Mitt Bows Out, And Drivers Get Ready For Hillary

On Friday, Mitt Romney told his supporters that he won’t be running for President in 2016.  Although he’s clearly been bitten by the presidential bug — he’s run for the nation’s highest office the last two elections — Romney said he wanted to make way for the “next generation of Republican leaders.”

I’m not sure precisely who is in the “next generation of Republican leaders” — it seems like there are about 20 names of current and former Governors and Senators being thrown around as likely candidates — but I think Romney made the right decision.  You can only run for President so many times before you become a bit of a joke, like Harold Stassen or Hubert Humphrey were when I was a kid.  Two runs is about the maximum, and if you’re going to bump up against that rule of thumb you may as well exit stage right with some class.  Romney did that with his statement on Friday; good luck to him and his family.

RIMG_4712omney was leading in preference polls, so his exit gives the Republican race a wide-open feel. What about the Democrat frontrunner?  Hillary Clinton has been laying low recently, with few appearances on her calendar.  Some say she wants to let Republicans fight and then emerge in the spring as a fresh face; others wonder if she isn’t brushing up on her political skills after a rocky book-signing tour.

If Hillary Clinton is in fact going to run, maybe she it would be a good idea for her to give some careful thought to messaging.  Yesterday I saw the bumper sticker pictured above at a stop light at a Columbus intersection, and it was a clinker for me.  Why should voters announce that they are “ready” for Hillary?  Is the bumper sticker suggesting that America has previously been a benighted land that is only now ready to finally recognize the merits of Hillary Clinton?  Shouldn’t the burden be the other way around — that it’s Hillary Clinton’s burden to show that she is ready for the most difficult job in the world?  The bumper sticker seems to tie into the theme that some potential Democratic candidates are beginning to float that Clinton is an arrogant, out-of-touch frontrunner whose campaign is based entirely on overwhelming fundraising and an ominous sense of inevitability.  It’s not an especially attractive theme for a presidential campaign.

The Education of Barack Obama

Last week President Obama addressed the United Nations General Assembly, which he has done five times before.  He spoke of a “network of death” and the “cancer of violent extremism” in the Middle East and said that “the only language understood by killers like this is the language of force” while promising to lead a coalition to find a military solution to the challenge of ISIS.  The President also had sharp words for Russia, describing it as a “bully” and rejecting its “vision of the world in which might makes right.”

Observers have noted that the UN speech represents a dramatic change in the President’s tone and focus.  A National Journal article compares the six UN speeches and shows a President who has been transformed from a believer in “hope” and “change” and a world in which everyone shares a common interest in peace to a man who realizes that there are bad people in the world, that they want to do evil things, and that the only way they can be thwarted is by deeds, not words.  Optimism — about relations with Russia, about common values and shared dreams, about an inexorable arc of progress toward a rosy future — has been replaced by a recognition that the world right now may be teetering on the brink.

Only two years ago, President Obama mocked Mitt Romney’s realpolitick view of the world and America’s role — I thought an unseemly low point for the President in this regard came during a debate discussion about Russia in which he sarcastically stated that the 1980s had called and wanted its foreign policy back — but now the President has come around to largely adopt Romney’s position, and to use language that is reminiscent of President George W. Bush.  He probably won’t acknowledge that fact, but at least he now recognizes the threats we face and is resolved to do something about them.

Conservatives may criticize the President for being late to the game and for failing to more quickly recognize and respond to the threats posed by ISIS, Russia, and other bad actors on the world stage.  That’s fair, I suppose, but I think most of us learn from experience and modify our views of the world as we go through life.  President Obama also is learning the lessons taught by the School of Hard Knocks.  As we all know, such lessons can painful, but we can hope in this instance that they are lessons that are well-learned.

What Does It All Mean?

We’re hours into the election coverage, and the results are on the razor’s edge. The President leads and looks like he may well win the Electoral College tally, but Mitt Romney remains within striking distance if the cards fall his way.

States have been called as predicted, and other states — those damnable “Battleground States,” like Florida and Virginia and oh-so-fickle Ohio, that swing from party to party from election to election and delight in confounding the experts — are too close to call.

Interesting, isn’t it?  This vast country, with such diversity, geographical and demographical, sends millions of people to the polls over a vast area thousands of miles across, and the election nevertheless remains excruciatingly close.

There will be a winner and there will be a loser, but is there really a message?  With such a close election, after months of campaigning and billions of dollars spent, we are left to ask: What does this election really mean?

As We Reach The Finish Line, Time To Get Out And Vote!

To every American — Democrat, Republican, or Independent, Romney supporters or Obama boosters, male or female, Red Stater or Blue Stater, regardless of your ethnic or demographic group — here’s your chance to ignore the media, the polls, the pundits, the yammering talking heads, and the incessant horse race prognostications that we’ve been hearing for months.

Today, on Election Day, let your voice be heard!  Exercise the most important right we have!  Confirm that you care about your country enough to go to your local polling place if you haven’t voted already, spend however long it takes to wait in line with your fellow citizens, give your information to the blue-haired ladies behind the registration table, and push the screen, pull the levers, or fill out the ballot for the candidates of your choice.

I’ve got my preferences in this election, as we all do — but I also think we would all be much better off if more Americans were involved the process, paying attention, and holding our political leaders of both parties accountable for the course of our country.  The first step toward doing that is to vote.  — and that’s what I’m going to be doing today when the polls open here in Ohio at 6:30 a.m.

A Last Dispatch From Battleground Ohio

The soldier, winded and hunched, ran the last few yards before leaping into the Foxhole that had been dug behind the carcass of Big Bird.  “Sergeant Jones, I’ve got bad news,” he said.  “I think we’ve lost Nesser.”

Dammit!  What happened, Private Ujay?”

“He was trying to weave through that field of empty chairs when he was knocked down by a fusillade of negative TV ads.  He wasn’t wearing his ear plugs or a gas mask, and he started retching after hearing about the President’s economic record.  The last I saw of him, he was being dragged away by a team of pollsters to participate in a focus group.”

What the hell!  I’ve told everyone that they need to keep the masks on, because the noise and poisonous messages are more than any man can bear.

“He said he wanted to breathe free and watch the Buckeyes game on TV, sir.”

Well, there’s no saving the poor bastard now,” Sergeant Jones said.  She peered over Big Bird’s soiled yellow feathers, scanning the terrain.  “Get down!” she barked, as a fusillade of binders full of women rained down.

“I’ve got more bad news, sir,” Ujay reported.  “Some of the members of the platoon are saying there’s nothing to worry about and no need to get ready for the next attack.”

Blast!  Didn’t they watch that first presidential debate and see what happens when you start to take things for granted?

Another soldier appeared and saluted.  “Message from Captain Duhamel, sir.  He says the Bain Capital Brigade is approaching from the east.  He thinks they’re hoping to outsource us all to China.”

Thanks for the warning, Private Jeff — but we all know that those briefcase-carrying Bain bastards are ruthless.  They’ll stop at nothing once they’ve decided to downsize.”  The sergeant paused for a moment.  “Well, we know that we don’t have enough horses and bayonets to make a stand here.  Time to move out.

“But Sarge — if we move we’ll lose the cover we’ve got here in this Foxhole.”

You didn’t build that, Mack!  Now move!

The bedraggled platoon scrambled out of the Foxhole, past the hulk of Big Bird.  Nearby, hordes of “ground game” campaign workers were dragging reluctant Ohioans to the polls for a final day of early voting.  A black motorcade barreled past, hurling campaign literature about a five-point plan at passersby trying to dodge the Obama volunteers talking about how a 7.9 percent unemployment rate means the economy is on the road to recovery.  A crowd of “campaign surrogates” traded punches on a street corner, and a phalanx of Jeeps carrying members of the 47 Percent Regiment were advancing from the west.  Overhead, the voices of pundits filled the air, raining invective and talking points on the few remaining civilians not under cover.  And Bill Clinton and David Axelrod were spinning like tops, knocking people down as Joe Biden’s Cheshire Cat grin blinded the soldiers and his maniacal laugh echoed off the downtown office buildings.

“My God!  It’s carnage,” Private Ujay shouted, as he ran after Sergeant Jones.  “We’ll never survive this, never!”

Yes we will,” Sergeant Jones bellowed.  “We’ve done it before, and we’ll do it again.  It’s what you get when you live in Battleground Ohio.”

Is Mitt Romney Rising Or Falling In Ohio?

At yesterday’s Ohio State home game a Mitt Romney for President blimp circled Ohio Stadium and its vast tailgating areas and drew lots of comments from people favoring and opposing the Republican candidate.  It’s the first time I’ve seen a presidential campaign blimp at an OSU game.

The blimp is an apt metaphor for the overriding question about Battleground Ohio:  is Mitt Romney rising, or deflating?

As always seems to be the case in this unpredictable swing state, the signs are decidedly mixed.  Romney held a huge rally Friday night north of Cincinnati, attracting thousands of people who patiently stood outside listening to speeches on a cold evening.  On the other hand, the final Columbus Dispatch mail poll of Ohio voters, released just this morning, has President Obama up by two points, 50-48.  However, that lead is well within the poll’s 2.2 % margin of error and represents a huge comeback for Romney since the last Dispatch poll, taken before the debates, in which Romney trailed by nine points.  But, the poll shows that Obama has a huge lead among people who have already voted.  On the other hand, the poll is based upon the statements of those who returned it, who represent only 15% of the ballots that were sent out in the first place.

Get the picture?  It’s whisker-close here in the Buckeye State.

My unscientific sense is that the Hurricane Sandy episode helped President Obama stem the Romney momentum that had built since the first debate.  One hurricane, however, isn’t going to be decisive.  From talking to fans craning their necks at that Romney blimp, I think most people have made up their minds.  There may be undecideds ruminating on how to cast their ballot on Tuesday, but the vast majority of Ohioans are ready to be done with this election.  That means that the outcome will hinge on turnout, and the “ground games” we’ve heard so much about over the past few months.  Not coincidentally, both candidates and their proxies are here today and tomorrow, hoping to whip their supporters into a turnout frenzy.

The forecast for Tuesday, incidentally, is for clear skies and temperatures in the 40s — and no storms to discourage people from going to the polls.

Why I’m Voting For Mitt Romney And Paul Ryan

On Tuesday, I’ll walk in to the polling booth at the church in New Albany where we vote and touch the screen for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.  I recognize that that decision won’t come as much of a surprise for loyal readers of our family blog.  I think it’s only fair to explain why, if only to add one more person’s perspective to the national conversation about this election.

In my view, the most important issue confronting our country is our federal deficit and national debt — the latter of which has passed the $16 trillion mark.  I care about other issues, of course, but I view our debt as the most fundamental issue of all because it involves basic concepts of national sovereignty.  Our debt is so large, and has existed for so long, that we tend to think of it as a kind of abstraction . . . but every dollar of that debt is a real obligation of our country, reflected in an instrument sold by the U.S. treasury to a willing buyer who will be paid a specified interest rate.  With each additional bit of borrowing, we give those people from whom we are borrowing leverage that may allow them to dictate terms — at first, the terms of the debt instruments, by insisting on higher interest payments, and then eventually the terms of how our government operates, by dictating whether we need to adopt austerity measures in how our country operates if we hope to obtain additional loans.  At that point, our national sovereignty is at stake.

We know this to be the case, because over the past few years we have seen it occur in Iceland and Ireland, and in Greece and Portugal.  Those countries borrowed irresponsibly and saw the interest rates on their debt instruments rise as investors became increasingly concerned that the debts might not be repaid and demanded higher rates as the price for accepting that risk.  And, ultimately, outside forces — the International Monetary Fund, European Union bankers, and others — went to each of those formerly sovereign nations and told them what they needed to do if they hoped to continue to borrow money.  Those governments accepted the conditions and agreed to the austerity measures imposed by outsiders because they had no choice.

I don’t want to see that happen here — yet, over the last four years, we have seen the United States move down that very same path, with annual trillion-dollar deficits that have taken our total debt past the unimaginable sum of $16 trillion.  We also passed a significant milestone on that road to perdition when our national credit rating was downgraded.  I don’t think that downgrade has received the attention it deserves.  Imagine!  Credit rating agencies presuming to raise questions about the credit of the leader of the free world, a country so stable that its currency gave rise to the now-antiquated phrase “sound as a dollar.”  But the ratings agencies are so presumptuous, and we are kidding ourselves if we think our many lenders aren’t also carefully considering our credit-worthiness.

I don’t want to wake up one morning and see that our political leaders are having to dance to the tune called by teams of grey-suited bankers from the IMF, or China, or Germany.  If that happens — and if we continue to rack up trillion-dollar annual deficits, it inevitably will — we shouldn’t kid ourselves about what it would mean.  Does anyone think federal funding of NPR or contraceptives, to identify only two of the issues being discussed during this campaign, would survive under the austerity measures forced upon us by creditors?  Does anyone think the bankers would hesitate to require fundamental changes in entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare?  Does anyone think our country could continue to function as a world leader, and a force for good, as a debtor nation struggling to deal with its overwhelming credit problems?

I recognize this is a dire scenario, and some believe it just can’t happen here.  My response is to look at what has happened in Europe, to countries that have just been ahead of us on the irresponsible fiscal policy curve.  Their experience shows, I think, that it can happen here — and it will, if we don’t do something about it.  I’m too proud of this country and what it has accomplished to let that happen without trying to change course.

I don’t think President Obama places a high priority on grappling with our deficit and debt problems.  He’s talked about them, but his actions speak louder than his words.  He continues to propose budgets that would result in trillion-dollar debts for years into the future, and continues to propose the creation of new federal agencies and federal programs as the solution for every problem.  He hasn’t used the bully pulpit of the presidency to encourage Congress to act.  I’ve seen nothing from President Obama to indicate that his performance over the next four years on this crucial issue of national sovereignty would be any different than his performance over the past four years.

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, on the other hand, do focus on the issue of our deficit and our debt and have proposed approaches.  I think they understand the fundamental nature of the problem and would make working with Congress to address the issues in a meaningful way their top priority.  I want someone in the White House who will tackle the debt problem, not let us drift into catastrophe.  That’s why I’m voting for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.