Archive | September, 2012

Random thoughts after reading Jay Root’s book

Yesterday, I downloaded Oops!, Jay Root’s new book about Rick Perry’s presidential campaign. It’s a good, easy read, and is based on the diary Jay kept during his travels with Governor Perry’s RMS Titanic-like effort.

Here are my 11 take-aways after reading it:

1. Jay Root has apparently bought everybody in America except me a drink this year, and I’m somewhat bitter about that.

2. It’s really fascinating reading a book in which I know almost every character.

3. The smart, hard-working Carrie Dann of NBC news is every bit as worthy of my longstanding crush as I suspected. Also, if my “Women of the 2012 Presidential Republican Primary Press Bus” calendar idea ever takes off, she’ll be rich, rich, I tell you.

4. Jay Root really needs to see somebody about his persistent travel anxiety.

5. The longtime Perry folks, many of whom I know well, hardly ever agree with on policy, and genuinely like anyway (sorry Democrats – get over it) got screwed even harder than I suspected at the time.

6. Texas Tribune staff really should consider unionizing. Apparently Evan Smith is working them half to death.

7. Rick and Anita Perry probably learned a lot from the experience, which may make the Governor a more formidable candidate in the future.

8. And that worries me.

9. A lot.

10. Sleep apnea? Seriously? Are you sure there wasn’t some Restless Leg Syndrome going on too?

11. if you’re a political nerd like me, you should buy the book.

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In a post-racial America, the Voting Rights Act is no longer needed.

Don’t you agree?


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Remember all those Republicans who complained about ACORN voter registration?

Yeah, well, oops. Watch this:

Update: also, now there’s this. Which means that somebody’s wrong – either the woman was working for the clerk’s office or she wasn’t. Seems like somebody should get to the bottom of it, and either train folks better, or indict somebody.

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Rick Perry calls on Satan to help Romney win [with video]

Earlier this week, Texas Governor Rick Perry participated in a conference call with evangelical Christians, in which he said that the separation of church and state was is devil’s work.

Perry didn’t mention the probability that separation of church and state is more likely the work of James Madison and the Federalist Papers, but I’m sure he just forgot about that teeny weeny detail.

Did Perry say it because he’s trying to advance the principles of Christianity? Of course not. He said it for partisan purposes – trying to help drag Mitt Romney over the finish line. This marks the bazillionth time Perry and other Republicans have used God as a political prop.

Here’s what I said about it on YNN’s “Capital Tonight,” which you can view in its entirety this Sunday morning at 11 am, on YNN in Austin or on the Texas Channel in other Texas media markets:

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I would like to thank our military veterans for their service

but I’m not so sure about these clowns.

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Nothing is more important to Texas Senate candidates than family values

…but apparently only when they’re talking about YOUR family.

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If only the Republicans had known this…

…before their convention in Tampa.


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Barack Obama: really really crappy socialist

The benchmark in responsible journalism for those offering commentary aught to be that those whom journalists call upon should be interesting, thought-provoking, and have an outstanding depth of understanding for the topic discussed. If they’re not all that, journalists should not call on them.

All too often these days, when reporters call on conservatives to comment on this election, the direction of the country, or the President’s leadership, it turns out to merely be an opportunity for those people to call President Obama a socialist.

This is usually the point at which I begin hollering and throwing stuff at my TV.

But interestingly, often as not, I don’t holler at the interviewee, because they’re just doing what hyper-partisans do – call names. They’re also not the ones in control of whether they’re polluting my television or newspaper – the reporters are. So I holler at the journalist, because I believe that there are really only two journalistically-valid responses for the oft-leveled “Obama is a socialist” charge: to immediately terminate the interview and direct the show’s producer to lose that guy’s phone number and find a real guest; or to immediately demand of the interviewee their specific definition of “socialism” and how that definition fits the charge that the President is one. Most journalists exercise neither option. They actually treat this intellectual mental illness as if it is somewhat normal behavior.

As a result of this journalistic malfeasance, conservative thought-leaders feel free to level the charge on an hourly basis, and conservative thought-puppets repeat it on a constant one.

But never fear: for the journalists failing to do their jobs, for conservatives failing to offer actual ideas, and for thought-puppets failing to even contemplate diverting from what they are told to parrot, Letters From Texas Worldwide Headquarters to the rescue. Here’s why those who repeat the charge have nothing valid to share, and upon saying it should give up the privilege of ever being invited to participate in political discourse in any legitimate public forum for any reason, ever again: Obama is simply not a socialist. Or, if he is, he’s the absolute worst socialist in the history of socialism.

Here’s how Merriam-Webster defines socialism:

1. any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods

2. a system of society or group living in which there is no private property

3. a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done

Let’s take each definition one-by-one.

First, on controlling the means of production: has the President indicated that any sort of hallmark of his administration highlights either worker or government control of the means of production? No, he has not. Not even close.

But what of conservative squaking about so-called “Obamacare” constituting the socialized government take-over of health care? Well, sad to tell you – it is a out-and-out lie. When President Obama rejected the public option and instead opted for an individual mandate – just as then-Governor Romney did in Massachusetts – Obama, in effect, delivered millions and millions of new customers to commercial insurance companies. That isn’t socialism. It’s the opposite of socialism.

And what of conservative gnashing of teeth over government bailouts to save the faltering economy at the end of the Bush administration? It seems to me that a socialist President worth the label, after having invested in banks and auto manufacturers and such, would want to retain that ownership share for the government – in other words, control the means of production. But instead, the government has been selling off its shares of all of the above just as fast as the markets will tolerate it. This specific objective of the government relinquishing control over the means of production is about as un-socialist as it gets.

Second, on creating a system in which there is no private property: please. Anybody who sees any sign of that from the Obama administration has more issues than can be addressed here. You need go no further than recent stock market reports which show the market soaring to know that nobody on Wall Street, which is the greatest institution of capitalism on earth, is worried about President Obama taking away their property. And incidentally, “capitalism” is the antonym of “socialism,” and when Wall Street – the center of the capitalist universe – is posting multi-year record highs, it’s pretty safe to assume that the rich folks aren’t busy jumping from their balconies in abject terror that the White House might away their stuff. Those high stock prices constitute yet another example of why, if Obama is a socialist, he’s a damn poor one.

And third, a transitional step between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done: if whatever stage we are in as a nation is a transition away from capitalism and toward communism, where is the evidence of that? The growing income gap between the rich and the poor is, if anything, evidence to the contrary. And what greater evidence of any such transitional step has the Obama administration produced, than any other administration before it? If the guideposts of that are policies which increase opportunity for those in poverty to move up – you caught us, we’re guilty. But if you claim that those policies are at the expense of wealthy Americans, you can just refer back to those multi-year record highs on Wall Street we just discussed. Those who own most of the stuff around here seem like they couldn’t be tickled pinker with the way things are going, to watch Wall Street.

Those definitions aside…perhaps those hyper-partisan conservatives who call Obama a socialist are more generally just PO’ed because of Obama’s attempts to narrow the opportunity gap in America. And if that’s what they’re complaining about, they’ll have a hard time explaining why they would advocate against greater opportunity for those who didn’t previously have much of it.

But they’d also have a hard time explaining how that is different from some of their own Republican Presidents’ attempts to narrow gaps in opportunity and lack of protection for Americans, poor or otherwise. Like when Ronald Reagan’s federal government expanded instead of shrank. Or when Reagan bailed out Social Security in 1983. Or when George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act. Or when Richard Nixon proposed the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970. Or when George W. Bush signed the re-authorization of the Voting Rights Act in 2006.

It is so clear that Barack Obama isn’t a socialist that I can’t believe people have to write pieces like this explaining why. What is less clear is why journalists continue to allow hyper-partisans to pollute the grown-ups’ news by childishly claiming it.


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Republicans hate government regulation

…or at least they did, until now.

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Oh Susan.

I’m on just about every political email list imaginable, most of them against my will. Those whose lists I’m not on, “helpful” folks forward to me.

That’s how I got state Comptroller Susan Combs’ email this morning, commemorating the anniversary of 9-11, the darkest time in our Nation’s history since perhaps Pearl Harbor.

Ms. Combs was going great-guns there for a while in her email, until I read to the end, when I saw that what she was really after was campaign contributions. Yep, there was a big fat “Donate” button near the bottom. Other statewide elected officials (including A.G. Greg Abbott) also sent emails commemorating the day, but there was no request for contributions included in Mr. Abbott’s.

I know Susan Combs, and I like her. I don’t know how her perfectly respectable tribute to this day turned into a disrespectful shill for campaign cash, but it shouldn’t have happened. And if somebody forwards me a 9-11 tribute from a Democrat with a request for contributions, I’ll say the exact same thing about it.

Class up, people. Not everything has to be All About You.



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Democratic National Convention day 3 recap: getting the job done

I loved Bill Clinton’s speech Wednesday night. I thought it was among the best of his life, and it came at the exact right time to stop the minor bleeding of the Democratic convention’s only mistake all week, the platform dust-up.

But I loved his speech so much that I worried then that he might over-shadow President Obama’s speech last night. I also loved Clinton’s speech so much that I wished he’d written it for Obama.

Obama’s performance last night indicated that I should have worried, because it was a close call. But I think Obama’s speech ultimately delivered what it needed to, when it needed to do it, and I think the convention ultimately did the job.

But let’s define “the job.”

The Democratic convention as a whole presented a well-rounded portrait of a Presidential man. The Republican convention presented a man who is certainly competent, but no presidential-level superstar – which only echoes the concerns Republican primary voters have had all year. For a major American political party to present a Presidential nominee  with little mention of foreign policy, with little respect for America’s military, and with scant appreciation for the country’s veterans, borders on political malfeasance.

The Romney camp is so desperate to have an election in which the sole issue is the economy that they forgot that, for any President, there’s a whole country to lead.

The contrast between the two conventions is especially stark for various key voting blocs.

For military veterans, they will not quickly forget that in the same time slot in which the Democrats opted to air their very moving tribute to them this week, the Republicans were cracking jokes about empty chairs last week.

For women, speaker after speaker this week pounded on the Republicans’ lack of respect for their rights. Certainly the Republicans excited the pro-life crowd, but did little to gain back any support which would begin to ease the gender gap of which Romney and Ryan appear very likely to be victims.

For seniors, I don’t think the Democrats ever let a full half-hour pass all week without somebody on the podium reminding Americans that the Romney camp is misleading voters on Obama’s Medicare proposals, and returning to the message that the Romney-Ryan plan would end Medicare as we know it. The biggest problem for Republicans on this front? Romney-Ryan ending Medicare as we know it isn’t a message originated by the Democrats – it’s a message presented by the Wall Street Journal.

For voters watching both conventions, the Democrats were clearly more persuasive than the Republicans. No honest analyst of any ilk could credibly dispute that. The Republicans’ convention was competent – even very competent – but nothing more. The Democrats’ convention was enthusiastic, inspiring, and took the fight to the Republicans – and nothing less. To be fair, however, I bet only a small percentage of voters watched both conventions.

But at its heart, what’s the definition of “getting the job done” at a convention? These days it is solidifying the support among your own party’s voters, while attracting more than your share of undecided voters. The reason I believe the Democrats had the only convention that did that job is because the Republicans quit after the first step.

Having Ann Romney give a good speech will not get women voters back, especially when a week later Michelle Obama gives a speech worthy of blasting off into space – articulating policies which resonate with women will. The Democrats did that, and the Republicans didn’t.

Highlighting Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz will not give you a leg up among Latino voters – sharing values and priorities of interest to Latinos will. That the Republicans failed to give more than a passing mention to the military and to veterans probably put them behind the 8-ball on that, and Latinos just glancing at the Republican crowd shots undoubtedly made eyes roll nation-wide. And that’s before one even gets to the policy proposals.

Women and Latinos were the two most likely groups from which the Republicans could have cherry-picked additional support, and when the post-convention polling results are announced in the coming days, I believe they will show that their token attempts to do so failed.

But the Democrats’ passion and spunk showed that they mean it – among an electorate undoubtedly wondering if Obama and the Democrats really mean it. Vice President Biden was Republicans’ last best hope to have something to seize upon, but his stem-winder was unassailable too. And, where did THAT John Kerry come from – I never met that guy before last night?

Some conventions do not result in a significant momentum shift for a nominee or a party. Neither Obama nor McCain left their 2008 conventions with a significant bump. John Kerry even left his nominating convention with a negative bump. Ronald Reagan had a big bump, as did Bill Clinton in ’92.

The Democratic National Convention felt more like 1992 to me, so it wouldn’t surprise me if polling in the coming days shows a significant momentum advantage for Obama.

But even if I’m wrong about that, two things are clear. First, we already know that Mr. Romney’s support was flat after the conclusion of his convention – the poll results are already in. And second, it’s clear, at least to me, that Mr. Obama will leave this convention, at the very least, with a momentum surpassing Romney’s – having succeeded in reminding Americans that he’s serious about it, passionate about it, and razor-focused on it.

And that’s a pretty good deal.

Here’s what I said about all this on Fox TV in Austin last night immediately following the President’s remarks.

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Democratic National Convention, day 2 recap: los dos Presidents

Was it just yesterday, after a picture-perfect first day, when I said this?

But never fear, Republicans – we are Democrats. We are well-versed in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. We still have two nights remaining to screw something up.

Why yes, yes it was indeed just yesterday when I said that. And then the Democrats screwed something up. But Bill Clinton made sure it won’t matter, and Cecile Richards made me proud. Here’s what happened:

Bad Democrats: platform stupid human tricks

The first night of the convention was so utterly picture-perfect the Republicans could find little to moan and groan about. But since it is their sworn duty to moan and groan, they were forced to do a little reading before they went to bed, and they found two things in the party platform to complain about: God and Jerusalem.

Say what? Glad you asked. Apparently when comparing this year’s platform to the previous one, the new platform omitted the word “God.” Never mind that people who are experts on, and rather fond of God were not complaining about this. Also, never mind that the mention of God in the previous platform had nothing to do with religion, but in context was a reference to growing the middle class. And finally, never mind that the new platform has an entire section on faith. They complained. It’s their job.

The new platform also omitted a previous plank regarding support for Jerusalem being the capitol of Israel. Similar to the God thing above, never mind that pro-Jewish and pro-Israeli groups didn’t seem to be complaining about this. Also, never mind that those groups participated in the two public hearings the convention’s platform draft committee had held, and had never brought it up, despite sharing input on several other Israel-related planks of the platform. And never mind that as this dust-up gained steam, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States declined to say much about it beyond, “…bipartisan support is a paramount national interest for Israel, and we have great friends on both sides of the aisle.” Also, never mind that no matter what the platform says, it is simply a matter of fact and record that it is, indeed, President Obama’s stated policy that Jerusalem is the capitol of Israel. And finally, never mind that it is Republican President George Bush, not the Democrats, who resisted Congressional attempts to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Never mind all that stuff. Complaints must be made, and the platform dust-up dominated convention coverage all day. The whole thing floors me, since the party platform is among the most manageable departments associated with a national convention – that Democrats were clumsy enough to give the Republicans ammo is bad enough. But when the President weighed in and directed the convention to fix the platform, the Democrats got even more clumsy.

Oh, they fixed the platform alright. Except that they forgot to mention this big plan to anybody who would vote on the fix, and when they gaveled the convention in yesterday afternoon and immediately voted to fix it, confusion reigned supreme. It looked like amateur hour.

God remained unavailable for comment regarding either platform screw-up. But Republicans, always eager to explain to us what God thinks, were in abundant supply.

Did the Republican attack work? Well, we’re discussing it here, aren’t we? It was a dumb unforced error.

Good Democrats: Big Dawg to the rescue

I bet I’ve watched Bill Clinton give 75 speeches, and I bet I’ve watched 15-20 of them in person. Never was he better than he was last night.

Clinton is the only man alive who can get away with explaining facts and figures to people and still make it interesting. He became a one-man Politifact-esque wrecking ball, and utterly demolished every major charge the Republicans leveled against President Obama at their gathering last week in Tampa. He explained the economic recovery. He explained Obama’s health care reform act. He explained why the Republicans’ proposals don’t add up. He explained the national debt. And yes, while all that all sounds pretty boring as convention fodder, he did it all so well that he had trouble getting the delegates to stop partying their asses off and laughing with him at the Republicans.

By the time Clinton finished dismembering the Republicans 48 minutes later, even the conservative talking heads on the nets were throwing in the towel.

While there were many speakers on last night’s schedule who moved delegates and TV viewers, there is no doubt that Democrats fully intended for Clinton to dominate the news cycle, and he did. Of all the national conventions I have watched or attended over the years, there are, maybe, five to eight game-changing speeches I remember. Bill Clinton’s speech last night takes its rightful place among them, and if President Obama wins re-election this fall, Clinton’s speech last night may be one reason why he does.

…and a point of personal privilege: Cecile Richards

I have known Cecile Richards for more than 20 years. I worked for her mother. I worked with her husband. Her dad – the world’s oldest practicing lawyer – and I have been, and remain, BFFs. Her oldest daughter Lily used to draw me pictures back in the day when she was a little girl, and those pictures lived on my refrigerator door and made me smile.

To sum it up, Cecile and I are acquainted.

Cecile, now the President of Planned Parenthood, showed any few remaining doubters last night that she lives in nobody’s shadow. She very articulately explained why women are, and should be, insulted by Republican efforts to go back on reproductive rights, economic or personal freedoms, and just by-God basic issues of fundamental respect. She laid out the case for the Democrats, and did it well.

I’ve spent my entire adult life being proud of, and fond of, folks in the Richards family. And I’ve never been more proud than after watching Cecile’s performance last night. Job well done, my friend.


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Democratic National Convention, day 1 recap

What the hell happened to the Democrats?

This wasn’t supposed to happen. Actually, I’m sure the Obama White House planned it all out, but I certainly didn’t expect the electric night to which Americans were treated last night.

There’s a good reason I chose not to attend the Democratic National Convention this year. It’s because of the 1996 convention in Chicago. Following up on the best time I ever had in politics, the 1992 convention in New York – President Clinton’s nominating convention – I was giddy as I disembarked the airplane to attend the 1996 convention four years later in Chicago – Clinton’s re-election convention. And I very promptly had the worst time I’d ever had in politics. Chicago was so utterly not-fun that subsequent National conventions were attended only hesitantly, until Obama’s nominating convention in Denver in 2008 – the other best time I ever had in politics.

I concluded from the 1996 experience that Democratic incumbent re-election conventions are dreary, and can never quite match the innocence and enthusiasm of the original nomination of a bright and shiny new Democratic object of our Democratic desires. 1992 and 2008 taught me that nominating conventions are like political porn. The 1996 experience taught me that re-election conventions are all about keeping the lid on it, approaching things timidly to avoid gaffe-inducing mistakes, and playing it safe to avoid giving the other side ammo. This all comes at the expense of any enthusiasm whatsoever, of course.

In that context, I ask again: what the hell happened to the Democrats? They broke the rules. They were full of passion. And spit. And vinegar. And…dare I say it…audacity.

Also, somebody lost the leash. My fellow Democrats know what I’m talking about – that unspoken public filter. The one that dictates that, while most Democrats are going to be for marriage equality, we’re going to keep that crazy talk out of prime time while company’s in the living room. That filter that encourages Democrats to support the notion that women’s choices should be their own, not the government’s – but that we’re only going to cleverly allude to it a few times, maybe, and otherwise speak about it only among consenting adults. And the health care reform filter, in which the lion’s share of Democrats absolutely know the President did the right thing, but also that the ferocity of the opposition might dictate a certain impoliteness in openly discussing how the President saved countless lives in doing it.

Aren’t we supposed to be the measured, boring ones? What of our long and proud history of walking confidently to the podium and explaining government to people, stuffing facts and statistics into the eardrums of America against their will and until we detect that they’ve lost the will to live?

Well there was none of that crap. Even the speakers not scheduled for primetime were electrifying. The Democrats were finally allowed to be who we are. The crowd in the hall loved it, and so will general election voters watching on TV, mulling over their choices in November.

Speaker-after-speaker, the unified message was bluntly clear: “Tea Party: take your voters; you can have ’em. And we’ll welcome everybody else.”

Here’s how good it was: Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley was the weak link. And he’s supposed to be good. But he never had a chance, bookended all night by speakers full of passionate spit and vinegar.

The night’s winners? Everybody else. Newark Mayor Cory Booker electrified a crowd who hadn’t even planned to start paying attention for another hour or so. Ohio Governor Ted Strickland was outstanding.

But the night belonged to both Julian Castro and Michelle Obama. Castro, the least-known keynote speaker since Texas State Treasurer Ann Richards in 1988, became the most-loved keynote speaker since Ann Richards in 1988 – and that includes the convention speeches of a certain Governor of a small Southern state named Bill Clinton in 1988, and the convention keynote of an unknown guy named Barack-something in 2004.

Ms. Obama, in her performance last night, became the best-loved object in the solar system, easily passing up the Mars Rover in the first half of her speech. By the time she concluded her remarks, many Americans probably wished they were Barack Obama, if only because he gets to hang out with her more than anybody else.

Last night, the Democrats had one of the best nights in political convention history, and easily passed up the Republicans’ entire convention as if Romney’s crew had been screwing around changing a flat tire in the service lane. Americans watching the Republicans last week had to look hard for something to love. Those watching the Democrats last night had to look hard for something not to love.

But never fear, Republicans – we are Democrats. We are well-versed in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. We still have two nights remaining to screw something up. But on the other hand, maybe Republicans should start worrying, because tonight is Bill Clinton’s night, and he’s been known to change worldwide opinion just by thinking about giving a speech. And Thursday night, it’s Obama’s turn – and after Michelle’s performance last night, he’ll have to bring his A-game just to avoid being called “the second smartest Obama.”

So basically, Republicans, you’re going to have to pin your hopes on Joe Biden. At least you’ve still got that going for you.

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Julian Castro speech preview: Democratic National Convention

On a special Democratic National Convention episode of Capital Tonight on Austin’s YNN last night, I was asked about Julian Castro’s anticipated keynote address at the Democratic National Convention tonight. Here is some of the discussion:


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Do Southern states still need Voting Rights Act pre-clearance?

Because, really, all those attitudes are behind us. Right?

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