Thursday, July 19, 2012

He is Not One of Us

He acts kind of funny
And has scads of money
He doesn’t have hooves
But puts dogs on car roofs
He has homes everywhere
And sports perfect hair
His laughs seem so forced
And he’s not even hoarse
And he won’t drink or cuss
He’s not one of us

As we exit the Republican primary circus and enter the face-off between a black incumbent president and a white opponent, we are forced to encounter ourselves along the way. It is interesting on so many levels that I know that many of you readers will tell me how many factors that I have missed during the journey. When we compare the two major candidates on a personal basis as happened during the electioneering for the GW Bush presidency where lots of folks simply went on their gut reaction “I’d like to sit down and have a beer with W.” Somehow, I don’t think that any of us would qualify to sit in the same beer tent with the non-drinking Romney. While I can afford a beer, I cannot afford getting into a $10,000 bet, or a fund raising event in the Hamptons. I will attempt to compare the candidates to each other as well as the candidates to you and me. I am going to make a non-monetary wager right up front, however. I’ll bet that you have more in common with Mr. Obama than you do with Mr. Romney. I hope that does not spoil your day.

Ann Dunham, Barack Obama’s mother moved several times in childhood. She lived in California, Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and Washington. Obama was born into the middle class and had a single parent mother whose husband left her and Barack to fend for themselves after 4 years. Stanley Ann Dunham was only 18 when Barack was born. She and her family valued education highly and sacrificed for it. Stanley (“Ann” in college) moved between the US and Indonesia as an adult as she studied and raised her son. She married a second time (to Lolo Soetoro) and divorced him in 1980. Barack’s father went to Harvard for his Master’s degree while his mother received her PhD in Anthropology from the University of Hawaii in 1992. Her 20 year study covered blacksmithing in Indonesia and both her M.A. and PhD degrees were awarded by the University of Hawaii. The Obamas were dependent upon public education for some schooling although Barack spent eight years at the Punahou (prep) School in Honolulu. Although Punahou is heavily endowed, Barack’s family sacrificed to provide tuition. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, was born into wealth in Michigan and never attended a public school after grammar school, nor did he send his children to public schools. George Romney chose to surround his children with other kids of privilege, as did his son Mitt. Both Barack and Mitt are distinguished Harvard JD graduates although Barack was elected President of the Harvard Law Review.

Obama’s grandparents were interesting in their own right. Stanley Ann’s father, Stanley Armour Dunham, volunteered and served in the US Army during WW II. He is related to six presidents (James Madison, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, and both George H. W. Bush and GW Bush). Obama’s great-uncle Ralph Dunham also served in WW II and landed on Omaha Beach on D +4. Stanley Dunham never was quite able to open a furniture store as he had hoped, but Barack’s grandmother Madelyn Dunham worked in a Honolulu bank and ended her career as vice president of the bank. Ralph Dunham was especially proud of his service under General Patton in Europe. The Dunham family seemed solidly middle class and patriotic Americans who did their duty and served when called as did millions of others. They participated in the economy and did the best they could with the resources they had including educating Barack. They intermingled with others as part of the American melting pot.

Romney’s parents and grandparents were interesting as well. Mitt’s actual first name is Willard; named for J. Willard Marriott, the hotel magnate. When the US government made it clear that the Mormon practice of polygamy was going to be outlawed, Mitt’s grandfather moved his family to Mexico in 1885 where George Romney was born later. Mitt’s grandfather moved back to the United States in 1910 to escape the Mexican Revolution. In that sense, the Romneys faced some obstacles due to polygamy, but George Romney became monogamous and a successful businessman who entered politics as a Republican in Michigan. Mormon polygamist colonies in Mexico were assisted by the US government with transportation and payments to return from Mexico about 20 years after renouncing polygamy as a tenet of the Mormon religion. Later, Mexico paid reparation, although many Mormons remained in colonies there. George Romney was eligible for dual citizenship due to his birth in Mexico. By Mexican law, Mexican citizenship eligibility extends to Mitt Romney. He could be a reverse “anchor baby.”

Mitt’s family faced little deprivation in the US and his father George Romney became a successful automobile executive in Michigan although he was criticized for moving American Motors to Wisconsin almost as a precursor to Mitt’s practice with Bain; moving jobs and shrinking employment to increase profits. George Romney did become the Governor of Michigan and served three two-year terms. He ran for the Republican nomination for president, but was seriously hampered by his statement that he was “brainwashed” by the military over the Vietnam War. His opposition to the war put George Romney in direct conflict with Barry Goldwater who was far more conservative. Mitt, however, strongly defended the war during his thirty-month missionary tour in France and was surprised by his father’s opposition to it when he returned home. Mitt had a total of four deferments matching the achievement of Dick Cheney, another advocate for the Vietnam War, as long as war was not personal.

There has been little discussion of an odd similarity with the two families in that both were polygamist at some point; Mitt’s great grandfather and Barack’s grandfather and perhaps even his father, were polygamists. Ooh, small world.

Ironically, days ago, on 17 July 2012, John Sununu set up our situational questions with his campaign conference call: “I wish this president would learn how to be an American.” That has been the GOP talking point since before Obama took office. “He is not one of us.” We have endured “birthers” and pundits from the right shouting how Obama just does not act like the rest of us. “He had foreign training in a Madrassa?” “I don’t believe he can be a Christian.” Putting aside the obvious question as to whether Mormons can be Christians for the moment, can we change this flow and ask a few questions that let us examine similarities among Romney and Obama and us.

How many of you have elevators for your three Cadillacs? How many of you have made public $10,000 bets? How many of you have never put your kids into a public school? How many of you have mansions scattered across this nation and overseas? How many of you never had to fight for work or shelter(s) or education? How many of you have been able to avoid income taxes? How many of you got draft exemptions for the Vietnam War? How many of you outsourced jobs? How many of you assaulted an effeminate classmate; forcibly cut his hair and humiliate him using other classmates to hold him down? How many of you raided pension plans to increase your profits (and had the government make up pension shortfalls)? How many of you have tax shelters in the Caymans? How many of you have Swiss bank accounts? How many of you have not had to provide tax returns to get a home loan? How many of you agree “Corporations are people, my friend?”

You get the point. Yes, Obama is black. Is that what makes him “less American?” Think about it. When was the last time you traveled with a live dog on the top of your car? Finally, how many of you agree: Mitt Romney said he finds "it hard to disagree with Rush Limbaugh on topics?"

Definitely, Romney is not one of us. This is just the opposite of what the noise machine has blared since before Obama was elected. It is time to consider whom you are most like. It may make a huge difference when decisions are made on jobs and taxes and privileges versus rights and responsibilities. Come to think of it, wouldn’t you also rather have a beer with Obama?

George Giacoppe
18 July 2012

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