Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Coming GOP Rift: Lines Drawn Over “Birther” Issue

In my last post I spoke about Donald Trump and sarcastically poked fun at his stirring the “birther” pot as a blatant ploy for relevance in a vague and confusing Republican 2012 candidate pool.  Little did I know that his little PR gambit would actually rip a giant chasm within the right wing of today, forcing people on either side of the “birther” issue to decide where they stand, once and for all.

A recent poll indicates that a majority of registered Republican primary voters (51%) thought that Obama was not born in the United States.  This is a significant shift from a similar poll taken in August of 2009 that found 44% of Republicans believed Obama was not a natural born citizen.  This is a simple case of “appealing to the majority” for Trump.  He decided simply to speak to 51% of Republican primary voters and use the “birther” issue as a sticking point, basically to curry their favor.  It’s a fairly transparent strategy.
But this week there was a new development.  A recent bill making its way through the Arizona state legislature, if signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer, would have made it a requirement for any Presidential candidate to (per the linked article above):

“…have their national political party send the secretary of state an affidavit from the candidate saying that they are natural-born citizens, have lived in the U.S. for 14 years and are at least 35 years old. The party must include documents proving that information, preferably a long-form birth certificate. If that document is not available, the candidate can provide at least two of the following: early baptismal or circumcision certificate, hospital birth record, postpartum medical record signed by the person who delivered the child, or an early census record.” (azcentral.com, by Alia Beard Rau)

Obviously this bill, as written, is ludicrous, and is indicative of how far to the insane right Arizona Republicans have gone.  This is the same state that produced the “show your papers if you look/sound foreign in front of a cop” law, as you may remember.  So you would think, given all that has happened under Jan Brewer’s tenure as Governor of Arizona, this bill should be a shoo-in to become law, right?

Not so fast.  Brewer shot the law down, saying it "creates significant new problems while failing to do anything constructive for Arizona."  Wow.  Here is the lady that found it politically advantageous to persecute immigrants and subjugate them to de facto second-class citizen status saying it “creates significant new problems” to have Obama submit his baptismal certificate and hospital birth record so he could appear on the ballot in Arizona?  It would seem incongruous, at first glance, that she could hold both of these opinions at the same time, but that’s only at first glance.

Simply put, the “birther” issue is political poison.  The writing has been on the wall for quite some time, from the beginning even.  Want proof?  Michele Bachmann, another loony favorite of mine, has also now distanced herself from the issue.  So have Karl Rove, Tim Pawlenty snd House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.  Essentially, the “birther” issue is rapidly becoming a wedge issue within the Republican Party, with the true die-hard wingnuts on one side and the more politically savvy, more serious contenders on the other.  Much as I hate putting Michele Bachmann in any group labeled “politically savvy,” I must call them as I see them.  Besides, it’s likely a campaign aide or other handler has guided Ms. Bachmann’s opinion on the issue at least somewhat.

The main reason the “birther” issue is absurd to me, mostly is its blatant, but implied, racism.  Here we have a guy who has sort of an “international” upbringing, was born to a non-American father, has spent significant time abroad, and generally has lead a life most Americans who were born, live and will die in the same city or town, consider strange and alien.  Oh, and by the way, he’s black too.  And he has a Muslim-sounding name.  Simply put, adding this up does not produce someone the ignorant, uneducated, white, mostly rural people that make up the majority of these “birther” Republicans and Tea Partiers think is very "American."  To them, each of the details I described above about Obama’s life are evidence that he is really a secret Muslim who was born outside of this country, and no amount of logical, reasoned and evidence-laden counter-argument will change their mind.  It’s real because Glenn Beck said it’s real, and that’s that.

So, where does that leave the Republican candidate pool, you might ask?  In a game of choosing sides.  Do they play to the simpletons out there who believe Obama was somehow constructed by al-Qaeda almost 50 years ago to take over America and secretly place a Muslim in charge?  Or do they play to the upper middle class and rich business interests the GOP has usually played to?  Basically, does a Republican candidate fully embrace the wingnut Tea Party element, or not?  A similar rift has been present ever since the latest Congress has convened, with John Boehner having to somehow appease both of these sides at the same time as Speaker of the House.  It’s made policymaking a bit complicated, to say the least.  Democrats definitely wasted no time in exploiting that, and they nearly succeeded in wiping out the Paul Ryan budget proposal.

There are plenty of reasons to dislike Obama as President.  He is a terrible leader and a terrible negotiator.  What we have right now is a “Committee Chair-in-Chief,” who is always looking to have everyone “come together” and “compromise,” even on issues where there are two distinct and radically opposing sides.  It makes for complete chaos, and middle-of-the-road, milquetoast policy decisions that end up satisfying neither side of a given issue and making people on both sides of the political spectrum dislike him a little more each time.  Obama is a college professor in President’s clothing, simply put.  Dislike him for the right reasons.  He should be replaced with a better leader, but not because he’s black, or Muslim, or any other silly thing he’s been accused of.  He should be replaced just because he’s a shitty President.


UPDATE: There is actually now a birther bill making its way through the Louisiana state legislature, with language very similar to the Arizona bill.  Governor Bobby Jindal, another GOP grandstanding wunderkind, has promised to sign it into law if it passes.  I guess we know where he stands on the issue.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Obama 2012: So What?

It hit the news this week that President Obama has officially launched his re-election campaign for 2012.  Since this comes at a shock to absolutely nobody, it was mildly surprising to see so many news outlets kicking off their morning newscasts on Monday with news of this inevitable development.  The question is: so what?  He’s a sitting president and this is utterly unsurprising.
The thing about the election in 2012 that interests me though is witnessing the continual erosion of Presidential elections in this country to the point where we’re not even choosing between a giant douche and a turd sandwich anymore; we are choosing between the naked pseudo-progressive corporatist sitting President and the nutjob Teabagger wannabe du jour that will inevitably win the Republican party nomination.  I can hardly wait.  The election of 2012 will definitely be an epic and unprecedented shit storm.  So, you may ask, who are the other confirmed (and semi-confirmed) players in this mess?  Here’s a quick overview:
Mitt Romney
Mitt is probably the sanest one of the group, which is saying a hell of a lot for the only Mormon in the Republican field.  Mitt, you may remember, was for a lot of things before he was against them, most notably what is now referred to colloquially amongst Republicans as Obamacare and gay marriage.  He’s the ultimate coiffed businessman-type.  Always flashing that trademark smirk, Mitt is the ultimate chameleon, always adapting and changing to be as electable as he feels possible.  Will it work this time after failing in 2008?  We shall see.
Michele Bachmann
Where to begin?  Michele Bachmann has come to embody the lunatic fringe of the Tea Party as she tries to balance a Presidential campaign with appearing on seemingly every Fox News talk show in existence.  She’s the one who started the 100% untrue rumor that Obama’s trip to India was costing US taxpayers $200 million per day.  This bit of foot-in-mouth rumor mongering quickly went viral as all the anti-Obama folks out there tripped over themselves deriding the President for the trip, while the Pentagon strenuously rejected the claim, calling it “comical.”  That’s not all.  Michele is also thoroughly confused about the Founding Fathers and their opinions about slavery, and she tends to swallow whole any crazy conspiracy theory Rush Limbaugh sends her way.  She is a loon, pure and simple, and I do not believe she has any support or interest besides the voyeuristic pleasures afforded to those who watch her many stumbles and falls in the media.  Not enough to win any primaries, anyway.
Newt Gingrich
Newt goes back a ways.  In 1994 he was the face of the Republican takeover of Congress during the Clinton years and was involved in the so-called “Contract with America.”  While I feel that his marital infidelities have no bearing on his fitness for office, I do take issue with how he handled Bill Clinton’s peccadillos, especially since he was having his own fun back then.  Not to mention, he’s managed to conveniently rewrite history and even managed to present the most absurd reason for cheating on one’s spouse anyone ever dared to utter.  Newt is trying very, very hard to look, act and sound presidential but this is a guy that couldn’t even hold onto his job as Speaker during a time of Republican control of Congress.  I would be surprised if he makes it further than Super Tuesday.
Tim Pawlenty
Tim is a fairly by-the-numbers social conservative.  He hates Roe v. Wade, opposes abortion, advocates lower taxes along with spending cuts and wants to re-enact Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  Probably the biggest stain on his political resume has to be appointing this lady as the head of the Transportation Department of Minnesota (MinnDOT).  It was during her, and Pawlenty’s, tenure that the I-35 bridge collapse happened, and this is significant because funding for MinnDOT was cut significantly during this time.  Ms. Molnau, who had been serving as an unconfirmed commissioner during her most current term, had apparently never read one bridge inspection report during her time as head of MinnDOT.  She was fired from her post by the Minnesota state legislature in a move Pawlenty criticized as a “disappointing partisan move.”  How well Pawlenty will do remains to be seen, but he does seem to be one of those not as visible gubernatorial candidates that come out of nowhere but gains a lot of ground as the primaries go on.

Haley Barbour

Haley Barbour, the current Governor of Mississippi for the uninformed, is definitely not a Governor, past or present, that has any chance of winning the Republican nomination.  His main issues seem to stem from a deep misunderstanding of race relations, both past and present, in the United States.  Haley is a holdover from a previous and no longer relevant era and in all probabilities will not go far should he choose to run.
Rick Santorum
I will leave Rick’s Google problem aside for now because, while very hilarious, it does not really have any political relevance.  It is extremely funny, however, and probably the most intricate and unique troll of a public figure that I have ever seen on the Internet.  No, there’s plenty of other things to bust Rick on, such as his, shall we say, unique views on homosexuality and his intense and undying love for Intelligent Design.  Rick Santorum has all the insanity of Michele Bachmann, only with a less modern, more new-testament, and old-school feel to it.  His campaign is a veritable joke in every sense, seeing as how he lost his Senate job in spectacular fashion during the 2006 election.  Seeing him blunder his way through a Presidential bid should prove comical, to say the least.
Donald Trump
Media whore.  Reality television star.  World-famous comb-over.  Known the world over for being a total asshole.  Really, I cannot even rip on this guy; it is just far too easy.  All I will do is point out things like he’s a billionaire who cannot seem to run a casino correctly, which is amazing since every game a casino hosts is tilted so that the house wins every single time.  I could point out how he thinks we could bring the leaders of “rogue states” we don’t like by screwing them over like businessmen or how his producing his American birth certificate stunt horribly backfired on him.  But really it comes down to this: how could we elect a guy with hair like that?  Trump’s “candidacy” is a publicity stunt, folks, a mere sideshow act or a carnival barker on the electoral midway.  Ignoring him is the best approach.
…And these are just the people that are either definitely running or probably running.  With a motley assortment such as this, the likelihood of this country being subjected to four more years of waffling, caving, further-to-the-right-than-Reagan, business-first Obama is increasing every day.  I wish we truly had a dynamic multiple-party political system in this country that could provide a milquetoast-at-best President like Obama with a real re-election challenge, but the reality of our two-party duopoly is that we get different shades of the same exact shit election after election.  Giant Douche vs. Turd Sandwich.  Let the battle lines be drawn, America.
So, with all that said, I’d like to submit our endorsement for Giant Douche 2012!