Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday Reading

Compare and Contrast — Kate Zernike of the New York Times looks at the similarities and the differences between the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street.

It is a culture war, young versus old, left versus right, communal food tables versus “Don’t Tread on Me” flags.

In fact, the two movements do share key traits. They emerged out of nowhere but quickly became potent political forces, driven by anxiety about the economy, a belief that big institutions favor the reckless over the hard-working, grievances that are inchoate and even contradictory, and an insistence that they are “leaderless.” “End the Fed” signs — and even some of those yellow Gadsden flags — have found a place at Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street protests alike.

Where they differ is in where they place the blame. While Occupy forces find fault in the banks and super-rich, the Tea Party movement blames the government for the economic calamity brought on by the mortgage crisis, and sees the wealthy as job creators who will lift the country out of its economic malaise. To them, the solution is less regulation of banks, not more.

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey declared Monday, “If you told the Occupy Wall Street people and the Tea Party people that they are the same, they would hit you.”

Not quite. But Tea Party activists are indeed fighting the comparisons.

“They seem to be more in favor of anarchy than they are in favor of working out problems through the Constitution,” Jenny Beth Martin, a co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, said about the Occupy forces.

“We have worked very hard to be respectful of the laws,” she said in an interview. “We protest and complain, but we’re also trying to work within the system. It’s frustrating to watch people who have an utter lack of respect for our form of government.”


Lin Wefel, an Occupy supporter at Zuccotti Park, where the protests began, said she had attended a Tea Party event in Pennsylvania and thought the missions of the two movements coincided “80 percent.”

“They want jobs, fair wages, get the money out of the system — the same things we want,” she said.

Kate Linker, another protester, said that while the two movements agreed that the system was not working, they disagreed on how it should work. She, for instance, was soliciting signatures for petitions to renew the New York State millionaires tax and establish one federally — not a cause most Tea Party activists are likely to support.

Still, she said, Occupy does aspire to have as strong an impact on the national discussion as the Tea Party has had.

So far, most Americans do not align with either movement. In a USA Today/Gallup poll taken last weekend, 26 percent of those polled said they were supporters of the Occupy movement, while 19 percent identified as opponents, and 52 percent said they neither supported nor opposed it. Meanwhile, 22 percent said they were supporters of the Tea Party, 27 percent said they were opponents, and 47 percent said they were neither.

The one thing missing from the comparison is that OWS does not have the astroturf backing of the likes of the Koch Brothers and organizers like Dick Armey and his “spontaneous” Freedom Works; nor is there the 24/7 coverage granted to the Tea Party by a major media outlet like Fox News.

Oh, and one more thing. While the OWS people may not appeal to the sensibilities of the Tea Party folk, it goes way beyond any form of human decency to compare them to the accused shooter of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, as Gary Bauer did. Mr. Bauer, you’ll remember, is the vile little toad who pops up out of the swamp every so often to remind us of just how stench-laden some right-wingers can be.

More below the fold.

The War Candidate — Jill Lawrence of The Atlantic looks at how President Obama’s foreign policy might influence his re-election.

The Republicans aiming for the White House might be well-advised to pack it in on foreign policy for a while and cede the field to President Obama. While they’ve got a case to make against his economic stewardship, their national security critiques are increasingly at odds with the facts on the ground.

The narrative from Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and other candidates is that Obama is a weakling who continually apologizes for America, doesn’t believe we’re exceptional, cedes leadership to other nations, mistreats Israel, and is overseeing our march toward lesser-power status. The problem with those narratives is that they are, for the most part, false — and obviously so.

Obama has brought his party close to parity with the Republican Party when it comes to which one voters trust more to keep the nation safe. In a world ever more complicated, dangerous and economically fragile, he can make a strong argument that he deserves re-election based his record as commander in chief. That may not be enough to offset the pain of the recession and voters’ desire for change, but Republicans are bolstering his case in at least two ways: One, some are making unforced errors on foreign policy and two, as they court conservative primary voters, the GOP candidates may be misreading the type of foreign policy most Americans want.


When it comes to Obama’s economic record, the GOP candidates are determined to make sure Americans judge him by the cold, hard realities of unemployment, foreclosures and falling income. But in looking at him as commander in chief and leader of the free world, they would prefer that people ignore what’s been going on in the real world. It brings to mind the old Marx Brothers joke: “Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?”

Bet On It — Casino gambling will be coming to downtown Miami.

TALLAHASSEE — It is a lazy, rainy day in Tallahassee and Colin Au, the president of Genting Americas, has arrived in town on a mission — to meet with every one of the state’s 180 legislators to explain why Miami needs a “destination resort” with one of the world’s biggest casinos.

As the top U.S. executive for one of the globe’s largest casino developers, Au is prepared to lobby “24-7 for 100 days,” he said — or as long as it takes for a legislative vote on a bill to bring resort casinos to Miami-Dade and Broward. “I’m stationed here,” he said Tuesday, in between meetings.

A bill is expected to be filed Monday by Miami Rep. Erik Fresen and Fort Lauderdale Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff. It asks legislators to do what decades of lawmakers have rejected: bring three Las Vegas-style casinos to Florida.

The proposal appeals heavily to the jobs-first strategy of Gov. Rick Scott and legislators, but skepticism is widespread. Doubters question what impact more gambling, more tourism and more congestion will have on families, communities and the state.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Herald/Times last week, Au responded to concerns, pointedly countered rumors that his company is anti-Semitic and associated with the Chinese mob, and offered a window into the company’s legislative strategy.

“My message is very simple,” Au said. Florida faces “huge unemployment, budget deficits and gaming is already here.” Florida’s choice, he said, is to decide whether it wants to keep gaming the way it is “or transform it.”

He spelled out the preliminary results of an economic impact study, in which Genting consultants project annual casino tax revenue of $400 million to $600 million and the creation of 100,000 permanent jobs.

He’s got enough money to buy up all the land — including the property where the Miami-Dade County School Board lives — and he’s got enough money to buy Tallahassee, too.

Doonesbury — Gimme the dough.