Friday, July 20, 2012

How Will the Obama-Romney Brawl Play Out?

Courtesy of Dan Pearce,

I thought the gloves would come off around September between President Barack Obama and the Republican presumptive nominee Mitt Romney.  With so much at stake riding on the outcome of this election, the pugilism from both campaigns began in earnest in late spring. 
For his part, Romney has done nothing but attack Obama since the GOP primary season.  In fact, all his Republican competitors did.  That’s what you do when you try to unseat an incumbent.  It’s perfectly reasonable to do so and backed by the Supreme Court’s decision on the Citizens United case, the Romney camp will have all the money in the world to inundate the air waves with negative ads.

Team Obama is not pussy-footing around either.  They are well aware that the unemployment numbers have been stubborn, and although the Republican-controlled Congress failed to act on a jobs bill, the sluggish recovery and high unemployment will be laid upon Obama’s doorstep that would ordinarily spell disaster for an incumbent.  Remember, it’s the economy stupid!
Realizing that axiom, the Obama folks have aimed their sights on Romney to make this a choice between not only the direction of the country but also who is better suited to run it.  Fortunately for Team Obama, he has a weak opponent that few feel excited about and whose baggage from Bain Capital, his record as governor of Massachusetts, and his head-scratching refusal to release more than one year’s tax returns provides a terrific target to exploit.

Most national polls reveal a virtual dead heat.  There has been very little variation in the national surveys and little movement is expected until the conventions and ultimately the presidential debates.  It seems that most people have already solidified their choices; those who haven’t probably are not focused on the election yet and many of those may not vote at all.
The country is so divided by red and blue that national campaigns don’t exist anymore. Since the Electoral College decides presidential contests, the election will be won not by national totals but by a handful of venues that are termed “battleground” states.  They include such prizes as Ohio, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Iowa, New Hampshire, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada.

You will see the candidates spend more time and advertising dollars in those states and perhaps a few others than anywhere else.  They are the targets, and that’s where this contest will be decided.
Obama can count on his consistent likeability among voters, including the coveted “independent” segment of the electorate.  Those who have paid attention can see the remnants of gridlock and divided government, and depending if either he or Congress will be blamed for this inertia that alone could decide the outcome.

With surprisingly so few partisans showing the love for Romney, it has been clear from the outset that the election will be defined as Obama vs. the anti-Obama.  Romney’s negatives are too high at this stage to explain why there is a dead heat.  His support is more about getting Obama out of office than getting Romney into it.
Obama is on shaky ground now.  The economy could falter, setting off higher unemployment and stall the fragile recovery.  It can even trigger another recession.  The drought that is gripping much of the nation most likely will have an impact on the economy including gas prices, but when?  Though he obviously should not be blamed for this natural phenomenon, a faulty economy is his to own.

Moreover, economic destabilization in European countries can affect ours—another factor beyond anyone’s control.
Then there are international tensions that could pop up between now and November which could affect voters’ preferences.  Usually the population rallies around a president during an international crisis.  But those rules may not be in play anymore.

Romney is banking on the Obama haters to propel his candidacy, and there are lots of them.  The hatred towards the president began during the 2008 campaign and continued in earnest the night of his inauguration and it hasn’t subsided.  Even the major victory in the war on terrorism—the killing of Osama bin Laden, once considered public enemy number one—failed to generate praise from the opposition.

Then there is “Obamacare”—the defining piece of legislation that galvanized the Republican base and the Tea Party.  Unfortunately for Romney, this law was patterned after his own Massachusetts version rendering him ineffective in his criticism of it.
Romney is also saddled by his experience at Bain, which is relevant since his business experience is used as the rationale for unseating the president.  His refusal so far to release prior tax returns will likely turn off swing voters as he will be perceived as hiding something.  People don’t like that.

For the country in general, this is a pivotal election.  For LGBT folks in particular, there is also much at stake.  Obama was successful on most of the large initiatives: he ended “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” ordered hospitals receiving federal funds to allow visitation by members of same-sex couples, signed a comprehensive hate crimes bill into law, publicly supported marriage equality, and appointed more LGBT individuals to key positions than any previous president.  And the Justice Department ceased defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in several court challenges.
Romney threatened to reverse those victories.  With a potential control of both chambers going to Republicans, that could be accomplished more easily.  Keep that in mind.

The remainder of the campaign will be a big-time brawl, so brace yourself for the ugliness that will ensue.  The outcome, like an evenly matched prize fight, may not be clear until the final bell.  We just can’t have judges deciding it—again.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

If voters use their heads, they will re-elect Obama

Letter published in the July 19 issue of the Howard County Times/Columbia Flier

In his letter titled, “In 2012, Americans should vote with their heads, not just their hearts,” (July 12), William W. McCollum offered sage advice: voters should select a president by using their heads.  In disagreeing with the letter writer, however, I believe that by using their heads, voters should support President Obama.

Mr. McCollum argues that the president failed to deliver on his promises especially when the Democrats had so-called control of the legislative branch as well as the White House during his first two years.  The problem with that premise and what Mr. McCollum failed to acknowledge is that new Senate rules require a super majority to stop filibusters and to  enact any legislation.  Merely holding a majority in the Senate does not equate with “control” any more.

With Senate Republicans under orders from Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to ensure that Mr. Obama is not re-elected by eschewing the traditional practice of working in a bi-partisan manner in that chamber for the benefit of the country, it is amazing that the president accomplished what he did. 

Among his stellar achievements was the prevention of a ruinous financial collapse that would have hurled the country (and the world) into a depression, the rescue of the American auto industry, the passage of the Affordable Care Act, which, yes, benefits tens of millions of Americans, and the repeal of the insidious “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.  And under the president’s wise leadership and courage, the decimation of al- Qaeda and the elimination of its head Osama bin Laden helped make our country safer.

Mr. McCollum chides President Obama for his lack of executive experience prior to the 2008 election.  As President George W. Bush tragically demonstrated over the course of eight miserable years of running up the debt to historic levels and engaging in two unpaid-for wars—one of which was based on lies to the American people—prior executive experience is clearly overrated. 

Yes, people,  use your head and vote to re-elect President Barack Obama.

Steve Charing

Sunday, July 15, 2012

OMG! Toby’s Legally Blonde is Totally in the Pink

Never mind that you may not be apt to hum the melodies from Legally Blonde the Musical as you exit the theater.  Ignore the fact that the content defies modern social consciousness and plays on a multitude of stereotypes: ditsy blondes, shallow sorority girls, trailer park folks, blood-thirsty lawyers, gays, lesbians, and even UPS delivery men.  Forget that the plot is improbable at its core.  But with Legally Blonde the Musical, currently playing at Toby’s Dinner Theatre of Columbia you will be hard pressed to experience more fun over a span of two and a half hours.
From the rousing, high energy number “Omigod You Guys” performed by a spunky, talented ensemble that kicked off the show to the very last scene, Legally Blond will have you hootin’ and hollerin’ throughout.  While the melodies composed by Laurence O’Keefe and Neil Benjamin in this romantic comedy aren’t always tuneful, that minor deficiency is more than made up by the clever and hilarious lyrics that the duo penned as well as the book by Heather Hach that tell the story of a stereotypical airhead blonde sorority sister who stays true to herself and follows her dreams.

For full review, visit MD Theatre Guide.

Monday, July 09, 2012

The Center's Needed Reset

Just two days removed from a successful and joyous Pride celebration in Baltimore, news that the Board of Directors of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland, or what is commonly referred to as the GLCCB or the Center, has changed its leadership.  In doing so, the Board announced it is re-writing the organization’s bylaws and presumably ushering in a new era of transparency and accountability.
This is welcome news.

“The GLCCB is a truly historic center,” Bud Beehler, the newly appointed president told me. “As one of the oldest five in the nation, we are proud of our history... Like many LGBT centers, we have had a bumpy path that has been magnified for us in the past few years. The Board spotted some problems in how the Center was being managed and because the current Board is committed to due diligence, we made some important changes.”

I’m not going to sugar-coat this.  The Center’s “bumpy path” has been fraught with a series of “misses” over its 35-year existence: mismanagement, missteps, misinformation, miscues, misunderstandings, miscommunication, and misappropriations.

Clearly, there have been very capable and dedicated people on the Board and at the helm and have done well in their roles.  Unfortunately, there has also been, at times, ineffective leadership that was comprised of good people with simply bad ideas as well as bad people who did bad things.  The actions or inaction from this tapestry of leadership has led to a decline in respect for and confidence in the Center within Baltimore’s LGBT community. 

Several factors play into this: 

·       occasional controversies, such as alleged thefts and misappropriations, have sullied the Center’s brand; 

·       the clear lack of financial reporting and disclosures to the community sustain lingering suspicions;

·       the reputation that the GLCCB only surfaces during the run-up to Pride but retreats into dormancy following the event erodes confidence in its relevancy and viability;

·       the reluctance to use its clout to fully engage in non-candidate, issue-related equality efforts also impacts its relevancy; and

·       the perception that the Center lacks inclusiveness especially among women, African-Americans and transgender people has been detrimental.

While it may seem easy to point fingers at the GLCCB’s past leadership over the years, in all fairness, there is plenty of blame to go around.  As the largest multi-service LGBT organization in Baltimore as well as the sponsor of Pride, the community as a whole, including myself, has failed to demand transparency from the Center’s leadership.  This hands-off approach enabled the Center to function without the necessary oversight to ensure a diverse, smooth-running, well-managed, financially sound organization. 

But the pendulum may now be swinging in the right direction.  In April, a revitalized Board, with the financial help from a grant, commissioned the services of Strategic Management Consulting, LLC, a local firm with Odette Ramos, a former candidate for the City Council, as President and CEO.  Its mission was to survey the LGBT community regarding the GLCCB’s performance and recommend what it should be doing in the future.  Ms. Ramos interviewed dozens of community members for the study, and we look forward to her findings and recommendations very shortly.

The very fact that such an undertaking was launched is encouraging, as it demonstrates a willingness on the part of the Board to right some wrongs and to improve the Center’s operations.

Installing Bud Beehler as President of the Board is another positive.  At a community town hall on June 25—the initial such meeting in a series and the first since 2000—Beehler explained that this is a “reset” for the GLCCB, and the Board is committed towards “striving for transparency and engagement.” Beehler envisions the GLCCB to be “the lighthouse LGBT organization in the community,” meaning that it will be more visible and more involved at important community events.

The personable and responsive Director of Programs Gary Wolnitzek is a plus for the Center as is Maggie Beetz, the smart and affable editor of the revamped Gay Life—the GLCCB’s monthly publication.  

The Center should continue its fine work with LGBT youth and in particular, The Den, Baltimore’s all-volunteer LGBTQ Youth Center.

The new Board seems very earnest in their attempts to put the Center on the right course.  It does need minority representation, however, and the Board recognizes that and promises to recruit accordingly.

When Harvey Schwartz, the first executive director of the Center, arranged for the purchase of the GLCCB’s current abode at 241 W. Chase Street in 1980, he had a vision that was shared by so many community members.  He saw the building as a nucleus of gay life in Baltimore whereby people could drop in, meet and share experiences.

I think that vision should hold true today.  Additionally, a small LGBT history museum could be housed in the Center.  A speaker’s bureau could be established to enhance visibility and to provide education on LGBT issues to business, religious and community groups as well as area schools and colleges.  Undoubtedly, Ms. Ramos’ findings will disclose other low- or no-cost initiatives.

If the Center’s new leadership can learn from past mistakes and proceed along a more open path, it could win over the skeptical members of the community.  The result should attract enough resources to improve not only the building but also its place in the community.  

We need a strong, viable GLCCB in Baltimore.  The time is right for this reset.