Tag Archives: 2012 gop national convention

Thoughts on the First Debate: More Reasons to Be Careful of What You Vote Against

 

“Therefore it is unnecessary for a prince to have all the good qualities I have enumerated, but it is very necessary to appear to have them. And I shall dare to say this also, that to have them and always to observe them is injurious, and that to appear to have them is useful; to appear merciful, faithful, humane, religious, upright, and to be so, but with a mind so framed that should you require not to be so, you may be able and know how to change to the opposite.” ― Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince

I did not watch the Presidential debate Wednesday night. Not one minute of it. Neither did I watch the coverage of the debates by any news outlets, liberal or conservative. Somehow I think that doing so in such a poisonous political climate is bad for the soul. However while watching the Major League Baseball Channel I did occasionally check my Twitter feed and Facebook timeline.

What I saw on those made me really glad that I didn’t watch. I made a comment on my Facebook page that I wasn’t going to watch 90 minutes of political spin. The current debate formats used by every news network ensure that not only the candidates get to spin their stories but “spin rooms” are set up so all of the candidates surrogates can spin the debates. The media, liberal and conservative, mainstream, lame stream and weak stream love the spin rooms because for them this is money and power.

So I didn’t watch. I talked to a few friends today and got their take and finally this evening I watched some coverage of the aftermath and did a little reading. I got the message. Mitt Romney “won” the debate by flipping the etch-a-sketch. After months of pandering to the hard right he flipped to the center with enough force that it almost made the President’s head spin. It was like he was the old Massachusetts Governor Romney again, the one that he cast aside to win the nomination. From the pictures of the debate that I saw as well as the few clips that I watched tonight on appearance Romney stole the show. But I wonder how short lived the post debate “Romney kicked the lazy, incompetent, disengaged, protected not a real President’s” ass will last.

What really got to me about the responses I read last night in real time on Twitter and Facebook was the absolute willingness of the most extreme partisans on both sides to say the most hateful and outlandish things about the other candidate or their positions.  Not only was much of it hateful, but some was positively racist. Yes there were some that were trying to stay on actual policies but most seemed content to act like drunk football fans dissing the other team and some of the nastiest of the bunch were Christian clergy.

I wonder when people who really didn’t like Romney but supported him because they thought that he supported their interests will do when they see that when push comes to shove he, like so many politicians will toss them over the side to get elected. We know that in the primaries that many in the GOP, especially in the more Libertarian Tea Party and Social Conservative Evangelical Christian and Roman Catholic circles at best were tepid in their support of Romney if not outright hostile to his candidacy. But after they couldn’t nominate a non-Mormon anti-Mitt they gathered around Romney because of their opposition to Obama.

To me it now looks like Romney is doing the proverbial side step and is about to do whatever he needs to do or say to win the election, even if it means offending various GOP constituencies. Personally I don’t blame him if he does. Some of the things that he endured from people in his own party during the primaries, especially from Evangelical Christian leaders were shocking. The religious intolerance alone from some Evangelical leaders was frightening. So if Romney is able to turn this around and win I doubt that he will remain beholden to such people for long.  Unlike some I don’t think that Romney is running simply to help his fellow rich people. I think that he sees the Presidency as the pinnacle of personal success and if he is elected I know that he will want to go down in history as a great President. I may disagree with many of his policies and even some of the things that he has done, but I don’t think that he is in the race to lose, or should he win to fail as President.

That will be the ultimate irony of the campaign. That united by hate for a President tat they do not deem legitimate, that many find repugnant simply because of his race that they elect a man that will use them to get elected and then toss them and their agendas aside.

If nothing else Romney is a smart and ruthless businessman who is willing to play a zero sum game to win and should he be elected to do whatever he needs to do to be successful. He understands Machiavelli and he is willing to do the things that he needs to do to win.  In Massachusetts that meant universal health care and being “soft” on birth control and abortion. He also did what he needed to do to balance the state budget including revenue increases. Before the convention every time he or one of his staff tried to move toward the center in even the smallest way they were smacked down by the right wing of their party and conservative ideologues. Judging from the transcripts of what Romney said last night it sounded to me like he has now made that move. He will still try to placate some on the right but be certain he will do whatever he needs to win now, especially since he is trailing in the battleground states where he cannot win without moving to the center.

I have always said that people need to be careful of what they are voting against because they just might get it. My guess is the no matter candidate wins the election in November that the religious partisans of the Christian right will be the losers. They will have sold their soul for the sake of their political power and will come out on the short end of the equation. I think Jesus mentioned something somewhere about those that gain the world but lose their soul….

Those are just some thoughts after all, one of these guys is going to be the next President and whether or not he is “our” candidate he will still be President. So be careful what you vote against, you just may get it.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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TV Tonight: Orioles vs. White Sox or GOP Convention?

 

 

Walt Whitman said “I see great things in baseball.  It’s our game – the American game.  It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism.  Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set.  Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.”  I agree wholeheartedly with Whitman on this opening night of the political convention season.

I think I have picked up a summer cold or perhaps am suffering from allergies related to all the mold in the air from all the rain that has inundated us over the past month. I have had a sinus headache since last night and thankfully I was able to take off a bit early to go home, lay down and try to clean out my sinuses.

Regardless of what the malady is I am deciding what to watch on television tonight. The MLB Channel features the Baltimore Orioles against the Chicago White Sox while the Republican National Convention and other reality TV dominates the airwaves elsewhere. I’ll have a similar choice when the Democrats have their convention next week though it may not be the Orioles playing.

The problem is that I love baseball, I am thrilled that for the first time in years and years the Orioles are in playoff contention in late August but I also am fascinated by politics in the same way that I am by shark attacks and train wrecks. I began watching political conventions and debates 1968 when I was just 8 years old. I worked for the campaign of Gerald Ford as a volunteer in 1976 and I have watched campaigns and conventions ever since. However this year it is different. I thought it might be gutter quality of the campaign and the absolute polarization of the parties or the unwillingness of the uber-partisans on both sides to actually work together for anything that might be the cause of my lack of interest this year.  However that is not the case, other elections in my life have been nasty and partisan.

Unlike other election years there is no drama. Neither party’s convention packs any drama this year. Obama was an unchallenged incumbent and Romney destroyed his fragmented conservative opponents by carpet bombing them when they started to gain traction. There will be no surprises. The nominees have been set for months, the VP picks are chosen, the platforms offer nothing really new. Gone are the days of tension waiting to find out the VP nominee of a close role call vote or an insurgent candidate that is allowed, unlike Ron Paul to speak at the convention. Even protestors, who are a staple of the American political drama are being cordoned off by massive police and security forces a half mile away from the convention site. What happens in Tampa will be followed next week by the same show under a different name in Charlotte.  It is as if the conventions of both parties are completely in the thrall of the special interests and that nothing unscripted can be allowed to interrupt the show.

The speakers will do their best to fire up their respective electoral base by demonizing the opposing party and at the same time will do their best to make their candidate look good. The pundits and preachers have all chosen sides and smelled armpits while the advertising barrages of both campaigns and their allied Super-PACs and mega-donors are spending hundreds of millions of dollars in mostly negative advertisements. I get no respite from this since where I am stationed and where my home is are both swing states. Thus I and millions of others have to suffer through an unending bombardment of negativity, lies and distortion.

The one issue that really matters to me, that of what is happening to our military serving in harm’s way in Afghanistan will scarcely be addressed. There will be short tributes to “the troops” at both conventions but it will for the most part be bumper sticker patriotism devoid of any real depth, passion or empathy. But the fact is the vast majority of the country is not involved in the war and many don’t even know that there is a war going on or that we are on the verge of being sucked into other wars. Everyone is happy to “support the troops” especially if it doesn’t cost them anything. So for me that huge displays of red white and blue decorations and Old Glory flying over these conventions is somewhat askew with the reality that I see. It is cheap patriotism, except for the diamond, ruby and sapphire studded 24k gold pendants and American flag pins adorning the faithful. Those are expensive.

Please know that I recognize the profound differences between the parties and the choice that the voters of this nation will have to make in November. I just think that this year the conventions are lacking in drama, lacking in real passion and for that matter are simply places where the most partisan elements of both parties gather, surrounded by the big money people and treated as a new aristocracy by the media.

Streakers would make either convention more interesting

Because of this, and the availability of all the convention coverage by a multiplicity of sources from all sides of the American political-media spectrum as well as overseas media I don’t need to watch either convention. I might watch Mitt Romney and Barack Obama make their acceptance speeches but I am not going to trouble myself with the rest of it, unless a hoard Ron Paul of streakers make a dash through the convention, Paul Ryan converts to Islam, Chris Christie makes the case for himself in 2016 or if Joe Biden shows up in Tampa and steals the GOP nomination. That would make it interesting. It would take similar events at next week’s Democratic Party convention to make me watch it.

So tonight it is baseball. The Orioles are having a magical year. They are three and a half games behind the Yankees in the American League East and tied for the lead in the American League Wild Card race. They have already won more games this year than they did all of last season. They have won 13 straight one run games and no-one, with the possible exception of me and maybe Buck Showalter thought that they would be in this race right now. With just over a month left in the regular season the Orioles matter. That my friends is drama, that is inspirational, that is worth watching. So to Mitt and the GOP faithful this week and President Obama and the Democrat faithful next week, I have better things to do than watch you. I have baseball.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Baseball, Batlimore Orioles, News and current events, Political Commentary

Praying for the Gulf: Hurricane Isaac Channels the Ghost of Katrina

Hurricane Katrina was a devastating event. The hurricane nearly came ashore as a category 5 hurricane, weakening at the last minute before coming ashore in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Even so the storm had major and long lasting effects. Over 1800 people lost their lives and property damage exceeded $81 billion. Parts of New Orleans still remain an uninhabited ghost town. It is etched in the psyche of the inhabitants of the Gulf Coast and the nation. Whenever a storm forms in the Gulf of Mexico it brings back those terrible memories of August 2005 when death came to New Orleans in the form of Katrina. The ghosts of Katrina still remain and Hurricane Isaac has channeled those ghosts.

Katrina

In 2005 I was serving as the Chaplain for the Marine Security Forces in Norfolk. I preparing to fly to New Orleans for a conference on Sexual Assault and Prevention. I was watching the weather closely and as Hurricane Katrina tracked toward New Orleans and grew stronger I got word that the conference had been postponed. I was disappointed because I was looking forward to the conference, meeting some colleagues that I had not seen and had planned to see a Minor League ballgame when in town.

My disappointment rapidly shifted to concern about the areas of New Orleans and Gulfport Mississippi. Initially I wasn’t too concerned but watched in horror as the storm strengthened. I was thinking hard about the Navy in Gulfport where I had talked the detailer out of sending me in to be the junior chaplain in the base chapel 2003 because I wanted to remain operational. Had I meekly agreed to the detailer we would have been directly in the path of Katrina’s track.

To watch the disaster unfold was frightening. To see people suffering and the breakdown in civil order as the city was inundated was frightening. Emergency response was woefully insufficient, public order completely broke down as levees failed and local response providers became victims themselves. The Super Dome was a prime evacuation center but it was hit hard, supplies we short and the attempt to provide shelter to the poor who could not evacuate a disaster. State, Local and Federal responses were poorly coordinated and executed.  I some ways New Orleans will never completely recover from Katrina.

It appears Isaac is tracking to New Orleans and Gulfport.  If it continues its path and the models are correct the effects should be nothing like Katrina although massive rainfall and storm surge could create some chaos. Thankfully some dry air is keeping Isaac from gaining too much momentum however Katrina surprised many by gaining a huge amount of power in a very short time.

Local, State and Federal government agencies are on alert, the National Guard has been activated in some areas and evacuations of coastal areas have been going on for a couple of days.

Isaac will have economic impacts beyond any life or property damage due to the storm but, hopefully only short term. Oil drilling and production facilities will be shut down for several days even if they sustain no or little damage and gas prices are moving up. Oil platforms have been strengthened since Katrina but all it takes as one platform to fail to create an ecological disaster.

Isaac has delayed the Republican National Convention in Tampa which was very much in the target zone just a few days ago. Anyone who has ever been to Tampa knows the danger if a storm was to hit it. There have been studies one of which, Project Phoenix http://www.tbrpc.org/tampabaycatplan/pdf/Project_Phoenix_Scenario_Info.pdf  which analyzes the effects of a worst case scenario. In 1921 Tampa was hit by a category 4 storm that did great damage to Tampa and St Petersburg which were then much smaller metropolitan areas.

Damage from the 1921 Tampa Bay Hurricane

While Tampa should suffer little from Isaac, the city was right to take preparations and the GOP leadership was right to delay the start of the convention. Since hurricanes often make unexpected moves and sometimes strengthen in ways not expected they could not take that chance. That being said if Isaac hits New Orleans hard it could put a damper on media coverage of the convention. After all in our society natural disasters and human tragedies always get more coverage than political rallies.

I have been through about 6 or 7 hurricanes or tropical storms in North Carolina and Virginia and another in Okinawa. I have rode out hurricanes and Indian Ocean cyclones at sea. they are not to be taken lightly. Last year I experienced Hurricane Irene which was a very large slow moving category one storm which did enough damage in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania to be classed as one of the top ten natural disasters in the history of the country.

So I pray for all of those in the path of Isaac tonight and in the coming days as the storm hits the Gulf Coast and then moves inland.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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