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“Hallmark Doublespeak”: With VP Selection, Romney Now Won’t Take A Stand On Paul Ryan’s Budget

It’s only been a few hours since Mitt Romney announced House Budget Chair Paul Ryan as his running mate, but the Republican presidential candidate is already distancing himself from Ryan’s signature policy achievement.

In what appears to be an early attempt to deflect criticism about Ryan’s controversial budget plans, Romney’s aides circulated an internal memo to reporters this morning that lays out talking points for how the campaign plans to address the Ryan budget.

The whole memo is worth a read, but here is the part that addresses the budget (emphasis added):

1) Does this mean Mitt Romney is adopting the Paul Ryan plan?

  • Gov. Romney applauds Paul Ryan for going in the right direction with his budget, and as president he will be putting together his own plan for cutting the deficit and putting the budget on a path to balance.
  • Romney’s administration will go through the budget line by line and ask two questions: Can we afford it? And, if not, should we borrow money from China to pay for it?
  • Mitt Romney will start with the easiest cut of all: Obamacare, a trillion-dollar entitlement we don’t want and can’t afford.
  • Mitt Romney also laid out commonsense reforms that will make good on our promises to today’s seniors and save Social Security and Medicare for future generations.

2) Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have different views on some policy areas – like Medicare spending, entitlement reform, labor, etc. – do you think those differences are going to hurt or help?

  • Of course they aren’t going to have the same view on every issue. But they both share the view that this election is a choice about two fundamentally different paths for this country. President Obama has taken America down a path of debt and decline. Romney and Ryan believe in a path for America that leads to more jobs, less debt and smaller government. So, while you might find an issue or two where they might not agree, they are in complete agreement on the direction that they want to lead America

On the surface, this just looks like a feeble effort to mitigate the political risk of being associated with Ryan’s budget, which proposes drastic cuts in federal spending and a dramatic overhaul of popular entitlement programs, including Medicare.

But these proposals are the reason why conservatives and Democrats are both psyched about the Ryan V.P. pick. So Romney’s attempt to simultaneously embrace Ryan’s fiscal policy record and disavow his signature fiscal policy just sounds like more of his campaign’s hallmark doublespeak.

In reality, however, this is really the only position that Romney could or should be expected to take on Ryan’s budget proposals. As we have pointed out before, no one has ever thought the Ryan Budget was going to become a law. It has always been a political document, laying out a new ideological framework for the Republican Party, which, in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, found that it had lost its way on fiscal policy.

It would be unreasonable to ask Romney to rigidly adhere to someone else’s budget manifesto, and it makes sense that he would want to form his own plan, consistent with his own ideas about the economy and fiscal policy.

The problem is that we have no clue what those ideas are. So in the absence of details about Romney’s own budget plan, it seems fair to tie him to the only proposal available — that of his V.P.


By: Grace Wyler, Business Insider, August 11, 2012

August 13, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Mitt Is Not His Own Man”: Romney’s Stunning Terrible Choice Of Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan? Really? It’s a stunning choice. A terrible one too. By making it, Mitt Romney tells America that he is not his own man and hasn’t even the remotest fleeting desire to be his own man. He is owned by the right wing. Did I write a couple of weeks ago that Romney was insecure? Well—Q.E.D.

Ryan will immediately become the flashpoint of this campaign. Yes, he’ll get the usual soft-focus biographical rollout. Expect Republicans to talk endlessly about his authenticity, his blue-collar roots, the fact that he once drove an Oscar Mayer weiner truck—and, certainly, his Catholicism. Also, his brains. He’s a smart guy, no doubt of that, although as I’ve written many times, it says something deeply pathetic about the GOP that Ryan has managed to become a star just because he’s bothered to learn policy.

So he’ll get some good press, and he’ll generate great enthusiasm among conservative intellectuals. But the introduction of him to the American people will inevitably involve some other things, too. It will involve explanations from the media that he is the GOP’s archconservative theoretician. It will involve explaining who Ayn Rand is. It will involve going into detail on his budget, and in particular his plans for Medicare. Learn that now, folks, if you don’t know it already. It will involve endless interpretations exactly like mine, about Romney sending a signal that he is running an ultraconservative campaign. The Ryan controversy will overtake the campaign. Romney will become in some senses the running mate—the ticket’s No. 2.

Think of it: The candidate will be running on his vice president’s ideas! It’s a staggering thought. Ryan might as well debate Obama this October, and Romney can square off against Biden.

And in this light, it’s what this choice says about Romney that is most interesting. Romney had to know all this. He had to accept, privately and internally, the arguments one hears that he’s a boring white guy who excites no one. And he had to accept the reality that he still, after flip-flopping on a half-dozen key issues and doing so much pandering, hasn’t koshered himself up with the right.

So, you’re Mitt Romney. You’re sitting there in your hotel suite alone at midnight. You’re thinking about this choice. After plowing through the angles about this state and that state and each person’s plusses and minuses, you think to yourself, “But I have to make the choice that I want to make, a choice that says something about me.” And yet, at the crucial moment, you recoil from it. You’re afraid to do that. Doing that might upset The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page or Bill Kristol, and goodness, that can’t be. It’s deeply craven.

Democrats are celebrating. Are they overdoing it? Ryan is smart. He’ll hold his own on the trail. He’ll talk about the fiscal cliff coming at the end of the year, and he’ll probably make as credible a case as any conservative can make that Obama won’t make the “tough choices” and Republicans will. And don’t forget that he has a grudge against Obama personally, ever since that George Washington University speech of Obama’s in April 2011 when he invited Ryan—and made the guy sit there and listen to the president of the United States trash him. That’s probably a motivator. And the Democrats might overplay their hand. That’s always a temptation when the target is as big and juicy as Ryan is.

So Democrats will have to be smart. They should show respect for Ryan for being a serious guy, but then just explain to people, urgently but not over-heatedly, what he’s proposed. It’s just very hard to imagine that middle-of-the-road voters want harsh future cuts to Medicare, massive tax cuts for the rich, and huge reductions to domestic programs that most swing voters really don’t hate. Does this choice work in Florida, with all those old people? If Romney just sacrificed Florida, he’s lost the election already.

And why? To placate a party that doesn’t even want him as its nominee anyway. It’s psycho-weird. But at least it will carry the benefit, if this ticket loses, of keeping conservatives from griping that they lost because their ticket was too moderate. Conservatism will share—will own—this loss.

Is all that “daring”? Well, Thelma and Louise were “daring” too, but they ended up at the bottom of a canyon. If the Democrats handle this situation properly, that’s where this ticket will end up too, and then the rest of us—the people who don’t want federal policy to be based on Atlas Shrugged—can finally and fully press the case to the right that America is not behind you, and please grow up.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, August 11, 2012

August 13, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It’s Ryan’s Party”: Movement Conservatives Openly Control GOP At Last

I’m not sure I believe in Freudian slips, and Barack Obama made a similar mistake when he introduced Joe Biden four years ago, but what the hell: When Mitt Romney slipped up this morning and introduced Paul Ryan as “the next president of the United States,” he spoke the truth. The premise of my April profile was that Ryan had become the leader of the Republican Party, with the president himself relegated to a kind of head-of-state role, at least in domestic affairs. As Grover Norquist put it, the only requirement for a nominee was enough working digits to sign Ryan’s plan. Ryan’s prestige within the party is unassailable. If he doesn’t want something to happen, it won’t happen (say, several bipartisan deals to reduce the deficit that he squashed.) If he wants something to happen, however foolhardy (like putting the entire House GOP caucus on record for his radical budget plan despite a certain veto) it will happen. It is Ryan’s party.

The only real question left was how to handle the optics of this reality. The original operating plan of the Romney campaign was to run against the bad economy, and then implement the Ryan Plan, which of course is a long-term vision of government unrelated to the current state of the labor market. Romney’s campaign had been bravely insisting for weeks that the plan was working, or that it was due for a 1980-like October leap in the polls, but clearly Romney did not believe, or had come to disbelieve, its own spin.

So Romney is conceding that the current track of the campaign is headed for a narrow defeat and has decided to alter its course. Obama has successfully defined Romney as an agent of his own economic class, a ploy that was clearly designed to make the attacks on Romney’s policy agenda hit home. (Focus groups had previously found that undecided voters found literal descriptions of Romney’s plan so radical they didn’t believe them.)

Romney has made the risky but defensible calculation that, if he is to concur with most of his party’s ideological baggage, he might as well bring aboard its best salesman. And Ryan is that. During his rise to power he has displayed an awesome political talent. He is ambitious but constantly described by others as foreswearing ambition. He comes from a wealthy background but has defined himself as “blue collar,” because he comes from a place that is predominantly blue collar. He spent the entire Bush administration either supporting the administration’s deficit-increasing policies, or proposing alternative policies that would have created much higher deficits than even Bush could stomach, but came away from it with a reputation as the ultimate champion of fiscal responsibility.

What makes Ryan so extraordinary is that he is not just a handsome slickster skilled at conveying sincerity with a winsome heartland affect. Pols like that come along every year. He is also (as Rich Yeselson put it) the chief party theoretician. Far more than even Ronald Reagan, he is deeply grounded is the ideological precepts of the conservative movement — a longtime Ayn Rand devotee who imbibed deeply from the lunatic supply-side tracts of Jude Wanniski and George Gilder. He has not merely formed an alliance with the movement, he is a product of it.

In this sense, Ryan’s nomination represents an important historical marker and the completion of a 50-year struggle. Starting in the early sixties, conservative activists set out to seize control of the Republican Party. At the time the party was firmly in the hands of Establishmentarians who had made their peace with the New Deal, but the activists regarded the entire development of the modern regulatory and welfare states as a horrific assault on freedom bound to lead to imminent societal collapse. In fits and starts, the conservatives slowly advanced – nominating Goldwater, retreating under Nixon, nominating Reagan, retreating as Reagan sought to govern, and on and on through Gingrich, Bush, and his successors.

Over time the movement and the party have grown synonymous, and Ryan’s nominations represents a moment when the conservative movement ceased to control the politicians from behind the scenes and openly assumed the mantle of power.


By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Beast, August 11, 2012

August 13, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Lord Knows He’s Been Vetted”: A Moment Of Sympathy For Tim Pawlenty

So how would you like to have been Tim Pawlenty yesterday, who was informed not by Mitt himself, but by Tagg Romney that he had been passed over for the vice presidential nomination for the second straight cycle?

It must have been a bitter cup indeed. Four years ago the McCain campaign had all but settled on TPaw before deciding he was such a cipher that he wouldn’t move the dial an inch. Being rejected in favor of Sarah Palin must have seemed, at the time and even more in retrospect, as sorta like getting dumped by your high school sweetheart after years of slavish devotion in favor of that troglodyte who used to beat you up during recess.

So now this time around TPaw spent months hearing that Mitt actually wanted a nondescript running-mate, acceptable to everyone and posing no danger of distracting attention from the Big Chief. Pawlenty certainly qualified, having abundantly demonstrated during his own brief presidential campaign that no quantity of visigothic rhetoric could make hearts beat either for or against him (the efficient cause of his demise, let us remember, was his inability to get a couple of thousand people to show up for him at an event a couple of hours down I-35 from his home state). With no day job, Pawlenty dutifully went wherever the campaign sent him and mouthed its talking-points. And now he’s again passed over in favor of a guy who’s been attacked by the bishops of his own church as somewhat morally depraved, and who, in Charles Pierce’s vivid phrase today, is “still the high-school kid living off Social Security survivor benefits and reading Ayn Rand by flashlight under the sheets.”

Pawenty remains a solid option for a minor cabinet position if Romney-Ryan win, and for all we know, could be on the short list for Veep in 2016 if the ticket crashes and burns. Lord knows he’s been vetted.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, August 11, 2012

August 13, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Defensive Communications”: Does Mormonism Encourage LDS People To Lie?

Newsweek/Daily Beast reporter Jamie Reno published a provocative interview this week with Sue Emmett, a direct descendent of Brigham Young and a former LDS Church member, that plumbs controversial aspects of Mormon faith and culture, including the status of women in the faith and a tendency among some Mormons to manage the way they speak with non-Mormons about complicated aspects of our history and religious practice.

Flagging concern about how this highly managed communications style has impacted the Romney campaign and might shape a Romney presidency, Reno quotes a former LDS Church employee, who states, “Every Mormon grows up with the idea that it’s OK to lie if it’s for a higher cause.”

That doesn’t quite ring true to my own experience, though I do understand well the truth-swerving phenomenon Emmet and Reno describe. In fact, I cringe when I see the way it connects to Romney’s own tendency to avoid frank disclosure—this week, it’s tax returns—and the frequent charges that ambition and opportunism rather than consistent principle shape his policy stances.

Of course, it’s nothing shocking that an American minority group might develop its own way of talking to outsiders. But in some Mormon circles one does hear bitter accusations of “lying for the Lord,” and sometimes one does witness among Mormon people today the remnants of a deep-seated sense that telling a complete, straightforward story is not always good for LDS interests.

The most penetrating assessment of this Mormon cultural phenomenon comes from linguistic anthropologist Daymon Smith, who ties defensive communication mechanisms—telling outsiders one story in order to protect another version of the story for insiders—to Mormon polygamy and particularly to the decades in the late nineteenth century when federal prosecution of polygamy sent many Mormon men on the “underground.” (Read an excellent summary of his dissertation here.)

Double-speaking on polygamy continues. I myself wrestle with it whenever I’m obliged to talk about Mormon polygamy in public. Since 1890, LDS Church leaders and members have stated publicly and repeatedly that we do not practice polygamy, that the practice has officially ended. This is an earnest effort to distinguish contemporary members of the mainstream LDS Church from ultra-orthodox splinter groups of fundamentalist Mormons. And it is true that any Mormon who were to marry and cohabitate with a two living spouses today would be excommunicated.

But polygamy has not been eliminated from Mormon life. (I’ve discussed this topic at length here.)

The fact is that current Church policy does allow for a living man to be “sealed” (married for eternity) to more than one woman at a time. For example, a widower or divorced man who has elected to terminate his civil marriage but not his LDS temple marriage is permitted to marry another woman in an LDS temple with the assurance that both first and second marriages would be eternal. The same is not possible under current Church policies for living LDS women who have been widowed or civilly divorced.

This may seem like a technicality. But when combined with the fact that polygamy has never been renounced as a doctrinal principle by the Church and that it remains on the books in the Doctrine and Covenants, a book of LDS scripture, it fosters a belief among many mainstream LDS people that polygamous marriages will be a fact of the afterlife. Some mainstream Mormons dutifully anticipate polygamy in heaven. Others take an agnostic view. But many others quietly harbor feelings of grief, anger, and worry. I have experienced these feelings myself, and I hear them from other Mormons all the time. All the time Mormon men and women ask, “What kind of God would expect me to live in an eternal marriage that I would hate?” Not the God I believe in.

Polygamy remains a fact of mainstream Mormon thought and belief—whether as a doctrinal remnant or as a live article of faith, no one knows for sure. And the tensions created by the dissonance between the Church’s public denial of polygamy and the private continuance of the doctrine creates tensions that lead more than a few Mormons to leave the faith.

Given this complicated and conflicted situation, what should a Mormon say when she is asked whether we practice polygamy?

A few weeks ago, I sat in front of a radio microphone for the BBC program “The World”; with me on the program was a high-ranking public relations official for the LDS Church. Together, we did the same program twice: two back-to-back hours of the same hour about Mormonism, one time for the American audiences, and a second time for the whole world. During the first hour, taping for American audiences, when the inevitable polygamy question came, I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to convey in a soundbite the terrible complexity of Mormonism’s relationship to polygamy: how while it is true that Mormons today no longer plurally cohabitate, polygamy has never been eradicated from our doctrine, our scriptures, and even from current policy, and that this causes many Mormon women and men a great deal of worry and resentment. My description sounded jumbled alongside the clear and familiar official message: no, we do not practice polygamy, not at all. I felt self-conscious and incoherent and nervous about publicly contradicting Church PR officials, but also determined not to obscure the more complicated and difficult truth. When we deny those truths, their private emotional costs multiply.

Then came the second hour of programming. Our audience in this second hour was not just BBC’s American listeners, but the world. I thought about the global reach of the BBC—the reach of the former British empire. When the question about polygamy came, I imagined listeners in Wales and Bangladesh and Kenya, listeners who had no concept of Mormonism, perhaps, beyond the most rudimentary and familiar stereotypes; including nineteenth-century Mormon polygamy. I squeezed my eyes shut. “No,” I said, “we no longer practice polygamy,” agreeing this time around with the LDS Church public-relations official. As I did, I registered an old, familiar, sinking feeling. I tried to tell myself it was the best I could do.

Was I lying for the Lord? Or was I a regular Mormon struggling to tell a complicated story to a world that often reduces us to stereotypes? What should I have said? Mitt Romney has said, “I can’t imagine anything more awful than polygamy”—even though polygamy remains a live element in Mormon doctrine and practice. Is that what he really believes? Is that what he felt he had to say? Is this the best we can do?


By: Joanna Brooks, Religion Dispatches, August 8, 2012

August 13, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, Religion | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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