Friday, August 31, 2012

Romney Defines His Republican Party

The ballons have dropped, the confeti has drifted down and America caught a glimpse of what the Republican party tone will be like under its new leader Presidential nominee Governor Mitt Romney.

The pundits began this Republican National Convention with the catch phrase "This isn't your grand dad's Republican Party," which for me left its meaning open to a lot of different possible interpretations, so, like many Americans, I watched the last three days of the RNC to see if I could get some kind of a clue to what that phrase meant. By the time the 82 year old Hollywood icon Mr. Clint Eastwood left the podium on Thursday night one thing was certain, this is a party that no longer has a stick up its tokhes and knows how to loosen up a bit.

I walked away from the television set on Thursday night fully convinced that the days of the rough and tumble, antagonistic, in-your-face style of a Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh POV was now a thing of the by-gone past...and, I'm okay with that. Why? Because Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and the new younger leaders of the party like Marco Rubio, et. al., are intelligent and savvy enough to pull it off.

This new Republican Party, now led by Mitt Romney and Congressman Ryan encompasses two generations and represents a different tone for what has been commonly thought of as a rambunctious group of politicos. This isn't to say that Romney and Ryan can't get their hair up (and between the two of them there is lots of hair), but they appear to be a whole lot cooler about showing that anger and do so without seeming hurt, flustered or taken-a-back. They're not slick, that would smell of a different kind of politician we don't need, but they are smart. Romney represents the senior circuit, those beaten back by the every day of life with its blessings and hardships. He shows a life well lived but with its fair share of personal struggle and heartache yet, because of his tenacity, faith, and work ethic is still hopeful with a more enlightened and seasoned knowledge of what does and doesn't work. Ryan represents those young and youngish intelligent, smart-minded persons who see the direction Mr. Obama and the Democratic party of the last eight years have taken this country and are wise enough to realize the outcome will be a future for their children in which America will no longer be the place of opportunity and hope for those willing to work for it, and they are determined to apply all their strength and abilities to ensure that outcome is changed for the better. They remind me of my grandparents and great grandparents who had little but worked hard for us, their kids and grand children, to ensure their future would be a bright one full of opportunity and that promised American dream would be at the end of that rainbow.

Mitt Romney's new Republican Party is kinder but not soft. Gentler but determined. Patient but not push-overs. Bright but not arrogant. Well intentioned but far from naive'. Most importantly, its new leader is experienced with decades of learning from trial and error under his belt. He knows, not by hope and vision alone, but by years of getting his hands in the mix. Unlike President Obama he is no "amateur." Mitt Romney has been there and done that and can work through a problem or situation with that skilled knowledge and experience to guide his problem solving and lead this nation back to economic stability and greatness on the world stage.

This may not be your grand daddy's Republican Party, but with Mitt Romney now at its helm it can and will be guided for the next several years with the seasoned expertise that only a grand daddy can amass.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What Happen To The Tea Party?

The new liberal tag for The Tea Party has become The American Taliban. I first heard that term from the fictional news anchor Will McAvoy from Aaron Sorkin's HBO series The Newsroom, so will credit Mr. Sorkin with coining it.

Is it true though? Is The Tea Party The American Taliban? And, what does that even mean?

The Tea Party movement had its nebulous birth on December 16, 2007 at a presidential candidate Ron Paul event he titled "Boston Tea Party 07'". The movement's focus was, like its 234 year old counterpart, an expression of great dissatisfaction by mainly the working middle class and retired persons in America over the run-a-way spending and taxation being practiced, by the then King of England and today by both the Democrats and Republicans in the Congress.

Politicians, never ones to miss an opportunity to spoil a good and honest venture, soon came onboard with many of the more extreme right-leaning and lesser heard members of the Republican Party playing on the honestly-expressed frustrations of these sincere every-Americans. These politicos began expanding the movement's involvement in other areas of politics not directly related to the group's original intent. Within a short three years Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann, with the help of the liberal press, had made herself the official spokesperson for the movement and organized The Tea Party Congressional Caucus. On July 4, 2010 the Caucus had swelled to an impressive 66 members including such notable names as Bachmann, Todd Akin, Allen West, Joe Wilson, Rand Paul and Jim DeMint. Other famous political pundits that have seen the advantage of climbing onboard The Tea Party bandwagon have been one time presidential candidate Herman Cain, Governor Sarah Palin and former Congressman Dick Armey.

When the movement began it gave voice to the concerns of real working and retired citizens. It gave them a legitimate outlet and voice of expression they had never experienced before in American history. They usually made their voice heard every two or four years in the voting booth but now they had a loosely aligned group of fellows to voice and share their concerns with. Their biggest concern being that of an overly bloated government that appeared to no longer be the least bit interested in their problems and one in which a fiscal budget was an apparant unsolvable mystery. This Tea Party was originally unaffiliated with any party and came into existence at a time when a Republican sat in the Oval Office. They were disappointed in then President George W. Bush's massive spending programs and stimulus packages that were later continued and expanded upon by President Obama. And, while religion was an important factor in the private lives of those claiming to be early members of the movement, it wasn't their centerpiece or its driving force. Taxation, spending and expanding government was the force that drove those in the first two years of The Tea Party movement.

What happened? What were the events or catalyst that took a honest ground-swell American grassroots movement and turned it into The Tea Party we see today? I believe the main events, the top reason The Tea Party abandoned its original premise as the populist megaphone for those needing a voice can be tied to two groups -- the ultra-left liberal media and the ultra-right conservative political machine.

First and foremost blame must go to the liberal media's unfounded phobic panic over the issues voiced by early members of The Tea Party and the liberal Democratic leadership egging on that fear-mongering media exploitation. The press in particular literally went out of their way to label and portray The Tea Party as radical, populated with unsavory characters, racists, nazis, haters and even terrorists. They exaggerated their stories about Tea Pary rallies, and in some cases outright fabricated tales passing them off as legitimate news. Instead of trying to get to the bottom of these American's frustrations and concerns, as any legitimate news organization should, overall the media shut them out of any kind of civil discourse or forum for debate and presented an inaccurate, unwholesome and Grimm-like fairy-tale portrayal of The Tea Party and many of its early members as monsters, when the reality was quite different.

How did those members respond? As most people do when under fire or attack. They huddled together, try to regroup, lost many of its original members who tired of being seen by an uninformed American public as something they weren't. They grew discouraged by a press who lied about them, showed them as disruptive while at the same time lauding praise on such real distructive movements like Occupy [place name here], calling them heroes after raping, burning and living in filth, while The Tea Party acted according to law and peacefully with great restraint. They saw a world turned upside down and many walked away in complete discouragement while others stood firm but in reaction began moving further and further to the right of their original program of lower taxes and smaller government. This shift allowed some Republican political opportunists mentioned earlier to come onboard giving the movement, now seen as a Party and a force for the more moderate Republicans to have to reckon with a different and stronger voice, not just in the street but now within the very halls of Congress and the entire political arena and fourth estate.

The Tea Party's war cry of lower taxes, smaller government and bringing Congress back to a time of working together to accomplish great things was replaced with defeat Obama at any price and do nothing in Congress to appease until we hold the majority in both houses. This new unrecognizable Tea Party was now the strong and bullying-pulpit of the ultra-right wing of the Republican Party forcing even the likes of war hero and moderate Republican Senator John McCain to abandon some of his principals just to court the favor of the new Tea Party within his State of Arizona to get re-elected.

Once the more ultra-right wing advocates gained prominence over the hijacked movement it no longer resembled the grassroots organization begun on that winter December day in 2007. Five years later it is now one of the biggest driving engines of the Republican Party just as the ultra-liberal left has been the engine driving the Democratic Party since the defeat of Al Gore by George W. Bush in the 2000 Presidential election.

What started out as a grassroots movement of like-minded individuals joined by a common cause and desire for a less intrusive government through over taxation and out-of-control spending has turned into a party within a Party; a group now more concerned with the defeat of one man, Barack Obama, than with the return of civility in government by negotiation, give and take compromise and legislative accomplishment that benefits the nation and not just a select few of government chosen winners and losers. By deeper reflection there is a hairsbreath difference between the liberal left's agenda and that of this new ultra-right Tea Party. Both view compromise as weakness and nothing short of all out defeat of the other as failure.

The end result of now having both major Parties inwardly controlled by the more radical elements on the left and right is a government still bloated, still over taxing its citizens but in all other important aspects is stagnant and in a continued stalemate that shows little chance of improvement regardless of which side wins the Congress or Oval Office this November.

In a sense, just as those within the far left of the Democratic Party have been labeled European Socialists, the tag American Taliban is as fitting for those on the ultra-right of the Republican Party that have kidnapped the hope once held within The Tea Party.

"Spock, you are a great one for logic. I tend to charge in where angels fear to tread. We are both extremists. The TRUTH is somewhere in between." Captain James T. Kirk

Monday, August 27, 2012

Is Newsroom Liberal or Conservative?

Is the HBO series The Newsroom a liberal program or is it a conservative show? That is the burning question on the political hearts and minds of many viewers of the latest entry of writer Aaron Sorkin. The show has run an interesting first season so far, which stars Jeff Daniels as the moderate Republican chief anchor, Will McAvoy of a Fox News-CNNesque style cable news network. Emily Mortimer is the more liberal producer of McAvoy’s centerpiece.

Back in June of this year after the pilot aired I gave the show a fairly decent mark and claimed that its first episode set a high bar, but also wondered if Sorkin would be able to keep the episodes on an even, moderate keel and not be tempted, as Hollywood tends to be in these kinds of pieces, to move radically to the left of the spectrum. While Newsroom has slipped from time to time and jumped that liberal-shark, it has pretty much stayed on the course it promised - an honest, moderate look at both sides of the political aisle and in doing so has successfully pissed off both liberals and conservatives on the extreme left and right, which for me indicates Sorkin is doing something a little correctly and making a mostly well presented case for just how intolerant and uncompromising our government and a radical segment of our population has become. And, while that segment is still a small one they are a noisy bunch indeed.

Those on the right see the show as just another piece of liberal tripe coming out of the Left Coast. Rush Limbaugh stated, "The existence of The Newsroom is the greatest possible concession that the liberals lost the argument and are continuing to lose it.  There's no reason for Republicans to look down on this show.  It's a safer outlet for leftist anger than Occupy Wall Street. It’s a miniature universe in which they are smarter, nobler and better than everyone else. Children have fantasy worlds like that.  There's no reason that liberals shouldn't, too.  Not only does it give them the security of believing that they really were superior, but it prevents them from learning any useful lessons from their defeat 'cause if they're gonna sit there and lie to themselves and tell 'em they actually won and they actually were smarter, it can't help 'em.”

The New Yorker doesn’t find the show liberal enough for their taste. Television critic Emily Nussbaum reporting for The New Yorker said that Will McAvoy’s pilot episode “diatribe is bona-fide baloney-false nostalgia for an America that never existed.”

What was McAvoy’s rant? He was asked by a journalism student during a panel that included a liberal, a conservative and the moderate Republican McAvoy why America is the greatest country in the world? Will starts to give the standard answer, but, after being pushed by the moderating professor, decides to be honest for a change and lays it all out there.

“It’s not the greatest country in the world...that’s my answer.” “...The NEA is a loser. Yeah it accounts for a penny out of our paychecks, but he [pointing to the conservative on the panel] gets to hit you with it anytime he wants. It doesn’t cost money, it costs votes. It costs airtime and column inches. You know why people don’t like liberals? Because they lose. If liberals are so fuckin’ smart, how come they lose so goddamn always?”

“And [to the conservative on the stage] with a straight face, you’re going to tell students that America’s so star-spangled awesome that we’re the only ones in the world who have freedom? Canada has freedom, Japan has freedom, the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Australia, Belgium has freedom. Two hundred sovereign states in the world, like 180 of them have freedom.”

“An you-sorority girl-yeah-just in case you accidentally wander into a voting booth one day, there are some things you should know, and one of them is that there is absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country in the world. We’re seventh in literacy, twenty-seventh in math, twenty-second in science, forty-ninth in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force, and number four in exports. We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next twenty-six countries combined, twenty-five of whom are allies. None of this is the fault of a 20-year-old college student, but you, nonetheless, are without a doubt, a member of the WORST-period-GENERATION-period-EVER-period, so when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don’t know what the fuck you’re taking about?! Yosemite?!!!”

Now, no doubt, Nussbaum probably liked that part of Will’s rant. It contained a lot of left-winged, liberal rhetoric, but I have to admit, the numbers were pretty much right on so there is no arguing with the facts of what he said. My argument would be with how liberals and ultra-conservatives like to slant those numbers to make their own rhetorical points with voters. Now comes the part where The New Yorker critic thought was pure “baloney.”

“We sure use to be. We stood up for what was right! We fought for moral reasons, we passed and struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were, and we never beat our chest. We built great things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy. We reached the stars, and we acted like men. We aspired to intelligence; we didn’t belittle it; it didn’t make us feel inferior. We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, and we didn’t scare so easy. And we were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed. By great men, men who were revered. The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one - America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.” “Enough?”

I will concede a bit to both Limbaugh and Nussbaum on a couple of points. One, Sorkin does seem at times to go out of his way in his scripts in this show to be apologetic for the pathetic state of affairs within the liberal camp these days by stepping further out on that limb of we are right, sorry you can’t see that and you bad people on the right are so damn wrong. And, to my own chagrin, Nussbaum makes a valid point that McAvoy’s memory of the America that use to be is a bit skewed from the reality. Yes, there was a time when this country did great things and dared to be great and aspired to greatness. We actually knew and cared about our next door neighbors and those in real need within our communities. And, I am one who believes that is still the case and have yet to fall prey to those who think our best days are behind us. However, I recognize that the world has gotten a lot smaller and now those great days before us will be accomplished as we, as individuals working together with other individuals across the globe, dare to dream big and reach out and not pull our arms back in until we have reached the goals set before us. A famous writer and show creator by the name of Gene Roddenberry called this way of looking at the world around us “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.” To be great today we must adopt this philosophy and make it a vital part of our thinking.

Will Newsroom help achieve this kind of thinking? Not likely. It is too fraught with the same kinds of frailties we continue to suffer from in our real daily lives. The seemingly endless need to find what makes us different over our sameness.

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