Saturday, December 31, 2011


As we begin a new year we are again filled with hope for a bright future. But if the past year is precedent our hopes will be burdened with too many uncertainties.

2011 will perhaps be best remembered as the year of the Arab Spring. Following a month of violent protests, the Tunisian government collapsed on January 14 when President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia after twenty-three years in power. His people had risen up against high unemployment and inflation, corruption and a lack of freedoms in Tunisia.

The protests were triggered by the actions of a twenty-six year old vegetable cart operator named Mohamed Bouazizi, who doused himself with a flammable liquid and set himself on fire to protest the local government. Public support for Bouazizi grew as protests spread with the help of YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Bouazizi died from burns in early January, about ten days before the government fell. But Bouazizi's act opened the door for millions of Arabs throughout the region.

Demonstrators took over Cairo's Tahrir Square, at times as many as a million Egyptians protested their repressive government and demanded President Hosni Mubarak's resignation. The long-time American ally and friend to Israel resigned on February 11, leaving the Egyptian military in control until a new leader is elected.

Bahrain and Syria have also dealt with protests. But the Syrian Government has resorted to extreme violence against its own people leaving thousands dead and the country's future unclear.

Meanwhile, Iran continues to roil the world stage with its meddlesome acts throughout the Middle East and its threats against Israel and the West. The Iranian government continues to develop a nuclear weapons program despite painful sanctions that have been imposed by many Western nations. War clouds darken the landscape as the Revolutionary Guard represses its own people.

The U.S. military has withdrawn from Iraq leaving that country deeply divided as it struggles for a democratic future. Iran is doing all it can to destabilize progress in that country by influencing Iraq's Shiite Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, who is accused by minority Sunnis of using security forces to consolidate his power. 4,063 Iraqi civilians were killed in 2011, a slight increase over the previous year. Turmoil and tumult abound in Iraq nine years after America freed the country from the tyrannical regime of Saddam Hussein.

As the U.S. continues its war in Afghanistan al-Qaeda and Afghan Taliban fighters have reached out to Pakistani militants in an effort to set aside their differences to take on the U.S. led forces in Afghanistan. Meetings have been held in Pakistan's tribal region and an alliance may not bode well for Americans as they accelerate their withdrawal from Afghanistan. This as U.S.-Pakistani relations are at an all time low.

There is much on the world stage to be weary of, not the least of which is Europe's difficult economic problems and the rising influence of China. All these factors are having a great impact on America, which itself is struggling to regain its economic footing following the 2008 recession.

So the U.S. elections in November are critical. Yet Republican presidential candidates have decimated each other in an effort to curry favor from the Tea Party and Conservative Christian factions of their party. Their campaigns have reflected the divisiveness that has paralyzed Washington and Congress. They have done little to show a majority of Americans that they can unite the country at such an important time.

Meanwhile President Barack Obama, the persistent president, is now in full campaign mode. His policies are leading to slow but steady economic recovery. More and more people are being hired. His historic health care reform measures are beginning to have a positive impact on Americans. The U.S. auto industry is again vibrant thanks to his intervention.

President Obama has a credible foreign policy and he has kept the country safe from terrorist attacks. He has destroyed the leadership of al-Qaeda, including Osama bin Laden, and helped to oust Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. He has kept his campaign promises by ending the war in Iraq and focusing his efforts on Afghanistan. Yet huge federal deficits loom as far as the eye can see, entitlement programs lack true reform, the housing market remains weak and consumer demand is still tepid.

Come November Americans will have a choice: staying the course or voting for change. The question voters will face is, "Will the alternative be change we can truly believe in?"

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ebenezer Boehner

"Bah! Humbug!" might as well have been the words of House Speaker John Boehner, who may seem like Ebenezer Scrooge to millions of Americans now facing a year-end payroll tax increase.

On Tuesday the Republican controlled House of Representatives rejected a Senate approved bill that would have extended payroll tax cuts for two months and allowed the unemployed to continue receiving jobless benefits. The House instead voted 229 to 193 to establish a negotiating committee so the two chambers can resolve their differences. But the Senate, having Saturday passed the payroll tax extension measure 89-to-10, is in recess until after the holidays and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he would not call them back.

If the payroll tax cuts are not extended salaries will be taxed an additional 2%, or about $1,000 per year for the average American. The Senate bill would extend the payroll tax cuts for two months and it would also prevent a large drop in fees paid to doctors who accept Medicare. It appears that House Speaker Boehner refused to bring the Senate bill directly to the floor for an up or down vote because it would have passed with the necessary Republican support.

Many Republicans who face difficult reelection campaigns were critical of their own leadership. Among them Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, who issued a statement after the vote that House Republicans, "would rather continue playing politics than find solutions." He added, "Their actions will hurt American families and be detrimental to our fragile economy."

The devil is in the details of the debate. Most members of Congress agree that the payroll tax cut should be extended for another year. But Republicans and Democrats, including the president, disagree on how to make up for the $150 billion shortfall to Social Security. The president proposed raising the taxes of the wealthiest Americans by about 3%. Republicans objected to any tax increase instead offering cuts in social programs. The president agreed to drop his tax proposal.

Meanwhile the Senate went ahead and passed a two-month extension to buy time for further negotiations over funding. It passed the Senate by a 9 to 1 margin, including a majority of its Republican members. The two-month extension would cost about $33 billion which would be funded by an increase in the fees that new homeowners with federally backed mortgages would pay to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration. The Congressional Budget Office reports the bill would reduce the deficit by $3 billion.

But House Republicans, primarily Tea-Partiers, oppose the Senate bill because they are said to be concerned with the uncertainty caused by just a two-month extension, as well as the political benefit the White House could gain in the national dialogue over taxes. It appears that they forced Speaker Boehner to take a hard line on the measure. The Speaker sent a letter to President Obama, which said, "I ask you to call on the Senate to return to appoint negotiators so that we can provide the American people the economic certainty they need."

Speaker Boehner changed positions on the Senate bill, after earlier indicating in a party conference call he would support the Senate compromise. To many it appeared that Majority Leader and aspiring Speaker Eric Cantor pressured Boehner to change his position. However, Boehner said he only praised a provision in the Senate bill requiring presidential action on the Keystone pipeline.

So as Christmas approaches, millions of Americans face a tax increase because Republicans want to defeat President Obama more than they want to help the middle class. And when they want to know how the Grinch stole Christmas, they can ask Ebenezer Boehner. Bah Humbug!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Republican Slugfest

With the Iowa Caucuses little more than two weeks away the two Republican frontrunners are now in a slugfest. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has surged into the lead in several state polls, including Iowa, Florida and South Carolina, leaving Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney rattled.

Now Romney is sounding more desperate and flustered. In Saturday night's Republican debate Romney inexplicably offered to bet Texas Governor Rick Perry $10,000 that he was misrepresenting Romney's position on individual mandates, which are part of Romneycare. While that is a substantial amount of money for most Iowans, it is not for multimillionaire Mitt Romney. And it didn't play well in Des Moines.

On Monday Romney decided to come out swinging, but it sounded more like the pot calling the kettle black. Romney attacked Gingrich's work for Freddie Mac, the government sponsored mortgage company that has been lambasted by conservatives. Romney called on Gingrich to return the millions he made working for Freddie Mac after he left office. Romney told Fox News, "One of the things that I think that people recognize in Washington is that people go there to serve the people and then they stay there to serve themselves."

But Gingrich later responded to Romney harshly. "I love the way he and his consultants do these things," Gingrich said. "I would just say that if Gov. Romney would like to give back all the money he's earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over his years at Bain, then I would be glad to listen to him and I'll bet you $10 dollars -- not $10,000 -- that he won't take the offer." Romney founded Bain Capital in 1984, an investment and consulting company. Romney is now worth more than $200 million.

Gingrich and Romney have many things in common. They are both very wealthy. In fact, Gingrich has bragged he regularly gets $60,000 to make a speech; the median family annual income in the United States is about $50,000. They have both supported health care mandates. Both supported the Wall Street bailouts, government subsidies for ethanol and agree that humans play a role in climate change. And, most noteworthy, both are serial flip-floppers on several issues.

But in Saturday's debate, Governor Romney pointed to his lengthy career in the private sector as the reason he is the best qualified to turn the American economy around. Gingrich wasn't buying it, "The only reason you didn't become a career politician is you lost to Teddy Kennedy in 1994. It's a bit much. You'd have been a 17-year career politician by now if you'd won."

No doubt Gingrich was not amused by an earlier Romney political ad in which he claimed to be a man of "steadiness and constancy." In his narration Romney said, "I've been married to the same woman for 25 -- excuse me, I'll get in trouble -- for 42 years. I've been in the same church my entire life. I worked at one company, Bain, for 25 years. And I left that to go off and help save the Olympics." This was clearly attack on Gingrich's personal life.

This is Romney's second attempt at the Republican presidential nomination; he first ran in 2008. Since he declared his candidacy last April he has devoted all of his energies to getting nominated. While has always been among the frontrunners, Romney has never been able to get more than 25% in Republican polls. The reason is simple: they just don't trust him.

Gingrich was written off a few weeks ago by most observers. He is intelligent and energetic, yet he is equally unpredictable and mercurial. And, despite all his flaws, he has now emerged as the darling of the right because they are willing to forgive his past transgressions. His debate performances have lifted him to the top and his supporters believe he is best able to take on President Barack Obama in a debate.

Two weeks is a long time in politics, especially given the intensity of this race. But an almost certain victory in the Iowa Caucuses and a strong showing in the New Hampshire Primary against frontrunner Romney will likely propel Gingrich to victories in the South Carolina and Florida primaries. But Romney will fight on.

The ultimate winner of the Republican nomination will have to unite a battered party in order to defeat President Barack Obama. And the will have to keep Congressman Ron Paul from declaring as a third party candidate, which is a real possibility.

Ronald Reagan must be rolling over in his grave.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Obama's Looking Good

In the words of one long-time Republican, "The Republicans are making President Obama look good." Well, he makes a very good point about the Republican field of presidential candidates.

It appears that former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is very frustrated. Despite his energetic campaign and strong debate performances, Romney cannot score more than 25% in polls of Republican voters. The problem is that he has changed positions on key issues in an effort to win more support in his party. And, just in case some Americans haven't noticed, the Democratic National Committee has been airing a political commercial called "Mitt vs. Mitt" that drives the point home.

Romney's campaign has recently resorted to airing a misleading political ad that shows President Barack Obama saying, “If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.” But then candidate Obama was merely quoting a statement that Senator John McCain had made. When the president's campaign cried foul, Romney responded, "We are obviously getting under their skin."

Romney has dutifully avoided doing any press interviews. That is until he agreed to do a Fox News interview on Tuesday. Fox News anchor Brett Baier asked Romney, "You have been on both sides of many issues." He then cited some flip-flops before asking Romney how voters can trust him. Romney responded, “Your list is just not accurate. We’re going to have to be better informed about my views on issues.” He then looked very defensive for the remainder of the interview.

But if Romney looks uncomfortable, businessman Herman Cain appears under siege. Cain has been repeatedly asked questions about allegations from Ginger White that he had had a thirteen-year affair with her. Cain has already had to defend himself against allegations of sexual harassment involving several other women.

Cain was defiant on Wednesday saying, "They have been trying to do a character assassination on me." He told a crowd of supporters in Ohio, "They are attacking my character, my reputation and my name in order to try and bring me down." Cain has even suggested that Democrats were behind the charges in an effort to help former House Speaker Newt Gingrich win the nomination. Cain has announced he is reevaluating his campaign and he would have an announcement on his future plans next week.

The big winner has been Newt Gingrich. He has surged to the front of the Republican field fueled in part by strong debate performances. But new revelations that Gingrich has earned millions of dollars since leaving office advising health care related companies and the mortgage company Freddie Mac have raised some serious questions. His personal life, a joint appearance with Democratic Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi in a global warming ad and ethics violations while in Congress are among issues that he will have to overcome.

Meanwhile, President Obama has been unrelenting in his campaign effort to get his jobs bill passed. His most recent focus has been on extending and expanding the payroll tax cut, which is set to expire at the end of the year. If the payroll tax cuts are not extended it will cost the average American family $1,000. The president has proposed paying for the tax cut by raising taxes by on Americans earning a million dollars or more. Republicans in Congress oppose him saying they want to fund the extension with budget cuts. A majority of Americans support additional taxes on high income earners.

The president's stock is rising as he has stepped up his reelection efforts. And, barring another economic set back, his chances of winning a second term are improving. Meanwhile, with a month to go before the Iowa Caucuses, the Republicans are stumbling badly towards the starting gate.

Friday, November 18, 2011

GOP: Oops

If there is one word that best summarizes some of the Republican presidential candidates, it is the one uttered by Governor Rick Perry himself: "Ooops."

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has found himself on the defensive just as he has secured a position as a frontrunner for his party's nomination. For instance, there are no more reviled institutions for conservative Republicans than Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In fact, Gingrich himself has been a most ardent critic. Then came the revelation, by Bloomberg News, that Gingrich had earned nearly $2 million from Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored mortgage underwriter, over several years ending in 2008. His campaign says he was not lobbying, he was just offering advice on how to navigate Congress.

But Gingrich has earned a lot of money from corporate clients since leaving office. The New York Times reported that one client was Gundersen Lutheran Health System of LaCrosse, Wisconsin. In July 2009, Gingrich wrote a piece on the Washington Post's Web site praising that organization's efforts to convince patients to have "advance directives" on end-of-life care that if adopted by Medicare would save "$33 billion." But not too long after his comments conservatives were attacking President Obama's health care reform bill that called for end-of-life consultations for Medicare--a.k.a. "death panels." Gingrich then joined the critics.

Gingrich supported a single-payer mandate in the 1990's, which is at the heart of President Obama's health care law and became anathema to conservatives. The Supreme Court will take up the legality of the mandate next year. Gingrich is now opposed to mandates. Maybe he is now opposed to large jewelry purchases from Tiffany's? Should Gingrich get his party's nomination he will face questions about his personal life and the fact that he is the only Speaker of the House to ever have been disciplined for ethics violations.

In the past two months businessman Herman Cain surged to the top of polls among Republican voters. But then reports surfaced that several women accused him of sexual harassment. While he has denied all the charges he has failed to quell the controversy and his campaign has been hurt.

Perhaps even more embarrassing for Cain has been his inability to correctly answer foreign policy questions. He told one interviewer that China "was trying to develop nuclear capability." China has had nuclear weapons since the 1950's. When asked by a Milwaukee Sentinel editorial board about President Obama's handling of the Libyan uprising he struggled for more than a minute and never provided a clear answer. Cain later defended himself in a campaign appearance by saying, "I'm a leader, not a reader."

Texas Governor Rick Perry has stumbled throughout his debate performances. None of his blunders is more problematic than his brain freeze when he tried to name the three federal government agencies that he wanted to eliminate. Ooops! In an effort to get attention away from his struggling campaign, Gov. Perry began airing a political ad accusing President Obama of calling Americans "lazy", which is not true. In fact, the president said that American businesses were "a little bit attract new business into America."

By all appearances, Governor Mitt Romney should be well ahead of his opponents. He has done an effective job in his presidential campaign. But “Romneycare”, the Massachusetts health care bill he passed that served as the basis for President Obama’s health reform law, has dogged him. And his fellow candidates have attacked him for flip-flopping on abortion, gun control and the U.S. auto industry bailout. Romney's approval among Republicans has been stuck at about 25% because most people in his own party don't trust him!

Meanwhile, Representative Michele Bachmann has blown her early lead with gaffes and former Governor Jon Huntsman, President Obama's former ambassador to China, has focused only in New Hampshire, where he is still in single digits. Representative Ron Paul maintains a loyal but small following despite some of his controversial statements.

The GOP primary process has been painful and embarrassing, especially for Republicans. While President Barack Obama faces a tough reelection campaign, the Republican Party seems to be doing all it can to help him obtain his goal. Or, as Governor Perry would say, "Ooops."

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Penn State Scandal

The events surrounding the child molestations at Penn State University have shocked the nation. How could the football team's former defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, have gotten away with such heinous crimes for so long?

In the wake of the disclosures, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett says his state needs to change its law so that alleged incidents of child abuse are immediately reported to government authorities. Let's make that the law of the land.

Sandusky is charged in a grand jury report with assaulting eight young boys over a 15-year period between 1994 and 2009. Some of the assaults took place on campus both during and after he coached at Penn State. Sandusky's attorney says he disputes the report.

But in 2002, graduate assistant Mike McQueary witnessed Sandusky raping a boy in the showers of the athletic facility, yet he did nothing to stop the attack. Rather, McQueary waited until the next morning to inform Penn State Head Football Coach Joe Paterno, who then brought the incident to the attention of the school's athletic director.

Why didn't McQueary try to stop the attack? Why did he wait until the next morning to report it? Why didn't he inform the campus police? Why didn't Paterno immediately inform the campus police? What did the athletic director do with the information? Why did it take so many years for law enforcement to be informed of the allegation? Why did it take nine years for Sandusky to be indicted? How many of these molestations could have been prevented? Are there more victims?

The failure of all those in the know to immediately act is inexcusable. Now charges have been filed against Penn State Athletic Director Timothy Curley and Senior Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz for failing to report the abuse to authorities and misleading investigators. But the prosecutors determined that a legal duty to report the alleged abuse did not apply to McQueary and Paterno.

Paterno is a legendary figure in college football; he is an icon. He turned Penn State into a football powerhouse and a hugely profitable program. Paterno was fired last week along with the school's president, Graham Spanier, following the release of the grand jury report. After reporting the incident, McQueary was promoted to a full-time assistant coach. On Friday he was put on administrative leave, and he is now reportedly in protective custody.

Penn State has been rocked by the scandal. This past Saturday, tens of thousands of fans filled Penn State's football stadium to cheer on their team. It was the Nittany Lions first game in decades without Joe Paterno. Before the opening kickoff fans and alumni, along with members of both teams, observed a moment of silence to honor victims of the sex abuse scandal. Penn State fought valiantly throughout the contest but lost to Nebraska 17-14.

How are the innocent victims of the horrendous abuse dealing with this scandal? This case will take a long time to be legally resolved. But the victims will carry their scars for the rest of their lives.

Tragically, thousands of children are the victims of sexual abuse in this country each year. Yet how many cases are never reported?

Governor Corbett said on Fox News, "What I saw was a failure to act, and I always have said your actions speak louder than your words."

It is now time for action.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Geaux #1 LSU

Saturday night's clash between the #1 Louisiana State University Tigers and the #2 Alabama Crimson Tide was among the most memorable games in college football history. In the end, LSU won in Bama's house in overtime, 9-6, securing for another week its position atop the BCS standings.

No doubt about it, these are the most athletic teams in college football. Both teams are flush with huge size, brute strength and blistering speed at most every position. Each team has several first round NFL picks on their roster.

Going into the game Alabama had the nation's top ranked defense and LSU was close behind. Therefore, it was no surprise that their showdown, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, would be a bruising slugfest.

Alabama failed to cash in on several opportunities. Three missed field goals topped the list. Alabama's field goal kicking was awful, and Bama coach Nick Saban had to alternate kickers. But their kick receiving squad also came up short, literally. LSU was pinned deep in their own territory late in the game when their punter, Australian Brad Wing, boomed a 72-yard punt over the head of a hapless Tide returnman.

The play of the game came on a promising Alabama drive into LSU territory. After building some momentum running the ball against LSU's defense, Alabama tried a bit of trickery. While under pressure their star receiver, Marquis Maze, attempted a long pass toward the LSU endzone. As his off-balance throw floated toward Bama receiver Michael Williams, LSU safety Eric Reid quickly got into position.

Reid made an amazing interception that saved the day for LSU. Here's how the Alabama "Rollbamaroll" website describes it, "Michael Williams went up for the football like an 80-year old sales clerk going up to get something off the top shelf of a department store. A 6'7, 265 pound tight end simply cannot lose a jump ball to a 6'2, 210 pound safety. Period. Terrible decision, terrible execution, disastrous result."

Bama also committed too many silly penalties, like "twelve men on the field" and "blocking in the back." But when the game entered overtime Alabama seemed to lose focus and drive. A missed pass, a penalty and a disastrous sack left the Tide with a 52-yard field goal attempt, which fell short.

The Tigers got the ball on the 25-yard line, needing only a field goal to win. LSU coach Les Miles, "The Mad Hatter", called for an option play to the left that almost resulted in a touchdown. Two plays later the Tigers scored a game winning field goal that immediately quieted the disheartened Alabama home crowd.

LSU found a way to win. They were able to pull off several truly outstanding plays during the game. Their energy and enthusiasm was palpable throughout the contest. They consistently played with swagger. Inevitably, this is what separates a winner from the rest.

About 20 million viewers watched LSU's victory over Alabama, the highest rated regular season college football game in a quarter century. 101,000 fans packed the Alabama stadium while tens of thousands tailgated outside. It was the season's most highly anticipated college football match up. An enormous amount was at stake; pride, rivalry and a national title game in New Orleans this coming January. As a result of the game LSU maintained its #1 ranking but Alabama slipped to #4 in the AP poll. This means a rematch between these two titans is unlikely in the BCS championship game.

Nonetheless, the LSU-Alabama showdown will long be remembered one of the great college football games of all time.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Schieffer Smoking Mad

CBS News correspondent Bob Schieffer has become the dean of Washington reporters after more than 40 years covering the town for CBS News. Schieffer is a wonderful man who plays it straight as a journalist, seldom offering his own opinion. Sunday was an exception.

Schieffer is the anchor of the CBS News public affairs program, "Face the Nation." The guest this past Sunday was businessman Herman Cain, the Republican frontrunner for that party's presidential nomination. Cain's campaign had recently produced a political ad that ended with Cain's chief of staff, Mark Block, puffing on a cigarette. The ad has gone viral, but it has also raised plenty of questions.

Schieffer asked Cain to explain the ad, in particular the peculiar ending. Cain laughed it off, saying, “One of the themes of this campaign is ‘Let Herman be Herman.’ Mark Block is a smoker, and we say ‘Let Mark be Mark.’ That’s all we’re trying to say, because we believe ‘let people be people.’”

At this point Schieffer went right after Cain. “It wasn’t funny to me… I am a cancer survivor, like you. I had cancer that’s smoking related. I don’t think it serves the country well, and this is an editorial opinion here, to be showing someone smoking a cigarette." Schieffer continued, "And you’re the frontrunner now, and it seems to me that as frontrunner, you have a responsibility not to take that kind of a tone with this. I would suggest that perhaps as the frontrunner you would want to raise the level of the campaign.”

Cain sat composed but clearly stunned. Schieffer then directed Cain to admit that smoking was "uncool" and to warn young Americans not to start. Cain said he would, but Schieffer said how about now? "Young Americans," Cain said, "don't smoke."

Recently "Face the Nation" has finished atop the ratings for Sunday public affairs programs. Although it is only a half-hour in length, the broadcast lands impressive guests every week. Schieffer's Texas drawl and pleasant demeanor are part of the draw. But of greatest note is Schieffer's incredible experience and knowledge about Washington and politics. Therefore, his questions are well focused and the guest's answers are most often revealing and informative.

"Face the Nation" will be an important place for viewers to turn during the 2012 presidential elections for the latest insight from CBS News correspondent Bob Schieffer, arguably the best in the business.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Republican Idol

Were it not for the struggling American economy President Barack Obama would be in a commanding position in his campaign for re-election in 2012. But the current field of Republican presidential candidates is doing all they can to help President Obama win a second term.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has pretty much been the GOP frontrunner since he announced his candidacy. But Romney has been stuck at about 23% in national polls of those who say they are Republicans. The fact is that many conservatives don't believe he is one of them because Romney has flip-flopped on several of their key issues, like abortion.

Just this week Romney sidestepped a question on whether he supported Republican Gov. John Kasich's restrictions on public sector employee bargaining in Ohio. State polls show that the restrictions are overwhelmingly unpopular among Ohioans. One day later Romney clarified his position by saying he supported the initiative "110 per cent." But both Democrats and Republicans criticized Romney for his handling of the issue.

Texas Governor Rick Perry briefly shot past Romney when he declared his candidacy, but he crashed back to earth following a series of poor debate performances. In an effort to regain momentum, Perry announced a "flat tax" that, upon careful examination, benefits the rich at the expense of the middle class. He then raised questions about the authenticity of President Obama's birth certificate, a move that has been denounced by many leading Republicans. Now the Perry campaign has suggested that he may not participate in some future Republican debates.

Businessman Herman Cain charmed the American public with his smooth and likeable style, whether on the campaign stump or in debates. He surged to the top of the polls after he announced his "9-9-9" plan as a "bold and simple" way to turn the economy around. When critics charged that his plan was regressive for low and middle income taxpayers, he then came up with the "9-0-9" plan. Some observers suggest he is making it up as he goes. Now his position on abortion has been attacked as too liberal. Meanwhile, Cain has not yet put together a serious campaign organization. Instead, he has been on a nationwide book tour.

Representative Michele Bachmann, leader of the Tea Party Caucus in the House of Representatives, started strong but quickly sank in the polls. Now a tea party group is calling for her to end her presidential quest. A tea party executive told CNN, "I think it's pretty obvious that Michele Bachmann is about Michele Bachmann."

For the most part, the other Republican candidates have languished in the polls. Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman has been too centrist. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich is too unpredictable. And former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum has consistently trailed the others.

Meanwhile, President Obama has taken to the campaign trail to sell parts of his jobs bill that failed to pass Congress intact. He got some good news on Thursday when the House passed one small portion of that bill which would repeal a 3% withholding tax on payments the government makes to contractors. The president also got some encouraging economic growth numbers for the U.S. as Europe announced a major agreement to deal with their economic crisis.

With the 2012 election one year away, it is unlikely that the nation's unemployment rate will significantly decline or that the economy will take off in the next twelve months. Despite his string of national security successes, President Obama will almost certainly be on the defensive during the fall campaign for his handling of the economy.

However, he is no doubt grateful to the Republicans for their brutal primary process. It has shown that the GOP is bereft of any good ideas to turn the economy around--other than cutting taxes for the rich and reducing entitlements. More importantly, it has exposed the enormous flaws each of the Republican candidates has, beginning with the serial flip-flopper, Mitt Romney. It is like the worst season of American Idol--call it Republican Idol.

President Barack Obama should be feeling a little better these days about his re-election chances in 2012.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Obama's Battle

With his announcement that all U.S. troops will be out of Iraq by the end of the year, President Barack Obama has had a series of foreign policy achievements that have garnered praise from most Americans. But not from many leading Republicans.

President Obama's troop withdrawal announcement was the final step in fulfilling a promise he made when he ran for president in 2008. The eight-year-old Iraq War has cost nearly $800 billion, and, most importantly, the lives of more than 4,400 U.S. servicemen and countless Iraqi civilians. In making his announcement, the president said, "There will be some difficult days ahead for Iraq, and the United States will continue to have an interest in an Iraq that is stable, secure and self-reliant.”

Republican presidential candidates immediately denounced the president's decision. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney said, in a written statement, “President Obama’s astonishing failure to secure an orderly transition in Iraq has unnecessarily put at risk the victories that were won through the blood and sacrifice of thousands of American men and women.” He continued, “The unavoidable question is whether this decision is the result of a naked political calculation or simply sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi government." The Obama campaign was quick to provide a pointed response, “Mitt Romney’s foreign policy experience is limited to his work as a finance executive shipping American jobs overseas.”

Since taking office, President Obama has focused on ridding the world of terrorists. In May 2011 the president bagged public enemy number one when a Special Forces unit killed Osama Bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda and the architect of the World Trade Center terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. Subsequently, terrorist leader Anwar al-Awlaki was killed in Yemen by a U.S. predator drone attack. In all some two-dozen terrorists have been killed since President Obama took office.

Earlier this week, Libyan freedom fighters captured and killed their country's former leader, Muammar Gaddafi. Gaddafi was a tyrannical dictator who had ruthlessly ruled his country for four decades. He was also responsible for the 1988 downing of Pan Am 103 over Scotland, which resulted in 270 deaths. The president, working closely with NATO allies, provided air support to the freedom fighters. Because of this the president was accused by neo-cons of "leading from behind" in Libya, but the results are undeniable.

For decades Republicans claimed to be the strongest party when it comes to national security. Yet, the administration of President George W. Bush found itself the victim of the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil when nearly 3000 people were killed in a series of plane hijackings. U.S. intelligence had information about a possible attack but the government failed to connect the dots.

In response, President Bush authorized an invasion of Iraq and the U.S. Congress supported him. U.S. intelligence had claimed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and their leader, Saddam Hussein, would use them. The CIA also claimed that Hussein had links to Al Qaeda, the terrorist group responsible for 9/11. All of those claims proved to be false. That and President Bush's inconsistent strategy in Afghanistan, where American troops had also invaded because that is where Al Qaeda was based, led to a protracted war.

When elected, President Obama intensified U.S. focus on Afghanistan while looking for a way to end America's military commitment to Iraq. The Iraq withdrawal is based on a timetable originally established by President Bush.

Iraq is in a very precarious state. Iran is meddling. The Kurds in the north are revolting. The Sunni minority, which controlled the country under Hussein, is on the decline. No longer is Iraq a hedge against Iran's ambitions as it had been while Hussein ran the country. Nonetheless, the United States will maintain a strong diplomatic presence, and thousands of the American contract workers will continue to support Iraq. But Iraq's future is uncertain.

The United States can no longer afford to be the world's policeman. And President Obama has altered how the country conducts national security in a way that reflects the realities of the twenty-first century.

While he will receive praise for killing terrorists and keeping his campaign promises on Iraq and Afghanistan, the 2012 election will be decided solely on the state of the U.S. economy. As a result President Obama will be in the fight of his life.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Bickersons

The GOP presidential debate from Las Vegas Tuesday night was, at times, intensely contentious and deeply personal. For sure, there were no winners from all of the sparring. In fact, the debate may have been damaging to the entire Republican field.

The Obama campaign must have been cheering during the debate, which aired on CNN. After all, they are trying to convince voters that President Barack Obama is the reasonable adult in Washington who is willing to cooperate and compromise. They blame Republicans for all the partisan acrimony that has paralyzed Washington since the president's election. Tuesday's debate only strengthend their case.

Businessman Herman Cain, who has enjoyed a surge to the top of recent polls, came under fire from all sides for his "9-9-9" economic recovery proposal. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum said, "I love his boldness and it’s great. But...84 percent of Americans would pay more taxes under his plan." Cain responded, "That simply is not true. I invite people to look at our analysis which we make available."

At one point Cain tried to deflect charges that his proposed nine percent income tax would be added to a state's income tax. "Whether you throw out the existing code and you put in our plan, you’re still going to pay that. That’s apples and oranges," said Cain. Former Governor Mitt Romney pounced, "And I am going to be getting a bushel basket that has apples and oranges in it, because I’m going to pay both taxes."

But former Governor Romney himself took heavy incoming from all sides. The initial criticism centered on his Massachusetts health care reform plan known as "Romneycare". Former Senator Santorum charged, "You just don’t have credibility, Mitt, when it comes to repealing “Obamacare...your plan was the basis for Obamacare.” For several minutes the former governor and senator testily went back and forth, then Governor Romney affirmed, "What Obama has done has imposed on the nation a plan that will not work, that must be repealed."

But the real fireworks came on the subject of immigration. Texas Governor Rick Perry, who has done poorly so far in the debates and has cratered in the polls, pointedly attacked former Governor Romney. "Mitt, you lose all of your standing from my perspective because you hired illegals in your home, and you knew for — about it for a year. And the idea that you stand here before us and talk about that you’re strong on immigration is, on its face, the height of hypocrisy."

Former Governor Romney, who has been a cool operator in previous debates, quickly answered, "Rick, I don’t think that I’ve ever hired an illegal in my life." But then he host his composure when he was interrupted by the Texas Governor, even placing his hand on the governor's shoulder. The Governor Romney said, "This has been a tough couple of debates for Rick, and I understand’re going to get testy. But let’s let — I’ll tell you what: Let me take my time, and then you can take your time."

Governor Romney answered by saying a contractor he had used to cut his lawns hired an illegal, and when he found out he fired them. The incident was first reported years ago by a Boston newspaper but it shows that Governor Perry came prepared to take on the front-runner.

Since President Obama was elected to office the two political parties have become more polarized and more deeply divided. Americans from all walks of life have regularly expressed their great frustration with the constant partisan bickering in Washington because it has impeded progress on the economy. The Republican debate in Las Vegas was just more of the same.

Former House Speaker and candidate Newt Gingrich offered his fellow debaters some advice, "Let me just point out a second that maximizing bickering is probably not the road to the White House.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Romney Cruises

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney ran the table in the latest Republican debate held at Dartmouth University. Businessman Herman Cain, brandishing his "9-9-9" economic plan, showed some extra pop, perhaps fueled by his strong performance in recent polls.

The debate, sponsored by Bloomberg and the Washington Post, was moderated by Charlie Rose of PBS and conducted around a large oval table. The setting allowed for a more conversational and less tense atmosphere.

Of course, Texas Governor Rick Perry has performed poorly in all of his debates. As a result, he has plummeted in the polls. So, even with expectations at an all-time low, Governor Perry barely cleared the bar. It was surprising that, with everything riding on his performance, Governor Perry appeared small and unimpressive in this debate. It seemed that whatever the question Governor Perry's answer would circle back to "reduce energy regulations" and "I know how to create jobs--I did it in Texas." The fact is that even the conservative Wall Street Journal has been casting a disbelieving eye on his jobs claims. And Governor Perry has still not released a detailed economic plan.

What is most annoying about these debates is that candidates are sometimes not truthful with their answers, yet their responses are seldom challenged. Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman said that President Obama's health care reform legislation would result in the IRS hiring more than 19,000 staff. This silly claim has been found totally untrue time and again for two years. Governor Perry inferred that 2.9 million jobs have been lost under President Obama. In fact, the president has been adding jobs since his second month in office. Former Governor Romney says that President Obama's first stimulus failed. Yet the non-partisan CBO says the stimulus package added or saved between 1.9 million and 3 million jobs. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich said that Obamacare did include death panels. Nonsense!

Of course, Republican voters believe just about anything that is critical of the president. A huge percentage of Republicans believe he is a Muslim. Ditto for those who believe he was not born in the United States. Ditto for those who believe the president is a socialist who engages in class warfare.

Political candidates are coached on what to say. Their responses have keywords and are often reduced to easy to remember bullet points. So the answers that many of the candidates give are well developed, extensively focus-grouped and are repeated over and over. But time and again, in all of the debates, inaccurate candidate responses go unchallenged. Instead, journalists should research the candidate's previous answers to important questions and anticipate what they will say. They can then be prepared to push back when the responses are untrue.

Nonetheless, today was a great day for the Romney campaign. First, he got the enthusiastic and impressive endorsement of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Christie just ruled out a presidential bid for himself although he is extremely popular among party loyalists, especially among moderate Republicans. Governor Romney then hit it out of the park with his debate performance.

A particularly interesting moment came when Governor Perry got to ask former Governor Romney about his universal health care reform measure, which is now the law and working well in Massachusetts. Governor Romney ably defended it as right for his state, but turned the spotlight right back on Governor Perry. ""One per-cent of Massachusetts' children are uninsured while 25%, or one million Texas children, are uninsured." Governor Perry's lack of debating prowess is truly amazing.

Of course, with each passing day, more and more Republicans are getting comfortable with the likelihood that Romney will head their ticket in 2012. The question will be can he win the crucial independent vote and beat President Barack Obama?

The good news for the ambitious Texas governor is that Governor Romney's success will give Governor Perry at least four years to practice his debating techniques and learn something about the world.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Remembering Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs will always be remembered as a historic figure who shaped the technological revolution of the past three decades and made it accessible to everyone in the world. Jobs inspired a whole generation of young entrepreneurs to take chances, to innovate and to pursue their dreams with relentless determination.

Jobs always conducted his life with passion, purpose, focus and daring. “It’s more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy,” he was quoted as saying in 1982. He was a brilliant visionary. In 1985, he told Playboy magazine, “The most compelling reason for most people to buy a computer for the home will be to link it to a nationwide communications network. We’re just in the beginning stages of what will be a truly remarkable breakthrough for most people––as remarkable as the telephone.” His comments came years before there was an Internet.

Jobs had an uncanny ability to create and market products so beautifully designed and powerfully functional that consumers had to own them. He once told Business Week, “For something this complicated, it’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” And so it was with the iPod, iPhone and iPad.

Jobs also applied innovation and technology to distribution. For instance, take those iconic and always crowded Apple Stores. Even more impactful, he reinvented the music business with iTunes. “It will go down in history as a turning point for the music industry,” he told Fortune in 2003. "This is landmark stuff. I can’t overestimate it!”

But in October 2003, Jobs learned he had cancer. He had not yet turned 50 years old. Jobs, a notoriously private man, did not publicly disclose his illness for several months.

In June 2005, Steve Jobs gave a powerful commencement speech at Stanford University. He told the graduates, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

On selecting a career, Jobs said, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle."

Jobs spoke about his willingness to take chances, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

Jobs also spoke of death, “No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new."

Jobs' had stepped down as Apple's CEO this past August for health reasons. On October 4, the day before he died, Apple announced its new iPhone 4S. Did the name "4S" actually mean "for Steve"?

Jobs leaves behind a wife of twenty years and four children. At the time of his death Jobs' net worth was estimated to be $7 billion. He was one of the richest persons on earth. But money was not what drove Steve Jobs, as he told the Wall Street Journal in 1993.

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.”

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Few Minutes About Andy Rooney

Zoe Peyronnin & Andy Rooney, Hill Country Barbeque, NYC, 2010

Andy Rooney has been the voice of America for thirty-three years. He once described himself as, "a dead center normal average American." But the always modest Rooney was so much more.

Rooney seemed to epitomize a curmudgeon--however, he really just played one on television. And he willingly accepted this role, "I don’t like to complain all the time, but that’s what I do for a living, and I am lucky because there is so much to complain about." And complain he did, about everything from the way shoes are made to the way mixed nuts are packed. That is why his weekly "60 Minutes" commentaries connected with viewers. He spoke for them.

Born in Albany, New York, in 1919, Rooney experienced the Great Depression as a young boy. He attended Colgate University until he was drafted into the U.S. Army. Rooney began writing for the Army publication "Stars and Stripes" in London and found himself on the frontlines of history. He reported and wrote about the allied entry into German occupied Paris and the concentration camps. He also was one of six correspondents who flew on the first U.S. bombing raid over Germany in 1943. These experiences had an important impact on his career.

Following the war Rooney joined CBS in 1949 as a writer for Arthur Godfrey, whose shows were hits on television and radio. He later moved on to the "Garry Moore Show", which also was a hit program. And, at the same time, he began writing for CBS News public affairs programs, including "The 20th Century". Subsequently he collaborated with the late CBS News correspondent Harry Reasoner on many critically acclaimed specials. In 1968, he wrote two CBS News specials in the series "Of Black America", and he won his first Emmy for his script for "Black History: Lost, Stolen, or Strayed".

In 1978, "60 Minutes" creator and executive producer Don Hewitt began including Andy Rooney's essays at the end of the program as a summer replacement for its "Point/Counterpoint" segments, with Shana Alexander and James Kilpatrick. Rooney's commentaries were so popular by the fall that Hewitt alternated Rooney with "Point/Counterpoint". By the end of the season Kilpatrick and Alexander were dropped in favor of "A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney".

For nearly fifty years Rooney wrote his essays and scripts on a 1920 Underwood typewriter. His transition to computers was not smooth and the experience resulted in a commentary directed at Microsoft founder Bill Gates. "Some one screwed up the way computers work and I blame it on him," Rooney opined. "I had one typewriter for fifty years, but I bought seven computers in six years," he observed, "I suppose that is why Bill Gates in rich and Underwood is out of business." Rooney said the reason is, "They make computers so you have to buy a new one when there is a full moon."

Rooney came up with the ideas for all his commentaries. He would write them in a modest office in the CBS Broadcast Center on New York City's westside. He would then record them there, at his desk, at the end of the week. It was all very low-tech. Yet the commentaries almost always had an impact on millions of viewers.

At 92 years of age Andy Rooney has decided to cut back on his work schedule. His final regular appearance Sunday will be his 1097th commentary for "60 Minutes". "A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney" was a unique fixture on American television that will never be replaced but will always be remembered. Thank you, Andy.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Christie's Future

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will spend the weekend considering whether to declare his candidacy for president. Should he enter the GOP race he will have committed one of the biggest flip-flops ever, and many Americans will be asking, "What changed?"

For months the governor has been adamant that he will not run for the White House in 2012. Up to now the governor has repeatedly said on television, "I am not ready to be president." Should he declare his candidacy he will be seeing that soundbite in a lot of campaign commercials.

But now what has changed is the intensity with which supporters and some leading party members are clamoring for him to enter the race. It seems that many Republicans are not happy with their existing field of candidates.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has retaken the top spot in some polls of declared GOP candidates. A recent Fox News poll shows his support at 23%, which is about where it was two months ago. Despite his strong debate performances and tireless campaigning, Romney has not been able to win over most Republicans. It seems that "RomneyCare", his track record of changing positions on key issues and the fact he is a Mormon are all dragging him down among conservative party members.

Following his announcement in August, Texas Governor Rick Perry surged in polls to a commanding lead among Republican candidates. He quickly became the darling of conservatives and Tea Party members. But a series of poor debate performances and increased scrutiny of his record has rocked his campaign and dampened enthusiasm for his candidacy.

Businessman Herman Cain got a bump up to third place in this week's polls following his solid debate performance in Orlando, Florida. But his "9-9-9" plan for the American economy is more of a clever marketing pitch than a realistic solution to this nation's woes. Meanwhile, the rest of the field is mired in single digits and none are likely get their party's nomination.

Republicans believe they can defeat President Barack Obama in 2012, the number one priority of the party since he was elected. Whoever gets the nomination will campaign against the president's economic record, his health care reform act and his inability to end partisan politics in Washington. Their only dilemma is finding the right candidate.

So many key Republicans are pressuring Governor Christie because they believe he can unite the party and win over independent voters. The governor has only been if office two years but he has received a lot of attention because of his straight-talking brash style. Critics call him a bully. The governor has taken on the teachers' unions and he has balanced two budgets after eliminating huge deficits by working with a Democratic majority in the New Jersey legislature.

But is the governor ready for relentless national scrutiny? The unemployment rate in New Jersey is 9.5%, above the national rate, and the state's economy is struggling. The governor has no experience in foreign affairs and few, if any, relationships with international leaders.

Meanwhile, late night comedians are already making fun of the governor's weight. David Letterman reported to his audience, "Critics are saying he doesn't have fire in his belly, that's all he doesn't have in his belly." And political columnists are also raising the weight issue. Take Michael Kinsley, "I'm sorry, but New Jersey Governor Chris Christie cannot be president: He is just too fat." Will Governor Christie's weight be too much of a distraction? Will he be able to conduct a rigorous campaign?

Meanwhile, conservatives are not going to be happy with some of the governor's positions. On gun control the governor has said New Jersey has a "handgun problem" and that he supports some gun-control measures. On immigration he has said that being in the country without proper papers is an "administrative matter," not a crime. When critics howled because the governor appointed a Muslim lawyer to be a New Jersey Superior Court judge, he snapped, "I'm tired of dealing with the crazies."

Running for president is incredibly difficult, and a candidate has to go all out to have a chance of winning. But will Governor Christie be able to run for president and run New Jersey at the same time?

If he chooses to run for president, Governor Christie will have to answer questions regarding his background, his performance in office, his weight and his positions on key issues. Perhaps Governor Christie should carefully reconsider his own words, "I am not ready to be president."

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Baseball Magic!

What a great day for baseball! What a terrible day for the Boston Red Sox and the Atlanta Braves. Both teams squandered commanding leads in their final stretch run to lose it all on the final day of the regular season.

The Tampa Bay Rays spotted the New York Yankees a 7-0 lead in Wednesday's game by the 5th inning, then came back to tie the game. Amazingly the Rays won in extra innings 8-7 on an exciting Evan Longoria home run in the 12th inning. The Longoria home run came just 3 minutes after Boston had lost.

Boston had blown a 71/2 game lead over the Rays with 20 games left to play. They went into the 9th inning of Wednesday's game with a 3-2 lead over the Baltimore Orioles and their star closer, Jonathan Papelbon, on the mound. Their final collapse came when The Orioles scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to win 4-3.

Meanwhile, in the National League the Atlanta Braves continued their nose-dive with a season ending loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. They had entered the final stretch with a 9 game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals. But the Cards would not be denied. While Atlanta was losing to the Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis won the final regular season game over the hapless Houston Astros on a 2-hit 8-0 shutout.

So the Tampa Bay Rays and the St. Louis Cardinals snatch the wild card slots in their respective leagues and head into the playoffs with tremendous momentum.

Of course, the Chicago Cubs capped off their terrible season with a 9-2 loss to the San Diego Padres. In my lifetime the Cubs have never played in a World Series. Wait till next year!

Nonetheless, for all baseball fans this has been the most exciting September ever. A prediction: the Yankees will square of against the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2011 World Series. But if this year has proved anything, it has shown that predicting winners can be risky.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Shovel Ready Debate

Immigration, Social Security and health care were the most contentious issues in Thursday's spirited debate among the field of Republican presidential candidates vying for their party's nomination. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney put on another polished performance while Texas Governor Rick Perry seemed at times to struggle. Nonetheless, no candidate delivered a knock out punch.

All of the candidates criticized President Barack Obama's handling of the U.S. economy. Governor Perry began the debate by once again referring to the relatively strong Texas economy and jobs creation as the reasons he should be elected president, "If it'll work in the state of Texas, it'll work in Washington, D.C." Former Governor Romney again pointed to his private sector experience and his economic plan as the reasons he should be in the White House. But, late in the debate, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson had the night's best line, "My next door neighbor's two dogs have created more shovel-ready jobs than this president."

Governors Perry and Romney, the two frontrunners according to polls, went after each other on Social Security. In his recently released book Governor Perry denounced Social Security as a "Ponzi scheme" and suggested that some of the responsibility should be turned back to the states. When asked about Governor Romney's attacks on his stand Perry seemed to be on the defensive, "It's not the first time that Mitt has been wrong on some issues before...we never said that we were going to move this back to the states." He continued, "We ought to have as one of the options the state employees and the state retirees, they being able to go off of the current system, on to one that the states would operate themselves."

Governor Romney seized the opening, "Well, it's different than what the governor put in his book...There's a Rick Perry out there that is saying -- and almost to quote, it says that the federal government shouldn't be in the pension business, that it's unconstitutional." Governor Perry quickly responded by switching subjects to the former governor's universal health care plan for Massachusetts. The Texas governor said, "(In your book) you said it was exactly what the American people needed, to have that Romneycare given to them as you had in Massachusetts." Governor Romney denied he ever wrote that.

Immigration was a hotly debated subject and it found Governor Perry having to defend his policies. The Texas "Dream Act" allows children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuitions for college. Governor Romney criticized the Texas governor's position, "We have to turn off the magnet of extraordinary government benefits like a $100,000 tax credit -- or, excuse me, discount for going to the University of Texas. That shouldn't be allowed. It makes no sense at all." And former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum attacked Governor Perry's overall immigration policy, "I think he's very weak on this issue of American sovereignty and protecting our borders and not being a magnet for illegal immigration."

Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann, who had a stronger debate performance this time around, went after Governor Perry for his executive order in 2007 mandating that all 12 year-old Texas girls receive the HPV vaccine against cervical cancer. "Governor Perry made a decision where he gave parental rights to a big drug company," she charged, "That big drug company gave him campaign contributions and hired his former chief of staff to lobby him to benefit the big drug company." The governor said he was lobbied by a 31 year-old woman with cervical cancer and concluded, "I erred on the side of life and I will always err on the side of life as a governor as the president of the United States."

Governor Perry stumbled through his only real attempt to go on the offensive against Governor Romney, who he accused of being a flip-flopper on key issues. "I think Americans just don't know sometimes which Mitt Romney they're dealing with. Is it the Mitt Romney that was on the side of against the Second Amendment before he was for the Second Amendment?" Then the governor seemed to lose himself, "Was it -- was before he was before the social programs, from the standpoint of he was for standing up for Roe v. Wade before he was against Roe v. Wade? He was for Race to the Top, he's for Obamacare, and now he's against it. I mean, we'll wait until tomorrow and --and-- and see which Mitt Romney we're really talking to tonight."

It is unlikely that Thursday's debate in Orlando, Florida, will dramatically change the polls. Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, who had seen a bump up in a recent New Hampshire poll, may have actually hurt himself a bit with his awkward answer to who he might pick among the debaters to be his vice presidential running mate. His answer was businessman Herman Cain because he was also wearing a yellow tie at the debate.

In the weeks ahead, Governor Perry will have to do a better job of explaining his positions on Social Security and immigration or they may ultimately drag him down. Yet, what the governor lacks as a debater he makes up for in charisma and charm. On the other hand, while former Governor Romney is a strong debater with a solid business background, he is haunted by Romneycare and his history of changing positions on core Republican issues. A lack of enthusiasm may make it easier for President Obama to be reelected, provided he makes progress on reducing unemployment and improving the economy before election day 2012.

So, even though it is clearly a two-man race for the Republican nomination, many Republicans still haven't decided who to support. In other words, neither candidate is yet shovel-ready.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

2012: A Hard Road Ahead

With just thirteen months to go before the 2012 presidential elections Republicans are more confident than ever that they will defeat President Barack Obama, their number one priority for America. But the more scrutiny their field of candidates receives the more people are asking, "Is this the best they can do?"

Texas Governor Rick Perry, who has surged into the lead among declared Republican candidates according to polls, walks with swagger and speaks with a "straight talkin'" twang. The self-proclaimed "jobs creator" has presided over the state for the past decade during which the Texas economy has prospered.

Governor Perry repeatedly points out that Texas has added more jobs in the past two years than the rest of the country combined. While that may be true, it is also true that the unemployment rate in Texas just rose to 8.5%, the highest it has been in twenty-five years. When the Governor first took office in December 2000, the state unemployment rate was 4.2%, the lowest rate since he began serving as governor. Moreover, Texas currently has a higher unemployment rate than any of its adjacent states.

Governor Perry rails against President Obama's Recovery Act of 2009, a.k.a. the "Stimulus" package. But the governor used billions of stimulus dollars to balance his 2010 state budget. Texas has already received more than $11 billion of the $16.7 billion in stimulus money it has been awarded under the program. Further, the governor claims that stimulus spending added no new jobs nationwide. In a recent debate he said, "(Obama) had $800 billion worth of stimulus in the first round of stimulus. It created zero jobs." Yet government and independent reports show that between 1.3 million and 3.6 million jobs were added or saved because of the measure.

Governor Perry has stubbornly stuck to his "Social Security is a Ponzi scheme" attack in campaign appearances and debates. His position has now become a major issue in the Republican primary. And it is flying in the face of even Republican voters who overwhelming support the program. It has also energized the campaign of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who wants to keep the current program with some fixes.

Governor Perry has come under fire for his 2007 executive order mandating that sixth-graders be vaccinated against cervical cancer with the Gardasil vaccine, which is manufactured by the drug maker Merck. "I will tell you that I made a mistake by not going to the Legislature first," he now says about the decision. Was this a classic “pay-to-play” scheme?

Gardasil received FDA approval a year before his executive order. But the governor's former chief of staff and close friend, Mike Toomey, was a lobbyist for Merck. Merck has given Perry's campaign $28,500 in donations and the GOP Governor's Conference another $377,500 when Governor Perry chaired the organization. The Texas Legislature later overturned the executive order.

While former Governor Romney is a far better candidate than he was when he ran for president four years ago, he has not been able to excite the Republican base. And it is no wonder. Governor Romney has changed his position on many important issues in order to win more support. This has raised great suspicion among conservatives.

When campaigning for governor in 2002 his position on abortion was that he would "preserve and protect" a woman's right to choose. Now he describes himself as an abortion opponent. In 1994 he said he was in favor of strong gun control policies, but in 2006 he joined the National Rifle Associate and said he supports the right to bear arms.

In 2008 Governor Romney wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times entitled, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.” In it he argued against a government bailout because it would fail, "You can kiss your money goodbye." Yet when the program righted the industry a Romney spokesman claimed, “Mitt Romney had the idea first. You have to acknowledge that. He was advocating for a course of action that eventually the Obama administration adopted.”

But of greatest concern to the Romney campaign was his passage of a universal health care law in his state. President Obama modeled his health care legislation after the Massachusetts plan, or "Romney Care." Republican presidential candidates have attacked Governor Romney hard on the issue, most notably Governor Rick Perry. "I think Mitt is finally recognizing that the Massachusetts healthcare plan he passed is a huge problem for him," Perry recently said.

With the Republican field in turmoil it would seem that President Obama, who is seeking a second term in office, should be in a good place. But that is not the case. A recent New York Times/CBS News poll shows that the nation’s high unemployment rate, 9.2%, and a struggling economy are taking its toll. The poll found only a 43% approval rating for the president, and a weakening of support among his base. Only a third of those polled approve of his handling of the U.S. economy and more than half disapprove. While a majority supports the president’s latest jobs proposal, almost 60% of those surveyed believe that unemployment will remain high for the next two years.

Most Americans like the president, understand he inherited a bad economy and recognize it will be hard to turn things around, especially given the country’s structural problems and a sagging global economy. But they want action now. And most Americans are tired of all the petty bickering between Congressional Republicans and Democrats. No wonder the poll shows a historically low approval rating for Congress.

The president has recently become more aggressive in his campaign appearances calling on Congress to quickly pass his jobs bill. But the GOP Congressional leadership, while not totally dismissive, is going to continue to drag their feet. Since, according to the Constitution, all tax and revenue bills must originate in the House of Representatives, which is controlled by Republicans, it is unlikely the president will see much of his proposal pass.

So the president will be left with having to forcefully run against a "do-nothing" Congress, and with convincing a majority of voters he is the best person to fix the economy. Otherwise, on election day frustrated voters may be willing to vote for a change just to try something different hoping a new president will get America back on track.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Toy Doll Story

So what were a large rabbit doll and some smaller stuffed animals doing sitting outside a New York day care center? Well, let me tell you the story.

There is, perhaps, no greater joy than being a parent. And most parents want so desperately to keep their children in the nest--even as time flies by too quickly. Inevitably, children become teenagers. For many parents that means changing roles from "best bud" to ATM machine.

During our daughter's early childhood we collected dozens of dolls. Some were gifts from friends, others we purchased. These dolls ranged from a large stuffed rabbit to a slew of "Beanie Babies." The Beanie Babies were always soft and colorful. They were relatively expensive but each brought great joy to our daughter.

Of course, a child's attention span is very short. And one day's favorite new doll would soon be shoved aside for the next fascinating or lovable little creature. Fame can be fleeting even for Beanie Babies! As the early years whisked by more and more dolls found themselves the victims of indifference. What could we do with the mounting body count? We certainly did not want to toss the dolls away because each one carried a special memory or meaning.

Consequently, most of the dolls were relegated to storage bins. For sure, this would mean a dark and desolate existence in the basement. A few lucky dolls were placed on a shelf overlooking the playroom. But no one really paid attention to them for years.

However, several dolls got some overdue attention ironically due to Hurricane Irene. Because Hurricane Irene threatened New York City with record rains and high winds it became necessary to batten down the hatches and remove all objects to higher ground. Thankfully the hurricane caused little damage. So after the storm passed it was time to put everything back.

But did we really want to keep all of the dolls? Certainly some other little child would love to have many of these precious stuffed animals? Regretfully, most places won't accept used toys. Given all the young children and parents who live in the neighborhood, it seemed to be a good idea to place them in an open bag outside our house. Maybe some of the dolls would be "adopted."

Later in the evening two young ladies from Denmark, perhaps college students, stopped by and found themselves fascinated with the dolls. They decided to do all they could to make sure the furry little creatures found a loving home. After discussing various options with them I remembered there is a child's day care center not too far away. They agreed to take all of the dolls, contained in two large bags, over to the center.

When the young ladies arrived at the day care center they decided to display the dolls on the window ledges, on an air conditioner, amidst security bars and the railings at the entrance of the facility. The wanted to make sure the stuffed treasures were fully appreciated! The dolls waited outside undisturbed all night. Passersby smiled at the site. Some took pictures. And when the children arrived the next morning, the dolls were there to greet them. What a joyous surprise!

The kids were so thrilled they decided to adopt the whole lot of them. And later that day someone put a sign on the railing of the day care center--which told of a happy ending.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Obama's Leadership

As Americans try to enjoy Labor Day weekend this year too many find themselves without a job and with little hope of finding employment in the near future. This is because Washington remains embroiled in a partisan battle over what steps to take to get the economy growing again.

The latest unemployment statistics released Friday were dismal. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the official jobless rate for August held at 9.1%, for the first time since World War II there were no new jobs added to the economy. Black unemployment hit 16.7%, the highest it has been in three decades, and 11.3% of Hispanics are out of work. Equally depressing was the fact that on Thursday the White House forecast the unemployment rate will be 9.1% for 2011 and only slightly better in 2012, 9.0%.

In response, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) called President Barack Obama's economic policies "abysmal." In a written statement he continued, "The President’s policies have failed to deliver on his promises of job creation, deficit reduction, and much-needed economic growth.” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Oh) simply Tweeted, "Where are the jobs?"

Over the past three months the U.S. economy has added an anemic average of 35,000 jobs. It takes an addition of 150,000 jobs per month just to keep up with population growth. Meanwhile companies are hoarding $2 trillion dollars, primarily due to the lack of consumer demand, that could be invested in their businesses. And many Americans, suffering the the adverse effects of a terrible housing market, are reluctant to spend.

There is plenty of blame to go around for this country's economic woes. But Americans are tired of Washington's "blame game." Most of them understand that President Obama inherited an economy in free fall and he took important steps to avert a second Great Depression. But the president has been in office for forty months and it appears nothing has changed when it comes to the economy.

Enormous pressure is focused on the president, who will address the nation next Thursday. The president is expected to announce several initiatives to get people working again. The New York Times reports that they will include a tax credit for businesses to increase their payrolls, an extension of the payroll tax credit for individuals and an infrastructure bank targeted at fixing roads and railways. Congressional Republicans will likely be able to block or delay implementation of all the president's proposals. And even if Congress passed an infrastructure bank, it will take months to begin feeling the impact.

The November 2012 presidential election will most likely be decided on who voters think can get America back to work again. Republicans will turn the election into a referendum on President Obama's handling of the economy. For political reasons they will do all they can to forestall any progress over the next year. Instead they will proffer their own pro-business, deficit-reducing initiatives.

In order to make a strong case for his reelection the president must be able to demonstrate that he has this country on the right track to a sounder economy. The president must make big bold proposals to reduce unemployment in his speech next week and then follow it up with a fierce and well-executed campaign against Republicans to get his agenda passed.

President Obama must give Americans a reason to vote for him. To do so the president must now show, in a two words, unrelenting leadership.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Goodnight Irene

Hurricane Irene pummeled New York City Saturday night and Sunday with nearly twenty-four hours of torrential rains and high winds. The storm left behind severe local flooding, falling trees, and some power outages as surging seas overran beaches, sea walls and piers throughout the region. But the "city that never sleeps" dodged a bullet.

The heavy rain began in the Big Apple at about 8pm Saturday evening. Sheets of water pounded skyscrapers, townhouses and city streets. Rivers of water rushed down avenues to lower ground where it accumulated into ponds, puddles and many basements. The intense downpour obscured the "neon lights on Broadway;" its usually bustling sidewalks were virtually empty. Below the surface New York's famous subway system sat idle, having already been shut down midday Saturday.

Every local television news organization went into "wall-to-wall coverage" as did the cable news channels. Intrepid reporters chanced hurricane force winds, rain and high water to do "live shots" everywhere from Battery Park to the southern tip of New Jersey. Seeing a correspondent leaning into the wind and driving rain while reporting on the local effects of the hurricane has now become a cliché. Perhaps journalism schools should add a course, "Hurricane 101"! Many reporters filed live reports while driving through flooded streets in extra heavy "mobile units" laden with the latest in broadcast technology.

By mid afternoon Sunday the rain had pretty much ended in New York City, but winds at 45 to 50 miles per hour persisted as the backside of the hurricane passed through. City officials tried to close Central Park, but joggers, bikers and hikers ignored warning signs posted at each entrance. Debris filled the walkways, paths and roads, but it did nothing to discourage activities. Neither did Park Rangers who had little luck in diverting traffic out of the park.

The fact is that Hurricane Irene is responsible for at least 18 deaths and billions of dollars in damage throughout the East Coast. Even with all of the scientific tools available to weathermen, hurricanes are difficult to predict with precision. For instance, in 2004 it took just three hours for Hurricane Charley to strengthened from winds of 110 mph to winds of 145 mph. Had Irene had winds of 150 mph, New York City would have been devastated and perhaps hundreds of its citizens would have been killed. So Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor Chris Christie did the right thing ordering evacuations from low-lying areas and shutting down mass transit. In short, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Nonetheless, some critics now say predictions were overblown, that the populace was unnecessarily threatened, that media and government officials hyped the storm. The Drudge Report carried a headline that read: "IRENE: A PERFECT STORM OF HYPE..." But many of the same people who now complain would have been the first to scream and howl if the storm had been a monster and the preparations weak. Somehow it seems that politics must enter into everything nowadays.

The full affects of Hurricane Irene have not been yet been felt in some low-lying areas prone to flooding in the Northeast, especially Vermont and Upstate New York. Nonetheless, Hurricane Irene is an important reminder just how powerful and unpredictable Mother Nature can be.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

All Hair, No Cattle?

Now that Texas Governor Rick Perry has thrown his hat into the ring for the GOP presidential nomination he is beginning to get more national scrutiny. While conservatives may like what they hear, he will likely have to temper his views if he wants to do well with independent voters who are essential to winning the White House.

On paper, Rick Perry has a compelling life story. He was born Paint Creek, Texas, about 60 miles north of Abilene. As a child he worked hard on his family's ranch, he joined the Boy Scouts and later became an Eagle Scout. He graduated from Texas A&M University and served in the United States Air Force flying C-130's.

Governor Perry began his political career in 1984 when he was elected to the Texas House of Representatives as a Democrat from his home county of Haskell. He supported Al Gore in the 1988 Democratic presidential primaries as chairman of the Gore campaign in Texas. Then in 1989 Perry announced that he was joining the Republican Party.

Governor Perry then ran and was elected Agriculture Commissioner twice. In 1998 he decided to run for Lieutenant Governor and narrowly won, becoming the first Republican to hold that office since Reconstruction. In December 2000 he assumed the state's governorship when then Governor George W. Bush resigned. Governor Perry was subsequently reelected twice as governor.

Texas has had a rapidly growing population throughout Governor Perry's three terms. It has also enjoyed strong economic growth, which the governor calls the "Texas Miracle." And the Texas governor says his state is responsible for "more than 40% of all new jobs created in America" since June 2009. However, critics say that a large number of those jobs came in the state's booming gas and oil industry, fueled by higher prices. And a substantial percentage of the new jobs were in government.

His opponents also say that much of Texas's job growth has been in low-paying jobs. And there are now strong signs that the growth is slowing. Last month, the Texas jobless rate increased to 8.4%, not far below the national average of 9.1%, and higher than any of Texas's bordering states.

The governor cites several reasons for the Texas Miracle: low taxes, less regulation and tightly-managed state spending. Nonetheless, Texas has had to deal with huge deficits. In 2010-11 Governor Perry used $6.4 billion in Recovery Act money (President Barack Obama's stimulus funding) to plug a $6.6 billion state deficit. And in 2011 he pushed through budget reductions of $15 billion, mostly from schools and health care, refusing to instead raise taxes or use some of the state's $9 billion "rainy day" funds. Texas is already ranked 37th among all states in "per-pupil" education spending, and 5.8 million Texans do not have health insurance, a quarter of its population. So is it a miracle or myth?

Governor Perry is known for his swagger and straight talk. For instance, when recently speaking of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke he said, "If this guy prints more money, I don't know what you all would do to him in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas." He concluded, "Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous or treasonous in my opinion." Republican strategist Karl Rove responded on Fox News, "You don't want to accuse the Federal Reserve chairman of being guilty of a crime punishable by death, which is what treason is."

In April 2009 Governor Perry raised the possibility that Texas could secede from the United States. "When we came into the nation in 1845, we were a republic, we were a stand-alone nation. And one of the deals was, we can leave anytime we want. So we're kind of thinking about that again." A spokesman later denied that the governor advocates secession.

Last week the governor spoke to a young boy about creationism at a campaign stop. "In Texas we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools, because I figured you're smart enough to figure out which one is right," he said. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that teaching creationism in public schools is unconstitutional because it amounts to the endorsement of religion. Later Governor Perry addressed the issue again, "God may have done it in the blink of the eye or he may have done it over this long period of time, I don't know. But I know how it got started."

The governor immediately turned to God when commenting shortly after last year's devastating BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He said, "I hope we don't see a knee-jerk reaction across this country that says we're going to shut down drilling in the Gulf of Mexico...From time to time there are going to be things that occur that are acts of God that cannot be prevented."

Last week, Governor Perry's spoke about climate change while in New Hampshire, "I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects." He continued, "I think we're seeing it almost weekly or even daily, scientists who are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change." But, in fact, several surveys of climate researchers show that as many as 98% of them believe in the concept of man-made climate change.

In a book he wrote last year, "Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington," the Texas governor is blunt about Social Security, calling it an "illegal Ponzi scheme." His spokesman recently said that the governor will do nothing to cut Social Security. In Fed Up! Governor Perry also writes about states' rights, "If you don't support the death penalty and citizens packing a pistol, don't come to Texas." During his 11 years as governor there have been 234 executions in Texas, far more than any other state.

Over the next few months, Republican presidential candidates will vigorously compete for their party's nomination. So far, according to polls, Governor Perry is among the front-runners. Now a spotlight has been intensely focused on his record and his statements. He is also being attacked by his Republican opponents.

Should Perry get his party's nomination he will have to appeal more to voters in the center to prevail in November 2012. And he may be haunted by the memory of a recent president from Texas who walked with swagger and ushered in a great recession.

The country's rapid economic recovery is certain to be the key issue in 2012. And that may actually call for a real miracle.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Remembering Lane Venardos: 1944-2011

Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, Diane Sawyer, Lesley Stahl and Charles Kuralt are among the giants who have been the public faces of broadcast news over the past four decades. But just out of the public spotlight, whether in glittering world capitols or war-torn hellholes, there worked behind the scenes some legendary figures that were held in the highest esteem by their peers. On Friday Lane Venardos, one of the news industry's greatest producers and executives, died at his home in Hawaii.

Lane was a very special person who combined a fiercely competitive spirit, a strong commitment to professionalism and integrity with a wonderful effervescent personality. For nearly thirty years he personified what was great about CBS News.

Lane was an exceptional executive producer because he had a clear vision, he communicated effectively and he was always incredibly organized. "No detail too small" he would often say. His approach would earn him more than a dozen Emmy awards. As an executive producer and then vice president of CBS News his energetic leadership style won respect from all those who worked with him.

Lane was born in post-war Alton, Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. He was a product of America's heartland. He started in radio news and had a booming radio voice. "Tall tower full power!" he would frequently blurt out even years after jumping to television. That transition would take place in Chicago in the early seventies where he served as assistant news director at WBBM-TV News. It wasn't long before CBS News recruited him.

In the late seventies, as a producer for The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite in Washington, he helped modernize television coverage of the White House. He applied organization and the latest technologies to presidential trip coverage around the world. He soon was promoted to senior producer. Sir Howard Stringer, now CEO of Sony and then the newly appointed CBS Evening News executive producer, brought him to New York to work with Dan Rather. When Howard was promoted to the CBS News front office two years later Lane took over as executive producer of the broadcast.

For four years in the mid-eighties he served as the executive producer of the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, and he was proud to point out the broadcast was number one in the ratings during his entire tenure. "The CBS Evening News brings people together every day even for only a brief period of time." he once said. "That carries a special responsibility."

In the late eighties Lane took on the role of vice president of special events coverage. He was the executive producer of 48 Hours on Crack Street, the premier broadcast of that series. Lane led CBS News' presidential election specials, campaign coverage and dozens of specials on major news stories. He led the CBS News operations in Beijing, China, for its highly acclaimed coverage of the student uprising at Tiananmen Square. He was also executive producer of such CBS News specials as Remember Pearl Harbor, Eye on the Earth, and William S. Paley: Tribute to a Broadcasting Giant.

In the early nineties he was promoted to vice president of hard news. There he ran all of CBS News day-to-day news coverage and worldwide bureaus. He was as outstanding an executive as he had been an executive producer.

He retired from CBS News in the late nineties but did not retire from television. His subsequent television credits included several Survivor series, The Apprentice, The Contender and The Biggest Loser.

Yet, for all these considerable accomplishments, friends and colleagues will best remember Lane’s extraordinary sense of humor and personality. "Let's get out there and scratch that surface!" he would often quip. Working with him, no matter how difficult the task, was always fun. His energy, his passion and his down to earth character were incredibly endearing. And he was deeply admired for his strong family commitment.

Lane Venardos was a great friend to thousands of broadcasters throughout the world. For them, Lane Venardos is a legend in television news.


A few LANE-isms

A greeting: "Good luck in your own personal career!"
Booming radio voice: "Tall tower, full power!...50 thousand watts, clear channel...broadcasting from the heart of the capital...the capital city's number ONE source for the golden tones of (insert your name)."
Answering the phone: "Good morning. miracle productions."
Comment during a failed video feed: "It looked good leaving here, New York."
Inspring the troops: "Let's get out there and scratch that surface."
Killing a package: "Boom, boom, boom, boom, you're piece is dead."
Or: "On any other day your story would have been the lede!"
Setting expectations: "Never make the same mistake once."
On being human: "No good deed goes unpunished."
Hard work: "If it is worth doing, it is worth overdoing."
Organization: "No detail too small."
On television investigative reporting. "Your report should be like a rock skipping across the top of the water, never too deep as to slow down the story."
On praise: "You're only as good as your next piece."
Avoiding controvery: "Life is lonely in the middle."
The producer's apology when caught being sneaky: "I don't know how it happened, I am sorry, it will never happen again."
The producer's pledge: "You have my word as a producer!"