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The Republican Response

Shortly after President Obama concluded his inaugural address, the Republican Party released the following statement:

Moments ago, President Obama challenged the American people to come together as one nation to address the many issues that confront our nation.

Without offering specifics, the president mentioned the numerous tasks we must undertake to ensure the continued strength of our nation, from managing the deficit and an economy still recovering all too slowly, to the difficult choices me must make in dealing with climate change, gun violence, immigration policy, national security, energy independence, the social safety net, and extending the full benefit of our nation’s freedoms to all it’s citizens, whatever their gender, ethnic background or sexual orientation.

Mr. Obama called upon us all to work together, across philosophic differences and party lines, to see past the poisonous partisan politics so that the next four years will be marked by progress toward a better, stronger, more just America and a safer, freer, more democratic world.

Faced with a such a stirring call to ignore our baser instincts and appeal to our better angels, to work hand-in-hand with the president to lead America and the world into a brighter future, we in the loyal opposition have a responsibility to respond to the challenge laid before us.

Mr. President, here is our answer:

NO

New NRA Ad

The NRA yesterday released a genuinely despicable ad featuring Obama’s children. One can only imagine what their next assault on reason and propriety might be:

Video: Spilt screen: Still picture of Malia and Sasha Obama/picture of Secret Service agents

Audio: It’s bad enough that Obama’s children have round the clock protection from armed Secret Service agents, and yours don’t.

Video: Photo of Obama, as the words “ELITIST” and “HYPOCRITE” flash on screen

Video: Children walking down hallway in school building

Audio: Instead of being able to defend themselves openly, your kids have to hide their guns in their lockers at school. That’s bad and it’s wrong, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Video: Policemen hunkered down behind patrol cars, firing guns at unseen felons

Audio: The police carry their firearms right out in the open, and if a bad guy shoots at them, they can shoot back—any time, anywhere. But elitist hypocrites in Washington don’t want you to have the same right. They even want to prosecute brave, patriotic vigilantes who take the law into their own hands. They want you to be totally dependent on trained law enforcement agents to enforce the law. 

Video: Photo of White House, as words “ELITIST” and “HYPOCRITE” flash on screen

Video: American Soldiers on patrol in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Audio: Soldiers can carry powerful military weapons anywhere they want, and nobody minds.  But elitist hypocrites in Washington don’t want you to be able to defend yourself when Islamist militants attack your home. 

Video: Islamic militants firing weapons

Video: Man in gun shop filling out paperwork

Audio: And you can bet our soldiers don’t have to go through background checks and waiting periods before they fire back at the bad guys. And they never have anyone trying to take away their assault weapons and their high-capacity ammunition clips. But you try taking your legally-purchased AR-15 into a movie theater or a school and see what happens. The next thing you know elitist hypocrites in Washington are howling for your guns.

Video: Capitol Building, as words “ELITIST” and HYPOCRITE” flash on screen

Audio: And when the Marxist socialist president…

Video: Photo of Obama, as words “MARXIST” and “SOCIALIST” flash on screen

Video: American soldier aiming gun at camera

Audio: …orders those troops to take away your freedoms and turn your neighborhood into a concentration camp, you won’t be able to do anything about it. 

Video: Photo of Siberian prison

Audio: Remember, just because we make absolutely no sense and we’re insanely paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not coming for you. Hahahaha. High-pitched hysterical laughter, drowned out by a machine gun burst.

Video: Fade to black

Obama’s Challenge

President Obama, in his inaugural address on Monday, will ask Americans to think small and lower their expectations.

"Our nation faces a series of enormous challenges and great opportunities," a draft of his proposed remarks, obtained yesterday by this reporter, begins.

"Throughout our glorious history," Mr. Obama evidently plans to say, "America has always risen to the moment, summoned the courage and the will to answer the challenge of the day, and emerged stronger and more vibrant. Not this time, baby.

"We face a stagnant economy, a growing wealth disparity that’s threatening to destroy our middle class and turn us into a third world country, an enormous deficit, a rising tide of gun violence, and the very real danger of climate change. Time and again, throughout our history, in moments of great crisis, Americans have put aside our differences, rolled up our sleeves, and worked together to solve our problems. Our hard work, our ingenuity, our selfless devotion to our fellow citizens, have made us the strongest, most successful nation in history, and the envy of the world.

"That was then, this is now.

"Let’s face it. The myopic Republican bozos in Congress can’t see past the next debt ceiling fight. My new cabinet is a bunch of party apparatchiks and loyalists from my inner circle with no real agenda but protecting my rear end. If you honestly believe that either group could solve an easy Sudoku puzzle, much less the national debt, I’ve got a solar panel company you can buy cheap.

"I’ve got about a year and a half before I’m a complete lame duck with no clout at all, and it’s pretty clear I’m going to spend that entire time bogged down in endless fights with those morons in the House over a bunch of idiotic self-imposed budgetary crises, with zero chance of addressing important stuff like energy independence, reforming our education system or saving the planet from global warming.

"As you know, I came into this office four years ago with high hopes and grand dreams, hopes and dreams you once shared, but as a very perceptive woman once said, ‘How’s that hopey changey thing working out for ya?’ I think we all know the answer.

"So, today, I ask all Americans, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, whatever your religion or ethnic background, to join with me in forgetting about leaders with vision, a government that actually functions, a Washington that works for you and not just for moneyed interests. Do not dream of a better world, a safer planet, or a brighter future for our children, at least not any time soon.

"Maybe some day, in the distant future, a future we cannot see from here, things will change, and the partisan gridlock that seems permanent now will somehow evaporate and we will magically return to the kind of functioning democracy our founding fathers envisioned. Perhaps Hillary can do something in 2016. 

"But it’s probably not going to happen on my watch. Get used to it.

"God bless you, and God bless America."

Nov 8

Nail-biter?

This was a close election, right? A nation bitterly divided between red and blue. Two parties evenly splitting the vote. Two starkly different visions of America. Obama squeaking out a bare 50.3% of the popular vote, although he carried the electoral college handily. Except that it wasn’t really close and we aren’t that divided. No president presiding over an economy this bad should have been re-elected; it should have been a landslide for Mitt Romney, and the Democrats should have lost the Senate. If this election revealed anything, it’s not a divided electorate, it’s the glaring weakness of the Republican Party, which has become a party almost exclusively of rich old white men.

Demographics is destiny, they say, and the GOP has spent the last 20 years alienating the fastest-growing segments of the population. It has gone out of its way to drive away Blacks, Hispanics, women and the young, presenting the Democrats with a winning coalition broad enough to deliver a victory even in the worst economic climate in more than 70 years. Had unemployment been, say, five percent, Obama would have won in a landslide and the Dems likely would have retaken the House. Worse for the Republicans, the map is turning more and more blue. The solid South is solid no more, with Virginia and Florida going blue and North Carolina in play. The West, too, is turning Democratic, with Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada joining the West Coast, and Arizona beginning to shift. No region of the country is going the other way.

Now the fun begins. How will the Republican Party react? Will it adopt a more conciliatory strategy now that its four-year opposition to anything Obama has failed, or will it dig into that destructive playbook again? House Speaker Boehner seems willing to work across the aisle, now that the Tea Party has been somewhat rebuked (if not chastened). Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell is another story. His classless and off-key remarks after the election don’t seem to offer much hope. Is it too much to hope that his own caucus might have something other than another four fruitless years of obstructionism in mind?

No FEMA?

In the last few days, Mitt Romney has had to walk back yet another of his previous stands, that he’d do away with FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It’s an article of faith among conservatives, despite conspicuous evidence to the contrary, that the federal government can’t do anything as well as state governments, and that governments in general can’t ever do anything as well as the private sector. Then something on the scale of Sandy hits, overwhelming the ability of any local responders, private or public, to handle the massive rescue, cleanup and rebuilding efforts. The only entity with resources close to sufficient to deal with the scale of the disaster is the federal government. It’s been a bit comical to watch Romney and his running mate appealing for contributions of canned goods and cash to the Red Cross while Obama puts the machinery at his disposal to work. So I guess Romney’s stance now will be that we should wait to disband FEMA until after all of Sandy’s damage has been cleaned up, and hope there’s not another one on this scale for a while. When the next natural disaster strikes we can test the conservative theory of limited government.  I’m sure the cans of soup I have to offer will make all the difference. 

You Know It’s an Election Year When…

assaults on U.S. embassies abroad provoke political attacks rather than a unified front from all parties. The Romney campaign, never particularly interested in the truth, attacked the Obama administration for its “disgraceful” response to the attacks on embassies in Egypt and in Libya, where the U.S. ambassador and two others were killed. Turns out, the statement Romney criticized was put out by the U.S. embassy in Cairo BEFORE the attacks, and was what turned out to be a fruitless effort to soften any violent repercussions from controversy surrounding a film depicting the prophet Mohammed. The official responses from the Obama administration AFTER the attacks was precisely what you would expect, an immediate forceful condemnation. We’ll see if Romney walks back his comments, or sticks with them, knowing they’re a lie and hoping the voters won’t know or be interested in what really happened. Given his campaign so far, I expect the latter.

Sep 7

Obama’s Moment

Did Obama close the deal last night? Probably not, but he established the proper tone, beginning with the reminder that he IS the president. I thought the Republicans’ mocking tone at their convention was a false note that doesn’t play outside the hall. Ridicule may feed the red meat base, but I don’t think it sits well with independent voters. People still instinctively like Obama, and are instinctively leery of Romney. The campaign themes are now set: Romney wants the election to be a referendum on Obama’s four years; Obama wants it to be about a choice between different paths—if you throw me out what are you replacing me with? So far, Romney has done a poor job of explaining why he should be the replacement. 

Sep 4

Better Off?

The Republicans have been hammering Obama with Ronald Reagan’s famous question, asked during his debate with Jimmy Carter, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” It’s a trick question, of course. The economy collapsed at the very end of the Bush presidency, and the downward spiral continued until mid-2009, when unemployment reached 10%. The stock market bottomed out in December of 2008, before Obama took office.  Since then, there’s been steady, if slow improvement. The stock market has regained much of its value, and unemployment, while still high, is hovering near 8%. This does Obama little good, however. “Actually, we’re ever so slightly better off than we were four years ago” isn’t much of a slogan to run on.

A better one might be, “I’m not Jimmy Carter, and Mitt Romney sure isn’t Ronald Reagan.”

It will be interesting to see how Obama and the Dems counter the continuing misrepresentations of the Republican candidates. I’m hoping that Obama comes out swinging, and offers a big, broad, visionary economic plan, even if it’s all but certain it would never get through a stalemated Congress. The Republicans have offered nothing new, just a repetition of the destructive policies that got us here in the first place. Cut taxes for the rich, deregulate business.  ”Are you better off now” is a shopworn retread. Can nostalgia for the Reagan era compete with a genuine vision? I hope we’ll find out over the next three days.

Liar, Liar

For a devout Catholic, Paul Ryan sure violates the eighth commandment a lot. His rousing speech last night at the RNC was so full of distortions, misrepresentations and outright lies he’ll need to spend a week in the confessional after the convention is over.

It’s really too bad, because I was hoping that the guy who’s become the face of the Tea Party economic agenda would show himself to be the deep thinker and fresh presence that he’s been advertised as. Turns out, he’s just another hyper-partisan politician who’s learned not to blush when he’s telling the latest, biggest whopper. He can look you straight in the face with those big, sad baby blues and lie like the basset hound he somehow resembles.

Where to start? How about the big one he absolutely knows to be false, that Obama wants to cut Medicare benefits by $761 billion. Ryan knows that those are not cuts, but savings from payments to providers as a result of changes in Obamacare. Ryan included those very savings in his own budget, the one that the House passed earlier this year. Repealing Obamacare, as the Republicans have promised, will result in those savings being lost, making Ryan’s own budget more budget-busting than it already is, and Ryan knows it.

Then there’s the one about the plant closing in his hometown, Janesville, Wisconsin, which Ryan blamed on Obama’s broken promise to save it. Ryan knows full well that Obama was powerless to prevent its closing in December, 2008, while George W. bush was still in office. 

And those are just two of the more egregious lies in a speech chock full of them, a speech delivered on the heels of an entire day at the convention devoted to blasting Obama for things he never said in a video deliberately edited to misrepresent his remarks.

If the Republican candidates for the highest offices in the land are willing to distort history so thoroughly to make their case, to build their entire campaign on a web of falsehoods, what can we make of their promises? The Republicans once called themselves the Party of Ideas. Do we really want to put the Party of Lies in power?