I was glad to see the classy manner with which Mitt Romney accepted Melissa Harris-Perry’s apology for remarks made on her MSNBC program about the former presidential candidate’s adopted African-American grandson. Hopefully, this puts an end to the incident because there are far more important issues on the national agenda for 2014.
Two quick observations from my years in politics and media:
Number one, the incident reminds us that all public figures, no matter how powerful or influential, are people just like the rest of us. They are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, and so on. Yes, they signed up for a life in a fishbowl, and they’re more thick-skinned than most of us. But they experience the same feelings and emotions as we do.
I once worked with a man who had been a speechwriter for a member of the Kennedy family. He told me he began to think differently about what he once thought were harmless Kennedy jokes when he realized they involved someone’s uncle or father.
Secondly, I feel a need to clarify a sentiment emerging from the controversy, namely that targeting families of public figures is off-limits. While spouses, children and siblings may not have chosen to enter the limelight, politicians often use their family members to create warm, fuzzy images. In my opinion, they can’t have things both ways. Politicians and other public figures who use their families to score points can’t cry foul when someone brings one of those family members into the public discourse.
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In 1960, telephones were tethered to cords and only were used for conversation. The news came to us just a few times a day — when the paper landed on our doorstep and when networks aired their news broadcasts. And when John Kennedy and Richard Nixon took part in the nation’s first live televised presidential debate, they stood before cameras and answered questions.
Today we get our news 24/7 on phones and computers. Smartphones allow us to text and to email, to surf the web and to capture and share pictures and videos. Advances in technology have radically changed the way news and information is gathered and disseminated, but as Mitt Romney and Barack Obama campaign this fall, the format we employ for presidential debates is essentially the same as what it was more than 50 years ago.
Progressives are having a lot of fun watching Mitt Romney avoid taking a stance on President Obama’s decision to refrain from deporting young people who were illegally brought into the U.S. as children. It reinforces a theme that has included hammering Romney for failing to provide details of his plans to reinvigorate the economy.
But there’s a lesson to be learned from New Jersey and the state’s 2009 gubernatorial election. Democrats criticized then-candidate Chris Christie for being vague about how he would fix the N.J. economy. As we know, Christie won anyway and now has emerged as a national figure.
Voters apparently were not troubled by Christie’s lack of specifics. He took advantage of the fact that, when the economy is bad, the man on the top gets the blame. It may not be fair, but that’s the way it is.
Before the Obama campaign and the president’s supporters get too giddy when Romney stumbles and makes gaffes, they would be well-served to recall the message that James Carville drove home during Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign. It was the economy then – and it’s still the economy today.
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In one of the most memorable scenes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a character known only as the Black Knight engages King Arthur in a swordfight and quickly loses his arm in the duel. Undaunted, he continues the battle, even as the king chops off his other arm and then each of his legs. The Black Knight survives, but is reduced to a bloody stump of a man.
I found the scene from this 1974 British comedy replaying in my head this week as I followed the New Hampshire Republican primary. Although former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won the contest and strengthened his frontrunner status, he suffered plenty of bumps and bruises in the Granite State. Unlike the Black Knight, he did not lose any limbs, but his victory did not come without a price.
Now that the Iowa caucuses are over, what do we know about the 2012 presidential contest that we didn’t know before voters in the Hawkeye State took part in the first major electoral event of the campaign?
The truth is we don’t know a whole lot more than we did before the caucuses. At best, the Iowa contest confirmed what we already suspected about Mitt Romney: Despite his frontrunner status, the former Massachusetts governor Continue reading
The topics dominating the discussion about the Republican primary for president – Rick Perry’s inability to recall the details of his own campaign proposal and the sexual harassment allegations against Herman Cain – may be captivating, but they don’t tell us what we need to determine who is best equipped to serve in the Oval Office.
Sure, we’d like our leaders to be pillars of virtue, but there have been some very effective presidents, governors and mayors whose personal lives were not exactly role models. Likewise, Perry’s gaffe in the CNBC debate was downright embarrassing, but should our judgments on the next leader of the free world be based on a 53-second YouTube moment? There must be better ways to gauge who would be a good president. Continue reading
My op-ed on the GOP primary and the way we pick presidents in our country was published in today’s Buffalo News.
To read it, click here.
The Obama administration’s response to criticism about his decision to end the war in Iraq may offer a clue or two about the fate of next year’s presidential election.
While each of the GOP presidential contenders had harsh words for Obama, the president focused his response on Mitt Romney – acknowledging Romney’s frontrunner status and the likelihood that the former Massachusetts governor will be the Republican standard bearer in 2012.
More telling, however, was the tone of the administration’s response, delivered by Press Secretary Ben LaBolt: “Mitt Romney’s foreign policy experience is limited to his work as a finance executive shipping American jobs overseas.”
As I wrote in an August 19 column, throughout most of his time in the Oval Office, the president has been a punching bag, absorbing hits from Republicans and occasionally from members of his own party. He doesn’t generally strike back as forcefully as he did in this response to Romney.
In that August 19 column, I was writing about the Obama administration’s quick and strong response to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s comments on the state’s loss of federal funding. Such displays from the president and his administration, however, been few and far between. To win re-election in 2012, Barack Obama is going to have to engage in street fight politics. That’s not how he got to the Oval Office, but if he wants to stay there, it will take more than eloquent speeches and a charismatic personality.