Friday, August 31, 2012

The Good, the Bad, and the...What?

Clint Eastwood, 81-year-old actor and director, left a pretty marked impression in Tampa Bay on Thursday night. Initially overshadowed by Romney's speech, his was notable for other distinctive reasons. His performance, let's say, was rather interesting in concept but rather unsettling in practice. The idea was to pretend like Eastwood was addressing Obama, seated next to him; at points, it was difficult to tell if he was just acting well or whether other issues were going on. 

As it stands, many are ambivalent about Eastwood's performance. Some were very impressed, some were worried, while others are just plain confused. Eastwood's speech incredibly entertaining, and his rhetoric is reminiscent of Academy Award-winning performances. Needless to say, the speech did point out a few key flaws with Obama's presidency. Clearly, Obama learned nothing from the Russians' war in Afghanistan when he started this whole mess in 2008. Under a Republican president, we never would have gotten involved.

Among all of his awards, Eastwood can still add one more hallmark to his resume; he is the subject of his very own meme.

What do you think? Did Eastwood's speech help or hinder the GOP's message? 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Romney Accepts GOP Nomination

I would be thrilled to say that tonight, Mitt Romney proved to America that his plans for the country can far surpass those of President Obama. If I did, though, I would be lying almost as much as Paul Ryan. Romney's speech was eloquent, humanizing, and patriotic, but it was not informative. On the plus side (or downside, depending on how you look at it) Romney seems like he has finally managed to win over his party, receiving several standing ovations throughout the duration of his speech. But this was just another speech in the same vein as all the others; riling and crowd-pleasing.

Romney managed to embrace the immigrant parents and small-business mindset, somehow, claiming that when he "was 37, I helped start a small company," referring to Bain Capital. There was also a significant amount of criticism towards the current Administration, but nothing that we haven't heard before. Of course, the Republican Party offers the solution: "Lots of jobs." Twelve million of them, in fact, but there's no word on how exactly he plans to attain those. Much of the rest of the speech was marked by recycling the Republican Party Platform, with the same unbalanced focus on the significance of private schools and small-business.

A lot more baseless accusations were thrown around, with Romney claiming that he "will not raise taxes on the middle class." Incidentally, Obama made the same pledge. As far as Romney's "5 Steps" go, most are vague and questionable. Following the five points, he criticized Obama's foreign policy as weak for not taking a stronger stance against Russia, China, Iran and for some reason Cuba. Ironically, he said that he will honor "the bipartisan foreign policy legacy of Truman and Reagan." It seems like the GOP has forgotten their pledge to make bipartisanship as difficult as possible.

Romney's speech was sorely disappointing. In some ways, I wish he had maintained the stance on social issues that he had while he was governor of Massachusetts, because those provided a much more moderate view (Note: I will link an article as soon as I find the one I am looking for). Instead, he seems to feel like he needed to pander to the conservative base of the GOP, where he would have won many votes anyway simple for not being Obama. What do you think? Does Romney offer a solid plan for America?

Speech Transcript

Lies (And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them)*

Paul Ryan, the Republican Vice Presidential nominee, took the stage last night to a roaring and eager audience. The main theme of his speech, the supposed faults and failures of President Obama's last term, was extremely popular with the crowd gathered in Tampa. Frequent "Boos" and cheers punctuated Ryan's speech that was considered successful in terms of introducing Ryan to the American people.

However, much of his speech was based on falsehood and, what we as Mr. Silton's AP Government students might call it, "spin." His speech was so full of deception that it is now popular with news companies to write a "Fact-check" of his speech; see here here here or here.

Some highlights of his lies include:

  • The GM plant: The plant's shut-down that Ryan blamed on Obama was really scheduled to be shut down before Obama was even president.
  • Medicare: Ryan claimed that Obama was planning to siphon millions of dollars away from the current Medicare budget. Although not technically a lie, this was a "Literally True Falsehood" as Ryan's own Medicare plan would involve these exact same cuts. 
  • The stimulus: Ryan denied any job creation from the Obama's stimulus plan while in truth, the stimulus package prompted millions of jobs.

So what do you think? Is it OK for Paul Ryan to blatantly lie in his speech to attract voters? Does popularity outweigh truthfulness in today's political scene?

*Title from Al Franken's book of the same name

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tropical Storm Isaac Update

On the seventh anniversary of the devastating Hurricane Katrina's rampage over New Orleans a new storm, Tropical Storm Isaac batters the Gulf Coast. The storm has been downgraded from "Hurricane" to "Tropical Storm" but is still expected to cause significant damage. 

Summary of the GOP Platform - Part 1

Note: This will be a multi-day project, considering the sheer mass of the party platform, and because many issues were packed into the first pages of it.

With all of the incredibly repetitive speeches at the RNC this week, many people have been left wondering, what does the party really want? In their 2012 Party Platform, the GOP laid out all of their aspirations if their representatives are elected (Democrats are set to approve theirs at the start of the DNC next week). Let's look at some of their ambitions for the next four years.

- Trade Agreements: The GOP has stated that it will "complete negotiations for a Trans-Pacific Partnership," which to be fair, sounds like a fair good goal that could help US exports. A little worryingly, they insist on taking a tougher stance with China, which may or may not even be possible considering China's own influence now. On another economic note, they plan to lower tax rates, and while that seems like a poor choice, it may not be as bad as it seems. (Information on the Ryan Plan and other economic ideas will require their own posts.)

- Supporting the Goals of the Constitution: While it is true that the GOP spawned from the original Federalist party, nowadays they seem to be more like the anti-Federalists since they oppose any significant governmental powers. Regardless, they claimed to "ask all to join us in rejecting the forces of hatred and bigotry and in denouncing all who practice or promote racism,  anti-Semitism, ethnic prejudice, or religious intolerance." That was...entertaining. Unsurprisingly, they think that we should follow the Bill of Rights, especially the Second Amendment.

- Social Issues: Naturally, comments on gay marriages and abortion were bound to appear. The GOP insists on supporting the "definition of marriage" and wants to pass the Defense of Marriage Act to ensure that happens. They also want to approve a human life amendment that bans abortions, even when the pregnancy is caused by rape, incest, or other means. One aspect I approve of is that they want to ban "sex-selective abortions"--something we may not often hear, but its a sentiment that can be understood. Ironically, they find that the current Administration opposes religious freedom by neither allowing prayer in public school nor enforcing the Pledge of Allegiance.

- Energy: The GOP seeks to expand coal mining, oil drilling, hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") and nuclear power. Coal, even "clean coal," as much of an oxymoron as that sounds, seems like a risky venture. Coal mining remains one of the most dangerous industries in America, and one of the most pollution-heavy. Expanding our oil industry is unfortunate, but it may be because we live in California that we haven't noticed the same ballooning of oil prices as elsewhere. However, mining in national territory should be out of the question. Fracking is a fair method; we should try to embrace natural gas to replace the two other more polluting fuels, and that leaves nuclear energy. Its difficult to agree with much of the platform, but this has my emphatic support. On a side note, they also want to decrease the interference of the EPA and other environmental regulations which is a poor decision.

So that's a lot of the basis behind the Republican Party this election season. Some seems fair, other parts foul. What do you think of their policies? Which parts can you agree with?

RNC: Division or Diversification?

Two contrasting articles on give different opinions on the diversity in the GOP at this year's convention. The first author believes that the new range in the party is positive; cooperation and collaboration between different groups under a single party's banner will yield a greater chance of beating President Obama. In contrast, the other article questions if the attempts to unify the conflicting groups in the party will actually split the party.

The apparent racial and gender diversity that the convention is promoting is expected to portray the Republicans as an accepting group, despite their predictable "white-male" demographics. The more critical article suggests that the additional diversity will blur the identity of the party:

 "This is some strange hash. What does it mean to be a Republican these days if unifying principles are so hard to come by?"

It identified various "camps" that will be in attendance at the RNC; groups that desire a wider and more inclusive member base, more conservative groups that frown on gay marriage, some believe that economic policy is paramount as well as the many divergent views on the logistics of immigration. 

Governor Chris Christie
Speeches from Tuesday night shed some light on the true impact of diversity on the party. Although many speeches were filled with mindless Obama-bashing and asinine appeals to American patriotism, some actually managed to talk about real political issues. Governors and Senators from many states ( New Hampshire, Ohio, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, South Carolina etc.) began to talk about the GOP's dedication to job creation and reducing the scope of the government. New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie spoke about how his family and traditional values shaped his political views; a theme that was common on Tuesday night. However, theses speeches were focused on specific regions or values; instead of unifying the country it seemed to segment it. Rarely did the speeches speak to the accomplishments or dreams of the entire American people or even mention Romney's upcoming competition with Obama. 

What will be the effect of this new diversity in the GOP? Will it splinter or unify the party? Were last night's speeches effective to this end? 

Election Map Update

Moving away from all of the convention hype, CNN now lists North Carolina as a toss-up state. That's quite a surprise, because even though Barack Obama somehow carried North Carolina in the 2008 election, the state recently voted to ban gay marriage. So while they disagree with Obama's social stances, apparently many of them are still willing to vote for him. It should add a little excitement to the November election, because now a significant number of states could swing either way. What do you think? Is this a surprising development?

Also, for a more in-depth analysis of last night's speeches, rather than a summary, I suggest reading CNN's comments here.

Edit: It has come to my attention that North Carolina's designation as a "toss-up" was the result of a single survey with only 2,000 participants, so it may be wise to take this with a grain of salt. (Credit goes to Sally Hosokawa--thanks!)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Showtime for the RNC

Today marked the official opening of the Republican National Convention, and it certainly was eventful. First off, Mitt Romney has been officially nominated as the Presidential Candidate for the GOP and now the only question that remains is whether or not he can successfully rally the party to truly support his campaign. Unfortunately, Romney himself won't be speaking until Thursday, but other prestigious party members offered their own insights into Mitt, Obama, and the American dream.

One of the major speakers tonight, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, reminiscing about his victory in Wisconsin, criticized the methods that the current administration has adopted in order to curb unemployment. However, its difficult to listen to his success stories when the Wisconsin election controversy and pro-union protests are still in the recent past. Unfortunately, the union criticism found in Walker's speech was a recurring theme throughout the night.

Following Walker was a spate of ethnically diverse speakers, including Governors Brian Sandoval (Nevada) and Nikki Haley (South Carolina), as well as Senate Candidate Ted Cruz (Texas) and Former Rep. Artur Davis. The first to speak, Sandoval, spoke of how his parents came to America with a dream, and built their family from the ground up, in an attempt to gain favor with the swing Latino vote (see previous post). Unfortunately, the "We Built This!" speeches dragged on from here. Governor Nikki Haley condemned the Obama administration for a variety of reasons, namely for suing a Boeing factory in her home state of South Carolina.

The star of the night, Ann Romney, spoke to the delegates about how love and unity crafted her family, and whole-heartedly endorsed her husband's campaign. Her speech was a little sappy, but it seems that she's going to be very successful at winning favor for Mitt. Following her was Governor Chris Christie (New Jersey), who gave a surprisingly eloquent keynote speech. He, too, spoke of his immigrant family background and advocated for Mitt Romney and the controversial Ryan Plan.

Unfortunately, its difficult to completely accurately convey the complete texts of these speeches without making this post any more boring. I recommend watching the speeches, especially the Haley, Romney, and Christie ones to get a sense of the tone the convention is taking. What's your take on the speeches? Are they compelling or hypocritical?

RNC appeal to the Latino Vote

The Republican National Convention has many goals for this election season; the GOP will formally establish the party's running platform and introduce Mitt Romney as the presidential candidate to face President Obama in November. Of course, the RNC also aims to attract voters to Romney and the Republican Party. This year a large emphasis is being placed on gaining the approval of a large, quickly growing, and potentially essential group in the United States: the Latino population.

Latino populations are influential in many US states such as California, Colorado and Nevada. However, Florida will be especially important this election season as it is a historical "swing state" that has enough electoral college votes to potentially change the outcome of the 2012 election. Latinos make up a quarter of the population of this important battleground state. In 2000 and 2004 George Bush won Florida, while in 2008 Obama won the state by 51 percent to 48 percent. 

Romney and the GOP will use the party convention to appeal to this important constituency. This years convention will feature speeches by many elected and prominent Latino officials:

"Among the Latino speakers appearing at Tuesday's Republican National Convention session are Rep. Francisco Canseco, R-Texas, Sher Valenzuela, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor of Delaware, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, and Texas GOP Senate nominee Ted Cruz."

Florida Senator Marco Rubio will even introduce Romney before his speech on Thursday. 

One wonders how effective these attempts will be in gaining additional Latino voters. Judging by Obama's performance in 2008 as well as recent polls that show extremely strong support for Obama and disapproval for Romney, it seems like the Florida Latino vote is a lost cause for the GOP. But not all is lost for Romney! History and research show that party conventions often strongly influence public opinion; polls have shown increases of up to 14 percent and an average of 5-6 percent directly following conventions. 

How successful do you think Romney's appeal to Latino voters will be? Do you think that focusing on a specific racial group is an effective method of gaining votes? Should candidates focus on politics and policy or just battle for constituencies?

Monday, August 27, 2012

RNC: Featuring a More Relatable Romney

As many are probably well aware, the Republican National Convention, scheduled to start August 27th, has been postponed a day because of Tropical Storm Isaac. But never fear, there's still plenty of hype surrounding it. In the final rush leading up to the RNC, many attempts are being made to change the American people's perspective of Mitt Romney in order to portray him in a better light.

Romney is, of course, somewhat infamous for being "plastic and remote," according to this LA Times article. Many of his early attempts at connecting with the middle and lower classes were marked with embarrassing mistakes, enough to merit him his own meme. Luckily for him, his wife Ann is now trying to make up for past misconceptions and introduce the "real" Mitt Romney to the country. To be fair, it's a curious political strategy, considering that most elections tend to focus on much more macho topics of conversation. Ann Romney has provided a twist, and if she succeeds at identifying her husband, it may garner enough support to propel Romney to the White House.

In a more political tone, Time Magazine has recently published an interview where Romney defends his economic plans, and goes more in-depth about the rationale behind his methodology. This is a pleasant change from the standard technique of criticizing the Obama Administration's failure at economic recovery because it provides actual insight into why Romney believes his plans would prove better. And, to be fair, he and Ryan tend to have rather compelling economic plans, barring the Ryan Plan, which is surrounded by so much controversy that it seems no one truly understands it. To further summarize the article, it seems as though Romney may have moved past some hiccups that he experienced on a recent international trip, as he commented with a surprisingly thoughtful critique of the Obama Administration's policies regarding Afghanistan. Perhaps he can prove to the country that he does, in fact, understand foreign affairs.

Romney also speaks highly of his religious beliefs, a credit to him when many of his Republican supporters still question their own opinions on Mormonism. While his boost in religious confidence may be a useful tool to the GOP, it also issues the worrying note that religion plays heavily into the political sphere, especially during the RNC. It naturally raises the question, how influential should religion be in politics? Should a candidate's religion matter to the voting public?