2012 Presidential Election

Vote Obama, ‘No’ On SQ 766

Image of President Barack Obama

It’s easy for Oklahoma progressives and liberals these days to get discouraged about voting in a presidential election because we know a Democratic candidate has no chance of winning the state and will probably lose here in a huge landslide.

So why vote? The cliché, of course, is that every vote matters, and it does to the extent that increasing the overall popular vote for President Barack Obama is extremely important. But it’s also important to simply show our neighbors that Obama supporters do exist in perhaps the reddest state in the nation. When we vote for Obama in Oklahoma, we earn political space for ourselves.

There are, of course, the local and state races that drive us to the polls as well, and we do win some of these, although in diminishing numbers in recent elections.

For my liberal friends who have been disappointed by the Obama presidency, I can only urge you to consider how much damage Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan could do to important social programs in our country, such as Medicare and Social Security. The “lesser of the two evils” dance grows old, I know, and especially as we personally grow older, but slow, incremental change—I believe Obamacare represents this—has its benefits as well.

So my vote, without hesitation, will go to Obama, our first African-American president, who repaired a Republican financial mess and faced conservative petty petulance with grace, endurance and a clear attempt at compromise over the last four years. The economy is on the upswing, the Iraq war is over and the Afghanistan war is winding down. The Affordable Care Act, for all its flaws, remains a huge step forward in providing health care and driving down its costs.

Romney is an elitist who is the antithesis of ordinary Oklahomans. He will work to cut taxes for wealthy people and starve government programs, such as Social Security and Medicare. His comment at an elite fundraising event during the campaign denigrating 47 percent of all Americans is a clear indication of how he feels about thousands and thousands of Oklahomans. Here is that comment:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it -- that that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. ... These are people who pay no income tax. ... [M]y job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

Why an Oklahoma senior citizen collecting Social Security benefits would vote for someone who made such a hateful, dismissal remark about them remains the conundrum of progressive politics. The relentless, bizarre spew of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh are a part of the equation, and The Oklahoman contributes to it as well. It has become a cliché to say people vote against their interests in red states, but it still remains true. Even one-issue social conservatives more often than not sacrifice their financial interests for their religious or gun-clinging myopia.

Beyond the presidential election, I encourage you to vote “no” on State Questions 758, 759, 765 and 766 and vote “yes” on 762 and 764. You can find my overall take on the state questions here. You can find more from me on SQ 765 here. I’m especially opposed to SQ 766, and you can find my reasons here.

I encourage voters to retain those Oklahoma Supreme Court Justices who are on the ballot.

For Oklahoma County voters, Sheriff John Whetsel is the clear choice.

It’s time to vote.


Beyond Benghazi: Does Romney Even Have A Foreign Policy?

("If this were not an election year, there wouldn’t have even been a concerted GOP response to the Benghazi tragedy, except to offer condolences for the victims.")

Let’s hope we get some real discussion about the country’s overall foreign policy in the final presidential debate Monday night and not just a rehash of the GOP’s made-up scandal over the government’s actions or supposed non-actions in the Benghazi, Libya tragedy.

President Barack Obama’s supporters should use social media and other web-based platforms right now to demand that the debate’s moderator, CBS News’ Bob Schieffer, not let the discussion degenerate into the make-believe world of Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s unsubstantiated and insignificant allegations.

The debate Monday night in Boca Raton, Fla. will focus on foreign policy. Romney is sure to try to make it mostly about American actions before and after the recent tragedy in Benghazi that left four Americans dead, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. It’s a craven move to use American deaths on foreign soil—deaths still under intense investigation in a volatile region of the world—as campaign propaganda, and let’s hope Schieffer calls Romney out on it. Obama’s supporters, however, can’t expect this to happen.

Frankly, if Obama is to blame for the American deaths in some way, then former President George W. Bush, the president Romney would most emulate if he’s elected, is to blame for the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that killed 2,996 people and left more than 6,000 wounded. The attacks were also manipulated by Bush to garner public support for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that have left thousands upon thousands of people dead and created a huge federal deficit that Republicans ignored.

This is not to minimize the attack—whether you call it an act of terror or not, a point of absurd obsession for Romney as the above video clip shows—on the embassy in Benghazi, but the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks hold much greater significance. Bush’s actions before and after the 2001 attacks should actually demand more debate attention than the Benghazi attack because so much of our foreign policy in the Middle East over the last decade has been influenced by those actions. Will Schieffer do the right thing and steer the discussion to what’s important?

As I’ve written in previous posts, these presidential debates themselves are not really debates in any technical sense. They can be called events or discussions or even spectacles, and their worth to democracy can be argued, but they are not about making clear arguments based on clear evidence, even if that happens on occasion. It’s not important within this system who actually wins the debate so much as who wins the media spin of the debate. That’s why Obama’s supporters need to get out in front of Romney’s predicted approach and continue making their case immediately after the debate.

Along with his criticism of how Obama handled the Benghazi tragedy, Romney will attack the president on his policy over Iran’s uranium enrichment program and his trade and monetary policies with China. Both these attacks are sure to be more risky for Romney. Severe sanctions against Iran have been implemented, and it’s hardly likely Romney will guarantee he will do anything differently than Obama. On China, Romney is especially vulnerable. The company he founded, Bain Capital, has deep business ties in China. In other words, Romney is rich at least partially because China is a “currency manipulator” and doesn’t conduct business on a level playing field with the rest of the world. Romney wants it both ways.

All of this will obscure the larger question of American foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, the scene of several recent uprisings in countries throughout the region. It’s a volatile region that demands a nuanced and fluid approach. What is our role in the Middle East? How have American policies in the last 50 year or so influenced this volatility? How has Middle East oil dictated our foreign policy approach? These seem like such simple questions, but they need to be asked, and the focus of the “debate” should focus more on larger issues than Romney’s crass politics. If this were not an election year, I would argue, there wouldn’t have even been a concerted GOP response to the Benghazi tragedy, except to offer condolences for the victims. Surely, Schieffer knows that.

Jonathan Bernstein, in a post published on Salon.com, writes about the “scandal frame” the GOP and Romney have used instead of arguing policy ideas during this election season. Bernstein writes:

. . . Romney, Republicans and conservatives have, in case after case, simply given up on crafting viable public policy. That wasn’t always the case. When Ronald Reagan took office, conservative think tanks were ready with a host of ideas for transforming what government did and the way it did it. As recently as the 2000 campaign, George W. Bush campaigned on, for example, No Child Left Behind and a faith-based initiative. Does Romney have anything similar he’s talking about during this campaign? Not that I’ve heard.

What he’s substituted for policy is scandal, on the one hand, and symbolism, on the other.

Obama’s supporters should make this type of craven, crass politics a major issue as they take to social media before and after the debate. There’s little doubt Obama will make an articulate case for his foreign policy achievements. Romney, however, will employ a “scandal frame,” hyped by Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, because he has no larger ideas about foreign policy that substantially differ from Bush’s reckless policies.


Corporate Media Spin Before Third Debate Needs Challenge

I promise to return to writing about local and state issues as soon as the last “debate” Monday between President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, but I think it’s important the president’s supporters continue their efforts to counter media spin with reality-based arguments in the last days of the campaign.

We only elect a president every four years, and, in these changing times of information dissemination, it’s always necessary to carefully look at the election process itself. But why write about the presidential race in a state that will certainly give its electoral votes to Romney? That’s easy. It all matters, and it’s really simple math. What might trickle up from the blogosphere and social media, even from here in the outback?

I put “debate” in quotes in the first paragraph because these exchanges between Obama and Romney are really not debates in the technical sense of the word. They are political events or maybe even political spectacles, but they are not debates, which are judged on the criteria of logical arguments backed by clear evidence. One can argue these political events are important to democracy, but when we talk about who “won” a presidential debate it’s really about who “won” the media spin.

Under the winning and losing criteria of the corporate media, Obama won the second debate. Obama’s supporters helped with this win through good use of social media noise and memes, such as the “binders of women” echo. Let me repeat: Presidential candidates cannot “win” a debate these days without an enthusiastic base challenging formulaic journalism techniques and labeling. Even now Republicans are arguing Romney “won” the debate. It’s not an ideal situation, and it can lead to perfunctory, robotic political responses, but the corporate media—and this is really a neutral and obvious statement—should only be trusted to present “news” in ways that make profits. Truth is a huge business expense; it’s always the first thing to go.

As I wrote in a previous post before the debate, no matter what happened Tuesday, the immediate media narrative would go something like this: “After a poor first debate performance, President Barack Obama came out swinging Tuesday night, but . . .” That proved to be exactly right, and, in a quick Google search, I quickly found three media outlets, the Los Angeles Times, Slate.com and the Minneapolis Star Tribune that used the actual “came out swinging” language. Virtually every major media outlet led with similar language about Obama’s “aggressive” performance compared to his “listless” previous performance.

The ellipsis of my predicated media narrative was filled in with all the typical clichéd tripe: but maybe he was too aggressive, but maybe it wasn’t enough to stop Romney’s momentum, but maybe voters are still worried about the economy. Still, media poll after poll showed Obama had “won” the debate. Now we move on to Obama’s “bounce” or lack thereof and the pre-debate noise and posturing before Monday. It’s predictable, and Obama’s supporters should be ready.

It’s important to disseminate the binders’ meme and Obama’s last comment in Monday’s debate referring to Romney’s disdain for the 47 percent of Americans because they clearly delineate Romney’s position on women and the middle and lower classes. If there are truly swing voters still out there, and I think there are very few, these two items from the debate can be useful. But they can also create enthusiasm with Obama’s base, and, at this point, voter turnout for the president is probably the key to his election.

However, Obama’s supporters should also devote the next few days to working on challenging the media spin for Monday’s debate, which will supposedly be focused on foreign policy. (I bet both candidates refer to domestic issues as well. Romney: The best national defense is to have a sound economy. Obama: These two Republican wars have contribute to the deficit and hurt the economy.) The prevailing media narrative right now, a few days before the debate, pits Romney’s craven claims about the recent tragedy in Libya against Obama’s entire foreign policy experience and successes. Consequently, barring a major gaffe, here are some media spins that could result from the debate:

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney scored major points in Monday debate when he criticized the President Barack Obama administration’s handling of embassy security in Libya, but . . .

A defensive President Barack Obama responded to criticisms over his administration’s handling of security of the Libya embassy, but . . .

President Barack Obama deflected criticism over his handling of security at the Libyan embassy and touted the death of Osama bin Laden at Monday’s debate, but . . .

The point here is that the GOP has made one event—the recent killing of four Americans at the Libyan embassy in Benghazi—the cornerstone of their foreign policy with only days to go before the elections. It’s an obvious and craven political ploy designed to take attention away from Obama’s clear strength in foreign policy. Both Romney and his running mate, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, lack foreign policy depth and experience. None of this will matter much to the media because they smell another easy “conflict” in the ongoing presidential “horse race.”

Romney will argue that Obama’s “appeasement and apology” polices led to the tragedy, a fictional construct that the corporate media will not challenge. Romney might be hampered by his supposed gaffe in the second debate when he arrogantly claimed Obama had never referred to the killings as a terrorist attacks. Of course, Obama did immediately refer to the event as an “act of terror.” But this gaffe will not deter Romney on Monday.

Romney’s other main point will be that the president isn’t tough enough about Iran and its uranium enrichment program, but he will be hard pressed to say just exactly what he would do differently than Obama. Will he say as president he will take the United States directly into a war against Iran? That’s not likely. It would risk his chances considerably in the election. It would be a desperate move.

What all this means is that Obama’s supporters need to get out front of both the Libya and Iran issues before the debate, and especially Libya. Using social media, blogs and other web-based platforms, Obama’s supporters need to make much of Romney’s Libyan gaffe in the second debate and, perhaps more importantly, compare his foreign policies to those of former President George W. Bush. For example, if one is going to blame the Libyan attack on Obama, then by logical extension one has to blame the September 11, 2001 terrorists attacks on Bush. Here’s another point to make: Seven American embassies and consulates were attacked during Bush’s presidency. Where was the GOP concern then?

Unfortunately, Romney and the Republicans are reducing the country’s foreign policy to political nonsense right now, but the corporate media will only applaud this as Serious Political Debate and part of the Important Political Horse Race. Liberals gain nothing by sniffing their noses at it all and refusing to get involved in the fray. Let’s get busy.