US Presidential Election

ith the clock ticking towards November 6, 2012, US presidential election, the race to the White House is a close call with the two candidates, Democratic incumbent Barack Obama and his Republican rival Mitt Romney, trying to reach the people with their respective approaches to the nation's pressing problems, particularly economy.

A series of opinion polls, including the CNN/ORC International polls, released thus far find Obama surging ahead of his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, in most of the states, including the key battle-ground ones like Florida, Ohio, Iowa and Virginia.


Voters' Understanding

This year's electorate is believed to be unusually polarized. There appear to be fewer undecided and persuadable voters left to be convinced at this stage of the election.

The intelligent US voter, however, understands that when Obama assumed Presidency in January 2009, US was in a deep, deep economic hole which, in Bush administration, had just kept collapsing like a sinkhole.

No less a person than former President Bill Clinton told Americans not long ago that the country's economy was in free fall when President Barack Obama took office. It had just shrunk 9 full percent of GDP and we were losing 750,000 jobs a month. Recalling the early years of his own Presidency, he said that he had experienced the same thing in 1994 and early 1995. But President Obama started with a much weaker economy.

Clinton not only blamed Republicans for causing the problems in the economy in the first place, but also for preventing Obama from allowing the economy to fully recover. For example, he said, House Republicans failed to pass the President's job plan that would have created more than a million new jobs. They also failed to pass the legislation Obama proposed in February that would have lowered lending rates for millions of borrowers who have not been able to out from under burdensome mortgages. He said that the Republicans’ strategy is, ‘Hey, we gave you a problem. You didn’t solve it fast enough. You’re out of here. We want to make the problem worse again.’

Nevertheless, Obama did create jobs and cut taxes through the stimulus. He brought about the auto-industry bail-out and an agreement with management, labor and environmental groups to double the car mileage over the next few years.

In September 2012, the unemployment rate dropped below 8 per cent. The new 7.8 per cent unemployment rate is the lowest since January 2009. Businesses reported hiring an additional 114,000 people in September, matching economists' expectations of modest growth in a year that started with employers adding twice that many positions each month.


Addressing the Democratic Convention, Clinton was forthright in expressing optimism that Obama and Obama alone could turn the troubled economy around if given a second term. Obama is a "sensible pragmatist" who has put aside any political grudges for the good of the country. The Americans are certainly better off than they were when Obama assumed the reins of power.

Clinton told the people, “Listen to me now. No president — not me, not any of my predecessors — could have fully repaired all the damage that Obama inherited in just four years.”

Pleading for renewing Obama's contract, Clinton said, "The most important question is, what kind of country do you want to live in? If you want a you're-on-your-own, winner-take-all-society, you should support the Republican, but if you want a country of shared prosperity and shared responsibility--a we're-all-in-this-together society, then you should vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden."

Presidential Debates

Normally, the debates are held before any elections are held anywhere. But this time, the debates were scheduled to begin after some battleground States had already started voting. In Iowa, for example, early voting began on September 27; in Virginia absentee voting is now under way and Ohio voters began voting on October 2, a day before the first debate.



It was on October 3, 2012 that the first of the three debates on domestic issues was held at the University of Denver with the 78-year old Jim Lehrer, the host of PBS News Hour, as the moderator. On the face of it, the Republican challenger fared better in the first round.

Obama's passive performance could, perhaps, be traced to his being "presidential", trying to stay above the fray against an opponent who had nothing to lose. Obama exercised unusual restraint and made no effort to nail many of the challenger's faulty or fanciful assertions. He passed up chances to roast Romney for several campaign gaffes committed in the past few weeks. He had first misspoken on Libya attacks, then a video had surfaced of a fundraiser on which he was seen and heard rubbishing 47% of Americans who don't pay taxes and vote for Obama.

One really wonders why President Obama did not point to Romney's obvious lies, did not correct the Challenger's facts to defend green energy projects, majority of which are working despite the Solyndra debacle. Why on earth did Obama not insist that the US tax code is quite generous to the wealthiest 2 per cent already and that there is no fair way to achieve deficit reduction without them sacrificing a little, especially when the middle class has lost the most ground in the past decade.

President Obama talked of the plan he had put forward to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade without raising taxes on any middle-class families. Deficit challenges, he said, would be met by a combination of spending cuts and additional revenues from the wealthiest Americans.

Obama portrayed Romney as someone who favored the rich at the expense of the poor and the middle class. He debunked the notion that Romney could create a $5 trillion tax cut without either increasing the deficit or requiring middle class families to pick up the tab. It is simple arithmetic, Obama pointed out.

Romney the Real vs. Romney on Stage

Romney resorted to blatant distortions of his positions. He sought to dance around, change his positions like the proverbial chameleon to mislead the voters, but, as President Obama puts it, "if you want to be President, you owe the American people the truth."
For nearly a year, Mitt Romney has been running round the country promising $5 trillion in tax cuts that favor the wealthy and the filthy rich, but in the first Presidential debate on October 3, he lied saying that he did not know anything about it.

Romney either misrepresented or refused to provide details about his own plans—because his real plans would only hurt the middle class. In desperation, however, he attacked the President’s plan to distract voters. He described Obama as a big-government, heavy-taxing Democrat. He went on to argue that he would grow the economy by giving tax breaks to businesses and create new jobs.

Throughout the year we had heard Romney saying that we don’t need any more teachers in our classrooms. But during the debate he made an about-turn and said, he loves teachers—can’t get enough of them. The whole of America knows well that Romney has invested in companies that were called ‘pioneers’ of outsourcing jobs to other countries, but during the debate he said that he doesn’t even know that there are such laws that encourage outsourcing. He went to the extent of claiming that he had never heard of them.

Mitt Romney would, perhaps, need a new accountant, if only to avoid being held accountable for whatever he has been saying for the last one year.

Among the numerous false attacks Romney launched at the debate was his claim that the President invested $90 billion in green energy businesses of which "about half" have failed. But as the Washington Post notes, this claim comes "nowhere near" the truth. The $90 billion was a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and was a down payment toward our goals of reducing our dependence on foreign oil and rebuilding the economy in the short- and long-term. Even CNN pointed out, not even half of the Recovery Act funding for clean energy went directly to green businesses. In fact, some of the major investments made by the Recovery Act included funding the weatherization of hundreds of thousands of low-income homes and the clean-up of hundreds of miles of land used for nuclear testing. CNN further reported that most of the large projects that benefited from the Department of Energy loan program remain in operation—contrary to Romney's assertions.



As if this was not enough, Romney indulged in yet another demonstrably misleading claim that he liked green energy as well. But his rhetoric did not match his actual energy plan, which would cede the clean energy economy to China. In fact, Romney zeroes out federal incentives for solar, wind, and renewable businesses in his energy plan that was developed in consultation with oil and gas executives. Perhaps that is why he would like to maintain the $4 billion in taxpayer subsidies for Big Oil.


ObamaCare

President Obama fought to reform the health care system because he believes Americans deserve affordable health care—and he knew the old system wasn’t working. Thanks to ObamaCare, insurance companies won’t be able to discriminate based on pre-existing conditions, insurers will be barred from charging women higher premiums than they charge men, and more than 3 million young adults gained health care coverage because of the provision allowing young adults under 26 to remain on their parents’ insurance.



Mitt Romney wants to repeal ObamaCare entirely, subjecting once again middle-class families to the whims of insurance companies. What is more, Romney repeated the false claim that President Obama made $716 billion in cuts to Medicare and has no plan to protect the program. This utter falsehood has been thoroughly rejected by independent fact-checkers who have established that the $716 billion doesn’t cut benefits and doesn’t harm beneficiaries. What it does is to reduce the rate of growth in Medicare spending by eliminating waste and inefficiencies, adding an additional eight years of solvency to the program while guaranteeing that every benefit remains in place.



While President Obama’s reforms target wasteful programs to ensure that taxpayer money is efficiently filtered back into the health care system, allowing seniors to get preventive care without co-pays and pay less out of pocket for prescription drugs, Mitt Romney wants to turn Medicare into a voucher system under the Romney-Ryan Plan, which would raise the annual costs of retirees by more than $6,000 a year so that multi-millionaires get a $250,000 tax break.


Pell Grants

Pell Grants have helped millions of Americans achieve their fullest potential by not only opening the doors to college, but providing the resources necessary to complete their studies and succeed in today’s economy. President Obama has doubled funding for Pell Grants, helping nearly 4 million more students to better access to college. He knows that if education is the gateway to the middle class, then Pell Grants are the key to millions of Americans. He will continue to support the program so that students will see their maximum grant increase to keep up with inflation in the coming years.

As Election Day nears, Romney may sing a different tune on Pell Grants and other programs important to middle-class voters, but going by the Romney-Ryan budget, authored by his running mate, it would slash discretionary funding by 20% across the board, and as a result could slash Pell Grants by about $1,000 per student.

On top of this, Romney promises to roll back the President’s student loan reforms that ended more than $60 billion in bank subsidies in order to invest in Pell Grants, community colleges, and deficit reduction. He would let the president’s college tax credit expire, worth up to $10,000 over four years of college.


Foreign Policy Issues

As the election date is approaching, the rival candidates have been debating foreign policy issues amid a campaign that until recently had focused entirely on the US economy and domestic issues. The deaths of US diplomats in Libya, including the US Ambassador and anti-American demonstrations in Egypt and elsewhere added urgency to this subject. The two men spelt out their positions in New York, with Obama speaking at the opening of United Nations General Assembly and both he and Romney appearing at different times before a forum hosted nearby by former President, Bill Clinton.

The Republican challenger sought to attack Obama over the handling of relations with Israel, the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the recent Middle East turmoil. Addressing the Clinton Global Initiative’s annual meeting in New York, he said that with developments in Libya, Syria, Egypt and Iran, "We somehow feel that we’re at the mercy of events instead of shaping events.” He argued that religious extremism was part of the problem in the Arab world, but not the whole story. He accused the President of projecting an image of weakness that emboldens U.S. enemies.

Obama began his address to the UN General Assembly by remembering the memory of Christopher Stevens, the American Ambassador who "helped the Libyan people as they coped with violent conflict, cared for the wounded, and crafted a vision for a future in which the rights of all Libyans would be who respected." He said that "The attacks on our civilians in Benghazi were attacks on America. There should be no doubt that we will be relentless in tracking down the killers and bringing them to justice,"

"Together, we must work towards a world where we are strengthened by our differences, and not defined by them. That is what America embodies, and that is the vision we will support," Obama said.

Romney's efforts to raise doubts with American Jewish voters about the President’s commitment to Israel were rendered ineffective by the White House statement that President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were in “full agreement” on the goal of preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. There is little chance of Israel bombing Iran because sanctions and other measures put in place by the international community will be enough to contain the Islamic Republic’s nuclear ambitions.

The former four-star general Wesley Clark, who was NATO’s Supreme Commander in Europe from 1997 to 2000 and led the allied forces in the Kosovo War in 1998 and 1999 and also ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, says that Republicans are crying foul over the threat of military cuts under sequestration plans. He defended President Obama’s comment that the murder of U.S. ambassador in Libya was “a bump in the road.” President Obama, he predicted, is going to do everything that’s required to ensure that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon. GeneralClark said that Obama is right not to let the killing of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans interrupt his plans to help democratic regimes in the Middle East, for the people of Libya as also of Egypt are overwhelmingly pro-America and pro-democracy

Obama dismissed Romney and Ryan as "new to foreign policy". He criticized Romney for saying that Russia is America's biggest geopolitical foe. "You don't call Russia (and not Al Qaeda) our number one enemy, unless you're still stuck in a Cold War mind warp," Obama said.


America's Search for Itself

Speaking about America's search for itself, President Obama is on record saying that "There is not a liberal America and a conservative America. There is a United States of America. There is not a black and white America and Latino America and Asian America - there's the United States of America."




As President, Obama certainly reinvented the US as a country that listens, that engages with others, and that has, in the famous words from the American Declaration of Independence in 1776, ‘‘a decent respect to the opinions of mankind.’’

Obama correctly identified Pakistan-Afghanistan rather than Iraq as the epicenter of global terror with the result that Osama Bin Laden, who had struck terror not only in the minds of mighty America but also throughout the world, is no more.


Plea to Voters

President Barack Obama, meanwhile, has told Americans they face starkly different paths in choosing between him and Romney in the Nov. 6 election. His way may be hard but will bring economic renewal, and warned it will take more than the few years he has already had in office to solve challenges that have built up for decades. Rejecting Republic Mitt Romney's proposals for growth as heartless, he asked Americans for patience in rebuilding the weak economy.

Obama argued that the actions he has taken, like the bailout of the auto industry, are working and asked Americans to rally around a set of goals: Expanding manufacturing and energy jobs and U.S. exports, improving education and trimming $4 trillion from America's $16 trillion debt.



Repeatedly contrasting his own priorities with those of Romney, Obama cast the Republican as uncaring of middle-class Americans, pushing a theme that the wealthy Republican is elitist and only interested in helping those like him. All Romney wants to do, said Obama, is reward the wealthy with tax cuts, deregulate banks and let energy companies write a policy for more oil drilling. Obama made it clear, "I refuse to ask middle class families to give up their deductions for owning a home or raising their kids just to pay for another millionaire's tax cut," said Obama."

He likened his struggle to that of Depression-era President Franklin D. Roosevelt in calling for "shared responsibility" and bold experimentation in bringing the U.S. economy further out of the worst recession since the Great Depression.


For or Against India

History bears witness to the fact that it is the Democrats, and not at all the Republicans, who have been leaning more to India. Who does not know of Nixon's anti-India stance in using Pakistan as a conduit for building bridges with China. Nixon was the man who even sent the US Seventh Fleet to intervene militarily against India during the 1971 Bangladesh war of Independence. Later, two more Republican Presidents, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush allied more closely with Pakistan and Islamic guerillas to counter the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. They also turned blind eye to across-the-border terrorism unleashed by Pakistan and to growing Chinese help to Pakistan in strengthening its nuclear arsenal.



The real thaw in Indo-US relationship occurred as a result of the efforts of former Indian Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee who declared America as a natural ally of India.

It is a well-known fact that it was the Democrat, Bill Clinton, who openly aligned with India and even worked toward ending the Kargil war. And it is President Obama who has carried this relationship forward by boldly supporting India's demand for membership of the UN Security Council. He also targeted terrorist operations in Pakistan, including the ordering of the Navy Seals assault leading to the death of Osama Bin Laden.

The millions of Indian-Americans support President Obama and fervently hope he is re-elected in next month's election for the second time.


The Final Outcome

In absence of the exact times of birth of the two Presidential candidates, it is rather difficult to venture an accurate astrological prediction of much substance. Yet, the basic zodiacal charts erected on the basis of their date, month and year of birth can reveal a lot about their past, present and future. The horoscopes of both Obama and Romney, who are fourteen years apart in terms of age, are full of great potential, with strong disposition of planets in different houses of the zodiac. The current U.S. elections, therefore, promise very close contest till the last minute.

As a student of astrology, I do believe that while it is one's potential as also one's abilities that crown efforts with success, ultimately it is the stars that determine the final outcome. Though I also hold that stars only impel and not necessarily compel, yet the placement of stars in transit do influence the course of terrestrial and human events.

Going by the transit of planets like the Sun, the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto on the day of election (November 6, 2012), I strongly feel that it will be Obama, and not Romney, who will enter the White House for the second term.

*A journalist by profession, a scholar by temperament and a writer by choice, Gopinath Raina was inclined to the study of religion from his very young age. It was Swami Vivekananda’s dynamic exposition of Hindu thought that fired his imagination while he was still at school, and by the time he entered college, he had been drawn to the writings of Gandhi, Aurobindo, Narayana Guru, Radhakrishnan and Bertrand Russel.

After retiring from Indian Information Service (I.I.S.) in 1983 where he distinguished himself as an editor, correspondent, commentator and administrator in All India Radio, he edited, AICC Journal, Varnika, (Jan.'84-Dec.'90), Koshur Samachar (March'91-Oct'95, Sanatana Sandesh,(1997-2005) and KASHEER (2003-2004),

He has been writing profusely on various aspects of Hindu thought. He enjoys writing, particularly on saints and sages, not only of Kashmir, but of the other parts of India as well. Presently he lives in Miami, and spends his time writing personal memoirs.

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Comments
Dear Ashok Ji, We understand that there can be several viewpoints and we have presented one. If you have a well researched article on the subject, we would be glad to publish another opinion.
Added By Editor Shehjar
A well balanced and well written article that has analyzed the policy differences between two candidates in a very simplistic manner.
Added By Ashwani Kaul
This article is a copy of Democratic party's talking points. Politicization of Shehjar in such a partisan and unbalanced way is not good for the future of the magazine. This also throws a bad light on the writer's integrity and gives away the biases of the writer. Shehjar is worthy of a proper balanced article!
Added By Ashok Warikoo
The article is factual and there is nothing that is untrue or misleading. The fact remains that it was under the Obama Administration that Pakistan got exposed and is no longer a trusted partner of the US. This is historic shift for the first time and we as Indian Americans need to support those who made this happen.
Added By Kuldeep Kachru
To hold or advocate a particular point of view is, in no way, a breach of one's integrity. Mr. Warikoo should have consulted a dictionary to understand the meaning of the word. In fact Mr. Warikoo has exposed his own integrity and lived the truth of the age-old axiom that "everything looks pale to a jaundiced eye".
Added By Roshan lal Gurtoo
Economy goes down in the US EVERY TIME these right-wing republicans get their hands to power. They shovel money into the pockets of the rich and make everyone else pay for it. Economy which was on a free fall 4 years ago is on the path to recover. How can anyone trust those who caused this in the first place?
Added By Vijay K Bhat
Mr. Romney constantly talks about job losses, yet all of the net job loss took place in the first few months of 2009,that is before Obama administration’s policies had time to take effect. Romney campaign is banking on amnesia, on the hope that voters don’t remember that. Obama inherited an economy that was already in free fall and has stopped the beleeding.
Added By Vinod Deshpande
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