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A few well-written words can convey a wealth of information, particularly when there is no lag time between when they are written and when they are read. The IPS blog gives you an opportunity to hear directly from IPS scholars and staff on ideas large and small and for us to hear back from you.

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Entries tagged "presidential race"

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Rope-A-Dope Revives the Hope

October 16, 2012 ·

President Obama owned Governor Romney in their second debate on issues of foreign policy, women, immigration, and the 47 percent. He even leveled a fatal blow regarding Benghazi. Don't get me wrong: Mitt was no wimp, and Obama was no progressive, but Obama had the better plans, the better attacks, and the better handle on the truth than Romney.

Obama strongly called out the funny math of Romney's claims that he can lower taxes across the board and not raise the deficit. Mitt's only defense was: "Of course my numbers add up. I am Mitt Romney." He may convince Ann with that response, but such a defense does little to engender confidence in the rest of us.

Obama was aggressive on jobs, touting his added 5 million jobs and his support of high-wage, good jobs over winning the global race to the bottom apparently favored by Romney. Obama hit Romney over the head repeatedly with his tax-cutting record, while maintaining his position that the wealthy must pay more.

By contrast, Romney was evasive and inauthentic. He tried to get away with answering a question about equal pay for women with a strange explanation about asking women's groups to find qualified women for his Massachusetts cabinet. Mitt said that women could be hired if only employers would figure out that they also need time to cook for their families. Pay? Isn't the gratification these women gain from putting some Hamburge Helper into the bellies of their families pay enough?

In an equally evasive and puzzling response, Romney blamed single mothers and a failed federal sting operation in Mexico for assault weapon violence in the U.S.

Then came the knockout blow, something like this: "The President took two weeks to call the attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya a terrorist attack." "Governor Romney, I called it a terrorist attack the very next day." "No, Mr. President, you most certainly did not." "Candy, tell him...I did, didn't I?" "Uh...yes Governor, the President did say that. He is right. You are wrong. You are down for the count."

Boom.

DonkeyHotey/FlickrObama, for all his aggressiveness and better policy positions from Romney on jobs, taxes, women's health and economic issues and immigration, failed on the question of energy and the kind of revenue raising we need to get the country on track and to be the kind of country we want to be.

The incumbent almost channeled Sarah Palin with refrains of Drill Baby Drill. He agreed with Romney that the corporate tax rate is too high, and he again missed the opportunity to tell the truth that Social Security, Medicare and social programs don't need fixing, reforming, and slashing to reduce our deficit.

I still want to see Obama lead on the direct creation of jobs, and taxing financial speculation, dividends, and interest. I want to see him stand up and tell the truth: With the right priorities, we can spend far less on military, close corporate tax loopholes, and fund a transformative shift to an economically and environmentally more sound energy policy. I want to see him lead on real cost-control in a universal type Medicare-for-All health plan.

I want more than just a rope-a-dope surprise and a knockout punch. I want to hear the words: America Is Not Broke, we just have our priorities wrong. Then, I will be able to cheer a victory as something that is a victory for all of us, not just for a candidate's campaign.

Karen Dolan is an Institute for Policy Studies fellow. She'd appreciate it if the candidates could read the IPS report, America Is Not Broke.

What Not to Do on Camera

October 4, 2012 ·

I think the Republicans set themselves up for a tough challenge when they cast Barack Obama as the outsider, Kenyan usurper while Mitt Romney was supposed to represent the traditional white establishment. Henry Kissinger even recognized it during the Vietnam War: "The guerrilla army wins by not losing; the conventional army loses by not winning." I'm pretty sure he stole that from Mao, who was a horrible ruler, but a smart guerrilla strategist.

Romney and Obama debateRomney needed to decisively rout Obama, while Obama simply needed to not fall flat on his face. In the end, I don't think many minds were changed. If Big Bird stood out as the most memorable phrase of the first presidential debate of 2012, then Romney's much-lauded performance failed to land an attack that will stick in voters' minds. It was a soft victory, elevated by low expectations going into the debate. Obama should have pushed back on those outrageous lies, but his weakness is that he always tries to stay "above it all," which comes across as aloof.

I watched it on CBS, which used a split screen for almost the entire debate. Romney's privileged smirk and mannerisms probably hurt him more than his own words. I'm curious to see if CBS viewers thought less of Romney because of his "off-camera" behavior compared to other network viewers.

Obama learned in 2008 that what you do when not speaking is matters. It's a lesson I've learned the hard way. I've probably done a hundred on-camera interviews over the years and it took me a long time to learn that I should never look around the room or move my head when I'm not speaking.

The camera can cut to you at any moment. If I'm distracted by the activity in the studio or other shiny things, my eyes dart back and forth. If the camera catches me in that moment, I look as shifty as a cartoon villain. Always look forward at the camera, at the person speaking, or downward while appearing to take thoughtful notes. Otherwise, the viewer doesn't see the distractions you're looking at and — at best — it makes you look disinterested.

Looking at anything the home viewer can't see is dangerous. Perception matters on TV. On the other hand, it's possible to take too many notes and come across as disengaged — as Obama learned last night.

Sanho Tree is an Institute for Policy Studies fellow. IPS-dc.org

The Biggest Losers: Big Bird and the American People

October 4, 2012 ·

Who won the first 2012 presidential debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama? If you ask the Twitterverse, Big Bird nailed an easy victory.

Debate memeHuh? In case you missed it, the sole quasi-joke either candidate cracked came when Mitt Romney vowed to choke off the government funding that pays some of Sesame Street's bills. But really, there were no winners tonight.

Moderator Jim Lehrer blew it too, although he seemed to be off to a decent start when he opened the debate with the night's most pressing question of the night: What are you gonna do about jobs?

Obama answered that he loved his sweetie. Romney tried to sound populist but just sounded weird. Things just got worse from there. More lies and insincere etch-a-sketch moments from Romney. More strangely absent and disconnected reactions from Obama.

Lehrer proceeded to let the candidates run roughshod over him, then lost us all when he said "we've lost a pod" as he reprimanded the candidates for taking too long. In an evening devoted to domestic issues, none of the three men ever mentioned women's rights, civil rights, immigration, poverty, climate change, or any other environmental issue.

Most importantly, nobody dared to breathe the truth, lest it actually get out — America Is Not Broke.

That's right, the debate was an exercise in ridiculousness that produced no insight, no plan, no inspiration, no leadership, no truth. We are rich. We have enough money to put nutritious food on the tables of the one in five U.S. kids who are hungry and undernourished. We have enough money to help the laid-off moms and dads make ends meet until they get another job.

We have enough money to keep grandma, sister, and even every child ("future people," as I believe Romney put it) taken care of through their hard-earned benefits of Social Security and Medicare. We have enough money to help the down-and-out in times of sickness and emergency through Medicaid and help low-income families through refundable tax credits and the last shreds of welfare available to some.

We do. We're a rich country. We're not broke. Not only are we not in an economic position, recovering from the Wall Street-induced Great Recession to be able to tolerate the austerity trumpeted by Romney and half-conceded to by Obama, but we don't need to resort to it.

Here's what someone should have said tonight. Here is the truth denied to the American People...and to Big Bird:

1. We can bring in over $325 billion per year if we simply put a tiny tax on risky stock and derivative transactions; tax corporations and stop tax have abuse; and, tax the wealthy fairly, such as Warren Buffet suggested by taxing CEOs at the same rate as their secretaries

2. We can bring in almost $90 billion per year by actually making our environment more green and sustainable through: taxing the polluting carbon content of fossil fuels; and, ending fossil fuel subsidies.

3. We can save about $130 billion by making our country and globe safer through: closing out our war operations completely in Iraq, closing a third of our global military bases and ending drone attacks; and by ending military waste

AH Neill/FlickrThese commonsense approaches would garner savings of over half a trillion a year — far more than either candidate or any Bowles-Simpson scheme would save and would allow us to preserve our earned benefits, safeguard our safety net, keep our nation secure and create millions of good-paying green jobs.

America Is Not Broke. That is the missing story. Until we admit this, we all lose...and, you can definitely kiss Jim Lehrer and that big ol' yellow bird goodbye.

Karen Dolan is an Institute for Policy Studies fellow. For more details, please see the IPS report, America Is Not Broke.

Somebody vs. Someone Else vs. Obama

February 24, 2012 ·

Phew. Those 20 debates felt like they'd never end. Now that they're over, however, the Republican Party isn't particularly close to selecting its presidential nominee.

Given the distractions caused by the candidates' many gaffes and their stunning assertions, it's hard to notice that the 2012 race for the Republican presidential nomination may become the most unpredictable for either major party since the GOP settled on Barry Goldwater in 1964. And most voters probably don't realize that it looks like three heavily funded candidates will be on the ballot in November.

Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich have each won at least one primary. Ron Paul came close to winning Maine's non-binding caucus. So, it's no longer OK, as Santorum might say, to treat Romney as the frontrunner. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Googled is ahead of Romney in at least one national poll and essentially tied with him in another.

Most voters probably presume that Romney will ultimately claim the nomination. That's why the formerly moderate former Massachusetts governor won the reactionary American Conservative Union's straw poll at CPAC. Meanwhile, national opinion polls indicate that Obama would beat Romney or Santorum in a two-way contest.

One growing possibility is a brokered convention, where the delegates themselves would pick a different nominee. America hasn't had one since 1952, when Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson clinched the Democratic nomination primarily because he gave a great speech. If by August polls still point to a loss for the GOP frontrunner in November, this could happen at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Brokering would make political junkies, who get bored by conventions that are really just coronations, very pleased.

If this happens, the party's brass would choose a new candidate they deem capable of beating Obama. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels would be the most popular options, according to a recent poll by Quinnipiac University. But none of them seems any more viable than Romney or Santorum, so don't be surprised if someone else gets on the ballot. But since the same poll found that more Republican and Republican-leaning voters oppose the brokered option than support it, that kind of maneuver could prove costly for the party.

Meanwhile, those Super PACs unleashed by the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling are spending unprecedented sums of money, which will ensure that campaign 2012 remains volatile until Election Day. Plus, thanks to a wave of vote-suppressing legislative gimmickry across the country, it's quite likely that Obama will lose out on votes that he would otherwise win.

Then there's Americans Elect, an initiative bankrolled by big hedge-fund money. It's spending more than $22 million to get its own yet-to-be-named candidate on the ballot across the nation. This undemocratic scheme is canvassing voters via the Internet but reserving the right to pick its own winner if the moneybags behind it reject the people's choice.

Despite not being a real political party, Americans Elect is already on the ballot in 14 states. Only time will tell who will run on that ticket and whether this candidate will help or hinder Barack Obama. Or the Republican nominee. Whoever that's going to be.

Emily Schwartz Greco is the managing editor of OtherWords, a non-profit editorial service run by the Institute for Policy Studies. OtherWords.org

Karen Dolan Weighs in on Romney's Latest Gaffe

February 2, 2012 ·

Karen DolanKaren Dolan, an IPS expert on poverty and the nation's frayed safety net, has published an op-ed on CNN's website in response to GOP presidential hopeful's latest "oops" moment:

"I'm not concerned about the very poor." Oops. Mitt Romney messed up. Again. This was a bigger "oops moment" for Romney than when he said a few weeks ago that the $374,327 he earned in speakers' fees over the course of 12 months amounted to "not very much." It was bigger than "I like being able to fire people." It was the biggest since he blurted out that "corporations are people, my friend" at the Iowa State Fair.

Call it a Freudian slip, call it overconfidence emerging from a big win in the Florida Republican primary, call it a classic, out-of-touch-sounding "Rich Romney" gaffe. It may be all of those things, but this comment represents a scripted piece of the Romney campaign strategy. He hopes to co-opt an Obama campaign message aimed at appealing to the middle-class voters each will need in the general election.

Due to CNN.com's editorial policies, we're unable to post the whole thing here. But please read it on their website, and check out some of the 1,800 comments logged so far. Since too many of them are unsympathetic toward the poorest among us, be sure to weigh with your two cents, and spread the word via Facebook and Twitter.

Update: Many conservatives are attacking Romney in the wake of this gaffe. The Daily Kos has a fantastic summary. Here's a sample quote from National Review's Jonah Goldberg: "His language makes him seem like a caricature of a conventionally stiff country club Republican."

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