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“Un-American Ignorant Exceptionalism”: Why John Sununu Is Romney’s Favorite Attack Dog

Stop the presses — John Sununu said something over-the-top.

The 73-year-old former governor of New Hampshire, a top surrogate for Mitt Romney, told reporters on a conference call Tuesday, “I wish this president would learn how to be an American.” He also said President Obama comes from “that murky political world in Chicago where politician and felon has become synonymous,” and brought up what he described as a “smarmy” real estate deal with convicted felon Tony Rezko. And he called the Obama campaign “stupid” and “a bunch of liars.”

Before the call was even over, Sununu was backpedaling on the “learn how to be an American” bit, saying that what he meant was that “the president has to learn the American formula for creating business,” which is not government-driven but creating “a climate where entrepreneurs can thrive.” But it was hardly an isolated outburst. Earlier in the day, Sununu had posited that Obama’s lack of appreciation for the American system of job creation stemmed from the fact that he president “spent his early years in Hawaii smoking something.”

No one should be shocked to hear this kind of language from Sununu. He’s long been the Romney campaign’s designated attack dog and provocateur, from calling Newt Gingrich “self-serving” in December to decrying Rick Santorum’s “emotional outbursts” in March. Sununu’s trademark bluster follows a famously undisciplined career as White House chief of staff under President George H.W. Bush, a job he left under fire in 1991 after such memorable stunts as taking a military jet for a trip to the dentist and a taxpayer-funded limousine to attend an auction of rare stamps.

When the Romney campaign wants to make headlines by going aggressively on the offensive, it summons Sununu, and he never fails to oblige. Sununu’s occasional gaffes are the price of admission; they may even be desirable for a campaign trying desperately to change the subject. If you want the fire of Sununu’s passion, you have to accept a burned-down building every once in a while.

The question is whether, in describing Obama as un-American, the Cuban-born Greek-Palestinian Sununu crossed a line, dog-whistling to those on the fringes who persist in believing that the president wasn’t born in the United States. But even the Obama campaign didn’t see it as that sinister. Campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith issued a statement accusing Sununu of having “gone off the deep end” — more of an eye-roll than a denunciation.

But it would also be a mistake to see this as the singular case of a particularly undisciplined surrogate. If it’s out of bounds to imply that Obama is less than fully American, Romney has been treading close to the line for quite some time. He frequently asserts that the president “doesn’t understand America,” a claim that, like Sununu’s, comes in the context of accusing Obama of insufficiently appreciating entrepreneurial capitalism, but carries other overtones as well.

Sununu, Romney, and plenty of other Republicans really do believe that Obama harbors a deeply un-American worldview — one that sees the amassing of wealth as suspect and favors a more communitarian society. Sununu may have articulated it particularly artlessly on Tuesday. But he wasn’t so much going off message as taking Romney’s message to its logical conclusion.


By: Molly Ball, The Atlantic, July 17, 2012

July 18, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Job Creator”: Repeat After Me, Mitt Romney Doesn’t Care About Jobs

If you’re running a campaign against an incumbent president when the economy’s persistently sluggish and unemployment is over 8%, you are naturally going to harp on said president’s failure to create more jobs. This is true even if you are the nominee of the Jewish Anti-Abortion Isolationist Foodie Party (just to make something up), and really just care about “your issues.”

As it happens, Mitt Romney is the nominee of a party whose activist base and elite opinion-leaders alike mainly care about relieving businesses and the wealthy from taxes and regulations, paring back or eliminating the New Deal/Great Society social safety net (along with resisting extensions of it like the Affordable Care Act), and reversing most of the cultural trends of the late twentieth century. Do they think their agenda will generally produce a stronger society and economy, making Americans healthier, wealthier and wiser? Probably, though the “constitutional” wing of the conservative movement tends to treat small government, laissez-faire capitalism, and a patriarchal culture as having been divinely ordained via the Declaration of Independence, and thus as normative regardless of the practical consequences. Would they think that regardless of the current GDP and employment statistics? You betcha, because they were advancing much the same agenda during the late 1990s and throughout the 2000s. Would they support the same agenda if the federal budget were balanced? Absolutely, as we know from their argument prior to enactment of the Bush tax cuts that the federal government was in danger of running surpluses so large that it would have to start buying up assets to soak up the excess revenues.

I mention these familiar if oft-forgotten facts by way of presenting this snippet at The Hill from recent conservative semi-apostate Juan Williams, who is wondering what the Mitt Romney’s actual agenda might be to boost employment:

[F]ixing the economy is the entire basis of Romney’s campaign. So what plans does the GOP candidate have to rev up the economy?

His best-known idea is cutting taxes. But there is no way to specify how many jobs that will create. After-tax profits for corporations are already high.

His most concrete idea for creating jobs is to approve construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. The idea has political potency because President Obama, citing environmental concerns, denied a permit for TransCanada Corp. to construct the 1,700-mile pipeline.

However, the number of jobs that would be created by Keystone could generously be described as modest.

That number, according to a study Williams cites, is 1,400. He also goes on to report that less than half of Republicans think Romney has an actual plan for the economy.

While the search for a Romney/GOP “jobs plan” is, to put it mildly, elusive, they do have very concrete ideas for reshaping the tax code and the federal government. It’s called the Ryan Budget, and whatever its long-term effect via the alleged moral tonic to the poor and the liberating impact on “job creators,” the most immediate and by far the most certain consequences for jobs are negative. I mean, you may rhetorically say that public-sector jobs aren’t “real” or “good” or that they pay too much, but they are jobs, not turnips. Combined with the restrictive monetary policies virtually all Republicans favor these days, the short-term prognosis for Republican rule is higher, not lower, unemployment.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, July 17, 2012

July 18, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Saint Joan Of The Tundra”: Mitt’s Troubles Never End

It’s looking like Mitt Romney might name his VP pick pretty soon, which is probably a good idea given that the release of the pick will result in a few days of positive coverage when the news media is consumed with something other than what Bain Capital did when, or what juicy nuggets might be contained within Romney’s hidden tax returns. But there’s a downside: once we do get to the Republican convention, the VP nominee will be old news, so the media can pay much more attention to intra-party squabbling. And nobody likes a good squabble more than Sarah Palin. Remember her?

The Romney camp will not comment on Palin, or on plans for the convention, but one adviser associated with the campaign suggested that Palin would be prohibited from speaking at the Republican convention by her contract with Fox News. “It’s true I’m prohibited from doing some things,” Palin says, “but this is the first I’ve heard anyone suggest that as an excuse, er, reason to stay away from engaging in the presidential race. I’m quite confident Fox’s top brass would never strip anyone of their First Amendment rights in this regard.” (Fox says her contract would not prohibit speaking at the convention if she sought permission.)

Palin is keeping the dates open in late August, just in case. In any event, she says, she plans to be politically active between now and November, starting with a Michigan Tea Party appearance, sponsored by Americans for Prosperity. “No matter the Romney campaign strategy,” she says, “I intend to do all I can to join others in motivating the grassroots made up of independents and constitutional conservatives who can replace Barack Obama at the ballot box.”

So here’s the dilemma. If Romney doesn’t let Palin speak at the convention, we get all kinds of stories about pissed off Tea Partiers denouncing Romney for forsaking their Saint Joan of the Tundra, Fox sends her there anyway so she’s just hanging around, and she steals a not insignificant portion of Romney’s thunder. But if he does let her speak, the American public gets reminded that the Republican party is dominated by a bunch of paranoid extremist know-nothings, and Romney looks weak for giving in to them.

Right now, Romney and his advisors are trying to figure out if they can send her on an urgent four-month diplomatic mission to the Arctic Circle. The trouble with Sarah Palin is that nobody tells her what to do. I can’t wait for her to run for president in four years.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, July 17, 2012

July 18, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“No Discernable Vision”: Knowing How The Economy Works Is Not Enough

This week will see the release of The 4% Solution: Unleashing the Economic Growth America Needs, a collection of essays from the George W. Bush Institute with a forward by the former president himself. It’s true that annual GDP growth never actually reached 4 percent during Bush’s two terms in office and averaged only 2.4 percent even if we generously exclude the disastrous year of 2008. But look at it this way: Who knows more about what the president ought to do about the economy than Dubya does? After all, there’s only one living American (Bill Clinton) with as much experience being president, so Bush must have the answers we need.

A ridiculous argument? Of course. That’s because experience only gets you so far. It’s obviously a good thing, all else being equal, for the president to know a lot about the economy, just as it’s a good thing for him to know a lot about foreign affairs or domestic policy. But the truth is that although the government has to solve many practical problems, and it’s important to have smart, knowledgeable people in government to work on them, the presidency is not a technocratic position.

For a long time, Republicans grasped this much better than their opponents. It was the Democrats who seemed to prize experience and knowledge, looking admiringly at candidates who understood how government works and could be counted on to manage the problem-solving efforts that would be required, while Republicans favored candidates like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, who argued that vision was more important than skills. Yet this year, Republicans have nominated a candidate with no discernible vision whose candidacy is based almost entirely on the knowledge and management experience he supposedly gained in business.

It’s odd that for someone whose argument is so much about his preparation and experience, Mitt Romney barely ever mentions the one job he held that actually resembles being president—the governorship of Massachusetts. But we’ve had former governors who made excellent presidents and former governors who made terrible ones. And the brevity of Barack Obama’s tenure in the Senate didn’t stop him from amassing what was arguably the most impressive string of legislative victories in half a century during his first two years in office.

Mitt Romney barely bothers to persuade the voters that he will be able to get things done in Congress or that he understands foreign policy. Instead, the phrase he repeats over and over on the campaign trail is “I know how the economy works.” The current arguments over Bain Capital notwithstanding, this has been the basic rationale for Romney’s candidacy, that during his time in business he gained a body of knowledge and a unique insight that will allow him, as president, to make dramatic improvements in the economy. During the primaries he argued that this experience would make him a better president than his Republican opponents, and today he argues that it would make him a better president than Barack Obama.

But if there were a magic key to unlock spectacular growth and widely shared prosperity, you’d think we would have found it by now. There hasn’t been a president in decades, the current one included, who didn’t have lots of businesspeople working in his administration. And Barack Obama talks to corporate leaders all the time. If Romney knows something they don’t, he hasn’t told us what it is. If you read through his economic plan, you’ll find that it contains the same things Republicans always advocate: lower taxes, reduced regulations, free trade, and so on. You’ve certainly heard Romney say that his business experience helps him understand the economy. But have you ever heard him say what exactly he learned that no one else knows?

Perhaps he plans to unveil this remarkable insight once the election is over; if so, one can hope that as a patriotic American he’ll share it with the country even if he loses. Because even if it involved some policies that conservatives like, you can bet that President Obama would be happy to take the bargain if it would deliver something like the sustained 4 percent growth George W. Bush promises. If you really could create a humming economy just by cutting taxes for the wealthy and creating some “Reagan Economic Zones” (yes, that’s something Romney proposes, though he doesn’t say much about what it means), Obama would do it. The reason he doesn’t isn’t that he’s a socialist; it’s that the argument isn’t all that persuasive.

So no, Mitt Romney is not in possession of a secret that can deliver us to economic nirvana. We can try to determine whether anything less than admirable happened at Bain Capital during Romney’s time there, and if so how much responsibility he bears. But even if all those questions are answered in Romney’s favor, it wouldn’t change the fact that the policies he advocates are derived not from his experience but from his politics and his moral perspective, just as Barack Obama’s are.

I’m not sure if Romney actually believes that keeping taxes for the wealthy as low as possible and scaling back regulations really does bring prosperity for all. But if he does, it isn’t because he concluded that after a careful examination of the evidence (if that were the case, the last decade would have been the most prosperous in American history). He favors those policies because that’s what his party believes and because they reflect his values. Romney may “know how the economy works” in certain ways. But that knowledge isn’t enough.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, July 17, 2012

July 18, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Patriarchy”: Why We Should Worry About The Soulless, Entitled Mitt Romney

Time to give Mitt Romney the dressage-down he so “richly” deserves. And it’s not just about money. Let me count the whys we should send this smug, vapid, preppie packing: power, sex, and religion. Frankly, I don’t give a damn about the dog issue, Gail Collins.

But if President Obama won’t give ’em hell, then allow me.

The best that can be said about the soulless Mr. Romney is that he was better than the field of fools and rogues running in the Republican primary. At first, I was willing to take him at his word as a sensible clean Republican who meant well and dressed the part.

I thought the 2002 Winter Olympics (which he ran) came off fine except for the part when President George W. Bush opened the games, saying to all the athletes assembled: “Welcome to the greatest country in the world!” How gauche and contrary to the spirit of the moment.

But as we got to know Mitt more and more, I liked him less and less. The cruel private school “prank” that he led on a fellow teen struggling with his sexuality, attacking him and cutting off his long hair, showed a darker side. He was leader of a pack. The presidency is absolutely about character and personality, as much as it is about policy. A handsome apology becomes a man, but his ungenerous words fell flat.

A brief confession. As a liberal, I secretly liked Ronald Reagan as an individual, for he had a certain charm and knew how to tell a story. Though I deplored some of his policies (not all), I detected a heartbeat under the presidential aura he displayed like a performance artist. Romney looks the part of an American president, but he doesn’t really act it. His genial side seems forced. Like the younger Bush, he may just want to be president to one-up his father George—who ran and lost. History’s closet rattles with father-son rivalries that turn out tragically. Not on our time, please.

Searching through news pages, debates, live speeches, and interviews in 2012, Romney has not said a thing—and I mean not one—that shows a whit of wit, compassion, charm, or insight. Since challenging (and losing to) the late great Sen. Ted Kennedy, he’s shifted his ground to antichoice with no good reason why. And how craven is it to deny your own healthcare mandate as governor because your opponent managed to make the model pass Congress to become law?

Have you no shame, sir?

Arguably, Romney has not given the electorate or the press reasons “why” for anything. His stance, when it comes to disclosing his robber baron compensation at Bain and tax returns over the years, is that we don’t need to know. Nor do we have the right to question his actions.

In that sense, Romney is behaving precisely like the patriarch he is. In two other roles, he simply hands down his word as a chieftain in the Mormon Church and as a leader in corporate America. What he says goes. Impervious, he does not brook dissent or even comment. His life has been like that, always in the power position, always in authority—or being prepared at Harvard business and law schools on how to brandish and maximize his power and wealth. Let’s give him this. Nobody in his generation did it better.

In San Francisco among subversive women, we had a phrase for a man like Romney: “the patriarchy.” The whole system wrapped up in one man. Romney, the father of five sons, could hardly be more perfect for this dubious title.

Because of the blatantly male lay leadership structure that dominates the Mormon Church, Romney can be counted on by society’s elders to keep the faith with the power distribution as is, between men and women. He is utterly capable of having a cabinet that looks like him, without missing a beat or calling up any new friends at the NAACP.

Such a sincere, lifelong Mormon in the White House would keep women the weaker sex, frozen or pushed back from workplace gains we’ve managed to make, thanks mostly to President Clinton. The Family and Medical Leave Act was a great thing for the women of Obama’s generation. We should be worried about the retro Romney.

Romney’s not just a man’s man. He’s a privileged white man’s man with an outrageous fortune. Power, secrets, compliant women, and nothing but the best of everything else are all the entitlement.

No, he’s not going to change for you and me—or the American people.


By: Jamie Stiehm, Washington Whispers, U. S. News and World Report, July 17, 2012

July 18, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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