Is Mitt Romney His Father’s Son?

Written By: Rik Sault

On Tuesday, George W. Bush offered his first endorsement of Mitt Romney, albeit offhandedly. After GW finished a speech on human rights in DC, the doors of an elevator were just about to close on him when he told a reporter, “I’m for Mitt Romney.” Romney got the formal backing of GW’s parents – George H.W. and Barbara – in March.

Mitt and Bush-the-younger exemplify how presidential aspirations sometimes run in the family. Mitt’s father, George Romney, had a storied political career, including a failed bid for the presidency. It has been said that Mitt grew up stumping in his father’s campaigns, and that he truly idolized his dad. Mitt himself has even said that he is his father’s son.

In some ways, their biographies are similar. Father and son both became successful business executives, earning millions, before committing themselves to running for office. George Romney headed Detroit’s American Motors Corporation from 1954 until 1962, during which time the company’s stock rose from $7 to $90 per share. He then became a two-term Republican Governor of Michigan, breaking a 14-year Democratic streak in that office, and eventually put in a bid for the presidency in 1968. Of course, Mitt’s claim to fame is that he spent many years at Bain Capital – whatever that is – before beginning his various forays into the political arena.

But their business records, and views on business, diverge on some points. George was described as a “a folk hero of the American auto industry,” and came to criticize what he saw as the twin evils of “big labor” in the Democratic Party and “big business” in the Republican Party. But Mitt eschewed the bailout of Detroit’s carmakers and, although he is no friend of unions, he seems to be a shining champion of big business. While head of AMC, George and other executives reduced their salaries by up to 35% and whenever he felt his own salary and bonus was too high in a given year, he gave the excess back to the company. As for Mitt, how long did we have to wait for his tax returns?

There may be differences, too, with respect to each man’s motivations and sense of self. At first blush it seems that George meant what he said and said what he meant; he entered politics guided by his own clear worldview. George, regarded by the GOP as self-righteous, was encouraged to run for president because of his views. He was a moderate Republican and he was favored as a counterpoint to the vexingly conservative Barry Goldwater. In 1964, George decided against running for president, partly because he promised the people of Michigan that he would stay on as their governor. When Goldwater became the Republican nominee, George did not hesitate to express his differences of opinion with the hyper-conservative (for example, George strongly disagreed with Goldwater’s antiquated disdain for the civil rights movement). During his gubernatorial campaign, if the press asked whether he was a Goldwater supporter, he would tell them, “You know darn well I’m not!”

Mitt, however, seems to adopt whichever views are best to win the race he happens to be in, including adopting the conservative GOP party line when it suits him. He draws constant criticism for being inauthentic, a notorious flip-flopper who changes his views at the drop of a dime. As pundits on both sides are quick to point, Mitt was a moderate as governor of Massachussetts (one term), but in the past year he had no qualms hiding those views under the couch so that he could puff out his chest as a “true conservative.” While pleasing most of the people most of the time may be a great skill for a business leader, when it comes to politics I really don’t see how Mitt supporters can abide by his lack of conviction on big issues – like abortion, for instance, or Obamacare (he may be aptly credited with inventing that one himself, in Massachusetts).

Mitt is not only a flip-flopper on his political views, but also on his political goals. After he left Bain in 1999, he considered the Senate or the governorship in either Utah or Massachusetts. One Romney aide offered this observation, “(Mitt) wanted to be governor. Whether it was governor of Massachusetts or Utah or Oklahoma, he didn’t much care. It was about winnability.”

Well, in any event, there is no question that he wants to be president. He is trying really hard, and spending an unfathomable amount of money. He has already gotten farther than his Dad did. Saying the right thing at the right time is a skill, I suppose. Although Mitt has had some gaffes, so far he has proved better at it than George, whose pursuit of the presidency ended quickly amid jeers at his claim that he was brainwashed by U.S. generals into supporting the Vietnam War.

Dan Rather v. CBS — Why Continue the War?

Written By: Rik Sault

At age 80, Dan Rather may be trying to embody one of his many memorable quotes: “You can’t be a good reporter and not regularly be involved in some kind of controversy.”

Rather unceremoniously parted ways with CBS after an infamous 60 Minutes segment about George W. Bush going AWOL during his Vietnam-era stint as an Air National Guardsman. The September 2004 story was based on photocopies of memos criticizing young Bush’s performance, but the documents were widely debunked as fake. CBS commissioned an independent investigation of the debacle and Rather, among others, was faulted for failing to properly vet the documents. Rather left CBS in 2006, after 43 years with the network.

At first, Rather apologized for the incident, saying that CBS news could no longer vouch for the authenticity of the documents. But he eventually changed course, indicating that CBS was too quick to fold and proclaiming, “Nobody has ever proven that the documents were not what they purported to be.” On September 19, 2007, Rather sued CBS for $70 million, alleging breach of contract and fraud, but one of New York State’s Appellate Divisions dismissed the case in 2009.

Now, Rather is on tour promoting his new book, Rather Outspoken: My Life in the News. A large part of the book deals with his departure from CBS and his ongoing tirade against what he perceives as the corporatization and trivialization of American journalism. In the book he says that CBS chief Leslie Moonves has a “spine of Jell-O.” In Rather’s opinion, while Moonves is a great asset to the entertainment division at CBS, he has undermined the strong history of CBS news. He also describes Katie Couric, who anchored the CBS Evening News from 2006 to 2011, as “News Lite.” On a prior occasion, he opined that it was a mistake to try to bring the “Today show ethos” to the CBS Evening News, and to “dumb it down, tart it up in hopes of attracting a younger audience.”

When Dan Kurtz recently asked Rather to appear on his CNN show Reliable Sources, Kurtz received no response. Kurtz talked about Rather on his show anyway, and he asked the question that many of us our wondering, “Why is Dan Rather still pushing and defending this story, this discredited story?”

Some sources says he has spent more than $5 million on his crusade. As a sage friend of mine pointed out, if he would have just dropped it, people would have long forgotten about the Air National Guard incident. So why won’t Dan Rather take my friend’s advice and just drop it?

Could it be that he is simply carrying a chip on his shoulder after his fall from grace? Or maybe he was forced to endure years of corporate and political limitations on his journalistic freedom while working for CBS, and after he left his post he is now free to cry out.

Whether he is a zealous champion of real American journalism or a stubborn, 80-year-old Texan (or both!), his actions do seem to ensure that he will not soon be forgotten. While his ratings towards the end of his CBS career lagged behind those of NBC’s Tom Brokaw and ABC’s Peter Jennings, his dogged tenacity and borderline liberal conspiracy theories may ensure that his Wikipedia entry is more oft-viewed than either of them.

Secret Service Respond to Prostitution Scandal — Lackluster at Best

It has been almost a month since Secret Service members allegedly brought prostitutes to their hotel rooms in Cartagena, Colombia, prior to President Obama’s arrival for the Summit of the Americas.

So far the ever-widening scandal has implicated a dozen Secret Service employees; eight have left the agency, three were cleared of serious misconduct, and one is being stripped of his security clearance. Moreover, at least eleven military service members are under scrutiny because of the incident, including 6 Army Special Forces soldiers, or Green Berets. Separate investigations by the Secret Service, the Department of Defense, and the House Homeland Security Committee are currently ongoing.

As the scandal began to unfold, many folks – including former Secret Service director Ralph Basham (who ran the outfit for 31 years) and President Obama’s campaign adviser David Axelrod – took the position that although the allegations were quite disturbing, this was an isolated incident in the organization’s history, an aberration

In an interview about a week after the incident, Basham said, “Certainly, this incident is an extremely embarrassing incident, but it is an incident. And I believe if you look back at the history of the Secret Service, you’ve got to recognize that this is not characteristic of the organization.” He maintained that “This is not the character of the men and women who serve every day in the Secret Service.”

When I first heard the story, I rooted for the Secret Service. I wanted to believe that it was indeed an aberration – an isolated incident in an otherwise unblemished history of exemplary service.

But now the Secret Service has confirmed an additional investigation into allegations that some of its members hired prostitutes in El Salvador, before a visit last year by President Obama, which gives more credence to Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s remarks blaming the incident on the agency’s lack of ethics.

In response to these embarrassing soirees, the agency has imposed a set of “strict” new rules. One of these new Secret Service rules of conduct informs members that “foreign nationals, excluding hotel staff and official counterparts, are prohibited in your hotel room.” Another reads, “Alcohol may only be consumed in moderate amounts while off-duty on a TDY (temporary duty) assignment, and alcohol use is prohibited within 10 hours of reporting for duty.” Another rule mandates that agents must obey U.S. laws even while abroad.

May I take a moment to ask the obvious question — How were these rules not in place before?!

Did I mention that the new rules also ban visits to “non-reputable establishments.” I assume this means strip clubs, but that term likely encompasses TGIFridays and Applebee’s as well.

Occupy Wall Street Update: What are the Occupiers Occupying?

(Credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid)

Hey remember the Occupy Movement? Well in case you’ve been wondering, its legal battles continue, and Occupiers continue to wield their sleeping bags and their persistence to (purportedly) fight for the rights of the 99%.

A man who refused to leave Zuccotti Park during the “eviction” of Occupy Wall Street last November is currently fighting a criminal charge of trespassing. Earlier this month, a Manhattan Criminal Court judge ruled that New York City and park owner Brookfield Properties had a right to evict Occupiers from their encampment in the park if necessary to remedy unsafe conditions. However, the judge found that a trial is required to determine whether the conditions actually were unsafe, as both NYC officials and the park’s owner claim.

According to the judge, if the allegations in the criminal complaint are proven true, the park conditions at the time of the eviction not only interfered with the public’s ability to use the park, but also posed a hazard to the health and safety of the public. Therefore, the judge found that these allegedly deteriorating conditions justified the park owner’s temporary removal of the park Occupiers for cleaning so that alleged safety hazards could be addressed.

Notably, the judge rejected the argument that evicting the Occupiers ran afoul of the First Amendment, agreeing with another Manhattan judge who rejected a civil challenge to the eviction the day after it occurred. In allowing the trespass case to proceed, the Criminal Court judge held that while some symbolic or expressive conduct is considered speech under the First Amendment, it is well settled that not all conduct meant to convey a message amounts to expressive speech.

According to the Manhattan DA’s office, about 2,020 people associated with Occupy Wall Street have been arrested in NYC since the protest began last September.

As the Occupiers are still fighting the eviction from Zuccotti Park, they also developed a new tactic – sleeping on Wall Street sidewalks near the New York Stock Exchange. According to an Occupy Wall Street spokesperson, last week protesters began sleeping in front of banks in lower Manhattan to highlight the issue of income inequality.

At least one attorney says that, as long as the sleep-puts are not incompatible with the public space, the protesters cannot be arrested because of a 2000 court decision allowing people to sleep on sidewalks to express their political views.

Occupy movements in other U.S. cities remain active despite setbacks. Occupy Detroit vacated its downtown encampment in Grand Circus Park last November – about the same time that campers had to leave Zuccotti Park in NYC. But nonetheless, members continue to work throughout Detroit on projects such as foreclosure prevention and homelessness.

On Friday night, Occupy Louisville (Kentucky) campers had to vacate the city park where they had been living for over four months, after their application for a permit to remain in the park was denied. The city’s chief of public safety claimed that the Occupy campers impeded the general public’s access to the park and caused serious damage to the property. But Louisville Occupiers remain confident that they will not disappear; they will remain active in the community.

Although I admire their moxie and I applaud them for taking advantage of all this free camping, can anyone tell me what the Occupiers stand for? And also, will they eventually put “Occupier” on their resumes after their camping trip is over?

The Supreme Court Allows Strip Searches for Minor Offenses — Outrage Ensues


I have once again commissioned the services of my Contributing Editor, Rik Sault, to write about all the smart things that are far beyond my comprehension. I deliberately surround myself with very intelligent people so that I can abuse them at a later date to write articles for The Dishmaster, and so far my plan is working. Read below for a very succinct summary of a very insane issue.

Written By: Rik Sault, Contributing Editor

On Monday, a divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled that jailers may Constitutionally strip-search people arrested for the most minor offenses – like failing to use a turn signal or riding a bicycle without an audible bell – even if there is no reason to suspect that the arrestee is carrying concealed contraband.

The case was brought by a New Jersey man arrested after a traffic stop; the police mistakenly believed that he had failed to pay a fine. While he was jailed for a week, in two different facilities, he was twice required to shower with delousing soap and undergo a strip search. He brought suit alleging violations of his privacy rights under the Fourth and 14th Amendment, and arguing that jail officials must have reasonable suspicion of concealed contraband before they can strip-search people arrested for minor crimes.

At the Supreme Court, the justices split 5-4 along ideological lines. Justice Kennedy, the famed “swing” vote, wrote the opinion. He and the Court’s conservative faction found that it’s difficult for jails (strictly speaking, the term does not include prisons) to know which of the 13 million arrestees taken in each year are dangerous. Therefore, “courts must defer to the judgment” of the jailers “unless there is substantial evidence showing their policies are an unnecessary or unjustified response to problems of jail security.” Kennedy offered three reasons for rejecting a rule requiring reasonable suspicion before conducting a strip search: (1) deterring contraband, (2) the danger of introducing lice or contagions into the jails, and (3) the “identification and isolation” of gang members by looking for gang-related tattoos and markings.

Justice Breyer wrote the dissent, which was joined by Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan. The four liberal justices found that the searches permitted by the majority were “a serious affront to human dignity and to individual privacy,” and that the Fourth Amendment should be understood to bar strip searches for minor offenses which do not involve drugs or violence unless there is a reasonable suspicion of concealed contraband.

But in spite of the dissenters’ qualms, the majority’s opinion appears to be fairly limited. In a concurring opinion, conservative Justice Alito explained, “The Court holds that jail administrators may require all arrestees who are committed to the general population of a jail to undergo visual strip searches not involving physical contact by (guards)… the Court does not hold that it is always reasonable to conduct a full strip search of an arrestee whose detention has not been reviewed by a judicial officer and who could be held in available facilities apart from the general population.” Because the decision applies only when the arrestee will be admitted to a jail’s general population, it is unlikely that the decision will directly affect lawsuits in which arrestees allege that they were unlawfully strip searched but not placed in a general population. Moreover, the strip searches upheld by the decision involve only a visual inspection – no touching. And the decision certainly does not require that all jails conduct the strip searches. It merely holds that the Fourth Amendment does not forbid them. Jails are free to set their own policies on whether to conduct visual-inspection strip searches of all arrestees.

The High Court’s decision can be viewed here

Is “Obamacare” Constitutional? — Experts Weigh-In

I get a lot of requests from my Dishmaster followers to add political commentary to my blog. But because my brain is the size of a walnut, I find myself frequently explaining that anything outside the entertainment industry is too far beyond my comprehension to write about. After all, that political science major was just so damn long ago, and who pays attention in college anyhow? But since I’m fortunate enough to have very smart friends, I’ve commissioned the services of my trusted contributing editor, Rik Sault, to weigh-in on the constitutionality of “Obamacare.” Read below.

On Friday, after three days of oral arguments, the United States Supreme Court voted on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Just as public and political opinion about Obamacare is generally drawn along party lines, with Democrats in favor and many Republicans vehemently opposed to it, the High Court’s Justices seem to be similarly split. It is almost certain that the more conservative Justices will vote to strike down at least one portion of the revolutionary health care law – the so-called individual mandate which requires all U.S. citizens to obtain health insurance or pay a penalty – because, in their view, it exceeds the Constitutional limit of the federal government’s power.

Opponents of the individual mandate generally frame the issue in terms of the freedom of markets, and whether the government can force citizens to buy something. At Tuesday’s oral arguments, conservative Justice Scalia, who is widely seen as opposed to Obamacare, set forth this proposition: The federal government cannot force folks to buy broccoli, so how can it force them to buy health insurance.

But liberal Justice Ginsburg likened the mandate to Social Security. She explained that in the 1930’s, the U.S. had a national problem of people needing old-age and survivor insurance. Therefore, she furthered, it enacted a tax requiring everyone to contribute because without healthy folks and young folks there wouldn’t be enough money to pay for the old, disabled, or widowed. And that tax was constitutional.

While the individual mandate is only one of the two provisions reviewed by the High Court, it received the most argument time, and it seems to be the most pivotal. If the Court strikes down the individual mandate, it could possibly strike down the whole law because the mandate is such an important piece – a piece that cannot be severed.

The Solicitor General, the Obama administration’s attorney arguing in support of the Affordable Care Act, closed his arguments by reaffirming that it will increase public access to affordable health care. He said that Congress has struggled for decades to come up with a way to reform health care. “Maybe they were right, maybe they were wrong,” the Solicitor General said, but the law is within the bounds of Congress’s power under the Constitution, and should not be second-guessed by the Court. Former Bush Solicitor General Paul Clement, counsel to 26 state attorneys general challenging the law, countered, “it’s a very funny conception of liberty,” a law requiring folks to purchase health insurance “whether they want it or not.”

Although the Justices took a vote on the case on Friday, the decision is not expected until June.

Movie Review — ‘Rise of Planet of the Apes’

I asked one of my editors to write me a review of ‘Rise of Planet of the Apes’ tonight, primarily because I’m over-worked, and I thought, “that’s what my editors are for, right? They take the burden off of me when I want a mini-vacation.” He insisted that he’s “way under-slept,” and he’s “being harassed by a “very dumb black and white cat who does not know how her claws work.” Since I’m a convincing boss, I insisted, and he delivered what has to be the worst movie review I’ve ever read. But because I needed a laugh, and he delivered — I’m posting his review in its entirety. Enjoy!

If I had to describe it in one word: Awesome. If I get two words: Super-Awesome.

But I must admit up front that I am super-biased. Why?

1. I am a discerning dude who loves the appropriate kind of movie destruction – and I think destruction by Apes is very appropro.

2. I love James Franco (but I am not gay)

To dispel all suspicions to the contrary this film is not a remake of any of the old Planet of the Apes films, it is a reboot – this story has not been done before.

Notwithstanding this hyper-technical factoid, any type of remake, reboot, revisit of prior films poses all kinds of risks of a major letdown. Fortunately, I myself have no stake in the original series.

You have to take this film for what it is. It is not high art. There are gaps in the plot. But overall it is an exciting and enthralling film.

As a foundation, it effectively offers character sketches of the three strong lead actors: James Franco as a passionate, flighty, and somewhat socially inept scientist bent on helping the world; John Lithgow as a father struggling with Alzheimer’s, and Caesar the lead ape, the movie is really about him and they really did a great job humanizing this ape.

And then the film added some themes that I really like: humans tampering with the natural order, existentialism, and animal rights.

Finally, as one would hope, the apes (I am so tempted to call them monkeys but they aren’t), kick major ass – they tear things apart, they ride horses, they defeat the SWAT team – you can’t go wrong, here. I mean if you are not into the ape carnage, still see it for Franco and Lithgow.


What is Defamation & Why Didn’t Ashton Kutcher Sue?

At the time Star Magazine published their story about how Ashton Kutcher cheated on Demi Moore, Kutcher tweeted that Star Magazine defamed his character and he threatened to sue. This isn’t the first time celebrities have sued or threatened to sue tabloids for defamation of character. So what is defamation, and why doesn’t every celebrity sue?

The first thing to understand about defamation is that celebrities can’t sue anyone who airs their dirty laundry if it’s true. When celebrities and other public figures sue for defamation, they can only win if they prove that the defamatory statement is false.

Oh what’s that you say? What is a defamatory statement? Great question. It is a statement about the celebrity which hurts his reputation. The statement must also be communicated to a person other than the celebrity himself. (So if Star Magazine called Ashton at his house and accused him of cheating, they’d be in the clear — because no one else heard it).

Given the above explanation, it doesn’t seem like it should be so hard for Ashton to prove his case against Star Magazine, right? They published the story — “Ashton Kutcher Caught Cheating…” — to the world and it makes Ashton sound like an unfaithful jerk. And of course it’s false – that Jamie Madrox look-alike would never cheat on G.I. Jane, right?

But there’s one more catch — as a public figure, Ashton must prove that Star Magazine published the statement with full knowledge that the statement was false or with reckless disregard for whether it was true or false. Sure, they probably knew they were lying and they probably do it all the time. But how is Ashton going to prove it in court?

It is hard for him to come up with photos of him NOT kissing girls. He would have to get someone from Star to blow up their own journalistic spot and say, “yeah, I knew it wasn’t true and I wrote it anyway.”

If you’ve been following my analysis, you might have come to one of two conclusions to the title of this post. Either the case is just too hard to win, or Ashton really did cheat and can’t sue a tabloid for reporting the truth.  So which one is it?  I have no idea, but you’re free to draw your own conclusions.

In closing, I’d like to proclaim that everything I didn’t already know, I learned from The Dishmaster.