Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Plain Dealer endorses Barack Obama

Cleveland’s sole newspaper, The Plain Dealer, has endorsed President Barack Obama’s reelection, thus proving the axiom that even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

The Plain Dealer tends to tailor its editorials to meet the opinions of its readership, which skews to an older, and thus more conservative, demographic for its print edition - so this editorial is something of a surprise.

The PD’s editorial board has a short collective memory, as evidenced by their description of President Obama’s successful efforts to bring about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. First, they describe it as a “decades old dream of Democrats”. In fact, every President since Theodore Roosevelt (a Republican) has tried to grapple with America’s health care system. Truman went so far as to advocate for what he called National Health Insurance - today known as Single-Payer. Then there is the PD’s accusation that Obama “ceded too much freedom to doctrinaire Democrats”, a statement that would raise the eyebrows of those who were advocating for Single-Payer or at least a government option. In fact, the template for what the Republicans call Obamacare was drawn by The Heritage Foundation - a right-wing think tank - in the early 1990s as an alternative to Hillarycare. It’s no coincidence that Romneycare as it was enacted in Massachusetts and Obamacare are essentially the same thing.

But this is nothing new.

Skim through the PD’s presidential endorsements from 1936 onward, and anyone with knowledge of history is in for a chuckle.

In 1936, the PD reluctantly endorsed Franklin Roosevelt’s re-election - which was virtually a certainty anyway - despite their complaint that Roosevelt “pays too little heed to what these programs cost and who must pay the cost”. Poor FDR must have been reading the PD’s editorial, because when he took their advice and cut back spending in 1937, the economy contracted, the stock market crashed again, and a two year recession ensued.

Four years later, the editors endorsed Wendel Willkie because, as a businessman, Willkie knew that “insolvency and disaster lie down the road of continuous deficit spending”. There is no mention of the war in Europe in the editorial snippet - although there might have been as originally printed. A side note, Willkie died in October 1944, and his running mate, Charles McNary, died in February of that year, which means if he Willkie had been elected, his Secretary of State would have become President (this was before the order of succession was changed by the 25th Amendment).

1944 - “Communists and other left-wingers who want to revolutionize the American form of government by establishing some form of state-socialism are becoming more and more entrenched in the government.” Well, we can certainly see where Joseph McCarthy got his inspiration when the Plain Dealer endorsed Thomas Dewey for President, which they did again four years later.

1960 - The PD endorsed Nixon in his run against Kennedy - indeed, Ohio went Republican in 1960, bucking the national trend. Nixon’s disastrous presidency a decade later serves as testament to the PD’s lack of insight into his character. But can anyone imagine how a Nixon presidency in the early 60’s would have fared? How would Nixon, not known for grace under pressure or cool-headedness, have handled the Cuban Missile Crisis? None of us might have been left to cluck at the Plain Dealer’s editorial board’s idiotic statement that “Mr. Nixon is more mature and stable in his thinking and attitudes” than John F. Kennedy.

1984: In their slavish lauding of Ronald Reagan, they fail to mention the spiraling budget and trade deficits that would lead to the 1987 stock market crash and 1990 recession.

1996: The PD editors rightly endorsed Bill Clinton, but their condemnation of “an ill-advised $16 billion ‘economic stimulus’ package” (which touched off the greatest economic expansion in post-war American history and was to result in budget surpluses) is not one of their great crystal ball moments. Clintonomics worked - which is more than could be said for Bushomics.

2000: Again, the PD editors were right about one aspect of George W. Bush: his “authenticity”. He was a genuine idiot - and as Americans learned painfully over the next eight years: beware the power behind the throne.

2004: There is no denying that Senator John Kerry was a weak candidate, unable to explain his vote for the Iraq war, which he was for before he was against. But in the Plain Dealer’s refusal to endorse any candidate, they also failed to punish Bush for the worst intelligence failure in American history and two incompetently waged wars which costs thousands of American lives. No presidency since Richard Nixon’s (whom the PD endorsed thrice) had such a high body count. How interesting that the Plain Dealer makes no mention of the issue they harped on in 1936 and 1940: the budget deficit and federal debt - which skyrocketed during Bush’s term, obliterating the Clinton surplus. I suppose they followed Dick Cheney’s dictum that “deficits don’t matter”.

In this year’s endorsement, the Plain Dealer only hints at what I’ve been stating for months: If Barack Obama is turned out of office, it would be the single most egregious act of ingratitude in American political history.

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