Category Archives: politics

Winner? Obama by TKO, but Romney still strong

President Barack Obama seemed to finally figure out what to do in a debate—to assert and negate, in essence to clash and cross swords with Governor Mitt Romney on any issue on the table.

As a result, the second debate was far from the steamroller for Romney as in the first debate.

I expected the town hall format to be a tad more folksy and interactive. But the crowd of undecided voters assembled at Hofstra University were just props in the middle of a real fight between Obama and Romney. Both came out ready, asserting and countering even outside the rigid debate format. It created a challenge for the moderator Candy Crowley, who did an admirable job keeping decorum and keeping the debaters on point, at one time correcting Romney on Obama’s response on Libya, the feistiest moment of the debate.

But to me, while Romney seemed to be level with his last performance, the president’s more energized approach left the lasting overall impression that his performance on this night was greater than Romney’s—maybe even enough to erase the memory of the president’s  first debate lapse. Perhaps for his base. As for undecideds, that’s not so clear.

From the very first question, the style and substance of both was apparent. To the Adelphi student who asked if he would have a job on graduation, Romney had the empathy, but no real plan. Obama came out with an answer that was like a microscosm of the whole debate, including the goal of creaing high-paying manufacturing jobs, a jab in about Romney’s Detroit stand,  tax code revisions, business incentives, energy plans.

In the same two-minute answer, Obama scored his highest response from CNN focus group members with this line:

“We got to make sure we have the best education system in the world, and the fact that you’re going to college is great. But I want everybody to have a great education and we’ve worked hard that student loans are available for folks like you.”

The only negatives for me in the debate came when the combatants crossed the line, turning the civility of parry and riposte into a street brawl. I kept wondering if any of this was scoring with the demographic of choice in this campaign, women.

There were times Obama was clearly getting under Romney’s skin. One point Romney turned to engage Obama on an issue, but instead of taking the bait, the president merely looked at Romney and said in a dismissive tone, “Go on.”

That’s the way to use your status.

Other issues: Romney tried to attack Obama on immigration. But Romney had no response when Obama pointed out that Romney’s key immigration advisor is the author of Arizona’s “Show me your papers” law.

Still, I didn’t see any real knockout blow in this debate. Overall, I’d say Obama won on points in O/R II.

But because Obama played rope-a-dope in O/R I , the race is still closer than it should be.

Veep Debate: Biden vs. Ryan was all Ward Cleaver vs. the Beaver

Billed as a debate on foreign and domestic issues, the Vice Presidential Debate in Danville, Kentucky was much anticipated. Especially after the Obama no-show.

As debates go, it was civil, to the point and allowed for plenty of clash on some fairly important issues.

When he wasn’t paternal, Vice President Biden featured a toothy smile to indicate his disapproval of whatever his younger opponent Paul Ryan would say.

It struck me a bit like Ward Cleaver debating the Beaver.

But as they started the debate on Libya, Syria, then Egypt and Iran, I kept thinking the debate was way to top heavy on international affairs. Considering that a vice president might attend a state funeral or two, does it matter that Vice President Joe Biden can talk about Israel and Iran and refer to Prime Minister Netanyahu as “BeBe”?  

The debate was a third over when using a national security spin, the moderator finally transitioned to domestic issues like the economy and jobs, and how to get unemployment down to 6 percent. But aside from Biden’s toothy smiles to Ryan’s Romney talking points, nothing we haven’t heard uttered.

It did give Biden an opportunity to talk about the Romney’s “47 percent,” gaffe, which Biden used as the foundation to appeal to regular folk. It did give an opportunity to get the night’s only real laugh, when Ryan tried to apologize for Romney saying: “I think the VP knows sometimes the words don’t come out of your mouth the right way.”

OK, so now we’re set up for other  domestic issues that we haven’t heard about yet?

No, there was a reprise on Medicare and Social Security, and taxes. All fine. I’m sure it’s asked because a debate is an opportunity to reiterate some issues and touch all the bases. But does it really matter if it’s the VP and Candidate Ryan? It still sounded like campaign boilerplate–with one exception. Ryan is much more of an idealogue than Romney. Standing alone for the campaign, he made it seem more right-wing than it usually does.

With a quarter-hour left, I was waiting for maybe some question on other domestic issues. I knew we wouldn’t hear anything on affirmative action or immigration. But what about education policy? Or maybe a connection between some spending initiatives to help the states.

But no. Since women are known to be the demographic of Election 2012, the abortion issue emerged. And this was a bit more revealing about the candidates and their positions. Biden’s was best because he was true to his religion but didn’t seek to “impose” it on others. A delicate stand but fair. Ryan sounded like your basic pro-lifer.

Just a few minutes left, doesn’t anyone want to talk about Education? Our children, our public schools? Our future?


How can you have a debate that says it will include domestic issues and not include one second to education?

Every issue they discussed the economy, jobs, or lack thereof. Middle class opportunity.  Education  has to be a part of any solution to build up America for the future. Doesn’t it?

But did we hear any answers from either camp that showed there was a real plan that prioritized education at any level, primary, secondary or higher ed?  

Sadly, no.

Aside from that glaring ommission,  I’d say it was a close debate.

Scoring a debate, you look at clash points. And the debaters did clash. Ryan was better than anyone would have thought, but I don’t think he made the case that the GOP would do better than what we have. That was his burden. Biden stood his ground. Unlike Obama in the first debate,  he didn’t let anything get past him. Overall, I think he won this debate,

Tale of two tapes: Secret video speaks the truth about Romney as candidate goes ethnic and talks of how it would be “helpful to be Latino.”

Maybe Mitt Romney was scared that the campaign had gone all foreign policy-oriented  because of that anti-Arab internet video that he secretly was yearning for some other video to change the dynamics of the campaign.

But the video he had in mind was something like the polished one he did that aired this morning on  “Live with Kelly and Michael.”

At one point on this tape, Romney responded to a question about his ability, or lack thereof, of being empathetic with the American people.

On tape, Romney is like his hair. Perfect. He brings up being pastor of his church. And then he mentions his wife’s MS, implying how it shows his compassion.  Ann talked earlier about Mitt’s “good heart.”

That’s the Romney message. 

Instead Romney has to deal with  that “other tape,” the “47 percent” tape secretly recorded at a $50,000 a plate fundraiser in Boca Raton. It’s got the political class buzzing. And you should be buzzing about it too. 

It shows the real Romney as he dishes the high rollers some GOP red-meat.

Said Romney on THAT tape:

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.”

Did he just throw more than  half the American public under the food truck?

Later in California yesterday after Romney’s 47 percent comments were leaked, Romney appeared with hairs out-of-place, at a media opportunity where he tried to explain the remarks away saying he was just  “speaking off the cuff.”

Sort of like Clint Eastwood at the RNC?

Romney didn’t  apologize but clarified that he was showing the difference between those who want a “government centered society” vs. the  one he wants –“a free enterprise, free individual society, where people pursuing their dreams are able to employ one another, build enterprises, build the strongest economy in the world.”

The tape really is Romney.

Romney is the guy who says no to you at the bank.

He’s the guy who  gets his by living off others’ misery.

He’s the guy who makes conservatives yearn for a Bush. Any Bush. For cover.

What should be abundantly clear by now is that Romney’s perfect for a private corporation.

Just not for a United States that’s struggling to get back on its feet.

This is the man who wants to be the nation’s top public servant?

At one point in the secret tape, he attempts to show humor as he mentions his father being born to American parents in Mexico:

“Had he been born of Mexican parents I’d have a better chance of winning this, but he was not,” Romney said. 

Too bad. Then Democrats could be birthers too.

Romney finished off wistfully, saying “It would be helful to be Latino.”

Maybe. But then as the polls show, he would probably be voting for Obama.

Remembering the horror and the love of 9/11

I wrote this piece on 9/11/2011   in time for the tenth anniversary last year. 

Originally on the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund blog, I’m posting it again, because my sentiments haven’t changed.

But some things have changed. Funny, how Rick Perry was considered the GOP  front-runner last year.

This year, both political conventions (but especially the Democrats) tried to use the idea that “we’re all in this together,” to describe where we are  as a country.

That’s a nice thought, but  to say “we’re all in this together” seems so fake. There’s nothing better than taking a moment to remember  9/11 to remind us what that phrase means for real.


I had dinner there a number of times. I’d seen the view. I just can’t imagine people leaping from the World Trade Center towers.

For me, that’s the lingering and most horrific image of 9/11.  A distressed person in silhouette, taking wing, dropping from the sky in free fall, praying for a soft landing. I’ve only seen it in photographs, moving and still. I can’t imagine looking up to witness it in person.

But doesn’t the image seem to describe where we all are, at least figuratively, ten years after?

I was in California, spared the close-up intimacy of the tragedy. But believe me, you didn’t have to be at Ground Zero, or know someone in the towers or in one of the planes, to be impacted.

We’ve all felt the slow burn of 9/11 the last ten years.

As a show of its true evil, the day’s dark cloud seems to hover over just about everything.

At Wednesday’s GOP debate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, riding politics’ third rail to frontrunner status, called Social Security “a Ponzi scheme.”  But if we’re short there, it’s due to borrowing so heavily to finance an ill-advised and ongoing war that George W. Bush falsely justified with the tragedy of 9/11.

When President Obama calls for the American Jobs Act with his speech tonight and offers up a $300 billion dollar plan to stimulate the economy, Republicans will no doubt grouse and say they won’t pay a dime in the face of our historic national debt.  But again, we’re only in this mess because of the war spending after 9/11 that Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz conservatively estimates has cost more than $3.5 trillion.

Ten years later, 9/11’s impact is still with us.  Our economy is crawling; our democracy, with affronts to civil liberties, limps along. Our tolerance levels are low; our distrust of others high.

The tenth anniversary couldn’t come at a better time.

We need to feel the way we did on 9/11.

At the height of evil came the height of our humanity. There were no divisions, no labels. We were all connected.
We need to feel that way again.

Some New Yorkers say they noticed the change instantly that day. People you never spoke to, you reached out and saved their lives. Or you were merely considerate to the extreme, nice even. It was as if people were from another planet, or in a good behavior zone during a time of national mourning.

People started to care for people more genuinely. It was the good that comes out of the bad.

It was a kind of public love. People realized we were one.

But President Bush and other politicos saw the feeling that day as cause for the kind of patriotism that leads to jingoism. It brought on the overreaction to an exaggerated sense of threat. He overlooked the fact that the evil was an affront not just to our nation, but to all humanity. Bush took it personally and misread the world.

But then so did many others. 

The President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders points out that the FBI found a 17-fold increase in hate crimes against American Muslims immediately after 9/11.
Over the past ten years, the Department of Justice has investigated more than 800 incidents involving violence, threats, vandalism, and arson, obtaining 47 convictions.

That’s good. But this is the same DOJ that enforces the insidious Patriot Act and the surveillance and wiretap efforts under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). This week, DOJ bragged about how since 9/11 it has created its first new division in 50 years (the National Security Division). That’s not the kind of job creation I was hoping for. Instead of protecting the innocent by raising the bar, the DOJ boasts how it has lowered the FISA “wall” between intelligence and law enforcement investigation. Raising the bar to protect the innocent is much preferred. But the government is stuck in the “us vs. them” perspective, the one that runs counter to the best aspects of the 9/11 feeling.

It may have been easier for Asian Americans to feel the kind of empathy I’m talking about. After the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII, how could we not feel empathy for Muslim Americans, many from South or West Asia?

Perhaps it’s easier if you were like Stanley Praimnath. Featured in a 2002 Frontline documentary, Praimnath was caught in the towers but punched through a wall. His hand found Brian Clark, a man he’d never met. Clark grabbed Praimnath’s hand and pulled him to safety.

Just one of the stories of humanity triumphing over evil that day ten years ago.

It was such a strong feeling, and it was happening all over town.

Recapturing that feeling again may help us solve the lesser problems that threaten to fracture and doom us today. But it’s a surprise how quickly the feeling eludes us.

How else can we explain the inequality that has only grown worse in the last ten years?
There are 25 million unemployed. Economist Robert Reich calls it the worst decade for American workers in a century. Meanwhile, CEO pay is up 10 percent. Bonuses are up nearly 20 percent.

In California, where there are more foreclosures and upside down mortgages than anywhere else in the nation, the state remains the epitome of the housing crisis.

The financial pressures are high. You don’t need a terrorist to make you want to jump from the roof.

Forget the evil and the hate. There are lots of people today who could use the love of 9/11. The tenth anniversary gives us a chance to connect to that feeling again.