Monday, September 10, 2012
I realized you asked me a question last week, and I did not answer it:
Maybe it is too much to ask of a convention speech or even a campaign, but I want to hear that there is a plan. Not just some lofty projections. An actual plan. Concrete actions that can take place which will alleviate my concerns. Don't tell me we are going to hire a million math and science teachers. Tell me HOW we are going to get people with aptitude for those subjects to choose public schools over Dow Chemical and $40,000 over $90,000.
You may say to me that many of these very topics were addressed last night. Sure they were. But I don't believe that much will be done. Do you?
And a fair one. And my honest answer is, no, I don't. But then again, my expection for "that much" is lower than yours.
I don't want to talk down to you, but here I go, anyway. Matt, I've been in government a long time, both at the federal and local levels. Here's what I've learned: it is designed to be slow.
It's not slow to confound honest, smart, savvy, and results-oriented people like you. It is slow because it is supposed to be slow. Because the system is not designed for streamlined, quick change. It is designed for extended deliberation, for lengthy debate, for false starts, failed tests and do-overs.
Obama was recently asked about some of his regrets over the last three-plus years. At the top of the list was the way he communicated (or, rather, his lack of communication) to the American public about just how dire the economic situation really was, just how much was at stake. He didn't say it, but I'm not so sure that he wouldn't also include maybe a bit of the overselling of "change".
After all, what is change? Well, first and most important, it is an individual thing. We each define our own change, which is a good thing. My change is different than your change. We're different guys, though, different backgrounds, different families. It's okay to hope for something different than one another.
And that's why it worked so well in the '08 campaign. Change was whatever we wanted it to be, and Candidate Obama could stick with the soaring oratory. It worked.
It won't work again, because the business of government is concrete. The differences between us must be spelled out. Change is no longer just an idea in the ether -- it is real policy affecting real lives in real ways.
Is change predator drone strikes in countries we are not at war with? Not for me it's not.
What about not a single Wall Street prosecution after the banks crashed the economy? Change, for me, would actually have been the opposite.
What about a health plan modeled on one passed and signed into law by a moderate Republican governor... What's his name, again? Is it change we can believe in?
The point is, I have problems -- real, substantive problems based in actual policy and law -- with President Obama. I really do, as do a lot of progressives smarter and more articulate than I am.
But at the end of the day, we are in the final stretch of an American campaign, which means you have a choice between two candidates: a brought-down-to-earth Obama, or a Romney/Ryan ticket which is slowly being consumed by the white-heat burn of its own lies and equivocations.
I think it's cool that you worked for Bob Graham in Iowa for the '04 Campaign. It's a once-in-a-lifetime gig, campaigning, especially at the presidential level.
I'm an old field guy from way back in the day. What I see the Obama team doing, quite reflective in the @SpencerianBlue feed...
There's less than a month until the voter registration deadline. What are you waiting for? Visit www.GottaVote.com
Volunteers of all ages were out in their communities as part of the Ready to Go Weekend of Action.Wanna do something fun, fast and free to help reelect@BarackObama?
...is the hard work of, well, GOTV as best I can tell. It's GOTV a month or so early, really, I suspect because there are so many terrible efforts out there to undermine the likely Democratic vote in so many critical swing states (like Florida).
For field guys like me, a lot of this is fun. How many folks turn out at rallies? How many field offices does each campaign have?
That's what I heard from President Obama at the convention, by the way: that there is much, much more work to be done. I agree. Are we going to do the hard work of getting him re-elected in order to have the conversation about what must be done? At least that?
I certainly think it's worth doing.
All of that to say, I know you're a policy guy. You want to know the plan and the projected outcomes.
I care about policy too, but I focus a lot more on the mechanics of the campaign (admittedly, not everyone's favorite topic). We're less than 60 days out.
Mitt is flip-flopping on health care. Health care, Matt. The "repeal it" crowd was the jet fuel in the Republican 2012 Campaign Rocket at the outset. How's that going to go over with the base, do you suppose? I don't see a fired up and ready to go GOP machine for November.
There is also some buzz about Obama opening up a bit of a lead in Ohio, which would make Florida -- now still virtually tied -- an absolute must-win for Mitt. After all, if Mitt loses Pennsylvania (where the GOP machine and high-dollar superPAC funders have already retreated), Ohio and Florida, the path to victory is all but impossible.
I don't have a question for you this time around, Matt. Just a sort of pseudo-theory that the Obama folks are going to spend the next fifty-plus days doing everything they can to get organized, and turn out the vote.
Back to you.
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Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Sometimes slow is a convenient excuse for lazy or incompetent. Is it "slow" that the United States Senate has not passed a budget since 2009? Is it slow that Congress is about to take a 7 week recess after being back from their 5 week recess for only 8 working days? Is it slow that no less than 5 different groupings of legislators, executive branch staff, retired politicians and the like have met about the $53,000-a-second our country is borrowing - without producing substantive - hell, even minimally substantive - changes? When you have to hang a fiscal guillotine above your own head to even begin to address your unsustainable Trillion dollar a year deficit... that isn't slow, that is incompetent. And gets you a collective 11% approval rating.
On the other hand, I do get your point that government, especially at the federal level should not be knee-jerk and reactionary. It should be deliberative, and if necessary, deliberate. It should be, in the historical sense, conservative.
I always knew there was a conservative soul under that liberal veneer... Right?
I agree that what Obama was able and perfectly positioned to do in 2008 was sell a different tone, a different tenor. George Bailey goes to Washington. An era of post-partisan progress. It has all given way to what keen political and mechanical observers saw all along, a grassroots, community organizing, practical politician with a compelling personal narrative.
As the National Journal says today, "if Obama wins it will be despite the economy and because of his campaign. If Romney wins it will be because of the economy and despite his campaign." The ground game discussion is just now bubbling to the surface on @SpencerianRed. Apparently, the Romney apparatus has eclipsed 2008 McCain figures for voter contacts, door knocks and the like. Ok, great. So what?
There seems to be this unstated belief that all the polling we are seeing is garbage, and that polls of likely voters and polls closer to the election will tell a different story, will reflect the fundamentals of a nation dissatisfied with its direction and uncertain as to why the current administration deserves a re-up. I think that they might even be confident of Romney's performances in the upcoming debates and continued terrible jobs news. I think they see the empty suit vs. the empty chair as a battle they can win. Either the campaign isn't making basic strategy public, or there isn't one beyond "ride the negative tide".
As for the mechanics of it all, I believe the late, great Tim Russert summed it up best when he said (and wrote), "Florida, Florida, Florida!" The inescapable truth of our importance explains Obama in Seminole, Ann Romney in Largo, Biden and Ryan all around, etc. We are the center of the political world for the next 60 days. It should be fun. I was in Tallahassee when it was the center of it all in 2000, in a totally different way. Let's hope, for many, many reasons, this one is different.
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Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Hi, Matt --
Okay, first of all, it's pragmatism behind the liberal veneer. Not conservatism. Come on.
I will certainly concede the point with respect to slow-moving, deliberate government versus a totally locked-up train wreck, dysfunctional, pathetic, lethargic, incapable of doing even the cursory work of making the federal government trains run on time. It is simply not that hard. It is embarrassing and potentially calamitous when our government can't even pass its own budget.
It is dangerous and even deadly when our leaders refuse to listen and understand critical information provided through the channels of government, a somber truth we were reminded of this week.
Like you -- and around 65 or 70 percent of the rest of us -- I think Congress is about as frustrating and darn near useless a deliberative, law-making body as you're likely to find.
Too bad we have a representative government.
And for the record, no, I don't think Barack Obama can fix what is broken in either branch (or any of the three, though he obviously can appoint new Supreme Court Justices, should any of the current serving wingnuts do us the courtesy of retiring). My real hope -- and what I was trying to get to with the slow progress stuff in the last dispatch -- was that we can make small steps towards real governmental reform. You have to admit: there's only one way to get there, and it's not via a Romney Administration.
So, back to the presidential race.
I like to think I'm fairly cautious when it comes to this stuff, so when I see headlines like this -- albeit in the Sideboob Gazette -- I actually get nervous: Mitt Romney Critics Hammer Campaign For Failure To Fight
Quotes like this from Laura Ingraham don't help, actually:
"This is a gimme election, or at least it should be," said conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham on Monday. "If you can't beat Barack Obama with this record, then shut down the party. Shut it down. Start new, with new people."
Really, Laura Ingraham? I thought she had retreated back to the depths of Mordor. Huh. Funny that I find myself agreeing with her.
It's just that these are the kinds of barbs you read after the election ("This was a gimme election! Or at least it should have been!"), or maybe the week before. But fifty-something days? It's unprecedented.
Anyway, for as quickly as this year has flown by for us (how about for you guys? I'm pinning it on the new babies...) there still is a pretty fair amount of time between now and Election Day. A lot could still happen.
I also think don't disagree with Bob Woodward, who was interviewed on Marketplace today, when he said it is shocking that no one in either campaign is talking about this "fiscal cliff" fast approaching. In my brief defense, I wrote about the fiscal cliff -- and the idea that it ought to be the only thing either campaign talks about. Ever -- back in June of this year.
Talk about dangerous dysfunctionality.
Any bets on whether we'll see the fiscal cliff equivalent of the 3:00 AM phone call ad this time around?
What do you say?
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Thursday September 13, 2012
The 3 AM ad is a great question. Could it come from the Romney team, inept to this point? I doubt it, but if it did - it would be about the fiscal cliff as you mentioned. There is even a frame for it - Romney's history with the Olympics. (theoretically, saving companies from the brink is what he did at Bain too, but the methods become the story there.) I could probably even write the script:
The ad begins with some Wall Street fat cat cigar smoking, then the music would go dark and the lights would dim as pictures of abandoned suburban building projects were flashing behind a slideshow of foreclosure signs, short sale signs and shuttered small businesses. Next comes unemployment numbers and downtrodden workers standing in line to sign up for unemployment benefits overdubbed with halting, hesitating, equivocating-sounding, out-of-context Obama quotes, followed by college students taking down fading Obama posters and talking about heavy student debt and no job opportunities. When the music finally reaches a nadir, in comes Mitt. "Olympics ... in danger of failing ... America's proud history (Lake Placid, Los Angeles, Atlanta...) ... man of character and seriousness ... strong business turnaround credentials ... Mitt Romney - just what our Country needs." The music builds - probably "America, The Beautiful" - and the ad ends with a chest/head profile shot of Mitt Romney with an American flag waving in the breeze behind him. "I'm Mitt Romney and my pollsters told me to approve this message." -- 30 --
Honestly, it is the only semi-authentic pitch for the guy. As you pointed out, conservatives have rebelled against him from the beginning and are abandoning ship with alacrity. Moderates have no idea what he stands for - and his campaign doesn't seem to, either. The 3 AM fiscal phone call is his argument. Maybe that is what they are saving the $170 Million for - a huge, saturating ad buy designed to scare the s#^% out of people. He certainly has a GOP base ready for that message. Seriously, Glenn Beck is currently promoting a service that can save up YEARS of non-perishable food for your family. You know, for the global financial meltdown all rational (read: irrational) people just know is coming - that or the attacking zombie hordes - I don't know, I couldn't make it through the whole thing.
What would Obama's 3 AM call ad look like? I'd like to hear your version. I am sure that @SpencerianBlue has provided you with plenty of material.
Maybe it is playing out right now. US embassies are under siege in several countries right now. Ostensibly, it is because of some 14 minute, poorly done YouTube video mocking and denigrating The Prophet. More likely, it is because there are insanely high numbers of unemployed among young males in these countries and they are led by groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and others who promote sharia law, reject American freedoms and values, and scapegoat "The West" at every turn. The black flag with the core tenet of Islam that has replaced American flags in at least two embassies does not provide good optics. As we have repeatedly discussed, foreign affairs is an area where Romney is out of his depth. Obama should dominate it, and has to this point.
On the other hand, a protracted bubbling unrest in the Middle East probably does not help. @SpencerianRed has jumped all over this unrest and questioned Obama's leadership, his diplomacy, his - well, pretty much everything. Obama channeling Jimmy Carter quotes about Reagan (the "shoot first, aim later" line) is probably not the way Chicago wanted to go. The typical Red response can be summed up with this tweet:
We now have had two U.S. embassies w/Islamist flag flying over them but really the biggest problem is Romney's press statements. Really.
There has been strong defense of Romney this morning against the "mainstream media" condemnation - asking why that same standard didn't apply to Obama in '08 for criticizing Bush/McCain foreign policy on the same day of American military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. I don't really see the parallel, but it is certainly the meme of the moment. They are also contrasting Adminstration condemnation of the video to OFA accepting money from Hollywood producers who make movies like Religious that relentlessly mock Christians. And there it is... Obama, the Muslim Sympathizer, hates Christians (which would make him self-loathing... but hey, why let a little fact like that get in the way of a good narrative!) and according to Dinesh D'Souza, is an anti-colonialist who wants to shrink American influence in the world. The Manchurian Candidate brought to life.
And we still have 50+ days to go. Ugh.
Back to you,
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Welcome to Into the Echo Chamber, the weekly electronic conversation of the 2012 presidential campaign as viewed from two Twitter feeds. Matt Spence is monitoring the Twitterverse of the Romney Campaign, Republicans, and the "red" side of the aisle at @SpencerianRed. I am monitoring the tweets of the Obama Team, Democrats, and the "blue" side using @SpencerianBlue. Our email-based back-and-forths are posted here on Thursdays.