Tag Archives: Mitt Romney

On the Ship of State: Essay for August 18, 2012

Who doesn’t go on vacation with an anticipation of blissfully hiding from the headlines for a week or so? And so it was my expectation as we headed out on a Saturday morning that the next newspaper I held in my hands would be to light a fire on the beach. Only on that particular Saturday Paul Ryan was picked to be Mitt Romney’s Vice Presidential running mate. It has been difficult to hide my head in the sand this week but I have tried to go “pundit-less” so that I could accurately capture my thoughts about the selection of Paul Ryan.

I am excited by this pick for a number of reasons. It has excited Mitt Romney. He seems a bit like the boy who is so excited about tomorrow that he can’t go to sleep. There is an excitement in the ranks of Republicans, too, as the Romney campaign appears to have picked up a conservative philosophical tone. Finally, there is both trepidation and exhilaration on the part of the Democrats that describes their uncertainty over the selection of Ryan as a conservative architect of the Republican budget. Some can’t wait to sink their teeth into him and others are shrinking from the inevitable debate with Joe Biden. You think the Olympics were a highly watched event? Wait till the hype for this: “Biden-Ryan in Kentucky: Dropping the Anvil in Danville.”

There has been so much ideological debate this campaign season about who is the purest of the pure when it comes to conservatism. Could any candidate survive that dissection and also win a nomination? No candidate with a voting record could demonstrate that purity without contradiction. Stalwart that he is portrayed to be, even Paul Ryan would fail to turn the litmus paper red every time.

When last I looked there were over four hundred 2012 Presidential hopefuls registered with the Federal Elections Commission. Collectively we have had exposure to only a dozen or two. We never came to know very many and I am certain there were fine people among them with great plans but no traction. So now it has come down to these two Republicans, Romney and Ryan, to be pitted against the incumbent Democrats President Obama and Vice President Biden.

It is a mega-match up. Given the woodpile of Presidential timber from which to choose, this is the best set piece of an ideological battle for which we could hope. On one hand, the Obama-Biden ticket promises more of the same wealth redistribution approach to government. Steady as she goes. Without a course, any wind will take you there.

The Romney-Ryan ticket promises something else. We know the mantra: smaller, less intrusive government with fiscal responsibility. The ticket promises us a better economic plan to get us back on track but it has to be so much more than that. It must truly begin to reflect the nature of the conservative/tea party rebellion that we have witnessed for the last three years. Without it, the economy will falter and we will be pointing fingers at Party Politics, the Political Class and the Establishment as the usual suspects.

Picture the Ship of State as an aircraft carrier. It is a mighty and powerful behemoth with tremendous momentum. If the Captain wants to stop the ship he can call all engines full astern. Nothing will happen for a painfully long time. But the Captain will anticipate that and have faith that physics will prevail and the intended consequence will ensue. In the meantime it is all about the leadership to set the stage for patience for the physics take hold. That same Captain could stop the ship with more rapid effect by running aground but with deleterious consequences. Speed of execution is less important than certainty of outcome.

Extreme times call for extreme measures and require extreme explanations and consensus building. Not the kind of consensus that delivers merely the lowest common denominator but the consensus that results from an intelligent conversation, with urgency, which improves the decision because people share the vision of what is possible. This will require communication above and around and through Congress directly to the American people who have so much at stake.

And make no mistake about it, true reform in Congress is going to be extremely difficult. No one has been successful in nearly 20 years and the stakes have changed remarkably. Every President gets one good shot at making their mark, of navigating their way to a destination. Course and speed affected by tide, set and weather. This is a true crossroads in American history and the Romney-Ryan ticket must have the guts to see it through.

This is where Paul Ryan can use his Roadmap for America to best advantage. Of the 435 members of the House, who had a better articulated vision for the sustainable future of America than he? Yet I don’t suppose even he thought that his proposal would sail through without debate and amendment. What he started two years ago was a dialogue, perhaps a monologue, with the American people. It was they who began to see the intelligence of looking under every rock and having a plan to do something about the consequences of the fiscal realities that were staring us in the face if we would only open our eyes.

So I am quite happy that this battle is drawn. I am pleased that there are two distinct options this November. The course to port leads us closer to rocks and shoals with no means of egress. The path to starboard, even if it is not hard right, offers us hope to lead us out to deeper waters to allow us to have grown up conversations about our great republic.

The choice is less about Republican versus Democrat or right versus left. It is about leading America in ways it wishes to be led and knowing how to execute a vision. The time between now and November must be used for building the vision in real terms so that Americans will look forward to the journey. No more hope and change on either side, please, just the facts.

Captain, let’s turn this ship of state around. “Helmsman, come starboard to course 180 degrees!”

Press on.

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On the Blame Game: Video Essay for June 30, 2012

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On Pessimism: Essay for June 26, 2012

“Optimism is a force multiplier.” So said General Colin Powell long before he was involved in politics. It was the mantra he used to lead those under his command. From The Little Engine That Could to the 1980 US Olympic hockey team, optimism bores through an obstacle like a candle burns through the darkness.

The converse of that statement is equally true. Pessimism is a force diminisher. The real problem with pessimism is that it is virally contagious. It spreads like a pandemic without antidote. Its’ effects are deleterious. Pessimism convinces us that darkness is okay because our eyes will adjust over time especially if the daylight is first overcome by dusk.

It reminds me of the instructions of how to boil a frog: start with cool water and turn up the heat until the deed is done. No intelligent frog would long stay in boiling water but lull them into a false sense of security and they will stew in their own juices and thank you for the effort.

A recently released Rasmussen poll said that only 37 percent of Americans think that the best days for America lie ahead. Some 45 percent think that our best days are indeed behind us. I don’t know when those numbers were reversed. As far back as 2006 with America deeply involved in a bloody war in Iraq and a holding action in Afghanistan and with political partisanship at full throttle, the numbers were fairly similar. Pessimism abounds.

Winning streaks are hard to maintain. They are noble and enduring. Losing streaks take little effort at all to maintain. They are ignoble and best forgotten except in trivia contests. Longest batting streak in baseball? Fifty six games by Lou Gehrig. Longest losing streak for a pitcher? Twenty seven games by Anthony Young. They made movies about Hall-of-Famer Lou Gehrig. What about Anthony Young? He coaches youth baseball.

Is this to be the way of America? Are we destined to become the youth coach of the burgeoning democracies of the world? Or are we metaphorically poised to begin our fifty seven game hitting streak? I think it is a mental choice. As the great philosopher Yogi Berra once said, “Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical.”

The world is an unstable and unpredictable place. It demands a steady hand on the tiller and America is the only country that can provide the leadership that the stability of the world demands. We must be willing to offer that leadership. Allowing warlords and Lesser Developed Countries to dictate the terms of their participation in the family of nations to the largest single force for good in the history of this planet is ludicrous. The outcome will be as certain as it was in Lord of the Flies.

The world needs adult supervision and that supervision must come from the United States. That leaves us with a very real problem. Who among us in this great country is up to the task of leadership? And I mean bold leadership.

The world is full of follower countries waiting for the resurgence of a renewed and focused United States. And Americans are waiting for the same leadership in our own country. We’ve heard the platitudes and we reject them not so much out of incredulity as out of desperation. The words are threadbare and shopworn.

The United States has the largest and most resilient economy in the world but who is filling the pipeline of talent to take over the seats of the aging demographic that is poised to retire? Who seriously thinks that US businesses can successfully repatriate their manufacturing if the workforce is barren of the skills necessary to complete? Our next President must do, not talk.

The United States has the largest and most competent military force in the world but does anyone think we can continue to put our forces in harm’s way to support illegitimate and unjust countries with values incompatible with our own world view? Who thinks we can continue to rotate our best and most precious human assets into combat stalemates without sacrificing the core of our collective soul? Our next President must do, not talk.

The United States has provided a safety net to the neediest among us but how long can this net endure if it becomes a hammock for those who put personal gain at odds against the collective good? Who among us thinks we can pass along the decisions we are too cowardly to make to our children and grandchildren? Our next President must do, not talk.

Certainly our President has not had enough time to bring about change that this nation so desperately needs. That is because he is lost in the wilderness and a worn footpath looks like a superhighway. He is presiding over a losing streak of epic proportions because he has no vision of what American can be and must become.

This is not the fault of the previous administration. It is the fault of President Barack Obama. This President has talked, not done. We are ready for the leader who will light the candle in the darkness.

Yogi said it was 90 percent mental and 50 percent physical. It is hard to argue with that.

Press on.

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On Turning Points: Essay for June 10, 2012

Great moments in history are most often noted in retrospect. We often do not see the significance of any one action, however large, in its proper perspective without the benefit of time. In politics a day can be can be can lifetime, a week an eternity. What a week it has been. The question I pose is this: Has the week of June 4th been the Waterloo for President Obama and his chances for reelection in November?

I know it is early and so much more can happen but it appears as though the wheels are coming off the wagon for the President. Here are just a few of the leading indicators of despair for him.

First and foremost, Scott Walker not only survived the recall election in Wisconsin, he thrived. It is a clear repudiation of organized public sector labor union thuggery. It also exposed a rift between the private and public sector union rank and file. It is quite a luxury that the public sector unions view municipal budgets as blank checks for their incessant demands while their brothers in the private sector are dependent upon the continued vibrancy of the private companies for whom they work.

But wait, there’s more. Bill Clinton, the Godfather of the Democrats, praised Mitt Romney for his tenure at Bain Capital. He said he did a great job. Of course he had to amend his statements later on but the horse was out of the barn. The jury shall disregard the remarks, as they say. Besides, he later went on to say that median income was down since his administration, an off-handed reminder that the Bush-era tax cuts should remain in effect lest we crush the 98%. The Obama big-bad-businessman reelection narrative was destroyed.

Next, Ben Bernanke, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank, indicated that the Bush-era tax cuts should stay in place lest the economy fall off a cliff, raising the unemployment rate, curtailing consumer spending and bringing on another recession. There goes the Presidents’ “tax the rich” narrative.

Then the employment figures of May were released. A mere 69,000 people got work, tens of thousands more stopped looking for work, and the previous two months of employment statistics, already poor, were revised downward. That shoots the Forward narrative right in the foot.

Finally, reports surfaced in a new book that David Axelrod, campaign strategist to the President, got into fisticuffs with Attorney General Eric Holder over politicization of the Justice Department. Maybe that actually reinforces the “Team of Rivals” concept for the President’s cabinet.
And there is so much more. Did anyone mention that the Supreme Court decision on the Constitutionality of Obamacare should be out before the end of the month? A repudiation of the mandate would reinforce the Mitt Romney narrative that Obama fiddled with his pet project of dubious value while the economy was ignored.

Add to this some polling from Rasmussen that indicates a record number of Americans favor one-party rule in Washington and you have enough elements of a turning point week in the “Run for the White House” that favors the challenger, Mitt Romney. How unlikely did this seem only 2 months ago while the Republican primaries were in full swing and the candidates were talking trash about each other. Quick, name me five other candidates for the nomination. Bet you it took a few seconds. Now, there are reports that liberals will refrain from grassroots support and donating money. They may even stay away from the polls in November. Imagine that.

The battle lines are drawn very clearly. President Obama is pleasing nobody these days. It is a self-inflicted wound for whom he can only blame himself. People on both sides of the aisle are disappointed. The further from the center one gets, right or left, the more the disappointment grows. To the Right, Obama is too much a Marxist-Leninist and should be removed from office because he is not what he purported to be. To the Left, Obama is too little of a Marxist-Leninist and should be removed from office because he is not what he purported to be. It makes you want to scratch your head but I would be pleased with the outcome following each extreme.

In July 1863, General Meade and the Union Army of the Potomac defeated General Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia at Gettysburg. Today it is clearly perceived as the turning point of the Civil War. It was not as clear at the time. The war continued for nearly two more years at great loss of American treasure. As Kierkegaard once said, “Life must be lived forwards; but it can only be understood backwards.”
In a real sense, the turning point that may have just occurred is larger than the contest between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney itself. Evidence is coming in that suggests that so much more is at stake than electoral victory. At stake is world leadership in the 21st century. Are the best days for America behind her or still yet to come? We will find out in November.

Press on.

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On the Political Fire Triangle: Essay for May 5, 2012

It has been said that the tea party has actually preserved the Republican Party from sliding towards insignificance by electing to remain a part of its conservative wing rather than attempting to establish a standalone third party. The informational and electoral efforts of the tea party since 2009 have sent a clear message to Americans that there is a sizeable and growing force for limited government and limited taxation. In recent months we have also seen a decided cleaving of some elements of the movement towards vocalizing a social agenda.

It is important to note that the tea party does not yet have the critical mass to become a third party. In the near term it cannot grow to a size that would command a majority without a collaborative effort of other conservative voices within the Republican Party. In some circles this collaboration would seem to be natural and welcomed; in other circles, it can be seen as impolite. But a collaboration of some sort is inevitable.

The tea party does not equal third party and impolite does not equal impolitic. We have seen over the past week just how much the Republican National Committee (in tea party terms “the Establishment”) cannot control these rabble-rousers from the small-p party of change, the tea party. We saw strong evidence of such rabble-rousing this past weekend in the National Convention caucuses in Massachusetts and Louisiana. Delegate slates selected by the State Party pledged to Mitt Romney went down to defeat, down in flames, to well organized efforts by supporters of Ron Paul, the last remaining challenger to a near certain Romney nomination.

It begs the question, “How did the rabble-rousers get so organized?” The better question may be, “Why did the State Party ignore the passion of the most grassroots active, if not well healed, part of their Party?” The fact is that there are many well organized groups within each State whose grass root support has been taken for granted. They may not frequent the same circles as the so-called establishment Republicans but they certainly have a similar passion for conservative and libertarian viewpoints. The establishment types would like them to play by the rules. These new insurgents simply said, “We just did and we beat you fair and square.”

It remains to be seen but I suspect these insurgents do not desire to undermine Mitt Romney as much as to have an influence over Party platform. In true tea party form, they want to be heard. They want to upset but not up-end the status quo. But we will have to wait and see. Rule 38 of the Republican National Committee may well leave open the question of constitutionality of the Unit Rule that binds any delegate to a certain unanimous group vote. Does this leave a chance for a convention challenge to Mitt Romney from Ron Paul supporters, or others? I hope not.

For the record, I supported Mitt Romney in 2008 and I support him in 2012. I hope this challenge to authority is a warning shot across the bow to the RNC leadership but not a direct hit. If it changes the outcome of the Convention or serves to distract the Romney Campaign from its’ daily duty to win in November to winning in August, it is not a good thing for America.

America needs to relieve itself of the Obama Administration. It sorely does. More importantly, it needs to install a Romney Administration. It is time to forget about any illusion of Ron Paul, Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich winning the nomination. Not in this year divisible by four, at least. The collective goal of those right-minded individuals ought to be, must be, to win back the Presidency in 2012. And along the way, it must secure the House majority and fight to at least win a slim majority in the Senate in order to get the gavel back from Harry Reid.

The Presidency will come down to winning the Battleground States. It always seems to. Massachusetts being the home of Mitt Romney may not be enough to carry the State against President Obama. One may have to leave that burden to voters in Ohio, Florida, North Carolina and the like. The heavy lifting in Massachusetts must be for the reelection of Senator Scott Brown and a number of Congressional candidates who have a shot, however slim, of infiltrating the delegation. There are several who might do so with the right combination of dedicated grassroots support and adequate financial backing.

This is the shoreline where establishment meets insurgency around a candidate. A good candidate is the fuel that burns. The establishment can provide the financial resources to a campaign as heat; the insurgency has demonstrated it can provide the oxygen.

Fuel, heat and oxygen. It is the fire triangle. Without each element, there is no flame. It is high time that our feuding Party factions stop messing with the Political Fire Triangle. Deprive the triangle of heat or oxygen and the fuel will not burn. You can ask any Fireman.

Press on.

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On Political Crosshairs and the Massachusetts 4th: Essay for April 20, 2012

Politics cuts a wide swath across America yet there is a confluence of news items this past week that landed squarely in our backyard here in Massachusetts. There is a trio of happenings and utterances that would otherwise come as no surprise were it not for the local connection of the people who uttered them.

Here is the first revelation: Obamacare was a mistake. Congressman Barney Frank said so. He said, “I think we paid a terrible price for health care. I would not have pushed it as hard. As a matter of fact, after Scott Brown won, I suggested going back.” Mr. Frank counseled the President on pressing forward without a mandate and the risk of alienation of a country that was, and remains, intensely skeptical of a widespread reform. Of course, that did not stop him from voting the party line in lockstep with then Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation. Instead, Obamacare narrowly passed the House and technically passed the Senate. The newly minted 41st Republican Senator Scott Brown never cast a vote in the intense debate. His sword was never unsheathed.

Here is revelation number two. Enter former Congressman Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island. He now heads up a non-profit group that had sought Administration support. He wanted to ensure access to the White House. Funny, a Kennedy wanted to buy his way into the White House. Patrick Kennedy plunked down a maximum donation of $35,800 with apparent gladness. He said that this is the way the system works. Quoting Kennedy, “If you want to call it ‘quid pro quo,’ fine,” he said. “At the end of the day, I want to make sure I do my part.”
Do my part? To what end? Should public policy be left in the hands of well healed donors, only? Patrick Kennedy seems to think so. It is part of the process that guarantees access to decision makers and thought leaders. Money talks, nobody walks.

This brings us to the third revelation. Isn’t it interesting that 31 year old Joseph P. Kennedy III is running for the seat vacated by Barney Frank in the newly redrawn Massachusetts 4th Congressional District? He seems like a nice enough person: a couple of college degrees; a stint in the Dominican Republic as the only Peace Corps volunteer from the Kennedy family; and a few years experience as an Assistant District Attorney. He has not a lick of business experience. He is, at best, a lawyer.

But that has not stopped him from raising more money than any sitting member of the Massachusetts delegation by a factor of almost 3 to 1. He has raised $1.3 million dollars. About 20% came from PACs eager to ride that bandwagon once again. So eager was the AFL-CIO that he received their endorsement before he announced his candidacy!

So what does that money buy? What are donors expecting from young Joe Kennedy? Access.

What I want from my Congressman is empathy, understanding and action. So far, Joe Kennedy is failing in each area. He recently visited a diner that I frequent and asked the right question of the proprietor: How’s business? When he heard the truth about the state of small business in this Commonwealth, his jaw dropped.
Said the proprietor: “The federal government is in one pocket, the state government is in the other. When I put my hand into my own pockets, there is nothing left. All you guys want to do is take out more. It’s not there. I can’t give what I don’t have.” Joe the 3rd had no answers. He had not even a retort.

Like every small business owner I know, this one pays himself last and he hasn’t paid himself in a long, long time. Even if he were so inclined, he could not even conceive of making a political contribution to gain access to the House of Representatives no less the White House. This notion of quid pro quo that Joe Kennedy’s uncle praises falls upon deaf ears for this small business owner.

Small business is barely holding on in this country. Shops that depend upon discretionary income are folding their tents. Three quarters don’t need new employees as sales won’t justify the costs. Two thirds are worried about the state of the economy. Half worry about cash flows and their ability to make payroll. Half worry about the cost of healthcare and new government regulation. A quarter are worried about remaining in business for the next 12 months.

Economic growth is the surest way out of this calamity but we must also seek systemic and permanent cuts in taxes and fees that serve only to redistribute wealth. If our goal is to provide for the neediest in this country let’s do that. But do not make those who take the big chances and risk it all become poor in the pursuit of a utopian dream of equal outcomes for all.

This November, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney will top the ballot in what is shaping up to be a very close election. The most hotly contested Senate race is Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown versus Elizabeth Warren. Barney Frank is hoping to bequeath his seat to a member of the Kennedy dynasty who has not yet earned his stripes in life.

This will be the most interesting place to be in the country on November 6th.

Press on.

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On Political Armageddon: Essay for January 14, 2012

We have endured no fewer than 15 televised debates in the Republican quest for the Presidential nomination. In addressing the remedies to the many ills that have befallen this republic has anyone of the candidates really told the truth? The Republic is in danger and neither single person nor sound bite can bail us out. Any realistic remedy will require sacrifice in the form of less government largess that extends to all of us. No one is exempt from the downsizing that government aspirations must surely endure in order to restore fiscal balance. To borrow an expression from my Great Depression-era father, we have champagne tastes with a beer pocketbook.

The status quo is simply not sustainable. We cannot spend like there is no tomorrow because there must be a tomorrow. Any person who thinks that their personal special interest can escape the budget ax is either kidding themselves or is fiendishly selfish. Perhaps both. To be sure, a strong economic recovery can serve to mask the deficit but it cannot mask spiraling government spending.

The duopoly of the Republican and the Democrat Parties and the Political Class they have created has lulled us into a false sense of security that we can fix everything without living within our means; without saddling future generations with debt that they cannot possibly relieve. We have heard each of the Republican candidates offer their version of economic nirvana: We can grow our way out of debt if we could only fix the economy; we can stem the spending tide if we could only erase one third of government spending; we can end entitlements if we make people more independent and get them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps; we could end terrorism if we could only get foreign governments to think as we do.

It is not working out for America.

Constant bearing, decreasing range. In nautical terms, that spells collision. That is where the Captain of our Ship of State, President Obama, is navigating us. With Mr. Obama at the helm, our heading is on autopilot. The radar target up ahead is a rocky shoal that can’t change its’ position. We must alter our course or catastrophe is imminent.

Here is my fear. The Republican Presidential Class of 2012 is not going to make a significant difference in the course the nation is taking. They might reduce speed but that will only serve to delay the inevitable. Circumstances demand bold action and I am not certain that our Republican candidates are up to the challenge. Scarier yet, I am not certain our electorate is up to that challenge. The electorate may ask for change but for the other guy, not for them.

This is the crux of the argument of the Tea Party and, oddly enough, the unwitting message of the Occupy movement: the parties are not up to the challenge of the moment. And that is why we must be patient but not too patient.

The election of 2010 brought sweeping change to the US House of Representatives. To that august body were added some 65 members who described themselves as outsiders. They sleep in their offices; they vote their conscious; figuratively speaking, they have lain across the tracks of the status quo. And what thanks have they gotten? The final verdict is still out but they have not captured the imagination of the unions, the special interests, the political class and least of all, the Republican establishment. Witness the recent squabble on Capitol Hill over the 2 month extension of the Social Security tax rollback. Republican leadership does not understand the position of the newest members of their own caucus, the Tea Party; they do not understand the clamor of the populace.

This is why the election of 2012 has such importance. It may be the last two-party election. It’s now or never for the Republican Party. If the Republicans are to ever lead the recovery of our worldwide position of leadership, political, economic and moral, they must first preserve the gains of 2010 and expand them in 2012. But it is not enough to expand the margin in Congress if the lessons learned through victory are diluted by the mantra of the past.

The Republican Party is the last best hope for our Republic but only if it embraces the message of change for which the people of this country are clamoring: bring common sense logic to Washington; don’t make us beg you to actually lead.

If the Republican Party misses this opportunity to capture the aspirations of the mainstream of the American people in this election, there will be a real third party challenge in American politics. It will be organized and it will pull from both parties but will come at the greater expense of the Grand Old Party. And it will be of a consequence of failure to read the obvious tea leaves of the tea party: the old way is leading our nation to ruin.

Press on.

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