Election results mixed

Who won, who lost and why? That’s consumed news and commentaries since election returns came in more fully.

In the presidential election, here’s some analysis by Dr. Paul Kengor that says a lot in brief.

For four years, I angered conservatives by insisting Barack Obama would get reelected. I figured that an electorate willing to elect a man with ideas and a record that far to the left in 2008 would do so again. I began changing my view, however, after the first presidential debate. Over the last three or four weeks, I became confident that Mitt Romney would defeat Obama.

Fortunately for Obama, two forces intervened to rescue him. One was the mainstream media, which ensured that Benghazi, Hurricane Sandy, and the increase in the unemployment rate wouldn’t be used to undermine Obama. As for Hurricane Sandy, Obama flew in for a photo-op and then immediately returned to campaigning. If George W. Bush were president, a relentless media would have ensured that Bush didn’t return to the campaign trail.

The second force was David Axelrod and the campaign machine. I stand in awe at what they pulled off. They managed to push considerably more Democrats than Republicans to the polls (38-32 percent margin), closer to the 2008 turnout that favored Obama than the 2010 mid-term turnout that favored Republicans.

Really, this was an underestimated force, to be reckoned with. Which is why some of othe top, most highly respected political analysts got it wrong.

We were certain that pollsters were oversampling Democrats. The pro-Republican, pro-Romney, and anti-Obama enthusiasm we were seeing was extremely intense. It was inconceivable to us that it could be overcome by a higher Democrat turnout. Somehow, however, it was, obliterating Romney’s five-point victory among independents. It erased Romney’s 50-49 percent edge in the final polls by Gallup and Rasmussen.

I stand in stunned disbelief. David Axelrod, you are a miracle worker.

How much of a miracle worker? Consider:

The American people reelected a man who presided over one of the worst four-year economic records in American history. By every objective measurement, the economy is far worse than four years ago…

For historical perspective, consider this: No president since FDR in 1940 won reelection with an unemployment rate above 7.1 percent. And for FDR, that number was a huge improvement from four years earlier.

How did Obama and his team overcome this? The answer: they successfully blamed it on George W. Bush, with Bill Clinton aiding and abetting the process. There were no limits to how much they blamed Bush, and how much it worked. The Democratic base swallowed it hook, line, and sinker.

And that base was key to Obama’s re-election. He didn’t drift to center to win, the way Clinton had for his second term. Obama swung far left to his most extreme base. And as Dr. Kengor admits, it worked.

Sadly, other things worked as well, and none are good for this country. The framing of Republicans as conducting a “war on women” because they don’t favor forced taxpayer funding of abortion, Planned Parenthood, and contraception worked. The insistence that government-provided contraception is a new “entitlement” worked. The demonization of the Tea Party—a movement spontaneously created by Obama’s wild spending—worked.

For that matter, Obama got away with the extraordinarily wasteful $800 billon “stimulus” package that didn’t stimulate and buried us fiscally. He even got away with the HHS mandate that constitutes the greatest threat to religious liberty (particularly against the Catholic Church) in at least a century.

In terms of social policy, the electorate has given the green light to a president who is redefining marriage and promoting forced funding of abortion and contraception and embryo destruction—at the expense of religious liberty.

Moreover, the president’s unceasing class-warfare rhetoric was rewarded by the electorate, as were his attacks on profits, the private sector, the wealthy, banking and investment, and the oil and natural gas industry. The Obama energy policy is advanced. Mitt Romney would have unleashed a boom for America’s domestic energy industry. That is now gone. That is a tragedy, the levels of which we will not be able to appreciate.

And what about Romney? I had my reservations, but America rejected a genuinely decent man who had the best business background of anyone who would have ever assumed the Oval Office. He was the perfect person for the perfect time.

It was not to be. ‘What might have been’ is a waste of time now, and one more lesson from all this is to make the best use of time.

The organizations dedicated to the life and marriage issues on the ballot in this and other elections have applied all their time and resources to getting out the vote and making sure it’s well informed. That worked well in Massachusetts on the physician assisted suicide bill.

Not well in the states voting on marriage.

Voters in Maine and Maryland have approved initiatives legalizing same-sex marriage, and Minnesota voters have rejected a marriage amendment to the state constitution.

With 75% of the vote counted in Maine, voters approved same-sex marriage by a 53%-47% margin, just three years after the state’s voters, by the same margin, had repealed a law legalizing same-sex marriage.

With 98% of the vote counted in Maryland, voters approved same-sex marriage by a 52%-48% margin.

With 98% of the vote counted in Minnesota, voters, by a 52%-48% margin, rejected an amendment to the state constitution that would have defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

With 51% of the vote counted in the State of Washington, a ballot initiative that would legalize same-sex marriage was leading by a 52%-48% margin.

Tom Peters, relentless defender of marriage at National Organization for Marriage, gave my radio listeners some tough love in an interview the day after the elections. Besides being outspent on their campaign to uphold marriage law, Peters said the vigor in the movement to redefine marriage was highly-charged. “They wanted to do it more than we wanted to defend it,” he said, more as an indictment of Americans in general than his organization in particular. “Marriage undefended will lose,” he said. And that is now abundantly clear.

Until now, 32 out of 32 times the issue has been put to the ballot, voters have upheld the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. Some marriage defenders believe that’s still a bulwark against further assaults on the institution.

However, despite the setback for true marriage defenders, 30 states currently explicitly define marriage has between one man and one woman in their state constitutions, presenting a formidable barrier to the advancement of the homosexualist agenda.

True. But along with much else in America, that just may have begun to change. As Tom Peters said, marriage defenders have to want and work for their goal as much as those who want to redefine it.

Obama campaign ads

The president’s campaign is running some ads aimed at ‘the women vote’ that are more revealing of how he regards voters than anything else. And they reveal a lot about his character.

First we got the Life of Julia ad campaign.

The slide show narrative follows Julia, a cartoon character, from age 3 to age 67 and explains how Obama’s policies, from Head Start to Obamacare to mandated contraception coverage to Medicare reform, would provide Julia with a better life than Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan could.

Julia is not your typical all-American girl, but an obviously independent, yuppie liberal woman. She goes to public school, graduates college, and becomes a Web designer. She is able to pursue her career because, at age 27, “her health insurance is required to cover birth control and preventive care, letting Julia focus on her work rather than worry about her health.”

At age 31 she “decides to have a child,” with no mention of a father or husband. Her son Zachary heads off to a Race to the Top funded public school, while Julia goes on to start her own Web business. She retires at age 67 with Social Security and Medicare supporting her financially and spends her later years volunteering in a community garden.

Julia’s happily-ever-after tale is remarkably void of reality. Nowhere in her fictional life is it mentioned that Head Start has done little, if anything, to improve elementary education, that she will likely graduate with $25,000 in student loan debt, that she has a 50% chance of being unemployed or underemployed after college, that Medicare and Social Security are headed toward insolvency, and that her share of the national debt is $50,000 and growing.

For Republicans, Julia’s story might seem like a joke too good to be true, but they should take it very seriously. Because buried within “The Life of Julia” is the ideological vision of modern liberalism — to create a state that takes care of its people from cradle to grave. The story of Julia is a microcosm of Obama’s vision for America and emblematic of his view of the government’s role in an individual’s life.

That whole thing was demeaning to women who don’t rely on government as their provider and caretaker. Women who don’t place a primacy of importance on government provision of their birth control and reproductive choices.

 Like Women Speak for Themselves women, like Helen Alvare and Kim Daniels and Colleen Carroll Campbell and Jenn Giroux and Carrie Severino and others.

Kathleen Parker recently weighed in on the bogus ‘war on women’ campaign and the nonsense that feeds it.

Then came the latest, the YouTube ‘first time’ video.

This week marks an especially repugnant page in President Obama’s catalog of attempts to woo young female voters.  In an online ad titled “Your First Time,” featuring actress Lena Dunham, the President’s campaign drew an offensive and distasteful parallel between losing one’s virginity and the “awesome” experience of voting for Mr. Obama.

Explaining that it’s “super uncool” to abstain from the election, Miss Dunham says she became a woman when she voted for the President, and was honored to “do it” with a guy who cares about her right to taxpayer-funded birth control.

Until very recently, it would have been unthinkable for any politician, let alone the President of the United States, to endorse an ad that so trivializes sex and demeans the importance of a chaste lifestyle.  Mr. Obama apparently thinks he speaks for women by endlessly insisting on their right to taxpayer-funded birth control and abortions. But in fact, Gallup polls show that social issues and birth control rank among the least important issues in this election cycle. The economy, which voters deem as their greatest concern, has plagued women during Obama’s presidency. For example, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment among women has risen from 7 percent to 8.1 percent and from 12.5 percent to 14.4 among young women during his administration. Women have regressed during the last four years, and many are now supporting Governor Romney.

President Obama enjoys indicting his opponents as propagators of a “war on women.”  But what is truly demeaning is to suggest that the womanhood of female voters depends on his reelection, and a few newly minted goodies that will make it easier to have uncommitted sex without regard for the sanctity of life.

Catholic scholar George Weigel calls it the ‘Lolita ad’, for obvious reason.

In it, Lena Dunham, the creator of HBO’s smutty Girls, offers advice to seemingly innocent young women and other onlookers. The 26-year-old star, who has the look and mannerisms of a 13-year-old, channels her inner Lolita and coos the following:

Your first time shouldn’t be with just anybody. You want to do it with a great guy. It should be with a guy . . . who really cares about and understands women.

A guy who cares about whether you get health insurance, and specifically whether you get birth control. The consequences are huge. You want to do it with a guy who brought the troops out of Iraq. You don’t want a guy who says ‘Oh, hey, I’m at the library studying,’ when he’s really out not signing the Lilly Ledbetter Act. Or who thinks that gay people should never have beautiful, complicated weddings of the kind we see on Bravo or TLC all the time . . .

Think about how you want to spend those four years. In college-age time, that’s 150 years. Also, it’s super uncool to be out and about and someone says, ‘Did you vote?’ and ‘No, I didn’t vote, I wasn’t ready.’ My first time voting was amazing. It was this line in the sand. Before I was a girl. Now I was a woman. I went to the polling station and pulled back the curtain. I voted for Barack Obama.

Voting as analogy to recreational sex underwritten financially by tax dollars: That’s what the Obama campaign imagines to be a winning strategy in fighting what it is pleased to call the “War against Women.” Showcasing Sandra Fluke at the Democratic National Convention was not, as the Marxists used to say, an accident: This is an administration that seems to imagine that America is a nation of Sandra Flukes (and their gigolos), and that this is a Good Thing.

Even attempting to parse this kind of vulgarity seems demeaning, although it’s clear enough that the administration is committed to an ideology of lifestyle libertinism that it is eager to “impose on a pluralistic society” (as the vice president would not put it). So let’s just say that the Lolita ad is ugly, coarse, breathtakingly stupid, and profoundly anti-woman — which tells us something about the character of the people who create and authorize such ads, even as it further clarifies their vision of the American future.

Beauty is a window into what is true and good and life-giving. Ugliness helps us understand what is base, ignoble, and dehumanizing. That’s worth keeping in mind when entering the voting booth.

The ‘real Obama’ and real facts

The most lingering impression of last week’s presidential debate surprise was that President Obama was unable to articulate a defense of his record of the past four years or a coherent promotion of his plans for the next four years.

From the next day on, the media have stayed on the story of that debate and Obama’s failure to deliver, though the tenor and spin of the reporting changed.

CNN tried to inject potential responses the president might have made into its coverage. This is the kind of editorializing that belongs in opinion pieces.

Obama had a chance to brush his opponent back by hammering home the fact that Romney has been strikingly vague in explaining just how he would pay for an across the board 20% tax cut without cutting cherished tax deductions.

Instead, a lethargic Obama veered into a plodding, numbers-based criticism of Romney’s tax plan that was a far cry from his campaign trail rallying cries about how Republicans favor the rich.

And that’s only one example from that piece.

Others did the same.

Neither Obama nor the debate’s moderator, meanwhile, pressed Romney on some of his most vulnerable points. They included Romney’s claim that 47 percent of Americans are docile dependents on the government, a topic heavily featured in TV ads and public conversations the past two weeks.

It’s not their job to fill in for points the president failed to make.

It’s their job to question and probe.

Democrats are trying to recover from President Barack Obama’s debate disaster by asking the question, “Was that the real Mitt Romney?”

But given how poorly the president played, the better question is, “Was that the real Barack Obama?”

If you match the president’s performance in Denver with the performance of the country under his leadership, it’s obvious the answer to the latter question is “yes.”

Spared by a compliant media from the intense scrutiny presidents normally receive, Obama and his handlers have been able to craft for him the mythological persona of a deliberative and decisive overachiever whose brilliance enables him to adapt and respond to complex situations.

But when the curtains opened Wednesday night, Obama faced an opponent intent on exposing the myth.

A president accustomed to softballs for the first time had to answer tough questions and rebuff fact-based challenges.

He collapsed, unprepared for accountability.

That’s not just a one-time, one-night thing.

Lack of preparation dogs the Obama presidency. He doesn’t do his homework.

The consequences of his signature legislation, Obamacare, were so poorly thought out that nearly every piece of it is being rewritten even as it’s being implemented to keep it from killing jobs and taking down the economy.

Bob Woodward’s new book, “The Price of Politics,” details how Obama’s indecision and disengagement derailed a budget deal that could have averted the debt ceiling crisis and the credit downgrade.

And so on.

Now the vice-presidential debate follows. And as the New York Times puts it, this debate provides the Obama team an opportunity to recover.

President Obama’s campaign is working feverishly to restore its momentum after a lackluster debate performance last week, an effort that began with a conference call 10 minutes before the debate even ended and led to new advertisements, a rewritten stump speech, a carefully timed leak and a reversal of months-old strategy…

Under the tutelage of David Axelrod, the president’s chief strategist who is personally overseeing the preparations, Mr. Biden will be counseled on how to avoid Mr. Obama’s mistakes and even correct them with a more aggressive prosecution of the Republican ticket. Mr. Axelrod’s involvement highlights the stakes the Obama campaign places on the debate, and Mr. Biden has been reading “Young Guns,” the book co-written by Mr. Ryan, and practicing attack lines that Mr. Obama avoided.

The attack has become a more central focus.

On the conference call convened by aides in Denver and Chicago even as the candidates were still on stage, there was no debate in the Obama campaign about the debate. None of the advisers fooled themselves into thinking it was anything but a disaster. Instead, they scrambled for ways to recover. They resolved to go after Mr. Romney with a post-debate assault on his truthfulness. Ad makers were ordered to work all night to produce an attack ad. And they would seize on Mr. Romney’s vow to cut financing for Big Bird.

Seriously. They did all of that.

There wasn’t as much post-debate assault on the truthfulness of whatever Mr. Obama said. But the new campaign launched by the Obama team with a complicit media scuttled that to make a concerted attack on Mr. Romney.

The case that Romney lied so brazenly that it undid the president who prides himself on his rhetorical genius rests, first, on the idea that the Republican misrepresented his own tax-reform plan. The president said that Romney proposes to cut taxes by $5 trillion over ten years. Romney denied it. The president’s team responded, with its customary civility and nuance: “Liar!”

But this isn’t even a close call. Romney wants to cut income-tax rates 20 percent across the board and make up the revenue by closing loopholes and deductions. This isn’t a tax cut; it’s a wash. It’s been Romney’s plan ever since he proposed it during the Republican primaries. It’s such a simple concept that only willful obtuseness keeps the president or his team from understanding it.

If Romney proposed a 1 percent across-the-board cut on rates and the elimination of all loopholes and deductions, surely President Obama would accuse him of wanting to raise taxes, not cut them, because people would be paying more in taxes despite lower rates. In fact, this is the approach of the president’s own Simpson-Bowles debt commission, with which he should have some passing familiarity. The commission suggested lower rates and fewer deductions such that the federal government would garner more revenue. This isn’t a tax cut either.

Let’s have a robust debate on the differences the two men have on how to handle the debt, the deficit, taxes, jobs, and the size and role of government. But let it be based on facts.

Democrats have convinced themselves that all the president needs to do to come roaring back in the next debate is rebut Romney’s dishonesties, which will expose his indefensible agenda and shallow reinvention. The president’s team evidently underestimated Romney once already. If it believes this “lying liar” interpretation of the debate — rather than pushing it in the media for lack of anything else to say — it will underestimate him yet again.

Just don’t underestimate the American people.

Romney pick defines the campaign

All of a sudden, it seems the media have noticed what the presidential election is actually all about. Ideas. Competing ideas. Two stark contrasts of opposing worldviews and what should be the proper size and role of government. It’s about time.

What was it about the choice of Congressman Paul Ryan that evoked this swift and sweeping response? His clarity, charity and honesty, seem to be the top answers of both supporters and opponents. I heard a Democratic strategist on a television news panel credit Ryan with being an intellectual, an honest man who clearly articulates and stands for what he believes and represents conservative values with weight and gravity rare at this level of politics. She just doesn’t happen to agree with his beliefs or politics, but she respects the man.

Not everyone who disagrees with Paul Ryan is so charitable, but many who do at least admit  he’s a charitable man and a formidable politician. He’s also consequential, because his elevation made media heavyweights suddenly aware that this election is about a clear choice.

Republican Mitt Romney reset the race for the presidency as a battle over the size and scope of the federal government Saturday, choosing as his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the architect of the GOP’s plans to slash spending and overhaul Medicare.

In a risky and surprising move to give his campaign a jolt of momentum, Romney chose the 42-year-old congressman over several contenders considered safer bets. The selection seemed destined to shift the tone of a campaign that has become mired in petty squabbles and force a debate over how to tackle the nation’s fiscal challenges.

That was the tenor in most media stories. Including the Times.

Mitt Romney introduced Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate on Saturday at a spirited rally in Norfolk, Va., bringing to his side one of the party’s young conservative leaders in a move that altered the contours of the campaign and sharpened the choice facing the voters in November…

The decision instantly made the campaign seem bigger and more consequential, with the size and role of the federal government squarely at the center of the debate.

I’ve been saying that for months. That exact thing. So much so that on Monday, my network re-aired my earlier interview with Cong. Ryan and I opened it with the remarks that this election is essentially about the proper size and role of government, whether it is a solution or the problem, and what Catholic social teaching tells us about governing a society.

Now, big media are leading most of their stories with those same question, except for Catholic social teaching, though that’s coming out in some of the reporting on Paul Ryan anyway. Especially when it comes to claims that he’s a disciple of Ayn Rand.

Paul Krugman, the New York Times columnist, recently called Ryan “an Ayn Rand devotee” who wants to “slash benefits for the poor.” New York magazine once alleged that Ryan “requires staffers to read Atlas Shrugged,” Rand’s gospel of capitalism. President Obama has blasted the Ryan budget as Republican “social Darwinism.”

These Rand-related slams, Ryan says, are inaccurate and part of an effort on the left to paint him as a cold-hearted Objectivist. Ryan’s actual philosophy, as reported by my colleague, Brian Bolduc, couldn’t be further from the caricature. As a practicing Roman Catholic, Ryan says, his faith and moral values shape his politics as much as his belief in freedom and capitalism does.

“I, like millions of young people in America, read Rand’s novels when I was young. I enjoyed them,” Ryan says. “They spurred an interest in economics, in the Chicago School and Milton Friedman,” a subject he eventually studied as an undergraduate at Miami University in Ohio. “But it’s a big stretch to suggest that a person is therefore an Objectivist.”

“I reject her philosophy,” Ryan says firmly. “It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person’s view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas,” who believed that man needs divine help in the pursuit of knowledge. “Don’t give me Ayn Rand,” he says.

But detractors and especially the Catholic left won’t let him off the hook.

Which brings up a point I’m struck with as these first few days of Ryan’s elevation unfold. Really, truly struck with. People have written to me earnestly asking for answers about this, for either a defense or an indictment of Ryan based on anything he may have found worthwhile in Rand’s economic philosophy in the past, or anything he holds as worthy today in economic policy in advancing a budget that reforms the American economy.

Three things, really.

One, it’s interesting to see how much energy is going into vetting the Republican vice-presidential nominee once again than ever was given to analyzing the Democratic presidential candidate for the second election in four years.

Two, it’s refreshing to see and hear so many people engage in a debate over ideas – about philosophy, politics, the economy, society and the common good – and argue them passionately. If we’re as much about equality as we believe we are, let’s apply the same scrutiny to any major candidate who changes beliefs or positions on issues. What is considered ‘evolving’ for one candidate is ridiculed as ‘flip-flopping’ for another. What’s heralded as enlightened for the one is sharply derided as disingenous for the other. Let’s be serious.

And three, let’s be informed. Instead of relying on media and punditry for interpretations and translations and representations of ‘the Ryan budget plan’, let’s read it for ourselves and see what it says. In the absence of a competing budget plan, it’s something to debate.

As Cong. Ryan told me, “we are facing the most predictable debt crisis in history.” And “the American people want to be talked to like adults,” to “form their own prudential judgments” about competing ideas. “Are we simply treating the symptoms or the root causes of poverty?” The government has a role to play, he added, but one that above all honors the dignity of the human person.

Elections are now under 90 days away, and the campaign has just become more serious and more interesting.

Presidential candidates accuse each other of lying

Great. We get calls for civility, the need to inspire Americans to unity and harmony and optimism, and in the next moment charges and counter-charges descending into uncivil and dishonest rancor, unbecoming of a leader (if we can find even one) and leaders (if we’re able to gather two or more).

This seems like a ‘dog bites man’ story, politicians hurling accusations and getting more negative by the week. Or day.

I would almost rather forego all this stuff until the Fall, or maybe at the end of summer when Republicans and Democrats hold their conventions and hammer out their respective platforms and clarity will be needed on that. The rest is boilerplate politics as caricature of what the electoral process should be. 

It now requires tons and tons of money, for some reason, to do what? Launch hairtrigger ads across every current form of media and there are many old and new media to cover. So one candidate can launch dishonest attacks on the other and the other can counter them almost instantly with flaming arrows to singe the opposition and leave fact checkers beleagured in their work.

On the other hand, some things are easier to refute without much work. Which is why President Obama’s fixation on Gov. Romney’s work with Bain Capital is looking and sounding desperate.

Some charges and counter-charges:

President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney’s campaigns traded accusations of lying Thursday, ratcheting up an already heated race for the White House.

The Romney camp’s charge came in a hard-hitting, new TV ad accusing Obama of misleading, unfair and untrue attacks. The Obama campaign hit back, blasting Romney’s “big Bain lie” and raising the possibility that he committed a felony for possibly mischaracterizing his exit from the Boston private equity firm he ran.

So on that point, Charles Krauthammer launched. ‘There’s not a shred of evidence he had any involvement’ after he stepped down, which puts a lie to the Obama charges, says Krauthammer. “Factcheck.org and other sources” not known as right leaning “have looked at this and said the charges were false. So I think the Obama administration can be undoing the advantage it had because it went way overboard here.”

CNN caught on.

On CNN’s “State of the Union” yesterday, Candy Crowley grilled Obama campaign adviser and former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs on the campaign’s recent ad calling Mitt Romney an “outsourcing pioneer.”

Crowley asked Gibbs about the ad, noting that The Washington Post rated it false and gave it four Pinocchios, while FactCheck.org said “..we could find no evidence to support the claim that Romney — while he was still running Bain Capital – shipped American jobs overseas.”

Gibbs responded by suggesting that FactCheck.org should read The Washington Post article that the Obama ad is based on.

I would say that FactCheck.org has to read The Washington Post, which is the one that came up with the report that said looking at SEC filing, that Mitt Romney and Bain Capital were pioneers in outsourcing. They shift jobs all over the world that could and should have been.
Crowley shot back, telling Gibbs that the article’s point was that, in fact, Mitt Romney was not running Bain and had cut his ties and moved on:

Gibbs wasn’t deterred by the facts and told Crowley that wasn’t true and that Romney was the head and sole owner of Bain far longer than he has acknowledged. He said that Romney is also offshoring his bank accounts and hinted that there may be something illegal in Romney’s actions.

To her credit, Crowley didn’t buy that argument and tried again to press Gibbs on the false claims in the ad. She pointed out that not only were they rated false by fact checking organizations, but that fellow Democrats wanted the campaign to move away from the attacks on Bain as well. She cited polling showing that they were hurting the Obama campaign in some battleground states.

In the latest round, Romney’s campaign released this new ad.

Instead of using Hillary Rodham Clinton’s words against Obama in 2008 to underscore the point, the latest Romney ad deploys Obama’s own words from his acceptance speech in Denver four years ago.

“Because if you don’t have any fresh ideas, you use stale tactics to scare voters,” Obama said in 2008, as a clip of that speech opens the Romney ad.

The ad titled “What Happened?” is the latest in Romney’s effort to punch back at Obama, particularly at Democratic attacks on his job-creation record at Bain Capital.

So maybe it was startling or shouldn’t have been startling when WaPo ran a story recently headline ‘Can a truly honest politician become president?’

So can an honest candidate, who doesn’t distort his opponents’ records or rhetoric, win the presidency?

Yes. Now more than ever, with a public highly anxious about the economy and worn down after years of promises that things would get better, the time is ripe for a candid candidate…

Being honest doesn’t stop at self-representation; a candidate should be able to secure support without misrepresenting his opponent. This may sound difficult, but it has been done before. John F. Kennedy in 1960 and Ronald Reagan in 1980 treated their rivals’ positions and records fairly, forthrightly forecast their governing approaches and hewed to the facts.

Maybe it’s because of my position in media that allows coverage of greater and deeper human truths and human interest, stories of the common good and civil rights and natural law and true social justice, I don’t know…

But if I had enough straight hours and days, I could fill journals and books with tremendous stories of human striving and dignity and grace and eloquence and magnanimity that dwarfs this political stuff, there’s so much great and hopeful news to share. But major media are obsessed with this, and understandably to some extent in such a historically consequential election year.

As for me, I’ll work it in, when it’s deserving. But this space will be devoted less to the political scorecard and more to the consequences on human individuals of the actions and decisions of other human individuals, and let the snips fall where they may.

Obama’s unsurprising marriage epiphany

It may have erupted in the Twitterverse and on MSM sites, but the only possible surprise element may have been the timing. Maybe.

Because President Obama’s was among the most expected and awaited coming out moments in the nation. Which makes you wonder, what was outed, per se?

So President Obama has come out in favor of same-sex marriage. Now what?

His announcement Wednesday provoked an outpouring of appreciation from the gay community, but it also raised questions about whether and how it would translate into actions. Having made history as the first sitting president to support gay unions, he could leave it at that, turning his attention back to the economic concerns that remain the top priority for American voters.

(Note that sentiment. It’s important.)

But his endorsement has increased hopes among gay rights groups that Obama will take a more forceful stand on gay rights as well as gay marriage, which remains a divisive and emotional subject that could complicate his reelection efforts.

“This is the most LGBT-friendly administration in history, and the things the White House has done and the administrative agencies have done on behalf of [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] people are tremendous,” said Rachel B. Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality, which advocates for same-sex couples in the immigration system. “And yet, everybody wants full equality, not half equality.”

So this is where I have a question or thought or two. Because everything else involving Vice President Joe Biden setting the stage for this announcement, and the president’s admission which was not exactly breaking news, has received saturation coverage already. Especially as it relates to political strategy, which seems to be the driving force of this evolution.

Especially considering that it came the day after the North Carolina election in which voters again upheld the historical legal definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.

But that’s part of my observation about this issue and very public debate. The language used to debate it.

In almost everything I heard on this issue, it was framed by media as opposition to a good, a right. And who is opposed to it (North Carolina voters being the latest) and who favors the right, such as it is claimed (the vice-president and president  being the latest). One network news commentator declared it as the civil rights issue of our time. Or at least the one I heard, while tuned in.

None of us wants to be on the wrong side of any human rights issue. Which is why it’s so strategic to make this a human rights issue. No wonder the poll numbers are changing, trending towards acceptance or approval of “same sex marriage.” By word control the merchants of ideas and politics are attempting thought control, and it works by casting a whole segment of the population as “opponents” of a “right.” When in fact what we’re talking about is the redefinition of marriage. Which changes the linguisitic calculus.

So let’s do a thought experiment: Instead of being intolerant opponents of same-sex marriage (a negative), majority voters in 32 states now (all the states where it was put to a vote) are actually proponents of the traditional definition of marriage (a positive), and opponents of that tradition are intolerant of anyone who disagrees with their views of legal recognition of marriage. Which members of the Catholic church hold as a sacrament besides a law.

Almost nobody is talking about the rights of children in this battle. Almost. But these folks are.

William B. May, founder and chairman of the San Francisco-based group that promotes Catholic social teaching on society’s common interest….[says]

“Underlying the proposal to redefine marriage, is an assumption that marriage is merely the committed relationship between two loving people…And a lot of us think of marriage in terms of the adult perspective, and the benefit for adults.”

“That’s a private interest – and that’s not what marriage really is.”

“Marriage is more than that. It’s a communion of persons. And when we look at it from the perspective of the child, it’s the heart’s desire of every person – without exception – to be united with, and to know, the man and woman that they came from. That’s part of who we are.”

“What’s happening now, with the redefinition of marriage in the minds of people, is that more and more children are becoming deprived of that experience – which is a human right – to be born into, and raised in, a family with a mother and a father united in marriage.”

Society and culture, May explained, have perennially defined marriage in this manner for the sake of binding men and women to fulfill this duty to their children.

Thus, any redefinition weakens the unique cultural and legal standing of the only institution that secures the integral bond between children and parents.

“The harm is this,” he said. “By redefining marriage as merely the public recognition of a relationship between adults, we essentially ban the promotion of marriage as the only institution that unites a man and a woman with each other and any children born from their union.”

“It creates a conflict with the human rights of the child, to know and be cared for by their mother and father in the union of a marriage.”

May said this conflict would represent a clash between the public interest of all children – in the recognition and promotion of the type of union in which they have a right to be raised – and the private interest of homosexuals involving an essentially different type of relationship.

“To promote the unique value of the union of a man and a woman would then be legally ‘discriminatory’ against homosexuals – because it would be making a statement that one type of relationship has greater value. And it would not be permitted, if marriage is redefined as merely a committed relationship between adults.”

Not only the state, but “every institution in society,” May indicated, would then be “bound under the law” to ignore the most compelling public purpose for marriage, as a safeguard for children’s rights.

As for other ‘interest groups’ (since this is a political calculus), Elizabeth Scalia does an interesting roundup here.

My first thought was: what does this mean for the black churches? Back in 2008 it was the black Christian vote that defeated gay marriage in California. African Americans voted for Obama, but while they were there, they voted against gay marriage. It’s one of those stories no one wanted to talk about. Now, things become interesting: do African American churches, hearing the president say that “my Christian beliefs” inform this newly declared viewpoint, simply give up their own beliefs to support his or do they stand for their own? And then, who’s Christian beliefs are right? That’s a whole ball of wax I bet no one wanted to deal with in this election.

But there it is. Forcing the issue to the public arena of ideas and debate. So let it be about that, beliefs and worldviews on economic and foreign and domestic issues, and public policy on social moral issues as well as fiscal issues.

And let it be fair and honest.

Obama on jobs campaign

He’s trying to recapture the magic of 2008.

That’s a tough sell now. Even within his own party.

Meanwhile Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, said he did not “know exactly what I’m going to do yet with the president’s jobs bill, but we’re going to have a full caucus meeting on it on Thursday.”

He has to try to explain it to his members.

When asked if he had the votes to pass the legislation as is, the leader said only, “We’ll see probably at later time.”

Reid plans a briefing for his Democrats Thursday from White House officials “for people who don’t understand it,” and leadership aides tell Fox that committee chairs have been encouraged to hold hearings, though none have yet been announced.

Some of Obama’s vocal supporters urge him to call this plan what it is.

Instead of using equivocal language, the president just needs to reclaim the word “stimulus.” And he needs to do it now as he tries to sell his jobs bill to the public. After all, it’s not like anyone’s forgotten the word or the 2009 measure he pushed through Congress.

Just a few paragraphs above that one the article quotes former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson as asking

if a trillion dollars’ worth of stimulus didn’t work, why will another $450 billion do the trick?

…and then Texas Gov. Rick Perry saying

“He had $800 billion worth of stimulus in the first round of stimulus. It created zero jobs, $400-plus billion in this package. And I can do the math on that one. Half of zero jobs is going to be zero jobs,”

which may help explain Obama’s discomfort with the word ‘stimulus.’

Especially given the latest federal deficit totals.

The federal budget deficit reached $1.23 trillion in August…Before 2009, the deficit had never come close to $1 trillion in a single year.

Furthermore…

Higher spending on unemployment insurance and food stamps, and a sharp contraction in tax revenues, widened the deficit. And it grew even more after the Obama administration backed a $787 billion stimulus program to boost the economy.

So he’s calling it a ‘jobs bill’, and working hard to sell it, as the Times notes.

But even as Mr. Obama was cranking up his call to action ( “Pass this bill” has turned into an audience chant à la “Yes we can”), he was also indicating that he is willing to take piecemeal passage of the bill after Republicans and some Democrats suggested that Congress would not adopt the proposal intact.

Meanwhile, the one job everyone is focusing on is his.