It’s getting harder to deny.
The widespread belief on the right that Barack Obama is a Muslim is one of the stranger features of this period in history. There are some of them who know that Obama says he’s a Christian but are sure that’s all an act designed to fool people, while he secretly prays to Allah. But there are probably a greater number who haven’t given it all that much thought; they just heard somewhere that he’s a Muslim, and it made perfect sense to them—after all, he’s kinda foreign, if you know what I mean. Rather remarkably, that belief has grown over time; as the latest poll from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life shows, fully 30 percent of Republicans, and 34 percent of conservative Republicans, now believe Obama is Muslim. These numbers are about double what they were four years ago.
You can bet there aren’t too many who think there’s nothing wrong with it if he were. For many of them, it’s just a shorthand for Obama being alien and threatening. So it leads me to ask: Can we say, finally, that no Democratic president has ever been hated by Republicans quite as much as Barack Obama?
In the past when this question has been asked, the sensible reply is to not forget history. After all, when Bill Clinton was president, one of the Republican Party’s most respected figures distributed videotapes of a documentary alleging that Clinton was the head of a drug ring and had murdered dozens of people. And they did impeach him the first chance they got. Republicans had a visceral hatred for Franklin Roosevelt, too.
But I really think we’ve reached a new height. What makes this different isn’t just the kind of venom you see among the party’s true-believing supporters but that the hate goes so far up, all the way to the top. The party’s candidate for president literally claims that Obama hates capitalism and is not really American (Mitt Romney recently said, and not for the first time, that Obama has a “very strange, and in some respects foreign to the American experience type of philosophy”). Liberals look at conservatives claiming that Obama is a socialist or that he doesn’t really love America and think, “Those people are nuts.” But there is practically consensus in the GOP that these things are true. If a Republican candidate came out today and said, “Barack Obama is a good person who loves his country, but I just think he’s wrong about policy,” that candidate would probably get kicked out of the party.
This antipathy has multiple sources interacting together, so it’s overly simplistic to say that it’s just because of Obama’s race, or it’s just because of heightened partisanship. But it’s getting harder and harder to claim that there’s ever been a Democrat Republicans hated more.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, July 27, 2012
Mitt Romney’s slips of the tongue aren’t the problem: It’s what he says when he’s thinking.
Mitt Romney is getting a lot of grief for the not-so-auspicious beginning to his first overseas trip as leader of the Republican party. In case you’ve been trapped in a well for the last two days, when he was asked by Brian Williams how, in his expert opinion, he thought London was doing in preparing for the start of the Olympics, instead of offering the expected polite banality (“I’m sure it’s going to be terrific”), Romney said something a bit more honest, saying that there were “a few things that were disconcerting” about the preparations. The Brits were not amused, and he got very public pushback from both Prime Minister David Cameron and London mayor Boris Johnson. It’s all well and good to enjoy Romney’s misfortune on this score. But let’s not forget: The real problem with Romney isn’t what he blurts out by accident, it’s what he says when he has plenty of time to consider his words.
As I’ve written a zillion times, running for president is very difficult, and one of the hardest things is having every word that comes out of your mouth recorded, analyzed, and often twisted around and taken out of context. No one, and I mean no one, can go through that process without saying something that gets them in trouble on a fairly regular basis. Even the most talented politicians had their share of “gaffes.” Barack Obama has. Bill Clinton did. Ronald Reagan did. No matter how good you are, it’ll happen. And if you’re not very good (and even Mitt Romney’s admirers won’t say he’s a natural politician) it’s going to happen even more.
Many of Romney’s gaffes can be pretty easily forgiven. When he said “Corporations are people, my friend,” for instance, he was trying to say that corporate profits eventually find their way to humans. In the case of the Olympic gaffe, other than being undiplomatic, there wasn’t anything inherently horrible about what he said. But if you look broadly at Romney’s rhetoric, what you see is not only that he tells extemporaneous lies quite frequently, but more important, he repeats lies long after it has become clear that they are in fact wrong.
There are plenty of examples; one of my favorites is how for years, Romney has been saying that Barack Obama “went around the world apologizing for America,” a claim that is just false. And the latest example is how Romney has dishonestly ripped from context an Obama quote about how businesses benefit from the collective effort of other citizens and from government. It would be one thing if Romney used his distortion of Obama’s words to needle him in a couple of speeches. But Romney has practically decided to base his entire campaign on it, from making ads about it to printing signs about it, to organizing events around it. And I promise you, neither Mitt Romney nor any sane person who works for him actually believes that what Obama meant to say was that people who own businesses didn’t actually build their businesses. They know what he said and they know what he meant, but they decided that they don’t really give a crap.
And this tendency, far more than all of Romney’s “gaffes,” is what really gives us insight into who he is. Perhaps as president Romney would only lie about unimportant things, and to no greater degree than the average president. But his performance so far suggests otherwise.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, July 27, 2012
Of course Mitt Romney’s arrival in London was awkward. Mitt Romney’s arrival anywhere is awkward.
But don’t think that Romney’s jaunt across the pond has been a complete disaster.
Aside from some public relations missteps, he has accomplished precisely what he set out to do.
Romney’s bumpkin-in-chief beginning in London was epic: he suggested the Brits had done a poor job organizing the Olympics, violated international security protocols and struggled to keep the names of his hosts straight. Britain’s Sun, a particularly conservative tabloid, went so far as to dub him “Mitt the Twit” on a frontpage that the Brits—and plenty of American Democrats—will dub a “keeper.”
What with an aide making cryptic comments about how Romney has a better understanding than President Obama of “Anglo-Saxon heritage,” nothing about the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s step onto the global stage seemed to go right.
Except, of course, for the real purpose of the trip, which was to collect cash from the most scandal-plagued of London’s financial insiders— and to assure the embattled banksters that he would, if elected, use the power of the presidency to protect them from regulation and oversight.
That task Romney managed with the agility of the “vulture capitalist” described by his Republican primary foes.
Within the well-guarded confines of London’s posh Mandarin Oriental hotel Thursday night, Romney met with at least 250 of the top bankers, speculators and financial manipulators in the world—including representatives of Barclays, the bank that recently paid almost $500 million in fines after its officials were charged with providing false information to interest-rate regulators.
Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond had to withdraw as a co-chair of Romney’s London fundraiser festivities—after Diamond was forced out of his position and then dragged before a Parliamentary select committee for a round of “what did you know and when did you know it” questioning about the filing of false reports and the manipulation of global markets. Embarrassing? Not really. The no-shame-when-it-comes-to-money-grabbing Romney campaign just made another Barclays insider a co-chair, along with representatives of of Bank of Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Goldman Sachs, Blackstone and Wells Fargo Securities—and, of course, Bain Capital Europe.
What was Romney thinking?
First and foremost, he wanted the estimated $2 million in campaign contributions that the global financiers ponied up Thursday night.
But the Republican presidential candidate came to London to offer the the scandal-plagued bankers something in return for the checks that were delivered in increments of as much as $75,000: reassurance that he really is one of them. And that a Romney presidency would serve their interests.
Referring to the signature Wall Street regulatory reform of the Obama presidency, Romney reassured the bankers that “I’d like to get rid of Dodd Frank and go back and look at regulation piece by piece.”
While he couldn’t quite get the hang of international diplomacy, Mitt Romney was entirely comfortable standing on foreign soil and promising international bankers that, as president, he would take care of them.
By: John Nichols, The Nation, July 27, 2012
Are too many Democratic voters sleepwalking away from our democracy this election cycle, not nearly outraged enough about Big Money’s undue influence and Republican state legislatures changing the voting rules?
It seems so.
A Gallup poll released this week found that: “Democrats are significantly less likely now (39 percent) than they were in the summers of 2004 and 2008 to say they are ‘more enthusiastic about voting than usual’ in the coming presidential election.” Republicans are more enthusiastic than they were before the last election.
Some of that may be the effect of having a Democratic president in office; it’s sometimes easier to marshal anger against an incumbent than excitement for him. Whatever the reason, this lack of enthusiasm at this critical juncture in the election is disturbing for Democrats.
First, there’s the specter of the oligarchy lingering over this election, which disproportionately benefits Republicans. According to a report by Senator Bernard Sanders of Vermont, “So far this year, 26 billionaires have donated more than $61 million to super PACs, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. And that’s only what has been publicly disclosed.” That didn’t include “about $100 million that Sheldon Adelson has said that he is willing to spend to defeat President Obama; or the $400 million that the Koch brothers have pledged to spend during the 2012 election season.”
During a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, Sanders put it this way: “What the Supreme Court did in Citizens United is to say to these same billionaires and the corporations they control: ‘You own and control the economy; you own Wall Street; you own the coal companies; you own the oil companies. Now, for a very small percentage of your wealth, we’re going to give you the opportunity to own the United States government.’ ”
Then, of course, there’s the widespread voter suppression mostly enacted by Republican-led legislatures.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, at least 180 restrictive voting bills were introduced since the beginning of 2011 in 41 states, and “16 states have passed restrictive voting laws that have the potential to impact the 2012 election” because they “account for 214 electoral votes, or nearly 79 percent of the total needed to win the presidency.”
A provision most likely to disenfranchise voters is a requirement that people show photo identification to vote. Millions of Americans don’t have these forms of ID, and many can’t easily obtain them, even when states say they’ll offer them free, because getting the documentation to obtain the “free” ID takes time and money.
This is a solution in search of a problem. The in-person voter ID requirements only prevent someone from impersonating another voter at the polls, an occurrence that the Brennan Center points out is “more rare than being struck by lightning.”
The voting rights advocates I’ve talked to don’t resist all ID requirements (though they don’t say they are all necessary, either). They simply say that multiple forms of identification like student ID and Social Security cards should also be accepted, and that alternate ways for people without IDs to vote should be included. Many of these laws don’t allow for such flexibility.
Make no mistake about it, these requirements are not about the integrity of the vote but rather the disenfranchisement of voters. This is about tilting the table so that more of the marbles roll to the Republican corner.
Look at it this way: We have been moving toward wider voter participation for a century. States began to issue driver’s licenses more than a century ago and began to include photos on those licenses decades ago. Yet, as the Brennan Center points out, “prior to the 2006 election, no state required its voters to show government-issued photo ID at the polls (or elsewhere) in order to vote.”
Furthermore, most voter laws have emerged in the last two years. What is the difference between previous decades and today? The election of Barack Obama. It is no coincidence that some of the people least likely to have proper IDs to vote are the ones that generally vote Democratic and were strong supporters of Obama last election: young people, the poor and minorities.
Republicans are leveraging the deep pockets of anti-Obama billionaires and sinister voter suppression tactics that harken back to Jim Crow to wrest power from the hands of docile Democrats.
There is little likely to be done about the Big Money before the election, and, although some of the voter suppression laws are being challenged in court, the outcome of those cases is uncertain.
These elements are not within voters’ control, but two things are: energy and alertness.
If Democrats don’t wake up soon, this election might not just be won or lost, it could be bought or stolen.
By: Charles M. Blow, )p-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, July 27, 2012
“A Systematic Effort”: Florida’s Former GOP Chair Says The Party Had Meetings About “Keeping Blacks From Voting”
In the debate over new laws meant to curb voter fraud in places like Florida, Democrats always charge that Republicans are trying to suppress the vote of liberal voting blocs like blacks and young people, while Republicans just laugh at such ludicrous and offensive accusations. That is, every Republican except for Florida’s former Republican Party chairman Jim Greer, who, scorned by his party and in deep legal trouble, blew the lid off what he claims was a systemic effort to suppress the black vote. In a 630-page deposition recorded over two days in late May, Greer, who is on trial for corruption charges, unloaded a litany of charges against the “whack-a-do, right-wing crazies” in his party, including the effort to suppress the black vote.
In the deposition, released to the press yesterday, Greer mentioned a December 2009 meeting with party officials. “I was upset because the political consultants and staff were talking about voter suppression and keeping blacks from voting,” he said, according to the Tampa Bay Times. He also said party officials discussed how “minority outreach programs were not fit for the Republican Party,” according to the AP.
The comments, if true (he is facing felony corruption charges and has an interest in scorning his party), would confirm what critics have long suspected. Florida Gov. Rick Scott is currently facing inquiries from the Justice Department and pressure from civil rights groups over his purging of voter rolls in the state, an effort that critics say has disproportionately targeted minorities and other Democratic voters. One group suing the state claims up to 87 percent of the voters purged from the rolls so far have been people of color, though other estimates place that number far lower. Scott has defended the purge, even though he was erroneously listed as dead himself on the rolls in 2006.
As Vanity Fair noted in a big 2004 story on the Sunshine State’s voting problems, “Florida is a state with a history of disenfranchising blacks.” In the state’s notoriously botched 2000 election, the state sent a list of 50,000 alleged ex-felons to the counties, instructing them to purge those names from their rolls. But it turned out that list included 20,000 innocent people, 54 percent of whom were black, the magazine reported. Just 15 percent of the state’s population is black. There were also reports that polling stations in black neighborhoods were understaffed, leading to long lines that kept some people from voting that year. The NAACP and ACLU sued the state over that purge. A Gallup poll in December of 2000 found that 68 percent of African-Americans nationally felt black voters were less likely to have their votes counted fairly in Florida.
Former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, who has since become an independent and is rumored to be considering his next run as a Democrat, wrote an Op-Ed in the Washington Post recently slamming Scott’s current purge. “Including as many Americans as possible in our electoral process is the spirit of our country. It is why we have expanded rights to women and minorities but never legislated them away, and why we have lowered the voting age but never raised it. Cynical efforts at voter suppression are driven by an un-American desire to exclude as many people and silence as many voices as possible,” he wrote. A recent study from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School found that voter ID laws disproportionately affect poor, minority and elderly voters.
By: Alec Seitz-Wald, Salon, July 27, 2012