Year‘s end fulminations: Calbuzz interviewed the articulate and corpulent Newt Gingrich at the California Republican convention way back in February 2012, when he summed up his case against Barack Obama by blaming the president’s damnable liberal environmental agenda for driving up the cost of gasoline. I, President Newt, he vowed, would reduce the price of gas to $2.50 a gallon and thus lead an economic recovery.
Banging the same drum in the same year, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney assailed Obama for the country’s 8% unemployment rate, which he promised to get down to 6% in his first term. It was Obama’s fault, he argued, that the economy had not recovered from Bush II’s 2008 mess, when it was contracting at an 8% annual rate and losing 800,000 jobs a month.
Although the Dow Jones industrial average, which had declined to 6,627 in March 2009, had more than doubled to 13,610 in October 2012, the spawn of Newt and Mitt, like Fox News Republican apparatchiks everywhere, simply waved off the president’s re-election, and fiercely argued for the next two years that Obama was wrecking the American economy.
The demagoguery worked: Just before the 2014 Republican landslide mid-term election, 62 percent of Americans described the economy as “poor.”
And yet: Gas is now down to $2.38 a gallon, unemployment is at 5.8%, the economy grew at a record 5% rate in the third quarter of 2014, the U.S. has seen 57 straight months of private-sector job growth, consumer confidence is up, the proportion of people without health insurance is declining and the budget deficit is dwindling.
Oh, and by the way, Obama’s approval rating is up to 48% — the highest it’s been since August 2013.
As Michael Grunwald wrote at Politico the other day: The Chicken Littles who predicted a double-dip recession, runaway interest rates, Zimbabwe-style inflation, a Greece-style debt crisis, skyrocketing energy prices, health insurance ‘death spirals’ and other horrors have been reliably wrong.
All right-thinking people agree: Sometimes it seems there’s only one thing President Obama can’t do that might quiet his Republican critics: change from black to white. Tim Egan summed up that case in a recent splendid column, which examined vicious right-wing attacks on Obama, headlined “A Deficit of Dignity”:
I want to believe this is not about race, but it sure looks that way. Barely nine months into his presidency, a Republican congressman, Joe Wilson, shouted out “You lie!” at the president in the decorous setting of a joint session of Congress — a flagrant show of disrespect for the man and the office. For this, Wilson became a hero in conservative media.
Pointing to race as the source of all this stuff is unfair, of course. There are, no doubt, some right-wing, reality-denying critics of Obama who aren’t driven to distraction by their subconscious bigotry. We just don’t know any of them.
We hasten to note that Calbuzz does not consider Obama a saint, nor view current conditions in the nation as awesome: Wage growth still is pathetic; Obama still sells out the Democrats when it suits his needs (see damage to Dodd Frank and McCain Feingold); he’s allowed the NSA to tap your underpants; his Obamacare roll-out created unnecessary angst; and his communications skills overall are pathetic for someone who’s so eloquent when he delivers a prepared speech.
But on the substance of big issues — war and peace, the economy and jobs, health care, justice and the social contract — Obama has been a damn good president. He could have been a great president if he hadn’t taken the White House at a time when the Republican Party decided that compromise is capitulation and governing is not a genuine priority, compared to destroying the opposition.
As we enter 2015 and presidential contenders on the right begin to rally their troops – including, we fear, the loathsome and spectacularly unaccomplished Carly Fiorina – the airwaves, news pages and internets will be filled with morons who have been proven wrong at every turn, bewailing the tragedies facing America unless we change course.
May our Higher Powers save the Republic.
A look back at 2014: We admit we’ve been mostly intemperate since the opening kickoff of the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, five days before Christmas, and expect to remain so until mid-January, when the College Football Championship Game (Oregon beats the thugs from Florida State; take Ohio State plus the points against Alabama in the semi-finals) will be, alas, a fuzzy memory.
Further weakened by the incessant demands of chasing grandchildren, we currently lack Blinding Political Insights to celebrate the New Year, and therefore turn to the hoary journalism cliche of offering the most outstanding quotes that sum up the Calbuzz view of 2014:
— “When I had hair, Methuselah was walking the streets” – Jerry Brown.
It wasn’t at all interesting, let alone exciting – zzzz – but Brown’s landslide election to a fourth term as governor, at the age of 76, was truly historic, and thus California’s biggest political story of 2014. Seema Mehta and Michael Finnegan of the By God L.A. Times contributed the above quote to benefit future Brown biographers.
— “We’re pushing the party outside of its comfort zone, and we’re already seeing the benefits.” – Jim Brulte.
California Republican Party chair Brulte was the MVO (Most Valuable Operative) of 2014, as his from-the-ground-up strategy to return his endangered-by-evolution party to relevance succeeded in a) restoring its financial stability; b) diversifying the GOP’s candidate base; c) toning down the whack-job rhetoric and; d) denying Democrats two-thirds majorities in both legislative houses. The Great Man summed it up in a comment captured by conservative scribe John Hrabe.
— “Hearings for (former senators Leland and Ron) Yee and Calderon would have opened up a Pandora’s box of questions about what constitutes a bribe versus a political contribution – not a subject politicians want to discuss openly or in detail.” – Willie Brown.
Amid the worst state Senate corruption scandals since Alan Robbins went to jail, ex-Assembly Ayatollah Brown publicly revealed the realpolitik concern of elected officials in his Chronicle column explaining why their former colleagues felt compelled to boot the shady solons from the Legislature.
— “Thank you very much. It’s good to see all four of you.” – Gavin Newsom.
The Lite Gov, and hopeful future gov, addressed the Democratic state convention as the last speaker of the day, semi-seriously blaming Brown for being stuck at the end of the parade. Comment captured by Bee Man David Siders, far and away the most talented reported currently covering the Capitol.
— About the only thing Propositions 1 and 2 have in common is they’re…handy stage props for the governor’s reelection campaign. You’ve got to tip your hat to a political magician who can meld a water bond with a rainy-day fund and create a shield that protects him from having to talk about his plans — if any — for a record fourth term. The English language with its endless opportunities for mixed metaphors helps immensely: Banking water. Storing money.”Save water. Save money,” Brown urges in a TV ad promoting Props. 1 and 2. – George Skelton.
For the 86th consecutive year, Grumpy George is our pick as Sacramento’s best columnist, as demonstrated by his summation of Brown’s non-campaign, which captures the singular Skelton brand of thoughtful, prudent and perceptive analysis, buttressed with Actual Reporting and an old-school, clear and plain writing style that belies the hours of labor that go into making it so.
— How many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation? The world’s pretty dangerous, very competitive. I think we need to stay alert, if not 24 hours a day, more than some of the potheads might be able to put together.”— Jerry Brown.
Just because, from Governor Gandalf’s March 2 appearance on “Meet the Press.”
— Extreme inequality, it turns out, creates a class of people who are alarmingly detached from reality — and simultaneously gives these people great power. — Paul Krugman.
The growing 99-1% wealth chasm that defines U.S. economics and society remains the nation’s biggest, and most under-reported political story, and Timesman Krugman’s regular rants remain the most entertaining and insightful coverage of the crucial subject.
— Just 31,385 people — one tenth of one percent of the overall U.S. population — are responsible for nearly 30 percent of the $6 billion (yes, billion with a “b”) contributed to federal campaigns and committees in the 2012 election. –Washington Post.
Any doubt that the fix is in back in the Beltway on behalf of the plutocrats was boldly erased by the Sunlight Foundation, in a must-read report boiled down by the Washpost’s Chris Cillizza.
— More than three-quarters of all political fundraising done in D.C. over the past five years was done within three blocks of the U.S. Capitol building. “These fundraisers are concentrated in and around congressional working hours and on days when the House and Senate are in session,” according to the Sunlight analysis of the numbers.
— Female politicians with more feminine features tend to win election, while those with more masculine features tend to lose. Whether a female politician was going to win or lose an election could be predicted within just 380 milliseconds after participants were exposed to her face. — Social Psychological and Personality Science.
Talk about your War on Women. Oy.
— “I don’t see any easy out. All of the forces are on the side of undermining public trust in science.” — Norton Wise, UCLA historian of science.
The success of right-wing demagogues in spreading doubt about evolution, climate change, vaccines, the evils of tobacco and the law of gravity is so great that it’s spawned a new field of academic research – “agnotology,” or the study of the “cultural production of ignorance,” as reported by the indefatigable Michael Hiltzik.
— Time Inc. will abandon the traditional separation between its newsroom and business sides, a move that has caused angst among its journalists. Now, the newsroom staffs at Time Inc.’s magazines will report to the business executives. — The New York Times.
This one’s a bit of cheat, since Time actually announced this fascinating if depressing development in the ongoing decline of journalism in the final days of 2013, a guaranteed dead zone for bad news. Except for the Times media desk, apparently.
— As many of you already know, those kinds of projects can be hellish, soul-sucking, doubt-inducing affairs. But if you’re the type of sicko who likes holing up in a tiny, closed office with reporters of questionable hygiene to build databases from scratch by hand-entering thousands of pages of documents to take on powerful people and institutions that wish you were dead, all for the glorious reward of having readers pick up the paper and glance at your potential prize-winning epic as they flip their way to the Jumble… well, if that sounds like journalism Heaven, then you’re our kind of sicko.
This, the greatest employment ad in the history of the world, was list-served to the online world by an editor of the Florida paper. it serves as a happy and hopeful counter to Time magazine’s dreadful move, and lends hope for the New Year that Actual Journalism is still being committed, somewhere in the nation. H/t Mother Jones.
All best from your Calbuzzards for 2015.