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Mitt Romney’s Extremist Agenda Often Overlooked

Watching video clips of Romney’s flip-flopping on just about every major issue is a tiring experience. But his lurid history of pandering to exploit the latest trends in political idiocy should not distract voters from the raw truth of what he stands for today, which is an all-out capitulation to the agenda of the vulture capitalists.

The Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuval explains it well in her WaPo op-ed, “Extremist in Pinstripes.” Vanden Heuval reviews Romney’s extremist positions on social issues, immigration, increasing the military budget and notes his call to push the Supreme Court even further to the right with his appointments.

She provides a disturbing account of Romney’s blase certitude in support of draconian cuts in Pell grants, Medicaid and food stamps, children’s health programs and aid to people with disabilities to “give multinationals a tax holiday” and give millionaires a nearly $300K tax cut, and adds:

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Romney, as Mike Huckabee once famously noted, “looks like the guy who laid you off.” At Bain, he was the guy who fired you. In a review of 77 major deals that Bain capital did when Romney headed the firm, the Wall Street Journal found that “22% [of the businesses that Bain invested in] either filed for bankruptcy reorganization or closed their doors by the end of the eighth year after Bain first invested, sometimes with substantial job losses.” Of course, Bain produced remarkable returns for its investors, including Romney.

Romney’s flip-flopping proclivities are the easy target for commentators and pundits. But no one should be deluded by speculation that Romney will flip back toward moderate conservatism, if elected. As vanden Heuval argues,

…This isn’t the plan of a moderate. The conservative garb isn’t something Romney has donned for the primaries. These policies…are consistent with Romney’s background as a corporate raider. And as his fundraising shows, they play well in the plush offices of big finance where Romney made his fortune. He is a champion for the 1 percent, peddling a program that will ensure that working Americans bear the cost for the mess left by Wall Street’s extremes while the buccaneer bankers, corporate raiders and private equity gamblers are free to go back to preying on America.

Vanden Heuval’s article should provoke a sobering reassessment among those who have entertained the fantasy that Romney would govern as a moderate. As E. J. Dionne points out, chameleon Romney has proven highly adept as deluding his fellow Republicans across the party’s ideological spectrum that he reflects their views. Dems should not be so gullible, for there is every reason to believe his election would unleash the worst elements of vulture capitalism.


By: J. P. Green, The Democratic Strategist, January 11, 2012

January 12, 2012 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Remember When Newt Gingrich Pretended To Hate GOP Infighting?

In recent days, Newt Gingrich has been excoriating Mitt Romney in television ads and attacking his business background in language that President Obama would likely repeat in a general election.

“The most significant campaign news of the last few days was not the debates over the weekend, or even today’s New Hampshire primary,” Brendan Nyhan wrote. “Rather, it was the report that a super PAC backing Newt Gingrich will air millions of dollars in negative ads against Romney in South Carolina, the site of the next Republican primary after New Hampshire.”

Amusingly, it wasn’t so long ago that Gingrich got all sanctimonious about what he cast as a principled refusal to attack fellow candidates for the Republican primary. As he put it in September 2011:

JOHN HARRIS: Speaker Gingrich, it sounds like we have a genuine philosophical disagreement. In Massachusetts, a mandate, almost no uninsured–in Texas, a more limited approach, about a quarter uninsured. Who’s got the better end of this argument?

GINGRICH: Well, I’m frankly not interested in your effort to get Republicans fighting each other. The fact is–

HARRIS: Speaker Gingrich, we’ve got–

GINGRICH: No, no we don’t–

HARRIS: We’ve got a choice between the individual mandate or not. Anyway, go ahead.

GINGRICH: You’d have, you would like to puff this up into some giant thing. The fact is, every person up here understands Obamacare is a disaster. It is a disaster procedurally. It was rammed through after they lost Teddy Kennedy’s seat in Massachusetts. It was written badly, it was never reconciled. It can’t be implemented. It is killing this economy. And if this president had any concern for working Americans, he’d walk in Thursday night and ask us to repeal it because it’s a monstrosity. Every person up here agrees with that. And let me just say– since I still have a little time left, let me just say–


GINGRICH: I for one, and I hope all of my friends up here, going to repudiate every effort of the news media to get Republicans to fight each other to protect Barack Obama who deserves to be defeated. And all of us are committed as a team, whoever the nominee is, we are all for defeating Barack Obama.

Then there’s the statement the Gingrich campaign made last month: “Negative attacks on fellow Republicans will not create a single new job or help rebuild America… The Gingrich campaign has a different approach than some other Republican campaigns: Newt Gingrich has only one opponent — Barack Obama.”

Even in a race with Romney, Gingrich is as phony as they come.

By: Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, January 11, 2012


January 12, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Not That Kind Of Conservative”: Do Republican Primary Voters Actually Prefer Moderates?

George H.W. Bush. Bob Dole. George W. Bush. John McCain. For all the talk about how Republicans are desperate for a conservative alternative to Mitt Romney — and the audition process that elevated Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum in turn — a look back at the men who’ve won the GOP nomination since Ronald Reagan left office suggests that maybe a majority of Republicans are happy to have a moderate as their nominee. On some issues, the Republican Party has moved to the right over time. Still, Republicans behave at the ballot box as if 1964 and 1980 were exceptional years when the conservative choices, Barry Goldwater and Reagan, won the nomination. More often, the conservative candidates lose, and while the losers are explained away by ticking off their particular flaws, the fact is that the more moderate alternatives have always been flawed too.

This year Mitt Romney won handily in Iowa and New Hampshire. Nate Silver has him leading in South Carolina. This despite the fact that no one would mistake him for a flawless candidate. But if Republican primary voters aren’t really as interested in nominating a conservative as is generally thought, what explains the conventional wisdom to the contrary? What mixes us up?

One place to begin is the thesis that most Republicans do want a conservative alternative, but they’re splitting their vote among a bunch of different choices. This is perhaps true, but misleading. A social conservative might prefer someone who is more conservative on abortion, like Rick Santorum. But if he drops out, the social con may decide to support Romney because he’s turned off by Rick Perry’s avowed desire to send troops back into Iraq and Ron Paul’s insistence on ending the Fed. He’s to Romney’s right on abortion, but to Perry’s “left” on foreign policy and Paul’s left on size of government. The moderate winds up being the best choice, which is to say, the one that most closely reflects his views on the whole spectrum of issues.

The label “conservative” tends to obscure the fact that the religious right, neo-cons, and fiscal conservatives diverge a lot in their attitudes about various matters, and the “most conservative” (here I mean farthest right) voice in each group tends to freak out all of the others. They all say they want a conservative, but confronted with actual choices, they wind up thinking to themselves, but not that kind of conservative, which is basically what Newt Gingrich meant when he stated that he couldn’t bring himself to support Paul if he’s the nominee.

There is also the fact that presidential elections are the moment in American politics when conservatives enjoy the fewest advantages. Think about it. In House elections, redistricting and safe seats has made it easier for folks farther right or left than the population as a whole to get elected. Fox News and talk radio cater to and amplify the voices of the niche conservative audience inclined to consume ideological media, not to moderate Republican voters. In contrast, presidential primaries encompass the whole pool of Republican Party voters, and more than usual, even the conservatives among them are concerned about electability. It’s no wonder that in some ways the process reveals the GOP to be more moderate than it does when it’s mouthpieces are firebrand House members or Rush Limbaugh or National Review.

Perhaps the GOP always has been and always will be inclined to nominate relative moderates, and conservatives only break through if they manage an exceptional mix of principle and charisma, and come along at exactly the right moment. By those metrics and others Goldwater and Reagan were candidates unusually well suited to the primaries in which they triumphed. This year Paul is the only Romney alternative who has managed to excite anyone for an extended period of time. And if that’s the choice, more Republicans than not will probably prefer the moderate.


By: Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, January 11, 2012



January 12, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, GOP Presidential Candidates, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

So, Should We Start Calling Gingrich A Socialist?

You mean the wealthy on Wall Street aren’t benevolent “job creators” after all and that one of the pirate captains flying the Jolly Roger of buccaneer capitalism is a “predatory corporate raider” who goes by the name of Mitt Romney? Who knew?

In boardrooms across America, the plutocrats are freaking out. Their carefully plotted strategy of making the 2012 election a referendum between economic “freedom” and suffocating “big government” is being blown to smithereens by that infamous bomb-thrower, Newt Gingrich, who is detonating the idea that unsupervised laissez faire capitalism is the unmitigated blessing its cheerleaders at the Wall Street Journal have always claimed it to be.

I guess I spoke too soon when I wrote the other day that an entire philosophical tradition of conservative anti-capitalism had been lost now that the Republican Party has made itself into the wholly-owned subsidiary of Wall Street. But how was I to know Newt Gingrich was about to launch a jihad against the black magic of compound interest?

Gingrich is the guy, remember, who closed down the government in order to stick it to President Clinton for a perceived slight he suffered on Air Force One. So, why should we be surprised that Gingrich would lay waste to 30 years of supply-side mythology if doing so let him get back at that spoiled rich kid who used daddy’s money to torment him in Iowa?

This is what everyone in the Republican Party was afraid from the start Gingrich would do to them given his well-known MO, says Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum: “Destroy them utterly if they declined to nominate him.”

And with a $5 million in the bank thanks to right-wing casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, Gingrich now has lots of money to put to use the Karl Rove strategy of inflicting maximum pain by hitting an opponent right where he’s strongest. And in South Carolina Gingrich intends to hit Mitt Romney where he is strongest, specifically by pulling down all those statues erected to “The Job Creator from Bain Capital.”

The political effect of these attack ads, says New York magazine’s Jon Chait, is to tear down Romney’s carefully-crafted image in such a way that “his private-sector experience becomes an indicator — not that he will fix the economy — but that he will help the already-rich. It’s a smash-you-over-the-head blunt message, with ominous music and storybook dialogue.”

And according to the transcript of the ad Gingrich plans to run: “Mitt Romney was not a capitalist during his reign at Bain. He was a predatory corporate raider. His firm didn’t seek to create value. Instead, like a scavenger, Romney looked for businesses he could pick apart. Indeed, he represented the worst possible kind of predator, operating within the law but well outside the bounds of what most real capitalists consider ethical…..He and his friends at Bain were bad guys. Any real capitalists should disavow Romney’s ‘creative destruction’ model that made him wealthy at the expense of thousands of American jobs.”

This is brutal stuff that plays right into President Obama’s hands as he portrays the GOP as the Party of the One Percent unconcerned with the fate of the other 99%, says Drum.  It also undermines the whole trickle-down rationale underpinning finance capitalism.

The supply-side oligarchs who rule the Republican Establishment are beside themselves as they circle the wagons against this madman from Georgia, who not only says Wall Street plutocrats who preach the virtues of capitalism have no clothes but that the clothes they do have on order are being imported from Chinese sweat shops which pay slave wages to child coolie labor.

The day before voters went to the polls in New Hampshire’s primary, the Wall Street Journal reported that the right wing Club for Growth reflected the shock among conservatives when it went after Gingrich for his “disgusting” attacks against Romney and his record at Bain Capital.

The group’s president, former Rep. Chris Chocola (R-Ind), said in a written statement: “Attacking Governor Romney for participating in free-market capitalism is just beyond the pale for any purported ‘Reagan conservative.'”

Like smart traders who buy low and sell high, America’s plutocracy has profited spectacularly from the yawning gap which exists between the values used by the public to judge and reward economic behavior and the public’s understanding of the revolutionary changes in the economy over the past 30 years that have made those values obsolete.

When conservatives talk about the virtue of competition and “entrepreneurship,” for example, they are exploiting the ignorance of a public that still believes America’s economy is dominated by people who make things and so thinks rewards should naturally go to those who can make things faster, better, cheaper.

As a reader on Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Beast site put it: “Most Americans appreciate a free market system in which those that produce the best goods and services at the best value should be successful and become wealthy. However, when people become fabulously wealthy at the expense of others while producing nothing but investment gain for the investors, I think most Americans take pause.”

Yet, as economic historian Kevin Phillips notes, Wall Street is no longer the servant of Main Street where profits are confined to the earnings it can make by providing capital to entrepreneurs and businesses to invest in real things and good ideas. Today, financial firms earn more than 40% of all corporate profits and command a quarter of stock market capitalization — up from just 6% when Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980 – largely because of the powers Wall Street’s been given from deregulation to create debt and to earn fees from the distribution of that debt.

Historically, says Phillips, this transformation from a making to a papering economy “is as momentous as the emergence of railroads, iron and steel and the displacement of agriculture during the decades after the Civil War.”

And the problem for Mitt Romney is that he embodies these fundamental if poorly understood changes, which is why Republicans are so furious with Newt Gingrich for putting this all up in lights.

All Republicans talk about free markets, says Kevin Drum, but Mitt Romney has actually lived it. “That makes him a more concrete messenger, someone who can credibly say that he not only believes in free markets, but has lots of experience in making them work.”

Chances are that when Americans hear about free enterprise from conservatives “it’s usually accompanied by images of sunrises over wheat fields, hardworking farmers, and small-town construction workers heading home after a day of honest labor,” says Drum. “It is very definitely not accompanied by images of well-coiffed guys in suits and green eyeshades, making millions by sitting in boardrooms and approving mass layoffs by adding a quick line to a spreadsheet before they head out to lunch.”

Someone like Newt Gingrich can get up on his soapbox and keep things “fuzzy” by delivering a stem-winder about free markets, the glories of competition and keeping government off our backs “and then just walk off the stage — mission accomplished,” says Drum.

Not so Mitt Romney. When Romney talks about free markets the stakes are much higher, says Drum.

“He can’t get away with platitudes,” says Drum. “His experience at Bain Capital will inevitably be Exhibit 1 in just what he means when he talks about free markets.”

Short of being the CEO of Goldman Sachs, “this is quite possibly the worst possible face you can imagine for a conservative message about the glories of free enterprise and wealth creation,” adds Drum. “Romney, whether he likes it or not, won’t be able to talk about those glories without also facing up to the human destruction that often follows in its wake.”

Americans may say they are for free markets. But at the end of the day they are just regular folks who believe in a regular day’s pay for a regular day’s work. So, “if you rub their noses in the true face of modern capitalism, they aren’t going to like what they see,” Drum insists.

And that is what Gingrich is threatening to do. So, you can understand why Republicans and their wealthy benefactors are so uneasy — and incensed — by what Gingrich is about to do.

The revolutionary bomb-thrower who once brought down a House Speaker and ended 40 years of consecutive Democratic rule is now poised to blow up the Republican Party’s designated heir apparent and with him the Republican Party’s name-brand issue.

Wouldn’t it be ironic, then, if Newt Gingrich’s final act as America’s most famous radical was to squander the profits Republicans have so regularly earned — both economically and politically – through the arbitrage which exploits the gap between fact and fiction, reality and myth, in America’s system of free market capitalism?


By: Ted Frier, Open Salon, January 11, 2012



January 12, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“House Of Bain”: GOP Rallies Around Vulture Capitalism, Not Mitt Romney

I’ve got to admit it: Liberals are at a disadvantage when it comes to judging where the GOP primary is headed. Last week I was sure that conservatives were settling on Rick Santorum, and his supposed blue-collar family values, as the official not-Mitt Romney candidate after his strong Iowa showing. Not quite yet. Sunday I was sure Newt Gingrich’s slashing “King of Bain” ad, attacking Romney as a looter and a job destroyer for his Bain Capital record, would be devastating in a country where the economy is the top issue and unemployment remains high.

It was devastating, all right. To Gingrich. The former House speaker got a beatdown from fellow conservatives this week, with Rush Limbaugh mocking him as an Occupy Wall Street supporter and the National Review harrumphing at the notion that Gingrich targeted Romney’s Bain success because he “apparently expect(s) Republican voters to regard that as a liability.” By the time he made his “I’m tied for fourth place!” speech in New Hampshire Tuesday night, Gingrich looked broken. He abandoned his slashing attacks on Romney’s career and stuck to decrying the “years of decay” under President Obama, recounting his alleged successes as House speaker in the ’90s, and rambling wearily about “innovation.” A few minutes later, over on Fox, a disapproving Sean Hannity smacked sixth-place loser Rick Perry for his attacks on Romney, and echoed Limbaugh’s sneering comparison with Occupy Wall Street ideology.

It’s an interesting moment. Multiple news organizations reported that even close allies are telling Gingrich to cut out the attacks on Romney, but he’s already purchased an estimated $1.5 million in South Carolina airtime for his “House of Bain” spots, plus a nasty ad claiming Romney had “governed pro-abortion” in Massachusetts. What’s Gingrich going to do? He hates Romney, but he loves predatory capitalism as much as Limbaugh does. He doesn’t believe his own Bain Capital attacks. Can he continue to hurt Romney without damaging his own chances to return to the right-wing gravy train when he goes down to defeat? Trust me, the monied interests are not interested in hiring anti-capitalist “historians” to not-lobby for them. Gingrich is torn between vengeance and greed. Sucks to be him. Fun to watch.

It’s also fun to watch conservative Republicans rally around Romney not because they like him but because he’s become the face of the hallowed free market.  As he headed to conservative South Carolina, hotbed of Tea Party radicalism, Romney got a boost from its extremist Sen. Jim DeMint, who predicted the former Massachusetts governor would win the Jan. 21 primary. DeMint is staying neutral, he told radio host Mark Steyn Tuesday night, “because Republicans are not yet united and I want to focus on the Senate.” But he praised Romney’s victory speech for “hitting a lot of the hot buttons for me about balancing the budget,” adding “Frankly, I’m a little concerned about the few Republicans who have criticized some of what I consider free market principles here.” He went on: “Some of the others who might have had an advantage here have really crossed paths, crossed ways with some Republicans as they have criticized free enterprise concepts.” DeMint’s remarks could give other Tea Party leaders an excuse to back Romney, though they don’t trust him, in the name of defending capitalism.

I still think there’s a possibility the Bain attacks will resonate with some Republican voters, and maybe in South Carolina, which has a 9.9 percent unemployment rate, compared to under 6 percent in Iowa and New Hampshire. It’s possible Gingrich and Perry’s attacks will open up political space for Santorum, who’s been careful not to attack capitalism as he sticks to his blue-collar platitudes and culture-war campaign. It was great to see New Hampshire voters chasten Santorum by repeatedly challenging his homophobia in public forums and giving him a fifth place finish. But his campaign told the Huffington Post he’ll spend at least $1 million on advertising in South Carolina. Maybe he’s still got a chance.

It’s a tiny one. Super PACs connected to Romney are set to spend $6 million in South Carolina and Florida in the next three weeks. Meanwhile, as every non-Romney candidate vows to head to South Carolina, they split the conservative vote and increase the chances that Romney gets the victory. Perry claimed he’s soldiering on. So did Jon Huntsman, despite a third-place showing that wasn’t enough to make him a serious candidate, since he bet everything on New Hampshire. “Third place is a ticket to ride, ladies and gentlemen,” Huntsman told the crowd, but nobody believes that. Late Tuesday night, Huntsman’s father and financier reportedly hadn’t decided whether to keep bankrolling his son’s bid. (And people mock Romney for his wealth.)

If it weren’t for Ron Paul’s foreign policy views, we might be talking about whether conservatives could coalesce around his candidacy. He underperformed expectations in Iowa but he came in a strong second Tuesday night. As much as I loathe his domestic politics, I enjoyed hearing the crowd chanting “Bring them home” when he promised to get troops out of Afghanistan. Paul will stay in the race and, given his caucus strategy, he could rack up delegates. I don’t know where that will take him – is he dreaming of Vice President Rand Paul? – but it’s great to think about the Ron Paul crowd heckling Mitt Romney when he doubles down on his hawkish, expansionist foreign policy promises in Tampa.

Romney’s heading into a scorched-earth South Carolina primary, but he’s got to be feeling pretty good about his first two outings. In New Hampshire, he won the ultra-rich, of course, but he also got Tea Party members and evangelicals, according to exit polls. He gave a much better victory speech than he did a week ago, because this time he used his teleprompter. He hit not only Obama but his Republican rivals for practicing “the bitter politics of envy,” which has more zing than the standard GOP class warfare line.

The private equity mogul can’t understand that criticism of his Bain career — “restructuring” companies, cutting their workforce and forcing almost a quarter into bankruptcy — isn’t about jealousy, but justice. People are starting to understand that finance capitalism works for the top 1 percent, but not the rest of us. So while Gingrich’s attacks aren’t likely to help his candidacy, they’re a boost to the man he presumably wants to defeat more than Romney. President Obama has to look forward to running against a guy his GOP rivals called a looter and a vulture capitalist. The fact that all of those rivals are fighting on after New Hampshire helps Romney win the nomination, but it could also help the Democrats hold the White House.


By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, January 11, 2012

January 12, 2012 Posted by | GOP, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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