It must have seemed to a top Romney official, The Daily Telegraph won't say which one, that he was among close friends, that he could let his hair down and speak frankly, that coverage would be unflaggingly friendly. There is a history at the publication.
The Daily Telegraph is about as conservative as a conservative daily newspaper is going to get in Great Britain. If British elections were confined to readers of The Daily Telegraph, the Conservative Party would remain in charge of Parliament in perpetuity.
Almost two thirds of the readers of the paper support the Conservatives with their votes and their hearts. That was according to a survey conducted in 2005. 64% of those who read The Daily Telegraph said they were going to vote for the Conservatives in that year's election. That compares with 32% of the general public who voted for the party that year.
To say that The Daily Telegraph is very, very conservative is a laughably dramatic understatement. These are folks whose cultural sensibilities are out of the 1930s. They are gleefully partisan, Conservative with both large and small "c" and Tory right down to their socks.
The editorial staff was one of the first hosts of the Mitt Romney advance team as he prepared his "no apology" tour of the world. Advisors to Romney were sent to assure the Tory paper that the leftist attitude of the Obama administration would be a thing of the past after November. As Mitt Romney becomes President Romney, a new spirit of cooperation would replace the current left-wing coolness. The case they made was simple, direct, and unintentionally explosive. One of the candidate's top people was quoted directly:
“We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special,” the advisor said of Mr Romney, adding: “The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have.”
Racism is pretty close to an expression of America's original sin. Slavery was the birth defect at the beginning of the American experiment. Local politicians might nibble at the edges. When Tea Party caricatures are accidentally sent by public officials, photoshopped images of the President as a half clothed savage or the First Family as animals, immediate apologies are the order of the day.
Even those of us who are partisan Democrats and unabashed liberals would rather give the benefit of the doubt to the Romney entourage. The Romney team had to have been quoted out of context. But the dyed-in-the-wool Tory believing newspaper provided that context. They made clear as could be the tone of the conversation.
In remarks that may prompt accusations of racial insensitivity, one suggested that Mr Romney was better placed to understand the depth of ties between the two countries than Mr Obama, whose father was from Africa.
The Romney campaign went into action right away. In an email sent to CBS news, Romney's press secretary said the comments were completely unrepresentative of Mitt Romney and his campaign. "It's not true. If anyone said that, they weren't reflecting the views of Governor Romney or anyone inside the campaign."
Actions speak louder than denials and Mitt Romney himself offered the best rebuttal of the comments.
In rapid succession Governor Romney:
Forgot the name of the political head of the opposition party, referring to Ed Miliband as "Mr. Leader"
Publicly announced the classified identity of the head of Britain's spy agency MI6, previously an open secret, never discussed on the record
In an unintentional double entendre, unprepared for British colloquialisms, spoke of looking out the Prime Minister David Cameron's "backside."
- In the moral equivalent of calling your neighbor's baby ugly, challenged the ability of Great Britain to prepare for the Olympic Games they will be hosting
This last became uglier than your neighbor's baby, as protesting crowds were led by the Mayor of London, and Prime Minister Cameron talked of Mr. Romney's leadership years ago of the US Olympic committee in Salt Lake City. "Of course it's easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere." The mayor of Salt Lake City has jumped in, offering to send a map and directions to Mr. Cameron.
The noise of the combined acrobatic pratfalls have momentarily drowned out the comments of Romney campaign officials to The Daily Telegraph. Rhetorical attacks on Obama's African sensibilities and boasts of Romney's ethnic commonality with America's Anglo-Saxon mother country now share media attention with other Romney-esque news.
It has been a deft performance. Mitt Romney has firmly backed up the campaign denial of the racial slur. The governor himself is walking, talking proof that neither he nor his campaign possesses a superior understanding, or any understanding at all, of the cultural ties between the United States and Great Britain.
But life is filled with the newness of possibility. There are always second chances. Mitt Romney's next stops are Israel and Poland, where the candidate will have opportunities to recover, new chances to demonstrate his superior diplomatic abilities on the world stage. The campaign is optimistic.
What could possibly go wrong?
Policy makers sometimes, like the cliche about generals, fight the last war. The containment policy of Harry Truman formed the framework that kept the world from destruction until the Soviet Union eventually collapsed in on itself. But the wisdom that begat that policy endured a very hard birth. The destructive force of McCarthyism, in addition to terrorizing progressives across the country, also cost several China experts their jobs, leaving nobody to point out simple insights.
One of those facts was that defeating Hitler would not provide a clear blueprint for defeating Stalinism. The evil of appeasement was the lesson of the battle against Nazism. Nobody really wanted to hear that Communism was not a monolith, that not every bearded revolutionary was taking orders from the Kremlin. The working assumption was that a unified worldwide conspiracy was the root of all evil. And so well meaning people got us into Vietnam, which was to become the bulwark against the fall of surrounding domino nations. The entire Pacific rim was at stake.
It wasn't, of course. Not one Soviet commissar so much as got his whiskers singed as nearly sixty thousand American military personnel lost their lives in service to their country.
There is some debate about what caused the evil empire itself to fall. Most conservatives like to credit Ronald Reagan. He made it expensive for the USSR to continue the arms race, and so their economy toppled inward. Or he intimidated them into restraint in Germany. Or Star Wars, the Strategic Defense Initiative, tamed the beast until it died. "Tear down this wall!" was a direct challenge.
I'm okay with the debate. Sometimes I point out that Daniel Patrick Moynihan applied his considerable intellect in the early 1970s to the inherent contradiction in Soviet economic practice. He predicted almost to the month just when the Soviet state would collapse.
I remember watching it happen on television. Mikhail Gorbachev had become increasingly popular in the United States, as he tried to apply a more liberal attitude to Soviet tyranny. The old guard finally had enough and Gorby disappeared in a coup. It was with some astonishment that we watched ordinary citizens rally around Boris Yeltsin. The coup collapsed, Gorbachev was released, and, under pressure from Yeltsin, Gorbachev ended the communist system.
One comedian posed a brief riddle. What is the difference between Russia and America? The answer was: in America the Communist Party is still legal.
Gorbachev has his place in history. But I agreed with President Bush in his admiration for Yeltin. The man not only risked his own life in a society that tolerated no dissent, he managed to lead huge crowds in defiance. He stood atop a tank, exposed, vulnerable, seemingly unafraid. He was magnificent.
The cold war of containment, the brushes with nuclear disaster, taught us that an evil empire, in combination or in conflict with other dictatorships, could sponsor all sorts of underhanded mischief. Parry and thrust combined with deterrence became the standard model for security.
Of course, we misapplied those lessons a decade after the Soviet Union was dead and gone. In 2001, attacks the USSR would never have dared sponsor took down buildings and planes within the borders of the United States. Thousands were murdered within a few hours.
Close friends disagree, but I believe the circumstantial evidence is strong. When the United States invaded Iraq, it was not because of imaginary weapons of mass destruction, or even because of nuclear potential, as a few conservative idealists continue to fervently believe. Nor was it because of oil reserves, as more liberal cynics suspect.
I think it was because those in charge knew to a moral certainty, but could not prove, that the attacks that happened on September 11 were state sponsored. Generations of battle against an evil empire and smaller tyrants had driven the lesson home. That a comic book villain in a cave on the other side of the world could have engineered such a massive attack was beyond reason. And the primary suspect, the one who had to have been the center of planning and execution, was Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
As I see it, that was why the decision was made to let bin Laden and the rest of his deputies get away during the Battle of Tora Bora. America was busy preparing for invasion. Yeah it would be nice to get the little scapegoat. But it was vital that we bring the real culprit to the gallows. Saddam had to go.
The cost in American lives was enormous, and the terrorist network flourished unchecked until a new administration got the focus right.
The Soviet Union is gone, but the pieces still float around, defanged in important ways. Earlier this week, Mitt Romney attacked the Obama administration for neglecting our strategic preparations for war against Russia and for a defense against terrorism that is not focused like a laser on state sponsorship. It was a call to arms from decades past, from the evil empire that is no more, from the USSR that disappeared 20 years ago.
Vice President Joe Biden responded. He accused Mitt Romney and his advisors of outmoded thinking, ignoring current threats while living in the past. Cooperation with Russia had made Americans more secure, as accidental nuclear missile launches became less of a danger, and fissionable materials were locked away from terrorists.
"Governor Romney remains mired in a Cold War mindset," he said. He spoke of "Governor Romney and a very small group of Cold War holdovers" opposing those safeguards.
Romney advisor Rich Williamson, speaking for the Romney campaign, accused the Obama administration of ignoring trouble spots that are "strategically important to the Soviet Union." Yeah, that's what he said.
And that, depending on the election outcome, is what may be the foreign policy of the next President of the United States.
May a loving Creator save us.
Not since Jim Crow days in the remnants of the old Confederacy has such an effort been made to use the full force of government in preventing legitimate voters from casting ballots in free elections. The ostensible reason has been that an avalanche of voter fraud needs to be prevented by requiring new IDs not easily available to a large number of people.
Free IDs have been made available, but the documentation needed for those IDs have posed a hardship. The offices that can issue the non-driver IDs are accessible in 20 minutes or half an hour - by car. Those who are licensed to drive don't need the new Ids. Those who take a bus will often ride for hours in the summer heat, just to find out if their documentation will be acceptable to some clerk.
Opponents say that preexisting laws have been more than adequate. Penalties are harsh, including criminal jail time and heavy fines. Any election advantage of in-person fraud is slight. IDs have been required that are available to pretty much everyone. All have combined to form an effective deterrent. The previous system has always worked, and there is no reason to think it won't continue to work.
Proponents have insisted that fake voters represent a clear and present danger to free elections. Only a small number of legitimate voters, less than one percent, would be affected. The Governor was adamant about the justice of the requirement as he signed the law.
I am signing this bill because it protects a sacred principle, one shared by every citizen of this nation. That principle is: one person, one vote. It sets a simple and clear standard to protect the integrity of our elections.
One voter who would be denied the right to vote, 93 year old Viviette Applewhite has been active all her life. She marched with Martin Luther King in the face of brutal racial resistance. She is not just another story. She considered the artificial obstacles and decided to sue. A Pennsylvania law firm, the ACLU, and other organizations and individual voters have joined with her in that suit.
The state trial begins today. The state and the plaintiffs have filed court papers. The position of Viviette Applewhite and her allies is clear.
- There have been no in-person voter fraud cases in the past in Pennsylvania.
- There is no danger of in-person voter fraud in the next election.
- The measure would keep a very large number of the elderly, minorities, and students from voting.
It would be unfair to present only one side in the legal dispute. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has filed its position as well. That legal position of Pennsylvania is this:
- There have been no in-person voter fraud cases in the past in Pennsylvania.
- There is no danger of in-person voter fraud in the next election.
- The measure would keep a very large number of the elderly, minorities, and students from voting.
If both sides sound like the same side, there is a reason. Both sides not only agree on the essential points, the filings took the form of a joint stipulation. In fact, Pennsylvania joined Viviette Applewhite and friends in filing it with the court.
So everybody agrees the law isn't needed. The law won't be needed anytime soon. The law will keep a very large number of legitimate voters from exercising a basic right in a free republic. They will not be permitted to vote. The exact number affected is still a point of contention. Pennsylvania says between 9 and 10 percent of legitimate voters will be turned away, told they cannot vote. Viviette Applewhite and the ACLU calculate the percentage will be much higher.
So if both sides of the suit, Viviette Applewhite and Pennsylvania, agree that no purpose will be accomplished by the requirement, and if both sides agree that the basic rights of a lot of legitimate voters will be violated, and if both sides have filed legal documents saying just that, why keep the law?
The reason may only be found outside the hallowed halls of justice. If you give to Republicans in Pennsylvania the assumption that some of the motives of Jim Crow days are absent: that racism is not the reason, that keeping "those people" down is not the motive, that reserving basic rights for those deserving by reason of wealth or privilege is not at the core, what remains?
What remains was articulated by the Republican leader of Pennsylvania's state House of Representatives, Mike Turzai. Speaking before a cheering partisan audience, not suspecting his words were being recorded, he revealed the core case for using government to choose which voters get to choose government. He listed the restriction as a major accomplishment. "Voter ID," he boasted, "which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done."
Such is today's conservative vision of free debate in a democracy. Such is the current state of contemporary conservative thought.
Sometimes progress is measured in small degrees. Sometimes quantity becomes quality, after a fashion. Today's version of guilt by association is a paler shade of what happened 60 years ago.
Sixty years ago, as McCarthyism spread like wildfire throughout the country, ordinary people reacted to fear, anger, and bigotry. The fear was not feigned. The common perception was that international communism was a monolithic conspiracy conducted from the depths of the Kremlin. As Soviet armies marched through Eastern Europe, it was not hard to imagine a completely unified plot to enslave the world. We had just defeated a dictator who had become transparent in that goal.
Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy led the charge with accusations of 20 years of treason. He waved a list of unidentified traitors within US agencies. When he was questioned, he challenged the patriotism of those who dared to stand against him.
The most common mocking conservative rejoinder to any protest against McCarthy's tactics was a reference to those who would loudly proclaim their fear of speaking out. Ha-ha-ha.
Some prominent folks lost their jobs, celebrities, those whose livelihood depended on public acceptance. The fear was most commonly felt, not among those most prominent. It was local, indigenous leaders, teachers, clergy, business owners, those vulnerable to the opinions of their neighbors. Lists were circulated in those days of people suspected of holding subversive ideas. Those ideas often included liberalism, racial integration, or any social policy that included minimum wage, worker safety, or consumer protection. Even the most mild objection could be conflated with Stalinist dictatorship.
I was not a direct witness, being too young at the time to comprehend. But in later years I discovered the small town heroism of a village preacher in a little upstate Methodist parish. He watched in growing dismay as intolerance and bigotry increasingly took on the false mantle of "Americanism." He took on his own profile in courage, eventually speaking out from the pulpit against a demagogic threat to democracy. He cautioned against what he saw as an easy, lazy, rebuke to decency itself.
He was denounced, of course. Methodist clergy are appointed by Bishops and protests were filed by several local parishioners. He kept his job for a few years, eventually transferred to another church.
I was thinking of those harsh times as I read about attacks on the patriotism of an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Huma Abedin had previously been known as the burdened new wife of former Representative Anthony Weiner, who resigned from Congress amid a sex scandal. That she was a Muslim was incidental, hardly mentioned in the tabloids. Also not mentioned often was that her wayward husband is Jewish.
But earlier this month, Representative Michele Bachmann along with a few colleagues, began sending letters to security and intelligence officials warning of infiltration into the highest levels of government by the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood is an international organization which, while not terrorist in itself, has members with connections to other organizations which are. Bachmann and her associates specifically targeted Huma Abedin. It seems that members of her family have had ties with other individuals who have had ties with those connected with the Muslim Brotherhood, some of whose members have ties to terrorist groups. One family member was her father, who had a working friendship with a man who helped found an organization which eventually developed ties with the Muslim Brotherhood. He died decades ago, when she was a teenager. The two degrees away from subversive relationship happened before she was born.
Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota, America's first Muslim Congressional Representative, criticized the attack on Secretary Clinton's aide. "Our country has gone through a McCarthy period. We cannot allow America to go back to another one." He characterized the tenuous nature of this instance of guilt by association. "It's like a bizarre game of six degrees of separation. She mentions that her father, who has been dead for two decades, knew a guy who knew a guy who knew a guy who was connected to the Muslim brotherhood in some unspecified way!"
Bachmann's response to Ellison's sharp critique is to challenge his patriotism. Ellison, says Bachmann, "has a long record of being associated with the Muslim Brotherhood."
Bachmann's charges have been rebuked by several nationally known Republicans. Among them are Senator John McCain and Majority Leader in the House John Boehner. It is not yet known how they are tied to the international Islamic conspiracy.
Bachmann's target, Huma Abedin, is now under local police and federal security protection. There has been at least one credible threat of violence against her.
It all does seem like a smaller replay of the hearings of almost six decades ago. An aide to Senator Joe McCarthy was caught pressuring the US Army to provide some advantages to an enlisted friend. When Army brass refused, McCarthy accused top officials of disloyalty.
An incriminating photograph was introduced by McCarthy's aide, but the photo was shown by Congressional counsel Joseph Welch to have been doctored. He produced the undoctored, non-incriminating, photo. Welch was on leave from a Boston law firm and McCarthy developed an abiding dislike for him.
A letter to Senator McCarthy from J. Edgar Hoover was also incriminating. But, when Joe Welch asked the FBI for comment, J. Edgar Hoover sent an agent to testify that the letter was a forgery.
Finally, Senator McCarthy challenged the patriotism of a junior lawyer on the staff of the Boston firm of Joseph Welch. Welch, in a few seconds of television time, in a gentle tone, began the utter destruction of the political career of Senator Joe McCarthy. "Senator, you've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?
The response of Welch is also history's answer to today's five Congressional Representatives who, on wafer thin, double and triple blind association, despite enough degree of separation to dispel the faintest whiff of suspicion, join in attacking the loyalty of one individual for having the wrong religion.
Have they no sense of decency?
It brings back impressions of an earlier era, an era I was too young at the time to appreciate. It brings me to a renewal of respect for that young preacher from six decades ago in a small rural church.
Only years later did I become aware of the lonely courage of that preacher, my father. He has been dead for many years. I am now many years older than he was then. I admire him still.
I try to find an example from real life, and I finally resort to imagination.
So here goes:
It is a little like watching your favorite college science teacher, the one who pushes every student in every class to build on the shoulders of giants, suddenly arguing that the earth is flat, and eventually realizing that he is serious. As a courtesy, you review his evidence and quickly come to the realization that the basis of his rantings is a crayon drawing saved by his mother from when he was five. He really is nuts.
My old friend T. Paine is challenged on the age-old charge that President Obama palled around with terrorists. T. Paine responds, in part, "Further, evidence is pretty damning that Ayers did indeed write Dreams from my Father for or with Obama". He produces an article from four years before.
The article is by Jack Cashill, who began his literary career in politics "proving" that President Bill Clinton and friends plotted the murder of Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown, who died in a plane crash in 1996. Since 2008, Cashill has pretty much devoted his professional life, under the sponsorship of World Net Daily, to proving that Barack Obama's life has been a total fraud.
The Cashill piece my friend relies upon was published and published again and again on right wing sites in the closing weeks of the 2008 Presidential election. It shows conclusively that radical weatherman bomber from the 1960s, Bill Ayres, ghost wrote the book Dreams from my Father published over the name of Barack Obama.
I read the article on my lunch hour. It was hilarious, filled with so many knee slappers that co-workers stopped by, concerned to see me suddenly beating up my kneecaps. It was like satire, like something from the Onion.
One example: Cashill presents two sentences, one from an Ayres book, one from "Obama's" Dreams from my Father.
Here is Ayres:
"I picture the street coming alive, awakening from the fury of winter, stirred from the chilly spring night by cold glimmers of sunlight angling through the city."
And here is Obama (who really was Ayres, if folks would would just believe):
"Night now fell in midafternoon, especially when the snowstorms rolled in, boundless prairie storms that set the sky close to the ground, the city lights reflected against the clouds."
See how they are pretty much exactly alike?
You don't see it?
Well then, you simply lack the fine eye for detail that is the unique gift of Jack Cashill.
That is not the only piece of evidence, of course. Mr. Cashill has been able to deduce from his encounters with Bill Ayres that he speaks with a cadence, and that this cadence is similar to the writing patterns of Mr. Obama. If the cadence argument doesn't convince you, well, you are simply not seeing the big picture.
Not quite halfway through his article, comes a series of biographical relationships. One point of similarity Cashill presents is that Bill Ayres once spoke of imagining himself as black. And, as Mr. Cashill's research has revealed, Barack Obama is actually black.
You think it coincidence? Foolish mortal!
And so the entire improbable effort continues. Cashill compares the number of words per sentence from 30 sentences "selected at random" from the same two books with the two sentences Mr. Cashill has also been able to define as the same. The number of words per sentence in the excerpts almost match. Aha! And 30 sentences Cashill has taken from other Obama writings have 6 more words on average per sentence. Not convinced?
The overarching evidence, the nail in the coffin, the irrefutable proof that overshadows everything else, is that Obama wrote a book early on in his political career that was so good it received acclaim from all over. And it was a first effort.
By contrast, Mr. Cashill has endeavored all his life to write capably and his primary accomplishment by 2008, a book called Sucker Punch, has not received nearly the acclaim. It is not only unfair that Mr. Obama got exemplary reviews from critics, while the first effort of the Mr. Cashill was pretty much ignored. It is a literary impossibility. A successful book by then neophyte Obama, especially compared with a literary failure by Mr. Cashill who possesses truly awesome talent, means the game was rigged. Obama had to have had help.
That is, of course, only a fraction of the evidence. There is more, so very, very much more. The serial examples of reasoning would make passable commercial for a satellite provider: Don't wake up in a roadside ditch!
The logic of my friend Mr. Paine is similar to that of other conservatives who rely on Mr. Cashill. The logic is usually some variation of this:
- Obama clearly could not have written the book about himself.
- Since he didn't write it, he had to have a ghostwriter.
- Since Bill Ayres has a cadence to his speech pattern and once thought about what it was like to be a black man, he must have written Obama's book.
- Since he must have written Obama's book, Obama must share his philosophy.
- Since they must have identical ways of looking at the world, and Ayres once was a very radical individual, Obama must hate America.
The same sort of logic often afflicts the efforts of truly passionate believers. It can be a temptation in any cause. Since the conclusion is so self-evidently true, any string of reasoning that leads to it has to be valid.
In the end, after stripping away the fluff, the only logic that really matters in Obama Derangement Land is circular. Conservatives are not all possessed by the derangement, but some most certainly have fallen to the illness. They who most devotely hate Obama hate Obama because they hate Obama. Birtherism, socialist labels, anti-colonial inherited views, palling around with radicals, evil plots, secret jihads, all are eagerly accepted as supporting that hatred.
Can't you see it? Well?
Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers are not just some over-blown right-wing distractions meant to falsely impugn Obama's integrity as the left would have us believe. Indeed, these folks and their associations with Obama were NOT properly vetted and put to rest after having properly done so by the press.
- T. Paine, Commenting, July 19, 2012
Now that Obama has been in office for a few years, the implications of his association with Wright and Ayers are less important than the actual policies that he clearly supports. We do not have to wonder what he might do, though it is possible that he might change a bit as a second-term President.
Nevertheless, his association with these people was fair game. Since I was not pleased with some of the Republican candidates' religious and political associations, it would be hypocritical for me to deny conservatives the opportunity to scrutinize Obama's connections.
There are two questions to address:
Just how bad were Ayers and Wright?
- To what extent has Obama adopted their beliefs and desires?
While we have good reasons to condemn both Ayers and Wright, we must also acknowledge their convictions and reasons for action. Both men truly believed that our country or government has caused great harm and should change.
Ayers believed that action against the state and its supporters--the "oppressors"--was the duty of those who support the oppressed. To do nothing, he and his group believed, was to be complicit in the oppression. And as he came to believe that peaceful protest had little effect (a way of feeling like one is making a change while actually accomplishing nothing), he began to apply violent measures to lead to change. Given these beliefs, his actions were perfectly reasonable.
Wright believes that racism permeates our country, that we are hypocritical about when when and to whom violence can be applied, that the government created the AIDS virus to kill off black people, etc. He preaches against it. Again: this is perfectly reasonable behavior, given his beliefs.
But for their behavior to be good, their beliefs must be accurate and their desires must be praiseworthy. Since most of us dispute at least some of both their beliefs and desires, we cannot praise their behavior. Unlike Ayers, we do not really desire world communism, so we condemn him even though we might support similar violence in support of some other goal. Unlike Wright, we do not see racism everywhere, so we condemn his fixation even though we might fixate on some other "-ism."
In any case, it is important to note that these men do not desire to harm others for pleasure. They have acted in accordance with their beliefs and desires for a better country or even world.
Any concern regarding their influence on Obama, then, should focus on how he might try to change our way of life--not how he might want to harm us. Back in 2008, one might have asked: Will he work to implement greater entitlements for non-white people or try to divide us racially? Will he seek to impose communistic laws or devote great amounts of resources toward helping oppressed people in other countries even as we suffer at home? Will he allow or even support the spread of terrible ideologies in other lands?
Before the election, we had his voting record, speeches, books, promises about what he would or would not do, and condemnations of both Ayers' violence and Wright's vitriol--all intended to assure us that he had the best intentions and would continue to support the "American way of life" (whatever that is). This was insufficient for conservatives--and perhaps rightfully so. We expect a man who wishes to be President to condemn associations that would hurt him. We still don't know what led him to associate with these people--particularly Wright, whose church he attended regularly--in the first place and to continue to do so. As T.Paine writes, "This strikes me as an association that is hardly prudent or wise in the formation of the character of the man that was to become our president." It is not that Obama was somehow responsible for what these men had done, but that he associated with them despite their actions and convictions.
I would like to hear Obama address this. Even though I was not afraid that these associations would matter--and even though it seems, after a few years of his presidency, that I was right to not be afraid--it would be interesting to learn what drew him to these men, why he persisted with them despite their behavior, what he took away from his experiences with them, and why he did not take away the violence and vitriol. Perhaps I would learn some of the answers if I read his books, but I confess that I have little to no interest in reading books by politicians.
However, T.Paine is mistaken on another matter. He writes:
"If Obama had been the GOP’s candidate for office, I am certain that a far more thorough examination and subsequent disqualification of candidate Obama would have been the inevitable result."
This is accurate only in the sense that the GOP would never elect a liberal. (I will leave T.Paine to speculate on the reasons for choosing Romney over the other candidates.) Republicans disagree with Ayers and Wright on just about everything, so they would naturally reject the sort of person who might be sympathetic to their causes. But similarly, liberals disagree with what some of the Republican candidates' associations have said and done, so it is also the case that people like Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann would never have become viable liberal candidates. What is "anti-American" to one party is not necessarily "anti-American" to the other.
Guilt by association tactics are dangerous. Those who use them open themselves up to the same attacks even when they fail to condemn a constituent in a crowd for making some outrageous claim. We can always wonder: Why didn't he distance himself from that comment?
Fortunately, when someone's actions speak for themselves, as Obama's do, we don't need to speculate so much about his associations. If he did take something terrible away from his time with Ayers and Wright, it is irrelevant as long as it does not impact his behavior as President.
Unfortunately, while Romney's actions also speak for themselves, each of them seems to say something different.
Ryan is a frequent and generous contributor. He also writes for his own site, where guilt by association is at a minimum, and behavior is the preferred measure of the content of character.
Please visit Secular Ethics.
When Coleman Young became mayor of Detroit, it was quite a week. He was not only the first African-American to become mayor of the city, he was elected in 1973 the same week as Maynard Jackson in Atlanta. Two well known cities electing their first black mayors.
It is easy to forget four decades later how much of a breakthrough it was. Black people had long before become a noticeable presence in urban areas. The migration from an oppressive Jim Crow South had had its hundred year effect in northern areas. Politicians paid attention, gave speeches, made promises, often kept them. Racism was far from the remnant of the past that many white folks liked to imagine. Black voters were a source of electoral power, but they were not to share in it in any meaningful way. Up until then.
African-American mayors? Yeah, those were milestones.
There were construction policies and financial hurdles that Coleman Young faced beginning the day he took office. He was a critic of a police unit that had racked up an impressive number of kills in the black community. He disbanded it and set up community policing, officers walking the beat, engaging with the community in an effort to win neighborhood cooperation. Results were mixed at best. Statistics remained nearly the same.
There were two things I remember most about Mayor Young. During a visit to relatives near Detroit, I happened across some local publication quoting Coleman Young. I'm pretty sure it was not a mainstream paper. The language is mild today but it was startling back then, coming from a major public official.
"Racism is like high blood pressure," said Mayor Young in a moment of reflection. "The person who has it doesn’t know he has it until he drops over with a God damned stroke. There are no symptoms of racism. The victim of racism is in a much better position to tell you whether or not you’re a racist than you are."
It was taken at the time as a generalization about white people. The all-whites-are-racist was a developing meme at the time. I took it differently. I saw it as a counter to the image of racism as the province of drooling maniacs, moral reprobates, wife beaters, child molesters. Racism was being presented by Young a little differently, as a soft core affliction, a half-hidden malady. The idea that racism could find hosts among good, occasionally very good, people was an epiphany of sorts. It meant we were vulnerable, there was no immunity. Our common cause had to include meditative introspection.
His words also brought a bit of perspective to me as I began discovering other sorts of bigotry, sometimes within myself. Homophobia was not even a word when it eventually came to me that it was wrong. Hidden attitudes, belatedly examined, come with culture, with the times, with whatever daily wisdom is available to us.
Bigotry is a terrible evil with a power to inflict great wounds. It is a sword all too casually wielded by well meaning people who never give it a thought. Me? Are you kidding? I don't wear a hood. "I'm not prejudiced," a member of the community told me as a I participated in a neighborhood canvass. "I'll tell you who IS prejudiced, though. It's those damn Irish Catholics." He spoke with no trace of irony.
And, there was that other thing, what for me was the second memorable moment in the politics of Coleman Young. It was 1976. Jimmy Carter was running for President. Mo Udall had become the liberal alternative. Udall was a Mormon. This was a couple of years before the leadership of the Latter Day Saints experienced a revelation about racial inclusion. The Mormon Church in 1976 regarded black people as unfit for leadership posts.
Coleman Young spoke to a group of Baptist ministers on behalf of Jimmy Carter. "I'm asking you to make a choice between a man from Georgia who fights to let you in his church, and a man from Arizona whose church won't even let you in the back door."
The reaction was swift and came at Young from all directions. You don't attack a candidate for the way he worships God. Young should apologize. Jimmy Carter should apologize. Both refused. Udall repeated what he had long said, that his church did not determine his beliefs about equality. He was committed to civil rights and social justice. He managed to include religion as he joked about having lost an eye as a child. "I’m a one-eyed Mormon Democrat from conservative Arizona. You can’t find a higher handicap than that."
Nobody, nobody at all, ever mentioned Udall's church again. It became the non-issue of 1976. Once burned, twice shy, I suppose. That or everyone had a sudden attack of conscience. Okay, okay, scorched reticence.
In a sense, I suppose, this should have prepared America for a future Mormon running for President. Mitt Romney faced unjustified questions in the Republican primary in 2007 and 2008. There was not much that was overt in this primary season four years later, but the undercurrents were there.
They were nothing compared with the racially tinged attacks on Barack Obama's religion in 2008. There was nothing subtle or hidden about those. Could he possibly have been an unknowing congregant, not hearing all that unAmerica sermonizing? Obama answered the attacks to the satisfaction of enough Americans during a major address to become President. The issue did not die, brought up repeatedly by partisans, but most Americans regarded the accusations as answered. It became a dead letter issue.
In candidate Obama's case, religion had been coupled with an odd accusation. He had once been invited by a fundraising supporter to a gathering at the home of a college faculty member. Obama had once encountered the professor at a social gathering. Decades before, Professor Bill Ayres had been a violent radical, an irresponsible thug. He had carried out the middle-of-the-night bombing of a campus statue, a pointless and reckless bit of vandalism. Fortunately, nobody had been hurt.
Because he attended the fundraiser, Barack Obama was, years later, accused of retroactively supporting the bombing. It pretty much had to be retroactive. He had been six years old at the time the destruction was carried out.
This season, you will hear more about Mitt Romney's tax returns and his financial wheeling and dealing. It seems a natural consequence of his rationale for running. People, he says, should vote for him because of his business success. Other candidates who came from great wealth have run for President in the past. Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy were much beloved by those who were economically downtrodden. Mitt Romney is the very first nominee of a major party, the first ever, whose entire case is his own personal wealth.
He says he should become President because he made a lot of money. Fair enough. The case he presents should be examined.
The old, old and discredited, charges against Obama are being resurrected: the religious questions about the patriotism of his former pastor, the radicalism of his professor acquaintance. The reason being given for bringing those issues back from the grave is that he was not properly vetted the last time around.
The response may seem self-serving. "Attacking someone’s religion is really going too far. It’s just not the American way, and I think people will reject that." Those words, of course, come from Mitt Romney on the Today Show in 2007.
The "vetting" will continue, started by Sean Hannity and carried forward by other surrogates. After all, you have to look into a candidate's past to try and figure out what he might do later.
In case he ... you know ... ever becomes President.
How to explain the current strategy of the presumptive Republican nominee for President of the United States?
He is not a movement candidate, as was Ronald Reagan in 1980. He is not the progenitor of a detailed campaign platform, as was Bill Clinton in 1992. He is a biographical candidate: he was going to win, not because he had policy ideas, or because he led a movement of principle.
He was going to win because he was rich. He had accumulated a large, very large, incredibly large, bank account.
Because of that bank account, we could surmise some very attractive assumptions.
For one thing, he had accumulated his wealth through business.
Since he had accumulated his wealth through business, he was very good at business. We could surmise that he really, really knew what he was doing. In fact, he ran a management company. It was a company that ran companies, if only briefly.
Since he had been fabulously successful at running a company that was, in turn, successful at running companies, he must know a lot about running companies. I mean, it's one thing to be successful at management. To be successful at managing the management of success, well that is a quantum leap.
Companies employ people. Since companies employ people, he was certainly responsible for creating jobs.
It was as close to an ex nihilo candidacy as you can get this side of the abyss. Oh there are examples of everything. Mitt created 100,000 jobs. The list of companies launched or turned around has been impressive. He could assure a return on investment, even during times in which other financial houses struggled to assure a return of investment. Like Hymen Roth of Godfather fame, "he always made money for his friends." And, voter, he wants to be your friend.
And that wealth, oh man, that wealth. He really knew what he was doing, getting all that wealth. It bespoke a preternatural competence. You want someone to turn the country around? Go to the fellow with the Midas touch.
The message was simple. The country is in a crisis. Elect the Wizard of Finance, a proven Mr. Fix-it.
It all came back to the same basic foundation. The personal competence, the Midas touch, the job creation, the management expertise, all came down to a rock hard cement support that would hold up any house, any campaign. Vote for Mitt because he's rich. That proves it all.
But running for national office is a little different from running for Governor. The small slights of hand are examined way beyond mortal expectations. You can't get by with anything.
Every claim has been true. Kind of. If you look a little sideways and squint.
Mitt created 100,000 jobs. If you count jobs created decades after he had left management of companies, if you count companies in which he participated in a minor, passive, role, if you count only those hired and discounted those fired. If you don't look too closely.
He knew a lot about creating successful companies if you count companies that made money for Mitt regardless of their success or lack of it. Structured deals, little known tax advantages, an edge here, a sub-paragraph there. Heads I win, tails I win, coin lands on the edge, wow-how-about-that, I win. Ex-employees might yell. Creditors might scream. Pensions and debts might get lost in the contractual sub-weeds. But Mitt always came up a winner.
Human perception is a weird thing. Six million people become a statistic. A few people up close become real live human beings. The eggs broken to make an omelet look a little different if you happen to be one of the eggs. Or if you can see an individual on television, a real person. Or two. Or twenty.
As Mitt fights the holy fight, runs the good race, battles the Philistines, claims about jobs created in 2010, or 2011, or 2012 have vanished. Instead, he fights as David against Goliath's entire army. On one side is lonely Mitt with his slingshot. On the other is a demon's hoard of documents, 120 statements to various agencies including election boards and the SEC, all signed by Mitt Romney, all showing the opposite of what Mitt Romney now bravely asserts is the truth. "My name is legion," those satanic documents shout from the Romney past, "for we are many." At issue is whether Mitt left Bain Capital at the beginning of 1999 as he insists and the documentation denies. Job gains 11 or 13 years after the disputed timeline have gone from boast to punchline.
Legitimate business dealings look less like sunshine and more shady when strange explanations and shifty eyed legalisms become every day's soup du jour. "What's today's special?" "I didn't do it." The current Romney campaign has been reduced to this week's Josh Marshall Tweat: "Satan took over as CEO of Bain immediately after his departure; started doing awful stuff he’d never have done."
Personal dealings are a mathematical puzzle. A small, legally limited, IRA tax free account somehow balloons from excessive hundreds of thousands into a multimillion dollar riddle, with how many zeros? Cayman accounts and Swiss banks collide as Mitt explains a blind trust. His answer plays bumper cars with his previous derision, dated 1994. "The blind trust is an age old ruse," he assures the interviewer from a dreaded past. You can, he says, set whatever rules you want for a "blind trust."
How to explain the current strategy of the presumptive Republican nominee for President of the United States?
Is it an unprecedented political rope-a-dope?
Is it a devious plot to make every Democrat overconfident?
Is the Romney campaign being run by some Kenyan Socialist Anti-Colonial Secret Infiltrating Mole?
A CNN personality, Erin Burnett, comes up with her own list of three possible reasons Mitt Romney might continue withholding his tax returns.
he had a lot more money in tax shelters in prior years.
he did something shady.
- he’s stupid.
Remarkably, the comment has not drawn outrage from the prickly-as-all-hell cheerleading section of the Republican base. In fact, that distant rattling sound we hear comes from a million GOP heads nodding in agreement. Conservative optimism is now defined as hoping the Romney candidacy may become merely horrible.
The campaign that began "Vote for me. I can fix anything" has become "Vote for me. I left before it happened."
Someone threw Holy Water on him.
He is melting in all his money tinted greenness in front of an amazed Dorothy.
The Magical Wizard of Finance is becoming the Out-Sorcerer.
Mitt. I am a partisan Democrat. I don't even like you. I can't stand the torture.
Fire your staff.
Hire Michele Bachmann.
Release the returns.
Mr. Romney, tear down this wall!
Homeboy Industries, the passion project of an L.A. priest, has brought life reboots to hundreds of former criminals, including onetime gang members and the fallen CEO of mega-construction company KB Home.
One Sunday late last summer, just after Mass, Father Gregory Boyle took a drive through Boyle Heights, the East Los Angeles neighborhood where he has lived for 26 years. That they share a name, the priest and his neighborhood, is a coincidence. Word simply came from the archdiocese one day that a parish in Boyle Heights, one of the poorest in L.A., was without a priest. On this day, though, it seemed fitting. People beamed when they saw Boyle’s old Toyota turn up their street. Families leaned out of their houses and waved. Alone, he was a parade. Tough young men rushed to the curb to rest tattooed forearms against his open window. "Mijo!" Boyle greeted them, slapping hands and bumping fists.
In response to T. Paine's
Obama's Smoke, Mirrors, and Outsourcing
All of that said, again if one assumes your charges against Romney were accurate, is it better to outsource jobs using one’s own money, or is it better to do so as a government official using taxpayer dollars?
My friend T. Paine makes as good a pro-Romney, anti-Obama case as can be made, better than that currently contrived by the Romney campaign. Romney allies publicly demand that he come clean with a decade's tax returns.
My friend defends Mitt Romney's business practices on principle. So what if Mitt Romney was shipping jobs to other countries? "The fact would still remain," says my friend, "that Romney did so with his OWN capital." He then attacks the policies of Barack Obama as the only true outsourcing of jobs.
Before we consider T. Paine's contemplation of what might result "if one assumes your charges against Romney were accurate", "one" being ...well... me, perhaps we should review at the outset the serious charges I make against Mitt Romney. It won't take long because there are none. As I have pointed out, the theory of free markets presumes that everyone acts for selfish reasons. If Mitt Romney destroyed American jobs, he did so incidentally. It was simply a collateral effect of doing business. Profits are the objective, not job destruction.
On the other hand, if American jobs were created, it was also incidental, another collateral effect of the quest for profits. Job creation is not the objective.
I did point out a contradiction between Mr. Romney's recent statements and previous assertions. He asserts, jaw jutting forward, the very model of assured integrity, that he left Bain Capital before overt outsourcing happened: destroying jobs, and health care, and retirement pensions. Those negative collateral effects of profit maximization.
I did contrast his impressive denials with the over 170 filings so far discovered in which Mitt Romney asserted the opposite. He swore to government agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission that he was constantly participating in Bain Capital. While Mitt Romney's 2002 testimony on meeting the residency requirement, authenticated by his active participation at Bain, was striking, his 2002 debate for Governor was visually impressive. Jaw jutting forward, the very model of assured integrity, Mitt Romney assured the good people of Massachusetts that business meetings and corporate responsibilities had ensured his continuing travel to and from Massachusetts. To suggest anything else was simply dirty politics.
It was with a bit of foresight, I suppose, that I mentioned a few days before an Obama aide, that false statements under oath to federal authorities is a criminal offense. In that earlier exchange with my friend T. Paine, I suggested we give Mr. Romney every benefit of interpretation. "Possessing a charitable nature, I would rather believe he is guilty of political mendacity to the press rather than criminal mendacity to legal authorities."
See what I mean? No accusation, just the benefit of which of two conflicting testimonies might be the truth.
I did suggest that, if Mr. Romney was prepared to insist that his sworn testimony from earlier days was actual perjury, my presumption being that it is not, he should indeed be absolved from any connection with anything at all that happened at or through Bain Capital after that. This would include the collateral effects of workers losing jobs, benefits, and pensions. It would also include those 100,000 jobs Mr. Romney claimed to have created.
The good and bad, the yin and yang of Mr. Romney's history, do go together like a horse and carriage, don't they? Can't have one without the other. And both are incidental, a mere side effect of a self-centered quest for profits. Adam Smith's invisible hand.
My friend T. Paine is correct in casting the controversy as a distraction. Mr. Romney's pose as a job creator does distract from policy and political record. My friend does provide examples of Obama policy gone very wrong. Three examples, in fact. Sadly, he has the unfortunate luck to have chosen examples that do not support his own accusations.
My friend mentioned stimulus money going to Cree Manufacturing, who opened a manufacturing plant in China. Outsourcing, says Mr. Paine. However, the plant in China was opened before any stimulus money was applied. The plant production supported the marketing of products to the Chinese people. No American jobs were outsourced.
My friend mentioned stimulus money going to a Japanese company that then purchased materials from Japan. Unfortunately, this turns out to have been an example of in-sourcing. The Obama administration managed to convince a Japanese company, Eurus, to build an electricity producing wind energy plant in Texas. It did use some components, including turbines, manufactured in Japan. The plant in Texas employs American workers and allows the Texas Electricity Wholesale Market to purchase energy without importing it in the form of oil and gas from other countries. In fact, Eurus now has similar plants in California, Oregon and Illinois. Oh, one other thing. Tax credits for Eurus, credits based on the benefits to the US economy of energy and employment, began during the Reagan administration.
- My friend mentions a start up pioneer in electric auto prototyping. Some scandal this turns out to be. Fisker Automotive, from Finland, has not gotten any stimulus money. That would be zero, none, not any. Conservatives, in their eagerness to hate all things Obama, have sometimes been less than scrupulous in their research. Fisher did accept $191 in federally guaranteed loans approved by the Obama Energy Department to see if they could make an experimental hybrid come into production. If it works out, it will be a very good deal for the United States, but the program can't really be credited to Obama. It was a Bush initiative, a program that began before President Obama took office.
So that would be one instance of outsourcing that isn't even close to outsourcing, one example of massive INsourcing, and one more example that we can hope will become INsourcing, although we will have to credit the Bush administration.
Maybe we can help out T. Paine a little. After all, that's what friends are for. There is an outsourcing scandal. It does not involve Mr. Romney's Bain deals, timelines, and SEC filings. It isn't about this investment or that. It is about long term policy. The sort of thing that government, citizens, you, and I should be considering.
Current tax policy actually provides substantial breaks to US companies that export jobs. It's inadvertent, but damaging anyway. US corporations that manufacture outside the United States pay taxes to the host country, and also to the United States. Foreign taxes are subtracted out, so it costs nothing for US corporations to export jobs.
Sound bad? It gets worse.
The taxes to the US don't have to be paid right away. Only when the resulting profits are imported into the United States is the balance charged. So the incentive is to postpone and postpone paying US taxes by keeping profits working outside the country. Creating jobs anywhere but here. It tends to put American workers at a competitive disadvantage.
The President has spoken about the problem. But little has been done.
The Romney position is that the tax benefit to corporations exporting jobs should be increased. He says lower global wages are needed to keep US corporations competitive.
Okay, so maybe I'm not helping my friend as much as I'd like to. Happily, he doesn't need it.
For all the time travel Mitt Romney explores, for all the filings, denials, and outsourcing deals, the essential point made by my friend T. Paine stands on its own. For all the good or harm Mr. Romney accomplished or inflicted, the "fact would still remain that Romney did so with his OWN capital."
The biggest problem for the Romney campaign is not how to convince T. Paine. It is not how to convince me and people like me. It is not how to convince the Obama campaign. It is not how to convince what seems to be an ever more skeptical voting public.
Helping or hurting, job creation or job destruction, Mr. Romney was motivated completely by profits. All that he did was completely in harmony with mainstream market based philosophy. His personal profits came from his own financial creativity. He worked with his own capital along with that which was entrusted to him by others. There is no wrongdoing. There is nothing worth hiding.
The problem for the Romney campaign is convincing Mitt Romney.
In response to Burr Deming's
Mitt Romney Not Responsible After February 1999
As far as the bad things, the people hurt? Shouldn't we give Mitt the benefit of the doubt, in spite of official signings and SEC filings? All that technical stuff?
- Burr Deming, July 13, 2012
Just for the sake of argument, let’s assume that everything the mendacious Obama campaign has said about Romney being an outsourcer in chief is true. The fact would still remain that Romney did so with his OWN capital.
How this lessens the responsibility for Obama's mismanagement of our economy and the subsequent loss of millions of American jobs due directly to his policies escapes me, especially since many of those job losses were outsourced because of those very policies.
There are myriads of examples of outsourcing of jobs due to Obama's $787 billion stimulus package of TAXPAYER's money. One of these many examples is North Carolina-based LED manufacturer Cree Inc., which reaped $39 million through a stimulus-funded tax credit program in January 2010. In November 2009, the company built a manufacturing plant in Huizhou City, China, which is the harbor for more than half of the company’s employees.
Then there is the foreign investment scheme spurred on by Obama’s stimulus law that involves a Japanese wind energy firm Eurus Energy, whose American subsidiary, Eurus Energy America, collected $91 million in stimulus funding to initiate construction of a wind farm in Texas. As it turns out, the wind farm was allegedly built using turbines manufactured by Mitsubishi — another Japanese company.
Continuing, perhaps the most damning paragon of the Obama administration’s subsidization of foreign companies involves a $500-million loan guarantee siphoned to Finnish automaker Fisker Automotive. A component of the Energy Department’s alternative-fuel vehicle program, the loan was intended to bolster Fisker’s presence in the U.S. manufacturing market. However, claiming it was unable to find a viable location in the United States, Fisker never built a domestic facility, deciding instead to cease its U.S. operations and continue building vehicles in Finland.
Again, I think this tactic by the left is simply smoke and mirrors. Wave something shiny over here to distract the public from paying attention to what has already happened over there.
Lord knows that if Obama's policies were successful and had managed to turn the American economy around as per all of his flowery rhetoric saying that he would, then there would be absolutely no need to obfuscate and point out or create shortcomings about his opponent. His own accomplishments would be a strong and unassailable platform from which to run a positive campaign. Of course, when one doesn't have such facts on one's side, it then becomes incumbent to try and tear down one's opponent. (Yes, I am aware that Romney is also guilty of this tactic during the GOP primaries.) All of that said, again if one assumes your charges against Romney were accurate, is it better to outsource jobs using one’s own money, or is it better to do so as a government official using taxpayer dollars?
I would submit to Burr and his readers that this is precisely what Obama is doing, and that Burr is, unfortunately, buying into it.
In addition to his strong accomplishments here, T. Paine writes for his own site, where conservative platforms are unassailable.
Please visit Saving Common Sense.
Mitt Romney created a hundred thousand jobs through Bain Capital. We know this because he told us so himself.
The number was not simply pulled out of the air. When pressed, the Romney campaign came up with specifics.
Staples: 89,000 jobs created
The Sports Authority: 15,000 jobs created
- Domino's: 7,900 jobs created
Well, you have to admit that totals over 100,000 jobs. Of course, half the story is only ... well ... half the story.
It is also true that Bain Capital did some pretty terrible things, from the perspective of employees who lost their jobs, or simply took major pay cuts. Their jobs were outsourced or just eliminated. When they also lost health and retirement benefits they thought were guaranteed, they pointed out that Bain made millions by raiding them. Mitt Romney became wealthy on top of those lost jobs and benefits.
The Romney campaign has a pretty good defense. He had retired from Bain in February of 1999 to perform charitable work as head of the US Olympic Committee. A lot of the bad things to good people happened after February, 1999. Hard to argue with that.
Thing is, he was signing official documents, declaring himself 100 percent owner and manager of new companies created by Bain, listing himself as owner, manager, CEO, and President of Bain Capital. This went on for a few years, into 2002. He signed papers. He swore in filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
But it isn't just Mitt Romney and the Romney campaign saying he isn't responsible for the damaged workers. Bain has also said that Mitt Romney was not actively managing the firm or its many entities. Anything bad that happened after 1999 occurred after Mitt Romney wasn't there. He and Bain both say that the filings were technically correct but were, in a practical sense, merely a formality. He was in charge, but only on paper.
It is also hard to avoid the millions that were pouring into Mitt Romney's bank accounts during the time he was technically and formally, but not practically, in charge.
One philosophical, and moral, and political question is whether one can benefit from horrible actions to the tune of millions of dollars and not be held accountable in some informal and non-technical sense. Should voters hold him accountable for actions that stuffed millions into his pockets?
It could be he was innocent of any knowledge of what was happening at Bain Capital during the purely technical phase of his tenure. That would expose him to another question. Should he be presumed to be willfully ignorant? Most of us might reasonably be curious at wealth flowing into our accounts, no matter where those accounts were kept.
On the other hand, there is another hand. Even if Mr. Romney is to be held responsible, and Mr. Romney insists he isn't, for the occasional harm that may have happened after 1999 through to 2002 at Bain Capital, life is filled with balance, isn't it?
Those workers harmed, their health and retirement benefits having disappeared, left out of work, for many out of realistic hope, those worker must be weighed against those who were helped. That's the sad and the happy reality of equity capital, indeed of most of the free market. People and corporations act in their own best interest. Others are hurt or helped pretty much as a side effect. The purpose of Bain was to make money. Other results were collateral.
Not all effects were bad. In fact, it's hard to argue with 100,000 jobs created.
Staples with 89,000 employees as of December 31, 2010
The Sports Authority with 15,000 employees as of July 2011
- Domino's with 7,900 new jobs through to January, 2012
As far as the bad things, the people hurt? Shouldn't we give Mitt the benefit of the doubt, in spite of official signings and SEC filings? All that technical stuff?
Shouldn't we just admit that Mitt Romney was not responsible for anything that happened through Bain Capital after February, 1999?
Nothing at all. Nothing.
First, it was not my original intention to question the patriotism of our brothers and sisters on the far left in my post. It was merely to better codify in a “declaration of dependence” what a seeming majority of the militant left espouse. In re-reading my own post, and reviewing their own stated beliefs, I guess that does indeed denigrate their patriotism, albeit by their own admitted words and actions.
As for “discredited stereotypes”, I will admit to making some large generalizations about the far left progressives; however, there seems to be more than ample evidence to support rather than discredit that particular stereotype. Indeed while not universally accurate, stereotypes develop because of seeming common characteristics or attitudes amongst any given group of people. While not always fair, in the case of the far left progressives in our country, the stereotype seems to be rather apropos to me.
- T. Paine, July 9, 2012
Good to clear that up. My friend T. Paine had no intention of questioning the patriotism of those whose patriotism he believes is so evidently lacking.
In the last few years, I have made reference a number of times to a memorable conversation I had with a conservative friend. It was after the 9/11 attacks, after a speech by Al Gore declaring to a cheering crowd of Democrats, "George W. Bush is my commander in chief." My friend expressed his gratitude that the lack of a final count in Florida had resulted in George W. Bush taking office. Al Gore, he told me, would never have been able to rally conservatives. I told him I did not share his feeling that conservatives had so little patriotism as he seemed to suggest.
A less symbolic incident was more telling.
It was mid December, 2009. Health care was up for debate yet again, and tempers were high. Republicans had already declared any health reform at all to be dead. It would be Obama's Waterloo, boasted one Senate leader to his gloating colleagues.
But other issues were urgent. The U.S. Senate shelved debate long enough to work on helping US military personnel in combat areas. Afghanistan and Iraq were very hostile for our troops. Equipment and ammunition were in constant demand. Armor for vehicles, body armor, and IED detection devices were desperately needed. Combat troops were under fire. It was a simple patriotic call.
Republicans launched a filibuster against the troops.
Democrats scrambled. A majority would not be enough to save lives. 60 votes would be required to get military supplies and ammunition to combat troops under fire. And Republicans were confident they had the votes to block the vote. As long as they could hold out, not a single bullet would go to US troops.
Republicans were quite open, off the record, about why they were voting to hold up essential supplies to troops in combat. Most Republicans would not comment publicly on why they were voting against troops at war. But three spoke up.
"I don't want health care," said Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas. Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama and Senator Kit Bond of Missouri also spoke up. They too wanted to hold up supplies to troops in combat in order to delay a vote on health reform.
In the end, Democrats convinced 3 Republicans that the troops were more important than politics. They joined 59 Democrats and 2 Independents to break the filibuster and get a vote on aid to troops in the field. That was 3 out of 40.
Republicans were not actually in favor of having troops actively engaged in combat go without ammunition, equipment, and supplies. They just wanted Democrats to scramble like crazy to save American lives. They wanted the scramble to continue as long as possible.
They knew what my friend T. Paine does not understand. They could count on Democrats and liberals to be patriotic, to put patriotism ahead of politics, to put patriotism ahead of policy.
Senate Republicans were completely confident that, when the chips were down and US troops were in danger, those Democratic opponents could be counted on to scramble like crazy, putting patriotism at a higher level than ... well ... that of 37 Senators who joined in saying no to the troops.
Politicians who stand for something bigger than themselves don’t have to be perfect. But those whose message is essentially “Ecce Homo” — Behold the Man! — must be held to a different standard. Romney had better be ready to defend every wrinkle in that perfectly tailored suit and every shadow in that born-to-rule profile.
- Ed Kilgore, July 9, 2012
I confess I don't care that much for Woody Allen films. I get fidgety when a point is hammered home over several minutes that most anyone could have gotten in 30 seconds. I appreciate a lot of Woody Allen in retrospect. His cinematic moments join a vast collection in my life that I enjoy remembering but which I would not want to experience again. Your mileage may vary. Woody Allen is much more popular than am I.
One memory remains pretty good. Allen's conversation with Diane Keaton's character, Annie Hall, is interrupted by a loud blowhard standing standing behind them in a movie line. The bombast holds forth a monologue about media guru Marshall McLuhan. Finally, Allen provokes an argument with the pompous one. Allen thinks the man's views are, not to put too fine a point on it, without merit. The fellow is indignant.
"I happen to teach a class at Columbia University called ‘TV and Culture’" lectures the man. He holds forth his views as authoritative. "So I think that my insights into Mr. McLuhan have a great deal of validity."
So Allen responds. "Oh do you? Well, that's funny. I happen to have Mr. McLuhan right here." He pulls Marshall McLuhan from behind a movie poster. "I heard what you were saying," McLuhan says to the man. "You know nothing of my work ... How you ever got to teach a course in anything is totally amazing."
Woody Allen turns to the audience. "Boy, if life were only like this." Here is a brief clip.
For a while, I have had occasion to refer to a proposition by conservative Julian Sanchez of the Cato Institute. He describes an entire information system that forecloses any alternate view or information. As I read him, he observes fellow conservatives wrapping themselves in a cocoon, accepting as possible worldviews only those that fit comfortably into this system. He refers to the system of exclusive information as "epistemic closure."
I have sought to apply the Sanchez proposition to what I see as a sociological phenomenon. It seems to me destined to destroy the Republican Party as a credible national presence. Most disagreement with my own proposition is either personal (Burr engages in wishful thinking), or misapplied (lots of liberals are closed-minded, too).
I do speculate about why the left has not gone into an equivalent system of leftward epistemic closure. I haven't found a satisfactory answer.
I reject the wishful thinking objection as unresponsive. Anyone who thinks I am wrong does me a basic courtesy by explaining where my logic or evidence is flawed. Those who do not do me that courtesy might forgive me for thinking their refusal is based on inability.
Rejection based on "lots of folks are closed minded" misinterprets that message, I think. The issue I present is not based on closed mindedness, which is an individual characteristic. It is based on a larger phenomenon and borrows a bit from the controversy stirred by Julian Sanchez.
Even a review of the Julian Sanchez proposition by the New York Times a couple of years ago seemed to misapply the concept. The entire piece seemed based on whether conservatives are closed minded.
So, last week, I wrote a protest piece of sorts. The title pretty directly described the theme: Epistemic Closure Is Not Closed Mindedness. The response might lead us to believe the point was largely lost. Not entirely, though. There was one surprise.
My friend T. Paine wrote to suggest that I am guilty of epistemic closure. "The fact that you don’t see that liberalism, in general, is particularly guilty of this strikes me as your own personal iteration of epistemic closure, my friend!" Which either means that I am closed minded (sigh) or that we should strive for a more complex explanation.
This would describe a system of information that closes me off from liberal views that are in turn closed off from other views and data to the point of an alternate reality. My alternate to the alternate would be, I suppose, an epistemic closure that is entirely contained within, yet closed off from, the proposed liberal closure. Kind of a universe within a universe within the mainstream universe.
As I see it, either my friend T. Paine should go into a new branch of quantum physics, or he has actually conflated, once more, epistemic closure with an individual state of being closed minded.
Another close friend John Myste, writes to say that his contact with conservative debaters reveals to him an openness that is equivalent to that of liberals. If only my pal had left out one sentence, we could have explored a self-selective process. His contact with conservatives who consider his opinions shows that one hundred percent of those conservatives are quite willing to consider a worldview outside the conservative structure proposed by Julian Sanchez, which is to say that everyone who considers his opinion is willing to consider his opinion. Sadly, John included this: "On the conservative sites, liberals are considered intolerant of opposing views and on the liberal sites, conservatives are." So we are back to conflating a closed mind with the Sanchez observation of Epistemic Closure.
Fortunately, to my delight, Marshall McLuhan jumped from behind the curtain his own self, without my even speaking to the camera. After our publication of the piece and the comments in response, Julian Sanchez wrote to us a reply that may serve as a final word on what he meant.
FWIW, as I think I tried to clarify in a follow up post, I did not mean EC as a synonym for "closed-mindedness," or any other characteristic that could be ascribed to an individual. It was really a collective phenomenon: When you have enough ideological information sources quoting and referencing each other to constitute a full blown ecosystem. The "closure" happens when it's built up enough that any contrary information seems like an outlier that automatically discredits its source rather than prompting reevaluation. (At some level this happens with any information system, and can be useful: If a paper reported the earth was flat, you'd correctly decide you should ignore that paper from now on.) It has nothing really to do with individual propensities to open-mindedness; it's a description of an environment, not any particular people within it.
Boy, life sometimes really is like this.
More, much more, of Julian Sanchez can be found at his own site.