Friday, September 28, 2012

SEPTEMBER 28, 2012

     Well, the first presidential debate is almost upon us--next week, in fact.  They are high drama, of course, but do they matter?  Do they really change the result?  Well, maybe sometimes.

    I don't remember Franklin Roosevelt ever debating an opponent.  Of course, he didn't need to.  He was leading us out of a truly great depression.  Who could argue with that?   Dwight Eisenhower had led us to victory in a huge, bloody war.  Nobody was going to debate that either.

    I think the one time a debate really mattered was John Kennedy versus Richard Nixon in 1960.  Nixon had played in the big leagues, been to the summits, stood with popular President Dwight Eisenhower.  Kennedy was a young senator--nothing wrong with that, but....And yet, of course, the new guy won.  It was the first presidential debate to be on TV.  Everyone watched and everyone talked afterward about how calm Kennedy was, how cool, how collected.  Nixon--gasp, shudder--sweated a lot and looked nervous.  I didn't see the debate;  I listened to it on the radio and, without the pictures, thought it was a draw.


    This time?  I'd bet on Obama, but who knows?  That's why we have these things.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

SEPTEMBER 25, 2012

I watched President Obama today on a TV talk show called "The View."  If you don't know, it's a talk show featuring five women, led by Whoopi Goldberg and Barbara Walters.  Obama has been on before.  Watching him you have a sense that this is a part of his day he really enjoys.

For one thing, he's good at it;  words come easily, no ers, ands, uhs or buts.  He smiles.  He's relaxed.

I don't know that that matters, but the wordsmith often does win the election.

 "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."  JFK:  "Ask not what your country can do for you;  ask what you can do for your country."  Richard Nixon: I am not a crook.   Well, not great oratory there, but he was trying to avoid impeachment. Failed, of course, he resigned instead.

ernor Romney?  I remember him sayng that his wife "drives around a couple of Cadillacs."  More recently he said that 47% of us are "unwilling to take responsibility of our lives."  Not eloquence, of course, but affluence.  And the vote is still several weeks off.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

SEPTEMBER 20, 2012


    If you saw this column Tuesday or if you read any newspaper, heard any newcast, you noticed Mitt Romney saying 47% of Americans are "dependent on government."  "My job is not to worry about those people," he said.  He is certainly acting as if that were true.

     The Washington Post
, in a column called The Fact Checker notes, among other things, that, yes, about 46% of American households paid no income tax. But it adds that for about three-quarters of working Americans payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare far exceed what they pay in income tax.

     The Post grades Romney's speech
at Three Pinocchios ("significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions") and adds:  "Perhaps it is too much to expect a politician to be entirely accurate in a closed-door speech, but one would think he would have even less need to stretch the truth if he thought the cameras were not rolling."  Well said.

    Romney's campaign so far sounds as if he wants to be shocking and wrong. Shocking may appeal to voters, I suppose, but surely he doesn't want to be wrong. What about a small, silver foot? He could wear it around his neck and suck on it quietly when scheduled to talk.

     Just a thought
– along with an affectionate nod to Ann Richards.



Tuesday, September 18, 2012

SEPTEMBER 18, 2012

It isn't over yet, but sometimes it feels as if it were.

Mother Jones magazine unveiled a video this week showing Mitt Romney sa
ying that 47% of Americans are "dependent on government" and that they think "they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it."

Romney added that his job "is not to worry about these people
. I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."  His comments, Romney said, distinguished between President Obama's belief in a "government-centered society" and his "free-people, free-enterprise, free-market, consumer-driven approach.     

Romney conceded at one point that his remarks were "not elegantly stated" but that's as far as he went.

And of course he said he had a fine staff, a fine campaign, etc
.  That's what you say.  But these last few days, it's looked a little raggedy.


I don't know that anyone needs to cue the fat lady just yet but she might be warming up those pipes.

Monday, September 17, 2012

SEPTEMBER 17, 2012

     This one is for Alec, my son.  I know Ringo was always your favorite Beatle, but this is a story about John I think you'll  like.  It could even change your life.

   It seems there's this island--the size of a dozen soccer fields, the newspaper says--off Ireland's west coast.  It's for sale at $340,000.  Forty five years ago Lennon bought it,  just a short while before he was shot and killed in New York.  Lennon, it turns out, had plans to build a house there. They could have sat there, he and she, kissed while gazing at the sea.

     Lennon and Yoko visited the island in 1968.
 There are pictures.  It's name is Dornish, but locals call in "Beatle Island."  And John had hopes for the place. "I hope we're a nice old couple," he said, "living off the coast of Irealand or something like that--looking out at our scrapbook of madness."

ell, yes.  Interested?  A guy can dream, can't he?  Imagine.




Friday, September 14, 2012

SEPTEMBER 14, 2012

     There's a lot of Romneyesque rhetoric wandering around these days as to how President Obama ought to go after the bad guys in the Middle East--Egypt, Libya, Syria, wherever.  Eugene Robinson offers an example in today's Washington Post of a time when a different philosophy prevailed.

     The President was Ronald Reagan
;  terriorists attacked U.S. Marine barracks in 1983 and killed 241 Americans.  Reagan's response?  He withdrew the remaining U.S. forces from Lebanon.  Things stayed fairly calm, as I remember.  No major war, for sure.

    The point isn't that that would work now
.  I don't know whether it would or not.  The point is that force doesn't always work either.  Good grief, some foolish president invaded Iraq and Afghanistan in the first place.  Bad calls? Polls show most of us think so now.

     Walk softly, one president said, but carry a big stick.
 He could have added, only use it if you have to.  I may be wrong, but I don't think Egypt and Libya and Syria are on the "must bash" list yet.



Wednesday, September 12, 2012

SEPTEMBER 12, 2012

      We're in a traditional mess just now in the Middle East involving traditional players--Iran, Israel, ourselves.  We probably have only limited control over whether or not Iran becomes a nuclear power.  Our real argument just now seems to be with our old friend, Israel.

     Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Natanyhu says the U.S. does not have the "moral right" to forestall military action.
 By Israel, I guess, against the Arabs.  Well, no.  Nor by the Arabs againat Israel, come to that.  Every country, democracy or dictatorship, must figure out what wars it is willing to risk and who will aid or oppose it if it risks one.

     The White House meanwhile has announced that President Obama will not meet with Netanyahu later this month
.  I think that's called a hint.

     I've quoted before here a preacher of my childhood who said early in the atomic age, "For the first time, man has the capacity t
o destroy God's created order."  We've only used it twice--Hiroshima and Nagasaki--but I worry a lot about when we blunder into using our (everyone's) bombs again.



Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 9, 2012

     Well, they're both over – the conventions, that is.  The GOP and the Dems have nominated their candidates.   People used to say conventions were the most exciting thing in politics but I doubt if that's much believed anymore.  For months you had a passel of primary candidates in your house ever night on TV and this year they nominated exactly the people we thought they would.  Not too much excitement there.

     Given the changing nature of the Republican Party, it's a very long time since the party of Lincoln was for freedom and against slavery;  this year they're about something new. They keep talking about how awful the economy is.  It seems to me, maybe just because I'm old and retired, that it has sometimes been worse than now, even though it has also certainly been better.   


      They, at least the more ideological Republicans, are seriously interested in cutting government spending, including programs we're used to. Replace Medicare with a voucher program?  You'd get less money. Do the same for Social Security? Same result

    I don't know how popular ideas like these are.  If President Obama wins, he'll presumably veto them.  The Republicans will have to control Congress--they control the House but not the Senate--to get any of this stuff even that far.

   I saw one poll that suggested the race was pretty much a tie, but I don't think so.  Seems to me the incumbent, President Obama, has the edge.  He has the experience by now; he's ended one of our wars and may even get our troops out of Afghanistan, though that's never been easy for the colonizing country, not for Britain in the19th century, nor for the Soviets in the 20th, nor for us today


   One thing I think will be very important--their debates. Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney are two men with very different views of the world.  Their debates ought to make those differences clear.

    So it could be an interesting election after all.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Okay, the Republicans had theirs and the Dems are having theirs this week. When it's over we'll know...what?  That it's election time, but we knew that already.

People, many self-declared experts
say, think it's the economy, stupid, and maybe it is.  I can certainly remember when times were better but I can also remember when they were worse.  Not a lof of beggars or guys selling apples on the street these days.  

Each side has its heavy hitters making points. "He can't tell you that you're better off," GOP VP hopeful Paul Ryan told a crowd in Greenville.
"Simply put the Jimmy Carter years look like the good old days compared to where we are now.  Democrat Joe Biden, who has the job Ryan wants, offers, of course, a different view.  "Folks, let me make something clear, the VP said, "Let me just set it up this way...Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive."

Just think, folks. Only two months left.  





       The Rev. Sun Myung Moon has died in his native South Korea.  He was 92.

     He led a religion, of course, the Unification Church, and he expected to change the world. The Washington Post summarized: "His stated ambition was to rule the world and replace Christianity with his own faith, which blended elements of Christianity, Confucianism, and Korean folk religions." He was as famous for mass weddings, probably, as for anything else. Hundreds of people.  Sometimes, the couples hadn't even met each other.

     He didn't rule the world, of course. No one has ruled the whole planet for a very long time, if ever. He raised huge amounts of money and built many, many churches

     What will happen to his faith now that he's gone? My guess is t
hat it will dwindle but not disappear.  Nobody, not even grumpy retired reporters, can know for sure. It must be time for the uncertain pundit's favorite line:  only time will tell. 



Saturday, September 1, 2012

AUGUST 31, 2012

      Mitt Romney, I think, tried to use his convention to present himself as an ordinary guy not just someone who likes to tell people "You're fired." Did he succeed? We'll know in a couple of months.

     A woman named Pam Finlayson told how Romney visited her sick daughter in intensive care. "When he looked down tenderly at our daughter his eyes filled with tears".....When the girl died, the mother said, "When it comes to loving our neighbor, we can talk about it, or we can live it.  The Romneys live it every single day" 

     Compassion is a virtue, of course, but is it the only one we want our presidents to have?  

     I remember watching President Obama a few months ago on "The View"  talk show. He was very quick with words, very at ease. The first presidential debate should be a doozie.