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“A Severely Pandering Flip”: The Romney Pivot Is Underway

Today, during an exchange with reporters, Mitt Romney had some nice things to say about Paris. That’s commanding a lot of attention already on Twitter and elsewhere.

But this quote from Romney, in which he offered his support for the push to extend low interest rates on student loans — something Obama has been championing — is far more important:

I fully support the effort to extend the low interest rate on student loans. There was some concern that would expire halfway through the year. I support extending the temporarily relief on interest rates…in part because of the extraordinarily poor conditions in the job market.

And so the pivot is underway. At his press availability today, Romney had not even been asked about the student loan push — yet he deliberately went out of his way to clarify his support for the extension, anyway.

This would seem to put Romney at odds with Congressional Republicans. Obama has launched an all-out push to get Congress to extend a provision of a 2007 law that is set to expire on July 1st — doubling the interest rate for nearly eight million students each year. Congressional Republicans are expected to oppose it along party lines, arguing that the extension represents a fiscally irresponsible effort to buy the youth vote. But now Romney appears to have come out for it.

Michael Steel, a spokesman for John Boehner, denied that Romney’s position is necessarily at odds with that of House Republicans, telling me that Congressional GOPers are still committeed to finding a way to extend low interest rates. But asked if Republicans supported Obama’s push to extend the law immediately, Steel wouldn’t say.

And Romney’s stance does seem at odds with that of Republicans like Rep. John Kline, the chair of the House education committee, who said recently: “We must now choose between allowing interest rates to rise or piling billions of dollars on the backs of taxpayers.”

Romney laid down a harder line against government help with student loans during the primary. In March, a high school senior from Ohio asked Romney at a town hall meeting what he would do to help students pay for college. Romney replied: “It would be popular for me to stand up and say I’m going to give you government money to pay for your college, but I’m not going to promise that…don’t expect the government to forgive the debt that you take on.”

But the student loan fight is one that seems tailor made for Obama to use against Romney. The GOP candidate claims that instead of favoring government activism to combat inequality, we should simply unshackle the private sector and allow it to create opportunity for everyone. The student loan fight gives Obama and Dems a good way to call the GOP’s “opportunity” bluff,” by asking why Republicans who claim expanding opportunity is the real way to combat inequality refuse to support government action that will facilitate it.

At any rate, at a time when Romney is making an aggressive bid for the youth vote, arguing that Obama is responsible for the unemployment travails of recent college grads, it appears Romney has decided he can’t afford to oppose extending the low interest rates Obama is pushing for right now.

UPDATE: Obama campaign spokesperson Lis Smith responds:

Mitt Romney continues to make promises that he can’t keep. While he previously endorsed the Ryan budget, which would make deep cuts to Pell Grants and allow student loan rates to double, and last week said that he would gut the Department of Education to pay for his tax plan, today we heard yet another—and contradictory — position from Romney on student loans. As the list of promises Mitt Romney has made to the American people gets longer — from giving $5 trillion in tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans to claiming that he would balance the budget — the numbers just don’t add up.

The real question is whether Mitt Romney is being honest about his agenda and if so, whether he will come clean about the necessarily painful cuts he would have to make to meet all of his promises.


By: Greg Sargent, The Washington Post Plum Line, April 23, 2012

April 24, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Just Like Bush, But Updated”: If You Liked George W. Bush, You’ll Love Mitt Romney

In July 2010, NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) unfortunately told the truth during an interview on “Meet the Press.” Republicans had high hopes about the midterm elections, and host David Gregory pressed the Republican leader about what the GOP would do with their majority. Sessions said his party wanted to “go back to the exact same agenda.”

In context, the agenda Sessions wanted to “go back to” was that of the Bush/Cheney administration and the Republican Congress of 2006.

Nearly two years later, Pat Garofalo reports on recent comments from Alexandra Franceschi, a press secretary for the Republican National Committee, who was similarly candid in an interview last week.

For those who can’t watch or listen to clips online, Franceschi was asked how the 2012 Republican agenda differs from the policies of the Bush/Cheney era. “Is this a different program or is this that program just updated?” the host asked.

Franceschi replied, “I think it’s that program, just updated.”

This is, oddly enough, exactly what Democrats wanted to hear. For Dems, one of the principal goals of 2012 is to persuade American voters not to go backwards. Bush/Cheney left all kinds of crises for Obama/Biden to clean up, and Democrats will urge the electorate not to return to the failures of the recent past.

The challenge for Mitt Romney and the Republican Party in 2012 is to put some distance between themselves and the debacle of the Bush presidency. This would be easier, of course, if Romney hadn’t brought on so many Bush aides as his top advisors, while pushing a policy agenda that’s eerily similar to Bush’s vision, only more right-wing.

And it’d be much easier if an RNC press secretary weren’t effectively admitting that Democrats are right, conceding that the party simply intends to “update” the failed Bush agenda for another decade.

It’s likely only a matter of time before we start seeing ads that say, “If you liked George W. Bush, you’ll love Mitt Romney.”


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April, 23, 2012

April 24, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Definition Of Hypocrite”: Scott Brown Needs A Dictionary

Earlier this year, Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) began criticizing his main Democratic rival, Elizabeth Warren, for being a “hypocrite.” The argument went like this: Warren makes a fair amount of money, but she’s an advocate for struggling, working families. Ergo, she’s guilty of “hypocrisy.”

The problem, of course, is that this line of attack is dumb, and reflects ignorance about the meaning of the word “hypocrite.” Warren has acquired a fair amount of wealth, after having been raised by a family of modest means and putting herself through law school, but she’s now one of the nation’s leading voices in representing the interests of the middle class.

Brown can agree or disagree on the merits of her beliefs, and he and his fellow Republicans are free to argue that fighting for the middle class is a bad idea, but when those with considerable personal resources look at the status quo — a growing class gap, wealth concentrated at the top, rising poverty — and want a more progressive approach, that’s admirable, not hypocritical.

And yet, Brown and his team are still confused.

Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown’s campaign accused Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren of “hypocrisy” after she admitted to not paying higher taxes than the state requires. […]

“The problem with running a campaign based on self-righteousness and moral superiority is that you had better live up to the same standard you would impose on everyone else,” [Brown campaign managed Jim Barnett] said. … “This is the sort of hypocrisy and double-speak voters are sick and tired of hearing from politicians, especially those who can’t keep their hands out of others’ pocketbooks.”

Let’s explain this in basic terms.

1. Elizabeth Warren makes a good living and pays her taxes.

2. Warren believes she and others in her income bracket should pay higher taxes.

3. Warren would gladly pay higher taxes, but she hasn’t made charitable contributions to the government treasury, and she hasn’t urged anyone else to make charitable contributions to the government treasury, either.

If Brown and his team think this is “hypocrisy,” perhaps Warren could use some of her money to send a dictionary to the Republican campaign headquarters.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 23, 2012

April 24, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The “Amnesia Candidate”: Mitt Romney Lull’s The American People And The Media On The Economy

Just how stupid does Mitt Romney think we are? If you’ve been following his campaign from the beginning, that’s a question you have probably asked many times.

But the question was raised with particular force last week, when Mr. Romney tried to make a closed drywall factory in Ohio a symbol of the Obama administration’s economic failure. It was a symbol, all right — but not in the way he intended.

First of all, many reporters quickly noted a point that Mr. Romney somehow failed to mention: George W. Bush, not Barack Obama, was president when the factory in question was closed. Does the Romney campaign expect Americans to blame President Obama for his predecessor’s policy failure?

Yes, it does. Mr. Romney constantly talks about job losses under Mr. Obama. Yet all of the net job loss took place in the first few months of 2009, that is, before any of the new administration’s policies had time to take effect. So the Ohio speech was a perfect illustration of the way the Romney campaign is banking on amnesia, on the hope that voters don’t remember that Mr. Obama inherited an economy that was already in free fall.

How does the campaign deal with people who point out the awkward reality that all of the “Obama” job losses took place before any Obama policies had taken effect? The fallback argument — which was rolled out when reporters asked about the factory closure — is that even though Mr. Obama inherited a deeply troubled economy, he should have fixed it by now. That factory is still closed, said a Romney adviser, because of the failure of Obama policies “to really get this economy going again.”

Actually, that factory would probably still be closed even if the economy had done better — drywall is mainly used in new houses, and while the economy may be coming back, the Bush-era housing bubble isn’t.

But Mr. Romney’s poor choice of a factory for his photo-op aside, I guess accusing Mr. Obama of not doing enough to promote recovery is a better argument than blaming him for the effects of Bush policies. However, it’s not much better, since Mr. Romney is essentially advocating a return to those very same Bush policies. And he’s hoping that you don’t remember how badly those policies worked.

For the Bush era didn’t just end in catastrophe; it started off badly, too. Yes, Mr. Obama’s jobs record has been disappointing — but it has been unambiguously better than Mr. Bush’s over the comparable period of his administration.

This is especially true if you focus on private-sector jobs. Overall employment in the Obama years has been held back by mass layoffs of schoolteachers and other state and local government employees. But private-sector employment has recovered almost all the ground lost in the administration’s early months. That compares favorably with the Bush era: as of March 2004, private employment was still 2.4 million below its level when Mr. Bush took office.

Oh, and where have those mass layoffs of schoolteachers been taking place? Largely in states controlled by the G.O.P.: 70 percent of public job losses have been either in Texas or in states where Republicans recently took control.

Which brings me to another aspect of the amnesia campaign: Mr. Romney wants you to attribute all of the shortfalls in economic policy since 2009 (and some that happened in 2008) to the man in the White House, and forget both the role of Republican-controlled state governments and the fact that Mr. Obama has faced scorched-earth political opposition since his first day in office. Basically, the G.O.P. has blocked the administration’s efforts to the maximum extent possible, then turned around and blamed the administration for not doing enough.

So am I saying that Mr. Obama did everything he could, and that everything would have been fine if he hadn’t faced political opposition? By no means. Even given the political constraints, the administration did less than it could and should have in 2009, especially on housing. Furthermore, Mr. Obama was an active participant in Washington’s destructive “pivot” away from jobs to a focus on deficit reduction.

And the administration has suffered repeatedly from complacency — taking a few months of good news as an excuse to rest on its laurels rather than hammering home the need for more action. It did that in 2010, it did it in 2011, and to a certain extent it has been doing the same thing this year too. So there is a valid critique one can make of the administration’s handling of the economy.

But that’s not the critique Mr. Romney is making. Instead, he’s basically attacking Mr. Obama for not acting as if George Bush had been given a third term. Are the American people — and perhaps more to the point, the news media — forgetful enough for that attack to work? I guess we’ll find out.


By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, April 22, 2012


April 24, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Patron Saint For The Far Right”: Robert Bork, Mitt Romney’s Secret Constitutional Weapon

Now that Mitt Romney has ground out a victory against the weakest GOP field in a generation and the most extreme in history, he’s now turning his attention to the general election. To use a particularly vivid metaphor, he’s shaking his Etch-a-Sketch as hard as he can, trying to erase his far-right pandering in the primaries. But despite his head fakes towards moderation, no one should doubt that a President Mitt Romney would enact a dangerously extreme agenda for our country, and nothing makes that clearer than the person he selected as his constitutional and judicial advisor: Robert Bork.

Yes, that Robert Bork.

In a primary dominated by sideshows appealing to the fringe element, important issues like the Supreme Court were rarely discussed in detail, but Romney’s announcement that Bork would be his judicial advisor is the clearest possible signal of how far to the right Romney has moved since his days as a “moderate” Republican in Massachusetts and of his willingness to embrace all the fringiest opinions of all his primary opponents.

Sure, Rick Santorum promised to attack legalized birth control, Ron Paul says the Civil Rights Act “destroyed” privacy, and Newt Gingrich thinks child labor laws are “truly stupid.” But none of them can hold a candle to the extremism of Robert Bork, the patron saint of far-right ideologues. And Bork’s choice in this infamous field? Mitt Romney.

When Bork was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1987, his nomination was rejected as too extreme by a bipartisan majority in a 58-42 vote. Since then he’s only moved further out of the mainstream.

Robert Bork insists that art and literature aren’t protected by the First Amendment. He defended the constitutionality of poll taxes and literacy tests for voters, and he called the Civil Rights Act “unsurpassed ugliness.” He’s defended state laws that made gay sex a criminal offense. As a judge he routinely ruled in favor of big business over individual Americans.

Perhaps most disturbing are Bork’s reactionary views on how the law treats women. Robert Bork doesn’t just think abortion should be criminalized, he thinks states should be free to outlaw birth control. He’s argued that the Equal Protection Clause doesn’t apply to women. And what seems almost too unbelievable to be real, he even ruled that a company is free to tell female employees to be sterilized or lose their jobs.

In any sane election, Robert Bork would be the hidden crazy uncle or at least denounced as a political liability, but then again this hasn’t been a sane election. Instead, Mitt Romney has bragged about nabbing the endorsement and held Bork up as a model for the judges he’d appoint to the bench, including the Supreme Court. He’s said he wishes Bork were on the court today. Any questions regarding the types of judges Romney would nominate?

With Election Day on the horizon, it’s all but inevitable that Mitt Romney will start reshaping his rhetoric for the general election. But regardless of his carefully calibrated statements or his poll-tested promises, no one should forget that by choosing Robert Bork as a key advisor, Mitt Romney has made crystal clear his frighteningly extreme agenda for America.


By: Michael B. Keegan, President, People For The American Way, The Huffington Post, April 23, 2012

April 24, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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