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“Nothing Positive To Offer”: Romney Milking The VP Distraction To The Last Drop

For what it is worth, Fox News’ Chris Stirewalt makes a very convincing case for the proposition that Mitt Romney will wait until the last possible moment to announce his running-mate:

Mitt Romney has 18 days in which to announce his choice of his running mate, and you can bet he’s going to milk as much from the topic as is humanly possible. So what’s the advantage in stopping the fun early?

Romney is prepared to tantalize the press pool with another round of house calls on top-tier contenders starting Saturday as he takes bus tours through Virginia (Gov. Bob McDonnell), Florida (Sen. Marco Rubio) and Ohio (Sen. Rob Portman).

The idea here is to ramp up the speculation to the most furious levels possible – to get reporters and Republicans totally immersed in the quadrennial parlor game of running-mate speculation.

For months, Team Romney has hinted that the running mate announcement would come early so as to create more buzz and give the duo more time to campaign ahead of the convention. But does that really make sense?

Nope. As is often the case, the value of Veep speculation exceeds the value of an actual Veep, particularly if you are Mitt Romney and you are likely to settle on someone very unexciting, and particularly if your media coverage has been a mite negative lately:

If Romney were to announce that he were picking McDonnell at a rally in Manassas, Va. on Saturday, that would leave more than two weeks before Republicans convene in Tampa. That’s plenty of time in the modern media blender for the excitement to be all gone and the discussion be back on Romney’s 1040 forms or a media dissection of Romney’s handling of the media.

Plus, it would give the press corps and the Obama campaign more than two weeks to splurp out all of the juicy tidbits for any running mate’s past. By the time he took the stage on Aug. 29, the story could be about McDonnell’s graduate dissertation on gender roles in the family, rather than the speech itself.

Translating Stirewalt’s analysis from the original Foxspeak, Mitt’s on the defensive, has nothing much positive to offer, and is unlikely to choose a running-mate who creates a buzz or defies criticism and scrutiny. So why not milk the distractions involved in the Veep guessing-game as long as possible, and then bury the inevitable letdown and any negative press about The Choice in the deep sands of Convention Coverage?

Makes sense to me.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, August 7, 2012

August 8, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Pouring Money Down The Rathole”: Mitt Will Have To Play The Hand He’s Been Dealt

In case any Republicans are talking themselves to sleep at night with the hope that no matter what happens in the next few weeks, Team Romney will sail to victory on a sea of Super-PAC’s. New Yorker’s John Cassidy offers a good reminder of past moneybags that eventually poured vast sums down the rathole of bitter defeat:

Rove and Stuart Stevens, the sometime novelist and bon vivant who is Romney’s campaign manager, may be hoping that they can spend their way to victory, burying President Obama under an avalanche of negative ads, but in their heart of hearts they know they can’t. In today’s politics, money is a necessary condition for success, but it’s by no means sufficient. From Steve Forbes in 1996 to Meg Whitman in 2010 and Rick Perry last year, the political landscape is littered with the detritus of well-funded campaigns that self-destructed because the candidate wasn’t up to it, the opposition was too strong, or the objective conditions were unfavorable.

That’s even more to the point given the political-science consensus that paid media probably have less impact on presidential general elections than most any other contests (thanks to the vast quantity of “earned media” on the table, and the universal name recognition already achieved by any major-party nominee).

After recommending some highly unlikely game-changing running-mates, Cassidy argues it all boils down to Mitt finding some way to “establish some sort of bond with the public.” Consider all the unusual aspects of Romney’s life and personality, and the rather alarming fact that he doesn’t want to talk about his own record of governing or his agenda for the future, and you have to say: Good luck with that! It’s all the more reason we can count on Romney and his moneyed backers to go negative with a true vengeance down the stretch.
They don’t have much of a positive story to tell, even with the best and most expensive ads. The fact that history shows that usually doesn’t work doesn’t much matter: you play the hand you are dealt.

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, August 7, 2012

August 8, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Romney’s Incredible Extremes”: Mitt Romney’s Tax And Spending Plans Are Irresponsible And Cruel

Mitt Romney’s tax and spending plans are so irresponsible, so cruel, so extreme that they are literally incredible. Voters may find it hard to believe anyone would support such things, so they are likely to discount even factual descriptions as partisan distortion.

The pro-Obama New Priorities PAC stumbled across this phenomena early in 2012 in its focus group testing. When they informed a focus group that Romney supported the budget plan by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), and thus championed ending Medicare as we know it while also championing tax cuts for the wealthy, focus group participants simply didn’t believe it. No politician could be so clueless.

Incredulity may complement what New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd dubbed Romney’s strategy of “hiding in plain sight.” Romney refuses to release his tax returns, scrubbed the records and e-mails of his time as governor and as head of the Olympics, keeps secret details of his Bain dealings and covers up the names of his bundlers. And then, he’s able to announce extremely cruel policy positions with impunity, because the voters just can’t believe that’s what he is for.

This is what comes to mind with the publication of a study on the effects of the Romney tax policy by the non-partisan Tax Policy Center and the Brookings Institution.

The study took its assumptions from Romney’s tax agenda on his Web page — where he promises to cut tax rates by 20 percent, sustain all the Bush tax breaks, keep the reduced rate for capital gains, eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax, eliminate capital gains taxes on married families earning less than $200,000 (or as Gingrich noted, on those that don’t have any capital gains) and eliminate the estate tax (a small boon to his strapping sons).

Romney then promises to make these cuts without losing revenue by eliminating tax loopholes. Only he refuses to identify which tax breaks or loopholes he would eliminate.

Under the best (and most improbable) of circumstances — that the Congress decided to completely eliminate tax expenditures for those making over $200,000 before reducing any of the benefits to those making under that amount — the study found that Romney’s tax plan would transfer a staggering $86 billion in tax burden from those making over $200,000 to those making under that amount. Millionaires would pocket an average tax cut of $87,000 while everyone else would suffer a tax hike of $500 a year.

That’s because to make up for the lost income, Congress would have to cut the mortgage deduction, the deduction for gifts to charity, the deduction for employer based health care, the Earned Income Tax Credit and child tax credit that goes to middle- and lower-income earners. But simply eliminating these and other tax breaks for the rich doesn’t generate enough revenue. So the people who really take it in the teeth are middle-income earners — small business people, middle management and professionals. It is, the study concluded, “not mathematically possible” to lower tax rates as Romney proposes without giving the rich a tax break and working and middle-income people a tax hike.

But will people believe that Romney really is for that — more tax breaks for the rich paid for by tax hikes on working families? Most of course will never learn about the Romney tax plan. But even those that do, could they ever accept the incredible truth?

Last month, the Democracy Corps, led by Stan Greenberg and James Carville, released a survey arguing that Obama and Democrats benefit greatly when the election is framed as a choice on the Republicans’ Ryan plan, the extreme budget passed by the House of Representatives, that exacts deep cuts in education, programs for poor children and turns Medicare into a voucher that pushes more and more costs on seniors.

In their survey, Obama’s margin over Romney “more than doubles” when the election is framed on the two candidates’ position on the Ryan budget. That of course, assumes that the election can be so framed, and that the voters will accept the assumption. But as the Priorities crowd discovered, voters have a hard time believing any politician could be supporting 20 percent cuts in education, an elimination of the refundable tax credit for children or dramatically changing Medicare. That is simply too extreme to be believed.

Ironically, of course, if Romney is elected and Republicans keep the House, the tea party right will claim a mandate. As Grover Norquist says, the House will drive the agenda and Romney will sign anything that emerges from the Senate. And sadly, given that the millionaires on the Democratic side of the Senate aisle aren’t nearly as united as those on the Republican side — and many are dependent on funding from some of the same special interests that now dominate Washington — we’re likely to see less Senate obstruction and more “bipartisan cooperation” on an agenda that Americans consider literally incredible.

The only hope is that voters take another look before they decide to vote for a change. In the case of Romney, the Republican really does support a budget plan that would scrap Medicare and give tax breaks to millionaires. He really is planning to eliminate Wall Street safeguards and take away health-care benefits from millions. He really believes the country will be better off if more teachers and police officers are laid off and foreclosures continue unabated.He really does want to deregulate Wall Street again, and gut the protections the EPA provides for clean air and clean water, to say nothing of global warming, the existence of which he now denies.

This isn’t a liberal caricature based on election-year demagoguery; this is Mitt Romney’s policy agenda. That is truly incredible — incredibly true.

 

By: Katrina vanden Heuvel, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, August 7, 2012

August 8, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Perpetrating A Healthcare Fraud”: Professors Go Unpunished In Glaxo $3 Billion Guilty Plea Over Paxil

The head of the UCLA hospital, Dr. David Feinberg, and twenty-one other academics are going unpunished despite their role in perpetrating a healthcare fraud that has resulted in the largest fine ever paid by a pharmaceutical company in US history.

On July 3 GlaxoSmithKline pleaded guilty to criminal charges and agreed pay $3 billion in fines for promoting its bestselling antidepressants for unapproved uses. The heart of the case was an article in a medical journal purporting to document the safety and efficacy of Paxil in treating depression in children. The article listed more than twenty researchers as authors, including UCLA’s Feinberg, but the Department of Justice found that Glaxo had paid for the drafting of the fraudulent article to which the researchers had attached their names.

The study, which, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, had been criticized because it “dangerously misrepresented data” and had “hidden information indicating that the drug promoted suicidal behavior among teenagers,” was published in 2001 in The Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. The lead “author” was Martin B. Keller, at the time a professor of psychiatry at Brown University. He retired this month. The article had been exposed as fraudulent in a 2007 BBC documentary and in the 2008 book Side Effects: A Prosecutor, a Whistleblower, and a Bestselling Antidepressant on Trial, by Alison Bass. Glaxo’s guilty plea, according to the Chronicle, included an admission that “the article constituted scientific fraud.”

Paxil went on sale in the US in 1993 and, according to Bass, prescriptions for children “soared” after the study appeared, even though research showed Paxil was not more effective than a placebo. But in 2004, the Chronicle reports, British regulators warned against prescribing Paxil to children, after a study reported that children taking Paxil were nearly three times more likely to consider or attempt suicide. Then the US FDA issued a similar warning. Paxil sales totaled more than $11 billion between 1997 and 2005.

Brown University officials said they had no plans to take action against Keller. At UCLA, Dale Triber Tate, a spokesperson for the medical center and Dr. Feinberg, had no comment. The journal that published the fraudulent research has failed to retract it, and editor-in-chief Andres S. Martin, a professor of psychiatry at Yale, told the Chronicle he had no comment on the options the journal might take.

Feinberg and Keller were among twenty-two people listed as “authors” on the fraudulent article. Others included Karen D. Wagner, now professor and vice chair of psychiatry at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston; Boris Birmaher and Neal D. Ryan, professors of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh; Graham J. Emslie, professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas; and Michael A. Strober, professor of psychiatry at UCLA.

Although Glaxo pled guilty and paid $3 billion in fines, none of the academics have been disciplined by their universities for their roles in perpetrating research fraud. Moreover, according to the Chronicle, several continue to receive federal grants from the National Institute of Health.

By: Jon Wiener, The Nation, August 7, 2012

August 8, 2012 Posted by | Big Pharma | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Negating Democracy And Equality”: What Happens If GOP’s Voter Suppression Works?

Suppose Mitt Romney ekes out a victory in November by a margin smaller than the number of young and minority voters who couldn’t cast ballots because the photo-identification laws enacted by Republican governors and legislators kept them from the polls. What should Democrats do then? What would Republicans do? And how would other nations respond?

As suppositions go, this one isn’t actually far-fetched. No one in the Romney camp expects a blowout; if he does prevail, every poll suggests it will be by the skin of his teeth. Numerous states under Republican control have passed strict voter identification laws. Pennsylvania, Texas, Indiana, Kansas, Tennessee and Georgia require specific kinds of ID; the laws in Michigan, Florida, South Dakota, Idaho and Louisiana are only slightly more flexible. Wisconsin’s law was struck down by a state court.

Instances of voter fraud are almost nonexistent, but the right-wing media’s harping on the issue has given Republican politicians cover to push these laws through statehouse after statehouse. The laws’ intent, however, is entirely political: By creating restrictions that disproportionately impact minorities, they’re supposed to bolster Republican prospects. Ticking off Republican achievements in Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives, their legislative leader, Mike Turzai, extolled in a talk last month that “voter ID . . . is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”

How could Turzai be so sure? The Pennsylvania Department of State acknowledges that as many as 759,000 residents lack the proper ID. That’s 9.2 percent of registered voters, but the figure rises to 18 percent in heavily black Philadelphia. The law also requires that the photo IDs have expiration dates, which many student IDs do not.

The pattern is similar in every state that has enacted these restrictions. Attorney General Eric Holder has said that 8 percent of whites in Texas lack the kind of identification required by that state’s law; the percentage among blacks is three times that. The Justice Department has filed suit against Southern states whose election procedures are covered by the 1965 Voting Rights Act. It is also investigating Pennsylvania’s law, though that state is not subject to some provisions of the Voting Rights Act.

If voter suppression goes forward and Romney narrowly prevails, consider the consequences. An overwhelmingly and increasingly white Republican Party, based in the South, will owe its power to discrimination against black and Latino voters, much like the old segregationist Dixiecrats. It’s not that Republicans haven’t run voter suppression operations before, but they’ve been under-the-table dirty tricks, such as calling minority voters with misinformation about polling-place locations and hours. By contrast, this year’s suppression would be the intended outcome of laws that Republicans publicly supported, just as the denial of the franchise to Southern blacks before 1965 was the intended result of laws such as poll taxes. More ominous still, by further estranging minority voters, even as minorities constitute a steadily larger share of the electorate, Republicans will be putting themselves in a position where they increasingly rely on only white voters and where their only path to victory will be the continued suppression of minority votes. A cycle more vicious is hard to imagine.

It’s also not a cycle calculated to endear America to the rest of the world. The United States abolished electoral apartheid in the 1960s for reasons that were largely moral but were also geopolitical. Eliminating segregation and race-specific voting helped our case against the Soviets during the Cold War, particularly among the emerging nations of Asia and Africa. It’s not likely that many, anywhere, would favorably view what is essentially a racially based restriction of the franchise. China might well argue that our commitment to democracy is a sham.

And what should Democrats do if Romney comes to power on the strength of racially suppressed votes? Such an outcome and such a presidency, I’d hope they contend, would be illegitimate — a betrayal of our laws and traditions, of our very essence as a democratic republic. Mass demonstrations would be in order. So would a congressional refusal to confirm any of Romney’s appointments. A presidency premised on a racist restriction of the franchise creates a political and constitutional crisis, and responding to it with resigned acceptance or inaction would negate America’s hard-won commitment to democracy and equality.

The course on which Republicans have embarked isn’t politics as usual. We don’t rig elections by race in America, not anymore, and anyone who does should not be rewarded with uncontested power.

 

By: Harold Meyerson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, Originally published July 24, 2012,

August 8, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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