I don’t find much to like about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R). Political reporters tend to adore the guy — I guess for some, the “loveable loudmouth” is an archetype with appeal — but I find his policy agenda misguided, his incessant whining about President Obama misguided, and his approach to governing deeply irresponsible.
But on a more personal level, I just wish the guy had a little more class. Torie Bosch had this piece today on Christie’s ugliness yesterday.
On Sunday, Jan. 8., New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was speaking at a Romney for President rally in New Hampshire when he was interrupted by some female hecklers. It’s difficult to make out exactly what Christie’s critics were yelling, but it’s something to do with jobs going down. Ever the class act, Christie’s response: “You know, something may be going down tonight, but it ain’t going to be jobs, sweetheart.” […]
The video … was uploaded to the New Jersey GOP’s YouTube account. They seem to think his remark about “going down” is a zinger, something to be proud of, rather than recognizing it as flagrantly demeaning, even misogynistic. How would Christie have responded to male protesters saying the same thing? Probably not by changing the subject to what acts they perform in the bedroom.
This fits in, unfortunately, with a larger pattern. Christie has a habit of trying to shout down anyone who challenges him, and the governor and his staff tend to be only too pleased to record the incidents and promote them. The public is apparently supposed to be impressed by his outbursts.
There’s just nothing admirable about a bully.
For that matter, governors — and presidential campaign surrogates, for crying out loud — should have a little better sense than to think cheap oral-sex jokes targeted at women protestors are acceptable.
By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, January 9, 2012
It is usually assumed that the invisible primary ends with the Iowa Caucuses, when the party rank-and-file begin to have their say. But thanks to an exceptionally chaotic and unpredictable pre-caucus period, the central dynamic of the invisible primary–Mitt Romney’s wooing of conservatives skeptical of him–has been extended. And now it’s reached a new phase: The internal struggle among conservative opinion-leaders about when it will prove necessary to throw in the towel and settle for Romney.
The most underreported feature of the contest so far is that most conservatives have already reconciled themselves to Romney as the nominee. They may prefer someone else, and in pursuit of that preference–or to keep ideological pressure on Romney–they may continue to raise alarms about the front-runner’s record, positions, or general-election strategy. But it is exceedingly difficult to find a significant conservative figure who has not already pledged to back Mitt fully if he’s the nominee.
As a result, there will be no last-ditch rightwing crusade to deny Romney the nomination. Nor will a discouraged base threaten to throw the general election to Obama. Instead, you can expect to see an increasingly public debate on the right about the costs and benefits of further resistance, until an eventual surrender.
There are powerful arguments for throwing in the towel early, though the factor most often pointed to by the Beltway commentariat–Mitt’s superior electability–is not necessarily the strongest. Yes, some conservatives (along with most Democrats) have embraced the conventional wisdom that successful candidates must be able to move to the center to win and deemed Romney the obvious choice on electability grounds. But these are people largely already in his camp. Though it’s sometimes hard for political pros to accept, most conservatives simply don’t buy the CW. They actually believe what they have been repeatedly saying since they pulled the GOP hard right after two straight general election debacles: This is a conservative country whose electorate responds best to a clear, consistent conservative message. The 2010 results confirmed that in their minds–and neither political scientists nor polls nor pundits can persuade them otherwise.
So if electability is not a clinching argument for getting on board the Romney Express, what might be? The main temptation for conservatives to call it a day is the strong likelihood that an extended nominating contest will become so nasty, divisive, and cash-draining that it will damage the ticket far more than any “base” misgivings about Romney might. Even as Republicans celebrate the general election advantage they expect from Super-PACs, their lethal power in intra-party battles is becoming plainer every day, and now that Gingrich has foresworn positive campaigning, none of the survivors can be expected to play nice.
Just as importantly, “true conservatives” have doubts and divisions about the ideological reliability of Mitt’s surviving rivals. Santorum is regarded by some as an Washington insider and Big Government Conservative. Newt’s heresies were amply aired by those attack ads in Iowa. And Perry, the closest thing to a consensus “true conservative” candidate, greatly upset believers with his position on immigration.
And so, conservative leaders may well be asking themselves: Is the dubious value of nominating Santorum or Gingrich or even Perry instead of Romney worth the risk of creating the foundation for an Obama campaign assault on the eventual winner as a flip-flopping opportunist with the character of a feral cat?
Possibly not. Currently the most important residual reason for continuing the anti-Romney resistance is the feeling that he hasn’t yet paid sufficient deference to movement conservatives (even though, ironically, he was their candidate four years ago) or made sufficient promises to make their priorities his own. These are concerns that should be able to be finessed. There may well be furious behind-the-scene negotiations going on to ensure that Mitt doesn’t emulate his new supporter John McCain by getting all “mavericky” in the general election or implicitly triangulating against the Right. And it could culminate in a sort of political Groundhog Day, when a particularly powerful opinion leader signals the troops to shorten or extend the nominating contest (though the leader best positioned to do so, Sen. Jim DeMint, has indicated he does not intend to make an endorsement at all.)
So the fight could go on for a while, but not for an extended period (unless Romney does something uncharacteristically stupid, or Rick Perry achieves a complete resurrection). In head if not heart, conservative elites have already given their hand to Mitt, and much of what’s going on at the present is simply a matter of maintaining appearances and executing a solid pre-nup.
By: Ed Kilgore, The Democratic Strategist, January 9, 2012
The latest polls show a Huntsman surge, and Santorum tanking in NH, so Santorum’s 15 minutes may be up sooner than later. But we shouldn’t let this political moment pass without a comment on the ‘Santorum as working-class hero’ snowjob.
Google Santorum +”working-class,” and you’ll pull up headlines like “Santorum fits working class bill,” “Like Rocky Balboa, Rick Santorum is a working class hero” and “Santorum: The Blue-collar Candidate – The former senator touts his working-class roots” etc. The conservative echo chamber is parroting the meme with impressive message discipline. Top conservative pundits, including Brooks, Will and Krauthammer have jumped on the Santorum as working-class hero bandwagon.
It’s not hard to understand why. One of the largest swing constituencies, the white working-class has trended toward the GOP in recent elections. According to Wall St. Journal columnist Kimberly Strassel
…Barack Obama did better than John Kerry or Al Gore with these voters, though even he earned just 43% of their vote…That was Mr. Obama’s high point. In 2010 a record 63% of this bloc voted for the GOP. And there are signs that, whether out of calculation or desperation, Team Obama may be abandoning them altogether–instead looking for 2012 victory in a progressive coalition of educated, socially liberal voters, combined with poorer ethnic voters, in particular Hispanics.The white working class will make up as much as 55% of the vote in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania. Front-runner Mitt Romney knows it, as does Mr. Santorum. Their fight in New Hampshire and beyond will increasingly be over who can earn more points with this group. Their styles are very different, if equally damaging to the conservative growth message.
Santorum is making a hard-sell pitch for the blue collar vote, as Strassel reports:
Mr. Santorum surged in Iowa as the “I’m One of You” candidate. On the stump, and in his victory speech in Iowa, he’s highlighted his working-class roots. He kicked off his campaign near the Pennsylvania coal mines where his grandfather worked, and he talks frequently of struggling steel towns…He’s the frugal guy, the man of faith, the person who understands the financial worries of average Americans. He’s directly contrasting his own blue-collar bona fides with those of the more privileged Mr. Romney.
In reality, however, Santorum’s working-class creds are awfully thin. His father was a clinical psychologist and his mother was an administrative nurse — clearly more of an upper middle-class upbringing than a blue collar culture. Yeah, he had a grandfather who was a miner, but it’s not like he grew up in a mining family as the GOP meme-propagators would have us believe.
Worse, much of his career in public office has been dedicated to serving as an eager bell-hop for the wealthy. More recently, as the Washington Post reported,
Santorum earned $1.3 million in 2010 and the first half of 2011, according to his most recent financial disclosure form. The largest chunk of his employment earnings — $332,000 — came from his work as a consultant for groups advocating and lobbying for industry interests. That included $142,500 to help advise a Pennsylvania natural gas firm, Consol Energy, and $65,000 to consult with lobby firm American Continental Group, and its insurance services client.
And, as Marcus Stern and Kristina Cooke recently reported for Reuters,
As a senator, Santorum went further, playing a key role in an effort by Republicans in Congress to dictate the hiring practices, and hence the political loyalties, of Washington’s deep-pocketed lobbying firms and trade associations, which had previously been bipartisan.Dubbed “the K Street Project” for the Washington street that houses most of these groups, the initiative was launched in 1989 by lobbyist Grover Norquist, whose sole aim, he said, was to encourage lobbying firms to “hire people who agree with your worldview, not hire for access.”
…Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a liberal government watchdog group, named Santorum among three “most corrupt” senators in 2005 and 2006, accusing him of “using his position as a member of Congress to financially benefit those who have made contributions to his campaign committee and political action committee.”
Santorum has won some blue collar support by promoting his message of “industrial renewal,” and supporting protectionist measures, as John Nichols reports in The Nation. But, as Nichols, says, “There is no reason to overplay Santorum’s commitments. He is an economic conservative who would side more often with Wall Street than Main Street.”
In 2002, for example, Senator Santorum received a 15 percent rating from the AFL-CIO. Not many Senators had a lower score.
Republican strategists are so desperate for a candidate who can relate to the blue-collar “Reagan Democrats” that casting an arch conservative, silk-stocking lawyer like Santorum as a working class hero seems a reasonable stretch. If Santorum does recover from his latest poll dive, it shouldn’t be too hard for Dems to expose his policy agenda as more anti-worker than not.
Note from James Vega:
Using exactly the same, utterly and shamelessly idiotic “grandfather’s history plus general geographical area” theory of social class, Mitt Romney can claim to be “the authentic descendent and representative of Mexican-American autoworkers” – his grandfather lived in Chihuahua, Mexico most of his life and Romney himself grew up “in the shadows of the automobile factories of Detroit”
Newt, on the other hand, can polish his credentials in the African-American community by claiming to be “a scholar of African society whose congressional district was a short distance from Ebenezer Baptist Church where Martin Luther King led the Civil Rights Movement”.
By: J. P. Green, The Democratic Strategist, January 9, 2012
On Wednesday morning, I opened the New York Times to read that president Hu Jin-Tao had denounced the West for launching a culture war against China. “We must clearly see that international hostile forces are intensifying the strategic plot of westernizing and dividing China, and ideological and cultural fields are the focal areas of their long-term infiltration,” Hu pronounced in “Seeking Truth,” a Communist Party magazine. “We should deeply understand the seriousness and complexity of the ideological struggle, always sound the alarms and remain vigilant, and take forceful measures to be on guard and respond.”
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Was it really possible that such wooden slogans were still being used by the leaders of the country with the most dynamic economy on earth? “We should deeply understand”? “Always sound the alarms”? Those antique phrases sounded like they’d been torn from a poster that had been pasted up during the Cultural Revolution and somehow never taken down. It seemed that not that much had changed since soon-to-be-Chairman Mao was writing tomes rejoicing in titles like “To Be Attacked by the Enemy Is Not a Bad Thing but a Good Thing” and urging the members of the party to cut off the head of imperialist snakes. A belief system as nutty as Maoism took a long time to get out of a nation’s system. I pitied the poor 1.3 billion Chinese, living in a country so insecure, so adolescent, so in thrall to authoritarian nationalism, that its politicians felt impelled to keep the cult alive. Thank God I’m an American, I told myself. We have plenty of cults, but at least they don’t get involved with our national politics.
Then I watched Michele Bachmann’s withdrawal speech.
Bachmann’s speech was a religious testimony, informing us that on the evening of March 21, 2010, she had a divine revelation. OK, she didn’t use the word “divine,” but that was basically the idea. You see, her holy revelation started with the Founding Fathers. And for Bachmann, Washington and Jefferson, if not literally angels, are flying around in their neighborhood.
“Entrusted to every American is their responsibility to watch over our Republic,” she began her speech. “You can look back from the time of the Pilgrims to the time of William Penn, to the time of our Founding Fathers. All we have to do is look around because very clearly we are encompassed with a great cloud of witnesses that bear witness to the sacrifices that were made to establish the U.S. and the precious principle of freedom that has made it the greatest force for good that has ever been seen on the planet.”
The “great cloud of witnesses” is a biblical term. By invoking it, Bachmann moved the Founding Fathers into the company of the prophets. And then she related her own humble journey to join the saved souls atop that great cloud – an epic quest that was spurred by the near-miraculous intercession of a painting of the Founding Fathers signing the Constitution.
“Every schoolchild is familiar with this painting,” Bachmann said. “But I’ve been privileged to see it on a regular basis, doing my duties in Congress. But never were the painting’s poignant reminder more evident than on the evening of March 21, 2010. That was the evening that Obamacare was passed and staring out from the painting are the faces of the founders, and in particular the face of Ben Franklin, who served as a constant reminder of the fragile Republic that he and the founders gave to us. That day served as the inspiration for my run for the President of the United States, because I believed firmly that what Congress had done and what President Obama had done in passing Obamacare endangered the very survival of the United States of America, our Republic.”
Bachmann closed her sermon by saying, “I look forward to the next chapter in God’s plan.”
Of such blinding revelations, religions are made. And cults.
The Republican hatred of Obama has become a cult. It is typically dressed up with the trappings of Christianity, but the cult does not reflect the teachings of that Jewish heretic known as Jesus of Nazareth — unless you believe, as Bachmann appears to, that defeating “Obamacare” is an essential part of the Lord’s master plan for the universe. (Personally, I would have thought that the great soul who reached out to the poor, the sick and the despised would have preferred universal healthcare over a system devoted to swelling the profits of those modern-day money-changers known as insurance companies, but what do I know?) But that is not to say that the version of Christianity embraced by many members of the anti-Obama cult does not play a key role in the movement, in ways we shall presently explore.
The anti-Obama cult is based on an irrational, grossly excessive fear and hatred of something the cult members call “big government” or “socialism,” and an equally irrational worship of something they call “freedom” or “liberty.” The fear and hatred of big government is irrational and excessive because Obama’s innocuous heathcare bill, the passage of which cult members like Bachmann see as the beginning of the end for America, is far less momentous as a piece of “social engineering” than Social Security, Medicare, welfare or progressive taxation.
We already live in a world where government intrudes on our freedom in a multitude of ways. Moreover, other enormous, impersonal forces, mainly corporate ones, constrain our liberty even more directly. Many of the “average Americans” the cult members claim to be speaking for lost their life savings when the bubble caused by an orgy of unregulated financial speculation burst – a far greater infringement on their “freedom” than being required to carry health insurance.
As for Obama himself, he is a bland left-leaning centrist, a slightly more liberal clone of moderate Republicans like Dwight D. Eisenhower, and his “socialist” policies are part of a long American tradition that goes back to FDR.
Why, then, did the anti-Obama cult suddenly take over the entire Republican Party?
The main reason, I believe, is that the American right was backed into a corner and had no other card to play. The disastrous presidency of George W. Bush revealed the complete bankruptcy (literally) of the two core right-wing nostrums, “freedom” (good) and “big government” (bad). “Freedom” had led to the biggest meltdown since the Great Depression. And big government – which was greatly expanded by Bush, to the deafening silence of the soon-to-be-anti-Obama fanatics – had done nothing to prevent it. In the wreckage left by Bush, there was nothing for the right to do, if it wanted to live to fight another day, except deny causality (and reality) and demonize Obama. By naively reaching out to Republicans, Obama let them get away with this, and squandered a teachable moment that could have changed the face of American politics.
The right survived. But defending this indefensible position squeezed its core beliefs into a kind of black hole, a blank spot of pure resentment, devoid of content, where the laws of logic did not apply. (According to Wikipedia, “Black holes of stellar mass are expected to form when very massive stars collapse at the end of their life cycle.”) As a result, “freedom” and its evil twin, “big government,” became metaphysical concepts, so elastic and amorphous that they could mean anything or nothing. They have come to play the same role in right-wing discourse as “the bourgeoisie” and “the workers” do in Marxism – they’re catchalls that can be plugged into any situation.
Thus, “big government” mostly means “giving money to undeserving people with dark skin” – a core GOP belief, central to the party since Nixon’s Southern Strategy, that Rick Santorum was rash enough to articulate. But it also has a cultural dimension in which it means pointy-headed elites who look down on “real Americans.” And trickiest of all, it also has a personal dimension in which it means anything that limits individual freedom — which explains the appeal, to those Republicans and independents who are genuine and consistent libertarians, of Ron Paul. (It is because “freedom” does not actually mean anything in the orthodox right-wing universe that non-libertarian conservatives like Romney, Bachmann, Santorum and the rest can advocate for intrusive drug laws, anti-gay laws and massive military budgets, while wrapping themselves in the mantle of “liberty.”)
Because “big government” does not have a fixed meaning, attacking it can simultaneously serve as a rallying cry for racial resentment, an impassioned demand for personal liberation and a marker of class- and region-based solidarity. This is why when the Republican candidates inveigh against big government, which they do approximately every time they open their mouths, their rants have all the weird, malevolent imprecision of a Stalinist attack on “running dog lackeys of the bourgeoisie.” They are the ravings of True Believers, of cult members.
Also lurking in that black hole was the one right-wing card that Bush did not destroy, because it is indestructible — the “culture war.” The far right’s free-floating hatred of America’s liberal, secular culture waxes and wanes, but it never goes away, and it is responsible for the rise of Rick Santorum, the GOP’s latest Dispose-a-Candidate. For Santorum, sinful modern life is to blame for everything, and it is our duty to always sound the alarms and remain vigilant against it. Thus, when the Catholic Church’s pedophilia scandal broke, Santorum blamed, not the church that covered it up or the individual priests who disgraced themselves and abused their position, but – Boston.
“When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected. While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm. We must clearly see that international hostile forces are intensifying the strategic plot of liberalizing and dividing America, and ideological and cultural fields are the focal areas of their long-term infiltration.”
OK, I borrowed that last sentence from the quote by Comrade Hu, but you have to admit it tracks pretty well with the thoughts of Chairman Santorum.
The implosion of right-wing ideology and the persistence of the culture war toxin might have been enough by itself to create the anti-Obama cult, but two other factors also played a role. The first was his race. For many right-wingers, Obama was a foreign object, whose unexpected entrance into the body politic activated their immune systems – hence the “birther” movement and other bizarre right-wing obsessions. Whether the right’s aversion to Obama constitutes classic racism is a Talmudic question; what is undeniable is that his race activated a horde of (literally) white cells, rushing to expel the invader. Like organisms, cults always delineate themselves by drawing sharp lines between Us and Them.
The second reason involves Christianity. As Michele Bachmann’s speech demonstrated, for many devout right-wing Christians, there is no real difference between politics and religion. If religion is the uppermost thing in one’s life, if Jesus is with one every minute of every day, then it is easy to see how a true believer like Bachmann could come to see preserving her vision of the Republic as a semi-sacred trust, and defeating “Obamacare” as an essential part of that godly mission. Moreover, devoutly literalistic Christians tend to divide the world up into Good and Evil, with the founding dyad of God and the devil lurking in the background; it is not too much of a stretch to say that for many right-wing Christians, Barack Obama is at least of the devil’s party, if not Beelzebub himself.
Let me make it clear that I am not arguing that Christianity itself is a cult, or that Christians (or adherents of any religion) are inherently drawn to cultlike thinking. I am simply making the case that the right wing’s irrational hatred of Obama is cultlike, and that the literalist Christian faith of many right-wing opponents of Obama, including many of the GOP presidential candidates, clearly plays a role in their extreme beliefs.
To be sure, much of the anti-Obama cult is just Machiavellian politics. You hunt where the ducks are, and the ducks in this case are loons. It is extremely unlikely that Mitt Romney stares at a painting of Ben Franklin every day and has celestial visions of turning back Obama’s satanic plan to destroy America — which is precisely why the True Believers can’t stand him. But things have gotten Chairman Mao-y enough in the Republican Party that Romney has been forced to do his best to pretend he is a card-carrying member of the People’s Glorious Tea Party, Determined to Kill All Wriggling Socialist Snakes. Whether a fake cult member will prove more attractive to Republican voters than the genuine article will determine who will face Obama this fall.
By: Gary Kamiya, Contributing Writer, Salon, January 9, 2012
For viewers of Saturday night’s Republican presidential candidate debate, drawing distinctions between the leading candidates wasn’t hard. We may disagree on whether these men are presidential caliber, but as cartoon caricatures, they’re deliciously unique. Rick Santorum’s sexual obsessions, Rick Perry’s Texas war-mongering, Newt Gingrich’s ego, and Mitt Romney’s profound commitment to flip-flop, any time, anywhere, are all drawn in big, bright, Day-Glo colors. (Ron Paul is, of course, Ron Paul.)
But on one topic they are as alike as genetically modified peas in a pod. In an era in which Americans are paying historically low taxes and the government faces huge budget deficits, they are all fervently determined to give the richest Americans another huge tax break.
The Citizens for Tax Justice have crunched the numbers, and they are remarkable.
The cost of the tax plans proposed by Republican presidential candidates would range from $6.6 trillion to $18 trillion over a decade. The share of tax cuts going to the richest one percent of Americans under these plans would range from over a third to almost half. The average tax cuts received by the richest one percent would be up to 270 times as large as the average tax cut received by middle-income Americans.
The figures are staggering. Here’s a quick breakdown of how the richest one percent of Americans would stand to benefit under the different plans.
- Newt Gingrich: An average tax cut of $391,330
- Rick Perry: An average tax cut of $272,730
- Mitt Romney: An average tax cut of $126,450
- Rick Santorum: An average tax cut of $217,500
Ron Paul’s tax plan isn’t detailed enough to make the same analysis, but he has proposed repealing the federal income tax altogether, which, ideologically speaking, makes him a clear fellow traveler with the rest of his colleagues.
The CTJ report makes a little bit too much of the relative size of the tax cuts enjoyed by the richest Americans compared to the rest of us (for example, under Gingrich’s plan the middle fifth of Americans would get a $1,990 tax cut, a mere pittance compared to the $391,300 delivered to the rich.) In a proportional system, the numbers are always going to be much bigger for the richest Americans, whether we’re measuring hikes or cuts. But the report is right on the money when it points out who ends up really paying for the cuts. Affording the huge tax cuts plans proposed by the leading Republican presidential contenders will require massive cuts to government programs that primarily benefit the lower and middle classes.
Even the meager tax cuts that would go to low-income and middle-income taxpayers under these plans would almost surely be offset by the huge cuts in public services that would become necessary as a result.
GOP lawmakers in Washington are already calling for ending Medicare as guaranteed health insurance for seniors and reducing Social Security benefits, and these tax plans would make necessary even more draconian reductions in the types of public services that middle-income Americans depend on.
Rich Santorum told debate watchers Saturday night that he’d prefer it we just abolished the term “middle class” from the popular lexicon. Dividing up Americans according to their income levels just serves Obama’s “class warfare” agenda, claimed Santorum.
But it’s impossible to look at the tax plans proposed by Gingrich, Romney, et al. and not understand how class warfare really works in the United States today. The rich get a huge windfall — and the rest of us are supposed to pay for it.
By: Andrew Leonard, Salon, January 9, 2012