How not to endorse: Fairly deconstructing the Orlando Sentinel’s endorsement of Mitt Romney.

(Warning: This is a long post)

This past week, one of the biggest surprises was the Orlando Sentinel’s endorsement of Mitt Romney. Many of us that read the Orlando Sentinel have falsely thought that everyone on the editorial board had the same opinions as Scott Maxwell. The endorsement of Mitt Romney proved to be a shocking wake up call.

Immediately after the endorsement was released by the Sentinel, I wrote an article about the endorsement, talking about how the Orlando Sentinel has such high standards for their legislative candidates, but very low standards in their Romney endorsement.

What was interesting is that the Tampa Bay Times released their endorsement of President Obama the day after. Even though they stated it would be in the print version of the Sunday paper, they decided to release it digitally two days prior. Even with this early release, there was one thing that was very interesting. The Orlando Sentinel’s endorsement of Mitt Romney was only 681 words. As for the Tampa Bay Times endorsement, it was 1,331. Being more than double the size, I was wondering if the Times’ endorsement had more substance than the Sentinel endorsement, or if the Sentinel was just better at condensing their words. Therefore, I decided to examine both of the endorsements. Today, we will examine the Orlando Sentinel endorsement.

Paragraph 1 and 2 – In this part of the Orlando Sentinel endorsement, there was just an introduction about the debate that happened last week. Nothing of any substance was written about either candidate to any extent that would make people think one thing or another. These two paragraphs can be ignored.

Paragraph 3 – “Economic growth, three years into the recovery, is anemic. Family incomes are down, poverty is up. Obama’s Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, highlighted these and other hard truths in this week’s second debate.”

In this paragraph, the Sentinel addresses that the economic growth has been “anemic”. Here, the Sentinel is outlining the problems with the economy, which is totally acceptable. Has family incomes gone down and poverty gone up? Yes. Since 2009, both of these have gone in a negative direction. Still, the Sentinel is only stating the facts, which is fine.

Paragraph 4 – “Even the September jobless numbers deserve an asterisk, because more than 4 million Americans have given up looking for work since January 2009.”

Again, this is a true statement. The question that isn’t asked is “why” these people aren’t counted. The Republicans think that these people should be counted in the unemployment numbers. But are they truly “unemployed”? For example, let’s say my rich uncle dies (which I don’t have one) and he gives me a $1 million dollar inheritance. At this point I will no longer seek employment. The reason that I am no longer seeking employment is not because “I can’t find a job”, but because I am now rich. To be fair, I don’t think that 4 million people have become millionaires over the last four years because a bunch of rich uncles died. But to say the reason that these 4 million people are no longer looking is because there are no jobs is completely flawed. Therefore, the Orlando Sentinel took the bait and didn’t look into this any further.

Paragraph 5 – “And while the nation’s economy is still sputtering nearly four years after Obama took office, the federal government is more than $5 trillion deeper in debt. It just racked up its fourth straight 13-figure shortfall.”

Here is where the Orlando Sentinel really makes a “Politics 101” flaw. There are two huge flaws with their thinking. First, the president makes budget recommendations. It is really down to the House and Senate to make the meat and potatoes of the budget. And with the Senate not being a filibusterer-proof majority, the Democrats can’t really get what they want. This is when Republicans falsely claim that the Senate haven’t passed a budget. Therefore, solely blaming Obama for the budget shortfalls is extremely shortsighted.

Second, as far as the national debt, the famous “national debt clock” in New York has been around for 23 years. During that time, we can’t contribute any economic downturn to an increase in the national debt alone. In fact, the increase under the Obama Administration has actually created jobs. It is expected that if the Stimulus Package didn’t pass, the unemployment rate could be over 10%. Still, the national debt has always been a paper tiger for the Republicans. They fail to state that during FDR we ran the largest debt in this country’s history. And, of course, we all know how that turned out.

Paragraph 6 – “We have little confidence that Obama would be more successful managing the economy and the budget in the next four years. For that reason, though we endorsed him in 2008, we are recommending Romney in this race.”

In this paragraph, the Orlando Sentinel admits that they are only endorsing Romney because the economy is bad. Of course, a few days later (after a number of people slammed their endorsement), they published a “justification” stating that when they do endorsements, they look for “fiscal responsibility”. Alright, let’s look at the Sentinel’s record on this one. Reagan increased the debt in his first four years and the Sentinel endorsed him. Bush 41 increased the national debt, as well as presiding over a recession, and the Orlando Sentinel picked him. Bill Clinton lower the national debt and got our economy back on track. At the same time, the Orlando Sentinel endorsed Bush 41 and Bob Dole. Instead of staying with the economic growth and deficit reduction under Clinton, the Orlando Sentinel endorses Bush over Clinton’s Vice President Al Gore. Therefore, their justification doesn’t exactly hold water.

Paragraph 7 – “Obama’s defenders would argue that he inherited the worst economy since the Great Depression, and would have made more progress if not for obstruction from Republicans in Congress. But Democrats held strong majorities in the House and Senate during his first two years.”

In this paragraph there are two major flaws. First, Obama would have made more progress if it wasn’t for the obstruction of the Republicans in Congress. Jobs bill, debt ceiling, you name it, the Republicans tried to block it until they got 98% of what they wanted. That is pretty much a pure fact. Second, when did Obama have this so-called “strong majority”? If the “Blue Dogs” in the 111th Congress, which numbered 53, were to side with the Republicans on key bills, then this “strong majority” would be a 14 vote advantage for the Republicans. Also, the Senate never had a filibuster-proof majority. Therefore, just like today, Mitch McConnell could stall any piece of legislation he likes. So, even with majorities, the Democrats couldn’t exactly control legislation. Again, Politics 101.

Paragraph 8 – “Other presidents have succeeded even with the other party controlling Capitol Hill. Democrat Bill Clinton presided over an economic boom and balanced the budget working with Republicans. Leaders find a way.”

Yet the Orlando Sentinel never endorsed Bill Clinton for president. So, it is kind of hypocritical to say what a great job Clinton did, yet they endorsed his opponent twice. Still, even with that said, the 111th Congress has been much more divisive than the congresses Clinton dealt with.

Paragraph 9 – “With Obama in charge, the federal government came perilously close to a default last year. Now it’s lurching toward another crisis with the impending arrival of massive tax hikes and spending cuts on Jan. 1.”

No, with the Republicans in charge of the House, the federal government almost defaulted last year. President Obama wanted to do what every other president (even GOP God Ronald Reagan) did previously, which is increase the debt ceiling. It was the Republican congress that decided to stop this routine decision and continue with their paper tiger attacks on the national debt. Since the Republicans decided to play games with this issue, our credit rating was reduced. And when asked by most economists who’s fault was it that our credit rating was lowered, it is almost unanimously the Republicans in Congress.

Paragraph 10 – “The next president is likely to be dealing with a Congress where at least one, if not both, chambers are controlled by Republicans. It verges on magical thinking to expect Obama to get different results in the next four years.”

Most think that the Senate will remain Democratic, even at the time of the Sentinel’s endorsement. But let’s put the shoe on the other foot. What makes the Sentinel think that Romney will work with a Democratic Senate? They don’t give an answer to that one. Also, as far as history, George Bush had both a House and Senate that was Republican in his first six years in office and we see how that went. Again, another very, very weak argument by the Sentinel.

Paragraph 11“Two years ago, a bipartisan panel the president appointed recommended a 10-year, $4 trillion deficit-reduction plan. Rather than embrace it and sell it to the American people, Obama took his own, less ambitious plan to Congress, where it was largely ignored by both parties.”

Let’s look at the facts. First, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform was mostly staffed by politicians. And no matter how you slice or dice it, politicians deciding fiscal policy isn’t the best thing in the world. Of the 23 members on the commission, only one, Alice Rivlin, was an economist. After the release of the findings, Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman called this proposal “unserious” because of the large tax cuts. But apparently, the Orlando Sentinel knows more about the economy and the workings of Bowles-Simpson than a Nobel Prize winning economist.

Paragraph 12 – “Now the president and his supporters are attacking Romney because his long-term budget blueprint calls for money-saving reforms to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, three of the biggest drivers of deficit spending. Obama would be more credible in critiquing the proposal if he had a serious alternative for bringing entitlement spending under control. He doesn’t.”

So, the Sentinel says that Romney’s “long-term budget blueprint” calls for money saving reforms? Well that must be nice. If the Orlando Sentinel can please forward the rest of us that plan, since the Romney campaign never gives out any specifics regarding this plan, that would be great. The fact that the Sentinel is going off of general ideas instead of actually looking at the meat and potatoes of this proposal (which I say there aren’t any) makes this paragraph look hyper-partisan.

In addition to the lack of any evidence that Romney’s so-called “budget plan” would work, the Sentinel attacks both Medicare and Social Security spending. I have been involved in politics for over 20 years now. During that time, the Republicans constantly tell us that “Social Security will be broke in ten years.” Yet, when that ten year mark comes, Social Security if fine. They just repeat this cycle over and over and nothing has ever shown that this will be the case. Same with Medicare. Therefore, like the national debt, the Orlando Sentinel has been suckered into another GOP paper tiger.

Paragraph 13 – “Romney is not our ideal candidate for president. We’ve been turned off by his appeals to social conservatives and immigration extremists. Like most presidential hopefuls, including Obama four years ago, Romney faces a steep learning curve on foreign policy.”

Alright, nothing wrong here. Next.

Paragraph 14 – “But the core of Romney’s campaign platform, his five-point plan, at least shows he understands that reviving the economy and repairing the government’s balance sheet are imperative — now, not four years in the future.”

As was mentioned in paragraph 12, it would be nice if the Sentinel could share the details. While his generalities sound nice, there is nothing concrete regarding how he will accomplish those goals. Of course, the Sentinel doesn’t ask Romney “how is he going to pay for his plan”, but are absolutely insistent in Obama showing details (reference paragraph 12 again).

Paragraph 15 – “Romney has a strong record of leadership to run on. He built a successful business. He rescued the 2002 Winter Olympics from scandal and mismanagement. As governor of Massachusetts, he worked with a Democrat-dominated legislature to close a $3 billion budget deficit without borrowing or raising taxes, and pass the health plan that became a national model.”

The Orlando Sentinel only gives the reader four sentences on why we should vote for Romney the Person. Alright, he has “leadership”…again, extremely vague. He built a successful business. Well, so have millions of people, why aren’t they running? He rescued the Olympics. True, with federal money. As far as a balanced budget, just like Florida, Massachusetts’ constitution requires it. And as far as the health care plan…well…I think you know where I will go with this one. Guess it is good enough for Romney to pass it but not good enough for Obama. Hypocrisy at its highest.

Paragraph 16 – “This is Romney’s time to lead, again. If he doesn’t produce results — even with a hostile Senate — we’ll be ready in 2016 to get behind someone else who will.”

Wait, a “hostile Senate”? How come this whole entire time when the Orlando Sentinel mentioned the Republican House they didn’t call them “hostile”. Yet, when it is a Democratic Senate, it is going to be “hostile”. If anything smells of extreme partisanship in this endorsement, this is easily it! Oh, and didn’t they say the Republicans could control “both houses”? This almost seems as a “vote for Romney, but also vote for a Republican Senate as well.” Extreme partisanship on the Sentinel’s part!

Paragraph 17 – “We reject the innuendo that some critics have heaped on the president. We don’t think he’s a business-hating socialist. We don’t think he’s intent on weakening the American military. We don’t think he’s unpatriotic. And, no, we don’t think he was born outside the United States.”

This is what I would like to call the “justification”. They are making it sound like they aren’t with the extremists on Obama. Therefore, since they aren’t with the extremists, their endorsement is legitimate and just. Again, they had to throw this line in there to make that justification.

Paragraph 18 – “But after reflecting on his four years in the White House, we also don’t think that he’s the best qualified candidate in this race.”

Wait? The Sentinel is now talking about “who is the best qualified” candidate? Let’s go back to 2008. Four years before Obama won the presidency, he was a state senator from Illinois. He only served in the US Senate for four years. His opponent, John McCain, had been in the Congress since 1983. So, if they were going to look at “qualification”, McCain would have been the Sentinel’s choice. But no, they went with Obama. So much for that “best qualified” candidate argument. Also, I don’t know who would be more “qualified” for president than the person that was president for the last four years, do you?

What they missed

We just went through the flaws of what the Orlando Sentinel put in print, but what about other errors. Looking at the endorsement article on its own, the reader would assume that President Obama has done absolutely nothing during his time in the Oval Office. Not once do they mention any of his political accomplishments. For this, let’s take a look the Tampa Bay Times’ endorsement of President Obama.

First, the Tampa Bay Times talks about the economy. Their words are better than mine, so here is what they said:

By many measures, the economy is improving steadily even if growth remains painfully slow. There have been 31 straight months of job growth, and more than 5 million private sector jobs have been created. The unemployment rate is down to 7.8 percent — not great, but the same as when Obama took office. The stock market has come back, new housing starts are the highest in four years and housing prices in Tampa Bay and other areas are rising. The financial industry is stable, interest rates remain low and corporate profits are healthy. There is still too much economic pain, but America is better off than most of the rest of the industrialized world.

Among the Group of 7 industrialized countries, only three economies have climbed above the peaks they hit before the recession: Canada, Germany and the United States. France, Japan, Britain and Italy are in worse shape. So are Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Greece. Obama’s economic policies clearly had a positive impact.

After that “detailed” description about the economy under Obama, the continue with “specific” economic recovery under Obama. Again, they say it better:

The economic stimulus package, which Mitt Romney and his Republican allies deride as a failure, had its flaws but stopped the collapse. It preserved or created up to 3 million jobs, and it invested in smart projects such as expanding U.S. 19 in Pinellas County and connecting the Port of Tampa with Interstate 4 in Hillsborough County. The auto company bailout, which Romney opposed, preserved jobs and rejuvenated the industry. The Dodd-Frank financial regulations, which Romney would repeal, protect consumers and force banks to act more responsibly. Undoing those reforms would be a mistake and invite the abuses that contributed to the economic crisis.

Remember that heath care plan that Romney created in Massachusetts? What about the Affordable Care Act? Yep, the Tampa Times gives “details” on this as well (unlike the Sentinel’s half-sentence mention of Romneycare):

The Affordable Care Act, Obama’s signature legislative achievement, offers sweeping health care reform that presidents from both political parties unsuccessfully pursued for decades. More than 30 million uninsured Americans will get health coverage. Millions of young adults can stay on their parents’ insurance policies, and insurers no longer can refuse to cover children with pre-existing conditions. In 2014, insurers also will have to accept adults with pre-existing conditions, and most people will be required to have health insurance or pay a penalty. This is a historic step toward universal health care and a fairer sharing of costs, and it should be improved upon rather than repealed as Romney promises.

Again, more details. What about foreign policy? Did The Tampa Bay Times give details? As Sarah Palin would say…”you betcha”!

Although he came to the job with limited foreign policy experience, Obama has been reasonably sure-footed. His appointment of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state reflected the Democrat’s self-confidence to invite a former rival and wife of a former president to join his administration. Obama followed through on his promise to withdraw troops from Iraq, which Romney called a mistake. The president’s temporary troop surge in Afghanistan stabilized the country and checked the Taliban’s momentum. Yet the president recognizes Americans have no appetite for a never-ending war for diminishing returns. He pledges to pull combat forces out of Afghanistan in 2014, while Romney remains fuzzy about his intentions.

Romney suggests Obama has been too timid on foreign policy, but it took courage to order the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. The Republican’s saber-rattling about the violence in Syria and Iran’s efforts to develop a nuclear weapon is particularly concerning. This nation has neither the resources nor the appetite for another discretionary military adventure. Obama’s mix of diplomacy, coalition-building and tough economic sanctions remains the smarter approach.

The Tampa Bay Times continues with their endorsement talking about gay rights, immigration, and deficit reduction. All of these they tell in much greater detail than the Orlando Sentinel. In addition, the Tampa Bay Times also tells people why they “should vote for Obama” as well as “not vote for Romney” in great detail. I guess this is the reason why the Sentinel’s endorsement was only 681 words while the Tampa Bay Times endorsement was 1,331 words.

It would be unfair to the Tampa Bay Times if I listed all of their endorsement article, but if someone were to look at both of their endorsements, one could see the details in the Times one, as well as the lack of details in the Orlando Sentinel one.

In addition to all that was mentioned above, the Sentinel never addresses the problems that they mentioned at the beginning of their article. Remember when they said that household incomes were going down and poverty was going up? How is Romney going to fix that? Apparently, this is such a big concern to the Orlando Sentinel that they specifically mentioned these two issues. Yet throughout their endorsement they do not discuss a single possible Romney “fix” to deal with these issues.

If the Orlando Sentinel endorsement had a more detailed reasons why the reader should vote for Romney, as well as not vote for President Obama, then there could be some legitimacy to their endorsement. But after examining the endorsement, it must truly be asked if this was something that was crafted by the editorial board or “from above”. The fact that the editorial board has been such sticklers when it comes to details regarding both state and local races, it is highly irregular that this editorial board would write such a generalized endorsement.

The Sentinel has lost a lot of credibility when it comes to this endorsement. The question is if anyone will take their endorsement seriously again. Many in the conservative circles will say that liberals are just complaining because this “left-leaning newspaper” endorsed a Republican. I don’t know how “left-leaning” a paper is when they only endorsed two Democrats for president in the last 32 years. Even so, the lack of specifics on either side of the argument make the Orlando Sentinel’s endorsement not just laughable, but also quite suspicious.

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2 thoughts on “How not to endorse: Fairly deconstructing the Orlando Sentinel’s endorsement of Mitt Romney.

  1. This is too well written and contains far too much substance for the twitter generation to comprehend. The Sentinel never had and never will have any credibility with me.

  2. Well reasoned and well done David! I’ve conveyed to my friend Scott and to the editorial board at the Sentinel how illogical and short sighted I found their endorsement and you laid out beautifully the details here. Thank you and I will spread your thoughts!

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