By Buck Shott
September 14, 2011 (San Diego’s East County) –Top Republican presidential candidates this week seemed to be vying to show who was the most heartless. Ron Paul dissed disaster victims, calling for an end to federal aid to survivors of hurricanes and wildfires. Michelle Bachmann suggested lowering the minimum wage might lure corporations back from overseas. Rick Perry disavowed “compassionate conservatism” altogether. All seek to eliminate or slash Social Security.
But the most bloodthirsty of all was the Tea Party crowd at this week’s presidential debate. When CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked whether a 30-year-old man without health insurance should just be allowed to die if he goes into a coma, Tea Party members shouted "Yeah," exhibiting all the zeal of ancient Roman spectators cheering on a a lion vs. gladiator fight.
Presidential Race: Highlights and low lights
Extremists dominate GOP field, as TEA Party loses favor in national poll
Paul’s response to Blitzer's question proved less than reassuring to people in need. “What he should do is whatever he wants to do,” Paul said, though a person in a coma can't exercise free will. “That’s what freedom is all about, taking your own risks.” After the audience screamed for the hypothetical patient’s death, Paul called for self-sufficiency and suggested that churches and friends might also help out. (Point granted that planning ahead is a good idea. But not everyone has the money, and young people tend not to believe that accidents can happen to them. How many of us can pony up hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even millions for a comatose buddy needing long-range care?)
Asked about Hurricane Irene which recently slammed the East Coast, Paul said on Aug. 25, “We should be like 1900.” He told a crowd at a luncheon that no national response from FEMA to help disaster victims should be provided, since we should all be self reliant.
Bachmann went further, suggesting God trashed Washington with dual disasters in retaliation for government spending. “We’ve had an earthquake; we’ve had a hurricane. He said, `Are you going to start listening to me here?” she told true believers in a speech railing against government’s “morbid obesity diet.”
Meanwhile Texas Goveror Rick Perry dismissed “compassionate conservative” touted by President George W. Bush as just more overreach by the federal government, the Washington Post reported.
Not to be outdone on the how-low-can-they-go meter, Michelle Bachmann did her best Cruella DeVille imitation when she suggested she may support lowering the minimum wage to try and entice corporations to move jobs back to the U.S.
Her remarks came just days before news broke that 15% of Americans are now living below the federal poverty standard. Given basic costs of living in virtually every U.S. county, it’s tough to see how paying people even less money would help anybody –except stockholders and corporate executives.
Is it just coincidence that a recent Rasmussen poll of likely voters found that nearly half—43% now view the TEA Party as a negative description for a candidate…making it the worst label a candidate can use? That survey was taken before the most recent debate, where the Tea Party crowd screamed for the death of a young uninsured man.
One GOP candidate bucked the trend toward touting radical views. Former Utah Governor John Huntsman tweeted to followers, “Call me crazy,” adding that he believes in both evolution and global warming. He blasted his fellow Republican candidates for showing “zero leadership” and being willing to let the U.S. default on its debt, then called himself a “center right” candidate while labeling his opponents as “extremists.”
Republicans aren’t the only ones with PR problems as the 2012 presidential election draws nigh.
Obama faces divided field--among his Democratic base
President Barack Obama faces a barrage of criticism not only from Republicans, but also from within his own Democratic party, where progressives and some labor leaders contend he hasn’t been staunch enough in standing up against the Republican-controlled House.
“Will he commit all his energy and focus on bold solutions on the job crisis or will he continue to work with the Tea Party to offer cuts to middle class programs like Social Security all the while pretending the deficit is where our economic problems really lie?" AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka asked at a breakfast roundtable hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. That was before the President introducing his jobs proposal this week.
Trumka later praised the President’s jobs package. “He showed working people that he is willing to go to the mat to create new jobs on a substantial scale.” He called on Congress to act, adding that the middle class has been under attack for decades. “The plan announced by the President is only the opening bid. We expect to see more proposals in the next weeks and months to put America back to work,” he said, adding pointedly, “ Republicans are going to have to stop blocking bills that sustain or create millions of jobs and start offering credible solutions. We don't have time to waste on the same old failed policies of deregulation and lower taxes that drove our economy off the cliff in the first place.”
In California, the Progressive Caucus within the state’s Democratic Party drew fire after it called for an unnamed primary challenger to President Obama. Caucus members feel the President has not done enough to bring troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan or to protect core constituencies such as senior citizens against the GOP cost-cutting onslaught. In retaliation, party leaders have threatened to revoke the Caucus’ certification at the party’s executive board meeting in November—causing a rift within the ranks of party loyalists.
Teamster’s union leader Jimmy Hoffa, meanwhile, stands by his man: President Obama. “We got to keep an eye on the battle that we face: The war on workers. And you see it everywhere, it is the Tea Party,” he said at an event in Michigan, where unemployment is soaring. “There is only one way to beat and win that war. The one thing about working people is we like a good fight…They've got a war with us and there's only going to be one winner. It's going to be the workers of Michigan, and America. We're going to win that war. "President Obama, this is your army. We are ready to march,” Hoffa concluded.
A battle is brewing for East County Congressional votes--and the mud is already flying
Here in East County, a primary battle is shaping up for the Congressional seat being vacated by Democrat Bob Filner, who is running for San Diego Mayor. The newly reapportioned district stretches from the ocean to Imperial County—taking in the southern portions of East County. The heavily Democratic district is expected to stay under Democratic control. This week, State Senator and avowed Congressional candidate Juan Vargas took a swipe at his likely Democratic primary challenger, former State Senator Denise Ducheny.
Vargas called for "termed out, drunk-driving legislators" to vacate the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, where Ducheny holds a seat. Ducheny is one of two members once charged with driving under the influence. But Vargas played fast and loose with the facts. In fact, Ducheny was never convicted of a DUI; the charge was reduced to reckless driving 11 years ago, and she pled guilty to the lesser charge.
Vargas himself has not been above the taint of scandal. In 2008, political opponent Danny Ramirez accused Vargas and an aide of attempting to bribe him into dropping out of a Democratic Congressional primary.
Two candidates duck debate in San Diego mayoral race
On San Diego’s local political front, two mayoral candidates—Republican Nathan Fletcher and Democrat Bob Filner--will square off this Saturday in a 10:30 a.m. debate at Liberty Station during Politifest. Two other would-be candidates, Bonnie Dumanis and Carl DeMaio, have declined. Looks like those “D”s in their last names stand for “dodging.”
The County’s Democrats are holding a convention Saturday at the Jacob Center, where Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones and Congressman/Mayoral candidate Bob Filner are among the top party officials slated to appear.
Tea Party brews up a rally
Tea Party members locally are planning their own rally on October 1st in Escondido's Kit Carson Park. Speakers will be party organizers, not political officials, according to a Facebook posting by Teri Linnell, a Tea Party member who ran unsuccessfully against Duncan Hunter in the 2010 Republican primary.
Will they be cheering for more uninsured folks to lose their lives? Or rallying around cutting off aid to disaster victims? Or objecting to extremist views being advanced on a national stage? Stay tuned.