Political insider gives overview of 2012 US campaigns

The launch speaker for the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners’ Caribbean Conference, Donna Brazile gave an overview of the United States presidential campaign, saying the stakes of the November elections are nothing less than the future of the nation’s democracy and economy.  


The Cayman Islands will continue to be a byword among the American people during this political season, according to Democratic political strategist Donna Brazile. 

“This election is going to be close,” said Brazile, adding that the myriad of contests for the US Senate (featuring an historic number of women candidates) are going to be even more interesting than the White House race. 


US campaigns 2012  

However, Brazile warned the audience at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, on 13 May, to be sceptical about the elections resulting in actual significant change. 

“Even if the Biblical plague hit us, the Potomac would turn red, the Democrats would blame it on global warming and the Republicans would see that red and say that’s excessive spending,” she said. “So the two sides are very far apart.” 

Brazile, who directed former Democratic Vice President Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign, said, “At the end of this calendar year, we’re going to see several major tax cuts expire. Tax reform is not on the agenda. It’s not on the plate. It’s not on the menu.” 

She said Washington, DC, legislators have 25 days between the 6 November, 2012, elections and the end of the congressional season to solve the problems posed by the expiration of the President George W. Bush-era tax cuts. 

“Unless there’s cooperation between the two political parties, unless they can finally drink beer, wine – I don’t really care if they drink at all – but unless they come together, we’re talking about 3 to 4 per cent of GDP that will be impacted by the non-action of our lawmakers,” Brazile said. 

The federal government’s problems stem from the American public’s indifference to politics and disdain for continuous ideological squabbling, she said. “There’s little excitement for the elections, and many, I believe, people are tired of the fighting. They’re sick of gridlock, tired of endless circles. They’re looking for leaders to find common ground, compromise and work together,” Brazile said. 

Presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s career as CEO of venture capital firm Bain Capital, and his business’ presence in Cayman, have been easy targets for political opponents who claim offshore-based companies somehow cheat the American tax system. Brazile said to expect more of the same between now and the election. 

“The American people are not against offshore wealth, offshore ‘tax havens’, but they’re often told that, you know, this is taking something away from them,” Brazile said. 

Addressing an assembly of professionals who make their livings, in part by structuring their clients’ assets to minimise their tax liabilities, Brazile said, “A lot of what you do will come up in this election. It already has. There’s already been ads, and there will be more.” 


A female VP?  

Brazile said Democrats’ odds in November depend on how well the US economy performs between now and then. Republicans, meanwhile, must energise their most conservative supporters without falling right off the ideological cliff. 

“This is going to be a tough year for Democrats. The Democrats’ fortunes are tied to the economy. As the economy goes, as they say, so go the Democrats – which means the Republicans will not be doing anything soon to make the economy better,” she said. “Now the Republicans also face a delicate balancing act. They’re trying to get others to believe their hype without buying into it themselves. That’s a tough order.” 

Brazile surveyed the field of failed GOP presidential wannabes, saying, “Mitt Romney was the only Republican candidate who looked evenly remotely plausible. He won by not losing, and that’s the closest thing there is to not winning.” 

She said upwards of US$6 billion will be spent on the presidential contest between Romney and incumbent President Barack Obama, as well as campaigns for Congress. 

Brazile speculated about who Romney may choose as his vice presidential running mate, hypothesising that his pick will probably be a woman, and probably a businesswoman, in lieu of a politician. 

The following people will not make Romney’s VP shortlist, she said: real estate mogul and reality TV star Donald Trump, radio personality Rush Limbaugh, 2008 VP candidate Sarah Palin, and former VP Dick Cheney, New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, South Dakota Sen. John Thune, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Florida Sen. Marc Rubio, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. 

Rather, Romney’s VP pick will probably “come from the ranks of the top female CEOs in the country”, Brazile said. 

She speculated that one of the following women may emerge as Romney’s running mate: IBM’s Ginni Rometty, DuPont’s Ellen Kullman, Kraft’s Irene Rosenfeld, Xerox’s Ursula Burns, or Hewlett-Packard’s Meg Whitman (who lost a 2010 bid for governor of California). 


STEP Student of the Year  

During the same event, STEP Caribbean named Lesley Connolly of the Walkers Group as the winner of the inaugural Student of the Year Award. A member of STEP Cayman, Connolly is senior vice president of Walkers Corporate Services Limited. She had the best regional performance in the International Trust Management Diploma programme. 

Donna Brazile 1

Donna Brazile speaking at the STEP Caribbean conference at the Ritz Carlton.