Sunday, January 29, 2012

Finger-Wagging Just Latest Act of Disrespect Aimed at President

Last week after delivering his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama traveled to Arizona for an event and was met at the airport in Mesa by Governor Jan Brewer (R-AZ). On the tarmac, the two got into a testy exchange regarding comments Brewer made in her book. The incident culminated with Brewer wagging her finger in the President's face. Brewer then recounted the incident in a publicity tour including an appearance on Fox News where guest host Monica Crowley applauded Brewer for "getting in the president’s grill" and adding "You go, girl."

My take: there is no excuse for Brewer's behavior. It is just another sign of a disrespect for the office of President and disrespect for the man currently occupying that office. Can you imagine the outrage had this occurred in 1984 and the president was Ronald Reagan? In the last 3 years, this President has been subject to a number of public slights that no president has endured. Can you imagine Dwight Eisenhower being heckled by a sitting member of Congress at a speech in front of a joint session of Congress like Barack Obama was in 2009 by Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC)? Can you imagine a birther controversy erupting about Sen. John McCain's place of birth had he won in 2008?

The question is: why is this happening? Part of it stems from the incivility that is plaguing our politics. But I think it goes beyond that. In my opinion, it has to do with race. There are some who will never accept a president of any color other than white. It is up to society as a whole, however, to condemn that kind of behavior and attitude.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Daley Out, Lew In: No "Getting-To-Know-You-Period" Necessary for New Chief

Politico Arena Topic: What does departure of Daley mean?

White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley’s imminent departure is not a surprise. Increasingly, he was a lightning rod of criticism both within the White House and on Capitol Hill. His rocky relationship with Senate Democrats and public missteps during the debt ceiling negotiations and over scheduling President Obama’s jobs plan speech to Congress are well documented. In November, some of Daley’s administrative responsibilities were transferred to White House Counselor Pete Rouse, who was the interim chief between Rahm Emanuel and Daley. This move of downgrading the chief’s role—unprecedented in the modern era—signaled that Daley’s grip on the position, and on the White House, was tenuous. From that moment he became a lame duck and it was simply a question of “when” he would depart, not “if” he would depart.

The fact that Daley will leave the White House at the beginning of 2012 rather than closer to the election should be a net positive for the Obama administration. That he is being replaced by Jack Lew, a seasoned White House player with a long history as a Congressional staffer (including a lengthy stint as committee staff for House Speaker Tip O’Neill (D-MA)) and relationships on Capitol Hill, will be very important to improving morale within the White House and repairing the relationship with Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, and company. Lew knows his way around the West Wing, and as OMB Director during the Clinton and Obama administrations, knows a thing or two about budgets. As a current member of the White House, he also has a relationship with President Obama which means a “getting-to-know-you-period” between the President and Chief can be avoided. Finally, as the Obama White House prepares to spend the year slugging it out with Congressional Republicans over budget priorities and the deficit, who better to lead the negotiations than a chief of staff who has been OMB Director for two presidents?

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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Romney and Iowa: When a Victory is Not a Victory

Politico Arena Topic: Iowa a win, loss, or draw for Romney?

Mitt Romney’s eight vote margin of victory is very disappointing for a candidate with a huge edge in money and name recognition. His 2012 vote percentage (25%) was roughly the same as 2008—this despite the fact that he never stopped campaigning for president. Romney is a flawed frontrunner who cannot break through with conservatives. He will likely do well in New Hampshire given the fact that he owns a home there (of course, where doesn’t he own a home?) and was governor of a neighboring state. South Carolina, however, will represent a huge reality-check for Romney where conservatives will rule the day.

The real story of the night was the performance of former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. Not exactly a household name among the Republican electorate, Santorum had very little cash or organization. His late surge in the polls and surprise tie is evidence that conservatives are desperately searching for an alternative to Romney. Other conservatives such as Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich peaked early but faded because they had too many personal or professional peccadilloes. Santorum was aided by good timing, peaking at the right time. His tie will mean that the bright lights will now shine on Santorum and we’ll see how he holds up. Santorum’s strong performance also will translate in to cold hard cash as conservatives will open the checkbook for their new standard-bearer, especially if Perry and Bachmann have been knocked out of the race.

Finally, Representative Ron Paul’s strong third place showing gives him momentum going to New Hampshire where independents and more moderate voters will buoy his campaign. Paul’s supporters are the most loyal of any of the candidates in the GOP field and Paul is in the race for the long haul. In fact, a third-party or independent general election candidacy for Ron Paul is a significant possibility if he continues to perform well in the primary season but falls short of the GOP nomination.

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