Karl Rove has committed felonies—uh, not felonies, I mean smears. To avoid any confusion, I’ll repeat: Karl Rove has not been convicted of committing felonies. But he has committed smears (not unlike the one I just committed on him). And, virtually unnoticed by the media, he has smeared again, yesterday on Fox News Sunday.
It was recently revealed that Paul Davis, the Democratic candidate for governor of Kansas, had a most awkward moment sixteen years ago. Police raided a strip club near Coffeyville for drugs and found Davis, then 26 and unmarried, getting a lap dance. He wasn’t accused of any wrongdoing, no charges were brought against him, and even in Kansas, lap-dancing isn’t illegal.
Still, the lap-dance story is fair game for supporters of Sam Brownback, the embattled Republican governor who’s running for re-election. On Meet the Press yesterday, Grover Norquist, for example, interrupted his anti-tax talk to relate the lap-dance incident (“with the naked lady”), which Thomas Frank later shot down as ancient small fry.
But over at Fox, Rove dramatically raised the stakes for Davis, saying that Kansas’s possible future governor had been “arrested”:
The governor’s race in Kansas is close. However, late last week, it was revealed that the Democratic candidate for governor had been arrested—or not arrested, he’d been detained briefly a number of years ago when he was an attorney for a strip joint and the police found him getting a lap dance.
Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace let it slide, presumably because Rove corrected himself. But the “correction” allowed Rove to repeat the word “arrested,” a word that, even when used in the negative, Fox viewers can now associate with Davis and repeat until it seems true. No small thing when many diehard Republicans in Kansas are so disgusted with the devastation wreaked by Brownback’s tax cuts, that they’re actually considering a vote for Davis.
Of course, Rove may have simply made an honest slip of the tongue. But “Bush’s Brain” has a long list of such ambiguous slips.
Most recently, he suggested that Hillary Clinton had suffered a “traumatic brain injury.” Several months after her December 2012 fall, which caused a blood clot, Rove said, “Thirty days in the hospital? And when she reappears, she’s wearing glasses that are only for people who have traumatic brain injury? We need to know what’s up with that.” She was hospitalized for three days, not thirty, and later that day Rove tried to deny (while simultaneously reinforcing) his innuendo, saying, “Of course she doesn’t have brain damage.”
“You could believe Rove’s denial—but you would have to ignore virtually his entire political career,” as George Zornick wrote in The Nation. “For decades Rove has been circulating nasty, personal rumors about political opponents and placing them in the public conversation, all while obscuring his fingerprints, making the rumors become the opponent’s problem, not his. It’s page one of his playbook.”
A protégé of the late Lee Atwater, the GOP dirty trickster who once boasted that “states’ rights” and “tax cuts” could be used as code words for “nigger,” Rove has been associated with whisper campaigns suggesting that his clients’ opponents were homosexual (Texas governor Ann Richards in 1994), pedophiles (a Democratic candidate for Alabama Supreme Court, also in ’94), or mentally impaired (John McCain in 2000). “Other rumors tied to the Rove-led campaign” in 2000, writes Think Progress, “included allegations that McCain’s wife had a drug problem and that his adopted Bangladesh-born daughter was an ‘illegitimate black child.’”
Rove is sparing Davis the “mental” and “homo” tags, but having him “arrested” just might do the dirty trick. (And it might help obscure reports, cited by Davis, that the FBI is investigating the fund-raising and lobbying practices of Brownback associates. Brownback has denied any wrongdoing.)As for Davis, a Kansas state representative, he released a statement to Politico on Saturday. “When I was 26 years old, I was taken to a club by my boss—the club owner was one of our legal clients,” he said in the statement. “While we were in the building, the police showed up. I was never accused of having done anything wrong, but rather I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
On Fox, Rove was, once again, in the right place at the right time to say the wrong thing.
By: Leslie Savan, The Nation, September 22, 2014
Just when much of the punditocracy was settling in for a few happy weeks of arguing over the extent of the Republican “wave” in November, while Mitch McConnell figuratively measured curtains for the Majority Leader’s offices, the worm has turned a bit, at least in the polling data, and the GOP victory parade seems a bit premature. WaPo’s Chris Cillizza sums up the confused state of prophecy:
Democrats are now (very slightly) favored to hold the Senate majority on Nov. 4, according to Election Lab, The Post’s statistical model of the 2014 midterm elections.
Election Lab puts Democrats’ chances of retaining their majority at 51 percent — a huge change from even a few months ago, when the model predicted that Republicans had a better than 80 percent chance of winning the six seats they need to take control…..
The movement toward Democrats in the Election Lab model isn’t unique. LEO, the New York Times’ Upshot model, gives Republicans a 51 percent chance of winning the Senate — but that is down significantly over the past few weeks.
Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight model now has Republican chances of winning the Senate at 55 percent, down from 64 percent 12 days ago.
Meanwhile, Princeton Election Consortium’s Sam Wang, the forecaster who focuses strictly on polling data, and refuses to tilt the data to reflect “fundamentals” like historical precedents, presidential approval ratings and the condition of the economy, has the probability of continued Democratic control of the Senate at 81%.
As Cillizza notes, though, the most prominent traditional forecasters–who do not use statistical models and tend to put a greater emphasis on factors like campaign spending and “momentum” and national trends–seem to be moving in the opposite direction:
What’s interesting about the election models is that they are moving in the opposite direction of political handicappers. In recent days, Stu Rothenberg and Charlie Cook, the two best-known, nonpartisan prognosticators in Washington, have each written that the possibility of large-scale Republicans gains is increasing, not decreasing
I don’t know if this disconnect between poll- and non-poll-based analysis will generate the level of ferocious debate we saw during the Great “Skewing” Battle of 2012. But it is interesting that despite the shifting winds, in the heart of conservative-land there’s not even a scintilla of doubt that Republicans are on their way to a historic win in November that will carry over into 2016, and presumably last foreover. Check out these lines from TV celebrity pundit S.E. Cupp in the New York Daily News:
It’s hard to imagine Democrats can course-correct in less than two years the failures they — and Hillary Clinton, in particular — have overseen for more than six.
In the lead-up to the 2014 midterms, Democrats have tried and failed to figure out successful campaign strategies. They tried to resurrect the “war on women,” but believe it or not, Democrats have a bigger problem with men than Republicans do with women.
According to GWU battleground polling, Republicans are only six points behind among women, whereas Democrats are 15 points behind among men, and 28 points behind among white men in particular. That’s a lot of ground to make up.
Raising the minimum wage turned out not to be the barnstormer Democrats hoped it would be either.
Another of their “big ideas” was to make tax inversion, where businesses move to foreign countries to avoid steep corporate taxes here, a turnout issue. Last week Politico called that effort a “massive dud.”
Without any cohesion — united only, it seems, by their desire to distance themselves from their standard-bearer — Democrats are having to run a spaghetti strategy: throw it on the wall and see what sticks.
Republicans won big in the 2010 midterms but weren’t able to swing back to the center in time for 2012. With all this momentum behind them, the pathway is clear. And not even Hillary Clinton should be able to stop them.
There’s a rather obvious and irreconcilable gap between those who look forward to elections by consulting at empirical data and those who view them as representing moral judgments on the truth or error of world views. Think I’ll stick to empirical data, but then I would, wouldn’t I? I’m a liberal, God help me.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 17, 2014
“No Dramatic Headlines Here”: Benghazi Select Committee Hearings Begin; Craziness Inevitably To Follow
There’s a lot going on in the world: we have a new war ramping up, Ebola is spreading, and various NFL players are discovered beating the crap out of women and children (and I for one am shocked that a group of men who have spent their lives being rewarded for cultivating their most violent instincts and abilities would turn out to be prone to violence). So it may have missed your notice that today marks the beginning of public hearings in the select committee on Benghazi, or as Ed Kilgore has termed it, Benghazi! In advance, Democrats on the committee have set up a website showing how all the questions the committee is asking have already been answered, while a Republican PAC is already airing Benghazi-themed ads against Hillary Clinton. But if you were hoping to tune in this afternoon for thundering denunciations and dark warnings of conspiracy, you may be disappointed, as David Corn reports:
In a surprising move that might disappoint right-wingers yearning for proof that Benghazi is Obama’s Watergate (or worse!), the session will not focus on whether the White House purposefully misled the public about the attacks on the US diplomatic compound in that Libyan city that claimed the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Nor will it probe the favorite right-wing talking point that President Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, for God-knows-what reasons, ordered US forces to stand down and not respond to the murderous assault. Instead, the committee will examine the State Department’s implementation of the recommendations made by the Accountability Review Board, an independent outfit that investigated the attack and in late 2012 issued proposals for improving security for American diplomats and US diplomatic facilities overseas.
That’s actually a worthy topic of discussion! I suppose committee chair Trey Gowdy deserves some credit for starting things off by trying to show everyone that this is going to be a serious undertaking. That isn’t to say there won’t be plenty of time given over to bashing Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, because there surely will be. But on its first day, the committee looks unlikely to generate dramatic headlines.
So how is this all going to play out? As I see it, there are three general possibilities:
1. For the most part, the committee goes about its work in a responsible way. While there are some angry confrontations with witnesses, on the whole things are pretty boring. Without much in the way of fireworks, press coverage of the hearings is rather perfunctory. Base Republicans wind up feeling disappointed and even betrayed, assuring themselves that the Republicans on the committee wimped out, perhaps because they knew that if they got too close to the truth, State Department assassination squads would take out their families. The true scope of the conspiracy remains buried under a mountain of lies and cowardice. Odds: 37%
2. Full-on circus. Republicans on the committee do a great deal of shouting; photos of the aftermath of the attacks are repeatedly projected on the wall of the hearing room. News coverage is somewhat greater, as nothing draws a crowd of reporters more than politicians yelling at each other. Despite the fact that the “truth” is never fully revealed, the GOP base is pleased. Yet the net effect of the whole thing is to make Republicans look like crazy people. In a cruel irony, this result greatly aids the presidential campaign of one Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is able to say that she’s being attacked by a bunch of crazy people, and say it with a smile that drives Republicans around the bend. Odds: 62.99%
3. The committee actually discovers that there was a sinister conspiracy that led to the Americans’ deaths, with high-ranking administration officials at its center. All their accusations, not to mention the creation of this committee, are vindicated, and the moral rot at the heart of the Obama regime is finally revealed for all to see. Odds: .01%
Those are my predictions, anyway. But who knows — maybe they’ll surprise us.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, September 17, 2014
“Pretending To Be Relevant”: Man Who Failed Twice At Becoming President Thinks He’d Be Better At Being President Than Hillary Clinton
Mitt Romney, once governor of Massachusetts and a failure at winning presidential elections, pops up every now and again to tell us that he is not running for president. These TV interviews can be grating, but they’re also charitable: Romney gets to pretend he actually is relevant, or even president, and his opinion is afforded the sort of faux-weight that only a Sunday news show can provide. It’s political cos-play.
This week, it was Romney on Barack Obama’s follies, and Romney on Hillary Clinton’s presidential bona fides.
You will likely not be surprised to hear that Romney shared his disappointment with Obama in an appearance on Fox News Sunday. “I think the president is really out of touch with reality,” Romney said of the man who twice accomplished what he, himself, could not. “He’s so out of touch with reality that he hasn’t taken the necessary steps. . . . He’s too busy on the golf course. I don’t know if you can see the reality from the fairway, but he doesn’t see reality.” (Nailed it, Romney thought after letting go of that zinger.)
Obama’s foreign policy is fundamentally flawed because it is “based on common humanity, and humanity is not common,” Romney said. “Bad people do bad things.” Apparently the president is not hip to the fact that ISIS is “bad.”
Romney is, per Romney, a more skilled politician that not just the current president, but also the Democratic frontrunner for 2016. Asked if he would deliver a better performance in the White House than Clinton, Romney said there was “no question in my mind,” though he conceded one complicating factor: “The American people may disagree with me.”
During both of his failed presidential campaigns, Romney tried to use his record as a businessman as proof that he knew how to run the government (because he ran companies, remember?). He repeated that winning line on Sunday: “You’ve also got to have people who have actually run something. . . . I don’t think Hillary Clinton has that experience.”
“My time has come and gone,” Romney said, during the nationally televised interview.
If Romney changes his mind and reneges on his oft-repeated promise not to run for president again, perhaps he can point to comments by high-profile supporters such as himself as evidence of his political vitality. In Mitt he trusts.
By: Kia Makarechi, Vanity Fair Daily, September 8, 2014
“Policies And Attitudes, That’s Just How They Roll”: Why Republicans Can’t Solve Their Problem With Women Voters
I’ll give Republicans credit for this: they keep trying to figure out why their party remains unappealing to large and important groups of voters. They’ve been mulling over their problem with Latino voters for some time, and now Politico has gotten a hold of a study commissioned by some GOP bigwigs to figure out why women keep giving more of their votes to Democrats:
But in Washington, Republican policies have failed to sway women — in fact, they appear to have turned women off. For example, the focus groups and polls found that women “believe that ‘enforcing equal pay for equal work’ is the policy that would ‘help women the most.'”
“Republicans who openly deny the legitimacy of the issue will be seen as out of touch with women’s life experiences,” the report warned, hinting at GOP opposition to pay-equity legislation. It’s the policy item independents and Democrats believe will help women the most.
The groups suggest a three-pronged approach to turning around their relationship with women. First, they suggest the GOP “neutralize the Democrats'” attack that Republicans don’t support fairness for women. They suggest Republican lawmakers criticize Democrats for “growing government programs that encourage dependency rather than opportunities to get ahead.” That message tested better than explaining that the GOP supports a number of policies that could help fairness for women.
The last time a Republican presidential candidate won a majority of women’s votes was 1988, and it’s hard to see it happening again soon unless there’s a huge blowout. While it’s all well and good to investigate the issue to try to understand it in as much detail as possible, I have some bad news for Republicans: This isn’t a problem they’re going to be able to solve.
That’s because both their policies and their attitudes are working against them. It isn’t just that Republicans oppose reproductive rights, though that doesn’t help. And it isn’t just that they oppose mandating contraceptive coverage in insurance, though that doesn’t help either. It’s that when they articulate those policy positions and others like them, they can’t keep themselves from doing so in the most hostile, contemptuous ways imaginable. That doesn’t apply to all of them, of course; maybe not even most of them. But any debate about an issue affecting women in particular is 100-percent guaranteed to feature at least a few prominent conservatives, including those who have their own radio and television programs, saying loudly that the women who disagree with the Republican position are sluts and whores. That’s just how they roll.
Karl Rove can say to his compatriots, “Let’s ease up on the ‘legitimate rape’ stuff, fellas,” but unfortunately for him and the other people who spend time thinking about the GOP’s challenges, a party can’t speak with one voice. Whenever a discussion starts about an issue like equal pay, everybody gets to weigh in, from the most sober senator to the most rabid Tea Partier to the most hateful talk radio host. And since we now have a highly developed outrage industrial complex, the appalling comments will be repeated and distributed, ensuring that everyone hears them. And even when they aren’t being outright offensive, Republicans are more likely to communicate their believe in condescending, outdated gender norms.
All of which means that the idea that Republicans are none too friendly to women is constantly reinforced, in ways both substantive and emotional. If you’re a woman, you’re not happy when the Republican party blocks equal pay legislation. But when you then hear some of them try to argue that the wage gap isn’t really a problem in the first place, and maybe you should just be staying at home with your kids anyway, well that’s going to really piss you off. And having a bunch of GOP bros tell you that they’re the real pro-women party because they don’t want people to depend on government isn’t going to go too far to change that.
Now take all that, and imagine what the atmosphere will be like if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee in 2016. There will be a tsunami of misogynistic hate directed at Clinton, which we know because she’s always generated a particularly ugly brand of male sexual panic in conservatives. If she’s actually threatening to become president, it’ll be worse than ever. In the face of that, the Republicans who try to argue that their party has something to offer women voters are going to get laughed right out of the voting booth.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, August 28, 2014