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Romney Doubles Down On Medicare Privatization

Mitt Romney clearly didn’t want to endorse Paul Ryan’s radical budget plan, which includes a measure to end Medicare. But now that he’s losing, Romney apparently feels as if he doesn’t have any choice.

After months of avoiding taking a firm stand on Ryan’s privatization scheme — Medicare’s guaranteed benefit would be scrapped, replaced with vouchers — Romney is suddenly on board with the far-right agenda without leaving himself much in the way of wiggle room. This began in earnest yesterday, when the Romney campaign boasted, “Mitt Romney supports what Paul Ryan did. He endorsed what Paul Ryan did.”

The Romney camp then further embraced the Ryan plan overnight, unveiling a new video attacking Newt Gingrich for having criticized Medicare privatization. Today, Romney was even more explicit at an event in Iowa, responding to a voter’s question.

“I spent a good deal of time with Congressman Ryan. When his plan came out, I applauded it, as an important step,” he said. “We’re going to have to make changes like the ones Paul Ryan proposed.”

Romney added that by using “vouchers,” he intends to help “protect” Medicare.

Right about now, I suspect there are a lot of folks at the DNC and at Obama for America HQ who are smiling.

Remember, Romney didn’t want to go to this point. He’s been entirely aware of how radioactive Ryan’s Medicare scheme was — polls showed the American mainstream hates it — and the fact that it cost Republicans at least one congressional special election this year, and will be a major issue in 2012. When Romney was confident that he’d be the nominee, he was comfortable avoiding this issue.

But now he’s stuck. Romney apparently intends to use his support for the Ryan plan to get ahead in the GOP nominating race, despite the general-election risks, working under the assumption that there won’t be a general-election for him unless he goes to the hard-right now.

I made the case yesterday that this is a major campaign development. Jonathan Cohn goes a little further today, explaining why this “may prove to be a critical moment.”

All of this frames a pretty stark choice for the next election…. [A] vote for President Obama will be a vote to implement Obamacare and keep Medicare, while a vote for the Republican nominee, assuming it’s Gingrich or Romney, will be a vote to eliminate the former and at least begin dismantling the latter (along with Medicaid, most likely).

Or to put it a bit more simply, the choice in the next election will be for universal health care for people of all ages or universal health care for nobody.


By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, December 9, 2011

December 9, 2011 Posted by | Election 2012, GOP Presidential Candidates, Health Reform | , , , , | 1 Comment

“Newtonian Self-Aggrandizement”: Newt’s Nastiness Comes Back To Haunt Him

The campaign of Mitt Romney, the Rip van Winkle of presidential politics, finally awakenedthis week with a savage counterattack against Newt Gingrich, the man who against all odds is threatening to wrest the Republican nomination from Romney.

In a conference call Thursday sponsored by Romney’s campaign, two surrogates of the former Massachusetts governor let fly with a barrage against Gingrich that was shockingly harsh even by today’s caustic standards.

“For Newt Gingrich, in an effort of self-aggrandizement, to come out and throw a clever phrase that has no other purpose than to make him sound a little smarter than the conservative Republican leadership,” said former White House chief of staff John Sununu, “is the most self-serving, anti-conservative thing one can imagine happening . . .  just the latest in a pattern of anti-principled actions that really irritated his own leadership and produced 88 percent of the Republicans in Congress voting for his reprimand.”

“He’s not a reliable or trustworthy leader,” former Missouri senator Jim Talent said of Gingrich’s labeling the House Republican budget a “radical” proposition. He “says and does those kinds of things because he’s not reliable as a leader.”

Self-serving. Self-aggrandizing. Anti-conservative. Anti-principled. Hints of corruption, hypocrisy and bizarre and destructive behavior. These were brutal descriptions, and yet there was something poetic about the belated Romney assault on Gingrich. The attacks were terms were popularized by Gingrich himself in his rise to power.

Nearly two decades ago, Gingrich’s political action committee, with the help of GOP wordsmith Frank Luntz, issued a now-famous memo telling Republican candidates which words they should use to describe their opponents. Among them: “anti,” “betray,” “bizarre,” “corrupt,” “destructive,” “disgrace,” “shame,” “lie,” “pathetic,” “radical,” “self-serving,” “selfish,” “shallow,” “shame,” “sick,” “traitors.”

“These are powerful words that can create a clear and easily understood contrast,” this Gingrich-endorsed memo explained. “Remember that creating a difference helps you. Apply these to the opponent, their record, proposals and their party.”

With that memo, and with the slashing style of politics that brought Republicans to power in the House for the first time in generations, Gingrich did more than anybody else to set the tone in Washington. Now, in a form of rough justice, the savagery has come full circle and is being used against its sponsor.

Romney and his surrogates — many of whom served under Gingrich in the House — are portraying Gingrich as erratic, unreliable, hypocritical and a betrayer of friends and principles. They are contrasting that with Romney, a “leader” and champion of “reform”  — terms that Gingrich’s memo, based on focus-group research, coached Republicans to use to define themselves.

Gingrich has followed his own philosophy over the years, making an art of name-calling. He once said that Democrats created a “sick society” and were the “enemy of normal Americans.” Democratic congressional leaders were “sick” and had a “Mussolini-like ego” that led them “to run over normal human beings and to destroy honest institutions.”

He called the Clintons “counterculture McGovernicks.” More recently, he accused President Obama of having a “Kenyan, anti-colonial” worldview and called him “the most serious, radical threat to traditional America ever to occupy the White House.” Gingrich said schools should use children as laborers instead of “unionized” janitors — all phrases rich in the “contrasts” that Gingrich’s team advocated in the 1990s.

Kevin Drum of Mother Jones recently dug up a 1978 Gingrich quotation lamenting that “one of the great problems we have in the Republican Party is that we don’t encourage you to be nasty.”

Thanks to Gingrich, this is no longer a problem, in either party. Embracing Newtonian Nastiness, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) called Gingrich “too erratic,” “too self-centered” and lacking “the capacity to control himself.” Former congressman Guy Molinari (R-N.Y.) called Gingrich “evil” and the prospect of him becoming president “appalling.”

Then came the Romney-hosted teleconference.

Gingrich “says outrageous things that come from nowhere, and he has a tendency to say them at exactly the time when they most undermine the conservative agenda,” Talent reported.

Gingrich “is more concerned about Newt Gingrich than he is about conservative principle,” Sununu contributed. The “off-the-cuff thinking . . . is not what you want in the commander in chief.”

Now, Gingrich said he doesn’t want to be “the attack dog in the Republican Party.”  But it’s a bit late for purity. He’s Newt Gingrich, and he approved this message.


By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, December 9, 2011

December 9, 2011 Posted by | Election 2012, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Romney Acknowledges ‘Exaggeration’ On Health Care

Before this year, Mitt Romney was only too pleased to tout his health care reform law in Massachusetts as the basis for a national plan. He said he thinks his measure is “a good model for the nation”; he argued “we’ll end up with a nation that’s taken a mandate approach”; and he boasted that his plan “allows every citizen in America to get health insurance.”

All of this, however, was before 2011. Yesterday, in an interview with the editorial board of the Washington Examiner, Byron York pressed the former governor on this point.

YORK: But you wouldn’t recommend that any state adopt the plan that was adopted in Massachusetts in its entirety?

ROMNEY: In its entirety, no. But there are principles that I think that are helpful and instructive for the states to learn from and I think that there are other states that have picked up some portion of what we did. [emphasis added]

So we’ve gone from a Republican who believes his own plan is a good model for the nation to a Republican who wouldn’t even recommend other states follow his lead.

But in 2007, when Tim Russert asked about this specific point, Romney said, “I happen to like what we did. I think it’s a good model for other states. Maybe not every state but most.”

He was reminded of this yesterday.

YORK: Governor, on health care, you’ve often said that the health care plan that you’ve created in Massachusetts would be a good model for some other states. You said, “Maybe not every state, but most.”

ROMNEY: I don’t think I said “most,” but —

YORK: On “Meet the Press” in 2007.

ROMNEY: Oh did I? Did I make that exaggeration? [Laughs]

As Greg Sargent responded, “I get that Romney was joking, but still: He just described his own past assertion about the success of his signature accomplishment — one that’s now politically inconvenient for him — as an ‘exaggeration.’”

Imagine what the political world — specifically, campaign reporters — would do if John Kerry or Al Gore called their own rhetoric about their key policy priority an “exaggeration.” Voters would never hear the end of it.


By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, December 8, 2011

December 9, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Health Reform | , , , , | Leave a comment

Running Scared: Romney Now Says Obama Is a Socialist

In a speech today (excerpts of which have already been released by his campaign), Mitt Romney accuses President Obama of trying to create complete economic equality:

“President Obama is replacing our merit-based, opportunity-based society with an entitlement society,” Romney is expected to say. “In an entitlement society, everyone is handed the same rewards, regardless of education, effort and willingness to take risk. That which is earned by some is redistributed to others. And the only people to enjoy truly disproportionate rewards are the people who do the redistributing — the government.”

Really? Obama’s plan is for everybody in society to have the same rewards? So, under Obama’s plan, I get to have the same stuff that Mitt Romney has?

This accusation is approximately as accurate as claiming that the Republican party wants to pass laws forbidding poor people from making more money. Yet this absurd claim is so common nobody even thinks to challenge it anymore. Even the most intellectually acclaimed Republicans, figures like Paul Ryan and American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks, routinely assert that Democrats are plotting to create full equality of outcome.

Obviously, not even the most left-wing Democrat proposes anything of the sort. The actual Democratic platform is to impose a slightly more progressive tax code, close to what prevailed under the Clinton administration, and to finance some basic public provisions while doing very little to stop rampant rise in income inequality. The right’s inability to argue against that actual program, continuing instead to pretend that they’re arguing against a world in which nobody can have more money than anybody else, is deeply revealing of its lack of confidence in its own argument.


By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intel, December 7, 2011

December 9, 2011 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Republicans’ Reality TV Politics

I guess I was wrong. I thought Republicans surely would have come to their senses by now. Instead, they seem to be rushing deeper into madness.

With less than a month to go before the Iowa caucuses, Mitt Romney, the candidate shown by polls to have the best chance of defeating President Obama, evidently remains unacceptable to most of his party. He has spent the summer and fall playing second fiddle to a series of unconvincing “front-runners” who fade into the shadows once their shortcomings become obvious.

The latest is Newt Gingrich, a man with more baggage than Louis Vuitton — and the taste for fine jewelry of Louis XIV, judging by his Tiffany’s bill. Be honest: Is there anybody out there who believes Gingrich would make it through a general-election campaign against Obama without self-destructing? I didn’t think so.

Far from settling down, the Republican contest keeps getting wackier. I can think of no better illustration than the fact that a Dec. 27 candidates debate — the last before voting  begins with the Iowa caucuses — will be moderated by Donald Trump.

Romney, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Jon Huntsman and Michele Bachmann have had the dignity and good judgment to decline participation in what is likely to be an embarrassment for all involved, except Trump, who lives in a world beyond shame. Paul’s campaign noted that the planned event would create an “unwanted, circus-like atmosphere” that is “beneath the office of the presidency.”

Gingrich, apparently lacking dignity and good judgment, will eagerly participate. He will be joined by Rick Santorum, who, let’s face it, has nothing to lose.

“I’m surprised that Mitt Romney said no,” Trump told MSNBC. “Frankly, I’m surprised, because he really wants my endorsement. I mean, he wants it very badly.”

Really? Before associating themselves too closely with Trump, I’d suggest all the candidates look at a Fox News poll from September. While 10 percent of Republicans surveyed said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate if he or she were endorsed by Trump, nearly twice as many — 18 percent — said Trump’s backing would make them less likely to vote for the candidate.

And that’s nothing compared with the potential impact in the general election against Obama. Among all voters, the Fox News poll found, only 6 percent said a Trump endorsement would make them more likely to vote for the endorsee, while a stunning 31 percent said they would be less likely to do so.

That’s quite an achievement for the helmet-haired host of “The Apprentice.” It’s hard to think of anyone else this side of Guantanamo whose backing could turn off nearly one-third of the U.S. voting population.

Doesn’t bother Gingrich, though. He seems to see participation as a matter of courage. “I think if you’re afraid to debate with Donald Trump,” he said, “people are going to say, ‘So you want me to believe you can debate Barack Obama, but you’re afraid to show up with Donald Trump?’ ”

Gingrich thus casts his lot with the likes of Sarah Palin, who claims that if she were running for president, she’d definitely take part in the Trump debate. She says the encounter will be “a positive thing” because Trump “will be able to attract a diverse demographic that maybe has not been as interested in this horse race thus far.” But since we know from the Fox News poll that much of the audience is likely to find the spectacle repellent, I suspect Palin is just showing solidarity with Trump. Reality-show stars gotta stick together.

Do you suppose Trump will ask Gingrich about the ethics violations he committed while he was speaker of the House, or the $300,000 penalty fine he had to pay? Do you think he’ll press Gingrich on the lucrative lobbying-by-another-name he’s been doing on behalf of clients such as the government-supported mortgage giant Freddie Mac? Do you imagine he’ll read Gingrich his Dickensian quotes about child labor laws and ask him to explain which jobs are suitable for urchins and which are not?

No, no and no. This show can have only one star, and we already know who it is. No matter which candidates show up, Donald Trump’s debate will be about Donald Trump. I’m betting that at some point during the event, Trump will actually utter the phrase “You’re fired.”

And from the direction of the White House, you’ll hear the sound of high-fives.


By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, December 9, 2011

December 9, 2011 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , | 1 Comment


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