I didn’t know this was National Cut and Run Week. I guess I didn’t get the memo.
Rick Santorum got it, and at long last decided to get out of the race for the Republican nomination before suffering another embarrassing loss in his home state of Pennsylvania. Which brings me to a side point: just how did we get to be Zippy the Pinhead’s ‘home state’ in the first place? He was born in Virginia, where his family still resides. He (presumably) pays taxes in Virginia, and if his kids weren’t home schooled to keep them away from free thinkers, they’d probably be educated in Virginia. He lived in Pennsylvania long enough to purchase property and run for office.
Apparently, just buying a home somewhere makes you a born-again native. Well, you can claim him if you want, but speaking as a native Pennsylvanian, I refuse to accept him as a neighbor. We have more than our fair share of reality-challenged dullards as it is.
I will admit, though, that getting out now was about the smartest thing Zippy’s done in the past few months. If he’d held on past next Tuesday, and probably taken a butt whipping in Pennsylvania in the process, the next several news cycles would have been dominated by television talking heads using phrases like “humiliating,” “devastating” and “crushing” to describe his defeat here.
If Santorum has any ambition for running again in 2016, and you know he does, this week was the time to bow out — while his stock, and positive poll numbers, are about as high as they’re going to get.
I will further admit to a tiny pang of disappointment. I was hoping he’d hang on until the GOP convention in Tampa, and help Newt Gingrich throw a monkey wrench into the machine by way of a brokered convention. Not because I’m a Democrat, but because I’m a columnist, and Santorum’s shoot-from-the-lip style makes good copy. No one in politics says as many stupid things as he does on a minute-by-minute basis, and I’ll miss him — especially since his departure leaves us with little to slow down the Mitt Romney Express.
The good part is, though, that the more people find out about Romney, the less there is to like. Wait until the mainstream gets hold of the fact that Romney, until 1978, believed the tenets of the Mormon church that Black skin was a curse, (albeit one that can be reversed upon ascension to heaven, where the cursed melanin will be changed to pure white), and that interracial dating was punishable by death.
But there will be time to dissect Romney later, and you can bet that’s going to happen.
Back to the Week of the Quitters, and the big news that George Zimmerman’s legal team dropped him like a faulty transmission Tuesday.
That revelation brought its own set of strange questions, as we found out that not one of his lawyers had ever met Zimmerman face to face.
Think about that for a minute.
For the past several weeks, we’ve seen these doofuses or their surrogates describe Zimmerman’s broken nose and cuts to the back of his head. They recounted the circumstances of Trayvon Martin’s death with authoritative detail, and made every effort to paint the 17-year-old as an aggressive thug who was probably up to no good.
But the truth is, they’d never met Zimmerman, never seen any injuries, and never spoke to paramedics or police officers on the scene. They conducted no independent investigation, and based their entire case outline on the word of a man so cowardly he wouldn’t even tell his defense team which rock he was hiding under.
Why would a cadre of greedy, amoral lawyers back away from the biggest case of their lives, and a trial that would have made them famous? A trial, which by the way, would have been televised coast-to-coast, and the resulting book and movie deals would have made them all very rich men, win or lose?
You know why. Because Zimmerman’s case is a guaranteed dead loser, and as soon as they figured that out, they decided it was in their best interests not to stand their ground.
They ran for the hills the minute the special prosecutor announced she wouldn’t empanel a grand jury, and would probably charge the trigger-happy vigilante herself, which she did a few days later.
Like Santorum, that was probably the lawyers’ smartest move too.
Maybe it wasn’t Cut and Run Week. It was more like Cut Your Losses Week.
Daryl Gale is the Philadelphia Tribune's city editor.
When the Republican national convention came to Philadelphia in 2000, I attended every session of every day. At the time, I was working as a columnist at another newspaper here in town, and I wrote a tongue-in-cheek column mocking the GOP’s oft-repeated claim that week to be “the party of inclusion.”
Clearly that column was 12 years ahead of its time, since it’s become crystal clear this week that if there’s anything the Grand Old Party fears more than taxes, it’s being in close proximity to Black and brown people.
At the convention in Tampa, there are fewer Black people than ever, both in the audience and at the podium. Sure, they trotted out Condi Rice, Mia Love and Artur Davis in a half-hearted attempt at the illusion of diversity, but their actions spoke louder, and proved the gesture to be mere window dressing.
The real GOP was on display as well — with all its racial animosity intact. A couple of attendees were thrown out Tuesday for throwing peanuts at a Black CNN camera operator, telling her, “This is how we feed the animals.”
The offending racists were ejected from the forum, and late Tuesday night the GOP organizers issued a non-apology statement calling their actions “inexcusable and unacceptable.” What they didn’t say was that they’re sorry, or that any punishment was meted out to the peanut throwers beyond escorting them from the premises.
Organizers wouldn’t even say whether the pair’s credentials had been pulled, or if they were allowed to return the next day. The GOP, and coincidentally CNN, seemed content to dismiss the behavior as an aberration, and move on.
I wonder, though, if they’d have taken the same boys-will-be-boys attitude if there were, say, a couple of mean-looking, Black guys intimidating a white woman. Something tells me there would have been a lot more action than a hastily written repudiation, and those guys would be sitting in a cell until first daughter Malia Obama runs for president in 2036.
Then there’s Monday’s incident, in which Puerto Rican Committeewoman Zoraida Fonalledas took the stage, and was nearly drowned out by boos, catcalls and the chant of “USA! USA! USA!” It was an embarrassing moment, and one that played into the narrative of the GOP’s disdain for brown people who speak English with an accent; but event organizers were quick with another explanation.
The chants and catcalls while Fonalledas was on stage, they said, were the result of Ron Paul supporters on the floor being disruptive in their protest of rule changes which would shut down support of anyone other than the presumptive nominee in future conventions, and not directed at immigrants in general, or Fonalledas in particular.
It’s easy to see how convention organizers would be especially sensitive to hints of racism, considering that their party has become older and whiter than ever, and no longer bothers to try to convince anyone that they’d like to become more diverse.
What’s more difficult to understand is how the GOP repeatedly demonizes, animalizes and dehumanizes minorities — and blames Black and brown people for every problem in America — but then seems genuinely surprised that Mitt Romney is polling lately with zero percent of the Black vote.
Even after the draconian immigration laws and threats of electrifying a border fence across the Rio Grande; even after voter ID laws threaten to undermine the Voting Rights Act and disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of minority voters; even after telling women they should be forced to bear the child of a rapist; and after Romney himself is out there telling “birther” jokes, they somehow fail to understand why their policies are unpopular among anyone who isn’t white, straight and rich.
In fairness, some Republicans get it. Sen. Lindsey Graham was quoted this week as saying, “The demographics race, we’re losing badly. We’re not generating enough angry, white guys to stay in business for the long term.”
He’s right. Of course, the constant lying about President Obama’s record, and the thinly disguised racial code words won’t help their case with minorities either. After all, if your cause is just, and you’re in the right, why would you have to lie?
For the record, Romney’s camp did address the lies and truth-stretching they’ve been doing. “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” Romney pollster Neil Newhouse said at a panel organized by ABC News. Translation: The lies appear to be working, so we’re going to keep it up.
As long as they maintain their present policy of avoiding both the truth and minority voters in light of the nation’s changing demographics, the GOP knows it’s shooting itself in the foot in regard to long-term viability.
They just can’t help themselves.
Daryl Gale is the Philadelphia Tribune's city editor.
Democrats are warning that vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s much-discussed budget proposal would “devastate” public and higher education in Pennsylvania.
“While President Obama has worked to make quality affordable education available and accessible to all, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s budget plan would, in fact, reverse that progress,” said Mayor Michael Nutter. “Pennsylvania students would feel a devastating impact … all while preserving historic tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.”
The Obama campaign pulled together Nutter, U.S. Rep. James Clyburn from South Carolina and two teachers from Philadelphia public schools — Juanita Leyath, a speech therapist and Padraic McCaffery, an English and social studies teacher — to condemn the possibility of budget cuts to federal education spending should the Republicans seize the White House on Nov. 6.
Clyburn laid out the party’s point of view, saying that congressional Democrats, along with the president, have worked to lower the barriers to education.
“Just one example is the Pell Grant,” he said. “We took $60 million that would be going to banks to administer the program and turned the program into a direct loan so that colleges and universities would be able to direct those resources to the students themselves … we were able to double the number of students getting Pell Grants, and we were able to increase the grant size from around $4,600 per pupil to around $5,400 per pupil.”
Congress also provided $2 billion more for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, he said.
A Republican White House would reverse those gains, the two men agreed.
Nutter laid out a series of specific numbers, projections from the Obama campaign as to how the Romney/Ryan budget could impact Pennsylvania schools. The figures were based on across the board cuts under Ryan’s plan, which would slash federal spending by about 20 percent over the next decade.
According to those figures: $186 million in cuts for public schools, 12,000 fewer spots in Head Start, an average cut of $810 college scholarships for 313,000 Pennsylvania college students and 9,180 fewer work study positions for state college students.
In May, Romney visited a school in West Philadelphia, where he called for larger class sizes.
“Every second grader knows that’s not right,” Nutter said.
Romney has said he would not necessarily implement the Ryan budget, which includes $5.3 trillion in spending cuts — but since choosing Ryan as his running mate a week ago, debate on the plan has dominated the national conversation. While Ryan has laid out a plan that includes a set of sweeping numbers, he has consistently declined to get specific about exactly where he would cut or what tax deductions he would eliminate in an effort to balance the federal budget.
Leyath said she’s seen the impact of Obama’s plans personally. A teacher in Olney and the Northeast, she said the president’s stimulus package kept teachers working, allowing the district to keep class sizes smaller which ultimately benefits her students, who are “overwhelmingly Latino or African-American, or who come from low-income families.”
“I am standing with the president because I have seen how much he had done these last four years,” she said. “I know he is the man to keep us moving forward.”
Flipping through the channels Tuesday night, I stumbled upon the Republican presidential debate, live from Las Vegas, of all places. Being the fifth such debate in six weeks, I had forgotten all about it. But I also didn’t expect the party of pious morals and upright family values to hold a serious political event in a place known as Sin City.
Turns out though, that Vegas — America’s entertainment capital — was the perfect venue, because that debate had more sheer entertainment value than all the others combined. I’m glad I tuned in — it was comedy gold, worthy of being saved for posterity and the benefit of future generations of Americans who may want to pinpoint the exact moment the Republican Party officially went off the rails.
Business guru Herman Cain, the newly crowned GOP front-runner, found himself in the crosshairs early. Mitt Romney, the man of the perfect teeth and the empty suit, joined Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the man of the empty head, in hammering Cain’s 9-9-9 tax plan.
Cain’s idea would set income and corporate taxes at nine percent, and add a nine percent federal sales tax. Sounds simple, but a study released by the Tax Policy Center this week said that Cain’s 9-9-9 proposal would raise taxes on 84 percent of Americans, with low- and middle-income families being hit hardest.
Cain tried to defend himself, countering that only lawyers, lobbyists and his ignorant onstage colleagues would argue in favor of the present tax code, which he called “a million word mess.” But between Romney and Perry ganging up on him, coupled with the incoherent babbling from Newt Gingrich and punctuated by occasional condor-like screeches from Michele Bachmann, Cain never had a chance.
The part that got me, though, was that even while bashing his proposal, Perry more than once referred to Cain as “brother.”
I don’t know about you, but few things make me want to punch a white man in the mouth more than that patronizing, condescendingly familiar way they call you “brother,” or even worse, “my main man.” Sometimes I think they do it because they don’t actually have any Black acquaintances and this is their awkward way of being friendly; and sometimes I think they do it just to see how far they can push you before you haul off and punch them in the mouth.
In Perry’s case though, I suspect the reason was overcompensation — a feeble attempt to clear up the recent controversy surrounding the former name of his hunting ranch by publicly reaching out to the only Black man he knows who isn’t one of the domestic help.
Even kooky old Ron Paul showed he still has a few chuckles left in him when he spoke in favor of the Occupy Wall Street protestors, defended the middle class from the excesses of the super-rich, and — get this — freely admitted that the recession, and the resultant lousy economy, is a direct byproduct of the short-sighted policies of the Bush administration. You can imagine how well that went over with the GOP faithful, but the oblivious Paul clearly has no idea that his chances of the nomination fade a little more every time he completes a sentence.
The best part, though, was when Perry and Romney grew tired of attacking Cain and turned on each other like a couple of pit bulls.
Perry brought up the illegal immigrant story that haunted Romney during the 2008 primary, calling it “the height of hypocrisy.” Several years ago Romney hired a landscaping company whose managers weren’t too vigilant about checking employees immigration status, and it’s hung around his neck like an albatross ever since.
Romney countered with a dismissive line about how Perry should be forgiven because he’s been losing ground with each successive debate, and the rumble was on.
Back and forth they went, the volume — and the tension — rising with each snide interruption and catty retort. I thought for a minute there it might come to blows, and found myself sitting on the edge of the couch eagerly anticipating the first wild left hook.
That punch was never thrown, but plenty of equally damaging verbal shots landed cleanly, with Perry once again forced to repudiate his friend, the pastor who called Mormonism a cult, and Pennsylvania’s own Rick Santorum once again forced to justify his own relevance.
I sure hope President Obama was watching. Seeing the caliber of the best that the GOP hopes will unseat him must be quite comforting — and funnier than anything else on television.
On the day the state Supreme Court is set to hear arguments about the state’s controversial new voter ID law, state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams is scheduled to host a Voter ID Education and Action Rally to help voters take the necessary steps to ensure that their vote counts this November.
“While we continue to fight this confusing, unnecessary and utterly disgraceful new law, it’s crucial that voters are made aware of their rights so that they are ready for Election Day,” Williams said. “Freedom-loving Americans cherish the vote, a right for which generations have died to secure. That’s why we’re set to answer questions, offer resources and ensure that as many people as possible are prepared and able to protect and exercise their vote this fall.”
The rally will take place on Thursday, Sept. 13, at 5 p.m. at Kingsessing Recreation Center, located at 50th Street and Kingsessing Avenue in Philadelphia.
There will be representatives from various civic organizations available to talk to participants about the law, opportunities to volunteer for voter outreach, entertainment and free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream while supplies last.
The new law will now force voters to present specific forms of photo ID when they cast their ballots, starting with this November’s election.
Several organizations have fought in Commonwealth Court to strike down the law, arguing that the nation’s most restrictive measure to date could disenfranchise some 750,000 previously valid voters. Despite these and other facts, the court upheld it.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case and is expected to begin proceedings on Sept. 13.
Williams, Democratic whip and Democratic chair of the state government committee, and his Senate Democratic colleagues voted against the voter ID legislation earlier this year.
They contend that it would adversely impact select members of the voting population — namely people of color, seniors, women and youthful voters. Video that surfaced of state House Majority Leader Mike Turzai bragging that the law would allow Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney to win Pennsylvania further bolstered claims that voter ID was designed to suppress votes, not reduce fraud, which to date has been reported as minimal, if at all.
Last week, Williams and his colleagues filed an amicus brief with the state Supreme Court in support of efforts to stop the law from being implemented.
One thing all political observers are certain of now: Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., desperately wants to keep his job.
But, what’s equally unclear is why would Florida Republicans try to snatch it away from him?
There’s been much chatter about that from Washington, D.C., to the idyllic retirement corridors of Boca Raton and Palm Beach. It all started when the state’s Republican-controlled legislature took knives to the Sunshine State’s political map, effectively cutting the superstar cable news Congressman out of his own 22nd district by molding it into a Democratic stronghold.
But, that’s ok, says West, who simply plays the game back and decides to move into the newly drawn 18th district which is less Democratic than his current one. The new 18th contains a majority of voters from the 16th, which is currently overseen by Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla.
“Congressman Rooney is a statesman and has been an honorable public servant to the constituents of Florida’s 16th Congressional district,” said West in a statement. “It is my goal to continue the success Congressman Rooney has had in Florida’s 16th Congressional district in the newly proposed 18th district. I welcome the challenges and excitement that lie ahead.”
Still, West’s sudden and very forced move seems peculiar for a number of reasons. First: Republicans like to win. While still feeling comfortable about their prospects for maintaining a majority in the U.S. House this November, Republican hacks shift uncomfortably at a number of general polling indicators. House Democrats were celebrating a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll that showed voters would support a Democratic candidate over a Republican candidate in their specific district by 4 points: 48 percent to 44 percent.
And as the Republican presidential primary drags on, with the candidates engaged in an ugly meat grind of nasty campaign ads, debate dramas and rhetorical gaffes exposing the party’s bigoted underbelly, observers point to a GOP image problem. Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich slugging it out over national airwaves only weakens the eventual nominee — and strengthens President Obama’s position in November.
For Republicans, Florida is all-important. An amateur strategist would assume that the state GOP would do everything in its power to keep a grip on its majority of Congressional seats in a critical battleground state. Right now, out of 25 House seats in the palm tree and hurricane state, Republicans hold 19.
And while that’s a comfortable majority, why risk losing one when voters could get finicky, take it out on Republicans and vote all the way down a Democratic ticket?
It’s a risk the state’s GOP leadership either missed or deliberately dismissed in remapping West’s Democratic-leaning 22nd. Sources say it wasn’t an accident. A Republican strategist close to national and state leaders, speaking to the Tribune on condition of anonymity, says “West is being hosed.”
“He’s becoming a liability. He makes the state look bad, and, frankly, he’s attracting a bit too much negative attention to leadership on and off the Hill,” snorted the source. “That’s why they like Scott — he’s quiet and he’s easy to get along with.”
That comment adds another interesting angle for Republicans, continually smarting from the lack of diversity in its Congressional ranks. West is one of two African-American Republicans in the current Congress; the other is Rep. Tim Scott, R-S.C., a fast rising star who is rarely found on cable talk shows, but was just picked as one of GQ Magazine’s “50 Most Powerful People in Washington” — after less than one full term.
Scott was one of only two Black people on that list, a slight not missed by longtime Black politicos (some thinking about a quiet boycott of GQ). And, he’s not an official Congressional Black Caucus member.
If Republicans have a diversity problem, why would they actively seek to cut the number of Black Republicans in Congress down from a paltry two to an embarrassing one?
The question becomes a bit more peculiar, considering Congressional Republicans find themselves in a fundraising crunch compared to their Democratic counterparts: Allen West is one of the party’s most prolific fundraisers. He ranks #19 on a list of the Top 25 Republican fundraisers during the 2011–2012 period, raising over $2 million dollars. He is the only Black member of Congress to make the Top 25 list for either Democrats or Republicans; with the exception of President Obama (who topped both Democrats and Republicans with a $46 million official pull last year), West is the only African-American elected official to make that list. Herman Cain, who suspended his presidential race in early December, was the only other African American, despite the fact he is not an elected official.
West has the numbers, and he has the national voice and following. Why crucify him with a redistricting pen?
Insiders point to West’s mouth as his biggest problem. Each day brings another controversial, off-the-cuff comment from the conservative firebrand. He is more popular for his rhetorical fire bombs and sling shots across the partisan aisle than he is for groundbreaking legislative accomplishments. And, a larger problem is that he loves it. While signs point to Republican leadership eager to tone down the acerbic messaging and move away from controversial statements that make the tea party element giddy, West still pushes the envelope, from constant Molotov cocktails about “Blacks on the Democrat plantation” to unloading a freestyle torrent of talking point missiles at Democratic National Committee Chair and fellow Floridian Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schulz, D-Fla.
“We need to let President Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and my dear friend the chairman of the Democrat National Committee, we need to let them know that Florida ain’t on the table,” said West, unloading yet again on favorite tea party bogeymen and women. “Take your message of equality of achievement, take your message of economic dependency, take your message of enslaving the entrepreneurial will and spirit of the American people somewhere else. You can take it to Europe, you can take it to the bottom of the sea, you can take it to the North Pole, but get the hell out of the United States of America.”
He might as well have ripped off his shirt, beat his chest and did a 2004 Howard Dean Iowa imitation when he added amid cheers: “Yeah, I said ‘hell.’”
That’s the kind of political “hell” that makes establishment Republicans squirm — just like they’re doing now as the GOP primary battle drags on with insurgent former House Speaker Newt Gingrich now the party stepchild. Others point to former governor and current frontrunner Mitt Romney as a prominent anti-West source, too. Romney wants a clean, no-drama campaign if he can help it, and tea party candidates like West are unpredictable. And with tea party polling numbers dropping as more Americans are blaming them for unnecessary gridlock in Washington, country club Party of Lincolnites are trying to play it cool, slowly finding ways to quietly disassociate themselves from the rabble rousing “Don’t Tread on Me’s.”
“Get ready for the all new GOP, under the lead of Mitt Romney. It’s a GOP where the tea party won’t be welcome, where the federal government will continue to bail out banks and unions and everyone who’s anyone will continue to make money — except of course you and me,” said TownHall.com’s John Ranson, reflecting an uneasy mood among conservative hardliners that Romney is already controlling the party factions.
In the meantime, West is not as crazy as his rhetoric lets on.
There is pure political calculation when West publicly makes enemies, a perpetual campaign stump in a quest to paint himself as the Washington outsider. It’s a balancing act based on his need for support from the national tea party grassroots, an apparatus that accounts for a large chunk of his money, as 56 percent of his campaign contributions come from sources outside the district.
But, it’s also a way for West to reestablish ties with a tea party rank and file that had soured on him in the past year as he not only joined their archenemy Congressional Black Caucus, but he also voted for Free Trade Agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. West was showing signs of becoming a real legislator, and the tea party wants unapologetic activists on Capitol Hill. He’ll need to refurbish his tea party bona fides as a way to get both their money and boots-on-the-ground support come November.
As the Republican National Convention moved into full swing, the Obama campaign swung through Pennsylvania this week — in a three-day bus tour — contrasting President Barack Obama to his challengers Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.
The bus, bulging with dignitaries — some of whom had ridden just a few blocks down Broad Street from the Union League at Broad and Sansom Street — rolled into town, the final stop on a statewide tour that started Monday in Erie.
Participants in the tour, dubbed, “Romney Economics Wrong for the Middle Class,” pummeled Romney and Ryan on their proposed economic policies.
“They do want to take America back,” Mayor Michael Nutter said, riffing on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s convention speech. “Back to the failed economic policies that got us here in the first place.”
The tour, which travelled through Pittsburgh, Johnstown, State College and Scranton, among others, provided a diversion for Democrats during the Republican convention in Tampa, Fla., which has dominated the airways and news cycles all week, with numerous party bigwigs from Gov. Chris Christie to vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan criticizing the president for everything.
In his convention speech Wednesday night Ryan blasted the president and his economic policies.
“President Obama is the kind of politician who puts promises on the record, and then calls that the record,” said Ryan. “But we are four years into this presidency. The issue is not the economy as Barack Obama inherited it, not the economy as he envisions it, but this economy as we are living it.”
The city’s Democratic establishment hastened to disagree, charging that Republican policies would destroy the middle class.
“It’s Robin Hood in reverse,” said City Council Majority Leader Curtis Jones Jr., referring to Romney’s time as head of Bain Capital. “He steals from the poor to give to his rich friends. He would do the same thing in the White House.”
And though Philadelphia politicians made up the bulk of the group, two legislators from Massachusetts — who had travelled the length of Pennsylvania — spoke about Romney’s tenure as governor of their state.
“Romney economics didn’t work then, and it won’t work now,” said Massachusetts state Rep. Jeffery Sanchez, telling reporters that while Romney was governor of the state, 40,000 jobs were lost and the state fell to 47th in job creation.
“What has Mitt Romney ever built but million dollar bank accounts in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands?” he asked.
The arrival of the bus was the culmination of several events in Philadelphia this week as the Obama campaign continued to hammer at the Romney–Ryan ticket.
A number of smaller but related events were held throughout the week, singling out specific topics for attack. For example, on Tuesday, actress Tatyana Ali, former star of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, appeared with Councilwoman Marian Tasco to urge women to vote for Obama.
Ali, the daughter of immigrants, dismissed remarks Ann Romney made at the convention talking about the struggles she and her husband had early in their marriage.
“I don’t think they have any idea what it takes to pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” Ali said.
Pennsylvania is a key state in the November 6 contest. Most polls show Obama leading Romney but it’s too early to tell if the convention will provide the usual upswing in poll numbers for the Romney ticket.
Christie, in his convention speech, dismissed the polls, saying Republicans would reverse the numbers.
“Real leaders don’t follow polls. Real leaders change polls,” he said. “That’s what we need to do now. Change polls through the power of our principles.”
The Republicans have outpaced Obama and the Democrats in the last three months of fund-raising. Since June, Obama has raised $75 million while the Republicans have hauled in more than $101 million.
I got an angry letter from Governor Corbett last week, or at least from one of his minions — chastising me for a column I wrote the week before calling for Corbett’s impeachment.
Click this link to see the letter in its entirety, and you can read it for yourself. I’m not going to refute its content point by point, but there are a couple of highlights that beg further review.
Dennis Roddy, special assistant to the governor, attempts to take me to task for saying Corbett’s been bending over backwards to accommodate his Big Oil and Big Energy friends and contributors tearing up Marcellus Shale and its surrounding communities by reminding readers that Corbett “laid down more than $1 million in penalties on a Marcellus driller for environmental failures.”
Well, Dennis, I took your suggestion and googled “Chesapeake, record fine,” and guess what? The $1 million fine is there, along with the fact that Chesapeake Energy, the company in question, owns 519 well permits in Pennsylvania and has been reporting annual revenues between $7.6 billion and $11.3 billion a year for the past four years. Chesapeake also pays its CEO $116.89 million per year, making him the third highest paid executive in the country. I seriously doubt that the $1 million in fines, however unprecedented, made much of a dent in their $11 billion profit margin. I also doubt that a drop-in-the-bucket fine is much of an incentive to make those corporations accountable for the devastated communities they’ll leave behind, or to discontinue thumbing their noses at environmental regulations.
Also notable is the boast that, “The governor crafted and implemented an impact fee in addition to this, meaning that a fully productive well will pay $310,000 to its host community over a10-year period.”
Wait a second, let me get this straight. A fully productive well, pumping millions of dollars worth of natural gas, will pay the host community — an entire township or borough — a whopping $31,000 per year for ten years. That should be of great comfort to the folks who’ll be able to light their tap water on fire, or find themselves dying of a host of environmentally based illnesses. $31,000 won’t even pay for the water they’ll have to truck in from out of town just to take a shower.
What is most telling, however, about Roddy’s tersely worded retort, is not what it says, but what it doesn’t say.
He doesn’t include one word about the voter ID law, about which I had the most to say in that column, and many columns previous. He doesn’t think its “odd,” “astonishing,” or “alarming” that I called Corbett’s law “the most insidious violation of citizens’ basic rights and dignity since “Colored Only” water fountains.” I compared it to the fire hose and police dog voter suppression tactics of the 1960s, and even headlined one column, “Tom Corbett, meet Jim Crow.”
I mean, if there were ever an opening to defend a policy you strongly believe in, that would have been it right there.
While vigorously defending Marcellus Shale drillers and Corbett’s handling of the Penn State scandal while he was Attorney General, when it comes to defending the most egregious piece of legislation in the state affecting the elderly, the poor, immigrants and ethnic minorities — silence. You can almost hear the crickets.
No attempt to convince Tribune readers that the voter ID law is free of racism, or even partisanship. No defense of voter ID law sponsor state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, who once featured life-size targets of President Obama for his gun-toting contributors to shoot live rounds at one of his fundraising hoedowns. No acknowledgement of the accidental slip of the truth from House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, who bragged to a partisan crowd in June that the voter ID law would insure a Mitt Romney win in Pennsylvania.
Could it be that Roddy simply forgot about all that when crafting the carefully worded defense of his boss? Or could it be that Corbett knows only too well that the voter ID law — and particularly the sinister motivation behind it — is as shamelessly partisan and nakedly racist as anything to come out of Harrisburg in years?
There’s even talk among Republicans nationally of repealing the Voting Rights Act altogether. Women, gays, minorities, senior citizens and immigrants are all in the GOP cross hairs this election season. Vote like your life depends upon it, because it just might.
Then, impeach Corbett.
Daryl Gale is the Philadelphia Tribune's city editor.
It’s a question that comes up every time you hit the home page of the Republican National Committee’s website: Where are all the Black Republicans?
Only a year after celebrating the last days of its first African-American chair, the RNC is fairly light on Black faces these days. What was once, especially during the ’90s, a fairly aggressive photo-op promotional strategy strung together by a small network of die-hard Black political consultants, former elected officials and partisans, is all but dead. While it did little in the way of yielding any results comparable to Democratic counterparts, there was a sense — leading up to the election of Michael Steele as party chair — that some progress had been made in mending the often bitter relationship between African Americans and the Republican Party.
Now, as a bloody Republican primary carries on, the GOP appears smitten with the Latino vote. Presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are bending over backwards, and breaking the bank, to connect with Latinos — looking for every conceivable angle to attract skeptical Brown voters turned off by a wave of anti-immigration sentiments. And the RNC happily trotted out a Director of Latino Outreach in January, eagerly announcing the move in a gritty effort to snatch Hispanic voters away from Democrats in what observers expect to be a grueling November election.
“The RNC will place staff on the ground across the country to coordinate the GOP’s Hispanic effort as part of a program to make sure Barack Obama is a one-term president,” said RNC Chair Reince Preibus when introducing Betinna Inclan as the point person for Republican Latino strategy. “Latinos play an integral role in our communities, and the Republican Party believes it is essential to involve Latinos at every level of our Party’s efforts in 2012.”
Meanwhile, the move angered a number of Black Republicans who were already feeling left out in the cold following the abrupt downfall and forced removal of Steele in 2011. Many continue to express disgust at the GOP love fest for Latinos, some out of concern that they have no other political home to turn to.
“You have no Blacks on staff at the Republican National Committee — or any of its other committees — and there are no Blacks on staff of any of the presidential campaigns,” snorts longtime Black Republican strategist and marketing expert Raynard Jackson. “But maybe after a few more electoral loses you will awaken to the most loyal customer you have ever had.”
Most politically active and prominent Black Republicans — and there are only a few compared to Black Democrats — are not as vocal about their displeasure with the GOP’s intense focus on the Latino vote. Most are quiet, some out of fear they might anger RNC bosses who are already stressed trying to keep a fractured party intact. But many are seething over what they view as a combination of betrayal and intrusion, a knife in the back from a Republican Party that was theirs from its Abraham Lincoln beginnings.
However, a source tells the Tribune that focus could shift back to Black outreach as the Romney campaign prepares to hire a senior advisor for that exact purpose. While the source would not give details on the timing of an announcement, it was clear the embattled former Massachusetts governor is thinking ahead to the general election. “We’re finalizing the details,” said the source. “But, we’re not completely there, yet.”
The reason behind that reluctance could reflect a larger sense of caution surrounding the primaries. There are still many more states to go, with the delegate-rich “Super Tuesday” on the horizon for March 6. With the Romney campaign nervously gauging the rise of Rick Santorum while smarting from triple losses in Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota, it may be difficult to start thinking about the national scene while you’re still engaged in state-by-state trench warfare. Plus, finance reports are showing a Romney campaign low on cash and near tapped on donors. Do they even have enough to go the distance?
In terms of the Black vote, it’s much more complex than that. Much of it has to do with pure numbers — only 10percent of African-American voters, on average, vote Republican during any given presidential or congressional mid-term cycle. The only Republican in the 21st century to slightly defy that trend was President Bush in 2004 when he won just over 11 percent of the Black vote against Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. In statewide races, Republicans tend to garner 15 percent of the Black vote on average. In 2006, then Lt. Gov. Michael Steele was able to capture more than 20 percent of the Black vote in Maryland’s U.S. Senate race — but that was still very negligible for a Black candidate with extensive local roots and who never shied away from his Blackness.
Many Republican strategists and candidates alike are quick to attribute those dismal ratings to Black dismissiveness. “It’s hard. We get called ‘racists,’ but we’re expected to go out and do outreach with these people,” complains one veteran white GOP campaign expert who wanted to speak off the record. Visibly angered by the question, the senior aide to numerous Republican campaigns accused Black voters of “setting unfair expectations.”
Hence, Republican insiders point to the math in recent primaries. For example, only 2 percent of Black voters in South Carolina are registered Republicans. To make it worse, only 1 percent of South Carolina primary voters in January were Black — and that was in an “open primary” where voters of all partisan stripes can vote. In Florida, it was the same: only 1 percent. And, in Iowa (where there are sizeable pockets of African Americans living in such cities as Des Moines), Black votes didn’t even register on a significant scale.
The problem is two-fold. The Republican Party’s southern strategy in the 1960s alienated Black voters in the race for southern white and segregationist votes. This has led to the prevailing image of a political party either constantly attacking major Black policy priorities, or serving as the face of institutionalized political racism. But there is also the problem of African Americans refusing to force the two major political parties to compete for their voters. Most are fiercely loyal to the Democratic Party to the point where such affiliations are based more on personal considerations than political interests.
In contrast, Latino voters only lean 60 percent Democrat on average. In key primary states like Florida and Arizona, they represent 12 percent of the Republican primary electorate — a significant presence that warrants the attention of campaign strategists battling for every vote they can get. And a recent Cooperative Congressional Election Survey found 14 percent identified as Republican and a significant bloc, 19 percent, identified as “Independent.”
It’s that 19 percent that gives Republicans reason to believe they can compete for Latino votes in the general election against Barack Obama, despite recent anti-immigration rhetoric and legislation. The survey also found Latinos are more inclined to vote by race than party. With scores more Latino Republican elected officials than Black, Republican elected officials (there are no Black, Republican elected officials under the age of 40), the GOP figures it has a better chance chasing after Brown votes than Black ones.
Political strategist and former congressional candidate Princella Smith argues that because African Americans vote “lopsidedly Democrat — 80 percent to 90percent of the time,” the Republican Party fails to see any prospect of a return on the investment. “Why should I campaign to a community who will reject me as soon as I get to the front door?”
Ron Thomas, a Black Republican and former senior advisor to Rep. Michelle Bachmann’s, R-Minn., failed presidential bid, agrees, quickly arguing that the GOP’s enthusiastic focus on Latino voters should be something for Black Republicans and African Americans in general to worry about. “I have a bottom line philosophy: You have to have tensions on both sides of the aisle. We’re the only culture where we don’t make the political parties compete for our vote. Until we decide as a people that we’re going to do that, we’re going to stay in the same situation we’re in right now.”
Democrats are giddy with joy this week, popping champagne corks while circle dancing around what they believe is the flaming wreckage of Mitt Romney’s doomed presidential campaign.
I still see plenty of daylight left for Romney to right the ship and give President Barack Obama a run for his money on Election Day. And that word — money — is the reason why. Behind badly in the polls and losing more ground every day, Romney’s staff knows they can’t rely on the gullible American electorate to push them over the finish line. So instead, they rely on the millions contributed by a few very wealthy donors to counter the millions of voters they continue to alienate every day.
Even though the gaffes are coming at a such a furious pace from the Romney camp it’s hard to keep up, and the past ten days have been among the worst in campaign history, there remains among the GOP the reasonable hope that there are enough brain dead knuckle-draggers left out there who can hate a Black president enough to vote against their own best interests.
First there was the GOP convention in Tampa, where racist delegates threw peanuts at a Black CNN camerawoman, and Clint Eastwood turned out to be an incoherent old man who holds lengthy, babbling conversations with an empty chair.
Romney and running mate Paul Ryan had to run away from their own party’s platform, or risk having to answer uncomfortable questions about no-exception abortion bans, and “legitimate” rape. Having just thrown Senate candidate Todd Akin under the bus for expressing the same sentiments, the top of the ticket was forced to remain silent.
The plastic candidate was then chastised by his own party when his nomination speech failed to mention the war in Afghanistan, and failed to thank the troops for their service.
Then Romney shot from the hip in his condemnation of the Obama administration’s response to the spreading riots in the Middle East — one of which resulted in the death of a U.S. ambassador. Romney’s rebuke was early and off the mark, and introduced naked political pandering into a situation that called for cooler heads and critical thinking.
Then the tape came out.
Surely you’ve seen it by now, since the whole country has been obsessed with the YouTube video for almost a week. Romney, at a $50,000 a plate fundraising dinner held last spring at the ritzy Boca Raton mansion of hedge fund manager and Sixers co-owner Marc Leder, said that 47 percent of the country are lazy, entitlement moochers who aren’t going to vote for him anyway, so he’s not going to concern himself with them.
"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what,” Romney said smugly. “All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. And the government should give it to them. . . . These are people who pay no income tax."
As a side note, if you haven’t read the transcript of the videotape, available online, I recommend you do so, if only to amaze yourself at the shocking stupidity of the questions Romney fielded from the fat cat partygoers. Their utter lack of insight, political knowledge, and understanding of the world is dizzying, especially when you consider these are the folks who believe they are entitled to rule over the rest of us simply because of the size of their wallets.
But back to the 47 percent.
I wonder if Romney knows that included in his 47 percent of lazy, unworthy moochers is every wounded soldier who goes to the VA hospital for an artificial limb. It’s every grandmother who relies on Medicare for her prescription drugs. It’s the working mom with two jobs who still has to feed her kids ramen noodles and hot dogs for supper. It’s every hardworking student who needs a Pell grant in order to afford college.
They are the people we care for because they need our help, because helping them is the decent thing to do, and because to refuse that help would make us callous, soulless, self-important plutocrats — like the dimwits who pay $50,000 to listen to an empty suit.
Rather than rejoice in his implosion, in the end, I almost feel sorry for Romney. Almost.
Daryl Gale is the Philadelphia Tribune's city editor.