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BUZZFLASH EDITOR'S BLOG BY MARK KARLIN

It would be too simplistic to blame this year's election results entirely on the White House's messaging problem. After all, the party in power when the economy hits a prolonged skid usually gets a shellacking.

But there are numerous signs that when "Team Obama" transitioned from campaigning to governing, it lost its communication mojo.

I recall running across a poll that indicated that many Americans who earned under $250,000 didn't realize that they had received a tax break under the stimulus package. A New York Times/CBS News Poll conducted last month found that "fewer than one in 10 respondents knew that the Obama administration had lowered taxes for most Americans. Half of those polled said they thought that their taxes had stayed the same, a third thought that their taxes had gone up, and about a tenth said they did not know."

That's astounding. Only 10 percent of Americans realized that President Obama had provided a tax cut for the vast majority of Americans in the stimulus package! That's a White House messaging disaster. You can be sure that the Republicans would never let any American stay ignorant of a tax cut that they had passed.

In an upcoming interview with Steve Kroft, on "60 Minutes," President Obama admits, "You know, I think that over the course of two years we were so busy and so focused on getting a bunch of stuff done that we stopped paying attention to the fact that leadership isn't just legislation. That it's a matter of persuading people. And giving them confidence and bringing them together. And setting a tone. And making an argument that people can understand. And I think that we haven't always been successful at that."

Maybe the White House has finally gotten the message on messaging.

A post-racial America?  Not a chance.

Take McKee, Kentucky -- in the heart of Appalachia -- for example. As the Washington Post reports, "many locals are deeply suspicious about Obama and consider him an illegitimate president....People openly question whether Obama is Muslim or was born outside the United States, both accusations that have been proven false."

The town is 99.5 percent white, and poor, very poor: "Half of McKee's residents live below the poverty line," the Post's reporter observes, "and nearly three-quarters subsist on government money, said a county official, be it from Social Security, welfare or another entitlement program." So 75 percent survive on government checks, but "fear that the United States is being destroyed."

It's like the elderly in the Tea Party who carry signs that accuse Obama of promoting "socialist" healthcare reform, but warn the government not to mess with their Medicare benefits.

How do you explain such a contradiction?

Because the majority of Americans elected a black man to reside in the White House.  And a lot of white people, poor and rich, think that's not an "American" thing to do.

If you'd like to receive these commentaries daily from Truthout/BuzzFlash, click here. You'll get our choice headlines and articles too!

BUZZFLASH EDITOR'S BLOG BY MARK KARLIN

 

According to CBS News, the Jon Stewart "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear" drew an estimated crowd of 215,000 on Saturday, while Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" event in August had 87,000 in attendance. But don't count on Beck to dampen down his incendiary rhetoric any time soon.

According to ThinkProgress, Beck used the right-wing fixation on reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to identify by name and vilify a League of Women Voters debate moderator in Illinois. This resulted in threats on the woman's life and forced increased security at the Illinois League office. The League formally alerted the FBI and local police of the violent rhetoric resulting from Beck's incendiary charges on television.

Apparently, the debate moderator was following League precedent in not opening the debate with the pledge (which was eventually recited anyway), but that didn't stop right-wingers and Beck from targeting a person carrying out her volunteer civic - and civil - responsibilities. According to ThinkProgress, the Illinois League Executive Director alerted the FBI to death threats posted on the Internet and "reported menacing posts on Fox News Channel's Facebook page and Beck's website, The Blaze."

Beck is already linked to motivating a follower to try to kill staff of the Tides Foundation, which he has singled out in his "liberal conspiracy" rants.

Can this inflammatory incitement in any way be perceived as "restoring honor" to America?

Or is Beck just trying to increase his body count?

 

BUZZFLASH EDITOR'S BLOG BY MARK KARLIN

This is a time for white, working and middle-class voters, as Sharron Angle would say, "to man up."

In the world of public policy - or just plain hateful politics such as stomping on the head of a MoveOn supporter at a Rand Paul debate - a man or woman has to choose between his or her prejudices and the future of their families.

As a commentary posted on Truthout recently noted - "Eight False Things the Public 'Knows' Prior to Election Day" - most of the information being peddled by the Tea Party and the GOP is flat out wrong. After more than three decades of Republican policies that have lost millions of American jobs and diminished the standard of living of the working and middle class, millions of gullible white citizens are angrily clamoring for more of this mistreatment!

Yes, the Obama administration has been horrible at communicating its relative accomplishments to almost everyone, a veritable textbook example of a messaging disaster. But the facts remain - and the facts are that the GOP, in general, is toxic to the well-being of the nonrich.

So, the Tea Party and GOP whites can stomp on all the "liberal" heads that they want, but they are just betraying the future of their families and themselves.

They can choose between prejudice and hate on the one hand, or the economic and educational opportunities for their children and themselves on the other. If the polls are correct in states like Nevada, at least half of the white, working, middle class and even unemployed are going to choose anger and bigotry over economic self-interest.

Instead of choosing to support public policies that will help put food on their tables, they are going to feed their children spoonfuls of hate.

BUZZFLASH EDITOR'S BLOG BY MARK KARLIN

Dear Readers,

We all know this: the midterm elections will come and go, but the movement toward progressive values will continue. It must.

Can we count on you to assist BuzzFlash and Truthout by clicking here and donating toward that end?

After more than ten years of publishing the pioneering progressive site, BuzzFlash.com, I was delighted to join the Truthout team in August, donating BuzzFlash's site to Truthout.

BuzzFlash and Truthout share a common vision that to advance the common good is a long-haul effort, not subject to the outcome of any particular election cycle.

BuzzFlash and Truthout understand that positive change must influence the hearts and minds of so many Americans who have been bombarded with extremist propaganda and corporate-backed policies.

BuzzFlash and Truthout realize that real progress cannot come when corporations are footing the bill.

It would be easier for BuzzFlash and Truthout to accept advertising, but it would be wrong. If people are to come first in our democracy, then they need to be able to find news sources and communities that are free of corporate funding and corporate branding.

BuzzFlash is proud to be a part of the Truthout family, where are our only obligation is to the truth.

BUZZFLASH EDITOR'S BLOG BY MARK KARLIN

There's a political cliche that Pennsylvania is a state with Pittsburgh on the west, Philadelphia on the east - and Alabama in between.

Last night, I was driving through central PA headed toward New York, getting exposed to the full monty of right-wing radio as stations drifted in and out of range. There's nothing but darkness, passing headlights and the hint of mountains, nothing but lunatic voices that would be deemed psychotic in any other age.

BUZZFLASH EDITOR'S BLOG BY MARK KARLIN

It is an ironic detail lost in much of the coverage of the recent federal court ruling that found "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) to be an unconstitutional policy. The case was filed against the US Department of Defense in 2004 by the Log Cabin (LGBT) Republicans. Yes, a gay Republican organization was the lead plaintiff.

Now the Obama administration is trying to have it both ways by appealing the ban on DADT by Federal Judge Virginia A. Phillips of California while asserting that it actually opposes the discriminatory policy.

In one of many emails that BuzzFlash has recently received from the 30-year-old group, the gay Republican organization denounces the White House: "We are not surprised by the government's action, as it repeats the broken promises and empty words from President Obama avowing to end 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' while at the same directing his Justice Department to defend this unconstitutional policy," said Dan Woods, the White & Case partner who is representing the Log Cabin Republicans. "Now that the government has filed a request for a stay, we will oppose it vigorously because brave, patriotic gays and lesbians are serving in our armed forces to fight for all of our constitutional rights while the government is denying them theirs."

What a revealing example of how the Obama administration often engages in a coin toss to determine a political position and shouts, "Heads and tails!" Some fences cannot be straddled, and DADT is one of them.

BUZZFLASH EDITOR'S BLOG BY MARK KARLIN


The New York Times not so long ago dubbed him the King of Wall Street and he reportedly has a net worth well over 5 billion dollars, but that didn't stop Stephen Schwarzman, founder of the Blackstone Group, from whining about financial "threats" faced by billionaires.

 



As the UK Telegraph reports, Schwarzman "last month likened the president's plans to levy taxes on the private equity industry as being akin to Adolf Hitler's invasion of Poland." It sounds like Steve is ready to run as the Presidential Candidate for the Tea Party, a party where off the wall and offensive statements appear to be required of candidates for public office.

 



Even with his reputation for extravagant parties that might even have appeared extreme to the Great Gatsby (by F. Scott Fitzgerald), one might have expected Schwarzman, once the token Jewish member of Skulls & Bones during his senior year at Yale (which I attended a bit after him), to have known better.  I recently read the quote to one of Schwarzman's friends from his Yale days, who responded that he had not spoken to Steve for many years, but it looks like "Steve has gotten to the point in his life where the tragedy of the Holocaust was not the death of so many Jewish men, women and children, but rather the theft of their art collections, personal possessions and gold fillings."

 



It's only fair to the King of Wall Street to point out that many found his comment a bit like Pat Buchanan's diminishing of WW II Nazism, so that on the likely advice of some PR firm for billionaires, he has now acknowledged that he made an "inappropriate analogy."  However, we doubt he spent much time this weekend on the Jewish Day of Atonement seeking forgiveness for engaging in right-wing Hitler hyperbole on behalf of people, such as himself, who reportedly paid Rod Stewart a million dollars to sing at his 60th birthday party.

 



I was in synagogue on Kol Nidre, the holiest night in the Jewish calendar, atoning for -- among other things -- according to the prayer book, not being open to the plight of the poor and hungry among us.  I don't know if Mr. Schwarzman was at services, but if he was, he must have thought, in his mind, that the poor and the hungry were "Billionaires Without Big Whopper Tax Cuts."




There is a Jewish tradition of "tikkun olam," the healing of the world.  It's clear that avarice, greed and Mr. Schwarzman are not part of that tradition.

BUZZFLASH EDITOR'S BLOG BY MARK KARLIN

Say what you will about Ronald Reagan, but the guy knew how to tell a story. After all, he was groomed for the presidency by General Electric and some right-wing members of the oligarchy when his film career had run its course. In many ways, he wasn't president; he was a man acting as president, and he had quite a script.

Reagan went from "B" film star to "A" media age pitch man, working out of the White House. His narrative was written by ad men and public relations pros who knew how to sell products; in this case a "morning in America" that was full of sunshine, promise, American know-how and John Wayne toughness. It was an unapologetic cinematic vision of a nation at the top of its game, willing to do what it took to stay there.

Reagan was a master at using anecdotal stories to bolster his narrative, even if some of them weren't true. And in the back rooms, his wealthy backers were embarking upon the looting of America.

President Obama, on the other hand, went from a campaign with a narrative of change and "throw the rascals out" to an almost elusive series of positions and non-positions. He went from a narrative of change and hope to a non-narrative of "there's only so much I can do." That's not something that inspires; but rather, it confuses and frustrates.

It has left a gaping hole for a "populism" from the right, and we are seeing the harvest of the non-narrative presidency this autumn - and it is not pretty.

BUZZFLASH EDITOR'S BLOG BY MARK KARLIN

One of the most inspiring gifts I ever received is a framed message I keep next to my laptop: "Worrying Does Not Empty Tomorrow of Its Troubles; It Empties Today of Its Strength."

That is why I am asking you to donate generously (and tax-free) today to Truthout/BuzzFlash by simply clicking here.  BuzzFlash's move to Truthout (and there are many improvements to come) provided me and BuzzFlash with new energy and strength.

It is easy to become frustrated and fearful when the barbaric hysteria of the Tea Party and the right-wing GOP continue their assault on American democracy and justice. But fear only saps our energy to realize the American dream of a nation that embraces individuals instead of demonizing them and shunning them.

I have been with Truthout for a little over a month now and it has been an enriching experience, working with a dedicated team of journalists who are committed to a socially and economically just society.

But we can't do it without your financial support.

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