Mitt Romney’s Previous Bad Trip

In light of this week’s visit to London, Israel and Poland by the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee, Willard ‘Mitt’ Romney, it is instructive to recall his recent visit to Houston to address the 103rd Annual Convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP), America’s oldest and largest civil rights organisation.

Considering that he will face America’s first black president, Barack Obama, in the election this November, his decision was an interesting one. The NAACP has a strong tradition of inviting presidential candidates to address their conventions and is officially non-partisan, however, an analysis of the black vote is revealing.

In 2004, only 7% of African Americans considered themselves Republican. In 2008, 95% of the African American vote went to Obama, in contrast to only 4% going to McCain that year and only 11% to President George W. Bush in 2004. That same year (2008) the black vote rose to 13% of the national total, up from 11%, but intriguingly, Obama’s take of the black vote was up only 2% from that received by Bill Clinton in 1996 and virtually tied with Jimmy Carter’s 94% in 1980.

The Republican take of the black vote has its own interesting elements: In both 2000 and 2004, George W. Bush received 11% of the black vote, considerably higher than the 4% that voted for Bob Dole in 1996 or the 6% that voted for George H. W. Bush in 1992. The 1992 figure was particularly interesting considering the 21% that George H.W. Bush received in 1988 and is perhaps indicative of Bill Clinton’s ability to connect with the African American community. Prior to this, Reagan had received 12% in 1984, and a paltry 3% of the black vote in 1980.

It is possible to discern a pattern, therefore, of overwhelming black support for Democratic candidates and scant support of Republicans.

Romney’s decision to attend was hardly done in the expectation of winning the crowd over and taking the black vote in November, but he could not afford to snub the invitation. Romney faced a tough call in Houston: He could tell the audience what it wanted to hear or he could stick to his message. It has been suggested that he was booed for failing to understand what the audience wanted and for referring to the health care legislation as ObamaCare. In other words, he didn’t pander to his audience.

Irrespective of what one feels about Romney’s politics, there is something to be said about telling an audience something unpalatable rather than merely paying lip service to their desires. Clearly, any Republican seeking to gain the support of the African American community is going to have their work cut out for them. Romney’s task is made all the harder by his opposition to the health care reforms that President Obama has passed and which he plans to repeal. His speech can be viewed in full HERE.

The event has become mired in acrimony.  Romney was booed in places, and cheered in others. He has been accused on MSNBC of attending in the knowledge that he would be poorly received, in the expectation that this would drive ‘racist’ non-black voters into the Romney camp. Such interpretation is clearly incendiary and designed to stoke the passions on both sides. It is certainly far from helpful. Read a transcript of the speech HERE

Romney has also been accused of drafting attendees to the convention to deliberately cheer in key points and to be seen embracing Romney (figuratively, if not literally) after the speech. Romney undoubtedly invited members of the black community to attend this address and it would be more surprising if he had not. The degree to which a small number of invited guests could drown out a hostile crowd, however, is open to speculation. This led to a rather undignified showdown between Bill O’Riley and my old boss Hilary Shelton, the NAACP’s Washington Bureau Chief on Fox News.

Whatever one makes of Romney’s speech and the reaction to it, he did at least attend. This is more than can be said for America’s first African-American president who elected instead to send his gaffe-prone vice president, Joe Biden in his place and record a video message for his many supporters at the NAACP.

It is fascinating that this has not garnered a greater response: Romney has been critiqued for attending, for his speech and for potentially manipulating the crowd. But very little has been said in response to Obama’s ‘scheduling conflict’ that prevented him from attending the annual conference of America’s most important civil rights organisation. Had Romney offered such an excuse surely the accusation would be that he was at the very least indifferent to the black community. What the decision of America’s first black president to stay away says about his priorities heading into the November election is open to similar interpretation.

With 99 short days top go until the election, it appears that neither candidate is covering themselves in glory as they barnstorm the planet in desperate search for cash and votes. In the process they demean themselves and the office for which they year. This, alas, has become the accepted way of doing things and nothing, it seems, is about to alter that, whoever wins in November.

Murdoch’s Final Fate will be decided in DC, not in London

Forget what you think you know about the current furore surrounding Rupert Murdoch and News International. If you imagine that what is transpiring here in the UK will bring down News International or its illustrious leader, think again. What has started here will not conclude the story, or come anywhere close to it. The real damage will likely be done 3,000 miles away, across a vast expanse of water, on Capitol Hill.

You may recall that the story was slow to build in the UK. As long as phone hacking was confined to a few overpaid celebrities, more famous for being famous than anything else there was not too much to feel sorrow or anger over. What caused the great sea change? As soon as it was revealed that the organisation had acquired access to the phone messages of a murdered schoolgirl and of fallen members of the armed services. Once that occurred, all hell broke loose.

Well, America and Britain are not the same, as the Washington Post reminds us. In this case the Americans are not messing about with the preamble.

What will prove to be the undoing of the Murdoch empire will be any evidence that can be found that connects his business dealings to similar activity regarding fallen US armed service personnel, or worse still, victims of the attacks of September 11, 2001.

The events of 9/11 remain an open wound in the United States; open for exploitation by politicians and the media. If the FBI establishes a link here, then what has transpired here in London this past week, will be but a sideshow to what will occur in the United States. Legal representatives from both the UK and US governments are already in conversation with regard to the situation and possible developments.

I wrote earlier today about the politics of revenge in relation to the UK. The same is true in the United Sates. With bells on.

Politicians are already lining up to call for charges to be filed against Murdoch. Blood is in the water and the feeding frenzy is about to start.

The great danger for Murdoch is that politicians from all walks of life, from all locations and from both sides of the political aisle are lining up to call for hearings and investigations. This is not a partisan issue but rather one on which no politician dare side with Murdoch. That Peter King, the Republican from New York who recently held hearings into the role of Muslims in American society, has refused to do so, speaks volumes. King is also, for the record, a Fox News contributor.

For do not forget that Murdoch’s holdings extend to the formidable Fox News, an organisation that many would love to give a bloody nose. Its critics may well now have the perfect opportunity to deliver this right to the face of the man himself. The network’s repeated efforts to critique its opponents as unpatriotic and lacking in empathy with the military or the victims of 9/11 appears likely to boomerang back on them in a dramatic twist of fate. The very least that this could lead to is the downfall of the Fox News Network.

The folks at MSNBC must be loving it.

The scandal also threatens Piers Morgan, Larry King’s replacement on CNN, due to his past ties to the Murdoch Empire. Like Murdoch, Morgan is another foreigner making his way in a land that will not take kindly to them if they are shown to have exploited the great national tragedy in any way.

The United Sates is the land of opportunity, where fortunes and reputations can be made. However, Rupert Murdoch risks discovering that what goes up can also come down. Having rejected his Australian passport in the 1980s to comply with US media ownership laws, Murdoch may well have exposed himself and his family to the full extent of American law if the FBI investigations go forward and if members of Congress decide to hold hearings into the actions of his organisation. The resignation of Rebekah Brooks has left his son and heir apparent, James Murdoch, terribly exposed to the investigations that are sure to be announced in the coming days. Murdoch may well have purchased his citizenship, but he will find that as a foreigner, he will not have been able to purchase himself any good will when times are tough. Americans are rightly loyal to their own and Murdoch may well find this out to his great cost.

Twenty years ago, Rupert Murdoch’s great rival in the UK, Robert Maxwell, disappeared in mysterious circumstances and turned up drowned in the Atlantic
Ocean at the height of a scandal surrounding his company’s pension fund.

Dishonour, ignominy, scandal: How history loves to repeat itself

It appears that, like Maxwell, the very methods that raised the Murdoch family to great wealth and privilege, risk bringing them shame and ignominy on a terrible scale.