Friday, January 30, 2015

Farewell Mitt

In July of 1912, a five year old boy was brought to the United States by his parents. It was that year that a one hundred year journey would begin, starting with George Romney, being one of the first "displaced persons of the 20th century" to his son coming within a few steps of the White House.

Today, it was announced after much hype, hopes, and fears from some, that Mitt Romney, the son of that once little boy George, two time losing candidate for presidency, would, after all, not be running for a third time. The old  man is done, and some other, younger ones are ready to take his place.

The long saga had many ups and many downs. Many stories of Romney doing amazing things for friends, such as shutting down his billion dollar business to search for the missing daughter of a colleague, to helping out families in need in his church.

Of course there were the bad stories as well. There was the hidden camera fiasco which caught Mitt talking about "47% of Americans" who think they are owed something by everyone else. And there was that old story about how he once put his dog on top of his car, inside its kennel, because there was no where else for it to go.

Mitt Romney ran in four elections, and lost three of them. in the nineties he ran against Ted Kennedy, the last of the brothers four, because Mitt thought that everyone was tired of Kennedys. He miscalculated. Just watching the footage from the debates shows him getting torn apart.

Mitt and sons
His next election was, of course, the one he would win. The race for the Governor of Massachusetts's, but after that job was done, he felt the next step was the presidency of the United States, and after talking about it with the family, he decided to try. But it was John McCain's time, and John McCain won.

But, in 2012, the one hundred year mark had been reached since George had come here, and the Romneys were a well known American family. And now it was Mitt's time.

In 1968, George Romney, the father, himself a former governor, had run for presidency, thinking that the nation would want him. At first, they liked him, but after making an unscripted and poorly thought out remark about Vietnam, his campaign fell apart.

Mitt did not lose because of any particular statement that destroyed him, but it was the public persona that he gave out that harmed him. In the words of one pundit he was like a "cyborg." Or in the words of his son in 2006, "too good to be true."

He was uncomfortable with the media, he wasn't the best with strangers. Even when he had been in business, his colleagues were never really his friends. And now the man who had always been kind but never been overly concerned about his popularity was engaged in the ultimate popularity contest, and he lost.

The more people knew about Romney, the more they liked him, as evidenced when the documentary Mitt came out, we finally felt we were dealing with a human. But too late, the election was over. Romney had lost. We had known him so little most people did not even know his first name-Willard.

The one hundred year story was in many ways a bit of a fairy tale. Oh, it didn't end with the White House, but it ended with a poor's man's son coming a step away. And in the end it was a good story, even if both father and son lost. Some said Mitt was not a lot like his father, but in the end, maybe he was too much.

Andrew C. Abbott

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Frozen in Time

“We just elect the next old guy in line.” –Mitt Romney

Atlanta GA, – David Blaine, the famous if slightly odd magician and illusionist who has pulled off many stunts, in November of 2000 pulled off one endurance stunt which was absolutely incredible-and so famous, it got its own section on his Wikipedia page.
In New York’s Time Square, he had himself encased in transparent blocks of ice, in what he called his “Frozen in Time” stunt. He would stay there for more than sixty hours, in ice so cold, that it was said if he touched it, he would be frost bitten almost instantly.
Recently, a slew of Republicans have shown that they may be very much frozen in time themselves. Just a couple of months ago, the political realm looked like it was shaping up to be a new era of ideas, with people like the Castro brothers for the Democrats, preparing their frontal assault on the Grand Old Party in Texas, and Republican Senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio shaping up to be the face of the new, younger, tweeting, iPad carrying, picture sharing and selfie-taking generation.
Change can be a scary thing. When organs first appeared in some churches, some preachers preached against them, saying that there should be no music in church not made by the voice. Never mind they did not really have any arguments to back up their claims, they just were afraid of something new.
And it seems now, that Republicans in the Establishment are determined to hold on to the old ways as long as they possibly can. Jeb Bush is being paraded as the man to beat in 2016-no matter there is no popular support for him. (Never mind the last time a Bush ran against a Clinton he did not do so well.)
Someone who the old guard knows would definitely make them feel more comfortable than someone new. Someone like Marco Rubio or Mike Pence, who has not been in the establishment a long time and has not had time to learn all the ins and outs of Washington’s ruling class would be too much of an unknown factor for the “good old boys.”
The old men are coming back to tell everyone that “You Like Ike.” It won’t work. Without popular support for their candidate, if they ramrod someone through, it might just finally tell the social experimenters how historically low voter turnout can really get-what a chance for science!
In closing, let us not forget what happens to those that freeze themselves in time. When David Blaine finally came out of his ice cage after more than sixty hours, he could not walk.
Freezing yourself in time, holding onto old ways even when they are deader than the proverbial horse people are always beating-will cripple you in the end.

Andrew C. Abbott

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Between now and then

“Several geological ages will come and go between now and the 2016 elections.” –Carl Rove

Atlanta, GA – On Saturday, in Des Moines, Iowa, congressman Steve King held the “Freedom Summit,” with such Republican Nominee hopefuls as Chris Christi, Rick Perry, etc. etc. The headlines about Hillary yesterday on Politico were about how, in the past the probability, they said, was 98% that she would run. Now it has crept up to somewhere around 100.
Besides that, the news is full of mentions, such as on Huffington Post, of “Republican Bigwig goes after nomination,” or even the Guardian, the British paper, running articles about whether Scott Walker is the man of the hour. But let’s not forget, November 4, 2,016 is still a long way away. 650 days to be exact.
How long is that? Well:
There will be two full baseball season between now and then.

And also two super bowls.

If you still think the wait is not going to be too long, look at it this way. The story behind the movie In the Heart of the Sea about the men who inspired Moby Dick, and their horrible journey of starvation and dying of thirst, only took 94 days. In other words, they could have lived out that story more than six times between now and then.

And another survival story, Shackleton, and his men, only took 497 days. 153 days less than between now and the election.

So in other words, there is a long ,long time between now and then, and Hillary, and anyone else who may look like a frontrunner may topple. Even a day is an eternity in politics, and the earth must turn completely around 650 times before the new president is elected. By comparison, Napoleon took about two weeks for his empire to go from being victorious, to nearly nonexistent. He could have fallen more than thirty times between now and then. So could Hillary, or anybody else.

Andrew C. Abbott

(Special thanks to my brother Paul for help with this article.)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Babies have a right to live

Atlanta, GA – Today marks the forty-second anniversary of Roe v. Wade, when the Supreme Court, in one of its lowest moments, ruled that abortion must be legal in all states. That day, people protested the Court’s decision, and every year since then, including today, in all fifty of the State Capitols and the Nation’s Capital in Washington, on the anniversary, marches are held protesting abortion.

My family, and hundreds of others, went to Atlanta today, where, after speeches by activists, including Molotov Mitchell, the controversial senate candidate last year in North Carolina, (I do not know enough about to say which side of the line I fall on him) there was a moment of silence and then a silent march of mile.
Heavy police presence helped insure that nothing wild happened when pro-abortion activists with a bullhorn, banners, and foul mouths showed up to exercise their own right to free speech.
They marched in front of our march for a while, until they were told to get on the sidewalk, from which they continued to scream things like “fascists, murderers, bloody, sickening,” etc.
My brother Paul and I, overlooking the crowd.
I was pleased to find upon arriving back where we are staying that the US House of Representatives had passed a bill permanently banning all funding by the government of abortion. The bill, even if passed by the senate however, unfortunately has little chance of being signed by the president.
Some of the “pro-abortion” protestors screamed at us that we hated black people, (there were many black people on the march, many more than in theirs) asking us where were we when the “Black Lives Matter” marches were happening a few weeks ago.
But the fact is we were there because Black Lives Matter. White Lives Mater. Asian Lives Matter. All Lives Matter. Inside the womb or out.
It has been more than forty years, and despite many attempts at bringing down Roe v. Wade, the decision stands. But perhaps, finally, there may be light at the end of the tunnel. With increasing technology, and better ultrasounds which show the human form of the child inside the womb, many Americans now see themselves as Pro-Life. (According to Mitchell, that number is at 51%.)
According to some, the case is in danger of being overturned or at least rendered useless by 2017 if current trends continue. Although congress could not within their rights overturn the case themselves, they can do many other things, and have, in connection with actions taken by state legislatures, which have brought the numbers of abortion clinics across the nation.
In January of 2012, Time magazine stated that all those years ago pro-choice activists won a victory in Roe, but they have been losing ever since.
They need to lose permanently. There is no longer a reasonable argument which says the embryo is not alive. It is more alive than a tree, and we should and do protect those. The so called “fetus” is a person-a member of mankind. And in the Declaration of Independence itself, we are told all men have a right to live.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, and that among these rights is life…”

Andrew C. Abbott

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The State of the Union

This evening the world will stop. For a brief hour, people that should be sleeping will stay awake. People that would rather be watching crime shows will tune in, and people that hate the president’s guts will listen to him speak for one hour.

It’s a bit of politics, pageantry, history and pure magic all rolled into one speech. The State of the Union Address. The President is called to the witness stand to give us the State of the Union, from his point of view, in his version of reality.
Of course, we can already be pretty sure of what the president will speak on. He will talk about how great the economy is doing under his administration, as he reminds everyone almost every week in his weekly addresses. At some point he will make a reference to our troops. He will talk about his record, and will probably address the fact that his party just lost congress. This in turn will most likely bring about some sort of token mention of how he is for bipartisanship.
He will also talk about his new plan for free college for all, and his sceme to tax the rich more to pay for this.
But we must remember that that is the president’s view. According to a Gallup Poll yesterday half of the country disapproves of the job he is doing. And less than half approve. Many Republicans would tell you that Barak Obama is in no way interested in bipartisanship dealing, but rather has the view of deal making that says “you compromise and give me what I want, and we have ourselves a bargain.”
The economy has not healed like it should be, foreign problems are mounting, and nothing is being done about them. Race has become a problem once again, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is still not working the way it should, and immigration still has not been reformed.
Barak Obama is already a lame duck. He is not running again, the hourglass has already been turned over for the final time and the sand is now running out. His day in the sun is almost done, and whatever he says now, it will certainly carry less weight than before.
Some presidents have managed to keep themselves powerful right down to the very end, but so far not this one. As for the real State of the Union, many Americans do not think it is as great as Obama seems to think.
When the grand speech is given, one of the great moments every year is when the doors are opened, the president is announced, and he walks towards the stage. Some have done it with a sure stride; some have even had reason to take that walk with a swagger. But for Barak, this year, his walk will be a bit more of a limp.

Andrew C. Abbott

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

No Game

Atlanta, GA – The field of candidates for the Republican Candidacy is shaping up nicely. This guy and that woman are taking to the talk shows to remind Americans of their time in office/service, whatever, and to tell everyone how great their record is. (Because nobody would know how great it was if they didn’t.)

The Bushes are returning, (imagine the headlines we could make from that) Clan Romney may be making a comeback, (or from that) Dr. Carson would like to be Dr. President, and even Paul Ryan, the man who lost with Romney in 2012 may be thinking of a return to the limelight.
The papers are full of headlines such Romney Ready to Rumble? Speaking about how this man or that might steal the nomination, where they might find the money, and what sort of appeal they have.
But sometimes, oftentimes, perhaps, something is lost in all of this. The race is very much based on the men and women who are in it. But this is not a race to win the nomination or even the presidency. It is, (or at least should be) a race about who is the best man of woman to lead America for the four years after Obama gives up the reins.
We are not looking for a savior. History has had plenty of people who said they were one of those and they all turned out to look more like the devil once we got the mask off.
We are not looking for someone who was born with magic powers who can wave a wand and fix it all. That is not what this is all about.
The job description of the office of the president is simple. An imperfect human is wanted to come and lead the greatest country ever conceived. We are not expecting them never to slip up, but rather we expect them to get up when they do. We do not expect them never to make a bad decision, but we do expect them to make a decision nonetheless, and if they make the wrong one, to admit it. We are looking for wisdom, not immortality.
I do not know which of the candidates have these qualities, maybe more than one, maybe none, it is still far too early to tell. But what we can say at this early stage is this: politics can be fun-some people watch it like entertainment- but it is no game. These numbers and percentages are actual people. Their lives and livelihoods depend in real ways on the decisions made.
And as we talk about can this person beat that one, will we have our first ever Madam President, or not, let’s not forget, this is not just a complicated game of chess, it is real life. If we get it wrong, everybody loses. If we get it bad wrong, everybody dies.

Andrew C. Abbott

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Republicans Could Mess the Whole Thing Up

Politics is a contact sport.” –Carl Rove

Jack London’s story A Piece of Steak is about Tom King, the old boxer who has to fight just to get money for food. It opens before the fight, with King bemoaning the fact that he can’t buy a piece of steak (hence the name of the story) for energy.
Nevertheless he begins winning in the opening rounds against his opponent, the younger, favored Sandel. But as the rounds go on, King’s advantage becomes less and less. As King beats his much younger opponent, the young man goes into the clinch, and King, his body up against the younger Sandel’s, can feel him regaining his strength, his body repairing itself.
The Republicans are "IN." Some editorials after the 2014 elections said the Democrats were down for the count. (They weren’t.) It is true currently the Republicans are on top, and, Carl Rove (George Bush’s advisor) can be believed, politics does in some ways resemble a boxing match.
The Democrats are battered. (Just ask Harry Reid.) But they are not out. As some would like to think. If anything they are going into a clinch position, and like King, we can feel them repairing.
The only hope for the Republicans coming into office in a divided government, with Republicans on Capitol Hill and a Democrat in the White House is bipartisanship. If the president does not like a bill, he can always veto it, and is already threatening to. The Republicans must work with him to get things passed.
If Obama does veto it, then a second possibility for bipartisanship exists. Overturning the veto. But, in the senate alone that would require 67 votes. And, with all of their new found power there are only 54 Republicans. 13 Democrats are highly unlikely to peel off, but an effort could always be made.
The first fight, apparently, is going to be over the Keystone Pipeline. The pipe that will cost over 8,000,000,000 dollars. (Eight billion.) And be over 1,000 miles long. Supposedly its capacity would be around 800,000 gallons a day of oil piping down from Canada to Texas.
The Greens claim that it is going to cause massive problems for the environment, causing global warming, (or it is now global cooling, these things to tend to change all the time) and that they have reports to prove it. While others say that the Greens are wrong, that this is really great for American jobs and industry, and they also have reports to prove it.
Either way, this pipeline, put on hold for so long, might finally be coming up for a vote in the coming days in congress. It could possibly even have some Democratic support, as the Democratic Senator from Louisiana, (since replaced) in her last days of office, in December, tried to get a bill passed allowing it. She lost with the bill, and she also lost her seat, to a Republican in the House of Representatives, who put an identical bill there as well on the same day.
Already the name calling has begun. The fighting has started. Mitch McConnell, the Majority leader in the senate for the Republicans made the first gaff, claiming that his party was responsible for the economic growth last year in the third quarter, even though it happened before the election had even taken place. The Democratic Party responded to him in an email with the subject line “DNC to McConnell: Hahahahahahahahahahaha.”
Whatever happens with the pipeline, the Republicans have to remember that this is not the only fight. There are more to come, many more. In A Piece of Steak Jack London tells us that the older boxer Tom King was once very rich, but wasted all of his money.
The Republicans have political capitol right now, as long as they can hold onto it. In the final fight, you do not want to need a political favour, only to find that suddenly you don’t have enough left for that final knockout blow.
To finish the story of King, because he no longer enough money for the steak, he doesn’t have enough energy in the match, and falls back when only one more punch would have done the trick. The reinvigorated Sandel then takes him to the ropes, and eventually the ground, where King is counted out.
Only the Republicans can decide whether or not they follow in King’s footsteps. For right now they are on top. Watch it.

Andrew C. Abbott 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The First Day of School

Today at noon in Washington DC the 114th congress will open with a bang, literally. The session will be called to order with the speaker’s gavel calling for order. There might be bangs  in other places to.

The Republicans are in control now. Rather than the Divided Congress of the 113th’s “do nothing” session, the Republicans now control both houses. There are around ninety congress people who will not be returning to the capitol this year. Voted out or retiring, their places will be taken by newer, younger members. The median age for the new members has dropped in the senate alone by more than fifteen years.
The New Class of 2015 is already arriving in the capitol, receiving their offices, hiring their staff, meeting the press, setting up their websites, probably practicing their smiling and trying to sound “all congressional” now that they have finally made it to the top.
The races across the country were sometimes close, often times bitter. And now that the “newbies” are in, the fighting is not yet done. There are Republicans who do not like the leadership, under Boehner, the current Republican Speaker of the House. They see him as too weak.
Boehner won reelection, and is expected to also be the Speaker of the House again. The Republicans who are planning to keep him from that spot would need to be more than twenty to even drive the vote to a second ballot, which has not happened since 1923, when on the ninth the ballot the then Speaker of the House won reelection anyway. There is a grand total of nine right now, and one of them is named Yoho, so that bang might be a bit more a clicking sound coming from somewhere in the back row of benches.
But after everyone finds their seats, gets sworn in, the applause dies down and the good feelings dissipate, (did I mention, Christmas is over), the arguing will begin. Of course, no matter what is passed by the Republicans in congress, it will have to be sent over to the White House, where in the oval office sits the Democrats last best hope, a president that more people disapprove of than approve. Obama will have to sign the bill. And there are not enough Republicans to overturn a veto.
So, if the Right Wing is planning massive frontal attacks on Healthcare, unbalanced Budgets, and other Democrat Dragons-and Mitch McConnell, the man expected to be the Republican Majority Leader in the Senate, when all the smoke clears, has said he would like to finally confirm the Keystone Pipeline-if all of that is to get done, there will have to be some amount of bipartisanship.
Speaking of confirmation, there are also a hoard of Presidential Nominees that need to be confirmed-or rejected, as the case may be.
And as for some members of congress, mostly those that were part of the class of 2012 or before, there are quite a few who may have mistaken that bang of the gavel to start congress as the gun to start the 2016 race.
Iowa will suddenly become a prime tourist spot for those with presidential ambitions, as they attempt to woo voters, convince potential donors, and remind everyone how generally awesome they are.
The Republican leadership of congress, (none of whom, apparently, have any ambitions for the White House themselves) will have to work with many young, and some not so young ambitious members who think they have a chance at becoming president, and do not want to ruin it.
They will have to convince them, (think Rubio, Paul, etc.) not only to play ball, but also to work together in the days ahead to get everything done that is on the leaders’ agendas.
As for the Democrats, they are not playing possum. The president has gotten back from Hawaii, and on the 20th will be giving the State of the Union Address, but even before then, he will be reaching out to the people on a three-city tour. And he also appears to still have the executive action pen very much sharpened and dipped in ink.
The Republican Plans appear to have a few bangs in them as we open up 2015, but overall, the biggest bang may simply be that they are back. The numbers are good for a Republican President in 2016, so they are eager no to mess it up.
So in a way, the race has sort of already begun. If the Republican act irresponsibly or make terrible mistakes, people may not want to put a president of the same part in the oval office. On the other hand, if they behave themselves, do what they said they would do, people might think that if a Republican Congress was so good, a Republican President would be even better.
But all of that is for the future to decide. All of the oaths are not done yet, the vows not even all said. So for right now, in a moment of peace and relative tranquility in Washington, the first day in power as the 114th Congress of the United States begins.

Andrew C. Abbott