Marco Rubio, the Dems, and the GOP

It looks as if, at least for the time being, Marco Rubio is the face of the mainstream Republican Party.  I’m not concerned with this at all.  In fact, on the whole, I kinda like Rubio.  At least enough to want to hear more.  He seems like a pretty straightforward guy, as politicians go, and I think he approaches his views genuinely.  Make it past those wickets and you’ve gotten my attention.  To be honest I haven’t yet read the Time article, nor do I think I know enough about him at this point to offer either my support, or my opposition.  I do, however, look forward to learning more.politifact_photos_marcorubio

Unfortunately, though, our political discussions are rarely based on facts, or even common sense for that matter.  Instead they are grounded in hyperbole, situational ethics, and one of my personal favorites; cognitive dissonance.  Assuming the Rubio trend continues towards 2016 (admittedly far from a sure thing), it will be interesting to see how both parties react to the shoe being on the other foot.  That shoe being a youthful one term Senator, energizing a minority demographic, with terrific speaking skills and gift for connecting with a plethora of other voting blocks.

The GOP already has a history of cognitive dissonance on things Obama has done, highlighted with a bit by Jon Stewart here. It’s funny, and insightful.  I have also written in the past about the selective memory and hollow arguments on talk radio.

But I also have full faith in the Democratic party’s ability to make fools of themselves, as well.  I wonder, will the same people who wrote articles defending Obama’s thin resume by saying things like, there are two problems with the attack on Obama’s inexperience: it isn’t true, and it doesn’t matter. be able to resist the temptation to question Rubio’s youth? In 2008 some pundits were doubling down by quoting Obama, as he referenced Bill Clinton. Candidate Obama said, ““I remember what was said years ago by a candidate running for president, ‘The same old experience is not relevant. You can have the right kind of experience and the wrong kind of experience.’ Well that candidate was Bill Clinton. And I think he was absolutely right., Will those in the media jettison that line of thinking because the subject is a Republican vice a Democrat?  I doubt it. I bet the hypocrisy happens. I see it coming a mile away.

What to do? Well, here’s three things I’d like to see:

1- Rubio needs to lead without campaigning.  He doesn’t need to be on the cover of Time, or take any trips to Iowa or New Hampshire.  If you want some gravitas, do it by leading the way on issues.  Jump in on the sequester and immigration. In so doing, Senator, please take a stand you can still conceivably defend three years from now. Don’t pander to the base now and try to run to the center later. Principles matter.

2- Democrats, please, please, please avoid going after Rubio on the inexperience thing.  That ship sailed in 2008. And when it did, you were at the helm.  What was good for the goose is good for the gander.  You will look like fools if you do this.

3- If the Dems do play the “inexperienced” card, they way for the GOP to answer it would be with positive facts about Rubio, not in pointing out the hypocrisy of the left. Otherwise we will just have more people shouting at each other about how bad/evil/mean/incompetent their opponents are, and not about any actual thoughts/ideas/plans for making a positive change in Washington.

I don’t know if this will happen. It’s obviously a long way to 2016.  I just hope those that will be involved think about this stuff now. Maybe if they do we can avoid some of the “silly season” that rolls around every 4 years.

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Palin’s Card Game: Where The Republicans Got Off Track

The photo below is being passed around Facebook and it struck me on two levels.

First, the caption is funny.  I don’t think anyone really believes the President “shoots skeet all the time”.  It’s a phrase he never should have uttered, and once printed only caused the media to question it.  This in turn put the President in the no-win situation of either walking back the statement or providing proof.  He did the latter (kind of) by releasing an awkward photo, only to take a good ribbing from his political opponents for it.  So the meme around social media is expected and warranted.  You get what you ask for, Mr. President.Cards

But the second thing that struck me was the picture itself.  I’m not sure exactly when it was made, but I believe it represents where Republicans went wrong.  Sarah Palin, placed squarely in the center of Republican heroes?  Really?

I assume this was painted at the height of her celebrity, which was only a few years ago. Her fall from relevance in this short time only proves why this picture fails. Efforts to force candidates into an alliance with political heroes of the past is dangerous.

Reagan, Eisenhower, Bush, Lincoln…..and Palin?  I don’t think so. Sarah Palin playing cards with Barry Goldwater  would be a more accurate portrayal of her historical significance.

In fact, Palin represents the movement within the Republican party that many (including me) feel is the primary cause for Obama’s election and subsequent reelection.  McCain’s move to choose her was the tipping point in my decision to vote non-republican for the first time in my life.  It was her wing of the party that most recently spawned the likes of Michelle Bachman and Herman Cain.  Their presence in the primaries pushed electable people like Jon Hunstman and Tim Pawlenty out of the picture far too early, and eventually became a drag on Romney he could not overcome.

This is not to say that the ideas of the far right are not genuine feelings.  I have many friends who honestly subscribe to a Tea Party philosophy because they genuinely believe it’s best for the country.  The ideas deserve a place in the discussion, especially on economic matters. I believe we need a government, but acknowledge it is bloated and inefficient.  I appreciate the Tea Party as a reality check on ideas, but don’t completely subscribe to their philosophy.  I, for one, look forward to a “return to normalcy” in the Republican party.  I’ve sat out the last two elections as far as the Republican party goes; voting Democrat once and, most recently, Libertarian.  I’d like to see Huntsman remain relevant, I would like to see more of Pawlenty, and I’s sure there are others out there.

But paintings of a polarizing, failed VP nominee, in the center of actual presidents, most of which where elected more than once?  That’s about as funny as Obama shooting a gun.

Knowns and Unknowns of an Undecided Voter

Saturday Night Live recently had a skit mocking the undecided voter, portraying those of us uncommitted to a certain candidate as completely unaware.  I can take a joke, and to some extent it was funny, but it does not describe me.  I am certainly undecided, but certainly not unaware.  So if I don’t know exactly who I’m going to vote for, then what do I know and believe?  Well………

1. I think we need fiscal responsibility

2. I believe in Social Justice

3. I know the first two points are not 100% compatible

4. I believe we need a strong military but know there is a lot of fraud, waste, and abuse in the DOD

5. I believe the recession is complicated and the only way out involves much more than the funding of PBS

6. I believe PBS will do just fine without government funding, but ceasing to fund it will not make any significant difference in the federal bottom line.

7. I don’t think there is a war on Christmas, guns, or women and people who rail against these “wars” are using politics for personal power and influence.

8. I know there is a war in Afghanistan that costs a lot of money and lives but is no longer on the radar of most of the country.

9. I believe there has been a natural creep of executive branch powers that is enabled by political parties who can not bring themselves to push back against one of their own.

10. I believe Mitt Romney really wants to make America successful and believes his plan will do that.

11. I believe President Obama feels the same way.

12. I believe there are very influential people in the Republican Party that are more concerned with making money than with helping the less fortunate.

13. I believe there are influential people in the Democratic Party that are more concerned with making money than helping the economy recover.

14. I believe Social Security and Medicare will need significant changes in order to survive.

15. I believe basic health care is a right, but extensive health care is a privilege.

16. I believe military health care is essentially socialized, single payer, health care and it works pretty well (all things considered).

17. I believe even a well intended voucher system will not be able to keep pace with health care costs, mostly due to government administration issues.

19. I believe if it did keep up, we would be in the same boat we are now.

20. I believe every candidate on the ballot in all 50 states should be allowed to debate (See: Gary Johnson).

21. I believe people have different views of the need for government based on their personal life experiences.

22. I like Moderate Mitt, but dislike the extreme right wing of the party to which he had to pander.

23. I liked the idealism of Barack Obama and was disappointed that he was unable to work more with Republicans.

24. I believe his inability to work with Republicans was mutually acceptable.

25. I think that if Romney wins, the most vocal Obama critics will continue to find new and interesting conspiracy theories to support.

26. I believe the tax/debt ceiling issues that we’ve put off for so long could have been solved if not for political gamesmanship by the parties.

27. I do not believe this election will make either side more willing to compromise than before, no matter who wins.

28. I believe too many people view politics as a spectator sport. I think they root for their home team candidate in order to improve their own self esteem.

29. I believe the playing field is rigged by the parties to exclude any other legitimate challengers.

30. I believe many Americans are unwittingly being duped by their party of choice through scare tactics about the opposition.

31. I believe Congress is the most polarized institution and represents the worst part of us as a country.

32. I believe the redistricting that led to “safe” districts for parties is the primary cause of the polarization.

 

Here’s what I DON’T know:

1. Can Mitt Romney influence the Republican Party…or will it be the other way around?

2. If Obama wins…..can the Republicans ever work with him?

3. Is a vote for Gary Johnson worth anything more than a personal statement?

4. Does it really matter who wins the executive branch if Congress remains so dysfunctional?

I have my absentee ballot (for a swing state, no less) and will vote, but not until after the debates and probably not until the last minute.  Any thoughts or comments that are respectful and intelligent are welcome.  Honest debate is good and I welcome any opportunity to learn more about the candidates and issues.

Being Half Right Is Worse Than Being All Wrong

“A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to put its shoes on.” That statement is generally attributed to Mark Twain, but no one is 100% sure.  It’s amazing how accurate it is, especially when you consider that no matter who said it, it was uttered waaaay before anyone could cut and paste a piece of political news onto a Facebook page.

My previous post addressed the need to search for political truth (or some semblance of it) by seeking alternative news sources.

Here’s another tip: Beat them to the source.  There are terrific sites out there that check out what our politicians say for accuracy.  It’s good business. As we all know, they have a  lot of things to report back on.  And when they discover someone has twisted the truth or outright lied, the media will pick it up as a story.  Just not all the media, only the media that thinks that particular finding supports their agenda. Campaigns and Super PACs are even worse.

Why are we letting these media outlets filter out which lies and innuendos are important to our decision making?  In this case, our media of choice might be giving us the facts, just not ALL the facts. Being half right is dangerous and can be worse than being all wrong.

Here’s where social media can help you become a more informed voter.  If you are on Facebook, you can “like” Factcheck.org, Politifact.com, and the Factchecker blog at the Washington Post.  This way you’ll see every thing they rule on, not just the stuff your media of choice wants you to hear.

This may be less stressful on your nerves than channel surfing behind enemy lines, but in the end probably an even better idea.

https://www.facebook.com/factcheck?ref=ts

https://www.facebook.com/politifact?ref=ts

https://www.facebook.com/FactChecker

Although they don’t have a Facebook page that feeds stories like the links below, http://www.snopes.com is also a great site to check the validity of things.

A well informed electorate is essential, but just because you know all the talking points of one side does not make anyone “well informed”.  You may very well do all these things and still support your original candidate. In fact, you probably will, but you’ll also be less likely to add to the echo chamber that is ruining the current political discourse.

Swerving For The Truth

I’ve spent the last hour flipping back and forth between Sean Hannity and Rachel Maddow.  The “last channel” button on the remote control makes it pretty easy.

After a while I realized I was just swerving from one side of the road to the other and the common themes are interesting:

– Our guy is looking out for you!

– The other guys are hypocrites

I think they’re both right. I think both sides truly believe they have the right plan and I believe they are all hypocrites. I think both sides think the ends justify the means.

The problem is that if you stay on one channel, you only get half the story (the half you like).  But you know what- there are some things you don’t like that are still true and important.

Swerving from one side of the road to the other may not be the best way to operate a vehicle, but at least you stay on the road.  Keep veering left or right and you’ll be in a corn field before you know, maybe even wrapped around a tree, either way you cease to go forward.

The challenge: if you only watch one network- take a few days to watch the one you despise. It may be tough, it may make you really mad, but you’ll find out that hidden in the mostly partisan talking points, arguments, and sanctimonious crap, there will be something that you hear that will be bad for your candidate, and yet 100% true, and still  not reported on your network of choice.

If you want to be an informed voter: Swerve for the truth.

Ben Franklin Was Wrong! (and that’s OK)

Yesterday as I watched “This Week with Christiane Amanpour” the round table discussion focused on the US Constitution. I found it very interesting, in particular the view that the Executive Branch has been steadily increasing its power over the other two branches.  It has been my opinion that the biggest problem facing American politics is the fact that our system of checks and balances is no longer administered by the three branches of government, but instead the job has fallen to the two political parties.

This has led us to the rigid orthodoxy that paralyzes any effort to get anything done.  Witness the debate on the debt ceiling.  Neither side can compromise; in fact the word compromise is taken as a sign of weakness.   This tug-of-war has led to Congressional ineffectiveness and enabled (or forced?)  the Executive branch to fill the void of power. While there are many recent examples (Health Care, Libya) in the news today, it is by no means a new phenomenon.  From Obama, to Bush, to Nixon, to Roosevelt, to Wilson, you would be hard pressed to find any President that did not believe in expanding the power of the Executive branch. It’s the answer to an inefficient and messy legislature.  Even Thomas Jefferson, himself a founding father, can be accused of this regarding the purchasing of the Louisiana Territory. I believe that this is the natural order of things, which is precisely why the Constitution was drawn up.

Our country was founded on the idea of not having a king. Not only were the founders against a hereditary monarchy, but they were also concerned with the idea of placing an inordinate amount of power in the hands of a single individual.

I believe our Legislative Branch needs a good dose of humility in order let go of ideological trappings.  Perhaps then they can work together and provide a better check on the Executive branch. On the “This Week”  yesterday Jill Lepore quoted Ben Franklin saying , “let us doubt a little of our own infallibility“.  This got me curious and after some quick research I found the speech she was alluding to.  It was short enough and so good that it is posted in its entirety below.  I believe the sections in bold are particularly applicable to our day in regards to the current climate.

Ben Franklin

Before the Constitutional Convention of 1787

 “I CONFESS that I do not entirely approve of this Constitution at present; but, sir, I am not sure I shall never approve of it, for, having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged, by better information or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that, the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment of others. Most men, indeed, as well as most sects in religion, think themselves in possession of all truth, and that wherever others differ from them, it is so far error. Steele, a Protestant, in a dedication, tells the pope that the only difference between our two churches in their opinions of the certainty of their doctrine is, the Romish Church is infallible, and the Church of England is never in the wrong. But, tho many private persons think almost as highly of their own infallibility as of that of their sect, few express it so naturally as a certain French lady, who, in a little dispute with her sister said: “But I meet with nobody but myself that is always in the right.”

In these sentiments, sir, I agree to this Constitution with all its faults—if they are such—because I think a general government necessary for us, and there is no form of government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered; and I believe, further, that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other. I doubt, too, whether any other convention we can obtain may be able to make a better Constitution; for, when you assemble a number of men, to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected?

It therefore astonishes me, sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies, who are waiting with confidence to hear that our counsels are confounded like those of the builders of Babel, and that our States are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting one another’s throats. Thus I consent, sir, to this Constitution, because I expect no better, and because I am not sure that it is not the best. The opinions I have had of its errors I sacrifice to the public good. I have never whispered a syllable of them abroad. Within these walls they were born, and here they shall die. If every one of us, in returning to our constituents, were to report the objections he has had to it, and endeavor to gain partizans in support of them, we might prevent its being generally received, and thereby lose all the salutary effects and great advantages resulting naturally in our favor among foreign nations, as well as among ourselves, from our real or apparent unanimity. Much of the strength and efficiency of any government, in procuring and securing happiness to the people, depends on opinion, on the general opinion of the goodness of that government, as well as of the wisdom and integrity of its governors. I hope, therefore, for our own sakes, as a part of the people, and for the sake of our posterity, that we shall act heartily and unanimously in recommending this Constitution wherever our influence may extend, and turn our future thoughts and endeavors to the means of having it well administered.

On the whole, sir, I can not help expressing a wish that every member of the convention who may still have objections to it, would, with me, on this occasion, doubt a little of his own infallibility, and, to make manifest our unanimity, put his name to this instrument.”

Finally, as I flipped through the pages of “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine this July 4th morning, I found the flowing; “virtue is neither hereditary nor is it perpetual.”

The fact that many disparate opinions joined together to create a system of government over 200 years ago does not bestow on the current members of those bodies an inherent merit or distinction for their opinions in the present day.  This virtue must be continuously earned, and not individually only but organizationally as well.  Perhaps, when the House and Senate and work together, we can again have the checks and balances as it was designed.

To see the notes of James Madison regarding this speech including some of the discussion that followed click here: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/debates_917.asp