With this in mind, here’s a tip for candidates: please try to keep track of your total number of homes in case the question comes up, because it’s likely to come up.
For years, then-Gov. Tommy Thompson complained that he wasn’t earning big bucks as a government official. Not any more.
Simply ask the U.S. Senate candidate exactly how many residences he owns. Just like U.S. Sen. John McCain, Thompson has a hard time keeping track. “Three,” the veteran Republican responded last week at a campaign event.
Thompson has three houses? Isn’t there another one? “No,” he answered without hesitation.
OK, everybody knows about the farm in his hometown of Elroy and the house in Madison. There’s also his family’s relatively new 10,889-square-foot home on the outskirts of the Walt Disney World Resort in Kissimmee, Fla. A Thompson family trust bought that edifice — and its “top of the line everything,” an online ad says — for $675,000 last year after the bank-owned property was marked down from its original $1.4 million asking price.
Later, the Republican’s staff clarified that Thompson said he owned three homes, he meant to say four. Thompson apparently forgot about the $1.3 million condo he owns off Lake Wisconsin.
There was another — a DC-area home Thompson used during his time as a lobbyist — but the Republican sold it last year.
Matt Canter, a spokesperson for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said in as statement, “Only an out of touch millionaire influence peddler like Tommy Thompson could forget that he owns a $1.3 million lakefront condominium. Thompson’s memory lapse is not surprising. The fact is Tommy Thompson long ago lost touch with Wisconsin when he cashed in on his political connections to become a millionaire in Washington peddling influence on behalf of special interest clients.”
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 8, 2012
Mitt Romney, speaking in Virginia today, on the Middle East;
“I know the president hopes for a safer, freer, and a more prosperous Middle East allied with the United States. I share this hope. But hope is not a strategy.”
Mitt Romney, speaking to donors in Boca in May, on the Middle East:
“[S]o what you do is, you say, you move things along the best way you can. You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that this is going to remain an unsolved problem … and we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it.”
Hmm. It’s almost as if what Romney says in private, when he thinks the public won’t hear him, differs from what he says in public.
Indeed, towards the end of today’s speech, Romney went on to say, “I will recommit America to the goal of a democratic, prosperous Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with the Jewish state of Israel. On this vital issue, the president has failed, and what should be a negotiation process has devolved into a series of heated disputes at the United Nations. In this old conflict, as in every challenge we face in the Middle East, only a new president will bring the chance to begin anew.”
Now, as a substantive matter, the notion that “a new president” who has no experience in or working understanding of foreign affairs will suddenly transform the peace process is pretty silly, but there’s another, more obvious problem.
We know Romney doesn’t mean what he’s saying. We know this, of course, because Romney’s said so.
The “47 percent” video didn’t leave any ambiguities in this area. The Republican spoke of “the Palestinians” as a united bloc of one mindset, arguing, “I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say there’s just no way.”
Romney then added he intends to show no leadership in this area at all, “hoping” — remember, “hope is not a strategy” — that someone other than the United States will somehow take the lead. If elected, “recommit America” to anything, except for letting others worry about the dispute after he “kicks the ball down the field.”
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 8, 2012
Mitt Romney’s hailed foreign policy speech combined magical thinking and mendacity, with promises or threats to maintain, restore, escalate or commence military involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Iran, at minimum. Speaking at the Virginia Military Institute, Romney had to have his audience of cadets wondering how many wars he’d commit them to if elected.
Ironically, in a speech most passionate about making sure there’s no “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel, Romney repeatedly hailed VMI graduate George Marshall, the former secretary of state who famously opposed Harry Truman’s recognizing the state of Israel in 1948.
Romney used the tragic killing of Libyan Ambassador Christopher Stephens Sept. 11 to paint a picture of a region made more dangerous by Obama’s alleged weakness and fecklessness. “Americans are asking how this happened. I’ve come here today to offer a larger perspective on these tragic events,” he pompously proclaimed. But as he hailed “the massive protests in Benghazi” by thousands of Libyans outraged by Stevens’ killing, he seemed not to notice that it was exactly those forces Stevens, Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had worked to support and strengthen in their Libyan military and diplomatic policy.
Certainly the administration has to answer questions about and be held accountable for the security problems that led to Stevens’ killing, but Romney seemed not to understand that Stevens died trying to empower the Libyan people who supposedly inspired Romney. He spoke of Stevens as though he were some rogue hero rather than a career diplomat committed to implementing a policy directed by Obama. He accused the president of “not partnership but passivity” in dealing with freedom-loving citizens in Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East, and once again pulled out the “leading from behind” slur as though it was stated presidential policy rather than an offhand, anonymous quote in a New Yorker story from almost a year ago. He didn’t say that the president goes around apologizing for America, though, so that’s something.
But he did tell one big lie, insisting Obama hadn’t signed a single free trade agreement, when in fact he’s signed three, with South Korea, Panama and Colombia. Romney also committed himself to seeing a “peaceful, prosperous Palestine” living side by side in peace with Israel, even though he had earlier dismissed the possibility of a two-state solution at his famous Boca Raton fundraiser. “I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and I say there’s just no way,” he told his wealthy donors.“[S]o what you do is, you say, you move things along the best way you can. You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that this is going to remain an unsolved problem … and we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it.”
CEO Mitt also seemed to think he can order other countries around, insisting he would get our European allies to spend more on defense, complaining that only three of 28 NATO nations spend what they are committed to on the military. Good luck with that. Mitt’s magical thinking was also in evidence as he promised to counter Iran’s military support for Syria’s Assad with … something. “It is essential that we develop influence with those forces in Syria that will one day lead a country that sits at the heart of the Middle East,” he insisted, sounding a little Palinesque.
Just before the speech, a Romney adviser told reporters that the former Massachusetts governor would consider sending combat troops to Libya – a reversal of Obama’s policy as well as his own earlier opposition to direct military involvement there. There were vague hints of more military intervention in Syria. Romney also accused Obama of abandoning Iranian dissidents who protested the 2009 election, but never said what he’d have done to support them. He expressed unhappiness with the exit of American combat troops from Iraq and seemed unsettled about their scheduled departure from Afghanistan, yet he was almost as vague about what he’d do differently as he is when it comes to which tax deductions he’ll eliminate.
Yet it’s possible Romney’s own advisers don’t know any more about his real plans than what he laid out in his speech. The New York Times revealed Monday that several of them say “they have engaged with him so little on issues of national security that they are uncertain what camp he would fall into, and are uncertain themselves about how he would govern.” They aren’t sure he’s even reading his foreign policy papers they write, and one told the Times:
Would he take the lead in bombing Iran if the mullahs were getting too close to a bomb, or just back up the Israelis? Would he push for peace with the Palestinians, or just live with the status quo? He’s left himself a lot of wiggle room.
Perhaps fittingly for a guy who has staffed his foreign policy team with Bush retreads, Romney got high praise from former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who tweeted: “Terrific, comprehensive speech by Gov. Romney at VMI. He knows America’s role in the world should be as a leader not as a spectator.”
By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, October 8, 2012
I’m not sure if I like the way Mitt Romney likes things. As the newly empathic candidate was promising to kill Big Bird at Wednesday’s debate, did you notice how he backed into it?
“I like PBS,” Romney started out. “I love Big Bird. I actually like you [to moderator Jim Lehrer] too. But I’m not going to—I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it. That’s number one.”
“Like” is a decaffeinated form of “love” when Mitt uses it, but it’s also a mild protest, a plea for understanding. He usually lays a slight stress on the word, as if he’s revealing some vaguely surprising truth—“You may see me as an unfeeling, uncaring, bottom-line guy, but let me tell you, I enjoy life. I like things.” This man, who is so buttoned-up he can’t be honest about what he’s running on—like whether or not he’d cut taxes for the rich or cover pre-existing conditions in his health plan—uses like to establish his personal bona fides. I’m like you, he’s saying, I have “likes.”
Of course, it helps that like is such a flexible word, meaning “similar,” “approve” and just acting as a rhetorical placeholder, like, well, whatever. Mitt does like (indeed, he requires) a certain flexibility about what he means when he uses words. And because some of his most awkward moments during the campaign have hung from his “I like” tic, you have to wonder what he’s really saying:
“I like grits,” he said, “Strange things are happening to me.”
“I like seeing the lakes. I love the lakes. There’s something very special here. The Great Lakes, but also all the little inland lakes that dot the parts of Michigan…”
At Wednesday’s debate, we learned a few more of Mitt’s most likable things:
“And by the way, I like coal.”
“I like the way we did it in Massachusetts. I like the fact that in my state, we had Republicans and Democrats come together and work together.”
“Now, I like green energy as well…”
And it’s true, all those things are meant to be slightly surprising, particularly when listed by a man at a podium who’s running for president, and worthy of the faint stress he lays upon the word. He’s often pandering, as any politician will. But I also think Mitt is working hard to redefine the word. The most famous example is, of course:
“I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.” And as PBS, Big Bird, and surely now even Jim Lehrer know, every man destroys the thing he likes.
By: Leslie Savan, The Nation, October 7, 2012
In the American media landscape, there is no single forum more prestigious than the Sunday shows—particularly the three network programs, and to a slightly lesser extent “Fox News Sunday” and CNN’s “State of the Union.” The Sunday shows are where “newsmakers” face the music, where Washington’s most important people are validated for their importance, where issues are probed in depth. So, why do they suck so much?
I live and breathe politics, yet I find these programs absolutely unwatchable, and I can’t be the only one. On a typical episode, there is nothing to learn, no insight to be gained, no interesting perspective on offer, nothing but an endless spew of talking points and squabbling. Let’s take, for instance, yesterday’s installment of “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.” We start off with dueling interviews with Obama adviser Robert Gibbs and Romney adviser Ed Gillespie. Were you expecting some candid talk from these two political veterans? Of course you weren’t. “If you’re willing to say anything to get elected president,” Gibbs says about Mitt Romney, “if you are willing to make up your positions and walk away from them, I think the American people have to understand, how can they trust you if you are elected president.” Which just happens to be precisely the message of a new Obama ad. What a fascinating coincidence! And you’ll be shocked to learn that Gillespie thought Romney did a great job in the debate: “Governor Romney laid out a plan for turning this economy around, getting things moving again. He had a fact-based critique of President Obama’s failed policies that the president was unable to respond to.” You don’t say!
Then we move to the roundtable, featuring, naturally, the stylings of James Carville and Mary Matalin. I just have to know what these two are thinking, because whatever it is, it certainly won’t be just “Your guy sucks! No, your guy sucks!” Of course, that’s exactly what it will be. Add in Peggy Noonan and her empathic super-powers to determine what the country is feeling and feel it right back at us, Jonathan Karl to repeat some poll numbers and conventional wisdom, and Paul Krugman to grow increasingly exasperated as he attempts without much success to yank the discussion back to reality, and you’ve got yourself a barn-burner of a debate.
Switch channels, and you’ll find some politicians angling for a 2016 presidential nomination come on one of the other Sunday shows to get asked questions about the polls and repeat the same things their co-partisans are saying. If you’re lucky (actually, it won’t take luck, because you can find it every Sunday), you can watch one of the two party chairs deliver those same messages. Has there ever been a single human being in America who has said, “Wow, that interview with Reince Priebus was really interesting”? Or said the same thing about an interview with Debbie Wasserman Schultz? It’s not because they’re terrible people, it’s because as party leaders their job is to come on the air and spout talking points with maniacal discipline, no matter what they get asked. And they’re good at that job. But if you listen to them for a while, it begins to feel like a virus of cynicism is eating its way through your brain.
I wonder what the producers of these shows say to each other as they’re putting together their programs. “Hey boss, we locked down Reince Priebus for Sunday!” “Awesome—the show is going to be great!” “I hope Carville and Matalin aren’t busy—they’ll bring the heat!” “Ooo, you know who we should try for? John McCain! He’s only been on our show 12 times this year, and I know people are dying to hear what he has to say.”
There could be another way. For instance, “Up With Chris Hayes” on MSNBC shows what the Sunday shows could be. Hayes doesn’t bother interviewing politicians or party hacks; instead, he brings on people who know a lot about whatever issue they’ll be discussing, aren’t constrained by the need to score partisan points, and might have something interesting to say. With a little creativity, you could come up with any number of models for how to make programs that are interesting and informative.
But the Sunday shows don’t seem to have any desire to change the 60 festering minutes of crap they splurt through the airwaves every weekend. The three network programs combine for around eight and a half million viewers every week, and I’m sure everyone involved thinks they’re a great success.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, October 8, 2012