Archive for the ‘Barack Obama’ Category

Obama Is Not My Boyfriend

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

About 8 years ago, when the Bush Administration’s Reign of Error was in it’s prime, and I couldn’t believe that Republicans continued to support the man, I made a promise to myself: If a Democrat were ever to occupy the White House I wouldn’t reflexively defend him if he didn’t deserve it.

I’ve done my best to keep that promise and if you asked me what I think of this president over the past 5 years,  I would always try to give my real opinion, good or bad. Still, I’m well aware that I’ve been… let’s just say, “not as vocal” in pointing out the flaws of this president as I was of the last one. So let’s consider this my late attempt live up to the spirit of my promise as well as the promise itself.

Liberals, it’s time to admit it: Obama is not a very good president.

Of course, the usual caveats still apply. Despite all his failings, he’s still not any worse that George W Bush…and I have no regrets that John McCain didn’t win in 2008… or that Mitt Romney didn’t unseat him in 2012, both of which would have been disasters of epic proportions. But the relevant measuring stick wasn’t supposed to be “better than Bush” it was supposed to be “a transformational president,” or at least, “a  good president.” For the most part, Obama has been neither.

I feel a little bad for piling on him when he’s down, but he’s down for a reason.

Hard to tell where to start, but let’s start with his “signature achievement,” Obamacare. Despite snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, his HHS department launched a website that wasn’t ready to be launched, and it almost tanked his most lasting accomplishment. There’s just no excuse for that and it just comes down to bad management. Effective managers may not know all the details of what is happening in each department, but they clearly communicate the importance of big policies and hold people accountable for their results. Too often, Obama has done neither.

Similar deal at the VA. When Obama ran for president, he made a point of talking about how the Bush Administration didn’t keep faith with veterans. He claimed (sometimes with good evidence) that they sent them to war and then neglected to take care of them when they came home. Obama’s VA took on a lot, adding coverage for veterans who suffered from conditions related to Agent Orange exposure and relaxing the rules on PTSD claims, but the VA was unable to keep up. Instead of improving wait times as he had promised, the problem got significantly worse. By 2012, pending claims had exploded to almost 900,000, with over 550,000 of those claims over 4 months old. Responses were hobbled by an antiquated computer system that prevented the Defense Department from communicating with the VA.

Again, the problems predated Obama, but at some time, he needs to take responsibility for the system and there are few things more sacred than meeting obligations to our veterans.   I don’t expect Obama to single-handedly solve all the problems at the VA, but he once again showed ineffective management and no sense of urgency. It took a major scandal regarding lies about wait times at the VA and weeks of negative coverage before Obama acted to fire Shinseki and begin to really deal with this issue.

On foreign policy, Obama starts with a simple premise. He only wants to engage in military action in order to protect America. He thinks that foreign intervention has made us less safe instead of more safe and wants to avoid unnecessary military conflict.

The problem is that the world can’t be neatly split into what keeps us safe and what has nothing to do with us. Look at Syria: It’s a civil war between Assad and the Sunni rebels. Assad is a terrible actor.  He gets support from Iran and he helps fund Iranian proxies like Hezbollah who are attacking Israel and destabilizing Lebanon. But the most effective rebels fighting against Assad are Sunni militants with ties to Al Qaeda. The only thing worse than having Assad in power in Syria is having Sunni militants allied with Al Qaeda. So Obama stays out…and now we have ISIS (the people who were so maniacally evil that they were kicked out of Al Qaeda) occupying large swaths of Syria AND Iraq. I’m not going for Hillary’s argument that supporting the small moderate rebel force would have prevented the rise of ISIS, but it’s hard to argue that not being involved made us more safe.

Don’t do stupid shit” is a great start, but it’s no substitute for a strategic vision. Obama has had a fair number of experienced people in his administration: Bob Gates, David Petreaus, Jim Jones, Leon Panetta. He also has some political types that have a lot of foreign policy experience: Biden, Kerry, Hillary, Hagel… What he lacks is Grand Strategy person. Nixon had Kissinger, Carter had Brzezinski, George HW Bush had Scowcroft, GW had a lot of Grand Strategy people (Cheney, Wolfowitz…) almost all of them with terrible ideas. Where is Obama’s Scowcroft? Obama seems to think that he doesn’t need a Grand Strategy guy because he’s the Kissinger, but the proof is in the pudding, and so far, it’s been weak sauce as far as a strategic vision.

I don’t typically cite the Wall Street Journal’s Op Ed page, but this Kimberly Strasssel article has some merit. Even when he has had experienced Foreign Policy hands in his administration, he relies more on a coterie of sycophants on his National Security Council to advise him. Both Jim Jones and Gates complained about how much the White House Staff were involved in foreign policy discussions. Tom Donnilan? The guy’s a hack. Ben Rhodes? He’s not much more than a kid who used to write speeches for Obama. Rice? She might be smart, but she’s no Scowcroft. She’s not even a Condi.

Also, there have been a lot of cases where Obama ignored the overwhelming opinion of his advisers. Hillary, Gates and Panetta all wanted to arm the rebels in Syria. Kerry made a strong case in preparation for air strikes against Syria before Obama decided to ask the Tea Party for permission. I understand that strong leaders sometimes resist the advice of their advisors, but it’s hard to make a case at this point that Obama was right in ignoring the counsel of his foreign policy team with regards to arming the Syrian opposition.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing is that Obama seems at times to have given up on his job. He’s like a man who is so disappointed that the world didn’t meet his expectations that he has given up trying to make a difference. It reminds me of Bush in his last year, but Obama’s not even done with half his second term.

I could go on, but I probably don’t need to.  If liberals continue to defend Obama when he doesn’t deserve it, then we’re no better than Republicans who continued to defend Bush while he was so obviously driving the country into a ditch. I continue to root for this president to live up to the high expectations I had for him and I’ll continue to defend him when he is unfairly criticized. But we can’t ignore the reality in front of our faces. The country deserves better than that.

2012 (Not Quite) Final Results

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

Final 2012 Electoral College Map.

Obama managed the unlikely feat of winning 8 of the 9 swing states, losing only North Carolina. Not bad considering the challenges he faced.

The Democrats picked up of two seats in the Senate in an exceedingly difficult year, with the class of 2006 defending their seats. Scott Brown out in Massauchsetts, Claire McCaskill and John Tester re-elected, Tim Kaine takes the seat that Jim Webb won by less than 10,000 votes in 2006, an unlikely Democratic win in North Dakota,  the first openly lesbian Senator in Wisconsin…. No one would have predicted these results earlier in the year.

The House elections were less fruitful, in no small part a result of Republican gerrymandering that allowed Republicans to keep a 40 some seat majority even though they garnered less vote share than Democrats. One small ray of sunshine on this front is that some of the most annoying Tea Party candidates like Joe Walsh and Alan West are on their way to defeat (Michele Bachman managed to escape by about 400 votes).

All in all, not too shabby.

Avalanche On Bullshit Mountain

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

John Stewart’s classic look at the moment the Republicans realized they had lost and tried to justify it to themselves. 

What an incredible story to tell yourself: We would have won were it not for the moral failings of the non-real America. Fox lost because last night minorities, who feel entitled to things, came and took the country from the self sufficient white Medicare retirees and upper class tax avoidance experts, or as they’re also known, your audience.

Perfect.

Reality Pierces Republican Bubble

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

Last week’s election was a big victory for President Obama and the Democrats.  But aside from a win for the Democrats, the election was also a win for the pollsters — you know, the trained statisticians who make their living surveying public opinion? These guys were under attack this year by Fox News and the conservative media. According to the perpetually paranoid over at Fox News, the pollsters who were showing Obama leading in the Electoral College for the entire year were just as liberally biased as the overwhelming number of scientists who believe in global warming and the statisticians in the Bureau of Labor Statistics who showed a decline in the unemployment rate in the run up to the election.

Even to the bitter end, Fox contributor and Harvey Fierstein impersonator Dick Morris was predicting an electoral college landslide for Romney, and the conservative media bought it hook line and sinker. I always try to keep Mark Twain’s maxim about statistics in mind, but when you have different polls with varied methodology all telling you something that’s at odds with your view of the world, that’s a pretty good indicator that your assumptions might be incorrect. Morris was contrite this week, explaining that he assumed a turnout more in line with 2004, but it’s not clear that there was any evidence to suggest this except the personal opinions of him and others on Fox.

I was having this debate months ago with my conservative uncle whose comeback for “the polls are showing you behind” was always “not according to Scott Rasmussen.” Rasumssen was was the king of the 500 person automated poll which assumed a strong Republican turnout based on responses to questions regarding party identification. Rasumussen’s polls consistently showed a Republican bias of a few points, which can make a real difference in a close election. But a little knowledge can be dangerous and Rasmussen’s polling bred a cottage industry of bloggers contesting the polling in the presidential race by adjusting the party identification mix the pollsters were predicting based on their interviews. The website unskewedpolls.com was the most prominent of the naysayers and they “specialized” in taking other peoples polls and recasting the results by adding more Republicans to the mix.

Meanwhile, the conservative media shills needed to find a visible scapegoat and they found it in Nate Silver, a statistician who turned to election prediction in 2007. Silver had a great record in 2008, predicting every state except Indiana for Obama. In the wake of that election, he was hired by the New York Times as a blogger, where (in case you were wondering) he did well predicting the Republican Congressional landslide year of 2010 as well.

Silver’s model was projecting an Obama win for most of the year based on his narrow but steady lead in the Electoral College polls. Oftentimes, his percentage prediction of an Obama win seemed over-optimistic, so you could quibble with the confidence level, but it’s hard to look at a guy who leads for most of the year in enough electoral college states to win the presidency and argue that he’s not the favorite. Plus, this is a statistical model. One assumes that if Romney was showing the same swing state resiliency, then it would have shown the same result for him.

By the Monday before the election, Silver had Obama at an 85% chance of victory. Meanwhile, the folks at Fox were still telling their viewers that Romney had the momentum and was going to win this thing. Dick Morris, George Will and others predicted a Romney landslide. Perpetually smarmy Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan wrote a blog post that Monday in which she predicted Romney would win the election based almost completely on… a feeling she had. Business Insider called it “the most anti-Nate Silver column imaginable,” not because she spoke about or even alluded to Silver, but because her analysis was almost completely devoid of empirical facts. This seemed like bravado at the time — a way to embolden the troops before a big fight–but in the aftermath it looked like they spent so much time in their own bubble that they couldn’t imagine any other objective reality where a majority could vote for Obama. Last week James Fallows likened it to the dismay attributed to Pauline Kael in the wake of the 1968 election when she couldn’t imagine how Nixon could have won, since “no one I know voted for him.”

To a certain extent, this makes sense. If you spend all your time talking to white Republicans who think that Obama is leading this country on a dangerous slide to socialism, that’s going to color your analysis. To be sure, Romney did carry white voters by a big margin and if the electorate turned out to be as white as they all seemed to think it would be, then we would have been looking at President Romney. But with all of the evidence pointing the other way, these guys should have known better. I have to imagine that there’s more than a few Fox viewers this week who feel like they’ve been had.

It’s Demographics, Dummies

Sunday, November 11th, 2012


Today’s Meet the Press panel on the demographic bomb that helped to decide this election.

I joked this week that the good news for Mitt Romney is that he won the white vote decisively. The bad news is that it’s not 1952…

As Chuck Todd wrote the day after the election:

Yes, the auto bailout mattered in Ohio. Sure, Hurricane Sandy helped the president. And, yes, the economy was the No. 1 issue. But make no mistake: What happened last night was a demographic time bomb that had been ticking and that blew up in GOP faces.

Steve Schmidt points out that the last Republican to win 60% of the white vote was George H.W. Bush and he won 400 electoral votes as a result. This week, Mitt Romney won 206 with a similar percentage. Not only did Obama benefit from increased numbers of Hispanics in the electorate,  his get out the vote efforts brought out a higher percentage of African Americans in 2012 than in 2008, as well as (contrary to most predictions) increasing youth turnout, with 60% of 18-29 year olds voting for him. Romney also took a beating at the hands of single women, losing that demographic by a whopping 36%.

This trend was a long time coming for the Republicans, with George Bush winning 44% of Latino’s in 2004, John McCain winning 31% in 2008 and Romney winning only 27% this time around. If you want to understand the reason for this change, just watch some Republican debates from earlier this year. If you want to understand the single women margin, just watch Todd Akin’s infamous “Legitimate Rape” interview or Richard Mourdock’s “God’s Plan” comment, or read Virginia’s forced ultrasound bill.  As Matthew Dowd noted last week, the Republican party is “a Mad Men Party in a Modern Family world.”

Don’t get me wrong, I love watching Mad Men. I’d just rather live in the modern world, and apparently neither would most Americans.

 

Four More Years

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

Romney Doesn’t Have The Mojo

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

Well, here we are.

After all of the blood, sweat, tears and trash talk, the election is one and a half days away. I don’t think a day has gone by in the last four months in which I didn’t check the polls for the day. Real Clear Politics is the biggest aggregator of polls in the country, and I’m on that website every day despite their obvious Republican bias. One thing you do get from Real Clear Politics, is a sense of how different news sources provide alternate realities. The Republican flacks have all come out to predict their candidate’s victory on Tuesday. To read Michael Barone and Dick Morris, we are headed to a Mitt Romney Electoral College landslide. Even George Will, an Obama hater to be sure, but at least someone who has been intellectually honest in the past, predicted a Romney Electoral College victory of 321 to 217 (including Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Nevada, and New Hampshire). 

I do find that the Left is more intellectually honest in their analyses of the situation, but then again, they have had the numbers in their favor for the last year. Statistician and election prognosticator Nate Silver has been a target of the Right lately because his model has consistently been predicting an Electoral College win for President Obama. Currently, his model is forecasting an 85% chance of President Obama winning the Electoral College. Do I think that Barack Obama is an 85% favorite in this race? I’d say that’s aggressive, but it’s very difficult to argue that he is not the favorite.

When you are winning an argument, you don’t need to jump up and down to mke your points. You usually just need to calmly recite the facts. Silver has done exactly that over the past few days and in the process has made a very convincing case for an upcoming Obama victory. The key to the Obama victory is what has been called his “Electoral College Firewall,” comprised of Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa and/or Nevada. The theory in a few sentences: in the week and a half after the first debate, Mitt Romney caught up in Colorado and Virginia and took a narrow lead in Florida, but his gains were not enough to overtake Obama in enough states to win the Electoral College. The easiest path for Mitt Romney to flip this result are winning either Ohio or Wisconsin, and Iowa or Nevada. Even with a win in Ohio or Minnesota, he’s not guaranteed victory unless he can hold Virginia and Florida (and in some scenarios Colorado). 

Looking at Ohio specifically, Real Clear Politics currently has Obama up by 2.9%. Republicans pundits argue that this result is within the margin of error of most individual polls, and that makes it a tossup, but this ignores the fact that across 12 Ohio polls in the last week and a half, Romney has not led in one.  One pollster had him down by only one and Rassmussen (a notoriously Republican biased pollster) has it a tie. This is not what a tied race looks like. If you want to see an actual tie, look at Virginia, where Obama and Romney often switch leads by a point or two, depending on the pollster and date of the polls.

Silver looks at Romney’s momentum in the swing states over the past few weeks and concludes that, if anything, Obama’s firewall is solidifying in these states:

There were 12 polls published on Wednesday among Iowa, Nevada, Ohio and Wisconsin. Mr. Obama held the lead in 11 of the 12 surveys… On average, Mr. Obama led in the polls of these states by 3.9 percentage points.    

In a more broad based look at the race from Thursday, Silver takes on the pundits that argue Romney is ahead or that the race is a tossup. He basically demolishes the arguments that Mitt Romney has been showing any momentum since his post-Denver debate bounce, as well as the idea that undecideds usually break for the challenger (they have in some elections, but not in the past 3 presidential elections). This really only leaves two options: either the state polls are getting it completely wrong, or Obama is a very big favorite to win. It’s not impossible that the polls are wrong, but it seems exceedingly unlikely that so many polls showing the same thing can be that far off.   

My take on this? In order to unseat an incumbent, you need to make the case for two main things:  1) the incumbent needs to be fired, and 2) you’re a better alternative. There’s certainly an argument that Romney and Co have been successful at the first. Although Obama is close to 50% approval, the popular vote is too close to call, and I get the sense that most of the country would be at least open to a change in leadership. But while Mitt Romney may have done a good job of convincing the country that Barack Obama might not be a great leader, most people look at Romney and don’t believe that he is a credible alternative. The reasons for this are myriad, but they include the complete demolishing of Romney’s business record by the Obama campaign, the ideological contortions that we all witnessed him go through in order to get the Republican nomination and the fact that he just doesn’t seem like a guy that most Americans will want to see on their TVs for the next four years.

I don’t take anything for granted and an upset is still possible, but it’s looking less and less likely that Romney has the mojo to turn this around in the next 40 hours.

Obama’s Firewall

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Sometimes I lag a little and someone writes the article I wanted to write. This Sunday was one of those days, when I awoke to John Cassidy’s article in the New Yorker. So I am writing the original post I wanted to write and stealing Cassidy’s graphic (above). Without any further ado…

It’s hard to overstate the damage Barack Obama sustained in the aftermath of his no show debate performance a few weeks ago. He basically ceded all of his post convention bounce and then some. Romney now has narrow but real leads in North Carolina, Florida and Virginia and has pulled even in Colorado. There is some evidence that the race has begun to stabilize, but it’s too early to speculate on whether Obama will be able to roll back those gains.

Still, amidst the bad news is a ray of sunshine for the president: For now at least, he has been able to maintain what amounts t0 a firewall in three to four states that give him a lead in the the Electoral College. Let’s assume that the President can’t count on North Carolina, Florida, Virginia or Colorado, but give him Pennslyvania. In this scenario, the most likely path to 270 for the President is through the states of Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa and/or Nevada.

The lynchpin of this firewall is Ohio, where President Obama has maintained a solid lead over Mitt Romney for the last year. In the few weeks after the first debate, Mitt Romney has made inroads on the seven point deficit he faced, but President Obama still holds a 2% lead in the Real Clear Politics average.

In traditionally Democratic Wisconsin, Obama holds a lead that is closer to 3%.  If Obama can win both Ohio and Wisconsin, he needs 6 more Electoral College votes, which he can get from either Nevada or Iowa, two states in which he currently leads by 3% and 2.5% respectively. In this scenario, New Hampshire is gravy for Obama, but if Romney is somehow able to swing Wisconsin, the president needs Nevada, Iowa and New Hampshire (which is currently a dead heat).

I think my electoral map looks pretty close to Cassidy’s. I had previously assumed that Nevada and Colorado would end up in Obama’s column. Both states polled extremely close in 2010′s Senate races, but both bucked the national tide and re-elected Democratic incumbents mostly on the strength of Latino and women voters.  Colorado has leaned more toward Romney in recent polling, but can still go either way. Assuming that it does go Romney’s way, I’d feel more confident in Nevada than in Iowa to provide Obama’s winning advantage. This is, after all, the state where Harry Reid greatly outperformed his final poll results in 2010 after he was all but left for dead. Iowa’s record has been more mixed, voting for Gore in 2000, for Bush in 2004 and for Obama by a large margin in 2008, but I feel pretty good about Iowa as well.

If Ohio is breached, Obama’s math gets much more difficult, but he can still pull it off if he sweeps Colorado and Nevada in the West, keeps Iowa in his column and adds New Hampshire.

Bottom line: Obama still has more paths to 270 than Romney does, but he can’t afford any further erosion.

The Real Mitt Romney

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

I’m having a long and heated debate with my  conservative uncle about whether the result of the election will be solely determined by the two questions “is the economy good” and “who do you think would do a better job of managing the economy?” He, of course, believes the latter, while I maintain that this is a much more complex decision driven by many varied factors. More on that later, but I want to focus on one factor that clearly still matters which is “which guy do you want in your living room for the next four years.”

Check out James Lipton on how Romney reminds you of “the  kind of boss with whom you never feel comfortable or sure of yourself.” This is a brilliant insight into the way that Mitt Romney came off during that debate, and more importantly, what it reveals about his character. Chris Matthews said that “Romney is the guy on the plane who won’t turn his cell phone off.” Charles Pierce cut even closer. Referring to Romney’s jaw dropping, “You’ll get your chance, I’m speaking now” comment:

To me, this was a revelatory, epochal moment. It was a look at the real Willard Romney, the Bain cutthroat who could get rich ruining lives and not lose a moment’s sleep… Outside of street protestors, and that Iraqi guy who threw a shoe at George W. Bush, I have never seen a more lucid example of manifest public disrespect for a sitting president than the hair-curling contempt with which Romney invested those words. (I’ve certainly never seen one from another candidate.) He’s lucky Barack Obama prizes cool over everything else. LBJ would have taken out his heart with a pair of salad tongs and Harry Truman would have bitten off his nose.

And Romney bitched endlessly — endlessly — about the rules, and why this uppity fellow on the other stool was allowed to speak before he was spoken to, and why he didn’t get to speak at length on whatever he wanted to speak on because, after all, he is the CEO of the stage.

Jesus Christ, I’d hate to play golf with the man. He’s the guy who counts to make sure you don’t have too many wedges in your bag. He knows every cheap subsection of every cheap ground rule, and he’ll call you on every one of them. You couldn’t get a free drop out of him with thumbscrews, and forget about conceding any putt outside two inches. And then, on the 18th hole, with all the money on the line, he kicks his ball out of the rough and denies up and down to the rules committee that he did it. Then he goes into the clubhouse bar and nobody sits with him.

Brilliant.

Obama Bounces Back

Saturday, October 20th, 2012

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Great summary of the Obama-Romney debate from Chuck Todd on the Daily Rundown.

Todd notes that, if the debate ended at 10:10 Eastern Time, then it would have been called a draw, but then came the exchange on Benghazi. You could see Romney thinking that he had the president cornered when he said that he never called it a terror attack, but Obama was cool as a cucumber. Didn’t take the bait at all. He just said “Please proceed Governor Romney…”  Romney should have known something was up, but kept going.

Then Candy Crowley fact checked him right on the spot and Obama amplified it with “Can you say that a little louder Candy?”

Right or wrong, these debates often do turn on the little gaffes and momentum shifts and that Benghazi exchange was the key moment of the debate.

Boy, I’d hate to have been the aide who told Romney that the president never referred to it as an act of terror. Romney doesn’t seem like a very nice boss when things don’t go his way.

Obama closing the debate by bringing up Romney’s 47% comment for the first time was the coup de gras.

Altogether, a great debate performance by Obama. Too bad this guy didn’t show up for the first one.