Politico Arena

Sex and the Married General: 3 Reasons Petraeus Had to Go

by Gloria Feldt on November 12th, 2012
in Leadership, Politico Arena, Politics, Power, Women & Work

When CIA director David Petraeus stepped down from his post, citing an extramarital affair, the political birds of prey immediately started talking about who should replace him. And the usual battleground map was drawn.

On the one side are those who say any leader caught in such a compromising position has to go. On the other side are those who contend private consensual sexual behavior is just that and as long as it is not interfering with a leader’s ability to do the job, it should not factor into whether he or she remains in power.

Petraeus’s romance with his biographer and former military officer, Paula Broadwell, is hardly a new circumstance in American politics.

General Dwight Eisenhower had a well-known affair with his driver while commanding the US Army in Europe, and this did not prevent him from becoming president. Franklin Roosevelt had a long-running affair with Lucy Mercer while he was president without any hints that he should resign the presidency. JFK was a well-known womanizer, including in the White House. And then of course there is Bill Clinton who despite his foolish high risk dalliance with Monica Lewinsky handily won reelection and remains (perhaps second only to his wife) the most popular politician in the country.

So you might think I am going to defend Petraeus. Most definitely not, for three reasons.

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In Which I Answer POLITICO Arena’s Election Day Question: What were the campaigns’ biggest mistakes?

by Gloria Feldt on November 6th, 2012
in Election Watch, Leadership, Politico Arena, Politics, Power, Women & Politics

A friend posted a photo on Facebook of a long line at her polling place this morning with the comment that “it’s a good sign when voters are treating an election like Black Friday at Walmart.” Now we have to wait all day to learn which of the candidates brought forth this outpouring of interest: do voters think Obama or Romney is the better bargain?

Both campaigns have made mistakes galore, balancing each other out in about the same horserace numbers as the daily polls have recently shown the race to be. Romney’s worst was hoisting himself on his own petard of Etch-a-Sketch positions, thus eroding voter trust, then nailing his coffin with the deliberately false Jeep ad.

Obama’s worst mistake was four years in the making. He failed to run, as Harry Truman successfully did, against the “do nothing Congress” that is more at fault for the lack of economic progress than the president who at least put forward some ideas. He had to re-energize many discouraged 2008 supporters as a result. But thanks to the Republican War on Women which Romney could not separate himself from, Obama was able to seize a set of issues that resonate with progressive women who make up almost 60% of the Democratic base.

Romney’s mistakes were mistakes of character and likability; Obama’s were mistakes of leadership style.

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If Obama Wins Ohio, Fair Voting and Jennifer Brunner Get Credit

by Gloria Feldt on November 3rd, 2012
in Election Watch, Leadership, Political Strategy, Politico Arena, Politics, Power, Women & Politics

My grandparents were all immigrants from tyrant-ruled Eastern Europe during the early decades of the 20th century. They treasured their voting rights as only new citizens can, and they instilled in me their almost sappy love of the American ideals of liberty, justice, and fairness.

Having struggled to get to their promised land, they considered voting their sacred duty. Every election, no matter what. They weren’t naïve about politics, nor did they expect their favored candidates to win every time. They just wanted their votes counted honestly and their voices heard fairly.

They would have loved Jennifer Brunner, Ohio’s first female Secretary of State who served from 2007-2011. She’s a true American hero for cleaning up the state’s election system after its 2004 debacle, one that is remembered as one of the most sordid chapters in our nation’s history.

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Romney Skewered by Candidate He Endorsed?

by Gloria Feldt on October 24th, 2012
in Election Watch, Politico Arena, Politics, Reproductive Health, Women & Politics, Women's Rights

Indiana GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock told debate viewers last night that he opposes abortion even in the case of rape, because pregnancy from rape is “something that God intended to happen.” This occurred just as Mourdock’s campaign unveiled a new on-camera endorsement from Mitt Romney.

To his credit, Mourdock’s opponent, Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly, later said that Mourdock’s comments didn’t reflect what “my God or any God” would intend to happen. And it’s no secret that most Americans, including Romney by own official campaign statements, reject such extremist views.

But Mourdock’s comments can’t help but damage Mitt Romney by association. Such a wild-eyed position by a candidate he has endorsed drives one more nail into Romney’s campaign coffin by revealing the stark truth about the extreme anti-woman positions the Romney campaign has been forced to take by the extreme right wing of his party.

Just as Todd Akin did with his misogynistic attempt to parse what kind of rape is “legitimate” and what is not, Mourdock cruelly dismissed women’s moral autonomy and even their right to defend their own bodies against the assaults of their attackers. He even invokes God’s name to justify his position.

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Debate #2: Crowley Wins It, Binders of Women New Mitt Meme

by Gloria Feldt on October 17th, 2012
in Election Watch, Leadership, Politico Arena, Politics, Power, Women & Politics

Candy Crowley was the biggest winner in last night’s Town Hall for her real time fact checking on Libya. She also asked follow up questions that forced the candidates to clarify their positions. She is, however, wrong in saying that it doesn’t matter that she’s a woman. It matters a lot that other women see they can aspire to moderate a presidential debate if that is their aspiration. And I suspect having a female role model gave permission, conscious or not, to female questioners who asked about such issues as equal pay.

President Obama snatched victory from the jaws of his first debate defeat, while Mitt Romney snatched defeat from the jaws of his previous winning performance by being, well, Romney.

The optics revealed two alpha males, each determined to prevail. However, Romney’s body language was stiff and menacing, reeking of privilege, whereas Obama seemed comfortable and nonthreatening in his leadership responsibility as president and commander-in-chief. As Keli Goff observed, Romney not only appeared on the brink of losing his cool several times, but the way he brushed off Crowley was a turn off to women whom both candidates acknowledge are key to the election.

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What’s the most important presidential debate question?

by Gloria Feldt on September 27th, 2012
in Election Watch, Leadership, Politico Arena, Politics, Power, Women & Politics

Bring on the hot wings and beer. My favorite contact sport event is coming up October 3. I hope it’ll inspire tailgate parties all over the country.

No, I haven’t become a football fan after years of avoiding it. I’m talking about the first presidential debate. It should be required watching for all voters—that would be a far better qualification for voting than requiring picture identification.

What if you were the debate moderator, what do you think would be the most important question you’d ask?

Politico’s Arena, where I post regularly, asked about that yesterday, and also quizzed the panel on whether voters should expect fireworks or calm, polished debate. I wondered, what fun would it be without some fireworks. PBS’s Jim Lehrer will moderate this debate, the first of two debates between the presidential candidates.

I’m sure there will be many questions about their respective economic plans, as there should be. But in my response, I addressed the way questions are asked as well as the content.

Most of the time when I’m cheering and booing from the debate sidelines, I’m annoyed with the moderators’ softball questions that have too little follow up to get the candidates beyond their talking points.

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What Would It Take for Dems to Retake the House?

by Gloria Feldt on September 17th, 2012
in Leadership, Political Strategy, Politico Arena, Politics, Power, Women & Politics

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said on CNN yesterday morning that Democrats have a “very excellent chance” of taking back the House in November – pointing to Mitt Romney’s selection of running mate Paul Ryan as a “pivotal” moment in the campaign.

The Democrats need to pick up 25 seats to win back the majority.

Politico’s arena asked: “Does it seem likely that the Democrats could retake the House? With a 10 percent congressional approval rating, are Americans even paying attention to House races?”

Here’s my take:

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Did ‘Mom-in-chief’ Michelle make her case for Barack?

by Gloria Feldt on September 5th, 2012
in Election Watch, Leadership, Politico Arena, Politics, Power, Women & Politics

Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic National convention last night was brilliant rhetorically and substantively. It was delivered with the passion of someone speaking her truth, the spark of a woman deeply in love, and the skill of a lawyer who knows how to build an arc of persuasion.

There was no ridiculous “I love you women!” moment in Michelle’s speech. There didn’t need to be because she actually communicated with women how her husband’s policies—from equal pay to reproductive rights—demonstrate that he respects and values them.

When Michelle said of Barack, “Being president doesn’t change who you are; it reveals who you are,” she drove the ball straight home with voters. And she touched the hearts as well as minds of anyone watching.

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Can Ann Romney Cover for Mitt’s Agenda?

by Gloria Feldt on August 29th, 2012
in Election Watch, Leadership, Politico Arena, Politics, Power, Women & Politics

Last night as expected, Ann Romney’s speech covered her husband’s image in warm fuzzy love.

The New York Times suggested that Ann Romney’s speech, which highlighted the hard work she put in to raise five boys and battle two serious illnesses, may have zapped some of the energy away from her husband.

How and why any woman can drink the Kool-aid Ann Romney served up is a topic for another day. But no amount of Ann’s love and charming demeanor can obscure the realities of Mitt Romney’s intent if elected.

Politico Arena asked me whether Ann Romney’s speech at the Republican National Convention would persuade voters, including women, that her husband is someone we can trust.

Indeed, Americans can trust Mitt. There was never any doubt, and it didn’t take a speech by his wife to tell us the many ways we can trust him:

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Can Romney’s speech overcome his image?

by Gloria Feldt on August 28th, 2012
in Election Watch, Leadership, Political Strategy, Politico Arena, Politics, Power, Women & Politics

Are you watching the Republican National Convention? What do you think of the goings on?

Tell me your thoughts here. The Politico Arena question today talks about how Americans view Romney, saying a new Pew Research Center poll shows that more Americans are interested in the GOP platform than Mitt Romney’s convention speech.

Another Pew survey shows that 71 percent of Americans say that if Mr. Romney were elected president, his policies would be good for the rich.

This information may not bode well for Romney, who needs to overcome the perception that he is out of touch with regular Americans.

Will Romney’s convention speech make a difference for undecided voters? Or are Americans’ perceptions of Romney already largely cemented two months before the election?

Here was my top of mind reply, but how would you answer?

If Americans are more interested in the Republican platform than Romney’s convention speech, that’s good news for Barack Obama. The old adage “Watch what he does more than what he says” is true here. The platform is a harbinger of what Romney will do if he’s in office. And that, frankly, is frightening for women’s rights and self-determination, economic fairness and justice, and the economy as a whole. Think George W. Bush administration policies that practically bankrupted the country on steroids.

Romney torques himself into and back out of almost every position on the political map as he sense the winds of his base supporters blowing. His speech is likely to be carefully crafted as fodder to excite the base while stepping as lightly as he can around issues that are contentious with independents, moderate Republicans, and the few remaining undecided Democrats who are disaffected with Obama and might swing toward Romney.

Sometimes perception is reality though. Romney is perceived as not being in touch with regular Americans because he fundamentally isn’t in touch with the realities of our lives. If he gives an excellent speech, he might get a small temporary bump. But what his policies would do – or not – for average Americans is ultimately much more important.

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