Tag Archives: Romney

Why I am a Democrat

Why I am a Democrat

By Christopher B. Daly

It’s not because of the “gifts” that I supposedly get from the government, if we are to believe the recent confidential statements by Mitt Romney. Luckily, I have not needed the government very much in my life (so far) except for the blessings that good government brings to all the people – a terrific public education that lifted me to places I never thought I would go; safe streets and fire protection; clean drinking water and wholesome foods; confidence that my country would not be invaded and occupied by hostile armies.

The reason I am a Democrat is simple: on balance, over the long haul, the Democratic Party has been the single most effective agent for progressive change in America.

No, the party is not perfect. We have our own problems. We have our own corrupt and hypocritical leaders. Some Democratic leaders pander; some are slow to lead; a few are corrupt bozos. Democratic administrations sometimes screw up. Some Democratic voters do indeed have their hands out.

But look at the record. Since 1933, the Democratic Party has been the leading change-agent behind the following:

–the New Deal, including the right of workers to organize and the minimum wage

–Social Security

–the defeat of fascism in World War II

–the civil rights movement

–the (eventual) opposition to the War in Vietnam – and to all the subsequent unwise U.S. military adventures abroad

–the environmental movement, including global climate change

–the women’s movement

–the gay rights movement

–control of assault weapons and high-capacity ammo clips

–immigrant rights

Needless to say, the Republican Party, as an institution, has resisted each of these long, broad campaigns to recognize the essential humanity of all people and to ensure their rights under law. The issue is not handouts; it is dignity, decency, personal rights, and global peace.

And it’s not as though the Republicans don’t give out “gifts” to their own constituents. If we are talking about political parties that use government as a source of giveaways to their supporters, I would say Republicans do not make such a charge with clean hands.

Republicans spend vast amounts, for example, on defense contracting (even more than the generals ask for). Through tax breaks, they reduce the effective tax rate on many rich Americans to a level below that of the average worker. Through tax expenditures, they subsidize agribusiness, the fossil fuel industry, and a host of other businesses that donate to Republicans or hire lobbyists to look out for their interests. This is the activity that progressives denounce as “corporate welfare” – a charge that many Republicans seem not to even acknowledge.

All that said, I am happy to grant that there are many issues where reasonable Americans can disagree. I will even stipulate that most Americans love our country and have its best interests at heart.

–Should taxes be a little higher or a little lower?

–Should government be a little bigger or a little smaller?

–Should we pay our public bills now or later?

Those questions define the bulk of what we in this essentially conservative, centrist society argue about when we engage in politics. Does anyone seriously think we could not solve those problems if we really put our minds to it?

If Mitt Romney does not understand all this, then he never deserved a role in our public life.

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Who are Mitt Romney’s people?

by Christopher B. Daly 

Readers of this blog are obviously an intelligent, discerning, and deeply informed group of people, curious about many things and knowledgable about many others. So, here goes:

How many presidential candidates in U.S. history have ever gotten elected without carrying their home states?

A bonus question: who were they?

Turns out, of the 44 men who have won the office, only three failed to carry their home state (that is, the one they were living in when they ran for president). They were James K. Polk of Tennessee, Woodrow Wilson of New Jersey, and Richard Nixon of New York.

Now, consider Mitt Romney.

–He was born in Michigan.

–He spent the bulk of his adult life in Massachusetts — racking up two degrees from Harvard (when’s the last time he mentioned either of those? Don’t forget: he has a law degree.), then working at Bain in Boston and later becoming governor. This is the state where he votes.

–He also has a vacation home in New Hampshire.

–And he is building some kind of pleasure dome in La Jolla, Calif.

So, that makes four states where he has roots or homes, and according to the polls, he is going to lose all four of those states on Tuesday. What does that say about him? He could lose Massachusetts, the state where he has lived the longest, by 20 points. How is that not a story? Just imagine if Obama were poised to lose Illinois by 20 points. . . (or Hawaii!)

[the Romney mansion in Belmont, Mass. It’s an affluent place, but still, no one lives like this.]

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Photo caption needed

By Christopher B. Daly 

When preparing to publish, post, or broadcast news, everything matters. In this recent case, someone failed to notice something:

In that photo, Romney is depicted in Bowling Green, Ohio, as speaking to a crowd of “supporters.” But what about those two signs. Does it mean anything that they appear to be in the same hand-writing? (According to NPR, the signs were made by Romney staffers and handed out to the crowd.)

The New York Times ran the photo on Thursday, crediting Evan Vucci/Associated Press. The caption read:

Mitt Romney focused Wednesday on President Obama’s remarks about running a business.

True enough. But what about those signs?

Here’s another one (same event, same hand-writing):


In this case, I cannot find the credit line or caption. I found it at a conservative website that supplied no information about the photo. If you know who took it (or if you took it yourself), please let me know.



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Grammar for journalists

By Christopher B. Daly

One of the most popular “memes” of this week in politics has been the idea that Barack Obama hates business. The supposed evidence for this is something that the president said in a recent appearance in a fire station in Roanoke,Va. Here’s part of what he said:

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet. The point is, that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.”

Now, let’s examine that statement, shall we? At the risk of sounding like a university professor (oh, wait!), I feel compelled to point out that the problem in that passage arises, as so often happens, from a pronoun whose antecedent is not clear. The president was saying that before anyone can start a new business, the public has already invested tax dollars in an array of public goods that make that private enterprise possible. Public schools probably educated most of the workforce and customers. Police and fire departments provide a safe, orderly environment. Public roads bring supply trucks and customers to the new business. And so on. That is what Obama meant when he said, “If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.” (Think, for a minute, about the chances of starting a business like Staples on a desert island, or in the tribal areas of NW Pakistan. Not gonna happen.)

The president went on to say, “Somebody invested in roads and bridges.” In other words, taxpayers funded the infrastructure.

In the very next sentence, the president said: “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.”

Question is: in that last sentence, what does that refer to?

Does that refer to the noun that immediately precedes it? In that case, the president is saying: If you have a business, you didn’t build it. 

Or, does that refer to the previous concept of “roads and bridges” (in which case, grammatically speaking, the pronoun should be them not that) or the broader point of infrastructure?

Personally, I think the president’s meaning was plain: If you run a successful business today, your success is based on the earlier investment in infrastructure.

But that’s my personal conclusion. Fox News and Mitt Romney have come to a different conclusion (surprise!) and have chosen to lift one sentence out of context as “proof” that the president is hostile to business. People who use the English language in their professional lives should know how to parse it.

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“Quote approval”: A new low in journalism?

By Christopher B. Daly 

When a journalist interviews someone (anyone), the normal ground rules that govern the interaction amount to this:

I am a journalist working on a story. I want to talk to you and use the things you say in my story, based on my judgment of what is important. I will use none, some, or all of what you say, as I choose, to further the pursuit of the truth. Whatever quotations I use will be verbatim — nothing added, nothing left out. I will also use your real name (and title, if you have one).

This is the essence of the standard known as “on the record.” Journalists prefer it because we believe that, on the whole, it holds people accountable for the things they say. In certain (ideally rare) situations, however, journalists will negotiate some lower standard. Almost always, these retreats from the “on the record” standard come at the initiative of the people we are speaking to. These other arrangements are known by a bewildering array of terms, which do not always mean the same thing in different cities or beats. The problem is that these departures usually serve the source rather than the audience.

Today comes word from the Times that political reporters for all the major news organizations have adopted a new — and, I think, pernicious — practice. They allow the people they are interviewing to get a look at their own quotes before publication and censor them. That is, the big shots around Obama and Romney routinely demand and get the power to edit themselves before their words appear in print or online.

Well, you can hardly blame them for trying. Who wouldn’t want that option?

But the journalists should never have agreed to it. These spokespeople, senior officials, and top aides get paid lots of money for their ability to think on their feet and choose their words carefully.

At the very least, having agreed to this arrangement, the journalists have a professional duty to reveal the terms. What about transparency? I, for one, could live without stories in which members of the political class get to “clean up” their quotes.

Another question: in what other fields does this practice apply? Sports reporting? Business news?

(Props to Jeremy Peters of the Times for blowing the whistle on this practice.)


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Covering Romney

By Chris Daly

Here’s the text of a letter I submitted to the New York Times for publication yesterday. Since they have had 24 hours to act on it and have not contacted me, I am assuming that they are not going to use it. (Everyone makes mistakes.) So, I am posting it here:


Re: “Tall Tales about Private Equity” (Op-ed, May 23): 
Steven Rattner makes a valid point about Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s track record of job creation while Mr. Romney was the head of Bain Capital. Mr. Rattner argues that Bain’s primary goal was to make money and that job creation was secondary. He notes that in the case of Bain’s involvement with Staples, Mr. Romney claims credit for all of the 89,000 jobs Staples had by 2010, rather than the 42,000 employees it had when Mr. Romney left Bain in 1998.
From another point of view, even the 42,000 figure may be too high, because it is not a net figure. Staples is a big-box office supply chain whose success led indirectly to the closing of some uncounted number of small stationery shops, all of which once had employees too. When the loss of those jobs is reckoned against the gains at Staples, the net number of jobs gained in that retail field is probably much lower.
Boston, May 23, 2012

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Reporting challenge

By Chris Daly

During the run-up to the Michigan primary, many news sources have repeated the observation that Michigan is Mitt Romney’s “home state.” He is often referred to as a “native son.”

We know that he has not lived there since he was 18, so any use of those cliches should involve an asterisk. In any case, I have yet to see an answer from the press corps to these questions:

–in how many states does Mitt Romney currently own property (addresses, please)?

–in which state is he registered to vote?

Any answers?








(This is an image I found on Google Images. Are any of these accurate?)

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By Chris Daly

I know that I have declared my intention not to take overtly partisan or ideological positions here (and not to spike the football, either). But this just had to be said.

Thanks to Tom Keane in today’s Globe for pointing out that the decisions made by generations of crazy liberals here in Massachusetts have produced unambiguously good results. No reason why Mitt Romney should run away from success, but that’s up to him.

The takeaway:

By almost every important factual measure — economic, educational, and socioeconomic — Massachusetts is vastly better off than the nation’s most right-wing states.

For details, see the rest of his piece.

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Campaign watch

In light of Mitt Romney’s verbal stumble this week, it is worth remembering this political definition from journalist Michael Kinsley:

A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth.



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Romney coverage

By Chris Daly 

I am trying to resist the temptation to pile on Mitt Romney (Oh, all right: I am not trying very hard!).

When journalists assess his claims to be a job-creator through his work at Bain Capital, they need to dig a little. The important issue, of course, is whether Bain was a net job creator.

Take one case: Understandably, Romney is fond of citing his role in launching the office supply superstore chain Staples. His campaign boasts that Staples “created” 90,000 jobs (and sometimes 100,000 jobs). That may be true, although journalists should still check it. But even if true, it is not the whole story. Staples is what is sometimes called a “category killer.” That means that its success depends on — or at least results in — the elimination of a whole category of existing businesses. In the Staples case, the rise of all those superstores did not occur in a vacuum. Their growth came at the expense of many, many little mom&pop stationers that used to occupy storefronts in many downtown areas. Those independent small businesses are now almost completely gone from the American scene.

It’s the same process you see with Home Depot. As they grow, there go the little, local hardware stores that used to be everywhere. Same with WalMart and other “category killers.”

So, the question that journalists should pursue about Romney is: how many jobs were left after Staples wiped out the category known as the independent stationer?

Particularly in a party that venerates small businesses, that is a question that should have some political salience.


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