Category Archives: Reproductive Rights

Fine Fillet Edition

So I have always suspected this: far from being the addle-pated old fool that people like to portray him as, Biden is a shrewd, savvy politician who knows how to play the “gaffe-prone” guy in order to advance a bigger objective.

It is with modified glee, that I point to tonight’s debate performances as evidence. It was a fine filleting of Rep. Paul Ryan, and sent a sigh of relief rolling through the ranks of Demos riled by Romney’s lies and Obama’s apparent indifference  to them in the last week’s debate.

But even before tonight, I had my suspicions about Joe.  Take his so-called gaffe on gay marriage.  Supposedly he just blurted out his support for gay marriage and irritated the president, putting the Obama administration in an awkward position. Know what? I think you don’t get to be a veteran politician with 40 years experience by shooting off your mouth unless it’s calculated. I see Joe in a meeting with the president saying, “Hey, let me just go out there and take the temperature of the water.  If it’s a horrible idea, it’ll just be crazy old Joe shooting off his mouth, but if it’s the right time, then you’ll find out.”

And when Obama’s gay marriage support speech rolled out,  I knew for sure that Joe is one helluva smart political strategist whose greatest advantage is that he doesn’t care what people think about him personally.

But back to the debate at hand. First off, props to Martha Raddatz.  She’s feisty right from the start, “I would like to begin with Libya.”  Whoa, Nellie! No softball question? No inane “what is the difference” queries?  Just, “Good evening, gentlemen, let me set a breakneck pace here by asking you about libyan terrorists assassinating a US Ambassador.” Yeah. I love it. In a tweetshell, as Vanity Fair put it: “Yo, Jim Lehrer, This Is What Killing It Looks Like.”

The NY Times’ Alessandra Stanley observes:

For Mr. Biden especially, the night was his chance to relive past debates and unleash his inner barroom brawler. He had to be contained and courteous when he debated Sarah Palin four years ago, lest he look like a bully. This time he let loose. And unlike the courtly Mr. Bentsen in 1988, Mr. Biden turned his temperature up, singeing the young man across the table with patronizing grins, but mostly withering retorts. His interruptive barrage was as relentless as his silent mugging for the camera.

Mr. Ryan held his own, but did look abashed when Mr. Biden mocked him for opposing the Obama stimulus, yet asking for government funds for his own district. “On two occasions, we — we — we advocated for constituents who were applying for grants,” Mr. Ryan said stiffly.

“I love that. I love that,” Mr. Biden said. “This was such a bad program, and he writes me a letter saying — writes the Department of Energy a letter saying, the reason we need this stimulus — it will create growth and jobs.”

And if Biden looked authoritative and no-nonsense, Ryan often seemed rattled, like a punky, arrogant little kid who’s just been called out on blatant lies and is desperately trying to keep his cool and bluster his way through. His little “heh-heh” chuckle creepily reminds me of GWShrub’s grating little trademark snigger.

Oh, and by the way, these are real photos of Paul Ryan– he posed for Time Magazine, when he was the 2011 runner up for Person of the Year (???). Don’t ask.
But before I leave the topic of Ryan’s appearance, I’m going to say again… Hannover Fiste.  Remarkable. (Thanks, Todd, now I can’t see anything else…)

Anyway, pundits on the right will claim that Biden was unhinged because they can’t refute what he said, and those on the left will  rejoice that FINALLY someone is starting to call out the Romney-Ryan lie machine.

They get to Medicare entitlements and Ryan tries to drag his mom into the discussion. In his response, Biden offhandedly reminds us that he filleted Sarah Palin on the death panel debate and can fillet Ryan just as neatly.

Some favorite Biden lines:

  • “That is a bunch of malarkey!”
  • “Go on our Web site. He sent me two letters saying by the way, ‘Can you send me stimulus money? It will create growth and jobs. Those are his words. And now, he’s sitting here looking at me?”
  • “By the way, any letter you send me, I’ll entertain it.”
  • “Oh so now you’re Jack Kennedy…”

And one of my favorite Biden responses managed to wrap the 47% remark, the GM bailout,  and Romney’s veteran policies neatly into a response on unemployment figures:

Let’s look at the — let’s take a look at the facts. Let’s look at where we were when we came to office. The economy was in free fall. We had — the Great Recession hit. Nine million people lost their job, 1.7 — $1.6 trillion in wealth lost in equity in your homes, in retirement accounts from the middle class.

We knew we had to act for the middle class. We immediately went out and rescued General Motors. We went ahead and made sure that we cut taxes for the middle class. And in addition to that, when that — and when that occurred, what did Romney do? Romney said, no, let Detroit go bankrupt. We moved in and helped people refinance their homes. Governor Romney said, no, let foreclosures hit the bottom.

But it shouldn’t be surprising for a guy who says 47 percent of the American people are unwilling to take responsibility for their own lives. My friend recently, in a speech in Washington, said 30% of the American people are takers. These people are my mom and dad, the people I grew up with, my neighbors. They pay more effective tax than Governor Romney pays in his federal income tax. They are elderly people who in fact are living off of Social Security. They are veterans and people fighting in Afghanistan right now who are, quote, not paying any taxes.

I’ve had it up to here with this notion that 47 percent — it’s about time they take some responsibility here. And instead of signing pledges to Grover Norquist not to ask the wealthiest among us to contribute to bring back the middle class, they should be signing a pledge saying to the middle class, we’re going to level the playing field. We’re going to give you a fair shot again.

Says Andrew Sullivan at the Daily Beast: “Biden’s affect is the most important thing tonight. He seems like the elder statesman but also a pitbull.”

And at the Economist, reaction was: “Joe Biden was easily the more memorable debater in every way; he was louder, more emotional, lucid, detailed, garrulous, grinning, teary-eyed and just Joe Biden. He sank some real barbs into Romney-Ryan. The Biden that Mr Obama hired in 2008 to excite lower-middle-class types from Scranton showed up and did his job. Ryan was cool, impressively calm given his unpredictable opponent, and detailed, but seemed reactive much of the night. He could have put Obama-Biden on the spot for their deficit failures more effectively; as it was, more time was spent on how Mr Romney’s numbers don’t add up (a potential future deficit) than the actual deficit itself.”

Sam Youngman of Reuters on PBS: Joe’s message was “Hey, welcome to my turf, rookie.”

And I won’t deny that Andy Borowitz of the New Yorker pretty much gets it right: “In a poll of Democratic voters taken immediately following Thursday night’s Vice-Presidential debate, a wide majority said they wanted Vice-President Joe Biden to appear in all remaining 2012 debates,” adding, “Obama should crush a little bit of Joe Biden into a joint and smoke it.”

So, how did Joe do? If you must know my opinion, he cleanly filleted Ryan before the guy even knew what was going on, and  then he packaged him up with a wine sauce to cover that off-flavor of hypocrisy and put a few nice clean chives on the top.

============================
So early voting began in California last Tuesday, and we realized that in order to vote at this juncture, we would have to wade through our positions on nearly a dozen ballot measures and another handful of local propositions. So, Californians, we are now prepared to reveal our recommendations on everything from gross receipt taxes to GMO labeling to the human trafficking.  Interested?  Send me a message and I’ll be happy to share our snarky take on this year’s props.  And when you know which way you want to vote on your local and state props,

GO VOTE. 

In-person early voting has commenced in South Dakota, Idaho,  Vermont, Wyoming, Iowa, Nebraska, Ohio, Indiana,  California, and beginning today, Arizona.

You can vote by absentee ballot already in Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Georgia, Arkansas,Maryland, South Carolina, New Jersey, Maine, Michigan, Mississipi, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Texas,Delaware, Virginia, Louisiana, Missouri, Alabama, North Dakota, Illinois, Washington DC, New York and Florida.

===============================
GROUSEY CAT SEZ: 
 “Sometimes I leave malarkey in the litterbox…
and sometimes I leave malarkey on the carpet…”

 


Unranting Edition

Were you looking for a rant after the last day of the convention?

Yeah, I was too.

When I turned off the Dem convention Day Three last night, I was looking for that fired-up energy.

You know, the couch-slapping, galvanic kind of energy  I got at the end of Bill Clinton’s Day Two speech or the poignant warmth that I felt at the end of Michelle Obama’s encomium on Day One.

Don’t get me wrong, Obama gave a good speech. It had some memorable lines and excellent points, but, as with many of the speeches he’s given in the past few years, I felt like it was geared more toward dialing things down than firing things up. And after we turned off the TV, I didn’t really have any particular feelings about the speech, other than that it was good, not great.

Still, I think it says a lot about him and his approach that his speech slowed me down. I wasn’t typing furiously the way that I did after the Republican convention speakers, or even at the close of the last two days of the DNC. In the morning, I’m chewing over it and still asking myself how I felt about it. The answer is positive, although not necessarily inspired.

The fact that we’ve always known is that Obama is not a grandstander or a demagogue. And he’s not a ranter like me.  Now, I love to see that other people are as outraged as I am, that they’re as vexed by the misinformation and obfuscations that have been flying this political season. I like to watch Bill Clinton preach and Jennifer Granholm rip into Romney. Even last night, it was John Kerry, of all people, who was on fire:”Our opponents like to talk about ‘American Exceptionalism,’ but all they do is talk. The only thing exceptional about today’s Republicans is that — almost without exception — they oppose everything that has made America exceptional in the first place.”

And Joe Biden, who’s often painted as a buffoon in the news media, gave a disarmingly heartfelt and stirring populist speech, exhorting folks to look to a future where we promote the “private sector, not the privileged sector.” Although I worry about Bob Woodward’s new book being a thorn in Obama’s side, it seems his portrayal of Biden confirms what I’ve always suspected: that he’s savvier than you think, and doesn’t care what his public image is as long the job gets done.

BUT, none of this is Obama’s style. We could see that from Day One of his presidency in his inaugural address. Last night’s speech, to be honest, wasn’t full of soaring rhetoric, or even broad, sweeping ideas. His sauciest one liner–“Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning!”– was delivered with more exasperation than charm.

However, I think it was designed to reframe the entire conversation and in its own understated way, re-entrench (if I may coin a word) his supporters, by reminding them of what we like about him. He’s honest, unafraid to face tough realities, works hard for what he believes in, and is humble enough that everything doesn’t need to be about him. Some of what I thought were his best lines last night underscored that:

“I won’t pretend the path I’m offering is quick or easy.  I never have.  You didn’t elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear.  You elected me to tell you the truth.”

“So you see, the election four years ago wasn’t about me.  It was about you.  My fellow citizens – you were the change.”

“And while I’m proud of what we’ve achieved together, I’m far more mindful of my own failings, knowing exactly what Lincoln meant when he said, ‘I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go.'”

“America, I never said this journey would be easy, and I won’t promise that now.  Yes, our path is harder – but it leads to a better place.  Yes our road is longer – but we travel it together.  We don’t turn back.  We leave no one behind.  We pull each other up.”

Andrew Sullivan at the Daily Beast had it right, I think, when he said, “I don’t think it was a game-changer. I do think it sets an optimistic tone for the campaign and a stark choice for Americans this fall. This convention was much better than last week’s. Clinton’s speech alone was worth the whole thing. But this will now be decided in the debates. They will be more than usually vital. I suspect Obama kept his waverers on his side tonight, fired up his base, but failed to break away. We’ll see.”

The reaction from around the blogosphere is pretty much in agreement. James Fallows at the Atlantic says, “I thought it was not one of his best but that it did the job.” And at the NY Times, David Brooks’ assessment is : “Thursday night’s speech showed the character and his potential. It didn’t show audacity and the fulfillment of that potential.” And Howard Kurtz at the Daily Beast says: “It was not Obama’s greatest speech, nor his most passionate. It was, instead, a grown-up speech, a substantive speech, one that hit high notes but never soared to the heights. Whatever afterglow it created may soon fade as voters again confront the realities of the shaky economy, and the fresh unemployment figures due out Friday morning.”

So here’s the thing though. Mixed in with my musings on the Obama speech, I was also pondering the post of a Facebook friend, a Conservative  Baptist I’ve known since high school, who says that she is hiding the posts of some people that she knows until this election is over. I have to assume that I’m on that list, since I merrily post political items on my timeline all the time. Add to that the request from another friend that I not send her emails any longer because “politics just isn’t her thing.”

Now, I’m not offended, but it brings home a reality that I think we have to face up to. People who are Republican supporters are just as unlikely to change their minds about anything to do with Obama as I am to change my mind about Romney. A few weeks ago there was a report on NPR which I can’t find now, but the upshot of it was that for those of us who have a partisan bent, whether it be left or right, it is nearly impossible to make us change our minds now. But there are surprisingly few people, even among independents who HAVEN’T yet made up their minds.

Was this dog-and-pony show going to change the opinions of anyone out there?  Nope. Neither convention could ever have done that and frankly,neither the RNC nor the DNC was without cringe-worthy moments. On balance, I think the Dems came out ahead, despite the wrangling over putting “God” and Jerusalem in the platform, and despite the embarrassing move out of the stadium venue for the last night. After all, the Republicans lost a whole day to the hurricane, had to contend with Clint Eastwood talking to a chair, and were raked over the coals for Paul Ryan’s factually-challenged speech.

Instead, I think we have to use these moments to remind ourselves of why it’s important that we not get lazy about this election, why it’s important that everyone gets out there to vote. Why it’s important that we refute the lies of course, and battle the misinformation wherever we find it, and take this election seriously.

===========================
GROUSY CAT SEZ:
Only kitties can afford to be lazy. Get out and vote.

Top Bill-ing Edition

DNC Day Two.

Okay, I’m ready. I’ve got my cat next to me, my laptop  fired up and my hand on the pause button so I can blog as we go….  bring it on!

Firstly, yes, there are just as many boring speakers at the DNC as at the RNC last week. Yes, their ideas are more in line with my views generally, but if I’m being honest, these conventions are really tedious, far too predictable and far too carefully scripted. Except for Bill Clinton.

Hold that thought. We’ll come back to that.

If you were watching CBS or ABC you would have missed one interesting thing:  Sandra Fluke’s speech. It’s a not-funny non-irony, because as you might remember, she was the Georgetown Law student who was prevented from testifying on the importance of birth control to a House committee. You know, the woman Rush Limbaugh labeled a “slut” for speaking up about how insurance companies need to cover birth control.

After Sandra, there are a few more good, but not notable speakers. And then, Elizabeth Warren–yes! You know why I love this woman?  Because she’s PROGRESSIVE and not apologetic about it.  There are days I want Obama to be so much more progressive, days when I want Dems to stand up and yes, have a frickin’ backbone. And on those days, I watch the YouTube video of Elizabeth Warren going off, just to make me feel better, to remind me that I ain’t so crazy, and that there are leaders out there who are share my lefty-liberal, socially responsible viewpoint.

Warren’s speech isn’t a barn burner, but she makes a lot of good points and she doesn’t sound like a crazy person. Nice and calm. I can appreciate that after listening to people shout into the microphone all night.

But now… it’s time for Bill Clinton.  Everyone sit up, grab your drinks and pay attention. This–THIS is what we’ve been waiting for. Freakin’ brilliant.  I’m thinking it’s one of the best speeches we are going to see here in Charlotte and wondering if Obama can top that. Of course, I thought that same thing back in 2008 too.

As I’m watching it, I’m looking at the transcript, meaning his prepared remarks, and noticing the little differences, the extra facts that he sprinkles throughout brilliantly. I love his digression from the text to talk about National Security and Hillary’s work as Secretary of State. Man has a mind like a steel trap. As Huffpo says, Bill kills it.

Here are some of my “Thank you!” lines–you know, the ones where you slap the couch and shout, “Thank you! Finally someone said it!”:

I want to nominate a man cool on the outside but burning for America on the inside.  A man who believes we can build a new American Dream economy driven by innovation and creativity, education and cooperation. A man who had the good sense to marry Michelle Obama.

The Republican narrative is that all of us who amount to anything are completely self-made.  One of our greatest Democratic Chairmen, Bob Strauss, used to say that every politician wants you to believe he was born in a log cabin he built himself, but it ain’t so.

Well since 1961, the Republicans have held the White House 28 years, the Democrats 24.  In those 52 years, our economy produced 66 million private sector jobs.  What’s the jobs score?  Republicans 24 million, Democrats 42 million!

I understand the challenge we face. I know many Americans are still angry and frustrated with the economy. Though employment is growing, banks are beginning to lend and even housing prices are picking up a bit, too many people don’t feel it. I experienced the same thing in 1994 and early 1995. Our policies were working and the economy was growing but most people didn’t feel it yet. By 1996, the economy was roaring, halfway through the longest peacetime expansion in American history. President Obama started with a much weaker economy than I did. No President – not me or any of my predecessors could have repaired all the damage in just four years. But conditions are improving and if you’ll renew the President’s contract you will feel it.

There were two other attacks on the President in Tampa that deserve an answer. Both Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan attacked the President for allegedly robbing Medicare of 716 billion dollars. Here’s what really happened. There were no cuts to benefits. None. What the President did was save money by cutting unwarranted subsidies to providers and insurance companies that weren’t making people any healthier. He used the saving to close the donut hole in the Medicare drug program, and to add eight years to the life of the Medicare Trust Fund. It’s now solvent until 2024. So President Obama and the Democrats didn’t weaken Medicare, they strengthened it.

When Congressman Ryan looked into the TV camera and attacked President Obama’s “biggest coldest power play” in raiding Medicare, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. You see, that 716 billion dollars is exactly the same amount of Medicare savings Congressman Ryan had in his own budget. [Then Clinton ad libs] You got to admit, it takes some brass to attack a guy for what you did.

People ask me all the time how we delivered four surplus budgets. What new ideas did we bring? I always give a one-word answer: arithmetic.

Remember, Republican economic policies quadrupled the debt before I took office and doubled it after I left, because it defied arithmetic. [and he ad libs]It was a highly inconvenient thing for them in our debates that I was a country boy from Arkansas and came from a place where people thought  two and two was four.

Clinton has always had this uncanny ability to make complicated policy stuff comprehensible, he can make people LOVE hearing budget numbers. At 48 minutes, he runs overtime by about half an hour, and nobody even cares. He must be the only politician I’ve ever seen who can keep an audience in rapt attention while quoting jobs figures to them.  How does he do it?? The spell he has over the crowd is awe-inspiring. Paula Poundstone tweeted, “I want a Bill Clinton backpack, a Bill Clinton lunchbox, Bill Clinton toothpaste, Bill Clinton curtains, and a Bill Clinton beach towel…” (Paula, let me know where I can order those–call me!)

Oh, and after a three-day GOP convention in which everyone tiptoed around the very mention of any Bushes, how ironic is it that the only shout-out heard in either convention comes from Bill Clinton at the DNC? Hah.

Says US News &World Report: “Clinton’s mournful recounting that extremist elements of the GOP had driven “two distinguished Republican senators” out of office was also not in his prepared remarks. It was part of a brilliant riff where Clinton adopted a post-partisan tone—speaking fondly of GOP presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Reagan, and even both Bushes—while effectively doing the very partisan work of demonstrating that the Republicans have become hostage to rigid and uncompromising ideologues.”

Joe Klein at Time Mag says, “Bill Clinton talks about policy–about the substance of governing–better than any other politician I’ve ever heard. He keeps it simple and he keeps it accurate. He can make Medicare as dramatic as warfare. He did a major demolition job on the Republican Party’s economic policy tonight. He held it to the light of the facts. And it crumbled, as those of us who follow these things knew it would.”

And Michael Tomasky at the Daily Beast is equally enthusiastic: “Holy smokes. That was the best political speech more or less ever. There wasn’t a thing he didn’t touch on, and there wasn’t a thing he didn’t just blast out of the park. His carriage and delivery nailed it for partisans and for persuadables. He hit Republican obstructionism. He slammed the Romney and Ryan plans on virtually every point they’ve raised in the last six months, from the welfare ads to the tax cuts to the Medicare “cuts” to so much more, and he did it in detail.”

Even Scott Galupo at American Conservative says, “The case he made against Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan was devastating. The speech was chockfull of soundbite-ready takeaways: “There they go again.” “We can’t afford to double down on trickle-down.” “One word: Arithmetic.” And there were substantive segments on Medicare, welfare, student loan reform, energy policy, etc.”

And Andrew Sprung at xpostfactoid offers what I can only hope is a truth: “What a giant enterprise. He set himself singlehandedly to counter a billion dollars in attack ads, to break through the core Republican lies and obfuscations.”

Anyway, after Bill’s speech, I quietly turn off the TV to absorb. And then I turn it back on and rewind it to watch again. It’s just that good.  Go on. Watch it again.

=========================================

Notes from elsewhere

And in the “Are You KIDDING ME?” Department, this from HuffPo: “On December 10, 2010, Ryan penned a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services to recommend a grant application for the Kenosha Community Health Center, Inc to develop a new facility in Racine, Wisconsin, an area within Ryan’s district. “The proposed new facility, the Belle City Neighborhood Health Center, will serve both the preventative and comprehensive primary healthcare needs of thousands of new patients of all ages who are currently without healthcare,” Ryan wrote. The grant Ryan requested was funded directly by the Affordable Care Act, better known simply as healthcare reform or Obamacare.”

Yeah. Uh-huh. Ad that to the list of hypocrisies.

And in other fascinating news, Gallup reports that Mitt Romney got almost no “bounce” from last week’s convention.  Which either says that there’s no shifting to be had, or that was a pretty sucky convention.  Guess which one I think is the case….

=============================

GROUSY CAT SEZ:

“A vote is like a rifle; its usefulness depends upon the character of the user.”


%d bloggers like this: