UN AFFILIATE TO MONITOR PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

The UN -affiliated Organization for Society and Cooperation in Europe (“OSCE”) has been invited to monitor the US Presidential election.  The invitation was issued by the NAACP, the ACLU and other far left groups.

The avowed purpose is to prevent voter suppression and disenfranchisement of minorities and the poor.  One of the primary targets of these far left groups is what they view to be the arbitrary and improper application of voter ID laws.  I am all for voter equality and fair elections, but I think it is outrageous that the US has to be subjected to having its elections monitored by a foreign entity, particularly one whose members come from countries such as Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, which are not exactly known for their free and open elections.  I was happy to see the Texas Attorney General speak out strongly against these observers.

The far left liberals’ request for monitoring by OSCE is a thinly veiled attempt to combat some states’ voter ID laws, which they view as a means of suppressing voting by minorities and the poor.  Hopefully, OSCE will seek out any and all voting irregularities (such as Black Panther voter intimidation), but I am dubious about that.  It is worth denoting that Georgia and Indiana have had voter ID laws in place for several years.  During that time, there has been no evidence of voter supression.  In fact,  the turnout of African American and Hispanic voters in those states has risen more substantially, than that for the nation as a whole.  Moreover, Mexico, which we Americans like to view as a backward nation, has required voters to present comprehensive identification since 2000.  They require a photo ID, a signature and a thumbprint.  The ID includes a picture with a hologram covering it, a magnetic strip and a serial number.  Man, would the ACLU squawk about that!  At the end of the day, it’s not about suppression of votes; it’s about suppression of fraud.  The idea is to permit everyone to vote who is qualified to do so, but only once, and no dead people, felons, illegal aliens or other unqualifieds.

Conclusion and Prediction

To be sure, US Presidential elections have not been without controversy.  For example, there was the “hanging chad” controversy in Florida in 2000, which cast doubt on the result of not only Florida but the entire election.  To this day, many Democrats remain convinced that Mr. Gore won that election.  But, news flash to the rest of the world: the US is a democracy with a constitution, which provides for an orderly resolution of voting controversies and irregulaties through various legal means, such as the individual states, the courts and the Congress.  And it works just fine!  Even though Mr. Gore thought he had won the 2000 election, he didn’t raise an army and take over the government, as might have been the case in some countries.  Both he and the nation accepted the results and moved on.

In an election this close, it is likely that there will be controversial and challenged results in one or more states. If so, do we really want the UN involved in resolving it, in determining the next President of the United States?

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THE GREAT DIVIDE

While researching my blogs I have repeatedly observed that there is a great divide in America.  Actually, there is more than one.  At the risk of oversimplying matters, we have deep divisions between rich and poor, white and African American and East Coast-West Coast versus Middle America.  I don’t think that’s healthy.  I find it very disturbing, and so should you regardless of your political preference.  Worse yet,  I believe these divides have been accentuating in recent years as a result of the Great Recession and other reasons.  For purposes of this blog, however, I will focus on the white-African American Political Divide and the impact on the current Presidential election.

In the past few decades, Democratic Presidential nominees have netted 41% – 43% of white voters fairly consistently whether they won or lost.  For example, in 2000 Al Gore lost in a virtual dead heat with 42% of the white vote and 90% of the black vote.  Kerry netted 41% of the black vote in 2004; Mr. Obama, by contrast, won 43% in 2008, the same as Clinton had in 1996.  So, 41% – 43% seems to be the standard range.  This cycle, Mr.  Obama has been running at 40%.  At first glance one might say this would doom him despite his strong showing among Latinos and 90%+ black vote.  But, he’s running better among whites in Ohio where he is getting credit among working class whites for having “saved” the auto industry, and they account for his 50% – 46% lead in that state.

Conclusion and Prediction

The way things are going right now, the other seven battleground states will net out more or less indecisively.  In that event, those relatively few working class whites in Ohio may decide the whole election.  I predict that due to the extreme closeness of the election the losing side will be very, very unhappy and very vocal about it, particularly if the loser receives more of the popular vote.  The nuances of the Electoral College System versus the popular vote may be ignored by some people in their zeal to seek “justice” for an election they perceive the other side somehow “stole” from them.  There will likely be accusations of voter fraud and challenges in the courts afterwards.  I fear the situation will be accentuated by racial overtones as it always is when there is a perception that race is involved.  Yes, November 6 may not be the end of the campaign, just another chapter.

LIBYA DECEPTION AND COVER-UP CONTINUES

I’m mad as hell , and so should you be!  There is nothing worse than lying.  That is what we learn as children, and what we, as parents, in turn, pass on to our own children.  “Whatever you have done wrong, just tell us and we will talk about it, but don’t lie to us. ” Apparently, President Obama and his key advisors in the White House and the State Department never learned that lesson.  They have been withholding critical information from the Amercian people regarding the Libya attack for six weeks.  Enough already!

Generally, Americans are very forgiving.  There are many examples of prominent persons, athletes, entertainers and politicians, who made a mistake, admitted it, took their lumps in the news, paid their penalty and moved on.  On the other side of the coin, we have the lesson of Watergate, where the cover-up proved to be worse than the original crime.  In that instance, it brought down Richard Nixon’s Presidency.

For the most part, the mainstream press is complicit in that they have not been pursuing the matter aggressively.  For example, during the most recent debate Bob Schieffer neglected to delve into the matter sufficiently, and in a recent one-on-one interview Brian Williams asked the President a series of softball questions, but nothing substantive about the Libya attack.

Now, it has come out that during the actual terrorist attack our people made several calls for assistance.  The military had a SEAL Team 2 hours away by air.  The 4-star general in charge of them has said they were not ordered to assist.  They could have been there in plenty of time.  The CIA had a team in the area headed up by Tyrone Woods.  They were told to stand down, but Woods disobeyed orders and went to their aid anyway.  His team rescued 30 people, but he was killed (7 hours later).  Seven hours was plenty of time for us to take some kind of action.

The foregoing is bad enough, but the Administration has compounded it by deceiving the American public after the fact.  Some of the questions that Mr. Obama needs to answer forthwith:  When did they know it was a terrorist attack?  Who directed Susan Rice, Jay Carney and others to blame it on the video and why?  Why did Mr. Obama go to Las Vegas the next day to hob nob with celebrities and donors rather than meet with world leaders in NY at the UN and confront the matter head-on?

Charles Woods, Tyrone’s father, is finally speaking out now.  He said he met with both Mr. Obama and Ms. Clinton.  They “couldn’t look [him] in the eye.”  They gave an “insincere” apology, and shaking hands with Mr. Obama was like shaking hands with a “dead fish.”  Wonder who he’s voting for?

Conclusion and Prediction

I know the primary issue in this election is the economy and rightly so.  But, this has become about more than four dead Americans in a Libyan consulate, as tragic as that is.  It has become an issue of trust, competence and leadership.  Can we really trust a President who has withheld the truth and continues to do so with four more years?  Is he demonstrating the competence and leadership we need and deserve in a President?

The answer should be obvious, and in an election that is a virtual dead heat, anything can make the difference.  This incident is not going away, and it could very well swing the election.

ROMNEY MOMENTUM CONTINUING

The latest poll numbers indicate that the momentum Mr. Romney built up after the first Presidential Debate has been continuing, albeit at a slower pace.  The latest Rasmussen Poll released today shows Mr. Romney ahead 50% – 47% nationwide among likely voters.   Even more telling is an AP Poll showing that Mr. Romney has completely wiped out the 16 point deficit among women voters that he had in September.

These poll results are consistent with and, perhaps, explain the respective strategies of the candidates at the most recent debate.  Mr. Romney, sensing he had the momentum and was gaining even more ground, was more conservative and passive.  Mr. Obama, believed he needed to be more aggressive, to go on the offensive to try to blunt or, even better, reverse Mr. Romney’s momentum.  It now appears that even though Mr. Obama “won” the debate, he failed to blunt Mr. Romney’s momentum.  I believe there are many reasons for this, but the major one is that most voters are focused squarely on the economy and jobs rather than foreign policy or other domestic issues.

In addition to the foregoing, the latest polls, released today, report gains for Mr. Romney in various individual states, which is obviously more significant.  CNN reports that Michigan, where Mr. Obama once enjoyed a comfortable lead, is now a virtual deadheat.  Today, CNN reclassified North Carolina, Indiana and Missouri from “leaning” to Mr. Romney to “safely” for Mr. Romney.  Finally, Wisconsin, Mr. Ryan’s home state, is trending toward the Romney camp in large part due to Mr. Ryan’s influence.  Mr. Obama used to have a comfortable lead there, but it is now considered to be a toss-up.

At the present time, CNN estimates that Mr. Obama has a slight Electoral College lead (safe or leaning states) over Mr. Romney: 237 – 206.  270 electoral votes are required to clinch the election.  There are eight toss-up states with a total of 96 electoral votes.  These are Colorado (9), Florida (29), Iowa (7), Nevada (6), New Hampshire (4), Ohio (18), Virginia (13), and Wiscinsin (10).  Both candidates have alternative pathways to 270 utilizing various combinations of these states.  Mr. Obama has more flexibility since he presently has more electoral votes projected to be in his column.

All in all, this election is shaping up to be a real “nail-biter,” one of the most interesting and significant of our lifetimes.  We may not know the final result until the day after Election Day, or, if there are legal challanges in closely contested states, for several weeks.  Remember the “hanging chads” from Florida in 2000?

PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE # 3. OBAMA ON POINTS

President Obama came out aggressively.  His objectives appeared to be to portray Mr. Romney as unfit to be commander-in-chief in that he would be more likely to get us entangled in a conflict and, in general, that he was inexperienced in foreign affairs.  On the other hand, Mr. Romney’s objective appeared to be to appear calm, reasonable and in control.  He did not attack as much as Mr. Obama.  Mr. Romney did, however, succeed in demonstrating a strong knowledge of foreign affairs.  Furthermore, I believe he was able to re-assure voters that he is qualified to be commander-in-chief and would not draw us into conflicts unnecessarily.  Once again, however, Mr. Romney missed a chance to attack Mr. Obama on his administration’s handling of the Libya attack.  In my opinion, that was a mistake.

In my opinion, Mr. Obama won the debate narrowly, but Mr. Romney achieved his objectives.  According to a CNN poll taken shortly after the debate 48% of debate-watchers thought Mr. Obama won and 40% thought Mr. Romney won.  Of course, the crucial question is to what extent, if any, this result will affect the actual voting.  We will get some sense of this later in the week.

Keep in mind, historically debate results normally don’t translate into votes on Election Day.  In addition, the central issues of the campaign are still the economy, jobs, the high debt, and the philosophical distinction between free enterprise and self-reliance versus Western Europe-style socialism.  Once the voters saw tonight that Mr. Romney could be trusted as commander-in-chief and would not be a dangerous “war mongerer,” I expect that those issues will carry more weight in most voters decision-making.

ALL BOUND UP

I am amused and befuddled by the animosity some women have demonstrated toward Mr. Romney throughout this campaign.  First, it was his stance on birth control and abortion; then, the $9.95 contraceptive; and now the BINDER.   As soon as one thing fizzles out, another one magically appears.  Has anyone heard from Sandra Fluck lately?

Talk about “no good deed going unpunished?”   All Mr. Romney was trying to do was find and hire qualified women for positions in his administration.  His advisors had not provided him with any, and he didn’t think that was appropriate.  He had a team of people, including other women, bring him possible candidates, in individual binders with their qualifications for his review, and he ended up hiring many of them.  Well, liberal women’s groups are spinning that as if the binders included racy pictures like you would find in Playboy Magazine.  Even a non-Romney supporter has to see how ridiculous this manufactured “issue” is.

In my opinion, these “binder ads,” like the “$9.95 ads” that preceeded it, reflect the views of liberal Democratic Obama supporters who happen to be women,  rather than the views of most women.  Furthermore, to quote the late former VP Spiro Agnew (and I hate to stoop so low) there is a “silent majority” of women out there who do not feel threatened and who see right through the fabricated “war on women” issue.  It is actually insulting to women and their intelligence to think that they are one-issue voters who would base their vote on fabricated issues like a $9.95 contraceptive or a binder instead of real issues like jobs, the economy, the deficit, international affairs, terrorism, and the overall philososphical difference of self-reliance and capitalism with safety nets for the truly needy versus trickle-down government a la Western Europe.

Those are the real issues in this election, and they are critical ones that could have long-term impact on us and our way of life.  Women:  I am not saying you have to vote for Mr. Romney, but at least make your voting choice based on the real issues.  You owe it to yourself and your kids.

OBAMA BRINGS “A” GAME. BOUNCES BACK

Last night a different President Obama than the one we saw in Denver showed up at Hofstra University.  Last night, as the athletes say, he “brought it.”  Mr. Romney wasn’t bad.  In a debate, particularly in a town hall format, when Mr. Obama is at his best few are better.  He has charm, charisma, style, likeability and superior debating skills.  These are the very attributes that brought him from virtual obscurity to the Presidency in a few short years in the first place, and he used it masterfully last night.  A CNN/ORC poll taken last night indicated that 46% of the respondents felt Mr. Obama won the debate versus 39% for Mr. Romney.  But, interestingly, only about half of those same people said that they would change their vote one way or the other as a result of the debate.

The debate was lively and even entertaining with several “in your face” moments.  Mr. Romney, to his credit, managed to push back to Mr. Obama without being disrespectful to the Office of the Presidency.  Mr. Obama did an infinitely better job than Mr. Biden had of being aggressive without being over the top and disrespectful to his opponent.  For the most part, Candy Crowley controlled the proceedings fairly well, however, I think she made two errors.  (1) She should not have interjected herself into the Rose garden-terrorist tiff, particularly since in the post-debate analysis a couple of analysts asserted she didn’t have the language quite right herself.  As a result, she misled the audience in Mr. Obama’s favor.  It was as if for a minute she  forgot that her job was to moderate, not interview. (2) She was not able to balance the candidates’ time.  Mr. Obama was allowed to speak for three more minutes. I know he tends to give long-winded answers and being the President, people don’t like to interrupt him, but nevertheless….

As usual, both men exaggerated and twisted the facts, and did not fully answer the questions when it suited them.   Sophisticated and knowledgable voters should not be fooled.  Afterwards, the fact checkers nit picked here and there.

Mr. Obama’s best moments were (1) when he was able to portray Mr. Romney as favoring the rich and (2) successfully dodging a full response to the Libya question.  Mr. Romney’s best moment was his response to a question to Mr. Obama that if I’m not better off now than I was four years ago why should I vote for you.  He laid out a litany of Mr. Obama’s failures, inactions and broken promises and portrayed Mr. Obama of using rhetoric to obscure them.  However, Mr. Romney’s worst moment, and where I believe he lost the debate was on the Libya question.  He failed to pin Mr. Obama down on the administration’s record of misleading statements and, even more glaring, broadening the incident to a failure of his Middle Eastern and anti-terrorism policies.

What does it all mean?  Well, probably not much in the grand scheme of things.  Historically, it has been demonstrated that the results of debates have rarely, if ever, affected the election.  Most likely, Mr. Obama did succeed in his main goal of stabilizing his campaign and slowing, if not halting Mr. Romney’s momentum.  Mr. Romney needs to do better in the last debate, especially on Libya.  Most, likely, however, in an election this close some external event or events will be the deciding factor, and don’t forget, for all the rhetoric the election will be decided by five or six states.

TAX TWO-STEP

Ah, to be a member of the treasured middle class!  Everybody loves you.  Everybody wants your vote.  Nobody wants to raise your taxes.  They promise they will raise the taxes of the rich people, whoever they are.  As we say in New York, “I have this bridge for sale.”

But who are the “middle class,” and who are the “rich people?”  The answer is, it depends.  It can be complicated, but generally it depends on where you live and the sources of your income.  For example, an annual income of say $100,000 in a high tax, high expense area such as New York City does not go nearly as far as in say, Nebraska.  Also, if the $100,000 is derived from a small business that enables the proprietor to write off certain expenses the money goes a lot further than $100,000 earned in salary.  Most politicians use the upper range cut-off of $250,000, so I’ll go with that, but keep in mind that if you make that much and live in a high expense, high tax area you probably feel like you’re middle class, not rich.

Anyway, in my opinion all this rhetoric surrounding the candidates’ respective tax plans is a typical political smokescreen for the following reasons:

1.  Regardless of who wins, his tax plan will not sail through Congress intact.  It will have to be negotiated, refined and massaged.  Any politician who gets too specific with respect to a plan he will deliver is just blowing smoke.  So, if you want to criticize Messrs. Romney and Ryan for being too general about their plan at least recognize that they are being realistic about the process.

2.  Raising tax rates on just the rich will not stimulate the economy nor reduce the deficit and debt substantially.  Besides, whether you’re counting $250,00 + earners, millionaires or 1% ers, there aren’t enough of them!  Somehow, someway, the middle class always ends up paying more, even if it’s through deduction, IRA, credit and exemption phaseouts, state taxes, property taxes, school taxes, sin taxes, bridge and tunnel tolls, car registration fees, etc.

3.  Don’t focus on just the tax rates.  Far more insidious are things like the alternative minimum tax, the marriage penalty, and exemption and deduction phaseouts.  The AMT was passed in the 1960s as a “rich man’s tax,” but it was not indexed to inflation.  Consequently, at this time if you make over $80,000 you will likely have to pay an AMT.  Politicians have never granted relief from this because it brings in a lot of revenue, and it flies beneath the radar.  People are hung up on tax rates.  The marriage tax was eliminated by the Bush tax cuts.  It means that a married couple with the same income as 2 single people pays more tax.  The candidates are not talking about these items, but their potential impact on the middle class is huge.

In conclusion, don’t be fooled by the rhetoric on both sides.  Any tax plan proposed is only a guideline, an insight as to the candidate’s thinking.  It will still have to be refined in Congress.  Far more important to you is the extension of the Bush tax cuts, protection from the AMT and the marriage tax. Moreover, regardless of who wins, don’t think that tax increases will be limited to the rich.

VICE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE AFTERMATH

The VP candidate’s debate on October 11 was interesting and entertaining, but it will probably have virtually no impact on the election.  Each side was pleased with their candidate’s performance, and as usually happens, assigned their spin doctors to tell anyone within earshot how their man won.  According to a CNN/ORC International Poll taken after the debate Ryan won narrowly 48% – 44%.  But, the poll had a 5% margin for error, so it was really a virtual deadheat.

Some observations:

1.  Martha Radatz, the moderator, did a better job of controlling this debate than Mr. Lehrer did the last one.  I felt that she focused a bit more on foreign policy at the expense of domestic policy, but, perhaps, that was because it is her main area of expertise.

2.  Mr. Biden achieved his main objective of coming out strong and attacking the GOP’s positions, including Mr. Romney’s 47% comment, which Obama had failed to do.  (Mr. Ryan had a snappy retort ready that Mr. Biden knows that “sometimes the words don’t come out of your mouth the right way.”)  He was definitely “scrappy Scranton Joe,” not “Gentlemen Joe.”

3.  On the other hand, I found Mr. Biden’s excessive interrupting and use of dismissive hand and facial gestures rude and distracting.  I felt it detracted from his performance.  Indeed, Charles Krauthammer’s analysis was that someone who listened to the debate on the radio would have likely concluded that Mr. Biden had won, whereas someone who had watched on tv would likely have concluded that Mr. Ryan had won.

4.  Mr. Ryan, who made his reputation on economic issues, demonstated a strong knowledge of foreign policy, holding his own with Mr. Biden, whose expertise is in foreign affairs.

5.  Both men were prone to exaggerations and bending of the facts, but that is normally the case in debates and in political speeches, in general.  We have come to expect and even accept that to some extent.  That is why many of us are so negative about politicians and politics, in general.  Some notable ones centered around medicare, their respective tax plans and abortion positions.  At this point in the campaign, each side has twisted the “facts” to such an extent that I don’t see how the voters can ever discern the real truth.  Therefore, I have concluded that each voter has to make a choice based on the best information available knowing it is not the whole truth;  decide which candidate you believe will do better for you based on the information available.

6.  Mr. Biden committed one serious exaggeration if not an outright lie, or maybe he was covering up a serious lack of knowledge.  That was concerning Libya.  He insisted that the administration had no knowledge of Ambassador Stevens’ cable requests for additional security as well as a recent assassination attempt on the British ambassador.  This information is coming to light now pursuant to an ongoing Congressional investigation headed up by Jason Chavitz (R) Utah.  Mr. Biden would have us believe that a midlevel State Department official made the security decision without consultation from superiors and without the White House’s knowledge.  Furthermore, he claimed it was influenced by budget cuts forced on the State Department by Republicans.  Those assertations do not seem credible.   According to Mr. Chavitz the State Department’s budget has actually increased  118% over the last 5 years.  Also, common sense would tell one to be extra wary given the climate in the Middle East, especially around 9/11.  I expect this issue will fester through the election. I also expect Mr. Romney to follow-up on it at the next debate.

All that said, as I said in previous blogs history shows us that vice presidential debates have virtually no impact on the election.  Even following Lloyd Bentsen’s destruction of Dan Quayle, the Bush-Quayle ticket won handily.  After next week’s Presidential debate everyone will be talking about that and the VP debate will have become a footnote to history.

LIBYA COVER-UP

In a previous blog I wrote that the Obama administration tried to blame the attack on the US embassy in Libya that resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including the US ambassador, on a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Muslim video.  This fiction was fed to us repeatedly for eight days by Jay Carney, Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice and Mr. Obama, himself, through press conferences, talk shows and other venues.  I guess the Administration was hoping that if you repeat a lie often enough it becomes the truth.  For those eight days, neither the mainstream press nor the Congress dug deeply enough to ferret out the truth.  Finally, on September 19, the Director of Counterterrorism released a statement classifying Ambassabor Stevenson’s death as resulting from a terrorist attack.  (I guess he didn’t get the memo.) Following that, the information dam burst.

Since then, the following pieces of information have become apparent with respect to this horrible incident:

1.  Two of the embassy’s security teams were withdrawn in August, leaving it vulnerable, particularly on the anniversary of 9/11.

2.  Following the attack, the Obama administration engaged in an organized cover-up to hide the truth.

Now that the truth, or at least part of it, has been exposed some questions still remain.  For example:

1.  Who authorized the removal of the security teams from Libya? Was it Mr. Obama, Ms. Clinton or some lower level functionary with or without their knowledge?  In any event, someone should have realized the potential danger of that action on the eve of 9/11.  Furthermore, one or both of those persons should bear the ultimate responsibility for the action.

2.  Who organized the cover-up?  I’m not sure what is worse for Mr. Obama, that he knew about it and knowingly participated in it, or that he didn’t know and should have known.

3.   How will this whole incident affect the election?  It should be a factor because it demonstrates one more example of lack of leadership as well as weakness in the face of international terrorism.  How much of a factor will probably depend on how the mainstream press plays it and how much the voters care about it. As we know, the mainstream press has been very sympathetic to Mr. Obama, so I wouldn’t expect a massive hue and cry about this from them.  As far as the voters are concerned, to the extent they are engaged, it is about the economy and jobs.  Perhaps, the GOP can get some mileage out of it if they can make an issue out of at the debates.  At the very least, it should give voters cause for concern about Mr. Obama’s leadership, truthfulness and lack of experience in foreign affairs.  In an election this close, anything can be the deciding factor.