In Boehner we trust

Official portrait of United States House Speak...

Official portrait of United States House Speaker (R-Ohio). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We will not go over the “fiscal cliff.”  That’s my prediction anyway.  I don’t make predictions often.  As I often tell people, I am NOT clairvoyant.  I cannot read minds or see the future.  I do have pretty good political instincts, probably from working in or near politics for 90 percent of my life.  I am no Chuck Todd but not too far away.

In any case, I do not believe we will go over the all too arbitrary and Congress created “fiscal cliff.”  This is partly because President Obama was reelected.  It was partly because the Democrats kept the Senate.  With that in mind, our collective future rests in the hands of one man; Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Oh).  Yes, the man who refused to use the word “compromise” on national television last year will be the one who forces his caucus to do just that.

First I need to have my own “Sister Souljah moment” (she once had an office down the hall from mine at RCA Victor, true story).  The Tea Party makes for a great target as to why Washington seems incapable of getting anything done but they are a response to that inaction, not the cause of it.  Our Congressional districts are becoming more and more polarized, resulting in more and more extreme representatives — remember, Congress is very much a mirror.  If you don’t like what you see in Washington, you probably don’t like what you see when you look around you.  It’s become too easy to blame one group or another for our collective failure to pay attention and act on what happens.

So, here we are.  On the brink of yet another economic crisis.  Europe has already gone back into recession (And we think that same austerity will work here?  Are we that stupid, Joe Scarborough?).  The great menace that is China has an economy that is slowing down.  I am no economist but running a government on nothing but stop-gap continuing resolutions is not a way to run a government, when exactly was a full round of appropriations bills passed?  Yeah, if you have to scratch your head at that one it has been too damn long.  See?  I am still a bitter cynic.

Yet, because Boehner is the speaker of the House and not someone like, I dunno, Eric “Dr. No” Cantor or Paul “I ran the marathon in under a minute” Ryan.  Take home message:  he is reasonable.  Now, I would like to have a second “moment.” I believe that everyone who gets into public life is a patriot.  Maybe a power hungry, egomaniac but also a patriot.  I do not think Cantor or Ryan want to see the country fail, I just don’t think they are seasoned enough to understand the value of compromise.

Who is this John Boehner?  His upbringing is nothing like Mitt Romney‘s.  He has 11 siblings.  He grew up in a two bedroom house.  Yes, that’s right 14 people lived in a house with two bedrooms and one bathroom.  He started working in his father’s bar when he was eight.  If anyone gets the hardship brought on by recession, it’s John Boehner.  He currently rents a basement apartment on Capitol Hill (really, his favorite restaurant is my favorite Italian place on the Hill).

Now I am no fan.  In 2007, I worked a communications director for a Democratic member of Congress.  One night there was a vote at about 1:00 am (we were still in the office, eyes glued to C-Span.  The Democrats still had the House then and the man in the Chair was a D.  He called the vote wrong — some members had not voted when he thought they had.  It was bad.  Steny Hoyer called for the vote to be held a second time and it was but the Republicans stormed out.  The bill they disliked passed.  The next day Hoyer asked Boehner to hold off on going to the Ethics Committee until they had looked into it.  Boehner agreed (this was on the floor) but had actually already submitted a complaint with that committee.  For years, that just got my craw (is that a real phrase?).  Seriously, I thought that was crazily underhanded.  Now, I have forgiven him.

What else do you need to know about John Boehner?  He tried to lead a “coup” against Newt Gingrich.  He smokes enough that you can smell him from a block away.  He is a really conservative guy, though religious conservatives complain he is motivated more by small government conservatism than the issues that matter to them.  I am not sure how he could be more conservative on same sex marriage, abortion and other things but I am not a social, fiscal or any kind of conservative so I am not the one to judge that.  The conservative Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote this about him. The Plain Dealer says Boehner can “disagree without being disagreeable.” We need more of that in the world but even that is not going to save us from fiscal armageddon.

We will avoid the “cliff” because John Boehner is reasonable.  We will lose the Bush tax cuts for people making over $250,000 a year or more.  We will lower corporate tax rates but raise the top two rates to what they were under President Bill Clinton (you remember those horrible recession years, oh right, we had a great economy then) to 36 and 39 percent.  We will make a pledge to deal with entitlements, though the actual changes won’t happen right away (sorry young people, the retirement age will go up, if not this year, sometime before you retire. Seriously, it has to.).

Don’t worry family, I am still the bitter cynic you know and love.  Don’t believe it?  I still wear only black.

Hurricane Sandy and the presidential election

Barack Obama

First of all, I hope everyone reading this is safe, warm and dry.

What a difference a week (or day) can make!  Just think, a month ago, President Obama’s reelection seemed almost like a fait accompli and then, BAM!  Debate number one gave Mitt Romney an opening and he’s back from political death.  I blogged in 2008 that I thought he was going to win it all then.  There’s no excuse for taking their eye off the Romney ball the way Obama clearly did.

I do not want Romney to get to move into the White House.  Not even a little bit. Why?  Mostly because I have no idea who he is or what he stands for.  He was pro-choice before he was anti.  He was pro-health reform before he was anti and then pro again when it served him.  He has taken the whole “run to the right in the primary and then to the center for the general” to levels that I never thought were possible.  Really, Mitt?  You’re now proud of your Massachusetts health care plan?  And you really still think FEMA should be privatized?  Are you fucking kidding me?  Yes?  No?  Maybe?  What day is it?

The Supreme Court could be enough of a reason for me to vote for Barack Obama.  But then I also remember that the president sets the tone for the entire federal government.  I think the Violence Against Women Act was a good idea and want our Justice Department to enforce it.  You know who doesn’t?  Most of the GOP.  And don’t get me started on binders and the GOP’s thoughts on rape.

Then there’s Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI).  Full disclosure, I have a pretty huge crush on Ryan.  I

Congressman Paul Ryan (R,Wisconsin)

Congressman Paul Ryan (R,Wisconsin) (Photo credit: Tobyotter)

am not proud of it.  I don’t like it but… would I kick him out of bed?  Probably not.  If he could only stop talking and just sit around looking pretty, we’d all be better off.  If he is intent on talking, maybe he can just STOP writing.  I read his plans for Medicare and they are really, really bad.  And no, Joe Scarborough, he isn’t great for being the only one to propose something about the federal program which does need restructuring (we need to deal with health care costs, a voucher program is not the answer).  This is like, the neighbor’s house is on fire!  Somebody, do something!  Ahh, Paul Ryan brought doughnuts.  Doesn’t help with the fire, per se, but technically, he has done something.  And we want this guy to be a heart beat away from being president?  I may think he is some pretty nice (and very hydrated) eye candy, I don’t think he belongs in the White House.

And now, this storm may be a game changer.  (Do Mark Halperin and Jon Heileman have copywrite on that phrase? )  President Obama gets to look, well, presidential.  Something he needs to work on. Now, should he lose the election (and he might), there will be a ton of blame bantied about.  I will blame only one person; the president.  He looked so bored during that debate that I had a hard time watching it.  He made me like Chris Christie and that’s not a small feat.  At least he appreciates FEMA.  Fuck, anyone out there thinks privatizing that important agency makes sense?  It doesn’t.  And we want the guy who wants that to be president, I know I do not.

President Obama has not lived up to a lot of our expectations but truthfully, he never really had a shot at that.  Unless he could completely change the way we approach politics (a crazy high bar to reach), we weren’t going to be satisfied.  Part of this is also his fault.  The candidate of “hope and change” became the president of “it could have been worse.”  Not exactly awe inspiring.

But not terrible either.  I wish Obama had been more hands on when dealing with Congress, though I am not convinced that would have helped woo people like Eric Cantor, who clearly were going to oppose anything he proposed.

I guess in a week we will know.  Do I have to move to France?

The Bataan Death March — 2012 baseball season edition

Bobby Valentine (New York Mets)

Bobby Valentine (New York Mets) (Photo credit: iccsports). If you Google me and him, you will find a petition I started when he was fired. I was really angry about it. I still am.

Yesterday was the official start of the baseball season.  For the next six months I expect to spend at least  a decent portion of my time crying or thinking about crying.  Having the Bo Sox get Bobby Valentine does not help.   (Side note:  Dear Joe Scarborough, can you explain why you are a Sox fan?  Didn’t you grow up in Florida?  I can forgive a lot — you voting to impeach President Clinton or any of your political views — but this Sox thing may be a step too far.  I am just kidding.  I just mute the TV when you talk about baseball.  And your Fed Wilpon love is equally inexplicable.  No Met fans I know like him.)

Back to my point.  The baseball season is long (162 games!  Hey, wait, isn’t that the same number of millions of dollars Fred Wilpon has to pay to the Bernie Madoff victims’ fund?  Dang!  It is!) and I expect it to be really painful.  This year, next year, every year until the Wilpons sell the team.

So, I will have to rely on movies like Bull Durham and Moneyball to get me through the summer.  Best two baseball movies ever.

Let’s go Mets!

No, Senator Santorum, it’s not the media trying to “pigeonhole” you, it’s your own statements

Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

At the risk of being a broken record, I enjoy watching Morning Joe.  I like it a lot.  I appreciated the exchange they had with Rick Santorum this morning enough to want to write about it.  Unfortunately that led me to have to read through and actually watch some of his statements.  After watching more clips of him than I would like, my soul hurts.  It hurts a lot.  I also think I may have sprained my neck from shaking my head so much.

Santorum’s hypocrisy is overwhelming.  To get a smaller point out of the way, can we stop blaming the media for reporting on things public figures say?  No, if unedited video is aired somewhere — on YouTube or a media outlet — you don’t get to claim the press did you wrong.  Say you misspoke.  Say you made a mistake.  I know that I would be impressed with either answer.  Although, if your misstatement or mistake reflects an opinion you have been expressing for decades, you don’t get to say that one time you used the wrong words.

And now we come to Santorum’s hypocrisy.  He sparred with Joe Scarborough over his position on contraception — something he thinks is destroying America is is “not how things should be.”  Sex, in his view, is only meant to be between a heterosexual, married couple and only when they are trying to have children.  I don’t know where that leaves people incapable of having children, I guess in a sexless life.  Or maybe in their hearts they could just hope they are going to get pregnant and therefore please the vengeful God who would otherwise smite them down for such a heretical act.

Problem one:  Santorum chastised Scarborough for giving into the media proclivity to “pigeonhole him” and to basically put words in his mouth.  According to him, he has done “thousands of rallies” where contraception never came up.  When he did mention his opposition to it — and he omitted how vociferous that opposition has been — it was merely in reference to the overwhelming threat posed by Obamacare.  It isn’t contraception that bothers him, per se, it’s the federal government’s overreaching into our private lives.  Except that’s not what he has said.  He didn’t frame his comments in 2011 or 2010 or the last few decades as concern over the federal government overstepping its bounds, he talked about contraception as being one of the evils that is destroying America, promoting “the wrong kind of sex” and leading, paradoxically, to “more unplanned pregnancies.”  Yeah, increased contraceptive use usually does lead to that (what am I missing here? Oh, right, I forgot about the YouTube clip I saw where Santorum calls scientists “amoral” — check it out, if you dare.).  So the mere idea that the fine former Senator from Pennsylvania’s comments on the issue have been taken out of context or blown out of proportion is absurd on every level possible.  No, Rick, the media didn’t force you to talk about this issue, you brought it up all on your own.

Problem two:  Santorum argues that his campaign isn’t about this issue but in several interviews he mentions things he would do as president to accomplish his goals.  To give him some credit, I agree with some of what he says.  The presidency comes along with a bully pulpit an if you are not prepared to use it, why bother? (Case in point, the role of First Lady comes with the same perk and one major issue I had with Howard Dean was that his family was clearly not on board with his presidential run.  Not only did his mother tell Vanity Fair that he ‘had no shot of winning’ — ouch! — but his wife declared she would not serve as First Lady. Truthfully, I would not trust anyone who would give that opportunity up with feeding my cat much less providing my health care but that’s my personal opinion.)  So by saying, he has been talking about these moral issues but didn’t mean them to have such an impact makes zero sense.  That kind of logic does not belong in the White House.

Problem three:  And this one, to me, applies to many members of the Republican party.  I am sorry, Mr. Scarborough, but this includes you sometimes (abortion, not contraception, I loved your idea about the quid pro quo in Virginia — if the vaginal probe ultrasound requirement for abortions passed so should an anal probe requirement for Viagra).  How can you claim to support less government in our business lives but more in our personal ones?  I know, I know, if you think abortion is murder… (I do not, I am just admitting I can see a flaw in my own criticism of your logic, which I still think is flawed).  But what about contraception?  Not to get all personal but I have used contraception for both the purposes of preventing pregnancy but on more than one occasion for other health issues.  And truthfully, that shouldn’t be germane to this discussion but as I see stats as high as putting the percentage of women who have used contraception at 99 percent, and given that would have to include lesbians, a bunch of us are using these medications for reasons that have nothing to do with sex — casual or otherwise.  (Oh, and if you are so “pro-marriage” as you claim, Mr. Santorum, why oppose gay marriage?  Maybe that’s a topic for another day.)

Problem four:   Why does  your religion trump mine?  When you described why you are making the sacrifice you are making to run for president — and I am one of the people who appreciates anyone willing to go through it, running for president is hard business so I agree with you on that — is that you want to live in a country where you can practice your faith.  I am cool with you practicing your faith.  Practice away.  Why does that give you the right to impose your faith on me?  My personal religion is physics but I don’t expect you to sit around pondering Einstein’s theory of relativity like I do (like a slippery bar of soap in the shower, every time I think I get it, I lose it again).  There is a reason our Founding Fathers wanted the separation of church and state (and no, when President Kennedy talked about religious tolerance, he was not suggesting faith has no place in the public square.  He was merely pointing out that all religions and faiths have a place in the country.)

Faith is often defined as the belief in something without any discernable proof and the argument could almost be made that I have faith that you are running for president because you do want to make the country better, though none of your positions give me any reason to believe that goal would be accomplished.  That’s harsh, the proof is you are running and I cling to the idea that most people in politics are in it for the right reasons.  The comparison I like to make is that Democrats and Republicans both want to get to the same place — a better, safer, more prosperous America — we just have different routes we think we need to take to get there.

My last point, for the people with my sized attention span: the nation should not be forced to practice or adhere to the religious beliefs of the president.  And that does not mean I don’t think faith has a place in our system.  I think one of the traps into which liberals fall — myself included — is to deny the role it can play in bringing us together.  I am all for religion that brings out the better angles of our nature, as it did during the Civil Rights movement, which began in churches.  It troubles me, however, when it is used as a weapon to divide us into different classes of people — like when we deny half our population the right to marry or use it to tell more than half the population what kind of medical treatment they can receive and who will decide that.

This video won’t be for everyone, I know I need a drink after watching it.