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Mitt Romney, The Quiet Extremist

At the last GOP presidential debate, Americans of all political persuasions were shocked when the audience loudly booed Stephen Hill, an openly gay soldier who sent in a video question from Iraq about the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. We were even more shocked when it dawned on us that not a single candidate on stage was going to step up to defend Hill or even thank him for his service to the country. Rick Santorum, the only candidate to respond to Hill’s question, accused him of receiving “special privileges” for “sexual activity” and called the new policy that allows him to serve openly “tragic.” None of his fellow candidates contradicted him.

Similar scenes unfolded in earlier debates, when crowds cheered Texas’ record breaking number of executions and applauded the idea of an uninsured man dying of a treatable illness.

These reactions hopefully say little about the average GOP voter — most decent people of any party recoil at the idea of insulting an active servicemember or of a sick neighbor dying — but the candidates’ silence spoke volumes. Today’s Republican presidential candidates, even the supposed moderates, live in fear of crossing a small base that has developed an alternate view of reality and a dangerously skewed notion of liberty. Chief among these is Mitt Romney, who started his career as an East Coast moderate but now knows that extremists are the only thing that can keep him from the GOP nomination. The former moderate is now, paradoxically, the most beholden to the extremist fringe.

Romney is still trying to have it both ways — to retain what little is left of his “moderate” persona while cheerfully appeasing the most extreme elements of the corporate and religious Right. He is banking on being able to get through the primary with both of his personas intact. Unfortunately for him, it’s not working.

In fact, Romney’s eagerness to appease has placed him solidly in the far-right — and increasingly unpopular –Tea Party camp of the GOP.

Romney wears his pro-corporate politics with the pride of a Koch brother. He told an audience in Iowa recently that “corporations are people” — a bold statement, even for a multi-millionaire who made his fortune partly on the profits from outsourcing American jobs. And he hasn’t backed down from his claim — in fact, he keeps repeating it.

Romney may think that corporations are people, but he seems to think that they deserve more care and concern from the government than working, tax-paying, family-feeding citizens. His economic plan calls for the vast deregulation of financial markets, whose lack of constraints in the Bush era led to the catastrophic economic collapse from which we’re still digging our way out. In contrast with his policies as governor of Massachusetts, where he helped close a budget gap by eliminating $110 million in corporate tax loopholes, Romney has now signed a pledge rejecting all efforts to raise revenues by making the wealthiest pay their fair share in income tax or closing loopholes that help companies ship jobs overseas. Instead, he has called for reducing corporate income tax, which is already so low and riddled with loopholes that some mammoth companies didn’t pay any last year. When a debate moderator asked the GOP candidates if they would accept a budget compromise that included $10 in spending cuts for every $1 in revenue increases, Romney joined all the others in saying he would reject it.

It’s perhaps not unexpected that Romney has joined the Tea Party herd on fiscal policy — after all, he’s a wealthy man himself and stands to lose a little if Bush’s tax breaks for the wealthy and other hand-outs to the most fortunate are rescinded. But he has also, in more of a stretch, wholeheartedly embraced the social extremism of the Religious Right.

Romney’s still distrusted by many on the Religious Right — he was for abortion rights before he was against them, once promised to establish “full equality for American gay and lesbian citizens” and distributed pink fliers at a gay pride parade, and, of course is a Mormon. But that hasn’t kept him from kowtowing to the Religious Right leaders who still hold enormous sway in the Republican party.

In the most recent illustration yet of Romney’s quiet acceptance of the Radical Right, he is scheduled to speak at next week’s far-right Values Voter Summit, a Washington get-together sponsored by designated hate groups the American Family Association and the Family Research Council. At the event, Romney will take the stage immediately after AFA spokesman Bryan Fischer, a man whose record of outspoken bigotry is so shocking he would be an anathema to any reasonable political movement. Fischer wants to deport American Muslims, says gays are responsible for the Holocaust and claims Native Americans are “morally disqualified” from controlling land. He also claims that non-Christian religions don’t have First Amendment rights – among the faiths he has singled out as exceptions to the free exercise clause is Romney’s own Mormonism. I have called on Romney to distance himself from Fischer’s bigotry before handing him the microphone on Saturday… but don’t hold your breath.

Participants at the Values Voter Summit rarely check their less savory values at the door. At last year’s event, which Romney also attended, FRC president Tony Perkins managed to simultaneously insult both gay troops and several allied nations by insisting that nations that allow gay people to serve openly in the military “participate in parades, they don’t fight wars to keep the nation and the world free.” Neither Romney nor any of the other GOP luminaries present spoke up in response.

At the Values Voter Summit, as in the GOP debates, Mitt Romney will doubtless attempt to slide under the radar, never openly condoning extremism, but never contradicting it either. As he emerges as the GOP frontrunner, it needs to be asked: is Mitt Romney more moderate than his fellow candidates, or is he just better at strategically keeping his extremism quiet?

 

By: Michael B. Keegan, President: People for The American Way, October 4, 2011

 

 

October 5, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Conservatives, Corporations, Economy, Elections, GOP, Ideologues, Ideology, Politics, Republicans, Voters | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Grover Norquist “Is Paralyzing Congress”

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) is one of just six Republican in Congress who haven’t signed Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge. On the House floor Tuesday, he attacked Norquist for single-handedly enforcing this hard line within the GOP, creating a destructive impasse in the legislative process. “Everything must be on the table and I believe how the ‘pledge’ is interpreted and enforced by Mr. Norquist is a roadblock to realistically reforming our tax code,” Wolf said. “Have we really reached a point where one person’s demand for ideological purity is paralyzing Congress to the point that even a discussion of tax reform is viewed as breaking a no-tax pledge?”

Wolf also attacked Norquist personally, claiming that he has “deep ties to supporters of Hamas and other terrorist organizations,” as well as to Jack Abramoff and other “unsavory groups and people.” Norquist fired back by accusing Wolf of racism. “I’m married to a woman who’s Muslim, and it’s sad and it’s disgusting,” Norquist told Yahoo News. “He’s going to spend a lot of time apologizing for getting into the gutter and anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry.” Norquist claims Wolf is targeting him because he’s been unable to persuade his colleagues to budge on their anti-tax pledge.

Americans for Tax Reform continued the counterattack on Wolf in a series of e-mail blasts on Tuesday evening. “Frank Wolf Admits He Supports Trillions in Tax Hikes,” ATR titled one e-mail, calling the congressman’s support for the Bowles-Simpson commission’s recommendations an endorsement of a “net tax increase of $1-3 trillion over ten years.” (In fact, Bowles-Simpson raises $2.3 trillion in revenue by lowering rates but eliminating deductions and exclusions.) ATR also accused Wolf of borrowing the “Obama/DCCC Playbook to Craft Lies About the Tax Pledge,” saying that the pledge allows for the elimination of tax breaks so long as overall level of taxation doesn’t increase.

Wolf’s hit on Norquist was an unusually open attack by a conservative against the anti-tax absolutism that Congressional Republicans have almost uniformly embraced. But there have been earlier signs of this rift within the GOP. Sen. Tom Coburn (Okla.), a staunch fiscal conservative, pitted himself against Norquist by proposing to eliminate tax breaks for ethanol. Norquist insisted that ending such subsidies would only be acceptable if the revenue was used to pay for more tax cuts.

Wolf, in fact, referred to Coburn’s feud in his denunciation on the House floor yesterday: “When Senator Tom Coburn recently called for eliminating the special interest ethanol tax subsidy, who led the opposition? Mr. Norquist.” The question is whether other Congressional Republicans will join Wolf and Coburn in openly pushing back against the Norquist, anti-tax orthodoxy that has been at the heart of the bipartisan struggle to reduce the deficit.

Update: Another Republican is pushing now back against Norquist. Sen. John Thune (S.D.), who signed the ATR anti-tax pledge, suggested that such pledges could be broken to achieve broad-based tax reform in a Wednesday interview with MSNBC.

 

By: Suzy Khimm, The Washington Post, October 5, 2011

 

 

October 5, 2011 Posted by | Democracy, Economic Recovery, Economy, Federal Budget, GOP, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

They Don’t Like You, Mitt. They Really Don’t Like You

Republican moneymen and pundits are starting to flock to the Mitt Romney banner, sending forth the word that it is time to bow to the inevitable. But the Republican voters just do not like Mitt Romney.

The depth the of the base’s resistance to falling in behind next-in-line Romney has continuously shocked observers, resulting first in the rise of Donald Trump, then Michele Bachmann, then Rick Perry. Now Perry is swooning, and his support has gone to … Herman Cain!

In the latest Washington Post poll, Perry’s support has halved over the last month, but Romney remains stuck at 25 percent. Cain has risen to 16 percent. The new CBS poll has Cain tied, at 17 percent, for first place with Romney. PPP polled Republicans in North Carolina, Nebraska, and West Virginia, and found Cain leading in all three states.

I don’t think Cain can win the nomination, and I’m not sure he really wants it (as opposed to a nice Fox News gig.) Saying you might vote for Herman Cain for president — of the United States, not of a pizza chain — can only be read as a cry of protest.

I don’t see how Republicans could be making this any more plain. They do not want to nominate Mitt Romney.

His problem is summed up neatly by today’s The Wall Street Journal editorial:

The main question about Mr. Romney is whether his political character matches the country’s huge current challenges. The former Bain Capital CEO is above all a technocrat, a man who believes in expertise as the highest political virtue. The details of his RomneyCare program in Massachusetts were misguided enough, but the larger flaw it revealed is Mr. Romney’s faith that he can solve any problem, and split any difference, if he can only get the smartest people in the room. …Republicans need a nominee who can make the opposing case on practical and moral grounds, not shrink from it out of guilt or excess political caution.

This encapsulates the main difference between the two parties. I’ve made this point many times before, but I think it’s pretty fundamental. The conservative movement is committed to a series of strong philosophical principles about government. They believe in a smaller government that takes less from the rich on moral grounds, as the Journal says. The Democratic Party does not have the same kind of deeper philosophical commitment, and is much more comfortable with technocracy.

Romney’s technocratic skills are not only not a plus for him. For many conservatives, they are something close to a disqualification. On many of the largest public issues, the technocratic consensus binds the center-right with the center-left and excludes the Republican position. Technocrats generally agree that we should increase short-term deficits while simultaneously decreasing long-term deficits through a combination of reducing tax expenditures and entitlement spending. There’s a somewhat less strong technocratic consensus that we should find a way to put a price on carbon emissions. These are all policies supported by the Obama administration and fiercely opposed by the GOP because they do violence to conservative anti-government principles.

Conservatives don’t want a president who’s open to different means of achieving ends (ending the recession, controlling health care costs.) They want somebody who’s set in stone on using the right means — less government.

Romney, because of the bizarre succession of real and potential foes removing themselves from consideration, may win the nomination by default. But the mismatch between him and the party he wants to lead is not going away.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Inte, New York Magazine, October 5, 2011

October 5, 2011 Posted by | Democracy, Democrats, Elections, GOP, Ideologues, Ideology, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty, Voters | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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