In a speech late yesterday, Mitt Romney accused President Obama of trying to use government to “create equal outcomes.” Romney argued that Obama wants to create an “entitlement society,” in which “everyone receives the same or similar rewards, regardless of education, effort, and willingness to take risk.” He made a concerted case that under Obama’s ideal vision, everyone will “get the same rewards.”
This is a Big Lie — it has nothing whatsoever to do with anything Obama has ever said, proposed or accomplished. And many liberalwritershavenoted today that this is Glenn Beck-level craziness, suggesting that Romney is willing to say and do anything to win.
That’s true, but another thing it’s also important to understand about Romney’s falsehoods is that they all serve a larger story that he and his advisers have been deliberately developing over time. When you look at all the Big Lies Romney has told in recent months, you’ll see a common thread running through them all.
They’re all about conveying a sense that you should find Obama’s intentions towards America vaguely suspect; that Obama harbors a deep seated indifference or even hostility towards the fundamentals that make America what it is; and that Obama is in some basic way undermining the foundation of American life as we know it. Let’s go through them all:
* The claim above that Obama wants a society in which everyone gets the “same rewards” is obviously designed to suggest that Obama doesn’t believe in American competitiveness and ingenuity.
* In that same spirit, Romney claimed the other day that the Obama/Dem criticism of his Bain years shows that Obama intends to “put free enterprise on trial” during the general election.
* Romney’s frequent falsehood that Obama “apologized for America” is about suggesting that Obama is apologetic about America’s relative advantages over other countries; that on some basic level, he doesn’t wish the country well.
* Indeed, Romney’s book, which he has frequently described as a kind of foundation of his presidential run, is called “No Apology: The case for American Greatness,” as if Obama is apologizing for American greatness.
* Romney recently accused Obama of pursuing policies that he “knows” are bad for the country.
* Romney recently claimed that he doesn’t believe Obama “understands America.”
* The speech Romney gave when he announced his presidential run traded heavily on these themes: He claimed that we are “inches away from ceasing to be a free market economy,” adding: “We look at our country, and we know in our hearts that things aren’t right.”
* As far back as 2010 Romney revealed he would campaign on the idea that Obama “has not understood the nature of America,” and on the idea that Obama does not share American “values” such as “love of liberty, of freedom, of opportunity.”
And so on. At this point, the pattern here is obvious, and it’s clearly not an accident. And Romney and his team will remain secure in the knowledge that most of the media will politely look the other way as the Big Lies keep flowing, and will continue to treat them as just part of the game.
By: Greg Sargent, The Washington Post Plum Line, December 21, 2011
President Obama’s poll numbers rise as he fights for jobs while the House speaker winds up hostage to the Tea Party
President Obama’s poll numbers have been climbing steadily since he stopped compromising in search of a “grand bargain” deficit deal during the summer, and began fighting for jobs. They dropped much of the summer as he struggled to get a deal. At one point, polls showed that a third of independents, and most Democratic-leaning independents, wanted Obama to fight Republicans harder.
He got the message, and it’s been good news politically ever since. His strong numbers in the two most recent CNN and ABC/Washington Post polls prove that more Americans realize that it’s Republicans who are playing politics with the economy, and who are exclusively serving the interests of the top 1 percent. The climb in Obama’s numbers is particularly noteworthy among middle-class and self-described independent voters. Voters now trust the president more than the GOP not only on the issue of jobs, but taxes as well.
Even white men without a college degree, who have been one of the toughest groups for this president to win over, give him higher ratings than they have all year. More than 40 percent approve of the job he’s doing, and that number is higher than the share of that demographic group who voted for Obama in 2008. Early this year, only 22 percent of that group approved of the president’s job performance, according to a National Journal/Pew Research Center poll.
I’ve written before about the need to move beyond the charge of racism when analyzing the political views of white working-class and non-college-educated voters. (They aren’t precisely the same thing, but they’re often pretty close.) No doubt racism is part of the president’s difficulty with this demographic group, but that’s not the whole story, and it’s both incorrect and divisive to insist that’s the main explanation. The volatility in this group’s views of the president reflects its economic vulnerability at least as much as racial or cultural discomfort, and Obama shouldn’t give up on them when shaping his 2012 pitch. He may not win a majority, but he shouldn’t settle for the 65-35 drubbing Democrats took in 2010. Democrats are fighting for the working and middle class now.
It’s also good news that senior citizens are happier with the president. Of course, John McCain won that group in 2008, and a Republican may win white seniors again in 2012. But Obama’s climbing approval rating with seniors – they’re now about evenly divided between approval and disapproval – ought to show the importance of standing up for Social Security and Medicare, and the political and moral dangers in continuing to crusade for a deficit “grand bargain” that cuts either program. Let’s hope the president leaves those ideas behind in 2011.
Obama’s stern, sober remarks chiding House GOP radicals indicate he knows he has a winning strategy. Unlike last summer, there was no talk about one last compromise. It takes two parties to compromise, and Obama is done compromising with himself.
Woe is John Boehner. What do you call a leader who can’t lead? Mr. Speaker, apparently. He’ll have a blue Christmas, for sure. Unfortunately, so will struggling Americans if there isn’t a last-minute deal to extend the payroll tax cuts. But Democrats are absolutely right to put an end to compromise at this point.
By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, December 20, 2011
House Republicans, on the eve of Tuesday’s vote denying tax relief to 160 million Americans, huddled in a conference room in the Capitol basement for more than two hours.
Were they puzzling over how to explain to constituents why they were effectively ordering a tax increase on the middle class after fighting for much larger tax breaks for the wealthy? Were they justifying the killing of a bipartisan compromise that had the support of all but eight Senate Republicans and the tacit approval of House Speaker John Boehner?
Nope. Turns out they were talking Monday night about their favorite scenes from “Braveheart.” About 10 House Republicans went to the microphones to share their memories of the Mel Gibson film, Republican sources told my Post colleagues Paul Kane and Rosalind Helderman.
One member spoke about the apocryphal scene in which the 13th-century Scottish rebel William Wallace ordered his troops to moon the English. Another member recounted the scene in which Wallace commanded the rebels to hold their positions before raising their spears against the charging English cavalry.
This inspired the assembled lawmakers to chant: “Hold! Hold! Hold! Hold!”
Finally, toward the end of the meeting, Rep. Rob Bishop (Utah) bravely rose to tell his colleagues that he hated the film. He introduced a motion that all references to “Braveheart” be banned. His colleagues laughed and heckled. The motion was not adopted.
But Bishop was right: “Braveheart” is a conspicuously poor choice for the House GOP.
For one thing, the Republicans are, if anything, in a reverse-“Braveheart” position: In this fight, they are the nobles putting down the overtaxed peasants. For another, the Scots they are emulating were defeated and slaughtered, and Wallace was captured (possibly betrayed by his own side), then drawn and quartered.
That the House Republicans would embrace a doomed cause and its martyred leader gets at their main problem in the majority: They’d rather make a point than govern the country. And in this case, it’s not entirely clear what point they’re trying to make.
Is it making sure the tax cut is paid for? For the last decade, Republicans approved billions of dollars in tax cuts, mostly for the rich, without paying for them.
Is it because they want the tax-cut extension to be for a year rather than just two months, as the Senate approved? Then why did so many Republicans originally criticize any tax-cut extension?
In killing the Senate compromise, which passed 89 to 10, with 39 Republican votes, the House GOP resorted to a variant of the “deem and pass” resolution they derided when Democrats proposed it during the health-care fight. Reneging on their pledge to hold a vote on the Senate compromise, Braveheart Republican leaders ordered up a resolution that rejected the Senate measure without a direct vote.
Caucus chairman Jeb Hensarling (Tex.), demanding a conference between the House and Senate to resolve differences, instructed his colleagues to “go and watch ‘Schoolhouse Rock’ ” to see how “things are settled between the House and Senate.” But this ignored the fact that Senate Democrats had already compromised with Senate Republicans; Hensarling was asking them to compromise on their compromise.
House Democrats didn’t exactly distinguish themselves, either. Rep. Jim McGovern (Mass.) said Republicans had imposed “martial law.” Rep. Jim McDermott (Wash.) brought a Christmas stocking and lump of coal to the floor. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) recalled a Woody Allen joke (“the food at this place is really terrible . . . and such small portions”) that she attributed to Yogi Berra.
But that didn’t hold a torch to the Republicans’ “Braveheart” performance. It wasn’t the first congressional invocation of the film (Dick Gephardt once showed up to a meeting in William Wallace attire when he was House Democratic leader), but until now it hasn’t been embraced quite so earnestly.
“Look, this is a ‘Braveheart’ moment,” Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) said on Fox News on Monday, describing the House Republicans’ instructions to Boehner. “You, Mr. Speaker, are our William Wallace. Let’s rush to the fight.”
Apparently plenty of others felt the same way. Staffers emerged from the GOP caucus meeting at 6:45 p.m. Monday to say the meeting would break up in five minutes. But the Republicans’ impromptu movie night didn’t end until 8:17 p.m., when Boehner, face as orange as Mel Gibson’s was blue, marched forth with his Bravehearts in a cloud of cigarette smoke toward their inevitable tragedy.
By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, December 21, 2011
Cry Me A River….
GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell famously said a year ago that his main task in the 112th Congress was to make sure that President Obama would not be re-elected. Given how he and House Speaker John Boehner have handled the payroll tax debate, we wonder if they might end up re-electing the President before the 2012 campaign even begins in earnest.
The GOP leaders have somehow managed the remarkable feat of being blamed for opposing a one-year extension of a tax holiday that they are surely going to pass. This is no easy double play.
Republicans have also achieved the small miracle of letting Mr. Obama position himself as an election-year tax cutter, although he’s spent most of his Presidency promoting tax increases and he would hit the economy with one of the largest tax increases ever in 2013. This should be impossible.
House Republicans yesterday voted down the Senate’s two-month extension of the two-percentage-point payroll tax holiday to 4.2% from 6.2%. They say the short extension makes no economic sense, but then neither does a one-year extension. No employer is going to hire a worker based on such a small and temporary decrease in employment costs, as this year’s tax holiday has demonstrated. The entire exercise is political, but Republicans have thoroughly botched the politics.
Their first mistake was adopting the President’s language that he is proposing a tax cut rather than calling it a temporary tax holiday. People will understand the difference—and discount the benefit.
Republicans also failed to put together a unified House and Senate strategy. The House passed a one-year extension last week that included spending cuts to offset the $120 billion or so in lost revenue, such as a one-year freeze on raises for federal employees. Then Mr. McConnell agreed with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on the two-month extension financed by higher fees on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (meaning on mortgage borrowers), among other things. It passed with 89 votes and all but seven Republicans.
Senate Republicans say Mr. Boehner had signed off on the two-month extension, but House Members revolted over the weekend and so the Speaker flipped within 24 hours. Mr. Boehner is now demanding that Mr. Reid name conferees for a House-Senate conference on the payroll tax bills. But Mr. Reid and the White House are having too much fun blaming Republicans for “raising taxes on the middle class” as of January 1. Don’t be surprised if they stretch this out to the State of the Union, when Mr. Obama will have a national audience to capture the tax issue.
If Republicans didn’t want to extend the payroll tax cut on the merits, then they should have put together a strategy and the arguments for defeating it and explained why. But if they knew they would eventually pass it, as most of them surely believed, then they had one of two choices. Either pass it quickly and at least take some political credit for it. Or agree on a strategy to get something in return for passing it, which would mean focusing on a couple of popular policies that would put Mr. Obama and Democrats on the political spot. They finally did that last week by attaching a provision that requires Mr. Obama to make a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline within 60 days, and the President grumbled but has agreed to sign it.
But now Republicans are drowning out that victory in the sounds of their circular firing squad. Already four GOP Senators have rejected the House position, and the political rout will only get worse.
One reason for the revolt of House backbenchers is the accumulated frustration over a year of political disappointment. Their high point was the Paul Ryan budget in the spring that set the terms of debate and forced Mr. Obama to adopt at least the rhetoric of budget reform and spending cuts.
But then Messrs. Boehner and McConnell were gulled into going behind closed doors with the President, who dragged out negotiations and later emerged to sandbag them with his blame-the-GOP and soak-the-rich re-election strategy. Any difference between the parties on taxes and spending has been blurred in the interim.
After a year of the tea party House, Mr. Obama and Senate Democrats have had to make no major policy concessions beyond extending the Bush tax rates for two years. Mr. Obama is in a stronger re-election position today than he was a year ago, and the chances of Mr. McConnell becoming Majority Leader in 2013 are declining.
By: Editorial, The Wall Street Journal, December 21, 2011
With the U.S. war in Iraq coming to its overdue end, it’s worth noting those who got the policy wrong — and continue to ignore the error of their ways.
This week, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), arguably Congress’ biggest cheerleader of this tragedy, delivered a lengthy tirade condemning President Obama for ending the conflict and bringing U.S. troops home, arguing, among other things, “All I will say is that, for three years, the president has been harvesting the successes of the very strategy that he consistently dismissed as a failure.”
That’s actually backwards. Obama didn’t dismiss the Status of Forces Agreement reached between the Bush administration and Iraqi officials in 2008; the Status of Forces Agreement reflected exactly what Obama was proposing at the time. Officials in both countries completely rejected the course McCain recommended at the time, and as we now know, that was the right move. It’s curious that McCain would forget this relevant detail.*
In any case, the bitter Republican senator added, “I believe history will judge this president’s leadership with the scorn and disdain it deserves.”
It’s not exactly surprising that good news and the end of a war would leave McCain in such a sour mood. In August, when Obama helped topple the Gadhafi regime in Libya, McCain thanked the British and French, but ignored the role of U.S. troops, and whined about Obama’s “failure” to run the mission the way McCain wanted.
But when it comes to Iraq in particular, it’s rather amazing McCain feels comfortable addressing the subject at all. I’m reminded of a Frank Rich column from a while back, noting McCain’s record of being consistently wrong about what’s alleged to be his signature issue.
To appreciate this crowd’s spotless record of failure, consider its noisiest standard-bearer, John McCain. He made every wrong judgment call that could be made after 9/11. It’s not just that he echoed the Bush administration’s constant innuendos that Iraq collaborated with Al Qaeda’s attack on America. Or that he hyped the faulty W.M.D. evidence to the hysterical extreme of fingering Iraq for the anthrax attacks in Washington. Or that he promised we would win the Iraq war “easily.” Or that he predicted that the Sunnis and the Shiites would “probably get along” in post-Saddam Iraq because there was “not a history of clashes” between them.
What’s more mortifying still is that McCain was just as wrong about Afghanistan and Pakistan. He routinely minimized or dismissed the growing threats in both countries over the past six years, lest they draw American resources away from his pet crusade in Iraq.
The smart move for McCain would be to quietly slink away, hoping desperately that Americans forget how spectacularly wrong he was about a bloody, brutal war. The fact that this guy instead has the temerity to pop off publicly about how outraged he is that U.S. troops are coming home is nothing short of pathetic.
Someone in this debate deserves scorn and disdain, but it’s not the president.
By: Steve Benen, Washington Monthly Political Animal, December 18, 2011