mandate opens the Commerce clause to cover everything imaginable.

His use of "proximately" is also interesting, suggesting as it does the legal doctrine of "proximate cause", the delight of first-year law students and Inspector Clouseau movies. "Proximate cause" deals with whether someone, through setting off a chain of events, causes a bad outcome for which he should be liable. The butterfly in Japan who flaps his wings may cause a tornado in Kansas but Dorothy probably won't succeed in holding him liable for the house being blown away. He's the "cause" per a meterologist, but most courts would likely consider him insufficiently proximate.

So apparently Kennedy is not just saying that the uninsured are but an illness or accident away from affecting a stream of commerce. They are uniquely so, and therefore all the worry about the insurance mandate being a slippery slope to all kinds of federal intrusion under the Commerce clause is misplaced. And they are "very close" to "proximately" affecting health insurance and health care costs. Are they close enough for Kennedy? We shall see after he's had a while to think about it.

His second sentence is one rarely heard in an appeals court: "That's my concern in this case."

Very seldom do judges so explicitly identify where they are in a case. They commonly don't even identify the issue they really care about but hide it behind a smokescreen of a variety of questions. Sometimes, perhaps, they don't know themselves what really is central to them in the case until they engage with the attorneys and their fellow judges in oral argument.  Here Kennedy is doing the almost unbelievable, putting in neon lights just exactly where he is about this case at the close of oral argument.

And, as I read the transcript, the administration's much-maligned attorney helped Kennedy to get to that point and to possibly perceive, upon further reflection, that the insurance mandate is indeed constitutionally within the Commerce clause. We may have witnessed the almost never-occurring visible persuasion of a Supreme Court justice by oral argument. For those who love the messy tangle and excitement of appellate argument, this case is extremely exciting and historic even if it weren't so important to the future of the country.

The "expert" commentators are misled in thinking the anti-mandate attorneys did a slap-up job of argument, at least as I read the transcript. In fact, it was the anti-mandate attorneys who got slapped by the justices, especially when Roberts reproached them for not addressing the administration's main argument. In addition, the anti-mandate attorneys failed to argue the law and the facts. Instead they spent almost all their time in either attacking the policies set forth in the legislation (and thus incurred the justices' admonitions because the Supreme Court cannot pass judgment on the wisdom of Congressional enactments), or they wasted time making political speeches about freedom, rather like Mitt Romney reciting "America the Beautiful", i.e. it's fun and it's easy but it's not legal argument. Maybe they were smoother than the administration's attorney, but they didn't deliver the goods. Roberts and Kennedy seem to be signaling that the administration's attorney did.

Or I've got it all wrong. Maybe Kennedy and Roberts were playing the "keep 'em guessing" game, saying one thing in court and voting something else in the decision. Or maybe they were persuaded but only temporarily or only partially.

We shall see. Conception has occurred but we shall have to wait for months for the birth of the decision. At least it won't be nine months of waiting.

Meantime, what IS this thing the GOP has about broccoli? George Bush the First made a point of telling us all that he hates it. And now it's part of a pseudo-legal argument before the Supreme Court in what may be one of the biggest cases in our history.

So let's all go eat broccoli, my fellow Democrats! That'll show 'em!



Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Breaking News! There's No Mandate in the Health Care Law!

When is a mandate not a mandate? When there's nothing to enforce it.

That's the situation with the supposedly mandatory provision in the Affordable Health Care Act. Recently Lawrence O'Donnell (MSNBC's "The Last Word With....") put up on-screen some of the text of the Affiordable Health Care Act, specifically (1) the section which forbids any criminal prosecution of someone not buying health insurance and (2) the section which prohibits the feds from attaching anyone's property so as to collect the penalty for failing to buy health insurance.

What's this mean? It means the law says you HAVE to do something and, if you don't, NOTHING will happen. Well, that's hardly a mandate, is it? O'Donnell didn't seem to think so. And I agreed with him. No one else in the media paid his segment any attention whatsoever.

I called someone who enjoys chewing on legal questions, and we kicked it around. But I finally concluded that Congress must have anticipated that the "penalty" was going to be collected as part of the payroll withholding tax system in such a way that the taxpayer-uninsured wouldn't be able to avoid paying it. It would just become part of subsequent withholding  -  somehow. I couldn't believe that all the fuss about the "mandatory" insurance requirement was absolutely baseless because there was no provision to enforce a penalty. After all, nothing is mandatory without an enforceable "or else", right?

Well, today Chief Justice John Roberts raised the same point in the hearing on the constitutionality of the so-called mandate. He made the EXACT same point:  if there's no "or else", is there even a mandate at all? That is virtually what he said word for word.

How comic it would be if, after all this hair-pulling crazy carrying-on about the Health Care Act, the Supreme Court calmly says, "There's no mandate. Thus there's no unconstitutional mandate. So good night, Charlie.""

It would be so sweet in a way. Like the little child saying "The Emperor has no clothes." Like mom coming into your room to show you there's no monster in the closet. It would even be poetic (to paraphrase):   "That's how the world ends, not with a bang but a snicker."

Did the Congress intend that this be a mandate without being a mandate? Was it that clever? Nancy Pelosi was briefly on the teevee last night, saying words to the effect that "we aren't fools, and we knew what we were doing." No indication that she was talking about the mandate not being a mandate, but maybe she was?

It doesn't matter what was in the secret minds of those enacting the law. All that matters is what they put down on paper, either in the legislation or (to much lesser extent) what  they noted down somewhere as "legislative intent". But think about it. Even if they had been clever enough to create a red-herring of a provision, a mandate that's not a mandate, they couldn't very well say so  -  not then, not now, not ever. Absent any enforcement provision, the so-called mandate could work only if the public thought it had some teeth.

This is the first time in my long life when the US Supreme Court seems to be veering into comedy. Call it "Much Ado About Nothing"?

And nothing promises so much fun as this issue cum Robert's query. At least not since the time I was among the observers in an appellate court that was hearing a male-stripper/ mud-wrestling case. It was wonderful, and we all  -  including the judges  -  had a wonderful time!

Come on, Roberts! Go for it! Pull the carpet on the whole shenanigans! Make the GOP AGs look like the utter fools that they are! Make the Congress look as toothless as it chose to be! Show the world that it pays to read and analyze legislation before running to court to protest what isn't there.

The bizarre truth is that few law schools have courses on analysis of legislation or drafting of legislation. I taught and practiced both. Will this old prof's passion for legislative analysis finally be vindicated? "It is a consummation devoutly to be wished." Not just for my gratification but because it would be a nice slap in the face of the far-right which consistently and brazenly ignores facts and words and science and loves to load monsters into the closets to frighten our people.

Please, pretty please, Roberts! GO FOR IT!

No Constitutional Issue in the Health Care Act? Ask Dick Armey!

What's all the fuss about the constitutionality of the mandate in the Affordable Health Care Act?

Don't we already have a "mandated" health insurance program? Each paycheck is docked a payment into Medicare whether that worker likes it or not or wants the coverage in retirement. So mandated is this program that the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. ruled in February against a group who wanted to renounce their Medicare benefits because their private insurance paid better benefits but would not pay if the insured were covered by Medicare.

So mandatory is the Medicare program that you can't walk away from it, says the D.C. court. Once you qualify for its benefits, you don't have to use them but you can't renounce your eligibility for them. (Although not addressed in the D.C. appellate case, the same is true of Social Security. Not only MUST you pay into the system but you cannot renounce your benefits even if doing so would qualify you for a better situation. I know because I tried this tactic in a desperate attempt to qualify my sick husband for Medicaid prescription coverage before such was enacted through Medicare Part D.)

Both Medicare and Social Security have mandatory features. That's a hell of a lot of mandatoriness!

The mandatory nature of Medicare was upheld on February 7 of this year in the federal case of Hall v. Sebelius. I haven't read the pleadings but the text of the ruling indicates that the Constitutional issue was not raised in this case.

That is very significant.


Because DICK ARMEY was a PLAINTIFF in the suit. Armey, as you may recall, is the leader of the Tea Party group, Freedom Works. He's also a former GOP House majority leader. Who would be more likely than Armey to argue a federal program is unconstitutional?

So why didn't he?

Because he had a PERSONAL stake in this lawsuit and would be PERSONALLY better off if he won. Therefore, he wasn't going to mess around with a frivolous legal argument about constitutionality  and thereby undercut the credibility of his other legal arguments. No smart lawyer does that.

The present case before the U.S. Supreme Court re the Affordable Health Care Act is, therefore, a deliberate and consciously-deceptive dog-and-pony show, staged by the GOP states' attorneys general for the benefit of their conservative constituents and the furtherance of the GOP anti-Obama campaign. Armey's disbelief in the non-constitutional argument is undoubtedly shared by the 26 states' attorneys general who have brought the Supreme Court case. They may be foolish GOPers, but they are likely not fools as attorneys. In their heart of hearts, like Armey, they know the constitutional argument is a crock.

Other evidence of the dog-and-pony nature of this lawsuit is the map showing which states have filed against the Affordable Health Care Act. They are all in the South and the conservative mountain belt, plus Indiana (which is the South) and Washington State. Normally Washington State tends to be Democratic and rather liberal, but the Republican AG there, Rob McKenna, is running for governor this year and his decision to join the other 25 states was undoubtedly a political gambit to fire up his base. Further, ALL of the AGs are Republicans, just like McKenna. This is why Wisconsin and New Hampshire, purple though they be, are also on board the Supreme Court lawsuit.

This is political cynicism at its worst:  Using the Supreme Court to advance your political cause when, as an attorney sworn to uphold the Constitution, you knowingly file a baseless suit that distorts and misrepresents that Constitution.

The only thing worse than this is if the Supreme Court bites. There is no solid legal argument for striking down the health insurance mandate. It is NOT, in light of the mandatory nature of Medicare and Social Insurance, an "unprecedented" exercise of Congressional power, as the 26 AGs claim.

Will the Supreme Court follow well-established legal precedent or play politics and enforce a reactionary GOP anti-government philosophy? After its decision in Bush v. Gore in 2000, when it stopped the vote count in Florida and gave away the presidency to the loser, anything can happen.

Another unanswered question:  why didn't the news media pay any attention to the case of Sebelius v. Hall? And Armey's participation? And his NOT raising the constitutional issue?

As Fats Waller would say, "One never knows, do one?"


Sunday, March 25, 2012

The GOP Is Not Your Father's Buick

You know the car ad. Seeking a younger generation of buyers, the manufacturer of Buicks years ago stressed that the latest models weren't anything like the big old battleships of the prior generation. Oh no, they were hip and cool. (They actually weren't.)

The GOP is seemingly running this ad in reverse this year. (No pun intended.) It is coming across as a Grand Old Party that has lost all solidity and reliability and deteriorated into a Rambling Wreck. The GOP has always prided itself on orderliness and being methodical in philosophy and operation. It was not exciting, just a solid and stolid old Buick, but it usually got where it was going  -  straight into the White House.

What happened?!

My last posting reviewed the nutty antics of the party this election season, skipping the craziness of Rick Perry, et al, and looking at the strange conduct of the party itself. I can't explain WHY the GOP is being so zany, but it sure is unnerving. Is this some strange new dance that is so clever that none of us can follow it?

Where's the "reliability" that the business-oriented GOP always boasted of? This year the GOP can't even conduct its own primaries without massive confusion as to rules and vote tallies and delegate allotment. In the recent Missouri caucuses, the cops had to come and break up a fist-fight between would-be delegates. In Maine, the party had to declare a partial do-over of its caucuses. In Iowa the state party switched its tallies weeks after the primary caucuses and awarded the state to Santorum instead of prior winner Romney. This kind of all-thumbs performance used to be the province of the Democrats. Remember Will Rogers saying, "I belong to no organized political party. I am a Democrat."

So how can the public trust governance to a teetotaler party that appears to be drunk? How can the GOP make a case that a sober (Mormon) businessman can do a better job than a community organizer in running the country when neither Romney nor his party can seemingly get it together just to run a campaign and primaries? When the GOP Speaker of the House can't even get his party in line to support agreements that he has made? Hey, folks, speakers NEVER get left out on the line like that. Something is really, really wrong.

Then comes the HBO movie "Game Changer", which is ostensibly about Sarah Palin, but is really about how the GOP screwed up in selecting her as VP nominee. To underscore how disfunctional  - yea, unAmerican  -  the GOP was in 2008 in picking the bird-brain, Steve Schmidt and Nicolle Wallace, both high level GOP operatives, have been all over the teevee recounting their shame and their shameful part in selecting Palin. Sarah was such a bad choice and so clearly unfit to succeed to the presidency that Nicolle Wallace admits she didn't even vote for the McCain-Palin ticket! That's like saying the Pope isn't Catholic. Schmidt was likewise appalled by Palin's frightening inadequacies but salved his conscience by voting the ticket in California where his vote didn't matter. Palin was THEIR OWN candidate, and THEY couldn't face her being in line for the presidency!

You don't kiss and tell in politics. It's the first rule. (They are all the first rules.) In the Good Old Days of the Grand Old Party, no high level party operator would dare do what Schmidt and Wallace have done. It wasn't honorable, at least not in the world of politics. And it wasn't practical. It meant that the snitch would never work again in a GOP campaign. Nor a Democratic one, for that matter. But these two did the right thing in revealing the rot within the GOP that led to the selection of Palin. It's just that they seemed to know they were safe in betraying their party. The old Buick the GOP has become has a dead battery. It isn't going to run over them and squish them forever.

The public sees all this carrying-on by the GOP, all this mismanagement, all this fumbling. And the party brand keeps going down and down in the polls. Romney has helped reinforce the image of a party that has become disfunctional. His campaign spokesman  -  the Etch A Sketch guy  - couldn't even wait until the campaign was over, as did Schmidt and Wallace, before betraying The Awful Truth about his boss.

There's lots of talk about how "well-organized" Mitt's campaign is. Oh, really? Because he's outdone feeble Santorum? So a turtle is fast because it outpaces a slug?

As Romney staggers along, Will Roger's "disorganized" Democrats have been opening Obama campaign headquarters all across the country. By contrast Romney has CLOSED his New Hampshire hq after the primary there. The bean-counters probably advised him to save money by closing up the shop, a la Bain. But this waste of human capital in a campaign is stupid. It's sending the cast home in the middle of the first act. Let's hope the same money-saving steps are being taken elsewhere in swing states. Close all those hqs, Romney! Save the bucks and waste the momentum and your supporters' commitment!  

Is this bean-counting any way to run a business? Maybe. But it's a dumb way to run a campaign. (More on the high value of a campaign hq another time.)

But what do I know? Maybe the genius of Bain Capital has an angle on all this that is beyond the ken of we poor mortals who have slugged it out in the campaign hustings for decades.

So what's the trick, Mitt?


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Revealed! Super Secret GOP Election Scheme!

The GOP has a secret campaign plan. It's so secretly convoluted that no one  -  absolutely NO ONE  -  can figure it out. Now that Jeb Bush and Sen. Demented of South Carlina have announced that the GOP nomination process is over, let's look at this crafty GOP plan.

Here are its main features:

1. In a party dominated by Southern far-right rural evangelical types who consider Mormonism to be a non-Christian "cult", run a moderate urban Yankee Mormon. (Well, I admit we don't really know if he is a moderate.)

2. In a year when anger is high against the 1% rich who have slurped the trough dry for the other 99%, run someone who is not just a member of the 1% but of the one-tenth of one percent.

3. While a lot of folks are suffering unemployment and home foreclosures, be sure the candidate talks about his wife driving plural Cadillacs and his friends who own sport franchises.

3. In a nation where seniors are the most reliable voters, run a candidate who embraces the Paul Ryan budget that threatens both Social Security and Medicare, the programs that seniors need to survive.

4. In a nation where the fastest growing population segment is Latino, be sure the candidate embraces the Arizona laws which require the cops harass anyone who looks Latino.

5. When the candidate is revealed to be paying only a 15% income tax rate on his $20 million A YEAR income, be sure he campaigns on giving further tax breaks to the very wealthy and increasing taxes on the definitely not-wealthy.

6. Appoint a major spokesperson for the campaign to announce on CNN that the candidate is an Etch A Sketch who will flip his previous well-documented flip-flops yet again once he's the official nominee. This announcement not only relieves us of any suspense about further flopping but gives all humankind a wonderful, visual symbol for the candidate and triples the price of the stock of Etch A Sketch-maker Ohio Art Co. by a factor of three. (See! Romney IS good for the economy!)

7. Be sure that all along the nominating road the candidate is relentless attacked by his nomination rivals so that there will be lots of good video ammunition available to the Democrats in the general election. Also be sure that the GOP raises a War on Women, so that 50+% of the electorate are outraged.

8. Prepare ahead  -  and this was several years ahead  -  by securing Supreme Court appointees who will issue Citizens United and thus set the stage for just TWO individuals (one billionaire for Santorum and one for Gingrich) to keep the attacks going against the main candidate so that he loses a big chunk of "favorable" support.

9. Follow the GOP system of "It's his turn", meaning that the candidate will be the guy who ran last time for the nomination and got beaten by someone in his own party. (Think about it. This system means that over time the candidates are ever weaker. It's Darwinism reversed. It's evolution by failure!)

10. Since the GOP cannot win an election without winning Ohio, be sure the newly-elected GOP governor of that state wildly attempts to emasculate the unions and thereby generates an effort to recall him which, in turn, creates a powerful, full-throated Democratic network in the state, ready and able to roar into November

11. Since Ohio and Michigan, both key swing states, depend heavily on the auto industry, run a candidate who opposed the auto industry bailout. And still does.

12. Since the winning issue for the GOP in 2012 could be opposition to the Affordable Health Act, run a  candidate who virtually invented the health insurance mandate while governor of Massachusetts.

13. Forget the past and how Nixon ran in 1968. Like the present candidate, Nixon was Mr. Stiff, painfully uncomfortable in talking to people unless their names were Halderman or Erlichman. So Candidate Nixon just didn't talk to people. No "retail politics" for him! No press interviews. No guest appearances. Just a stage, a smiling Nixon waving his arms and lots and lots of balloons. (Nixon invented the balloon campaign.) It was all about "image" and it worked.

14. Have your pudgy-in-the middle candidate wear mid-life-men's jeans. Nixon didn't wear jeans. Reagan didn't wear jeans until after he won the election. But what the hell did they know about winning elections? (For me, Romney in those jeans is as bad as Dukakis in the helmet in the tank. And worse than Kerry wind-surfing. Yucky!)

15. Be sure the candidate is so lame and unpresidential that the more exposure he gets, the less people like him so that his favorable ratings keep sinking. And sinking.

16. Forbid the GOP heavyweights (except really heavyweight Chris Christie) from endorsing the candidate until it's virtually too late to matter.

17. Finally  -  be sure the candidate's son tells about his dad strapping the family dog to the roof of the car for a trip to Canada. So heartwarming and so sure to get the dog-lovers' vote.

And there you are! A plan that is so seemingly insane and inane that it must be truly sinister and crafty. Somehow, somewhere in this apparent craziness, the GOP has surely carefully crafted a road to success. But this road to success is so well-hidden that  -  damn it!  -  I can't figure out what it is!

Can you?              

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Etch-A Sketch Romney While God Watches TV?

The GOP clown car is emptying.

Newt is talking mainly to himself after coming in fourth to Ron Paul in Illinois.

Ron Paul has disappeared. Probably under a bridge.

Santorum is talking about history, always a sign that someone is fading away into it.

Looks like all we're left with clown-wise is Mitt. But not to worry. Ol' Mitt won't let us down! Immediately after winning the Illinois primary, having spent lots more money that he needed to, he came through right on time. (He always follows a win with a morning-after dumb remark.) Or his campaign did, in the person of a Romney spokesman comforting us all by saying Mitt's far-right positions won't be a problem in the general election because Mitt would get a do-over when he gets the nomination. And the idiot didn't say this in a corner of some cocktail fund-raiser and get caught on an I-phone. He said it right out loud on CNN in front of God and everybody. And he went further. Delightfully so.

As he so memorably put it, nominee Mitt would be "like an Etch-A-Sketch". Just shake it up and everything changes.

"Shake it, shake it, baby! Shake it, shake it, Mitt!"

Now that is exactly what the GOP far-right has suspected all along! They must be deliriously happy to know they had indeed figured out Romney correctly. Of course, it's too late to do anything about it. The talking heads and Jeb Bush announced today that Romney has the nomination sewn up. So the far-right folks can relax now and stop dragging themselves to the polls. It's over.

Or is it? Will this laugh-out-loud Etch-A-Sketch admission fire up enough fury on the right to turn the tide against Romney in the remaining GOP contests? Or is it mathematically too late for Santorum in the delegate count for any resurgence on his behalf?

The answer to the first question is:  Only God knows.

The answer to the second question is:  Nobody knows.

The GOP nominating rules from the National Republican Committee are a mess. Nobody can figure them out. And the states each have their own sets of rules layered on, which seemingly include that it's okay to change primary vote totals whenever they feel like it. This whole crazy scene can be justified by two things. First, it gives Chuck Todd of MSNBC something to talk about, nice man that he is. And it's the pay-back of Mike Steele, the former RNC chair who was chased out of the job just because he ran up a $25 million debt for the party and let party dollars be spent at strip clubs. So now it turns out he left a going-away surprise present for the GOP: a revised set of nomination rules that no one can figure out.

Thus nobody really knows how many delegates Romney has or how many Santorum has.

And, frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.

Let the GOP etch its sketches all it wants to. They've got a crummy candidate, be it Romney or be it Santorum. Ain't nothing can shake that fact!

I'm content just trying to imagine Mitt dancing to "Shake it up, baby!" Go, man, go!

Correction: Any implication in the above that God watches CNN is clearly out of order. He watches MSNBC. Religiously.    

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

GOP Death Sentence for Seniors and Bankruptcy for You

Paul Ryan has announced the new GOP budget that "reforms" Medicare, and it apparently contains a death sentence for seniors. It also promises that the rest of you, those who love your parents, will likely go bankrupt because of their medical needs. And when you retire the same will happen to you.

This isn't a fabricated threat like Sarah Palin's big lie about the non-existent "death panel" she claimed was in the Affordable Health Care Act.

This is the real deal.

It's a five-word concept: "annual expenditures would be capped". In honesty, I must note that these five words are those of the media in reporting on how the GOP plans to "reform" Medicare. I haven't read the GOP budget myself because it was just released. But if the New York Times is being accurate in its reading of the proposed budget, these five words are frightening.

The phrase "annual expenditures would be capped" commonly means that, after a pre-set amount of coverage in a given year, you are on your own in paying your medical bills. It's this provision in private medical insurance that killed a friend of our family.

He was a young man, only in his forties. He got cancer and was being treated, apparently successfully. Then his coverage, provided by his employer, ran out.  He next spent all his savings and every cent he had from his income on trying to continue treatment. But it wasn't enough. He was too proud to ask any of us for help. (I would have mortgaged my house to save him.) He had to abandon medical care.

And so he died. Needlessly.

He died bravely. But somehow that just makes it worse. We as a people failed this good man.

Now the GOP is planning to do this wholesale to us seniors. Will you, our children, be able to resist jumping into the breach and spending your hard-won savings to save us when our Medicare coverage reaches its cap? Can we even bear to accept such sacrifice from you?

This inhuman scenario proposed by the GOP is their way of avoiding raising taxes on the very wealthy. The horrific cuts to Medicare they propose are in lieu of raising taxes to meet the budget deficits ahead. Thus the money of the very rich is more sacred than the lives of the elders, we who built this country from which the rich have milked so much into their own pails.

If the GOP's sinful proposal is not repudiated in this election, if the majority of the House is not snatched away from them, if this heartless greed-saturated GOP takes control of our government entirely...... let me die. When I hit the expenditure cap, just let me go. I have loved this country passionately through the Great Depression, World War II, and all the post-war decades that have seen such great advances in human rights. I don't want to live in a Garden of Evil version of America.

How about you? Do you want to live in such a country?

Or are you willing NOW to do all possible to save your parents? Can there ever have been a time when an election mattered so much? The choice is yours. You can acquiesce in the evil or take up the cudgels and fight for the Democrats and for your parents. And, please, if you choose to fight, direct some major part of that effort to recapturing the twenty-five seats we Democrats need to take back the House and repudiate the likes of Paul Ryan and the Tea Party.

And do it for the young man who died that needless death. Let him not have died in vain.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Bill Maher and the Ku Klux Klan

So Bill Maher is speaking up for embattled Rush Limbaugh. Advertising revenues, like politics, certainly make strange bedfellows.

Recently Maher twittered a plea against going after Limbaugh's advertisers, now fleeing Limbaugh in response to outrage over his attack on a young woman for standing up for women's rights. Maher tells us he's not comfortable with the effort to cut off Rush's advertising and thus limit free speech.


The First Amendment applies to everyone, not just paid-to-talk folks like Maher and Limbaugh. The Big One, as the First is known among those of us who love it, certainly protects the right of the rest of us to answer back when attacked. And when Limbaugh went after that one woman, he went after all of us women.

We're mad as hell and we aren't going to take it any more!

But this isn't the movies. Just yelling that out our windows doesn't do much. Not when the likes of Rush Limbaugh have a virtual stranglehold on the radio airways to spread their hate, lies, and filth.

And his statements about Sandra Fluke were indeed libelous. But a suit against Limbaugh isn't the answer. The landmark case of New York Times v. Sullivan sets some pretty high hurdles for a defamed public figure to meet in order to succeed in such a suit. Sandra Fluke could have a very hard time making it over these hurdles. And the rest of us women probably have no standing to sue even though we too were the targets of Limbaugh's attack.

So what's our recourse? If Big Brother is monopolizing the airwaves and inciting men against us, it's not enough for us individually to tune to another station or channel. That's the empty bromide always offered by the left. It would be like comforting African Americans in the bad old days by advising them not to attend Ku Klux Klan meetings if they disagreed with the Klan's planning for their lynching.

Let us not kid ourselves. We women face more than harsh public opinion when Limbaugh and his ilk are allowed to diminish us. The deformed "maleness" that thrives on the spewings of Limbaugh is already prone to bashing women as it is. Shrinking us down even further as the despised "other" encourages the kind of male dominance that wants to "smack the little lady into line." Behind all male v. female battles over women's status is the ultimate threat of male violence. When push comes to shove, the most twisted men in Limbaugh's audience will do more than push and shove. They will beat your brains out.

I have little doubt that somewhere in America, right this very minute, a woman is paying a cruel price for Limbaugh's tirade. Somewhere a "macho" maniac is possibly acting out the anti-female rage that Limbaugh has fed.

Limbaugh has now classified ALL women who defend their rights, not just as "feminazis", but by the same terms he applied  to Sandra Fluke. We who speak up for ourselves are possibly all like her in the minds of some of his male audience. Thus we share the professional status Limbaugh and his twisted male audience accord her.  So ask any cop or prostitute how physically dangerous the "oldest profession" is. Because that's the label we all now wear. We are all fair game for violence if Limbaugh is allowed to get away without severe punishment.

Therefore, in the interest of their own safety and their own right to freedom of speech, women did what they had to do. They pressured advertisers to pull the plug on Limbaugh. We have no freedom of speech if we can be drowned out by his mighty megaphone or silenced by intimidation. In a society based in large measure on the Almighty Dollar, women had to hit the sweet spot: the money.

Maher doesn't like this because he reportedly lost a job once due to his on-air comments. Well, Bill, did you ever hear of having the courage of your convictions? If you want to be insulated from any and all consequences for what you say, then you are a coward.

The Klan consists of cowards, guys who mask their identity with bed sheets. From time to time, the Klan gets active in my area. All eight of them turn out for a march, and several hundred good-but-far-right evangelical local folks turn out in opposition. My far-right neighbors aren't free of prejudice, but they know evil when they see it and have the guts to oppose it.

Uneducated and narrow-minded as they are, they are a lot smarter than Bill Maher and a whole lot more sophisticated.

So pull your head in from your window, Bill, and shut the window and shut your mouth. This isn't your fight. And it's not about your job or Limbaugh's. It's about  women being free to speak and being free of the threat of violent retaliation.

"I am woman, hear me roar...." We roar in anger in the only way open to us.

We can't out-shout you media men. And we aren't as strong physically as men if push comes to physical beatings. But we do hold a lot of purse strings. Like the Rev. Ralph David Abernathy used to say in the heat of the Civil Rights struggle, "You gotta use what you got!"

And we are!

Yes, we can! Yes, we will!

We ain't going back into the box. Not ever! I spent my younger life there and fought my way free. Going back is just not going to happen.

Free at last! Free at last! Great God Almighty, we are free at last!

So stuff your tweety twitters into your money-lined nest, Bill, and get out of our way! STOP TELLING WOMEN WHAT TO DO!  


Monday, March 12, 2012

The Grim Truth About the 2008 Election

This is an unhappy posting. But a necessary one.

With the GOP massive screw-up in this election cycle, too many people are assuming that Obama will win easily in November.

Everyone seems to have forgotten that Obama ALMOST LOST in 2008. Right up until the Mighty Crash that autumn, Obama was trailing McCain in the polls.

The irony is that the onset of the Great Recession handed the election to Obama in 2008 but may  cost him re-election this year. It handed him a virtually ungovernable situation: a country in financial melt-down and a Republican opposition in Congress with the express goal of making him a one-term president no matter the cost to the American people and the American economy.

As the Onion put it in November 2008: "Black Man Gets Worst Job In America."

In a very real sense, Obama did NOT defeat the GOP ticket in 2008. The economic collapse did. The GOP was doing fine in the polls in spite of Sarah Palin's obvious inadequacies, McCain obviously being too old to be president, and the dismal record of the GOP in the GW years.

Obama was losing despite his campaign's outstanding effort to register voters and then lock up their votes through early voting. He was losing in spite of the spirit-soaring spectacle of huge, adoring crowds at every campaign stop - the largest crowds in campaign history. He was losing despite a tremendous growth in Democratic party registration.

This is a sad and scary truth. But it has to be faced now. There's just enough good news in the job numbers and other economic indicators to lead us Dems to be pretty hopeful about November. There's just enough improvement in Obama's polling numbers to make us smile.

But it's not enough to make us confident. We had better reason to be confident in 2008 even before the economic collapse than we do now. Democratic registration was higher. New laws suppressing voting had not been enacted in almost 30 states as they now have. Obama's fund-raising was higher by this point in 2008. But even with these advantages we had in 2008, only the economic collapse mattered in the end, pushing a trailing Obama over the finish line first. It's hard to imagine a deus ex machina helping Obama this fall. The more likely scenario is that some devil ex machina will arrive: a big stumble in the economic recovery, an overseas downturn that drags down all boats with it, a something-awful-you-can-imagine-as-well-as-I-can.

And we mustn't kid ourselves. This country is quite capable of electing a vapid, shape-sifting idiot like Romney.

We have a mountain to climb. We must volunteer now, and we must contribute to the Obama campaign now. At stake is not only the presidency but the US Supreme Court. Plus war versus peace. (Think Iran.) A continued improvement in the economy or a return to discredited GOP economic policies. The environment. (Your failure to help Obama may cost a species its continued existence.) The rights of women and minorities. Regulation to protect everything from airline safety to the soundness of our banks. We know very well where the GOP is on these issues. We'd be insane not to work hard to get Obama re-elected.

Half the country is insane in it's racism and fundamentalism. If we don't work hard to help Obama, we are as crazy as they are.

"People get the government they deserve." So said Winston Churchill. It's a hard truth, but it's an absolute one.

P.S. No sooner had I posted this, than the latest ABC/Washington Post poll announced Romney has gained 4 points in recent weeks and is now leading Obama, while Santorum has picked up 5 points and trails Obama by only 3 points.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The GOP Is Dead By Suicide and Millennial Momentum Is Its Funeral March

The GOP funeral hasn't been scheduled yet, but the party is dead. Unless the world turns upside down between now and November and the Democrats lose this fall election, the GOP is a goner. And not just in November but for a long time to come.

The verdict?   Suicide while not of sane mind.

The method?  Alienating three of the largest voting blocks in America, which were previously up for grabs.

First of these are women and the men who love them. With its inexplicable attacks on women's health issues, capped by Rush Limbaugh's tirade of abuse against a dignified, soft-spoken woman law student, the GOP has offended far more than women. Men too are concerned about the health issues of their wives and daughters, and independents don't like crazies. The GOP is not even smart enough to give the uproar a chance to die away. Instead, the House is pursuing legislation allowing employers to limit health insurance coverage under the Affordable Health Care Act by merely invoking "moral" beliefs. Not only is contraception coverage affected, but what about coverage for unwed mothers? HIV? Vaccinations? Drug addiction treatment? Organ transplants? It's easy to see how any employer could come up with an objection to almost any aspect of health care. Meantime, Obama has picked up by ten points with women and by some unpolled number among men who care about their women. He has also gained with independents. The GOP has kissed the gals & their pals goodbye!

Second, the GOP is on the wrong side of demography. In about eight years the Millennial generation will constitute ONE-THIRD of the electorate. (See the book "Millennial Momentum" by Morley Winograd and Michael Hais for an encouraging portrait of this young generation.) The Democrats are far more popular with this age group than are the GOPers. This generation is astonished at the GOP's out-of-date anti-female, racist, and anti-gay fixations. They are also appalled at the anti-science attitude espoused by the GOP. For the young, climate change and other environmental issues are extremely important. They are an educated generation, and they have more at stake than anyone in the future of our physical world.

Third, the GOP has chosen to alienate the Latino community, the fastest growing ethnic segment in America. Playing on the fears held by a shrinking, white, under-educated blue collar and rural population, the GOP has seemingly gone out of its way to terrify Latinos. In one of the stupidest moves imaginable, Mitt Romney went to Arizona a couple of weeks ago and announced that he embraces the "Arizona model" of laws that are designed to harass anyone who even looks Latino. This is to be done in the name of capturing "illegal aliens" ( I hate that term).  Law officers can stop anyone they "suspect"  could be an illegal. Latinos in this country are not monolithic on the issue of illegal aliens, but they sure as hell are of one mind about being pulled over because of how they look! The bizarre thing is that Romney made this stupid gesture when he absolutely didn't need to in order to secure a victory in the Arizona GOP primary. He was leading Santorum by a country mile in Arizona, and Santorum had virtually no campaign in the state. Gratuitous stupidity, Romney! Until then, Romney had kept something of a distance from the GOP anti-Latino drum-beating. Now he's the drum major!

Somewhere a group of clever and powerful GOP thinkers are gathered in a secret room dreaming up ideas for killing their own party. How else explain the persistent GOP effort to alienate every group in sight? We Democrats could never think up comparably clever ways to kill off the GOP.

Well, apparently we don't have to tromp the GOP. That's all taken care of. All we have to do is be sure to get our fellow Dems out to vote. And keep fingers crossed that the economy doesn't re-collapse, that gasoline doesn't go anywhere near $5 a gallon, and that Iran and Israel don't go to war. Also, please, no economic collapse in Europe, no tsunamis interrupting the chain of parts supply, no BP oil spills, no terror attacks on "the homeland" (I hate that expression too), no scandals in the administration, and no decision by the US Supreme Court to throw out the Affordable Health Care Act.

That's a lot to hope for.

But who could ever have hoped that the GOP would relentlessly march down a road of its own design that can lead only to its demise?

"And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true." Maybe so, Toto. Maybe so!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Obama Wins GOP Primaries! But Bill Maher Is Worried.

The big winner of the GOP primary season thus far is President Obama. As the two factions of the GOP, the greedy rich and the duped social conservatives, tear their party apart, Obama is doing quite nicely, thank you. The recent good economic news, ephemeral as it may prove to be, is also helping.

Read and rejoice (but don't get over-confident):

Obama's "favorable" is now 53% nationally. Super! That's a 9 point gain in 4 months! For a president to have a rating that high when unemployment is still over 8% is unprecedented unless you go all the way back to FDR.

One-third of the electorate now views America as "on the right track". One-third isn't great but it's TWICE the number last November.

Among independents, the key sector in this election, Romney has a disapproval rating of 51% v. 33%. The longer he campaigns, the more his favorable rating sinks. That's great good news for Democrats! Voters just don't like Romney, and likability is everything in election politics. The result is that Obama is the independents' choice over Romney by 49% v. 37%. It would be better for Obama's prospects if he were over 50% with independents, of course, but that seems to be where we are headed. Cross your fingers! And may Obama keep singing! And smiling! A sunny disposition in hard times is a great asset with voters.

Oddly enough, Santorum is doing better with independents than Romney, with a higher favorable rating than unfavorable. Santorum's numbers are 40% favorable v. 32% unfavorable, while Romney's are the flip-flop of that (most appropriately): 33% favorable and 51% unfavorable. After Santorum's recent crazy binge, with attacks on women, sex, college education and JFK, one would think he'd be tanking with independents.

But let's remember who independents typically are. While some share values of each party, e.g. socially progressive but fiscally conservative, a large percentage are actually tuned out of politics and salve their consciences by characterizing their disinterest as independence. Another significant segment are conservatives in disguise. The not-interested factor is clear in these latest polls: Only 72% of respondents had any opinion about Santorum. This is rather astonishing at a time when he's the hot comedy number on every late night show. Apparently independents go to bed early.

Can Obama's lead hold? It's up to you. Bill Maher is rightly concerned that Democrats may get complacent and let the GOP sneak across the line in November. As a good example to us low-rollers, he has written a $1 million check to Obama's super pac. Good for you, Bill!

So how about the rest of us who are kind of poor? Why don't we each send send $5? If a million of us do that, it's $5 million! And if we do it every month from now through November, that's $40 million! Sounds great!

Except Mitt Romney has spent $67 million so far just trying to get the GOP nomination. So we are going to need a bigger boat.

So how about $25 a month? That's $200 million just from us folks who can't afford more.

Can we do this?

Yes, we can!

So we'll see your $1 million, Bill Maher, and raise it to $200 million. You betcha!