US Election: Picking A President, And Said Better Than I Could

As readers know, The Red And The Blue is keeping an eye on the election campaign underway in America for the Presidency; today I share from a newspaper in Orlando, Florida, that sums up my thoughts beautifully, warts and all — endorsements, reservations, approval and misgivings.

I saw the piece reproduced below early yesterday morning, and simply had to share this; readers are aware that whilst I endorse Mitt Romney to defeat US President Barack Obama, that position comes with extensive qualifications attached to it (in short, Newt Gingrich would have been a better conservative option).

I have been trying to attach this article with a screen shot but am not across the technological know-how (any helpful suggestions from fellow bloggers?) And so I have simply reproduced the text instead in order to share it. (Americanisms, grammar faults etc are left exactly as they appear in the article; I have however removed a number of hyperlinks for the purposes of this blog post).

The one qualification I make on the editorial piece below is that whilst I agree with the Sentinel that Obama is not “a business-hating socialist,” I certainly think he is a socialist, no less.

(For those who wish to do so, the original page from the Orlando Sentinel can be viewed here.)

Our pick for president: Romney

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney waves to supporters during a campaign rally on October 11, 2012 in Asheville, North Carolina.

Two days after his lackluster first debate performance, President Barack Obama’s re-election hopes got a timely boost. The government’s monthly jobless report for September showed the nation’s unemployment rate fell below 8 percent for the first time since he took office.

If that were the only metric that mattered, the president might credibly argue that the U.S. economy was finally on the right track. Unfortunately for him, and for the American people, he can’t.

Economic growth, three years into the recovery, is anemic. Family incomes are down, poverty is up. Obama’s Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, highlighted these and other hard truths in this week’s second debate.

Even the September jobless numbers deserve an asterisk, because more than 4 million Americans have given up looking for work since January 2009.

And while the nation’s economy is still sputtering nearly four years after Obama took office, the federal government is more than $5 trillion deeper in debt. It just racked up its fourth straight 13-figure shortfall.

We have little confidence that Obama would be more successful managing the economy and the budget in the next four years. For that reason, though we endorsed him in 2008, we are recommending Romney in this race.

Obama’s defenders would argue that he inherited the worst economy since the Great Depression, and would have made more progress if not for obstruction from Republicans in Congress. But Democrats held strong majorities in the House and Senate during his first two years.

Other presidents have succeeded even with the other party controlling Capitol Hill. Democrat Bill Clinton presided over an economic boom and balanced the budget working with Republicans. Leaders find a way.

With Obama in charge, the federal government came perilously close to a default last year. Now it’s lurching toward another crisis with the impending arrival of massive tax hikes and spending cuts on Jan. 1.

The next president is likely to be dealing with a Congress where at least one, if not both, chambers are controlled by Republicans. It verges on magical thinking to expect Obama to get different results in the next four years.

Two years ago, a bipartisan panel the president appointed recommended a 10-year, $4 trillion deficit-reduction plan. Rather than embrace it and sell it to the American people, Obama took his own, less ambitious plan to Congress, where it was largely ignored by both parties.

Now the president and his supporters are attacking Romney because his long-term budget blueprint calls for money-saving reforms to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, three of the biggest drivers of deficit spending. Obama would be more credible in critiquing the proposal if he had a serious alternative for bringing entitlement spending under control. He doesn’t.

Romney is not our ideal candidate for president. We’ve been turned off by his appeals to social conservatives and immigration extremists. Like most presidential hopefuls, including Obama four years ago, Romney faces a steep learning curve on foreign policy.

But the core of Romney’s campaign platform, his five-point plan, at least shows he understands that reviving the economy and repairing the government’s balance sheet are imperative — now, not four years in the future.

Romney has a strong record of leadership to run on. He built a successful business. He rescued the 2002 Winter Olympics from scandal and mismanagement. As governor of Massachusetts, he worked with a Democrat-dominated legislature to close a $3billion budget deficit without borrowing or raising taxes, and pass the health plan that became a national model.

This is Romney’s time to lead, again. If he doesn’t produce results — even with a hostile Senate — we’ll be ready in 2016 to get behind someone else who will.

We reject the innuendo that some critics have heaped on the president. We don’t think he’s a business-hating socialist. We don’t think he’s intent on weakening the American military. We don’t think he’s unpatriotic. And, no, we don’t think he was born outside the United States.

But after reflecting on his four years in the White House, we also don’t think that he’s the best qualified candidate in this race.

We endorse Mitt Romney for president.

Copyright © 2012, Orlando Sentinel

First Poll Since Misogynistic Storm Broke: No Bounce For Labor

The first opinion poll — an Essential Research survey — to be published since a Julia Gillard speech to Parliament last week heralded the formalisation of hostilities in the so-called “gender war” has found absolutely no consequent benefit to the ALP.

I must say the results on voting intentions don’t surprise me too much; Essential’s finding is that on the two-party vote, support for the government is unchanged at 47% to the Coalition’s 53%. The primary vote numbers provide the ghost of a clue, however, and — bizarrely — the popularity of both Gillard and Liberal leader Tony Abbott has increased.

Essential finds primary vote support for the ALP at 36% (-1% from last week), the Coalition at 47% (unch), Greens at 9% (unch) and “Others” at 8% (+1%).

There are two points I would remind readers of when it comes to findings from Essential: one, it’s a rolling survey — so this week’s numbers are combined with half last week’s numbers — leading to two, it tends to produce smaller reported  movements and more subdued trends than, say, Newspoll.

The reason I reiterate these factors is that the only movement this poll detects is a slight decrease in the ALP vote, which is ascribed as going to “Others;” remembering that as polling figures on primary vote questions are rounded, it’s possible that the movement away from the ALP is higher than 1%.

And in a related consideration, the fact this week’s Essential findings are offset by 50% against last week’s makes me suspect — strongly — that the movement away from the ALP is more likely to have been in the 2-2.5% range. If so, and if that continues, we should see it next week when Essential publishes again.

It’s pretty obvious from these numbers that the Labor Party has received no benefit whatsoever from Gillard’s now-famous speech in the House of Representatives, although we’re going to have to wait for a Newspoll next week (and, I believe, a Nielsen survey also due to be conducted over the coming weekend) to get a clearer picture of any overall trends the polls are beginning to pick up.

My sense is that the whole “gender war” thing is a red herring cooked up to divert attention from other problems the government faces — Peter Slipper and Craig Thomson spring to mind — and is likely to be a net vote loser for the Labor Party. Certainly it is a ruse being perpetuated with absolute hypocrisy, and I think voters are aware of that.

The complicating factor, of course, is the week’s other big political story: the resignation of Peter Slipper from the Speakership, following revelations of disgusting written communications on the subject of women issuing from him, and the government’s determined defence of his position immediately prior to that resignation.

Does this help explain a slight softening in the Labor vote?

Either way, all of this makes the rest of Essential’s findings very interesting reading indeed.

The survey finds that Julia Gillard’s approve/disapprove numbers have improved from 35/54 respectively to 41/51 in the space of a week; clearly, the “gender war” is doing nothing for the Labor Party’s vote, but it seems to be impacting, favourably, on Gillard’s personal ratings.

Where it gets really weird is that far from being damaged by the government onslaught against him, Tony Abbott’s approve/disapprove numbers have also firmed up, improving from 32/55 last week to 37/54 now.

This trend — the approval of both leaders rising whilst the Labor vote goes backwards — was also recorded last week in Newspoll. But then again, the voting figures in the Newspoll prior to that (in late September) were, most likely, rogue numbers.

It’s clear that we may be at something of a pivot point at present: there has been flutter in the polls now ever since the 2010 election, despite an unbroken trend toward a hefty Coalition win next time; but right now there are odd numbers coming through, and — for the first time in a little while — some solid issues that can swing things one way or the other presenting themselves.

To this end, we need to add Craig Thomson back in; the MP for Dobell and former HSU boss was today hit with 62 civil charges over alleged matters arising from his time in charge of that union prior to his entry to Parliament in 2007.

It promises to be an interesting week.



A Very Happy 87th Birthday, Mrs T

Tonight, The Red And The Blue wishes to minute fond birthday wishes to a very special lady; arguably the best British Prime Minister since Churchill, and the most electorally successful since Lord Liverpool in the 1830s, the grand old lady of the Conservative Party, Margaret Thatcher, is 87 today.

It’s a little difficult for me to write this in one sense, as I believe Mrs Thatcher is in poor health indeed; whilst all of us with a stake in the political process understand that nothing is forever, it pains me to think that such a giant mind should spend her twilight time in suffering.

Yet today, Baroness Thatcher turns 87; and many happy returns! My remarks are more personal in orientation than reflective of public debate, although I expect some will take umbrage.

When it comes to “Margaret” (as I grew up knowing her and calling her), some usually do.

One of the standard bearers of modern Conservatism and torch carriers of the Right toward the end of the 20th century, Margaret’s philosophies and views have been — since an early age — etched into my being, with the focuses of her government on personal responsibility, opportunity and individual choice indelibly stamped on my thinking — developed, as it did, from afar.

It is a testament to the relevance and endurance of her views and philosophies that most of the reforms her government implemented in the UK were never repealed or wound back; indeed, they provided a base from with Britain could modernise, and were copied in many other countries, mirrored by the Reagan Republicans in the USA, and largely adopted by the Howard Liberals in this country in the 1980s.

It angers me now that almost on a monthly basis, word goes out of her death; Margaret is still very much alive, but her enemies — naturally — can’t wait for the inevitable day to arrive.

But as she used to say herself: “It’s a funny old world.”

And so, in these short few paragraphs, I add my salutations to those of millions of others in the UK and elsewhere today: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MRS THATCHER!

US Polls And A Note On Misogyny

I’m going to be in Sydney for the day today on business, and won’t be back in Melbourne until very late tonight; as a result, it’s unlikely I’ll get to post again in detail until tomorrow night, AEST.

I just want to note that polling in the USA in the wake of Mitt Romney’s convincing win in the recent US Presidential Election debate has since shown the margin between the candidates narrowing; now, one new poll puts Romney in front of Obama for the first time since accepting his party’s nomination, by four points, with the race also narrowing in a slew of hotly contested swing states.

Additionally, the fallout from Tuesday’s spectacular parliamentary sitting, across Question Time and the resignation of Peter Slipper has been fascinating; the article I have promised readers on the whole women/misogyny theme currently dominating Australian politics will indeed still be forthcoming — most likely at the weekend.

I wish my readers the top of the day, and look forward to being back to this column in the next day or so.

Filthy Slug Peter Slipper Slithers Away From Speaker’s Chair

A distasteful episode in Australian politics ended tonight, as Liberal Party traitor and Speaker Peter Slipper quit his role for a belated return to the backbench. The development removes a blight on the Speakership, but deals Julia Gillard a humiliating and potentially fatal political blow.

It was the risky game that should never have been played, and not least by an unpopular minority government clinging to office by the tiniest of parliamentary margins.

Peter Slipper — at the time of his ascension to the Speakership last November — was already a character over whom many question marks hovered; for years, “Slippery Pete” had come to be known for such things as his frequent taxpayer-funded trips abroad, repeated mistakes with travel expense claims and so forth; as we have noted previously, there has always been plenty of interesting stories floating around about him.

At the time, however, the Gillard government wanted to break a promise: this time to Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, and specifically to avoid honouring a commitment to poker machine reform he had extracted from the ALP as the price for his support on matters of confidence and supply.

Cutting Wilkie adrift meant Labor needed to find an additional vote in the House of Representatives on which it could rely, and Slipper — happy to resign from the LNP to become Speaker — offered an easy if fraught solution.

As we now know, the simple solution quickly proved a curse, with fresh allegations over travel expenses coming to light, along with allegations of sexual harassment from a member of Slipper’s staff, James Ashby.

In the months that Slipper has been stood aside from official duties as Speaker whilst those allegations are investigated, he has retained in full the trappings of his office — including a vast amount of overseas travel funded by the Australian taxpayer.

Things were always destined to come to a head this week with the tabling in Court, as part of Ashby’s sexual harassment case against Slipper, transcripts of hundreds of SMS text messages sent by Slipper to Ashby — and many of these were overtly sexual in nature.

In fact, they weren’t “overtly sexual;” they were — largely — absolutely disgusting, and those not simply lewd and obscene for the apparent sake of it were highly  intrusive in their demands for personal information on Ashby, about his relationships, and of physical aspects of these that are hardly decent conversation subjects at the best of times, let alone between a parliamentary employer and his staffer.

And of course, many contained demeaning and misogynistic statements on women and about the nature of female genitalia.

Significantly, the veracity of the text messages has been conceded by Slipper. And as far as I’m concerned, his subsequent apology should be taken with a grain of salt.

For Gillard and her ministers — running a fabricated campaign accusing Liberal leader Tony Abbott of sexism and misogyny, and of all manner of ills in his dealings and relationships with women — it’s an especially poor look when such an overtly  misogynistic, sexist and downright inappropriate specimen as Slipper sits welcome and protected within the government’s own circle of influence.

It’s worse again for Gillard to have gone into Parliament this afternoon, all guns blazing, in an aggressive speech seeking to rip Tony Abbott to shreds over sexism and misogyny whilst seeking to protect Slipper, even after his disgusting text messages had been published across the country.

(If you missed this — here is a sample of the material in question).

But what really makes Gillard look ridiculous is that after she and her government effectively deployed their entire arsenal in Parliament to defend Slipper — who survived a vote to remove him from office in the process by one vote — Slipper was back, mere hours later, to publicly resign the Speakership.

Peter Slipper has achieved little in 25 years in Parliament, and contrary to his claims to have improved parliamentary standards as Speaker, the truth is that history will remember his time in the role for little more than the Speaker’s Procession.

If for anything other, that is, than for the self-inflicted scandals he generated.

He was a headache to the Liberal Party for much of this period, which was as relieved to be rid of him the day he accepted the Speakership as it was angered that the deal done effectively saw yet another conservative traitor propping a Labor government up in office.

But he became Labor’s problem to own from that day onwards, and even an outfit as inept and as politically incompetent as the ALP must surely have wondered what in hell it had saddled itself with.

Slipper — by virtue of his own questionable track record, the investigations and allegations currently on foot against him, and now with the revelation through his SMS communications of his idea of what constitutes appropriate standards of decency — is clearly unfit to hold the office of Speaker, and I would suggest unfit to hold elected office at all.

It was suggested to me earlier today that vetting SMS text messaging would be the latest new standard by which to judge politicians; this sarcastic comment was meant to indicate that Slipper had been crucified for essentially private communication that ordinarily should to have been off-limits.

I would counter that by saying that a) the substance of the messages were utterly, utterly inappropriate, and noxious in the extreme; b) such “private” communication is clearly inappropriate from an employer to an employee; and c) this is especially the case when the employer is an elected representative holding senior executive office, under the Crown, and in the service of the Commonwealth on behalf of the people of Australia.

It is unclear how Slipper reconciles the content of these messages with his senior role in the ultra-conservative branch of the Anglican Church to which he belongs.

I would also note that the communications are evidence in a lawsuit against him.

So much for Peter Slipper and all the bullshit in his resignation speech about his improvement and upholding of “standards.”

The text messages could be dismissed as the sex-obsessed ravings of an adolescent and puerile psyche in any other context.

But in this case, they emanate from a 62-year-old man who parades himself as a beacon of inscrutable adherence to rigorous standards of proper parliamentary conduct.

At best, they might be viewed as personal communications made in extremely poor taste by a man who should have known better.

At worst, they point to someone with…well, we’ll call them “problems,” and especially so where women are concerned.

Just what Gillard and her acolytes are attempting to crucify Abbott for.

And Gillard now wears the opprobrium of having fought tooth and nail to protect Slipper — an unbridled political liability in every sense — only to have that effort flung in her face in the form of his resignation, and her government and her Prime Ministership plunged back into crisis as a result.

Not that Gillard had any choice: defend Slipper, and you’re an amoral vacuum. Throw him overboard and the whole house of cards could come down.

She was wedged. And whilst she chose to pursue the first option, the outcome of the second was realised anyway. It was the worst of both worlds, politically, for Gillard and her government.

A no-confidence motion in the Gillard administration must now ensue; for as sure as night follows day, the Coalition — with the prospect of Labor down another vote, and with the scent of an election win in its nostrils — will inevitably test the numbers on the floor of the House of Representatives in a move that could well bring down the government.

And if such a vote does not occur — or if it does, and the government survives — Slipper’s resignation reopens the door to the revival of Kevin Rudd as Labor leader.

The end result today of the appalling political misjudgement in appointing Slipper, combined with the fact Rudd and Slipper have always been friendly, means that Gillard is yet again vulnerable to any deterioration of the government’s standing in published opinion polls.

Either way, Slipper still controls the fate of the government to a large degree: he can vote with it, he can frustrate it by selectively voting with his former conservative colleagues, or he can torpedo it by resigning from Parliament and forcing a by-election and with it, a likely general election that the ALP would almost certainly lose.

How this plays out from here remains to be seen, but by falling on his sword, Slipper has ensured that politics in Australia is back on a knife-edge, and that quite literally anything — anything — can happen.

I would very simply like to say I am delighted to see Slipper resign; despite my outrage at his appointment as Speaker in the first place, I was ecstatic to see him walk out of the Liberal Party, which will not miss him.

His resignation from the Speakership is the second leg in a three-part journey to get rid of this leech from Australian politics once and for all; and I hope — I just hope — he stands as an Independent in Fisher, so his humiliation at being trounced electorally by Mal Brough, a man he described as a c—, is complete.

This is a filthy individual of absolutely no worth or use to the political process in this country.

It is utterly indefensible for Gillard to have attempted to protect him, but then again, when faced with a choice between real principle and amoral nihilism, the modern Labor Party only ever chooses the latter.

Peter Slipper warrants the contempt of the electorate, not its sympathy. It’s inarguable that he would be upset by the course of action he has felt compelled to take, but it is an entirely self-inflicted situation. And whilst Slipper might somehow believe he has added to standards of parliamentary procedure, the average voter couldn’t care less, and won’t care less — irrespective of anything further he has to say.

Good riddance.

Was this post written in foresight? In light of what is now apparently playing out, I thought I would repost this article; I will be commenting tonight as mooted on the whole “women” issue — with Peter Slipper now squarely a part of that — but as there has been some traffic today through this article (written earlier this year) I felt it could be of iterest to return it to the top of the column.

The Red And The Blue

For many years now, it’s been the same; fast moves and even faster talking have allowed Peter Slipper to stay one step ahead of trouble. This time the game appears to be up, and Slippery Pete returns to Australia from his latest overseas jaunt a hunted man.

Of course, we must be careful not to say anything that might prejudice investigations into the latest round of alleged expenses fraud by Slipper, nor into the explosive and sensational allegations of sexual harassment levelled at him this weekend by an employee.

Nonetheless, that caveat still leaves plenty of scope to comment on the latest episode in the life of a scoundrel, a treacherous dog, and a pretty poor specimen to boot.

I’ve known Peter Slipper for 20 years, and he always put a shudder down my spine; I’ve never known what it was, but the guy used to give me the creeps…

View original post 1,090 more words

Sun Sets On Labor’s False Dawn: Newspoll

Two weeks ago, this column suggested a Newspoll showing a 50-50 result was a rogue poll; tonight, that contention has been proven. The latest Newspoll for The Australian shows Labor support collapsing again, with the Coalition’s 54-46 lead of four weeks ago restored in full.

A swing of 4% to the Gillard government in two weeks was always something to be viewed with deep suspicion; now — with the stunning recovery in Labor’s Newspoll numbers being replaced by a stunning “collapse” — the offending findings can indeed be dismissed as rogue.

Tonight’s Newspoll has the Labor primary vote at 33% (-3%), the Coalition at 45% (+4), Greens at 10% (-2%) and “Others” at 12% (+1%). After preferences, this equates to a Coalition lead of eight percentage points, 54-46.

Broadly, this is about where I think voter support for the two parties sits in the electorate at present, and that level has been more or less validated by other polls in the market — most recently, an Essential Research poll showing an unchanged two-party split in the Coalition’s favour of 53-47.

Newspoll was taken in the aftermath of the hullaballoo over the disgraceful comments about the Prime Minister’s father’s death made by Alan Jones at a Liberal Students’ function last weekend, and amid the despicable endeavour by ministers in the Labor government to tar Tony Abbott with the brush of responsibility for those comments.

Has the issue fed into Newspoll’s findings? I highly doubt it. People either love Alan Jones or hate him anyway; the “malleable middle” when it comes to the pugnacious 2GB broadcaster’ audience or followers/detractors is a small band indeed.

People generally have enough brains to recognise Tony Abbott is not responsible for what Alan Jones says — irrespective of any friendship or relationship that exists between the two men, or between Jones and the Liberal Party.

Similarly, people don’t expect anything less from the Labor Party than the attempted smear over the issue.

I actually think the Jones issue, as far as opinion sampling in the electorate at present is concerned, is unlikely to exert any issue at all over stated voting intentions, or approval of Tony Abbott one way or the other.

Interestingly, both leaders have experienced improvement in their personal ratings; Gillard’s approve/disapprove numbers move to 36/50 (from 36/52 a fortnight ago); Abbott’s to 33/55 (from 30/60 last time).

Given these are personal approval figures, I can only theorise that Gillard is getting the residual benefit of (deserved) public sympathy following her father’s death, whereas Abbott has perhaps, perversely, gained from the disgusting attack on him over the same issue that has been mounted by Gillard’s ministers.

(We will be looking at the “issue” of Abbott’s purported problems with women, and those government ministers responsible for its perpetration, in an imminent post).

On “preferred PM” Newspoll finds Gillard leading by 43% to 33% (a margin beginning to constrict again, from last fortnight’s 46-32 result in Gillard’s favour).

The broad comment is very simply that these figures see Newspoll rejoining the pack — and that it places the government about where it could expect to find itself were an election to be held this weekend; heavily defeated, but not annihilated.

We’ll keep an eye on the leadership figures in next fortnight’s Newspoll; they look a little strange to me, and if they represent the start of some sort of trend, this may be clearer next time around.