Time’s “Person of the Year” Essay Provides Insights on Obama’s Victory

It’s no surprise, of course, that Barack Obama was named Time‘s Person of the Year.  In presidential election years, the winner of the election has been named POY in 12 out of 22 times, including 9 of the last 13 and 4 of the last 4. (That’s original research; I counted them up myself.  You’re welcome.)

But I was surprised when I read the magazine’s POY essay. I was expecting a glowing hagiography, reminiscent of when the just-elected Obama was sanctified by the Nobel Peace Prize committee.  Instead I found a clear-eyed assessment of the re-election effort and why it was successful.

The passage I found most persuasive is set up by a statement from the head of the campaign’s research team that “undecided voters… were making a very trust-based assessment between Obama and Romney.”

This became the through line of the brutal and at times unfair Obama attacks on Romney — the cracks about car elevators, the specious mention of his potentially felonious Securities and Exchange Commission filings, the false claim that he supported an abortion ban without a rape exception, the endless harping on a Swiss bank account once held in his wife’s name. It all spoke to a central message built around trust: One man, despite his failures, had voters like you in mind. The other man, by contrast, knew how to make a lot of money for people you will never meet.

Of course, Romney turned out to be Obama’s biggest ally in that narrative.

Indeed he did.  Romney’s “47 percent” blatherings probably ended whatever chance he might have had at victory. As the left gleefully pointed out, he ended up with 47 percent of the popular vote.

One final thought: Is anyone else puzzled by Time‘s decision to dramatically darken the Obama “Person of the Year” cover photo?  Didn’t they learn their lesson in 1994?

Hold Off On Ordering Those “Romney 2016″ T-Shirts

Gracious.

It’s amazing how quickly and how savagely a political party can turn on its standard-bearer.  I noted this phenomenon four years ago — before the election, but after the probable outcome was clear:

Losing the Presidential race has to be even worse than losing the World Series.

If you lose the World Series, you at least get to put up a banner proclaiming that you were the League Champion for the year. Your hometown throws you a consolation rally, and you start talking about the future (“hey, we’re tied for 1st place” in the coming season). There may be regrets about missed opportunities that could have produced World Series rings, but your own fans probably will not vilify you.

McCain, however, can already hear the long knives being sharpened on his own side of the aisle. (Oops, wrong metaphor.) McCain knows the throw is going to beat him to the bag, but he has to be seen running it out just as hard as he can. This is the big leagues.

This time the guy who came in second is making things considerably worse for himself with some remarkably tone-deaf comments:

Republicans don’t want Mitt Romney to go away mad but they do, it seems, want him to go away.

That sentiment was in full bloom following Romney’s first post-election comments — made on a phone call with donors earlier this week. On the call, Romney attributed his loss to the “gifts” President Obama’s campaign doled out to young people and minorities. For many, the comments had an eerie echo of the secretly taped “47 percent” remarks Romney made at a May fundraiser.

“There is no Romney wing in the party that he needs to address,” said Ed Rogers, a longtime Republican strategist. “He never developed an emotional foothold within the GOP so he can exit the stage anytime and no one will mourn.”

Added Chris LaCivita, a senior party operative: “The comment just reinforced a perception —  fairly or not – that Romney, and by default, the GOP are the party of the ‘exclusives’. It’s time for us to move on and focus on the future leaders within the GOP.”

Remind me not to go into politics.

Congratulations, Mr. President: Chapter 2 of My Quadrennial Search for Silver Linings

Whether it's Bush or Obama, if he is not your president, then you are not my countryman

Congratulations, Mr. President.  I voted for the other guy, but I wish you well — and if you had to win, I’m deeply relieved that Florida doesn’t matter this time.

Once again, you’ve inherited a mess from your predecessor.  This time, you won’t be able to get as much mileage from blaming him.  One of the beauties of our two-party system is that eventually, both parties end up sharing the responsibility for every major issue.

Unlike some of your critics, I don’t think your re-election is a disaster.  Even though you’ll continue to be the most powerful person in the world, you are not powerful enough to inflict serious long-term damage on America.  We survived Nixon’s thuggery, Carter’s ineptitude and Clinton’s reckless sexual predation, and we’ll survive Obamacare and anything else you may throw at us.

To me, Obamacare was the most important reason to defeat you.  The day before the election, Christopher DeMuth described the stakes as he saw them:

On Tuesday, Americans will go to the polls to choose whether or not to nationalize their health-care system. …

If President Barack Obama is re-elected, ObamaCare’s controls over doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical firms and other providers of medical care will be tightened, and the operations of private insurance companies will be progressively restricted. Everyone involved will know where the process is going—to a single-payer system or one with a few chosen insurers subject to national public-utility controls—and will negotiate the best possible accommodations to it. Within a few years, a new political equilibrium will be in place, making the system irreversible and subject to only marginal adjustment.

The Heritage Foundation has a helpful Obamacare tax chart -- click for more details

Well, maybe.  I sure wish we had elected a Republican president and enough Republican senators to overturn Obamacare altogether, but we did not.  However, opposition to socialized healthcare is not going to go away. When the tax increases start kicking in a few weeks from now, you may find that your predecessor has bequeathed you a healthcare system so deeply unpopular that you may not be able to enforce party discipline to protect it.

I’m also not overly worried about continuing to entrust you with our national security — although again, I would have preferred the other guy as commander-in-chief.  Despite the ridiculous Nobel Peace Prize, you’ve steered well clear of the moral bankruptcy of pacifism.  To your credit, you green-lighted the risky takedown of Osama bin Laden, rather than taking the safer route of a Predator missile — and you’ve used those Predators to take out thousands of enemy combatants.  You retained Bush’s defense secretary and his strategy for Iraq, and mimicked his surge in Afghanistan.

Heck, you even started a totally unnecessary war in Libya, where we had no national interests at stake.  I don’t want to encourage unnecessary wars, but at least this one got rid of a very bad man, and up until Benghazi it seemed to be turning out all right.  Your administration’s inattention to a deteriorating situation cost four brave men their lives in Benghazi.  But at the risk of sounding flip, all presidents make mistakes that get brave people killed.

If America never uses its military strength, then all that money spent on defense truly is wasted.  On balance I think your Libya adventure was probably unwise, but I like my presidents to have a bias toward action in the face of evil people.  When, not if, the war with Iran enters its kinetic phase, I’m confident now (as I was not in 2008) that you will not preemptively surrender.  And despite your occasionally shoddy treatment of our ally Israel, I have no doubt which side you’ll take.  Even during the crucible of the final weeks of the campaign, you’ve already started laying the ground work for war, through joint exercises with Israel and by condoning Israel’s attack on a weapons plant in Sudan.

You have a tough job ahead of you, Mr. President.  So did your predecessor.  However wrong-headed some of your policies may be, I believe you to be a good and decent family man, a person of substance, and a person dedicated to doing what you believe is right for America. I can’t find the link now, but to paraphrase another voice on the right: The fact that our political system has given us a choice of two such candidates is a testament to the enduring strength of America.

Good luck, Mr. President, and may God watch over you and those you serve.

Does Hurricane Sandy Help Obama or Romney?


To my East Coast peeps: In between charging your cell phones on the neighbor’s generator and driving around looking for gas lines, I know many of you have been wondering, “what’s Kirk’s take on how Sandy affects the election?”

In all seriousness, the election Tuesday will be far more consequential than any mere hurricane. Sandy gives Obama a chance to look presidential, which he has been taking advantage of, as he should.  It may take people’s minds off the economy in the closing days, which tends to help Obama.  It also takes attention off of the administration’s missteps regarding Benghazi, although the mainstream media is largely ignoring that story anyway. But in the end I think the storm will be a non-factor, or perhaps help Obama slightly.  I can’t see any way Sandy helps Romney, but would welcome any ideas to the contrary in the comments.

The hardest-hit states appear to be New York, Connecticut and my beloved New Jersey.  I’m quite confident in predicting that Romney will get precisely zero electoral votes from those states, which is part of why I don’t think Sandy helps Obama much.

I think it’s going to be a very close election — I just hope it’s not TOO close.  The Florida recount saga of 2000 was a national tragedy, and I would say that even if it had gone the other way. (In fact, I voted for Mr. Gore, before becoming a 9-11 Republican.)

The respected and vaguely left-leaning uber-pollster Nate Silver gives Obama an 84% chance of winning, but is careful to explain that it’s not a lopsided race, he’s going on the basis of consistent small margins in battleground-state polls. He says “For Romney to Win, State Polls Must Be Statistically Biased” — and then he also carefully explains how such bias could exist without malfeasance on anybody’s part.

Right-leaning commentator Kathleen Parker runs through a variety of factors and concludes,

Combining all the above in some sort of meta-analysis, facing East while balancing on one foot and slicing carrots on the diagonal, you have to figure Obama will be our president for another four years.  Then again, people are unpredictable.

I also like Parker’s closing words:

As for the two fine men vying for this impossible job, each should remember that no mandate comes with this victory. The winner of the pie-eating contest gets more pie.

The Web Goddess and I are without power at home, and I’m writing this in the dining room of a left-leaning friend, so I need to get it posted before my friend realizes what I’m doing.  (We are safe and dry, and our minor roof damage has already been repaired at a cost less than our deductible.)

If anybody is counting blog endorsements, count me as favoring Romney.  I think he has a better chance of prevailing than Silver’s analysis would suggest, but that’s just a gut feeling.  Ohio is key: if it gets called for either candidate early, that guy wins.  We’ll know in a few days — I hope.

Cliff Notes on the Final Debate: Not a Game-Changer

Obama looked more comfortable than Romney, and overall I think Obama probably “won”.  But the election is not going to hinge on foreign policy, and both men knew it. The way they both kept pivoting to domestic policy was nothing short of comical.  Romney’s first pivot at least made a bow in the direction of foreign policy when he said America needs a strong economy to have a strong military… but then he spun off on his five-point plan.  And how the hell did they get into an argument over education policy and class sizes?

Romney spent a lot of the debate agreeing with various aspects of Obama’s policies, such as drone attacks and standing with Israel.  I thought Romney came back strong in defense of the “apology tour” meme after Obama denied that he had been apologetic.  Romney quoted some of Obama’s criticisms of America on that tour, and hit the president hard for “skipping Israel” while visiting Arab countries.  Obama took some of the punch out of that by talking at length about his visit to Israel while he was a candidate.

Pet peeve: Romney twice used “Democrat” as an adjective.  I love ya, Mitt, but Democrat is a noun; the adjective is Democratic.

Obama partisans were pumped up by the president’s zingers — “we have fewer horses and bayonets,” “the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back.”  But I wonder how well that kind of obviously scripted sarcasm plays with undecided voters?

It was odd that Romney had both the first AND the last word — were those separate coin tosses?  Seems to me that one candidate should open and the other close, and the winner of the coin toss gets to pick whether he wants the first word or the last word.

The New York Times has a transcript up less than an hour after the end of the debate.  Amazing. (Fortunately I haven’t used up all of my 10 free stories this month.)  The transcript also solves my problem of what to use for an illustration — when all else fails, use a word cloud from wordle.net.

 

“Binders Full of Women”: c.f. “You Didn’t Build That,” (context behind)

Binders full of context:

“And I brought us whole binders full of — of women. I was proud of the fact that after I staffed my cabinet and my senior staff that the University of New York in Albany did a survey of all 50 states and concluded that mine had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America.”

The context behind Obama’s “You didn’t build that” (essentially, he meant to say “you didn’t build that all alone“) makes Obama’s faux pas a bit less offensive — but Obama still clearly celebrates the government’s role ahead of, or on a par with, the individual entrepreneur.  I think a majority of Americans are more inclined to celebrate the successful individual.

The context behind Romney’s faux pas makes it clear that he has been a leader in identifying and appointing qualified women to senior positions.

Cliff Notes: Biden Made No Outrageous Gaffes, But Needs to Practice Looking Respectful

The RNC is out quickly with a brilliant ad.  I knew before the debate that Ryan seemed more likeable than Biden, but I didn’t expect that Biden would make OBAMA look likeable by comparison.  (Photo at right grabbed from Twitpic, I have no idea what that means in terms of copyright.)

Big Bird Doesn’t Need Big Government

From a (free) editorial in The Wall Street Journal:

According to financial statements for the year ended June 30, 2011, Sesame Workshop and its nonprofit and for-profit subsidiaries had total operating revenue of more than $134 million. They receive about $8 million a year in direct government grants and more indirectly via PBS subsidies. …

At the end of fiscal 2011, Sesame Workshop and its subsidiaries had total assets of $289 million…. these investments included stakes in hedge funds and private-equity funds. …

So Big Bird likes to maximize revenues and investment gains as much as the next muppet. And now the President has made this adorable critter the symbol of federal programs that allegedly require eternal taxpayer aid, even if it has to be put on the future tax bill of today’s pre-schoolers. Is that funny?

How can we trust the government to make the difficult choices required to balance the budget when we can’t even trust them to make the easy choices?  Yes, the $8 million Sesame subsidy is small potatoes, but symbolism is important.  In a 500-channel television environment, the notion that there would be no quality programming without government subsidy is ludicrous.

(Image from Wikipedia)

Chris Matthews Has Lost the Tingle

I never thought I would link to Chris Matthews, but here he is in full panic mode after his guy’s dismal performance (2:11):

Update: to me, this is the line that shows Matthews at his most nakedly partisan:

“Listen to this stuff he [Romney] got away with! Emergency room — the latest thing we got from Romney, because he said so, is you know what I want to do with people when they’re poor? Shove ‘em in the emergency room.  Why didn’t Obama say that?”

I thought Matthews was talking about the muddled and embarrassing 47 percent speech, but I just looked at the Mother Jones transcript, nowhere there does Romney even mention the word “emergency”.  But then I found this:

QUESTION: Does the government have a responsibility to provide health care to the 50 million Americans who don’t have it today?

ROMNEY: Well, we do provide care for people who don’t have insurance, people — we — if someone has a heart attack, they don’t sit in their apartment and die. We pick them up in an ambulance, and take them to the hospital, and give them care. And different states have different ways of providing for that care.

C’mon, Matthews… that’s a long way from saying Romney wants to “shove” “poor people” in the emergency room.   Romney is making a distinction, which too often gets lost, between “health care” and “health care insurance,” the latter being what those 50 million people do not have.  And of course the ER is not the best way to provide routine care, nobody disputes that.  But it is a safety net for emergency care that is available to virtually all Americans.