bookmark_borderJon Husted Must Go

“Public Service” means serving the public. This is a circular definition, to be sure, but at the core it means doing your job. It does not mean putting the interests of your political party before those of your constituents. When you are the top election official in a state, you have an obligation to ensure the elections under your jurisdiction are conducted properly. Perhaps the most sacred aspect of this secular duty is to ensure the individual right to vote is protected.

A sane society would have thrown someone like Jon Husted in jail by now, or would have at least cast him out into the (political and perhaps literal) cold.

That he is still able to do things like this says as much if not more about us as it does about Secretary Husted.

bookmark_borderMy Electoral Vote Prediction

When I started seriously thinking about this map two weeks ago, I was a lot more conservative in my prediction of how much President Obama would win by. Over the past week, however, I see things breaking for the President. On Tuesday I think President Obama will win 329 Electoral votes to Governor Romney’s 209 Electoral votes. I break it down in the map below.

bookmark_borderAnd Then There Were None!

We made it, people! The 2012 Presidential Debate Death March is over! Congratulations on surviving your various drinking games, meme onslaughts, and spin room prevarications! (There will be a moment of silence at the end of this article for those who didn’t make it to the end, the lightweights.)

I think we saw one Commander-in-Chief on the stage last night. I was looking for consistency from Governor Romney, and I didn’t get it. I don’t expect him to hold the same views he’s had all his adult life, or even for the six years he’s been running for President. I recognize that people can and do change. They learn new things. Circumstances change, and we should allow for that without automatically labeling someone a “flip-flopper.” Governor Romney, unfortunately, couldn’t remain consistent through the ninety minutes he appeared on stage last night.

Not to denigrate the mentally ill, but his positions were positively schizophrenic. On one issue, he seemed eager to reassure the public he wasn’t afraid to strike first, hard, and with vigor. On others, he was trying to project calm and reasoned reflection before acting. Neither position was convincing, and I think he pretty much reversed when each was appropriate.

A lot of political hay (and memeage) will be made of the “horses and bayonets” moment, but I don’t think it was that significant. Very few voters – outside the shipyards of Virginia – are going to make their decision on how many ships the government procures over the next four years. That being said, it was a devastating take-down of an unprepared candidate by a Commander-in-Chief who clearly knows his stuff.

I was hesitant about Obama in 2008. I wasn’t sure he was ready to be President, primarily for foreign policy reasons. I’m glad to say he’s proven me wrong. I disagree with about 75%-80% of his foreign policy positions, but I can’t deny that he knows what he’s doing and that he has a vision for the future of the world and America’s role in it. I wish I could say the same about Romney. Perhaps he will grow into it, but on balance I’m not willing to take that chance.

All in all, it was a good debate. Nowhere near as good as the second one, which really was one for the ages, but still a good example of the genre. Onward to November 6th!

[insert moment of silence here]

bookmark_borderTaxonomy of Indecision

(This is the second in a series of articles about undecided voters)

Who are all of these Undecided Voters? I’ve so far come up with four types. I’m open to expanding or narrowing the list.

I’m not an undecided voter, but I play one on television / Attention Whores

Once ever four years, the world turns to these undecided deciders. These self-styled last true men (and women) enjoy the sense of power and the possibility that the candidates for the Most Powerful Job in the World are vying for their personal vote. In the end, they’ll probably write in Mickey Mouse or Homer Simpson and think themselves witty or clever with their little act of civic protest.


Fish or Cut Bait? / Indecisive people make indecisive voters

These voters can’t decide what to cook for dinner, or even if they’re hungry. What chance do they have of picking a President?


Just Fooling Themselves / Republicans and Democrats in Denial

If you looked at these voters’ record, they consistently pick one party or the other. They’ll tell you they are Independent and they look down on partisans as they believe party membership is for the sheeple. They’ll often misquote George Washington as saying the US shouldn’t have political parties.


Too Busy, but know they should Care

They can barely find time to sleep, let alone think about the election. (The ones who show up in focus groups are actually Attention Whores.) They know they should be engaged, and they really want to be good citizens, but they just don’t have the time. So they rely on mass media to inform them. On that basis, can you really blame this group for being undecided?

bookmark_borderBinders Full of Libya

I have been quiet about the second 2012 Presidential debate for several reasons. First, I agree with Lawrence O’Donnell that picking a winner is difficult. That being said, I do have some thoughts on the debate and what it means.

I thought it was a good debate. I certainly enjoyed watching it. The questions could have been better, but you can only work with what you get in a forum like this.

Romney let his inner asshole out to play, and was a bit too aggressive with the moderator, but sometimes that plays well at home with voters. It comes across as asshollery to most of us, but to a substantial minority it looks like strength. “He made the President sit down and wait his turn.” “He didn’t take any guff from the moderator.” “He caught the President in a lie about calling the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi a terrorist attack.” (Even though everyone agrees he lost that point when he got bogged down in the word used.)

Professor Obama showed up. If you believe in 11-Dimensional Chess, which I don’t, then you can see the first debate as the ultimate rope-a-dope approach. The same Romney showed up for the second debate. Against a real opponent – Professor Obama instead of Uncle Fluffy – his approach was much less effective.

This was a make-or-break moment for the President. He needed to reassure his base that he still wanted the job. I think he did that. He also needed to reframe Romney as an out-of-touch Plutocrat. The jury is still out on whether he managed this or not.

On the topic of Libya and the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens, I thought Romney had a good point. The Administration dropped the ball on this, and the President is rightly criticized for his handling. The argument that Congress cut funding for embassy security holds no water for me. If it is a priority, you have to fight for it. the Administration did not. In the aftermath, it was several days before it was clear that the reports of demonstrations at the Consulate preceding the attack were incorrect. The Administration is rightly criticized for either not knowing this or for not being clear about it.

Romney screwed this one up, however, by focusing on whether the President said the magic words “terrorist” or “terrorism” in his Rose Garden speech. The real criticism is the handling of the following weeks. Romney missed his chance to raise this issue when he thought he’d caught the President in a lie. Incidentally, I think Paul Ryan in the Vice Presidential debate did a much better job of pinning the issue on the Administration than Romney’s Gotcha! tactic did.

I’m looking forward to the third and final debate. Perhaps the topic of climate change will finally put in an appearance. It is a national security issue, after all.

bookmark_borderWhen Undecided Voters Attack!

(This is the first in a series of articles about undecided voters)

I’ve been thinking about undecided voters a lot this week. I really want to know what makes them tick.

I think Thomas Frank got close to the problem in What’s the Matter with Kansas? Frank describes a disconnect between what people identified as their concerns and their own interests. For instance, a voter who is concerned about their job and the economy will not vote for the candidate that would best help on that issue because they don’t see the issue as being a political issue. In other words, they lack the vocabulary to talk about their needs and concerns in a productive way.

I believe undecided voters, on the whole, are in a similar situation. They lack the ability to ask the questions they really want answered, and instead get bogged down in minutia. Take, for example, today’s story about Katherine Fenton, the woman who asked about gender equality in the workplace at the Presidential debate the other night. In an interview with’s Irin Carmon, she said she wasn’t satisfied with either candidate’s answer. She wanted specifics, you see; not what they’ve done before. If you accept, however, that past acts reveal priorities, then you know Mitt Romney will probably have women in his cabinet, and that President Obama will probably champion and sign legislation leading to mor equal pay between men and women. Both candidates were admittedly short on policy specifics, but you can get those from a position paper. Debates are where candidates tell you who they are as people.

The kicker for Ms. Fenton, however, was that $16 trillion dollars is “a huge figure” and that made her inclined to fire President Obama. Here we see the disconnect. This is what the candidates are running against.

bookmark_borderThe Beltway Debate

The more I think about last night’s debate, the madder I get.

Mostly, I’m mad at Jim Leher. He should join MacNeil in retirement. His befuddled demeanor and lack of stage presence allowed Romney to walk all over him. Romney, for his part, refused to acknowledge that the debate should be moderated at all. He told Leher what was going to happen, and then did it. This may look like bold leadership to some, but it came across as bullying entitlement from where I was sitting.

Obama wasn’t any better. He was listless, his answers were rambling, and he didn’t seem to want to be there. If he’d checked his watch, the transformation would have been complete!

But beyond all that, I blame Jim Leher for asking asinine questions. Here’s a little-known fact about the deficit and the national debt: outside the beltway and local Tea Party meetings, no one cares about the deficit or the debt. It just isn’t a consideration. In the abstract, everyone knows the national debt will eventually be a bad thing (although a growing economy will make it less painful to pay off than our politicians like to scare us into believing). As a practical matter, the deficit and the debt have nothing to do with our everyday lives.

What do people care about?

  • Housing (credit is still effectively frozen for people without pristine credit and/or extensive wealth)
  • A real discussion of gun violence
  • Ongoing, systematic voter disenfranchisement, including voter ID requirements and polling place/time shenanigans
  • Women’s healthcare (birth control and abortion)
  • The rising cost of a higher education
  • The nonexistent job market
  • Climate change

That’s just off the top of my head. I’m sure you can make your own list at home. Nothing was asked in these categories in more than a cursory way, and yet these are all domestic issues that the American people care about. For some reason, they weren’t even on Jim Leher’s radar. Maybe one of the moderators will ask a question about climate change in the National Security debate, but this was pretty much the only chance to get into these things before election day.

This was a Beltway Debate, pure and simple. The pundits surely slept well last night, with visions of cat food dancing in their heads.

Next Up: A “town hall” style debate, with a room full of people who claim they haven’t made up their minds yet. More on why (or how) someone can still be an undecided voter later…

bookmark_borderSome Things Go Beyond Politics

Just catching up on the news after a busy day. A couple of observations…

I mourn Ambassador Chris Stevens, and my thoughts are with his family, friends, and coworkers. I also mourn for the people of Libya, who will likely bear the brunt of any retaliation or punishment for his death.

By all accounts, Ambassador Stevens was a good man, a career foreign service officer who cared deeply for Libya and for the Libyan people. I fear the reprecussions of his death will be felt for years to come. No one should take this lightly. The death of an ambassador is a mercifully rare thing. The last death was in Afghanistan in 1979, when newly-appointed Ambassador Adolph Dubs died in a gun battle after a thwarted kidnapping attempt. Prior to that, only four other sitting US Ambassadors have been killed. (This in and of itself is a tribute to the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, who by all accounts did all they could for Ambassador Stevens.)

Relatedly, today was a test of Presidential fitness for Mitt Romney. Next to sending American men and women into combat as Commander-in-Chief, how you handle a foreign policy crisis is the most important work a President can do. Mitt failed his test today. Instead of seizing the opportunity to appear statesmanlike and to stand with President Obama, Governor Romney decided to seek political advantage.

I shouldn’t feel the need to blog about this incident in a political context. But we’re in the middle of the election “silly season” and some candidates can’t help but put their worst foot forward – straight into the mouth.

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