Tag Archives: Romney

Christie’s Missed Opportunity And What He Might Have Said

Governor Christie’s free ride had to end sometime.  The expectations were simply too high.  He maximized his public persona with waves of town hall meetings where he waged a deft social media campaign to mold himself into the tough-talking, ass-kicking Governor from the rough and tumble State of New Jersey.  I never saw a “Jersey Strong” bumper sticker before he came to Trenton.  His badass brand appealed to voters nationwide who hunger for leadership.  Many wondered whether he might be the savior who could bark some sense into a populous in need of a dose of reality when it comes to the sacrifices looming down the Turnpike.   But I think he overestimated the nation’s affection.  As this year progressed, he looked interesting, even promising, but the jury was still out.  Unfortunately, his performance this week missed the mark, and the jury will remain out. But he should take heart, others have suffered similarly and lived to campaign another day.

To be fair, Governor Christie was overhyped.  He has a strong personality, but I never viewed him as a gifted speaker, and the New Jersey Comeback is another example of his marketing genius.  And yet, here he was, with an audience ready to anoint him as the heir apparent in 2016.  I’m sure he’s thinking backstage that if he brings his blunt, fist-pumping “A” game, he can’t miss.  I’ve seen him deftly handle the powerful unions, strong-willed Democratic opponents and other traditional power brokers in New Jersey.  His manipulation of town hall meetings demonstrated a media/marketing savvy that catapulted him to national renown.  He stole headlines stoking his New Jersey chutzpah in clashes with loudmouths in town meetings and on the Jersey boardwalk.  This guy thumbed his nose at millions of federal dollars for a new tunnel to New York City.  So, when his moment finally arrived, I was not surprised when he stepped from behind the curtain and pumped that meaty arm into the air clapping like he’s about to lead that sea of milk toast onto the gridiron.

And then he gives his speech.  No real surprises I guess.  I had a few flashbacks to my high school football locker room, and I wanted to tell him to stop yelling at me.  I don’t want an offensive line coach as my President, but I figured he’d be burlier than usual.  But as the speech dragged on, you could feel the Convention audience begin to sag, like football “dummies” softened by years of blocking practice.  His yelling seemed contrived and his ego inflated.  I sat for awhile, like so many others, and realized that this speech was by him, about him and all for him.   Big mistake.

When you are the Governor, especially in New Jersey, you can make it about you.  You hold tremendous authority and as a Republican you are in pitched battle with a Legislature that will always be Democratically controlled.  When he came to Tampa, we already knew he talked tough and followed through on his promises.  We had followed his many visits outside New Jersey where he threw his weight around and bolstered the campaigns of his more testosterone challenged fellow Republicans.  We didn’t need more of that.  We needed to see another side of our Governor, something more than the brusque football coach.  Republicans hoped that he would add some heft to their Presidential candidate, whose personality is so unlike our Governor’s.

Maybe Governor Christie was swept up in what must be an intoxicating swirl of accolades.  Perhaps he felt that 2012 should have been his year.  For whatever reason, he put himself before the team and everyone could see it.  All of these Convention speakers should understand one thing.  We don’t want to hear you tell us how great you are (or how tough your grandfather had it).  We want to reach that conclusion on our own, discerning greatness and promise as we listen to your vision for our country.  We yearn for the reluctant, charismatic leader who demands and inspires us to be better. Governor Christie seemed intent on bullying us into believing he should be President.  Instead of touting his record, as distorted as it was, he needed only to build the case for Governor Romney.  Had he done so, he would have set the table for his 2016 campaign.  As it is, he did serious damage to his chances.

As I thought about it, I got to thinking what he might have said.  So, for whatever it’s worth, this is what I think he should have said:

I stand before you tonight as the humble servant of the people of the State of New Jersey.  Humble because this son of New Jersey, who grew up in the most modest of circumstances, believed in a system that rewards hard work and perseverance.  My mother taught me that fervent study in a strong public education system would prepare me for the work ahead.  She encouraged me to give back to my fellow citizens.  She made me believe that my time in politics would afford me the privilege of service to my fellow citizens.  She taught me that plain-speaking candor and honesty resonate with a public hungry to improve this great country of ours.  Some say I may have taking that advice too far, but if I have, I did so with the goal of overcoming a mode of governing that doomed future generations to a lifetime of excess debt and financial failure.   I have dedicated myself to calling things as I see them and pulling no punches.  I have been very fortunate thus far in my career in that my New Jersey brothers and sisters have entrusted me to abandon the traditional approach to governing and take bold steps to undo decades of short sightedness by elected official from both sides of the aisle.  And if I never do more than serve out my term and make this speech tonight, I will live my life content that I lived the beliefs my mother instilled in me.  I think that’s all each of us can expect to do, live out our beliefs in a world that challenges them so steadily.

Tonight will be no different.  I will speak plainly and honestly, because I believe in what I am telling you, and I am confident in the man of whom I speak.  Our country finds itself at a crossroads.  My generation has stood on the shoulders of those who came before us, and we have enjoyed the fruits of their sacrifices.  As we grew, so did the wealth of this country.   The Cold War ended, the Wall came down, totalitarianism failed, and we saw ourselves striding confidently into a 21st Century where our values and our leadership might change the world forever.  But as we enjoyed this prosperity, the seeds of the great challenges we now face had already been sown.  In our contentment, we let our guard down.   Those of us in this conventional hall tonight, elected representatives with a duty to our fellow citizens, collectively failed to guard the corridors of freedom.  Following a pattern well worn in civilizations past, our wealth and our success dimmed our vision and loosened our grip on the levers of government.  Our country prospers when our citizens participate in its governance.  In recent times, we lost our way.

And now we must pay the price. Prosperity is not pre-ordained, and borrowing our way to prosperity is a prescription for permanent pain.  The shock of the last few years has disoriented many and disillusioned more.  Correcting the damage will require a plan.  Not just any plan will do.  We need a plan for our future that will day by day, month by month and year by year guide us back to prosperity.  I have waited patiently for almost 4 years to hear that plan.  But my patience is at its end.  Some call me a moderate.  But I think that simply means that when I deal with someone, if you speak the truth, regardless of your party stripes, I will work with you, even support you.  Had I heard a plan, had I been convinced that the collective train encompassing each of the states of this great nation was embarking on a new journey with a clear vision for our country, I would gladly climb aboard.  But ladies and gentlemen, this train has no locomotive.  We have no engineer, and we desperately need one.

Our dire financial circumstances demand extraordinary leadership.  We need the best engineer.  We need the strongest locomotive. Governor Romney arrives at this moment in history with an unmatched resume for taking charge of this train.  Our greatest problems are financial in nature.  This country, this business of ours, needs fixing, and Mitt Romney has spent his life fixing broken businesses.  They called him to Salt Lake City to fix the Olympics and he did. He understands like no one else how our economy impacts our businesses.  Most of us would find tedium in the business of balance sheets, income statements, chains of distribution, ROI’s, mergers, and countless other financial minutia consumed, analyzed and organized with an eye toward increasing value and improving efficiency.  But in this present moment, where our nation’s balance sheet has never been worse, we need the wisdom of someone who can discern a path from this dark place, fire up the engines of this economy and get this train moving once again.

We can’t waste more time.  We can’t hope for a new vision from our current President.  He means well, but cannot bring to bear the toolchest carried by our nominee.  Providence has delivered Mitt Romney to this moment in history.  He seeks this office not to sing us songs or tell jokes.  He’s not promising a smooth golf swing.  He’s not checking opinion polls in Europe.  No, Mitt Romney asks for your vote so he can get to work.  That’s what he does best.  And he’s ready to get to work saving our country.  As I stand before you tonight, I beg you and my fellow citizens with all my heart, to get aboard the train, and come November, make damn sure Mitt Romney is driving.

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Pandering to the worst elements of the far right, Governor Romney returned to his “roots” and said “No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised.” Mitt’s unspoken insinuation is that doubts remain as to where the President was born. And Mr. Romney knows all too well that the birther movement feeds on an undercurrent of strong feelings, cultivated in fear, that subtly deem the President as foreign or un-American. These sentiments allow for billboards like this or comments like this from this Judge in Texas.  Rather than speak out against these hate-filled zealots, Governor Romney gives credibility to their disturbing rants. These personal slights breed in the same slime pool that spawned Michelle Bachman’s claim that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s aide Huma Abedin is a Muslim Brotherhood agent.

Fortunately for the President, every time Governor Romney begins to gain ground in the polls, he makes unscripted comments in public. Determined to show his creds as the arch conservative he’s not, his comments bring into sharper focus a man uncomfortable with who he is and thus willing to pander to the worst elements of the crowd he finds himself in. He flys over to Israel and starts dissing Palestinians as lesser humans when he’s preaching to the Israeli Jews. While he’s at it, he throws Mexicans under the bus as subsisting in a a lesser culture. He reminds me of the guy we all know who leans over and whispers some comment or slur and gives you the elbow in the ribs and the big smile “you know what I’m saying”? I get the feeling that Romney is one of those guys. He’s searching for himself, and his history of shifting policy positions reinforce this unfortunate truth.

I hope he finds himself soon, because I am tired of the people he’s pandering to. Nuns taught me to take care of your fellow man, have compassion, don’t judge. Few of us follow the model very well, but I can’t get behind a platform that says take care of yourself and and trust the super rich guys to run businesses that will treat us really well. Mitt doesn’t seem willing to stand up to the crazies in his own party and that scares me a bit. My hope is that come November, while no one may be asking for his birth certificate, there will still be some who want to see his tax returns.


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Ryan Deserves Your Scrutiny

I did not know much about Congressman Paul Ryan when Mitt Romney announced his choice for Vice President.  I had seen him doing one of those Republican responses to the President’s State of the Union, or some such speech.  From what I saw, he spoke well, looked young and fit, and did not produce in me any immediate, negative reaction.  He seemed a little unemotional, but, as a Catholic, I felt a certain affinity to  this young, energetic guy with the Irish name.  In my mind, how bad could he be?

Once I heard he was the choice for VP, I figured I better do my homework on Paul Ryan.  I read a good article in the New Yorker (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/08/06/120806fa_fact_lizza), written just days prior to Saturday’s announcement.  I looked at information on his web page about his budget proposal.  I read articles on the webpage for the Tax Policy Center (http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/).  In searching these documents, I did so concerned that Mr. Ryan may harbor some of the same illusions as his  running mate about how easy it is for poor people to rise above their worsening economic circumstances.  I have written previously on my belief that Mr. Romney’s comments abroad suggested a lack of perspective when it came to the socio-economic forces standing in the way of upward mobility for many Americans.  Was Mr. Ryan another Social Darwinist using his personal life experience as a yardstick for measuring the upward mobility of his fellow Americans?

The answer seems to be a hardened “yes”.  In reaching that conclusion, I believe Mr. Ryan is probably a good man who believes fervently in the views he espouses so energetically.  But his record is unmistakable and deserves your scrutiny.  His current proposal radically cuts funding to Medicaid by making Medicaid a block grant program.  He proposes massive tax cuts with few details on where much of the money will come from to offset these cuts. His plans for a two-tiered personal income tax system with rates of 10% and 25% would drastically reduce revenue, but he refuses to consider higher rates for the wealthiest Americans.  This ensures that millions of poor and middle class voters will pick up the slack.  His plan for Medicare ventures raises serious questions about whether those vouchers will keep pace with rising health care costs.  Make no mistake, his policies and proposals reflect choices.  He believes that saving money for rich people and their businesses beats providing the most basic aid to poor people.  There is no other explanation for these policies.  What makes them especially abhorrent is that Mr. Ryan has no personal life experience that would justify the extraordinary degree of certainty he brings to policy positions that work such harsh consequences on the most vulnerable in our society. Even the Catholic Bishops take issue with the morality of his budget choices.

I also have yet to see justification for the claim that he is the “detail” man for the Republicans on budget issues.  In searching these documents, I see a massive tax cut with lots of gaps on how these cuts will be funded.  I also see gaps in Mr. Ryan’s perspective.  Like his running mate, he has never had to wonder whether his family will be safe financially.  He has not had to consider life without health insurance or walking to work in a crime-ridden neighborhood.  I don’t think his safety net has every been in real jeopardy.  From what I can tell, he has not held a job in the private sector since high school.  And while you could say the same thing about me on many of these points, the difference is that I know it.  What makes these guys scary is that they believe their own success justifies policies that rely upon a creed that says the path to success for all Americans can follow a route similar to theirs.  When it comes to making decisions on how the most vulnerable in our society will be treated, I think I will cast my lot with the guy whose character was forged in more challenging circumstances and whose perspective casts a pessimistic eye on the idea that investing in our richest citizens will somehow benefit the least of us.


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Romney’s Delusional Drift

Fresh off his trip abroad, Mitt Romney’s performance adds new fuel to a fire whose slow burn has been getting hotter.  This tax thing won’t go away, and the Democrats will drive his campaign into a dark corner over it.  If it is as bad as it is starting to appear, I have a tough time believing the powers that be would have let him get nominated.  And yet, Sarah Palin comes to mind.  If he paid little or no taxes over the last decade or so, how could the Republican establishment have endorsed his nomination?  Based on Harry Reid’s recent comments, these tax problems have surfaced before.  In normal circumstances, the faltering economy would make the President’s re-election next to impossible, but Mitt’s wealth and his apparent track record of paying a meager tax bill may offset the President’s economic bad news.  I don’t believe people should pay more taxes than the law requires, but the question here is how far did Mitt go in manipulating arcane provisions of our tax code and moving money offshore.  If he went as far as I suspect he did, then his recent comments about the “cultural” differences between Palestinians and Jews and the U.S. and Mexico, suggest he has no appreciation for the significant advantage that his wealth and his ability to hire the best tax shelter specialists have given him.  More disburbing, they bespeak a belief that hard work amidst unregulated corporations produces financial success for him and anyone willing to match his efforts.  As voters begin to sharpen their focus, these beliefs and the extraordinarily favorable tax treatment he received will not sit well with the 99%.  Before he criticizes those whose circumstances deny them the opportunity of ever achieving his financial success, he should  acknowledge that his privileged upbringing makes such comparisons absurd.  Perhaps he has acknowledged this already (and I applaud his tithing), but I sense that he has moved though life in a delusional existence and has no appreciation for how most of the world lives.  Unless he wakes up and admits that he has been successful in large measure due to good fortune and a very friendly tax code, his campaign will drift inevitably into the hands of an angry mob of voters unfamiliar with such good fortune and who pay a far larger share of their income to the Government he now hopes to lead.

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