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“Purpose Driven Lies”: Crocodile Tears From The Koch Brothers

They may say otherwise, but the evidence is clear: Republicans had no interest in Obama’s success.

The latest campaign from Americans for Prosperity—the Koch-funded conservative group—is a $7 million ad buy meant to highlight the disappointment of various Obama supporters. The commercial, which runs for one minute, will air on broadcast and cable in 11 battleground states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin. CNN has a few excerpts:

“I had hoped that the new president would bring new jobs–not major layoffs, not people going through major foreclosures on their homes,” one woman says in the ad.

Another voter adds: “He said he was going to cut the deficit in his first term. I’ve seen zero interest in reducing spending. He inherited a bad situation, but he made it worse.”

Piling on, a third voter says: “I still believe in hope and change. I just don’t think Obama is the way to go for that.”

At the Washington Post, Greg Sargent calls this an “emerging GOP tactic for dealing with Obama’s personal popularity.” He paraphrases, “We didn’t want Obama to fail; we shared his high hopes for his presidency; but …”

If Republicans go this route, I hope reporters take a page from Michael Grunwald, who details GOP obstruction of the stimulus in his just-released book The New New Deal, and reveals the extent to which the GOP never intended to work with Obama, regardless of what he did. This anecdote is typical of how Republicans approached Obama from the beginning of his administration:

In early January, the House Republican leadership team held a retreat at an Annapolis inn. Pete Sessions, the new campaign chair, opened his presentation with the political equivalent of an existential question:

“If the purpose of the Majority is to Govern…What is Our Purpose?” […]

“The Purpose of the Minority is to become the Majority.”

The team’s goal would not be promoting Republican policies, or stopping Democratic policies, or even making Democratic bills less offensive to Republicans. Its goal would be taking the gavel back from Speaker Pelosi.

“That is the entire Conference’s Mission,” Sessions wrote.

Grunwald shows how Republicans developed a strategy of maximum obstruction before Obama even took office, and stuck to it throughout the first two years of his presidency. As this election unfolds, conservatives will try to mournfully attack Obama, as if they wanted him to succeed.

They’re lying.


By: Jamelle Bouie, The American Prospect, August 15, 2012

August 16, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Ann Romney’s Inconvenient Facts”: Other Than tax Returns, “There’s Nothing We’re Hiding”

As a rule, family members of candidates shouldn’t be considered political players, but once those family members become campaign surrogates and enter the political sphere making partisan arguments, there’s nothing inappropriate about scrutinizing their comments.

Take Ann Romney’s latest defense of her husband’s secrecy, for example.

Ann Romney sat down with NBC’s Natalie Morales and when the subject turned to the still-hidden tax returns, the Republican became quite agitated. Romney insisted that her husband’s campaign has done “what’s legally required of us,” which is true, but fails to meet accepted norms, standards, and expectations.

She added, “There’s going to be no more tax releases given.” I assume that means outside of the 2011 returns Mitt Romney has promised to release, but has not yet disclosed, though Ann Romney didn’t elaborate.

She went on to say, “There’s nothing we’re hiding.” Except the tax returns, the tax rates paid, and the explanation for the Swiss bank account, the shell corporation in Bermuda, and the cash in the Cayman Islands. Other than hiding all of that, they’re not hiding anything.

And why will the Romneys refuse all additional calls for disclosure, even from Republicans? According to Ann Romney, it’s because Democrats might use the materials to make Mitt Romney look bad.

I continue to marvel at this deeply odd argument. As Dahlia Lithwick and Raymond Vasvari recently explained, “[Romney] isn’t actually claiming that his opponents will lie. He’s claiming he’s entitled to hide the truth because it could be used against him…. These are tax returns. Factual documents. No different than, say, a birth certificate. But the GOP’s argument that inconvenient facts can be withheld from public scrutiny simply because they can be used for mean purposes is a radical idea in a democracy.”

And yet, this radical idea is now the Romneys’ only talking point on the issue.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 15, 2012

August 16, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Unconnected To A Concern With The Truth”: Mitt Romney’s Implausible Bid For The High Road

Politics is tough, and most politicians—including President Obama—are willing to bend the truth to win an election. But there’s a difference between the small distortions of all campaigns, and the brazen dishonesty we’re seeing from Romney. In a 48-hour period, Mitt Romney has doubled-down on the false charge that Obama has ended work requirements for welfare, lied about the Affordable Care Act’s Medicare cost savings, and kicked up a storm over comments made by Vice President Joe Biden. That last one is noteworthy for the sheer chutzpah of Romney’s complaint.

During an event in Danville, Virginia (pronounced Dan-vul) with African-American supporters of the president, Biden deployed somewhat unfortunate language in attacking Romney’s promised repeal of financial reform:

“Romney wants to let the — he said the first 100 days — he’s gonna let the big banks once again write their own rules. Unchain Wall Street,” Biden said at an event in Danville, Va. “They gonna put y’all back in chains.”

“Unchain” was a reference to Paul Ryan’s promise to “unshackle” the economy by repealing financial regulations and health care reform. And while Biden’s message is clear, it’s probably wise to avoid an allusion to slavery when talking to an audience of black people. Even still, it’s not a huge deal.


Team Romney wasted no time in jumping on the vice president’s rhetoric. “Well, there’s going to be folks across the country that will try and take that as some kind of code word that is going to suggest that the Republicans are trying to be racial in their programs,” said former New Hampshire governor John Sununu. Yesterday evening, while campaigning in Ohio, Romney referenced Biden’s remarks, attacking the Obama campaign for its “divisive” campaign:

“This is what an angry and desperate presidency looks like. President Obama knows better, promised better, and America deserves better,” Romney told a roaring crowd of about 5,000 supporters in Chillicothe. “His campaign strategy is to smash America apart and then try to cobble together 51 percent of the pieces. If an American president wins that way, we all lose.”

Romney added, “Mr. President, take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago and let us get about rebuilding and reuniting America.”

It’s hard to take this seriously. As I said earlier, Romney began this week with two huge whoppers. In an ad called “Long History,” Romney repeats the charge that Obama has ended welfare’s work requirements, “On July 12th, Obama quietly ended work requirements for welfare. You wouldn’t have to work, and wouldn’t have to train for a job.” Romney used this line last week, and was promptly denounced for his mendacity, and not just from the usual collection of fact-checkers; both Ron Haskins (who built welfare reform) and Bill Clinton (who signed it) weighed in to dispute Romney’s claim, which Clinton called “not true.”

The most disgraceful thing about Romney’s welfare attack—which he continues to use—is that it’s an obvious ploy to associate Obama with “handouts.” Welfare is one of the most racialized issues in American politics, and Romney’s attacks are a clear callback to the “welfare queens” and “young bucks” that punctuated Ronald Reagan’s rhetoric. It’s only a little more subtle than Newt Gingrich’s declaration that Obama is a “food stamp” president, and serves a similar purpose: to erode Obama’s standing among white voters who reflexively oppose anything that might hand benefits to the “undeserving.”

The same idea (and goal) underlies Romney’s attacks on the Medicare savings in the Affordable Care Act—“The money you paid for guaranteed health care is now going to a massive government program, that’s not for you.” With the backdrop of a white senior, the message of this ad is plain to see: Obama is giving your tax dollars to minorities.

(Since this is bound to inspire protest from readers, I will point you in the direction of research detailing the tight connection between racial attitudes and support for government programs.)

This is why it’s hard to stomach Romney’s complaints about “anger” and “divisiveness”; they come less than two days after he has renewed his attempt to split white voters from Obama with tired tropes about the undeserving poor. And when you look at the whole of his general-election campaign—which includes regular attacks on Obama’s fictional “apology tour,” and routine lies about his job-creation record—there’s no way in which Romney is in a position to take the high road.

Philosopher Harry Frankfurt famously defined “bullshit” as a statement made without regard to its truth value. Whether it’s true or false is irrelevant—the point is to persuade. “[B]ullshitters seek to convey a certain impression of themselves without being concerned about whether anything at all is true.”

If this doesn’t describe Mitt Romney, I’m not sure what does.


By: Jamelle Bouie, The American Prospect, August 15, 2012

August 16, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Voter Rights Lose in Pennsylvania”: To Protect Your Right To Vote, You Must Lose Your Right To Vote

Let’s imagine a world in which Pennsylvania’s voter-ID law did not disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters. The law, which requires voters show government-issued identification in order to vote, has created significant burdens for voters without IDs, a population disproportionately made up of poor people and minorities. In our imaginary world, the state would do a stellar job of educating voters, reaching out to African Americans—who disproportionately lack state IDs—and Spanish-language media. They would send postcards as early as possible to tell every voter in the state about the change. A “card of last resort” would be available to any voter who could not easily access the required documents for a standard ID, which include a birth certificate and a Social Security card. Employees at the state’s driver’s license centers would be well-versed in the law and give voters advice about what was needed and what they were entitled to receive for free. Election workers would be well-trained and poll places would have provisional ballots for those who did not have ID on election day. If every single component of that implementation went perfectly, then maybe the law would not have the disastrous impact that almost all voting-rights activists predict it will have.

According to Pennsylvania Commonwealth Judge Robert Simpson, the mere possibility of that counterfactual scenario is enough. This morning, the judge denied a request from four voting-rights groups to block the law. The lawsuit will now head to the state supreme court—”as quickly as possible,” says Penda Hair, executive director for the Advancement Project, one of the parties to the suit.

Over the phone, Hair was deflated. “It’s a very sad day for democracy,” she said.

Simpson’s decision centered on a few key legal questions: Whether the law was unconstitutional “on its face”—as opposed to in practice—and what standard should be applied to judge its constitutionality. In evaluating laws, judges apply different standards. “Strict scrutiny” is an elevated standard, which is most typically applied when the law in question targets minorities or involves a fundamental right; to be ruled constitutional, the law must be narrowly tailored, serve a “compelling state interest,” and be the only way the state can achieve the intended effect. In other words, the state has the burden of showing that we really, really need this law. The “rational basis” is much more lenient—all the state has to show is that the law serves some legitimate purpose (i.e., that it’s not totally frivolous). In his lengthy opinion, the judge determined that, based on prior cases, including the U.S. Supreme Court case over Indiana’s voter-ID law, a strict scrutiny test was not “the appropriate measure” for the case. Because of this, the law’s proponents did not need to show that the Pennsylvania law served a “compelling state interest.” In other words, even though the law was ostensibly passed to prevent voter fraud, the fact there is no voter-fraud problem in the state doesn’t matter. Simpson also wrote that the plaintiffs’ case hinged on the many things that would or could go wrong, but that the law was not unconstitutional as written—the plaintiffs would have to wait until after the election to see if it had been harmful.

In a conference call with Hair and the other plaintiffs’ lawyers, the legal team was eager to point out that should the state Supreme Court subject the law to stricter scrutiny, they would stand a much better chance of winning. The lawyers pointed to cases in Missouri and Wisconsin, where courts found that similar voter-ID laws violated their state constitutions, based on a strict-scrutiny test. Simpson had relied more heavily on precedent from a U.S. Supreme Court case that ruled on violations to the federal Constitution—a different argument than the one the plaintiffs were making.

Hair had harsh words for the judge’s decision. The ruling implied “voters have to wait until after the election, after they’re barred from voting, and then you can show that the harm is actually applied to them,” she said. “To protect your right to vote you have to lose your right to vote in one important election. That’s the only way I can read this.”

In the conference call, attorney David Gersch was even more blunt. “The court was wrong about that,” he said, pointing to the judge’s acknowledgement that certainly more than 1 percent of voters would be impacted. In Pennsylvania that means at least 89,000 people may lose a fundamental right.

The state has talked a lot about its plans for voter outreach and making it easier to obtain an ID. But so far, the only thing the state has done is to allow those born in Pennsylvania to retrieve a “certified birth record” by providing their personal information at a driver’s license center. It’s easier than obtaining a birth certificate for sure, but it still requires two trips—one to request the record and another to get an ID. There are other measures in the works: For those lacking documents, an ID “of last resort” is supposed to become available by the end of August, and by the end of September, postcards will go out to every voting household in the state informing people of the new law. Pennsylvania has also hired a PR company to do media outreach.

But many doubt these efforts will be sufficient. The PR company the state hired is controlled by Republicans, which some say will be disinclined to alert poor and nonwhite voters—voters who lean Democratic—about the law. It is also unclear how many people—and where—the law will affect. The state’s data showed more than 750,000 without a state ID, but that data has significant flaws. In testimony, a state official explained that he expected fewer than 10,000 IDs to be issued for voting purposes.

Voting-rights advocates are suspicious of the state’s efforts. The Pennsylvania Voter ID Coalition, made up of 140 civic, religious and voting-rights groups, has opted not to educate any voters on the “card of last resort” until it’s actually available, since the state doesn’t always make its deadlines. Meanwhile, several studies have shown that employees at the driver’s license centers are not sufficiently familiar with the law and have misinformed voters about the rules.

Judge Simpson, however, put great faith in the state’s voter-outreach efforts. He was dismissive of the plaintiff’s expert witness, a political scientist who showed through survey research that a third of voters were unaware of the law and as much as 12.6 percent of the state’s registered voters may lack the necessary ID. “I am not convinced any qualified elector need be disenfranchised by Act 18,” Simpson wrote, pointing to absentee voting and provisional ballot options for those struggling meet the requirements.

Oddly, however, the judge did acknowledge that the law would hurt voter access. He gave the plaintiffs credit for establishing that the law would prevent some legitimate voters from casting ballots and that some would unfairly be charged for their IDs. He even addressed statements from Mike Turzai, the Republican House Majority Leader who said in an audience that voter ID would ensure a Romney victory, calling the statements “disturbing, tendentious” and “boastful.” But he chose to believe Turzai was alone in his cynical and partisan views, and decided granting the injunction would do more to hurt than help the problems.

To Hair, Simpson’s opinion amounts to a punt to the state Supreme Court. “I interpret it as the lower court saying, ‘If I make a ruling one way or another and then the Supreme Court changes that ruling on appeal, which is going to be worse?” she said. (As I’ve written, this is a concern many activists have had about the ruling.) Hair is already focusing on the Supreme Court, where she believes the plaintiffs can prove that with so many impacted, the law creates an undue burden.

“There won’t be a question that close to a million people will be affected by this law,” she says. “You don’t need to show absolutely without any doubt that you will be barred from voting. We showed massive burdens that these voters have to overcome.”

“We believe that just like the poll tax wasn’t an absolute barrier—you could pay the tax and vote—overcoming these burdens should not be a requirement.”


By: Abby Rapoport, The American Prospect, August 15, 2012

August 16, 2012 Posted by | Voting Rights | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Private Fears”: How Ryanization Threatens The GOP

There is the idea of having Paul Ryan on the Republican ticket, and then there is the reality.

If conservative ideologues are over the moon at having their favorite conviction politician as Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate, many Republican professionals — particularly those running this fall — are petrified. They freely express private fears that Democrats will succeed in Ryanizing the entire GOP.

What’s striking is not just that down-ballot Republican candidates are distancing themselves from Ryan’s proposals, particularly on Medicare, but that Romney won’t take ownership of them either, except in vague terms. Worse, the Romney apparatus is forcing Ryan to distance himself from his own budget. It was sad to watch Ryan dancing around these issues on Fox News Tuesday night and having to say that Romney is the boss. How long before conservatives start producing “Let Ryan Be Ryan” bumper stickers?

Oh, yes, and Ryan could not explain when his fiscal plan would balance the books (presumably because the right answer is somewhere past 2030). “I don’t know exactly when it balances,” Ryan told Brit Hume. So much for specificity.

To understand the elation Democrats feel about the Ryan choice, it’s useful to canvass their reactions in what will be one of the hardest battleground states for President Obama to hang onto. In 2008, Obama became the first Democratic presidential candidate in 32 years to carry North Carolina. Now it is, with Indiana, one of the states most likely to move back to the GOP. “We’re at the pink end of the spectrum,” Rep. David Price, a Democrat who represents the Research Triangle area, said in a phone interview.

To Price, Ryan offers a double opportunity for the Democrats. The swing voters in his own district, he says, “are pretty practical and not enamored of the doctrinaire, ideological approach that Ryan exemplifies.” The very reasons that ideologues admire Ryan are the reasons that independents and moderates may be put off by him.

On top of that, Price said, “the issues of Medicare and Social Security are toxic for Ryan.” White voters in the current over-65 generation, more conservative than the New Deal era electoral cohort that has largely passed on, are now the base of the Republican Party. By putting Medicare on the ballot, Ryan threatens to push away core Republican voters.

That’s why Romney went up so quickly with advertisements attacking Obama for reducing spending on Medicare. One longtime Democratic organizer of senior citizens I spoke with here — his organization doesn’t let field staff speak for the record — noted that John McCain defeated Obama by eight points among voters over 65. “If Obama can cut that margin from eight to five, he wins,” the organizer said. “He doesn’t have to win that demographic. Closing the gap is a win.” His analysis is especially apt in North Carolina, where McCain beat Obama by 13 points among seniors.

Already, the North Carolina Democratic Party is out with lots of numbers — in other circumstances, Ryan might appreciate its wonkery — showing how the Ryan budget would hurt certain voter groups in the state. The party says that “1,368,646 North Carolinian seniors would be forced onto vouchers when they retire,” referring to the number of near-elderly citizens who would be affected a decade from now by Ryan’s idea of changing Medicare into a premium-support program. Repeal of the Obama health-care law, the party says, would move “154,884 North Carolina seniors back into the prescription drug ‘donut hole.’ ”

Walton Robinson, the Democrats’ state communications director, has his eye on a very specific demographic group that Ryan might move: older white rural women without college educations. Obama remains competitive in this state because of a large lead among female voters. Shifting this “one holdout group” Obama’s way, Robinson says, “could drive that gender gap even further apart.”

State Sen. Linda Garrou, a pro-business Democrat who has represented Winston-Salem for 14 years, is retiring after a Republican reapportionment broke up her district. She agrees that Ryan will help Democrats among older voters but is especially worried about Republican education cuts at all levels of government. She casts the choice as fundamental.

“The Romney/Ryan plan,” she said, “seems to say, ‘I’ve got mine, you get yours the best you can, the heck with you.’”

Americans often oppose government in the abstract but actually want it to do quite a lot. Thanks to Paul Ryan, this year’s debate will be anything but abstract.


By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, August 15, 2012

August 16, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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