Obama Goes to the Mattresses

President Obama’s State of the Union Tuesday night threw down a gauntlet Republicans won’t be able to cast aside simply by saying “he’s dividing us”. His basic thrust was that it’s time for American to actually be America, a challenge this country must embrace if we are to think of ourselves as a world leader. What was interesting, however, was the tack of GOP response to the speech.

Republicans, you see, are in a bind. The establishment of the party is very nervous about the direction the right flank is taking (they’re more scared of Newt Gingrich than Democrats are).

They also know that Mitt Romney, with his $10,000 bets and 15% effective tax rate has absolutely no empathy with the broad swath of the electorate they hope to seduce.
So they let the four presidential candidates and the House leadership say what they wanted, and put their faith in Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels to respond. It was Daniels that tried to use the issue of divisiveness to paint the president as ineffective.

Yet a confluence of events rendered the Republicans impotent. When President Obama talked about a 30% tax rate for millionaires, he didn’t have to mention Romney, who does no real work other than run for president but is worth a quarter of a billion dollars. His attempt to portray himself as a captain of American industry through his stewardship of Bain Capital a decade ago hardly rings true.

At the same time, Republican bleating over the president’s defense priorities were made moot when two teams of Navy Seals freed an American and a Dane kidnapped and held hostage in Somalia.

For many, the Barack Obama of the past couple of months bears a much closer resemblance to the guy they voted for in ’08 than the Obama of ’09 and ’10. He seems ready to wield his power more frequently, and to circumvent Congress if they want to play the obstructionist games of the recent past.

The terms executive order and recess appointment will likely be heard more often moving forward toward the November elections. Ironically, the last hope the Republicans have is that the economy craters again, which is in fact a possibility.
That’s why President Obama crerated a new mortgage unit to hopefully guard against a new wave of foreclosures.

Make no mistake. This president is done playing. Now the real battle for the soul of America begins.

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New York’s 100 Most Powerless

100 most powerless New Yorkers

 

First, let me be clear. This wasn’t my idea…

In The Village Voice Wednesday’s edition, Steven Thrasher has the cover story, The 100 Most Powerless New Yorkers. The piece is brilliant, and while this humble blog can’t share the entire list, a good number of the most powerless are worth noting. There are a bunch of politicians on the list, but they’re not particularly powerless or interesting. Others, whether categories or small groups of people, make the story worth reading.

For example: weed delivery guys. Certainly they’re doing something illegal, but they also, according to Thrasher, are at the bottom of a pyramid scheme as far as sales and distribution are concerned.

In other words, they’ll never get rich. Bodega owners also make the list.

I’m not sure why, but in New York City anything that isn’t a large supermarket like Whole Foods has become defined as a bodega. Little by little, as the city changes, these small businesspeople are being driven out.

Homeless people who hang out in public library branches, librarians themselves, carriage horses, and an 82-year-old resident of Brooklyn’s Bedford Stuyvesant who’s facing eviction from her home (don’t ask!) are among the most powerless.

Weed delivery people aren’t the only powerless deliverypeople, according to this list. Food delivery people take it on the chin as well, as everyone knows they carry cash and often get robbed.

A young lesbian also made the most powerless list. She’s homeless, and spends her nights on the subway. Even members of the press made the list. This is because 21 or 26 journalists busted trying to cover the Occupy Wall St. protests didn’t have press passes the NYPD doles out. Right after them come those with press passes, since they think they have an easier time by trying to flash them.

New York street vendor

 

Also among the most powerless: food cart vendors, pedicab drivers, riders who get on a “Select Bus” without a receipt (that gets you a $150.00 fine), postal workers, retail clothing workers, security guards, and journalists who have to come up with lists like the one done by Thrasher (refreshing to see a writer with both a sense of humor and irony).

After scanning this list, one comes away with a unique sense of what it’s like to live and work in New York City, but not being able to exert much influence on the forces that call the shots. Here’s hoping Steven Thrasher does another list next year.

Maybe things will get better for some of those on this year’s. What do you think?

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GOP Clown Show Hits Next Venue: New Hampshire

The results of the Iowa Republican Caucuses are now known.

So the candidates, from top to bottom, can now stop acting like they really care one way or the other about the people of that good state.

I asked a Des Moines talk show host about the fact that once the caucuses are done, presidential hopefuls seem to rarely return to the places where they pressed the flesh with such passion for weeks earlier. He said Iowans used to that by now.

How sad.

Now the roadshow moves to the Granite State of New Hampshire! Who will actually be moving on?

New Hampshire

 

Rick Perry’s gone home to Texas, to “reassess” his campaign. We all know what that means. Just ask Herm Cain.

Michele Bachmann, after saying she’s staying in the race, canceled some campaign appearances in South Carolina.

That leaves Gingrich, Paul, Santorum, Romney, and the only sane person in the race, Huntsman.

Jon Huntsman

Perry and Bachmann may yet continue, but not for long.

And what’s at the end of the rainbow for these folks? More media coverage, for sure. The 24 hour news cycle now demands that each primary until the nomination is decided is the political equivalent of the Super Bowl. That makes it easier for the punditocracy to ply their trade, and cash those checks. By the way, did any of them forsee the “Santorum Surge”? Just asking.

Put bluntly, do any of these people really have what it takes to be President? Can Gingrich get past his past? Will Paul bury his racist and homophobic newsletters? Is Santorum, with his blather about airstrikes on Iran, for real? Is Romney now on a clear path to victory, or will the far right wing of his own party do him in?

For political junkies, this is manna from heaven.

For everyone else, maybe not so much.

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