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Mitt Romney

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The Wisdom of the Elders.

“Does this rollout failure discredit the core goals of a liberal project, including that of a mixed economy, a regulatory state, and social insurance? Conservatives in particular think this website has broad implications for liberalism as a philosophical and political project. I think it does, but for the exact opposite reasons: it highlights the problems inherent in the move to a neoliberal form of a governance and social insurance, while demonstrating the superiorities in the older, New Deal form of liberalism.”

Assessing the failure of the healthcare.gov rollout, Mike Konczal makes the case for returning to the old ways. “[T]he Category B grouping, which we associate with the New Deal and the Great Society…creates a universal floor so that individuals don’t experience basic welfare goods as commodities to buy and sell themselves…My man Franklin Delano Roosevelt may not have known about JavaScript and agile programming, but he knew a few things about the public provisioning of social insurance, and he realized the second category, while conceptually more work for the government, can eliminate a lot of unnecessary administrative problems.”

Of course, Social Security had rollout problems too. And progressives at the time definitely lamented the concessions that were made as Social Security evolved from bill to law, including the exclusion of agricultural and domestic laborers [re: African-Americans] from the law. (Frances Perkins: “The whole thing has been chiseled down to a conservative pattern.”)

That being said, I think it’s important to keep this in mind every time the right starts complaining about byzantine complexities in the Affordable Care Act: We could’ve avoided many of these issues if this change-bringing administration hadn’t immediately ruled out the obvious progressive solution to the health care problem — a single-payer system of Medicare-for-all, like most other advanced industrialized nations enjoy, perhaps phased in with an immediate voluntary buy-in and a gradual lowering of the coverage age.

Instead, we adopted the Republicans’ proposal, the marketplace/exchanges plan originally conceived by the Heritage Foundation and enacted by Mitt Romney, without even including a public option to keep the insurers honest. And what’d we get for this ginormous unforced concession to the right? Nothing. Republicans still didn’t support the health care law in 2010, and they’ve screamed holy hell that it’s tyrannical government socialism for the past three-odd years — even though it was their plan to begin with.

Now, they’re deliberately sabotaging implementation of the ACA and trying to pin every misstep, including this rather sad website #fail, as a failure of the liberal project. As Konczal aptly points out, what’s failing here is the NEO-liberal project — the desire to embrace public-private, technocratic conservative ideas of a generation ago (see also: cap & trade), in the hopes that today’s conservatives will somehow be intellectually honest enough to support them too. That is a sucker’s bet every time.

One other important takeaway from this article: “[I]f all the problems are driven by means-testing, state-level decisions and privatization of social insurance, the fact that the core conservative plan for social insurance is focused like a laser beam on means-testing, block-granting and privatization is a rather large problem. As Ezra Klein notes, ‘Paul Ryan’s health-care plan — and his Medicare plan — would also require the government to run online insurance marketplaces.'”

In other words, here again conservatives are decrying exactly what they ostensibly espouse. Perhaps a better way forward on fundamental pieces of legislation, instead of playing Lucy and the football with the Republicans, is to try to enact our own ideas from now on.

Update: In Foreign Affairs, Kimberly Morgan makes much the same argument: “The real source of Obamacare’s current problems lies in the law’s complexity. A straightforward way to assure coverage would have been to extend an existing, well-worn program to more people…In the United States, [due to] political antipathy to government programs…policymakers regularly rig up complex public-private, and often federal-state, arrangements that are opaque to the public, difficult to administer, and inefficient in their operation.”

The Rightward Drift.

What you saw, I think, anyway, was…the end product of thirty years of a Democratic Party that has slid so far to the center-right that a Democratic president found himself arguing with a ‘severely conservative’ Republican candidate over the issues of how much the Democratic president had cut out of the budget, how many regulations he’d trimmed, how much more devoted to the middle-class-kick-in-the-balls Simpson-Bowles ‘plan’ he is, and how he would ‘reform’ Social Security and Medicare — and, frankly, a Democratic president losing some of those arguments to his left.

Hey all. Haven’t given up on the blog again, but I am in the midst of the final ascent on the old dissermatation. (With two more hopefully brief chapters to go, I just rounded page 1055. Yes, I know. This whole thing has just gotten out of hand. Ohhhh well. Everybody needs a coping strategy.) Anyways, between that and work GitM is back to being neglected for a few weeks. In the meantime, I strongly endorse this Esquire piece by Charles Pierce on exactly why Obama stunk up the bed so badly in the first Republican primary debate general election debate.

Basically, if you give America a choice between a Republican and a Republican, the Republican will win every time. The problem wasn’t Obama had an off night. The problem is this former great hope of the left actually believes Simpson-Bowles is a good idea (it isn’t) and that the deficit is a huge problem (it’s not.) Even while the Obama campaign is trying to convince us to get more than just a wee bit cult-y “For All”, the Grand Bargain train is already leaving the station.

In short, we seem to have reached a point where so many top Democrats have spent so many years doing the protective camouflage thing that they’ve completely forgotten which way is up. As a party, we are now clearly to the right of Nixon and verging on being right of Reagan. The president’s stinker of a performance on Wednesday was just a clearer-than-usual, real-time manifestation of the Democratic Party’s deeper dilemma: We have lost our way.

The New Haymarket.

What I said last year stands. The world doesn’t need any more 9/11 retrospectives. Still, this NASA picture from that dark day is pretty impressive, so there’s that.

I will say this: Since last week we watched Democrats — Democrats — chant USA, call out Mitt Romney for being insufficiently for the troops, and all but roll the severed head of Osama Bin Laden out on stage, perhaps it’s time to regain a little perspective.

9/11 was a horrible crime that demanded justice. It was also an event, it has now become clear, that could have and should have been prevented by the Dubya administration using traditional, pre-9/11 intelligence methods. Since that dark day, nine people have died in our indefinite detention prison camp at GitMo. The only person being prosecuted for the Dubya-era torture regime is the whistleblower. And we’re now set to unleash a wave of SKYNET-like drones over our own territory in the name of keeping us safe.

It’s long past time to stop compounding the tragedy of what happened in New York and Washington eleven years ago by shredding the constitution in response. It’s time to get back to being America again.

Romney: The Uncanny Valley.

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Those evil natured robots, they’re programmed to destroy us…So, yeah it’s hard to feel much of anything about Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech, other than that I saw more lifelike human performances in the Final Fantasy movie ten years ago. The guy is just forever lost in the uncanny valley to me. This will no doubt be a close election, and Romney could well win it by sheer dint of a bad economy and boatloads of under-the-table campaign cash. But I still find it hard to take his seriously as a candidate, and most of the time just end up feeling bad for his much more presidential father that the previously-moderate Mitt has become such an obvious sellout. (And, tbh, I’m much more worried about the truth-averse Paul Ryan’s no-doubt-bright future in his party than Romney’s bid this year. He’s the T-1000 to Romney’s T-800.)

In short, Romney has that generic, milquetoast liked-by-his-base-but-has-zero-crossover-appeal quality we’ve previously seen in Bob Dole and John Kerry, and just like Joe Biden’s “noun, verb, and 9/11” evisceration of Rudy 9ui11iani last cycle, Mike Huckabee already nailed Romney dead-to-rights in 2008 with his quip, “He looks like the guy who fired you.” I just don’t see Romney getting past that — and, if he does, it won’t be because of this speech.

12:50, Press Return.


I don’t want to start any blasphemous rumors, but I think that God’s got a sick sense of humor…” Or is there some other way to explain this, via @andrewducker:

‘Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’ is an anagram of ‘My Ultimate Ayn Rand Porn.’“

Frightening, right? I’m highly agnostic, but still. In the fury of the moment, you can see the Master’s hand

Game of Votes.

Still taking a break. Nonetheless, this was too on-the-nose not to share, for election 2012 is dark and full of terrors. Enjoy.

…No Curl.


Also showing up on the grid of late is out first look at Henry Cavill as Zack Snyder’s Superman. Hmmm, ok. The Spidey-like texture is different, but why in blue blazes does Supes have Mitt Romney hair? Booo…

U.S. History for Dummies.

As many readers here well know, I’ve spent a good bit of time over the past decade studying US history. (In fact, over the past few years, I’ve occasionally helped my advisor keep a textbook up to date that recently drew the ire of right-wing blowhard Bill O’Reilly. Apparently, those damn pesky facts were somehow mitigating O’Reilly’s ability to spew forth the usual idiotic blather.)

Anyway, over that period of time, I believe I have in fact learned me a few things. So, as a public service of sorts, and because, after this morning’s revelations, I’ve reached the limit of craven and/or patently stupid falsehoods that I can feasibly ingest over so short a time, some “U.S. History for Dummies.” I expect most everyone who comes by this site with any frequency knows all this, but ya never know. Apologies for the didacticism in advance — if this were this a Coors Light commercial, this would be where i vent. (And thanks to Lia for the timely visual tax lesson, above.)

  • The Tea Party: As you no doubt know, the Boston Tea Party of 1773 was recently appropriated by FOX News and the conservative group Freedomworks to simulate a widespread popular uprising against high taxes. (In other words, it was an “astroturf,” rather than a grass-roots, movement.) And, yes, the inconvenient fact that President Obama and the Democratic Congress actually lowered income taxes for 95% of Americans earlier this year didn’t seem to dissuade them from trying to jury-rig some rather dubious anti-tax ramparts and gin up enough disgruntled FOX-watchers to man them.

    At any rate, as most people remember from high school, the original 1773 Tea Party was not a protest against high taxes or high prices at all. (In fact, legally imported tea — i.e. that of the East India Company, which was both suffering serious setbacks over in India and losing market share to smuggled Dutch tea at the time — was actually cheaper in the colonies after the Tea Act, since it was now exempt from the usual obligations.)

    In small part a reaction of the East India’s commercial rivals to this sweetheart deal, the Boston Tea Party was mainly held to uphold the principle of No taxation without representation. Which I don’t think I need to explain. So, with the minor exception of DC-area conservatives who attended the tea gathering in Washington (without crossing over from Virginia or Maryland), the, uh, “teabaggers” don’t really have a leg to stand on here. This is particularly true after you consider that both ruthless gerrymandering and the vagaries of the Electoral College (I’m looking at you, Wyoming) actually tend to lead to over-representation of conservative Republicans in our halls of governance, even despite heavy losses for the “Grand Old Party” in 2006 and 2008.

  • The “Right” of Secession: Apparently, Rick Perry, the right-wing governor of Texas, really wants to keep his job. As such, he’s scared stiff of the forthcoming primary challenge by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who happens to be much more popular than he is among Texas Republicans. So, to sow up his “activist” (re: freak show) bona fides, this desperate fellow has been doing anything and everything he possibly can to prostrate himself before the paranoid ultra-right, including appearing before the current poobahs of the GOP’s lunatic fringe, Glenn Beck and Michael Savage. As you no doubt know, this recently culminated in Gov. Perry’s upholding Texas’ right to secede before a crowd of rabid teabaggers. Said the Governor: ““We’ve got a great union. There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that…

    Well, in fact, no state in the Union has any legal right to secede. (Not even Texas.) The existence of such a right was posited and debated quite often in the early years of the republic: by Jefferson and Madison in the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions, by the members of the Hartford Convention, by South Carolina’s philosopher-politician John C. Calhoun, and countless others.

    But the illegality of secession was eventually confirmed — in blood — when eleven states attempted to pull out of the Union in 1861, due mainly to differing opinions on the institution of slavery and its expansion into the western territories. As a result of this insurrection by the southern states, a violent conflict broke out, which we call the Civil War. It lasted four years, and it was kind of a big deal.

    Prior to the war, the states of the Confederacy believed secession to be their natural right, while those remaining in the Union believed it to be tantamount to an act of treason. With the Union victory in that conflict, and the subsequent readmittance of southern states in such a manner that reaffirmed that no right of secession exists, the question was settled. So it remains to this day.

  • Waterboarding, Torture, and “Just Following Orders”: In the wake of recent revelations, there’s been a renewed push among certain conservatives to laugh off waterboarding as not being constitutive of torture. (See also Rush Limbaugh’s fratboy defense of Abu Ghraib a few years ago.) But (as even John McCain concedes), in the years after World War II, there was no question among Americans that waterboarding is torture. In fact, Japanese soldiers were tried and convicted of war crimes for waterboarding American GIs and Filipino prisoners. When you think about it, it’s not really a tough call.

    Another argument we’ve heard lately — today Sen. McCain made it with his usual comrades-in-arms, Sens. Lieberman and Graham, while trying to protect Dubya’s lawyers — is that the CIA officials who actually conducted these recent acts of torture should be exempt from prosecution, because they were following the legal dictates of those higher-up in the administration. (To follow the reasoning around the circle, the torturers should be exempt because they were listening to the lawyers, and the lawyers should be exempt because they didn’t do the actual torturing. Cute.)

    Anyway, whatever you think of the merits of this argument, this is usually referred to as the Nuremberg defense, and it is in fact no defense at all. Argues Principle IV of the Nuremberg Principles, devised by the Allies after WWII to determine what constituted a war crime: “The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.” Insert “CIA interrogator” for person in that last sentence and you can pretty much see the problem.

  • Is America a Christian Nation?: At the end of his recent European tour, President Obama told an audience in Turkey the following: “We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation. We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.” This statement — well the “not a Christian nation” part of it, at least — prompted no small amount of consternation from the porcine-moralist wing of the GOP — James Dobson, Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, and sundry other freaks of the industry — all of whom fell over themselves to proclaim to the Heavens and preach to the FOX News choir that, yes, Virginia, America is a glorious Christian nation.

    America is not a Christian nation. This will be patently obvious to anyone who’s ever heard the phrase “separation of church and state.” Unlike, say, England, America does not have and has never had an official, established church. This is very much by design. For proof of this not-very-radical claim, see the very first clause of the very first amendment to the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

    If that doesn’t do it for you, see George Washington’s famous 1790 letter to the Jewish residents of Newport, Rhode Island. “May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.

    Or consider that Thomas Jefferson skipped his presidency on his tombstone to make room for his authorship of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom: “Be it enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.” (We could also make mention of the Jefferson Bible, but let’s start slow.)

    Is the reasoning here too circuitous for Rove, Gingrich, et al to follow? Ok, then, here’s the cheat sheet: the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli, passed by a Congress of our Founders without declaim and signed into law by President John Adams. It begins: “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion…” Did y’all catch it this time? Good, let’s move on.

  • A Smile for Chavez: Our new president also attended the Summit of the Americas recently, at which he was photographed smiling and shaking hands with Venezuelan autocrat Hugo Chavez, a particular bete noire of the right who has said all manner of unpleasant things about America over the past few years.

    After the picture was taken, conservatives went predictably livid, with Matt Drudge headlining the offending photograph with the usual red text, Dick Cheney deeming Obama “a weak president” on FOX News, and Gingrich arguing that it made Obama look “weak like Carter.” “We didn’t rush over, smile and greet Russian dictators,” said Newt, and he wasn’t the only potential 2012’er aghast at Obama’s behavior. Sen. John Ensign of Nevada called the president “irresponsible” and the consistently shameless Mitt Romney painted Obama a “timid advocate for freedom”.

    Um, ok. Well, let’s see here…


    I could go on. With regards to that last one — Reagan yukking it up with Mikhail Gorbachev, then of “the evil Empire” — it didn’t take long before (surprise) Newt was caught in a contradiction. Apparently, Gingrich had previously argued on his website that Ronald Reagan’s good humor with Gorby was a sign of strength, not weakness.

    Speaking of which, as Lawrence O’Donnell noted on MSNBC the other day, saintly old Ronald Reagan didn’t just smile and shake hands with America’s enemies. His administration sold them weapons under the table. So, please, assorted puddin’-heads of the GOP talkocracy, spare me your warmed-over tripe about poor diplomacy and weak leadership. As with everything else above, I’ve swallowed enough of your swill over the past few weeks to last me a lifetime.

  • We’ll get you, my little pretties.

    Y’know, after watching Wednesday’s RNC festivities, I’m rather annoyed with myself that I titled the post about Tuesday night “Chimps on Parade.” I mean, the dismayingly chimpy Dubya notwithstanding, at least Fred Thompson can sometimes muster up the ornery menace of an aging silverback. But it was last night’s warm-up act, with also-rans Romney, Huckabee, and Giuliani sneering and snarling with abandon at Obama, “liberals,” the “elite media,” the home television audience, and just about everything else that crossed their path, that felt like the real flying monkey attack.

    Now, I can’t say I have my finger on the pulse of the nation or anything, but, in terms of the sheer quantity of vitriol, last night’s flurry of bad mojo felt quite a bit to me like Pat Buchanan’s disastrous 1992 “Culture War” speech all over again. (The fur flew so thick last night that even the AP felt compelled to mention the blatant untruths today.) We’ll see how it plays over the next few days and weeks, of course, but I get a strong sense that the Republicans didn’t help their cause much at all last night. (And, if you were to happen to infer that, by calling that ridiculous trio of GOP Pep Boys “flying monkeys,” I was implicitly comparing Gov. Palin, who later dripped with similar derision and contempt from her unfortunate sea of black, to Margaret Hamilton, well, that’s all on you…sexist.)

    At any rate, to, take ‘em in their miniboss order…

    Mitt Romney: “Is a Supreme Court liberal or conservative that awards Guantanamo terrorists with Constitutional rights?” This one’s easy…Douchebag. [Transcript.] Is there anything else one needs to say about the man? It wasn’t so long ago even the GOP was united in their dislike of the guy’s patent insincerity. But last night, of course, Republicans hooted and hollered through his manifestly idiotic remarks about a “liberal Washington” like he was Don Rickles killing at the Palms. “Is government spending — excluding inflation — liberal or conservative if it doubles since 1980? — It’s liberal!” Of course, self-proclaimed conservatives, and darlings of everybody in that room last night, have run the White House for twenty of those twenty-eight years…but you already knew that. “It’s time for the party of big ideas, not the party of Big Brother!” Uh…I guess Mitt hasn’t been following the news all that much of late, nor did he seem to pre-read his own speech. (See the first quoted sentence above.) I could go on, but you get the point: Douchebag. Let’s move on.

    Mike Huckabee: “John McCain will follow the fanatics to their caves in Pakistan or to the gates of hell. What Obama wants to do is give them a place setting at the table.” Alright, I feel a bit bad for lumping in Huckaboom with the rest of the night’s speakers. [Transcript.] He’s clearly a smarter, abler politician than 95% of the Republicans out there (even if his weird anecdote about veterans and desks barely made a lick of sense), and his remarks wisely eschewed most of the angry invective that marked all of the other speeches. (His early nod to Obama’s candidacy — “Party or politics aside, we celebrate this milestone because it elevates our country” — went over like a lead balloon in the auditorium last night.) Still, even with his friendly, aw-shucks demeanor, Huckabee laid on the finger-pointing pretty thick at times, particularly once he set his sights upon the “elite media, whose “reporting of the past few days has proven tackier than a costume change at a Madonna concert.

    Governor Huck probably trod onto the thinnest ice last night when he tried to portray the GOP as the “real” party of poor folk and ordinary working joes. This is wildly implausible for many reasons, not the least because Huckabee himself deemed the Republicans “a wholly-owned subsidiary of Wall Street and the corporations” only a few short months ago. Plus, it’s really hard to buy into this sort of “broke-like-us” tripe when Cindy McCain is wearing $300,000 of bling to the big show.

    Rudy Giuliani: “For four days in Denver and for the past 18 months, Democrats have been afraid to use the words ‘Islamic terrorism.’ During their convention, the Democrats rarely mentioned the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.” 9/11, 9/11, 9/11? Mayor Rudy 9iu11iani, it seems, is not above living down to his caricature. Of the three Pep Boy speeches, this is the one that will probably be remembered as the biggest misfire for the GOP. [Transcript.] Even if Romney’s was more intellectually dishonest as written, Giuliani’s shrill anti-Obama screed was emphatically the most poorly delivered. (Not that Giuliani scrimped on the intellectual dishonesty. See, for example, his resurrection of the hoary “present vote” meme.) For whatever reason — some say pique at his speech being moved — Giuliani came across as even more weaselly and intemperate than usual last night, and — I say this as someone who, despite everything since, gave him much credit for his original handling of 9/11 — Rudy seems weaselly and intemperate on the best of days. In any case, however much it may have fired up the faithful, Hizzoner’s rant didn’t play at all on TV. (While I’m linking TPM, Josh Marshall got off a great zinger last night: “I think I preferred this speech in the original German.“)

    And then the main event, Governor Palin. [Transcript.]

    Over the past few days, I’ve refrained from posting every single revelation about the seemingly un-vetted Palin here, partly because I think little is gained by poring over the details of the awkward baby-momma story (even if the hypocrisy of the family values crowd has been stunning), and partly because keeping up with every facet of her creepy-craziness would’ve consumed the entire week. (If the Enquirer affair story gets locked down next week, that might well get a post here, tho’ — as did Edwards’ indiscretions. Also, a PSA for any kids who happen to stop by — watch what you write on your MySpace page, y’all. That’s one to grow on.)

    So, how did Palin attempt to distract us, however briefly, from the fact that she’s an unqualified, uninformed, scandal-ridden, pro-life, creationist, secessionist, wolf-massacring, book-banning Buchananite fundie? Well, mainly by channeling Rush Limbaugh for forty minutes: “When the cloud of rhetoric has passed, when the roar of the crowd fades away, when the stadium lights go out and those styrofoam Greek columns are hauled back to some studio lot. When that happens, what exactly is our opponent’s plan? What does he actually seek to accomplish after he’s done turning back the waters and healing the planet? The answer — the answer is to make government bigger and take more of your money and give you more orders from Washington and to reduce the strength of America in a dangerous world.” Uh, yeah. 1988 called…they want their talking points back.

    I wish there was more to Palin’s coming-out address to recommend it, but 99.44% of her speech was just this sort of smarmy, deeply-negative, over-the-top ridicule for Obama-Biden, delivered for the sole purpose of firing up the tired remnants of the fringe right. (Another case in point: “My fellow citizens, the American presidency is not supposed to be a journey of personal discovery.“) Even elements of her biography that I somewhat respect were grossly mismanaged. True, being the cleanest Republican politician in Alaska is kinda like being the world’s tallest pygmy — and, as noted above, Palin’s hands aren’t all that clean anyway. But, still, I’d have respected the Governor more this morning if she hadn’t openly lied to us last night about her reform credentials. (“I told the Congress ‘thanks, but no thanks’ on that bridge to nowhere.” — I believe Peggy Noonan has an apt phrase for this kind of blatant falsifcation. For shame.)

    Update: “Obama was working for a group of churches that were concerned about their parishioners…They hired Obama to help those stunned people recover and get the services they needed –job training, help with housing and so forth –from the local government. It was, dare I say it, the Lord’s work — the sort of mission Jesus preached (as opposed to the war in Iraq, which Palin described as a ‘task from God.’) This is what Palin and Giuliani were mocking. They were making fun of a young man’s decision ‘to serve a cause greater than himself,’ in the words of John McCain. They were, therefore, mocking one of their candidate’s favorite messages.” By way of DYFL, TIME‘s Joe Klein angrily rallies to the defense of community organizers.

    The Mitt Comes Off | The Reign of McCain.

    I must now stand aside, for our party and our country. If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Senator Clinton or Obama would win.” With an eye to 2012, Governor Mitt Romney is out, meaning the GOP nominee is now, for all intent and purposes, John McCain.

    So, now part of the question for our party becomes, which Democrat is more likely to beat McCain? I’m betting you can guess my answer. As Nicholas Kristof notes: “When pollsters offer voters hypothetical matchups, Mr. Obama does better than Mrs. Clinton against Mr. McCain. For example, a Cook Political Report poll of registered voters released this week found Mr. McCain beats Mrs. Clinton, 45 percent to 41 percent. But Mr. Obama beats Mr. McCain, 45 percent to 43 percent. The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll found similar results.

    See also David Broder: “In either scenario, women break for the Democratic candidate. McCain leads Clinton by 13 points among men, but only runs even with Obama. Party lines are sharp, and the battle for independents would be close. Currently, independents give McCain a 12-point lead over Clinton but favor Obama by 6 points over the Republican.

    Update: Another TIME poll agrees: “Obama captured 48% of the vote in the theoretical match-up against McCain’s 41%, the TIME poll reported, while Clinton and McCain would deadlock at 46% of the vote each…The difference, says Mark Schulman, CEO of Abt SRBI, which conducted the poll for TIME, is that ‘independents tilt toward McCain when he is matched up against Clinton. But they tilt toward Obama when he is matched up against the Illinois Senator.” Independents, added Schulman, ‘are a key battleground.’

    The Clinton Money Crunch.

    “We are very frustrated because we have a Supreme Court that seems determined to say that the wealthier have more right to free speech than the rest of us. For example, they say you couldn’t stop me from spending all the money I’ve saved over the last five years on Hillary’s campaign if I wanted to, even though it would clearly violate the spirit of campaign finance reform.”

    So said Bill Clinton only a little over a month ago. But, as per the norm with the Clinton campaign, things have now changed: Word leaks out that Senator Clinton is not only planning to self-finance her candidacy with personal “loans” (a la Mitt Romney), but that she already gave her campaign $5 million out-of-pocket last month. (Indeed, money’s gotten so tight around the Clinton camp that, according to Time‘s Mark Halperin, senior staff are now going without pay.)

    Meanwhile, Sen. Obama is on pace for another $30 million month and has room to grow, mainly because he’s relying on a wider pool of small donors rather than (as per Senator Clinton) a smaller pool of maxed-out donors and an army of lobbyists. (Which reminds me, Senator Obama accepts donations here.)

    I for one doubt Sen. Clinton’s campaign will really run out of cheddar. If anything, the campaign probably put the story out there so as to encourage their supporters to donate in the same fashion as Obama’s have. Still, this Clinton cash crunch further indicates how much of their election strategy was predicated on a Super Tuesday knockout punch. Having swung and missed, the Clinton camp is now nearing broke, and seriously hurting.

    More to the point, even notwithstanding the inherent shadiness of self-financing, which no less than Bill Clinton attested to above, this move puts President Clinton’s penchant for troubling deals — such as his recent venture in Kazakhstan — right in the thick of things. Hard to ignore in any event, now this story comes front and center. If the Clintons are breaking into their private stash to get Senator Clinton elected, where did the money come from?

    Obama: Let’s Move On.

    Saying he was “concerned about the tenor of the race in these past few days,” Senator Barack Obama moves to quell some of the arguing over identity politics this past week.

    Concerning Sen. Clinton’s LBJ history lesson: “‘I don’t think it was in any way a racial comment,’ Obama told ABC News. ‘That’s something that has played out in the press. That’s not my view.’ But, he said, the comment was revealing about her political character. ‘I do think it was indicative of the perspective that she brings, which is that what happens in Washington is more important than what happens outside of Washington,’ he said. He said he believes the quote betrays a belief on her part, ‘that the intricacies of the legislative process were somehow more significant than when ordinary people rise up and march and go to jail and fight for justice.’ He called that a ‘fundamental difference’ between them.

    Concerning Bill Clinton’s fairy tale: “[A]gain, Obama looked past the racial controversy. Instead, Obama directed his response to the dispute over whether opposition to the Iraq War was consistent. (Clinton has since reiterated that is what he meant when he invoked the ‘fairy tale’ line.) ‘Both he and Sen. Clinton have been spending a lot of time over the past month trying to run down my record,’ Obama said. ‘What particularly distresses me is this notion that I wasn’t against the war from the start. This is coming from a former president who suggests that he was and nobody can find any record of it,’ he said.

    A great, classy response. The Clinton strategy only really works if you play along. As my old employer, James Carville, was wont to put it, “Don’t waste your time wrestling with a pig. You just dirty, and the pig loves it.” (And, just to avoid confusion and just as McCain with Romney, I’m not calling the Clintons porcine, even if they have engaged in some swinish political tactics of late. It’s a figure of speech.)

    Update: Senator Obama continues in the same vein at a press conference this evening. Speaking of a possible Bradley effect in New Hampshire, Senator Obama said: “I don’t think that’s what was going on…as I understand it, basically there was a big shift in undecided’s going towards Sen Clinton, particularly among women in the last minute. And keep in mind there was a big gap, a gender gap that cut both ways — I won among men and she won among women — there were more men than women who voted. If it had been a racial issue, there’s no reason why that would have been something that was unique to women as opposed to men, so I don’t’ think that is the case.

    Update 2: Speaking yet again of Clinton’s “fairy tale” rant, it seems another — substantive — deception has emerged from Clinton’s remarks (and Hillary’s statement on MtP.) Did you notice how they both keep mentioning anti-war opponent Chuck Hagel? “[T]he talking point appears to misconstrue the facts.”

    Update 3: Sen. Clinton seconds the call for truce, although she then somehow failed to get word to Charlie Rangel.

    Manchester Divided.

    So, the debates.

    Of course, every big show has an opening act, and the undercard tonight was the Republicans. I realize I’ve been slipping on the GOP coverage around these parts of late, and I apologize…I promise to catch up once the Dem side quiets down (As a show of good faith: hey, look! Romney won Cheney country.) Still, part of the reason I’ve been losing interest in the GOP’s internecine disputes this cycle is because — even notwithstanding the moldering albatross that is Dubya — their candidates are all so lousy, and everyone knows it. (The Iowa attendance numbers, where the Dems outnumbered Republicans 2-1, tell most of the story.) Still, my main impressions of the GOP side tonight were thus:

  • Nobody likes Mitt Romney. At various points Huckabee, McCain, Thompson, and Giuliani were all cracking wise about his flip-flopping and such, and he’s not even the frontrunner anymore. (McCain’s up six.) I guess the rationale is a poor Romney showing in New Hampshire might knock him out early. That, and he’s been throwing his money around in negative ads. Either way, Romney was the primary punching bag for the majority of the debate.
  • Fred Thompson seemed older, more slothful, and less presidential than I remember him. His lazy contributions basically involved making fun of Ron Paul every so often. No wonder he hasn’t been catching fire.
  • Speaking of Ron Paul, he had the gleam of a true believer about him (the vaguely Gandalfian looks help), and it’d have been nice to see his brand of old-school, Robert Taft conservatism get a fairer hearing from his opponents, just so its more frightening aspects could be exposed. (Paul’s libertarianism sounds refreshingly anti-imperialistic on the foreign policy side. But on the domestic front, it’d mean the Gilded Age all over again.) Still, I can see why he’s drawing so many disgruntled young Republicans to his standard. And at least he’s trafficking in the realm of ideas.
  • Perhaps the trail is getting to him, but John McCain seemed like he was on autopilot all night. Still, as George Stephanopoulos noted in the post-game, he spent the night touting his conservative bona fides rather than his maverick cred, which will hopefully pay dividends for Obama among undecided independents.
  • Rudy Giuliani stayed in typical 9/11 9/11 9/11 form, with the aid of Ron Paul’s speaking of uncomfortable truths about our overseas involvements. Still, it seemed clear he’s just biding his time until Florida. He barely went after frontrunner (and his most obvious rival) John McCain at all.
  • I actually thought Mike Huckabee displayed some impressive kung-fu, for the most part. I still think he’s fundamentally unelectable (From his son’s Frist-like murdering of a stray dog to the horrible Wayne Dumond case to the AIDS quarantines, Gov. Huckaboom’s closet has more skeletons than Undercity.) Still, given his evangelical backing, his aw shucks delivery, and his wilier-than-you’d-first-expect responses, I could see him causing serious problems for his GOP competitors, and he gave the best answer to WMUR announcer Scott Spradling’s Obama question.
  • Speaking of which — yes, in case you missed it, the Republican field was asked how they’d run against Senator Obama should he be the Democratic nominee. (Remember the earlier claims that Clinton was being treated unfairly in the Russert debate? Well, Obama got the exact same frontrunner treatment from Gibson and Spradling tonight in both debates, and, by and large, he handled it fine.) Anyway, in case you’re wondering, Huckabee and Paul praised the Obama phenomenon, Romney tried to claim the mantle of change for himself, McCain touted his own experience, Thompson muttered some stale two-decade old tripe about “liberals,” and Giuliani brought up…wait for it, wait for it…national security. (Obama’s later response to all this: “I was going back and forth between the Republicans and football…[But] you know, we’ve seen this movie before. We know the Republican playbook.“) The point being, none of these guys seemed to have anything close to an answer yet for the Obama phenomenon. (All they wanted to do was voice their tried-and-tested soundbites about Hillarycare.) Which brings us to:

    The Democrats. First off, I should say — and I’m sure it’s obvious by now anyway, judging by the content here the past few days — that I watched the debate not only as an Obama partisan but as someone profoundly irritated by Sen. Clinton for her lowball maneuvers of recent days. So, grab that shaker of salt and let’s proceed…

  • I thought Barack Obama did a solid job overall, and was strongest in the first half of the debate. He seemed knowledgable, thoughtful, decisive, and, most importantly, electable. He showed an ability to discuss specifics about the issues on the table, kept his larger narrative about hope and change intact, and made no serious blunders that would impede his post-Iowa momentum, which is all he really had to do. Obama scored his best response to Senator Clinton’s blunderbuss offense early on, when he calmly explained the differences between their two health plans and put the lie to her flip-flopping charges coolly and succinctly. For the most part, though, and as the evening progressed, he exercised his frontrunner privilege and stayed above the fray. Of course, he was aided in this strategy by… (Cue “Aunt Jackie“: “If that’s your man, then tag him in….“)
  • John Edwards, who performed just as well as he usually does. Clearly, the Edwards team made the tactical decision to try and knock out Clinton now and get it to a race between he and Obama. Thus: “‘Any time you speak out powerfully for change, the forces of status quo attack. He [Obama] believes deeply in change, and I believe deeply in change. And any time you’re fighting for that, I mean, I didn’t hear these kinds of attacks from Senator Clinton when she was ahead.‘” (The NYT is casting this as “Two Rivals Go After Defiant Clinton,” but that’s not in fact correct. Clinton went after Obama, expecting help from Edwards, who instead returned fire at Clinton. At that point, Clinton boiled over and Obama — recognizing Edwards would be an ally for the night rather than an adversary — magnanimously withdrew from the field. He didn’t “go after” anybody, and, as the frontrunner, why should he?)

    At any rate, Edwards’ decision to go after Clinton rather than Obama may seem like “ganging up,” but I can see the sense of it. For one, it’s clear to all now that Obama’s tapped in to a yearning for change that transcends the usual political categories, and, Edwards has decided he might be able to win the populism versus progressivism discussion between two “change” candidates if Clinton’s out of the picture. (It’d be a fascinating debate.) For another, I’ve been reading a lot of online coverage about the election post-Iowa, and it seems pretty clear that Edwards supporters are livid that he’s still considered the forgotten man in the race. Given that he bested Clinton in Iowa and is still being treated as an also-ran, he has a legitimate axe to grind with her.

  • Bill Richardson was there too.

  • Her back to the wall, Hillary Clinton was more combative than we’ve seen in any previous debate, calling Obama a flip-flopper right out of the box and not letting up much thereafter. (Obama’s jujitsu was solid, though, and he deftly deflected most of her attacks with specifics and a smile, until Edwards took over the fight. His only misstep may have been not playing along nicely enough with Clinton’s “I’m just a girl” act, although given everything Clinton’s been throwing at him in recent days, I’d say it’s a forgivable sin.)

    The Senator’s attack-mode, to my admittedly jaundiced eye, was unseemly. For one, this was the first time I can remember Clinton playing the “first woman president” card so flagrantly, and it reeked of desperation. (To his credit, Obama didn’t feel the need to return the wallowing in identity politics.) For another, her anger blazed through at certain moments, particularly after Edwards showed he wasn’t going to be her friend tonight, and I doubt it played very well to New Hampshire’s undecided. (But again, I’m not a good judge of this sort of thing by now. Lines like “We don’t need to be raising the false hopes of our country about what can be delivered” just drive me to distraction.)

    Speaking of which, one of the more intriguing volleys between Clinton and Obama happened late in the game, when Clinton once again tried to push the “false prophet” angle against Obama. Said Clinton: “So you know, words are not actions. And as beautifully presented and passionately felt as they are, they are not action. What we’ve got to do is translate talk into action and feeling into reality.” Obama’s response: “There have been periods of time in our history where a president inspired the American people to do better. And I think we’re in one of those moments right now. I think the American people are hungry for something different and can be mobilized around big changes; not incremental changes, not small changes…The truth is actually words do inspire. Words do help people get involved. Don’t discount that power, because when the American people are determined that something is going to happen, then it happens. And if they are disaffected and cynical and fearful and told that it can’t be done, then it doesn’t. I’m running for president because I want to tell them, yes, we can. And that’s why I think they’re responding in such large numbers.” That sums up a good deal of Obama’s oratorical appeal, and explains why Clinton, no matter what she says to the contrary, could never be the candidate of change. She just doesn’t get it. As I said in my progressivism post of a few weeks ago: Without vision, the people perish. America’s left is plumb sick of the poll-driven, over-triangulated brand of GOP-lite policy wonk Clinton represents. Put aside the V-Chips and school uniforms: We are looking to dream big again.

  • Dey Tuk His Jerb!!

    The Amazing 2008 Race claims another candidate in Colorado congressman Tom Tancredo, who dropped out today, and endorsed Mitt Romney as the next-best purveyor of gibbering anti-immigrant hysteria.) “Tancredo has consistently polled at the back of the nine-person GOP field.” Well, when the Immigrants and Terrorists come to poison your homes, taik your jerbs, and devour your children, don’t say you weren’t warned.

    Preaching to the (Re)Converted.

    “The two faiths have struggled with each other for years…In fact, probably no other organization in the nation has played a bigger role in perpetuating the idea that Mormonism is a cult than the Southern Baptist Convention.” In light of the Huckabee-Romney race to be seen as Christian-in-Chief (subliminal ads and all), friend and colleague Neil J. Young of Little Bit Left ruminates on the enduring Mormon-Baptist divide for Slate. And, in related news, DoL Robert Novak argues that Huckabee may suffer from lingering internecine disputes within the SBC — Apparently, for some of his co-religionists, he hasn’t been conservative enough. (Finally, while on the subject of Republican candidates, religion, and history, I was heartened to see Ron Paul knows his Sinclair Lewis.)

    Mitt’s Muskie Moment.

    “I can remember when I heard about the change being made. I was driving home from — I think it was law school, but I was driving home — going through the Fresh Pond rotary in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I heard it on the radio and I pulled over and literally wept.” Regarding the thorny question of the Mormon church and race (discussed earlier here), Mitt Romney, to his credit, addressed the issue about as well as can be expected this morning during the Russert treatment on Meet the Press, even going so far as to tear up a little (Video). My, we’ve come a long way from the days of Ed Muskie. Update: Must be catching…Now Clinton’s crying too. Update 2: And Romney again.

    Holier than Thou.

    “Nor would I separate us from our religious heritage. Perhaps the most important question to ask a person of faith who seeks a political office, is this: does he share these American values: the equality of human kind, the obligation to serve one another, and a steadfast commitment to liberty?” Well, Governor Romney, that’s the question. I was busy the day of the “Big Speech,” so I ended up watching some of it on Youtube [2, 3] and reading the rest online. And, while I’d definitely quibble with the notion that “Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom,” it seems Mitt waited too long to pander to the evangelicals regardless: Huckabee’s doubled up on him — and everybody else — in Iowa, and is now running second nationally behind Giuliani. And, as Drudge dredged up this morning, Huckabee has been doling out red meat to scary religious conservatives for well over a decade now, including recommending the quarantining of AIDS patients in 1992. Even though Romney will say pretty much anything, It’ll be hard for the Governor to catch up with that kind of crazy, especially if he expects to remain at all electable.

    Data from Des Moines | Clinton on the Warpath?

    Another new poll, by way of the Des Moines Register, puts Obama slightly in the Iowa lead at 28%, to Clinton’s 25% and Edwards’ 23%. (All candidates are within the margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.) Also, it seems Obama may well have cut deeply into Clinton’s impressive support among Iowa women: “In the new poll, Obama leads with support from 31 percent of women likely attend the caucuses, compared to 26 percent for Clinton. In October, Clinton was the preferred candidate of 34 percent of women caucusgoers, compared to 21 percent for Obama” Still, Clinton maintains her generational ace in the hole: “Clinton is the top choice among caucusgoers 55 years old and older. The largest share of Democratic caucusgoers — exactly half — are in this age group.” Meanwhile, on the GOP side, Mike Huckabee leads Mitt Romney 29%-24%, with no one else even close. “That’s a gain of 17 percentage points since the last Iowa Poll was taken in early October, when Huckabee trailed both Romney and Fred Thompson.” We have a ways to go yet, but it’s looking like we’ve got ourselves a barnburner on both sides of the aisle, and I’m obviously pleased as punch that Obama is not only in the running but leading the pack. Onward and upward.

    Update: “Now the fun part starts“? Sensing the obvious danger to her candidacy in Obama’s Iowa lead, Hillary Clinton announces she’s going negative, and illustrates thus by insinuating Obama has character issues. “‘I want a long term relationship,’ she said. ‘I don’t want to just have a one night stand with all of you.'”

    Hey Mitt: Racism is a Latter-Day Sin.

    “It ought to be borne in mind that Romney is not a mere rank-and-file Mormon. His family is, and has been for generations, part of the dynastic leadership…It is not just legitimate that he be asked about the beliefs that he has not just held, but has caused to be spread and caused to be inculcated into children. It is essential. Here is the most salient reason: Until 1978, the so-called Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was an officially racist organization.Slate‘s Chris Hitchens explains why Mitt Romney needs to start being more forthright about his Mormonism. I’m inclined to agree — if nothing else, he needs to clear the air as Kennedy did in his 1960 address to Southern Baptists (a strategy Romney avoided in his run against JFK’s little brother in 1994.)

    A self-proclaimed paragon of virtue, Governor Romney has recently been publicly tsk-tsking Barack Obama’s candor about his drug use. But I doubt I’m the only American who’d feel more sanguine about my child experimenting with marijuana than he or she espousing some of the notions that the Mormon Church declared holy writ within my lifetime. “[I]n antebellum Missouri and preaching against abolition, Smith…announced that there had been a third group in heaven during the battle between God and Lucifer. This group had made the mistake of trying to remain neutral but, following Lucifer’s defeat, had been forced into the world and compelled to ‘take bodies in the accursed lineage of Canaan; and hence the negro or African race.’ Until 1978, no black American was permitted to hold even the lowly position of deacon in the Mormon Church, and nor were any (not that there were many applicants) admitted to the sacred rites of the temple.” As Hitchens aptly points out, “Mitt Romney was an adult in 1978. We need to know how he justified this to himself, and we need to hear his self-criticism, if he should chance to have one.Update: Facing a surprising (to him) Huckabee surge among Christian conservatives, Mitt Romney announces he’ll discuss his faith in a major speech next Thursday, akin to Kennedy’s 1960 address. I presume he won’t be delving into this former aspect of his faith, but you never know.

    They’re bona fide!

    Meanwhile, on the GOP side: The Republican field shores up its right-wing cred as Moral Majority co-founder Paul Weyrich endorses Mitt Romney, well-known evangelical crazy Pat Robertson backs Rudy Giuliani, and failed presidential candidate Sam Brownback, who I really thought would fill the conservative spoiler role now enjoyed by Mike Huckabee, instead decides to get behind John McCain. Looks like it’s still anybody’s race over there, even with NH polls currently breaking Romney’s way.

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