Mitt Romney was, in the ancient jibe, born with a silver foot in his mouth. Starting out by saying he wasn’t looking for support from the 47% of Americans who don’t pay income tax he thereby shut out millions of pensioners, students and many looking for jobs who might listen to a man who promised jobs through his version of capitalism.
Romney finally caved into pressure to release his 2011 tax release and we learned that he made about $14 million but paid only 14% in taxes, about the same % as middle Class America earning $50,000 per year. This income he said, included his offshore investments in Caribbean tax havens saying that they were administered by a «blind trust». Don’t eat that, Elmer, those apples are horse buns.
The entire point of offshore investments is to shelter money from taxes. As to blind trusts, I can tell you from personal experience as a politician that blind or not, the «trustee» doesn’t make a move without checking with their owner. Indeed, blind trusts are for show only.
I want to be fair and must say that demanding the financial possessions of politicians is a relatively new political twist. For most of modern political times it was considered taboo to bring up one sex life or financial matters. The greatest of modern presidents. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was rich and while not a serial adulterer, certainly had mistresses known to those in the know including the media but would have treated with disdain any questions about his personal wealth and no one would have dared ask him questions about his personal life any more than a British journalist would have asked Churchill about his substantial use of alcohol or 1he didn’t think it inappropriate that he was often a guest on yachts or mansions owned by the rich and powerful?
The modern journalistic habit started in 1952 when Vice Presidential candidate, Richard Nixon (it would start with him, now, wouldn’t it!) misused, it was alleged, political donations. His running mate Dwight Eisenhower was going to drop him but Nixon gave a teary eyed speech on radio and TV denying any wrongdoing and told everyone that his little girls had been given a little dog and the little girls were going to keep Checkers.
While, until Ronald Reagan, divorce was a no-no. It was Bill Clinton who, unintentionally no doubt, proved in the mid term elections that came in the midst of his troubles, that the public couldn’t care less about the sexual proclivities of their politicians. In fact my on air comment was «the young men of the world owe a huge debt to Bill Clinton since never again will they have to explain to a girl what a «BJ» is!»
President Obama has profited from Mr. Romney’s post convention miscues but not as much as, in my view, he should have. One plus - sort of - has been in foreign affairs where Hillary Clinton has been a much better than usual Foreign Secretary. The problem is that all foreign affairs are no win situations. Since George W. Bush got American troops into Iraq and Afghanistan it’s been hard to withdraw. It’s now clear that Iraq is never going to be the happy democracy Bush told is all about. It shows that Bush didn’t know, or perhaps didn’t care to know that Iraq was a badly split community of Shia and Sunni Muslims who hated each other with the Kurds in the North despising them both. Bush also didn’t understand that conquerors from Alexander the Great through to the British then the Soviet Union found out the hard way that Afghanistan is unconquerable and that any attempt will require the loss of a lot of money, a lot of lives, and will a huge blow to the national prestige of any nation that ignores those realities.
For every president since FDR, the Middle East has been a headache of migraine proportions with Israel being the one constant factor. For the US to support Israel is very expensive and serves, at the very best of times as a major source of anger in the Muslim world. If the US were to cease funding and supporting Israel God only knows what would happen in the Middle East there and what profound impact it would have on voters, not just the Jewish Lobby. With Benjamin Netanyahu apparently slavering at the thought of attacking Iran. both candidates are having difficulty with the Middle East as a campaign issue…
President Obama’s ongoing difficulty is the economy with unemployment an issue over which he may have limited control but, as president, will take the heat.
The president is unable to take advantage of what should be a no brainer - the Wall Street Crash and failure of large industries and bankruptcies of financial institutions, all of which happened on the Republicans watch. It’s fair to speculate that a Republican president would have done what Obama would have done but the fact is that Obama was in charge.
I think a majority would approve a bailout of large companies like General Motors if only because of the lack of jobs which would have followed as a serious consequence of doing nothing.
What the president must face, and fairly, is the mess he made out of bailing out lending institutions many of which said «thank you very much Mr. President» and gave the bail-out money out as bonuses. This nasty blot on his copybook has meant that the President must pull his punches in attacking Mr. Romney on fiscal matters, the latter being able to say «criticize me all you want but at least I know something about making money and keeping it».
To come are the presidential debates, three in number. They have proved to be very important in some presidential years past especially to John Kennedy, Jimmy Carter (who won one thanks to Gerald Ford alleging that Poland wasn’t under the Soviet control then lost to Reagan) and Ronald Reagan.
President Obama, articulate and first class debater should win these debates easily but Romney is a skilled debater as well.
My assessment at this moment remembering that things mighty change before this gets to press, is that President Obama is ahead and that Mr. Romney has an uphill battle.
The main problem to a political prognosticator is the money - the hundreds of millions going into vicious advertisements. Sometimes these ads can hit the mark such as when Michael Dukakis was hit with the allegation that when he was governor of Massachusetts he released a vicious criminal. Willy Horton, who happened to be black meaning George H.W. Bush could not only play the anti violence card but without saying a word about it.
I leave this with the thought - stay tuned - that there has yet to be a defining moment.
And it will come.