Thursday, September 30, 2010

You ain’t seen nothin’ yet

By Don Klein

The Democrats are behaving like lost sheep in the wilderness. They are starting to panic with ill advised comportment. Instead of trumpeting the good they have accomplished during the last year and a half and contrasting that with the bleak future we will face if the Republicans take over, they are publicly scolding their followers.

Instead of proudly itemizing that which is in their favor, they seem to cower at the prospect of certain defeat. The Democrats have lots to crow about, even if they did not match up to President Obama’s promises, even if they have had disappointments along the way.

They have two important elements in their favor. 1) the social and economic advances accomplished since they took over the White House in 2009, and 2) the gloomy prospects every working class person faces with a Republican victory. Those two should be enough to bring in enough votes for them to hold power in Washington.

But so far they are ineffectively saying little about these important matters. If they loose in November by sitting in the corner and contemplating defeat while allowing the opposition take the political initiative from them it will be their own fault.

With a mere five weeks left before election day, rather than rebuking their justly disappointed following, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden should spend their time exhorting the countryside with positives -- not negatives.

Since they seem unable to come up with a program of their own, I offer them the Klein Plan for Victory on November 2.

++ Remind the voters of the good aspects of the health plan despite the lack of the preferred public option. There are many good elements in what the GOP likes to call Obamacare yet they make it sound like the plan is an abomination. Let the people know all the facts and how it helps many who are now at last covered.

++ Tell the public which has been badly stung by the shenanigans of Wall Street that the Obama program to reactivate regulations on the financial industry, although not perfect, will restrict the behavior of the robber barons in the near future.

++ Let those with short memories be reminded that a children’s health bill was passed over Republican objections as was the bailout which saved millions of jobs, a regenerated infrastructure is in the works and Obama kept the recession from declining into a full blown depression.

++ Cue them in on the near collapse of the auto industry and how it was saved by Obama’s quick action and how the automakers are on the road to health and will repay all that the government invested in them with interest.

++ The most effective argument for retaining the Democrats in power, however, will be to expose what the Republicans plan to do if they win. They promise to reduce the federal budget, but will not touch military funds and social security. What is left? Medicare, unemployment benefits, education, environmental programs, and the like. This should immediately turn off the senior citizens, couples with young children, and the unemployed.

++ The Republicans would disband the Health Care Law to the disadvantage of millions and continue to hamper any effort to effectively restrict illegal immigration to the consternation of those living in states bordering on Mexico.

++ A victorious GOP would maintain the tax cuts for the wealthy at a tremendous cost to the rest of us further plunging the country into deeper debt and would encourage the continuation of outsourcing and other programs to benefit corporations at the cost of American jobs. They already have apologized to BP for being forced by Obama to underwrite oil spill losses to individual Americans.

++ The Republicans just offered a Pledge to America which was short on specifics but long on generalities. They offered not a single new idea and in effect have suggested that if they get their way they will close down the government to set themselves up for a 2012 presidential victory.

The latest polls have shown signs of improved standing for Democrats and with more than a month to go this upward trend should continue and make the election not the runaway some have predicted, but a close battle. That is providing the Democrats show a lot more gumption then they have so far.

Talk about what is still left to do, about the continued Democratic agenda for change. They should be parroting Al Jolson’s old line: "You ain’t seen nothin’ yet." All the GOP offers is back to the dormant Bush years.

As long as they act like losers they will probably end up proving the proposition. For decades I have watched the Democrats act like they were ashamed of doing the right thing. Recently they put off a vote on the allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire until after the election. What a bunch of craven back alley mice.

The more I talk to people about their preferences in national elections the more I hear them sound off with the same thoughts even though they might express it differently. It comes down to the saddest of all conclusions for a great people who invented the concept of free elections of government leaders. Too often the beautiful ideal is corrupted by the election of unresponsive and callous legislatures.

What is that thought they all have? "I vote for the lesser of two evils." Although neither party is worth a goat’s derriere, the difference this year is that one evil – the Republicans – is a lot worse than the other. And the Democrats should speak out about it or we all loose.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Rally for moderation and fear

By Don Klein

Blame it on Martin Luther King. He started the prevailing concept of the epochal political march on Washington. We’ve gone the entire route, from taxpayers rights and abortion rights, to gay pride and black pride, to Tea Party bombast and the Glenn Beck orgasmic ritual of tearful claptrap last month.

Now we finally reached the apex with the planned Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert marches on October 30. Stewart named his movement the "Rally to Restore Sanity" or simply the "Million Moderate March." Colbert wants his gathering to be known as "March to Keep Fear Alive."

Now there are a couple of marches I think I would like to join.
In case you are not up-to-date on such matters, Stewart presides over "The Daily Show" on the Comedy Network where he cleverly spoofs the lunacy of public figures who claim to speak for the people. Colbert prances around mocking conservative blowhards like Bill O’Reilly and others on "The Colbert Report" on the same network.

All the previous marches tended to replicate the historic "I Have a Dream" assemblage back in the summer of 1963 in which Dr. King gave his famous speech. An estimated 400,000 people attended and ever since groups espousing a cause have organized similar marches.

Unlike King’s masterful accomplishment none of those that followed made a lasting impression. The Stewart and Colbert attempt to mix comedy with stark reality perhaps will succeed where others failed.

All "march" promoters choose the site in front of the famous Lincoln Memorial, attempting to slather some of the reverence of the sixteenth president of the United States on their particular issue. The famous David Chester French sculpture is an impressive backdrop for any rally.

Dr. King choose the location because of the relationship the Great Emancipator to the black race in particular. However, there are no such connection with those who have massed there since. As far as anyone can tell Lincoln had no strong positions on abortion rights or taxpayers’ complaints or the rights of gun owners.

We can assume without quibbling that Honest Abe would not have endorsed Glenn Beck’s unfounded political accusations and his chronic disregard for the truth.

There is a chance, however, Lincoln might have wanted to attend the Stewart "march" on Washington. Who wouldn’t be in favor of a rally to restore sanity to this country at a time when the nation is being torn apart by greed and self interest? Wasn’t that part of the conflict Old Abe faced during his lifetime?

The country seems to be divided in two camps these days – maybe even three. A current New York Times\CBS News poll revealed that most of the country still prefers the Democrats in power. Party favorability tips towards keeping the Democrats in control of Congress by 27 percent to 23. That same poll shows 40 percent of respondents feel the Democrats have a better handle on problems than the Republicans, who have 33 percent.

As far as helping the middle class, 55 percent of the electorate favor the Democrats and only 33 percent like the Republicans, and in helping small business the lead the Democrats have over Republicans is 49 percent to 41.

None of these are breathtaking figures and some are so close that they just emphasize the wide split in the nation. America has had similar divides in the past and has survived. The trouble today is that there is a death wish towards opponents by too many politicians. The comity that once existed on Capitol Hill is no more.

What we have instead is virulent opposition of the minority party towards anything the majority attempts to do. In essence gridlock. The goal seems to be, either we are in control or –- governmental chaos. There are even threats by Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, a leading Republican, of shutting down the government if the GOP does not win in November.

There are other insinuations to take over the country by force of arms if not at the polling booths by GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann

It is attitudes like this that makes the Stewart "Million Moderates March" less of a comic reaction than a realistic and necessary destination. It is especially important at this time with the emergence of the Tea Party as a cannibalistic element within the Republican Party, eating its own in a drive to exorcize all moderates from the party. It seems just right of center is no longer acceptable among the angered Palin partisans.

It is easy to despair and moan there is nothing we can do about it as we grit our teeth waiting for the destruction of our country. This will not necessarily become our fate. Up to now there has been no wide scale, multi-party opposition at the voting booths to Tea Party extremists. They can be beaten down by a solid rejection in November.

In the meantime we need people to cool down and not let the incendiary rhetoric overwhelm us. That’s why we should be thankful there are opportunistic comedians who have taken on the challenge of rallying the moderates to Washington. They no doubt recall the famous Lincoln line which could be directed at today’s empty talking Right Wing:

"Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Bring Aleve into the voting booth

By Don Klein

Barack Obama is coming under a great deal of criticism lately and to a large extent he deserves it. His popularity is way down. Even on the campaign trail this critical year, Democrats are opting for former President Bill Clinton to campaign for them rather than the current president. To many it seems his usefulness is waning.

Obama’s major flaw seems to be his inability to make any noticeable progress with the weak economy which appears to be getting even weaker with every statistical report. His victories in health care and stricter Wall Street regulations are pyrrhic – no Democrat in a tough race this year mentions either if they can be avoided.

He also has run into and unexpected flaw. You would think someone with Obama’s oratorical skills would be able to reach out and transmit his thoughts effectively to ordinary people. Many have the feeling he is too cerebral in determining and explaining policy as well as being too oblivious to outlandish criticism. He is not effective with rank and file voters.

At times he seems to be a replica of Adlai Stevenson with the inclination to speak over the heads of grass roots types and at other times he behaves like another Democratic presidential candidate, John Kerry, during his disastrous 2004 campaign in not explaining with clarity where he stands on issues. There isn’t that fire in his personality that so many admired during the last election campaign.

Let it be clear that I reject all the off-the-wall criticisms hurled at Obama by what I call the lunatic fringe. Glenn Beck can call Obama phony names and weirdos can question where he was born and whether or not he is a Muslim. These facts do not enter into my political equation. I am looking at the real Obama, not the false one painted by mean-spirited political morons.

Evaluating his real problems, there are the times when Obama stubs his toes making totally unnecessary statements about circumstances that have no bearing on his office nor reflect on his moral responsibility. Many of Obama's off-the-cuff remarks make people cringe. The minute he entered the Cambridge brouhaha without fully understanding what went on between the professor and the police officer, nor having any definable presidential purpose, everyone but he knew it was a serious error.

Experts in public relations and those who toil for years in government service know that there are times you don't have to express an opinion, especially if it has nothing to do with your job.

There are a number of other incidents like that where we find Obama plunging into issues he doesn’t have to. At present I think of the New York mosque dispute. He propelled it into a national scene when in essence the matter was solved by the people of New York city. Now it is being used by a looney Florida pastor as a bargaining chip in his Qur’an-burning threat.

Personally I do not like the advice he is getting on many levels. To push so hard for health care reform all of last year and to settle for a washed down version when the major problem in the country was jobs is another misdirected effort. He seems to be more concerned about how history will treat him as the first president to succeed on health care than solving urgent current problems.

The only thing that keeps Obama in good stead is the outrageous GOP policy of obstructionism, and its love affair with the kooks of the Tea Party. This disastrous Republican strategy will save Obama from defeat in 2012 and might even mitigate the likely, or potential, losses of Congressional Democrats in this November's off year elections.

The trouble with American politics is that on one side we have an inexperienced and spontaneously miss-speaking president and on the other side a callous, leaderless and abusive opposition. One could conclude the nation is on the brink of chaos as a result.

During the primary campaign I supported Hillary Clinton on the grounds she had the experience and the balls to do what a president sometimes has to do. I supported Obama when Hillary was eliminated in the primaries. There was no choice in the general election since McCain-Palin was a joke ticket that would appeal only to rock-ribbed Republicans and simpletons.

I also supported Obama because I had the hope that he would deliver the country from the madness of the Bush-Cheney years. The added attraction was that I liked Obama. He was the kind of man I could vote for. But he has degenerated the upbeat support I once had for him to what has become the norm for me in past general elections – the choice of the lesser of two evils.

Now the question is what do we do about it? Given that the GOP appears ready to oppose Obama in 2012 with Gingrich or Palin, the choice is clear. I will swallow a handful of Aleve and vote for Obama.

To me, the Republicans are the most demoniacal of political parties. First they gave us the village idiot, George W. Bush. No need to go into specifics about him. Then by offering the senseless choice of McCain-Palin in 2008 and very likely Gingrich or Palin in 2012, they have almost guaranteed a second term of an inexperienced and often misdirected Obama.

Talk about history. It looks like we are standing on the precipice of the fateful end of the American reign of world power. The chill up my spine is caused by not knowing which budding foreign power will pick up the reins of leadership when America drops it. I see no qualified candidate for the job.