With a major storm and presidential election arriving within a week of each other, the penultimate batch of Sunday morning political talk shows before the election were dominated by talk of how Hurricane Sandy might impact the election. But abortion and Libya also made appearances. Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson wins our award for hackiest political analysis of the week (and there’s a lot of competition) for saying people care more about the GOP’s pet Libyan conspiracy theory than about abortion.
As for the storm, everyone of course said their focus is on the well-being of people in the storm’s path, but pundits couldn’t help but try to find the political angle as well. There seem to be two main theories: One is that the race will essentially be frozen in place as the media and everyone else shifts focus away from the election for the next few days. Since Obama remains slightly ahead in key swing states, this scenario is seen as helping him by preventing Romney from gaining traction. Obama could also earn points by “looking presidential” while leading a successful federal response to the disaster, pundits said.
On the other hand, Obama is crushing Romney in early voting, which is already going on in key states, especially Ohio, and any obstacle to getting people to the polls this week could be bad for the president. Likewise, if the storm lowers turnout in general on election day, that’s also seen as hurting Obama, since he needs strong support from demographics that tend to vote in lower numbers, like young people and Latinos.
But here’s how the storm will actually affect the election: No one knows. Anything else is pure speculation, but apparently both the Obama and Romney campaigns are concerned. For what it’s worth, Bob McDonnell, the Republican governor of battleground Virginia, which is expected to get hammered, said on CNN that they’re prioritizing election infrastructure in their response to the storm, so everything should be normal by election day.
Leave it to Newt Gingrich to politicize the storm to an almost comical degree. “You’ll notice he’s canceling his trips over the hurricane. He did not cancel his trips over Benghazi. And so you have to wonder, between Benghazi, the price of gasoline, and unemployment, just how much burden the president’s going to carry into this last week,” Gingrich told George Stephanopoulos on ABC. From there, it was quick jump to: “I think [Romney's] actually going to end up winning around 53-47.”
Benghazi, of course, refers to the attack on American diplomats in the Libyan city, over which Republicans have been hammering Obama. It almost sounds like Gingrich doesn’t think Obama should cancel trips to deal with the hurricane, but it’s also unclear why Obama would have canceled a trip to deal with Benghazi, as the whole incident lasted a matter of hours, not days like the hurricane will. As for Newt’s political forecast, it seems only slightly more plausible than a moon base. Real Clear Politics’ polling average has Romney less than a percent ahead of Obama nationally. Nate Silver projects Obama squeaking out a two point popular vote victory over Romney on November 6. It’s entirely possible that Romney wins the popular vote, but not by six points, sorry Newt.
But Benghazi did come up a lot today, suggesting the GOP has decided to concentrate its fire on the topic. Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, on CBS’ Face the Nation today, suggested it was even worse than Watergate. “This tragedy turned into a debacle and massive coverup or massive incompetence in Libya is having an effect on the voters because of their view of the commander in chief,” he said. “Somebody said to me the other day, ‘This is as bad as Watergate.’ Nobody died in Watergate,” McCain added.
While there’s no doubt officials made some tragic errors around the attack, the Republican narrative against Obama just isn’t based in reality, as Candy Crowley’s real-time fact check of Romney in the second debate demonstrated. Their smoking gun is an erroneous bit of early intelligence that ended up being wrong and it’s not even clear what they’re accusing Obama of doing anyway. Mostly, their obsession with the topic comes off as little more than party-endorsed conspiracy theorizing that seems to be dog whistling that the president actually wanted the Americans killed, or at least didn’t mind much that they died.
It’s interesting that Romney surrogates and allies are going all in on Libya considering that the man himself has been largely avoiding it. Libya disappeared from Romney’s stump speeches in recent days. And in last week’s foreign policy debate, he completely passed on every opportunity to slam Obama on the attack. In that debate, moderator Bob Schieffer’s first question was on “the controversy over what happened” in Libya. But Romney’s response almost completely ignored Libya, spending more time on Syria and Mali instead.
Which brings us to our Sunday Best, which has to do with the intersection of Benghazi and abortion, which apparently exists somewhere. A frequent topic of discussion today was Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s comments on how a pregnancy from rape is actually a “gift from God.” But according to the (almost all male) representatives of the Republican Party on TV today, no one cares. “I think the reality is, Candy, overwhelmingly, I promise you, people out there are not talking about what Richard Mourdock said,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus assured CNN’s Crowley.
Gingrich again gets the prize for going too far. Asked by Stephanopoulos to respond to Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter’s comments on Mourdock, Gingrich told Cutter to get over it. “OK, so why can’t people like Stephanie Cutter get over it? We all condemn rape,” Gingrich helpfully explained. As we’ve noted, conservatives seem to have a thing for dismissing Cutter in personal ways.
But Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson won the day. Abortion is “not even an issue here in Wisconsin,” Johnson said on Fox News Sunday after being asked about Mourdock’s comments. “It doesn’t even move the radar at all… What people are concerned about, like I said yesterday — it was amazing how many people are coming up to me demanding answers on Benghazi,” Johnson said.
Considering that barely half the country even knows about Benghazi, according to a recent Pew poll, that seems hard to believe. The Pew survey found that 56 percent said they were following news about the attack, and that almost 30 percent had no opinion about the administration’s handling. Contrast that with polling on abortion, which regularly shows that upwards of 97 percent of Americans have strong opinions on the issue.
Abortion is by far the “most important issue for women in this election,” according to women polled by Gallup. A plurality of 39 percent listed it as their top issue, while jobs came in a distant second at 19 percent, followed by healthcare at 18 percent. Not even one percent of women listed national security as their top concern. Among men, just 4 percent did.
By the way, after a week dominated by talk of abortion in the wake of Mourdock’s comment, who did the Romney campaign and the GOP send onto the major Sunday shows? About a dozen Republican men and just one woman. The one woman was Carly Fiorina, the former HP exec and former California GOP Senate candidate. On Meet the Press, she denounced Murdock’s comment, but said they don’t really matter. “Women care about the role of government. Women care about their children’s education,” she said.
That’s all true, according to the polls, but they care about abortion more and it will only hurt Republicans as long as they pretend that’s not true.
By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, October 28, 2012
Mitt Romney’s campaign is seizing on a story that’s been percolating on conservative blogs for weeks, rolling out a new attack today against President Obama for “unilaterally dismantling” the bipartisan welfare reform regime signed into law by President Clinton. A new ad from the campaign states: “President Obama quietly announced a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements. Under Obama’s plan, you wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job — they just send you your welfare check.”
As has already been widely noted, the line of attack is complicated by a few problems. First of all, it’s not true, or at least wildly misleading. Obama’s plan doesn’t end work requirements, but rather grants waivers to states that propose alternative requirements that suit them better than a one-size-fits-all federal plan, something conservatives usually support. As the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein wrote last month, when the story first started gaining traction on the right, “The Obama administration is not removing the bill’s work requirements at all. He’s changing them to allow states more flexibility. But the principle that welfare programs must require recipients to move toward employment isn’t going anywhere.”
Secondly, it’s a little tricky to slam Obama for handing out waivers when Romney himself supported the exact same proposal as governor of Massachusetts in 2005. That year, 29 governors, including Romney, signed a letter from the Republican Governors Association asking Congress for broader welfare waivers. Romney’s signature is the second one listed, right under a passage calling for “increased waiver authority” in the welfare program to provide more flexibility in “allowable work activities.” The Romney campaign doesn’t mention this in the ad, nor in a fact sheet distributed today intended to push back on charges that Romney has changed his position.
It would be fair for the Romney campaign to note that the 2005 letter was addressed to Congress and asked for legislative changes, as opposed to executive action, but Romney isn’t taking issue with the process, but rather the substance of the policy. Arguing that Obama’s changes should go through Congress would be fair, but arguing that Obama is a “big-government liberal” because he wants to give governors, like Romney, more flexibility is not.
So why choose to fight on an issue where the campaign has such weak footing? The debate over welfare and welfare reform has always been tied up in race, and a cynical observer might argue that Romney is picking up where former House Speaker Newt Gingrich left off in the ’90s and earlier this year when he repeatedly called Obama a “food stamp president.” As University of California Santa Cruz professor Michael K. Brown wrote in the 2003 collection “Race and the Politics of Welfare Reform,” “The 1996 welfare [reform] law is the culmination of conservatives’ success in manipulating the backlash to the Great Society’s centralization and expansion of social welfare during the 1960s, a campaign based on the political exploitation of vulnerability of poor African Americans, who became scapegoats for the ‘failures’ of the Great Society.” These are the infamous “welfare queens” of the Gingrich and Reagan-era.
When Gingrich, in his second life as a presidential candidate, made welfare a consistent line of attack against Obama, he often winked at race, and sometimes mentioned it overtly. “If the NAACP invites me, I’ll go to their convention and talk about why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps,” he told a crowd in New Hampshire. Then-candidate Rick Santorum used a similar argument a few days earlier. Noting that an official in Iowa told him the state’s welfare rolls were up, Santorum said, “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money; I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money.” Of course, there are far more whites than blacks on welfare, but the attacks resonated and sparked a backlash because the stereotype of an inner-city minority mooching off the government’s dole has been salient for decades.
All campaigns lie and all politicians change positions, but Romney’s attack on welfare stands out for its brazenness in hitting the trifecta: It’s false, contradictory and fraught with racial undertones.
By: Alex Seitz-Wald, The Nation, August 8, 2012
In the wake of tragic gun violence, most politicians realize the decent, responsible thing to do is send sympathies to those affected while leaving politics out of it. Others aren’t as sensible.
After the Columbine massacre, for example, then-Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) blamed science textbooks for the murders: “Our school systems teach the children that they are nothing but glorified apes who are evolutionized [sic] out of some primordial soup.”
In 2007, after the Virginia Tech massacre, Newt Gingrich blamed liberals for supporting “situation ethics,” adding, “Yes, I think the fact is, if you look at the amount of violence we have in games that young people play at 7, 8, 10, 12, 15 years of age, if you look at the dehumanization, if you look at the fact that we refuse to say that we are, in fact, endowed by our creator, that our rights come from God, that if you kill somebody, you’re committing an act of evil.” Gingrich, explaining the VT tragedy, went on to condemn Halloween costumes and the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law.
And this morning, after the slayings in Aurora, Louie Gohmert weighed in with some stupidity of his own.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said Friday that the shootings that took place in an Aurora, Colo. movie theater hours earlier were a result of “ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs” and questioned why nobody else in the theater had a gun to take down the shooter.
During a radio interview on The Heritage Foundation’s “Istook Live!” show, Gohmert was asked why he believes such senseless acts of violence take place. Gohmert responded by talking about the weakening of Christian values in the country.
“Some of us happen to believe that when our founders talked about guarding our virtue and freedom, that that was important,” he said. “Whether it’s John Adams saying our Constitution was made only for moral and religious people … Ben Franklin, only a virtuous people are capable of freedom, as nations become corrupt and vicious they have more need of masters. We have been at war with the very pillars, the very foundation of this country.”
“You know what really gets me, as a Christian, is to see the ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs, and then some senseless crazy act of a derelict takes place.”
I see. So, in the mind of this strange Republican congressman, a madman killed 12 people because of … the separation of church and State? The First Amendment is to blame for a shooting spree in a movie theater?
If decency had any place in American politics, this would be an immediate career-ender for the ridiculous congressman from Texas. Some political missteps are simply unforgivable.
Update: Gohmert also wondered aloud why no one else in the theater was armed, complaining that the victims should have shot back.
By: Steve Beneb, The Maddow Blog, July 20, 2012
It’s apparently not enough for Mitt Romney that he’s holding a Vegas fundraising event tonight featuring Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump, just as the latter political werewolf is reviving his birtherist act.
Next up, in California, Romney’s doing a high-dollar event with everyone’s favorite failed political robot and job destroyer: yes, Meg Whitman! In case you (like me) have tried very hard not to think about eMeg since the last of her mind-numbing, soul-deadening 2010 gubernatorial campaign ads faded from the air, she’s been back in the news as the CEO of HP, doing what she does best: laying off employees. Here’s an assessment of her brief but destructive tenure at HP by SiliconBeat’s Chris O’Brien:
Listening to the Hewlett Packard earnings call was an exercise in the surreal today. CEO Meg Whitman started the call with a cheerful anecdote about some really neat-o gizmo she saw at HP. Just the sorta whiz bang stuff that’s gonna get HP back on its feet in no time!
She’s never been more optimistic about HP’s future! Gonna invest more in that innovation stuff!
Then she proceeded with all sorts of other happy talk about the business stabilizing and yada, yada, yada. And oh, by the way, to realign costs with the business we’re going to throw 27,000 people out the window.
[T]his has to be a crushing blow to an employee base already intensely demoralized by non-stop job cuts over the past decade. HP is not so much a company as it is a patchwork of acquired pieces of technology and companies, a kind of Frankstein monster of the high-tech industry.
Meg Whitman is to the technology industry what Mitt Romney is to private equity: an American Beauty Rose of “best management practices” that add up to a lot of misery and dysfunction. Romney could do a lot for the clarity of his economic message by just putting Meg on the ticket with him. Aside from all the many things they have in common, together they could pretty much self-fund the whole campaign if they wished. (Oh, yeah, sorry, forgot that Whitman can’t be on a national ticket because she is not, last time I checked, anti-choice!).
Newt, Trump, Whitman, on back-to-back days, just as Romney is officially nailing down the GOP presidential nomination. It has to be a nightmare for Romney’s staff. Don’t be surprised if they throw a few random punches to distract attention from the company their candidate is keeping.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, May 29, 2012
“It’s Not An Attack On Capitalism When Done By Republicans”: Mitt Romney’s GOP Primary Opponents On Bain Capital
Romney has placed his record at Bain at the center of his campaign. In April for example, Romney said, “You might have heard that I was successful in business. And that rumor is true…And after 25 years, I know how to lead us out of this stagnant Obama economy and into a job-creating recovery!” (Multiple independent fact checkershave concluded that Romney’s claims on job creation at Bain are simply false.)
On Monday, President Obama took Romney at his word and noted that the former Massachusetts governor’s record at Bain Capital is “not a distraction” but “what this campaign is going to be about.” Romney’s Republican primary opponents agreed, and in the last six months offered criticism of his tenure at Bain that make Obama’s remarks sound tame by comparison.
Here are the top 10 comments about Bain from Romney’s Republican rivals:
1. “The idea that you’ve got private equity companies that come in and take companies apart so they can make profits and have people lose their jobs, that’s not what the Republican Party’s about.” — Rick Perry [New York Times, 1/12/12]
2. “The Bain model is to go in at a very low price, borrow an immense amount of money, pay Bain an immense amount of money and leave. I’ll let you decide if that’s really good capitalism. I think that’s exploitation.” — Newt Gingrich [New York Times, 1/17/12]
3. “Instead of trying to work with them to try to find a way to keep the jobs and to get them back on their feet, it’s all about how much money can we make, how quick can we make it, and then get out of town and find the next carcass to feed upon” — Rick Perry [National Journal, 1/10/12]
4. “We find it pretty hard to justify rich people figuring out clever legal ways to loot a company, leaving behind 1,700 families without a job.” — Newt Gingrich [Globe and Mail, 1/9/12]
5. “Now, I have no doubt Mitt Romney was worried about pink slips — whether he was going to have enough of them to hand out because his company, Bain Capital, of all the jobs that they killed” — Rick Perry [New York Times, 1/9/12]
6) “He claims he created 100,000 jobs. The Washington Post, two days ago, reported in their fact check column that he gets three Pinocchios. Now, a Pinocchio is what you get from The Post if you’re not telling the truth.” — Newt Gingrich [1/13/12, NBC News]
7. “There is something inherently wrong when getting rich off failure and sticking it to someone else is how you do your business, and I happen to think that’s indefensible” — Rick Perry [National Journal, 1/10/12]
8. “If Governor Romney would like to give back all the money he’s earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over his years, then I would be glad to then listen to him” — Newt Gingrich [Mediaite, 12/14/11]
9. “If you’re a victim of Bain Capital’s downsizing, it’s the ultimate insult for Mitt Romney to come to South Carolina and tell you he feels your pain, because he caused it.” — Rick Perry [New York Times, 1/8/12]
10. “They’re vultures that sitting out there on the tree limb waiting for the company to get sick and then they swoop in, they eat the carcass. They leave with that and they leave the skeleton” — Rick Perry [National Journal, 1/10/12]
Just last night, Newt Gingrich defended his attacks, saying “I think there are things you can legitimately look at in Bain Capital. I think there are things you can legitimately look at in anybody’s record, including Mitt Romney’s record.”
By: Judd Legum, Think Progress, May 22, 2012