Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Four More Years, Again

The rescue of the American automobile industry by the Obama Adminstration was a tremendous example of the ability of big government to pump new life into an entire industry, save tens of thousands of jobs, and rejuvenate a state's economy. The President took well-deserved credit when he spoke Tuesday at a UAW rally. David Edwards at The Raw Story reports

At that point, the president detoured from his prepared remarks to explain just how much he liked Chevy's new electric car.

"Secret Service wouldn't let me drive it," he joked.    "But I liked sitting in it.    It was nice.   I bet it drives real good."

"And five years from now when I'm not president anymore, I'll buy one and drive it myself!"    Obama exclaimed, prompting the enthusiastic audience to chant, "Four more years!     Four more years!:

This chant previously had been heard at least twice on behalf of President Obama's re-election bid.     Consider:

... in September, 2011 in Los Angeles:

.... and in October, 2011 in Asheville, N.C.:

But Obama enthusiasts are not the first to invoke the phrase.    the earliest I know of occurred 34 years ago in support of a Repub incumbent:

I think we know how that ended.

And now it's invoked on behalf of Barack Obama- and with no sense of irony.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Rampant Socialism

Politico reports that a poll of 2003 self-identified Republicans "shows a large slice of the GOP believes President Barack Obama is a “socialist” who was not born in this country, should be impeached, wants the terrorists to win and only won the 2008 election because ACORN “stole” it for him."

That poll, indicating 63% believed Obama is a socialist, took place two full years ago.       Surely, things have changed; after all, as Tom Moran of northern New Jersey's Star-Ledger notes, President Obama

has been a close friend of the big capitalists. He saved the banks and auto companies with government money, and is unloading the government’s shares as quickly as he can. He agreed to keep the Bush tax cuts in place for the wealthy. He agreed to devote roughly one-third of his stimulus plan to tax cuts for business and others. He has been banging his head into brick wall to get free trade pacts approved in Congress.

If he were a socialist, he might have at least pressed for a health care plan like Canada’s, which is basically Medicare for all. He certainly would not have set up this Rube Goldberg scheme that bends over backward to preserve the position of private insurers.

Moran was responding to a poll conducted by the Eagleton Institute of Politics only last August.     The survey revealed 53% of Republicans, asked to respond to the statement "President Obama is a Socialist," agreed while 32% disagreed and 14% indicated they "don't know."     The 53% is a smaller number than the 63% of the earlier survey but it took place in New Jersey, whose Republicans, though obviously conservative, are more moderate than they are nationally.

Additional polling would be revelatory now that, as Reuters reported last month, "recent calls for a wide-ranging criminal investigation of the mortgage servicing industry have come from members of Congress, including Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., state officials, and county clerks. In recent months clerks from around the country have examined mortgage and foreclosure records filed with them and reported finding high percentages of apparently fraudulent documents."  

Reuters earlier had reported

under Holder and Breuer, the Justice Department hasn't brought any criminal cases against big banks or other companies involved in mortgage servicing, even though copious evidence has surfaced of apparent criminal violations in foreclosure cases.

The evidence, including records from federal and state courts and local clerks' offices around the country, shows widespread forgery, perjury, obstruction of justice, and illegal foreclosures on the homes of thousands of active-duty military personnel.

Speculation has emerged that the Justice Department has avoided pursuing criminal prosecution because both Holder and Breuer (the head of the Department's criminal division) were partners for several years at Covington and Burling, whose clients included the four largest banks and "at least one other bank that is among the ten largest mortgage servicers."

Despite the Administration's corporate-friendly record, rank-and-file Republicans should not be condemned for believing the line that the President is a socialist.     Willingness to accuse him of being a socialist has been almost a litmus test for GOP presidential candidates this cycle.      Rush Limbaugh constantly repeats the charge and in December criticized Mitt Romney because he "will not call Obama a socialist" and "won't even call Obama zany."      Perhaps, however, Romney understands that most voters don't believe such drivel from talk show hosts, and all the money from all the SuperPacs in America won't buy an election for a candidate pandering to the most outlandish myths.    

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Church And State, Conflated

Four years ago Rick Santorum  (in)famously told students at Ave Maria College in Florida

We all know that this country was founded on a Judeo-Christian ethic but the Judeo-Christian ethic was a Protestant Judeo-Christian ethic, sure the Catholics had some influence, but this was a Protestant country and the Protestant ethic, mainstream, mainline Protestantism, and of course we look at the shape of mainline Protestantism in this country and it is in shambles, it is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it.

The parameters of "mainline Protestantism" are somewhat elusive.      Excluded would be Roman Catholics; Eastern Orthodox adherents; Jews, Muslims, and members of Eastern religions; individuals denying a religous affiliation; and, for the most part, evangelical Protestants.     (Evangelical and mainline are not mutually exclusive, but nearly.)

Wikipedia identifies mainline Protestants as Congregationalists, Episcopalians, northern Baptists, Methodists, most Presbyterians, most Lutherans, and members of some smaller denominations. (The United Church of Christ, formed a few decades ago by union of Congregationalists and Disciples of Christ, should be added.)   In the U.S.A., the numbers of Roman Catholics are holding steady, members of Eastern religions are growing as the nation becomes ever more diverse, evangelical Protestants are increasing in number, and the number of individuals eschewing any religious affiliation is exploding.         The proportion of mainline Protestants, hence, has declined to its lowest level in history, though whether the number is as low as 15 million or as high as, say, 45 million, is debatable.

While it is difficult (for anyone but Rick Santorum, apparently) to generalize, mainline Protestant denominations have shifted over the years to a theological viewpoint with which the former Pennsylvania senator from Virginia disagrees.   (Even here, however, generalization is risky:     some congregations within a couple of the denominations may not march in lockstep with the national organization.)       It is not reassuring, however, that an individual who is vying to be president of a nation of extensive ethn ic and religous pluralism among its 300 million-plus citizens would argue, without elaboration, that one vital part of the religious mosaic "is gone from the world of Christianity."

It is presumptuous of any individual to read any denomination out of the Christian family.      Having declared mainline Christianity "in shambles," Santorum appears to be assuming that "the world of Christianity as I see it" is, simply, the world of Christianity.

Josh Barro of Forbes has a different take.     He believes more important is the portion of the speech in which the Pennsylvania Senator from Virginia says

If you were Satan, who would you attack, in this day and age? There is no one else to go after, other than the United States. And that’s been the case for now almost 200 years, once America’s pre-eminence was sown by our great Founding Fathers.He didn’t have much success in the early days—our foundation was very strong, in fact, is very strong. But over time, that great, acidic quality of time corrodes away even the strongest foundations. And Satan has done so, by attacking the great institutions of America, using those great vices of pride, vanity and sensuality…

Barro comments

Let’s think back to what America was like almost 200 years ago. Slavery was legal, indeed enshrined in our Constitution by our Founding Fathers. The federal government was forcibly removing American Indians from their lands, leading to thousands of deaths. Women couldn’t vote and were limited in their rights to own property. And yet, Santorum sees Satan wielding more influence and having more success in America today than he did then.

The issue is not that Santorum favors slavery or Indian removal—if prompted, I’m sure he would agree strongly that these were great evils. But how does somebody look at the history of American society and see a country that was more Godly under Andrew Jackson than it is today? The answer is by focusing only on the rights and treatment of white, Christian men. When some conservatives and libertarians make paeans to a lost period of American greatness, they are treating the perspectives of women and minorities as if they don’t exist, or don’t count. 

There is enough that is wrong-headed in the speech to go around.     Santorum, to his credit, does not suggest that he has changed his mind in the ensuing four years or otherwise developed a fondness for tolerance.      Nor could he.     Sunday, he said on ABC's This Week 

now we’re going to turn around and say we’re going to impose our values from the government on people of faith which, of course, is the next logical step when people of faith — at least according to John Kennedy — have no role in the public square.

John Kennedy, unsurprisingly, said no such thing in his speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association.     The distinction Kennedy rightly drew, as Jon Meacham told Charlie Rose today, is between church and state- not between religion and politics, as Santorum imagines it.      In the same broadcast, Dr. Richard Land, still a conservative Christian as president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, argued that Kennedy acknowledged a role for his conscience as informed by religious faith while maintaining that he would not be guided by an external religious authority.  

It is telling that a major presidential contender believes there should be two sets of rules- one for "people of faith" such as himself and another for his disbelieving neighbor.     Whether that neighbor is Christian or not, white male or not, Rick Santorum's vision is of a bifurcated nation, one forever divided against itself.       Out of one, many.

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Long Way To Go

Lawrence Lewis blogs on Daily Kos "The odds that President Obama will be reelected are strong and growing stronger. The economy is staggering back to its feet, no one can credibly claim that the Republicans are better on national security, and the field of Republican candidates continues to be an embarrassment of embarrassments."

Opining on the editorial page of the Boston Globe, Tom Keane argues that if nominated, Mitt Romney will "pivot" to the center, a debatable proposition; and that if Romney loses, Republicans will complain that the party did not nominate a conservative and will be even more obstructionist. "obstreperous" and uncooperative.

That is undoubtedly true but, like Lewis, Keane also believes it highly likely President Obama will be re-elected "given the economy’s turnaround and the GOP’s own ugly infighting."

Don't go making reservations for the inaugural ball just yet. columnist and CNBC contributor Daniel Dicker writes "With gas prices spiking so early in the new year, it's easy to predict that the United States will see $4 gas sometime this summer. I would even put the chances of $5 gasoline at one in three."     He notes that gasoline demand in the nation is at a 10-year low and supplies are so plentiful the U.S.A. now is a net exporter.        With the ever-increasing tensions in the Middle East, Tehran may take its oil "out of the global supply chain."         Meanwhile, he explains, hedge funds, money managers and institutional funds are bidding up the cost of oil by adding to their commodity holdings as they continue to buy stocks.       Dicker concludes "It sounds bizarre, but it's true -- asset investments -- bets on oil -- are costing us every time we fill up."

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, signed into law in July 2010, granted the Commodity Futures Trading Commission authority to draw up new rules on commodities speculation, including oil.   The CFTC avoided doing so but, prodded by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, in October finally "voted to impose position limits on commodity speculators."    But as David Dayen noted, Sanders recognized "Under this rule, a single Wall Street speculator will still be allowed to hold positions equal to 25 percent of the physically deliverable supply of crude oil, gasoline, and heating oil. That’s not enough.”     It's unclear when the rule will take effect and even then, it's unlikely it will significantly restrain oil speculation.

Of course, you won't hear any of this from the GOP presidential candidates, who will increasingly (as Newt Gingrich already has done) blame President Obama for rising gas prices.         The mainstream media will treat their complaints as if they're credible.     The ongoing worldwide increase in demand (a relatively minor factor) and the volatile nature of the Middle East will be blamed for the run-up in prices.    But news outlets will largely ignore the impact of corporate America because the explanation for the increase at the pump is a little complex, insufficiently sexy, and uncomfortable to Wall Street.   Speculating endlessly on the political impact, the "liberal media" will pound on the subject by showing the price signs at gas stations, interviewing irate motorists, and virtually ignoring speculation.

If we are to believe everything we hear or read from the usual suspects, we would think that the only economic factor bearing on the outcome of the presidential and congressional elections is the unemployment rate.      Unemployment and under-employment are still at horrific levels, and the media would have better served the citizenry if it had made the effort to explain the rationale behind economic stimulus and the salutary effects on joblessness of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.    

That, obviously (cliche alert), is water over the bridge.       But as gas prices rise, the guys and gals on television will be shocked! shocked! to find President Obama's favorability numbers decline and the projected match-up between the President and his opponent(s) tighten.     It will not be smooth going for Obama, no matter the radicalism of the Republican Party and the weaknesses of its nominee.

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Rick Shills For The Rich

We know who Rick Santorum is, which is more- or at least something different- than we can say about the GOP's likely presidential nominee, Mitt Romney.  

Unfortunately, almost all we know about Santorum is not good.    On Friday in Troy, Michigan, the former Pennsylvania senator from Virginia maintained

Not all folks are gifted the same way. Some people have incredible gifts with their hands. Some people have incredible gifts and want to work out there making things....

President Obama wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob.    There are good, decent men and women who work hard every day and put their skills to the test that aren't taught by some liberal college professor....

That's why he wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image.      I want to create jobs so people can remake their children into their image, not his.

These faux anti-intellectual remarks from one of Virginia's most prominent millionaires apparently were met with considerable applause.        They were, ironically, made at a rally sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, Michigan.         The source of the chapter's funding is not easily ascertained, but AFP nationally is heavily subsidized by Charles and David Koch, owners of the second largest privately held company, and second largest privately held energy company, in the U.S.A.      Reflecting the political persuasion of the right-wing libertarian Koch brothers, the Michigan group's executive director has urged "taking unions out at the knees so they don't have the resources" to fight for workplace benefits or political candidates.

Truly a man of the people, a genuine populist, that Rick Santorum.       Consider that he believes that the tax plan of America's most famous vulture capitalist, Mitt Romney, is too hard on the wealthy.      At a tea party rally in St. Claire Shores, Michigan, the former senator

criticized the tax plan Romney laid out earlier in the week that would reduce all income tax rates by 20%, noting that Romney said he would make the plan revenue-neutral by limiting mortgage and charitable deductions for the "top 1%."

"Hmmm, where have I heard that before?" Santorum said. "We have a Republican running for president who's campaigning as an Occupy Wall Streeter."

From the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, here is a graph, indicating that the effective tax rate for households with over $1million, fell from 32% to 22% from 1992 to 2007:

This would bring a smile to Rick Santorum's face while he continues his "anti-snob" campaign on behalf of the 1%.

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Approximately five months ago, Salon columnist/editor Joan Walsh and academic, author, and columnist Melissa Harris-Perry squabbled about Harris-Perry's peculiar article in The Nation in which she contended that white liberals are being mean to Barack Obama.     She contended the President's "record is, at the very least, comparable to that of President Clinton, who was enthusiastically re-elected. The 2012 election is a test of whether Obama will be held to standards never before imposed on an incumbent. If he is, it may be possible to read that result as the triumph of a more subtle form of racism."

Walsh effectively rebutted her charges, prompting a response from Harris-Perry to Walsh in which the former insisted that the latter had inaccurately referred to her as a "friend."       It had been a horrid insult, referring to Harris-Perry as a friend, and Walsh was properly dressed down for such an unconscionable transgression.      Not surprisingly, a few months after her racially-based attack on liberals and on Walsh, Harris-Perry was given a regular hosting gig on the Network That Dare Not Speak Ill Of Barack Obama.

Ever polite and still somewhat (realistically) pro-Obama, Walsh refused to note that she merely had been holding to a high standard someone who, as a candidate, had assured an enthusiastic audience that future generations would recognize "this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal …"

President Obama, of course, has been held to a far lower standard than he claimed for himself over three years ago-  and still has little better than a 50-50 shot to defeat a candidate of a party driving itself over an ideological cliff.        Meanwhile, there are reasons aplenty for liberals to be disappointed in, and even dissatisfied with, the President.     Nonetheless, they are sticking by him and most for reasons beyond recognizing him as the lesser, or least, of evils.

Such unrequited loyalty has of late been characteristic of organized labor, including the National Education Association and the Communication Workers of America.      The NEA, apparently grateful for the appointment as Education Secretary a Chicagoan intent on undermining the public school system, who has continued to pursue policies inimical to the interests of teachers and schoolchildren, endorsed Obama for re-election over seven months ago.      

In 2010, members appointed by the President to the National Mediation Board adopted a rule making it easier for railroad and airline workers to unionize.       However, four days after the Communication Workers of America endorsed Obama for re-election on February 2, 2012, the Senate approved a reauthorization bill for the Federal Aviation Administration.       Association of Flight Attendants-CWA President Veda Shook believes, as Josh Eidelson at Slate explains, that the legislation  

By packing an employee list with ex-workers or challenging voter eligibility, management would have new opportunities to delay or avert an election despite majority support.  By legislating election rules, the bill would enable management to call workers who signed cards to be questioned as part of discovery in an anti-union lawsuit.  When a larger non-union company merged with a smaller unionized company, the bill would make it possible for management to cease recognizing the union, with no election at all.

In a furious speech, CWA International president Larry Cohen charged that Democratic leaders had refused past requests to attach pro-union provisions to appropriations bills, but were allowing Republicans to use the FAA appropriation to force an anti-union change.

Of the bill signed by Barack Obama eight days after he was endorsed by the union, Cohen charged  “The leadership in the Senate didn’t even see fit to include [the pro-labor NMB rule] in this gutting of the statute …  Our little crumb of an advancement is left as a rule, so the day that there’s ever a Republican president elected … they’re going to strip the rule.  The statute will remain.  It’s worse than it’s ever been.”

Barack Obama intends to renew his lease on the White House by virtue of support of independents, and liberals are mere collateral damage.     While there was little doubt that the CWA and the NEA evntually would endorse his re-election bid, they hastened to do so before they could extract a quid pro quo or at least something in return.      They sent the message of some many of those white liberals Melissa Harris-Perry finds insufficiently obsequious- that they can be had, and had cheaply.

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Friday, February 24, 2012

No Principle Here

Jonathan Capehart is too kind.     Too kind to Chris Christie.     It's not only that he considers (video below) it an "honor" and a "privilege" to be bullied on national (cable) television (video way below).    (Note:   videos, both from MSNBC, are presented here in reverse chronological order.)    

Capehart's undeserved kindness consists in his cogent, accurate, and generous description of his and Obama's differences withthe New Jersey governor.      He explains

Christie has a point. He and Obama both support civil unions. But there are several reasons Obama isn’t criticized as much as Christie.

Yes, Obama is in favor of civil unions. And he has caught hell from the gay community for saying repeatedly that his position on same-sex marriage is “evolving.” Heck, The Post and the New York Times have urged the president to evolve already. But let me point out the differences between Obama and Christie and why Christie fails to meet his own “courage” test.

The state legislature handed Christie a bill that would have made New Jersey the eighth state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage. He had the opportunity right then and there to show true courage and leadership by signing it into law. Instead, he punted. Obama has had no such opportunity to affix his signature to such historic legislation. Saying flat-out “I’m for gay marriage” would be high on symbolism and moral persuasion. But it would be low on real impact. Instead, the president has taken real actions that fly in the face of Christie’s criticism.
The Obama administration declared a year ago today that it viewed the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be unconstitutional and therefore would no longer defend it in court. Obama has vocally supported the state-by-state efforts to allow gay and lesbian couples to enjoy the rights and responsibilities that come with marriage. And he has even thrown his support behind S 598. That’s the Respect for Marriage Act sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) that would repeal DOMA.
In short, the president is using whatever power he has to do right by gay men and lesbian couples who want to marry. Remember, this is a democracy, not a monarchy or a dictatorship, despite what you hear from some in the Republican Party. If Congress were to put the Feinstein bill on Obama’s desk he’d sign it. If only Christie had had the courage to show true leadership when a marriage-equality bill was sitting right in front of him last week.
Christie, according to the Washington Post columnist, would have demonstrated "true courage" and "the courage to show true leadership" if he had only signed into law the bill establishing same-sex marriage the New Jersey legislature had passed.         But Christie had two opportunities to display courage.     He could have signed the bill.     Or he could have vetoed it, and let it go at that.     But he did neither, instead vetoing the bill, then calling for a referendum.       Both chambers of the New Jersey legislature are "controlled" (think US Senate "controlled" by Democrats) by Democrats and the Senate President thus far has refused to call a vote on Christie's referendum.
The Governor's veto of the same-sex bill is unlikely to be overturned, especially now that the Governor, as slick as always, has called for an ombudsman to be appointed, ostensibly to ensure that the state's civil union regulations are enforced.     Understandably, the gay rights community, as well as legislative Democrats, recognize this as a ruse, and Christie has not explained why after more than two years as governor, he has discovered the flaws in the state's civil union law.      
Initially, I believed that the Governor vetoed the legislation, then called for the voters to pass judgement, because it put him into a no-lose situation:      tell the base he opposes same-sex marriage and not have to incur endless enmity from the gay community if the referendum  passes.      However, the Governor's push for an ombudsman, which might provide cover for any Republicans who might  be tempted to join the Democratic effort to override his veto, suggests that the Governor is hoping gay marriage is rejected at the polls.     He still would have a win-win on his hands; 2016 primary voters would see him as defying liberal "social engineering" while he can argue to the national media that he let the people decide.  
Jonathan Capehart believes the Governor would have demonstrated courage if he had signed a same-sex marriage bill roughly half of New Jerseyans support.     But that would have been approximately as courageous as vetoing the initiative.      Either would have been far bolder- and far more forthright- than the course Chris Christie is taking.       The bill should have been signed or vetoed.    Period.

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Romney And King:    Perfect Together

In the video below from Wednesday night's GOP debate, John King asked "What is the biggest misconception about you in the public debate right now?" and after two of the other candidates responded, the following exchange ensued:

John King, CNN:    Governor Romney?

Mitt Romney:     We've got to restore America's promise in this country, where people know that with hard work and education that they're going to be secure and prosperous and that their kids will have a brighter future than they've had.    For that to happen we're going to have to have dramatic fundamental change in Washington, D.C.    We're going to have to create more jobs, have less debt, and shrink the size of government.    I'm the only person in this race...

King:   Is there a misconception about you?    The question is the misconception.

Romney:   You know, you get to ask the questions you want, I get to give the answers I want.

King:    Fair enough.

David Atkins believes it tells you all we need to know about Mitt Romney and about traditional media.    He blogs

Except to repeat whatever talking points his consultants give him, I don't think Mitt has ever in his life been forced to toe anyone's line but his own.    And it shows.

Also, John King's attitude is pretty reflective of the current state of our traditional media.    The wingers can say whatever they want, regardless of whether it has any bearing on the truth or the questions asked, and that's just fine by them.

A third possibility:    it says a whole lot about John King.    It wasn't as if he shouldn't have been prepared.   At the January debate in Charleston, South Carolina, King asked Gingrich about the big (huge) news of the day, that the second Mrs. Gingrich was accepting of the affair Newt was having with Callista.    It had been flogged all day, not by MSNBC, The New York Times, or even CNN, but by conservative blogger Matt Drudge.    Still, Gingrich sensed political gold in responding "I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office.    And I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that.     I am tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking Republicans.”

King was fairly passive in his own response.     At least in that instance, though, the audience was (not surprisingly) all in Gingrich's corner while he attacked what most Republicans imagine is a liberal media protecting Democrats.      Last night, King could have suggested that he had hoped Romney would answer the same question which Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich already had answered.    Or he might have told Romney that he thought he'd appreciate the opportunity to rebut a false accusation made about him.     Or slightly more combatively, King might have noted that the voters- Republican voters- get to know more about the candidates when they answer the questions which are posed to them, as Paul and Gingrich had just done.      At worse, King could have said nothing, rather than responding in the worst possible manner-    "fair enough," as if he agreed with the candidate.

It's hard to avoid the conclusion that Romney, recognizing how rudeness to the moderator in the debates has benefited Gingrich, was going to use any excuse to attack King.       The question, after all, was a slow curve- what candidate wouldn't want to be asked an open-ended question begging him to emphasize his own virtues?       Romney could have acknowledged that many people believe that his success in business (actually, extreme wealth through predatory capitalism, but it's a question easily spun) precluded him from caring about Americans who have lost their home or their job and face escalating gas prices because of Barack Obama's failed economic policies.        He would have simultaneously addressed a major concern about his candidacy, revealed a gentler ("compassionate conservatism," anybody?) side to his personality, and slammed President Obama, the latter to thunderous applause.

Nevertheless, Mitt Romney found it more gratifying to attack a weak journalist, and John King played the tool.

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It's All That Guy Obama's Fault

Irresponsible remarks by the three leading GOP presidential candidates at last night's debate in Arizona did not stop at the water's edge.

Rick Santorum curiously contended President Obama "did reach out immediately to Syria and established an embassy there."         Only Barack Obama did not establish or re-establish the embassy in Damascus.      Our ambassador to Syria was recalled in 2005 following the assassination, to which the Syrian government may have been connected, of the former Lebanese prime minister in Beirut.      But our embassy was not closed (and hence Obama did not re-open it) but rather, as Wikipedia notes, "A series of chargés d’affaires represented the U.S. until the appointment of Robert Stephen Ford in January 2011."

An aerial strike against Iran might, at some point, be unavoidable.     But Romney, who vigorously asserted Obama "does not want Israel to take action- that he opposes military action," ignores the obstacles Tel Aviv would face.     The New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller recently wrote

Should Israel decide to launch a strike on Iran, its pilots would have to fly more than 1,000 miles across unfriendly airspace, refuel in the air en route, fight off Iran’s air defenses, attack multiple underground sites simultaneously — and use at least 100 planes.
That is the assessment of American defense officials and military analysts close to the Pentagon, who say that an Israeli attack meant to set back Iran’s nuclear program would be a huge and highly complex operation. They describe it as far different from Israel’s “surgical” strikes on a nuclear reactor in Syria in 2007 and Iraq’s Osirak reactor in 1981.

“All the pundits who talk about ‘Oh, yeah, bomb Iran,’ it ain’t going to be that easy,” said Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, who retired last year as the Air Force’s top intelligence official and who planned the American air campaigns in 2001 in Afghanistan and in the 1991 Gulf War.

The GOP front-runner maintained also the President "opposes military action. This is a president who should have instead communicated to Iran that we are prepared, that we are considering military options. They're not just on the table."

President Obama, timid peacenik that he is, has said that launching a war- or, as Romney put it, "military action"- is not ideal.     In the same statement, however, the President added "But we are keeping all our options on the table,”  which sounds a lot different than "they're not just on the table."     Obama's assessment, unlike Romney's charge, is consistent with the Israeli spokesman in Washington whom Bumiller explained

said the country continued to push for tougher sanctions on Iran and reiterated that Israel, like the United States,  "is keeping all options on the table."

Leaving the issue of Iran, host John King asked Newt Gingrich "on the question of a more prominent role for women, good idea or bad idea?"

It would seem a simple question- good idea or bad idea, yes or no.      But not for Gingrich, who responded

Well, look, I think it's a misleading question in the modern era. You live in a world of total warfare. Anybody serving our country in uniform virtually anywhere in the world could be in danger at virtually any minute. A truck driver can get blown up by a bomb as readily as the infantrymen.

So I would say that you ought to ask the combat leaders what they think is an appropriate step, as opposed to the social engineers of the Obama administration.

Hand it to Newt:     he knows the lingo.     Referring to foreign policy and military advisors as "social engineers"  is pretty heady stuff for a guy who advocates replacing school janitors with schoolchildren.        King neglected to ask Gingrich his interpretation of Article 2, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, which specifies "The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States."       Although in the spirit of "monkey see, monkey do," Santorum also invoked "social engineering" he cautioned "I would defer to at least hearing the recommendations of those involved. But I think we have civilian control of the military, and these are things that should be decided not just by the generals."

In regard to the Armed Forces, the President of the United States, not the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or other military figure, is commander-in-chief.      When action can be taken against Muammar Ghaddafi, Osama bin Laden, or Somali pirates, the decision is that of the President.     It is his/responsibility, and he who will be held accountable, to the nation, the world,  and history

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Encouraging Abortion

Rick Santorum's controversial remarks are coming fast and furious.   Late to the game, but a couple of hours before tonight's Repub presidential debate, it's still not too late for me to criticize one of Rick Santorum's comments from a campaign stop Saturday in Columbus, Ohio.     CBS News noted he

lambasted the president's health care law requiring insurance policies to include free prenatal testing, "because free prenatal testing ends up in more abortions and therefore less care that has to be done because we cull the ranks of the disabled in our society."

Prenatal testing provides more information to the woman and encourages some to have abortions.     And, for those who are relieved to find no birth defects in the fetus, it deters some women from terminating their pregnancy.       A Republican politician who is right even less than Santorum, Sarah Palin, suggested another advantage of pre-natal testing.     During her 2008 campaign for the presidency, before giving birth to Trig, Palin stated:    "I was grateful to have all those months to prepare. I can't imagine the moms that are surprised at the end. I think they have it a lot harder."

Of course, neither Palin nor Santorum would acknowledge one of the best strategies to reduce the incidence of abortion.       In October, 2009 a blog noted the non-profit, pro-choice Guttmacher Institute released a report which found  

... that total abortions occurred at "roughly equal rates" in countries where they are legal and where they are highly restricted, which means that laws outlawing abortion are serving only to drive women to have the procedure in riskier places and with riskier methods. But at a news conference in London, Guttmacher president Sharon Camp cited the Netherlands as an example for all other countries to follow. It has the lowest abortion rate in the world: about 1 percent of women have had an abortion in the past year compared with a worldwide average of about 3 percent.

The Dutch? With their legalized prostitution and ultraliberal abortion laws? How can that be? I did a little research and found out that the Netherlands has not only the lowest abortion rate but the lowest rate of teen pregnancy. In fact, the country has held this distinction for decades. Researchers credit strategies like sex education in schools, discussion of sexuality in the mass media, and easy access to contraception. One study pointed out that "acceptance of contraception preceded liberalization of abortion" and that Dutch citizens accept "abortion only as a last resort."

Unless you have an (R) after your name and are an elected official or running for president, you are not surprised that widespread access to birth control decreases the frequency of abortion.     Still, it's startling that abortions occur approximately as often in countries in which termination of pregnancy is forbidden as in countries in which it is permitted.       Which, ironically, makes the generally pro-choice Barack Obama an anti-abortion, and Rick Santorum an aggressively pro-abortion, public official.

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Miserable Lives

If only.    If only Rush Limbaugh were accurate, we'd have a president demanding a fair share for the 90% of the American people who aren't ultra-wealthy.

Rush wants his followers to believe that President Obama is a racist Socialist rather than the pragmatic centrist he has governed as.      Tuesday, he played a clip of Obama promising

In the months to come, wherever we have an opportunity, we're gonna take steps on our own to keep this economy moving.  Because we've got a choice right now.  We can either settle for a country where a few people are doing very well and everybody else is having to just struggle to get by, or we can build an economy where everybody gets a fair shot and everybody's doing their fair share, and everybody is taking responsibility.  And everybody's playing by the same set of rules.  And that's the economy that I want.

Rush, who hears what he wants to hear, responded

Yeah, in a few months, pal, what you want isn't gonna matter.  That's the economy you want?  Who are you?  That's the economy you want?  Where everybody's equal?  And you get to define equal?  Don't forget what I told you yesterday, quoting Tocqueville.  Americans in the early 1800s fought the perils of equality, not the perils of inequality.  They fought the perils of equality. 

Everybody gets a fair shot, everybody does his/her fair share, everybody takes responsibility, and everybody plays by the same set of rules.      That sounds like equal opportunity, no matter the outcome, fair or unfair; and a summary of a center/right, free-market perspective.

But we are dealing with a bloviator from the far-right who is offended- offended- by the idea that everyone should get a fair chance, play by the same rules, and take responsibility.

Media Matters for America calls Limbaugh out for arguing that medical costs play virtually no role in bankruptcies.     In the video (way below) from the Media Matters website, Limbaugh plays a clip from Obama, then comments    

What a cloudy, gray, raw, overcast October day this guy presents us. "You're willing to put in the work. The idea is you ought to be able to raise a family and own a home, not go bankrupt 'cause you get sick." And I ask again: Who the hell does? How often does it happen that people go bankrupt from getting sick in this country? I'm sorry, this offends me. We have the best health care system the world has ever seen. It does not drive everybody into bankruptcy. No, but he wants you to think it will! He wants you so afraid of getting sick, so afraid of having to go to the hospital!

In a study published in 2007 in The American Journal of Medicine, researchers observed "Using a conservative definition, 62.1% of all bankruptcies in 2007 were medical; 92% of these medical debtors had medical debts over $5000, or 10% of pretax family income."       Limbaugh, though no doubt unaware of this study, couldn't possibly believe "This constant portrayal of health care as something that can cause you financial meltdown.  To how many people does that actually happen?  The percentage is so small you couldn't calculate it."    

A day without a flat-out lie from Rush Limbaugh, like a day without time, is impossible to imagine.     But it isn't every day (only most days) that Limbaugh demonstrates his utter contempt for average Americans, as he did yesterday:    

Obama will save you. And you'll have your little 1800-square-foot house, your 2.8 kids, a white picket fence, a dog, a couple of electric cars -- 48,000 hour charge the damn thing so it's able to drive 40 miles. They really want you on a mass transit, stupid little bus going to your mass job where you're nothing but a number.

A moment later- perhaps concerned that his sycophants haven't gotten his message- Limbaugh stated

So "hope" equals a nine-to-five job. You get home on some form of mass transit. When you have to go to the grocery store, you get in your little electric car or whatever. Your house looks like everybody else's house. It's where everybody else's house happens to be.

So now we know.    If you own a little bit of the American dream- a house of modest size, raise children, own a dog, work hard 40 hours a week providing for your family- you are worthless in Rush's world.      You're not someone who lives in a 24,000 square feet mansion, with five other buildings for guests, on your private estate (Limbaugh compound, below).     You may not be as lucky as individuals like Rush, able to separate yourself from the rest of the middle-class and (horrors!) have to live "where everybody else's house happens to be."      

The elitism characterizing this guy may be unparalleled in American society.


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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Educational Malfunction

It's easy to get caught up in Rick Santorum's intolerant views toward birth control, abortion, and religious views different than his own and neglect to notice his other reactionary opinions.         Richard A. Oppel of The New York Times reports Santorum in Columbus, Ohio

said the idea of schools run by the federal government or by state governments was “anachronistic.” Mr. Santorum did not say public schools were a bad idea, and he said that there was a role for government help in education.

But it was the latest in a series of comments by the former Pennsylvania senator — who is tied in polls in the critical Ohio and Michigan primary contests — suggesting that he takes a dim view of public schooling. He and his wife home-schooled their children.

For the first 150 years, most presidents home-schooled their children at the White House, he said. “Where did they come up that public education and bigger education bureaucracies was the rule in America? Parents educated their children, because it’s their responsibility to educate their children.”

“Yes the government can help,” Mr. Santorum added. “But the idea that the federal government should be running schools, frankly much less that the state government should be running schools, is anachronistic. It goes back to the time of industrialization of America when people came off the farms where they did home-school or have the little neighborhood school, and into these big factories, so we built equal factories called public schools. And while those factories as we all know in Ohio and Pennsylvania have fundamentally changed, the factory school has not.”

Inconveniently, the idea of public schools goes back a little further than that  (H/T to Blue Texan of Crooks and Liars) to the Founding Fathers, whom conservatives adore citing when convenient.      It seems

For Thomas Jefferson, public education was the key to preserving republican government. To secure the broadest level of popular education Jefferson prepared his "Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge" as part of the revision of Virginia's laws. As chair of the committee, Jefferson proposed a three level system in 1779, (never adopted): three years of primary education for all girls and boys; advanced studies for a select number of boys; a state scholarship to the College of William and Mary for one boy from each district every two years.

Jefferson advocated public education not only because it lifted individuals out of ignorance, but also as an institution fundamental to America's republican system of government.     He noted in his State of the Union address in 1806

Their patriotism would certainly prefer its continuance and application to the great purposes of the public education, roads, rivers, canals, and such other objects of public improvement as it may be thought proper to add to the constitutional enumeration of Federal powers.

It appears that Santorum would not end subsidies for public education but would eradicate the influence of taxpayers, as expressed through their elected representatives.    The Times continues

While he said he did not oppose government financing of schools, Santorum said that "public education should be a dynamic process that's locally run."

"I think the parent should be in charge," he added, "working with the local school district to try to design an educational environment for each child that optimizes their potential."

From the party of small government, we have a proposal for a school system with, say, 10,000 students:     10,000-20,000 parents working with thousands of school employees to develop 10,000 curricula.      At best, Santorum simply hasn't given any thought to this.    More likely, it's a conservative's wet dream:      taxpayers funding private schools with no standards and guidelines, chaos abounding.

And while he's at it, educational expert Rick Santorum, who urges "an educational environment for each child that optimizes their potential," might consider that each child instead should optimize his or her potential.     Just saying.

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Reverend Santorum

On Friday, CNN reports, Rick Santorum "sought to bring some clarity to his birth control position" by stating in Columbus, Ohio "My position is birth control can and should be available."         Alexander Burns and Maggie Haberman at Politico write "while the ex-senator doesn't favor outlawing birth control...."   

So, the ex-Pennsylvania Senator from Virginia doesn't want to ban artificial contraception.      Case closed.

Or not.      In Mckinney, Texas Santorum on Wednesday had maintained  
“It’s not because I want to be the pastor of the United States.         I have no intention and no desire to be the pastor of this country."

But in his Friday speech in Columbus the candidate went on to say

The president’s agenda is not about you.    It’s not about you. It’s not about your quality of life. It’s not about your job.    
It’s about some phony ideal, some phony theology.        Oh, not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology, but no less a theology.   

Santorum was not suggesting President Obama is not a Christian, National Communications Director Hogan Gidley comforted us, but rather “Rick was talking about the President’s belief in the secular theology of government — and how believing that theology is dangerous...."

Whether a non-theology, such as secularism, can be (or should be) elevated to a theology is debatable.    But Santorum is positing that Obama subscribes to a secular theology, one which "
 teaches that it’s perfectly fine (to) take away our individual God-given rights and freedoms," according to Gidley.        Conveniently, his candidate divides the nation into two religions:     real Christians (and Jews, perhaps), who are noble or virtuous; and secularists, who are ignoble or wicked.       And then he says:      "I have no intention and no desire to be the pastor of this country."

Unless Rick Santorum holds to an idiosyncratic definition of "pastor," he is being dishonest or, as the media likes to picture him, refreshingly candid.

When Santorum says "my position is birth control can and should be available," he is being similarly mendacious.      This is no libertarian, who might hold to a reactionary point of view but is fundamentally, philosophically opposed to government action.        This is Rick Santorum, who has asserted "I am not a libertarian, and I fight very strongly against libertarian influence within the Republican Party and the conservative movement."

Santorum is not a libertarian, and in some ways that's reassuring.       But when it comes to your most personal beliefs and values, including sexual mores, Rick Santorum is an authoritarian, and that is not reassuring.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Pleasing Outcome

Now they've gone and done it.

The Virginia Senate, and now its House of Delegates, has passed a bill which "would require a woman seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound at least 24 hours prior to the procedure."     The doctor would be required to show the woman the resulting image; if she refuses to watch, it is to go on her permanent record.

Early in the pregnancy, an abdominal sonogram would be insufficient to provide the information mandated by the legislation, hence requiring, as Democratic Delegate David Englin put it, "many women in Virginia to undergo vaginal penetration with an ultrasound probe against their consent in order to exercise their constitutional right to an abortion, even for nonsurgical, noninvasive, pharmaceutical abortions."  

The resultant charge among many on the left that the procedure constitutes legalized rape would strike many as hyperbolic.      But it's only barely so:      in an interview with RH Reality Check, Englin cited

 § 18.2-67.2. Object sexual penetration; penalty.
A. An accused shall be guilty of inanimate or animate object sexual penetration if he or she penetrates the labia majora or anus of a complaining witness, whether or not his or her spouse, other than for a bona fide medical purpose, or causes such complaining witness to so penetrate his or her own body with an object or causes a complaining witness, whether or not his or her spouse, to engage in such acts with any other person or to penetrate, or to be penetrated by, an animal, and

1. The complaining witness is less than 13 years of age, or

2. The act is accomplished against the will of the complaining witness, by force, threat or intimidation of or against the complaining witness or another person, or through the use of the complaining witness's mental incapacity or physical helplessness.

It doesn't meet the dictionary definition of rape, but it is coercive, violent, and subjects the offender to a penalty of five years to life.The bill's sponsor (a woman), responding to the obvious charge that a forced sonogram is invasive, responded “If we want to talk about invasiveness, there’s nothing more invasive than the procedure that she is about to have.”        
Seriously, she did.         An abortion may be medically necessary, is voluntary, and is safer (on average) to the patient  than is childbirth.    But the main purpose of the legislation isn't to end, or even to deter, abortions.      Libertarian Megan McArdle remarks   

I think that abortion should be legal, but I also think that it should be a last resort, and I’m all for the government using any non-coercive methods it can to encourage women to carry their pregnancy to term, including things that will make them feel bad about aborting. I think, for example, that sonograms should be mandatory before termination, I’m in favor of waiting periods and parental notification laws, and I’m agnostic on spousal notification.

Keep it legal, but make them feel bad about the life she thinks they're ending.     Similarly, a Red State blogger pleads "abortion proponents are being disingenuous when they argue that this is a restriction on a 'woman’s right to choose.'  In no way will a mother be forced to pay for this test, nor will any result make her abortion more difficult to procure."

Oh, yes.     The legislation is not intended to decrease abortions but to harass women.      And "abortion proponents" are the ones who are disingenuous.         Assessing an abortion restriction intended not to reduce the incidence of "murder" but instead to shame women, Digby comments

I'd also point out a little known fact about Virginia's state rape law: they are to be used even for women who are having chemically induced abortions. They must be probed as well --- in order that the government "make them feel bad" for what they are legally entitled to do. (And, by the way, if they refuse to look at the ultrasound, that's supposed to be noted in their medical record --- I'm assuming for some sort of future reference, the purpose of which is obscure.)

So patients will be required to obtain and view an ultrasound, presumably to convince them that the fetus is a living, breathing human being who should not be killed.      No doubt it will deter some women, the ones whom the anti-choice contingent believe are worthwhile- those who, presented with undeniable evidence, will conclude that saving a life is paramount to all other considerations.     The women who (in the right's view) refuse to be swayed by evidence and are selfish will press on with the abortion.

Presto; mission accomplished.    Women are successfully intimidated- but only those whom, ironically, the pro-life people would approve of.        Odd thing is, they probably find that very satisfying.

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Celebrity Culture

Rule of thumb:    if Rush Limbaugh is against it, be in favor of it; if Rush Limbaugh is for it, be against it.

That applies even in the rare- very rare- instances in which Limbaugh can be credited with being (euphemistically speaking) tolerant.

And so it is with the kerfluffle in New Jersey.     Not the important one- gay marriage- but the unimportant one, Whitney Houston.     On Thursday Limbaugh argued

This Whitney Houston in New Jersey and the flag at half staff. I have a question. If she did not have in her life a problem with drug abuse and alcohol -- take a little out of it -- and she died prematurely...? We don't yet know what the cause of death was, but let's assume that alcohol and drugs had nothing to do with it. Take that out of it. How many of you would be upset that the flag was lowered to half staff? How many of you are upset about it simply because, in your mind, "She was just an entertainer. Come on! We lower the flag for statesmen, for heroes. What is this entertainer business?

(Insert cheap Oxycontin joke here.)

Rush backed the decision by Republican Governor Chris Christie, who would be ordering flags in New Jersey to be flown at half-staff today, the day of singer Whitney Houston's funeral in Newark, largest city in the state and  city of Ms. Houston's birth.        Limbaugh added

keep in mind: New Jersey lowered the flag for Frank Sinatra and Clarence Clemons of the E Street Band with Bruce Springsteen. So it's not that uncommon. It really isn't.

No, it's not uncommon, and the life of Whitney Houston should not be celebrated any less than that of Clarence Clemons or the mob-related figure.    

Here "is this entertainer business":        flags should not have been lowered to half-staff for those individuals, either, because they were entertainers.         Celebrities are mere celebrities, deserving in death no special consideration on the basis of their popularity in life. Honor is- or, rather, should be- bestowed upon "statesmen" and "heroes," such as members of the armed forces and selected political leaders, because they served the community, whether local, state, or national.      Their professional lives stand as a commitment to the public interest, in which they strive less for economic advancement than for the public good. Whitney Houston should not be penalized for being extremely talented and successful, but neither should either be a basis for honoring her memory, any more than it is for your extremely talented and successful (but less applauded) neighbor.    

Rush noted, approvingly, that Christie stated

I'm disturbed by people who believe that because of her history of substance abuse, that somehow she's forfeited the good things that she did in her life.  I just reject that on a human level.  What she is is a cultural icon in the history of this state....

All of us should learn to be a little more understanding of that, and understand that this is a disease and that we need to help these folks to try to conquer this disease and not ridicule them for it, because it's a struggle for everybody.

But it is roughly as misguided to honor Houston because of her record of substance abuse as it is to withhold the honor because of her checkered past.       Its significance is lessened further because we know not what role (if any) illegal drug use- or prescription drug use, alcohol use, bad choice in romantic relationships, or anything else- had in her death.       (And thanks for the lecture, Governor.)

Defending his decision, Governor Christie could have kept it simple by referring to the examples of Sinatra, Clemons, or others and left it at that.       But he decided instead to wax empathetic about Whitney Houston's drug involvement.    He did it, moreover, not because of a sense of compassion but as a weapon in the continuing controversy over drug use in his state.      In so doing, he missed an opportunity to remind us that great statesmen and ordinary soldiers are not entertainers and are deserving of honors that mere mortals, including the likes of singers, saxophone players, and actors, are not.

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Friday, February 17, 2012

In Attack Mode

Foster Friess, Rick Santorum's sugar daddy,  told Andrea Mitchell onThursday  

We have jihadist camps being set up in Latin America, which Rick has been warning about and people seem to be so preoccupied with sex -- I think it says something about our culture. We maybe need a massive therapy session so we can concentrate on what the real issues are.       This contraceptive thing, my gosh it's such [sic] inexpensive. 

Back in my days, they used Bayer Aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn't that costly.

Later, Friess apologized (sort of) for his ludicrous and offensive remark, blogging

After listening to the segment tonight, I can understand how I confused people with the way I worded the joke and their taking offense is very understandable.       To all those who took my joke as modern day approach I deeply apologize and seek your forgiveness.

It was closer to an unequivocal admission of wrongdoing than heard from most public figures (politicians, athletes, and others) who make a disgusting remark and was, relatively speaking, fairly classy.

Not so than the guy he wants to put into the White House and control.          Appearing Friday morning on CBS' Morning Show, Santorum commented

This is someone who is a supporter of mine, and I'm not responsible for every comment that a supporter of mine makes.        It was a bad joke, it was a stupid joke, and it is not reflective of me or my record on this issue.

Good, Rick, now stop speaking.       But no, he just couldn't:

This is what you guys do. You don't do this with President Obama. In fact, with President Obama, what you did was you went out and defended him against someone who sat in a church for 20 years, and defended him, that he can’t possible believe what he listened to for 20 years.      That’s a double standard, this is what you’re pulling off, and I’m going to call you on it. 

Friday afternoon, he referred to the dustup as "crap" and boasted "I went at Charlie Rose this morning a little bit for bringing this stuff up."

Be honest, readers.      When you saw Foster Friess opine on contraception, you thought:   "oh, my gosh!     This is just like Jeremiah Wright!"    No.

Probably not.     One fellow is a minister, the other is a former investment manager.      One guy is middle class, the other worth approximately $530 million.         One guy is black, the other white.  

They don't look or sound like the other.     But Santorum is right about one thing.      This wasn't done to Barack Obama (not President Obama, Rick:    it was Senator/candidate Obama).       No, Foster Friess volunteered his remark and his candidate was given the opportunity to respond to it.       But the media, without being prompted, broke the news of Reverend Wright and his relationship to the presidential candidate.     Longtime ABC investigative reporter Brian Ross wrote in March, 2008

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama's pastor for the last 20 years at the Trinity United Church of Christ on Chicago's south side, has a long history of what even Obama's campaign aides concede is "inflammatory rhetoric," including the assertion that the United States brought on the 9/11 attacks with its own "terrorism.   

In a campaign appearance earlier this month, Sen. Obama said, "I don't think my church is actually particularly controversial." He said Rev. Wright "is like an old uncle who says things I don't always agree with," telling a Jewish group that everyone has someone like that in their family.Rev. Wright married Obama and his wife Michelle, baptized their two daughters and is credited by Obama for the title of his book, "The Audacity of Hope."

An ABC News review of dozens of Rev. Wright's sermons, offered for sale by the church, found repeated denunciations of the U.S. based on what he described as his reading of the Gospels and the treatment of black Americans. 

Thus began a controversy which continued for months, and continues- to this day- in the words of conservative Republicans, including Rush Limbaugh.       And now Rick Santorum, who, dogwhistle firmly between lips, brings it up in a wholly unrelated matter.

But there is- or may prove to be- yet another difference between the Foster Friess and the Jeremiah Wright matters.  Soon after Wright's existence came to light, Obama condemned the loathsome remarks the minister had made.         The following month, the Senator went further, asserting "I am outraged by the comments that were made and saddened by the spectacle that we saw yesterday."      Shortly afterward, he and his wife left the church.

There is still time for Santorum, who blamed the media for reporting what his most important and powerful supporter had said, to concede that his excuse was nearly as loathsome as Reverend Wright's sermons.      Though Oba ma disassociated himself from his pastor, Santorum need not unload his benefactor, who more or less apologized.   But his own invocation of media bias where none exists was inaccurate and demonstrated a severe (as Mitt Romney would have put it) lack of character.

Barack Obama did what was necessary, cutting ties to a man who did not deserve (or need) his loyalty.      Santorum, however, blamed others for his troubles.       He merely may have been reflexively paranoid.      Alternatively, he was cunning, attacking the media which, Newt Gingrich has found, is effective Repub campaign strategy.     The response of media matters will be enlightening, as they confront and probe Rick Santorum's inflammatory response-  or roll over and play dead, allowing the GOP to intimidate them.

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The husband-wife (or, rather, wife-husband) duo of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and Martha-Ann Alito nee Bomgardner flew an upside do...