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A bipartisan analysis UPDATE 2

Here's a look at our two presidential candidates that suggests why neither of them should get elected.Update: Here's the PBS Frontline show that started the discussion.Update 2: And here is Gail Collins on the state of many Democrats: "When Democrats run into each other in elevators, they exchange glances and sigh. Or make little whimpering sounds."

About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.



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I saw on PBS a very even approach to both men. The analysis was good too. We will see in the next 25 days a fighting Obama which will show a big difference from an accommodating Obama we saw in the first 4 years. get your seat belt tightened.

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels:Question, if I am not being too intrusive. Are you going to sit out this election?

Absolutely not sitting out! Some people think I'm too partisan (imagine that!), so I thought I'd throw in what seemed to be a clear-headed analysis of problems with both candidates (based on the PBS show that Ed Gleason cites above).

IMO, at that point he was still a white man in a somewhat black skin and his black colleagues on the Review thought the same. His body language, diction and vocabulary selection were not "black" at all. This kind of talk makes me very uncomfortable. Can white people become "black" and black people become "white," or is it only people of mixed race who can convert back and forth? I thought the whole point was that we were not supposed to discriminate against people because of the color of their skin. I don't think a single individual can write a "bipartisan analysis." It would take one or more Democrats joining with one or more Republicans to produce something bipartisan.

Last January, when I was still living in Florida, I heard a radio spot for Mitt Romney during the Florida Republican Primary by Mary Ann Glendon. She said that Romney was the most pro-life candidate.This Tuesday, Romney told The Des Moines Register in an interview; Theres no legislation with regards to abortion that Im familiar with that would become part of my agenda.Mary Ann Glendon, do you want to take your comment back?Rick Santorum, you have to weigh in on this.

Romney on abortion: He's right Theres no legislation with regards to abortion that Im familiar with that would become part of my agenda. But he could appoint one or two Supreme Court Justices that might put some limits on Roe v. Wade.But yes, what do Glendon and Santorum make of his weasel words?

David Nickol: "This kind of talk makes me very uncomfortable."If I recall that kind of talk was pretty common in Obama's campaign for Bobby Rush's House seat, and there was more of it at the beginning of the 2008 Democratic primaries especially from African-Americans.

Peggy, have we ever had a 'perfect' candidate? Not IMO. We are electing a president, not canonizing a saint -- and even they...well, I'll leave it at that.

Obama is a sensitive and intelligent soul (gag) who went on a voyage to discover his public persona, compared to the shallow self-absorbed and shifty, money-grubbing businessman Romney, who has a grumpy wife by the way, and who only looks for prizes.Non-biased, non-partisan, clear-headed; right, uh-huh. Aye Carumba -

I like how Chesterton put the saint business (paraphrasing); 'One thing that makes a saint a saint is they they understand what sinners they are'

The main take away from the PBS analysis was that Romney and the Romney generational family motivation and drive is/was very similar to the Kennedy family saga. i.e. "we'll show them' as a religious based driving force. Obama, forsaking after Harvard law, a Supreme court internship or WS /Big Time law store for a struggling political career to 'do good' for his newly discovered 'people' appeals to my support. The " we'll show em' accounts for both Kennedy and Romney lack of gravitas about the real issues. One picks Johnson the other picks Ryan. Too calculating picks against type.

Amazing how Camelot still haunts some -

"The tale of his always shifting policy positions makes it clear that he is through and through a businessman. "Excellent observation. Most business decisions are matters of useful v. non-useful, not matters of good v. evil. Romney seems to view the whole political domain as a matter of utility, as non-moral. That's why he can choose to defend one policy one day, because it's the useful way to attain his goal, and the opposite policy the next day, because it has become the most useful onw. Unfortunately, this shows a lack of conscience, not mental acumen. It also shows a stunning lack of heart.

David N. --The black community even has a term to describe black people who are "black on the outside, white on the inside". It's "Oreo".

Caught last night's PBS Frontline special on Obama and Romney. It provided me with some insights into the how and why of Obama's performance in the first debate.While stipulating that I am a "happy-clappy" liberal that is still inspired by Obama's "Hope and Change" rhetoric, I was hoping that there was some political strategy behind the President's "choice" to disengage from debating Romney last week. But now, I don't think that was the case.I have to say that the President's "I-don't-want-to-be-here" performance was really his sudden public awareness, right there on the debate stage, how angry and disappointed he was in his own inability to be that transformative political figure that could bridge the divide between black and white, red and blue.During that debate with Romney he came face to face with the personification, embodied in Romney, of all that is broken and sick about our American political culture. And, Barack Obama is/has been powerless to change it. In fact, I would have to say that the President actually "choked" on it in front of 50 million people.It has to be obvious to anyone who thinks that Romney will lie, contort, and morph into anything that he feels he needs to be in order to get elected. The therapist in me tells me that part of all that sweating that Romney did during the debate - one of the few real human physiological responses Romney has allowed the public to see - is having to contend with his own internal conflicts over what he really believes and what he thinks will please the electorate - at least enough to get to 51% of the vote, that is.In the Frontline documentary, we got a glimpse of how much Romney's Mormon heritage fuels his political ambitions. They are inseparable from the tensions in his own family. Seemingly, Romney envisions himself as the cultural champion - not dissimilar from what John Kennedy was for Catholics - for his odd and peculiar religious cult that promotes fresh divine revelations, justifies polygamy until it is politically inconvenient, and where a married deity lives on the planet Kolob. That is a heavy weight for a man to carry on his shoulders.Given Obama's post-debate combative performances and the din from all the media Talking-Heads, it now seems to portend that in the coming debates the President and his erstwhile VP will go on the political attack hoping to take down Romney, deflate his recent boomlet, much like Ted Kennedy did to Romney back during their Senate contest.I'm sure the President is saddened, even angry that he must strap on his political fighting armor and PERSONALLY try to dismantle the illusive fictions that Romney is spinning. [Obama certainly won't get any help from the hopelessly compromised and brain dead media.]Sadly, our politics and the presidency itself will be diminished.It seems that even for the heroic Obama who envisioned and sought a post-partisan politics, that like all of us, he has learned a very hard lesson: When dreams die hard, it hurts - a lot.

The black community even has a term to describe black people who are black on the outside, white on the inside. Its Oreo.Ann,I was aware of that, but I think it is regrettable. There is also the extremely disturbing concept among some minority students of "acting white"studying and getting good grades. The whole point of the civil rights movement was that people "not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." There should not be a way a person is supposed to act if he or she has one color of skin rather than another. It shouldn't make any difference what race or mix of races Obama is. Nobody would accuse a white person of not being white enough, and it is offensive to accuse a black person, or a person of mixed race, of being "too white" or "not black enough." There may be certain kinds of benign "ethnic identities," probably limited to ethnic minorities. And there are certainly benign ways of identifying with one's own people, whether they be black, or gay, or working class, or cancer survivors, or whatever. But taken too far, these kinds of things are basically racism.

a fighting Obama which will show a big difference from an accommodating ObamaIMHO, either is a mistake. What we need is a President who can deal with the minority and get half a loaf, rather than all-or-none. That was the genius of Tip Oneil and Ronald Reagan.

" a President who can deal with the minority 'St Francis, who tried to deal with the Sultan, could not have successfully 'dealt' with Issa, McConnel, Cantor, and their slew of Tea party congressional supporters either.

David,You are right that its regrettable, but it is nevertheless true. Black Americans who are descendents of slaves consider themselves to be quite different from recent African 'voluntary' immigrants (such as Pres. Obama's father). The urban black experience is different from the rural black experience. Those differences devolve to class distinctions. You see it also in Hispanics, both country of origin, accent and 'when you arrived.'Racism? Perhaps, but so widespread as to be close to the norm of behavior among minority groups.

I very much dislike group-identity thinking, and am convinced it only serves to perpetuate discrimination based on color or ethnicity. Personally in my relations with people from other groups, I come at it initially that we both think the same way, and adjust my approach from there as the situation requires. With black guys, I tend to the job at hand, talk sports (boring in any case, unless it is soccer!) or talk about our families (way more fun than sports). With Mexicans and other latinos, I do the same thing; tend to the matter at hand, and chat socially as described. With Asian and Indian guys, it is even easier (for me) to ignore whatever cultural differences we might have.

David N. ==The black people I knew who used the term had a meaning which seemed to largely mean what white folks meant by "middle class". So to be an Oreo for them largely meant "to be middle class". For most black people middle class people were almost all white and anti-black. So the meaning of "Oreo" was complex. It was a strange sort fo term with both racial and class things going on with it. It's also true that for some black people it meant simply "Uncle Tom", a terrible insult. As with so many uses of words, one had always to consider the source and tone of voice.I think it's asking too much of black folks to forget the color of people's skins. When you consider how they were beaten down, even killed, because of the color of theirs and yet they survived, one can understand how they might want to enjoy it free of the automatic fear that used to go with it. That's a lot of what "Black is beautiful" was about.

TANGENTFormer Republican Senator Larry Pressler has endorsed Pres. Obama. He'll be called a RINO, of course. Hmm. I wonder if any others will follow course.

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