Friday, August 31, 2012

The Most Remarkable Man in Tampa

While attending the RNC in Tampa, I had the opportunity to meet and chat with some of the high profile leaders of conservativism. Folks I hold in the highest esteem like Charles Krauthammer and Wisconsin governor Scott Walker.

Yet the most impressive person I encountered while at the convention was my waiter.

For reasons that will be shortly apparent, I am going to have to change some names but please bear with me.

One night during the convention, I went to a local eatery to grab a bite when I noticed my waiter had a pronounced eastern European accent. Upon asking his place of origin, "Jerry" replied Czechoslovakia.

After making some small talk about how great Prague is and how friendly its residents are, I ate my meal and went off to the convention.

A day or so later I was back at the dining establishment and just so happen to end up at a table within "Jerry's" station. Because that night was particularly busy there, I told him that I wanted to leave a tip for him early in case I had to take off right after finishing dinner and asked him to change a twenty, intending to leave a ten dollar tip (50%) because of his outstanding service as a waiter.

As he handed me four fives, I asked when he came over to the States and his answer led to an incredible tale far more memorable than any speech at the convention. Even Dirty Harry's.

"Jerry" said that he had ESCAPED from Czechslovakia in the eighties and that he had been a political prisoner during the Communist regime. He traced his disaffection with the Soviet Union to his childhood days, when in 1968, a Soviet tank ran over his pet dog during the Warsaw Pact invasion of his country.

Apparently the Russians did not appreciate the dog's barking.

"Jerry" then described how he was drafted into the military though had also been active with the anti-Communist underground. After being arrested for subversive activities, "Jerry" managed to flee his homeland, though he had family still living there, something the Communist regime opted to exploit.

A call was made to "Jerry" by his mother, who was in police custody. The idea was for her to talk him into returning to Czechoslovakia. When the two made contact, his mother simply said not to worry about her and that he should not come back.

Furious by this act of motherly sacrifice, the Communist authorities immediately cut the line and sent "Jerry's" mother to prison.

After navigating through Yugoslavia, "Jerry" made it to Italy where he met up with operatives with the Central Intelligence Agency and dutifully informed them of previously unknown missile sites in Czechoslovakia.

A one-way trip to America was his immediate reward for this valuable service.

Unfortunately the engineer has had a tough time adjusting to American labor bureaucracy. Though a skilled electrician and plumber, "Jerry" has not been able to attain a license to apply his training and thus this educated fifty something who had delivered to the CIA secret Warsaw Pact intel was bringing me a hamburger and fries that night.

Stunned into a near stupor by his story, I slid the entirity of the changed twenty back over to "Jerry" as a final payment of sorts for his service to his new country.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Election 2012: Did the Walker Recall Put Ryan on the GOP Ticket?

One thing reasonable political observers on both sides of the partisan divide can agree on is that the 2012 presidential election will not be a replay of the 2008 contest.

If President Barack Obama is re-elected, his win will not resemble the electoral landslide that swept him and his party into the White House. In all likelihood, the finish will resemble George W. Bush’s squeakers.

When deciding on whom he would invite to share the Republican ticket, Mitt Romney doubtlessly considered both electoral geography and capacity to make a strong case for the team.

Most of the potential running mates possessed only one of those important traits.  And though the media was treated with a parade of “probables” since Romney shifted political gears from the primary campaign to the general election, the ex-Massachusetts governor chose the only candidate that could perform both tasks.

Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, New Jersey governor Chris Christie and South Dakota US Senator John Thune’s vice-presidential aspirations were gutted by the reality that their states are already “counted” in one of the candidate’s column.

Jindal and Thune hail from solid Republican states while Christie would have had a tough time moving the Garden State to the GOP even if he were at the top of the ticket. 

On the other side of the political ledger, Ohio US Senator Rob Portman and Virginia governor Bob McDonnell are one-trick ponies.  While the inclusion of either would have likely locked up his respective state, neither Portman nor McDonnell are considered dynamic figures with broad appeal.  Though Romney will need both of their states in November, he also needed more than a clone of himself sharing the stage.

New Hampshire US Senator Kelly Ayotte, the dark horse I predicted, would have helped secure, though by no means guaranteed, her state’s potentially critical four electoral votes but she did not present strongly on news shows, which are quasi-auditions. 

It’s one thing to read from a teleprompter or flawlessly deliver a canned stump speech in the controlled setting of a campaign rally before a favorable crowd, it’s quite another thing to spar with hostile journalists rapidly firing questions at you. 

After the way Sarah Palin was savaged by the Democrats, media and political hacks in her own party, Romney was understandably gun shy about the prospect of Ayotte being immediately labeled as Palin II. 

Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan had a track record of effectively arguing for conservatism while coming from a medium-sized “purple” state. 

America’s dairyland has not gone Republican since Ronald Reagan carried it in 1984. 

And in the last decade, Wisconsin was Karl Rove’s Moby Dick. 

After George W. Bush missed carrying it by less than 6,000 votes in 2000, the Bush operation heavily invested campaign resources there in 2004…and lost it by over 10,000 votes.

Wisconsin wasn’t close in 2008.  Obama ran up a 13+ point margin over his Republican opponent, but then again John McCain tanked in many places. 

Things are different nationally in 2012, and in the case of Wisconsin what happened there earlier this year could make the difference on the Fall ballot.

While the affirmative vote for Republican Wisconsin governor Scott Walker in June is not directly transferable to the Republican presidential nominee in November, the pro-Walker campaign operation is.

The Romney-Ryan tandem have inherited a massive voter identification network and a statewide grassroots operation that will be useful in the presidential election. 

It’s also worth noting that the same voters who gave Obama 51% in Wisconsin’s First District provided Ryan a 100,000 vote margin over his Democratic opponent in 2008.

Walker’s victory in the recall challenge made Ryan a more attractive running mate, combining Ryan’s appeal in his district with the tested campaign machine that kept the Republican governor in office.

Romney bet that the two could be enough to end to the Democrats’ six election winning streak in Wisconsin.

The unions may have gotten far more than they bargained for when they made their play against Governor Walker. 

If Wisconsin’s ten electoral votes put the GOP over the top, Big Labor will have made Paul Ryan vice-president as well.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Election 2012: Are the Democrats Cooking Up a Veep Switch-A-Roo?

Now that the speculation about Mitt Romney’s running mate has reached a conclusion, we can ponder the question of whether Vice-President Joe Biden will be swapped out with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Biden has offered much comic relief since his second bumbling bid for the presidency burned out in Iowa…which was a personal record for the Delaware senator since he ended his first White House bid before the first ballot had been cast.

I never did understand what Biden brought to the Democratic ticket.  After Barack Obama tapped him as his running mate, Biden was repackaged as Pennsylvania’s “third senator”, not that such a farce was ultimately necessary to win the Keystone State’s electoral votes.

Biden’s main job was to pose (key word) as a foreign policy know-it-all and look like an old politician who would be there to lend a guiding hand to his younger boss, the same duty Dick Cheney handled for George W. Bush.  But after a parade of gaffes, Biden made Obama look presidential, if only my comparison.

The book Game Change, which chronicled the more historic than usual 2008 presidential election, was made into a movie but one nugget from the tome that didn’t make the cut in the HBO Sarah Palin-centered film was the often hilariously testy relationship between Democratic nominee for president and the party’s candidate for vice-president.

Reportedly, there was a period when the running mates would not even speak to each other.

With almost four years in the Oval Office under his belt, what incentive does Obama have to retain Biden as part of the ticket? 

I see more of an incentive to dump Biden than to keep him, especially with a major upgrade on hand.

While executing a switch would be a sign of weakness, so would bad polls numbers.  

And there’s no doubt such talk would be overwhelmed by excitement with the addition of Hillary Clinton to the ticket.

Liberals might not like Bill Clinton as a president who strayed away from the ideological reservation when he saw that it advanced his own political interests, but they admire the fact that Clinton was a twice successful presidential candidate who survived the worse the GOP could throw at him, even if that consisted of an accounting of his own reprehensible behavior in the White House.

For Democrats, the name Clinton equals that word Charlie Sheen made so trendy: winning.

And an Obama-Clinton ticket would be immediately pronounced unbeatable by the media and would trigger a financial bonanza for the Democrats’ campaign coffers.  September would be a Valley Forge of sorts for the Romney campaign.

Earlier this year there was a great deal of media speculation that a Biden-Hillary trade was in the works, fed in part by ex-First Lady/US Senator’s statement that she would not continue as Secretary of State for another four years.

Hillary’s presidential ambitions would be served by taking Biden’s place on the ticket.  If Obama is re-elected, Clinton would almost assuredly go unchallenged for her party’s nomination in 2016 as a sitting vice-president.  Even if the Democrats were to lose the White House in November, the majority of the blame would be deposited on Obama’s doorstep and not on the shoulders of a “reluctant candidate” who dutifully answered the call for the cause.

And if Biden were jettisoned, Clinton would not want to risk the chance of a new rising star once again eclipsing her four years from now. 

Who would have thought that while Hillary was sipping champagne in a luxury box at the 2004 Democratic National Convention that she would later lose out to a state legislator being asked to give his first national speech?

The way Biden has been talking lately, he seems as if he is intentionally laying the groundwork for his departure, rhetorically tumbling even more frequently than usual.

Allow the same imagination that envisioned Kelly Ayotte as Romney’s running mate go out on one final limb.  The Republicans hold a successful convention as Romney and Paul Ryan finally get the introduction to the electorate the mainstream media has thus far successfully frustrated. 

The GOP ticket starts to inch up not just in the national polls but more importantly in swing states and other states that haven’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988. 

Democrats begin to panic as prompted liberal talking heads begin to opine that their party needs more than just another dose of Obama’s trademark soaring rhetoric to reset the presidential race.

Enter Hillary Clinton stage left; exit Joe Biden starboard plank.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Election 2012: Romney's Bold Selection

Any conservative who thought Mitt Romney’s promise to repeal ObamaCare was just “primary rhetoric” can put those worries aside now as the Etch-A-Sketch has been officially thrown out the window.

Everything about Romney’s pick of Paul Ryan seemed counter-intuitive, from the timing to the selection of the Wisconsin congressman.

Why would the Republican Party’s standard-bearer in the November election announce his selection two weeks prior to the Republican National Convention, particularly while most of the country was still asleep on a Saturday morning?

And more importantly why would the supposedly risk-adverse Romney take on to the ticket someone whose name is attached to a budget plan that plays right into the Democratic Party’s talking/shrieking points?

Though I’ve been personally impressed with Ryan for years, I only thought his name was being batted around as a potential running mate for Romney to score some points in the battleground state of Wisconsin. 

While doing a run down on potential veeps on the GOP ticket last week I didn’t even bother including Ryan’s name, as I imagined Romney would not want Ryan’s budget distracting from focusing on Barack Obama’s economy.

Yet Romney chose to damn the “scare tactic” torpedoes to select someone who may not deliver his state but will help him govern. 

An established level of comfort and familiarity no doubt helped Romney with his choice.  Ryan played a critical role in bringing an end to the fight for the party nomination by working Wisconsin heavily for Romney and the two often campaigned side-by-side. 

In fact on a conference call with supporters after he suspended his presidential campaign, former Pennsylvania US Senator Rick Santorum specifically cited the young congressman’s involvement when explaining why things turned out so badly in Wisconsin, which was the Santorum’s last stand. 

And though Ryan will draw heavy fire from liberals as they pick his budget apart and craft line item e-mails contoured to frighten each segment of America’s demographics, Ryan exudes competence, fiscal knowledge and energy. 

I was an early advocate for Sarah Palin’s consideration for the second spot on the Republican ticket in 2008, though she did not help her cause in flubbed interviews and with a speaking style that was fodder for entertainment industry magpies. 

A governor who ousted the biggest cog of the Alaska political kleptocracy and possessed more experience dealing with the energy industry than both halves of the opposing ticket was unjustly caricatured into an intellectual midget.

Sure it wasn’t fair, but that’s how the perception game played out. 

The media-seasoned Ryan is ready for primetime and SNL writers will have a tough time making him out to be a dolt.

And for those Republicans who earlier this year salivated over the prospect of a Gingrich-Obama debate can now look forward to the next best thing when Ryan squares off against the gaffe prone Joe Biden. 

With the Democrats holding their convention the week after the Republican conclave, Team Romney apparently saw no advantage by sticking with “conventional wisdom” and instead opted to make an early play for “free media” while the Obama campaign and allies continue their exercise in absurdity by accusing the former Bain Capital executive of indirectly murdering grandma in their paid media.

Also by announcing Ryan early, the Romney campaign hopes to draw out in August the debate over the congressman’s eponymous budget plan in order to reshift attention back to the country’s stagnant economy closer to election day.

While the details of the Ryan Budget might chase some votes away from the Republican ticket, Romney’s running mate will excite the party base, as Ryan is considered a solid fiscal and social conservative. 

For a guy who was called a wimp on the cover of Newsweek last week, Romney made an extremely bold choice and has sent a signal that he is serious about undertaking the work of putting our national fiscal house in order.

By picking Ryan as his running mate, Romney has reassured conservatives about what kind of administration they can expect and has given the electorate a clear choice between the competing parties.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Election 2012: And the Selection for Vice-President Is….

The Mitt Romney campaign recently unveiled a Mitt’s VP app for smartphones.  By downloading the app, one has been assured that they will be the first to know whom the Republican nominee for president will select as his running mate.

While not well versed in smartphones or their applications, I don’t understand why it’s necessary to produce a computer program for something that could just as well be delivered as a text or e-mail. 

But I downloaded the app anyway, as much to see how it worked as to be “in the know”, though I suspect Jon Stewart probably has it right that the announcement will be informally announced via the traditional press leak and not through this new-fangled computer widget.

Team Romney has gotten a lot of mileage out of hinting both his running mate-to-be-named-later’s identity and when he or she would be revealed. 

Liberal commentators have cynically mused that the public veep hinting is a ploy to bail the Republican candidate out of bad news cycles. 

And they’re probably right. 

All of the talk by top aides of an impending announcement has obviously been disingenuous.  There was never a chance of Romney doing so prior to the Olympics and I doubt he will unveil his selection until the eve of the GOP convention. 

Which means another two weeks of “any day now” talk by staffers whispering “veep”.

That said, I’m going to predict who I think will be joining the GOP ticket…after briefly explaining why others won’t be picked.

Condi Rice’s name began to surface as a possible running mate shortly after her presentation at a retreat Romney held with some of his top supporters.  Though the former secretary of state would bring what journalists like to call “gravitas” to the ticket (gravitas being the Latin word for what every Republican hack claimed John McCain’s veep pick lacked), I don’t think Romney wants to turn the 2012 presidential race into a trial about the invasion of Iraq. 

The odds on favorite for the second slot on the Republican ticket is Ohio US Senator Rob Portman.  He’s competent, from an important state, an early Romney backer and bland.  Seems perfect for a “company man” like Mitt.  Portman also served as an official in George W. Bush’s White House.

Picking someone with a strong lineage to the preceding administration would play right into the Democratic spin machine’s “back to the future” narrative in an attempt to make 2012 a referendum on W and not O.  Not happening.

Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty has a birth certificate that says he was born in the US.  Beyond proof that he is constitutionally qualified for the office, the unfortunately self-titled “T-Paw” doesn’t bring anything else to the ticket, including the electoral votes where he never received a majority vote in a statewide election. 

Virginia governor Bob McDonnell was looking like the probable pick…until his name made it back into the news cycle as such, which tells me he won’t get it.  I’m a big believer in that the more heralded the name, the less likely the selection.  McDonnell’s presence on the ticket would do more to help Mitt carry Virginia than Portman’s addition would in Ohio.  Of the vanilla veep contenders (including South Dakota US Senator John Thune) considered, McDonnell’s the more likely.

Though Romney has been characterized as “risk adverse” (a curious assessment since he is an investor by profession), I do believe the former Massachusetts governor is cognizant that the American electorate is craving for something more than two slices of white-bread. 

There’s zero chance that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is getting tapped, so you can shelve the Laurel/Hardy 2012 t-shirts.

The same goes for popular Florida US Senator Marco Rubio.  The 2016 favorite has been conspiring with the 2012 nominee to play down such talk to avoid deflating enthusiasm when the Cuban-American is not picked.  Expect Rubio to make some kind of statement soon removing himself from consideration.

Two names you will hear a lot about are Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal and New Mexico governor Susana Martinez. 

Martinez would be the most dynamic selection if only because of the possibilities of bringing in Hispanic voters, particularly in Martinez’s homestate and in the swing states of Nevada and Colorado. 

Martinez’s biggest liability is that she has been governor for less than two years. 

And as tempting as breaking into the all-important Hispanic bloc is for Team Romney, the potential for the media and their Democratic cohorts to unjustly frame her as “Palina” will give them pause. 

If I were the nominee, I would choose Martinez in a heartbeat and having the opposition’s playbook from 2008 in hand, simply anticipate and counter their moves. 

Though Jindal doesn’t bring to the table what Martinez could deliver, the selection of the son of Indian-American immigrants by Romney would represent a major image tack for the GOP. 

Young, highly educated, exuding mastery of policy (particularly on health care), Jindal would be the conservative equivalent of a hyperactive Al Gore. 

Jindal would be both a safe choice and something different.

But at the end of the day, I believe Jindal will have the distinction of being “first runner up” in the veepstakes pageant.

I predict that Romney will ask New Hampshire US Senator Kelly Ayotte to join him on the Republican ticket.

Though not a TEA Party conservative, Ayotte is conservative enough and comes from a state that could very well provide the Republicans the margin of victory in the electoral college. 

In 2000, the Granite State proved to be just as important as Florida. 

Had New Hampshire went to Gore, all the pregnant chads in the Sunshine State would not have mattered.

Ayotte has remained as one of the lower profile potential vice-presidential candidates that have been publicly circulated as potential running mates by Team Romney.  And though her selection would be a surprise, unlike McCain’s Palin shock pick, Ayotte would not be a spontaneous choice. 

The one-time New Hampshire attorney general and Roman Catholic has been screened and tested by Romney’s operation.  There will be no repeat of the McCain campaign’s clumsy Palin roll-out or push by aides to rush her out for interviews with reporters with whom the operatives had personal (if not professional) connections.

And in contrast to the McCain campaign, Romney’s folks have never confused the media as their friends. 

Ayotte helps defuse the Democrats’ “Republican war on women” spiel while taking the fight to their turf in the north while helping Romney close the deal in a state that could tip the balances again.  And if that’s all Ayotte accomplishes as a vice-presidential candidate, then she would have done much good.

So when the Mitt VP app magically comes to life the weekend before the Republican National Convention, I predict New Hampshire junior senator’s smiling image to pop up.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Standing in Line for Freedom, Faith and Chicken

They didn’t come for the waffle fries.

Chick-fil-As around the country were overwhelmed with customers on what conservative leaders designated an “appreciation day”.

In the New Orleans suburb of Metairie, the drive thru lined obstructed traffic on a major roadway.  In a New Jersey shopping mall, customers wrapped around the food court and had to wait 45 minutes before placing their orders. 

What’s noteworthy was that the chicken sandwiches patrons chose to stand in line for up to an hour in some locations not because they craved chicken nuggets but to demonstrate their support for the company’s media maligned executive’s right to express religious convictions that are shared by millions of Americans. 

Employees burned their lunch times on their feet while others who didn’t live near Chick-fil-A restaurant burned gallons of gasoline to be counted. 

After declaring that Chick-fil-A did not share the values of Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel suffered a Mussolini moment publicly vowing to put deed to word to back up an alderman’s plan to block the construction of a franchise in his bailiwick. 

The Chicago Republican Party took issue with the mayor’s threat to use his office to arbitrarily punish a company for his announced personal reason and filed a complaint. 

One of Emanuel’s higher profile constituents, Cardinal Francis George, took to the web to ask what constitutes a bigot and values in one of the most crime ridden and corrupt municipalities in the country. 

“I was born and raised here, and my understanding of being a Chicagoan never included submitting my value system to the government for approval.  “Must those whose personal values do not conform to those of the government of the day move from the city?” mused Cardinal George. 

Same sex marriage wasn’t even a national issue until a few years ago though the Democratic Party is just now exploring a revision of their platform in the 2012 election cycle to match the president’s newly “evolved” position. 

Bigot is the barb casually used as a sling to stun those who believe marriage should be reserved as the union between a man and a woman.  That bigot and racist are often used interchangeably would normally make their slander of choice that much more potent.

The problem for that liberal line of attack is that many of those who were patiently waiting in line on Wednesday were black and it was African-American voters who provided the votes that ultimately passed the pro-traditional marriage Proposition 8 in California.

So was then-candidate Barack Obama a bigot in 2008 when he said he opposed same sex marriage?

It’s hard to keep track of what’s acceptable anymore in our Animal Farm secular society as the ruling media pigs keep whitewashing the fence before the last coat of paint dries.

The ayatollahs of cultural correctness from their minarets at the New York Times, Beltway special interest headquarters and Hollywood studios tried to insult, guilt and shame their countrymen into “getting with it” on gay marriage or be characterized as a pariah on the level of Bull Connor. 

Arrogant liberals who equate the struggle by black Americans for civil rights with advocates for gay marriage understand neither the issues involved nor history. 

And though considered “polyester ideologues” by the trendsetters, millions of Americans of all races continue to stand by the Judeo-Christian values that were as much a pillar of our country’s founding as the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution.

They would not be bullied into conforming to the whims of the political fringe and willingly inconvenienced themselves by voting with their wallets.

THIS is what democracy looks like. 

And freedom tastes a bit more like chicken these days.

The entertainment industry and corporations that redirect a portion of their profits to liberal causes better hope consumers don’t take Wednesday’s revolt to the next logical step by turning the boycott tables on them. 

Economic proscription lists can cut both ways.