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No Principles

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2012 Presidential Candidates Romney and Obama

When I first read this story in The New Republic, I was shocked and disgusted. Now, I’m disgusted and appalled.

As you may have heard, Romney on Thursday scared the bejeezus out of Ohio autoworkers when, during a rally, he cited a story claiming that Chrysler was moving Jeep production to China. Thousands of people work at a sprawling Jeep complex in Toledo and a nearby machining plant. Many thousands more work for suppliers or have jobs otherwise dependent on the Jeep factories. It’s fair to say that they owe their jobs to President Obama, who in 2009 rescued Chrysler and General Motors from likely liquidation. If Chrysler moved the plants overseas, most of those people would be out of work.

The story turns out to be wrong. As Chrysler made clear the very next day, in a tartly worded blog post on the company website, officials have discussed opening plants in China in order to meet rising demand for vehicles there. They have no plans to downsize or shutter plants in the U.S. On the contrary, Fiat, the Italian company that acquired Chrysler during the rescue, just spent $1.7 billion to expand Jeep production in the U.S. That includes $500 million to renovate and expand the Toledo facilities, with 1,000 new factory jobs likely to follow. On Monday, about the same number of people will report for their first day of work in Detroit, when Chrysler adds a third shift to a Jeep plant it operates there.

The campaign does not appear to have announced the ad. The Obama campaign captured video of it, during a broadcast in the Toledo area. Here’s how it ends:

    Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy, and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build jeeps in China. Mitt Romney will fight for every American job.

Although the statements about Chrysler are true individually, together they imply that the Obama Administration’s action led to the outsourcing of American jobs. That is obviously false, both in the specific sense of what Chrysler is doing and in the more general sense of what the entire auto industry is doing. Just look at the numbers (or the graph below). According to the Bureau of Labor of Statistics, the number of autoworkers fell almost in half between 2002 and 2009, from around 1.1 million to around 600,000, as the industry was in something like a death spiral. Then, as Chrysler and GM were on the brink of true collapse, the Obama Administration stepped in with federal loans and a managed bankruptcy. Almost immediately, the automobile manufacturing sector started growing again. Since July, 2009, the workforce has risen by about 150,000 jobs and that’s purely in manufacturing. If you include parts manufacturing and other related jobs, it’s 250,000.

Auto Employment

And that’s the net increase. By providing Chrysler and GM with the financing they needed to avoid liquidation, the Obama Administration prevented those companies from putting more people out of work. Overall, according to estimates by the Center for Automotive Research, the rescue probably saved at least a million jobs.

Of course, this kind of deception is emblematic of the campaign Romney and his supporters have waged in the last few days. They insist that Romney never thought government should let Chrysler and GM collapse. But Romney’s vague and inconsistent rhetoric included statements that he would have opted for a “private sector bailout”—something that was not possible in 2009, because private investors were in no position to make the necessary loans.* As Detroit Free Press columnist Tom Walsh wrote on Friday,

    Throughout the primary campaign, [Romney] joined other Republican candidates in a chorus of bailout-bashing and union-bashing when the auto bailouts came up, painting the Obama administration’s crisis-management effort as a reckless campaign to run up the national debt and do favors for labor unions.

Romney and the Republicans were wrong then and they are still wrong. But Romney has gone beyond normal political bounds.

Politics is often a dirty, nasty business, and politicians do lie and mislead. However, Team Romney chose to go well beyond the bounds of normal decency with this blatant attempt to scare workers with closure of their plant – and loss of their jobs – when no such plans exist in order to win votes.

With this ad and similarly misleading talking points, Romney has exposed his complete lack of principles and ethics. He has stepped well over the boundary of decency and proven that he will say and do anything to achieve his desired goal of becoming president.

The final question remaining is if Romney is elected president how many other unprincipled lies and deceits will he conjure to achieve his own ends. Where is his conscience and what are his ethics?

I’ve been watching politics, in particular presidential politics, since the Nixon-Kennedy debates, and I have never seen a more deceitful, unprincipled campaign as Romney’s. Even Nixon’s paranoia and criminal campaign did not disgust this much.

Team Romney’s unprincipled attempt to scare workers with the loss of their jobs for purely self-interested reasons should be enough to disqualify Romney. There is no excuse – none whatsoever – for deceptively scaring workers with the loss of their jobs. It’s sleezy, disgusting, and reprehensible.

Additional Note: I hope my readers will send this blog or the links to their friends, especially to those in swing states. Romney is not qualified.
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Important political stories:

Why Freddie Mac Resisted Refis

How to Act Human, Take Two: The Search for the Real Romney By James Lipton

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Obama Practices Pragmatic Foreign Policy a la Eisenhower and GHW Bush

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Eisenhower and Obama - practioners of pragmatic foriegn policyThis week’s edition of The New Republic has two great articles explaining Obama’s policies, particularly in contrast with the sometimes hyperbolic rhetoric of Romney. The first article deals with how much businesses actually depend upon government, at all levels, to support and help them build and sustain their business. However, the second article, Love Classic Republican Foreign Policy? Vote For Obama by Jonathan Rauch, receives my attention today.

For me, this article deserves special attention because I grew up in the military and my ex-husband is a Vietnam vet. The first 25 years of my life were dominated by the military and national security, stretching back to Dwight D. Eisenhower. I was too young to remember Truman, but I do fondly remember Eisenhower.

As a result of being a military brat and wife, I hold a profoundly different view from Romney’s neo-con advisers, all of whom worked for GW Bush. Those neo-cons, none of whom served in the military or grew up in the military, express a hegemonic view of US foreign policy based on the US military war powers. Yet, that kind of militarism is fairly new in American foreign policy that only took effect after the end of the Vietnam War.

As Rauch writes, anyone who remembers and enjoyed the modesty and pragmatism of Eisenhower and GHW Bush should appreciate Obama’s foreign policy.

Two diplomatic officials, one current and one former, balk at calling Obama a realist; he is not coldly manipulative or indifferent to human rights. (For example: Obama has done more to stand up for gay rights internationally than any previous world leader.) But they concur that he is outcome-oriented, a pragmatist rather than an idealist or visionary. “He’s focused on the bottom line: what are our key equities and how do we protect them,” says the serving diplomat. At the Brookings Institution, Tamara Cofman Wittes, a former Obama State Department official, says Obama believes in bending the arc of history, but also believes you can’t bend it at right angles. “He’s playing a long game and doing it pretty well.”

The kind of realism Obama practices is founded not on Machiavellian amorality but on a theory about where peace comes from. For Republican hawks and neocons, peace comes from American strength and hegemony; for Democratic doves and internationalists, peace comes from international cooperation and transnational institutions. Obama’s realism, like that of Ike and Bush 41 holds that American strength and international cooperation both have their place, but that peace comes from equilibrium between contending forces. To realists, power may not be admirable, but it must always be dealt with; and, in dealing with it, conserving and effectively deploying America’s power, a scarce and precious commodity, is Priority One, for it is the commodity upon which human rights and U.S. hegemony alike ultimately depend.

A realist may choose to upset an equilibrium now and then, but never lightly. Power, like a floodtide surge, has its own hydraulics. Once equilibrium is gone, it can be very hard and costly to restore. For very different reasons, human rights activists and neocons deplore Obama’s slowness to jump into the fray when rotten and antagonistic old orders tremble in places like Iran, Libya, Egypt, and now Syria. Eisenhower and Bush, however, understood well the importance of looking before leaping, whether in Suez and eastern Europe in the 1950s or in Ukraine and the Balkans in the early 1990s. Obama is in their mold.

Obama’s quiet accomplishment, in foreign policy, has been to do just as he promised: take the best ideas from the other side, integrate them into his own party’s tradition, and put them to work to strengthen the country’s position. Being a dab hand at foreign affairs will not, it’s true, save him in 2012, any more than it saved Bush 41 from the soft economy 20 years ago. What it has done is kept him viable in a miserable environment, improved the Democrats’ credibility on national security, taken from the Republicans the foreign-policy real estate that they used to own—and left Mitt Romney standing in a puddle of his own shallow verbiage.

Nevertheless, I disagree about Rauch’s claim that Obama had little foreign policy experience or interest. After all, Obama spent several impressionable, youthful years in the Indonesia and as a young man hitch hiked his way from Indonesia to Pakistan.

In some ways, those experiences, living amongst and traveling with native residents, gave him more foreign policy experience than all those sitting in comfortable academic offices or discussing foreign affairs with high level diplomats. Moreover, Obama’s first Senate foreign policy mentor was the Senate dean of foreign policy, Senator Dick Lugar. Lugar said Obama peppered him with questions on their trips overseas and that Obama worked closely with him on the Soviet Arms Treaty. In fact, contrary to Rauch, Obama ran for the presidency on foreign policy. It wasn’t until the financial system crashed in 2008 that his primary focus had to change to domestic economic policy.

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