Tag Archives: Barack Obama

To all you Mittwagoners: Romney was good on camera in the first presidential debate, but what about the hidden camera truth?

I’d love to have a hidden camera on Romney this morning to see how he’s reacting to his performance last night.

Do you think he’s high-fiving Ann? 

Last night was showbiz for Romney. Make no mistake it was a performance, and he was on his game. But was it the truth, the real Romney?

Re-watching parts of the debate this morning, it’s amazing how Obama didn’t seem to have a sense of what game he was playing, as if he were waiting for Romney to be deferential. Debates are about clash, contrasts, and Obama didn’t engage sharply enough. He acted like it was a photo op and not a debate.

Debates are also evanescent, real time events. You’VE got to call your opponent on the spot and press. You can’t rely on fact-checking later to get back. It’s all face value, because the bond with viewer/voters is made emotionally on the impression you give off. So as a debater, you’re either there or you’re not. And Obama wasn’t there. Romney was.

I had mentioned that affirmative action could have been an issue that would speak to Asian Americans. And there were chances to sneak in a line or two about that in the “role of government” section. But there was very little time for that, or for other key domestic issues like abortion, women’s rights, immigrant rights. Obama could have mentioned the 47 percent to sharply contrast where Romney stands on the role of government. Instead, Romney was able to sound like he’s a compassionate supporter of the middle income voter. Laughable, but that’s what happens when the  moderator loses control of the debate and allows the debaters to go at it. In a tightly scripted format where moderators contribution is to say “Time!” a looser conversation can seem  good. But this one got a little out of hand, as Romney took control.

If you saw Romney debate and liked him, just make sure you replay in your head that 47 percent tape. Remember that’s the real Romney. That’s what Romney really thinks. Romney isn’t the prefab Romney. The Romney in the 47 percent tape didn’t show up last night, because the cameras weren’t hidden.

That’s why you can’t trust any favorable impression he may have given last night. We didn’t get the hidden camera truth. When the stakes are this high, it’s the only thing you can trust.

Bill Clinton’s whale of a speech, and more ruminations about #DNC2012, Day 2

In the 80s, a young Governor  Bill Clinton gave a speech at a DNC and the biggest  applause line he got was when he said ,”In closing…..”

This week he went over by about 20 minutes and no one would have minded if he took another 200.

Let that be a lesson about political fate and ambition. When you lose or have a bad day, you can come back, and have them all eating out of your hand.

Bill Clinton did that on day 2 of the DNC, making the case for Barack Obama like no other. He brought the Democrats back to a sense of moderation that used to get Clinton and his blue-dog  DLC gang a lot of  grief from “progressives.”

Now when the GOP and the Right have taken on the party of hate and extremism, take-aways and divisiveness,  the Clinton way doesn’t look so conservative.

In fact, when Clinton talked about “constructive cooperation” and admiration for Eisenhower and both Bushes, he expanded the Democrats to the middle right, and it still seemed far left compared to today’s GOP.

In the roll call vote, when Barry Goldwater’s granddaughter spoke for AZ and mentioned how her grandfather wouldn’t recognize the GOP, and she’s right. He wouldn’t. A moderate Republican of old would be right at home with a big broad Democratic Party–the kind Clinton was carving out on Day 2.

If Day 1 was about America’s diversity and Democratic family values,  Day 2 was about expanding the definition of inclusion to encompass the broad middle for all:  Not just minorities and Hispanics, but whites, working class,  capitalists, women, all who believe in liberty and justice for all.

No one else could have pulled it off  but Bill Clinton.

At first, Day 2 of the DNC seemed a bit dull. There was a slow build throughout the night, with platitudes rarely getting a rise.

It certainly was no Day 1, which was perhaps the most energizing and inspirational of all the conventions (RNC/DNC) because of Michelle Obama, Julian Castro, and the overwhelming diversity on display. (What? We didn’t see that at the RNC? Well, no, we didn’t).

Day 2 had moments: The preach speak of Emmanuel Cleaver, Cecile Richards, Cristina’s Si Se Puede reprise, Jessica Sanchez doing Aretha, Sandra Fluke, Elizabeth Warren. Conventions are a politics junkie’s “America’s Got Talent.”  But Wednesday just wasn’t the kind of sustained level of UP, that Day 1 was.
You could take a bathroom break on Day 2.

And then….the Whale showed up.

And that was it,  the water shifted and rose up, and the show began.

(Miss the speech? CSPAN has it here.)

What I liked most about Clinton’s speech is that he did something Obama and the Dems have really failed to do heretofore. No one has really spelled out why the Democrats are worth voting for.

If it’s all about a job creation score card, Clinton provided one: In the last 50 years, it’s Republicans 24 million. Democrats 42 million.

When it comes down to who has a better plan for tomorrow, Clinton had a one word test that the GOP’s plan can’t pass: Arithmetic.

When he talked about the GOP cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, he made the emotional sale. When Clinton asked what families cut off by the GOP plan were going to do, he struck a nerve.

“We can’t afford to give the reigns of government to someone who wants to double down on trickle down.”

Clinton was good on the record, but he also represented a time when Democrats had a good thing going. For those nostalgic of a stimulus that worked, of a country with a surplus, of good times, (the Clinton Days),  Clinton was clear.  No president  could have fixed what was left for Barack Obama in just four years.

Which leads to the ridiculous GOP argument, which Clinton said, was “pretty simple. We left him a total mess, he hasn’t finished cleaning it up yet, so fire him and put us back in.”

The undecideds back home on the couch, could sense the truth in that.

But to close the deal, Clinton needed to sell a vision that people could wrap their heads around and see the critical nature of the choice before them.

“What kind of country do you want to live in?” he asked. “If you want a “you’re-on-your-own, winner-take-all-society, you should support the Republican ticket. If you want a country of shared prosperity and shared responsibility–a we’re-all-in-this-together society– you should vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden.”

Some are saying Bill Clinton’s  was his best speech ever. It was just Clinton, relaxed, confident, with just enough facts to make his point in his folksy style that evokes the elder, the veteran of life, one who knows.

I’d say a speech’s impact has to do with the moment. I was on the floor of the DNC in New York in 1992 and I recall the Clinton acceptance speech to be his finest. After years of Republican governance, Clinton represented real hope, and people were eager for it. ( I just saw bits of it. You’ll find the DNA of last night’s speech in 1992’s).

This time around we are also  at a crossroads, a critical one as well. But Clinton is more loved and revered. He didn’t have to do any heavy lifting this week really.  That’s still Barack Obama’s job.  And we’ll see how he does on Day 3.


I thought it was a rough night for all the Asian Americans on the podium except for Jessica Sanchez who nailed her Aretha cover. And she was 2nd on “American Idol.”

Rep. Judy Chu was fired up, but she could use a little bit of Michelle Obama’s fire. Sec.Shinseki was a general giving a political speech. I saluted, sir.

The image was one of good Asian American public servants. Not one of charismatic political leader.

Atty.General Kamala Harris (half-South Asian)  is always alluring, but seemed nervous up there and did not leave one thinking, “There’s our next Senator.”  She might be. Her placement on the program indicates she is far being in some political dead-end job. She’ll probably remember her moment her as Clinton remembers his moment in the ‘80s. A better day is ahead. She has the look of a real national political star when she finds her Michelle Obama chops.

Asian Americans looking for charismatic leaders? Rep. Colleen Hanabusa and Rep. Maisie Hirono (running for Akaka’s Senate seat vs. ex-gov Linda Lingle) are two who come to mind. I’ve interviewed both. You want someone as Clinton would say, “cool on the outside, who burns for America on the inside”?  These ladies are tough ladies who don’t back down.



9/11 fatigue? Not yet…it’s only 9/9! Besides, there was a good side to 9/11, that’s always worth remembering

It’s already happening. I heard someone in the media start sounding 9/11 phobic, like “haven’t we had enough memories, already.”

I don’t want to be a contrarian here. I’ve been saving up for this signifcant bench mark. The Tenth is special. Just far away and just close enough for some real perspective.

Besides, there’s a good part about 9/11 that we need to get in touch with again. It’s the part that sees all of us as one. 

No differences. Just our common humanity.  That’s worth enduring the big weekend rememberance.   Check out my amok comments on the subject at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund blog: http://aaldef.org/blog/taking-the-leap-the-horror-and-the-love-of-911.html

Emil Guillermo on the elections: And Boehner wept, but not like Meg….

On election night, John Boehner gave his speech assuming his new role as majority leader. He was talking about working in his dad’s tavern, and his lousy jobs through college. And he cried.

Me, I wanted to laugh. But censored myself.

Cut to CNN, and Anderson Cooper who asked rightward Mary Matalin what she thought of Boehner. She hesitated, then said something indicating her approval, something like “it was fabulous,” to which all the panelists LAUGHED.

Even  late in the night they could spot a phony.

And then I started to cry. No tears of joy, just sadness that this country was at a unique position these last two years and failed.  And was going back in reverse.

Boehner talked about working in his dad’s tavern.  I remembered standing in 15 degree cold two years ago observing the Obama Inaugural at the Washington Mall. What a feeling of potential. I saw people of all stripes, standing together, hopeful that a new leader would take us in the right direction. In his address, Obama did talk about creating a new politics that would end the divisiveness and bring Americans together in a time of crisis. As I stood in the cold as if arctic camping, his words gave warmth.

But as we found it’s tough to right a fallen war ship. Obama tried. Health care reform was historic. But there was still too many people out of work. Indeed, the poor were getting poorer and the rich were getting richer. Somewhat of an anomaly, no?

So now the GOP will have its time to move us in a different direction and everything will seem a little logical. It will be totally understandable how the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer, unable even to get the lousy jobs Boehner cried over in his election night speech.

Get me to the Giants parade in San Francisco. I need a shot of positivity.

In California, things are happier. Brown is governor again. Boxer fended off Fiorina. And Meg Whitman is probably wondering if she could have built a domed stadium for the 49ers in her name with that $160 million cash she burned up in a vanity run for governor. 

At least it didn’t go up in smoke like George Soros’ cash that helped fuel Prop.19, the marijuana initiative. The billions in potential revenue not  enough to sway a majority. Prohibition is here to stay.

Besides, if it passed, what would the drug dealers do? Apply for government jobs?

Jimmy Carter’s race statements are right, but at odds with Obama’s Plutonian race strategy

When Jimmy Carter says it’s about race, I believe him to be as true as his boiled peanut recipe.

But Carter’s bluntness in his comments to NBC that the animosity toward Obama is race-based, is much too direct for Obama’s current style, and could upset the president’s momentum.

Obama is too cool for direct. Apparently, his race politics are way too subtle for the country.

The way Barack Obama has become a winner in politics is by diffusing the race issue and making it seem irrelevant.

In the Obama universe, issues don’t revolve around race. In this political solar system, race isn’t at the center like the Sun.

It’s more like Pluto.

It really is the formula to Obama’s success, and his new politics of bringing the country together. That’s not to mean he’s a Clarence Thomas , or that he forgets the importance of ethnicity and race in public policy.

It’s just that he knows race bogs down everything . It’s polarizing. And it prevents him reaching the kinds of compromise that helps one effectively lead an entire country.

So he sidesteps it.

Obama’s compromise on race is to show up, make it obvious he’s a black president, but not to dwell on it. For Obama, race is more the subtle subtext and not the raging headline. It was his secret to his campaign and his success.

And it throws the GOP off-track. They don’t know how to deal with a 21st Century Race politician.

When the GOP can’t argue the facts, as in health care, or when it can’t stem the support for the president on real issues, then it goes ad hominem and race is the old standby. The whole birth certificate issue and the Islamic middle name issue are nothing more than racist attacks on Obama.

Of course, all the stumbling around on race is based on how most people don’t want to admit racism is happening or even in existence. It plays to the moral conscience of both the white perps and the white liberals, who think they are perfect. Aren’t we all better than that? We’ve gone beyond race, right?

Well, not exactly.

So when Maureen Dowd writes her NY Times column about essentially saying, “Damn, we got racism here;” And when Jimmy Carter, our Southern gentleman, starts talking from the heart about racism at play in the policy debate, well then, by gum, we have racism.
What are we going to do about it?

I’m starting to see the wisdom of the Obama strategy. He’s just figured out a way to deal with race so he can get things done. The answer. Don’t deal with it.

It’s a tad zen-like.

By comparison, those who know the old politics on race are like cold warriors. Maybe we should try to do as Obama and ignore all this and try to press on, hoping that policies and people can change, and that by focusing on the bigger picture we can all be led to a new place together. Does that sound too grandiose or Lincolnesque? So be it. To do otherwise, is to bog down in the past, polarize, and get no where. Didn’t Obama show us that?

Maybe this is another one of those times that race bubbles up in Obama’s path, like the Rev.Wright affair. That means one sure-fire prescription could work now: A little speech therapy to put everything back into order in the Obama political universe, where race is minor.

As I said, race is not the Sun, it’s more like Pluto, making the strategy absolutely Plutonian.

Dowd on Wilson’s outburst: I guess it takes a white person or two to recognize an act of racism

Any other claim from a person of color gets automatically dismissed as more of that old, tired reverse-racist grievance politics.  It’s usually accompanied with a scornful response like “Grow up, you old race dinosaur. Get a life. Get real. We have a black man as president. Join the 21st century.”

Insisting that the racist tendencies of America are still operating on all cylinders gets you that kind of reaction.

And then, because the racism is so obvious, and no one hears your cry, one tends to accept it as the reality of the new America.  Save the wails for the extreme cases. Crying racism about the norm just doesn’t make it today.

That is, unless a white liberal columnist like Maureen Dowd  finally gets it enough to wake up her white readers in the New York Times about a certain Southern congressman’s outcry during President Barack Obama’s health care address last week.

Said Rep. Joe Wilson (R-South Carolina) to the President: “You lie!”

The president didn’t of course. Not like George W. Bush ever did.

But Wilson’s charge has since made him a hero and darling to those who share his same segregationist values. Wilson is a Son of Confederate Veterans, who fights for the rights to wave the Dixie flag and decries the truth of segregationist Strom Thurmond’s bi-racial child as a smear.

Wilson has a difficult time with the truth.  But his outburst made Dowd realize a truth:

In today’s column, “Boy, oh, boy” Dowd wrote: I’ve been loath to admit that the shrieking lunacy of the summer — the frantic efforts to paint our first black president as the Other, a foreigner, socialist, fascist, Marxist, racist, Commie, Nazi; a cad who would snuff old people; a snake who would indoctrinate kids — had much to do with race.

I tended to agree with some Obama advisers that Democratic presidents typically have provoked a frothing response from paranoids — from Father Coughlin against F.D.R. to Joe McCarthy against Truman to the John Birchers against J.F.K. and the vast right-wing conspiracy against Bill Clinton.

But Wilson’s shocking disrespect for the office of the president — no Democrat ever shouted “liar” at W. when he was hawking a fake case for war in Iraq — convinced me: Some people just can’t believe a black man is president and will never accept it.”

Welcome to the ethnic truth, Maureen. Those of us who write primarily for the ethnic media have heard the drumbeats loudly before Wilson’s shout.  Hopefully your readers will snap to, as you have.

With race as a subtext, Wilson shows that  health care reform led by America’s first black president is made to order for those who yearn for the second coming of the civil war.



Health-care Rx:Obama’s Speech Therapy

Whenever it seems like his back his to the wall, or the when “the sale” is in jeopardy, Obama’s prescription has always been the same: Give “the speech.”

That’s the way it was in campaign mode. And even after winning the presidency, it’s never let up for Obama. When the Rev. Wright stories appeared to sink his chances last year, an eloquent speech on race in Philly set the record straight. In January, a thoughtful inaugural sought to quell partisanship and indeed brought the country together. That is, until he set his attention to health care.

Now when health care is more polarizing than even race, Obama turned to his rhetorical gifts once again to forcefully lay it our for the people.

The speech was emotional and direct in the way it pared down his plan to the big picture essentials. Not the details,necessarily, but the larger view. A government-run not for profit insurance option for those without coverage, a public option, is still the most polarizing thing on the table. But what’s to fear? Competition is good. There’s a reason existing health care companies don’t want the uninsured. If  government competition can force companies to lighten up their restrictions or improve their efficiencies to see the uninsured as a profit center, than that’s better than a bailout. And more people get insured.

The speech also exposed the partisan bickering and ad hominem  for what it is. Save that b.s. for football season.

On the stuff that matters, Obama was authoritative, presidential, and appealed to the best in all Americans.

Now is the time to get the best wonks from both sides of the aisle and get a deal done.

If that really happens, chalk one up to Obama’s speech therapy.