Sunday, March 18, 2018

Bill Maher Misses the Point

"Democrats are to political courage what Valveeta is to cheese."

- Bill Maher

Wow, talk about not leaving anything in the bullpen. On last Friday's "New Rules" segment of his Real Time with Bill Maher show, Maher took issue with Democrats for not having the "balls" to stand up for their beliefs. Too often they "backpedal" and allow Republicans to define the issues. He defended Nancy Pelosi for her accomplishments while Speaker of the House and criticized then candidate Hillary Clinton after she flipped on coal.

"Learn the lesson that's staring you in the face every day in the person of Donald Trump," he said. "Voters don't care about how smart you are; just don't be a pussy."

While I agree with Maher about the lack of conviction that many Democrats have, not to mention their complete ineptitude when it comes to messaging - my God, they're the only group of people I can think of that can turn a sentence into a novel - I must respectfully disagree with his overall assessment of the Pennsylvania special election: I think the only reason Conor Lamb won was because he distanced himself from Pelosi. Had he run on the platform Maher and the liberal wing of the Democratic Party wanted him to run on, Rick Saccone would've beaten him. Jumping out of a plane without a parachute isn't courageous, it's suicidal. And insisting on a purity test for Democratic candidates is the political equivalent of jumping out of a plane without a parachute.

Yes, it's true Trump insulted the voters of Iowa and then went on to win that state's primary. But leaving aside Trump for the moment, there is an important issue that Maher and progressives are missing, and it's one that that threatens their electoral prospects in the upcoming midterms. The country has never been as divided as it is now. I'll explain.

For well over a century, the nation was divided between the North and the South. The Civil War didn't just end slavery, it ostensibly ended the South's agrarian economy. The resentment that ensued endured for generations; many Democrats in the southern states switched parties after Lyndon Johnson signed into law both the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of 1964 and '65 respectively.

Then a seismic shift started to occur in the '90s. The Reagan era tax cuts of the '80s didn't just funnel hundreds of billions of dollars from the middle class to the upper class, it set in motion a series of events that allowed manufacturers to move their plants to countries with lower wages and less restrictions. Well before NAFTA was passed, both the auto and steel industries had scaled back production in America. Communities that were home to tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of blue-collar workers who were making a good living and enjoying the fruits of their labor were decimated. They have never fully recovered.

The seething resentment took years to boil over, but boil over it did. When you look at an electoral map, the old North / South divide is still there, but another, even more ominous, divide is forming in the Rust Belt region. What were once reliably blue states have now moved into the red column. The people who live in these states have had it with Democratic promises and, let's face it, Democratic lies. They gave Obama an overwhelming reelection in 2012 and what did it get them? Nothing but more of the same old, same old.

Many of them still call themselves Democrats but believe the party they once supported has abandoned them. Conor Lamb reassured the people that he was not one of "them," and by them I mean the establishment Democratic Party. And they, in turn, took a chance and voted for him. Yes, the final margin was less than three tenths of a point, but considering this district went for Trump by 20 points in 2016 and Mitt Romney by 17 points in 2012, any victory by a Democrat is quite a feat. The last thing the party needs is to look this gift horse in the mouth.

What Dems needs to do is tailor their message to the needs of the constituents in each district or state. The needs of people in rural America are vastly different from the needs of people in cities. If Conor Lamb could figure this out, there's no excuse for other Democrats to not follow suit. In sports you coach the team you have, not the one you'd like to have. It's no different in politics.

It wasn't that long ago that there were liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats serving together in Congress. They did extraordinary things together like pass legislation on a bi-partisan basis. With the retirement of Ben Nelson of Nebraska and the recent defeats of Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Mark Pryor of Arkansas, the electoral map for Democrats has shrunken considerably. It could potentially shrink even further if the remaining Blue Dogs are defeated in November. The only way to keep that from happening is to abandon the one size fits all approach.

There are worse things than a conservative Democrat in the House of Representatives or Senate. Bill Maher may not think so, but then Bill Maher lives in California where the biggest threat to his way of life is the 405.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Dominoes Are Starting to Fall

Let me just come right out and say it. I fully expect that Robert Mueller will be fired within a week. This president is determined to stop this investigation by any means necessary. Immediately after the firing of FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe only two days before McCabe was eligible to receive his pension - a scumbag move even for this White House - Trump's personal attorney John Dowd called on Rod Rosenstein to end the Russia investigation. This is the exact quote from Dowd:
"I pray that Acting Attorney General Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the F.B.I. Office of Professional Responsibility and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe’s boss James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt dossier."
Translation: See what happened to poor Andy McCabe? Gee, it would be a real shame if something like that were to happen to you. Jesus, Tony Soprano was more tactful.

Forget protocol. Forget the adults in the room cliches. In case you haven't been paying attention what passes for adults is quickly becoming an endangered species. Rex Tillerson was fired over Twitter for Christ's sake. Next up will be H.R. McMaster. When Trump is done his cabinet will look like a dress rehearsal for The Apprentice. Laugh if you will but when you start seeing Gary Busey doing White House briefings don't say I didn't warn you.

I would say this is embarrassing, but we're way passed that now. Unchartered waters? Yeah, we're passed that too. Sadly, I'm running out of metaphors to describe what is going on here. Am I scared? You bet your ass. I'm slowly watching this country I love get turned into a banana republic and one of the two major political parties has decided to do nothing about it. Worse, the GOP-led House Intelligence Committee issued a report that not only exonerated this president of any wrong doing but, spitting in the face of every intelligence agency in the country, it concluded that Russia did not help Trump. In other words, nothing to see here.

I wonder if this what a psyche ward looks like. I've never been in one but from what I've read this comes pretty damn close. If it weren't for the reporting coming from The Washington Post and The New York Times, who knows, the coup might've been completed by now. But the problem with the press is that they have no legal authority to affect change. They can sound the alert that there's a runaway train, but they're powerless to stop it. Woodward and Bernstein didn't bring down Nixon; they just furnished the justification. It was left to Congress to do the heavy lifting.

Well this Congress couldn't lift a ham sandwich. Democrats are still in the minority, and even if they manage to win both chambers in the midterms - still a long shot - they will not have the necessary votes in the Senate to remove this president, even if the House votes to impeach. Trump knows this and so do his supporters. That's why he's been acting especially dickish of late. He doesn't care what he does because he knows nobody can touch him. He isn't looking for a "perfect" cabinet; he's looking to consolidate his power over the country by eliminating anyone or anything that threatens it. 

When China announced that Xi Jinping would be president for life, Trump commented that "maybe we'll give that a shot some day." Don't look now, but some day is beginning to look like today.

The only bright spot in this incredibly ghoulish nightmare is that McCabe took notes of every meeting he had with Trump and before he was fired he gave them to Mueller. If Mueller is smart - and he is - he'll make sure those notes are safe and sound, along with every bit of evidence he has obtained so far.

It's the only hope the nation has that history will have an accounting of what went on here so that future generations - assuming there are any - won't make the same mistake and elect a despot posing as a savior.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

In Like A Lamb

Barring an incredibly high Republican return on absentee ballots that are still outstanding in two predominantly Republican counties - and by high we're talking more than 70 percent - Democrat Conor Lamb will be the next representative of the Pennsylvania 18th district; a district Donald Trump carried by 20 points in 2016. Lamb's lead at present is around 600 votes with only about 1400 absentee ballots left to count, hence the unlikelihood of his Republican opponent Rick Saccone catching him.

The ramifications of this win cannot be overstated enough. This was no swing district; it had been reliably red since 2003. In fact, in the last two elections the Republican ran unopposed, that's how secure it was. And while the GOP can claim all they want that registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by almost twenty thousand, the fact remains that this race should never have been this close, let alone a win for the Democrat.

But then Conor Lamb is not your typical Democrat, anymore than Doug Jones or Ralph Northam are. Lamb is a pro-life, pro-gun Democrat who supports Trump's tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. He has publicly distanced himself from his party's leadership, going so far as to pledge he would not vote for Nancy Pelosi for Speaker should Democrats take back the House in 2018. He's what the base would call a DINO (Democrat in name only) and what the rest of us would call a throw back to the days when the Party was a force to be reckoned with in places like the South and Midwest. Like Tim Ryan of Ohio, he isn't afraid to admit what every pundit already knows: that Democrats blew it big tine with blue-collar workers.

So why all the hoopla for a district that is going to be redrawn this November? Because if Democrats can win in a Red district - albeit by a very small margin - than their prospects in the 23 districts that Hillary Clinton carried but which are currently controlled by Republicans look quite promising. At least that's the prevailing logic within the party. Going into last night Democrats needed to flip 24 seats to regain the majority. This win reduces that number by one. Assuming they run the table on all 23 of the Clinton districts - a tall order but not totally out of the realm of possibility - that would put them over the top.

But here's the rub. In order to accomplish this, Democrats are going to have to come to grips with a staggering reality: that their brand is badly tarnished. The elections of Ralph Northam, Doug Jones and now Conor Lamb prove two things: first, that Democrats can compete and win in non-blue districts or states; second, those Democrats who do compete and win must match the district or state they're running in. Like it or not, the Bernie Sanders / Elizabeth Warren wing of the Party cannot win in these areas. Had Lamb embraced the orthodoxy of his party's base or if another, more progressive Democrat had been the nominee, Rick Saccone would be on his way to Washington as we speak.

It's time to face facts. Western Pennsylvania isn't California; nor is most of Michigan, Wisconsin or Ohio for that matter. There's an old saying that goes like this: "When in Rome do as the Romans do." Democrats would do well to remember that saying in the months ahead. Joe Manchin, Claire McCaskill, Jon Tester and Heidi Heitkamp are not progressives; far from it. But they are among the ten Democrats who are running for reelection in states that Trump carried and their survival depends on their ability to separate themselves from the progressive wing of their party. But just as importantly, their survival also depends on that progressive wing not attacking them.

That's why Elizabeth Warren's decision to publicly call out by name members of her own party for supporting a GOP bill that admittedly would severely weaken Dodd - Frank was so inexplicable. Yes, the bill was bullshit and, yes, on the merits Warren is correct for condemning it, but she crossed the line by naming her colleagues. Even Barney Frank, who co-authored Dodd - Frank, criticized Warren and said that her comments could hurt the party in the midterms.

This "one size fits all" approach that many progressives have adopted is the biggest impediment to the success of the Democratic Party. The simple truth is that what works in Boston, or Burlington for that matter, doesn't necessarily work in western Pennsylvania. Conor Lamb understood that going into this election. That's one of the reasons he prevailed. The other was Trump's approval rating, which even in areas of the country that voted for him has taken a hit.

But Democrats cannot simply rely on Trump's negatives to win back the House. They need to come up with a winning message that can resonate as well in Oshkosh as it does in Brooklyn. There's a reason why Republicans hardly ever win in the Northeast or west coast; and it's the same reason Democrats hardly ever win in the Rust-belt states. The far-right and far-left have so thoroughly taken over their respective parties that the center has ostensibly been squeezed out.

Well Conor Lamb, Doug Jones and Ralph Northam just squeezed their way back in. It would behoove Democrats to find a home for them, and fast.

P.S. an earlier version of this piece said that 12 Democrats are running for reelection in states Trump carried. The real number is 10. I have made the correction.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Kim Is Playing Trump for the Fool He Is

There are two ways to view the news that Kim Jong Un wants to meet with Donald Trump in May. One, Trump’s masterful negotiating skill has convinced the North Korean dictator that he has no choice but to submit or be destroyed; Two, Kim is doing what every other world leader has done with Trump since he was sworn in: he’s sucking up to him. Given what we know of Lord Fauntleroy, my money's on the latter.

Seriously, if you truly believe that Kim has had a change of heart regarding the denuclearization of his country than you’re even more gullible than Trump. If anything, what Kim is doing is consistent with what he has been doing since he came to power. Indeed, his father attempted but failed to dupe the Clinton Administration with false expectations back in 2000. Flattering someone with the ego the size of a super nova buys his regime the time it needs to complete the testing on its ICBMs, which most military experts believe are months away from being able to successfully strike the west coast of the United States. While our Doofus in chief is getting played, the lives of millions of Americans will hang in the balance.

This is why you have diplomats: to make sure disasters like this don't happen. Think about it: while Monty Hall is conducting foreign policy like it's a reality TV show, Kim gets what he's always wanted: recognition of North Korea as an equal to the United States. What better way to accomplish that than by standing on the same stage as an American president.

But that's not the biggest danger. Thomas Wright in The Atlantic outlines an even grimmer scenario; one in which Trump virtually gives away the entire Korean peninsula by withdrawing American troops from South Korea in exchange for Kim giving up his nukes. Wright lists three reasons why Trump might do this:
The first is that Trump cares about the direct threat to the American homeland more than anything else. President Obama warned him of the North Korean ICBM threat immediately after the election and he has taken it to heart. He has pursued a unilateral policy and has held open the possibility of a preventive strike without prior approval from Seoul. This is the essence of “America First”—narrow U.S. interests supersede all other concerns. It is a significant conceptual break with traditional American policy since the late 1940s, where the United States treated threats to the homeland and to the allies equally. 
The second is that Trump has always had concerns about alliances in general and the U.S.-South Korea one in particular. Since the mid 1980s, he has argued that America’s alliances are a bad deal. Initially his wrath was focused on Japan and the Arab states but in 2013, he said, “How long will we go on defending South Korea from North Korea without payment? … When will they start to pay us?” In an interview with NBC in 2015, he said, “We have 28,000 soldiers on the line in South Korea between the madman and them. We get practically nothing compared to the cost of this.” Perhaps Trump may think that an end to the ICBM program and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea is a win-win. 
The third is Trump’s ego. He sees himself as the world’s greatest dealmaker. He wants to sit down man-to-man with his rival. He cares nothing about America’s historical obligations and is likely singularly motivated by the ICBM threat. In odd ways, he respects Kim.
Setting aside Trump's respect for Kim - he's always had an affinity for strong men like Putin and Rodrigo Duerte of the Philippines - a withdrawal of U.S. forces from South Korea would be a disaster, not just for the peninsula, but for the entire globe. Lost in all the bluster about the threat Kim's nukes pose to humanity is the fact that he commands a formidable conventional force that could easily devastate Seoul, a city which sits only thirty miles south of the DMZ and is home to more than thirty million people. Within minutes, Kim could launch conventional rockets that would devastate most of the city. His ground troops could then easily cross over and ostensibly seize control over most of the country. Think Hitler marching into Paris in 1940, only in this case Paris would be a smoldering ruin. At any rate, the 12th largest economy on the planet would be wiped out and the blow to global markets would trigger a world-wide depression.

And all this could easily happen because this president has the intellectual capacity of a gnat, the emotional stability of a four-year old and an inferiority complex the size of the Grand Canyon. The man craves attention and adulation and, I suspect, Kim will dote over him like a father dotes over his new-born son. If the meeting ends up taking place in Pyongyang, expect Kim to pull out all the stops. Trump will witness a military parade the likes of which he has never seen before, and he will be swept off his feet. You think Stormy Daniels is screwing him; next to Kim, Daniels is an amateur.

Deep down I suspect Kim realizes that he could never win a nuclear war; he could start one, but it would mean the end of his country. The whole reason for the nuclear build up was to gain the leverage necessary to force concessions from the West. He has seen first hand what's happened to other dictators who gave up their weapons without getting anything in return, and he doesn't want that fate to befall him. So he's reached out to one man whom he believes is gullible enough to fall for his fake praise and tempting offer. "I give up my nukes and you pull out of the Korean peninsula. Deal?"

It is the sort of offer any rational, thinking president would gladly walk away from. But then we're talking about Trump, so I guess what I'm saying is I wouldn't buy any Samsung flat panel TVs or Hyundai cars next year. You might have a tough time getting them serviced in the future.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

An Open Letter to the 43rd President of the United States

Dear George W. Bush,

I hear you've been opining on the recent uptick in your approval rating since Donald Trump was sworn in as president. "Sorta makes me look pretty good, doesn't it?" you've been telling friends at Republican events. To be honest, I've seen some of my friends on Facebook share similar sentiments. It's amazing what nine years will do for a tarnished image. No doubt somewhere the decedents of Custer think he's one of the greatest military minds in the history of the Republic.

But here's the thing, Mr. Bush, not only weren't you pretty good, as Will Ferrell correctly pointed out in a recent Saturday Night Live sketch in which he played you, "I just wanna remind everyone that I was really bad. What has two thumbs and created ISIS? This guy."

The audience laughed, but over in the Middle East, they aren't laughing. Sadly, they haven't had anything to laugh at since 2003. That was the year you sent U.S. troops into Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein, the only dictator in the region who WASN'T a threat to this country. Remember the weapons of mass destruction that didn't exist? The Iraqis do. The vacuum you left in that country destabilized the entire Middle East and spawned the greatest threat Western democracy has ever seen.

That would probably be enough of a "legacy" for one president, but you weren't satisfied just destroying a foreign country; you were intent on doing the same to this one. For some strange reason you thought that the perfect antidote to a $300 billion surplus, which your predecessor handed you on a silver platter, was to pass two enormous tax cuts that benefited the rich crony friends that you once laughingly referred to as your base. So instead of a gradual reduction of the national debt, you ended up doubling it. Way to go, Sparky.

And while the current president has done everything imaginable to usurp the authority of his justice department, even bemoaning why his attorney general isn't prosecuting his political opponents like the good dictator he wants to be, let's not forget that it was you who directed your own justice department to come up with that memo which justified the use of torture on detainees. John Yoo and Alberto Gonzales might have called it enhanced interrogation but the rest of the world knew better. And, to best of my knowledge, yours is the only administration that outed a CIA operative for purely political purposes. Not even Trump has done that; though to be fair, we're only in year two of his administration. Give him time.

A disastrous foreign policy, a reckless economic agenda and a blatant disregard for international norms. Sounds to me like your presidency was a somewhat more refined version of the one we currently are stuck with. You don't get brownie points just because you're slightly less unhinged and depraved. That's like a tornado wanting credit for not being as destructive as a hurricane. Tell that to the inhabitants of the town that saw their homes leveled. Damage is damage, no matter who or what is inflicting it.

Are you a good and decent man? Perhaps. Many who know you swear you are. That's more than Trump can say. Apart from his immediate family, I doubt he has a single friend. But Barack Obama is a good and decent man too. Your problem is that you are comparing yourself to the wrong president. Jesus, if you can't beat out someone as vacuous as Trump, I feel sorry for you.

Unfortunately, presidents aren't measured by how many people like them or how decent they are; they're measured by how successful they are. As it stands now, Trump is the least successful person to ever occupy the Oval Office. You, sir, are right behind him. Far from bragging, you should thank your lucky stars that he has sucked all the oxygen out of the room. That has allowed you to regain whatever footing you thought you once had with the American people.

Now do yourself and everyone else a huge favor: put a sock in it. Go paint a portrait of Barney or something. We'll handle Trump. America's used to cleaning up after a disastrous presidency. You outta know. We're still cleaning up after yours.

Sunday, March 4, 2018


Well what a week it's been at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue or, as Bob Corker once referred to it, the "day-care center." Let's recap:

On Monday, Cadet Bone Spurs said if he had been in Parkland, Florida during the mass shooting he would've rushed in even without a gun. Right, the guy who had five deferments during the Vietnam War and was freaked out when a bald-headed eagle unexpectedly made a move towards him would've challenged someone with an AR-15. The only way this guy rushes into a high school is if the shooter happens to be a porn star or is hold up in the girl's locker room.

Then on Tuesday, it was reported that Jared Kushner had his security clearance downgraded to the level of a cook. Seems Jared was negotiating financial deals in the White House to save his sorry ass and was being blackmailed by officials of several countries who knew about his shaddy business practices. And you thought Eric was the dumb one.

Moving along to Wednesday, Trump attacked his attorney general Jeff Sessions on Twitter for again not doing his bidding. For some reason this president seems to think the Justice Department is own personal private eye service. Trump's nickname for Sessions, according to some, is Mr. Magoo, a blind, old man who constantly gets himself into trouble only to miraculously get out of it. Yes, in case you had any lingering doubts, Trump is irony deprived.

And he wasn't done. At a roundtable meeting that same day, Trump announced his solution for dealing with mentally ill people who have guns. He would take them away whether or not there was a court order. "Take the guns first, go through due process second," he said with a straight face. Hey Trump voters, turns out there IS someone who will take your guns, and you voted for him. Not to worry, old blood and guts had an intervention meeting with the NRA, and I'm sure they brought him back to his senses. After all thirty million dollars goes a long way.

Later on that day Trump's communications director Hope Hicks resigned after it was learned that she testified before Congress that she told "white lies" on behalf of her boss. I don't know which is more offensive: the fact that a 29 year-old former model with no experience in communications was the communications director at the White House, or that Hicks thinks fabricating a deliberately false story regarding the meeting Don Jr. had with the Russians at Trump Tower about getting dirt on Hillary Clinton is a white lie. I'm pretty sure Bob Mueller knows.

But all that paled in comparison to what happened on Thursday. At yet another White House meeting, surrounded by representatives of the steel and aluminum manufacturing industries, Trump announced that the United States would be imposing a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports. The reaction on Wall Street was immediate. The Dow Jones dropped almost 500 points.

In case you were wondering if Trump had misspoken, which is a phrase that has come to define virtually everything that comes out of the man's mouth, or if this was yet another example of Trump saying one thing one day and reversing himself the next, just like he did with the DACA fix back in January, our fearless leader doubled down on his decision on Friday by stating, "Trade wars are good and easy to win." Yeah, they're easy to win so long as you don't care about exports, which if this dimwit goes through with this hair-brained scheme, will tank.

Already other countries are threatening retaliatory measures against the United States. American exports could face similar tariffs from those countries and that would lead to massive job losses here at home. Additionally, the cost of steel and aluminum would go up and consumers would bear the brunt at the cash register. Whatever temporary relief American steel and aluminum manufacturers might get under Trump's plan would be undone by a reduction in overall demand. In other words, it would be similar to taking ten dollars out of Peter's pocket and putting it in Paul's pocket. In the end, you still have the same ten dollar bill.

Not only aren't trade wars easy to win, historically no country has ever started one and won. The Smoot-Hawley Act of 1930 is a case in point. It raised tariffs on over 20,000 imports in an attempt to help American companies that were struggling during the Great Depression. Instead, it ended up boomeranging. Overall U.S. exports fell from $7 billion in 1929 to $2.4 billion in 1932, further exacerbating the effects of the Depression. While economists are divided as to how much damage the Act did to the U.S. economy, most agree it likely prolonged the Depression by several years.

There's no way of knowing how much damage Trump's trade war will have on this economy, but it's reasonable to assume that we can see a reduction in GDP growth, along with a slowing of exports. The costs of goods that use steel or aluminum will go up which will affect everything from a six pack of beer to cars and trucks to planes. Seems an awful lot of things get made with aluminum and steel.

And the reason for this incredibly reckless decision, we're told, is because Trump became "unglued" over the Hicks resignation and his son-in-law's downgraded security clearance. Yep, that's right, the former leader of the free world - remember, Angela Merkel now holds that title - was having a bad week and he threw a hissy fit. It's comforting, don't you think, that someone with access to the nuclear launch codes can be so easily bent out of shape.

Seriously, though, trade wars, apart from having unintended economic consequences, can lead to cold wars, which can then blossom into hot wars. For instance, less than nine years after Smoot-Hawley was passed, World War II began. That war devastated all of Europe and most of Asia and resulted in the deaths of over 80 million people, six million of whom were Jews, murdered in Hitler's concentration camps.

World War III, if it happens, would devastate the entire planet and lead to the mass extinction of all its inhabitants; 7.4 billion of whom just happen to be human.

Monday, February 19, 2018

What If Mitt Romney Had Won the 2012 Election?

Seeing as how it's President's Day and the current occupant in the Oval Office is about as presidential as a four-year old in a time out, I thought I'd spend a little time and ponder an important question. What if Mitt Romney had won the 2012 presidential election?

Look, I know it's never a good idea to engage in revisionist history and I am somewhat concerned about the plethora of liberals who have gone all googly-eyed over the rash of conservative writers that are leading the anti-Trump movement. Steady on, people, they may hate Trump, but it was only a couple of years ago that these same bastions of conservatism were focusing their laser beams on Obama and the Dems. Look up some of Jennifer Rubin's pieces from, say, 2015, if you have any doubts. Some of my brethren have even gone so far as to say out loud, and with a straight face, that they miss George Bush. If you're looking for a reality check, this skit by Will Farrell on SNL should more than suffice.

But, all that aside, I believe I can deliver and honest and objective assessment based on what we already know about the events of that year. Looking back on my writings, what stands out for me was how Romney was trying to have his cake and eat it too. On the one hand, he wanted to run on his record as a Republican governor in a blue state, which I always thought was his strongest argument to make to the electorate. On the other hand, he was running against Rick Santorum, a man who makes Mike Pence look like John Kasich. I once wrote an open letter to Romney in which I implored him to stop trying to move to the right of Santorum. "Air can't run to the right of Rick Santorum," I said.

I wasn't alone in my chastisement. David Frum wrote just before the election, "Mitt Romney's campaign has been one long appeasement of the most selfish and stupid elements of the Republican coalition, and the instinct for appeasement will not terminate with the counting of the votes next Tuesday." Yet Frum still believed that, if elected, Romney could lead effectively, because while he may have pandered to his base to get the nomination, that was not who he was at heart. "Massachusetts Mitt - the Mitt who hurled himself into the battle for universal health coverage within his state - also came from someplace real."

In the end, it was the pandering that cost him the election. After a brilliant performance against Obama in that first debate in Denver where the country finally had a chance to see what Frum called Massachusetts Mitt, Romney couldn't help himself. He had so boxed himself in during the primaries that he was unable to successfully pivot to the center.

But what if Romney had been able to make that transition? What if, instead of picking Paul Ryan as his running mate, he had chose someone like Rob Portman from Ohio? What if, instead of campaigning on repealing Obamacare, he chose to run on fixing it? What if, instead on demonizing Obama like so many in his party were doing, he decided to compliment him on some of the things he had done right and stressed that the country needed someone who could improve things?

I actually think had Romney run that type of campaign, he could've beaten Obama; not by a lot, mind you, but, as we learned in 2016, it doesn't take a lot to win a presidential election. Sometimes it doesn't even take a majority of the popular vote.

So what kind of president would Mitt Romney have made? Well, I tend to agree with Frum. Policy wise, I think it would've been very difficult for him to have pulled his party to the center. The forces that are currently running things over at GOP Central make Barry Goldwater look like Nelson Rockefeller. Romney's tax cut would undoubtedly have been passed, and regulation after regulation would've been undone. As for Obamacare, as we found out in 2017, it's a lot easier to run on repealing something than it is to actually repeal it. I suspect Romney would've had the same difficulty dismantling the ACA in 2013 as Trump had last year.

What I do think could've happened is that Romney would've incorporated some of what was in his law to shore up the law. I actually think the exchanges would be in better shape. Call me optimistic, but I think Romney would've had just enough common sense to know that kicking twenty million people off healthcare to prove a point was a sure fire way to make him a one-term president.

As for foreign policy, I think Romney would've been more hawkish than Obama, but not by a lot. Remember, Obama was hardly a dove. The one thing I will give him credit for: he was right about Russia. They were, and are, our number one geopolitical threat. It's time to admit the painful truth: Putin played Obama, the same way he played Bush.

On the world stage, Romney would've been a fairly accomplished president. In spite of his policy proposals, he would've been well received and well respected. Of course, given how Cadet Bone Spurs has comported himself, that's hardly a high bar. He would've been pro-trade and anti-tarrif, the exact opposite of Trump, and he would've strengthened ties with our allies instead of undermining them. And while I don't think the economy would've grown any faster with him at the helm than with Obama, I do think it would've been in good enough shape that Romney would've won a second term.

In fact, had Romney won in 2012, I seriously doubt the whole Trump movement would've gotten off the ground. Clinton would've still run in 2016 and lost, though in this case she would've lost both the electoral and popular vote. And I actually think that having a stable man in the White House might've encouraged a few of the remaining moderates in the Party to take more of an active role in policy making, especially in the House where the Freedom Caucus has had pretty much a free reign. It also might've incentivized some centrist Democrats to seek bi-partisan consensus with their GOP counterparts. In an ironic sort of way, maybe some of the polarization that has come to define Washington over the years might've been lifted.

Then again, who knows? Maybe Romney would've turned out to be an unmitigated disaster. A more polished version of shit-for-brains, with just enough horse sense not to be a total asshole. In that case, he would've been a one-term president. Either way, the country would've been spared the embarrassment of the last thirteen months.

Isn't it nice to dream, especially on President's Day?