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“Discussions In The Quiet Room”: Bipartisanship Was Never Part Of The GOP Plan

Republicans never planned on working with President Obama.

This hasn’t received enough attention:

As President Barack Obama was celebrating his inauguration at various balls, top Republican lawmakers and strategists were conjuring up ways to submarine his presidency at a private dinner in Washington. […]

According to Draper, the guest list that night (which was just over 15 people in total) included Republican Reps. Eric Cantor (Va.), Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), Paul Ryan (Wis.), Pete Sessions (Texas), Jeb Hensarling (Texas), Pete Hoekstra (Mich.) and Dan Lungren (Calif.), along with Republican Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), John Ensign (Nev.) and Bob Corker (Tenn.). The non-lawmakers present included Newt Gingrich, several years removed from his presidential campaign, and Frank Luntz, the long-time Republican wordsmith. Notably absent were Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) — who, Draper writes, had an acrimonious relationship with Luntz.

For several hours in the Caucus Room (a high-end D.C. establishment), the book says they plotted out ways to not just win back political power, but to also put the brakes on Obama’s legislative platform.

In other words, there was nothing President Obama could have done to build common ground with Republicans. From the beginning, the plan was to relentlessly obstruct Obama, regardless of whether that was good for the country The GOP’s high-minded rhetoric of compromise and bipartisanship was bunk; cover for a plan to keep Democrats from accomplishing anything. It’s truly remarkable, and in an ideal world, would color any attempts from the GOP to portray itself as the victim of Democratic partisanship.


By: Jamelle Bouie, The American Prospect, April 26, 2012

April 27, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Whiter Than George W. Bush”: Mitt Romney’s Doomed Immigration Gambit

It seems clear that the main issue Mitt Romney is going to use to try to reestablish himself as a moderate is immigration. He told a private audience on April 15 that “we have to get Hispanic voters to vote for our party” and warned that current polling “spells doom for us.” Then, on Monday, he made himself available to the media for the first time in a month—while standing beside Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a leading veepstakes name. Can Romney, who staked out an immigration position during the primaries that left him sounding like Pat Buchanan, really pull this off? My bet: He’ll be smooth, he’ll do almost everything right, he’ll say all the right things—and he’ll end up with something very much like the 31 percent of the Latino vote John McCain got, maybe two or three points more, tops. The reason is simple: Romney, like his party, is just too white.

But before we get to art, let’s start with science—the polls. Obama leads Romney among Latinos by around 40 points, maybe more. A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal survey said 69 to 22 percent. How does Romney need to perform among Latinos? I have no idea, actually. Republicans speak wistfully of the 42 percent of that vote George W. Bush received in 2004, so they must think of it as some kind of holy grail. Bush got elected in 2004, so apparently that’s some sort of benchmark for them. Certainly, even 37 or maybe 35 percent of the Latino vote in the Mountain West for Romney would make the Obama team revert to Plan B or C as concerns Colorado and New Mexico (nationally, Latinos made up 9 percent of the overall vote in 2008; that will be up to 11 or 12 percent this year). So Romney needs to gain around 15 points—or, put another and more daunting way, he needs to improve on his present performance by 37 percent (i.e., going from 22 to 35 percent would be a 37 percent improvement).

Is that remotely possible? What would he do? Well, start with the most obvious move, picking Rubio as vice-president. Huge media buzz, of course. All manner of breathless predictions on the Sunday shows about how this changes everything—potential first Latino president, complete paradigm shift, all the rest.

One problem. There is no signal, at least yet, that Rubio would make a whit of difference. Last weekend, a poll came out in which 1,000-plus Latinos were asked about Obama-Biden matchups against Romney-Rubio, and Romney paired with various other Hispanic Republicans—including Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico (who has said she will not accept the job) and Gov. Brian Sandoval of Nevada. They made no difference, the poll found. In fact, in Florida, Obama did better among Latinos against Romney with Rubio on the ticket, suggesting that maybe to know him isn’t to love him.

Now we move on to substance, or at least to symbol-substance. At that same April 15 private event mentioned above, Romney said that as president he would pass a GOP version of the DREAM Act. This is exactly what Rubio has spent this week touting. Unlike the Democratic DREAM Act, it wouldn’t include a possible path to citizenship, just to green-card status. Latino groups hate it, and it does seem like an empty-calorie kind of bill, I have to say. It’s true that there are millions of permanent residents living in the United States now—about 1.1 million green cards are granted each year. But all of these people do have a future shot at citizenship, so at least they can all dream of being citizens one day, whereas under the Rubio bill, those who win such status can’t.

This is pretty small potatoes compared to what Bush supported. Remember, he was in favor of Teddy Kennedy’s immigration bill! He put a respectable amount of political capital into it, until the shitstorm hit and he backed down. Bush took what people could see was a bit of a risk. A non-citizenship DREAM Act compares to serious and comprehensive immigration reform in about the way Plessy v. Ferguson compares to Brown v. Board of Education.

And finally—art. Art is so underestimated in politics. Romney is just sooooo white. Even whiter than the Osmonds. Bush wasn’t that white. He came from a state where these days you can’t help but know some Latinos, and he spoke him a little esspanyole, even. But Romney? He fired some guys working on his lawn because he couldn’t afford the political liability of employing them, as he openly admitted at one of those GOP debates. Aside from that—well, I admit I’m no more up on the latest salsa artists than Mitt is, but do you think that guy has ever listened to one Tito Puente record in his life? Has he ever known a Latino person, outside of those who clean his houses and trim his lawns? It’s quite possible that he does. But he sure doesn’t look like he does.

Romney, therefore, will make some moves that will impress the largely white commentariat, and he’ll bump up a little among certain high-income Latino demographics. But average Latino voters, men and women who work really hard every day for white bosses, are just going to find that he reminds them too much of the guy who docks their pay when the bus comes late. And they won’t be wrong—he basically is that guy. There’s no overcoming that. He’s a 31 percenter at best.

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, April 26, 2012

April 27, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Land Of The Not-Free”: Meet Mitt Romney, The Real European

An odd thing happened during Mitt Romney’s victory-lap speech after Tuesday’s Republican primaries: He didn’t once mention the word “Europe.”

The absence was jarring, because Romney’s claim that President Obama is dragging the United States toward a loathsome European-style “social welfare” future has been a staple of the former Massachusetts governor’s shtick ever since he started campaigning in earnest.

It’s always been an easy line for him: Europe, Romney’s audience understands, is the land of the not-free. The continent gave birth to Karl Marx, for crying out loud! Every now and then, socialist political parties actually take power!

But there is a big problem with Romney’s formulation. For the last year or two, Europe has been implementing, in real time, exactly the policies that Romney and congressional Republicans fervently believe are the best strategy for boosting economic growth. It’s called “austerity,” and it means cutting deficits, slashing spending, and chipping away at all those goodies the social welfare state provides.

And guess what? It’s not working. Compared with the United States, Europe is in shambles. Unemployment is rising across the continent. Just this week, the United Kingdom, which has pursued an austerity regime so severe that it makes House Republicans drool with lust, slipped back into recession. In France, the socialist candidate for president (and likely winner), François Hollande, has been campaigning against austerity. Italy’s prime minister, Mario Monti, is expressing qualms. The latest news out of Brussels, according to the Daily Telegraph, suggests “a major shift in economic strategy” as fears spread “that excessive fiscal tightening will inflict unnecessary damage on a string of eurozone countries.”

The evidence keeps amassing. Maybe, just maybe, John Maynard Keynes was right: Cutting government spending in the face of a weak economy is a recipe for further decline. In a startling turnabout, political leaders all over Europe are questioning the merits of austerity and calling for more stimulative policies.

You can see the problem Romney faces, and why he might suddenly be reluctant to utter the word “Europe.” The facts are uncomfortable: Under Obama, the United States has recovered more quickly from the Great Recession than has Europe. Economic growth is steadier, and unemployment is falling faster. But if Romney wins the White House, bringing along with him Republican majorities in both the Senate and the House, he will have the power to do exactly what he says he wants to do: slash government spending and cut the deficit.

It’s a plan that runs the very real risk of sabotaging the economic recovery. It’s a plan, in other words, that would make the U.S. just like Europe.

Romney’s efforts to tar Obama as a fifth columnist for French-accented Really Big Government have been unrelenting. In December, he told voters in Iowa that Obama’s polices “were making us like Europe,” and “I don’t want Europe here.” In January, after winning the New Hampshire primary, he lambasted Obama for wanting “to turn America into a European-style entitlement society.” Just a few days ago, he explained to Fox News that the conservative base would rally behind his candidacy, because “President Obama has taken America in such a different course than we have ever gone as a nation before. We are becoming far more like a European social-welfare state, and people don’t want to see that.”

Never mind that by historical standards Obama’s efforts to strengthen the American safety net do not come close to the transformational efforts of presidents like Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, making Romney’s assertion that Obama is taking America on “such a different course than we have ever gone as a nation before” transparently ridiculous. If anyone running for president this year in the United States is a pioneer in European-style liberalism, it’s got to be Romney, the first governor to preside over the creation of a statewide universal healthcare plan. (And for a guy who seems to despise Europe so much, Romney sure seems to enjoy vacationing in France.)

But whatever. Romney’s Europe-bashing rhetoric serves multiple purposes. It labels Obama as something different, a “foreigner,” un-American. It also directly appeals to conservative concerns that the social welfare state is unaffordable. In this vein, unless governments everywhere tighten their belts, balance their budgets and get their ships in order, we’re all headed down the hopeless path of Greece, doomed to bankruptcy and social chaos.

Most importantly, Romney’s opposition to European-style Big Government stakes an implicit position on the great economic debate of our time: How best to spur economic growth?

The stances of the two main camps have been clear for years and endlessly debated by economists and pundits. The pro-stimulus, Keynesian argument holds that the problem afflicting stagnant economies all over the world is a lack of demand. When everyone is worried about their economic future, everyone simultaneously tightens their belt, and the capitalist machine stops in its tracks. Since no one is willing to buy anything, companies can’t sell their goods and services and respond by laying off their employees, and that further exacerbates the overall problem. Under such constraints, only the government has the power to step in and stimulate demand. Once the economy is growing strongly and consistently, only then do you look for ways to balance the budget — a task that becomes much easier when tax revenues are booming again.

The opposing camp, now commonly referred to as “Austerians,” believes the problem isn’t a lack of demand, but a lack of confidence. People are afraid to invest and buy and take risks because they’re worried that high deficits inevitably lead to high taxes, or high interest rates, or general fiscal chaos (or all of the above). And they’re going to hunker down until they’re sure that governments intend to act responsibly, and live within their means.

The Austerian camp’s stance translated into one of the most delightfully mindbendingly oxymoronic proposals to enter the economic policy parlance in years: “expansionary fiscal contraction.” Cutting government spending will boost confidence, which will lead to growth! To get big, one must first get small.

It was all the rage two years ago. Today, not so much. The problem with expansionary fiscal contraction is that when you try it at a time when the economy is stagnant or recessionary, you run a real risk of exacerbating the problem you are trying to cure. Slashing government spending subtracts demand from the economy. Growth slows, tax revenues fall, and suddenly the government has even less to spend, which subtracts even more demand from the economy.

And that’s exactly what appears to be happening in Europe — in countries such as Greece, Italy, Spain and France, and perhaps most intriguingly, in the United Kingdom, where David Cameron’s new conservative government pursued austerity with a vengeance. From the outset, a clamor of voices warned that the risks were huge, and so far, their worries have been validated. On Monday, the U.K. registered its second quarter of economic contraction, the rule-of-thumb definition for a recession.

It’s very rare that one gets a real-time demonstration of how two different economic policies compare, but the numbers are hard to argue with: In the “euro area,” where austerity has reigned, GDP growth has declined for each of the last four quarters. In the U.S. it has risen. In the euro area, unemployment has been rising for a year. In the U.S. , it’s been falling. As Felix Salmon observes, when one compares the United States, the U.K and the euro area, “the tougher and more credible the austerity, the worse the GDP performance.”

The trend lines are far too obvious to ignore, and they have sparked a political counter-reaction that appears to have reached critical mass this week. In Italy, France, Spain and the Netherlands, austerity is suddenly out of favor.

Meanwhile, the United States, despite the best efforts of Republicans, never pursued austerity as devoutly as Europe. Which is not to say the U.S. hasn’t tightened its belt at all. Perhaps the most stunning counter-argument to Romney’s accusation that Obama is pushing for a government-centered European-style government can be seen in the decline in the size of the public sector under Obama: During his presidency, employment in the public sector — local, state and federal government — has fallen by almost 600,000 jobs. In comparison, Bill Clinton added over 600,000 and George Bush added 800,000. As Paul Krugman points out, if Obama’s administration had added public sector jobs at the same rate as George Bush, unemployment would currently stand around 7 percent.

But even with those headwinds blowing against it, the U.S. has done surprisingly well. The first guess at GDP growth for the second quarter of 2012, due out Friday morning, is likely to peg growth at around 3 percent. Meanwhile, the most recently available statistics for the euro area show it contracting.

Which leads us back to the all-important question: What happens if Romney wins the election? The chances are good that if he is victorious, he will bring in Republican control of Congress along with him. Anything budget-related can be passed using the congressional technique known as “reconciliation,” which means Senate Democrats won’t be able to filibuster. He’ll be able to do what he wants.

Once upon a time, Mitt Romney supported stimulus spending to boost the economy. But now he sings a different tune. He has endorsed Paul Ryan’s budget, — “It’s an excellent piece of work, and very much needed” — which would combine huge cuts to social welfare programs with dramatic tax cuts for the wealthy — an austerity program directly targeted at the poor. Romney’s speeches are generally devoid of specific policy proposals, but he’s fond of encapsulating his overall economic strategy with the three Tea Party-friendly words “cut,” “cap” and “balance” — the simplest definition of austerity one could ask for. And as he said in Philadelphia on April 12, “The economy is struggling because government is too big, and we have to bring it down to size.”

All together, everything points to a plan for turbo-boosted austerity. That’s exactly the model that Europe has tried and is now finding wanting. And it’s exactly the wrong medicine for a country in which economic growth is still very vulnerable and unemployment is still high.

Wanna be like Europe? Elect Romney.


By: Andrew Leonard, Salon, April 27, 2012

April 27, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Omission Accomplished: GOP Fantasy World Foreign Policy

Perusing the text of Marco Rubio’s foreign policy speech at the Brookings Institution, I notice a word that doesn’t appear: Iraq. It’s so hard to believe that I’ve read the speech twice and executed a word search three times. Did he think no one would notice? The Senator from Florida has given a lengthy address about the wisdom of American intervention without so much as acknowledging the most consequential foreign intervention that we’ve undertaken in decades.

This is the same Marco Rubio who says George W. Bush, whose presidency was defined by Iraq, did a fantastic job. As recently as last fall he was fearful that the United States was leaving the Iraq too quickly. Back in 2010 he avowed that the Iraq War made America safer and better off.

But Iraq has now disappeared from his analysis of American foreign policy. He manages to avoid talking about Iraq even as he frets that Iran is attempting to rule over the rest of the Middle East. Does Rubio ever ponder what recent military campaign effectively increased their influence in the region?

Says Michael Brendan Dougherty, “Rubio’s speech is a remarkable political document. It shows that some Senators have learned nothing from the past decade.” He’s mostly right, but there is one important caveat. The interventionists have apparently learned to stop acknowledging the Iraq War, for their vague generalities about America’s role in the world cannot survive a confrontation with a decade of costly, catastrophic intervention. Better to pretend the debacle never happened, even while ratcheting up the rhetoric about Syria and Iran.

It’s a perfect distillation of how ideological and divorced from empiricism the neoconservative project has become. A subject is raised at length — but the most relevant real world example isn’t. Rubio making foreign policy for a fantasy world, and we’d all be better off if someone bought him a Risk board so that he could work out his delusions of strategic acumen with fewer consequences.


By: Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, April 25, 2012

April 27, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, Middle East | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Compro-What?”: The Republican Definition Of “Compromise”

What is compromise? Getting more of what you want, according to House Republican Policy Committee Chairman Tom Price of Georgia.

Appearing this morning at a policy briefing hosted by National Journal and United Technologies, Price was asked by National Journal’s John Aloysius Farrell (a former U.S. News contributing editor) whether a term in office would make the Tea Party freshmen more likely to compromise.

His response was classic: “Compromising is one thing as long as you’re compromising and moving in the direction of your principles. If you’re compromising and moving away from the direction of your principles, I’m not sure it’s a compromise.”

Of course by definition, compromising means, um, compromising your principles. Here in fact is the dictionary definition of the word: “an adjustment of opposing principles … by modifying some aspects of each.”

One of the enduring themes from the Obama-Tea Party years here in Washington has been on compromise—whether and when it’s a good thing and how one defines it. Polls have consistently shown that liberals and independents want compromise, but conservatives prefer their leaders to stick to their guns. Democrats have exploited this public opinion gap by portraying Republicans, accurately in my view, as being a party of hardliners unwilling to make the kind of compromises necessary to solve the nation’s problems, especially in a time of divided government. See, for example, their unwillingness to seriously consider the revenue side of the deficit problem.
But since “compromise” is a concept popular with swing voters, they feel the need to radically redefine it in a way they can embrace. (It’s kind of like their Medicare plans.)

California Rep. Xavier Becerra, the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus was interviewed at the event after Price and was asked what a bipartisan solution to the deficit problem would look like. Here’s his answer: “Bipartisan means that at the end, everyone will hate it, and people will all complain that it hit them to some degree. No one should be left out, as I said, all hands on deck.”

Kudos to Becerra for supplying a reality-based answer and apparently understanding the oldspeak definition of “compromise.”


By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, April 26. 2012

April 27, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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