The Lowe Down

Category: 2012 Campaign (85)

Chan Lowe: The Republican crusade


Here in America, the land of the free, we freely pass laws designed to showcase our detestation for those unlike the majority (for example, my former home state of Oklahoma passed legislation banning Sharia Law⎯as if it were a real threat to the Sooner State, or as if the legislators even knew what it was they were outlawing). The same with sanctimoniously titled and thinly disguised legislation like the “Defense of Marriage Act.”

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Chan Lowe: Kristin Jacobs runs for Congress


When you look at government ethics, some see the law while others see the loopholes.

Take, for example, Broward Commissioner Kristin Jacobs’ recently announced effort to replace the fleeing Allen West as District 22’s congressperson. When my colleague Anthony Man asked whether she’s planning to accept campaign contributions from lobbyists who do business with Broward County, she makes no bones about it. Yes, she said. That’s what you do. It would be political suicide not to.

Now, this isn’t illegal, but it sure has a strong odor. “That’s what you do” is so woven into the fabric of the system that Ms. Jacobs feels no need to explain it, or even to wince at the question.

More significant was Ms. Jacobs’ answer to the question about whether she would resign her current post to run for Congress. Her answer? A firm “No.” When pressed, she said she wanted to preserve her options.

Two thoughts come to mind here: If you’re a county commissioner running for Congress, no lobbyist in his right mind is going to pony up the cash for your campaign unless you remain in office. That’s the only way you still have the juice to make the contribution pay off for the donor. It’s a tacit admission that money does, in fact, buy influence (we all knew that, but pols rarely own up to it publicly).

Second, Ms. Jacobs denied that holding onto her commission seat meant that she had doubts about winning the congressional race. Should she win, Gov. Scott will doubtless appoint a Republican commissioner to replace her.

That’s tantamount to reaching out to her Democratic constituents with one hand⎯asking them for their money and their votes⎯and giving them the finger with the other.

She’ll fit right in on Capitol Hill.

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Chan Lowe: Rick Santorum, cultural throwback


If Rick Santorum really wants to litigate the morality of contraception, that bus left the depot about forty years ago.

He seems to be laboring under some misconceptions about it, too, one being that only unmarried women use birth control. Evidently, they are relying on it as some kind of “get out of responsibility free” card so that they can indulge their libertine ways and contribute to the moral decline of the Great American Nation. Considering that at least one of the Founding Fathers was known to chase his slave around the property while not caring a fig as to whether she was using birth control or not, one has to wonder how much more declining there is left for us to do.

Another delusion Mr. Santorum, and so many of his ideological brethren, suffer under is that only men are capable of making decisions about issues concerning their womenfolk. Women rank in their world-view as somewhere near the status of personal property (remember all that “obey” stuff in the marriage vows?). Witness a congressional hearing about contraceptives the other day wherein all the testimony was provided by men.

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Chan Lowe: Mitt heading for the junk yard in Michigan?


Yes, Mitt Romney did at least wait until after he had dropped out of the presidential nomination race in 2008 before he wrote the op-ed piece in the New York Times wherein he argued that Detroit automakers ought to be allowed to go bankrupt.

That doesn’t mean that his free-market rant still wasn’t both short sighted and in monumentally poor taste to boot.

Even the most laissez-faire business tycoon might admit to the wisdom of saving an industry that employs so many hundreds of thousands of primary, secondary and tertiary American workers at a time when the nation is reeling and desperately needs to preserve what manufacturing capability it still possesses. After all, a depression is one of those rare economic events from which even the wealthy don’t benefit. Sometimes, the ends really do justify the means.

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Chan Lowe: The birth control brouhaha


If you use your imagination, you can almost hear the political gears grinding in the Oval Office over this decision. Valerie Jarrett and Kathleen Sibelius are arguing passionately for the preservation of women’s rights. You owe it to them, Mr. President⎯not just politically, but on principle. It’s everything you stand for in a nutshell.

At the other end of the sofa, Bill Daley and Joe Biden⎯two veteran Catholic pols who should know⎯imploring him to let this battle slide and live to fight another day. “The blue collar types won’t go for this,” they counsel, “even though their wives all use birth control. The Republicans’ll turn this into a ‘war on religion.’ They’ll make the slippery slope argument!”

Evangelical feelings weren’t even considered. After all, their hatred is visceral, and how many times can you vote against the same candidate?

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Chan Lowe: Mitt Romney loses big


You need an ego that stretches from sea to shining sea to even contemplate running for the presidency of this great land, but you also require a hide like a rhinoceros.

Imagine what it must be like to put yourself up on display, election cycle after election cycle, spend a considerable amount of your own fortune to service your ambitions, approach friends and strangers with hand outstretched, ask them to be enablers for your self-indulgence, tramp from hotel to hotel in out-of-the-way places (a lot of them snowy), eat rubber chicken day after day in banquet halls with incredibly boring people, and find out that after all that trouble, most folks still don’t like you.

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Chan Lowe: Mitt Romney's concern for the very poor


And they accuse Barack Obama of not being able to speak without a TelePrompTer. Every time Mitt Romney goes even slightly off script, he utters inanities so maladroit that they almost sound like he spent time polishing them.

It’s actually painful to see Romney step on his tongue with such regularity. Sure, he’s rich⎯but so was FDR, who had a similar upbringing, went to the same schools, and also grew up in posh, protected surroundings. Nevertheless, he had a finely tuned politician’s ear for the vernacular and the daily concerns of those less privileged, and those with no privileges whatsoever.

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Chan Lowe: Allen West jumps districts


Well, at least we know what it’s all about, now. It isn’t about faithfully representing the people of Florida District 22, because he just coldly abandoned them.

It isn’t about never shying away from a challenge, which is what Congressman Allen West was crowing just a few weeks ago when the Florida Legislature redrew his district to include more Democratic voters.

It’s about putting his career in Congress first and foremost. It’s been about that ever since he first decided not to run in his own home district. Evidently, the war veteran found the self-described “Jewish mom from Plantation,” Debbie Wasserman Schultz, more fearsome, even, than Iraqi militants.

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Chan Lowe: Romney wins ugly in the Florida primary


It’s obvious what Mitt Romney’s advisers decided to do in Florida. In order to prevent fatal wounding by a thousand cuts over a period of months, they elected to win quick and, if necessary, to win dirty. Yes, in the short run, those suffering the nine-day scorched-earth lead-in to the Florida primary might conclude that Romney was, as Newt put it, ruthlessly “carpet-bombing” with negative ads and presenting nothing positive about his own vision for America. But negative advertising has been proven over and over again to work, even though voters claim to dislike it. By November, general election voters wouldn’t even recall the Florida ugliness, so went the reasoning.

With attackers from his own party out of the way, Romney would have the luxury of attacking only President Obama (always a crowd pleaser), and unveiling his own rationale for wanting to be president (we’re still waiting).

Romney’s people weren’t counting on the durability of Newt’s rage. Had Romney won in an honest, clean way, Newt might have gracefully folded his tent and offered his support in exchange for a juicy cabinet post. But they also knew that Romney’s support was so lukewarm that he ran a high risk of losing unless he went nasty.

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Chan Lowe: The Florida Primary is upon us


While the Florida Republican primary is a spectator sport for many of us here in the Sunshine State, there’s a sense that we all may be witnessing history in the making.

If Mitt Romney clinches it, which, as of this writing, it looks like he will, it could represent the high water mark for tea party influence in the GOP. Yes, he won it dirty by outspending Newt Gingrich five-to-one, but winning by stuffing obscene amounts of money into the system has an honorable history here.

Romney’s victory will be a triumph of blandness, and a late-in-the-game spasm of muscle flexing by what is left of the Republican establishment⎯a group of old bulls that still has trouble accepting that their dalliance with the tea party was a Faustian pact.

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Chan Lowe: Newt's unlikely bedfellows


There is a rich history of political parties trying to influence the opposition’s winnowing process, in order to ensure that the least viable candidate is ultimately presented as the nominee.

No one should be surprised that the Democrats are running negative ads about Mitt Romney in hopes of aiding Newt Gingrich’s candidacy. Even with all his obvious shortcomings, Romney is the wannabe most likely to attract the all-important center that determines electoral outcomes (now that Jon Huntsman is out of the race). A Gingrich nomination would make the general election Obama’s to lose, and if Gingrich came up short in the primaries, at least the Dems will have gotten a head start taking Romney apart.

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Chan Lowe: The Romney/Gingrich smackdown


So what did happen to all the heavy hitters? How did the Republican race get populated by all these pygmies? If Barack Obama is as reviled as the GOP contends, he should be easy to depose, right?

Yet, truly credible candidates like Jeb Bush have decided to sit this race out. Maybe Jeb sees something the rabble can’t, because it’s blinded by rage. It can’t all be about his last name, even though his feckless brother is the one responsible for running two wars on the credit card and giving the wealthy a tax cut that further bankrupted us. Some Republicans who yearn for the good old days, when a president actually looked like a president ought to, might think there was poetic justice in a sibling swooping in to clean up his brother’s mess.

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Chan Lowe: Prepare for the Florida Republican Primary


The problem with Florida is that it comprises a pastiche of viewpoints and backgrounds from all across the country, reflecting its transplant makeup. It has no indigenous political character of its own, so it needs to follow someone else’s cue. Florida usually validates the front runner in a race, because as I’ve said before, Floridians are so lackadaisical that they tend to vote for the person they’ve heard of (Exhibit A: Governor Rick Scott, who bought the airwaves before his election. Now you can’t find anybody who’ll admit to having supported him).

An exception to this rule is Rudolph Giuliani, who came down here when he was running for president, expecting to corral Florida and its rich trove of delegates because there were so many transplants from the New York area, and he figured they’d know who he was. Ultimately, that turned out to be his Achilles’ heel. They certainly did know who he was.

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Chan Lowe: The Iowa miscount


He who lives by the stats, must also die by the stats. Mitt Romney was crowing after the New Hampshire primary that he had “made history,” which is to say that no Republican candidate had snagged both Iowa and New Hampshire since Abraham Lincoln or somebody. All this because he had won the Iowa caucuses by eight votes. Evidently, it is hard to do this because only a political contortionist can tie himself in enough knots to appeal to both the God-fearing agrarians of Iowa and the flinty pragmatists of the Granite State.

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Chan Lowe: Mitt Romney's tax returns


One can only assume that Mitt Romney is stalling on the release of his tax returns until he is the official nominee of the Republican Party, because by then it will be too late to trade him in when the nation finds out that he’s been getting a pretty easy ride. Americans are used to rich guys running for president. They don’t even mind so much that their income keeps pouring in over the transom while they just sit there on their bankbooks.

What ticks people off, though, is a skewed, preferential system that enables the idle rich to skate off with a much lower tax rate than those who actually have to get out of bed every day to earn a living. That’s a tough one to justify, even to ultra-conservatives. As Newt Gingrich said, “Why don’t we all pay a 15 percent tax rate?” Yeah, why don’t we?

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Chan Lowe: Allen West, vice-president?


God bless Allen West. For someone who’s supposed to be a politician, his utterances can be most impolitic. Maybe the rough edges are a source of his appeal.

While his “Joseph Goebbels would be proud of the Democrat Party” comments were still reverberating through South Florida and beyond, West fell for a set-up that any solon worth his salt could have batted aside with ease. What if Romney tapped him to be his running mate, he was asked. This is the kind of question that custom dictates should be deflected with extreme modesty, no matter how much the responder may hunger for the job. A simple, “What, are you out of your mind?” or, “I won’t even entertain that question, it’s so far out of the realm of possibility,” is the standard riposte.

But instead, Col. West got all soldierly, and said something clunky and revealing about how he wouldn’t turn his back if his country asked him to step up. Which means he’s been thinking about it.

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Chan Lowe: Romney under Republican attack


It appears that the Republican primary comedy warm-up act is finally drawing to a close, and the party is reverting to its usual modus operandi, to wit: The nomination is going to the man who ran the last time and lost. Unlike Democrats, who send their fallen warriors off into the wilderness to be forgotten (see Dukakis, Michael), Republicans believe in crowning he who waits his turn, and awarding him a second or third chance.

Some disgruntled also-rans, however, have failed to get the message. A couple of them, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich, have gone so far as to accuse the Heir Apparent of being too ruthless a businessman, as if there were something unseemly about that in the eyes of anybody but a liberal, or a communist (a redundancy to this crowd).

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Chan Lowe: The Mitt steamroller


That giant sigh you hear is from right wing true believers who are just cottoning onto the fact that no matter how passionate they are, no matter how loudly they scream, the great, woolly political machine is going to deny them their hopes and dreams.

They wanted, just once, to feel good about whom they were voting for. No more compromises (that awful, Communistic word). They didn’t even care if their man or woman won the general election. They just wanted to settle down in front of the flat screen next October, break out the pork rinds, and watch their champion kick that skinny holier-than-thou foreigner’s butt all over the debate set.

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Chan Lowe: GOP kills the payroll tax cut extension


You’d have to be one heck of a purist to turn down a thousand bucks from Uncle Sam in the form of a payroll tax cut extension just because it might swell the deficit a little. After all, the deficit is some abstract, imaginary thing like the monster that lives under your bed, while we’re talking real money, here. Free money. You can use it to buy food, a couple of iPads, or a mess of lotto tickets⎯which is the only retirement plan many Americans have left these days.

We taxpayers are a little weary of bending over backwards to bail out financial institutions and make sure their executives have a happy holiday, so it’s about time we got a piece of the action, paltry as it may be.

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Chan Lowe: Newt Gingrich panics the GOP


If you cup your hand to your ear, you can hear the harrumphing in the men’s grill down at the club. “Who does this Gingrich think he is? He isn’t playing by the rules! And whatever happened to St. Ron’s eleventh commandment, you know, ‘Never speak ill of another Republican?’ Can you believe he accused Mitt of earning his wealth by shutting down companies and laying off workers? That’s Communist talk. Clearly, Gingrich is only out for himself!

“Remember the last time he was in power? He almost ruined us. If, God forbid, the rabble takes over the primaries and he wins the nomination, not only would it guarantee a Democrat win, we could lose the House and the Senate filibuster as well. Then that upstart community organizer squatting in the White House would have free rein to steal our wealth and lavish it on the welfare queens.

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Chan Lowe: Mitt Romney's high-stakes bet


There’s a reason why so-called “Gotcha” questions are important in campaigns. It speaks to the dual nature of the office of the president as head of state as well as head of government.

This person, whoever he or she may be, is expected not only to be leader of the free world⎯to possess an omniscient view of the shifting sands of global developments⎯ but to be “one of us,” sprung from the masses and chosen by us to point the way forward. So when a member of the media asks if a candidate for this high office knows the price of a gallon of milk or gas, it’s just as critical to constructing the framework we use for assessing a potential leader as a question about the U.S. trade imbalance with China. Smart pols now verse themselves on the prices of typical consumer goods in case the dreaded question should ever arise.

Those who were around for the presidency of George H.W. Bush remember with a cringe his sense of wonderment the first time he saw a grocery store scanner in action. It was an inadvertent slip, but it was damaging because it added to the already-popular narrative that Bush was out of touch with the American people.

Mitt Romney has tried everything to appear as though he were an average American. He’s lost the tie on occasion, he sometimes wears plaid shirts, he sports khaki Dockers. He even purposefully mis-arranged one cliff of his trademark Brylcreemed hair sculpture.

All it took was one ten-thousand-dollar bet, though, to reinforce his card-carrying membership in the hated one percent. You could almost see the wheels turning in his head: “I know, I’ll bet the S.O.B. ten bucks. No, let’s make it $10,000! That’ll really prove my point.”

That the relative amounts made so little difference to him is exactly his problem. It was a mere throwaway line, but it was a revealing window to his soul. He’ll have a devil of a time neutralizing its effects.

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Chan Lowe: President Gingrich's inaugural


Thank you, Newt, for ensuring that Mitt Romney does not win the nomination in a cakewalk. He doesn’t deserve it.

Yesterday, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey⎯in his sad, yet trenchant endorsement comments⎯exhorted caucus-goers to vote for Romney because he was the only Republican who would not embarrass Americans in the Oval Office. This is not a good enough reason for him to coast into the finals. Besides, you know exactly who that blowhard was talking about, don’t you, Newt?

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Chan Lowe: The Trump GOP debate


If you had any doubts that this primary season is unlike any we’ve ever seen, this latest development, “Presidential Candidate Apprentice,” should clinch it for you. There may be an upside: The crass conflation of civics and entertainment could engage more of the electorate.

The downside, of course, is that choosing the leader of this nation is a pretty serious matter. To relegate any part of the process to a self-inflated showman and attention-seeker is tantamount to admitting that that if America declines to the status of second-rate power, it will be because its people willingly abrogated their responsibility to govern themselves responsibly.

Should the Trumpapalooza turn out to be the circus everyone is predicting, then the craven candidates who slithered onto his stage, fearing retribution if they did not show, will be diminished by the event. The big beneficiary could be Jon Huntsman, who has refused to appear.

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Chan Lowe: The latest unemployment figures


Assigning blame to the other side when things go badly and taking credit for good news, even when credit is not due, is the stuff of politics. Any party would and should do this; it’s what parties are for.

Things get tricky, of course, when your victory strategy of hanging responsibility for the nation’s ills on the president involves, in effect, rooting for hard times to continue until your side takes power. It can look a tad unpatriotic, in fact. The only thing to do when rare glad tidings are announced is to keep your mouth shut and hope that unhappier days lie just around the corner.

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Chan Lowe: Kiss the Hermanator goodbye


I’m going to miss the Hermanator. There’s no question he was the most entertaining figure in the race. The machine-gun accusations about his inappropriate sexual behavior and marital infidelity would have sunk a more moderate candidate far sooner, but fortunately he was the darling of ultra-right family-values types, and they tend to gloss over those foibles when it’s one of their own.

Of course, it’s hard to blame an affair of 13 years’ duration on the liberal media conspiracy, so it looks like this, not the back-of-the-limo couch rugby sessions, is what will finally bring our dauntless warrior down.

Mr. Cain, who may have invented his candidacy as a gimmick to spur book sales, either didn’t intend to become anything more than an asterisk in the race, or he possesses such an overarching ego that he assumed he could bully his way past the inevitable scrutiny into his past that a front-runner always attracts. Whichever alternative you choose makes him supremely unsuited to serve as the leader of the Free World, and we aren’t even talking about the women.

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Chan Lowe: Anybody but Mitt


It’s probably a smart move that Mitt Romney has revamped his Iowa strategy. Originally, he was going to let the crazies have Iowa and make his big move in New Hampshire.

The problem is that for the short period between the Iowa caucuses and the (presumably more rational) New Hampshire primary, he will have ceded all the media turf to whichever anti-Mitt happens to have captured lightning in a bottle for that particular moment, watering down his brand as the Inevitable One.

Contrary to popular belief, other people vote in the Iowa Republican caucuses (it turns out the plural is not “cauci” because it’s a Native American word, not a Latin one) besides Christian conservatives, so even a so-called heretic like Romney has a chance there if he devotes enough resources to the project.

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Chan Lowe: Herman Cain and the Secret Service


The story in the paper simply said that Herman Cain was the first Republican candidate to be given a protective Secret Service detail. We’re all left to wonder why, since he’s dropping in the polls. Could it be…? Nah. As conservatives will be quick to tell you, there are no racists in their ranks. Since the Democrats would swoon at a Cain nomination, it does leave one scratching one’s head as to who would bother to eliminate him by force.

The one who really ought to be embarrassed is Mitt Romney, who, after ceaselessly running for president all these years, still can’t manage to amass the gravitas to be threatened by anyone.

Someday, Mitt, you too may rate protection.

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Chan Lowe: The curse of the "no new taxes" pledge


Sometimes you have to wonder if, down deep in their craven hearts, Republican members of Congress don’t regret having made that Faustian pact with Grover Norquist and his no-new-taxes pledge. Here they sit in their cushy jobs, big fish in their hometown ponds, and they uncomfortably find themselves in crisis mode, charged with the mission of saving the country for future generations with their hands tied behind their backs.

Their rational side must know that the only solution to our fiscal death-spiral involves a mix of cuts and new revenue, but they run smack up against that old survival instinct. If they choose to do the statesmanlike thing, it follows that they’ll self-destruct with their constituents.

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Chan Lowe: Cain's foreign policy


Even though Herman Cain is in the midst of his final meltdown as flavor of the month, I had to get in this last lick (sorry) before he completely dropped out of sight to join Michele Bachmann in well-deserved obscurity.

Yesterday’s performance with the editorial board of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was so spectacularly inept, particularly for a person who tries to present himself as the potential leader of the free world, that it couldn’t be allowed to pass without notice.

All I can conclude is that the conservatives really, really hate Mitt Romney—so much so that they have embraced a succession of candidates that resembles nothing if not the stream of characters that emerges, miraculously, from the tiny car at the circus. Let’s hope it’s just to send a message and that they aren’t really serious. Are we in for calliopes at the inaugural ball?

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Chan Lowe: More "personhood"


There’s only so much you can write about the hypocrisy of conservatives who want government to stay out of our lives unless it’s to impose restrictions on a woman’s right to an abortion, or to prevent gays from getting married, so let’s give that up for now.

Instead, let’s focus on how the rights of the unborn seem to outweigh those of the born. Once a nine-month-old “person” has been brought into this world, he or she, if unfortunate enough to have been born poor, is likely to avail him- or herself of government programs. Neo-natal programs, food stamps, child-care allowances—unfortunately, they all represent that repugnant redistribution of wealth conservatives love to rail about.

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Chan Lowe: Cain's and Perry's memory problem


You have to be a little tetched in the head to even want to be president in the first place. Either that, or have an ego the size of Wyoming. Maybe that kind of self-confidence and hubris is inherited; it originates as some minute kink in a man’s double-helix that matches up with a mutant carbon molecule in a woman’s and⎯voila!⎯a person is created who can actually imagine himself not only with his finger on the nuclear button that will end the world, but who even believes he knows when and when not to press it.

When you think of it that way, the characters who have presented themselves as the great Republican hope for 2012 create an even deeper appreciation of the political truth that Candidate Obama has always been blessed in his opponents.

On another matter, a shout out the students and faculty of Pinecrest School in Fort Lauderdale, who received me so graciously yesterday when I delivered a lecture to them about my work. I hope I inspired at least one of them to pursue a career in cartooning. If so, he or she won’t regret it.

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Chan Lowe: "Personhood"


One of the advantages⎯or, maybe, curses⎯of getting older is that wisdom enables you to better appreciate where people with opinions at odds with your own are coming from.

You still may not agree with them, but your respect for their point of view grows as you realize that the world is a much more complex place than you ever imagined. Maybe this is why older folks are so much angrier than the young about our politicians’ inability to compromise with each other and find a path forward that is best for the country.

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Chan Lowe: Because he Cain


Back at the turn of the century, I was sitting at a dinner table with a group of distinguished journalists. The Monica Lewinsky scandal was still a fresh topic of discussion, and I was struck by the way some in the group blindly minimized the significance of Clinton’s misdeeds.

Several of my companions felt that the country had overreacted to the President’s peccadilloes. “After all, it was consensual,” one said. “It certainly didn’t rise to the level of impeachment.”

I reminded my colleague that whether or not one agreed that Clinton’s behavior in the Oval Office merited disapproval, he was impeached not for doing whatever-it-was (remember, according to the Semanticist-in-Chief, it wasn’t “sexual relations”), but for lying before a grand jury.

“Yeah, well, I still think they made too much of it,” she replied. She also allowed as how she had met Clinton at a gathering once, and that he had an uncanny ability to make every woman feel like she was the only one in the room.

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Chan Lowe: The Cain harassment controversy


I’m back in the saddle again, to quote another sometime Oklahoman. Unlike Gene Autry, however, I have no towns named after me in the Sooner State, and I don’t suspect that’s about to change, Hall of Fame or no Hall of Fame.

This latest Herman Cain brouhaha could end up telling us as much about ourselves as it does about him. I am glad that Mr. Cain is vehemently denying the charges against him, because it will give the story legs.

Those of us who are old enough to remember can’t help but hearken back twenty years to the infamous Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings, wherein a harassed woman had her reputation trashed by a Senate panel instead of achieving her goal of disqualifying a candidate for a position on the highest bench in the land.

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Chan Lowe: Herman Cain's immigration solution


Now Herman Cain is saying that his applause line about putting up an electrified fence across the border was a joke, and that America needs to get a sense of humor. It may well be that Cain’s highly selective audience of Republican primary voters found the idea of setting a fatal trap for potential illegal aliens a real knee-slapper, but in this age of cell phone videos and social media, a remark made to an amen corner is also a remark made to the world…just ask President George “Macaca” Allen.

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Chan Lowe: Dr. King and the Republican agenda


I do not pretend to be well versed in the oratory and written work of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but I wouldn’t be surprised if somewhere in his legacy he mentioned the importance of vigilance.

The victories he helped his fellow Americans to achieve were hard-fought. Lives were lost, including his own. Those holding power were not prepared to relinquish it; it had to be wrested from them.

Now, fifty years after the great battles of the mid-20th Century and the Voting Rights Act, we are in danger of backsliding on the progress Dr. King and his adherents made, as Republican legislatures across the land seek to restrict access to the polls by those who, historically, have been known to vote Democratic. The requirement that voters have photo IDs is an onerous one designed to suppress voting by those who don’t have drivers’ licenses (many of them residents of inner cities). Here in Florida, the ban on early voting the Sunday before election day was specifically directed at African Americans who traditionally go to the polls after church.

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Chan Lowe: Cain's 9-9-9 scam


The Republican Right appears to have an endless, mystifying capacity to blindly vote against its own interests. Herman Cain, the millionaire businessman (and don’t you forget it), is riding at the top of the primary polls right now not because the plan he espouses is best for America, but because he has managed to wrap his oligarchic scam in a Twinkie package irresistible to the base.

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Chan Lowe: Allen West, star fundraiser


My colleague, political writer Tony Man, has a story in today’s paper about how freshman Congressman Allen West raised a whopping $1.9 million in the last three months, ranking him as one of the top national fundraisers. He now has a total of $4.1 million in his reelection kitty, swamping his two Democratic challengers.

I would guess that only a small fraction of West’s war chest was generated in the district he represents, Florida 22 (I would say “home district,” but by now must of us know that would be a misnomer). Rep. West has done an excellent job of burnishing a national profile as one of the tea party’s most valiant foot soldiers, and as such he enjoys a broad financial base.

One has to wonder, at a practical level, how much advantage this mountainous sum will accord him. After all, just about everyone in his district knows who he is, and he is such a polarizing figure that his constituents have probably made up their minds about whether or not they’re going to vote for him without even knowing who is challenger is going to be.

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Chan Lowe: Rick Perry's fading lone star


I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Rick Perry is toast. This really isn’t that risky a position, and here’s why:
Both Perry and Mitt Romney have big war chests, but ever since Golden Boy And Possible Vice-Presidential Candidate Chris Christie endorsed Romney, the establishment Republicans have been falling into line.

The logic was clear all along. Presidential elections⎯because there is no way that only two contestants can make three hundred million people happy⎯have always been about holding your nose and voting for the person whose face on the TV is least likely to make you toss your Hamburger Helper for the next four years.

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Chan Lowe: Sarah Palin goes for the greenbacks


Nobody is more dismayed about this turn of events than I am. Along with the rest of my colleagues in the editorial cartooning business, I was fervently hoping⎯no, praying⎯that Ms. Palin would conclude that the only way to save America from its socialistic death spiral was for her to offer herself up in patriotic service to the nation and constitution she holds so dear.

Little did I realize that Ms. Palin’s brand of demonstrating her allegiance is of the more mundane kind, that being the amassing of as many images of Benjamin Franklin and other famous dead presidents as she can.

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Chan Lowe: Chris Christie bows out


I don’t blame Chris Christie. The white-hot media scrutiny was just beginning to crank up, and it wasn’t going to be pretty. In the end, he still gets to misuse a state helicopter to fly to his son’s sporting events, and that’s almost as good as having Air Force One without the attendant hassles.

It looks like this is the best the Republicans are going to do, so they might as well start getting that lovin’ feeling. How frustrating it must be to have your opponent in the White House with a 42 percent approval rating, the economy in the toilet, and all you can scrape up are these two characters.

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Chan Lowe: Chris Christie...GOP savior?


That aroma wafting through the air is the sharp odor of desperation mixed with the bitter stench of frustration. The economy is in lousy shape, and with the help of small acts of political sabotage here and there, it doesn’t look like it’s going to get any better by November 2012. The Chosen One presents a plump target up on his throne: He’s low-hanging fruit ripe for the plucking.

Yet, at this opportune moment, when the stars are in perfect alignment, the only generals the GOP can find to lead the charge are a buffoon whose English syntax follows rules known only to God and a guy who looks and sounds like he escaped from the animatronic Hall of Presidents at Disney World.

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Chan Lowe: Perry receives the Mark of Cain


Rick Perry’s descent in Republican popularity polls has been nothing short of breathtaking. It’s as though the far right, in its zeal to embrace anyone who had a chance of unseating the hated Pretender in the White House, woke up the morning after a heavy date with a supermodel and saw her for the first time without any makeup.

Not only has he shown himself to be so remarkably inept on his feet that he makes George W. Bush look like William Jennings Bryan, Perry has committed the unpardonable sin of being morally suspect on some issues that are sacred to his rapidly eroding base.

How can somebody call himself a Christian conservative, as Perry does, if he performs a reasonable and generous act like allowing the children of undocumented aliens (who live in the state through no fault of their own) to attend Texas universities and pay resident tuition fees? Where in the Bible did Jesus say, “Blessed are the illegal immigrants, for they, too, are the children of God?” Don’t bother to look it up. You can’t find it, ’cause it ain’t in there.

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Chan Lowe: Bibi's stamp of approval


It’s in keeping with the bizarre way the 2012 elections are shaping up that the most important endorsement any candidate of either party has managed to land so far is from a foreigner.

Considering that President Obama cannot win reelection without Florida’s electoral votes, and that our recession-ravaged state could easily swing either way a year from now, anything that might get disillusioned Sunshine State Obama voters off their sofas and down to the polls could spell the difference between national victory and defeat.

This is purely anecdotal, but I talk to a lot of people down here in New York’s sixth borough, and their sentiments about the president’s handling of Israel⎯and the Middle East conflict in general⎯range from bewilderment to disappointment to anger to disgust. “He hasn’t even visited Israel as president yet. What’s he thinking?” one person said to me. Symbolism means a lot in this thorny corner of politics.

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Chan Lowe: Obama's "class war"


“Class war.” How absurd. House Speaker John Boehner has said that pitting different income levels against one another is “not the American way.” He conveniently omits that America has been in a class war for years now, and the top 1 percent has been winning it to the detriment of the lower 80 percent. For his sponsors, it is very much the American way.

Obama’s advisers have tried, perhaps naively, to present the president as a reasonable compromiser, hoping that Republicans would respond in kind. That might have worked 50 years ago, when everybody saw benefit in getting along, but the problem now is that petulance and intransigence have been overwhelmingly effective in today’s politics. All that strategy did was to make him look weak.

The key, then, is to be equally petulant and intransigent, but in a way that resonates with the vast swath of the American people. The top one percent, while they do have most of the cards stacked in their favor, still have only one vote each, just like the poorest among us (at least, those who haven’t been disenfranchised by Republican vote suppression efforts).

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Chan Lowe: The new poverty numbers


I’ve indulged in a thought exercise lately. What if, in 2012, a disgruntled and notoriously fickle electorate, fed up with high jobless numbers, decided that it had had it with the Obama Administration’s flounderings and voted in a Rick Perry or Mitt Romney as president? What if all the so-called anti-voter fraud laws promulgated by Republican legislatures in the various states worked as intended, disenfranchising core Democratic voters so that both houses of Congress went Republican (and a filibuster-proof Senate were created)?

If we gave the Republicans the full set of keys to the store, with unfettered access to every nook and cranny, what would they do with the privilege? Would they whack taxes on wealthy “job creators” and corporations to absolute zero? After all, if lower taxes theoretically (if not empirically) create more jobs, then logically no taxes whatsoever ought to yield a tidal wave of them, bringing in so much revenue from a newly employed middle class that the ban on upper-level taxes can continue indefinitely.

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Chan Lowe: Rick Perry's HPV problem


Gov. Rick Perry is taking heat from conservatives over his signing of a law mandating anti-HPV vaccinations for Texas girls, which shows how easy it is to run afoul of principles that can’t even stand alongside each other.

Either you don’t mind a robust role for government in people’s lives, or you do. Perry did a sensible thing--a progressive thing--by requiring the vaccinations, but what those on the right are complaining about is that his law included an opt-out for parents, rather than an opt-in. One would assume that only a minority of parents are so benighted that they would sacrifice their children’s health because of the belief that an HPV shot increases the likelihood of sexual promiscuity. Therefore, an opt-out makes more sense from a public health standpoint.

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Chan Lowe: Ronald Reagan and today's Republican Party


My dog Tallulah and I enjoyed watching the Republican debate the other night. For us, political debates fulfill the same role that watching Survivor does for those who don’t have to do this kind of thing for a living. Tallulah’s ears, I noticed, picked up whenever Rick Perry weighed in. As I said to Mrs. Lowe-Down, it must have been a Pavlovian response to that conservative dog-whistle of his.

The way the organizers set up the debate, the candidates who ranked highest in the polls were positioned in the center, with the also-rans trailing out to the edges. I found it ironic that each of the eight (was it eight?) wannabes was falling all over him- and herself to invoke the sainted Ronald Reagan’s name. If Reagan were running in the Republican field today, he wouldn’t even be allowed on the stage. He’d be way out in left field somewhere near the restrooms.

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Chan Lowe: The President's big jobs speech II


When you get right down to it, there isn’t much a president can do to affect the economy in a government that is both divided by design and, as in our current situation, politically.

It ultimately boils down to “optics,” which is political jargon for how something looks to the average citizen—for example, giving a ballyhooed speech in hopes that prospective 2012 voters will come away with the impression that the president actually has his hands on the controls of commerce and is playing them like the stops of a pipe organ.

His only tools—or weapons, if you wish⎯are cajolery and shame. Judging by recent events in Congress with the debt ceiling debacle, cajolery is out as far as Republicans in the House are concerned. They will not countenance anything that might help burnish President Obama’s image with the public, even if it happens to be best for the country.

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Chan Lowe: The President's big jobs speech


This is one of those times in our nation’s history when I wish women were running things. No, by that I don’t mean that through some cruel twist of fate, a President Bachmann faces off against a Speaker Pelosi after next November. Those two ladies have lived and succeeded in the cage match of Washington politics for too long, and already have too much testosterone thumping through their veins.

I’m talking about sensible, mature women who don’t view the stewardship of this country as a zero-sum game. The kind of women who first sit down together and pull out pictures of their grandchildren, ooh and aah over them, and then leave them out there on the table so that they never forget what their meeting is really about.

After the pleasantries, they listen carefully to each other (an art which has been lost of late), take all their concerns into account with respect even for those they don’t agree with, and work out a way to make things happen where everybody wins something. It is possible, if one keeps one’s eye on the ball rather than on one’s own ego and the scoreboard.

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Chan Lowe: Rep. West considers leaving the Black Caucus


This development shouldn’t come as any surprise. The Congressional Black Caucus⎯all Democrats except for Rep. Allen West⎯comprises, for the most part, members of Congress who represent black constituencies and fight for black interests and aspirations.

Rep. West is a tea party-backed conservative who ran in a politically split district that is majority white. He happens to be an African American, and while he does not downplay his heritage, he tends to identify himself more by his ideology and military background than his race.

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Chan Lowe: Oil drilling in the Everglades?


Fortunately, we don’t have to worry too much about what Michele Bachmann has to say, because ultimately she will never be president.

Ever since Rick Perry entered the race, any chance she might have had to corral the potent combination of cultural and fiscal conservatives evaporated. This is partly because, when given the choice, those who might have voted for her probably feel subconsciously or even consciously that womenfolk belong in a support position while the man should lead. It gives Perry a huge edge, the kind of edge he will have when these same voters find all kinds of reasons not to vote for Mitt Romney other than that he’s a Mormon.

So when Michele Bachmann calls for drilling in the Everglades⎯ which, as some outside Florida may not know, is our source of drinking water besides being a national resource⎯we can, thankfully, ignore her. Of course, she qualified her statement with the amusing locution, “drilling responsibly.”

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Chan Lowe: Michele Bachmann's joke


So, was Michele Bachmann serious when she claimed that the earthquake and Hurricane Irene were acts of God designed to get Congress’ attention about overspending, or was she making a joke?

The fact that there is even controversy about this says something about where many of us think Michele Bachmann’s reality compass is pointing. If it was intended “in jest,” as her campaign publicist now claims, I don’t recommend that Ms. Bachmann take her act to the Catskills just yet. In these situations, it’s best to keep quiet, but if you find that you must tell a joke making light of a catastrophe that has claimed dozens of lives, it had better be a real knee-slapper, which this one wasn’t. It showed remarkable insensitivity to those who lost loved ones.

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Chan Lowe: Why government is broken


My favorite reason for government gridlock isn’t the growth of politically-slanted cable TV networks and radio shows that brainwash their viewers and listeners. It’s the adoption of computer-assisted statistical analysis for the purposes of congressional apportionment.

There’s so much detailed data available on U.S. citizens that, to use a cliché, operatives from both national parties can “drill down” to the point where they can practically draw congressional district lines right through a family’s house if there happens to be a mother-in-law living in the back who votes for the other party.

All this is designed to protect the careers of members of congress rather than serve the rabble, of course, but it has the effect of permanently installing politicians who only have to answer to the core believers around whom the gerrymandered borders of their districts were drawn.

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Chan Lowe: Infamous Bachmann Newsweek cover


There are several sub-themes to the growing Newsweek/Bachmann controversy that bear exploring.

I’m speaking of the now-famous cover photo that portrays presidential candidate Michele Bachmann looking…well…fervent. Her supporters are claiming that the Newsweek editors are subtly trying to sabotage Ms. Bachmann’s campaign with the general public by portraying her as unhinged.

In addition, the National Organization for Women has rushed to her defense saying the photo is “sexist.” Evidently, sexism trumps Roe v. Wade in the pantheon of NOW priorities. It’s hard to see, however, how the photo is sexist. You want a sexist photo? Look at the cheesecake number Newsweek did a few months ago of Sarah Palin in hot pants.

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Chan Lowe: Tea party bomb throwers


It helps to look at the tea party congressional freshmen, who form the core of the opposition to a sane, reasonable resolution to the debt ceiling problem, the way one looks at terrorists: individuals who are so committed to their cause that their own martyrdom in its service is considered an acceptable sacrifice.

These are especially dangerous groups, because in the past both the political process and the nation’s security have been predicated on the idea that the actors wish to live to see another day. When some guy lights his shoe on an airplane, or pursues a catastrophic political course in the name of his dogma without caring if he’s reelected, it becomes much more difficult to defend the established order.

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Chan Lowe: Republican campaign pledge fever


Here’s your problem, which is actually several problems rolled into one: You’re a Republican, running for president. You’re either so naïve, or your messiah complex is so in need of servicing, that you actually think you can run the country. Not just run it, but improve it. On top of that, you think you can do a better job of running it and improving it than anyone else in the race.

Any one of these things is enough to make you a pariah at a cocktail party, but in this context you’re taken semi-seriously, particularly if you’re able to scare up money in support of your delusion or are willing to throw in plenty of your own.

So, you’re set to bequeath your sterling personality to a nation that you believe clearly needs you, when WHAP!⎯the Iowa caucuses smack you in the face. They’re the first big hurdle, and if you don’t make a respectable showing in Iowa, the American People, unfortunately, will move on, never knowing how close they came to choosing a great leader.

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Chan Lowe: Michele Bachmann's therapy session


Cultural conservatives are unwilling to accept, or even to entertain, the notion that same-sex attraction is programmed into one’s biological makeup the same as eye color, or a preference for anchovies. To continue to insist that being gay is a willful choice, or at least the result of confusion or weakness, allows one to develop a so-called moral argument that gayness is a sin that can be conditioned out the way one housebreaks a dog.

Let us set aside Scripture for a moment. To use “Because the Bible says so,” as a basis for discussion is like shooting craps with loaded dice, particularly since many people don’t accept the Bible’s words as sacred, and the Constitution, at least for the moment, still says it can’t be shoved down our throats. Conservatives like to argue that the sole purpose of marriage is procreation, and therefore same-sex marriage is a crime against society.

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Chan Lowe: Rogue tea partiers


It’s like the movie, Chucky. The ventriloquist’s dummy acquires a vengeful mind of its own, and turns on its masters.

Chucky is today’s tea party. Created, bought and paid for by corporate and Wall Street fat cats to keep their taxes down and enable them to maximize the accumulation of wealth, the puppet has begun doing its job too well. It has taken the tax pledge so much to heart that it has now painted itself, its patrons and the nation into a corner of its own making.

Frantic letters are being sent and backroom pressure applied by worried plutocrats, calling upon the tea party freshmen to bend on the tax issue and avoid a default. “For God’s sake,” they plead, “don’t kill the goose! If you push this too far, the economy will crash, and that won’t be good for anybody. Even we won’t be able to weather it. We’re willing to take a small hit to keep the golden eggs coming!”

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Chan Lowe: Rick Scott, American hero


Without even trying, Florida Gov. Rick Scott could turn out to be a national hero.

That’s right, after a mere seven months in office, he’s become so unpopular in the Sunshine State that he’s now a liability to his party. The Republican hierarchy is worried that, thanks to his abuses, Floridians in November of 2012 will fail to pull the lever for the Republican nominee at all, or worse, vote for Obama in retaliation.

There is no strategy for a Republican to win the required number of electoral votes next year without taking Florida. In effect, Scott may singlehandedly save feckless Obama-hating Americans from accidentally electing the likes of a Bachmann or a Palin.

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Chan Lowe: Obama threads the needle on gay marriage


Talk about being in an awkward position. Here’s President Obama, trying to smooth over a group of gay activists in Manhattan, and instead of being greeted like a hero, he’s forced to endure jeers and catcalls for not giving them the Full Monty on same-sex marriage. Hours later, New York legalizes it, leaving him eating dust and playing social catch-up to Dick Cheney, of all people.

This is one of those times when heading the great Democratic coalition can be...challenging, to say the least. Let’s not forget that⎯unlike Republicans⎯the Democrats are a loose alliance of interest groups that have banded together to push their own agendas by agreeing to help others with theirs, much like a nationwide Amish barn-raising.

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Chan Lowe: New York's legalization of same-sex marriage


I have a problem with Michele Bachmann.

The problem I have isn’t with her socially conservative views, which I disagree with but do not denigrate, since they are legitimately held⎯nor is it with her recurring symptoms of foot-in-mouth disease, which provide comic relief more than anything else.

No, what I worry about is having as a potential president a person who is apparently capable of believing⎯simultaneously and passionately⎯in two opposing principles of government without seeing the illogic of her position(s).

She trumpets the inherent goodness of states’ rights, and has devoted herself, at least in her stump speech, to the goal of shrinking the federal government’s role in freedom-loving Americans’ lives to the fullest extent possible.

That sounds fine so far as it goes, until she is asked about New York’s recent legalization of same-sex marriage. Yes, Ms. Bachmann says, every state has a right to pass its own laws. But, as president, she would work as hard as she could to pass an amendment to the U.S. Constitution recognizing marriage as a contract exclusively between a man and a woman.

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Chan Lowe: Fair Districts and fact


I’ll bet the words “redistricting” and “reapportionment” make your eyes glaze over. The legislators in Tallahassee are betting on that, too.

Every ten years, each state must redesign its congressional and state legislative district maps to reflect changes in census data. It’s one of the reasons the Founding Fathers required that a census be taken in the U.S. Constitution.

It seems simple, but it isn’t. Recent Supreme Court decisions have found that special exceptions must be made to ensure that certain districts are drawn to guarantee minority representation. Then there’s the fact that the party in power generally controls redistricting, and their top priority is to preserve that power in perpetuity, as well as to protect incumbents.

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Chan Lowe: Debt ceiling paralysis


“When each side starts to care more about reducing our country’s debt than about advancing its own political agenda, we’ll finally make some progress.”

I don’t remember who said it, but it applies equally to both parties in congress. It’s all about fear…of the electorate. Not much about the daily give and take on Capitol Hill manages to percolate down to the proletariat, but we have just seen what happens when somebody threatens one of America’s great socialist programs, Medicare. Since that little stumble has now tarred the Republicans, Dems are delightedly standing back, washing their hands, and letting them hang themselves. For the moment, entitlements have become untouchable.

On the other side, Republicans owe much of their legitimacy to holding the anti-tax line. They doggedly hew to the long-discredited Laffer Curve, which posits that removing the fetters of taxation stimulates greater economic activity, thereby creating more revenue. We’re still waiting for that one to pan out in field trials.

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Chan Lowe: Mitt Romney, the Wild One


I wouldn’t want to be in Mitt Romney’s shoes right now. The punditocracy is pushing the conventional wisdom that, despite having an empty account in the personality bank, all Romney needs to do is trumpet his business experience and sit tight while the economy continues to tank. No amount of Obamic charisma and charm will be able to save a president who can’t deliver the goods. In frustration, we will even turn to a stiff like Romney to save us. At least, that’s the theory.

Neither the chatterers nor Romney appear to have thought this thing through. Since he’s offering little or nothing in the way of specific solutions to our economic problems, what remains is a strategy that consists of betting on the president to fail. Unfortunately, if Obama fails it means the country has failed as well. This puts Romney in the uncomfortable position of cheering for higher (or at least, sustained) unemployment and deepening misery.

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Chan Lowe: Look out, Sarah Palin


Those who would lump Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann together as the Genuine Article and Mini-Me are not just being unfair to Ms. Bachmann, they’re fooling themselves. Yes, both women are outspoken and conservative, and draw support from the same constituencies, but Ms. Bachmann’s performance last night at the Republican debate demonstrated that she is no Sarah Palin, and I mean that in a good way.

If you knew about Ms. Bachmann beforehand, and you’ve heard some of her more memorable lines (my favorite being the time she called for a media investigation of her colleagues in the House to ferret out those who harbor un-American thoughts), you’d know that she marches to her own drummer, to put it diplomatically.

Like so many people who are just a little, um, off, she can do an astounding job of impersonating a sane woman when called upon, as she did last night. She was well prepared with set-piece answers, spoke easily on her feet, and she had that requisite fire the pundits are always looking for.

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Chan Lowe: Sarah Palin ratchets up the campaign


This is just a muscle-flexing exercise. It’s a smack with a rolled-up newspaper to remind the little people⎯like Pawlenty, Romney, Huntsman and especially that cut-rate knock-off, Michele Bachmann⎯who’s got the real clout.

All she has to do is get on the back of a Harley and the media is breathlessly galloping in her exhaust. Look, I’ve just done a cartoon about her. She’s toying with us; she won’t even release her schedule. It’s like hide-and-seek, played with marionettes.

You’d think we’d have learned something about being played after the Trumpstravanganza. But, like Trump, Palin sells. Sarah backslid a little after the Gabrielle Giffords overstep, then Trump eclipsed everyone with the birth certificate brouhaha. It was time to get back to the top of the marquee. We obliged.

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Chan Lowe: Obama's Israel stumble


The ongoing Middle East conflict is so sensitive, so nuanced and so tinder-dry that any alteration in what is said, what is not said, the timbre of the saying of it, and which parts are emphasized and de-emphasized can cause a conflagration to break out.

Added to these variables are the one that has been occupying the news of late: Who says it. George W. Bush, who was considered a “Friend of Israel,” could say that peace negotiations should use as their basis the pre-1967 borders with mutually-agreed swaps. No ripples in the waters of the status-quo. But Barack Obama says it, and suddenly it’s an international incident.

A colleague who has been to Israel several times, and who has her finger on that country’s political pulse, says that our president is not a popular figure in Israel. This is putting it mildly. She says the general feeling there is that Obama “is too busy trying to suck up to the Arabs.”

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Chan Lowe: Mitt Romney, in your face


The cleverest description of Mitt Romney I’ve heard is that he reminds one of the villain in a Lifetime movie. It’s a little inaccurate, though, because for him to be a villain, he’d have to be interesting. For him to be in a television movie, he would have to be a successful actor, which he could not be with a voice that sounds like the computer-generated prompts in a corporate telephone menu.

I dwell on silly issues like these because they matter to people more than they would like to admit when it comes to voting for the person who will occupy their TV screens for the next four years. It’s like voting on a temporary member of the family who will be present when you’re sitting around the dinner table, getting ready for work, or feeding the dog. This person must wear easily.

Wearing easily will be Mitt Romney’s strength. He needs this strength because conviction, consistency, and dependability are not among ones he can claim. While his party remains indifferent and even hostile to him at the moment, he knows that his very lackluster qualities are what ultimately will endear him to GOP leaders. He does not irritate moderates, as Palin, Bachmann and Gingrich do. He is ruggedly “presidential-looking,” a term we cannot define, but which we know when we see it.

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Chan Lowe: Candidate Gingrich


Unlike candidates Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich, Newt Gingrich doesn’t embark on quixotic undertakings like running for president solely out of principle. He does it because he thinks he can win.

This demonstrates how out of touch he’s become with the down-home folks who comprise his would-be base. Gingrich is a Washington creature, and as such is lionized by the beltway media and establishment GOP party leaders as a towering intellect who bubbles ideas like a champagne fountain at a Long Island wedding. On paper, he is formidable.

If you want to analyze his strategy, however⎯which is to embrace the favorite hot-button causes of the cultural right, brandish his newfound religiosity, make slanderous assertions about Barack Obama, flog fiscal austerity, and bash the entire Muslim faith whenever possible⎯then you know that his intended listeners have certain strongly-held beliefs about personal and moral responsibility. They will expect their candidate to be a paragon of probity.

Ronald Reagan was able to get away with being divorced because he was an affable guy. That goes a long way with the American electorate (see the “Who would you most like to have a beer with?” polls). Gingrich is not only twice divorced, he has openly admitted he was unfaithful to two of his wives. He asked one for a divorce while she was in the hospital, recovering from cancer. Does he honestly think women voters will ignore all this?

Combine this with his demeanor, which falls far short of Reagan’s in the “beer” category (Gingrich would probably stick you with the tab—just because he feels so passionate about his country), and it’s difficult to imagine how God-fearing souls could bring themselves to pull the lever for him, considering there will be a lot of other Republicans on the primary ballot doing the identical pander to his.

That isn’t to say we won’t be looking forward to his performance in the debates. Scorched earth, anyone?

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Chan Lowe: Obama strokes the Latino community


If I were a Latino, me estaría herviendo la sangre (my blood would be boiling) right about now.

El Presidente came down to El Paso on a campaign sweep, paying lip service to the notion of immigration reform, but he was really laying it out to the Latino community this way: “Vote Democratic, because we’ll only show you benign neglect, whereas the Republicans really have it in for you.”

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Chan Lowe: Trump takes a tumble


Somewhere in a secret aerie high above the mean streets, Republican money men are relaxing in their high-backed wing chairs and drawing more easily on their Havanas now that The Donald has been cut down to size.

Ever since the appearance of the long form birth certificate a mere fortnight ago, the sands beneath the golden-domed dilettante’s feet have been melting away. Then came the humiliation in front of the nation’s media at the very hands of his nemesis, the pretender to the throne.

Finally, there was the bin Laden tour de force, which permanently discredited any assertion that the occupant of the White House was incompetent.

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Chan Lowe: Obama reveals birth certificate


So the White House finally did it. The Donald is strutting around like a gamecock, taking credit for forcing the administration to do something no one else had been able to. Effortlessly shifting gears, the pompous pompadour has moved on to questioning the president’s academic qualifications for getting into Columbia and Harvard, two institutions of higher learning that remained unattainable to Mr. Trump despite his financial advantages.

Meanwhile, the “legitimate” birthers are left scrabbling for a rationale, the way millenialists do after they’ve predicted the world will end and the sun stubbornly rises the next morning. Not to worry. They won’t believe this birth certificate any more than the last one.

The fact remains that this is the first president in history who has had to present documents to prove his origins. Some say it’s because his doubters believe he’s a closet communist. They said that about FDR, too, but nobody asked if he was born in the United States. John McCain has a much more tenuous hold on the “natural born” label than Mr. Obama, yet no birther movement coalesced to doubt his background, either.

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Chan Lowe: Congrats, Debbie!


Whatever your political stripe, you should be pleased to see a fighter like Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz rise to the top national position in a major political party. Back when she revealed that she had survived a bout with breast cancer, I wrote an appreciation of her many qualities as a politician and as a person.

South Floridians ought to be proud of our local girl, as well as gratified that our area continues to grow in importance on the national political map.

It would be fitting now for freshman Rep. Allen West, who is one of her constituents, to join in the chorus of congratulations for this most able public servant. It would be the right thing to do, and it would go a long way toward restoring that civility and workability in our government that the rest of us all crave.

Congratulations, Ms. Wasserman Schultz! May your reign be long and fruitful.

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Chan Lowe: Obama runs for reelection


For a seduction to work, you need the cooperation of both parties.

Back in 2008, when Barack Obama was wooing the nation, he was saying all the things many of us wanted to hear. We were deep into Bush fatigue, especially toward the end when the economy collapsed (that’s right, it did happen during the Bush Administration, although it’s so easy to forget).

Here was a new face, telling us that he was going to come in like a fresh breeze, blow out the cobwebs, and change the way Washington did business. Of course, those of us who had been around long knew that they always say that. Nevertheless, we fell for the roses and chocolates because we so wanted to believe at that point.

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Chan Lowe: The Donald plays the media


It’s hard to dislike Donald Trump because everything he does, from marrying and divorcing women, to operating casinos, to suing Palm Beach International Airport to have the flight path moved away from his house, to starring in his own hit TV show, he does with verve, panache, and unbridled enjoyment.

It’s no different with his quest for the presidency. He’s done it before (and as a cartoonist, I am grateful), and he’ll probably drop out again this time once it becomes more trouble than fun. In the meantime, we get to go along for the ride.

Seeing The Donald spar on the same stage with Michele Bachmann will be like having Christmas in midsummer. There’s no question he’s more interesting to listen to than those two stiffs, Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney. He’s less irritating than the Foghorn Leghorn caricature of a southern pol, Haley Barbour. I’m guessing Sarah Palin will have declined to run.

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Chan Lowe: Republican cultural politics


Maybe the electorate is beginning to tire of the relentless talk about jobs, the economy and the deficit. If we Americans are known for anything, it’s the brevity of our national attention span.

Lately, we’ve been hearing the siren call (some call it “dog whistle”) of some old, familiar themes—mostly enunciated by Republican presidential hopefuls seeking to burnish their appeal with notoriously culturally conservative Iowa caucus-goers.

There’s been a resurgence of the hot-button social issues in congress, too, in the form of an attempt to cut Planned Parenthood’s budget, and the decision by the house to go ahead and defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court (since that amoral faux-Christian foreigner in the White House won’t do it).

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Chan Lowe: Newt Gingrich, candidate?


Newt Gingrich is a bloated example of an egomaniacal politician who has been around so long that he’s actually begun believing what his toadies and backers tell him.

“You’re the only one with the moxie, the brains, the ideas, and above all, the fundraising power, to beat the Pretender in the White House,” they whisper seductively into his ear. Since it’s what he wants to hear, why should he discount their sage advice?

Gingrich is such damaged goods that it’s hard even to know where to begin.

My favorite story about him, though, is when he brought divorce papers to his wife as (so she alleges) she lay recovering from cancer surgery in her hospital bed. At the time, he was cheating on her. Later he was steppin’ out on his second wife with his future third wife even as he led the charge during the Clinton impeachment hearings. You can’t get much more breathtakingly hypocritical than that.

Of his past marital behavior, Newt says he believes in a forgiving God, and that by implication, if He has forgiven him, then voters should, too. I’m not sure all the evangelicals who tend to vote in Republican primaries would agree with this line of reasoning; they’re still having trouble forgiving President Obama for being a Muslim born in Kenya, and he isn’t even guilty of those things.

Then there’s the personality issue. I think Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post put it best when he said, “He frightens the children.”

I hope Newt goes all the way and officially runs, because he’ll keep things interesting. He’ll lose, but he’ll lose dirty, and he’ll fry all his colorless Republican primary opponents to a crisp as he scorches the earth behind him.

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Chan Lowe: Breast feeding with Michelle, Michele and Sarah


Nothing gets the right wing more lathered up than Michelle Obama, Wife of the Great Pretender, opening her mouth to render an opinion--even if it’s about something as innocuous and well-meaning as encouraging mothers to breast feed.

Michele Bachmann was first to screech off the mark, skillfully framing the issue as an attack on the IRS for declaring that breast pumps were medical devices for the purposes of tax deductions and medical flex accounts. Another overreach by the Nanny State, she said. This, of course, conveniently overlooks the fact that Tea Partiers are supposed to be against taxes of any kind, so technically, the decision ought to have pleased her.

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Chan Lowe: Michele Bachmann's America


Now, if George Santayana had been a real American instead of some foreign born, Harvard-educated elitist pinhead, his famous quotation would have read more like this: “Those who cannot remember the past can simply make it up as they go along.”

To say that Michele Bachmann doesn’t care when she is caught fudging a variety of issues is to not give her enough credit. Like Sarah Palin, she is actually proud to be exposed, for it makes her the butt of snarky attacks from elites, and victimization is an essential component of her equation. It reinforces her bond with her followers.

In an earlier posting, I indicated that Bachmann was eclipsing Palin as the darling of the Right. It isn’t just because we are growing weary of Sarah and her tweets and Faceburps; it’s also that Bachmann takes her fierce, willful ignorance one step further.

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Chan Lowe: Michele Bachmann rises


Just as we are finally becoming oversaturated with Sarah Palin, her tweets, her Facebook postings, her bull’s-eyes, her surveyor’s marks, her book signings and her narcissism, we learn that⎯like a female version of John the Baptist⎯she has only been preparing the way for the one who is to follow.

For a couple of years now, Michele Bachmann has lurked on the lunatic fringe, not exactly a household name. But she whose unabashed and unapologetic verbal bombs make Ms. Palin, by comparison, seem like a model of statesmanship is about to catapult herself onto the national stage in the form of a Tea Party (she is its self-proclaimed Grande Dame) rebuttal to both the President and the Republican establishment.

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Chan Lowe: Big mob bust


How long do you think the outbreak of brotherly love between the parties is going to last? Well, let’s call it the appearance of an outbreak. As we know, in Washington it’s all about projecting an image for the day’s news cycle.

My guess is that we’ll be treated to some unlikely seating arrangements during the State of the Union Address (i.e. Schumer/Coburn), and then things should rapidly deteriorate to normal.

Republicans are, no doubt, heeding the latest poll numbers, which show President Obama’s approval ratings surging. If their past behavior is any indicator, they’re heeding them and coming to the wrong conclusions.

Obama’s newfound popularity is originating from the public perception that he has begun constructively engaging his political opponents for the betterment of the country. He does this whether the opposition likes it or not, and it has taken them tactically by surprise.

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Chan Lowe: The Obamacare repeal vote


So the Republicans have dutifully thrown the Tea Party people their bone. Yes, it was absurd and a waste of time, and while the Republicans won’t talk about it openly, they know just as well as everyone else how foolish it looked to pass legislation that was going nowhere.

These are the same people who accused the Democrats in the last Congress of putting their own agenda ahead of that of the American people, which purportedly consisted of jobs, jobs and jobs. This is why they inserted “job killing” into the title of their legislation, as a head fake toward relevance.

They were paying off a political obligation, and one must fulfill one’s promises. Yesterday’s vote, however, doesn’t eliminate the crosscurrent that the establishment GOP finds itself caught in.

The whirlwind that was unleashed at last year’s town hall meetings may have been directed at Democrats, but the Tea Partiers are still angry, they have no party loyalty, and they know when they’ve been played. They are not going to be satisfied with a mere kabuki dance and then quietly go back to their caves until the next election season. They will continue to clamor for the meaningful action they feel is their due.

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Chan Lowe: Fallout from the 2010 census


New York loses two congressional seats after the census reapportionment, and Florida gains two. So it only makes sense that as the electorate moves south to sunnier climes, their politicians should follow. Pols like mild winters, too.

What if, for example, Rep. Anthony Weiner, who represents New York’s 9th district (spanning parts of eastern Queens and Brooklyn), were to lose his seat in the game of musical chairs? If I were an outspoken firebrand liberal like Weiner, I’d move here and run in the Democratic primary for Robert Wexler’s old district, Florida 19. It probably even contains more than a few of Weiner’s former constituents, so right there he’d enjoy an advantage. Ted Deutch, the current rep, sort of disappeared into the fog when he went up to Washington.

Or maybe Weiner could run for one of the two new districts yet to be carved out of the Sunshine State. An advantage would be that he commands seniority and national name recognition, giving his new constituency instant clout.

But all this is just a parlor game. Weiner probably isn’t going anywhere, and here in Florida, there’s an endless supply of homegrown mediocrity to choose from.

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Chan Lowe: A prayer for Sarah Palin


The big question, at least among the chattering classes, is whether or not Mama Grizzly will run for president.

I may come to regret saying this, but I think not. She’s having way too much financial success with her other endeavors, and why should she besmirch a good brand by becoming a candidate and having to face the ravages of rivals and the "lamestream" media?

Much more fun than speculating on the future meanderings of the Wilderness Princess is watching other Republicans duck and weave when asked whether they think she’s qualified for office. They’re handling her with kid gloves in the event she declines to go for the gold, because they don’t want to alienate her easily offended constituency. Her vengeful fans, everyone knows, will crawl to the polls if necessary to smite her detractors.

Should she actually run (a prospect the White House salivates over), people like Mitt Romney and Tim (Who?) Pawlenty will have to figure out how to discredit her with drive-by jabs in such a way that her image will sustain damage by a thousand cuts while leaving her attacker undiscovered.

Running against Sarah in the primaries will be a dangerous, delicate task. The stakes are high, too. The Holy Grail of the Republican Party—the unseating of Barack Obama in 2012—hangs in the balance, and will likely be lost if she wins the nomination sweepstakes.

Not to mention the carnage her general election candidacy will wreak on the down-ticket races. Yes, the resulting bloodbath could be more sickening than, say, the slaying of a caribou on a reality show.

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About the author
Chan LoweCHAN LOWE has been the Sun Sentinel’s first and only editorial cartoonist for the past twenty-six years. Before that, he worked as cartoonist and writer for the Oklahoma City Times and the Shawnee (OK) News-Star.

Chan went to school in New York City, Los Angeles, and the U.K., and graduated from Williams College in 1975 with a degree in Art History. He also spent a year at Stanford University as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow.

His work has won numerous awards, including the Green Eyeshade Award and the National Press Foundation Berryman Award. He has also been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His cartoons have won multiple first-place awards in all of the Florida state journalism contests, and The Lowe-Down blog, which he began in 2008, has won writing awards from the Florida Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists.
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