Raise your hands if you think Republicans are deliberately sabotaging the US economy to prevent the re-election of Barack Obama. Me too. Okay, knowing what you do about the Republican Party, raise your hands if you can think of any reason why Republicans wouldn’t throw a monkey wrench into the machinery of our economic engine to accomplish Mitch McConnell’s stated goal of making Barack Obama a one-term president. Me neither.
I wouldn’t have said this earlier, but I have no doubt now that Republicans are deliberately making the economy worse for political gain. I’m trying to picture a Republican consultant advising his clients against such a move on grounds of, say patriotism and propriety, and I just can’t. Probably because they would be out of a job. It’s amazing what people can convince themselves it is okay to do once they’ve convinced themselves they are in the right.
The filibustering of every conventional and sensible proposal the Obama Administration has put forward to help stimulate the economy — up to and including tax cuts that were Republican ideas to begin with — was only our first clue that Republicans were rooting for America to fail.
But neither does it take a genius to imagine the phone calls being made by Mitt Romney’s henchmen or the candidate himself (properly filtered, of course, to provide maximum deniability) to all of those bankers and business types sitting on their $2 trillion in uninvested cash that, if they want access to a future Romney Administration, they’d better keep sitting on that cash until after the November election. Think of this strategy as just an extension of the Republican Party’s K Street Project, the one where America’s trade associations and lobbyists were informed by partisan mob enforcers like disgraced Majority Leader Tom DeLay that doing business with the new Republican House was on a strictly pay to play basis.
But what I am also sure about is that Greg Sargent of the Washington Post is certainly correct when he says the establishment media will never let Democrats get away with accusing Republicans of deliberately doing harm the country because the establishment media has far too much to lose from allowing such a suggestion to take root.
As an elite establishment itself, whose place and privileges in American politics comes from its having mastered the rituals of our two-party system, the mainstream media is threatened by anyone who challenges the comfortable status quo of two evenly-balanced, sane and sensible, political parties. The media sees its own interests as neutral observer and referee threatened when people begin opening up that Pandora’s Box which exposes one of those major parties to be exactly what congressional scholars Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein said about the GOP, that it: “has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”
It’s been more than a month since Mann and Ornstein dropped that bombshell in the pages of the Washington Post and there is still no discussion of its ominous implications on the Sunday political talk shows, says Sargent. Indeed, for their troubles as pundits too hot to handle, Mann and Ornstein have been effectively blackballed from Meet the Press, Face the Nation, and State of the Union.
Most of the time the media loves to talk about itself, says Sargent, so you’d think Mann and Ornstein’s allegation that “the press’s addiction to fake even-handedness has led them not to acknowledge, or at least grapple with, a fact that is absolutely central to understanding what’s happening with our politics right now,” would have Sunday show producers burning up the phone lines trying to book the duo on their shows.
“But what continues to strike me is the radio silence on these shows about both these themes,” Ornstein told Sargent. “The Republicans bear a lot of the onus for rank obstructionism. But there’s a false equivalence here, and the press corps has been AWOL in its duty to report the truth.”
Ornstein said that judging by the communication he’s had with elite reporters, his description of the GOP as a radical party “has generated lots of discussion in the newsrooms. But the shows are making a conscious decision to ignore it.”
So, despite all you hear about the so-called “liberal bias” against Republicans, you can see why the mainstream media is predisposed to shoot down the idea that Republicans might be secretly planting Comp-4 explosive around our economy’s foundation in order to detonate it while Barack Obama and the Democrats are the ones likely to suffer the collateral damage.
Which is why it’s good to see Democrats making the charge anyway.
As Sargent reports, Harry Reid called out Republicans on the Senate floor the other day for their opposition to the Paycheck Fairness Act, saying that from the GOP perspective the act to help ensure women get equal pay for equal work already has two strikes against it because “it would be good for women and good for the economy.”
Obama senior adviser David Axelrod said on Face the Nation this weekend in regard to the disappointing May jobs reports and Republican efforts to obstruct Obama’s job creation policies that: “Instead of high-fiving each other on days when there is bad news, they should stop sitting on their hands and work on some of these answers.”
And on Friday after the bad jobs numbers were released, Democratic National Committee executive director Patrick Gaspard went on MSNBC to accuse Republicans of “cheerleading for failure,” notes Sargent
“There was a time when charges like these were approached with a bit more caution by Democratic leaders,” says Sargent. “Now top Obama and Dem officials are going out into every conceivable forum and repeating the claim that Republicans are actively rooting for widespread economic misery and are doing all they can to block solutions designed to alleviate it.”
Paul Krugman says Obama has no choice but to make Republicans the issue and to note we’d all be better off were it not for deliberate GOP sabotage. Ed Kilgore at Washington Monthly is not so sure. He thinks swing voters will always hold the President and his party accountable for the state of the economy no matter how much the other guys are gumming up the works.
And even those of us who think Democrats need to call out Republicans for their obstruction have to admit that, despite everything Republicans have done to make the jobs situation worse, the Republican counterattack against charges they are sabotaging the economy practically writes itself: “Stop whining, Mr. President, and lead.”
Nevertheless, while there are many things I thought the GOP capable of doing, deliberately standing in the way of America’s economic recovery with all of the hardship and misery it would entail for millions of their fellow citizens, wasn’t one of them. That was actually one of the few outrages I was not willing to impute to these radical Republicans in their heedless pursuit of power.
But even that low ceiling above my scorn and contempt for the modern GOP was shattered by last summer’s debt-ceiling debacle when Republicans showed just how far they were willing to go to achieve their narrow ideological ends.
The subsequent credit rating downgrade that, for good measure, Republicans even blamed on Democrats for not parleying in good faith, was an abject lesson in how quickly and easily even responsible Republican opinion can be herded into line by today’s conservative movement. Within a matter of a few short weeks, the initial indignation among sensible conservatives at the suggestion by House Republicans that the full faith and credit of the United States should be put on the table as a bargaining chip to bully Democrats into caving on spending, was converted into accepted conventional wisdom on the right.
Compared to the game of debt-ceiling chicken that threatened what the White House called “economic Armageddon,” what’s not to believe about Republicans intentionally keeping the economy in the doldrums for another six months if the reward at the end is absolute political power?
By; Ted Frier, Open Salon, June 5, 2012
If there’s one thing Mitt Romney cannot stand, it’s when President Obama blames the economic situation he inherited from former president George W. Bush for the country’s current gloomy challenges.
“What he’s very good at is finding other people to blame,” Mr. Romney said at a fund-raiser in San Diego recently. At an event in Michigan, he mocked Mr. Obama for trying to evade responsibility for the economy by blaming “his predecessor, the Congress, the one percent, oil companies, and A.T.M.s.”
So it was interesting to hear Mr. Romney’s own aides over the weekend try to explain some of the less flattering statistics from Mr. Romney’s time as governor of Massachusetts.
“He inherited a $3-billion projected deficit,” Ed Gillespie, a senior adviser to Mr. Romney, explained on Fox News Sunday.
Mr. Gillespie said it was unfair to judge Mr. Romney’s record on job creation by including all four years of his tenure. He said the statistic that Mr. Romney was 47th in job creation during his time in office was calculated by “diluting it with the first year in office, when he came into office, and it was 50th in job creation.”
Essentially, he was arguing that Mr. Romney’s first year, in 2003, shouldn’t be counted.
Eric Fehrnstrom, another top aide to Mr. Romney, also blamed the situation that the governor inherited — paradoxically, from Republican governors who occupied the Statehouse for the previous 12 years.
“When Mitt Romney arrived, Massachusetts was an economic basket house,” Mr. Fehrnstrom said on ABC’s “This Week” program on Sunday. “If you throw D.C. into the mix, we were 51 out of 51.”
Mr. Obama’s team was incredulous. On a conference call with reporters, David Axelrod, a senior adviser to the president’s campaign, accused Mr. Romney’s campaign of “breathtaking hypocrisy” for using the same excuse that their candidate has been hammering the president for.
“Their answer to all of this was. ‘Well you really can’t include his first year because you know he inherited a really tough economic situation,’ ” Mr. Axelrod said. “They’ve painted themselves into a corner here. And now that double standard is clear and they’re going to have to explain it to the American people.”
In fact, the most serious attacks from Mr. Romney involve exactly the kind of focus on Mr. Obama’s first year in office that the Republican advisers were trying to avoid.
Mr. Romney frequently says that Mr. Obama has presided over an economy that has lost hundreds of thousands of jobs. In a recent news release, the Republican campaign said, “Under President Obama, the nation has lost 552,000 jobs.”
But that statistic includes Mr. Obama’s first year in office, and especially the months of February, March and April, when monthly job losses from the economic collapse were at 700,000 or higher.
Just ignoring February of 2009, before any of Mr. Obama’s policies — including the economic stimulus — had been put into place, would wipe away all 552,000 lost jobs, giving the president a record of creating 172,000 jobs.
If Mr. Romney’s team were to ignore Mr. Obama’s first year in office — as Mr. Gillespie suggested should be done for Mr. Romney’s first year as governor — then the president would have added about 3.7 million jobs to the economy.
Of course, Mr. Romney’s campaign is unlikely to change its rhetoric or strategy. His bid for the White House depends on the idea that Mr. Obama has made the economy worse. Because the country has been adding jobs for nearly two years, Mr. Romney’s argument depends on the steep job losses in Mr. Obama’s first year in office.
But the campaign does need to find a way to defend Mr. Romney’s record as governor against the criticism that the state lagged behind the rest of the country in job creation while he was in office.
Mr. Obama’s campaign is making that charge aggressively. Mr. Axelrod said on Monday that the campaign is spending about $10 million on a television ad that tries to undermine Mr. Romney’s gubernatorial record. The ad is running in nine battleground states.
“When Mitt Romney was governor, Massachusetts lost 40,000 manufacturing jobs,” the narrator in the ad says. “And fell to
47th in job creation. Fourth from the bottom.”
Both campaigns face the same conundrum: their candidate governed in periods following economic slowdowns that weigh down the statistics that might otherwise look rosier.
On Fox News Sunday, Mr. Fehrnstrom urged viewers to look at how Mr. Romney fared at the end of his term, when the economy had fired back up again. By that measure, he said, Massachusetts was not 47th in job creation.
“By the time Mitt Romney left four years later, we were in the middle of the pack,” Mr. Fehrnstrom said. “We were 30th in the nation in terms of job growth. That’s the trend line that you want to see.”
By: Michael Shear, The New York Times, June 5, 2012
The former defense secretary says he prefers Mitt Romney because the Republican has more executive experience. Did he miss the top line on Obama’s resume?
Appearing on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, Donald Rumsfeld made two comments of note about President Obama and the upcoming election.
HUGH HEWITT: You’ve been involved in government for a long time, Mr. Secretary. Is President Obama the weakest president of your lifetime?
DONALD RUMSFELD: He may very well be. I suppose the other one that stands out is President Jimmy Carter as a person who had a somewhat different attitude about America and its role in the world, and felt that we needed to kind of be in decline and withdrawal, and not contribute to the peace and stability that exists in the world.
What’s striking here is the emphasis on the alleged attitudes and feelings of Carter and Obama. It would be easy enough to cite actions that they took or policies that they implemented, and to say, “This hastened America’s decline,” or “That did not contribute to peace or stability.” Instead Rumsfeld plays armchair psychologist, guessing at inner thoughts that none of us can know, and that contradict the avowed motivations of the two men he is discussing.
Note too that Rumsfeld served under a president on whose watch Al Qaeda successfully attacked us, and who launched wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And here he is complaining that the Obama Administration’s policies “do not contribute to the peace and stability that exists in the world.” Is Rumsfeld suggesting that he was prioritizing “peace and stability” as defense secretary?
But it’s actually this second exchange that most seriously calls into question Rumsfeld’s analysis.
HUGH HEWITT: And a last question, what do you make of Mitt Romney’s qualifications to be president?
DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, I must say, I do feel that a person who’s been in an executive position has an advantage. A lot of legislators run for the presidency and for governor positions, and I think someone who has that background of having to be an executive would come into that office with a head start. I would add that I think that it is, I’m told, I’ve read articles, I assume they’re correct, to the effect that today in the White House, we have the smallest percentage of people who have any background in business whatsoever. And I think that people who think that this country is about government are wrong.
I think this country is about the private sector. It’s about risk taking and investment and initiative, and industriousness and the values that built this country. And I think someone who’s been in business, as Governor Romney has, brings to it that nice mixture of executive experience and government as well as a business background, which is a stark contrast to a community organizer, and a person who served in the United States Senate for about fifteen minutes. (emphasis added)
Yes, aside from the four years Obama has spent as commander in chief and head of the executive branch, what possible experience does he have that would prepare him to be commander in chief and head of the executive branch? Rumsfeld’s analysis would make a lot of sense if it were 2008, and Romney was running against Senator Obama. In 2012, if you think the person with more experience relevant to the presidency should win the election, it’s bizarre to conclude that the candidate who has never actually been president is that more experienced person.
By: Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, June 5, 2012
Before 2008, there was a story I used to tell about how presidential campaigns have been waged over the last few decades. It goes like this: The Democrat comes before the voters and says, “If you examine my ten-point plan, I believe you will agree that my ten-point plan is superior to my opponent’s ten-point plan.” Then the Republican comes before the voters, points to the Democrat, and says, “That guy hates you and everything you stand for.” It may not have applied to every election in our lifetimes (Bill Clinton was pretty good at running for president, you may remember), but it rang true enough that when I said it, liberals tended to chuckle and nod their heads.
That changed in 2008, when Barack Obama ran a campaign in both the primaries and general election that reflected a profound understanding that politics is much more about identity than issues. His opponent understood it too, but the statement of identity that a vote for McCain represented just couldn’t garner a majority of the public at that moment in history.
So what kind of a statement of identity does a vote for Mitt Romney represent? That’s a complex question, and it’s one to which I’ll return in the coming months. But I just wanted to highlight one thing, the way the Romney campaign is making a half-hearted attempt to reach out to Latino voters. According to the 2008 exit polls, Obama beat McCain by 36 points among Latinos, which is right about where polls show the current race between Obama and Romney. So what kind of advice is he getting from people in his party? Here’s an article today in POLITICO:
“If you’re looking at an electoral strategy, my sense is that we have got to be able to talk to women and minorities in ways they identify,” [Eric] Cantor told POLITICO on Monday. “When you’re looking at the independent voter, it is, in very kitchen table terms, … about jobs and the economy. It’s about whether there is going to be health care there, whether they’re going to be able to make it through the month, in terms of their limited income in a very practical, results-oriented way.”
He said Romney – and Republicans broadly – need to talk more about the opportunity that their party can give immigrants and minorities. “It is the message of opportunity, of actually chasing the American dream that appeals to everybody across demographic lines,” Cantor said. “Because it’s about the classic entrepreneurship of the country.”
Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), a Mormon and conservative Hispanic lawmaker, said Romney needs to confront the issue of how he’ll improve the economy head-on.
“What Romney needs to do is start talking about the economy and how it’s affecting all Americans, including Hispanic Americans, African Americans and other ethnic minorities. Under Obama, more people are in poverty, more people are taking food stamps, more people are losing their jobs, more women are unemployed. If you look at every ethnic and gender group, people are suffering more than they did in other times in recent history. What Romney needs to do is go out there and make the case that Republican conservative policies are more fair for individuals, regardless of ethnicity or gender.”
Mitt Romney and his Republican primary opponents just spent a year arguing over which one of them would crack down the hardest on undocumented immigrants, sending a clear message of antagonism to Latino voters everywhere, but now he should just tell them that Republican ideas will help the economy? In other words, the way to counteract those clearly hostile messages that were sent about identity is to just talk about issues. The Romney campaign itself is taking the same approach: http://youtu.be/3VC8McJTdTs
This isn’t going to work. It’s not that the message itself is problematic, but it’s the same message Romney sends to everyone else: elect me because the economy is bad. Saying “the economy is bad for Hispanics” isn’t anything different from saying the economy is bad for everybody. In fairness, I’m not sure what kind of identity message Romney could send at this point that would overcome the last few years of him and his party sending such relentless messages of hostility. But it’s like they’re barely trying. Which leads me to think that this is more about being able to say they’re reaching out to Latino voters than about actually winning Latino votes.
Maybe they should have gone with the animated sombrero-wearing parrot.
By: Paul Waldman, The American Prospect, June 5, 2012
Florida ought to know better. And must do better, particularly on the issue of voting and discrimination.
But, then again, we are talking about Florida, the state of Bush v. Gore infamy and the one that will celebrate the birthday of Jefferson Davis, the only president of the Confederacy, with a statewide holiday on Sunday.
What am I getting at? This: Few states in the union have done more in recent years to restrict and suppress voting — particularly by groups who lean Democratic, such as young people, the poor and minorities — than Florida.
In May 2011, the state’s Republican-led Legislature passed and the Republican governor, Rick Scott, signed a sweeping election law that cut early voting short and imposed onerous burdens on voter registration groups by requiring them to turn in registration applications within 48 hours of the time they are signed or face fines.
The threat of fines has meant that many groups that traditionally registered voters in the state have abandoned the effort, and it appears to be contributing to fewer new registrations. According to a March analysis of registration data by The Times, “in the months since its new law took effect in May, 81,471 fewer Floridians have registered to vote than during the same period before the 2008 presidential election.”
But there is good news. On Thursday, a federal judge overturned the 48-hour deadline as unconstitutional, writing, in part, that “if the goal is to discourage voter-registration drives and thus also to make it harder for new voters to register, the 48-hour deadline may succeed.”
Recently, the state announced that it would begin another round of voter purging to ensure that no ineligible voters were mistakenly on the voter rolls. Seems noble enough. But the problem is that Florida is notoriously bad at purging.
As the New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice pointed out last week: “In 2000, Florida’s efforts to purge persons with criminal convictions from the rolls led to, by conservative estimates, close to 12,000 eligible voters being removed” from the rolls. As most of us remember, George W. Bush beat Al Gore in the state of Florida that year, after the recounts and the Supreme Court stepped in, by 537 votes.
And as The Miami Herald reported on Thursday:
“So far, Florida has flagged 2,700 potential noncitizen voters and sent the list to county elections supervisors, who have found the data and methodology to be flawed and problematic. The list of potential noncitizen voters — many of whom have turned out to be lawful citizens and voters — disproportionately hits minorities, especially Hispanics.”
More good news: In his keynote address at the inaugural Faith Leaders Summit on Voting Rights, a joint effort by the Congressional Black Caucus and the Conference of National Black Churches, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. told the group:
“Congressman John Lewis may have described the reason for these concerns best, in a speech on the House floor last summer, when pointing out that the voting rights he worked throughout his life — and nearly gave his life — to ensure are, ‘under attack … [by] a deliberate and systematic attempt to prevent millions of elderly voters, young voters, students, [and] minority and low-income voters from exercising their constitutional right to engage in the democratic process.’ Not only was he referring to the all-too-common deceptive practices we’ve been fighting for years. He was echoing more recent fears and frustrations about some of the state-level voting law changes we’ve seen this legislative season.”
He didn’t mention Florida by name, but, on Thursday, the Department of Justice sent a letter to the Florida secretary of state demanding that they cease the purge.
Florida has more electoral votes than any other swing state, and the battle to win it — or steal it — will be epic because the election is likely to be another nail-biter, both nationally and in the state.
In an NBC-Marist poll of battleground states released last week, President Obama was leading Mitt Romney in the state 48 percent to 44 percent. But as NBC News pointed out, the president’s share was “below the 50 percent threshold usually considered safe haven for an incumbent president,” and Romney has narrowed the races in Florida and other battleground states since earlier in the year.
We can’t predict a winner, but we must insist on a fair fight. Voter suppression can’t be allowed to overshadow democracy in the Sunshine State.
By: Charles Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, June 1, 2012