Greg Sargent has a fine post today about how Scott Brown has picked up on the Romney campaign’s effort to spin a mendacious take on the “you didn’t build that” quote, making it a double lie by tying it back to Elizabeth Warren (whose actual words were being paraphrased by what the president actually said). Indeed, Greg puts his finger on the broader message that both Republicans are trying to send:
The whole ”didn’t build that” dust-up is important, because the larger falsehood on display here — that Obama demeans success — is absolutely central to the Republican case against Obama. The Republican argument — Romney’s argument — is partly that Obama’s active ill will towards business owners and entrepreneurs is helping stall the recovery, so you should replace him with a president who wants people to succeed.
What makes this “vote Republican or the economy gets it” tactic devilishly effective is that its major premise—Obama hates “job creators”—doesn’t have to be true to wreak political damage so long as its minor premise—if “job creators” think Obama hates them they’ll stop creating jobs—is credible. And so it all turns into what amounts to blackmail: people like Mitt Romney are not “confident” in Obama’s stewardship of the economy, and if they don’t get ther way in November, they’ll tank the economy. This is also the threat behind all the “fiscal cliff” talk: we’re being told the financial markets will panic if there’s any chance the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy will lapse or that Pentagon spending will be cut at the end of the year. Somehow or another, the prospect of a Republican victory that will lead to very deep federal spending cuts, reductions in consumer buying power, and the elimination of many thousands of public sector jobs isn’t said to be a problem.
Now this is a very, very old game, certainly as old as the threats issued by business leaders at the behest of Mark Hanna in 1896 that votes for William Jennings Bryan would lose employees their jobs, or the eternal threats of non-unionized companies that they’d rather close their doors than submit to the indignity of collective bargaining. In reality, companies stay in business and investors keep investing not because they have the elected officials they’d prefer, but because they are making money. With profits being at near-record levels (even with the apparent recent softening), I don’t think we are really in any danger of capitalists “going Galt” because their executives’ marginal tax rates went back up to where they were when they were also doing very well in the late 1990s, or because their vast moral worth is being underappreciated by Barack Obama or Elizabeth Warren.
Still, the more aggressively ideological business leaders won’t lose a dime by issuing threats, so they and their political allies will keep doing so, reinforcing the GOP’s many efforts to convince persuadable voters that somehow or other, their jobs or their nest eggs depend on a Republican victory in November.
BY: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer,Washington Monthly Political Animal, July 23, 2012
It’s treacherous for a US presidential candidate to travel overseas — lots of opportunities for mis-chosen words and getting drawn into other countries’ domestic politics. With Mitt Romney about to leave on his big trip abroad he may already have had his first big foreign stumble. At a GOP fundraiser in San Francisco last night, Romney said that Australia’s foreign minister had warned him that foreign leaders see the US in decline and — at least in Romney’s telling — was hoping for Romney-like policies to make things right.
That at least was the version of the comments that appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald. A similar version, but without the full quotes, appeared in the AP.
Quoting Romney: ”And this idea of America in decline, it was interesting [Carr] said that, he led the talk of America being in decline. See that’s not talk we hear about here as much as they’re hearing there. And if they’re thinking about investing in America, entrepreneurs putting their future in America, if they think America’s in decline they’re not gonna do it.”
Whether or not the SMH got it right is one question. The Hill notes that the pool reports did not have Romney clearly characterizing the comments as a warning.
And now, Australia’s Foreign Minister’s office has come forward to shoot down Romney’s characterization of the discussion, calling Romney’s interpretation “not correct.”
You cannot take a shoot down like this at face value in any case. Whatever Carr said, he almost certainly didn’t expect Romney to turn around and use it as ammo in a political speech. Allies don’t want to get publicly embroiled in a US election — especially on the wrong side of an incumbent who they believe is more likely than not to get reelected. So he’d be under a lot of pressure to walk away from Romney’s comments, even if Romney was accurately characterizing them. On the other hand, maybe Mitt just made it up or gave it — probably the most likely option — a negative spin the retelling. One way or another, it will be interesting to see how Romney navigates this sort of stuff when he’s overseas.
By: Josh Marshall, Editor and Publisher, Talking Points Memo, July 23, 2012
To paraphrase Rhett Butler, I don’t give a damn if Mitt Romney releases more of his tax returns. I expect to learn nothing from them, aside from the fact that he is very rich and has paid less in taxes than he has acknowledged. He has probably taken advantage of all the loops and dodges in the tax code, piling trusts on top of trusts, securing wealth for Romneys yet unborn — gelt unto the third generation, little taxed, slightly taxed or taxed not at all.
“Let me tell you about the very rich,” F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote. ’Scuse me, Scotty, let me tell you about them: They don’t pay much in taxes.
This is what the average person would learn if all of Romney’s tax filings hit the light of day. He has so far divulged just his 2010 return and the estimate for 2011, and the Obama camp, smelling blood, has demanded more. The din has reached such a level that even some conservatives are entreating Romney to reveal additional filings. They are not, however, imploring their candidate to identify his bundlers — for this might actually reveal who has their hooks into him. The filings, I promise you, will show loopholes and financial black holes that make taxable income disappear. What we will not see is anything revelatory or, as some insist, genuine insights into the character of the candidate.
Certainly, this has been the case in the past. Richard Nixon disclosed his taxes preceding the 1968 presidential campaign. He reported hefty earnings averaging $200,000 in his years as a New York lawyer, but there was nothing in the forms relating to occasional bouts of drunkenness, paranoia, excessive self-pity or a proclivity to listen to the telephone conversations of others.
Similarly, Bill Clinton, in his pre-White House filings, showed a gross 1990 income of $268,646, but the box (32a) relating to possible extramarital relations in the Oval Office was left blank. No doubt it was an oversight.
George W. Bush’s tax forms were as vacant as he was of any suggestion that he moved his lips when he read and would, if given the chance, tank the economy and lead the nation into two wars, mismanaging both.
By and large, the tax filings tell you nothing you don’t already know. But the refusal to release them is a different matter. In Romney’s case, this is his one and only stand on principle, an odd example of political bravery. He has flipped on abortion, gun control and, of course, health-insurance reform, his signature achievement as governor of Massachusetts. But not on releasing his taxes. Others have been recalcitrant. Ronald Reagan didn’t want to do it (he charged his daughter Maureen interest on a loan) but ultimately did.
In general, presidential and vice presidential candidates have released their returns. Maybe this was because most of them were public servants whose salaries were already known and whose wealth was modest. Others, though, were persons of considerable wealth — Lloyd Bentsen, John Kerry, John Edwards — who laid it all out on the table. (I wonder if Edwards, if he still had presidential prospects, would have deducted his latest child.)
It’s impossible to know what Romney is not revealing. But it is instructive to contrast him to his father, George, who was an auto executive and governor of Michigan. When George Romney ran for president in 1968, he released 12 years of income tax returns. But he was essentially salaried — his remuneration set either by statute or by a board of directors — and so really he was divulging little. Maybe more important, he actually made something (cars) or did something (governed). His son not only manufactured nothing but earned his wealth the new way — by financial manipulation, leveraging and such. On paper, it could look ugly.
For Mitt Romney, there are no assembly lines, no factories or mines — just back offices and computer terminals and such esoterica as the infinitesimal difference between what the Libor rate should be and what it is. He was loyal to no company, no industry — just to his investors. The making of such money is concealed, based on the exotic manipulation of numbers and the disregard of people. Only a relatively few know how to do this sort of thing, and they don’t much like to talk about it. Romney, as we already know, is one of those people. He hides his taxes not because it would reveal anything new about him, but because it would reveal what he has always known about us: We’re suckers.
By: Richard Cohen, Opinion Writer, The washington Post, July 23, 2012
Mitt Romney doubled down on his characterization of President Obama as a “foreigner” during an interviewwith CNBC’s Larry Kudlow Monday afternoon, insisting that the president believes that the government is responsible for the success of entrepreneurs and small businesses.
Romney’s comments continue to misrepresent Obama’s remarks at a July 17th event, during which Obama suggested that society as a whole contributes to the economic accomplishments of the individual. Republicans have seized on the remarks to advance the myth that the president espouses an “un American” governing philosophy:
KUDLOW: Why do you think President Obama, what did he mean, if you’ve got a business, you didn’t build it, someone else made that happen? He claims it’s being taken out of context. What do you think it means? Do you think this is Obama anti-business, anti-entrepreneur? Or do you think maybe he has been treated unfairly? [...]
ROMNEY: This is an ideology which says hey, we’re all the same here, we ought to take from all and give to one another and that achievement, individual initiative and risk-taking and success are not to be rewarded as they have in the past. It’s a very strange and in some respects foreign to the American experience type of philosophy. We have always been a nation that has celebrated success of various kinds. The kid that gets the honor roll, the individual worker that gets a promotion, the person that gets a better job. And in fact, the person that builds a business. And by the way, if you have a business and you started it, you did build it. And you deserve credit for that. It was not built for you by government…. So his whole philosophy is an upside-down philosophy that does not comport with the American experience.
In reality, Obama’s contention that — “when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together” — is something Romney himself has agreed with. For instance, during his speech at the Opening Ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics, Romney said, “You Olympians, however, know you didn’t get here solely on your own power. For most of you, loving parents, sisters or brothers, encouraged your hopes, coaches guided, communities built venues in order to organize competitions.”
He echoed the same sentiment last week, saying, “I know that you recognize a lot of people help you in a business. Perhaps the bank, the investors. There is no question your mom and dad, your school teachers. The people who provide roads, the fire, the police. A lot of people help.”
By: Igor Volsky, Think Progress, July 23, 2012
Huma Abedin, a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was placed under police protection this weekend in response to a threat made against her. This came in the wake of Rep. Michele Bachmann’s insinuation that Abedin may be a Muslim Brotherhood spy. Bachmann targeted Abedin by name in a letter sent last month to the inspector general of the State Department, and despite widespread condemnation from Republicans and Democrats alike, Bachmann doubled down on her Muslim witch hunt last week. On Friday, she accused Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison, a fellow Minnesota lawmaker, of himself being tied to the Muslim Brotherhood. Even her boss on the intelligence committee, Chairman Mike Rogers, who had initially praised Bachmann, said her “assertion certainly doesn’t comport with the Intelligence Committee.”
We know one of Bachmann’s inspirations for her Muslim witch hunt is Frank Gaffney, the former Reagan defense official who has made a second career out of finding terrorists hiding in every closet. Bachmann cites him prominently and often. But another inspiration may be John Eidsmoe, a law professor who taught Bachmann at Oral Roberts University and became something of a mentor to her. As the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza reported last year, Bachmann worked for Eidsmoe on several projects and internalized his Christian-Dominionist worldviews. If biblical law conflicts with civil law, Eidsmoe teaches that “the first thing you should try to do is work through legal means and political means to get it changed.” He told Lizza that Bachmann’s views are entirely consistent with his own.
In August of last year, Bachmann told the Rediscover God in America conference in Iowa that Eidsmoe is “absolutely brilliant.” He “had a great influence on me … He taught me about so many aspects of our Godly heritage,” she said.
Eidsmoe isn’t so popular with everyone, however. Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center explains Eidsmoe this way: “He was a member for a while of the League of the South, which is a neo-Confederate hate group, which has said things like slavery is God-ordained and is explicitly racialist. He also spoke to the Council of Conservative Citizens, which is a flat-out white supremacist group. They’re against interracial marriage, they’ve said things like — direct quote from them — ‘blacks are a retrograde species of humanity,’ so you get the idea. So, he’s hung out with hate groups, he’s been a member of hate groups, and his views are just so far outside of the mainstream that it’s amazing. I mean, really, it’s a little shocking to think that the congresswoman would be openly willing to admit that she’s influenced by him,” Beirich told Salon. (Eidsmoe did not respond to requests for comment.)
In Alabama last year, Eidsmoe declared that states have a right to secede, explaining, that Confederate president Jefferson Davis “understood the Constitution better than did Abraham Lincoln.” He was disinvited from a Tea Party rally in Wisconsin in 2010 after the AP brought his past comments to the attention of organizers.
Eidsmoe, consistent with this Christian-Dominionist worldview, has also spoken often about the dangers of Islam. On his website, he lists several seminars he offers, including “Islam & the Crusades.” In the talk, which can be heard in a 2010 recording from a Presbyterian Church in Tennessee, he pretends to be a Crusader who just escaped after 900 years in a Turkish jail. Indeed, Eidsmoe’s view on the relationship between Muslims and Christians doesn’t seem to have evolved much from the past millennium — essentially, they are still at war with each other.
“I think the correct view of the crusades is to say that they did what was necessary to preserve Western Christianity. And we should be grateful to them for that … There really is a hatred of The West within Islam,” says Eidsmoe, who is a member of the modern day Knights Templar, the Sovereign Military Order of The Temple of Jerusalem. At the beginning of his talk, he warns that the world’s Muslim population is growing quickly and could overtake Christians one day.
“We’re seeing more and more attempts to bring Shariah law, that is, Muslim law, into place in the United States … When we look at the history of Islam, we see not just a striving to find tolerance in other parts of the world, but an attempt to take over and impose their system on everybody else. And coming in and asking for exceptions on Shariah law is just the first step. We’ve seen it over and over again in history. We see that it doesn’t end there,” Eidsmoe said in an Internet radio interview.
It’s easy to see how a Dominionist worldview — that is, one that believes in trying to construct a Christian “God’s kingdom” on earth — would be hostile to Muslims in general, and not just extremists. Bachmann is an adherent to the same kind of ideology. As the Daily Beast’s Michelle Goldberg wrote during the Republican presidential primary, “If you want to understand Michele Bachmann … understanding Dominionism isn’t optional.”
By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, July 23, 2012