PROVIDENCE – Well it’s time for a year-end column. It’s been a fascinating year in politics, but I always hear the theme from the old Clint Eastwood movie, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” Since this is a nonpartisan column, they’ll be plenty to go around for Democrats and Republicans alike.
Election Season is Over – You may not have liked the outcome of the November election, but guess what also ended that day? Robo calls, TV ads and talking-head bickering all ended (well, some of it, anyway). The finality of voting does have benefits! Of course, here in New England we will now have a special election to fill a U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts (which had the nation’s most expensive Senate race in November). So our “vacation” from robo calls and TV and radio ads, will be short-lived.
Split Decision – There was a little something for everyone. Democrats saw Barack Obama reelected President, while Republicans retained an iron grip on the House of Representatives. Yes, it’s kind of a schizophrenic decision by voters, but as we saw in the Reagan and Clinton administrations, a lot can get done during divided government. This is especially true when the President is early in his second term. They don’t have to face voters again and are more willing to make deals. We’ll see if it happens again. The fiscal cliff mess ought to offer an early indication.
The 47 Percent – As always, the worst political wounds are self-inflicted. Mitt Romney’s secretly recorded speech about supporters of President Obama was probably his worst gaffe of the campaign. He said, “There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. ... My job is not to worry about those people.” A week before the Election Day, Romney and Obama were tied at 47 percent apiece. Obama won the election 50 to 47 percent, essentially winning all of the undecided voters. Note to all politicians: In the modern age, assume everything you say (even in private), is being recorded and can be used against you.
You Didn’t Build That – President Obama also came close to inflicting his own political demise, talking about the role of government in private enterprise. He said, “Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” Yes, the government creates roads and bridges that help business thrive and it provides police and fire protection for them, but the takeaway for many from this speech was a clear swipe at American ingenuity, entrepreneurship and risk-taking. It was especially insulting to small business owners. One can’t imagine Obama telling his late friend and supporter Steve Jobs, of Apple, that, “You didn’t build that.” As with Romney’s “47 Percent” speech, Obama’s “You Didn’t Build That” speech became a rallying cry for opponents.
Benghazi Blunders – Four American employees, including an ambassador, were murdered during a Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya. For days, the official explanation was that protesters were angry over an anti-Muslim video made in the United States. That’s wasn’t true. It was instead, a deliberate and calculated terrorist attack. The fallout cost U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice her chance to be Secretary of State, and questions may hound current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton if she runs for President again in 2016. Four mid-level staffers who botched the security were reassigned. The fallout will carry into 2013 and beyond. The administration gets an F, for an epic failure.
Senate Setback – Republicans had an excellent chance at taking control of the U.S. Senate in November, but completely blew it. Two of the costliest blunders came from Senate candidates and their thoughts on rape. Rep. Todd Akin (R-Missouri) said, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” In Indiana it was Senate candidate Richard Mourdock who opposed abortion even in the case of rape. He said, “I came to realize life is that gift from God. And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen." Not surprising, both men lost seats they had been predicted to win. Grade = F.
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