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Greater Of Two Evils: Gingrich Vs Santorum

Why did South Carolina’s evangelical voters go for Newt Gingrich rather than Rick Santorum?

What have we learned from the fact that it was Newt Gingrich, not Rick Santorum, who surged past Mitt Romney in Saturday’s South Carolina Republican primary? The voters who turned out, after all, sure fit the profile of Santorum supporters. Fully 65 percent described themselves as born-again or evangelical Christians, and Santorum was the candidate who most stressed the cultural and religious values in which these voters believe, even as Newt’s private life made a mockery of them. Fifty-three percent of the GOP voters had no college degree, and, again, it was Santorum who explicitly defended both the economic interests and cultural importance of blue-collar workers.

But Gingrich won the votes of 44 percent of the born-agains and evangelicals, while Santorum won just 21 percent. And Gingrich got 43 percent of the non-college grads, while Santorum ended up with just 18 percent.

The appeals that Gingrich made mattered far more to these voters than the religious and economic appeals that Santorum offered. What Newt appealed to was these voters’ racism, which he also deliberately wrapped in the belief that the nation’s media elites favor liberal racial policies and look down on people like them. The two incidents that propelled Newt to his victory (other than Romney’s inability to deal with the issue of his taxes) were his assaults on Juan Williams and John King in last week’s debates. When Williams dared to suggest that Gingrich’s labeling of Barack Obama as a “food-stamp president” had racist overtones, Gingrich slapped Williams down almost as though he were a surrogate for Obama—an uppity black in a privileged position complaining of injustices to his own minority group. The impact of this moment on many South Carolina Republicans was little less than cathartic; it was a triumphal outburst of pent-up resentments clearly screaming for release. A few nights later, Gingrich augmented his image as the man who whacks the liberal media with his assault on King.

It’s all straight out of the playbook of George Wallace, who not only slandered and threatened African Americans in his speeches but also took out after the national news media (“Huntley and Chinkley and Walter Contrite,” as he termed them in a burst of almost surreal folk poetry).

The Republican voters of South Carolina may think of themselves as religiously devout and economically embattled, but what they were really looking for in a candidate was a champion who’d slap down pretentious blacks and promise a restoration of white normality. Abnormal as Gingrich may actually be, this was what he offered up in South Carolina, and it went down mighty smooth.


By: Harold Meyerson, The American Prospect, January 23, 2012

January 23, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Roots Of Bain Capital In El Salvador’s Civil War

A significant portion of the seed money that created Mitt Romney’s private equity firm, Bain Capital, was provided by wealthy oligarchs from El Salvador, including members of a family with a relative who allegedly financed rightist groups that used death squads during the country’s bloody civil war in the 1980s

Bain, the source of Romney’s fabulous personal wealth, has been the subject of recent attacks in the Republican primary over allegations that Romney and the firm behaved like, in Rick Perry’s words, “vulture capitalists.”One TV spot denounced Romney for relying on “foreign seed money from Latin America” but did not say where the money came from. In fact, Romney recruited as investors wealthy Central Americans who were seeking a safe haven for their capital during a tumultuous and violent period in the region.

Like so much about Bain, which is known for secrecy and has been dubbed a “black box,” all the names of the investors who put up the money for the initial fund in 1984 are not known. Much of what we do know was first reported by the Boston Globe in 1994 when Romney ran for U.S. Senate against Ted Kennedy.

In 1984, Romney had been tapped by his boss at Bain & Co, a consulting firm, to create a spin-off venture capital fund, Bain Capital.

A Costa Rica-born Bain official named Harry Strachan invited friends and former clients in Central America to a presentation about the fund with Romney in Miami. The group was impressed and “signed up for 20% of the fund,” according to Strachan’s memoir. That was about $6.5 million, according to the Globe. Bain partners themselves were putting up half the money, according to Strachan. Thus the Central American investors had contributed 40 percent of the outside capital.

Back in 1984, wealthy Salvadoran families were looking for safe investments as violence and upheaval engulfed the country. The war, which pitted leftist guerrillas against a right-wing government backed by the Reagan administration, ultimately left over 70,000 people dead in the tiny nation before a peace deal was brokered by the United Nations in 1992. The vast majority of violence, a UN truth commission later found, was committed by rightist death squads and the military, which received U.S. training and $6 billion in military and economic aid. The Reagan administration feared that El Salvador could become a foothold for Communists in Central America.

The notorious death squads were financed by members of the Salvadoran oligarchy and had close links to the country’s military. The death squads kidnapped, tortured, and killed suspected leftists in urban areas fueling an insurgency that retreated to rural areas and waged war on the government from the countryside. The war, which lasted 12 years, triggered an exodus that brought more than 1 million Salvadorans to the United States.

There is no evidence that any of Bain Capital’s original investors were involved in these sorts of activities. But the identities of some of the investors remain secret, and there are family names that raise questions.

Four members of the de Sola family were among the original Bain investors, or “limited partners” in the company, the Globe reported. Their relative and “one-time business partner,” Orlando de Sola, was an important figure in El Salvador. A well-known right-wing coffee grower with an (in his words) “authoritarian” vision for the country, de Sola spent time living in Miami but was also a founding member of the right-wing Arena party, lead by a U.S.-trained former intelligence officer named Roberto D’Aubuisson.

Craig Pyes, an investigative reporter then with the Albuquerque Journal, wrote a series on the rightist death squads based on extensive on-the-ground reporting in El Salvador in the early 1980s with Laurie Becklund of the Los Angeles Times, while the death squads were still active.

Pyes, who has since won two Pulitzer Prizes and is now a private investigator in California, says that no one has produced any proof that de Sola directly funded death squads.

“However,” Pyes says, “he was in the inner circle of the group around D’Aubuisson at the time that D’Aubuisson was well known to be involved in the death squads. De Sola’s name appears in a December 1983 FBI cable as one of 29 people suspected by State Department officials of furnishing funds and weapons to Salvadoran death squads.”

De Sola’s name also turned up in a notebook, seized from an aide to D’Aubuisson named Saravia, that detailed the finances of D’Aubuisson’s terrorist network, according to Pyes.

The Saravia notebook, reviewed by U.S. officials, listed weapons purchases, payments, and what appear to be descriptions of violent plots by rightists, including the assassination of El Salvador’s Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero in 1980. Asked about the notebook by the New York Times in the late 1980s, de Sola denied that he had ever helped finance political violence. De Sola could not be reached for comment for this story.

Romney, for his part, who was much more accessible to the press in 1994, told the Globe that year that “we investigated the individuals’ integrity and looked for any obvious signs of illegal activity and problems in their background, and found none. We did not investigate in-laws and relatives.” He also said that Bain had checked the names of the Bain investors with the U.S. government. Given the policy of the Reagan administration at the time, though, it’s not clear going to the government would have been the most effective vetting mechanism.

It’s impossible to fully explore the backgrounds of the original Bain investors because we don’t know all their identities, including the names of the four members of the de Sola family mentioned by the Globe. Neither the Romney camp, Bain Capital, nor Strachan — the Bain executive who recruited the Central Americans — responded to requests for comment.

During his first presidential bid in 2007, Romney more than once touted the Central American investors in Bain while trying to woo Hispanic voters. In a speech in March of that year to the Miami-Dade Lincoln Day Dinner, Romney actually specified five of the original “partners” in Bain Capital — but the de Sola family was not among those he named.

And that August he told the Miami Herald, “The investments for the company that I started, Bain Capital, came largely from Latin America. My largest single investors came from El Salvador, Ecuador, Colombia and Guatemala. And so I feel a deep kinship to people in Latin America.”


By: Justin Elliott, Salon, January 20, 2012

January 23, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Does It Matter Newt Cheated?

Newt Gingrich’s second wife, Marianne, told ABC News he’s morally unfit to be president because he cut out on her with Callista and then asked her to go along with the arrangement. She’s attacking the candidate who shut down the entire U.S. government because it was spending too much money on poor people; who thinks that “African-American” is just a synonym for food stamp recipient; and who wants to conscript impoverished children into janitorial jobs to teach them promptness. And we’re worrying about what he did with his dick? Watch out: When all morality collapses into sexual morality, the voters will become so fixated on whom the candidates are screwing they don’t notice …  it’s them.

Most of the fault for this misallocation of our moral indignation lies, of course, in the unruly sexuality of fourth-century Christian theologian Augustine of Hippo. Like Newt Gingrich, Augustine’s sexual desires stood in the way of his ambition — in his case, for a career in the church. Although, like Gingrich, Augustine finally suppressed sufficiently to embrace the requisite behavior, in his struggles he left behind the wicked legacy that conflates sexual desire with moral failure. As time went by, the church agreed that sex was OK as long as you confined it to one lifelong heterosexual reproductive marriage. The monogamous marriage really took off as a moral model when Martin Luther founded the Protestant wing that Gingrich the Catholic now eschews. Like Gingrich, Martin Luther had his eye on a nun long before he nailed the theses.

And so when Gingrich decided to get married in 1962 and again in 1981 and once more in 2000, Speaker Gingrich had to commit himself to be faithful to Wife 1, Wife 2 and, now, Callista. And then he breached his contract. Again and again. Unless you live in fourth-century Italy, that’s what infidelity is. Not the sum and substance of all that’s wrong in the world. Not the only thing a Republican can do that is legitimate to criticize (enjoying all those Cayman millions, Mitt?). Not the definition of immorality. But definitely a breach of contract. It’s like walking away from your mortgage when your house is underwater or wearing a dress to the party and then taking it back to the store.

Breach of contract, like lying, is not nothing. When people try to get out from under the Catholic/Protestant order of sexual morality, they try to say Gingriching around is nothing, as long as you don’t do it in the streets and scare the horses: the right to privacy and all that. That is as foolish as saying infidelity is everything. All you have to do is look at the video of the usually unflappable Hillary Clinton walking to the helicopter to Camp David that awful day in 1997 to know that breaching the fidelity contract is not nothing.

The problem is, what with no-fault divorce, our society provides no damages for breach of sexual contract other than a suicidal divorce. In most divorces, the breacher pays about the same price as he would for forgetting to return his Netflix. Especially if he’s a big, powerful man like Newt Gingrich and the wife was foolish enough to bet all her hopes for her future on his stellar course. Or Bill Clinton. Or France’s contribution to the news category, feel-like-you-need-a-shower-after-hearing-it, Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Their wives were smart enough not to try to enforce their contract of marital fidelity through the suicidal medium of divorce. Hillary Clinton gagged it down and she almost made it to the White House. Anne Sinclair got chosen the most admired woman in France. Don’t blame them for choosing unconditional surrender. Under the current divorce laws and social norms, those alpha males are the U.S.Army and the wives are Grenada. Why does the society treat the women who invest early in high-flying careers so much worse than the early investors in, say, Facebook? A better system would treat a Marianne Gingrich at least as well as the courts treated the Winklevoss twins.

Which is why I’m actually rooting for Marianne. When she refused to take Newt’s offer and stay on the gravy train, he tried to stick her with two grand a month they had agreed to after an earlier squabble. His earlier attempts to avoid supporting his first wife and their daughters were also legendary. Now he’s a Tiffany-patronizing, speech-making money machine, a gold mine. And as usual the ex-wife got the shaft. It’s not the definition of immorality, but her going public right before the South Carolina primary has all the appeal of asymmetrical warfare. Just as Newt was cruising down the road to victory in South Carolina his jeep hit an IED. He’ll probably be fine. But it’s so gratifying at least to see him bleed a little.


By: Linda Hirshman, Salon, January 20, 2012

January 23, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, Family Values | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The “Appeasement” Parrots Of The GOP

With the country still struggling to pull itself out of an economic recession, foreign policy has not rated the highest among issues discussed by the Republican presidential candidates. But among those foreign policy issues that have been debated, one has dominated the agenda: Iran. And other than Ron Paul, the candidates have arrived at the same verdict on President Obama’s Iran policy: It is appeasement.

Speaking at a forum last month, the candidates lined up to launch the charge at Obama. “For every thug and hooligan, for every radical Islamist, he [Obama] has had nothing but appeasement,” said former Sen. Rick Santorum. “Internationally, President Obama has adopted an appeasement strategy,” said former Gov. Mitt Romney. In September, standing alongside hard-line supporters of Israel’s settlements, Texas Gov. Rick Perry similarly condemned the administration’s “Middle East policy of appeasement” — at almost precisely the same moment that Obama was delivering a speech defending Israel at the United Nations and demanding that Iran meet its nuclear treaty. In late December, Newt Gingrich said on an Iowa radio program, “You have an Obama administration who’s dedicated to appeasing our enemies and dedicated to giving away our secrets.”

It’s not a particularly surprising line of attack. “Appeasement,” with its obvious reference to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s capitulation to Adolf Hitler at Munich in 1938, is probably the single most overworked accusation in the conservative foreign policy lexicon, a free-floating, no-evidence-required assertion of weakness and surrender. The charge has become so unmoored from any actual historical context that many who use it are not even aware of its provenance. During the 2008 presidential campaign, “Hardball’s” Chris Matthews famously humiliated right-wing shout radio jock Kevin James by repeatedly asking what had actually happened at Munich, to which a red-faced James could only repeatedly scream, “Appeasement!”

One can disagree with the Obama administration’s two-track approach of engagement with and pressure on Iran. But to describe that approach as “appeasement” is to declare oneself desperately in need of a dictionary. The Obama administration has overseen the adoption of some of the most stringent multilateral sanctions ever on Iran. It has undertaken unprecedented defense cooperation with regional allies, including the placing of a NATO missile defense radar system in Turkey, to Iran’s continued outrage. And the administration successfully facilitated the appointment of a special U.N. human rights monitor for Iran to track the regime’s continued abuses.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent jaunt through Latin America, intended to combat the perception that Iran is increasingly isolated, was a bust, long on photo ops and statements of solidarity from the likes of Hugo Chavez, but short on actual measures that might help Iran out. The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that Iranians’ efforts to protect their savings from rampant, sanctions-induced inflation by offloading rials for more stable currencies had gotten so bad that Iranian authorities cracked down on the practice.

There is a legitimate argument to be had over whether the punishing measures taken by the international community will actually push the Iranian government toward a compromise on its nuclear program, which it insists is for peaceful purposes, but about which the International Atomic Energy Agency continues to have troubling unanswered questions. At the very least, though, one would think that enacting such measures would inoculate the administration from the charge of being weak on Iran. But no, some of Obama’s conservative critics have gone so far as to redefine appeasement as simply the act of talking to one’s adversaries, as columnist Charles Krauthammer did when he insisted that the administration’s efforts at negotiations with Iran “did nothing but confer legitimacy on the regime.”

In reality, talks with Iran have served as a force multiplier for other efforts to put pressure on Iran over its nuclear program. As one Israeli defense official told me for an article last year, the Israelis themselves were very skeptical that talks with Iran would have any benefit, but now recognize that the effort “contributed to building international consensus” around the problem. Negotiations have actually done the opposite of conferring legitimacy on the regime — they made clear to the world, and to the Iranian people, that the Iranian government, not the U.S., was the central obstacle to a resolution, thereby facilitating further sanctions. On Monday, Nicholas Burns, the under-secretary of state for political affairs during the George W. Bush administration, told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell that “Iran is probably more isolated today than the day that President Obama took office.”

Conservative mendacity aside, it’s worth looking at what former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the patron saint of the anti-appeasement crowd, had to say about it. “The word ‘appeasement’ is not popular, but appeasement has its place in all policy,” Churchill told an audience in 1950. “Make sure you put it in the right place. Appease the weak, defy the strong.” Returning to the theme later that year, he noted that “Appeasement in itself may be good or bad according to the circumstances.”

It should come as no surprise that the views of Churchill the man are quite a bit more nuanced than those of Churchill the Neocon Dashboard Saint, but what might this mean with regard to Iran? It means remembering that, despite the significant self-inflicted setbacks created by our invasion of Iraq, the U.S. is still dealing from a position of considerable strength against a weaker power in Iran. The U.S. has by far the largest military in the world, with an annual defense budget of over $700 billion, while Iran spends around $9 billion per year.

This certainly doesn’t mean that the U.S. should acquiesce to an Iranian nuclear weapon, but it does suggest that the U.S. and its partners should at least consider making explicit what was implicit in the proposed 2009 deal on fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor: a recognition of Iran’s right to domestic enrichment in exchange for the complete satisfaction of the IAEA’s concerns, and a commitment to ongoing verification. At the very least, talks should continue to be pursued in the hope of establishing some line of regular communication between the U.S. and Iran as a way to calm tensions, which are running high over Iran’s provocative threats to close the Strait of Hormuz, and the assassination of another Iranian nuclear scientist.

Finally, as we face a new round of calls for preventive war against Iran, from many of the same people who advocated preventive war against Iraq, it’s very much worth remembering that the Iraq war provided a greater strategic benefit to Iran than any “appeasement” conceivably could. Some of those gains have been lost in recent years, partly as a result of the Arab Spring, partly as a result of the Obama administration’s hard diplomatic work, and partly because of Iran’s own incompetence and belligerence. Clearly, Iran continues to represent a challenge to the U.S. and its interests on a number of fronts, but it’s important to keep that challenge in perspective, and not allow ourselves to be marched into another ruinous military adventure with unforeseeable consequences through the ridiculous idea that anything short of war is  “appeasement.”


By: Matt Duss, Policy Analyst , Center for American Progress, Published in Salon, January 20, 2012

January 23, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Deep Doo-Doo”: Newt Gingrich’s Surprise Win In South Carolina Panics Republicans

Reactions to Newt Gingrich’s stunning and impressive victory in the South Carolina primary form a symphony. First, of course, we hear the cheers of South Carolina Republicans who have chosen their champion. From Ronald Reagan in 1980 through John McCain in 2008, the winner of this primary has always gone on to be the Republican nominee.

Then, of course, we can hear the buttons popping from Newt Gingrich’s shirt as his ego swells to Macy’s parade size. If you listen carefully, you can hear the soft sobs of Mitt Romney and his consultants, crying in their chocolate milk.

But above it all we can hear the weeping, the wailing, the gnashing of teeth of the Republican establishment as Gingrich’s victory sends them into full-blown panic. I’m not talking about mere fear, nor normal nervousness. Not even the feeling you get when the captain says, “We’ve lost power in one of our four engines.” No, this is worse. Worse even than when your doctor says, “I don’t like the looks of that shadow on the X-ray.”

This is terror. Chest-clutching, breath-sucking, soul-shaking panic. This is your teenage daughter telling you, “I think I’m in trouble.” This is a Turkish border guard pulling you into a holding room when you’ve got a baggie of coke in your pocket. This is what George H.W. Bush famously called “deep doo-doo.”

The Republican Party has never seen anything like it. Republicans are hierarchical, orderly, disciplined—everything the Democrats are not. They nearly always nominate the guy who was runner-up last time: Ford beat Reagan, and Reagan got the next nod. Reagan beat George H.W. Bush, so Bush Sr. got the next turn. And then Bush beat Dole, who in turn was rewarded with the 1996 GOP nod. Then they got all wild and crazy and nominated the son of a former president, but then quickly reverted to form and nominated the guy he defeated, John McCain. And who did McCain beat? Mitt Romney.

As the anointed one, Romney had all the advantages, especially the most important: money. But as the Beatles taught us, money can’t buy you love. Romney and the super PAC that supports him outspent Gingrich and the pro-Gingrich super PAC in South Carolina by a 2–1 margin ($4 million to $2.16 million.)

Gingrich won the South Carolina primary not because of advertising, but rather because of his debate performances. Eighty-eight percent of South Carolina Republicans said the debates were important to making up their minds, and in the two key debates, Gingrich hit every GOP erogenous zone. He scolded Fox News’s Juan Williams when Williams asked him about the dog-whistle language Gingrich uses to stir up racial stereotypes. Williams, the author of Eyes on the Prize, a respected history of the civil-rights movement, knows of what he speaks. But Gingrich knows his party’s base, and the base loves both the coded language and attacking anyone who calls them on it.

But it was Thursday night’s CNN debate that sealed the deal. Going into the debate, Gingrich and Romney were tied in the polls. And each had an important and obvious question they were going to be asked: for Gingrich, it was his ex-wife’s explosive allegation that he had asked for an “open marriage.” For Romney, it was whether he would release his tax returns. Think about it: which question would you rather answer? Mitt had the easier challenge by a mile. Yet Gingrich got a standing ovation by bitterly denouncing moderator John King in particular and the media in general. Romney got booed for his weak, waffling non-answer.

Between now and the Jan. 31 Florida primary, we will hear a furious, frenzied response from the Republican establishment. Team Romney has already spent $7 million on TV ads there—Team Gingrich just $800. Not $800,000. Just 800 bucks. Look for popular former governor Jeb Bush to endorse Romney in the Sunshine State, leading a parade of establishmentarians.

Will Romney’s money and endorsements be able to overwhelm Gingrich’s electrifying debate performances? They weren’t in South Carolina. But Romney has an ace in the hole. The one person who has consistently derailed Newt Gingrich’s political career is Newt Gingrich.


By: Paul Begala, The Daily Beast, January 21, 2012

January 23, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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