— Bud Norman
— Bud Norman
— Bud Norman
A second term agenda has been conspicuously absent from Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. There’s been plenty of sneering criticism for some things that Mitt Romney has said he wants to do, far more sneering about some things that Obama falsely claims Romney wants to do, and a few small proposals such as the ever-popular soak-the-rich tax hikes, but nothing in the way of a grand scheme to fix the nation’s many lingering problems.
The oversight is so glaring that even the president’s most stalwart supporters have noticed, and some have gone so far as to suggest that he offer such a plan in order to bolster his recently declining electoral prospects. This seems reasonable enough, given the apparent difficulty of selling more of the same, but it’s hard to imagine what he might come up with that will woo back any lost voters.
Any plan released at this late date will naturally raise questions about why Obama has waited so very long to unveil it. Some will suspect that it was intended to avoid the critical scrutiny of the media, as if that would ever happen, while the most realistic skeptics will assume it a ploy to prevent Romney from having a go at it during the debates. Those still enamored of Obama will be thrilled with whatever he might come up with, but the rest of the country will immediately be wondering why he hadn’t attempted such a brilliant agenda to begin with. The plan would have to be rolled out in yet another Big Speech, as well, and there have been so many of those over the past four years that many Americans would pay it no mind.
Obama likely has a number of big ideas that he is eager to impose on the nation if given the opportunity, but probably has been keeping them to himself because he believes that they won’t be very popular. All of Obama’s ideas involve spending great gobs of money, a point that won’t be lost on a public that finally seems to be properly worried about the country’s mounting debt, and they always require an almost religious faith in governmental power that has lately become harder to sustain. Although Obama will occasionally hint at how very far left he would go when off the teleprompter, as in his infamous “you didn’t build that” oration, he has mostly tried to sustain an image of moderation.
Such reluctance to be frank has severely hindered Obama’s efforts to even tout the ideas he has proposed. When Obama was hammered about energy prices during the first debate he seemed itching to shout out that of course he had sought increases, that he had told people he would during the first campaign, and that everyone will someday be thanking him when we’re all driving on $20-a-gallon biofuels because he’s pumped the cost of Gaia-killing gasoline to $21 per gallon, and that if anyone out there didn’t like it they could just buy a Chevy Volt or leave the suburbs and live in the city like a real person. He restrained himself, of course, and offered an obviously bogus explanation of how much he truly loves gas and coal and all the fossil fuels, confident that his friends at the Sierra Club would know he was fibbing but hopeful that no one else would figure it out.
— Bud Norman
Have you hugged your garbageman recently? At the risk of appearing plutocratic, we must confess that we have not.
Being so very thoughtless, we might never even have noticed this oversight if not for an advertisement now airing on behalf of Barack Obama’s presidential re-election campaign. The ad features a man who collects Mitt Romney’s trash complaining that while other people on his route routinely make a point of shaking his hand, giving him hugs, and otherwise expressing their immense gratitude for his humble efforts, the Republican presidential nominee has failed to do so.
Produced and paid for by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which is much indebted to the president for helping to keep its members overpaid if under-appreciated, the ad offers Romney’s appalling lack of hugginess as proof of his heartless contempt for the backbreaking labors of the common working man. They seem to expect that a significant number of voters will be so offended by Romney’s behavior they will rush to the polls to express their outrage, but we wonder how many there will be.
Most people, in our experience, do not hug their garbagemen. We do express our thanks to the sanitation workers by only hauling the trash out to the curb for collection every other week or so — for such Gaia-hating right-wing bastards, our carbon footprint is embarrassingly small — and by paying the full bill — even though there’s probably an Obamatrash program that would stick some rich guy with the tab — but that’s about the extent of our kudos. On the rare occasions when we happen to be standing on the lawn during trash collection we will offer the workers a wave and a traditional Kansas “howdy,” but they seem a manly bunch and not at all the sort who would welcome an uninvited hug. Perhaps Mitt Romney’s posh neighborhood can afford a more sensitive sort of garbageman, but if so that would probably be a more effective point for stirring up class resentments against him.
We’re also skeptical of the implied claim that Obama is far chummier and more physically affectionate with his own garbagemen. Despite our famously vivid imagination, we just can’t quite conjure the image of Obama inviting the White House garbageman into the Oval Office to hang out with Jay-Z, Beyonce, The Pimp With a Limp, and the rest of the gang. This will no doubt be attributed to Obama’s altruistic desire not to interfere with the garbageman’s important duties, but we’re finding it increasingly hard to be simultaneously impressed with the president’s famously glamorous lifestyle and his common touch.
— Bud Norman
We rarely inveigh against slavery anymore, not because of any fondness for it but rather because we have long assumed that in these enlightened times one’s abolitionist opinions can go without saying. Imagine our surprise, then, upon hearing that the Republican party’s presidential nominee is intent on restoring the peculiar institution.
Vice President Joe Biden made that extraordinary claim while speaking Tuesday at a campaign event in Danville, Virginia, where he told a cheering crowd that Mitt Romney and his party are “going to put y’all back in chains.” He appeared to be looking a mostly African-American section of the audience as he said it, and unless “y’all” is a Delawarism that we weren’t previously aware of it also sounded very much as if the remark was intended for their benefit.
In the interest of providing context, lest we be accused of misquoting the famously quotable Biden, the line was wedged into the middle of a tirade about Romney’s proposed financial regulation reforms and his running mate Paul Ryan’s budget proposal. After looking over the Ryan budget rather carefully and finding no provision for the restoration of slavery, we can only assume that it’s buried somewhere in one of Romney’s Wall Street position papers.
Any financial regulatory reform that entails the restoration of slavery will likely be found unconstitutional, probably on thirteenth amendment grounds, but then again one can’t really count on the Supreme Court for anything these days, and in any case it’s quite appalling that Romney would even want to do such a thing. Setting aside any moral qualms about the proposal, it seems a most unpromising political position. One wonders about the focus groups the Romney campaign used to the test the idea.
Perhaps it’s not so surprising, however. The Obama campaign has already helpfully informed us that Romney is a dog-torturing, gay-bashing, tax-cheating, Swiss bank account-holding cad who killed a guy’s wife, and is one of those rich guys to boot, so it isn’t much of a stretch to him as a latter day Simon Legree as well. There’s still plenty of campaign left, too, and it will be interesting to see what accusation the Obama crew will come up with to top this one.
Biden might very well be incorrect about Romney’s pro-slavery sentiments, of course. He was apparently under the mistaken impression that he was in North Carolina when he made the speech, after all, and he has gained something of reputation over the years for saying outrageously stupid things. He’s not backing down, and the campaign’s spokeswoman has declined to disavow the comment, but we’re still awaiting some proof of the allegation before rendering a final judgment.
— Bud Norman
A short time ago at a local tavern we were quietly conversing with a friend about the nation’s politics, but despite our best efforts the conversation wasn’t quiet enough to avoid the attention of a nearby eavesdropper who interjected herself into the dialogue to announce that she hated Mitt Romney. The way she spoke the word “hate” suggested that it was a very deliberate choice, not meant in the hyperbolic way that someone might say they hate broccoli or a certain sports team, and she spat out the Republican nominee’s name with such salivating disgust that her hatred was moistly palpable.
Although it seemed odd that anyone would muster such a sputtering hatred for Romney, who strikes us as a rather pleasant fellow, and not nearly extremist enough for our tastes, we weren’t so curious that we encouraged any further conversation with the woman. Such emotional political outbursts are all too common these days, and we’ve seen enough of them to know when there’s no point in talking.
There are those on the right who regard their political opponents with a similar hatred, and we can think of at least a couple of them who host national radio talk shows, but in our experience a red-hot political hatred is now far more common on the left. Most of our conservative friends and acquaintances will freely state that they hate what they see as the results of Obama’s policies, and some have gone so far as to admit that they don’t share the favorable personal opinion of the president that so many people keep expressing in polls, but we can’t recall any who have come right out and said that they hate the man. The prevailing sentiment on the right seems to be an ardent wish that Obama will soon be enjoying a happy and uneventful retirement.
Certainly the left is more unabashed about its hatreds. During the Bush years a carefully cultivated hatred of the president was downright de rigueur, to be exhibited with the same smug satisfaction as when flashing a new tattoo or three days’ growth of facial hair. Politicians, pop stars, moviemakers, late night television comics, reality show performers, and anyone else needing to cultivate a cutting-edge public image felt obliged to shriek their hatreds, and no one in the more respectable quarters of liberaldom felt the need to apologize for it. Hating Bush remains a popular liberal pastime to this day, although the Tea Party, the Koch Brothers, rich people in general, the Catholic Church, churches in general, and various industries and occupations are also widely hated. Here in Kansas the governor and the secretary of state are popular objects of liberal hatred, and we suspect that every state has it own demonology of the left.
We’ll leave it to the social scientists to explain why the peace-and-love crowd has long been so hepped up on its hatreds, but we suspect that it has somethng to do with their apparently sincere belief that the right is the only thing preventing them from creating a utopia. We’re quite sure the hatred of Romney will be deliberately encouraged by the Obama campaign because it won’t have anything else to run on. “A prominent Democratic strategist aliged with the White House” bluntly admitted to Politico’s reporters that they intend to “kill Romney,” a choice of words that would be considered shocking if it came from a Republican campaign, and it is already clear that the incumbent would rather talk about his opponent’s personal finances than his own public record.
— Bud Norman
President Barack Obama’s recent decision to not enforce the immigration laws in the cases of young people who were brought to the country as children, “do not present a risk to national security or public safety,” and meet certain other criteria is widely assumed to be political ploy intended to shore up support among Hispanic voters. This theory is so widely believed that Obama’s political director, David Plouffe, went on CNN to announce that “this is not a political move.”
The official denial did nothing to allay the suspicions of others, and pretty much confirmed ours, but it is not clear the new policy is a smart political move. There’s a limit to the benefits, and there could very well be a greater cost.
The new policy will likely please some Hispanic voters, but there is no way to calculate how many. Not all Hispanics are eager to open the borders, and those who are probably would have been just as persuaded by the argument that a Republican would likely impose a stricter border security policy than has Obama. What’s more, those Hispanics who do like the new immigration policy might not like it quite enough overcome their disapproval of Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage, his war against the Catholic Church, and of course the many policies that have resulted in an economy so lousy that economy that can’t provide enough jobs for the people already here.
Hispanics aren’t the only segment of America worried about the persistently and extremely high unemployment rate, of course, nor will they be the only ones to wonder how allowing an extra million or young people to join the job will affect that unhappy situation. Even the editors and reporters of the Washington Post, who would much prefer to be writing about Mitt Romney’s high school bully days, are wondering how the extra workers are going to affect the “aspirations of legal Americans.” The high-income, highly educated voters that once supported Obama won’t feel threatened by the cheaper labor of young illegal immigrants, but neither are they so enthusiastic about illegal immigration that the new will policy will provide a reason to ignore their this gives them no reason to overcome their other newfound objections to his tax proposals and other economic ideas. The lower-income voters who previously voted for Obama, especially the black and youth blocs, will have yet another reason to stay home.
— Bud Norman
Work for an organization of any size for any length of time and you will eventually be re-organized.
Over many years in the newspaper business we went through it often enough to notice two kinds of re-organizations. The first kind, and by far the most fearsome, was forced by economic necessity. With revenues shrinking due to those darned internet sites and other changes in the news industry, these re-organizations involved significant numbers of lay-offs and forced the remaining staff to either do more with less or, as on most occasions, simply do less. The other kind, relatively benign and more easily survived, is motivated by some manager’s desire to fool the higher-ups into thinking that he’s actually doing something. These re-organizations mostly involve a change of nomenclature, such as calling the various departments “teams” rather than “departments,” and usually wind up with the same people doing the same things but with new business cards.
The plan announced Friday by President Barack Obama to re-organize a small portion of the federal government — or “streamline” it, as CNN’s headline approvingly phrased it — strikes us as one of the latter kind of re-organizations. With $15 trillion in debt and a bigger payroll than ever, the government so obviously requires downsizing that even such a devotee of big government as Obama can see it. Obama’s proposal is considerably smaller than what is necessary, however, and there is reason to believe that he might not be serious about making even such minor changes.
The plan would eliminate the Commerce Department, something conservatives have long fantasized about, but replace it with a new and as yet unnamed agency that would retain almost all of the old bureaucracy and also include the U.S. Trade Representative, the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corp., the Trade and Development Agency, and the Small Business Administration. By the White House’s own reckoning the plan would cut only 1,000 to 2,000 jobs — all through attrition, meaning that people with jobs that don’t need to be done can stay at work until they decide to take their generous pensions — and save only $3 billion over 10 years, which is about one-third of a day’s spending by the government. All of which spoils the conservative fantasy while upsetting liberals with a special interest in one of the affected agencies, meaning that the plan is unlikely to win approval from congress.
This suggests that Obama is merely trying to make his bosses, meaning the voters mulling whether to renew his contract or not, think that he’s doing something. The plan allows Obama to claim he’s not really the big government devotee that the past three years and $4 trillion have made him seem, and instead pose as a ruthlessly efficient manager paring down a bloated bureaucracy. If the plan doesn’t pass because of bi-partisan opposition, he can still claim to be doing with a battle with a “do-nothing” congress while counting on the support of the placated Democrats who voted against him.
The generally administration-friendly National Journal goes so far as to say that the president is trying to “Out-Romney Romney,” which exposes the flaw in his re-election strategy. Obama will dearly want to attack likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney as a ruthless downsizer who laid off workers in the name of mere economic efficiency during his days with the Bain Capital firm, an argument that will come from his community organizer’s heart, but it would be starkly inconsistent for him to do so while boasting of his own ruthless downsizing.
— Bud Norman