Thoughts on the Storm, the Election & Why FEMA Runs Best Under DEMs

As I sit here in my Manhattan stronghold, with batteries, candles, water, food, and supplies socked in, I’m thinking about the effect this storm may have on the presidential campaign. Like when the Olympics were held last summer, and the competition had the collateral effect of diverting the attention of the media and millions away from the campaign, I’m thinking there will be a smilar effect this week, with the likely effect of freezing the campaign in place.

Though surrogates will probably continue to be heard in the media, their efforts will be dampened, while campaigning by the two candidates and their running mates is coming to a near-standstill for at least 2-3 days. In the meantime, President Obama visited FEMA HQs for a briefing this afternoon. CNN reported on his FEMA visit:

“You need to take this seriously and take guidance from state and local officials,” Obama said at the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Washington. “This hasn’t hit landfall yet,” he said. “So we don’t yet know where it’s going to hit, where we’re going to see the biggest impacts and that’s exactly why it’s so important for us to respond big and respond fast as local information starts coming in.” Before speaking to reporters, Obama said he met with officials from FEMA and other agencies, as well as spoke by phone with governors and mayors whose states and cities may be impacted by the storm. Obama said he is “confident that the resources are in place.”

Barack can do presidential things like that, but since Mitt has no job, apart from running for office, he can’t do anything constructive. He may be tempted to to do something photo-op-ish like visit a shelter or an evacuation center, but it would look excessively opportunistic, especially after Paul Ryan was recently caught trying to wash a food pantry’s pots and pans when they weren’t even dirty.

Do you remember how well FEMA operated during the Clinton administration, with James Lee Witt at the helm of the agency? Then, under Geore W. Bush, with hacks Joe Allbaugh and Mike Brown in charge, FEMA was a basket case. Katrina happened after the Bushies had let the agency go to pot. It’s so clear that government agencies like  FEMA run better under DEMs, than under Repubs. Maybe this storm will have the effect of reminding the country of that, and which party they want in charge of the White House, under circumstances like these.

Since I believe that the president is ahead in Ohio and key swing states, I’m okay with an event like this that freezes the campaign in place, though I’m disappointed with the disruption of early voting and the possible muting of the president’s case for re-election. There is no precedent for a storm like this, landing just a few days before a presidential election. It’s terra incognita in historical terms, so we really don’t know what effect this may have. Still, I’m hoping the millions of people in the storm’s path will be safe, and the country will be reminded of why we need to have an adequately funded government, with agile and responsive agencies like FEMA.

The Most Dishonest Romney Claim Yet, ‘Obama’s Bad for the Auto Industry’

With much of the media and the full force of the Obama campaign having battered Mitt Romney with the truth over his misguided stance on the auto industry rescue, the Romney campaign is out with an ad today that assembles a jumble of lies and misleading claims into a 30-second spot. Travis Waldron of ThinkProgress has done an excellent job synthesizing the falsehood and bogus claims, first taking quotes from the ad, then breaking them down:

1. “Mitt Romney has a plan to help the auto industry.” No specific plan is referenced in the ad, and Romney’s campaign web site does not include a plan to “help the auto industry.” In 2008, Romney wrote a New York Times editorial titled, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” and he re-upped his call against the auto rescue during the Republican primaries this year.
2. “[Romney] is supported by Lee Iaccoca and the Detroit News.” Chrysler Chairman Lee Iaccoca has indeed endorsed Romney. The Detroit News, a self-described “conservative newspaper,” endorsed him last week. But in that endorsement, the paper slammed Romney’s “wrong-headedness on the auto bailout.”
3. “Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy.” Obama did take both companies into a managed bankruptcy, the path Romney says was originally his idea. Romney, however, supported private sector financing of the bankruptcy, a plan that was “pure fantasy” at the time since no private lenders could lend to the companies in the middle of the financial crisis. Without federal intervention, the companies would have almost assuredly collapsed, costing 1.3 million jobs, according to industry estimates.
4. “[Obama] sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China.”This week, Romney claimed he read a news story that said Chrysler was planning to “moving all production to China.” The Bloomberg News piece he referenced, though, made it clear that Fiat, the Italian company that now owns Chrysler, was opening new factories in China to make Jeeps for Chinese consumers. No American plants will be closed, and no American jobs will be lost. The ad’s claim may not be as false as Romney’s previous statement, but it is certainly misleading.

Averaging all the available state polls, it is clear that in Ohio Romney is trailing President Obama by around 2-3 points. Desperate to make up that ground, he’s resorted to wild claims, such as the one about Jeep moving US operations to China, which Chrysler immediately denied. What’s more, newspapers like the Toledo Blade, which endorsed President Obama today, wrote this in their editorial this morning:  The strategy of the Romney campaign is pretty clear: drape a fog of murky ambiguity over  this issue, since it is such a clear winner for the president. Lie, obfuscate, muddle

“That [auto] rescue was vital to Ohio, which depends on the auto industry for 850,000 jobs—one of every eight. It has preserved and created assembly and parts production jobs in Toledo and across the state. Without it, Chrysler and GM likely would have gone out of business and the domestic industry and supply chain would have collapsed, taking Ford with them. Instead, U.S. automakers now are preparing to achieve huge gains in the fuel efficiency of their cars and trucks. The auto bailouts began under a Republican president, George W. Bush, but Mr. Romney has continued to oppose them. In last week’s debate, he claimed disingenuously that he would have supported federal “guarantees” of private investment in the automakers. But in the depths of the Great Recession, no such investment was forthcoming. A high-powered businessman—and the son of a Detroit auto CEO who plays up his Michigan roots—might be expected to acknowledge that.”

The strategy of the Romney campaign is pretty clear: drape a fog of murky ambiguity over this issue, since it is such a clear winner for the president. Lie, obfuscate, muddle, smile, and sow confusion, especially at this late moment, barely a week before Election Day. We can’t let it work. Thank you for reading this post and sharing as widely as possible.

Where Things Stand in Florida as Early Voting Begins

Saturday evening bring this update on early voting in Florida today, from Alex Leary in the Tampa Bay Times

“The Obama campaign seems quite happy after record turnouts were reported in counties across Florida today, the first day of early voting.
The Times‘ Adam Smith reported on Twitter, ‘More than 20k pple voted eary today so far in Hillsborough Co…In 08 biggest single day (11/1/08) was 18,736.’ The Miami Herald‘s Marc Caputo tweeted, ‘Miami-Dade early voting so heavy that by 3 pm 14,745 people voted — more than ENTIRE first day of 08 EV (12,000). 12-hour total: 22,625.’ Gary Fineout of the AP, ‘Leon County – a Democratic stronghold in Fla – had a record turnout for early voting with 5447 votes cast on day 1.’ Democrats typically have an advantage with early voting, but Republicans have been putting a higher emphasis on its turnout effort this time.”
Today is the first day for early voting in Florida. Here is a rundown from OBAMA campaign field director Jeremy Bird on where registration and get-out-the-vote efforts are in the state. Key takeaways from Mr. Bird:

“The Florida electorate—just like the rest of the nation’s—has grown much more diverse since 2008:
• Of the over 300,000 Hispanics who have registered to vote since President Obama was elected four years ago, nine out of ten signed up as Democrats or Independents, and only 10 percent registered as Republicans.
• More than 100,000 African-American and Caribbean-American voters registered since November 2008.
• Among those who have cast mail ballots already, 14 percent are African-American, Latino Democrats, or Latino Independents—up from 12 percent at this point in 2008. Latino Republicans have fallen from 7 percent of mail voters at this point in 2008 to just 5 percent today.
• We estimate minority voters will make up more than 30 percent of the vote in Florida this year, up from 28 percent in 2008.”

Here also are some great photos from around the state taken as polling places opened this morning:

Leslie Gore, Reprising “You Don’t Own Me” for PBO

This is a great piece of political advocacy and messaging, made to the backdrop of Leslie Gore’s 1964 hit, “You Don’t Own Me,” directed especially at voters concerned about women’s health and choice. Gore herself is on camera, at the beginning and the end. One of my favorite placards in it: “Keep Your Rosaries off My Ovaries.” Please view and share widely.

Obama Camp Calls Bullshit on Mitt’s “Major” Speech

To me, it’s kind of funny that less than two weeks before Election Day, any campaign, Repub or Dem, would choose to have their candidate try to give a “major” speech, but then the Romney campaign has often operated by their own book. In Iowa today Mitt gave a speech on the economy billed as “major” which seems to have fallen way short in the policy and news departments. Below is a round-up of progressive and mainstream comment on it, rounded up and send out by the Obama campaign (pasted in below from the campaign’s email to its press list).  The round-up was delivered just ahead of notice the campaign sent out for a conference call with Lawrence Summers and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, in response to Mitt’s speech. The two of them vigorously knocked down the familiar claims Romney made in his speech, which was a recycling of rhetoric and Repub boilerplate.

Shorter Lawrence Summers, paraphrased: Repeating it all over again doesn’t make it add up. Saying it louder doesn’t make it true.

Van Hollen, in Ames, Iowa, paraphrased:  80 business execs yesterday signed a letter requesting the next president make a serious effort to tackle our country’s budget and revenue issues. Only one candidate has a serious s plan for doing so, President Obama. Only his plan is a serious response to the concerns of these business leaders.

The Reviews are in on Romney’s “Major” Economic Speech

Ali Velshi: “They said this was major economic news. There wasn’t a piece of economic news in it.”

Gloria Borger: “This wasn’t so much about, you know, specific policy prescriptions. Nothing new right now.”

Jim Acosta: “Yes, there’s not really a whole lot that’s new inside these remarks here, if you take a look at these remarks in terms of what he said out here today.”

Brooke Baldwin: “I didn’t hear a lot new in the speech. I’m guessing you didn’t hear much new in the speech either.”

Jim Acosta ‏@jimacostacnn Owner of Iowa company where Mitt Romney delivering speech on economy received stimulus funds:

ThinkProgress ‏@thinkprogress Romney makes closing economic argument at firm that benefited substantially from stimulus funds

Sam Youngman ‏@samyoungman Looking at excerpts from Romney’s “major” econ address. Looks like his stump speech to me.

Ari Shapiro ‏@Ari_Shapiro Romney campaign releases excerpts of today’s “major economic speech.” So far looks a lot like the stump speech he’s been giving this week.

Benjy Sarlin ‏@BenjySarlin So….what’s the news in this major Romney speech so far.

Ali Velshi ‏@AliVelshi I’ll rejoin @SuzanneMalveaux on @CNN after Romney’s econ speech from. This speech isn’t delivering specifics.

Kathie Obradovich ‏@KObradovich Romney about 9 minutes into his speech and it has been uniformly negative in terms of bashing Obama. #romneyia

Molly Ball ‏@mollyesque So far Romney’s big speech on the economy is all about Obama.

Sam Stein ‏@samsteinhp With all the talk of bi-partisanship, has anyone asked Romney campaign if he still looks back at himself as a severely conservative gov?

Justin Wolfers ‏@justinwolfers Turns out that Romney’s “big economic speech” today, was just a placeholder, so that he could go on the attack if the GDP numbers were bad.

Jonathan Cohn ‏@CitizenCohn It’s been a while since I listened to a full Romney speech. Sort of awe-inspiring to hear all of deceptions strung together.

Eric Kleefeld ‏@EricKleefeld Mitt Romney delivers major economic speech, declares substantively that he loves America.

Molly Ball ‏@mollyesque Apparently difference between a Major Romney Address & a regular Romney speech is whether he enters to “Air Force One” or “Born Free.”

Elizabeth Drew ‏@ElizabethDrewOH There Mitt goes again: He will create the 12 million jobs that are going to happen anyway. Who is going to speak up?

Travis Waldron ‏@Travis_Waldron There was nothing major about that speech.

Colin Powell Endorses President Obama, Again

In 2008, when former Secretary of State Colin Powell endorsed Senator Barack Obama for president, it was later cited by election observers–along with John McCain’s flailing response to the financial crisis and his disastrous selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate–to have been one of the keys that decisively tilted the election toward the Democrat. Throughout the current election cycle, pundits have been wondering what choice the former general would make, or if he would make any endorsement at all. This morning, he ended the suspense by telling Charlie Rose on the CBS morning program that he will again be voting for President Obama, and he explained why. Below is video, followed by a transcript and analysis. 


ROSE: Will you endorse President Obama this race? 

POWELL: Well, you know I voted for him in 2008 and I plan to stick with him in 2012, and I’ll be voting for he and for Vice President Joe Biden next month.
ROSE: That’s an endorsement for President Obama for re-election?

POWELL: Yes. And let me say why. When he took over the country was in very, very difficult straits, we were in one of the worst recessions we had seen in recent times, close to a depression. The fiscal system was collapsing. Wall Street was in chaos. We had 800,000 jobs lost in that first month of the Obama administration and unemployment would peak a few months later at 10%. So we were in real trouble. The auto industry was collapsing. The housing industry was starting to collapse, and we were in very difficult straits. And I saw over the next several years stabilization come back in the financial community, housing is now starting to pick up after four years, it’s starting to pick up. Consumer confidence is rising. So I think generally we’ve come out of the dive and we’re starting to gain altitude. It doesn’t mean we are problem solved, there are lots of problems still out there. The unemployment rate is too high. People are still hurting in housing. But I see that we are starting to rise up. I also saw the President get us out of one war, start to get us out of a second war and did not get us into any new wars. And finally, I think that the actions he’s taken with respect to protecting us from terrorism have been very, very solid. And so I think we ought to keep on the track that we are on. With respect to Governor Romney, I have the utmost respect to him but as I listen to what his proposals are especially with respect to dealing with our most significant issue, the economy, it’s essentially let’s cut taxes and compensate for that with other things. But that compensation does not cover all of the cuts intended or the new expenses associated with defense.

From later in the interview, Greg Sargent points out in Plum Line, “Perhaps the most interesting part of the interview came when Powell hit Romney on trust,” an aspect of Romney’s character that the Obama campaign has been seeking to undermine: 

Powell: I have concerns about [Romney’s] views on foreign policy. The Governor, who was speaking on Monday night at the debate, was saying things that were quite different from what he said earlier. So I’m not quite sure which Governor Romney we would be getting with respect to foreign policy….It’s a moving target. One day he has a certain strong view about staying in Afghanistan, but then on Monday night he agrees with the withdrawal. Same thing in Iraq. On almost every issue that was discussed on Monday night, Governor Romney agreed with the President, with some nuances. But this is quite a different set of foreign policy views than he had earlier in the campaign. And my concern, which I’ve expressed previously in a public way, is that sometimes I don’t sense that he has thought through these issues as thoroughly as he should have, and he gets advice from his campaign staff that he then has to adjust to modify as he goes along.”

The conclusion of Sargent’s analysis: 

“The Obama camp now has video of Powell making the case that Romney isn’t being forthright about his foreign policy proposals, an arena in which voters presumably want to see evidence of steady leadership. Many pundits have argued that Romney did manage to reassure voters with his Monday performance, by clearing what they like to call a “commander in chief threshold.” But Powell has now directly undermined this case, too; expect this to be incorporated into Obama’s larger closing case against his GOP challenger.

I’m not sure if Colin Powell’s endorsement this year will carry quite as much weight as the first time around, but it could be influential, specifically in the way highlighted by Greg Sargent.

“He Lies Frequently and Convincingly, and has Elastic Principles”

A sober and persuasive Letter to the Editor from Thomas J. Curry of Swansea, MA, who as an aerospace engineer and then a Dean in the College of Engineering in in the UMass system, worked with Mitt Romney during his governorship. Below are the first four paragraphs of Mr. Curry’s letter. You may read it all on the website of the Providence Journal.

I am an independent with no party affiliation but from an ideological viewpoint, I am well to the right of center. Still, I cannot support Mitt Romney for president. While Barack Obama has not performed to expectations for a variety of reasons (some of which are his own failings), the dilemma in this election is that the alternative to Obama is Romney.

Having worked directly with Romney during his term as Massachusetts governor, I can tell you that there is nothing authentic or genuine about him. He’ll tell you what he thinks that you want to hear and pretend to be what he thinks you want him to be.

He’s an ideological chameleon who will say anything to get your support and then do whatever he wants to favor the rich and privileged; he’s a caricature of the stereotyped Republican Party.

He lies frequently and convincingly, and has elastic principles, if any at all. He’s fundamentally dishonest, while presenting an image of goodness and light.

Curry’s assertions jibe with what I’ve observed of Romney. The “elasticity of principles” is particularly significant, as it correlates with something Jon Krakauer described in his important book on Mormon fundamentalism, Under The Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith, where lying to serve wh a believer tells himself is a great purpose is encouraged and condoned, and not deemed immoral.

H/T Twitter pal @Chernynkya