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“Five Contests, Lots Of Media, Zero Drama”: The Great Republican Primary Pretense

It has all the trappings of a big election night: five primaries, live television coverage, pundits telling us what it all means.

But what if it doesn’t mean squat?

Let’s face it: The GOP presidential race ended weeks ago. You know it, I know it, and every working journalist knows it. Maybe not Newt, but most other sentient beings. If this were a boxing match, the refs would have stopped it long ago.

So why cover contests with about as much excitement as a Politburo election?

There was a time, of course, when this particular Tuesday loomed large on the calendar. Could Rick Santorum win his home state of Pennsylvania? But then Santorum dropped out, leaving Mitt Romney a clear path to the prize.

So those of us who cover politics are left with thin gruel indeed: What would Romney’s margins be in what proved to be a five-state sweep? Would there be a protest vote? How does Mitt do in key counties he’ll need in the fall?

If there was a frisson of drama, it came when Gingrich spoke after Romney was projected to win Delaware. There was some press buzz that Newt, who spent time there, might stay in the race if he carried the tiny state, even though that would have made absolutely no difference in the inevitable outcome. (Nice going, gang, Newt was buried by 30 points.) And Santorum indeed lost Pennsylvania, but then again, he is no longer an active candidate.

Fox and CNN carried Romney’s speech; MSNBC blew it off, with Ed Schultz attacking Sean Hannity instead.

Piers Morgan tried hard to prod Santorum into endorsing Romney, but Rick wouldn’t quite go there, saying the two were going to meet first. So real news was averted once again.

We can’t just call off the remaining primaries: all those congressional and local candidates need to be nominated. And even at the presidential level, the voting often determines which delegates go to the conventions. But that’s inside baseball. We already know the final score.

The cable coverage has been somewhat restrained compared to, say, the night of the Iowa caucuses. In the 8 p.m. hour, Fox stayed with a taped Bill O’Reilly show. Schultz didn’t pause during an interview, even as MSNBC threw up a breaking-news banner projecting Romney the winner in Connecticut and Rhode Island. When I first saw John King hit CNN’s Magic Wall, he was counting how the candidates could get to 270. Mitt didn’t even bother to show up in any of the five states, spending the day instead in New Hampshire.

The truth is that journalists switched to general election mode even while the primaries were still competitive. As a Project for Excellence in Journalism study noted this week, the media essentially pronounced the race over after Romney won the Michigan primary on Feb. 28, even though Santorum would go on to win several more states.

This sort of thing has happened before. Jerry Brown won a couple of late primaries in 1992, after it was obvious that Bill Clinton would be the nominee, but nobody took it very seriously.

So perhaps the events of Tuesday were more of a time-out from the endless general election slog, a last look back at a crazy season stretching back to Donald Trump and Herman Cain. That is, until the crucial North Carolina primary on May 8.


By: Howard Kurtz, The Daily Beast, April 24, 2012

April 25, 2012 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Blind In Both Eyes”: Marco Rubio Thinks George W. Bush “Did A Fantastic Job”

It’s strange to hear an endorsement so ringing of an unpopular ex-president who failed in so many different ways. 

George W. Bush’s tenure began with a catastrophic terrorist attack. It ended with a catastrophic financial crisis. In the interim, it was consumed mostly with fighting a costly war of choice. The invasion of Iraq was launched on false premises with inadequate planning; it was poorly managed for years on end; and even America’s fallback goal of a stable democracy in the Middle East wasn’t achieved. In fact, the invasion and occupation mostly just strengthened Iran’s position. Our enemies also benefited from the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.

On the domestic front, President Bush signed an education reform bill that liberals and conservatives now agree was a mistake; he failed to reform Social Security, and rather than finding a way to save money on Medicare he added a costly prescription drug benefit to it even as he cut taxes. It’s no wonder that the deficit exploded during his spendthrift two terms in the White House. Bush’s faith based initiatives were a bust, as were his immigration reform efforts, and he signed into law campaign finance reform legislation he’d previously deemed unconstitutional. He created the instantly dysfunctional Department of Homeland Security and illegally spied on American citizens without warrants. His dubious appointments included Alberto Gonzalez and Harriet Miers, a Supreme Court choice so bad that his own base revolted. And he left office so unpopular that his party suffered a historic defeat; even four years later its presidential candidates did their utmost to avoid saying his name in speeches and debates.

That is the record Marco Rubio deems fantastic.

As he put it:

George W. Bush, in my opinion, did a fantastic job as president over eight years, facing a set of circumstances during those eight years that are different from the circumstances that a President Romney would face.

Partisan loyalty sure does make people say ill-conceived things.

By: Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, April 24, 2012

April 25, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Knuckleheaded Assumptions”: Bad Science Around “Job-Killing Regulations”

It is a seemingly immutable law of modern Republican rhetoric that the word “regulation” can never appear unadorned by the essential adjective: “job-killing.”

As in nominee-in-waiting Mitt Romney, after winning the Illinois primary: “Day by day, job-killing regulation by job-killing regulation, bureaucrat by bureaucrat, this president is crushing the dream.”

Or House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) denouncing “the president’s job-killing regulatory agenda” last month after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new limits on coal-fired power plants.

Or Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who said during her presidential campaign that the EPA should be renamed the “Job-Killing Organization of America.”

Hating regulation is an old argument, but the phrase is a relatively new trope. A Nexis search of articles from U.S. newspapers and news services shows that the words “job-killing regulations” appeared just a handful of times in 2007 — but several hundred times in 2011.

This inflated rhetoric is often accompanied by bad science — or, perhaps more precisely, inherently inexact science badly used. Opponents of a particular regulation tout inflated projections of the regulatory body count, more often than not financed by the affected industry. Ditto, by the way, for those on the other side.

For example, when the EPA last year issued rules to limit mercury and other power-plant emissions, the industry-backed American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity estimated the regulations would trigger the loss of 1.44 million jobs.

At the same time, the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst concluded that the rules would instead create 1.46 million jobs through retrofitting old plants and switching to new sources of renewable energy.

The EPA itself came up with much more modest predictions — that the rules would create about 50,000 one-time jobs and another 9,000 additional jobs annually. All in the broader context of a rule that the agency estimated would deliver annual net benefits of between $166 billion and $407 billion from cleaner air, including avoiding as many as 51,000 premature deaths annually.

Lesson One: If you plug your cherry-picked assumptions into your preferred model, it’s easy to obtain the desired result. Lesson Two: Jobs are only part of the larger picture.

A new report from the Institute for Policy Integrity at the New York University School of Law attempts to bring some economic rationality to the regulatory discourse — however quixotic that might be in the current political environment, not to mention in a presidential election year.

The report is titled “The Regulatory Red Herring: The Role of Job Impact Analyses in Environmental Policy Debates.” Yet somewhat surprisingly, Michael Livermore, the institute’s executive director, does not oppose factoring job impact into the cost-benefit analysis. Rather, he argues for adopting a more sophisticated approach than the prevalent knuckleheaded assumption — my words, not his — that increased regulation inevitably results in fewer jobs.

If an employer’s costs increase as the result of a regulation, Livermore notes, that is another way of saying that the employer has to hire workers to, say, install new technology while other employers hire workers to produce the new equipment.

In a healthy economy, the cost of layoffs should be transitory, as workers quickly find new jobs. In an economy like the current one, the impact of such layoffs may be more persistent — but any new jobs created may be more significant since, in a soft labor market, otherwise unemployed workers may be hired.

Can these cross-cutting impacts be accurately measured in a dynamic economy? Perhaps more important for the current discourse, is it possible to have the jobs and regulation discussion without ignoring the inherent limitations of economic modeling?

“The jobs impact analysis is important and we should do it, but the way it’s discussed now is completely wrong,” Livermore told me.

First, he said, “we talk about the jobs impact on the one hand and the other impacts (such as health and safety improvements) on the other hand, and they’re treated as apples and oranges.” Instead, he said, “we need to integrate the jobs impact into the broader cost­benefit analysis.”

Second, Livermore said, is a failure among those doing the analyzing to disclose the assumptions and limitations of their models — and the willingness of politicians (and the media, for that matter) to treat the resulting figures as gospel rather than guesstimate.

“The real problem is the way they’re used in the political back and forth,” Livermore said. “They’re used as sledgehammers to beat up the other side.”

No surprise there. But a useful reminder at a time when the phrase job-killing has become mind-numbing.


By: Ruth Marcus, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 24, 2012

April 25, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Supernatural Beliefs”: More Americans Believe In Witchcraft Than Agree With Citizens United

In Citizens United v. FEC, the Supreme Court justified its conclusion that corporations and wealthy individuals can spend unlimited money to influence elections because it believed that “independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” According to a recent survey conducted for the Brennan Center for Justice, however, this places the five conservatives who joined this opinion in very lonely company. According to the poll, “69% of respondents agreed that ‘new rules that let corporations, unions and people give unlimited money to Super PACs will lead to corruption.’ Only 15% disagreed.”

To put this in perspective, a 2007 poll found that 19 percent of Americans believe in “spells or witchcraft,” and that’s just one of the supernatural beliefs that are more common than agreement with the conservative justices’ bizarre reasoning in Citizens United:

Put Conrad, a homemaker from Hampton, Va., firmly in the camp of the 34% of people who say they believe in ghosts, according to a pre-Halloween poll by The Associated Press and Ipsos. That’s the same proportion who believe in unidentified flying objects — exceeding the 19% who accept the existence of spells or witchcraft. . . .

A smaller but still substantial 23% say they have actually seen a ghost or believe they have been in one’s presence, . . . Three in 10 have awakened sensing a strange presence in the room.

To be fair, only 14 percent of Americans believe that they have personally seen a UFO, or one percent less than those who think that Citizens United was correctly decided.


By: Ian Millhiser, Think Progress, April 24, 2012

April 25, 2012 Posted by | Corporations | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Russell Pearce: Romney “Absolutely” Called Arizona Immigration Bill A National Model

Mitt Romney had the most conservative immigration policy of any Republican presidential candidate during most of the primary, but now that’s he trying to appeal to Hispanic voters as he pivots to general election, the presumed GOP nominee has been shifting back towards the center. Yesterday, he opened the door to a Republican alternative to the DREAM Act — a law he vowed to veto during the primary — and earlier, he said that he never called for making Arizona’s harsh immigration law a “model” for the nation.

But that’s not how one of the key people behind that law, former Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce, sees it. The former Republican lawmaker, who was ousted in a recall election, was the key force behind turning SB-1070, authored by Romney adviser Kris Kobach, into law.

He told reporters today that he “absolutely” believed Mitt Romney had endorsed the law as a model for the country. The Huffington Post’s Elise Foley reports:

“The folks that he’s said [are] his advisers on this, I have worked with for years and have great confidence and trust in them,” Pearce told reporters after a Senate subcommittee hearing on the immigration law. “I know Romney is a compassionate man, most of us, I’d like to think, are. But I think he also understands the crisis and the damage to this republic and the need to enforce our law.” […]

Romney also has advocated for what he called “self-deportation,” or making things difficult for undocumented immigrants until they decide to leave, one of the central tenets of the Arizona law. […] “[Self-deportation] is in SB 1070,” Pearce said.

Previously, Pearce has said that Romney’s “immigration policy is identical to mine.”

Romney has tried to distance himself from Kobach, who also helped author the controversial immigration crackdowns in Alabama, South Carolina, and other states. But Kobach quickly contradicted him, saying he regularly advises senior members of Romney’s staff.


By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Think Progress, April 24, 2012

April 25, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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