Craig Eisele on …..

February 26, 2012

It’s the 0.000063% of the US Who REALLY Deciding the Presidential Election

How US politics became the politics of the “super rich”.

New York, NY - At a time when it’s become a cliché to say that Occupy Wall Street has changed the nation’s political conversation – drawing long overdue attention to the struggles of the 99 per cent - electoral politics and the 2012 presidential election have become almost exclusively defined by the one per cent. Or, to be more precise, the .000063 per cent. Those are the 196 individual donors who have provided nearly 80 per cent of the money raised by Super PACs in 2011 by giving $100,000 or more each.

These political action committees, spawned by the Supreme Court’s 5-4 Citizens United decision in January 2010, can raise unlimited amounts of money from individuals, corporations, or unions for the purpose of supporting or opposing a political candidate. In theory, Super PACs are legally prohibited from coordinating directly with a candidate, though in practice they’re just a murkier extension of political campaigns, performing all the functions of a traditional campaign without any of the corresponding accountability.

If 2008 was the year of the small donor, when many political pundits (myself included) predicted that the fusion of grassroots organising and cyber-activism would transform how campaigns were run, then 2012 is “the year of the big donor”, when a candidate is only as good as the amount of money in his Super PAC. “In this campaign, every candidate needs his own billionaires,” wrote Jane Mayer of The New Yorker.

 
 

‘This really is the selling of America,” claims former presidential candidate and Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean. “We’ve been sold out by five justices thanks to the Citizens United decision.” In truth, our democracy was sold to the highest bidder long ago, but in the 2012 election the explosion of Super PACs has shifted the public’s focus to the staggering inequality in our political system, just as the Occupy movement shined a light on the gross inequity of the economy. The two, of course, go hand in hand.

“We’re going to beat money power with people power,” Newt Gingrich said after losing to Mitt Romney in Florida as January ended. The walking embodiment of the lobbying-industrial complex, Gingrich made that statement even though his candidacy is being propped up by a Super PAC funded by two $5 million donations from Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. It might have been more amusing if the GOP presidential primary weren’t a case study of a contest long on money and short on participation.

The Wesleyan Media Project recently reported a 1,600 per cent increase in interest-group-sponsored TV ads in this cycle as compared with the 2008 primaries. Florida has proven the battle royale of the Super PACs thus far. There, the pro-Romney Super PAC, Restore Our Future, outspent the pro-Gingrich Super PAC, Winning Our Future, five to one. In the final week of the campaign alone, Romney and his allies ran 13,000 TV ads in Florida, compared with only 200 for Gingrich. Ninety-two per cent of the ads were negative in nature, with two-thirds attacking Gingrich, who, ironically enough, had been a fervent advocate of the Citizens United decision.

With the exception of Ron Paul’s underdog candidacy and Rick Santorum’s upset victory in Iowa – where he spent almost no money but visited each of the state’s 99 counties – the Republican candidates and their allied Super PACs have all but abandoned retail campaigning and grassroots politicking. They have chosen instead to spend their war chests on TV.

The results can already be seen in the first primaries and caucuses: an onslaught of money and a demobilized electorate. It’s undoubtedly no coincidence that, when compared with 2008, turnout was down 25 per cent in Florida, and that, this time around, fewer Republicans have shown up in every state that’s voted so far – except for South Carolina. According to political scientists Stephen Ansolabehere and Shanto Iyengar, negative TV ads contribute to “a political implosion of apathy and withdrawal”. New York Times columnist Tim Egan has labelled the post-Citizens United era “your democracy on meth”.

 
 

The 0.01 per cent primary .

More than 300 Super PACs are now registered with the Federal Election Commission. The one financed by the greatest number of small donors belongs to Stephen Colbert, who’s turned his TV show into a brilliant commentary on the deformed Super PAC landscape. Colbert’s satirical Super PAC, Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, has raised $1 million from 31,595 people, including 1,600 people who gave $1 each. Consider this a rare show of people power in 2012.

Otherwise the Super PACs on both sides of the aisle are financed by the one per cent of the one per cent. Romney’s Restore Our Future Super PAC, founded by the general counsel of his 2008 campaign, has led the herd, raising $30 million, 98 per cent from donors who gave $25,000 or more. Ten million dollars came from just ten donors who gave $1 million each. These included three hedge-fund managers and Houston Republican Bob Perry, the main funder behind the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004, whose scurrilous ads did such an effective job of destroying John Kerry’s electoral prospects. Sixty-five per cent of the funds that poured into Romney’s Super PAC in the second half of 2011 came from the finance, insurance and real estate sector, otherwise known as the people who brought you the economic meltdown of 2007 to 2008.

Romney’s campaign has raised twice as much as his Super PAC, which is more than you can say for Rick Santorum, whose Super PAC – Red, White & Blue – has raised and spent more than the candidate himself. Forty per cent of the $2 million that has so far gone into Red, White & Blue came from just one man, Foster Friess, a conservative hedge-fund billionaire and Christian evangelical from Wyoming.

In the wake of Santorum’s upset victories in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri on February 7, Friess told the New York Times that he’d recruited $1 million for Santorum’s Super PAC from another (unnamed) donor and upped his own giving, though he wouldn’t say by how much. We won’t find out until the next campaign disclosure filing in three months, by which time the GOP primary will almost certainly be decided.

For now, Gingrich’s sugar daddy Adelson has pledged to stay with his flagging campaign, but he’s also signalled that if the former Speaker of the House goes down, he’ll be ready to donate even more Super PAC money to a Romney presidential bid. And keep in mind that there’s nothing in the post-Citizens United law to stop a donor such as Adelson, hell-bent on preventing the Obama administration from standing in the way of an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, from giving $100 million, or for that matter, however much he likes.

Before Citizens United, the maximum amount one person could give to a candidate was $2,500; for a political action committee, $5,000; for a political party committee, $30,800. Now, the sky’s the limit for a Super PAC, and even more disturbingly, any donor can give an unlimited contribution to a 501c4 – outfits defined by the IRS as “civic leagues or organisations not organised for profit but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare” - and to make matters worse, that contribution will remain eternally secret. In this way, US politics is descending further into the darkness, with 501c4s quickly gaining influence as “Shadow Super PACs”.

“Forty per cent of the TV ads in the presidential race so far came from these tax-exempt ‘social welfare’ groups.”

A recent analysis by the Washington Post found that, at a cost of $24 million, 40 per cent of the TV ads in the presidential race so far came from these tax-exempt “social welfare” groups. The Karl Rove-founded American Crossroads, a leading conservative Super PAC attacking Democratic candidates and the Obama administration, also runs a 501c4 called Crossroads GPS. It’s raised twice as much money as its sister group, all from donations whose sources will remain hidden from US voters. Serving as a secret slush fund for billionaires evidently now qualifies as social welfare.

The ‘income defense industry’

In his book Oligarchy, political scientist Jeffrey Winters refers to the disproportionately wealthy and influential actors in the political system as the “income defence industry”. If you want to know how the moneyed class, who prospered during the Bush and Clinton years, found a way to kill or water down nearly everything it objected to in the Obama years, look no further than the grip of the one per cent of the one per cent on our political system.

This simple fact explains why hedge-fund managers pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries, or why the US is the only industrialised nation without a single-payer universal healthcare system, or why the planet continues to warm at an unprecedented pace while we do nothing to combat global warming. Money usually buys elections and, whoever is elected, it almost always buys influence.

In the 2010 election, the one per cent of the one per cent accounted for 25 per cent of all campaign-related donations, totalling $774 million dollars, and 80 per cent of all donations to the Democratic and Republican parties, the highest percentage since 1990. In congressional races in 2010, according to the Centre for Responsive Politics, the candidate who spent the most money won 85 per cent of House races and 83 per cent of Senate races.

The media loves an underdog story, but nowadays the underdog is less likely than ever to win. Given the cost of running campaigns and the overwhelming premium on outspending your opponent, it’s no surprise that nearly half the members of Congress are millionaires, and the median net worth of a US Senator is $2.56 million.

 
 

The influence of Super PACs was already evident by November 2010, just nine months after the Supreme Court’s ruling. John Nichols and Robert McChesney of The Nation note that, of the 53 competitive House districts where Rove’s Crossroads organisation outspent Democratic candidates in 2010, Republicans won fifty-one. As it turned out, however, that election was a mere test run for the monetary extravaganza that is 2012.

Republicans are banking on that Super PAC advantage again this year, when the costs of the presidential contest and all other races for federal posts will soar from $5 billion in 2008 to as high as $7 billion by November. (The 2000 election cost a “mere” $3 billion.) In other words, the amount spent this election season will be roughly the equivalent of the gross domestic product of Haiti.

The myth of small donors

In June 2003, presidential candidate Howard Dean shocked the political establishment by raising $828,000 in one day over the internet, with an average donation of $112. Dean, in fact, got 38 per cent of his campaign’s total funds from donations of $200 or less, planting the seeds for what many forecast would be a small-donor revolution in US politics.

Four years later, Barack Obama raised a third of his record-breaking $745 million campaign haul from small donors, while Ron Paul raised 39 per cent from small dollars on the Republican side. Much of Paul’s campaign was financed by online “money bombs”, when enthusiastic supporters generated millions of dollars in brief, coordinated bursts. The amount of money raised in small donations by Obama, in particular, raised hopes that his campaign had found a way to break the death grip of big donors on US politics.

In retrospect, the small-donor utopianism surrounding Obama seems naïve. Despite all the adulatory media attention about his small donors, the candidate still raised the bulk of his money from big givers. (Typically, these days, incumbent members of Congress raise less than ten per cent of their campaign funds from small donors, with those numbers actually dropping when you reach the gubernatorial and state legislative levels.) Obama’s top contributors included employees of Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, and Citigroup, hardly standard bearers for the little guy. For obvious reasons, the campaign chose to emphasise the small donors over the big ones in its narrative, as it continues to do in 2012.

Interestingly enough, both Obama and Paul actually raised more money from small donors in 2011 than they did in 2008, 48 per cent and 52 per cent of their totals, respectively. But, in the Super PAC era, that money no longer has the same impact. Even Dean doubts that his anti-establishment, internet-fuelled campaign from 2004 would be as successful today. “Super PACs have made a grassroots campaign less effective,” he says. “You can still run a grassroots campaign but the problem is you can be overwhelmed now on television and by dirty mailers being sent out … It’s a very big change from 2008.”

Obama is a candidate with a split personality, which makes his campaign equally schizophrenic. The Obama campaign claims it’s raising 98 per cent of its money from small donors and is “building the biggest grassroots campaign in American history”, according to campaign manager Jim Messina. But the starry-eyed statistics and the rhetoric that accompanies it are deeply misleading. Of the $89 million raised in 2011 by the Obama Joint Victory Fund, a collaboration of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Obama campaign, 74 per cent came from donations of $20,000 or more and 99 per cent from donations of $1,000 or more.

The campaign has 445 “bundlers” (dubbed “volunteer fundraisers” by the campaign), who gather money from their wealthy friends and package it for Obama. They have raised at least $74.4 million for Obama and the DNC in 2011. Sixty-one of those bundlers raised $500,000 or more. Obama held 73 fundraisers in 2011 and 13 last month alone, where the price of admission was almost always $35,800 a head.

 
 

An increase in small donor contributions and a surge of big money fundraisers still wasn’t enough, however, to give Obama an advantage over Republicans in the money chase. That’s why the Obama campaign, until recently adamantly against Super PACs, suddenly relented and signaled its support for a pro-Obama Super PAC named Priorities USA.

A day after the announcement that the campaign, like its Republican rivals, would Super PAC it up, Messina spoke at the members-only Core Club in Manhattan and “assured a group of Democratic donors from the financial services industry that Obama won’t demonize Wall Street as he stresses populist appeals in his re-election campaign”, reported Bloomberg Businessweek. “Messina told the group of Wall Street donors that the president plans to run against Romney, not the industry that made the former governor of Massachusetts millions.”

In other words, don’t expect a convincing return to the theme of the people versus the powerful in campaign 2012, even though Romney, if the nominee, would be particularly vulnerable to that line of attack. After all, so far his campaign has raised only nine per cent of its campaign contributions from small donors, well behind both Senator John McCain (21 per cent) in 2008, and George W. Bush (26 per cent) in 2004.

In the fourth quarter of 2011, Romney outraised Obama among the top firms on Wall Street by a margin of 11 to one. His top three campaign contributions are from employees of Goldman Sachs ($496,430), JPMorgan ($317,400) and Morgan Stanley ($277,850). The banks have fallen out of favour with the public, but their campaign cash is indispensable among the political class – and so they remain as powerful as ever in US politics.

In a recent segment of his show, Stephen Colbert noted that half of the money ($67 million) raised by Super PACs in 2011 had come from just 22 people. “That’s seven one-millionths of one per cent,” or roughly 0.000000071 per cent, Colbert said while spraying a fire extinguisher on his fuming calculator. “So, Occupy Wall Street, you’re going to want to change those signs.”

February 23, 2012

Romney Continues to Bring Yawns to GOP aka BORING

If Mitt Romney wins the Republican nomination for president, he’ll face the urgent task of inspiring the party’s conservative core and rallying them to beat President Barack Obama.

Judging by his performances in the primaries and caucuses so far, and the challenge he faces next week, he’s got his work cut out for him.

Even Republicans who think he’ll be the nominee worry about whether he can generate the intensity required to beat the Democratic incumbent.

These party leaders and activists, from the states voting Feb. 28 and the most contested ones ahead in the fall, say Romney has made strides toward addressing this problem. But, they say, he needs to do more to convince the Republican base that he’s running to fundamentally reverse the nation’s course, not simply manage what they see as the federal government’s mess.

“I think Romney will be the nominee, but there is still tremendous work to be done,” said Sally Bradshaw, a Florida Republican and adviser to former Gov. Jeb Bush. “He has got to find a way to unify the party and increase the intensity of support for him among voters who have supported Newt Gingrich, or Rick Santorum or Ron Paul or someone else. And that is going to be the key to how he does in the fall.”

Romney leads in the delegate count for the nomination, and by a wide margin in private polling ahead of the Arizona primary Feb. 28. But the rising challenge from former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum in the contest also that day in Michigan, where Romney was born and raised, underscores doubts about Romney’s ability to ignite fervor in the GOP base.

He nearly tied Santorum in Iowa, although entrance polls showed that more of Santorum’s backers than Romney’s said they were strongly behind their chosen candidate.

Romney lost the primary in South Carolina last month to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. More of Romney’s supporters in that state said they would support him with reservations in the general election than would support him enthusiastically.

Santorum swept caucuses Feb. 7 in Colorado and Minnesota, and the nonbinding Missouri primary.

Romney’s challengers have risen by sounding more conservative and displaying sharper differences with Obama, while nipping Romney’s appeal as the most electable against Obama.

Romney, a former Massachusetts governor with a moderate past, has campaigned more as the likely GOP nominee, portraying himself as acceptable to swing voters in a race where polls show voters prizing most a candidate’s perceived ability to beat Obama.

Romney has pivoted toward the GOP’s conservative base in light of Santorum’s surge.

He dove into the debate over whether birth control ought to be covered by health insurance provided by church-backed employers by faulting the Obama administration’s original push to do so as an “assault on religion.” But Romney was accused of overreaching after recently telling influential conservative activists, “I was a severely conservative Republican governor.”

“In Romney’s case it’s like the difference between someone who grew up speaking Spanish and someone who went to school to speak Spanish,” said Constantin Querard, an Arizona Republican operative. “The moment Romney starts speaking, people know the difference.”

A Pew Research poll taken last week shows the Republican voters nationally who think Romney is a strong conservative has dipped to 42 percent from 53 percent in November.

Romney’s campaign aides say it’s unrealistic to think conservatives staring at the possibility of a second Obama term will not unify behind Romney. “President Obama is the best unifier the Republican Party could ever hope for,” Romney’s political director, Rich Beeson, told The Associated Press.

The campaign points to recent conservative opinion leaders who have signed on to his campaign, and his support from popular rising conservative figures such as South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley as evidence of Romney’s newfound buzz.

Michigan Republican Holly Hughes, who supported Arizona Sen. John McCain in the 2008 primary, said Romney is more passionate than during his failed bid that year.

“He’s a different candidate than he was four years ago,” said Hughes, a Republican national committeewoman from Muskegon County. “There wasn’t the excitement there.”

Hughes and others also point to Romney’s winning the straw poll at the recent Conservative Political Action Convention in Washington, which attracted thousands of the nation’s most ardent conservative activists.

Yet Michigan GOP consultant Tom Shields said Santorum, now ahead of Romney in polls Romney’s native state and where his father served as governor, is exciting people where Romney isn’t.

Establishment Republican figures are lining up behind Romney in Michigan, including Gov. Rick Snyder. But in 2000, Gov. John Engler promised to deliver the state as George W. Bush’s firewall; McCain won the primary that year.

“For whatever reason, Romney’s not objectionable. But people just haven’t fully warmed up to him,” said Shields, who conducts public opinion polling in Michigan. “They’ve just refused to take the next step and marry the guy.”

It foretells problems assuring the die-hard GOP activists will be lining up in November, when their phone-banking and door-knocking could make the difference in a close election against an Obama re-election campaign projected to have $1 billion to spend.

“I voted for him. I don’t want to screw around because he’s who we’re going to end up with,” said former Arizona GOP Chairman Mike Hellon, referring to his absentee primary vote for Romney. “But I talk to people who are generally reluctant to pull the trigger for him. More than anything else, that’s’ a problem of intensity which could be a problem in the fall.”

Romney could spice things up with his running-mate choice, although some say an August announcement might be too late to lock in the GOP foot-soldiers.

“There’s a lot of speculation that Marco Rubio could be the vice presidential nominee,” Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad told the AP, referring to the freshman Florida senator and tea party favorite. “I think somebody like him could add some real excitement to the ticket, would be kind of a help to Romney if he does wrap up the nomination.”

Candidates historically do not win close elections based on their running mate, although they have in recent elections received a temporary bump in their national poll standing. The choice can ignite passion among the party base, as did McCain’s selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in 2008.

Concerns about the enthusiasm Romney generates correspond with a general dip in excitement among Republicans in a nominating campaign that has lurched one way and another in nine contests over the past six weeks.

A CNN/ORC International poll published Wednesday showed 51 percent of Republicans nationally were extremely or very enthusiastic about voting for president in the election, down from 64 percent in October.

But the dip in GOP enthusiasm, and especially Romney’s three-way loss this month, is a stark warning to Romney that he cannot wait or rely on public unpopularity with Obama to provide momentum for him.

“He cannot bank on the anger against Obama among Republicans to create the turnout we need in the Fall,” Florida’s Bradshaw said.

February 9, 2012

Romney Will Struggle to Gain Conservative Backing

The resurgence of social and cultural issues in voters’ minds poses new challenges for GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney as he reels from surprising losses Tuesday to conservative favoriteRick Santorum.

The economy remains the No. 1 issue of concern for a majority of Americans. But the recent hoopla surrounding the Obama administration’s support of contraceptives, the court ruling against California’s same-sex marriage ban and heated debate aboutabortion access has created a perfect storm that has pushed these seemingly dormant issues to the surface.

“They’ve never been far from the surface. A lot of people thought the social issues had disappeared but that has never been the case,” said Karlyn Bowman, a senior fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute who focuses on polling data and public opinion. “These issues are obviously very important within a conservative party, the Republican party.”

Even the general public has increasingly leaned to the right. In a Gallup poll last month, 40 percent of Americans identified themselves as conservative, 35 percent as moderate and 21 percent as liberal. The numbers marked the third straight year that conservatives outnumbered moderates, which have declined steadily since the early 1990s.

An overwhelming number of Republicans – 51 percent – dubbed themselves as “conservatives” while 20 percent classified themselves as “very conservative,” far outweighing moderates. The poll also found that independents, who make up the largest political group in the country, were mostly conservative-leaning, with 41 percent putting themselves in that category.

“In recent years, conservatives have become the single largest group, consistently outnumbering moderates since 2009 and outnumbering liberals by 2 to 1. Overall, the nation has grown more ideologically polarized over the past decade,” the analysis stated. “The increase in the proportion of conservatives is entirely the result of increased conservatism among Republicans and independents, and is also seen in Americans 30 and older — particularly seniors.”

Santorum, with his staunch anti-abortion stance and Christian ideology, has strong backing among conservatives who still view Romney and his record with skepticism. Newt Gingrich was able to attract some of that conservative support in South Carolina but his personal record, including two failed marriages and an affair with his current wife while he was still married, has come under much public scrutiny.

Santorum “has been a consistent conservative in the debates. He’s raised a lot of social issues that haven’t been the focus of Romney and Gingrich in the debates,” Bowman said.

The former senator from Pennsylvania supports a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, as well as banning abortion even in the case of rape and not allowing homosexual couples to adopt children.

Romney, meanwhile, has struggled to convince the Republican base of his conservative credentials. Most recently, he came under fire for allowing “abortion pills” as governor of Massachusetts. In 2005, Romney signed a law that required all Massachusetts hospitals, including those owned by religious groups, to provide emergency contraception to rape victims.

Romney had initially opposed that requirement but later said that “in my heart of hearts, is that people who are subject to rape should have the option of having emergency contraception or emergency contraception information.”

That same year, Romney vetoed a law allowing the disbursement of the controversial morning-after pill by pharmacists without a doctor’s prescription, but the state Senate overrode his veto.

Romney’s business record has worked in his favor, with exit polls in early states showing that most primary voters viewed it with a favorable eye. But his changing views on highly volatile social issues, including abortion, have yet to win him favor among conservatives. Such hesitancy was in full display Tuesday in Minnesota, where Romney did not carry a single county even though its former governor, Tim Pawlenty, campaigned for him.

“Romney has to go back to mollifying that base, which is not something he wanted to do,” political analyst Norm Ornstein said. “What it means for Romney is that he’s going to have to make more and more sharply conservative pledges and try to trigger even more of that conservative antipathy [against President Obama].”

But that could be a challenging task for the former governor who faces a more difficult road to the nomination than many expected. “The more he does this, he looks phony,” Ornstein said.

The focus on social issues among the U.S. electorate doesn’t bode well for Obama either. He has taken much heat for his administration’s decision to require religious schools, universities, charities and hospitals to provide contraceptive services in their insurance plans.

House Speaker John Boehner today became the latest Republican to jump into the showdown, saying that if the administration doesn’t reverse the policy, Congress will.

“In imposing this requirement, the federal government is violating a First Amendment right that has stood for more than two centuries, and it is doing so in a manner that affects millions of Americans and harms some of our nation’s most vital institutions,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said on the House floor. “If the president does not reverse the department’s attack on religious freedom, then the Congress, acting on behalf of the American people and the Constitution we are sworn to uphold and defend, must.”

The House, comprised of a number of freshman lawmakers who won based on their firm opposition to abortion, has already introduced a number of bills tightening abortion restrictions and defunding Planned Parenthood.

Still, if the Republican race goes into the summer, as many now expect, even the focus on social issues would bode well for the president, experts say.

“Certainly one of the things that’s happening now is people are feeling less frantic about the economy and so other issues do emerge more,” Ornstein said. “Are they going to supersede the economy? If they do, that’s great news for Barack Obama, even if he suffers some with the decision on contraception, because it’s a signal that the economy is receding as an issue and if the economy is receding as an issue that means things are going well.”

Way What?? Romney HAD Mojo… WOW

Romney Losing His Mojo After Caucus, Primary Losses to Santorum

 Rick Santorum’s sweep exposed glaring weaknesses in Mitt Romney’s candidacy. Howard Kurtz on whether the ex-senator can capitalize on conservative qualms about Romney.

It’s easy to wave away Santorum’s triple triumph in Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado as an exercise in symbolism that netted him no delegates. But as a snapshot of the state of the GOP race, it’s a rather dark picture for Romney.

“These results are a serious blow to Romney that crystallized the conservative questions about his bona fides and punctured it,” says Ari Fleischer, the former Bush White House spokesman. “If your campaign is built on inevitability, a puncture can take you down.”

Ed Rollins, the veteran GOP strategist who briefly ran Michele Bachmann’s campaign, says Romney “has been running for six years and never quite connected. He’s spent no time talking about his years as governor, which is not exactly an all-star four years. He now wants to pretend he’s a right-winger, and it’s just not believable.”

Adds John Feehery, a former House Republican official: “Santorum doesn’t have any organization or money—he’s able to win based on the idea that the base doesn’t like Romney.” Romney “struck a bad chord” with his gaffe about not being concerned about the very poor, says Feehery: “Many conservatives, especially Christian conservatives, actually care about the poor.”

Romney is still the likely nominee, of course, but these and other GOP analysts are saying for the first time that Santorum has a shot. They see him as having eclipsed Newt Gingrich, whose fortunes have sagged since his brief, shining moment in South Carolina.

Given that Romney was coming off solid wins in Florida and Nevada, his vote totals on Tuesday were stunningly weak, even if social conservatives form the backbone of the electorate in the three states.

As Ron Brownstein points out in National Journal, Romney got 25,900 votes in winning the Minnesota caucuses four years ago; this time, in finishing third, he won only 8,090. The same pattern held in the Colorado caucuses, which Romney won last time with 42,218 votes; on Tuesday he finished second with 22,875. And he drew just over a third as many votes in Missouri’s beauty contest as in 2008.

Maybe the results amounted to a giant protest vote. Maybe Romney does poorly when he doesn’t have much time to campaign or when he doesn’t pour money into attack ads. But there may well be something deeper that goes to both style and substance.

Romney comes across as overly scripted, and sometimes aloof, whether he’s hitting his talking points or reciting “America the Beautiful.” He’s a bit ill at ease among average voters. What was striking about his concession speech Tuesday night was that when he talked about his father struggling to make it as a carpenter, he seemed to be speaking from the heart. (Of course, Dad went on to become head of American Motors and Michigan’s governor, so that’s the closest Romney can come to a rags-to-riches narrative.)

And what, at its heart, is Romney’s message, other than that Obama is flailing and the former head of Bain Capital is the man to fix the economy? Romney lacks an animating idea that would bring voters to their feet and faces such complications as the similarities between Obama’s health-care reform and his own in Massachusetts.

“The conservative electorate of 2012 really is hungry for the authentic, Washington-changing candidate,” Fleischer says.

Perhaps that’s why the Romney camp is now going after Santorum as a Beltway insider. Top adviser Eric Fehrnstrom told MSNBC that Santorum and Gingrich are “two peas in a pod—longtime Washington legislators.” And a Romney email blast portrayed Gingrich and Santorum as wild-eyed earmarkers, with such headlines as “Santorum Brought Over $1 Billion in Pork-Barrel Spending Back to Pennsylvania” and “Santorum Voted for the Bridge to Nowhere.”

It’s no accident that Santorum, a favorite of religious conservatives, used his Tuesday-night speech to trumpet his opposition to the White House rule requiring Catholic organizations to offer contraception in health-insurance plans—an issue that has been heating up in recent days.

“If he becomes the champion of the conservative Catholic/Christian coalition, he could be very credible,” says Rollins. “He’s a tough debater. There are no liabilities to him. He’s every bit as knowledgeable as Gingrich, though not as articulate. He’s more disciplined in his message. He is the true-blue Catholic; Gingrich is a convert who’s had multiple marriages.”

Santorum “knows the issues better than Romney does,” Feehery says. “He’s got a better message and is more consistent.” One political weakness, says Feehery, is that Santorum is not a Tea Party favorite: “He’s a big-government conservative, a traditional Republican—a George W. Bush compassionate conservative.”

“Santorum doesn’t have any organization or money—he’s able to win based on the idea that the base doesn’t like Romney.”

Santorum’s ability to remain in the first tier depends in part on whether his big night triggers a flood of donations, so he doesn’t get buried in Michigan or Arizona by millions in negative ads. One question is the extent to which Wyoming financier Foster Friess, who has been bankrolling Santorum’s super PAC (as well as The Daily Caller), is willing to open his checkbook.

It may turn out that Santorum is only the latest in a series of Not-Romneys—Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich—who flash across the political landscape before burning out. But if Santorum can eclipse Gingrich and get Romney one-on-one, as in Missouri, or if they alternate tackling the frontrunner in states where each man is the strongest, this race isn’t over by a long shot.

Mitt WHO?? Don’t Think I Know That Fella.

Mitt Romney’s No More Of a Mystery Than Barack Obama

 Romney may take both sides on issues and encourage voters to project what they want onto him, but he is not hiding his “real” nature any more than the president is. With both men, it’s called politics, says Lee Siegel.

The current meme, taken up with a vengeance by the liberal media, is that no one knows who the real Mitt Romneyis. Why does that sound familiar?

True, I have no idea what Romney believes on virtually any issue. Like everyone, I am struck by his pattern of presenting inconsistent positions with no apparent recognition of their incoherence. The real conundrum is why this man seems so compelled to take both sides of every issue, encouraging voters to project whatever they want on him, and hoping they won’t realize which hand is holding the rabbit. He either does not know what he believes or is willing to take whatever position he thinks will lead to his election.

I am sure that no liberal would disagree with that assessment of Romney. I am as sure of that as I am of the fact that most liberals heartily assented to those very words when they were used to describe President Obama six months ago in the New York Times, in a scathing op-ed essay by Drew Westen. I’ve quoted them almost verbatim.

There were dissenters, to be sure, but the chorus of hosannas that rose from the liberal media in response to Westen’s criticisms was almost unanimous. And now, with the presidential election looming, those very criticisms have been displaced from the president who was widely perceived, by his own supporters, to be an empty suit, onto his likely opponent in the fall.

Yet to say that both Obama and Romney are hiding their “real” natures beneath contradictory positions is to mischaracterize them. With rare exceptions, a modern democratic politician possessing a real, unalterable nature is an oxymoron. When someone is described to us as being very “political,” we know that we are being told to keep our guard up. Why, then, do we keep expecting our politicians to reassure us with their integrity? They are political, through and through, and we should stop being so shocked, shocked, when they act politically.

Romney Obama Comparison

With rare exceptions, a modern democratic politician possessing a real, unalterable nature is an oxymoron, writes Lee Siegel., Chip Somodevilla / AP Photo

In Romney’s case, no one wants to accept that he is merely being a politician. Instead, he is dangerously mystified. Several months ago when he said during a televised debate, using the exact same words, that the was “not concerned about the very poor,” no one made a peep—and he didn’t even add the bit about fixing the safety net if necessary that he did when he repeated the sentence last week. Now, however, he utters the very same words and a terrible uproar ensues. What did he mean? What did he really mean? Was he being accurately quoted?

Yet he was doing what just about every Republican politician does, which is to reassure the middle class that he was not going to shift his attention away from them to the poor. After all, the poor don’t vote in great numbers, and when they do, they usually vote Democratic. But the liberal media was, again, shocked, shocked, to find a Republican speaking like a Republican. Why does the “Mitt-bot” keep making such flubs, they asked? Endless analysis of his “enigmatic” character followed. The result was to deepen and mystify a simple political remark. By the time the analysis was over, Romney seemed to be sympathetic to the middle class, the rich and even the poor, whose safety net he was going to fix.

The unflattering comparisons being drawn between Romney and his father also only make him more attractive, by raising the hope that the apple will not fall far from the tree. The standard narrative now is that George Romney, as governor of Michigan, presidential candidate, and secretary of Housing and Urban Development, was an honest, decent man who stuck to his guns, no matter what. Maybe. And maybe that is pure nonsense.

The Republican George Romney is being celebrated for standing up to his party on civil rights, for example. He was indeed a staunch defender of civil rights. But he also was the governor of a Democratic state, at a time of growing liberal consensus. His anti-labor stance and business experience as CEO of American Motors Corporation guaranteed him the support of Detroit’s growing affluent Republican suburbs. His business-minded opposition to big-business—i.e. his former competitors, Detroit’s Big Three—and his strong civil rights stance guaranteed him much of the liberal vote, as well as a decisive black vote. In his successful second run for governor, he garnered 30 percent of Michigan’s black vote, something no Republican candidate in the state had ever done.

Romney pere’s powerful advocacy of civil rights policies at HUD was admirable and honorable. But it also undercut his former presidential rival, Richard Nixon, and strengthened his base among liberals and blacks in Michigan, should he have decided one day to run for Senate. (In the event, his wife Lenore ran for Senate instead, and lost.)

Even George Romney’s notorious change of heart on the war in Vietnam—the mother of all flip-flops—is being hailed as an example of courageous moral resolve. Running against Nixon for the Republican presidential nomination, Romney declared in August 1967 that he had been brainwashed into supporting the war during a 1965 trip to Vietnam, and now proclaimed his opposition to it. His reversal could have been on high moral principle. Then again, it could be that he was trying to make an end-run around Nixon using the same cut-both-ways strategy he had used to get elected governor of Michigan. In his campaigns for governor, he had appealed to the liberal wing of the GOP in order to win over Democratic voters. It had worked when Romney contrasted himself with the disastrously right-wing Goldwater in the early sixties. That it didn’t work as he tried to contrast himself with Nixon didn’t mean that Romney wasn’t hoping it would.

The saintly father, the complex, multi-faceted son—even as they are displacing their unhappiness with Obama’s “unknowableness” onto Romney, the liberal media is mystifying Romney in some weird inversion of its mystification of Obama three years ago. For liberals, of course, the mystique is a horrible one. But in some disturbing sense, by making him a mystery instead of treating him as a politician, they are doing Romney’s work for him. Voters who are tired of politicians and of “more of the same” love an exciting new mystery.

6 Thoughts About the Tuesday Santorum Sweep.

The Republican presidential race just got a lot more interesting. On Tuesday night, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) scored”stunning” upset wins in the Colorado and Minnesota caucuses, and in Missouri’s nonbinding “beauty pageant” primary. It was a clean sweep nobody saw coming — “probably not even Rick Santorum,” says The New Yorker‘s John Cassidy. As recently as a week ago, Mitt Romney was expected to win all three contests, and political analysts expected him to win Colorado even as the votes were being tallied. Here, six takeaways from Tuesday’s surprising outcome:

1. Santorum scored big bragging rights: After his Jan. 3 win in Iowa. Santorum suffered a string of dispiriting third- and fourth-place finishes. But all of a sudden, Santorum has now won four states, more than any of his GOP rivals. And he’s the only candidate to notch wins in the electorally crucial Midwest. The cash-poor Santorum did it the hard way, too, through foot-pounding retail politics, says Alex Altman at TIME. It paid off: “In a single evening, he punctured the aura of inevitability that had gathered around Romney’s campaign,” and toppled Newt Gingrich as the go-to not-Romney candidate. What he didn’t do was win any delegates: Each of these three states will apportion their delegates later this year.

[SEE MORE: Is Nevada's Tea Party too dysfunctional to trip up Mitt Romney?]

2. Romney’s coronation is now on hold: Santorum’s hat trick is “a stunning rebuke to Mitt Romney and the national media,” says The New Yorker‘s Cassidy. And Romney’s “horrible, horrible night” will have lasting consequences, says Erick Erickson at RedState. In three key swing states, conservative voters “sent a very clear signal”: We do not like Romney. Indeed, the real “story of Missouri, Minnesota, and Colorado is the stunning weakness of Mitt Romney,” says Paul Begala at The Daily Beast. “His super PAC outspent Santorum’s by a 40-to-1 margin,” and Santorum crushed him. That’s “like the New York Yankees losing an exhibition game to a church-league softball team.”

3. But Mitt is still favored to win the nomination: Tuesday was a bad night for the GOP frontrunner, but “barring a spectacular reversal in the months ahead,” he will still “be anointed as the Republican nominee,” says Thomas DeFrank in the New York Daily News. Things should get better for Romney as the contest moves into the friendlier territory of Arizona and Michigan on Feb. 28, and then Super Tuesday on March 6, where “Romney’s money advantage should help him plenty,” says Jonathan Bernstein at A Plain Blog About Politics. For Santorum, “it’s a long, long, way from a very good night to actually becoming a plausible nominee. Much less the actual nominee.”

[SEE MORE: Nominating Mitt Malaprop]

4. Gingrich is toast: Newt “was a footnote in the three contests” Tuesday night, says Maggie Haberman at Politico. With little money and no momentum, “it’s a bit hard to see how Gingrich is going to keep himself relevant in the coming weeks.” He can’t, says Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post. “Gingrich’s days as the leading not-Romney are just about over.”

5. Republicans still aren’t turning out to vote: “Are Republicans energized? Not if turnout is an indication,” say Peter Hamby and John Helton at CNN. GOP voters came out in much smaller numbers on Tuesday than they did four years ago. The numbers “are so low as to be laughable,” says John Hinderaker at PowerLine. In Minnesota, for example, fewer than 50,000 people participated in the caucuses; in the 2008 general election, 1,275,409 Minnesotans voted for Republican John McCain.

[SEE MORE: How deep-pocketed super PACs became 'shadow campaigns']

6. Geography is trumping history: The Republican race “appears to be turning into a regionally based contest,” says The New Yorker‘s Cassidy, “with Santorum as the heartland candidate, Gingrich as the Southern candidate, and the Mittster as Mr. Everywhere Else — or so he hopes.” What’s striking is how much that map has changed in four years, says Politico‘s Haberman. In 2008, Romney won Colorado with a stunning 60 percent, but he lost to Santorum by 5 points on Tuesday, with 35 percent. Romney won Minnesota with 40.1 percent in 2008; this year, he came in an embarrassing, distant third, with 17 percent. What changed? In 2008, Romney was “the electable conservative alternative” to McCain. This year, he’s almost become McCain: A centrist RINO.

Republican Voters Bored with Romney and Others

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Mitt Romney’s march to a possible Republican presidential nomination just got a lot longer and harder.

Front-runner Romney left Tuesday’s round of three nominating contests with another reminder of his own shortcomings, after a two-state winning streak that had placed him firmly in the driver’s seat in the nomination race.

Bad losses to rival Rick Santorum in Colorado, Missouri andMinnesota raised more questions about whether conservative Republicans are ready to give their hearts to a millionaire former Massachusetts governor who once supported abortion rights and a government requirement that people have health insurance.

Romney may still be the front-runner in the race to pick the Republican candidate to challenge President Barack Obama in the November 6 U.S. election. But nothing is coming easily for him in this most volatile of Republican nominating races.

“This shows Republicans are not ready yet to just automatically pull the lever for Mitt Romney,” Republican strategist Ron Bonjean said. “He still has to seal the deal.”

The next big showdowns will be in Michigan and Arizona on February 28. Romney grew up in Michigan, where his father was a former governor and car executive, and Arizona could be another high-stakes showdown similar to Florida.

“He wanted to run through February and roll into Super Tuesday as the presumptive nominee, and that’s just not going to happen now,” Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said. “This is a wake-up call for Romney, but it’s not the end-all.”

Super Tuesday is March 6, with contests in 10 states.

Romney’s campaign will try to paint Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, as another old Washington hand who backed big government spending during his time in Congress.

“I think we’ll see differences in approach that will be explored,” Romney senior adviser Stuart Stevens told reporters in Denver. “I just don’t think it’s a time when people are looking to Washington to solve problems with Washington.”

Romney, a former head of a private equity firm, has touted his business experience as the cure for an ailing economy in states like Florida and Nevada, where high unemployment and depressed housing markets made the economy a top concern.

But in Midwestern states like Iowa, Missouri and Minnesota – all won by Santorum – that has not been enough to sell a more rural and conservative electorate.

Romney also could face second-guessing about his post-Florida strategy. He demolished Newt Gingrich there last week with a wave of negative attack ads, but since has largely ignored Gingrich and Santorum to aim his criticism at President Barack Obama.

He also largely skipped campaigning in Missouri and Minnesota to focus instead on Colorado, which he won in 2008 and was expected to win on Tuesday.

“Team Romney might need to tweak its strategy. So far they’ve been successful in going negative on their opponents and touting his business experience,” O’Connell said.

‘HUNGRY FOR MORE’

“But obviously Republican primary voters are hungry for something more. A lot of folks see him as a single-issue candidate right now,” he said.

Santorum has been happy to stay out of the mud-slinging battle between his two rivals and portray himself as the issue-oriented true conservative in the race.

Romney’s campaign began lobbing criticism at Santorum over the past two days, hitting the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania for backing spending bills and local spending projects known as earmarks when he served in the Senate.

Romney’s campaign still seems confident its financial and organizational muscle will be enough to ultimately win the nomination, even if the conservative base is not enthralled.

Romney has far outpaced his Republican rivals in raising money, with nearly $57 million brought in by his campaign and $30 million raised by the pro-Romney “Super PAC.”

Sensing he was headed for a bad night, the campaign sent reporters a memo on Tuesday outlining why he would win the nomination in August even if he stumbled on Tuesday.

“Governor Romney will be competing across the country and collecting delegates in state after state, even if other candidates pick up some wins,” Romney’s political director Rich Beeson said.

In an interview with conservative radio host Scott Hennen earlier this week, Romney shared his vision of how the campaign would play out, and it did not include a primary campaign that lasts all the way to the convention in August when the nominee formally will be named.

“Most likely, the party regulars will surround one of the people who they think has the best chance of beating Barack Obama, and start raising money for the general election,” Romney said.

But a confident Romney campaign had expected February would be a good month, too, with many of the contests coming in states he won in 2008 – including Minnesota and Colorado.

While Romney had not campaigned in Missouri or Minnesota, the loss in Colorado, where he spent the last two days, was harder to shrug off.

“Losing Colorado is a five-alarm fire for Romney,” Bonjean said.

February 3, 2012

Coming of Age and Facing a Poor Quality of Life and Uncertain Future

This Post is scheduled to post on  the early morning of Friday February 3, 2012. It is My Daughter Birthday today… and I am sad …..

It is a sad post actually… it is about my daughter. While the happy news is that on this day she attains the milestone of 21 years  of age…. and I will  abide by her wished to give her the first legal drink in her life (I have been instructed by her to make sure it is sweet) ….. the sad news is  she faces a glib future.

My daughter is Autistic.. and hope as I may have I  hoped and prayed that she would  develop enough to be at least minimally self sufficient…. but that is not going to be the case for her. If I am no longer able to care for her then I  fear.. really fear…. that  the Government , in its efforts to care for her.. will in fact fail her like they have…. many others. WORSE, my own republican party has  taken on an ANTI-NEEDY stance….. and   if you know anyone on a fixed income you will know that the “COST OF LIVING ADJUSTMENT”  that Social Security Recipients Get is NOT true….NOT real.. and their costs of living are far far greater than the  adjustment they get every year.

I have thought of putting my assets into a specified Trust Fund…. but who will administer it…. I do not know anyone that is related to me or my daughter that I can trust to do what is right for her and to safeguard the money… and I mean that….. NO ONE related to us do I trust…. and that is a sad state of affairs in itself.

Lawyers charge too much to do this over time….. and if the assets were  placed in my daughter’s name I fear she will not qualify for aid until all of that money was used up… and I wanted her to have that for the simpler things in life… Ruffles Potato Chips , Pepperoni Loves Pizza cut into half-inch squares  so she  can eat them without having any front teeth, the newest Sims 3 or whatever version is current  expansion packs. I tunes, and Music players and the occasional new computer and  TV set… and Movie and game rentals…. it sounds like a lot.. but it is not cost wise….

But then it is things that Insurance does not cover.. like dental… and Medicare does not cover dental.. or who will help her chose a good Medical plane if Medicare goes private.. and how will she affords it.

I am NOT going to outlive this child/Adult… so what is going to happen to her… where is she going to live… and because she is 100% NON VIOLENT   and is not  the personality that can even stand up for herself.. and gets upset if she is confronted and buckles like a house built of cheap cards….. She really is the most sweetest, kindest, caring, compassionate, empathetic young lady you would ever want to meet.

She is able to achieve intellectually to some extent. She even was able to earn a REGULAR ED diploma and pass the STATE High School  exam…. but some days she cannot remember the days of the week and always has trouble with the months of the year.  She is spatially challenged.. meaning  she cannot see things in her mind.. so when it came to learning how to drive… she had to look down at the pedals to look at them before she wold put her foot down on one to stop or go…. Same with brushing her own hair.. she can not  envision it by feel or concept and can’t brush it as a result.. Bathing, the same…  and even if she could in some ways her dexterity and coordination is so awkward that she gets frustrated and gives up trying….. ohh and she is just 4 foot 8 so even kitchen cabinets are to high for her….  In the simplest terms she needs help in her every day living..  so even finding a good place to live is extremely difficult and I have not found that place yet.

I cold go on about my troubles with getting her her own Medicaid… she does not qualify because she lives with me and our HOUSEHOLD income is too high… or the supposed Medicaid Waiver Program that Congress refuses to fund so I can get her additional help and services…  but what is the use.. there are a lot of people in that position and I am not alone…

What I am alone in and have been for almost 9 years now is taking care of this  sweetheart. No ONE has really helped.. and respite care  … I have no idea what that is.. even family ignores my needs to have real-time for myself… and so I am tired… and have literally lost my will to live.. no I am not going to kill myself… First because I have this obligation to this great person .. but second because i am a Cowardly Catholic… and help has no appeal for me.

And last….. which may seem the strangest thing of all is I am afraid….. NOT OF DYING…. For that Concept I fully embrace…. BUT BECAUSE MY OWN REPUBLICAN PARTY HAS BETRAYED ME AND MY FAMILY…. They have gone so far as to actually now believe the lies they have been telling the public for the last 4 years.. and I am DISGUSTED by their  lies, distortions and worse….. their heartlessness….  and remember I AM A REPUBLICAN!!   …… and it is for this reason I  have to live longer.. because of their  hubris…. their complete disregard for the human condition… because they have become something I do not recognize…. and maybe the 2012 doomsday prophecy will be true if my party wins the  Presidential race based on this platform of hate.

Some of you will say.. ohh then you’re a Democrat… I say no way I am not that  compassionate and soft on people who need to take responsibility.. so others say ohh your libertarian….. I say no there is a need for government and regulations because humans by nature are greedy and selfish and  if left unchecked hurt all of humanity.

I AM A REPUBLICAN… and I am an ANGRY Republican…. but my party does not care.. they have only one goal…. not America.. not Americans.. Not humanity…. no …. ONLY ONE GOAL….. BEAT OBAMA…..  Stupidity reigns in my party!!

Life is HARD.. it is an uphill battle for all of us.. and more so for those like my daughter who are disabled and disadvantaged…. WHO WILL BE HER ADVOCATE when I am not able  to do it anymore….. Obviously not my family, my party, or my country.

So while this is an auspicious day for my daughter turning 21…. and I will make it as special as I can for her.. it is also a sad day as it only  makes me sorry and care  about what will happen  when I can no longer be her advocate and care giver….. and I want to just sit her and cry when I write this………………….

February 1, 2012

The Threat of a Water War Egypt and Sudan to Stand Together

Egypt and Sudan draw battle lines with upstream nations over access to the Nile

NATIONS FIGHT over water, especially when access is curtailed or threatened, and there are the ingredients for a battle over the 4,100-mile long Nile River. Egypt and Sudan have counted on the abundance of the Nile’s life-giving flow. Now upstream nations want to keep more of the abundance for themselves. Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Congo, Burundi, and Rwanda are asserting their rights to more of the river’s relentless flow. Washington needs to intervene to forestall hostilities between the countries.

Britain conquered Uganda and Kenya in the 19th century in part to protect the precious Nile waters from being diverted away from their critical possession of Egypt, the Suez Canal, and the Red Sea route to India. Without the yearly sustaining floods of the Nile, agriculture and settlement in the valley of the river from Luxor to Cairo and Alexandria would have been impossible.

When Britain in the 1920s controlled all of the waters of the Nile, bar those sluicing down the Blue Nile from Ethiopia, it signed a pact that gave Egypt and Sudan rights to nearly 75 percent of its annual flow. This 1929 agreement was confirmed in 1959, after Egypt and the Sudan had broken from Britain but while the East African countries were still colonies.

A new 2010 Cooperative Framework Agreement, now signed by most of the key upstream abutters, would give all riparian states (including the Congo, where a stream that flows into Lake Tanganyika is the acknowledged Nile source) equal access to the resources of the river. That would give preference to large scale upstream energy and industrial, as well as long-time agricultural and irrigation uses.

Egypt and Sudan have refused to sign the new agreement, despite years of discussions and many heated meetings. Given climate change, the drying up of water sources everywhere in Africa and the world, Egypt, which is guaranteed 56 billion of the annual flow of 84 billion cubic meters of Nile water each year, hardly wants to lose even a drop of its allocation. Nor does Sudan, guaranteed 15 billion cubic meters.

About 300 million people depend on the waters of the Nile. The upstream countries, with still growing populations, believe that their socio-economic development has long been unfairly constrained by Egypt’s colonial-era lock on the river. Ethiopia and Uganda have not been able to support agricultural schemes. Nor have they been able fully to harness the river or its tributaries for industry and power. Both have suffered from major hydroelectric shortages in recent years.

Egypt has declared the continued surge of the Nile waters a “red line’’ that affects its “national security.’’ There is discussion in Egypt about the use of air power to threaten upstream offenders, especially if Ethiopia becomes too demanding. In theory, Ethiopia could divert much of the Blue Nile to its own uses. Or Ethiopia and others could charge Egypt for water that has largely escaped modern pricing.

Egypt is sufficiently disturbed by Ethiopia’s potentially aggressive water designs that it has recently made friends with Eritrea, Ethiopia’s arch enemy. In 1998, Ethiopia and Eritrea went to war over slices of insignificant mountainous territory. Although the shooting ended in 2000, a peace settlement handed down by the World Court in 2006 has still not been observed by both sides. If Egypt attacks Ethiopia, Eritrea might join in. Egyptian generals claim that Israel is on the other side, helping the upstream nations by encouraging their thirst for water and by financing the construction of four hydroelectric projects in Ethiopia.

All these issues provide conditions for a war over water. Washington, Egypt’s largest donor, has significant leverage to de-escalate tensions and mediate between the haves and have-nots. After all, Washington supports both Egypt and Ethiopia lavishly and militarily. It needs to demand that all sides stand down.

January 30, 2012

Comparison of Mormonism to Christianity

Whether Mormons should be considered “Christians” is a controversial and rather complicated issue. Many Catholics and Protestants do not consider Mormons to be Christians because they believe the differences in doctrines are larger and more fundamental than those between Christian denominations.

On other hand, religious studies books tend to group Mormons in with Christians because: Mormons regard themselves as Christians; Mormonism emerged in a Christian context; and Mormonism shares much in common with other forms of Christianity.

Mormons also consider themselves Christians for much the same reasons as listed above. However, they consider themselves to be significantly different from other branches of Christianity. They regard themselves as neither Catholic nor Protestant, viewing both of those faiths as corruptions of true Christianity, which has been restored by Mormonism. 1

The following chart provides a quick-reference guide to the major similarities and differences between the beliefs and practices of Mormonism and mainstream Protestant Christianity. As is always the case with charts, the information is simplified for brevity and should be used alongside more complete explanations. The beliefs listed for both Mormons and Protestant Christians represent those of most, but not all, churches or individuals within each tradition.

 

Mormonism
Mainstream Christianity
Religious Authority All sacred texts equally, continuing revelations Bible (all), ecumenical councils and creeds (Catholic and Orthodox), official papal pronouncements (Catholic), continuing revelations (Pentecostal)
Sacred Texts Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price Bible (some include Apocrypha)
Trinity Rejected – Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three distinct beings who are “one in purpose” Affirmed - Father, Son and Holy Spirit are of the “same substance”; three persons in one being
God Heavenly Father, who has a physical body Trinitarian God, who does not have a body
Jesus Christ Son of God, Savior, originally one of the spirit beings that all humans used to be (see Jesus Christ). Has a physical body. Son of God, Word of God, God, second Person of the Trinity (see Christology)
Holy Spirit A spirit being who is a separate being from God and Jesus. God, Third Person of the Trinity
Original sin Denied (see Human Nature) Affirmed (by most denominations)
Free will Free to do good or evil Free will to do good is seriously impaired
Purpose of Christ’s Incarnation Teach about God, provide a model for right living, die sacrificially for human sin Teach about God, provide a model for right living, die sacrificially for human sin, reveal God directly to humanity
Resurrection of Christ? Yes Yes
Salvation Both faith and works; works emphasized Both faith and works; faith emphasized (in most denominations)
Second chance after death? Yes, during a period of “learning and preparation” after death No
Afterlife All spirits go to the spirit world, undergo preparation, then rejoin with bodies in the resurrection (see Afterlife). The good spend the intervening time in spirit paradise, while the wicked go to spirit prison. Souls of wicked sent to Hell, believers go to Heaven for eternity (see Afterlife). In Catholicism, many believers will suffer in Purgatory before going to Heaven.
Hell The wicked enter an unpleasant “spirit prison” prior to judgment; after that, only the most obstinately wicked (like Satan) will be consigned to “Outer Darkness” for eternity. Place (or state of being) of eternal torment and distance from God.
Place of Worship Chapel or Temple Church
Meaning of Sacraments (Chr) or Ordinances (LDS) Ordinances are covenants between man and God and a means of grace. Some of them are necessary for salvation. Symbolic acts commanded by Christ (some Protestant); means of grace if received with faith (Catholic, Orthodox, and some Protestant).
Sacraments (Chr) or Ordinances (LDS) Include baptism, confirmation, the sacrament (Lord’s Supper), laying on of hands, ordination, temple endowment, and marriage sealing (see Temple Ordinances) Two common to all denominations: Baptism and Lord’s Supper. Total of seven in Catholicism.
Symbols No official symbol; cross is not used; the angel Moroni raising a trumpet is seen atop Mormon temples Cross, fish and others
Holidays Easter, Christmas, national and local holidays, birthdays, celebrations of events in Mormon history Easter, Christmas, saints’ days, several others

 

Mormonism
Mainstream Christianity

 

Is Mormonism Christian?

Is Mormonism Christian? This may seem like a puzzling question to many Mormons as well as to some Christians. Mormons will note that they include the Bible among the four books which they recognize as Scripture, and that belief in Jesus Christ is central to their faith, as evidenced by their official name, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Furthermore, many Christians have heard the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing Christian hymns and are favorably impressed with the Mormon commitment to high moral standards and strong families. Doesn’t it follow that Mormonism is Christian?

To fairly and accurately resolve this question we need to carefully compare the basic doctrines of the Mormon religion with the basic doctrines of historic, biblical Christianity.

To fairly and accurately resolve this question we need to carefully compare the basic doctrines of the Mormon religion with the basic doctrines of historic, biblical Christianity. To represent the Mormon position we have relied on the following well-known Mormon doctrinal books, the first three of which are published by the Mormon Church: Gospel Principles (1997), Achieving a Celestial Marriage (1976), and A Study of the Articles of Faith (1979) by Mormon Apostle James E. Talmage, as well as Doctrines of Salvation (3 vols.) by the tenth Mormon President and prophet Joseph Fielding Smith, Mormon Doctrine (2nd ed., 1979) by Mormon apostle Bruce R. McConkie andTeachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

1. Is There More Than One True God?

The Bible teaches and orthodox Christians through the ages have believed that there is only one True and Living God and apart from Him there are no other Gods (Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 43:10,11; 44:6,8; 45:21,22; 46:9; Mark 12:29-34).

By contrast, the Mormon Church teaches that there are many Gods (Book of Abraham 4:3ff), and that we can become gods and goddesses in the celestial kingdom (Doctrine and Covenants 132:19-20; Gospel Principles, p. 245; Achieving a Celestial Marriage, p. 130). It also teaches that those who achieve godhood will have spirit children who will worship and pray to them, just as we worship and pray to God the Father(Gospel Principles, p. 302).

2. Was God Once a Man Like Us?

The Bible teaches and orthodox Christians through the ages have believed that God is Spirit (John 4:24; 1 Timothy 6:15,16), He is not a man(Numbers 23:19; Hosea 11:9; Romans 1:22, 23), and has always (eternally) existed as God — all powerful, all knowing, and everywhere present(Psalm 90:2; 139:7-10; Isaiah 40:28; Luke 1:37).

By contrast, the Mormon Church teaches that God the Father was once a man like us who progressed to become a God and has a body of flesh and bone (Doctrine and Covenants 130:22; “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens!” from Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 345-347; Gospel Principles, p. 9; Articles of Faith, p. 430; Mormon Doctrine, p. 321). Indeed, the Mormon Church teaches that God himself has a father, and a grandfather, ad infinitum (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 373; Mormon Doctrine, p. 577).

3. Are Jesus and Satan Spirit Brothers?

The Bible teaches and orthodox Christians through the ages have believed that Jesus is the unique Son of God; he has always existed as God, and is co-eternal and co-equal with the Father (John 1:1, 14; 10:30; 14:9; Colossians 2:9). While never less than God, at the appointed time He laid aside the glory He shared with the Father (John 17:4, 5; Philippians 2:6-11) and was made flesh for our salvation; His incarnation was accomplished through being conceived supernaturally by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin (Matthew 1:18-23; Luke 1:34-35).

By contrast, the Mormon Church teaches that Jesus Christ is our elder brother who progressed to godhood, having first been procreated as a spirit child by Heavenly Father and a heavenly mother; He was later conceived physically through intercourse between Heavenly Father and the virgin Mary (D&C 93:21; Journal of Discourses, 1:50-51; Gospel Principles, p. 11-13; Achieving a Celestial Marriage, p. 129; Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, pp. 546-547; 742; Ezra Taft Benson, Come unto Christ, p. 4; Robert L. Millet, The Mormon Faith: Understanding Restored Christianity, p. 31). Mormon doctrine affirms that Jesus, all angels, Lucifer, all demons, and all human beings are originally spirit brothers and sisters (Abraham 3:22-27; Moses 4:1-2; Gospel Principles, pp. 17-18; Mormon Doctrine, p. 192).

4. Is God a Trinity?

The Bible teaches and orthodox Christians through the ages have believed that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost are not separate Gods or separate beings, but are distinct Persons within the one Triune Godhead. Throughout the New Testament the Son and the Holy Spirit, as well as the Father are separately identified as and act as God (Son: Mark 2:5-12; John 20:28; Philippians 2:10,11; Holy Spirit: Acts 5:3,4; 2 Corinthians 3:17,18; 13:14); yet at the same time the Bible teaches that these three are only one God (see point 1).

By contrast, the Mormon Church teaches that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are three separate Gods (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 370; Mormon Doctrine, pp. 576-577), and that the Son and Holy Ghost are the literal offspring of Heavenly Father and a celestial wife (Joseph Fielding McConkie, Encyclopedia of Mormonism, vol. 2, p. 649).

5. Was The Sin Of Adam and Eve a Great Evil Or a Great Blessing?

The Bible teaches and orthodox Christians through the ages have believed that the disobedience of our first parents Adam and Eve was a great evil. Through their fall sin entered the world, bringing all human beings under condemnation and death. Thus we are born with a sinful nature, and will be judged for the sins we commit as individuals. (Ezekiel 18:1-20; Romans 5:12-21).

By contrast, the Mormon Church teaches that Adam’s sin was “a necessary step in the plan of life and a great blessing to all of us” (Gospel Principles, p. 33; Book of Mormon — 2 Nephi 2:25; Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, pp. 114-115).

6. Can We Make Ourselves Worthy Before God?

The Bible teaches and orthodox Christians through the ages have believed that apart from the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross we are spiritually “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1,5) and are powerless to save ourselves. By grace alone, apart from self-righteous works, God forgives our sins and makes us worthy to live in His presence (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-6). Our part is only to cling to Christ in heartfelt faith. (However, it is certainly true that without the evidence of changed conduct, a person’s testimony of faith in Christ must be questioned; salvation by grace alone through faith, does not mean we can live as we please — Romans 6:1-4).

By contrast, the Mormon Church teaches that eternal life in the presence of God (which it terms “exaltation in the celestial kingdom”) must be earned through obedience to all the commands of the Mormon Church, including exclusive Mormon temple rituals. Works are a requirementfor salvation (entrance into the “celestial kingdom”) — Gospel Principles, p. 303-304; Pearl of Great Price — Third Article of Faith; Mormon Doctrine, pp. 339, 671; Book of Mormon — 2 Nephi 25:23).

7. Does Christ’s Atoning Death Benefit Those Who Reject Him?

The Bible teaches and orthodox Christians through the ages have believed that the purpose of the atoning work of Christ on the cross was to provide the complete solution for humankind’s sin problem. However, those who reject God’s grace in this life will have no part in this salvation but are under the judgment of God for eternity (John 3:36; Hebrews 9:27; 1 John 5:11-12).

By contrast, the Mormon Church teaches that the purpose of the atonement was to bring resurrection and immortality to all people, regardless of whether they receive Christ by faith. Christ’s atonement is only a partial basis for worthiness and eternal life, which also requires obedience to all the commands of the Mormon church, including exclusive Mormon temple rituals (Gospel Principles, pp. 74-75;Mormon Doctrine, p. 669).

8. Is The Bible The Unique and Final Word of God?

The Bible teaches and orthodox Christians through the ages have believed that the Bible is the unique, final and infallible Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 1:1,2; 2 Peter 1:21) and that it will stand forever (1 Peter 1:23-25). God’s providential preservation of the text of the Bible was marvelously illustrated in the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

By contrast, the Mormon Church teaches that the Bible has been corrupted, is missing many “plain and precious parts” and does not contain the fullness of the Gospel (Book of Mormon — 1 Nephi 13:26-29; Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 3, pp. 190-191).

9. Did The Early Church Fall Into Total Apostasy?

The Bible teaches and orthodox Christians through the ages have believed that the true Church was divinely established by Jesus and could never and will never disappear from the earth (Matthew 16:18; John 15:16; 17:11). Christians acknowledge that there have been times of corruption and apostasy within the Church, but believe there has always been a remnant that held fast to the biblical essentials.

By contrast, the Mormon Church teaches that there was a great and total apostasy of the Church as established by Jesus Christ; this state of apostasy “still prevails except among those who have come to a knowledge of the restored gospel” of the Mormon Church (Gospel Principles, pp. 105-106; Mormon Doctrine, p. 44).


Conclusion: The above points in italics constitute the common gospel believed by all orthodox Christians through the ages regardless of denominational labels. On the other hand, some new religions such as Mormonism claim to be Christian, but accept as Scripture writings outside of the Bible, teach doctrines that contradict the Bible, and hold to beliefs completely foreign to the teachings of Jesus and His apostles.

Mormons share with orthodox Christians some important moral precepts from the Bible. However, the above points are examples of the many fundamental and irreconcilable differences between historic, biblical Christianity and Mormonism. While these differences do not keep us from being friendly with Mormons, we cannot consider them brothers and sisters in Christ. The Bible specifically warns of false prophets who will teach “another gospel” centered around “another Jesus,” and witnessed to by “another spirit” (2 Corinthians 11:4,13-15; Galatians 1:6-9). Based on the evidence presented above, we believe Mormonism represents just such a counterfeit gospel.

It has been pointed out that if one claimed to be a Mormon but denied all the basic tenets of Mormonism — that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, that the Book of Mormon is true and divinely inspired, that god was once a man who progressed to godhood through keeping the laws and ordinances of the Mormon Church, and that the Mormon Church was divinely established — the Mormon Church would reject such a person’s claim to being a Latter-day Saint. One cannot fairly call oneself a Mormon if one does not believe the fundamental doctrines taught by the Mormon Church. By the same token, if the Mormon Church does not hold to even the basic biblical truths believed by the greater Christian community down through the ages, how can Christians reasonably be expected to accept Mormonism as authentic Christianity?

If the Mormon Church believes it is the only true Christian Church, it should not attempt to publicly present itself as a part of a broader Christian community. Instead it should tell the world openly that those who claim to be orthodox Christians are not really Christians at all, and that the Mormon Church is the only true Christian Church. This in fact is what it teaches privately, but not publicly.

January 23, 2012

Romney Reassess His Campaign Strategy

 Mitt Romney is pressing reset.

After a crushing loss to Newt Gingrich in South Carolina, the former Massachusetts governor made clear Sunday that he plans to attack his chief rival’s character, release his tax returns this week and try to right a campaign he acknowledged had been knocked off kilter.

“It was not a great week for me,” Romney acknowledged during an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”

And at a rally here, his first event in Florida after the loss to Gingrich, Romney assailed the former speaker’s leadership abilities. “We’re not choosing a talk show host, alright?” he said. “We’re choosing a leader.”

Romney now turns to Florida at what is possibly the most critical moment of his campaign, after two weeks of sustained attacks from his opponents and a series of self-inflicted errors that erased any notion that he would be able to lock up the nomination quickly by winning this state’s Jan. 31 primary.

“I’m looking forward to a long campaign,” Romney said on Fox News. “We are selecting the president of the United States. Someone who is going to face ups and downs and real challenges, and I hope that through this process, I can demonstrate that I can take a setback and come back strong.”

Even if Romney does manage a victory here — his Florida campaign is by far the strongest of any in the GOP field, and he and his allies have been alone on the air for weeks — the race has become a two-way fight between him and Gingrich, the former House speakerwith a huge dose of momentum.

And now Romney’s team is girding for a long and costly fight that extends well beyond Florida. Saturday night’s shellacking in South Carolina underscored the former Massachusetts governor’s vulnerabilities and undermined his claims of becoming the inevitable Republican nominee.

Over the next 10 days, the candidates — including former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Texas Rep. Ron Paul — will meet twice on the debate stage, a venue where Gingrich has thrived in recent weeks and Romney has struggled some when pressed about questions about his wealth and private business experience. The debates — Monday in Tampa and Thursday in Jacksonville — present fresh opportunities for both breakout performances and mistakes.

Romney brought out his more aggressive posture and lines of attack toward Gingrich at the Sunday rally. “Speaker Gingrich has also been a leader. At the end of four years, it was proven that he was a failed leader,” Romney said, referring to the ethics investigation that resulted in a rare reprimand for a House speaker.

It’s clear the campaign is worried voters have forgotten Gingrich’s history. “He had to resign in disgrace. I don’t know whether you knew that,” Romney said.

“I’m asking the people of Florida to consider: what are the qualities of leadership?” he said. “What makes an effective president, a great president, even? Ronald Reagan, Dwight Eisenhower and FDR, even?”

It was an angrier, more aggressive Romney who took the stage at the rally here. He shouted back and forth with the crowd after Occupy Wall Street hecklers interrupted him and rattled off a list of leadership qualities, drawing cheers after each, in a rare back-and-forth with the crowd.

Romney attacked Gingrich’s time working for the quasi-government mortgage giant Freddie Mac, calling again for him to release records related to his consulting work for them.

Behind the scenes, aides also indicated that Romney would go after Gingrich’s character in Florida as a way to distinguish himself — a father of five who has been married to the same woman for 42 years — from his thrice-married rival. And the aides argued that the results in South Carolina don’t indicate Republican primary voters everywhere are willing to overlook Gingrich’s two divorces and acknowledged infidelity. Gingrich’s second wife, Marianne, told ABC News in an interview aired Thursday that the former speaker asked her for an open marriage so he could continue having an affair with the House staffer who is now his third wife.

Publicly, Romney has refused to engage on the subject thus far, saying at a debate Thursday: “Let’s get onto the real issues. That’s all I got to say.”

But Romney has started poking at Gingrich’s character by raising questions about the ethics investigation against Gingrich in the 1990s, when he was House speaker, and suggested that the former Georgia lawmaker was hiding something by refusing to release reams of documents he apparently gave to investigators back then.

Asked Sunday whether character would become an issue, Romney said, “No question.”

“Leadership is the key attribute that people should look for in considering a president,” Romney said, “and character is a big part of leadership, as is vision, sobriety, steadiness.”

Romney’s team also plans to contrast his experience as a governor and businessman with Gingrich’s experience in Congress and his later work with former colleagues on behalf of businesses.

Romney, meanwhile, also is working to fix a key vulnerability — defensiveness over questions about his personal wealth, including money in funds in the Cayman Islands, a popular haven for international investment.

Under pressure to release his tax returns immediately, Romney reversed course and said he would release those documents for 2010 and an estimate for 2011 on Tuesday — months ahead of their planned April release.

The documents will lay out just how Romney, a multimillionaire many times over, makes his money and reveal his actual tax rate, which Romney estimated at about 15 percent.

His wife, Ann Romney, addressed the issue at the Florida rally, suggesting family was more important than money.

“I understand Mitt’s going to release his tax forms this week,” she said as she introduced him. “I want to remind you where we know our riches are. Our riches are with our families.”

“That’s where we measure our wealth, is through those children,” she said.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a backer who had called on Romney to immediately release his returns, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Romney made the right decision, saying, “I’m happy he’s doing it.”

Will Florida Be Romney’s Waterloo…

Mitt Romney never lets you see him sweat, but he is under some perspiration-inducing pressure as he prepares to step onto a debate stage Monday evening in Tampa. Maybe that is why he had a photo op to show him washing his own clothes at the  hotel . But lets dig deeper and see if this face off with Newt and Santorum is like a high stakes poker game. Given the lack of personality  of Romney maybe he would be better to play poker than to debate again

Romney needs a forceful performance to regain the initiative after his double-digit drubbing in South Carolina at the hands of Newt Gingrich. But if the former governor gets too histrionic or too harsh, he will seem inauthentic, forfeiting the one quality—that of a steady, self-assured businessman—that has served him well.

We already know what Gingrich will do. Newt will be Newt, by turns forceful, hectoring and, by his own admission, grandiose, with a couple of condescending slaps at the NBC moderators thrown in just to protect the brand. Gingrich is a strong debater, agile enough even to turn a question about past marital infidelity into an applause line. Without the twin debates in South Carolina last week, he probably would have lost the primary.

The question now at the heart of this campaign: What’s Mitt got left?

Beyond the darts he throws Gingrich’s way, can Romney raise the level of his game in a way that forces Republican voters to reconsider him? Or is he a captive of his own limitations, a smart, seasoned, and awesomely uninspiring politician?

It would be a mistake for a media mob that has twice written off Gingrich—how dumb does that look now?—to overreact to the South Carolina results. The heavily evangelical and staunchly conservative electorate was tailor-made for the ex-Georgia congressman. Newt won’t have that advantage in the bigger and more diverse battleground of Florida, which votes Jan. 31. Mitt’s still got the money and the organization for the war of attrition ahead.

But NBC viewers on Monday will be looking at a candidate stripped of his aura of inevitability—a premise of electability that, it turns out, is central to his case for the nomination. He probably would love to skip the coming debates—the networks really control the calendar this year—but that would project a sense of panic.

Romney’s had a year to make the case to GOP voters and has fallen short. His vision of a presidential CEO appeals to the head but not the heart. Many Republican voters are mad—at President Obama, at the liberal establishment, at the media—and it is Gingrich who has skillfully channeled that anger. Newt comes armed for a knife fight, and Mitt shows up with a PowerPoint presentation. Can anyone imagine Romney calling a moderator’s question “despicable”?

Perhaps it is to Romney’s credit that he restrains his rhetoric, that he appeals to the sensible center where general elections are won. But candidates, especially primary candidates, need passion, and Romney seems a bit too calculating, even when it comes to so basic a question as releasing his tax returns. (He has a year to prepare for the question and then says “maybe”—seriously?) A more natural politician would use wit to brush off questions about his wealth; Romney’s responses seem forced and halting, his talk of pink-slip anxiety labored and ludicrous.

Undoubtedly, Romney will press Gingrich to release the details of his Freddie Mac non-lobbying contract, and papers from the House probe that led to his reprimand and $300,000 fine (though the 1,300-page ethics report is available online). But these jabs will seem like what they are, a transparent attempt to deflect attention from his own tax-return woes (Mr. 15 Percent says he’ll put out the 2010 return on Tuesday).

Romney offered a glimpse of this strategy against Gingrich on Sunday, saying in Florida that “at the end of four years it was proven he was a failed leader, and he had to resign in disgrace.”

The real challenge in the NBC faceoff, and a CNN debate later this week, is whether Romney can forge a connection with Republicans that goes beyond his Harvard pedigree and 59-point economic plan. Americans like a fighter, someone they can envision leading the charge in crisis situations, and Romney is afflicted with Dukakis disease, a competent technocrat in an era of anger.

He will, however, have one underappreciated advantage. Until now, Gingrich has been a protest candidate whose heated language rouses Republicans. On Monday night, though, the country will start looking at him as a potential president, someone who could grab the nomination and conceivably defeat Obama. As his advisers recognize, Newt still has to pass the commander-in-chief threshold, and he tends to be his own worst enemy when he’s riding high. The prospect of President Gingrich could make Romney look like a stable suitor—one who stays married after the excitement has worn off. The problem for Romney is that the party’s base remains worried about ideological infidelity.

Rick Santorum performed strongly in last week’s debates as well, but after weak showings in New Hampshire and South Carolina, his moment probably has passed. We are down to a two-man race in Florida, two contrasting characters who are selling very different versions of conservatism. Until Saturday, the overriding issue was whether Gingrich could emerge as the alternative to Romney. Now, for the first time, that question may be turned on its head.

Newts South Carolina Win Brings 5 New Possible Scenarios

Gingrich steamrolled Mitt Romney and the rest of the GOP presidential field in Saturday’s Palmetto State primary. What happens now?

Just a short week ago, Mitt Romney had made history by sweeping the Iowa and New Hampshire presidential nominating contests, and was poised to go three-for-three when he picked up a seemingly inevitable win in South Carolina, says Dan Balz at The Washington Post. Then his Iowa win was revoked because of a vote-counting error, followed shortly by Newt Gingrich’s “stunning victory in South Carolina” on Saturday, when he crushed Romney 40 percent to 28 percent. Here, five ways Gingrich’s come-from-behind win changed the GOP contest:

1. Romney’s GOP sprint is now a long, hard slog

“If Romney had won South Carolina, the race for the Republican presidential nomination would have almost certainly been over,” says Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post. Now it’s a marathon. After Gingrich’s Palmetto State romp, “we are in for — at least — another six weeks of campaigning,” through Super Tuesday on March 6. Probably longer, says John Heilemann at New York. Romney has plenty of money, and he won’t drop out because “this is his last chance to be president.” Gingrich has little cash but a “magnet-like capacity to draw free media,” plus an outsized sense of his own destiny. And Gingrich and Romney “are quickly coming to hate each other. So buckle up; this should be fun.” But better now then in the general election as there are a lot of issues around Romney that never got full viability before Newt. 

2. Florida is the new tiebreaker

Rick Santorum (belatedly) won Iowa, Romney won New Hampshire, and now Gingrich has taken South Carolina. That means Florida’s Jan. 31 primary “will almost certainly decide the nominee,” says Hugh Hewitt at National Review. The upcoming Florida “brawl” could well be “the pivotal moment of the campaign,” agrees Alexander Burns at Politico. With his money and organizational advantages, Romney starts out as the “muscular favorite” to win the Sunshine State, and he’ll need the victory to reassure his panicking backers. But Newt’s a good fit for Florida’s Tea Party–leaning GOP electorate, and if he can ride his wave of momentum to a win — the latest polls show Newt skyrocketing into the lead — Gingrich’s “back-from-the-dead candidacy could become a true juggernaut.”  Obviously a te breaker as the top 3 all had one wine each, but there is always Ron Paul’s outside chance to make it 4 winners in 4 primaries  (I am not counting Colbert or Herman Cain obviously) 

3. Santorum’s prospects look bleak

Newt didn’t just crush Romney in South Carolina. By dominating “the other not-Romney candidates, Gingrich took a big step toward consolidating that part of the electorate,” says Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post. Santorum’s 17 percent third-place showing is probably enough to keep his campaign alive through Florida, but if he “can’t catch either Romney or Gingrich in Florida his campaign becomes problematic.” With its large evangelical Christian vote, South Carolina “was Santorum’s best chance” to stay in the race, says William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection. If he doesn’t drop out, he’ll just “play the spoiler, continuing to split the conservative vote.”  YET he may win in a brokered convention or a floor fight if Romney and Newt both seem too damaged to win.

4. The GOP elite may panic and court a “white knight”

If Gingrich crushes Romney in Florida, “the Republican Establishment is going to have a meltdown that makes Three Mile Island look like a marshmallow roast,” says New York‘s Heilemann. Rather than risk Gingrich rolling over the more-electable Romney in other states, says Steve Kornacki at Salon, the panicking GOP elite might just try drafting a “white knight” candidate to swoop in and win late big-state primaries to at least stop Newt from winning outright. South Carolina already proved that the GOP base won’t accept a “milquetoast moderate from Massachusetts” like Romney,says Erick Erickson at RedState. So if the party leaders won’t accept Gingrich, they should force “a brokered convention and find someone acceptable to everyone.”. This is similar to how #3 ended.. and it MAY be the best case scenario for the GOP given the in fighting  in the party itself. 

5. The race is about to get really ugly

Despite its reputation for dirty politics, South Carolina “was, by historical standards, decidedly tame” this year, says The Washington Post‘s Chris Cillizza. But things are “going to get real nasty, real quick” now. Romney has $19 million to spend on making sure Gingrich doesn’t win Florida, and his super PAC allies have millions more. If Gingrich can raise money off his South Carolina win, he “will respond in kind” and “fight Romney to the political death in Florida.” Bottom line: “If you hate negative campaigning, you may want to turn your television off for the next few weeks. Or maybe months.”. No matter what happens it has already and will continue to be until after the convention.

Is Santorum a Distraction for Gingrich??

He may not have much money or a ground game to speak of in Florida but Republican Rick Santorum will not pull out of the presidential race – much to the chagrin of rival Newt Gingrich and probably to the delight of a bruised Mitt Romney.

After Gingrich scored a resounding win in the South Carolina primary on Saturday, the former U.S. House of Representatives speaker badly wants to unite conservative and Tea Party elements of the Republican Party behind him ahead of Florida’s January 31 vote.

That would be easier to do if the socially conservative Santorum slipped away, especially in the face of a well-financed

Florida campaign by Romney. But Santorum vowed to keep his shoestring campaign alive as it heads to the country’s fourth most populous state after finishing third on Saturday.

“This is a long haul,” Santorum said early on Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

But the former Pennsylvania senator with a penchant for sweater vests has battled from the back of the pack to a surprise win in Iowa’s caucuses and a respectable 17 percent of the vote in South Carolina.

“A few weeks ago, this may have seemed implausible,” said Jack Glaser, a professor at University of California, Berkeley. “But with his showing in Iowa and Romney’s slide in South Carolina and with the very deep flaws and vulnerabilities in both Romney and Gingrich as candidates, it is not laughable.”

Moving on to Florida, Santorum picked up on attack lines he employed against his former congressional colleague last week. He called Gingrich “erratic” and “a very high-risk candidate” who is out of step with the many Republicans on Wall Street bailouts, health policy, immigration and global warming.

At a rally in Coral Springs on Sunday, Santorum laid claim to being “the real conservative – the (Ronald) Reagan model,” and said he was best placed to win what he termed “the states that matter” – 10 or 12 swing states, including Florida, that could be key to the November general election against Democratic President Barack Obama.

“His staying around is much to Romney’s delight and possibly Gingrich’s dismay. If Gingrich had his way, he would want Santorum out,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist.

“And Romney would say, ‘Oh, don’t leave the race so soon’ … It’s like Cold War politics: the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Santorum could be playing off the roller-coaster nature of the Gingrich campaign, which has been declared next to dead a few times since spring, as well as Romney’s stumbles going into the South Carolina vote.

“I think he might think he has a shot. He’s one (state) for three and so is everyone else except Ron Paul,” said Chris Galdieri, a political science professor at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Santorum is in third place in Florida with about 15 percent support, behind Romney at 40 percent and Gingrich at 22 percent, according to surveys aggregated by Real Clear Politics. Those polls were taken before the South Carolina vote.

Michael Phillips, Santorum’s state director for Florida, said the campaign had only two offices for now, in Sarasota and in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood, but had “very engaged” volunteers.

A SHOT AT REDEMPTION

“He might not be able to raise money, he might not be lining up endorsements in Florida, but he’s probably holding out hope that if Romney has a couple more bad weeks, it’s better to be in the game than out of it,” Galdieri said.

“He’s probably thinking that Gingrich, even though he won South Carolina, is not acceptable as a nominee because of various things in his personal and political background. He might be thinking that if a bunch of dominoes fall in the right order, he could be the other alternative candidate to Romney.”

Santorum has been praised by some for recent performances in Republican debates, and with fewer candidates on the podium as the field has dwindled, his national exposure will only rise as the debates roll on.

The four Republicans still standing will debate on Monday in Tampa and Thursday in Jacksonville.

Four more debates are scheduled by mid-March, all of which could better position Santorum for whatever comes next.

“He’s angling for some political capital, whether it’s a Cabinet position or it’s a run for another office down the road,” O’Connell said. “All you need is a plane ticket to move to the next spot. So why get out when you can still be a factor in this?”

Speaking on CNN on Sunday, Santorum said he felt “absolutely no pressure” to drop out, adding that after the South Carolina vote, Romney was “no longer the inevitable candidate.”

“Our feeling is that this is a three-person race. The conservatives are polling better than Governor Romney is. The real conservative is yet to emerge and that’s me. We think we present the finest opportunity for conservatives to win,” Santorum said.

In Coral Springs, the small crowd warmed to Santorum’s message. “We feel he’s genuine, more personable – more for the common citizen than for corporations,” said Lydia Usategui, 57, a psychiatrist from Miami.

Galdieri said there was a redemptive element to Santorum’s campaign. The social conservative lost his 2006 Senate re-election bid by a crushing margin.

“Instead of being the guy who lost by 18 points in his own state, he can be the guy who made a credible run,” Galdieri said.

Gingrich Claims to be Best Contrast to Obama

Emboldened by his victory in South Carolina’s Republican primary, Newt Gingrich said Sunday his hardline conservative views and confrontational style will be needed by Republicans to fight President Barack Obama’s “billion-dollar war chest” and take back the White House.

In several televised interviews, the former speaker of the House of Representatives said rival Mitt Romney was a moderate who leftRepublican voters cold and that only he, Gingrich, could go “toe to toe” with Obama.

“I think in South Carolina it began to become really clear that if you want to beat Barack Obama, then Newt Gingrich is the only person who has the background, the experience and the ability to get on the stage and drive home a conservative message with authenticity,” he said.

Gingrich’s win in South Carolina has helped invigorate his once struggling campaign and cast fresh doubt on Romney’s ability to easily cinch the Republican nomination.

Returns from all the state’s precincts showed Gingrich with 40 percent of the vote to 28 percent for Romney. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum had 17 percent, and Texas Rep. Ron Paul 13 percent.

Next stop is Florida, where Gingrich and Romney will compete with Santorum in the Jan. 31 primary. Paul has said he was bypassing the state in favor of states like Maine, Minnesota, Nevada and Colorado with upcoming caucus contests where he stands a better chance of picking up delegates to the party’s national nominating convention.

Romney and his supporters are dismissing Gingrich’s win in South Carolina and say his nomination would be a disaster for the Republican Party, citing his rocky tenure leading House Republicans in the 1990s and allegations of ethics violations.

“I think Newt Gingrich has embarrassed the party, over time,” said New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. “Whether he will do it again in the future, I don’t know. But Gov. Romney never has.”

Gingrich says his views on lower taxes, less government regulation and foreign policy put him in stark contrast to Obama and that the dynamics of a Gingrich-Obama fight are much more alluring to voters.

“I think Gov. Romney’s core problem was that he governs (as) a Massachusetts moderate, which by the standards of Republican primary voters is a liberal. And he can’t relax and be candid,” he said.

Gingrich spoke on CNN’s “State of the Union,” NBC’s “Meet the Press” and CBS “Face the Nation.” Christie spoke on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

January 22, 2012

Why Did Gingrich Triumph in an Evangelical State like South Carolina?

Why Did Gingrich Triumph in an Evangelical State like South Carolina?

 By Professor John A. Tures, LaGrange College 

COMMENTARY |

What confounds pundits about the South Carolina results is how a state where half of the voters sampled describe themselves as evangelical could pick Newt Gingrich, and by a large margin. It comes down to a simple fact: Most pundits don’t know anything about Evangelicals.

I have to admit that 10 years ago when I moved to a small Southern town from Washington, I didn’t know what an Evangelical really was either. Like many in the media, I treated it as some catch-all term for religious conservative. Clearly others have made that same blunder.

Not all Evangelicals are Christian, just as not all Christians are evangelical. The term comes from the four evangelists who wrote the Gospel, and it simply means one who spreads the good news.

There are liberal evangelicals, like the Rev. Jim Wallis, just as there are conservative evangelicals. There are also some moderate ones too.

Assuming all Evangelicals automatically religious zealots is like assuming the Sunnis are the more “hard core” Muslims or the Shiites are the real fanatics. You have liberal Sunnis and liberal Shiites, just as you have really dogmatic Sunnis and Shiites. Are Protestants more religiously conservative than Catholics, or vice versa? It depends on the person.

Regardless, how could a state regarded as so religious pick Newt Gingrich, just as news hit about his alleged “open marriage” proposal, along with his infidelity. Again, you have to understand Evangelicals.

As a National Public Radio commentator noted, Evangelicals, especially Southern ones, believe in redemption. They have to — how else could we be forgiven for our own sins? You hear the parable of the unforgiving servant down here a lot.

It explains why Mike Huckabee didn’t run for office, as he pardoned a number of criminals, including one who killed some cops in the Seattle area. It also accounts for Haley Barbour releasing so many before ending his term as Mississippi governor. Evangelicals are forgiving folks.

 In an interview years ago, Jimmy Carter sought to distinguish between an evangelical and a fundamentalist. “Fundamentalism exists in religious circles and now very overwhelmingly in Washington,” Carter said. “A fundamentalist believes, say, in religious circles, that I am close to God. Everything that I believe is absolutely right. Anyone who disagrees with me, in any case, is inherently wrong and therefore, inferior. And it violates my basic principles if I negotiate with anyone else or listen to their point of view or modify my own positions at all. So that is what has permeated this [Bush] administration.” That’s a smaller percentage of the state, and probably explains why Santorum finished a distant third.

Romney’s 21-point lead was always soft, and contingent upon being the most “electable” candidate, even if his views don’t match that of the voter. He finished a close second in Iowa and won New Hampshire because he hadn’t made mistakes. Now that he’s made blunders, folks figure it is better to pick someone who shares their conservative opinion rather than the one who looks less electable than he did a few weeks ago. In other words, South Carolina voters went with their religious “beliefs.” We just didn’t understand what those were.

Gingrich Courts Disenfranchised Evangelical Christians in Florida

 Newt Gingrich’s presidential hopes may rest among the pews of Florida’s ministries and mega-churches.

The former House speaker is looking to Florida’s religious conservatives to counter rival Mitt Romney’s organizational and financial might in a state where so-called “values voters” could constitute more than a third of the Republican electorate in the Jan. 31 primary.

“There’s no question Gov. Romney will always have more money,” Gingrich says when asked about his Florida campaign. But he’s quick to add that his team has between 5,000 and 6,000 volunteers. Aides say many of them are evangelicals.

Thrice-married, Gingrich may not be the obvious pick for church-goers here. But the network of religious activists he’s assembling has far greater concerns about Romney’s inconsistent history on abortion and gay rights than they seemingly do about Gingrich’s two divorces and acknowledged marital infidelity.

And that gives Gingrich an opening as he challenges Romney in the aftermath of Saturday’s primary in South Carolina, where the polls suggest Gingrich may end up winning.

Seeking to capitalize on Gingrich’s burst of momentum, one of his top evangelical backers in Florida planned to lead a conference call in the coming days with 1,000 pastors. Others are spreading Gingrich’s message in the state’s many churches and Baptist publications. And Gingrich has already lined up appearances with the religious community for next week.

“The evangelicals are not going to wrap their arms around Romney in this primary or the general election,” says John Grant, a Baptist leader and one of Gingrich’s Florida evangelical chairmen. “Gingrich is pulling these people together quite nicely.”

The power of Florida’s evangelicals depends on their ability to unite. And while they’re nearly united against Romney, they’re not wholly united behind Gingrich. Some prominent religious conservatives are rallying around Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator long known for passionate social conservatism, but generally considered a longshot in the race to challenge President Barack Obama in the fall.

Santorum is showing no signs of bowing out, especially after the final tally suggested he edged Romney in the Iowa caucuses even though there is no officially declared winner.

The continued division leaves the political power of Florida’s evangelicals fractured, just as anti-Romney conservatives have been in other early voting states all year.

“We have to figure out how we’re going to come together,” said John Stemberger, a Santorum supporter who led the 2008 push to amend Florida’s constitution to ban gay marriage.

Stemberger hoped a recent meeting of national evangelical leaders in Texas would do just that. The group held a nonbinding vote that showed overwhelming support for Santorum. But in Florida, there are serious questions about the viability of Santorum, who hired a Florida staff just last week.

Gingrich’s organization pales when compared to Romney’s, which has been years in the making. But Gingrich’s team is working to capitalize on doubts about Santorum, as well as on Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s recent exit.

Gingrich’s Florida operation is led by Jose Mallea, who managed Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s 2010 race.

Even before Perry’s exit, Gingrich’s team had been quietly courting key staff and supporters from both the Perry and Santorum camps to boost an organization that was stood up in December.

Underscoring the challenge Gingrich faces, he has yet to run any television ads in Florida, where Romney and his allies have had the airwaves to themselves since mid-December. Mallea said Gingrich will advertise in Spanish and English soon.

Gingrich also faces renewed attention on flaws in his personal life that could turn off evangelicals here.

In an ABC News interview broadcast Thursday, Gingrich’s second wife said he sought an “open marriage” arrangement so he could have a mistress and a wife. Asked about his ex-wife’s assertions during a debate that night, Gingrich said it was false and lashed out at the media.

“I wish he didn’t have that background, but I honestly believe he’s had a real renaissance experience,” said Grant, the Gingrich supporter.

In recent years, Gingrich has publicly acknowledged mistakes, converted to Catholicism and says prayer is an important part of his life.

Gingrich’s team estimates evangelicals will represent between 25 percent and 40 percent of the Florida GOP primary electorate.

Exit polling from the 2008 GOP primary shows that approximately 39 percent of voters identified themselves as born-again or evangelical Christians. They were almost evenly split that year, with 30 percent for Sen. John McCain, 29 percent for Romney, 29 percent for Mike Huckabee and 7 percent for Rudy Giuliani.

Romney would be happy with a repeat performance. His team has organized weekly conference calls with a group of social conservative leaders it hopes will produce at least some of the evangelical vote.

But Romney is not going out of his way to appease this group. He recently declined to respond to the Florida Family Policy Council voter guide, which Stemberger organized. The guide highlights Romney’s non-answers on key social issues prominently and was emailed to 100,000 Florida evangelicals this week. It also is expected to be faxed and emailed to about 8,000 churches.

While Stemberger and Grant don’t agree on a Romney alternative, they share deep concerns about him.

“I hear that if it’s Obama and Romney, evangelicals have no place to go. But there’s a third choice: It’s called home,” Grant said.

Gingrich Pierces Romney Veil of Electability. Questions arise.

Newt Gingrich didn’t just beat Mitt Romney in Saturday’s South Carolina primary, the former House speaker kicked away one of the main pillars of his rival’s election campaign.

Exit polling data shows Gingrich convinced voters he would be the toughest Republican opponent against President Barack Obama in the November general election.

Electability – Republican campaign-speak for a candidate’s ability to beat Obama – had been one of Romney’s top selling points until Saturday.

Conventional wisdom was that the former Massachusetts governor’s emphasis on jobs and the economy and his perceived appeal to independents would help him against Gingrich, who is often seen as erratic and divisive.

But Gingrich’s combative style in debates resonated with voters keen for a heavyweight debater to take on Obama, who is grudgingly respected by Republicans as a formidable campaigner.

This may also be helping Gingrich’s message on the economy gain traction, exit polling data showed.

South Carolina’s Republicans rated the ability to beat Obama as a candidate’s most important quality, an exit poll on CNN showed.

Forty-five percent of voters said that was the main attribute they sought in a nominee. Of that group, 51 percent voted for Gingrich compared to 37 percent for Romney.

Twenty-one percent of South Carolina voters said the quality that mattered most to them in their candidate was that he had the right experience.

“It is electability, and that is measured in your ability to effectively debate and prosecute your case against Obama,” said Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak.

Exit polls also showed that for 63 percent of South Carolina voters the most important issue was the economy. Gingrich won this group by a margin of eight percentage points over Romney.

The attraction of Gingrich as an anti-Obama candidate may be the factor that increased his ratings on other issues like the economy, Mackowiak said.

Attacks on Obama in recent weeks, including dubbing him “a foodstamp president,” endeared Gingrich to voters in a state with unemployment of almost 10 percent.

OLD TIMER WITH EXPERIENCE

“He is an old timer with a lot of political experience. He’s the only one who can beat Obama,” said Jim Walters, a retired marine owner in the town of Aiken.

Gingrich slammed Obama as “truly a danger to the country” in his South Carolina victory speech and promised to bring down Obama in a series of long debates.

A master of the sharp turn of phrase who talks in big broad sweeps, the former House speaker was the clear star of the more than 20 Republican debates in recent months.

He left Romney floundering, particularly during two televised contests in South Carolina this week where the millionaire former executive stumbled over questions about his personal finances.

Republican voters in South Carolina, a conservative state with a taste for rough and tumble politics, lapped it up.

“I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that people really want to see Newt debate Obama,” Mackowiak said.

“It reminds me of gladiators. You see an amazing gladiator have a string of victories in the middle of the Coliseum so you really want to see him go up against the biggest, baddest gladiator there is.”

In a sign that Gingrich’s well-documented marital infidelities might have created a problem with female voters, exit polls showed Gingrich held an advantage over Romney of 16 points among men but only 9 points among women.

Republican 4 Go On To Florida to Fight Another Day

After a bruising clash in South Carolina, Republican presidential frontrunners Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich will take their battle to a bigger stage when the campaign moves to Florida on Sunday.

Gingrich, a former U.S. House of Representatives speaker, thrashed Romney in the South Carolina primary on Saturday, suggesting the race for their party’s nomination and the right to face President Barack Obama in November may last months more.

The largest of the early voting states by far, Florida presents logistical and financial challenges that appear to give an advantage to Romney’s well-funded campaign machine.

But Gingrich has momentum after coming from behind in South Carolina to win around 40 percent of the vote, followed by Romney with 28 percent. Rick Santorum, a former U.S. senator, was in third with 17 percent and U.S. congressman Ron Paul in fourth with 13 percent.

“We proved here in South Carolina that people … with the right ideas beats big money,” Gingrich told supporters after his victory in the conservative state.

After strong performances in a series of debates, Gingrich was seen by South Carolina voters as the most likely Republican to beat Obama, a Democrat, in the November 6 election.

They also rejected millionaire former businessman Romney’s pitch that he is the best bet to fix a broken U.S. economy and win the White House.

Romney and Gingrich, who have attacked each other mercilessly in a series of negative television ads since December, face off in a debate in Tampa, Florida, on Monday night.

ROMNEY TAX SOLUTION?

Romney has stumbled over questions about his personal finances in recent debates and acknowledged last week that he only pays a 15 percent tax rate, much lower than that of most working Americans.

The former Massachusetts governor has so far resisted calls from rivals, and even ally New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, to release his tax returns.

To try to put the tax return controversy behind him, the Romney campaign has a plan to settle the issue next week, a Republican official said.

That is part of a strategy to be more aggressive against Gingrich, a formidable debater who nevertheless has personal and professional baggage that the Romney team could exploit. Romney accuses Gingrich of being a Washington insider.

“The choice within our party has also come into stark focus. President Obama has no experience running a business and no experience running a state. Our party can’t be lead to victory by someone who also has never run a business and never run a state,” Romney said on Saturday.

Romney saw his aura of inevitability erode in South Carolina after leading opinion polls by 10 percentage points a week ago.

In Florida, he leads Gingrich by 40.5 percent to 22 percent, according to a poll of polls by RealClearPolitics.com. Santorum, a social conservative who is from Pennsylvania, is third with 15 percent.

Campaigns must spend at least $1 million each week to reach voters in the sprawling southern state, according to local political officials. Romney’s allies have already spent $5 million, mostly on ads attacking Gingrich. No other candidate has a significant presence in the state.

 

March 31, 2008

Goodbye to AZNTV !

I just found out that AZN Television is going off the air April 9.2008. I have to say I am very sad to hear this.

I know… this is a blog about Africa and the occasional diatribe on the US Economy (and other things on occasion)…. but I have found several programs that I have enjoyed on this channel that I cannot find anywhere else.

The Korean Drama series such as Emperor of the Sea, Jewel of the Palace, and the most recent Dae Jo Young (136 ninety (90) minute episodes…lol ) have been almost inspiring with their portrayal of characters who sacrifice all for Love, Duty, Honor, Responsibility and Integrity. Their individual struggles and how they deal with adversity were truly remarkable. Of all the things I will miss the most, these Korean Dramas rank high on my list, even if they were in sub titles.

Other programs such as Luxury India with Jay Menon showed aspects of India not really shown elsewhere.

Other programs I occasionally watched were from various countries throughout Asia that showed culture and sights I did not know about , and deeper insights into things I have some knowledge of.

For me, the loss of this channel is a loss and something I will have a difficult time replacing… if I can at all.

So.. GOODBYE AZN… I have really enjoyed our time together and am sad to see you go. Hopefully there can be another that will take you place in the future as I believe you have given a greater depth to my life and my knowledge and respect for culture.

If anyone knows other places for me or my readers of this post to find the same programing on Comcast, or another subscriber service please say so in the comment section below.

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