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I’m absolutely furious today.

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.

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3 Nights in Charlotte

Oh, the benefits of going second.  It’s not hard to imagine, after the Republican Convention last week in Tampa, Democratic leaders huddling somewhere to rewrite speeches, redo videos and shift the lineup to more effectively respond to the various charges and claims made by their opponents.  I’m here to tell you that, whatever they did, it worked.  Besides putting on a very entertaining show, the Democratic National Committee effectively made the case for President Obama’s re-election while, at the same time, energizing their base.  My prediction is that the President gets a 7-9 point bump out of this, but we’ll see once the new polls come out.

Before I get to the winners and losers of the convention, I want to share the best moment to come out of either event, by far.  On January 8, 2011, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords held an event in Tucson, Arizona.  Her “Congress on Your Corner” events were a great way for constituents to meet their Representative and have their voices heard.  On this particular day, however, the meeting ended in tragedy with six people (including a 9 year old girl) dead and Giffords critically wounded.   As anyone who has ever had or cared for someone with a serious brain injury knows, the path to recovery is long and extremely challenging.   She has made very few public appearances since the shooting and none have had the power and emotion of what she did last night.  Just watch.

Sure beats an empty chair as a lead-in to the party nominee!  Ok, without further ado, here are my winners and losers from the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

Winners:

  • Bill Clinton

President Clinton has been delivering speeches for many many years and he is a master storyteller.  When Clinton takes the stage, people listen and hang on every word.  Love him or hate him, you have to admire his ability to captivate an audience and deliver key messages in an engaging and exciting way.  The speech he gave on Wednesday night, nominating President Obama was, in my humble opinion, one of the best he has ever given.  He was forceful, he was funny and he left no doubt about how he has seen the past 4 years and why he believes Barack Obama should be re-elected.   As CNN Republican strategist Alex Castellanos said following the speech, “If Barack Obama gets re-elected, I think tonight will be a good reason why.”  Hard to do better than that.

  • Barack Obama

Watching the Republican Convention, one couldn’t help but wonder how much the party elite is really excited about the prospect of a President Romney.  Many of the speakers seemed to be more focused on building themselves up for a future run, rather than making the case for Romney.  By contrast, the Democrats are clearly excited about their ticket and that passion shone through in speech after speech.   In addition, I thought Obama’s speech was very impressive.  I left his speech thinking that this is a serious guy who has learned from his mistakes, but whose commitment to doing what he believes is right hasn’t wavered.  I really liked the reframing of the “hope and change” arguement from 4 years ago and found it quite effective.  Was it a soaring speech that Obama 2004 or Clinton 2012?  No.  But I don’t think it needed to be or, quite frankly, should have been.  He needed to let the others do that, and come across as a leader we can trust.  Which I think he did.

The other thing about the convention is President Obama came across as much tougher and stronger than I have seen before.  We heard from Vice-President Biden about how he goes about making decisions and what a strong character he has.  Biden told us that Obama “has courage in his soul, compassion in his heart, and a spine of steel” and we saw that in Obama’s speech.  All of those traits were there and, when combined with his messages, Obama very much came across as someone who we can trust to work for all Americans and continue to make a difference.

  • Deval Patrick, John Kerry, Jennifer Granholm

Aside from Clinton and Obama, these three leaders delivered the best speeches of the convention.  Each focused on different issues, but all three were extremely effective in their defense of the President and convincing in their support for him.  All three are going to play a critical role in the campaign between now and November 6 and all three delivered stirring and memorable speeches.   Patrick (Romney’s record in Massachusetts), Kerry (Foreign Policy) and Granholm (Auto bailout) all made the point that Americans are better off today because of the leadership of President Obama and all made the the point that Governor Romney would be the wrong choice.

  • Michelle Obama

Wow.  Just, wow.  Michelle Obama delivered an incredible speech that was beyond a simple endorsement of her husband.  She told us more about the man, what drives him and, most importantly, connected his ideas and beliefs to their family and the future they imagine for their daughters.  It was powerful, it was compelling, it was funny and it was effective.

Losers

  • George W. Bush

It’s clear that Obama’s team see winning Michigan and Ohio as crucial to their chances in November.  That’s why they focused so heavily on the Auto bailout and how many jobs that effort saved.  What no one mentioned, however, is that President Bush was the one who first began to lay the groundwork for the bailout and, in fact, authorized the first loan to Detroit.  The fact is that the bailout worked, but the facts are, also, that Bush deserves some of the credit.

  • Martin O’Malley

The Governor of Maryland is often mentioned as a potential 2016 Presidential candidate.  However, he did not do himself any favors with his convention speech.  The Republicans want to make this election a referendum on the past 4 years and, as such, are making the argument that Americans are worse off than they were when President Obama took office.   Leading into this convention, the Democrats had primarily tried to counter that argument by attempting to make the election a choice election – that is, putting the Obama/Biden plan alongside the Romney/Ryan plan and asking Americans which one works best for them.  However, in Charlotte, there was a much more forceful argument that we are, in fact, better off than we were 4 years ago.  It’s important because if they can defend both their record and promote their future plans effectively, there is no way Romney can win.

However, in a pre-convention interview on Face the Nation,  Governor O’Malley undercut that message when asked by host Bob Schieffer if he could ” honestly say that people are better off today than they were four years ago?”  In response,  O’Malley said “No, but that’s not the question of this election. The question, without a doubt, we are not as well off as we were before George Bush brought us the Bush job losses, the Bush recession, the Bush deficits, the series of desert wars — charged for the first time to credit cards, the national credit cards.”  It may have been honest and it may have been an attempt to link Romney to Bush.  But, as a result, O’Malley had to spend the convention backtracking and that’s not a position a 2016 candidate wants to be in.

  • Charlie Crist

Party changers are rarely well received at conventions, but Crist’s speech was embarrassingly bad.  It was such a transparent attempt to further his own political ambitions and those in the hall saw right through it.  I have no idea if Crist will help Obama win Florida by appealing to moderates but his speech last night didn’t do the President any favors.  As bad as Artur Davis was last week at the RNC, Crist was worse because he was clearly only speaking to help set himself up for a Gubernatorial run as a Democrat.   Not good.  Not good at all.

  • Platform Committee

The party platforms are rarely read and the news media, generally, only spends time talking about them if there is something controversial or different.  The fact that the RNC platform is anti-abortion, with no exceptions, was newsworthy and will become an issue in the campaign.  The Democrats made the decision to not mention God, and to not endorse Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.  Then, after some backlash from both inside and outside the party, the committee made the decision to add that back in.  This resulted in some awkward moments where, when the change was announced, there was scattered booing in the hall.  Likely the delegates were booing the fact that a change was being made, but it gave the appearance (as hyped up on Fox) that they were booing God.  Whatever the truth, it was not a good image for the party.

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Before I let you go (and kudos if you’ve read this all the way through) I want to leave you with two videos. I think it is ENORMOUSLY important that all Americans, regardless of where you may stand, see the speeches from both Presidential candidates.  Please set aside some time to watch – it’s important to know where they stand and what their vision is for the country.

Clint Eastwood + Mitt Romney = ?

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.

 

Tonight, Tonight…won’t be just any night.

We are mere hours away from Governor Mitt Romney taking the stage at the Republican National Convention to, finally, accept their nomination for President of the United States.  Regardless of your political stripes, it is sure to be a memorable and exciting moment.  Think about it for a minute.  This is a man who has a dream of being President.  Worked hard, did well and, when his time came, poured himself into a campaign.  It was a divisive, ugly and combative primary that Romney emerged from.  Yet, tonight, there won’t be a revolution led by one of the losing candidates.  There won’t be accusations of cheating or threats of violence against those who supported him.  Rather, his party will, together, celebrate the primary season that was and listen to the new leader of the party.  It’s a special moment and I congratulate Romney on making it to this point.

Leading up to tonight, we had two packed days of convention activities that are worth reflecting on.  The blog is called sportypolitics, so let’s do this winner/loser style.

WINNERS:

  • Ann Romney

Ann Romney has been called her husband’s secret weapon on the trail and, on Tuesday night, she proved why.  Her primary job as a speaker was to humanize her husband and introduce the country to who he really is.   She did that swimmingly, but didn’t stop there.  Her speech was also an effective political one, in which she attacked the Obama Administration for their failures, but did it in such a way that built her husband up.   In addition, in a departure from many other speakers, she didn’t use lies to make her point – instead she grounded her ideas and key messages in facts and her own personal experiences.  The more we see her on the trail, the better it will be for her husband’s prospects in November.

  • Social Conservatives

From Rick Santorum getting a prime-time speaking slot, to the official party platform, social conservatives could not possibly be happier with what they got from the RNC this year.  It remains to be seen if these issues (abortion, gay marriage etc…) will play a large role in the election but, for now, it’s clear the power that this group has in the party.

  • The 2016 or 2020 Republican Candidates for President

I can’t remember a convention where so many of the speakers seemed, so clearly, to be setting themselves up for their own future run.  As weak a field as the Republicans had this time around, if Romney is unable to prevail, the 2016 field will be one of the strongest we have ever seen.  Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, Rick Santorum, Susan Martinez and Pam Bondi all delivered stirring speeches that, at the very least, made themselves more well-known and will stoke talk of the next election.

  • Bobby Jindal

Had he been in Tampa he would, no doubt, have been included in the previous paragraph.  However, Hurricane Isaac’s assault on his state meant that he decided to skip the festivities and return home to deal with the storm.  Assuming all goes well with the clean-up and recovery, he’ll come off looking like a leader who put his state before his party – something people want in their leaders.  It’ll make him a very compelling candidate in 2016 or 2020 and, in fact, sets him apart from the other contenders.

LOSERS

  • Mitt Romney

Watching the speeches, one couldn’t help but wonder how excited the leaders in the party are about the Romney/Ryan ticket.  And how confident they are in a potential victory.  The convention keynote speaker, Chris Christie, took a full 16 minutes to mention Romney by name (in a 24 minute speech) and spent most of the time talking about himself.  To have that in your keynote speaker, doesn’t say good things about you.   Plus, one of Christie’s signature lines implied that people didn’t have to love Romney, they just have to respect him.   It’s often said that Democrats fall in love and Republicans fall in line.  Rarely, however, do you hear that sentiment expressed so publicly and so obviously in a high-profile speech.

  • Party organizers

I’m not sure who had the idea of having Christie follow Ann Romney, but it didn’t work.  The fact that her speech was all about her love for her husband made Christie’s remarks about love not not being important seem callous and out-of-place.  At best it was a distraction and, at worst, it lessens the power of Ann Romney’s words.  Given that the Romney camp knew what Christie was going to say, spacing out the speeches would have made more sense.

  • The truth

Look, politicians have been lying, misleading, distorting and distracting since the beginning of time.  It’s nothing new and, sadly, it’s unlikely to change.  However, it’s been taken to a new low throughout this campaign and, the past two days, have taken us lower still.  Speeches by Senator John Thune, Governor Chris Christie and, especially, Vice-Presidential nominee Paul Ryan have been notable for their misleading statements and downright lies.  But don’t take my word for it.  Fox News, in an opinion piece, called Paul Ryan’s speech “dazzling, deceiving and distracting” and commented that “The good news is that the Romney-Ryan campaign has likely created dozens of new jobs among the legions of additional fact checkers that media outlets are rushing to hire to sift through the mountain of cow dung that flowed from Ryan’s mouth. Said fact checkers have already condemned certain arguments that Ryan still irresponsibly repeated.”

Among the many inaccuracies (and you can see a larger list in the Fox article) is around Medicare.  Ryan derided Obama for cutting more than $700b from Medicare as part of the Affordable Care Act and he said “A Romney-Ryan administration will protect and strengthen Medicare, for my Mom’s generation, for my generation, and for my kids and yours.”  The fact is, however, that Ryan’s own budget assumes the EXACT SAME cost savings from Medicare and he spends that money elsewhere.  Finally, the reduction in funding actually, according to non-partisan experts, strengthened the program and, in fact, lowered the out-of-pocket payments that retirees had.   Why is it that even when they agree, they lie to create fake disagreements?

In addition, the theme of the first day of the convention was “We did build that,” a reference to President Obama’s statement about who should get credit for small business growth.  The accusation, repeated by speaker after speaker, is that, essentially, Obama doesn’t believe that innovators and entrepreneurs deserve credit for their success, because the Government did it for them.  Here, however, is the full quote they are attacking.

“There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet. The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.”

Now, I will be the first to acknowledge that Obama could have phrased his statement more artfully.  But, if you actually read the full quote (and not the truncated, carefully edited versions we are seeing in campaign ads), you see a very different message from what the Republican Party wants to you see.   And, in fact, the speakers they are trotting out there to help make their point, are proving Obama right.  Take Steven Cohen, president of Ohio-based manufacturing company Screen Machine Industries, who spoke at the convention last night.  In his speech, Cohen told delegates that he did build his company – problem is, his company received over $200K in Government stimulus money on top of the $2M+ in Government contracts they have claimed.  I don’t fault them for being successful – I fault them for lying.

So, all-in-all, it’s been quite the couple of days.  Looking forward to tonight and to seeing Mitt Romney’s vision for the future.  Here’s hoping he decides to give us more than Obama bashing and generalities.  Here’s hoping the fact checkers can take the night off!

Wait, so the stimulus wasn’t a massive failure?

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.

A Scary Time in America

And you thought this election was going to be all about the economy.  Silly you!  In today’s of installment of “What the hell were they thinking?” I give you Rep. Todd Akin, the Republican nominee for the United States Senate in Missouri.   Akin won a tough primary battle for the right to face one of the most vulnerable incumbent senators, Claire McCaskill.  And the polls showed him doing quite well – up by 8-10 points in most.  But then Rep. Akin went on the Jaco Report and, at the risk of underselling it, things didn’t go too well.

Click here and scroll down for the full interview.  The abortion comments begin around the 4 minute mark.

Yes, you heard that right.  According to a man who has been serving in the United States House, women’s bodies have some sort-of magical ability to determine if a rape is “legitimate” and, if it is, can prevent pregnancy.  Stupidity like that, if it wasn’t so scary, would be hilarious.   Oh yeah, Akin also sits on the House Science Committee.

It might be interesting to note that this is not a new issue that Akin just happened to bring up. The House passed a bill earlier this year with full Republican support and 16 Democrats which would have added language to the Federal Abortion Ban (which includes rape exemptions) to differentiate between “forcible” rape and other rape. The bill never made it to the Senate floor but, if it had passed, women who had been the victims of non-forcible rape (statutory rape, rapes that involve drugs, or verbal threats) would not be exempted from the ban. My guess is that Akin misspoke and meant to say forcible rape, not legitimate.  To quote President Obama on this “Rape is rape.”  Done.  Simple.  Right.

Either way, this is just another in a series of moves by factions of a Republican party that is so far out of touch with modern times, I shudder to think what they will come up with next.   Now, I will acknowledge that many prominent Republicans have tried to distance themselves from Akin but it just doesn’t ring true in most cases.  Mitt Romney, through a spokesperson, says that “Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape…”  Problem is, Congressman Ryan was a co-sponsor of the “forcible rape” bill and the RNC sub-committee tasked with the creation of a party platform approved this afternoon anti-choice language with NO exemptions (not health of the mother, not rape of any kind, nothing).    Romney will be the leader of a party that believes a crucial issue this year is ensuring that Government doesn’t help women who get raped have abortions.  This isn’t just Congressman Akin – this is a a GOP strategy.

Consider other instances, just in the past 12 months:

  • Rush Limbaugh calls Sandra Fluke a “slut” for testifying before Congress regarding contraception
  • Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum said, in regards to abortion in cases of rape that “women should make the best of a bad situation”
  • Kansas lawmaker, Pete DeGraaf, suggested that women should plan ahead for being raped by buying abortion-only policies in the same way that he keeps a spare tire in his car.
  • Legislatures across the country have introduced nearly 1,000 bills relating to female reproductive rights – nearly all of them designed to limit a woman’s ability to control her own medical decisions.  (SIDE NOTE: Don’t you find it remarkable that the same Congress so concerned with “Obamacare” taking healthcare decisions away from the individual is so ok with it when it comes to these issues?)

This isn’t about religious freedom.  This isn’t about one man making a gaffe.  This is about a group of people – mostly men – who have decided that the pre-1950s era limits on women’s freedoms were the way to go.  This is about a group of people who want to control a woman’s body.  It is terrifying to me that these people serve in our government and I shudder to think what the United States of America would look like if they were in charge.

I’ll close with the words of Eve Ensler, in her heartfelt and powerful letter to Congressman Akin on the Huffington Post today.

“You didn’t make some glib throw away remark. You made a very specific ignorant statement clearly indicating you have no awareness of what it means to be raped. And not a casual statement, but one made with the intention of legislating the experience of women who have been raped. Perhaps more terrifying: it was a window into the psyche of the GOP…Why don’t you spend your time ending rape rather than redefining it? Spend your energy going after those perpetrators who so easily destroy women rather than parsing out manipulative language that minimizes their destruction.”

The Decade is almost over

What do CNN, ESPN, millions of bloggers around the world, every local news station, NPR, and random people have in common?  They have all spent the last few weeks creating those “year-end lists.”  You know the ones: Best moment of the year, saddest death of the year etc…  Of course, since the end of 2009, also draws the 2000s to a close (if you count the years in the way that most people do), those year-end lists have become decade-end lists.  I thought I could resist giving you the sportypolitics lists but, alas, I could not.  So, as we count down the final hours of 2009, I hope you enjoy my list of moments I felt the desire to highlight. 

Decade’s defining moment: The attacks of 9/11/2001
Sports or politics, there really is no question that the events of that Tuesday morning defined the decade. We are still feeling repercussions from those attacks and we are a fundamentally different society because of them. Thousands of people lost their lives that day and many more have been killed in the wars that the attacks spawned. The attacks brought the world together but the choices that followed splintered us again. We lost the illusion (however foolish it was) of being safe on our own soil and, as we saw on Christmas Day, there are still many out there who are willing to give up their life to kill Americans. As we move into the next decade, it is critical we find a way to stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan and continue to rebuild our image in the world. Otherwise the defining moment of this decade will become the defining moment of the next decade and so on.

Defining struggle of the decade: The economy
One could certainly make an argument for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but the fallout from the recession we have been mired in gets my vote. Greed and poor choices led to the near collapse of our Economic system and cost many people their jobs. With the unemployment rate above 10%, we once again saw that the consequences of decisions by those at the top are felt most dramatically by workers. It is a real shame that so many of those who made the decisions (or allowed the decisions to be made) have had so little interest in being a part of the solution. Greed is a powerful force and people like Anastasia Kelly who resigned from the disgraceful company AIG because she was upset at only making $500,000 (and will pocket several million dollars in severance pay because she left for ‘good reason’ show how few lessons those top decision-makers have learned.   The economy affects all of us and, while I think the Obama administration has taken strong steps to avert disaster and get us on the right track, jobs must come back for his work to be considered a success.

Now for some happier news…

Baseball team of the decade: The Boston Red Sox
I certainly could be accused of being a homer for this pick, but I feel pretty strongly about it. Yes, the Yankees had more wins. Yes, both teams won two World Series. But the way in which the Red Sox turned their team around and, in doing so, re-energized their fan base, gives them the edge. They maximized revenue from their ballpark, developed some really strong players, spent money when they needed to, and are really well-positioned for future seasons.

Football team of the decade: I don’t know
This is a really really tough one. Arguments could be made for the Pittsburgh Steelers (although their collapse and the fact that they may not make the playoffs this year argue against them), the Indianapolis Colts or the New England Patriots. To me, a lot depends on who wins the Super Bowl this season. If the Pats win, they are the team of the decade. If the Colts win, then they are. If neither wins, I think the nod goes to New England, but it is mighty close. Colts vs. Patriots is one of the best matchups of this decade and they sure have played some memorable games.

Basketball team of the decade: The Los Angeles Lakers
They didn’t have the most wins. They didn’t have the best winning percentage. They didn’t even have the most memorable championship (the Celtics get credit for that). But they were the most dominant and they were the team to beat in this decade.

Hockey team of the decade: The Detroit Red Wings
It’s not even really close. Sure, you could make an argument for the NJ Devils, but you would be wasting your time.

Sports city of the decade: Boston
These are incredible times to be a Boston sports fan. From the Red Sox (2 world series) to the Celtics (1 championship) to the Patriots (3 SB championships plus an almost perfect season) to the Bruins to the college teams we have winners everywhere you look. 6 parades in 10 years…pretty incredible. Add to that the hockey championships won by BU and BC and you have a pretty successful decade.  Think about the transformation in the Boston sports scene over the last 10 years. In 2000 no one really cared about Boston. We hadn’t won in years and things weren’t looking too promising. Fast forward to today and we are called “arrogant,” “spoiled,” “cheaters,” and “obnoxious.”  Such hatred is saved for winners, which is what Boston has become over the past decade.

Sports story of the decade: Cheating
From steroids to videotaping, this decade will be known as the one where fans were forced to confront the fact that our athletic heroes willingly and knowingly broke the rules to achieve greatness. Hopefully, with so much now out in the open, we can have faith that the sports legends of the future will get to the top legally.

Society’s story of the decade Lack of personal contact
In some ways Google’s IPA in 2004 is a defining moment for our society. From Myspace and Linkedin (2003) to Facebook and Twitter (2006)…from smartphones to ipods and email to online cards to blogging, this decade has been given us the tools to be constantly in touch without ever having to actually speak. Communication means something very different than it did 10 years ago and everyone, from retailers to relatives are having to adjust. How we get and share information and build and maintain relationships has fundamentally changed and may be the most lasting societal change we have seen this decade.

I know there is a lot I haven’t touched on in this post. The deaths of groundbreakers like President Reagan, Senator Kennedy, Julia Child, Fred Rogers, Richard Pryor, June and Johnny Cash, Arthur Miller, Johnny Carson, Michael Jackson, and so many many more. The true heroism of our troops and Captain ‘Sully.’  The incredible elections of 2000, 2004 and 2008 (and the historic election of Barack Obama).  We’ll see what 2010 and the next decade have in store.

Happy New Year and all the best for a wonderful 2010. Thank you for reading and may the coming year be filled with more smiles than frowns and more laughter than tears.

Link for 12/7 – A BIG endorsement

We are one day away from the primary and Attorney General Martha Coakley has received quite the gift.  Former President Bill Clinton (who remains extremely popular in Massachusetts) has recorded a telephone message that will be blasted to about 500,000 people during the day today.  Designed to remind people to vote and encourage them to support Coakley it is hard to imagine that such a powerful endorsement won’t have a strong impact on undecided voters. 

Late today I will post my endorsements (easily as important as President Clinton’s) and please don’t forget to vote tomorrow!

Candidate Tuesday #9 – The best of the rest

It wouldn’t be an election without some colorful characters.  Over the course of the last 2 months we have examined the major candidates who are hoping to replace the late Senator Edward Kennedy and represent Massachusetts in the Senate.  However, we haven’t had the chance to meet some of the other folks who want to have their voices heard.  That is, until now.  Enjoy!  Some have run for office before.  Some are serious about winning.  Some have an issue they are hoping to bring more attention to.  Some are just crazy.  But all are worth knowing about.

Who is your favorite?  For me, I think it has to be the woman who claims to be the illegitimate child of Kathleen Kennedy and King George VI.

I should note that not all of these candidates collected enough signatures by the 11/24 deadline.  But I just couldn’t let a silly thing like ballot eligibility keep me from introducing you to these fine folks.

Candidate Tuesday #6 – Mike Capuano

Sorry for the tardiness of my Candidate Tuesday. But, fear not oh wonderful readers.  Your Candidate “Tuesday” has arrived. 

As a reminder, this is where we are so far:

Democrats:
Alan Khazei
Stephen Pagliuca
Martha Coakley
Michael Capuano

Republicans:
Scott Brown

Independent:
Joe Kennedy (no, not that one. A different one.)

Let’s meet Congressman Mike Capuano.   57 years old, Congressman Capuano has represented the 8th District of Massachusetts in the United States House of Representatives for 10 years.  It is a seat once held by President John F. Kennedy Jr. and, right before Capuano, Joe Kennedy.  Will he, once again, occupy a seat made famous by a Kennedy?  

As Congressman, Capuano is perhaps best known for his work to increase international aid for developing countries and for his advocacy on behalf of the victims of the genocide and slavery in Sudan.  He has been instrumental in ensuring support for new funding bills aimed at helping poor African nations.  His focus on international affairs led him to co-found Congressional Caucuses on Sudan and Korea and continue to demonstrate real leadership on issues facing the rest of the world.  In addition, Capuano has received a 96% rating by the National Education Association and has done a lot of work to ensure all students have access to quality educational programs and good schools and is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

In his career in the House, Capuano has been a solidly Democratic voice and his voted with his party more than 98% of the time.   The most notable split has been in the area of immigration, with Capuano voting, 2006, in support of constructing a fence through four states in the Southeastern part of the USA.   The Washington Post has compiled a solid profile of his voting record that is worth checking out.  One of the downsides of running for office as a Senator or Representative is that there is a ton of information out there on how you have voted and what you showed up for.  It is part of the reason Senators are so rarely elected President.  But, since it is there, it is worth looking at.

In addition, Congressman Capuano has always been very focused on constituent services and on being there for whatever needs his community has.  In that vein, he has been very successful in bringing home money for local projects.  He is an outspoken opponent of the war in Iraq and has voted against the Patriot Act.  Finally, he headed the transition when Democrats took the majority in the House in 2006 and chaired the bipartisan Special Task Force on Ethics Enforcement which resulted in the creation of the Office of Congressional Ethics.

Mike Capuano certainly has the most relevent experience of any of the candidates and seems to have the Kennedy desire to help his community and work to support their needs.  The fact that he has directly followed a Kennedy before leads me to believe that he has the ability to convince people he is the best to carry on their legacy.  His biggest barrier is name recognition and overcoming that obstacle will be key to his having any shot to win the nomination.

You can visit his campaign webpage here