Top of the Ticket

Political commentary from Andrew Malcolm

Category: Andrew Malcolm

Top of the Ticket's Andrew Malcolm moving on

Today marks the last day new posts will appear on Top of The Ticket at latimes.com.

In the Ticket’s 51 months of existence, lead blogger Andrew Malcolm and a host of contributors have posted more than 8,800 stories, drawing nearly 67 million page views, including slightly more than 2 million in September, its last month. Readers kept up a steady dialogue with the Ticket, responding with about 142,000 posted comments.

Malcolm, a veteran foreign and national correspondent and author of 10 nonfiction books, has decided to move to other pastures. He’ll be writing a blog and a column for Investor’s Business Daily.

Top Obama strategist sees a 'titanic struggle' next year

RMS Titanic Sets Sail on its first and last voyage April 10 1912

A top former White House aide to Barack Obama sees a "titanic struggle" emerging as the Democratic incumbent confronts awful economic numbers and Republican political opposition that seems bent on defeating the guy for some reason.

David Axelrod, who used to work in the White House but has since fled back to Chicago as the reelection campaign's top political strategist, uttered his unfortunate floating metaphor to a New Hampshire audience Tuesday.Not David Axelrod Titanic Capt Edward J Smith

Speaking at a college in Manchester, Axelrod also used a sailing metaphor:

"In 2008, we had the wind at our backs. Now, we don't have the wind at our back. We have the wind in our faces, because the American people have the wind in their faces."

With two out of three Americans thinking the country is on the wrong track under Obama and more than half disapproving of Obama's overall job performance, exactly what winds Axelrod had in mind are left to wild speculation.

Unemployment above 9% when an 8% maximum was promised? A healthcare bill that was supposed to reduce costs but hasn't and waivers for special Americans with connections? An unfolding scandal over a half-billion dollar loan to a fundraiser's company? A fondness for regulation and a desire to raise taxes and a kind of chronic indecision over many things except giving more speeches at fundraisers appealing for more time because so much is undone?

Axelrod, a recovering newspaper reporter who used to cover Chicago politics, did not have time in his remarks to explain that those winds in Americans' faces came from his boss' failed economic stimulus and growing business fears of rampant regulations.

Because he lives and works in Chicago and helped elect Democrats of the maTitanic Movie Sinking shipchine that has ruled that city for 80 years, Axelrod is apparently unfamiliar with the role of a competitive opposition political party to, well, oppose incumbents with its own plans.

The Obama strategist kept a straight face as he feigned surprise that Obama opponents in Washington would actually, well, oppose the Real Good Talker's plans to spend trillions more dollars that the country doesn't have.

"We honestly thought," Axelrod said with a straight face, "when we got to Washington, we'd get some cooperation from folks across the aisle."

That kind of phony naivete sounds normal in the Windy City where uncooperative citizens can find themselves and their licensed businesses enduring a plethora of building and health inspections and citations, along with unexplained stoppages in garbage collections, etc.

In the interests of bipartisanship and passing the president's doomed jobs bill, Axelrod called the D.C. opposition "the most ideological, partisan group of Republicans in my lifetime." Axelrod was born Feb. 22, 1955.

Still, despite all those adverse winds in the Windy City and across the country, Axelrod said he was confident that President Obama would sail through these troubled waters and not become yet another Democratic president like Truman, Johnson or Carter, who were terminated by popular demand after one elected term.

“We’re on the right side of the fight and I believe we’re going to win that fight,” he said.

RELATED:

New gaffe: Obama confuses Jews with janitors

How many Obama gaffes can the media ignore?

Obama touts jobs plan at Ohio bridge that won't qualify

-- Andrew Malcolm

Photos (from top): The Titanic. Credit: White Star Line

Edward Smith, captain of the doomed Titanic. Credit: White Star Line

An image from director James Cameron's movie "Titanic." Credit: Merie W. Wallace

Rick Perry's underwhelming debates: Do they matter?

Governors Rick Perry and Mitt Romney Argue in the Republican debate 9-12-11

The news wasn't so good for the Republican presidential candidate who occupies the governor's office down there in Texas.

With their space-age podiums, cheering (or booing) audiences and their gotcha questions from media folks with their own makeup assistants, debates realistically have nothing to do with anything any president of any party would ever face in the Oval Office.

Debates do, however, have everything to do with how American voters perceive a candidate for president. How informed, well-spoken, straightforward, candid, quick, attentive do they look?

The Texas governor had suffered through two debate performances that could charitably be described as mediocre. He hardly looked presidential on the stage or up to the executive expectations that had pushed him to the front of the pack in polls.

Now came new polling showing his prime competitor surging to the lead in the important first primary state of New Hampshire.George W Bush and Al Gore Debate 10-18-00

Was this the end of his short presidential campaign? Or the end of the beginning in a very long presidential campaign for the White House?

No, this isn't the story of Gov. Rick Perry's presidential campaign, which turns 45 days old today.

This is a cautionary tale about reading too much into the early debate showings of any party's candidates, no matter how good or bad. Our esteemed and shall we say very veteran colleague Mark Barabak, calls our attention to a news story written almost 12 years ago, by him, as a matter of fact:

After his less-than-commanding performance in two presidential debates, George W. Bush faces a tougher race than expected amid growing signs of Republican discontent--including a new poll that shows major slippage in the key primary state of New Hampshire.

As it turned out, of course, John McCain did stay ahead of Bush in New Hampshire that cycle and whomped him good on primary day by about 15 points. The next morning, with aides vowing to get serious, the Bush campaign moved on to South Carolina, where the Texan won.

And the rest, as they say, is history that Barack Obama reminds us all about every few hours.

These campaigns are long and grueling, as they should be to determine the minds and mettle of the wannabes. John F. Kennedy announced his candidacy on Jan. 3 of that 1960 election year. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama announced in February, 21 months before the election.

Just as the substantial early TV audiences watch and study the 2011 debates, so do the candidates and their advisors. Besides the content, they're advised on how not to look bored, how and when to move a hand, when to point, how one particular expression dangerously resembles a sneer. (Remember Al Gore's infamous sighs from 2000?)

Watch Romney. This is his second rodeo. He's always paying attention to the others, often graciously grants part of their point and then moves to drive his home. Another respected colleague, Robin Abcarian, examined Perry's studied motions apparently mimicking Reaganesque movements.

Who's got a big enough DVR memory? But if anyone compared these early Republican debates to ones coming next winter, they'd see radically improved performances by the surviving candidates.

RELATED:

Fox News debate most-watched of the year

Rick Perry's new video zeroes in on President Zero

A chat with Megyn Kelly on her prep to be debate moderator

 --Andrew Malcolm

Don't forget to follow The Ticket via Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or click this: @latimestot. Our Facebook Like page is over here.

Photo: Mike Carlson / Associated Press (Romney and Perry joust in Sept. 12 debate); Tannen Maury / AFP (Bush and Gore debate, Oct. 18, 2000).

Obama was warned of loan dangers long before Solyndra sank

Obama feigns interest in solar panels during a visit to the now bankrupt Solyndra facility 5-26-10 now undergoing hearings on Capitol Hill

Top economic advisors to President Obama warned him a year ago about the serious political and financial risks of the Energy Department's loan guarantee program that has resulted in taxpayers likely being responsible for the loss of $527 million loaned to the politically-connected California solar firm Solyndra.

That loan is currently under investigation by a House subcommittee and the FBI, which raided company offices earlier this month.

Obama visited the Solyndra plant in 2010, touting it as a shining example of his program to simultaneously boost the U.S. green-energy industry and create new jobs. Last winter the Energy Dept. restructured the more than half-billion dollar loan to the troubled firm.Lawrence Summers 9-11

But on Aug. 31 the company, whose major owner was also a major fundraising bundler for the 2008 Obama-Biden campaign, filed for bankruptcy and eliminated most of its 1,100 jobs.

In a detailed story posted overnight, The Times' Tom Hamburg, Kim Geiger and Matea Gold outline the danger signals set off in October 2010 when secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner and chief economic advisor Lawrence Summers warned the president that Energy's vetting process was not stringent enough to weed out troubled applicants in advance.

Energy Secy. Steven Chu, who like Obama holds a Nobel Prize, was eager to push through applications by 30 companies for the program's $17 billion. He wanted even less oversight from Treasury.

The story has developed legs for two reasons:

One, it hints at possible high-level political favoritism using taxpayer dollars in risky ventures with well-connected business people, what some have labeled "crony capitalism."

And, two, it's a classic example of the fundamental ongoing D.C. debate over government's proper role in the economy and the financial dangers to taxpayer funds inherent when officials and bureaucrats, not free market forces, pick corporate winners and losers.

Pencil this into your calendar for future political debate throughout 2012.

RELATED:

New gaffe: Obama confuses Jews with janitors

How many Obama gaffes can the media ignore?

Obama touts jobs plan at Ohio bridge that won't qualify

 --Andrew Malcolm

Don't forget to follow The Ticket via Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or click this: @latimestot. Our Facebook Like page is over here.

Photos: Alex Brandon / Associated Press (Obama in 2010 during a visit to the now-shuttered Solyndra facility undergoing hearings on Capitol Hill); T.J. Kirkpatrick / Bloomberg (Summers).

Late-night jokes: Starbucks CEO reveals how he got rich

Obama at the UN with South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit As The Ticket's 73,000-plus Twitter followers and 7,200 Facebook friends/fans know, we regularly share our daily picks of the late-night jokes of interest, usually before broadcast each evening.

Feel free to pass this weekly collection on to friends using the "Share" buttons above.

Fallon: President Obama arrived 25 minutes late for a luncheon at the United Nations. In fact, he was so late, he had to sit next to Joe Biden at the kids' table.

Letterman: The U.N. General Assembly is reconvening. Fun to drive by and see those world leaders sitting on the front porch hooting at all the passing chicks.

Conan: Arnold Schwarzenegger is writing a memoir. It'll be available in hardcover, paperback and a book-on-tape that’s impossible to understand.

Fallon: At a New York City fundraiser President Obama says he's in ‘in a New York ...

Continue reading »

With everything going so well, Obama golfs with a new partner

POTUS Obama and POTUS Clinton go Golfing 9-24-11

Whenever a White House makes it easy to photograph a president doing something, the first question is always, "Why this?"

Most of the scores of times President Obama has gone golfing with aides and pals, the media pool is kept waiting out of camera range in a food court.

Some silly people have suggested that instead of staying secluded with well-paid staff who already like him, the aloof Obama could put such recreational buddy-buddy time to good political use by issuing prestigious presidential invites to a variety of people to come along and get to knowObama autographed Golf Balls each other better. And, who knows, maybe let them lift a presidential golf ball or towel.

Remember, Obama tried this one time last summer with House Speaker John A. Boehner.

It's the sort of social networking regularly used to cement friendships and sales in private business, about which, to use Mitt Romney's colorful phrase, Obama is "clueless."

Saturday, surprisingly, the pool media representatives were ushered to a convenient green just in time to catch two famous guys putting out.

In this photo above, the successful husband of secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is obviously explaining to the struggling Obama how a capitalist society works.

It's the economy, stupid.

Bill Clinton, who's publicly disagreed with a few Obama ideas like raising taxes at this time, is the only Democrat elected to two White House terms in three-quarters of a century. Next year, Obama would like to become the second. At the moment, the odds of success aren't looking too good.

Hence, the Obama White House's willingness to show the beleaguered No. 44 seeking advice from the far more popular No. 42.

Feel better now?

RELATED:

Obama touts jobs plan at Ohio bridge that won't qualify

Obama's jobs speech: Right now actually means much later

961 days in, Obama sick and tired of his own delays on new jobs

-- Andrew Malcolm

Follow The Ticket via Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or click this: @latimestot. Our Facebook Like page is over here. Use the ReTweet buttons above to share any item with family and friends.

Top photo: Former President Bill Clinton golfing with President Obama. Credit: Chris Kleponis / Bloomberg. Bottom photo: Obama signature golf balls. Credit: Associated Press

New gaffe: Obama confuses Jews with janitors

President Obama spoke to the Congressional Black Caucus awards banquet over the weekend.

Those folks will stick with him in 2012, of course.

But they've been somewhat miffed in recent months that the first post-partisan president is doing too many deals with those Republicans and seeming to give in.

So, Obama needed to give the crowd some presidential love. He even brought his wife along. As with virtually all of Obama's speeches recently, the Democrat's remarks dealt with selling his jobs legislation, as if it wasn't DOA on Capitol Hill.Obama speaks to the congressional black caucus awards banquet 9-24-11

The first black president got to reminiscing about some other struggles in the past familiar to African Americans.

His 28 minutes of remarks had a strange tone to them, as if somehow Obama was equating support for his jobs program legislation with the far more important and historic civil rights movement.

He got into the usual yada-yada about rich people paying their fair share of taxes.

And then, deep into the speech, according to the White House transcript, the president said:

When you start saying, at a time when the top one-tenth of 1 percent has seen their incomes go up four or five times over the last 20 years, and folks at the bottom have seen their incomes decline -- and your response is that you want poor folks to pay more? 

Give me a break. 

If asking a billionaire to pay the same tax rate as a janitor makes me a warrior for the working class, I wear that with a badge of honor. I have no problem with that.

That's what the transcript says he said.

Now, watch the C-SPAN video below, and listen especially to the phrase "the same tax rate as a janitor..."

Here is what the president actually said, catching himself almost in time but not quite:

If asking a billionaire to pay the same tax rate as a Jew, uh, as a janitor makes me a warrior for the working class, I wear that with a badge of honor. I have no problem with that.

The president has been muffing lines all over the place recently. Last week, also peddling his jobs plan at a bridge that won't qualify, he hailed America's building of "the Intercontinental Railroad." You don't seem to hear much about these gaffes in the media for some reason.

Maybe in Saturday night's speech Obama was thinking about all those talks on Israel in New York.

Video of the president's full CBC speech, via C-SPAN, of course, is available right here.

Obama is on the West Coast now, harvesting money again and closing roads in Los Angeles after doing the same in Seattle and San Jose Sunday.

RELATED:

How many Obama gaffes can the media ignore?

Obama touts jobs plan at Ohio bridge that won't qualify

Obama's jobs speech: Right now actually means much later

-- Andrew Malcolm

Don't forget to follow The Ticket via Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or click this: @latimestot. Our Facebook Like page is over here.

Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press (Obama addresses the Congressional Black Caucus awards banquet, Sept. 24).              Video: Courtesy of C-SPAN.

Sunday shows: Netanyahu, Cameron, Ryan, Plouffe

British prime minister David Cameron inspects a Canadian Honor Guard 9-22-11

ABC's "This Week" with Christiane Amanpour: British Prime Minister David Cameron, Hanan Ashrawi of the Palestine Liberation Organization and Obama advisor David Plouffe, with George Will, Mary Matalin, Amy Walter and Donna Brazile

Bloomberg's "Political Capital with Al Hunt:" House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)

CBS' "Face the Nation" with Bob Schieffer: Reince Priebus and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairs of the Republican and Democratic National Committees, respectively, with Mark Zandi, John Dickerson and Norah O'Donnell

CNN Fareed Zakaria "GPS": Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barosso

CNN's "State of the Union" with Candy Crowley: Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-Ind.), Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), and Plouffe

Fox News Channel "Fox News Sunday" with Chris Wallace: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Plouffe, with Brit Hume, Bill Kristol, A.B. Stoddard and Juan Williams

NBC's "Meet the Press" with David Gregory: Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, with William Bennett, Tim Shriver, Donna Shalala and Tavis Smiley

-- Andrew Malcolm

Why wait until Sunday for politics? Click here now to follow The Ticket via Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or follow us @latimestot. Our Facebook Like page is over here. We're also available on Kindle now. Use the ReTweet buttons above to share this item with friends.

Photo: British Prime Minister David Cameron inspects a Canadian Honor Guard in Ottawa on Thursday. Credit: Blair Gable / Reuters

Ticket pic of the week: Do not try this at home

Snake charmer kisses his cobra pal in India

Oh, you bet. Here's something we'll for sure try on our next visit to India.

We show our respect to cobra creatures by staying the heck away.

RELATED:

How we look to incoming aliens

No, that's a little far, back up a few feet

You know, that statue hasn't moved the entire time I've been watching

-- Andrew Malcolm

Follow The Ticket via Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or click this: @latimestot. Our Facebook Like page is over here. Use the ReTweet buttons above to share any item with family and friends.

Photo: Bazuki Muhammad / Reuters

Speaking of deep space, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and the GOP Gang of Nine debate again

NASA photo of five of Saturn's Moons from the Cassini spacecraft 7-29-11

There being "only" somewhere around 100 days left before the Iowa caucuses, nine Republican candidates had another debate anyway Thursday.

It seemed like the 10th debate in a week. But it was only the second.

Thaddeus McCotter, who was never in a debate, wasn't in again, as during the afternoon he quit the race that he was never really in.

The nine candidates all talked a lot. Not as much as the president. But a lot.

Sometimes two candidates talked at the same time. Like hockey refs, the moderators let them go at it.

Mitt Romney and Rick Perry discussed their books. Perry is still opposed to cancer, always will be. Michele Bachmann mentioned she's raised five biological and 23 foster children. Herman Cain, who beat cancer, was on 9-9-9 again. Gary Johnson told a dog joke he stole from Rush Limbaugh. But people laughed anyway.

Jon Huntsman has lived abroad four times but he came home each time, wiser. Newt Gingrich's huge head contains many big ideas, but he still overeats. Rick Santorum is from Pennsylvania. Ron Paul looks at least 76.

Megyn Kelly should be in every Fox News debate. Or was it Katherine Heigl?

Our running debate account is right here.

The full debate transcript is right here.

In interesting news, NASA has released new photos of fully five of Saturn's moons (see above) in one frame. The photo was taken by the Cassini spacecraft on July 29. It just arrived in the mail.

The moon on the right is Rhea. It's about 684,000 miles away, about the same distance as the 2012 election.

RELATED:

Behind the debate prep scenes with Megyn Kelly

Thaddeus McCotter quits the GOP race; Who knew he was in?

Obama hails America's building of 'the Intercontinental Railroad'

-- Andrew Malcolm

Don't forget to follow The Ticket via Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or click this: @latimestot. Our Facebook Like page is over here.

Photo: NASA /JPL-Caltech /Space Science Institute.

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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