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An Ode to the Candidates…

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Since it’s Friday, a little levity is in order to prepare us for the weekend. So here, then, we present an Ode to the Candidates:

Little Ricky he don’t make no sense
Rotten grammar misplaced tense
Ran up the budget eighty percent
He’s part of Texas establishment

“Vote for Gore!” old Ricky said
Gotta wonder about that boy’s head!
“Illegals need to go to school!”
That Ricky’s such a tax and spend fool!

Little Mitt’s got a health care plan
For every woman child and man
But he don’t want you to have a choice
All slicked back hair and radio voice

Mitt says he’s a business man
But he’s just following daddy’s plan
From a family of politicians
Pampered lives oh so patrician

Mr Cain’s a fun pizza guy
He’s got a plan but it won’t fly
Put the tax in every store
Better load your wallet heading out the door!

Cause 9-9-9′s a catchy rhyme
But it’s 12-12-12 in no short time
Gotta love his delivery
But this ain’t pizza, can’t you see?

Dr Paul’s a Texan man
With a three year balanced budget plan
“The Constitution’s coming back!
End the Fed’s monetary attack!”

Cut a trillion in year one
But hold on folks, Mr Paul ain’t done
Ditch the Ed, Interior and HUD
Energy, Commerce and all the other crud.

Ms Bachmann’s got some solid points
Despite her time in all those tax lawyer joints
But her hero Reagan didn’t drink that tea
Raised taxes every year of his presidency

Think TEFRA was a good idea?
And massive spending every year?
Grow tax receipts by 8.2
Is that what Michele wants us to do?

Newt is full of bluster and bluff
And all the wonky policy stuff
Give him credit – he’s got good lines
But Newt my man you’ve had your time

“Personal mandate!” big Newt used to say
Until the tide went a different way
Now he’s peeking at Ron Paul’s lines
And damning the Fed – it New Newt times!

Thank you Sarah for sitting it out
Your spending in Alaska left us all in doubt
TV shows seem more your style
To stretch your fifteen minutes a mile

You really don’t belong in this ode
With “bridges to nowhere” and a dead end road
You’ve had your fun now keep on walking
There’s business at hand and the adults are talking

Rick Santorum gets just one verse
’cause “war war war” just makes things worse
Little Rick’s running out of cash
And that odd expression – I think he’s got a rash!

Huntsman – are you kidding me?
Stilted jokes ain’t comedy
Working for Obama has made you nuts
And where the heck are the budget cuts?

So which one’s going to take on Barrack
And put the country on a different track?
And send that man from whence he came
“Community organizing” seems more his game

’cause leadership ain’t his song to sing
Takes more than that “hopey changey” thing
One term it seems is more than enough
For “tax the rich!” and class warfare stuff

Guess we’ll see on that day in November
How many of his sins the people remember
“Spend! Spend! Spend!” is his rally cry
“Congress won’t do it – I can’t understand why!”

Should prove to be an interesting race
Keep making a mess or clean up the place?
Will forty-five get his four
And point forty-four to the exit door?

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Las Vegas GOP Presidential Nominees Debate: Perry Falters; Romney Steady; Paul Strong

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Tonight’s GOP debate in Las Vegas, Nevada, between hopefuls for the GOP Presidential nomination featured lots of fireworks, stumbles by some candidates (most notably Governor Rick Perry, but Newt Gingrich too) and some significant differences on policy positions. Here’s an overview of how the candidates fared:

Rick Perry

Texas Governor Rick Perry has had a rough time in prior debates, and has seen his standing in the polls plummet rather dramatically, from an early, substantial lead, to currently out of the top three. Mr Perry needed a strong performance in this debate.

He didn’t produce it. In fact, his performance was so poor, the Las Vegas crowd booed him on several occasions. Mr Perry, it seems, has decided to focus on two things: answer as many questions as possible by working in the term “energy independence” (regardless of whether energy in any way relates to the question at hand), and attempt to attack former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

On this second point, Mr Perry adopted a strange strategy: clearly weakened by revelations in prior debates that, as Governor of Texas, he instituted a program whereby illegal aliens are subsidized by the state for post-secondary education (an illegal alien studying in Texas pays less than a visiting student from, for example, California or Illinois, with up to $100,000 less being the figure commonly quoted by Mr Perry’s adversaries), Governor Perry decided to level an allegation against Mr Romney that Mr Romney had previously knowingly hired illegal aliens and continued to employ them after learning of their status. This was not only effectively swatted aside by Mr Romney (as he explained it, a company he hired to tend to his lawn maintenance happened to employ an illegal alien, and fired that individual after Mr Romney objected, but subsequently hired another illegal alien), it allowed Mr Romney to make a point about his own plan for an electronic system which would permit employers to identify the legal employability status of employees.

On multiple occasions, Governor Perry repeatedly interrupted Mr Romney during Mr Romney’s answers, so much so that the crowd began to boo. Mr Romney effectively put Mr Perry in his place by suggesting that, as President of the United States, he would have to occasionally listen to other people without interrupting. And jarringly, Rick Perry repeatedly referred to Herman Cain as “brother”, which he did not do to any of the white candidates.

Mr Perry also suggested withdrawing United States support for the United Nations in its entirety. And Rick Santorum accused Governor Perry of writing a letter to Congress on the day of the TARP vote urging Congress to act (Mr Perry’s rebuttal was that his letter urged them to do “something”, but not what they did).

Governor Perry had a very poor outing, and it’s hard to imagine a scenrio whereby he recaptures the lead in the polls, or comes anywhere close to the Republican nomination. In each debate, Mr Perry has seemed vastly out of his depth, and increasingly relies upon repeating that his state has created the most jobs (notably absent from his claims, and not mentioned by the other candidates, is the fact that an awful lot of those jobs were in the state government: Governor Perry has increased spending 81.94% since he took office, as we previously reported in our article, “Perry vs Romney: Both Big Spenders, History Shows…“). It will be interesting to see how long Mr Perry remains in the race, given how poorly he has been performing, both on stage and in the polls, and it’s further hard to envision Governor Perry beating even the weakened President Obama. Mr Perry’s confidence and charisma have vanished; unfortunately it does not appear that leaves him with much to trade on in this race.

Mitt Romney

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney had a generally steady night. Attacked early for his Massachusetts health care plan, and for prior suggestions that he considered such a program suitable for the entire country, Mr Romney fired back by proclaiming that the Massachusetts plan is right for the state but not right for the nation, and backed it up, as he has in the past, by pointing out that the citizens of Massachusetts favor his health care plan by a three to one margin. It’s an odd and difficult argument to make, because Mr Romney is essentially arguing that the merit of such a plan is a function of its scale: it’s okay at the state level but not okay (and, he claims, unconstitutional) at the federal level.

Governor Romney managed to very effectively silence Newt Gingrich by claiming Mr Romney’s plan took the idea for an individual mandate directly from Mr Gingrich. Mr Gingrich vehemently denied the charge, before admitting on a direct question from Mr Romney that he had indeed spoken out in favor of an individual mandate.

When Mr Perry attempted to cast Mr Romney as a “flip flopper”, Mr Romney responded by pointing out that Mr Perry previously chaired Al Gore’s Presidential bid against George W Bush.

Mr Romney’s strategy of avoiding specifics and masterfully directing many of his answers into, essentially, “This country needs jobs and I’ll give them to you!” played well: his style is so smooth that, unless listening closely, it’s easy to miss that he doesn’t actually say very much on any topic.

Ron Paul

Texas Representative Ron Paul had another strong showing: here is a candidate who doesn’t need to pause and calibrate his message into what a candidate is “supposed to say” – his positions are logically consistent (Governor Perry, on the other hand, appears as though he has had too many aides providing too many “positions” on too many topics, to the point at which they have overcome his ability to memorize his supposed positions).

Ron Paul scored with the audience when moderator Anderson Cooper listed off the federal departments Mr Paul would shut down: Housing and Urban Development, Education, Energy, etc. On the question of foreign aid, Dr Paul simply stated he would cut all foreign aid, and at one point had both Mitt Romney and Rick Perry telling the audience they agreed with Mr Paul. His message that foreign aid amounts to taking money from poor Americans and giving that money to rich people in poor countries resonated with the crowd, as did his message about bailouts, the economic bubbles and the inability of the federal government to “manage much of anything”.

On the issue of whether he is in favor of the federal government storing spent nuclear contamination in Nevada, Ron Paul suggested it is inappropriate for the federal government to forcibly dump the garbage of forty-nine states on one of the states, said he considers it a state issue, and mentioned that, at one point, he was one of three members of the House to vote against the measure, the other two being representatives of Nevada.

Perhaps the most striking contrast of the evening came between Rick Santorum and Ron Paul on the issue of cutting defense spending: Mr Santorum (clearly a hawk, who previously stated he would like to “go to war with China” but probably meant he would welcome a trade war with the Chinese) said he would not cut one penny of defense spending. Ron Paul, on the other hand, pointed out that the United States maintains bases in 150 foreign countries and that it was time to bring the troops home.

Herman Cain

Former Godfathers Pizza CEO, and Chairman of the Kentucky Federal Reserve, Herman Cain has seen his fortunes shoot skyward after strong prior debate performances. His “9-9-9” tax plan was a focus of much of the early part of the debate, as Mr Cain’s new found status as front runner in some polls served to increase the scrutiny of his proposals.

Criticism of his tax proposal centred on the sales tax portion of his 9-9-9 plan: a 9% sales tax on all retail sales. Michele Backmann, a former tax attorney, repeatedly referred to it as a value added tax (the difference between a sales tax and a value added tax is that, with a value added tax, each step a product goes through on its way to market is taxed on the difference between the input cost and the sale price – the “value added” is taxed), while Mr Cain explained it was not a value added tax. Mr Romney asked if this sales tax would apply in addition to state sales taxes, which Mr Cain attempted to deflect as comparing “apples to oranges”. Mitt Romney replied, “And I’ll have to get a bushel to hold all the apples and oranges”.

As a former central banker, Mr Cain argues that he was in favor of the bank (and other) bailouts, but not how they were applied. That’s a message that is unlikely to resonate with many Republicans (or independents, or Democrats, or anyone who isn’t a current or former banker or other of the “bailed out”).

Other candidates argued that it would never pass (Newt Gingrich), that the people will not accept a sales tax (Rick Santorum) and that it will inevitably rise (Ron Paul; Michele Backmann). Herman Cain, meanwhile, argued that it would eliminate all the invisible taxes while simplifying the tax code.

Moderator Coooper quoted a statement Mr Cain had previously made in which he suggested that if people weren’t employed and weren’t rich, they should blame themselves, which caused much of the audience to applaud. Mr Cain said he stood by the statement. On the question of the current “Occupy Wall Street” protests, Herman Cain suggested the protesters’ anger was misplaced, as the government was to blame for the financial downturn and not Wall Street. Ron Paul suggested Mr Cain was blaming the “victims”, in reference to the unemployed, while the government people in charge of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as well as Wall Street participants, had yet to be held accountable.

On issues not related to his tax plan, Mr Cain seemed less confident and more as though he had been coached, and his answers to issues such as defense and immigration were far less compelling than his answers on matters economic.

Michele Backmann

Senator Michele Backmann had a generally strong performance, leveling several effective attacks on other candidates. Her positions on foreign policy were particularly strongly articulated, attacking Iran for their nuclear program as well as the purported assassination plot against a Saudi dipomat on United States soil. Mrs Backmann also came out heavily in favor of continued financial aid to Israel, “our closest ally” (the question of foreign aid to Israel drew strong contrasts between Michele Backmann and Ron Paul: Mr Paul argued in favor of withdrawing all aid to Israel).

Towards the end of the debate, on a question about the federal government’s role in housing, in light of the high number of foreclosures, Mrs Backmann made what seemed like an odd appeal to the “mothers out there”, and seemed near tears. It came across as a blatant appeal to female voters, and further, did not seem to resonate with the audience in the way Mrs Backmann no doubt intended it to.

However, Michele Backmann is a strong debater, and continued to find ways to insert herself into the conversation.

Rick Santorum

Essentially out of money and consistently polling in the single digits, former Pennsylvania Governor Rick Santorum started the night with an appeal to family values, and carried that theme on later in the debate, suggesting that “liberty” is founded upon families (at which point Ron Paul interjected, stating “I don’t think liberty comes in bunches”).

Mr Santorum, who often seems visibly pained by anything less than full militaristic support from the other candidates, attempted to insert himself into the debate with a spirited attack on former Governor Romney, attacking Mr Romney’s Massachusetts health care plan. He also successfully attacked Rick Perry’s support of the TARP bailout (see above).

Toward the end, Mr Santorum pointed to his record of having won as Governor of Pennsylvania, a swing state, stating that, “If we win Pennsylvania, we win the election!”

Given his lacklustre financial support and poor showing in the polls, expect Mr Santorum to drop out of the race after Iowa, at the latest.

Rick Huntsman

Former Governor of Utah and Obama Chinese Ambassador Rick Huntsman did not participate in the debate, ostensibly in order to boycott Nevada (which has changed the date of its primary to January 14th, in violation of GOP rules), but more probably because his campaign is in severe financial difficulty. Expect Mr Huntsman to withdraw from the race soon – after New Hampshire at the latest.

Rick Perry an Odd Choice for Republicans, and Tea Party…

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Texas Governor Rick Perry, the leading GOP contender for the Presidential nomination in 2012, is a particularly odd choice for Republicans and Tea Party advocates alike. Polls consistently show him atop the pack of contenders for the GOP nomination, however there are a significant number of reasons his consideration as a Presidential nominee, as well as his standing in the polls, comes as a surprise.

Consider:

  • Mr Perry used to be a Democrat, until he concluded the path to power in Texas is paved with Republican pavement;
  • Rick Perry is a career politician. He has been in various offices since 1984, when he was first elected to the Texas House of Representatives as the Democratic representative of District 64 (he switched sides in 1989). Career politicians are not looked upon favorably by Tea Pary supporters, or Constitutionalist;
  • Mr Perry’s use of executive order to attempt to force state-ordered vaccinations on eleven year-old girls in Texas violates two concepts Tea Partiers, and libertarians, hold dear: the order was passed (and later reversed by the Texas legislature) without being put to a vote of the people’s representatives, while at the same time representing a shocking intrusion by government into people’s lives by requiring parents to actively opt out of the forced vaccination program. The notion of an individual (in this case the Governor) ordering injections of children without debate or a vote is rather shocking. Mr Perry now considers this a “mistake”;
  • Mr Perry’s policy of granting discounts on taxpayer provided education to illegal aliens in the state of Texas is anathema to most Republicans (and to taxpayer advocates as well);
  • Governor Perry has increased taxes multiple times in Texas. He voted for a $5.7 billion tax increase proposal, and refused to pledge not to increase taxes, a pledge which, notably, his Democratic opponent in the 2002 contest for Governor of Texas made;
  • Mr Perry not only supported Al Gore in 1988, he was the chairman of Mr Gore’s Texas campaign committee. It is difficult, for a whole host of reasons, to imagine Republicans embracing the chairman of Mr Gore’s Presidential committee as their nominee for President of the United States;
  • “Crony capitalism”, the latest buzzword of Republican Presidentail hopefuls, can be seen throughout Mr Perry’s tenure in politics: trading prominent appointed positions for campaign contributions has been a hallmark of the Governor’s strategy while in office.
  • While Governor of Texas, state spending grew 30.6% under Mr Perry’s leadership, after adjusting for population growth and inflation.
While campaigning on an image of the “straight talking Texan”, Mr Perry has a deep history of increasing spending, favoring tax increases, is a career politican, actively rewards campaign contributors with lucrative taxpayer funded appointments and at best has a misguided view of the meaning of “limited government”. A strange choice for Constitutionalists, the Tea Party and Republicans alike. But perhaps a known quantity for the status quo.

Written by westcoastsuccess

September 19, 2011 at 6:26 pm

Is Ron Paul Getting a Fair Shake in the Media? Watching the Watchers…

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This is the first in a series of articles examining media coverage of the run up to the 2012 US Presidential election. Today we examine the media response to the Iowa Republican straw poll and attempt to find an empirical answer as to whether the media is under-reporting Ron Paul’s candidacy.

Ron Paul, one of the Republicans hoping to become his party’s Presidential nominee, is an interesting candidate: an obstetrician / gynecologist who has been a member of the House of Representatives on and off for 22 years (1976 to 1977, and again from 1979 to 1985, representing Texas’ 22nd District; 1997 to present representing Texas’ 14th District), Dr Paul has for three decades been considered “on the fringe” of the Republican Party, holding views centered on liberty, freedom and the supremacy of the United States Constitution. Recently, it seems his party is coming around to his views: witness the sudden clamoring for an audit of the Federal Reserve (something Dr Paul has been proposing for many, many years now) and the likewise anti-foreign war tilt of many (but not, notably, all) Republican Presidential aspirants.

But is Ron Paul getting a fair shake from the media? Here is a candidate who set single-day fundraising records in 2007 (and 99.42% of his funding came from individual contributors, with not a cent from federal funding), who has been ahead of the curve on several key issues (notably economic bubbles caused by federal monetary policy and the sagacity of foreign military adventures) and just today finished an extremely close second to Michele Bachmann in the Iowa Republican Presidential straw poll (Mrs Bachmann beat him by just 152 votes). Yet there are more media mentions of Tim Pawlenty, who finished a distant third, receiving fewer than half of Dr Paul’s votes. Does it just seem like Ron Paul isn’t getting the recognition he deserves with a second place finish in the straw poll, or is the media actually giving the Paul campaign the cold shoulder?

To examine this in further detail, we compared the results of the straw poll with media coverage of that same poll by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, CNN, the Huffington Post and Fox News, which we picked arbitrarily. We examined each article and counted the number of references to each prospective Presidential candidate, as well as the number of paragraphs in which each candidate’s name appears, and then expressed these numbers as a percentage of all candidates’ numbers of mentions and paragraphs.

Here’s the executive summary:

  • Every single one of the news sources we chose gave a disproportionately low number of mentions and paragraphs to candidate Paul, and in some cases, substantially;
  • In every case, Tim Pawlenty, the third place finisher, received more mentions and more paragraphs than Ron Paul;
  • The discrepancy between Mr Paul’s straw poll result and subsequent article mentions was the largest in the Los Angeles Times article: despite garnering 27.65% of the Iowa straw poll results, the LA Times article mentioned Mr Paul just twice, in a single paragraph. By comparison, Tim Pawlenty received half as many votes as Mr Paul but received three mentions. Mitt Romney, who wasn’t even part of the straw poll, likewise received three mentions, over three separate paragraphs;
  • After the Los Angeles times, the publications with the greatest disparity between Mr Paul’s Iowa showing and the coverage they afforded him were (in order of largest disprepancy to narrowest): New York Times, Huffington Post, Washington Post, CNN and Fox News;
  • Rick Perry’s attempt to distract attention from the Iowa straw poll worked: Mr Perry received 49 mentions in the articles we surveyed, compared to 47 for the straw poll winner, Michele Bachmann, and just 18 for Ron Paul;
  • Herman Cain received fewer than one-third of the votes Mr Paul received, however CNN mentioned him as many times, in the same number of paragraphs, as Dr Paul;
  • Fox News came closest to giving each candidate a number of mentions and paragraphs proportional to that candidate’s poll showing (but Ron Paul was still substantially under-represented).

*****Update 1: strange too how the results of the Ames straw poll were announced by the organizers – or rather, weren’t:  Michele Bachmann was announced as the winner, and that was it – no announcement of how the rest of the field fared, which is particularly strange given that Ron Paul came in second by just 152 votes. You can see the announcement here (see also around the 2:35 mark, as Paul’s numbers are shown on the board and the crowd reacts).

*****

*****Update 2: today (Sunday, August 14th, 2011) the New York Times ran an article titled, “After Iowa, Republicans Face a New Landscape” written by Jeff Zeleny and Michael D. Shear. The article spends 27 paragraphs discussing the remaining potential Republican Presidential nominees in light of Tim Pawlenty’s withdrawal from the race. In those 27 paragraphs, the candidate who missed winning the Ames straw poll by just 152 votes is given this single sentence, in the second-to-last paragraph: “Representative Ron Paul of Texas, who finished a close second in the straw poll, could also influence the race with his strain of libertarian views that have become more popular in this economic climate.”

*****Update 3: Jon Stewart ran an excellent segment about the concerted effort to ignore Mr Paul:

Here is the data in chart form (in order of largest “Ron Paul discrepancy” to least): red lines indicate percentage of votes received in the Iowa straw poll by the candidate; white lines indicate percentage of paragraph mentions for the candidate (as compared to total number of paragraphs in which all candidates’ names appear, ie not to the total number of paragraphs in the article); blue lines indicate total number of mentions of the candidates’ names in the article:

LA Times Iowa Straw Poll Coverage