“I’m learning to say ‘y’all,’ and I like grits. Things, strange things are happening to me.”
Those are the words of Willard Mitt Romney campaigning in Pascagoula, Miss., this week.
Wow. Note to Mitt: As a Southerner, I’ve never known us to find caricature endearing. But welcome to the Deep South anyway, Mitt. I wonder if you’ve been introduced to one of my favorite Southern sayings: the backhanded “Bless your heart.”
By all accounts you’re going to need it. No one expects you to do well on Tuesday when Mississippi and Alabama hold their primaries.
(Kansas holds its caucuses on Saturday, and Rick Santorum is leading the polls there.)
When Gov. Phil Bryant of Mississippi endorsed Romney on Thursday, he tried his best to humanize him, saying: “He just has a warm, comfortable way about him. I like to see a man when he’s holding a baby. And he looks like he’s held a baby before. Let me tell you, this man is connecting with the people of this nation, and it is about those simple things.” He knows how to hold a baby? Nice try, governor. Bless your heart.
According to Gallup, Mississippi is the most conservative state in the union, and Alabama clocks in at No. 4. Romney continues to struggle with more conservative voters. In the 2008 elections, 7 out of 10 Mississippi primary voters described themselves as born-again or evangelical Christians. Romney has also struggled with that group.
Last Tuesday, in the primaries in the states of Oklahoma, Georgia and Tennessee, about 70 percent of voters said it was important that their candidate share their religious views. Romney won no more than a quarter of those voters in each state. Welcome to the Southern G.O.P. Bless your heart.
Some argue that this is inconsequential and that all Romney has to do is win the nomination and rank-and-file Republicans will fall in line. They even argue that his less-than-strident, often inconsistent, views may be an asset in a postnomination tack to the middle.
It is true that these states are in no danger of swinging Democratic. Mississippi and Alabama haven’t voted Democratic since 1976. And since Mississippi started holding primaries, no Republican candidate except the eventual presidential nominee has won the state, according to Catherine Morse, a University of Michigan government and political science librarian.
In fact, Obama lost both states to John McCain in 2008 by large margins, and the votes were largely along racial lines. In both states, 88 percent of whites voted for McCain, while 98 percent of blacks voted for Obama.
Obama will not win Mississippi and Alabama, period. But that’s not the issue. The issue is enthusiasm, which has a way of bleeding across borders and ideological boundaries.
In elections, enthusiasm has two sources: for your candidate or against the other. We know well that there is a high level of hostility toward Obama on the right, but he still maintains a number of liberal devotees. Although there are some on the left who have softened on him, he still has a wide swath of passionate supporters who seem to feel that he is moving in the right direction and deserves a chance to finish the work he has started. In fact, according to Gallup, at this point in the race, Democrats are more enthusiastic about Obama than Republicans are about Romney.
The elections will boil down to a duel between anger and optimism, and in general elections optimism wins. Energy wins. Vision wins.
If the message that emerges from the nominating process is that Republican voters lack confidence in their candidate, that is not a message that can be easily sold to swing voters. It’s hard to point to your candidate’s good qualities when you’re using your hands to hold your own nose.
If the Republican nominee can’t appeal to his own base, how can he expect to draw from the middle and the left?
This is the conservative conundrum.
The Republican Party had an opening as wide as the Gulf of Mexico to unseat President Obama, but it appears that it could close with a weak candidate. The president has been hammered by a sputtering economy and hemmed in by an intransigent Congress. All the Republicans needed was a presidential nominee who could capture their discontent on a gritty, granular level and put a positive, big-picture, forward-looking face on it.
Instead, they find themselves with a scraggly lot of scary characters, each with a handicap larger than the next. And the one who’s likely to win the nomination is the one whom the base has the biggest doubts about. He has the good looks of a president but not the guts of one. The only view that he has consistently held is that he wants to win. Everything else is negotiable.
He projects the slick feel of a man who’s trying to sell you something that you don’t want by telling you something that you don’t believe. People don’t trust and can’t fully endorse it, even the ones who deeply dislike the president. In fact, poll after poll finds that the longer the nomination fight drags on and the more people come to know Romney, the higher their unfavorable opinions of him climb.
Furthermore, postnomination pivots have become more difficult in a world driven by YouTube, social media and citizen activism, where prenomination politicking lives forever online in a candidate’s own voice (and often on video).
Unfortunately for Romney, grits don’t give you grit. Dabbling in dialectic speech won’t quench people’s thirst for straight talk. Being called warm and comfortable doesn’t remove the gut feeling that you are cold and rigid. There is something missing from the core of the man, and people can see straight through him.
That makes places like Mississippi a real litmus test — of Romney’s ability to convert his base by connecting with it. Mississippi is a world away from Massachusetts. It’s a ruby-red state and the heart of conservatism. Mississippi is where he has to sell himself.
Bless his heart, y’all.
By: Charles Blow. Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, March 9, 2012
It’s hard to believe, especially after the tragic decision to invade Iraq over nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, that the Republican candidates for president and even the Republican candidates for Wisconsin’s soon-to-be-vacant U.S. Senate seat appear all to be on the same page — we’ve got to attack Iran to prevent the country from developing a nuclear weapon.
This, despite everyone from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the heads of this country’s intelligence agencies insisting that attacking Iran would be a foolish thing for the United States — or Israel, for that matter — to do.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, claims that despite all the rhetoric that emanates from Iran, “We are of the opinion that Iran is a rational actor.” But, if Iran is attacked, the results would destabilize not only that country, but the entire region, he said in a CNN interview.
An attack on Iran would “guarantee that which we are trying to prevent: an Iran that will spare nothing to build a nuclear weapon,” former CIA chief Michael Hayden commented last month, adding that the intelligence community isn’t at all sure that Iran is even trying to build an atomic bomb.
In a report last week in The New York Times, U.S. intelligence analysts say they continue to believe that there is no hard evidence that Iran has decided to build a nuclear weapon. Yes, the country seems to be preserving its options to build a bomb, they admit, but that decision has been put off for sometime in the future, they believe.
Ron Burgess, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told Congress that “the agency assesses Iran is unlikely to initiate or provoke a conflict.” Even Meir Deagan, who headed Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad until last year warns that attacking Iran “would mean regional war, and in that case you would have given Iran the best possible reason to continue the nuclear program.”
Peter Beinart of the Web magazine the Daily Beast remarked: “I’ve never seen a more lopsided debate among the experts paid to make these judgments. Yet it barely matters. So far, the Iran debate has been a rout, with the Republican presidential candidates loudly declaring their openness to war and President Obama unwilling to even echo the skepticism of his own security chiefs.”
Yes, the usual suspects are all there, from Elliott Abrams to John Bolton, the same neo-cons who sold us on Iraq, pounding the drums to once again attack another Mideastern country, apparently not learning anything from the a 10-year war that cost America trillions of dollars and many thousands of dead and maimed young people.
“How can it be, less than a decade after the U.S. invaded Iraq, that the Iran debate is breaking down along largely the same lines?” asked Beinart.
What would make it worse is if the country once again accepts their flawed advice.
By: Dave Zweifel, Editor Emeritus, The Capital Times, March 9, 2012
“A Platform To Revitalize America”: An Idiotic Wish List Of Conservative Senate Tea Party Caucus Policies
When Bill Clinton left the White House just 12 years ago, the federal budget deficit was quite literally gone, and the nation was running a surplus for the first time in a generation. After Republicans approved two massive tax breaks, expanded Medicare, put two wars on the national credit card, and crashed the economy, the fiscal mess Clinton had cleaned up was back.
We’ve seen some modest progress on this front, but even under the most optimistic of scenarios, a balanced budget is nowhere in sight.
That is, unless we adopt a new plan from three far-right senators, who’ve mapped out a way to get us back to 2001 figures in a hurry.
Members of the Senate Tea Party Caucus on Thursday announced a plan to balance the budget in five years, cutting spending by nearly $11 trillion compared to President Obama’s budget.
The plan, dubbed “A Platform to Revitalize America,” is a wish list of conservative policies, none of which have any chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate or being signed into law by a liberal Democratic president.
The ambitious blueprint would achieve a $111 billion surplus in fiscal year 2017.
“The whole point here is to show we can reasonably balance the budget within a five-year period,” said Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), one of the sponsors of the plan.
Well, “reasonably” is a subjective term.
The plan, also endorsed by Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), would produce a surplus by 2017 by effectively repealing most of the 20th century.
The “Platform to Revitalize America” has it all figured out: Medicare would be privatized out of existence; Social Security eligibility would be restricted; while Medicaid, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, food stamps, and child nutrition programs would all be gutted through state block grants.
The federal departments of Commerce, Education, Energy, and Housing and Urban Development would also all be eliminated. Pentagon spending, by the way, would not be touched.
See how easy it is to balance the federal budget in hardly any time at all?
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 9, 2012
In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Ken Griffin, a hedge fund billionaire who is one of the 400 richest people in America, argued that the ultrawealthy in this country don’t have enough influence over politics. Griffin went on to say that the ultrawealthy “have a duty” to step forward and save the U.S. from what he says is a drift toward Soviet-style state control of the economy:
Q. I’m going to come back to this. But I want to touch on two more areas first. What do you think in general about the influence of people with your means on the political process? You said shame on the politicians for listening to the CEOs. Do you think the ultrawealthy have an inordinate or inappropriate amount of influence on the political process?
A. I think they actually have an insufficient influence. Those who have enjoyed the benefits of our system more than ever now owe a duty to protect the system that has created the greatest nation on this planet. And so I hope that other individuals who have really enjoyed growing up in a country that believes in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – and economic freedom is part of the pursuit of happiness – (I hope they realize) they have a duty now to step up and protect that. Not for themselves, but for their kids and for their grandchildren and for the person down the street that they don’t even know …
At this moment in time, these values are under attack. This belief that a larger government is what creates prosperity, that a larger government is what creates good (is wrong). We’ve seen that experiment. The Soviet Union collapsed. China has run away from its state-controlled system over the last 20 years and has pulled more people up from poverty by doing so than we’ve ever seen in the history of humanity. Why the U.S. is drifting toward a direction that has been the failed of experiment of the last century, I don’t understand. I don’t understand.
He also complained that this is a “very sad moment in [his] lifetime,” citing the now-familiar Republican charge that the Obama administration has “embraced class warfare.”
Griffin is the founder and CEO of Citadel Asset Management, a Chicago-based hedge fund. In recent years, has lavished some of his estimated $3 billion net worth on a wide variety of right-wing groups and Republican candidates.
He and his wife contributed $150,000 to the pro-Romney Super PAC, Restore Our Future, joining nine other billionaires who contributed a total of $2.8 million to the group during the second half of last year. Griffin has also contributed the maximum allowable amount directly to Mitt Romney’s campaign, $550,000 to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads Super PAC, $1.5 million to the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity, $560,000 to the Republican Governors Association, $38,300 to the Republican National Committee, $72,900 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, $30,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee, the $5,000 maximum to Paul Ryan (R-WI)’s Prosperity PAC, and $4,000 to Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) Every Republican is Crucial PAC.
While Griffin has contributed to some Democratic candidates for federal office in the past (mostly those from his home state of Illinois or who sit on congressional committees overseeing taxation and the financial industry), over the two most recent election cycles he has given just $2,500 to one Democrat while contributing $55,300 to Republicans candidates, including Sens. Scott Brown (MA), Marco Rubio (FL), Dan Coats (IN), Pat Toomey (PA), and Mark Kirk (IL) and Reps. Ryan, Cantor, and Sean Duffy (WI).
Griffin said that ultrawealthy individuals like himself should “absolutely” be allowed to donate unlimited amounts to Super PACs and political campaigns, citing “rules that encourage transparency.” However, he added that he views actual transparency with “trepidation,” noting a successful campaign that progressives launched against Target after it made a post-Citizens United corporate contribution to a group supporting an extreme anti-gay Republican gubernatorial candidate in Minnesota.
By” Josh Dorner, Think Progress, March 10, 2012
Don’t you just hate it when someone in the media reports something about you without checking the facts first? Isn’t it a cheap shot when you’re inaccurately depicted as some kind of opportunistic jerk? My God, isn’t that just the worst? No wonder poor, misunderstood Rush Limbaugh is upset. No wonder he had no recourse but to take to what’s left of his airwaves Thursday to clear his name after Washington Post writer Alexandra Petri erroneously stated that his show “targets jerks.” And did you see how the guy with a bit of an image problem with the ladies was forced to bust out the “B word”?
Writing about the way advertisers have been dumping Limbaugh’s show like it’s toxic waste – exactly like it’s toxic waste, really – Petri had reported that among his new sponsors, “So far, he’s picked up AshleyMadison.com, the site where you go to cheat on your wife, and another web site that is explicitly for sugar-daddy matchmaking.” Except that Limbaugh had done no such thing. Why, it’s as if Petri thought Limbaugh had no integrity or something.
So horrified was Limbaugh at this besmirching of his character that he addressed it at length on his show Thursday, explaining, “We do not sponsor companies that help people cheat on their spouses.” He then added, “It’s an out and out lie complete with your b-i-itchy opinion in it and it is untrue.” He then condemned Petri’s “snarky, lying, full-of-holes” reporting by vowing, “I guarantee you, she’ll run another story tomorrow saying I made this all up.” He guaranteed it! In a totally non-snarky, non-lying, non-full of holes way.
On Friday, Petri did not, in fact, accuse Limbaugh of making things up. Instead, she penned a mea culpa to the noted Viagra aficionado, saying, “In the age of instant deadlines, when the correct time to have written about something is yesterday at 3 a.m., it’s easy to make mistakes, and the thing to do is admit them, fix them and do better.” She even offered to buy Limbaugh a conciliatory sandwich, which proves she may just have the strongest stomach in the Beltway.
What a harrowing ordeal it must have been for Limbaugh — a man who prides himself on being “huge on personal responsibility and accountability” — to have his reputation so falsely tainted. What an awful thing for a human being to endure. It’d be like, oh I don’t know, being called a slut and a whore and prostitute from some whimsical blowhard’s personal sniper tower for three days in a row. It’d be like having someone declare that you’d testified before Congress that you were “having so much sex” that you were “going broke buying birth control,” that you “must be paid to have sex,” and that you “want to be paid to have sex,” even when, of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Isn’t it disgusting when people use their platform to spread misinformation? Isn’t it vile when they brag about their blatant character assassination, and then try to act like it never happened? Keep calling it like you see it, Rush, and don’t let the b-i-itches get you down. We’d hate for anybody to get the idea that you’re some kind of whiny, dish-it-out-but-can’t-take-it d-i-irtbag.
By: Mary Elizabeth Williams, Staff Writer, Salon, March 9, 2012