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“Romney And His Fictional Obama”: A Man Who Exists Only In The Imagination Of Mitt’s Ad Makers

Here’s a chance for all who think Obamacare is a socialist Big Government scheme to put their money where their ideology is: If you truly hate the Affordable Care Act, you must send back any of those rebate checks you receive from your insurance companies thanks to the new law.

This is just common sense. If you think free enterprise should be liberated from Washington’s interference, what right does Uncle Sam have to tell the insurers they owe you a better deal? Keeping those refunds will make you complicit with Leviathan.

And here’s a challenge to Mitt Romney: You are running a deceitful ad about waivers the Obama administration has yet to issue based on rules allowing governors to operate their welfare-to-work programs more effectively. Will you please stop talking about your devotion to states’ rights?

Up until now, you were the guy who said that wisdom on matters related to social programming (including health insurance) lies with state governments. Five governors, including two of your fellow Republicans, thought they had a better way to make welfare reform work. The Department of Health and Human Services responded by proposing to give states more latitude. Isn’t that what honoring the good judgment of state governments is all about?

Oh, yes, and if Romney thinks President Obama is gutting welfare reform, I anxiously await his criticism of Brian Sandoval of Nevada and Gary R. Herbert of Utah, GOP governors who requested waivers. If Romney means what he says, doesn’t he have to condemn those who asked Obama to do what Obama did?

Political commentary these days is obsessed with the triviality of this campaign. Most of it is rooted in the refusal of conservatives to be candid about the implications of how their beliefs and commitments would affect the choices they would have government make — and how they differ from the president’s.

In Romney’s case, this often requires him to invent an Obama who exists only in the imagination of his ad makers. So they take Obama’s statements, clip out relevant sentences and run ads attacking some strung-together words that have a limited connection to what the president said. In the welfare ad, Romney lies outright.

But this is part of a larger pattern on the right, illustrated most tellingly by conservative rhetoric around the Affordable Care Act. In going after Obamacare, conservatives almost never talk about the specific provisions of the law. They try to drown it in anti-government rhetoric. “Help us defeat Obamacare,” Romney said after the Supreme Court declared the law constitutional. “Help us defeat the liberal agenda that makes government too big, too intrusive, and is killing jobs across this great country.”

Well, the new law does intrude directly in the insurance market. It requires that at least 85 percent of large-group premiums and 80 percent of small-group and individual premiums be spent directly on clinical services and improving the quality of health care. Imagine the radicalism: The government is telling insurance companies that they must spend most of the money they take in on actual health care for the people and businesses paying the premiums.

If the insurers spend below those levels, they have to refund the difference. According to Health and Human Services, 12.8 million Americans will get $1.1 billion in rebates. That comes to an average rebate of $151 per household. In 12 states, the rebates will average $300 or more.

Here’s your chance, conservatives. Big, bad government is forcing those nice insurance companies to give people a break. From what you say, you see this as socialism, a case of the heavy hand of Washington meddling with the right of contract. You cannot possibly keep this money. So stand up for those oppressed insurers and give them their rebates back!

As for the waivers on welfare, Romney’s position is dispiriting. Here’s a former governor whose Massachusetts health-care plan — the one that resembles Obamacare — was made possible by federal waivers; who, like other governors, wanted flexibility to do welfare reform his way; and who has said he would roll back Obamacare through the waiver process he now assails. He’s turning away from what he claims to believe about state-level innovation for the sake of a cheap and misleading campaign point.

I’d also be curious to know whether Romney got a rebate on his health insurance premiums courtesy of Obamacare and whether he plans to return it. But given his attitude toward disclosure, we’ll probably never find out.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, August 8, 2012

August 9, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Romney’s Elitist Snobbery”: Harry Reid Is Right To Focus On Mitt’s Taxes

Democratic Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada alleged, both in an interview with the Huffington Post and then later on the Senate floor, that Mitt Romney had not paid taxes in 10 years. The battle continues.

Romney called on Reid to reveal the source for his claim that he has not paid taxes for 10 years, stepping up pressure as two major fact-check sites ruled Reid had no basis for the “incendiary” allegation. (Sidebar: Those fact check sites also ruled that Romney’s claim of creating 100,000 plus jobs had no basis in truth.) Romney said he doesn’t believe Reid has a credible source but urged the Senate Democratic leader to reveal who it is.

“I don’t really believe that he’s got any kind of a credible source,” Romney said. “I don’t know who gave him this line of reasoning, whether it came from the White House or the DNC or a staffer, but he ought to say where it came from, and then we can find out whether that person has any credibility. I know they don’t.”

Reid said this is not about him; it is about Romney and his unwillingness to share his tax returns with the American people. Republicans got on the president and press secretary Jay Carney for not pushing Reid to back off or reveal his source, as if Reid were a child in a daycare center that the Obama administration runs. When I debated my usual sparring partner on the right, talk host Lar Larson, he alleged that Reid was doing this to help the president, calling it “sleazy.”

Reid’s remarks are his remarks. He’s an adult, and is not controlled by some imaginary string between the White House and the Senate, regardless of the right wing’s perception. Romney said that Reid “lost a lot of credibility.” And if that’s the case, Romney should be thanking Reid, not chastising him.

So which is it? A sleazy tactic by Reid to help the president? An unsubstantiated remark by an angry Democratic senator who refuses to leak his source?!

I’ll tell you what it is. It is Romney, continuing to look down his nose at the American people with the elitist snobbery that gets him the low likeability in poll after poll after poll. The same attitude that got both the Brits and the Palestinians angry with him on his world tour. But it goes beyond that.

This goes back to 1973 when then Vice President Spiro Agnew plead no contest to tax evasion. It was then that the American people demanded to see the tax returns of candidates for president and vice president. And although this practice is not a law and is not in our Constitution, it has been a tradition that has been agreed to by all presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle.

We all know Romney’s father provided numerous years of tax returns. We know that Ronald Reagan provided six, Sen. John Kerry 20, Sen. Bob Dole 29, and President Obama 12! And Mitt Romney? One. Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, when running for president, provided two years of tax returns, the lowest provided by any presidential candidate left or right. (The only exception was Gerald Ford, who was sworn in as president after the resignation of Richard Nixon—and he even provided a summary of years of returns.) And McCain has provided other tax returns for Senate campaigns throughout his career. Romney has provided the American people with one year (2010) and a summary for 2011.

So, this is not about Reid’s source as Romney wants you to believe. Romney should thank Reid for the diversion. This is about what voters, both left and right, have asked Romney to do, which has been to do exactly what presidential candidates have been doing for decades: provide their tax returns.

For a man who says he wants to run this country like he ran his companies, we need to know: How much did you make? Give to charity? Pay in taxes?

Last week Romney said that Reid should “put up or shut up,” Romney needs to heed his own advice. And in doing so, would prove if Reid’s comments are true or false. Romney, America’s waiting.

 

By: Leslie Marshall, U. S. News and World Report, August 8, 2012

August 9, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Complete Disdain For The Electorate”: Lies, Damned Lies, And Mitt Romney’s Ads

What happens to political and journalistic norms when a national campaign decides to blow past the run-of-the-mill cherry-picking of facts, distorting of policies, and playing in the gray area between truth and untruth, and instead simply runs hog wild into malicious deception and prevarication? We’re going to find out.

Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign has displayed a special level of shamelessness in its ads and attacks since its very first one, when it ran a clip of Barack Obama saying “if we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose”—a clip from 2008 when Obama was quoting an aide to then GOP nominee Sen. John McCain. His campaign has also taken other Obama quotes out of context (“you didn’t build that” and “it worked”) to portray the president as having said things he flatly didn’t say. More recently they accused the Obama campaign of trying to curtail the voting rights of members of the military (a thoroughly debunked accusation—USA Today, for example, called it “a falsehood“).

But the Romney campaign’s latest line of attack, highlighted by a television ad accusing President Obama of attempting to “gut” President Clinton’s 1996 welfare reform law, is a new level of—what’s the phrase?—making stuff up. (Or as I put it in my column today, the ad is “grotesquely, pants-on-fire, Pinocchio’s nose just punched a hole in the wall misleading.”) The facts of the matter are that the Obama administration did signal a willingness last month to extend welfare law waivers (an act allowed in the law) to states if they come up with new, promising ways to improve the law’s goal of getting people into jobs. Oh and the governors who specifically asked for these waivers? They were Republican. And they’re not rogue Republicans either—the idea of giving states greater flexibility to deal with welfare programs is a very traditional one in the GOP, endorsed by many, many Republican officials over the years (including, by the way, then-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in 2005).

Those are the facts of the matter. They are only tangentially related to the fantasy spun in the Romney ad, where expressing a willingness to issue waivers to try more effective ways to get people into jobs becomes “a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements” so that welfare recipients “wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job. They just send you a welfare check.” The ad concludes that “Mitt Romney will restore the work requirement,” which of course hasn’t been removed in the first place.

You can almost hear the discussion in Romney headquarters: “Hey, the Obama administration is talking about issuing welfare waivers.” “Are they gutting welfare reform?” “Well, no—” “Doesn’t matter. Gutting welfare reform is a great wedge issue we can use against him with working class whites. Let’s cut the ad!”

(In the interest of fairness, while we’re on the topic of mendacity, Harry Reid’s assertion that he has inside information regarding Mitt Romney’s super secret tax returns doesn’t pass the laugh test. But this is not yet parity: Reid is being irresponsible and I believe duplicitous, but his one whopper doesn’t measure up in breadth or systematic-ness with the Romney campaign’s growing track record.)

And as I argue in my column today, if this is where we are in August, imagine how bad things will be in October. If we’re at the point right now of simply making stuff up, what kind of fantabulations will we be assaulted with then?

Steve Benen summed it up nicely at the Maddow Blog yesterday:

Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign has presented the political world with an important test.

How are we to respond to a campaign that deliberately deceives the public without shame? … The Republican nominee for president is working under the assumption that he can make transparently false claims, in writing and in campaign advertising, with impunity. Romney is convinced that there are no consequences for breathtaking dishonesty.

The test, then, comes down to a simple question: is he right?

Part of the answer will have to do with how the press views and does its job (and Jay Rosen has a smart take on that question here). But part of it will also have to do with the voters. The Romney campaign’s gambit plays on two things: One is the instinct on the part of the press to treat such disputes as he-said-he-said in the name of objectivity (hence much coverage of the welfare ad as being Team Romney charge followed by Team Obama retort with little discussion of the facts).

But underlying the cynical belief that they can game the press is an even more contemptuous and condescending belief in the basic laziness and stupidity of the American people. The Romney campaign knew that its welfare ad would be roundly blasted by the portion of the media that does fact-checking. But they’re counting on voters to absorb the charge and not pay attention to the details or follow closely enough to get the facts.

It’s a flavor of disdain for the electorate. We’ll find out over the next few months if it’s successful.

 

By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, August 8, 2012

August 9, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Wise Latina Or A Right Wing Extremist”: The Decision Is Ours In November

Three years ago today, the first Supreme Court confirmation battle of Barack Obama’s presidency came to an end. Justice Sonia Sotomayor took the oath of office on August 8, 2009, after enduring days of hearings at which she had been lambasted by Senate Republicans for such offenses as calling herself a “wise Latina” and acknowledging, like many male nominees before her, the shocking fact that her life experiences had shaped her perspective on the law.

In the three years since, I’ve been relieved to have Justice Sotomayor on the Court. I haven’t agreed with all her decisions, but she has shown time and again that she understands how the Constitution protects our rights — all of our rights. In 2010, she dissented to the Court’s disastrous Citizens United decision, which twisted the law and Constitution to give corporations and the super wealthy dangerous influence over our elections. In 2011, she joined the four-justice minority that stood up for the rights of women Wal-Mart employees who were the victims of entrenched sex discrimination. This year, she was part of the narrow majority that upheld the Affordable Care Act, saving a clearly constitutional law that is already helping millions of Americans receive health care coverage.

Over and over again in the past years, the Supreme Court has split between two very different visions of the law and the Constitution. On one side, we have justices like Sotomayor who understand how the Constitution protects all of our rights in changing times. On the other side, we have right-wing justices like Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, who are determined to walk back American progress, turn their backs on the values enshrined in the Constitution, and ignore decades of our laws and history. On issues from voting rights to women’s equality to environmental regulation, Americans’ rights are being decided by the Supreme Court — often by a single vote. Even the decision to uphold health care reform, in which Chief Justice John Roberts joined Sotomayor and the three other moderates on the court, would not have been as close as it was if the Court had not moved steadily to the right.

November’s presidential election will be a turning point for the Supreme Court. The next president will likely have the chance to nominate at least one Supreme Court justice, setting the course of the Court for decades to come. President Obama has shown his priorities in his picks of Justice Sotomayor and Justice Elena Kagan.

Mitt Romney has a very different vision for the Supreme Court. Campaigning in Puerto Rico earlier this year, Romney bashed Sotomayor — who also happens to be the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice and the Court’s third woman ever. Instead, he says he’d pick more justices like Thomas, Alito and Antonin Scalia, the core of the right-wing bloc whose decisions are systematically rolling back Americans’ hard-won rights. He used to say that he’d pick more Justices like Chief Justice Roberts, but changed his mind when Roberts ruled in favor of the health care reform plan similar to the one that Romney himself had helped pilot in Massachusetts.

So who would Romney pick for the Supreme Court? We’ve gotten a hint from his choice of former judge Robert Bork as his campaign’s judicial advisor. Bork’s brand of judicial extremism was so out of step with the mainstream that a bipartisan majority of the Senate rejected his nomination to the Supreme Court in 1987. Bork objected to the part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that desegregated lunch counters; he defended state laws banning birth control and “sodomy”; he was unabashedly in favor of censorship; he once ruled that a corporation could order its female employees to be sterilized or be fired. And, though it might not seem possible, since his confirmation battle Bork has gotten even more extreme.

Any justice appointed by Romney would likely fall in the footsteps of Bork in undermining workers’ rights, eliminating civil rights protections, siding with corporations over the rights of individuals, threatening women’s reproductive freedom, and rolling back basic LGBT rights. President Obama, on the other hand, has promised to pick more justices who share the constitutional values of Justice Sotomayor.

Three years into the term of Justice Sotomayor, the Court hangs in the balance. It’s important that we all know the stakes.

 

By: Michael B. Keegan, The Huffington Post, August 8, 2012

August 9, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Red, White And Untrue”: Romney’s Big Lie About Military Voting

No, Obama is not trying to restrict military voting in Ohio.

If Ferris Bueller taught us anything, it was this: If you’re going to lie or mislead, do it in a big, over-the-top kind of way. At least it’ll be memorable.

It’s a lesson Mitt Romney’s campaign took to heart this past weekend. But instead of stealing a Ferrari or taking over a parade, they opted for something much darker. Halfway through the general-election campaign, attacks from both campaigns have been so relentless as to make each one fade into a low background buzz. Getting something to cut through the noise is hard. So when President Obama’s campaign filed a lawsuit to restore the rights to all Ohio citizens to cast early ballots up until the Sunday before Election Day—a right that the Ohio legislature had restricted to active-duty military personnel casting their ballots in person—the Romney side decided to go all in with a charge so outlandish it was bound to capture attention.

“President Obama’s lawsuit claiming it is unconstitutional for Ohio to allow servicemen and women extended early voting privileges during the state’s early voting period is an outrage,” the Republican candidate’s Facebook message proclaimed. Next came a statement from the campaign: “We Must Defend the Rights of Military Voters.” Right-wing bloggers took it from there, and the outraged headlines came pouring forth. When 15 military groups filed paperwork to be interveners in the case, requesting that the Obama campaign’s suit be dismissed in court, the whole thing really caught fire.

After months of backing voting restrictions—like voter ID laws that could disenfranchise hundreds of thousands across the country—you almost have to admire the chutzpah of the Romney campaign for lashing out against Obama on the issue of voting rights, and accusing him of restricting military voters. Particularly because the charge is entirely untrue.

If there’s one thing that’s certain in Ohio, it’s that voters in the military will have the right to vote on the Saturday, Sunday, and Monday before the November 6 election—no matter what happens with Obama’s lawsuit. Active-duty soldiers who are stationed outside of Ohio still get to send in their ballots, too. It’s the rest of the state—including a much larger number of veterans and military families—whose early-voting rights the Obama campaign is suing to protect. The president wants to ensure that all Ohio voters can vote early, as they could in 2008. Ohio’s Republican leadership wants to keep it limited to active military—making voting harder for everyone else, and likely decreasing turnout among poorer and likely Democratic voters. But they still want points for patriotism!

While the motivations for the skirmish are almost entirely political, the fight will have a real impact on voters in one of the nation’s most fiercely contested battleground states. So let’s break it all down:

What exactly is the Obama campaign suing over?

Thanks to its status as a key swing state, many will remember the infamous Election Day lines at Ohio polling stations. After it got particularly horrendous in 2004, the state extended its early voting period to ease the pressure at the polls. Famously in 2008, black church congregations showed up en masse to vote for Obama on the Sunday before the election; around 93,000 Ohioans voted in the three days before the election. There’s nothing unusual about this: Across the country, early voting has been successfully adopted by most states as a way to increase turnout and make Election days go more smoothly. The extra days particularly help those without access to transportation or with inflexible job schedules—poorer voters who tend to vote Democratic.

But after Obama’s win, Republicans began promoting a voter-restriction strategy across the country, including Ohio. The state’s majority-Republican legislature passed a bunch of new voting laws in 2011. Among other things, they halted early voting on the Friday before the election; it had previously continued until Monday, the day before the election. But as the Washington Post explains, “there was a problem: The measures contained conflicting deadlines for military personnel and their families, who benefit from the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voter Act.” To resolve the conflict, Ohio’s secretary of state determined that while military voters would get to vote through Monday, the rest of the state would have an early voting deadline three days earlier. In other words, while an active-duty solider could cast a ballot on the Sunday before an election, a military veteran, like the rest of the state’s voters, could not.

And that’s where the lawsuit comes in?

Right. The Obama campaign argues that all state voters should have the same deadline: the Monday before Election Day. By creating two different classes of voters, the Obamacampaign argues, Ohio now violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. “Whether caused by legislative error or partisan motivation,” the lawsuit reads, “the result of this legislative process is arbitrary and inequitable treatment of similarly situated Ohio voters with respect to in-person early voting.”

The Romney campaign is charging that, by calling for equal treatment for all Ohio voters, the Obama campaign is saying that it’s unconstitutional for military voters to have extended early voting priviledges. That’s patently false. “They’re not asking for the court to somehow withdraw the rights of military and overseas voters,” says Sonia GIll, an associate council for the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “They’re asking for the rest of Ohioans to have the same rights afforded in-person military voters.”

Meanwhile, military voters overseas or in combat will not be impacted one way or another—they can still send in absentee ballots as always.

But if military voters aren’t being affected, why are military groups working to have the lawsuit dismissed?

Good question. Fifteen groups representing active soldiers have “intervened” in the Obama campaign’s suit, asking that the judge dismiss the case. The groups are afraid that the campaign’s argument will undercut privileges for members of the military: “Although the relief Plaintiffs seek is an overall extension of Ohio’s early voting period,” their motion to intervene states, “the means through which Plaintiffs are attempting to attain it—a ruling that it is arbitrary and unconstitutional to grant extra time for early voting solely to military voters and overseas citizens—is both legally inappropriate and squarely contrary to the legal interests and constitutional rights of [the military groups intervening].”

In other words, the government must be allowed to make accommodations to military voters that are not made for the rest of the population, even when the military voters in question are voting in-person in their state. (Calls to two of the groups in the suit were not returned.)

But the government already makes special accomodations for military voters—thanks in part to President Obama. He signed the Military Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act, which made a number of extra voting guarantees to servicemen and women overseas. For example, military bases now must have voter-registration services, and those serving overseas are allowed to send and receive their applications for voter registration and absentee ballots by email or fax as well as through the mail.

But when it comes to the lawsuit, it’s Team Obama versus a united military and Team Romney?

Hardly. When it comes to special privileges on U.S. soil, many have argued against the groups intervening in the Ohio lawsuit. Diane Mazur, a law professor at the University of Florida and a former Air Force officer, told Buzzfeed that the groups’ argument is “extremely misleading.” While military voters get special privileges when away on duty and voting absentee, Mazur says there’s no history of providing particular accomodations to military voters casting a ballot in person. “The idea that service member are fuller citizens than the rest of America is a disaster for military professionalism,” she says.

Jon Stoltz, who heads the group VoteVets, has been outspoken in support of the Obama campaign’s lawsuit. “What appalled me so much about the narrative in Ohio,” he said on a telephone call with reporters, “is that the Romney campaign is supporting legislation that actually denies 900,000 veterans in the state of Ohio the right to vote early.”

 

By: Abby Rapoport, The American Prospect, August 8, 2012

August 9, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, Voting Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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