Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Help Me Understand

I know politicians speak in hyperbole to make points.
I know that most people would rather hear sound byte moments than policy details.
I know that when attacks on politicians turn personal then all meaningful discussion degrades.

But I need a little bit of help here. If any of my Republican friends can help me understand then please, please explain some things to me in a way that make sense of some things I've heard this week. I will try to listen without contradicting or arguing. Really. 

Some weeks back, Mitt Romney spoke about not being concerned about the poor because (an important because often left off for how valuable the quote preceding his explanation was seen by the left) there was a safety net in place. By that safety net, I'm assuming he meant welfare assistance, medicaid, medicare (?), unemployment benefits, etc. On the other hand, he pointed out, he wasn't concerned about the very rich either, they were doing just fine. His greatest focus was going to be the middle class. I had the impression, from that, that he was interested in preserving the status quo for the rich and the poor.

I think many people from the middle of the political spectrum can get behind that idea. Disagreements arise, of course, from the best policy for helping the middle class. Jobs, of course, are the current main concern. This is where a healthy and robust and factual debate can be held about the best way to do this.

Instead, the Republicans yesterday released their long term budget plan. It is basically the same idea they keep presenting . . . an idea that even the Congressional Budget Office says will do nothing to actually reduce the deficit in the long run. This plan further cuts taxes for the wealthiest Americans (already historically low and not helping create jobs). It makes drastic cuts to social programs. Most economists claim there will be no benefit to the middle class. 

So if this is the party for which Mr. Romney declares himself the best leader, why doesn't his rhetoric match the policy? Or does it, and he just isn't playing straight with us? Does he mean the poor are more than fine and should be cut off? Does he mean that the best way to help the middle class is through the favorite rich-man notion of trickle down economics? If the rich get richer eventually there will be jobs for the middle class? If that is really what the policy will be under a Romney government, then he needs to tell it like it is. Or does he recognize that his own philosophy is so difficult to swallow for people of ordinary means that he is keeping it on the down low?

Second point.

In last night's self-congratulatory speech politicians love to give, he leapfrogged straight over Rick Santorum to Barack Obama boldly declaring that it was time to take our freedom back.


Can somebody help me understand (I asked the same question multiple times during the interim election) what on earth he is talking about? How has Mr. Romney's freedom in any way been curtailed in the last three years? As near as I can tell he makes several tens of thousands of dollars a day for doing nothing more than running for president. This money is taxed at a shockingly low rate. He owns multiple, beautiful homes and flies about in a private airplane. He is free to worship as he wishes. Say or print whatever true or untrue thing he wishes about the current administration. Carry a gun if he wants (because, remember, the only thing we've ever heard from Obama on gun rights is that the Supreme Court was right to overturn Washington D.C.'s restrictive gun law). Unless the government has forced him to quarter soldiers in his house . . . I am not sure which freedoms he has lost.

Unless of course he is referring to the stipulation in the Federal Health Care Plan, which hasn't actually been enacted yet, that he be required to buy health insurance. But wait. Mr. Romney already lives in a state that requires him to buy health insurance. By law. A law he signed. A decision over which he agonized for many weeks himself . . . and in the end decided that overriding public interest in this case superseded the individual right. (That bill might be one of the finest and most courageous bits of legislation ever signed by a governor, and if he was running on a states rights platform as opposed to repealing, then he wouldn't even have to face the question of how "Romneycare" is appreciably different from "Obamacare." It isn't--he needs to re-frame the issue entirely.)

So, if it isn't his own freedom that is being curtailed then what does he mean by "our?" More like how somebody says "we lost" when talking about a favorite team's defeat? In other words, Mr. Romney has as much freedom as ever, but those he is attempting to represent have had freedoms removed and he is trying to show solidarity? Okay. But again, what freedoms? If he is talking about the health care thing again then that seems pretty disingenuous--after all, again, he lives in a state where health care will never be a problem. For many Americans, gaining access to health care will mean MORE freedom, not less. If he is talking about something else then what is it? Freedom from a federal deficit? A reasonable point, but only the democratic plan put forward for budget reduction lines up with the bipartisan committee's recommendation for budget reduction. Is he talking about jobs? Only the democrats put together a jobs bill in the last few years. Which his party refused to even compromise on.

A third quote from Mr. Romney, however, is the one that is the hardest for me to reconcile with the other two. At a student rally in Illinois, a young woman raised her hand and insisted that she wasn't talking about birth control but, "you have said you want to defund Planned Parenthood. If so, where will poor women go for mammograms and pap smears?" His reply, "They can go wherever they want. It is a free country. But I don't see any reason these people have to pay for it." Huge cheers.

So wait . . . it is a free country now? But only if you are poor? Does he not understand that if they had ANYWHERE ELSE TO GO they would not be at Planned Parenthood in the first place? That funding birth control for poor women saves the governments tens of millions of dollars in the long run? If he is pushing for policies that seek to get rid of the safety net for the poor, then what of his earlier statement about the poor doing just fine? Is it really then, that the stolen sound byte is the truth? That he just doesn't care about the poor? Poor women in particular?

Okay. My logic has probably strayed too far. I know that somebody will read this hear and imply that I'm getting personal. That Mr. Romney personally cares for the poor--he has a track record of donation and ecclesiastical service. That may very well be true, I don't know the man. So help me to see how the policies he is advocating show compassion and concern for his fellow countrymen. All of them.


Karin said...

Thank you. I wonder much of the same myself. I have already come to the conclusion that he is uninterested in public health at all, but works very hard to protect business interests. Not really where I want to be putting my vote...

Kimberly Bluestocking said...


I think Romney has the makings of a great leader, but he's working too hard to be what everyone wants so it's hard to tell what he really stands for (and whether I agree with it). I suspect the "take back our freedom" statement was pandering to a crowd that is frustrated/suspicious about Obama's policies.

As for the disconnect between Congress's budget and Romney's "focus on the middle class" (not sure whether that's his actual policy or election year rhetoric), there's more than one flavor of Republican. Romney claims to be the best Republican, not a quintessential one, and a moderate candidate's platform doesn't necessarily jive with a highly conservative Congress.

My understanding of the hard Right's class view is "Don't tax the Rich because if you work hard someday you'll BE Rich. Don't waste money on the Poor because the lazy leeches deserve what they get. If you're Middle Class, good for you; vote for me and don't rock the boat."

Maybe I'm getting a little jaded...

Science Teacher Mommy said...

Maybe a little. . .

The interesting thing is that one of the most flattering and fair Romney pieces I've heard was a New Yorker article focused on his health care efforts in Massachusetts. He didn't behave like a politician there--he behaved like a statesman. A true leader. Oh how we are in need of a statesman! (Or a stateswoman. See example in Elizabeth Warren.)

Kimberly Bluestocking said...

That's one thing that gives me hope about Romney--in Massachusetts, he seemed like a flexible leader who could work with both parties to get things done.

I once asked a Massachusetts native how a Republican got elected governor of one of the most liberal states in the Union, and she said he was a moderate who had a knack for working with both sides of the aisle.

We need that more than ever in this country, but I just don't see it in Romney these days. Perhaps it would emerge if he got elected, but I don't know.

Desmama said...

I agree with Kim Blue. Romney, for all his claims to be a "severe conservative," simply isn't. Or wasn't, at least when he was governor. And why he's trying to claim otherwise . . . well, all I can think of is that he's trying to pander to the core of his party, which doesn't impress me, but in order to get the nomination, he has to. I wish he'd own the fact that he WAS a moderate, that he DID get things done by working across the aisle, but that's just not popular with the far right. It's aggravating, but it's politics.

Science Teacher Mommy said...

Oh, he'll own it all right. As soon has get the nomination. It is all we will hear about. Is collective memory so short that all of the pandering will be forgotten?

simple easy and quick said...

The longer this primary race goes on the worse Romney looks. If only the conservative wing of the party did not revolt and refuse to fall in line behind Romney (the reason’s why can be the subject of a future post) than Romney could already start his track towards the middle. I’m continually amazed that there are those out there who honestly think that what the party needs is a ‘more authentic conservative.” They must be nuts to believe that anyone outside of the 30% of the Republican primary voters that support the ‘non Romney’ will cross over and vote for the nominee. At least with Romney he does (or at least use to) have some potential to attract Independents who at the end of the day will decide the election.

To get a idea of how unelectable Santorum is for example. Take a look at this political ad of his on You Tube.

At least Mitt refers to Obama as a ‘nice guy who is in way over his head.” In this Santorum ad, a picture of Barak Obama is superimposed over the top of Ahmed Aahmajenidad just as the narrator stats “Enemy of America”

I showed this ad to my son (age 11) and asked him how he felt after watching it. He replied awful. So I couldn’t help but investigate further. Contained in the ad are a number of disturbing subliminal images that I was only to fully appreciate after I downloaded the video to my computer an analyzed it frame by frame – don’t ask too much time on my hands tonight. The ad basically asks what America will look like in 2014 if Obama is re-elected. Within the one minute add are the following subliminal images.
Several close ups of human eyeballs
Shady looking guys sitting around a table smoking cigars.
A white guy in a dark prison
The capital in a dark (blood?) shade of red
A baby in a crib with red superimposed
An angry looking guy driving a minivan and smoking a cigarette
A lady with a deformed head sitting in a chair
A sinister looking nurse with a surgeon’s mask administering medicine
At least three instances where Obama is transposed with Ahmed Ahmajenidad
And, (I’m not making this up) a close up of raw meat being squirting out of a meat grinder.

Now these are the subliminal messages in addition to the visuals which are easy to see / decipher such as:
Crows, deserted cities, empty play ground equipment, missing shoe, girl being chased through the woods, a very sinister looking tree, burning candle being ‘snuffed’ out, Wall Street fat cats drinking around a table, riots in Iran, burning American flags, sad and scared old people, a guy holding a gasoline nozzle to his head, boarded up buildings, a guy getting a “Termination Notice,” lots of red.

I’m a Republican mainly because I believe in less government vs. more government but when I see someone put an ad out like this, and that candidate actually has supporters in the party, it makes me sad for my party and makes we wonder why anyone in their right mind would allow someone other than Mitt to win the nomination. You can say all you want about Mitt, but at least he’s the most un-insane guy in the race right now, and given Obama’s poor performance, there’s a better than 50% chance the Republican nominee will win the general election.

Nan very interested to get your take on the ad.

Science Teacher Mommy said...

I'm more interested in a discussion about why Obama has turned in "poor performance." Considering where we were headed in 2008, I find myself pretty impressed actually.

I'm not arguing that Mitt isn't better than the rest of the rather thin field . . but honestly . . . it isn't saying much, is it?

Cathy said...

STM, I'm with you on this one. I never have seen what Obama has done that is worthy of the vilification heaped upon him. And I think he has managed to do some pretty impressive things. The fact that the Republicans continue to hate him while he has lost some Democratic support for being too moderate shows me just how polarized our country has become. Those of us in the middle are getting lonelier, though people continue to say we'll be pivotal in the election. And like others who have commented here, I think Romney's most appealing point is the collaboration and compromise that existed in Massachusetts. If only we could import that into Congress...

Kimberly Bluestocking said...

I agree--I'd be curious to know what, specifically, Republican candidates object to with Obama's performance. I'm very concerned about our country's mounting debt (which is actually more Congress's fault than the President's), but otherwise I think he has done a good job. I suspect the Republican's main objection to him is that he's a Democrat.