Nel's New Day

September 7, 2012

Democratic Convention – Day Three, Forward

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The three days of the GOP convention seemed like the longest days of the year. In comparison, the three days of the Democratic convention went by in a flash. I can’t believe that last night was the culmination of the great lineup of progressive people. Although the last day had a greater majority of political figures, my favorite young LGBT activist, Zach Wahls, spoke about the importance of marriage equality. Those not familiar with the young Iowan Wahls and his rise to fame after he addressed the Iowa legislature on behalf of marriage equality might want to read his touching book, My Two Moms, about his lesbian parents Terri Wahls and Jackie Reger.

Folk singer and guitarist James Taylor performed “Carolina on My Mind” and then joked about the president’s struggle for support among older, white voters. “I don’t get it,” Taylor said. “I mean, I’m an old white guy and I love Barack Obama.”

Charlie Crist, former Republican governor of Florida and now an independent, gave the message that other Republicans are expressing: “Half a century ago, Ronald Reagan, the man whose relentless optimism inspired me to enter politics, famously said that he didn’t leave the Democratic Party; the party left him. I can certainly relate. I didn’t leave the Republican Party; it left me. Then again, as my friend Jeb Bush recently noted, Reagan himself would have been too moderate and too reasonable for today’s GOP.” Crist clearly expressed the major problem with the GOP today when he described the problems that he had after he was grateful to the president when he—in Crist’s words—“saved Florida: the determination to reject anything that the president does for the country just because the president has done it.

Sen. Dick Durbin (IL) urged the country to vote for President Obama for the same reasons that the country voted for Abraham Lincoln after the famous Republican president said, “I hope to stand firm enough not to go backwards.”  Sen. John Kerry, Democratic challenger to George W. Bush in 2004, pounced on Mitt Romney because Romney claimed a separation between Israel and the United States.  Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu actually said that his country and the U.S. both have the same policy and that security cooperation has been unprecedented under the current administration. Kerry said, “When it comes to Israel, I’ll take the word of Israel’s prime minister over Mitt Romney any day.”

That wasn’t Kerry’s only zinger. On Romney’s obvious reliance on Bush’s gaggle of neo con “experts,” Kerry said, “This is not the time to outsource the job of Commander in Chief.” On Romney’s European disaster tour, Kerry said, “It wasn’t a goodwill mission, it was a blooper reel!” And my two favorites:

“The only thing exception about today’s Republicans is that, almost without exception, they oppose everything that has made America exceptional in the first place.”

“It isn’t fair to say Mitt Romney doesn’t have a position on Afghanistan; He has EVERY position!”

The last statement was particularly pointed because the GOP ruthlessly accused Kerry in 2004 of being a flip-flopper, a term that now haunts Romney. According to Kerry, Romney and Ryan are “the most inexperienced foreign policy twosome” to seek the White House in decades.

Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm gave a rousing speech in her defense of the president’s resuscitation of the auto industry. Describing Romney as someone separated from middle-class issues, she said, “He loves our cars so much, they have their own elevator. But the people who design, build and sell those cars? Well, in Romney’s world, the cars get the elevator; the workers get the shaft.” Her statistics backed up President Obama’s accomplishments in the number of jobs saved by the auto rescue: 150,000 in Ohio; 34,000 in Pennsylvania; 9,800 in Colorado; 19,000 in Virginia; 28,000 in Wisconsin; 25,000 in North Carolina; 35,000 in Florida, and 211,000 in Michigan.

Rep. John Lewis (GA) wove the story of his background suffering from racism with an attack on the recent GOP-backed voter ID mandates that will again keep many minorities from having the right to vote. He said, “They are changing the rules, cutting polling hours, and imposing requirements intended to suppress the votes. I’ve seen this before. I’ve lived this before. Too many people struggled, suffered and died to make it possible for every American to exercise their right to vote.” Beyond passing a draconian “literacy test,” Lewis said, “On one occasion, a man was asked to count the number of bubbles in a bar of soap. On another occasion, one was asked to count the jelly beans in a jar — all to keep them from casting their ballots.” After he described the beating he endured while trying to go into a whites-only waiting room just a few miles from Charlotte in 1961, he asked, “Do you want to go back? Or do you want to keep America moving forward?”

Former Rep. Gabby Giffords (AZ) received a loud and sustained standing ovation with many of the delegates in tears, when she come onstage to lead them in the Pledge of Allegiance. Giffords was critically wounded in early 2011 when she was shot in the head during a political rally in Tucson and is still recovering. Earlier this week she and her husband Mark Kelly announced their new Political Action Committee, “GabbyPAC,” that will support candidates “in favor of reaching compromise and bipartisan solutions to the challenges we face.” Republican Trey Grayson, former Kentucky Secretary of State, and Democrat Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary will co-chair the PAC.

The evening ended in a high note with speeches by Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama. Biden showed the difference between the two presidential candidates. About Romney, he said, “I found it fascinating last week when Gov. Romney said that as president he’d take a jobs tour. Well, with all his support for outsourcing, it’s going to have to be a foreign trip.”

One of his more pointed comparisons was in the two plans for Medicare with President Obama saying that he would never take away this plan for senior health care and Romney’s goal to give seniors vouchers that they could use in the private insurance arena. Biden said that Romney’s business experience helped his companies make “highest profits. But it’s not the way to lead our country from its highest office.”

President Obama’s speech outlined his goals for the next term including deficit reduction, greater energy independence, lower college costs, and a revitalized manufacturing industry. He aims to create 1 million manufacturing jobs by the end of 2016, double exports in the next two years, cut oil imports in half by 2020, slow by half the growth of college tuition in the next decade, and reduce the federal deficit by more than $4 trillion over 10 years.

 

More specific than Romney, the president said, “[Republicans] want your vote, but they don’t want you to know their plan. And that’s because all they have to offer is the same prescription they’ve had for the last 30 years. Have a surplus? Try a tax cut. Deficit too high? Try another. Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning!”

In contrast to Romney’s demand for smaller—maybe non-existent—government, the president said, “Over and over, we’ve been told by our opponents that bigger tax cuts and fewer regulations are the only way, that since government can’t do everything, it should so almost nothing.”

About Romney’s claim to fight Russia, the president said, “My opponent and his running mate are new to foreign policy, but from all that we’ve seen and heard, they want to take us back to an era of blustering and blundering that cost America so dearly. After all, you don’t call Russia our number one enemy–and not al Qaeda–unless you’re still stuck in a Cold War time warp.  You might not be ready for diplomacy with Beijing if you can’t visit the Olympics without insulting our closest ally.”

Echoing Bill Clinton’s assertion, the president declared that there were no quick fixes to the problems he inherited in January 2009 when he took office. “It will take more than a few years for us to solve the challenges that have been built up over decades,” President Obama said, making the point that Bush had eight years to destroy the economy and that these eight years cannot be turned around in fewer than four years.

Pundit response to President Obama’s speech was, as could be expected, mixed depending on the political persuasion of the speaker. Joe Scarborough’s assessment may have been the funniest from a Republican: “The President said nothing in his speech tonight. But he said it so much better than Mitt Romney when he said nothing in Tampa.”

Yet there was a huge difference between both conventions beyond the positive energy of one and the negative lethargy of the other. Their speeches showed opposite paths between the two political parties. The GOP said over and over that it wants to strip the country of all the progress and go back into a mythical place; the Democrats said continually that despite the obstructionism of the Republicans that we have come a long way in the last four years and we should keep going forward.

September 6, 2012

Democratic Convention 2012 – Day Two, Extraordinary

Topping the first day of the Democratic convention was difficult, but the second day  displayed as much–if not more– electricity with non-stop speakers throughout the evening, capped by a 48-minute speech from former President Bill Clinton.

Many of the convention speakers, in contrast to those at the GOP convention last week, have been non-politicians. For example, three workers from Bain-controlled companies talked about problems of Mitt Romney’s leadership. Randy Johnson began by describing how Bain bought his company in 1994 and fired hundreds of employees without any warning. “They rushed in security guards to walk us out of our plant. We weren’t even allowed to take our personal items.”

Cindy Hewitt, a worker at Dade Behring, told how Bain drop her company, an important part of the community, was driven into bankruptcy, destroying 850 jobs.

David Foster, worker at a steel mill said, “When Romney and Bain took over the mill, they loaded it up with millions in debt, and within months, they used some of that borrowed money to pay themselves millions. Within a decade, the debt kept growing and was so large the company was forced into bankruptcy. They fired 750 steelworkers while they pocketed $12 million in profit. A steelworker at GST Steel would have had to work 240 years to make $12 million.”

Sister Simone Campbell, who led the “Nuns on the Bus” tour for social justice this past summer, used her seven-minute speech to decry Paul Ryan’s budget: “Paul Ryan claims this budget reflects the principles of our shared faith. But the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated that the Ryan budget failed a basic moral test, because it would harm families living in poverty.”

Sandra Fluke, the activist who has fought for contraception from insurance companies and called a slut and worse by Rush Limbaugh, talked about the alternate futures, depending on who is elected as president. ”Six months from now, we’ll all be living in one or the other. But only one. A country where our president either has our back or turns his back; a country that honors our foremothers by moving us forward, or one that forces our generation to re-fight the battles they already won; a country where we mean it when we talk about personal freedom, or one where that freedom doesn’t apply to our bodies and our voices.”

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (MD) said, “My friend Paul Ryan talks about fiscal responsibility but voted to put two wars on a credit card. He voted to spend trillions of dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. He voted for a prescription drug benefit with no plan to pay for it. He abandoned the bipartisan principle that we must pay for what we buy.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA) said that a vote for Democrats in the November election is a vote to preserve Medicare and Social Security and a vote in favor of women.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s claims that President Barack Obama is weak on Israel make “no sense” and are “ludicrous.” Earlier in the day when during an MSNBC interview, she said, “I think we do not know what Gov. Romney’s position on national security is, frankly. He has advisers that are some neocons, some of the people that brought you the previous policies under the [President George W.] Bush administration and he barely talked about foreign policy in his speech.”

Elizabeth Warren, who founded the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2010, talked about how “the [financial] system is rigged” but that President Obama is working to give everyone a chance at a “level playing field.” She described the GOP approach to governing in this statement:  “I’ve got mine; the rest of you are on your own.” Aiming at the GOP, Warren said, “Republicans say they don’t believe in government. Sure they do! They believe in government to help themselves and their powerful friends. After all, Mitt Romney’s the guy who said, ‘Corporations are people.’” She finished her speech by quoting the Bible: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”–Matthew 25:40.

Bill Clinton was the highlight of the evening when he shredded all the arguments from the GOP convention speakers about President Obama’s four years. “He inherited a deeply damaged economy, put a floor under the crash, began the long, hard road to recovery, and laid the foundation for a modern, more well-balanced economy that will produce millions of good new jobs, vibrant new businesses and lots of new wealth for the innovators.”

In answer to the objections that life is not better under this president, Clinton said, “Are we where we want to be? No. Is the president satisfied? Of course not. But are we better off than we were when he took office with an economy in free-fall, losing 750,000 jobs a month? The answer is yes.” He continued, “President Obama started with a much weaker economy than I did,” he said. “No president–not me or any of my predecessors–could have repaired all the damage in just four years. But conditions are improving and if you’ll renew the president’s contract you will feel it.”

Andrea Mitchell said, “As a political document, this speech was extraordinary,” providing an “explanation of all of the policy points.” Republican strategist Steve Schmidt, who managed GOP nominee John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, said, “I wish to God, as a Republican, we had someone on our side who had the ability to do [what Clinton did tonight].”

Blogger Michael Hayne said, “In short, the 42nd President of the United States beautifully encapsulated how Obama has consistently extended the olive branch to Republicans and they have proudly taken that branch, ripped it up into a million pieces, stomped it into the sand and buried their heads with it so that the economic worsened and they could easily say ‘vote Republican’ in 2012.”

Unlike Paul Ryan’s and Mitt Romney’s speeches in Tampa, Clinton’s speech was on policy and gave specifics in amazing detail, so much that there isn’t enough room for it here. Even more amazing, no matter how much FactCheck.org and USA Today scoured the multitude of facts that Clinton provided in his speech, the two organizations could not find anything false. This is far different from their investigation of Ryan’s and Romney’s speeches when they had trouble finding anything true.

Asides: The reading level for Michelle Obama’s speech was Grade 12; Ann Romney’s speech was seven grades below. [Note: Is this what each person thinks of her political party’s education?]

Clinton said, “Though I often disagree with Republicans,” he said, “I never learned to hate them the way the far right that now controls their party seems to hate President Obama and the Democrats.” Ann Coulter’s tweets show how vicious the far right is:

“Bill Clinton just impregnated Sandra Fluke backstage…”

“To get Bill Clinton to speak at the convention, Obama had to agree to carry his bags.”

In another hateful spate, Rush Limbaugh claimed that President Obama isn’t actually black because he lacks any slave ancestry. Not that it matters, but one of the president’s ancestors is the first documented slave, John Punch, according the The New York Times. 

The ADP National Jobs Report reported the addition of 201,000 private-sector jobs in the month of August, almost 50 percent more than the estimated increase of 140,000 jobs. It also revises the number of jobs added in July up to 173,000 from 163,000. In addition, the Department of Labor’s weekly report today showed the number of new claims for state unemployment benefits had fallen by 12,000 when Wall Street had expected only 1,000.

Things are looking better!

September 5, 2012

Democratic Convention 2012 – Day One, Masterful

While the “We Built That”  theme of the GOP Convention 2012 was hateful and snarky, playing off a misinterpretation of a President Obama speech, the theme of the Democratic Convention 2012 is upbeat—“Americans Coming Together.” Although the people are the United States are polarized, President Obama has brought together everyone–women, minorities, youth, liberal older people, etc.– except the angry old white men.

Last night when the Democratic convention started, I was a bit apprehensive after being immersed in last week’s negativity and hatred of last week. The first speech I heard was from Tammy Duckworth, candidate for the House in Illinois. A returned Iraq veteran who lost both legs in Iraq, she now helps other veterans. Just as Republicans talked about their families last week, Duckworth talked about the way that she worked as a teenager to help support her family who had to have food stamps to survive. Republicans told about how their parents struggled; Duckworth talked about how this generation need a safety net to improve. She also said that a member of her family had been in every U.S. conflict since the Revolutionary War.

Last week, nobody talked about veterans or soldiers or the war except for John McCain who wants another disastrous war. Duckworth talked about how her fellow comrades saved her life because what’s what soldiers do. Her message was that we do for our country what her crew did for her. She also said, “Look adversity in the eye and come together to overcome it.”

I told my partner about Duckworth’s speech, and she joined me for the next one. The next speaker was a young woman from Phoenix (AZ), Stacy Lihn, who talked about how the Affordable Care Act saved her infant daughter because the ACA had removed the insurance caps. Mitt Romney said that the best day for the people who voted for Obama was the day that they cast the vote; Lihn said that the best day was when the Affordable Care Act passed and removed the insurance caps so that her infant daughter could have heart surgery. My partner and I were both hooked.

Lihn was followed by Secretary of State Health and Human Services Kathleen Sibelius who said that after President Obama was elected, “Being a mother is no longer a liability and being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition.” She pointed out that people are getting refunds from the insurance company because they have to use a specific percentage for providing health care. She also said, “What’s missing from the Romney/Ryan Medicare Medicare plan is Medicare.”

The messages about how things are better since 2008 kept coming. Kal Penn, actor and former White House official, talked about the importance of the Pell grants for students and the jobs that his friends got with a car company that exists because of President Obama. He also described how the president kept the GOP from eliminating tax credits for the middle class when Republicans were bargaining to raise the debt ceiling. Lilly Ledbetter, prevented by the Supreme Court from filing a salary discrimination suit although she didn’t know about the discrimination for over 20 years, said in that wonderful Southern voice, “What a difference four years make!”

As Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said, “What’s at stake is the American dream. That dream is essential to who we are as a nation.” He described Romney’s disastrous governance in the state was with education cuts, increases in business taxes, loss in business confidence, and poor job creation. According to Patrick, freedom means keeping government out of our private affairs. Romney is “a fine fellow and a great salesman,” Patrick said, but “he’s more interested in having the job than doing the job.

And the upbeat speeches kept coming: Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley described how the progress of the nation since George W. Bush, repeating “forward, not back” until the crowd chanted the refrain. Julian Castro, San Antonio’s mayor, gave a great speech about his mother and grandmother while he explained that, like Duckworth, he had achieved what he has done because of this country.

The tissues rolled out again when Elaine Byre, four out of five children in the military service and the fifth heading that way, talked about how the president helped bring the soldiers “honor and respect in action.” She met Michelle Obama after she wrote her a card last Christmas and got invited to the White House with her husband. Byre said she’s not even a political person but she’s a mom. “If somebody is there for my family and families like mine, then I’ll be there for them.” Her relationship with Michelle Obama shows that the First Lady walks her talk: “We were taught to value everyone’s contribution and treat everyone with respect.”

The hit of the night, however, was Michelle Obama and her magnificent energy and love for her husband. Her funny stories about their financial struggles far outdid those of Ann Romney: Barack Obama took her out on a date in his car with the hole in the floorboard so rusted that you could see the pavement below; Obama’s favorite coffee table was one that he found in a dumpster; and his best shoes were actually one-half size too small. When they got married, their combined student loan payments were larger than their mortgage. She talked from the heart, saying that she loved her husband instead of telling the audience that they should love and trust her husband the way that Ann Romney did. Her message was that the way that the president tries to make life better for people because it’s personal to him, not political. “When you walk through that door of opportunity, you don’t slam it shut. No, you give other folks the chance to succeed,” Michelle Obama said. “Doing the impossible is the history of this nation.”

And these were just the tip of the massive iceberg that rolled over the GOP blackness. Over and over people made the point that to get change, you have to keep working. It’s a long term thing.

I missed the first part of the speeches but read what Don Hamel‘s description. His blog is well worth reading. He wrote that, as a middle-aged heterosexual man, he listened to the speeches from Anthony R. Foxx, the young looking African-American mayor of Charlotte; the women of the U.S. House of Representatives; Rep. Jared Polis, the first openly gay parent to serve in the House; and the president of NARAL who talked about the battle over women’s reproductive rights. Hamel then described the audience as “a sea of faces of every color, people who wanted to discuss Muslim’s rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, voter disenfranchisement, every one of them with a seemingly different agenda.”

After watching all this, Hamel had an epiphany. He said, “It’s not tolerance that makes me support the rights of LGBT Americans; it’s love of country, as well as respect for its citizens. If you believe in America, you believe in it for everybody. And it’s practical, as well; your rights are only as safe as everyone else’s. I’m not tolerant of women’s rights to make choices about their own bodies; I’m insistent that everyone in my country has that right. And if anyone’s freedom can be taken away, so can yours.”

He concluded by writing that he is “not tolerant of the Tea Party, the Ayn Rand disciples, the people who will spend a 100 million dollars to avoid paying a dollar in taxes. Their values are not ‘traditional’ or ‘Christian,’ and the only ‘family’ they truly value is their own. The people who arm themselves against their countrymen, the ones who legislate by skin-tone or income size; we have given them all the attention they should be allowed. They’re to be feared or pitied, but they needn’t be listened to any longer. The Americans at the podium, and the Americans in the crowd all have many voices, but they are all saying the same thing as I am: Move America forward.” [Thanks, Don!]

Former Ohio governor Ted Strickland summarized the difference between President Obama and Mitt Romney in very blunt terms. As he said, “If Mitt Romney was Santa Claus, he would fire the reindeer and outsource the elves.”

Deval Patrick encouraged the Democrats to grow a backbone to get President Obama re-elected. Last night started this process.

Asides: Fact checking has now reached a new low. FactCheck.org refuted San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro’s claim that Romney would “raise taxes on the middle class” was false because Romney had promised he wouldn’t do this. This is the same Romney who consistently switches from one position to another, the most recent today when he stated that he would not support any abortions, even to save a woman’s life. Yesterday he disagreed with himself.

Ezra Klein said that last night’s speeches may be remembered as the turning point in health care politics when “Democrats stood up and began fighting for their health care law.”

Less than two years ago, Paul Ryan asked for a health care grant to develop a new facility in his district at Racine (WI).

CNN contributor Erick Erickson referred to the women speakers at the Democratic convention as “the Vagina Monologues.” Erickson, who once said he “kind of like[d] the idea” that women are barred from a golf club so that he wasn’t “hanging out at some women’s event,” half-heartedly expressed regret for his comment, saying “My apologies to those offended by my tweet. Wasn’t my intention.” (He doesn’t sound very sorry.)

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