In History, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on August 13, 2012 at 12:20 am

Before appointing an officer to the rank of general, Napoleon would ask his advisors: “Is he lucky?”

Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon admired military talent, but he also realized that even talent has its limitations.  And when those limits are reached, only luck may be able to save the day.

President Barack Obama also understands the importance of luck.  He, more than most politicians, has been extremely lucky in his competition.

Consider his 2004 race for United States Senator from Illinois.

In the general election, Obama faced Republican Jack Ryan.  Ryan seemed a true Golden Boy:  He was handsome,  popular and a  wealthy former Goldman-Sachs partner.

Jack Ryan

And although he was now divorced, he had been married–from 1991 to 1999–to Jeri Ryan.  The actress who was/is best-known for her role as the Borg “Seven-of-Nine” in “Star Trek: Voyager.”

Jeri Ryan as “Seven-of-Nine”

Obama’s candidacy looked doomed.  And then the unexpected happened.

The Chicago Tribune and WLS-TV, the local ABC affiliate, filed suit to have the Ryans’ divorce and child custody records released.  And they were.

In the custody files, his then-wife, Jeri, charged that Jack Ryan had pressured her to perform sexual acts with him at swinger’s clubs in New York, New Orleans, and Paris while other patrons watched.

Jeri described one as “a bizarre club with cages, whips and other apparatus hanging from the ceiling.”  And she had steadfastly refused to let Jack assimilate her in so public a setting.

Jack confirmed the trips with the actress but described them simply as “romantic getaways,” denying her claims that he sought public sex.

Ryan had been running against Obama as a clean-cut, “family values” candidate.  Suddenly, he found that image fatally tainted.

Days after the release, Ryan withdrew from the race.  As his replacement, the Republicans chose Alan Keyes, a right-winger whom even George W. Bush found to be “a piece of work.”

Obama easily won election with 73% of the votes.

In 2008, Obama ran for President.  His nominated opponent was Arizona’s United States Senator John McCain. And, once again, Obama got electoral help from the Republican party.

McCain chose Sarah Palin, a two-year Governor of Alaska who roused the GOP’s right-wing base but outraged liberals and moderates alike.  Even worse for McCain, Palin quickly became a target for parody–especially that of “Saturday Night Live” comic Tina Fey.

Obama won the election with 53% of the vote, amassing 365 electoral votes to McCain’s 173.

And then, on August 11, Mitt Romney, the all-but-anointed Republican nominee for President, gave Obama another Ryan to run against.

Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

Paul Ryan

Elected at 28 to Congress in 1998, over the next 12 years he built a reputation as a firm social and budgetary conservative.

When the GOP gained a majority in Congress in 2010, Ryan became  the Chairman of the House Budget Committee.  In 2011 he released “The Path to Prosperity,” a 2012 budget resolution that he claimed would end “uncontrolled  government spending” and “crushing levels of taxes.”

According to economist and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich:

“More than any other politician today, Paul Ryan exemplifies the social Darwinism at the core of today’s Republican Party: Reward the rich, penalize the poor, let everyone else fend for themselves. Dog eat dog.”

On March 12, 2012, details of Ryan’s 2013 House Budget Committee proposal were released:

  • Balance the budget by 2040–28 years away.
  • Eliminate tax deductions and credits for individuals.
  • Create only two income tax rates–10% and 25%.
  • Lower the tax rates for high-earning individuals and corporations from 35% to 25%.
  • Repeal the Affordable Health Care Act of 2010.
  • Turn Medicare into a private health insurance system.
  • Slash funding for Medicaid, which ensures medical care for the poor, forcing states to drop coverage for an estimated 14 to 28 million low-income people, according to the non-partisan Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.
  • Reduce food stamps for poor families by 17%–$135 billion–over the decade, leading to a significant increase in hunger, especially among children.
  • Reduce housing assistance, job training, and Pell grants for college tuition.
  • Set a cap on discretionary spending of $1.018 trillion for 2013.
  • Allow the military budget to grow with inflation over the next decade.

Nor is Ryan concerned only about economics.  Anti-abortion groups have been ecstatic with his stand on fetuses.

Ryan’s “H.R. 212: Sanctity of Human Life Act” would give fetuses full personhood rights from the moment of fertilization.  This would not only outlaw abortion even in cases of rape and incest.  It would also ban certain methods of birth control, such as IUDs and spermicides.

And while Ryan seeks iron-clad protection for fetuses, he’s less concerned with protecting citizens against gun-toting attackers:

  • In 1999 he voted against a proposal to establish more stringent background checks on people buying firearms at gun shows.
  • In 2011 he voted for a gun-rights bill to make a permit to carry a concealed firearm in one state valid in almost every other state.

It’s child’s play to imagine how the Democrats will exploit this priorities list in the upcoming election.

It’s Paul Ryan who’s Irish.  But it’s President Obama who may well have the luck of the Irish going for him.

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