I was watching Meet the Press at the gym yesterday (yeah, I’m that guy) and heard something that gave me pause. Moderator David Gregory had top surrogates from the Romney and Obama campaigns – NH Senator Kelly Ayotte and MA Governor Deval Patrick respectively – on the show and closed the interview by asking about education. Specifically, in regards to education, he wanted to know if the panelists believe that we have “moved beyond this union– pro-union, anti-union debate in this political discourse?” Governor Patrick chose to respond by touting the achievements of students in Massachusetts, while commenting that MA is the most unionized state in the country. Senator Ayotte responded by saying “…obviously Governor Romney believes kids first, unions last.” And that comment is what caused me to pause my elliptical machine pedaling.
Kids first, unions last. It’s a line that, if delivered in front of the right audience at a political rally, would bring raucous applause and an extended ovation. Unions. It’s a dirty word in America today and that breaks my heart. You know what she is actually saying? She’s actually saying that Governor Romney believes kids come first and teachers come last. Teachers come last. Not investors. Not reporters. Not politicians or policy makers. Nope. For Romney and Ayotte all of those people, and anyone else I may have left out, come before teachers. That attitude is, at best, ignorant and, at worst, a pathetic attempt to demonize some of the most important people in our society.
Her comments imply that, in education policy, teachers should have the least important voice. She couldn’t be more wrong. Teachers are the ones in the classroom every day, working with our nation’s children. They are the ones who inspire, who educate, who support students in their formative years. And they are the ones who are constantly asked to do more – educating more students, teaching more information – with declining resources. They are the ones who KNOW what they need in order to be successful and, yet, somehow Senator Ayotte and, according to her, Governor Romney don’t value their voices. Students, teachers, parents, educational experts. Those are the groups that should have the most important voice at the table – not ignorant politicians who think teachers are the problem. Not ignorant politicians who are fine with more tax cuts, even if it means less revenue for our schools. That’s viewpoint is not only short-sighted, but detrimental to America’s ability to compete on the world stage.
Teacher’s voices aren’t valued because they are a part of the dreaded union. Those on the right are so quick to assume unions are the problem and, I submit, that attitude betrays a remarkable lack of appreciation for the history of this great nation. Let’s not forget that unions were formed to protect the rights of individual workers against business owners and governmental whims. Unions are responsible for things like the weekend, ending child labor in America, fairer wages and more. So why is a teacher’s union so important? That particular union plays a crucial role in ensuring, despite all the tax cuts and increased defense spending, there is still money for education. That particular union plays a crucial role in ensuring people aren’t forced to choose between making a living wage and helping prepare the next generation for success. That particular union has a remarkable wealth of knowledge about best practices when it comes to education – knowledge that should be embraced, listened to and respected.
Looking back on my educational experience, I know how fortunate I was. I remember classrooms that weren’t overcrowded. I remember having my own text books and not having to share a desk. I remember my school being clean, safe and I remember not having to learn hungry. And I remember teachers who cared – who went above and beyond to help me, to inspire me to succeed. But not all educational experiences are like mine. All districts across this country have teachers who care. But not all have the resources to do the things we know are critical for student success. Rather than attack those teachers who are trying to do more with less, let’s honor them. Let’s respect them. Let’s listen to them and let’s give them the resources they need. Money isn’t the only answer but it shouldn’t be that, just because I grew up in a wealthy suburb, my educational experience should be so vastly different from my peers in other areas.
To the teachers who have made such a difference in my life, I say thank you. To my friends who have chosen to spend their career in education, I say thank you. To the millions of teachers around the country who constantly find new ways to inspire, I say thank you. To Senator Ayotte and Governor Romney, I suggest you stop talking and start listening. Listen to those who have dedicated their career to building the future American workforce. Listen to the parents who have seen, first-hand, the lasting impact a teacher can have. Listen to the students who have become inspired by a teacher and, as a result, are now pursuing a career in engineering or math. You just might learn something.
An American Ambassador, J. Christopher Stevens is dead. Three other Diplomats – Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and another whose name has not been released – are dead. They were killed in a raid on the American Consulate in Libya after a pastor in Florida posted a insensitive and inappropriate video mocking the prophet Mohammed. This raid was an attack on America by disgusting and deplorable people and, at a time like this, it is critical that Americans, and our allies, stand united. But that’s not how Mitt Romney and RNC chair Reince Priebus saw it. They saw it as an opportunity to criticize the President in a political attack that was, at best, dishonest and ignorant.
Courtesy of the Talking Points Memo blog, here’s what happened. On September 9, a scene from the anti-Muslim film “The Innocence of Muslims” was shown on Egyptian television. Given the timing to the 9/11 anniversary and the absolutely offensive material contained in the video, the United States Embassy in Cairo posted the following statement at 6:17 AM EST on September 11:
The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.
Note the time here. 6:17 AM. Well before any attack and, in my opinion, a completely appropriate, balanced and important statement. It’s not apologizing for America. It’s making a statement about what America believes and taking the stand that tearing down the beliefs of others is not who we are. Around the same time peaceful protesters were gathering outside the Embassy in Cairo and the statement, it was hoped, would help to ensure there would not be violence. Hours later some protesters scale the walls of the Embassy and burn an American flag. The invasion is quickly contained the Embassy sends out a statement condemning the breach. Later, at 5:41 PM EST, and shortly after pastor Terry Jones announced he would be showing the film that evening, an attack begins on the US Consulate in Libya. We learn in the subsequent hours that several Americans have been killed in that attack.
Romney’s response is to release the following statement at 10:25 EST on 9/11 (violating the embargo on campaign attacks on that date):
I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It’s disgraceful that the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.
Preibus follows with a tweet at 12:01 AM on 9/12 (at least it wasn’t on 9/11) that reads “”Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic.”
Here’s the problem – the attack happened AFTER the Embassy released their statement and, in fact, after the attacks occurred, new statements were released condemning them in no uncertain terms. The Romney campaign saw this as an opportunity to further their “Obama likes to apologize for America” narrative and, rather than stand with the President and those who were attacked, chose to make it political. It is shameful. It is disgusting. It is dishonest. It is wrong. But don’t take my word for it. Congressional Republicans have refused, almost to a person, to back up Romney’s attack and many foreign policy experts, conservative ones, have criticized his response. And, the decisions he made, are markedly different from the choices made in time of crisis by two former Republican Presidents. If Romney wants to join them as Presidents, he better get a handle on when to attack and when to show unity. That judgement is something this man is severely lacking.
However, let’s assume, for a moment, that everything Romney and Priebus said was actually the truth. How much more powerful would it have been if, instead of releasing a negative statement or holding a press conference in the moments before Obama was scheduled to speak on the issue, he had done something different. Imagine if he had called the President and said something like “I’m with you today and will do whatever I can help us show a unified front. Would you like me to come to your press conference so we can stand together and say that, no matter our political differences, we mourn the loss of these courageous Americans and stand united in our condemnation of those who seek to do us harm.” If Obama declined the offer, he would come off as playing politics. And, if he accepted, Romney would be seen as a thoughtful and honorable leader who puts his country first. Instead he chose to lie and, in so doing, came across as someone truly unfit to lead.
Happy Monday all! Random thoughts from the weekend:
- It appears that President Obama may have gotten a 5-7 point bounce out of his convention. According to several polls (great graphic here), Obama’s bounce has sustained, even despite a weaker than expected jobs report on Friday. We won’t know the full bounce for a few more days, because most of these polls include some percentage of interviews conducted before key convention moments. So, there is still the potential for a larger bounce, perhaps as many as 10 points.
- For months we’ve been hearing that this election is a “base election.” In other words, given that most people have already made up their mind, turnout will be the key to winning. That’s why you saw the Democrats hit social issues so hard in Charlotte – they are trying to fire up their base and get key constituents out to the polls. And therein lies the advantage for the President. The New York Times calculated that, if everyone who is registered to vote shows up at the polls, Obama has a 90%+ chance of winning based on party registration etc…This blog has a great breakdown of how that figure was identified and what it all means. If you are interested in party registration over time, check this out.
- The debates are going to be more important this year, than I can ever remember them being. Between now and election day, Romney and Obama will debate 3 times and Biden will square off against Ryan once. In an election where both sides are willing to say anything (true or not) and the challengers have steadfastly refused to provide specifics about their economic plan, it will be super interesting to see how much the moderators or candidates push for information and call people on their lies. Who can say the things that will motivate and excite their base, while not turning off the few undecideds or the ones who could still be swayed? That, ultimately, will decide this election.
Football is back and I could not be more excited! All you need to know is that, at the Red Sox game on Saturday night (another loss), the fans started chanting “Go Pats” in the 7th Inning. And I was among them! After a great first weekend, here are my winners and losers:
- New York Jets
I don’t think you can understand how painful it was for me to type that. Look, their top two QBs (Sanchez and Tebow) didn’t score a single TD in the preseason (see below). And they were facing the Buffalo Bills, who sport a revamped, and very expensive defense) in Week 1. Many, including me, were convinced it would be an embarrassing display by Ryan’s boys, but were we ever wrong. How they managed to put up 48 points is beyond me. This was more shocking than Brady Anderson’s random 50 homers in 1996. Which reminds me, someone check the Jets’ offensive coordinator for steroids!
- Peyton Manning
In the you’ve gotta see it to believe it category, I give you Peyton Manning. After not playing in a game for 600+ days, Manning returned to the field and, against a pretty good defense, led his team to a comeback win. Seeing him in Bronco orange was defintely strange, but the result was not. He’s still got it, folks, and that’s a scary thought for the rest of the AFC.
- Replacement Officials
Look, they weren’t perfect, but they survived and this ragtag bunch of retirees, teachers and insurance salesmen got some difficult calls right. Although they did their best by giving Seattle an extra timeout at the end of the Seahawks-Cardinals game, they didn’t change the outcome of any game and that, my friends, is a win. Of course, regardless of how long this strike lasts, they also made history by counting in their numbers the first woman to ever officiate a NFL game. Congratulations to Shannon Eastin and I hope you blaze the trail for more gender equality in the sport. Way to go!
- Preseason footbal
It means nothing, as the Jets showed, and 4 games is way too many. It looks like the NFL may, finally be making the change. Week 1 showed just how meaningless those games really are.
- Rookie QBs
It’s a tough jump from college to the pros, no question about it. All the rookie QBs starting this weekend, with the exception of RGIII looked way over matched and out-of-place. Weeden, Luck, Wilson and Tannehill all may be great NFL players but, on week 1, they looked very mortal.
- New Orleans Saints
After quite the offseason, I thought the Saints would come out firing on all cylinders. Us against the World would be their motto and, especially playing at home, they would steamroll over any opponent unlucky enough to be on the other side. That didn’t happen. They looked flat for the first half of the game and, to me, didn’t seem like there was any motivation or desire to beat the odds. They tried to recover in the 2nd half, but it was too little too late. Let’s see which team shows up next week.
I know what I should write about today. I know I should be giving my take on the fairly impressive speech that Governor Mitt Romney made last night at the Republican National Convention. A speech that was effective in helping voters to get to know him, while still not revealing too much about what he would actually do as President. I know I should talk about how he, finally, tried to be open about his faith and about what makes him tick as a person. I know I should commend him for talking about real emotions and, for the first time, coming off like a human being rather than a stuffy buttoned-up man. I know I should commend him, again, for not following the lead of others this week in that he decided to tell the truth and be honest about his perspectives. Even if I don’t agree with the direction he wants to take this country, I still believe it was a very effective speech and I congratulate him for it. But I can’t. I just can’t spend any more time on Romney, because I need to talk about Clint Eastwood.
I’ll admit that I was wrong. I thought the Mike Huckabee/Chuck Norris marriage (sorry civil partnership?) would never be surpassed as the strangest politician/celebrity match. I really did. But, last night, Clint Eastwood proved I have much still to learn. For months, the RNC has been teasing a celebrity guest appearance on the final night of the convention. And, when Clint made his way up to the stage, I’ll admit to being excited. This is a guy, after all, who has brought us some of the greatest films ever and oozes talent from every pore. (Yeah, I said that.) What would he do, I wondered? And then, after much fanfare, and a tremendous ovation, he talked to an empty chair.
Now, I get what he was trying to do. His conversation with the imaginary President Obama was designed to, in a more lighthearted way, showcase the differences between Romney and Obama. It was designed to make Obama look silly and like less of a leader. And it was brilliant. Really, if you haven’t seen it, you need to watch. It was funny, weird, entertaining, bizarre, engaging and downright strange. He did what he always does in his movies – he stole the scene. However, this isn’t a movie and therein lies the problem. He was so good that it’s what people like me (and real writers too) are talking about today. They aren’t talking about the Romney speech or about the clear enthusiasm in the convention for this ticket. They are talking about an 82-year-old actor spending 10 minutes talking to an empty chair. Was it amusing? Sure. But was it the right thing to do right before the nominee – a man who struggles to be engaging and connect – delivered his huge speech? Not in a million years.
And the worst part for the RNC? Now everyone is going to be tuning in next week to see what the Democrats come up with for a response? I’ve heard Clooney might talk to an empty suit named Mitt? Maybe Oprah talking to an empty chair. Who knows, but you can bet they’ll do something and you can bet we’ll all be watching. One difference, however. Obama can hold his own against a Hollywood star trying to steal the scene. Romney, well he proved he can’t and that’s a shame. Because the speech he delivered really deserves more than being regulated to the second paragraph – he deserved better than being upstaged by an empty chair.
Mike Grunwald, a reporter from Time Magazine is out with a new book called “The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era.” In it he argues that, in fact, the massive stimulus plan that everyone loves to hate was actually a huge success. If you don’t want to buy the book, or just want to see what the @#$ he is talking about, Grunwald has a great post about his theory here. At a minimum read the post – it’s worth it!
Reasonable people can debate the role of government and if the stimulus package is an example of government overreach. Reasonable people can debate if government should “choose” industries to prop up or be putting money into the private sector at all. Reasonable people can debate the merits of the government trying to create jobs or regulate how businesses can do business. But, because reasonable people don’t lead political parties in America today, those aren’t the debates we are having. It’s much easier to just say that it was a gigantic failure and hope people won’t do their own research.
Was the stimulus perfect? No. But did it help stave off an even worse economic disaster? Yes, I believe that it did. Work with me here and let’s acknowledge that it worked. So what next? Well, may I humbly suggest we move on to debating if the government should, in the future, intervene again or stand on the sidelines. Should the government regulate personal and professional behavior or should our society allow people to do business as they see fit and let the market self-regulate? That’s a debate I’d love to have – with reason, not soundbites – and it might help people realize that there are, actually, significant philosophical differences between the political parties. That, I believe, will lead to more informed voters, a smarter society and, most of all, a future built, not on easy answers, but on honest assessment. A future that will orchestrated by reasonable people.
I was thinking this morning what funny excuse I could come up with for my lack of posts over the last month and a half. And, I wish I could tell you I came up with something. But anything I thought of was either not funny “I didn’t have time,” implausible “I would have posted, but my computer ate my keyboard” or just downright wrong “There just hasn’t been anything interesting to talk about.” So, after looking at all the options, I decided to just stick with something simple…nothing. That’s right. No excuses. I think, looking back at the world of sports and politics in the last month or so, we have all had more than our fill of excuses! (Now wasn’t that a great way to transition to the meat of this post? I haven’t lost the gift folks 🙂 )
All of the things I want to touch on today come back to the theme of not making excuses. But before we get to that I promise, going forward, to do my best to stay on top of posting. There are certainly no lack of things to discuss!Let’s start with the story of the day – General Stanley McChrystal. In case you missed it, Rolling Stone is about to publish an article in which General McChrystal and his staff make disparaging remarks about a number of senior Obama Administration officials including Jim Jones and Vice-President Biden, Senators including John Kerry and John McCain and even President Obama. The comments range from simple policy disagreements to taunting and have earned the General an Oval Office meeting with the President. Everyone agrees the article showed General McChrystal’s incredibly poor judgment and was a huge mistake. But the larger, and more difficult, question is what President Obama should do about it.
To his credit, General McChrystal did not hesitate in apologizing for his conduct and the conduct of his staff. He didn’t try to say he was misquoted, he didn’t try to distance himself from the story of his team. He took responsibility for his actions and apologized. No excuses. That being said, this is not the first time he has had to have a tense meeting with his boss and, if President Obama doesn’t have full confidence in him, then I don’t see how he can stay in this position. Based on this, and previous comments, General McChrystal has shown an incredible lack of respect of top civilian officials (with the exception of Secretary of State Clinton) and has managed to alienate practically everyone who he should be working with to achieve shared goals. Replacing McChrystal would be incredibly difficult and, potentially disruptive, and I am glad the President is not taking the decision lightly. He is obviously weighing the options and making sure he understands the consequences of whatever action he ends up taking. If McChrystal does keep his job, he would do well to follow the President’s example. Otherwise the next time the President summons him for a meeting, it will be to send him on his way.
EDIT: President Obama just announced that he has accepted General McChrystal’s resignation and will be replacing him with General Petraeus.
On another subject, Armando Galarraga deserved his perfect game and was robbed by a terrible terrible call by Umpire Jim Joyce. However, what happened after that call is why that game goes down as one of the best we have ever seen in sports. Joyce, upon seeing the reply immediately realized he had made a mistake and did something extraordinary. He apologized. He apologized publicly and he sought out Galarraga to apologize privately. And Galarraga forgave him. Amazing. Shouldn’t be so amazing. But it is. Easily the best moment of the baseball season to this point. And, as an exclamation point, after the incident, Joyce was still voted as the best umpire in the game by players.
Finally, I want to touch on the BP oil spill – one of the great tragedies of this, or any, generation. And now, today, word comes that the moratorium the Obama Administration, correctly, put on deep-water drilling has been overturned by a Judge who has investments in the Oil and Gas Industry. Judge Feldman should have followed the lead of fellow Justices with similar investments and recused himself. Whether or not you agree with the decision, this is blatant conflict of interest and cannot be allowed. If we learn anything from this BP tragedy it should be that short-sighted actions are often recipes for long-term (and very expensive) disasters.
History was made yesterday. The House has sent to the President’s desk the first piece of meaningful health reform in decades. This is not a perfect bill, but it goes a long way towards taking the power away from insurance companies and giving it to people and their doctors. This bill will finally allow more than 32 million Americans to get health insurance. This bill will reduce the cost of getting health insurance and, through subsidies, ensure that everyone will have access to care. This bill will create millions of jobs, pays for itself and will reduce the national deficit. This bill forces insurance companies to stop their discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions and will stop the despicable practice of coverage being rescinded when someone needs it most. This bill will ensure that being unemployed doesn’t mean you can’t have health insurance. This isn’t a perfect bill, but it is a bill that will improve the economy and help millions of Americans. Thank you to all those who made its passage possible.
A few take-aways from the debate and vote last night:
- The Democratic party showed it can be politically savvy as well – Republicans had proposed a roll-call vote on the bill so that they could use that footage in campaign ads, but were rejected. In addition, the House leadership knew that the Republicans might try to send the bill back to committee (effectively killing it) by calling for a vote on re-inserting the Stupak anti-abortion language back into the bill. Well, they were right and boy were the Democrats ready for it. After Steny Hoyer made a brief statement in response to Republican speeches on the matter, he yielded his time to Bart Stupak who made a passionate argument against killing the bill causing his fellow Democrats to rise as one to cheer him. It was a brilliant speech and helped ensure the Republican plan would fail. Very effective and very well executed!
- The Republican Party, once again, has to deal with an embarrassing incident – 6 months ago it was Joe Wilson shouting “You lie” at the President. Over the summer it was those awful town hall protests around the country. Two days ago it was anti-healthcare protesters shouting racist and homophobic things towards members of Congress. And yesterday, it was a Republican Congressman shouting “Baby Killer” at Rep. Stupak as he delivered his remarks on the House Floor. This stunning lack of decorum and respect might energize the base, but it turns off the moderate voters who so often decide elections. Yesterday’s outburst was especially unfortunate because the Republicans had done a very good job throughout the day highlighting a number of their members and make significant progress in ensuring that the voice of their party would not be Ruth Limbaugh. But that will be overshadowed by a stupid and inappropriate outburst.
- No one kills time like Wolf Blitzer – For anyone who has spent any time watching CNN over the past few years, this statement will come as no surprise. Waiting as the vote totals climbed to the magic 216 number, Blitzer bantered, questioned and cut off as appropriate to keep things entertaining while making sure viewers did not miss the key moments. Well done Wolf.
So now the reconciliation bill goes to the Senate (that should be fun) and the main healthcare bill goes to the President. Stay tuned…
The comedic website funnyordie.com has come out with a great video featuring the actors who have played the Presidents on SNL over the years. As is often the case, real truth comes out in comedy and they actors and writers do a great job of illustrating how the failures of past administrations (from both parties) have gotten us to this point. More than any President in recent memory, Obama has been saddled with the mistakes of past administrations and has spent the better part of his time in office trying to fix what others have broken. The fact that he has made progress in doing this while, at the same time, pushing his own agenda is extremely impressive to me. Agree or not with increased Governmental regulation and things he is doing, the video is certainly worth watching. Trust me!
Just a little something to make you laugh today…make sure you read the correction down at the bottom. I’ll tell you one thing – this is a book I will read!
He lives! And he is posting again! Hurray! I have no excuse or explanation for my absence from this space, despite the myriad of interesting stories out there. To catch up, let’s go with some quick blurbs on the stories of the week, and then hope for more consistency of writing from here on out.
The Olympics start tonight! I’ll admit it…I love the Olympics. I love so many of the sports, I love the rivalries, I love the history, I love the torch and, as cheesy as it may be, I love the fact that people of different backgrounds, different faiths, can share in the excitement of the games. They compete as hard as they can but, at the end, they shake hands and clearly respect each other. Such a fun two weeks and it begins tonight with the question on everyone’s mind…who will light the torch? For my money, it has to be Wayne Gretzky. The greatest hockey player in history lighting the torch in hockey country…it’s a no-brainer isn’t it?
The Manning face returned and the Saints won for their city. The NFL is doing something right. The days of Super Bowl blowouts are over. The game last Sunday was a really fun one to watch and I am thrilled at the result. Congratulations to the Saints fans and city of New Orleans on the big one…and thank you for ending the debate over who the better QB is. If we go by what QBs are supposed to do, which is win, it is now clear that Brady is #1. So thanks!
President Obama delivered a fabulous State of the Union and began the process of turning around his presidency. In his speech he deftly walked the line between rhetoric and specifics and gave everyone something to like. In doing so, he moved beyond just paying lip service to bipartisanship but, like a good leader, demonstrated what being bi-partisan means. In subsequent appearances, he has made it clear that if Republicans want to continue their pattern of obstructing for the sake of obstructing they will be called on it. If he can do that effectively, he may yet break the trend of a sitting President’s party losing seats in the mid-term elections.
Don’t ask, don’t tell may be going away and that is a very good thing! This discriminatory policy has been on the books too long and I believe there is absolutely no need to keep it around. I am amazed that, despite top generals saying they support lifting the ban on gays in the military so many politicians (including those, like Senator McCain, who had previously said they would support lifting the ban when generals agree to it) are fighting this law change. It is a shame that we are still a country where it is ok to discriminate for the sake of politics.
Truck day!!! You know you are a baseball town when one of the days of the year is when the team truck leaves for spring training. It is so gratifying that several key players have already reported and I am very optimistic (big surprise I know) about the upcoming season.
There is certainly more to talk about – there is a jobs bill moving through Congress; Rep. Kennedy’s decision to resign will leave Congress without a Kennedy for the first time in more than 60 years; Rep. Murtha’s tragic passing; the race for Governor of Massachusetts is heating up; what is going on with healthcare?; the Bruins and Celtics are approaching the playoffs; President Obama forcing through an economic advisory panel despite the objections of the same Republicans who initially proposed the idea; the issue of gambling is once again front and center on Beacon Hill…
But we have to save something for another day, don’t we?