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Molehills out of mountains and vice versa

In the middle of a campaign for the most important position in the country, we should be talking about the global economy, tensions around the world such as problems in Iran, Syria and elsewhere.  We should be talking about how to best prepare ourselves for the new economic circumstances our world now inhabits or how to overhaul our tax and entitlements systems.

But we are not.

The GOP presidential nominees aren’t talking about these things.  They are focused on contraception and questions of “good and evil.”  The Republican Party, seems intent on not returning our country to a more prosperous state but to a different era.  It has become normal for politicians on both sides to wax nostalgic about “the good old days.”  Those days seems always have been in the 1950s, when — by the way, the tax rates for the highest earners was at its highest level ever.   But the current crop of candidates don’t think going back to even the 50s is enough.

I get why the Republicans feel the need to return to social and religious issues, their base loves it.  Think about what they want to talk about: contraception, religious wars, gay marriage.  Really?

Newsflash:  It’s 2012, Women can vote and most use contraception.  Gay marriage will be legal everywhere in the United States during my lifetime.  Nothing you do will change either of those facts.  Just to be as clear on this as possible — you are on the wrong side of history on these issues but that isn’t the real problem.  History doesn’t care.  The problem is by wasting everyone’s time on issues that won’t be changed at this level, we fail to talk about the policies that will.  You cheapen the process.

All of this is great for the Democrats.  And I want President Obama to win.  But as good as this is for his reelection prospects, it is bad for the country.  Presidential campaigns provide an opportunity to really examine and evaluate the state of the country and the best ways to deal with the challenges we face.  These should be lofty conversations and debates not petty bickering about social issues that were settled years ago (not to harp, but nothing Rick Santorum can do will turn that clock back).

When President Obama took office, I characterized the situation he faced as his “Himalayan problem.” All problems were so large individually but it was hard to gage their enormity when clumped together.  I misspoke, this was not his Himalayan problem, it was ours.  By choosing to focus on issues that excite  one base or another at the expense of those that impact all of us, the GOP is making molehills out of our Everest sized problems and that’s unfortunate.

You sure told me

I thought I was so clever. My analogy about how I approach conversations with people who disagree with me seemed so perfect. The assumption I have about most everyone who is active in politics is that we have the same ultimate goal; to make the country a better place. My analogy is that we both want to get to the same place — say we need to get to Safeway. I want to take one road and you want to take another, well, that doesn’t make either of evil, right?

So last week, I was feeling all good about my theory and approach and I tried to explain it to a Republican friend. She looked at me like I had eight heads and a tail — but people like you, she said, want to turn America socialist. You hate democracy. I tried to tell her that socialism is an economic system, that most of the democracies in the world (including ours) are capitalistic/socialist hybrids, that most of Europe, which is more socialist but anyone’s standard has more fluidity and upward mobility that we have (and higher standards of living) and that not all of us view democracy and some socialism as being mutually exclusive ideas. And, at he end of the day, don’t we seriously both want to make the US the best country it can be?

When Paul Ryan released his plan to overhaul Medicare and Social Security, I read it and hated it. Merely shifting the costs of healthcare from the government to the elderly will not impact the actual costs at all — we need real health care reform for that. That doesn’t mean I question his sincerity or his patriotism. I don’t blame Grover Norquist for anything the GOP Congresspeople do — and let me be as clear on this point as I can be, any member of Congress that voted for a tax hike, even after signing the pledge, would still be able to go back to their district and win re-election. Talk about paper tigers.

But I don’t have an ideological litmus test for my friends. I wish some of them had the same point of view.

I am a Democrat because I think out government exists to do for all of us collectively what we cannot do individually. I think a single payer health care system would be more cost effective than the system we have now. I think it would lead to more preventative care and the individual mandate is absolutely necessary for the system to work. I like the idea that my tax dollars go to help people who need it, pay for quality education, build a strong infrastructure and first rate military. And I think if we shifted the burden of health care costs from companies — with the additional step of streamlining costs — to all of us, we would make our businesses more competitive. How is that anti-capitalist? It’s not.

Moreover, I like regulations that keep my air and water clean, make sure the transportation I take is safe and my food is free of toxins and infectious agents. I don’t look back on movies like “Boys’ Town” or the novels of Charles Dickens and think — wow, we had it so good then.

And I like NASA. When President Kennedy reached for the stars, we did more than send men to the moon, we inspired generations of kids to go into sciences. The technological advancements achieved through the space program can be seen everywhere.

And I am an optimist. I don’t think we need a civil war to fix our country because I agree with Bill Clinton when he said “There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be fixed with what’s right with America.”

These are not the opinions of someone who wants us to lose our freedoms or change to a totalitarian state. If I am going to try to see your point, I wish you would make even the smallest effort to see mine.

Who would Reagan endorse?

Every Republican candidate has referenced President Reagan at some point.  All want to be seen as being the most like their icon.  After watching most of the debates, as you know, there have been many.  If Reagan were here today, he would endorse (drum roll, please): Jon Huntsman.

While his level headed and non-rabid demeanor has made many paint him as a liberal, he is not.  He is pro-life.  He has a 100 percent approval rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA).  He worked for President Obama, sure, but he has also worked for Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.  He served two terms as governor of Utah. Those are not liberal bonafides.  You don’t have to take my word for it — and I am a liberal so you shouldn’t (it’s all about perspective, you know).  But Haley Barbour knows a thing or two about politics and conservatives and has said this:

Jon Huntsman and I served together, and while we don’t agree on some issues, there’s no question that he’s a conservative. He’s way to the right of Barack Obama for goodness sake. But yeah, I consider Jon a conservative. As I said, we have some issues that I think are important that we have different views on. But he was in the Reagan administration, elected governor of a very conservative state — elected and re-elected by the way. So if you’re asking me if Jon Huntsman is qualified to the Republican nominee for President of the United States, the answer is, of course he is.”  View it here.

Plus, Huntsman did a good job.  Taxes went down.  Job creation went up.  The Pew Center on the States found that Utah was the “best managed states” under his tenior.

And Huntsman has solid foreign policy experience and knowledge.  We live in an increasingly interconnected world.  We need someone at the help who will not need to rely on advisors in high level meetings with foreign leaders — they will not be in the room.

President Ronald Reagan — and I can assure you waxing nostalgic for him is something I never thought I would do — would look at the current crop of GOP candidates and pick Jon Huntsman because he is a competent, pragmatic, intelligent and thoughtful person.  He has been consistently conservative.  To my friends on the right, being rabidly anti-Obama doesn’t make you conservative, it makes you rabidly anti-Obama.  There are plenty of lefties who are upset with him, too.

But what about the fact that Huntsman worked for President Obama?  Reagan started off as a Democrat but more than that, he saw the value in working with the other side of the aisle.  Tip O’Neil never would have given a press conference saying that “Democrats and Republicans are drom different planets.”  Never. Would. Have. Happened.

As for the rest?  Mitt Romney would be a second choice, if we could figure out WHICH Mitt Romney would be headed to the White House.  After that, I almost thing Reagan would stay home rather than vote for someone proud of their ignorance.  Yes, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry — I am talking to you.  Newt Gingrich?  Believes his own PR too much and will self-destruct — we want a winner here, people.  Ron Paul & Rich Santorum, right, like that’s gonna happen.

I want President Obama win reelection but having Jon Huntsman as his rival — as scary as that might be for Democrats as he has the best chance of any of them to win the general, it would move our conversation to a better, more productive place.

Every four years, we have the opportunity to look at our government and decide how we want to govern ourselves, who we want to be as a people and what we can do — together — to solve our problems.  We have serious issues that deserve more of our attention that birth certificates or fighting over who knows less about what.

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should

Kind of ironic bok title, huh?

Kind of ironic book title, huh?

Herman Cain, aka the pizza magnate and current flavor of the month in the GOP POTUS candidate, has made some interesting choices and statements. He seems to think running for president and selling books are not mutually exclusive activities.

To give him his due, the Cain campaign has bought a lot of his books so he is definitely selling a ton while running for president. And Governor Sarah Palin would tell you her VP run and the speculation about her possible 2012 run did not hurt her book sales but just because you can do something, does not mean you should.

This is not an anti-capitalist view I am trying to promote. Sell as many books as want but it seems a little unseemly to use a presidential run to do it. Any presidential campaign is really a multi-month (or year) job interview for the most (or one of) important jobs in the country. Nothing a candidate does will really prepare anyone to be president (and it’s not supposed to, you should be qualified to run before you make that decision) but it does give the nation a chance to get to know the would be candidates. This is not a time to bring anything but your A game. When you think about that, is this really the time to split your energy between running and doing anything else?

Running for president is hard. Not has hard as being the leader of the free world but it is hard. That’s why I criticized Cenk Uygar when he said that Mike Huckabee was “too fat and happy” to run. I have a lot of respect for people who admit that it takes a lot of time and energy to run and there are no guarantees. Good for you, Governor.

Governor Rick Perry has learned how much harder it is to run for national office (I believe he thought that his track record in Texas would prepare him better for the presidential race) than any state-wide. That’s one of the reasons he has said he may not take part in upcoming debates (not that his underwhelming performances have had any role, seriously, if you cannot stay awake past 8:00 pm, how can you be president?).

Congresswomen Michele Bachmann has learned this, too. Maybe that’s why her New Hampshire staff all quit in a huff. Maybe she thought she could make up facts as she goes along in this campaign the way she does every other time she opens her mouth but it doesn’t seem to be working as well as she thought.

So we come back to the current front-runner (in national polls, though, not the state polls, where it matters more), Herman Cain. It is worth noting that the title of this post could also refer to Godfather’s pizza. With all due respect to Chicago deep dish pizza lovers, you can theoretically make pizza outside of New York, but why would you?

Full disclosure, which is pretty obvious to anyone who has met me or read what I write, I am a liberal Democrat and have every intention of voting for President Obama. Having said that, I think having two robust parties and a vigorous discussion about where we want the country to go, is in everyone’s best interest. I was really impressed when Governor Chris Christie said that he believes in “small government, lower taxes and less regulation,” not because I agree with ANY of that, in fact I do NOT, but that’s where our conversation should be.

Herman Cain is not advancing our political discourse at all. His economic plan (the “9/9/9” or “9/0/9”) would be disastrous. His ignorance of foreign policy is scary. It is his lack of interest in running for office, while he runs, that bothers me the most. With little or no campaign infrastructure, few details on his policy proposals and a general laissez-faire attitude towards the process, I am left with the thought that if he doesn’t care about his campaign, why should anyone?

Make. It. STOP.

There are some people who think this ad by John McCain compares Barack Obama to the antichrist.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mopkn0lPzM8  Personally I don’t see this connection but apparently that is because I have not read  the Christian series on life after the apocalypse, “Left Behind.” 

From the Wall Street Journal:

“The spot, called "The One," opens with the line: "It shall be known that in 2008 the world will be blessed." Images follow of Moses parting the Red Sea and Sen. Obama telling a crowd, "We are the change we've been waiting for."

The McCain called the ad ‘lighthearted,’  I call it nauseating.  Even without the link to evil, it is truly annoying.  What’s worse, intellectually I know that it speaks to a number of people.  So, if I am correct, the McCain people are playing up the fact that Obama makes very broad statements during speeches, as if he invented the platitude.  Whatever.  Wake me up when November ends.

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