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“The GOP’s Dangerous Animals”: Mitt Romney Needs To Keep The Animals In Their Enclosures

At this week’s Republican National Convention, a pair of attendees found a novel game to play: They threw nuts at a black camera operator for CNN and told her, “This is how we feed animals.”

Convention officials evicted the tossers, who, like almost all of the delegates in the Tampa Bay Times Forum, were white. The Romney campaign condemned the antics as “deplorable” and “reprehensible.”

It’s good to know that some behavior on the far right exceeds Mitt Romney’s tolerance, but this episode of “animal” feeding was, well, peanuts compared with the broader issues restraining racial politics in the party. In his acceptance speech Thursday night, Romney became more than the Republican Party’s nominee for president; he became its zookeeper. To win the presidency and to become successful in the Oval Office, Romney must keep the animals in his own party in their enclosures — and that’s no easy task.

Hours before Romney’s speech, about 100 GOP delegates from the Western states assembled for a “special reception with elephants” at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, hosted by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and the state GOP. There, in the faux-adobe Safari Lodge, delegates mingled with Chanel the East African crowned crane, Pita the South American porcupine, Bo the African martial eagle — and Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz.

Arpaio, you’ll recall, is the guy who claims that Barack Obama’s birth certificate is a forgery, who calls for the arrest and deportation of millions of illegal immigrants, who is being sued for racial profiling, and who has been an outspoken champion of the Arizona immigration crackdown largely invalidated by the Supreme Court.

At the zoo, Arpaio argued that there is no daylight between him and Romney. “The governor’s stance corresponds with my stance,” the sheriff said. “Everything he says, I agree with him.” He further boasted that he was Romney’s “campaign guy in Arizona” in 2008 and that he conferred with Romney during this year’s debates, during which Romney buried other opponents for being insufficiently tough on immigration.

Arpaio justifiably took credit for establishing the party’s position on immigration. “I don’t know how to say this without being egotistical,” he said, but “I have a lot of support across the nation from all these delegates.” Asked if he was hurting Republicans, he scoffed. “If I’m hurting the party, why did all the people running for president either visit my office or call me?” he asked. “And they all want my endorsement.”

He’s right — and it’s a shame Romney won’t send Arpaio where convention officials sent the nut-throwers. Romney needs urgently to broaden his appeal beyond the white faces on the convention floor, and he made a nod in that direction in his acceptance speech, reminding delegates that “we are a nation of immigrants.” Romney’s advisers filled the program with leaders of color such as Marco Rubio, Condi Rice, Ted Cruz and Nikki Haley.

But such gestures are easily undone by others. Romney has long lacked the courage to stand up to the more dangerous beasts on the right, from birther Donald Trump to the woman who accused President Obama of “treason.” In some cases, Romney has encouraged these sinister elements, with his recent quip in Michigan that “no one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate” and his false claim that Obama is gutting welfare reform. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews got into a tense standoff with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus this week when he accused Romney of playing the “race card.” Priebus called that “garbage.”

No, “garbage” is what Arpaio was tossing around at the zoo on Thursday afternoon. The sheriff let everybody know “my mother and father came from Italy — legally, of course.” And he gave them an update on Obama’s birth certificate. “We’re just looking at forged documents,” he said. “Fraud, that’s what we’re looking at.”

He discussed his round-’em-up views on illegal immigrants, he voiced his opposition to driver’s licenses or other benefits for the children of illegal immigrants, and he assured his audience that Romney was of like mind. “He’s not just talking,” Arpaio said. “I’m convinced that, the first year at the White House, he will bring this issue out.”

It’s easy to dismiss Arpaio as, er, nuts. He went on a paranoid rant about how “I’ve got demonstrators I hear out there. . . . They’re the same ones who go in front of my church.” But there wasn’t a single demonstrator outside.

Romney should be making clear that Arpaio doesn’t speak for his Republican Party any more than the nut-throwers do. Instead, the sheriff wore a convention floor pass that said “honored guest.”

 

BY: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, August 31, 2012

September 2, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“There Goes Lyin’ Ryan”: Marathon Runner, Marathon Liar

The latest controversy involving Rep. Paul “Lyin’” Ryan concerns whether, in a recent interview, willfully misrepresented the time it took him to run a marathon, some 20-odd years ago. He claims it was under three hours, but apparently it was actually over four. While I do believe he’s probably deliberately lying here, rather than innocently “misremembering” (runners tell me they remember their marathon times like other people remember their SAT scores), normally I think it would be way too petty to make a big deal out of it.

However, given that: 1) for some time now, Ryan has had a reputation for playing fast and loose with the truth, a reputation that notably enhanced by his convention address, a speech that was unusually mendacious even by the standards of the contemporary G.O.P.; and 2) during the 2000 election, the Republicans, and (especially) their enablers in the mainstream media, hung Al Gore for far less (see here, for example), I think going after Paul Ryan for this is totally fair game.

Yes, it’s trivial BS. And no, I don’t by any means believe that this should be the focal point of attacks on Paul Ryan — the fact that he and his party are such ruthless champions of the immiseration of working people should be the main focus of said attacks, always.

That said, ridicule is a powerful weapon, and one which progressives should not shy away from (though sadly, some of the more misguidedly high-minded ones among us do). Besides, if you think I’m going to pass up the opportunity to crack snarky Rosie Ruiz jokes at Ryan’s expense, you are so, so wrong. Clearly!

 

By: Kathleen Geier, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 1, 2012

September 2, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Argument That Has Veered Off Course”: How “Government” Became A Dirty Word

The message at the GOP convention this week was clear: Government is too big, too expensive, and it can’t fix our economic problems.

“The choice is whether to put hard limits on economic growth, or hard limits on the size of government. And we choose to limit government,” said Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan.

There’s nothing new about the message. Anti-big government sentiment is practically part of the American DNA, and it has deep roots in the Republican Party.

“Republicans, dating back to the New Deal, had always voiced their opposition to the expansion of government,” says Julian Zelizer, who teaches history and public policy at Princeton. “It was always part of the party the idea that centralization was bad, bureaucracy was dangerous, taxes were bad.”

But before the 1960s, the Republican Party also had a liberal wing, Zelizer tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz.

“They had New York Republicans, they had a lot of Midwestern progressives, who still said government is good for a lot of things,” he says.

Extremism ‘Is No Vice’

At the 1964 Republican convention, the party showed a shift away from that liberal wing. Then-New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller warned that the GOP was becoming too conservative. He called extremism a “danger” to the party and the nation. He was booed.

Barry Goldwater became the face of Republicanism when he accepted the Republican presidential nomination at that same convention, moving to the right and embracing extremism.

“I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice,” Goldwater said. “And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”

Extremism with regard to conservative values became something for Republicans to be proud of, Zelizer says.

Goldwater’s ideas were further solidified in the ’70s and ’80s, Zelizer says. And in 1981, in his inaugural address, President Ronald Reagan said: “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to the problem, government is the problem.”

Zelizer says Reagan wanted to upend the liberal argument that had existed since the New Deal.

“He said that the only way to really revive economic growth, to really restore faith in the country after the dismal 1970s was to do things like cutting taxes, to deregulate as much of the economy as possible,” Zelizer says. “And he really had this intense animosity, rhetorically, toward what government did on the domestic front.”

‘A Disconnect’ Emerges

Since then, the position that government is the problem has garnered many supporters. But the argument is most successful, Zelizer says, in abstract terms.

Voters may say they don’t like government or bureaucracy in general, but when questioned more narrowly, they tend to like specific programs. What you ask, Zelizer says, “has a big impact on public attitudes” about government.

Daniel McCarthy, editor of The American Conservative magazine, tells Raz the “government is bad” argument has veered somewhat off course.

“It’s become unhinged from a relationship with the public and it’s been gained by a lot of interests — both ideological and financial,” he says. “As a result, you have policies that are crafted by lobbyists and by ideologues rather than by … sincere representatives of the public interest.”

While conservatives may emphasize government as problematic in speeches, McCarthy says, they practice something different.

“I think there’s a bit of a disconnect where the Republican Party is able to cash in on the fears that Americans have about big government, even though the Republican Party actually is practicing a form of big government itself,” he says.

One example McCarthy points to is military funding.

“Any kind of increase to the military budget is seen as necessarily a good thing,” he says, “whereas they would never say that simply adding more money to the Education Department makes for better education across the country.”

Still, the party branding is going strong. Democrats continue to be tied to the identity established under former Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, McCarthy says.

“That leaves the field open to Republicans to be the party that cashes in on pretty much all anti-government sentiment.”

 

By: NPR, NPR Staff, September 1, 2012

September 2, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Extreme Positions On Everything”: Republicans Scaring The Voters In The Middle

The claims of Representative Todd Akin that women don’t get pregnant from “legitimate rape” now live in infamy. But a few things you may not know:

If an American woman in uniform is raped and becomes pregnant, Congress bars Tricare military insurance from paying for an abortion.

If an American woman in the Peace Corps becomes pregnant, Congress bars coverage of an abortion — and there is no explicit exception even if she is raped or her life is in danger.

When teenagers in places like Darfur, Congo or Somalia survive gang rapes, aid organizations cannot use American funds to provide an abortion.

A record number of states have curbed abortions in the last two years. According to the Guttmacher Institute, which follows reproductive health, 55 percent of American women of reproductive age now live in one of the 26 states deemed “hostile to abortion rights.”

The Republican campaign platform denounces contraceptive education in schools. Instead, it advises kids to abstain from sex until marriage.

All this boggles the mind. Republican leaders in 2012 have a natural winning issue — the limping economy — but they seem determined to scare away centrist voters with extremist positions on everything from abortion to sex education.

Most Americans do not fit perfectly into “pro-choice” or “pro-life” camps. Polls show that about one-fifth want abortion to be legal in all situations, and another one-fifth want abortion to be illegal always. The majority fall somewhere between, and these voters are the ones who decide elections.

Bill Clinton won their support with his pragmatic formula that abortion should be “safe, legal and rare.” Then social conservatives won ground with a shrewd strategic decision to focus the abortion debate where they had the edge.

They fought battles over extremely rare procedures they called “partial-birth abortion.” They called for parental consent when a girl seeks an abortion, and for 24-hour waiting periods before an abortion. In polls, around two out of three Americans favor those kinds of restrictions.

But change the situation, and people are more in favor of abortion rights. Four out of five Americans believe that a woman should be able to get an abortion if her health is endangered, or if the pregnancy is the result of rape.

So it’s astonishing that Republicans would adopt an absolutist platform condemning abortion without offering an exception even for rape.

Mitt Romney insists that his position on abortion is crystal clear. In fact, his policy is so muddled that he doesn’t seem to know it himself. So, Mr. Romney, let me help you out.

On your campaign Web site, you say that life begins at conception and that you favor overturning Roe v. Wade. As with the Republican Party platform, you give no indication there that you favor an exception for rape or to save a woman’s life.

Likewise, you seemed to endorse a “personhood” initiative like the one in Mississippi last year that would have treated a fertilized egg as a legal person. It failed because of concerns that an abortion, even to save a woman’s life, could be legally considered murder. It might also have banned in vitro fertilization and some forms of birth control.

These days, Mr. Romney, as you seek general-election voters, you insist that you do, in fact, accept abortion in cases of rape, incest or a pregnancy that endangers a woman’s life. In an interview with CBS the other day, you added another exception, for the health of the mother.

Mr. Romney, if you don’t know your own position on abortion, how are we supposed to understand it?

More broadly, you’ve allied yourself with social conservatives who are on a crusade that scares centrists and mystifies even many devout evangelicals.

“Representative Akin’s views don’t represent me,” Richard Cizik of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good told me. “They also don’t reflect the theological and ethical, not to mention scientific, view of evangelical leaders, who understand the rationale for exceptions: God’s grace and mercy. Akin and company are the political and theological minority, but they have captured the G.O.P.’s platform process.”

Americans are deeply conflicted on abortion, but I think most are repulsed by the Republican drive to impose ultrasounds — in some cases invasive ones — on women before an abortion. Five states now require a woman, before an abortion, to endure an ultrasound that may use a probe inserted into her vagina. Four of those states make no exception for a rape.

And if the Republican Party succeeds in defunding Planned Parenthood, the result will be more women dying of cervical cancer and fewer women getting contraception. The consequence will probably be more unintended pregnancies — and more abortions.

Or there’s sex education. Today in America, more than one-third of teens say that when they began having sex, they had not had any formal instruction about contraception. Is this really the time for a Republican Party platform denouncing comprehensive sex education?

Some Americans don’t even seem to have had any sex education by the time they’re elected to Congress. Like Todd Akin.

 

By: Nicholas D. Kristof, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, September 1, 2012

September 2, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Trust Me, Trust Me Not”: Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital Under Investigation For Tax Avoidance

The New York Times is reporting that Bain Capital, the private equity firm founded by GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, is among a number of firms being investigated by New York Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, for failing to pay taxes.

The New York AG’s Taxpayer Protection Bureau has issued subpoenas to at least twelve financial firms, including Bain, looking into whether the companies converted management fees (taxed as ordinary income) paid by investors into fund investments which are taxed at a dramatically lower rate.

The controversial tax avoidance scheme came to light last month when Bain Capital internal financial information was published online by Gawker.com , however the investigation had reportedly commenced prior to the publication and is not believed to be tied to the document dump.

According to the Times

The tax strategy — which is viewed as perfectly legal by some tax experts, aggressive by others and potentially illegal by some — came to light last month when hundreds of pages of Bain’s internal financial documents were made available online. The financial statements show that at least $1 billion in accumulated fees that otherwise would have been taxed as ordinary income for Bain executives had been converted into investments producing capital gains, which are subject to a federal tax of 15 percent, versus a top rate of 35 percent for ordinary income. That means the Bain partners saved more than $200 million in federal income taxes and more than $20 million in Medicare taxes.

While Governor Romney has not been active at Bain Capital for quite some time, he does continue to receive profits from the company and held investments in some of the funds that utilized the tax avoidance strategy.

The Romney campaign issued a statement indicating that the Governor had not benefited from the practice.

R. Bradford Malt, an attorney for Governor Romney who manages the Governor’s investments and trusts, argued that investing fee income is a common, accepted and totally legal practice. “However, Governor Romney’s retirement agreement did not give the blind trust or him the right to do this, and I can confirm that neither he nor the trust has ever done this, whether before or after he retired from Bain Capital.”

According to Jack S. Levin, a finance lawyer who has represented Bain Capital, the practice has been in use by investment firms for twenty years and is something the IRS knows about.

The investigation will, inevitably, raise questions as to whether or not Attorney General Schneiderman, who has strong contacts to the Obama Administration, is attempting to embarrass Romney as we head towards the November election.

Still, prominent investment firms, including Blackstone Group and The Carlyle Group, have noted in regulatory filings that they have not participated in diverting management fees into investments in their funds.

 

By: Rick Ungar, Contributor, Forbes, September 1, 2012

September 2, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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