Friday, December 21, 2012

NRA Nonsense

"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."  Using this rationale, Wayne LaPierre, the National Rifle Association's CEO and executive vice president, announced that the NRA's solution for stopping school shootings is to station armed guards in every one of the nation's schools by January.

Simply put, the NRA's answer to gun violence, one of the greatest plagues facing America today, is more guns. 

"How many more copycats are waiting in the wings for their moment of fame from a national media machine that rewards them?" he asked.  "I call on Congress, today, to act immediately to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation," LaPierre urged.  He then announced that the NRA is launching a "National School Shield" training program to help -- for free -- schools train security personnel and develop security plans.

Mr. LaPierre's remarks came at a Washington news conference that was disrupted twice by anti-gun protestors.  One protestor held up a sign that read "NRA Killing Our Kids," before being escorted out by security.  David Keene, the NRA's president, introduced LaPierre, saying they would take no questions until next week.

The NRA news conference followed by one week the tragic school shootings in Newtown, Conn., which left 27 persons dead, including 20 young children.  The horrific mass muder created a huge outcry across the country against semiautomatic assault weapons and high capacity ammunition clips.  On Wednesday, President Barack Obama appointed a commission, headed by Vice President Joe Biden, to come up with meaningful recommendations to stem gun violence.  He also announced an aggressive timetable to enact such legislation. 

The NRA has more than 4 million members, and it is one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington.  LaPierre explained the timing of the NRA news conference: "Out of respect for those grieving families, and until the facts are known, the NRA has refrained from comment. While some have tried to exploit tragedy for political gain, we have remained respectfully silent."

In the wake of the Newtown massacre, one of several that has occurred over the past few years, some commentators had felt that the NRA might support some form of gun control.  They were wrong.  Instead, LaPierre blamed computer games, violent movies and music.  "In a race to the bottom, media conglomerates compete with one another to shock, violate and offend every standard of civilized society by bringing an ever-more-toxic mix of reckless behavior and criminal cruelty into our homes -- every minute of every day of every month of every year," he said.

LaPierre blasted the national media, their corporate owners, and their stockholders, "as silent enablers, if not complicit co-conspirators."  He continued, "Rather than face their own moral failings, the media demonize lawful gun owners, amplify their cries for more laws and fill the national debate with misinformation and dishonest thinking that only delay meaningful action and all but guarantee that the next atrocity is only a news cycle away."

LaPierre concluded his remarks with a plea: "For the sake of the safety of every child in America, I call on every parent, every teacher, every school administrator and every law enforcement officer in this country to join us in the National School Shield Program and protect our children with the only line of positive defense that's tested and proven to work." 

As a parent of a high school girl, I am personally opposed to guns in my daughter's school.   I find the LaPierre proposal to be ridiculous and highly flawed.  The National School Shield Program calls for retired military and police to be armed, trained and assigned to schools in a few weeks.  Who will screen these "volunteers"?  What will they be instructed to do?  What sort of weapons will they have?  Exactly what kind of training will they receive from the NRA, target practice?  And the questions go on and on.

Gun violence is a complex problem.  There are many complicated factors that may contribute to each incident, including easy access to weapons, mental health issues, computer games, violent movies and television programs. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg bluntly reacted to the NRA press conference in a statement, "The NRA's Washington leadership has long been out of step with its members, and never has that been so apparent as this morning. Their press conference was a shameful evasion of the crisis facing our country."

A few days after the horrendous mass murder in Newtown, the NRA put out a statement that said they were "shocked, saddened and heartbroken," and would help make sure it would never happen again.  Instead, the NRA embarrassed themselves to the shock and sadness of most Americans.  If the NRA truly respects the grieving families, it should do something meaningful and worthy of respect.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Newtown's Law

The tragic deaths at Newtown, Connecticut, have once again focused attention on one of the most painful problems this nation faces, gun violence.  The nation cannot let this moment pass without some meaningful action to stem America's epidemic of gun violence.   

About 30,000 people are killed by firearms in America each year.  All too often the victims are young.  27 people were killed Friday in Newtown, 20 of them were young children.  The assailant used a semiautomatic assault rifle in his massacre, the same weapon used in the 2002 Washington area sniper shootings that left 10 people dead.  Since 1982, there have been at least 62 mass murders carried out with firearms across the United States.  In a majority of these cases the assailants obtained their weapons legally.

The killings at a lower school in Newtown are inexplicable.  How could anyone commit such evil?  The deaths of these innocent children, who were robbed of their precious and promising lives, must be a turning point for this country.  It is time to act.

In his speech Sunday, before grieving parents, friends and neighbors, President Barack Obama challenged himself, and all Americans, to face this most heinous problem.  "In the coming weeks, I’ll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement, to mental health professionals, to parents and educators, in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this, because what choice do we have?" the president said.  "We can’t accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage? That the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?"

But this problem is made even more complicated by the fact that there are more than 200 million privately-owned guns in America.   The right to own guns was enshrined in the Constitution by America's founding fathers.  The second amendment to the Constitution reads, "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

But two hundred years ago there weren't any semiautomatic assault weapons or high capacity magazines filled with ammo.  There weren't any warlike computer games.  There weren't any violent movies that captivate audiences with bloody shoot outs.  Today, these are all as American as apple pie.

At this moment all Americans feel the suffering and pain that was brought on by a deranged lone gunman in a quiet village that represents the values and ideals of this great Democracy.  It is time to send a powerful message.  Congress must quickly pass a ban on semiautomatic assault weapons so the president can sign it into law before the end of the year.

And in memory of those 26 innocent victims of Friday's senseless mass murder, call the legislation the Newtown Semiautomatic Weapons Ban Act.  Give those who have suffered from this latest atrocity the comfort of knowing something has been done.     

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Journalism Professor

People often ask me how I like being a journalism professor. I always answer that it is great, especially because of the students.

During the fall 2012 term, I taught four courses at two universities. I am a full-time associate professor at Hofstra University, which is located in Hempstead, New York, a thirty minute drive from my Manhattan home. Their journalism school is part of the university's School of Communication. Hofstra has excellent facilities and a very strong radio and television program, along with a first rate public relations school. I teach three courses at Hofstra, including multimedia journalism, broadcast writing and something I call TV newscast.

This past Monday we aired our final newscast of the semester. Here I am pictured with my editorial team.

I am also an adjunct journalism professor at New York University, where I have taught for six years. The Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute is part of NYU's College of Arts and Sciences. They have wonderful facilities in the historic East Village, near the Cooper Union and Astor Place.

While I have taught basic television reporting, I now primarily teach video and television production. In the spring I teach graduate students Digital Newsroom, which creates a thirty minute newscast each week. In the fall, I teach undergraduates how to produce a newscast. In both cases the students at NYU not only function as journalists, they must also handle all of the technical positions as well.

Tonight my 2012 undergraduate class completed its final broadcast for the term. Here I am joined for a post broadcast picture by students and NYU's director of operations, Adrian Mihai.

Take a good look at both of these pictures. In particular focus on the students. They are the reason I love being a journalism professor.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Be Not Afraid--Do What's Right

The holiday season is already upon us, but Congressional Republicans are not in a holiday mood.  Because of their recalcitrance in the ongoing negotiations surrounding the pending fiscal crisis, they are on the verge of becoming the Grinch that stole America's economic recovery. 

President Barack Obama, who won November's presidential election decisively, campaigned for raising tax rates on the wealthy, individuals making more than $200,000, and couples making more than $250,000.  One month later, A Washington Post and Pew Research Center poll shows a majority of Americans still supports that position.  The poll also finds that 53 percent of the respondents will blame Republicans in Congress if the two parties fail to reach a budget deal.

But national opinion polls do not influence GOP Congressmen elected in heavily Republican districts.  Many of these members are under the firm control of the Tea Party and Grover Norquist, the conservative founder of Americans for Tax Reform.  They have both threatened to defeat any Republican members who do not toe the less "government-less taxes" party line by supporting more conservative candidates against them in the primaries.   

Republicans have a majority of the seats in the House of Representatives, and conservatives have a strangle hold on these members and their leadership.  So tight is their grip on House Speaker John Boehner that if he were to act against their wishes he may lose his Speakership. 

Bah Humbug! This is just the right time for Speaker Boehner to compromise, and show the majority of Americans that a smoothly and smartly functioning government is possible.  A compromise on the “fiscal cliff” would be a wonderful gift for most Americans, businesses and the global economy.  Such a compromise would also polish up the tarnished image of the Republican Party, except among Tea-Party members.  But even they would benefit from a healthier economy and a more robust recovery.

The Democratic-controlled Senate passed a bill in July that would extend many of the expiring George W. Bush-era tax cuts for middle-income families, while not doing so for wealthy income earners.  Speaker Boehner should call this bill up for a House vote and deliver the two-dozen Republican votes needed to pass it.  The president has repeatedly said he will sign this bill, which would mean certainty and relief for 98 percent of all Americans. 

Subsequently, Republicans can continue to the debate with Democrats the merits of extending the Bush tax cuts to the wealthy, entitlement reform, budget reductions and changes in the federal tax laws.  Each of these are difficult and complicated issues that will take more time to get right.  But why make the middle-class suffer any more hardship; why use them as a political chip in a effort to score political points with a vocal minority of Americans?

Republicans and Democrats both reminisce about how President Ronald Reagan and House Speaker Tip O'Neill worked together to move America forward.  This relationship, built on mutual respect, was historic.  Both men risked the wrath of their base supporters, but were not afraid to do so.  

Speaker Boehner, you too can make history.  And you can make this a happy holiday season for a majority of Americans. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

GOP: A New Direction

As members of the Republican Party reflect on their losses at the polls November 6, they should do so with complete honesty and a commitment to play a constructive role in effective governance.  Their first step should be to get their house in order.  

The Republican Party under Reince Priebus was a failure.  His leadership during this past election was characterized by distortion and deception.  His incessant reliance on talking points and mean-spirited attacks did not elevate the debate nor inspire his troops.  Not only did he miscalculate how Mitt Romney would do Election Day, Romney failed to carry Priebus's home state of Wisconsin.    

Supporters credit him with cutting the RNC's debt in half, and increasing the party's donor base.  Priebus sent an email to committee members notifying them he intends to run again in January, but barely mentioned Romney's defeat and the loss of Senate seats.  Instead, he praised the RNC's get out the vote effort, even though Romney received fewer votes than Senator John McCain did four years earlier.

Preibus has not owned up to his role in voter suppression, an effort that backfired.  This tactic was based on the old axiom that if the voter turnout is large the Democrats win.  There were also allegations of voter registration fraud involving Strategic Allied Consulting, a firm the RNC retained for $1.3 million before being forced to terminate the contract.  At the time, Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said, "It's not hard to connect the dots here -- each of these cases is directly connected to Chair Reince Priebus, who as Chair of the RNC hired the firm headed by Nathan Sproul, a longtime Republican consultant with a known history of alleged voter registration fraud."  

Senate Republicans should replace their leader, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.  He has consistently put partisan politics ahead of working on a bipartisan basis with President Barack Obama.  Prior to the 2010-midterm elections, Senator McConnell famously threw down the gauntlet.   In an interview with the National Journal, the senator said, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."  If Congress actually accomplished something, he reasoned, it would make the president look good.

Republicans became the party of roadblocks.  Republicans have had effective control of the Senate since the beginning of President Obama's first term.  While they did not have a majority in the Senate, they had enough seats to keep Democrats from getting the required 60 votes needed to end a filibuster.   And under Senator McConnell's leadership Republicans shattered all previous records for using filibusters.  According to the Washington Post's Ezra Klein, "There were more filibusters between 2009 and 2010 than there were in the 1950's, 1960's and 1970's combined."  In the election earlier this month Republicans lost seats to the Democrats, although not enough to end a filibuster by that party.

A mandate is in the eye of the beholder.  Democrats say the election gave the president a mandate, especially for raising taxes on the rich, while Republicans disagree.  No matter, Americans voted for a divided government, where Democrats control the White House and the Senate, and Republicans control the House of Representatives.  It was as if the voters were saying, "Alright guys, enough with the gridlock, get back in there and get something done."  

Meanwhile, government is on the edge of a fiscal cliff, which Congress created.  If no action is taken by the end of the year automatic spending reductions will kick in and all of the Bush tax cuts will expire.  That will mean the tax bill for the average household will increase by several thousand dollars, which will snuff out America's already anemic economic recovery.   

So the second thing Republicans should do is to take the high ground in the debate on the impending fiscal crisis.  They should agree to the president's proposal to increase taxes on the wealthy, while putting in place some tax reforms.  Republicans should show they are willing to compromise for the good of the country.  To do otherwise would garner blame for a Republican party that is already flat on its back from a staggering defeat on election day.  

It is time for the Republican Party to end its failed era of obstructionism.  Elections do have consequences.     

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Closing Bell: 5/10

On May 11, 2010, I helped ring the closing bell of the New York Stock Exchange, as the Executive Vice Chairman of the Mental Health Association.  Now, more than two years later, I am posting a link to the video on You Tube.  If you don't already know, I am the good looking guy on the right!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Stop Whining, Republicans

President Barack Obama handily won a second term largely because he ran a superior campaign. Republicans expected a late Reagan-esque surge to propel Mitt Romney to victory. This made Tuesday's defeat an even more crushing blow.

As Romney was conceding defeat, already indignant Republicans were pointing fingers and assessing blame. They were intensely angry, overwrought, and consumed with personal animus for the president. Highly paid Republican consultants cried foul. After all, consultants must protect their reputation and future income.

Republican strategist Mary Matalin blew a fuse and personally attacked President Obama in an article for the conservative National Review. "What happened? A political narcissistic sociopath leveraged fear and ignorance with a campaign marked by mendacity and malice rather than a mandate for resurgence and reform," Matalin wrote. "Instead of using his high office to articulate a vision for our future, Obama used it as a vehicle for character assassination, replete with unrelenting and destructive distortion, derision, and division."

Her hate and bitterness toward the president oozed through every word. To call him a sociopath is to call him a person whose behavior is, "often criminal, and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience." Outrageous.

Perhaps Matalin suffers from a case of Romnesia because the Republican primary was filled with negative and personal attacks on Romney. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich even called the governor a "liar" on CBS. All the Obama campaign had to do was repeat the attacks on Romney from fellow Republican candidates earlier in the year.

For Instance, last year Texas Gov. Rick Perry told the National Journal, "There is something inherently wrong when getting rich off failure and sticking it to someone else is how you do your business, and I happen to think that's indefensible." Gingrich told Mediate last December, "If Governor Romney would like to give back all the money he's earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over his years, then I would be glad to then listen to him." And last March Rick Santorum told CBS This Morning, "He doesn't have a core... He's been on both sides of almost every single issue in the past 10 years."

But when it comes to mendacity, Gov. Mitt Romney set the standard. Apart from the constant flip-flopping on issues, Romney regularly leveled dishonest attacks against the president throughout the campaign. The worst lie, which probably cost him a win in Ohio, was the false ad about Jeep moving its operations to China.

Matalin's vituperation was not the least of the GOP blowback to President Obama's reelection. Donald Trump's Twitter response was emphatic: "We can't let this happen. We should march on Washington and stop this travesty... Let's fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice! The world is laughing at us." The aging rocker Ted Nugent tweeted, "Pimps whores & welfare brats & their soulless supporters hav (sic) a president to destroy America... Goodluk (sic) America u just voted for economic & spiritual suicide. Soulless fools."

Tuesday's biggest loser, Republican strategist Karl Rove, who spent $365 million of donor money trying to defeat the president, had the best excuse. He actually accused the Democratic and African American president of interfering with the election. "He succeeded by suppressing the vote, by saying to people, 'you may not like who I am, and I know you can't bring yourself to vote for me, but I'm going to paint this other guy as simply a rich guy who only cares about himself," Rove told Fox News Thursday.

But the most disturbing reaction to the president's reelection may have come from Peter Morrison, the Hardin County Texas Republican Party Treasurer. "We must contest every single inch of ground and delay the baby-murdering, tax-raising socialists at every opportunity," he wrote on his Facebook site. "But in due time, the maggots will have eaten every morsel of flesh off of the rotting corpse of the Republic, and therein lies our opportunity." That "opportunity" is secession, "Why should Vermont and Texas live under the same government? Let each go her own way in peace."

Everybody hates to lose. Yes, the Republican party went though a brutally divisive primary that nominated Mitt Romney. Yes, Romney was gaining momentum, while President Obama remained vulnerable because of a weak economic recovery. But somewhere along the line Republicans lost touch with reality. Their expectations blew way out of proportion. And suddenly their balloon popped on election night.

President Obama's resounding victory has exposed a core problem within the Republican Party: It is filled with anger and hatred brought on by an identity crisis. Republican leaders will be meeting over the next few weeks and months to determine what went wrong this election and what can be done to fix the problem.

Perhaps a great first step would be to stop the whining and the ridiculous personal attacks. Tantrums and snit fits will not win over any converts. Nobody likes a sore loser.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Be Bold Mr. President

The din of Democracy, which ebbs and flows according to election cycles, has calmed as most Americans now focus on their normal lives. They had witnessed a historic amount of campaign spending, about $6 billion, more than one million political ads, and seemingly endless news coverage. After all the shouting was over, and the ballots were counted, the political balance of power did not change in Washington.

Yet one could conclude that the 2012 presidential election had two outcomes. President Obama was given a second chance to fix entitlements, tax policy, the economy, deficits and immigration. The American people empowered the president to stand up to the extremes of both parties, if necessary, to come up with reasonable and balanced solutions to these daunting problems. The Tea Party wing of the Republican Party was knocked back on its heels.  So it is time for the president to be bold and use an "all hands on deck" approach in order to galvanize Congressional support around solutions. The president should also be transparent with the American people, in effect, "crowdsource" ideas, and include them in the process.

President Obama has a small window in which to act before the midterm campaign begins. He should first start building momentum by working out a balanced solution to the so-called fiscal cliff. Congress must have a budget agreement by the end of the year or the Bush tax reductions will expire and deep cuts will be made to the defense budget. It is time for a grand bargain, a compromise, that includes budget cuts AND some revenues.

Meanwhile, for Republicans, it is mourning in America. The party of Lincoln failed to recognize that the country is a melting pot with diverse voices and evolving needs. Instead, the GOP is hanging on to a Norman Rockwell vision of America.  Republican members of Congress have been unwilling to budge on tax increases for the wealthy because they fear of losing the Tea Party's support.

Now Republicans have a chance to show all Americans that they are willing to compromise.  Reaching an agreement on the fiscal cliff will be an important first step for them to reach out to all segments of the population. Republican House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday, "I think the members understand that the fiscal cliff... is unacceptable."  And earlier this week he said, "The issue here is the president wants revenue. I'm willing to put revenue on the table."  But the speaker will not agree to rate hikes for high-income earners, rather just closing loopholes and eliminating deductions.  The Democrats don't agree with his approach.

If the president and Congress do not make a deal on the fiscal cliff by the end of the year, the U.S. economy will likely spiral into another recession. With so much at stake, the stock market has been sharply lower out of concern for what Washington will do. A solution requires compromise from both parties, and compromise will send a strong message to all Americans that both parties agree their country comes first.

One final note, President Obama received 9 million fewer votes than he did in 2008, while Mitt Romney received about 2 million fewer votes than Senator John McCain did when President Obama defeated him. It is likely they were turned off by the negative campaigns waged by both candidates, their misleading claims, and the sheer magnitude of the political advertising.

Among the losers this election year were billionaires David and Charles Koch, and Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate. They spent millions of dollars trying to defeat the president and failed.

Perhaps the biggest loser was Fox News contributor and GOP strategist Karl Rove.  His political groups, American Crossroads/Crossroads GPS, spent about $325 million of other people's money trying to elect Romney and other Republicans to office with little success. He also had an embarrassing meltdown on television when Fox News called Ohio for the president.

Rove was unapologetic about his dismal campaign results, explaining in a conference call to donors Thursday, according to one press report, that the Republican losses would have been bigger without him. No doubt his financial supporters believe him.

And no doubt Rove is laughing all the way to the bank.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Who Can You Trust?

With fewer than 100 hours remaining before the election, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has been visiting swing states selling his 5-point plan to fix the economy and promising "real change on day one." Meanwhile, a desperate Romney campaign has been flooding the airwaves with false advertising in an effort to squeeze out a last minute victory.

No Republican in modern time has won the presidency without carrying Ohio. President Barack Obama has been able to maintain a lead in the polls despite heavy campaigning by his opposition. This is in part due to the fact that the president's bailout of the American auto industry saved thousands of jobs in the Buckeye state. Romney opposed the bailout, instead calling for Detroit to go bankrupt.

But now Romney's supporters have gone to the airwaves in key Ohio cities with a patently false ad. "Under President Obama, GM cut 15,000 American jobs, but they are planning to double the number of cars built in China, which means 15,000 more jobs for China. And now comes word that Chrysler plans to start making Jeeps in, you guessed it, China." Both Chrysler and GM immediately took the unprecedented step of harshly refuting the ad. Nonetheless, the Romney campaign is still airing it in Ohio and Michigan. 

The presidential election will be close in Florida, where the rapidly growing Hispanic population is likely to determine the outcome. So the Romney campaign has gone to the Spanish language airwaves with this outrageous spot featuring Venezuela's President and tyrant Hugo Chavez:

NARRATOR: Who supports Barack Obama?
CHAVEZ: "If I were American, I'd vote for Obama."
NARRATOR: Raúl Castro's daughter, Mariela Castro, would vote for Obama.
CASTRO: "I would vote for President Obama."
NARRATOR: And to top it off, Obama's Environmental Protection Agency sent emails for Hispanic Heritage month with a photo of Che Guevara.
CHAVEZ: "If Obama were from Barlovento (a Venezuelan town), he'd vote for Chávez."
ROMNEY: I'm Mitt Romney, and I approve this message.

The Romney campaign needs the overwhelming support of white voters in order to win the election. So the campaign is still running an ad that falsely claims, "If you want to know President Obama's second term agenda, look at his first: (he) gutted the work requirement for welfare." In fact, the president gave those governors who requested it more flexibility on welfare in exchange for higher targets for reducing their state's welfare rolls. (Romney had made such a request when he was a governor.) 

In an effort to get attention away from the GOP plan to voucherize Medicare, Governor Romney has time and again claimed the president has cut Medicare by $760 billion to "pay for Obamacare." Once again the Republican candidate is lying. The president's Medicare reductions target providers not individuals, and some of the funds are being reinvested into programs that benefit seniors. Never mind that Representative Paul Ryan, Romney's running mate, supported the exact same amount of Medicare reductions. 

Even Romney surrogates are misleading voters in order to help their candidate. Romney is on record, and on tape, promising that he will overturn Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that currently governs abortions. In a last ditch effort to close Romney's gender gap, surrogate and former Senator Norm Coleman, said in Ohio of Roe v. Wade, "It's not going to be reversed." What is Coleman's rational? "President Bush was president eight years, Roe v. Wade wasn't reversed. He had two Supreme Court picks, Roe v. Wade wasn't reversed." But, wait, that's not what Romney said!

Of course, Romney is a flip flopper who will say whatever it takes to win over an audience. Like at a Florida fat cat fundraiser earlier this year, when he said that, "47 percent of the people who will vote for the president...believe they are victims and government has a responsibility to take care of them?" When he found out the "47 percent" includes senior citizens, members of the military, veterans and millions of other hard working Americans, he changed his tune. "In this case I said something that's just completely wrong," he told Fox News. But does he really think he was wrong?

Romney claims to have been a bipartisan governor who succeeded in Massachusetts. If Romney was so successful as governor, why is President Obama currently leading him in three recent statewide polls by an average of about 25 percent? If Romney was so bipartisan, why did he have a separate elevator designated for his use in the state capitol in order to avoid Democrats? No wonder he was only a one-term governor.

Candidate Romney's 5-point economic recovery plan includes few specifics. One key point is a 20 percent personal income tax cut, which he says will be offset by ending some deductions and closing loopholes that he will not specify. That's $5 trillion in tax cuts over 10 years. Romney says he doesn't want to give up any negotiating power with Congress by naming what deductions he intends to eliminate. Or does he have a conflict of interest? After all, he has released only 2 years of his own personal tax returns, despite the outcry from members of both parties. Romney has also failed to explain how he created a $100 million trust fund for his sons, $10's of millions more than the IRS allows someone to legally set aside. 

It is comforting to know you can trust someone, even if you disagree with some of their ideas. One earns trust by being honest, truthful and consistent. There is only one candidate who has been trustworthy throughout this campaign. And then there is the other candidate, who once said, "I'm not familiar precisely with exactly what I said, but I stand by what I said. Whatever it was."

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Racism in America

The 2012 presidential election campaign has been disappointing.   Perhaps the most disappointing thing about this election is that were President Barack Obama white it is likely he would be on his way to a landslide victory.  

President Obama inherited a disastrous mess. When he entered office the economy was shrinking at 9 percent annually due to the Bush Recession.  About 800 thousand Americans were losing jobs each month.  The banking system was on the verge of collapse, the housing market was a disaster, and the American car industry was dying.  The country was engaged in two difficult and costly wars, both in lives and resources, with no end in sight.  Meanwhile, Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda, and mastermind of the worst attack on U.S. soil, continued to plot against America and its allies. 

In his inaugural speech, at the U.S. Capitol before nearly 2 million people, the president said, "On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord."  But, inside the Capitol, Republicans met and formulated a plan to obstruct, deny and delay the president's agenda.  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell would later publicly state that making President Obama a one-term president, not the economy, was the number one priority of his party. 

The new president, facing fierce partisan opposition, signed into law the Recovery Act, a.k.a. the stimulus package.  Although it was smaller than he originally proposed, most economists credit it with righting the stalling economy.  Even Representative Paul Ryan requested stimulus money to help businesses in his district.  The president also signed tough banking reform legislation to assure a similar crisis would not occur. He enacted the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that assures fair pay for women.  He bailed out the American auto companies over the objections of many Republicans, including Governor Mitt Romney, who wrote in a New York Times op-ed piece that they should be allowed to go bankrupt.  The auto bailout saved one million jobs, and now the industry is vibrant again.  

The president's signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare) will make health care more affordable and accessible to all Americans, and protect consumers from abuses by insurance companies.  For instance, no longer can insurance companies deny people health care benefits because they have a pre-existing condition.  More importantly, 40 million uninsured Americans will be covered and the government will realize $1 trillion in health care savings over the next decade, according to its sponsors. . 

But Republicans have used Obamacare (sounds like Romneycare) as a major rallying cry against the president, falsely charging it is a government take over of health care, that it would restrict an individual's choices, and that it would set up death panels.  While they offered no credible alternatives, they demonize the president as a socialist.   

The president had promised to end the war in Iraq, and he did.  But Republicans were vociferous in their criticism, saying he withdrew too early.  The president promised a military build up in Afghanistan, where the war was nearly in its tenth year, and he did.  The president also set a deadline of June 2014 for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from that country.  But Republicans criticized the president for announcing a deadline.  And just last week candidate Mitt Romney announced at the third debate that he agreed with the president's deadline after all. 

The president made getting Osama bin Laden a top priority early on in his administration.   Bin Laden had eluded capture for nearly a decade, and was a low priority for both President George Bush and candidate Romney.  But in May 2011, U.S. forces killed the world's most heinous terrorist leader in Pakistan.  The president took a huge political risk by ordering the killing, but now Republicans claim that anyone would have done the same thing.  

The president has had some missteps during his first term.  The U.S. economy is still sluggish and too many people remain unemployed.  But the world is a different place today than it was in the early 1980's, when President Ronald Reagan revived a bad U.S. economy.  Economic growth in China and India has slowed; much of Europe is still in a recession.  Nonetheless, under President Obama the U.S. economy has enjoyed 31 straight months of jobs growth and unemployment is at its lowest point, 7.8 percent, since he took office.  

At the Democratic Convention, President Bill Clinton said, "No president, not me, not any of my predecessors, could have repaired all of the damage he found in just four years."  When one considers the animus and vitriol that has roiled the American political scene, stirred by Republicans and Tea Party loyalists, it is a wonder that the man who called for "unity of purpose" has succeeded at all.

Mr. Obama has been labeled "the food stamp president" and an "anti-colonialist" by leading Republicans.  He has repeatedly been treated with unprecedented disrespect, including on the floor of the House of Representatives.  His place of birth has been constantly questioned, as have his academic records.  About a third of all Republicans think the president is a Muslim and not a Christian.  Most recently, when General Colin Powell, a leading Republican, war hero and African American, announced his thoughtful endorsement for the president's reelection, right wing critics sniped.  Former Vermont Governor John Sununu, and chief Romney surrogate, said, "Well, I think when you have somebody of your own race that you're proud of being president of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him."

On Saturday, the Associated Press released a poll that found, "51 percent of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes, compared with 48 percent in a similar 2008 survey."  According to AP, "Overall, the survey found that by virtue of racial prejudice, President Obama could lose 5 percentage points off his share of the popular vote in his Nov. 6 contest against Republican challenger Mitt Romney."  Racial prejudice actually increased in America over the past four years with an African American in the White House, a president who has rarely raised the issue of race.

Americans should vote for the candidate who they believe will be the best president.    But to use race as a factor would only reward those who have divided the nation by using fear and hatred to achieve their political agenda.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Romney Tales

The story of the third presidential debate is not that President Barack Obama handily defeated Governor Mitt Romney. Rather, what was most noteworthy was how Romney suddenly embraced many of the president's foreign policy stances, as if to say, "Disregard all my previous positions."

Prior to the first debate Governor Romney was flailing and stumbling. President Obama was beginning to take a commanding lead in the polls as even some Republicans were making the switch. A debate win by the president would have effectively ended the Romney campaign. Of course, Romney had the president right where he wanted him.

President Obama, perhaps a bit overconfident, basically phoned in his first debate performance, while Romney came with a clear strategy, energy and purpose. The first debate was a game changer for Romney because it made him look like a legitimate contender. In contrast, President Obama looked as if he didn't care about a second term. Instead of a fatal blow to Romney, the first debate was a near fatal blow for President Obama.

While the president clearly won the rancorous second debate, held at Hoftra University, the results seemed to have little impact on voter sentiment. A bullying Romney commanded the stage, even treating the president disrespectfully. The debate devolved into a sparring match that did not benefit either candidate. Meanwhile, the president's lead in the national polls evaporated.

The third debate was on foreign policy, and moderated by Bob Schieffer of CBS News. For months candidate Romney had harshly criticized every aspect of President Obama's foreign policy. But in Monday night's debate Romney heaped praise on many of Obama's policies. At long last the governor had decided to come home to a more centrist position. He had won the nomination by being a "severe conservative," but Monday night he "Etch a Sketched" his persona into a moderate.

Romney agreed with many of the president's policies, even praising him a couple of times. Of course, there were a couple of tough exchanges, including over military spending. "Our Navy is older -- excuse me -- our Navy is smaller now than any time since 1917. The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission. We're now down to 285." Romney said. "That's unacceptable to me. I want to make sure that we have the ships that are required by our Navy."

President Obama was ready with an answer, "You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets -- (laughter) -- because the nature of our military's changed. " He concluded, "And so the question is not a game of Battleship where we're counting ships. It's -- it's what are our capabilities."

Going into the final debate Romney had a clear strategy: avoid looking like a warmonger and sound reasonable. He was attempting to appeal to women. As a consequence his responses were so moderate it appeared he was doing all he could to distance himself from the neocons and the "Bush Doctrine." Romney has no foreign policy experience at all. In the past he has staked out very aggressive foreign policy positions against China, Russia, Syria and Iran.

What is most troubling is that Romney has had no problem changing his deeply-held positions to appeal to some constituency. This pattern has repeated itself throughout his political career. He was pro-choice before he was pro-life. He was for Romneycare before he was against Obamacare, which is based on the former. The reason Romney is a serial flip flopper is because he will do and say anything he needs to in order to become president. He has even changed his position on an issue mid-debate.

Romney is a salesman; he is a closer. He sounds convincing, confident and certain. But while he is never in doubt, he is frequently wrong. And worse, he is often misleading. Take his tax cut proposal, which does add up to $5 trillion over 10 years, and most benefits the truly rich. There currently aren't enough tax deductions to eliminate, including mortgage and charity, to pay for the tax cuts. But tax cuts do not grow the economy. The economy barely grew during President George Bush's presidency even though he had signed into law two unpaid for tax cuts, a.k.a., the Bush Tax Cuts.

For those who are now considering voting for Romney, buyer beware.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Obama Delivers

President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney collided at the Presidential Debate at Hofstra University in a historic and rancorous face off. The president won this debate, but Romney showed that his performance in Denver was not a fluke.

Results of a CBS News "snap poll" of uncommitted voters had 37% calling President Obama the winner, while 30% gave the nod to Romney. A CNN poll gave Obama the win 46% to 39%.

Both candidates were in full attack mode, each delivering direct verbal blows on their opponent. The president did not shrink from the fight, and neither did Romney, who at times came off as bullying the moderator and the president. There were several raw and emotional exchanges in response to questions asked by undecided voters chosen for the town hall debate.

Romney was strongest on the economy, touting his own five-point plan while calling the president's term a failure. "The president's policies have been exercised over the last four years, and they haven't put people back to work." But the president retorted, "He doesn't have a five-point plan, he has a one-point plan, and that's to make sure people at the top play by different rules...The last thing we need to do is go back to the same policies that got us there," into a recession.

Romney spoke of his proposal to lower taxes, "I'm going to bring rates down across the board...I'm not going to have people at the high end paying less than they pay now...I will not under any circumstances increase taxes on the middle class." But the president criticized his opponent for not specifying how he would pay for the $5 trillion tax cut. Speaking directly to Romney, he said, "You wouldn't have taken such a sketchy deal, and neither should the American people, because the math doesn't add up."

The president scored points on immigration, reminding viewers that Romney believed in "self-deportation." He also scored points on equal pay for women when he pointed out that the first thing he did as president was to sign the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act for women. This also gave the president a chance to remind viewers that Romney would defund Planned Parenthood, an all important issue for many women.

One questioner asked about what happened at the U.S. outpost in Benghazi, Libya, where 4 Americans were killed in a terrorist attack. The former governor criticized the president's foreign policy in the region, and the White House's evolving explanation of the incident. But Romney mistakenly claimed the president did not call it "an act of terrorism" in the White House Rose Garden the next day, an inaccurate right wing blog claim. But moderator Candy Crowley, of CNN, embarrassingly corrected Romney.

Romney' returned again and again to the president's failures in his first term. For his part, the president listed his successes, including saving the auto industry, adding more than 5 million private sector jobs, health care, ending the war in Iraq and decimating Al Qaeda.

Romney kept coming back to the economy, always speaking confidently about his ability to fix it if he is elected president. He reminded viewers he was a successful businessman who knows how to create jobs. In his summation, at the end of the debate, he said, “I care about 100% of the American people. I want 100% of the American people to have a bright and prosperous future. I care about our kids.”

President Obama didn't miss this opportunity to remind viewers that the former governor once told donors at a Florida fundraiser that 47% of Americans do not pay taxes and are not personally responsible. "Think about who he was talking about: folks on Social Security who've worked all their lives, veterans who've sacrificed for this country," the president said, “That wasn’t a handout, that was something that advanced the entire country, and I want to make sure that the next generation has those same opportunities. That's why I'm asking for your vote and that's why I'm asking for another four years.”

Now the campaigns can look ahead to next week's final debate in Florida. After the Hofstra debate it is clear that this tightly contested election will be a fight to the finish.



Friday, October 12, 2012

The Veep Debate

Vice President Joe Biden's debate performance on Thursday was feisty, energetic and aggressive.  Representative Paul Ryan, his opponent, was largely composed, well rehearsed and often on the defensive.  Biden gave the performance his party was looking for while Ryan comported himself well.  

In a CBS News snap poll of 500 uncommitted voters, 50% of those asked said Biden won the debate, while 31% gave the nod to Ryan.  The poll also showed that the perception of each man improved because of their performance.  

The debate, which took place at Centre College in Danville, Ky., covered both foreign and domestic issues.   ABC News senior foreign affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz moderated it.  Unlike the last week's debate, she drove the 90-minute intense exchange with sharp questioning.  Biden smiled and shook his head at many of his opponent's answers, while Ryan smirked at several of Biden's answers. 

Raddatz began by asking the vice president about the attack on the U.S. outpost in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans were killed.  Republicans have criticized the White House for not immediately admitting it was a terrorist attack.  In the debate, Ryan called it a "massive intelligence failure" promising that a Mitt Romney administration would provide marines to protect U.S. outposts.  Biden, who said the administration was investigating the attack, pointed out that Republicans in Congress voted to cut embassy security by $300 million.  

The candidates sparred over Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.  On Iran, Ryan charged, “This administration has no credibility on this issue,” as Biden smiled and shook his head.  Then Ryan criticized the president for not meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he was in New York for a United Nations meeting, and instead appearing on ABC's talk show, The View. 

“This is a bunch of stuff,” Biden said.  “What does that mean, a bunch of stuff?” Raddatz asked. “It’s Irish,” Ryan chimed in. “We Irish call it malarkey.”  Then Biden said the president had a one-hour call with Netanyahu just before the UN meeting and criticized Romney and Ryan for not having a plan for Iran.

On Afghanistan the debaters argued over the president's commitment to pull U.S. troops in 2014.  Ryan said the White should not have announced the timetable, which already was well known. But Biden was emphatic, "We are leaving. We are leaving in 2014. Period."

Taxes, Medicare and Social Security were heated debate topics.  Biden pinned Ryan on defending tax cuts for top income earners.  He repeatedly, speaking directly into the camera, called for a level playing field for the middle class.  He also highlighted Romney's remarks, to a closed fundraiser, that 47% of Americans aren't personally responsible.  Ryan, turning to Biden, said, “I think the vice president very well knows that sometimes the words don’t come out of your mouth the right way.”  Biden responded, "But I mean what I say." 

Biden called the Ryan proposal on Medicare a voucher plan that would result in future seniors having to pay money for care.  And Biden attacked a Republican plan to privatize Social Security, which would leave Americans vulnerable to swings in the stock market.  

Near the end of the debate, Raddatz asked the candidates if their Catholic faith "informs" their decision on abortion.  Ryan said yes, but said the Romney policy  "will be to oppose abortion with the exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother." It was clear that Ryan would rule out all abortions.  Biden said he is personally against abortion, but that, "It's a decision between (women) and their doctor, in my view, and the Supreme Court. I'm not going to interfere with that."  He then pointed out that the next president would appoint one or two Supreme Court justices, which could swing the balance on Roe V. Wade.  

Representative Paul Ryan has bragged about his ability to catch fish barehanded.  However, in the debate he could not catch the vice president, whose lengthy experience with foreign policy and domestic issues worked in his favor.  While Biden consistently spoke from his heart, Ryan often seemed to be reciting talking points, especially on foreign policy issues.  

Now the stage is set for the next week's presidential debate at Hofstra University.  President Obama's supporters know that he must build off of Biden's strong performance, because the alternative could be devastating for his reelection hopes.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Romney's Debatable Performance

Governor Mitt Romney exceeded expectations in his debate performance at the University of Denver while President Barack Obama seemed to be trying to protect his lead. 

Romney needed to have a strong performance and he did.  According to a CBS News "snap poll", 46% of the 500 of uncommitted voters asked said that Romney won the debate, 22% said the president won, and 32% said it was a draw. 

It was clear that Romney and his debate team planned to exploit the debate format, moderated by PBS's Jim Lehrer, with an aggressive performance.  The challenger often has the advantage because the incumbent has to defend his record.  But Romney got help from his opponent and the moderator because he was not challenged on his statements.

President Obama was not confrontational.  He failed to raise Romney's embarrassing comments at a fundraiser that 47% are not personally responsible and depend on the federal government.  The president failed to get Romney to explain what loopholes he would eliminate in his tax reform plan to pay for his 20% across the board tax cut, which would cost $5 trillion.  That gave Romney the chance to say over and over his program would not cost $5 trillion.

Romney used, in Obama campaign manager David Plouffe's words, "theatrical aggression."  Romney sounded confident as he gave the appearance of offering specifics without doing so.  He criticized the president for "cutting" $716 billion from Medicare, the exact same amount Representative Paul Ryan, his running mate, and Republicans have voted to cut from the program.  Romney did admit his would turn Medicare into a voucher program, but glossed over its impact.

Romney said he would repeal Obamacare, the president's signature health care legislation, but failed to clearly explain in detail how he would replace it.  However, at one point he said his Massachusetts health care plan initiatives can apply nationally.  That would seem to mean that his individual mandate, which is unpopular, would also apply.  The president did not seize that opening.

For his part, President Obama did not mention his record of 30 consecutive months job growth, which has added more than 5 million private sector jobs to the U.S. economy.  He also did not take credit for saving the U.S. auto industry, which saved a million U.S. jobs.

The president was consistent, persistent, but he played it safe.  He was not forceful and he was not passionate.  He did not make a clear case for his reelection. 

The Romney campaign had leaked that their candidate would use zingers in the debate, but there were none.  Instead, he attacked the incumbent's record and surprisingly even used human anecdotes.  And in his strong summation he claimed he would turn the economy around and create 12 million new jobs in his first term.  Never mind that economic forecasters predict that the U.S. economy is currently on track to add 12 million jobs. 

Romney's performance was welcome relief to Republicans after several weeks of poor performances and embarrassing gaffs.  He was convincing, and his debate appearance revved up his own base.

But did Romney convert any new voters?  Will Americans support a candidate whose numbers do not add up?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

If I Were A Mitt Man

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has done just about everything wrong since being nominated at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, last month.   Yet, while the momentum has dramatically shifted to President Barack Obama, it is not too late for Romney to win the White House.

Romney's road to self-destruction has been made particularly painful by the fact that many Republican pundits, and some Republican members of Congress, have now turned on him.   Some of the criticism is so harsh that Ann Romney, the candidate's wife, defended him in an interview with an Iowa radio station.  "Stop it!" Mrs. Romney said when asked what she had to say to her husband's critics, "This is hard.  You want to try it?  Get in the Ring." No doubt, many Republicans wish their wooden candidate had his wife's warmth and human touch.

But Mitt Romney is a CEO, a numbers man who enjoys crunching financial statements and developing profit-making strategies.  Those strategies, which varied from business to business, were focused on delivering the maximum return on investment (ROI) for his investors.  He would scrutinize every aspect of an acquisition, every accounting trick would be utilized, and every person would be evaluated, all in an effort to squeeze out ever-increasing profits.  Those companies that could not be saved would then be sold off for a nice profit.  To Romney, companies are people, and people are expendable in favor of profits.  

Romney worked hard to build Bain Capital, an asset management firm he helped found in 1984.  To raise capital for Bain, Romney courted wealthy investors.  This was his comfort zone.  He had spent his whole life around rich people, as the son of a car executive in Detroit, while studying business and law at Harvard, and attending exclusive clubs and tony fundraisers.  He speaks the language.

So it is no surprise that Romney really connected with a group of wealthy political donors in Florida last May when he attacked those Americans who do not pay any federal income tax.  He said, "There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what...who are dependent on government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that the government has a responsibility to care for them."  He concluded,  "My job is not to worry about those people.  I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility for their lives."

However, it turns out that many of the 47 percent pay payroll taxes, or are on social security.  In fact, a large share of these people are Republicans.  But Romney was just telling his audience what they long believed and wanted to hear.  Yet, now many leading Republicans are accusing the Romney campaign of incompetence.  And, just when it seemed things couldn't get worse, Romney released his 2011 tax returns, thus unleashing a whole new controversy!

Campaign gaffs have plagued Romney, who has already been dogged by his many flip-flops on important issues.  He insulted the British government while visiting the London Olympics.  In an interview with ABC News he said, “My red line is Iran may not have a nuclear weapon.”  The very same position he has criticized President Obama for having.  He hastily criticized President Obama for a Cairo embassy statement that was released hours before that facility was attacked.  During the Republican primary he said, "Corporations are people," and "I like being able to fire people who provide services to me," and "I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there."

Many Republicans are upset because Romney has yet to detail his plan for fixing the economy.  Instead, Romney's campaign seems to be, "President Obama has failed, elect me and I'll fix it!"  Many conservatives were encouraged when he selected Representative Paul Ryan as his running mate.  But Romney has refused to embrace the radical Ryan budget plan, which has received broad support among conservatives.  Ryan's budget calls for more tax reductions, steep budget cuts and turning Medicare into a voucher program.  Romney's actions have confused many of his supporters and deepened their mistrust of the candidate.

Republicans are discouraged.  Their hopes of winning the White House are slipping away.  Worse for them, their hopes of winning control of the U.S. Senate are slipping away as well.  Mitt Romney's only hope appears to be a decisive victory over the president in their upcoming debates.  However, this may be a long shot for a man who once responded, "I'm not familiar precisely with what I said, but I'll stand by what I said, whatever it was."

So, if I were a Mitt Man, I might be considering Libertarian Gary Johnson.  

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Romney Stumbles

“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.”  By his definition, were he alive today, Groucho Marx could point to Mitt Romney as a perfect example!   But, no doubt many Republicans wish they could Etch A Sketch away the past six weeks of the Romney campaign.

Today many political observers characterize Romney's campaign as desperate, disoriented, erratic and lacking a budget plan.  Yet, it was suppose to be so easy.  Having won a bitterly contested Republican primary, Romney would be able to position himself as a successful "Mr. Fixit" businessman who could save the U.S. economy.  His approach was to make the 2012 presidential race a referendum on President Barack Obama's handling of the economy.  But before Romney could get out of the starting gate, the Obama campaign went after Mr. Fixit.  

Romney was co-founder and once head of Bain Capital, one of the world's leading private asset management firms.  It turns out that they succeeded in saving some businesses.  But Bain also closed several companies down, took out millions of dollars and left thousands of people without jobs, all facts that the Obama campaign relentlessly pointed out. Of course, Bain Capital's main goal is to make big profits for its investors, not to create jobs.  At the Democratic Convention, Vice President Joe Biden put it this way, “Folks, the Bain way may bring your firm the highest profits. But it’s not the way to lead your country from its highest office.”

Romney said he was a successful governor of Massachusetts.   But his single biggest achievement was "Romneycare", the state's near universal health care law that was the blueprint for "Obamacare," which Romney has vowed to repeal on his first day if he is elected president.  But last week Romney said, on NBC's Meet the Press, ”Of course, there are a number of things that I like in health care reform that I’m going to put in place.  One is to make sure that those with pre-existing conditions can get coverage."  This set off a firestorm among conservative Republicans.  Later that day, Romney's campaign again reconfirmed he was against covering people with pre-existing conditions who have not had continuous health coverage. 

At the Republican Convention, Romney was upstaged by an embarrassing endorsement from actor Clint Eastwood, who crudely spoke to an empty chair that represented President Obama.  In his tepid acceptance speech, Romney focused on biography and talking points, but offered no specifics on how he would save the economy.  And, in an inexplicable omission, Romney failed to mention the American soldiers serving in Afghanistan and around the world.

The Republican candidate, looking to further mobilize his conservative base and add some spice to the ticket, brought Representative Paul Ryan on as his running mate.  Ryan is a favorite of the right, and author of the Ryan Budget Plan.  But that plan, which was has widespread support among Congressional Republicans, calls for deep cuts in entitlements.  Under Ryan's plan, Medicare would be voucherized and Medicaid would be converted to block grants to states.  As a result, recipients would be left to personally pay for some of the quickly increasing medical costs they will face in the future.

If he embraced Ryan's plan, Romney would risk alienating many seniors, a critical demographic in many swing states.  So Romney has been distancing himself from the Ryan plan.  In an interview with CBS News, he was asked, "Are you running on [Ryan's] budget or on your budget?" Romney responded, "My budget, of course, I'm the one running for president."  Yet, Romney has failed to offer specifics for about his budget.

Romney has also failed to explain why he has parked so many of his investments in off shore accounts.  He found himself on the defensive on his personal taxes.  He has adamantly said he will release only two years of federal returns.  In his 2010 return he paid an effective rate of 13.8 percent in taxes on an income of $21.7 million.  He has not yet released his final 2011 returns, but he has estimated he will pay an effective rate of 15.4 percent on income of $20.9 million.  His taxes are certain to remain an issue heading into the election.

Romney and Ryan have little foreign policy experience, and it shows.  Candidate Romney has blustered about the Russians and the Chinese as if, to use the president's description, he is "stuck in some cold-war tie warp."  So it is no wonder he was poised to seize an opportunity to criticize the president on foreign policy.  While terrorists were attacking the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which left four Americans dead, Romney was attacking the White House for a statement released by a middle level consulate official. 

Romney's statement read, in part, "It's disgraceful that the Obama administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks."  Very few facts were known at this point.  In response to Romney's attack, the White House put out a statement, "We are shocked that, at a time when the United States of America is confronting the tragic death of one of our diplomatic officers in Libya, Governor Romney would choose to launch a political attack." 

While many Republicans were questioning Romney's judgment, the candidate was doubling down at a news conference the next day.  Republican columnist Peggy Noonan said, ""Romney looked weak today I feel, I'm still kind of absorbing it myself, at one point, he had a certain slight grimace on his face when he was taking tough questions from the reporters, and I thought, 'He looks like Richard Nixon.'"

President Obama, in an interview with 60 Minutes, said that Romney tends to "shoot first and aim later."  He continued, “And as president, one of the things I’ve learned is you can’t do that, that, you know, it’s important for you to make sure that the statements that you make are backed up by the facts. And that you’ve thought through the ramifications before you make ‘em.”

The past few weeks have been very difficult for candidate Romney.  A just released Fox News national presidential poll shows President Obama with a 48% to 43% lead over Mitt Romney.  Perhaps Romney's actions have had an adverse impact on his campaign.  After all, you learn a lot about a person in a time of crisis.