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“Policy Is Less Important Than Character”: Romney Escapes Punishment For Lying, Continues Lying

We may be talking a lot about Medicare, but on the airwaves, Mitt Romney is just not giving up on the welfare attack. As you should know by now, over the last couple of weeks Romney has been airing ads featuring an unusually brazen lie about the Obama administration, claiming that Obama has eliminated work requirements from welfare. It’s just false, as every fact-checker has attested and anyone who is not actually in Mitt Romney’s employ will tell you. Romney has been repeating this lie on the stump as well. Everybody understands the racial subtext underneath the welfare attack, so we needn’t dwell on that at the moment. But what’s remarkable is that despite the judgment of journalists, Romney just keeps on telling the lie. Here’s the third ad his campaign has produced about it:

Why does Romney keep saying this? Because he isn’t getting punished for it, that’s why. It isn’t enough that the fact-checker columns say it’s false. What’s required to really chasten a political liar is stories specifically about the fact that he’s lying and asking whether that makes him, deep down in his soul, a liar. But that hasn’t happened yet, and Steve Benen asks why:

I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the political world’s strange standards. If a super PAC puts a video online with a dubious timeline, it’s a multi-week scandal, and evidence of a campaign stuck in the gutter. If Vice President Biden uses a poorly-worded, off-the-cuff metaphor, it’s a multi-week scandal, and proof that 2012 has become excessively ugly.

But if Mitt Romney gets caught repeatedly making an unambiguous, racially-charged lie, it’s seen as somehow routine.

Why do gaffes and unaired web ads dominate the political world’s attention, while shameless lying leads to shrugged shoulders?

Why gaffes get so much attention is its own story, but the reason a lie like this one doesn’t generate more condemnation is simple: It’s about policy. That has no legitimate justification, but the fact is that reporters believe that if Candidate A says something false about Candidate B’s personal life, it’s a terrible lie and he should be called out about it, but if Candidate A says something false about Candidate B’s policy positions and policy record, hey, that’s just rough-and-tumble politics. Two years ago I wrote about the utterly nonsensical unspoken rules reporters follow when deciding how bad a lie told by a candidate is:

The first rule is that lying about yourself is worse than lying about your opponent. Candidates routinely fib about their opponents’ records and histories with little notice. Perhaps it’s because reporters presume that in the rough-and-tumble of a campaign, a certain degree of hyperbole is to be expected and therefore can’t be judged too harshly. If you claim, though, to have done something you haven’t, reporters will usually be all over you. Look at what happened to [Christine] O’Donnell’s fellow Senate candidates Mark Kirk in Illinois, who was caught inflating his military record in multiple ways, and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, who said at various times that he had served “in” Vietnam when really he had served “during” Vietnam. This is the kind of lie reporters find outrageous — when candidates make themselves look more heroic or accomplished than they actually are. A lie about your opponent may draw attention, but the discussion will be about whether the attack was out of line; in other words, what you did. A lie about yourself, on the other hand, will spur a discussion about who you are.

Which leads to the second rule: Lying about personal matters is worse than lying about policy. That may be because reporters think policy is less important than “character,” but whatever the cause, candidates can, with few exceptions, get away with murder when it comes to policy. O’Donnell herself has benefited from this double standard; lots of people heard about her comments about witchcraft, but nearly no one knows that she revived the claim that the Affordable Care Act will create “death panels” — perhaps the most despicable lie to have coursed through our political bloodstream in recent years.

So that’s my explanation: because Mitt Romney is “only” lying about policy, reporters find it no big deal. Trouble is, lying about policy during the campaign is a pretty good indication that you’ll lie about policy when you’re president. At this point, is there anyone who thinks that Mitt Romney is a fundamentally honest guy who won’t ever deceive the public if he thought it would serve his political ends?


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, August 20, 2012

August 21, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

False “Progress” At Augusta National”: Three-Quarters Of The Way Through The 20th Century

The London Olympics, as I wrote two weeks ago, turned out to be a great showcase of female athletic talent and the progress American women — and women in general — have made in sports, particularly in the 40 years since Title IX became law and guaranteed them equal access. Today’s announcement that Augusta National Golf Club — the Georgia country club that plays host to men’s professional golf’s biggest tournament — is admitting its first female memberswould seem, then, another sign of progress for female athletes just a week after the Olympics ended.

Not hardly.

Chairman Billy Payne certainly deserves a little credit for taking a step the men before him would not and admitting the club’s first two female members — former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and business executive Darla Moore — both of whom immediately accepted. A little praise, however, is all Augusta deserves for progressing roughly (no pun intended) three quarters of the way through the 20th century.

Augusta, full of green-clad white men who for years denied women and blacks the opportunity to join and play its fabled course, has long epitomized the worst stereotypes of golf, a sport that has made genuine efforts to increase opportunities for women and minorites in recent years, as a game for the white, male one-percent. It didn’t admit its first black member until 1990, 15 years after Lee Elder became the first African-American to play in the Masters. Now, it is admitting its first female members a full 63 years after the foundation of the Ladies Professional Golf Association.

The club didn’t relent on its membership policy when it faced widespread criticism and a mass protest led by Dr. Martha Burk in 2003; instead, it dug in deeper. And it didn’t relent earlier this year when it didn’t extend membership to Virginia Rometty, the chief executive of IBM, one of the Masters three chief sponsors (the CEOs of the other two sponsors, as well as Rometty’s predecessor at IBM, are members). In 2011, it banned a female journalist from the locker room, drawing protests from news organizations and other reporters.

Augusta, make no mistake, is still the bastion of inequality and elitism it has always been. It’s just a little less so now. As far as credit for the “progress” Augusta National has supposedly made, I’ll reserve that for the day the club hosts a women’s tournament and finally joins the rest of us in the 21st century.

By: Travis Waldron, Think Progress, August 20, 2012

August 21, 2012 Posted by | Women | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Akin Unmasks The Pro-Life Movement”: “Slutty Women Will Do Anything To Avoid Facing The Consequences Of Their Actions”

The myth that women can’t get pregnant from rape stems from basic assumptions anti-choicers make about women.

If you’re going to slander the estimated 32,000 women a year who become pregnant after being raped, it’s probably not wise to do it on a Sunday, when it will lead the next week’s news coverage. Republican nominee for Missouri Senate Todd Akin chose not to follow this bit of wisdom, instead declaring in a television interview yesterday that women can’t get pregnant from rape.

“First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare,” Akin told KTVI-TV in an interview posted Sunday. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

For people who don’t follow the anti-choice movement closely, this statement might be a stunner for the simple reason that it makes no biological sense; a rapist’s sperm swims as well as a non-rapist’s. But for those of us who do, it’s no surprise. The myth that “real” rapes don’t result in pregnancy is widespread among anti-choicers—and not just the fringe (Akin, for instance, used to be on the board of Missouri Right to Life). You can see a variation of this myth at the anti-choice website Abortion Facts:

To get pregnant and stay pregnant, a woman’s body must produce a very sophisticated mix of hormones. Hormone production is controlled by a part of the brain which is easily influenced by emotions. There’s no greater emotional trauma that can be experienced by a woman than an assault rape. This can radically upset her possibility of ovulation, fertilization, implantation and even nurturing of a pregnancy.

Akin’s comment should serve as a reminder that despite its sentimentality surrounding the fetus, the anti-choice movement is motivated by misogyny and ignorance about human sexuality. In this case, what underlies the rape-doesn’t-get-you-pregnant myth is the notion that sex is shameful and that slutty women will do anything—even send an innocent man to jail to kill a baby—in order to avoid facing the consequences of their actions.

You can see this logic play out broadly in discussions about rape as well as abortion. The most common defense in rape cases is that the victim consented to sex and only “cried rape” in order to seem less promiscuous. The claim, of course, is nonsensical. Why would a woman trying to put a one-night stand behind her invite grilling by detectives and defense attorneys? Why would someone so concerned about maintaining the illusion of purity subject her sex life to examination by a crowd of jurors? That the myth persists nonetheless goes a long way to explaining why we have such low rape conviction rates. When it comes to abortion, anti-choice activists accuse women going into abortion clinics of taking the easy way out, as if raising an unwanted child is the rightful price of having sex.

While most everyone can see the absurdity of Akin’s comments, fewer pick up on the deeper problem of “rape exceptions” to abortion bans. When journalists and politicians refer to banning abortions except in the case of rape, they are assuming that there’s a way to construct abortion policy that allows women who “deserve” abortions to get them while preventing those dirty girls who consented to sex from having them. This is simply not the case.

We know from research that even with a rape exception, most rape victims who seek an abortion will be denied. Take Medicaid, for instance, which will not cover an abortion unless the patient is a rape victim. Research by Ibis Reproductive Health, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving women’s access to reproductive services, has shown that only 37 percent of women who qualified for rape exceptions got the necessary funding for their abortions. Between the onerous paperwork demands to demonstrate that one is, to use Akin’s term, a “legitimate” rape victim and bureaucrats who are understandably anxious about making exceptions even when they’re called for, doctors and patients simply found it impossible to get the funding they need.

In this light, what’s surprising is not that an anti-choice politician accused pregnant rape victims of lying to cover their shame, but that anti-choice politicians manage to avoid saying similar things with regularity. Unfortunately, we live in a political climate where statements like Akin’s will likely be dismissed as a gaffe instead of serving as an opportunity to discuss what motivates such myths. Such is the nature of our shallow, scandal-driven media: It points our heads in the direction of deeper truths, but moves to the next story before we can take the time to see them.


By: Amanda Marcotte, The American Prospect, August 20, 2012

August 21, 2012 Posted by | Abortion, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Standard GOP Policy”: Why Is Mitt Romney Outraged At Todd Akin And Not At Paul Ryan?

Mitt Romney is outraged! He’s insulted! He’s offended!

Why? A Republican Senate candidate dared to state a position on choice that is exactly the same as that of Romney’s own running mate.

Missouri Rep. Todd Akin is attracting plenty of attention for his bizarre and idiotic justification for refusing to allow rape victims to have abortions. But the extreme policy position behind those comments – a policy that is the GOP standard — should be getting just as much attention.

Akin explained this weekend how rape victims shouldn’t be allowed reproductive choice because they already have access to some mysterious anti-pregnancy control system: “First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Romney responded today in an interview with the National Review:

“Congressman’s Akin comments on rape are insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong,” Romney said. “Like millions of other Americans, we found them to be offensive.”

“I have an entirely different view,” Romney said. “What he said is entirely without merit and he should correct it.”

What is Romney’s “entirely different view”? That Rep. Akin doesn’t have a basic understanding of the female anatomy that he’s so interested in legislating? That Akin feels the need to draw a distinction between “legitimate rape” and “illegitimate rape”? That Akin thinks rape victims shouldn’t be able to choose whether to carry their rapists’ children?

Romney should start by directing his outrage at his own running mate. Rep. Paul Ryan not only opposes abortion rights for rape victims, he was a cosponsor of a so-called “personhood” amendment that would have classified abortion as first degree murder and outlawed common types of birth control. Ryan has also bought into the “legitimate rape” nonsense, cosponsoring legislation with Akin that would have limited federal services to victims of “forcible rape” – a deliberate attempt to write out some victims of date rape and statutory rape.

Romney himself has flirted with the “personhood” idea, telling Mike Huckabee during the primary that he’d “absolutely” support such a measure. When he was later confronted about the comment at a town hall meeting, it became clear that Romney had no idea how the process he wanted to legislate actually worked.

And Romney hasn’t always been keen to stand up for the victims of rape. In a Republican debate in February, he actually got in an argument with Newt Gingrich over who was least in favor of requiring hospitals to provide emergency contraception to rape victims they were treating.

Now the Romney campaign is trying to distance itself from Akin by saying that “a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape.” But Romney has also vowed to nominate Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade, returning to states the power to outlaw or allow abortion as they choose. If Romney and anti-choice activists get their wish from the Supreme Court, a Romney-Ryan administration would have no power to stop states from imposing whichever abortion bans they decide to impose. The promise to carve out an exception for rape victims is not a promise they would be able to keep.

The real scandal of Rep. Akin’s comments isn’t the faulty sex-ed he’s teaching. Instead, his comments expose the anti-choice movement’s skewed and condescending view of women. Akin can’t accept that a woman who fits his definition of virtue – the victim of a “legitimate rape” – would also need to seek an abortion, and he has made up false science to support that assumption. But with or without the weird right-wing science, that same false distinction underlies all anti-choice policies – including those embraced by Romney and Ryan.

Romney can feign all the outrage he wants at Rep. Akin’s misogynistic pseudo-science. But until he can draw a clear distinction between Akin’s policies and his own, his protests will ring hollow.


By: Michael B. Keegan, President, People For the American Way, The Huffington Post, August 20, 2012

August 21, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Aiding The Masters Of The Universe”: With Romney-Ryan, GOP Becomes Grand Old Private-Equity Party

The ticket Republicans will nominate in Tampa next week is uniquely connected to the “vulture capitalist” constituency, and uniquely committed to protecting the interests of today’s robber-baron class.

Paul Ryan grew up in a wealthy family with a Republican bent and all the right political and corporate connections.

He could easily have made his way into the private sector—doing business with family and friends, as have generations of wealthy Ryans.

But Paul was always the starry-eyed, perhaps wild-eyed. idealist. He read Austrian economic texts and far-right authors with a passion, committing to memory the writings of Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Milton Friedman and his intellectual heartthrob, Ayn Rand. Reading Rand, the newly minted Republican vice presidential contender once said was “the reason I got involved in public service.”

Ryan has since tried to distance himself from Rand’s militant atheism and even more extreme attitudes regarding the least among us. But his older brother, Tobin, told reporters: “Paul can still quote every verse out of Ayn Rand.”

Rand’s greed-is-good thinking plays well with hedge-fund managers, private equity players and the “vulture capitalist” class that enjoys taking a break from pillaging to plod through novels about, well, guys like them.

But as the youngest Ryan child, Paul got a little mavericky. Much as he talks up the private sector, Paul Ryan forged a career in the public sector. He’s worked as a Congressional aide and congressman—with brief breaks as a conservative “think tank” associate and a speech writer for Jack Kemp’s 1996 presidential campaign—since leaving college.

But older brother Tobin followed the more traditional route for sons of privilege.

As Fortune magazine notes, Tobin Ryan is a full partner with Seidler Equity Partners, a California-based “private equity investment firm that partners with visionary executives to grow their businesses.” Before he went to Seidler, Tobin worked with a politically connected Wisconsin-based private equity firm, King Capital (founded by former Republican Party of Wisconsin chairman Steve King, who served as finance chair for Paul Ryan’s Congressional runs). He also put in a stint with Bain & Company, the consulting firm where Mitt Romney says he “enjoyed working with a team of people to arrive at ideas and solutions” for what Texas Governor Rick Perry described as “vulture capitalist” interventions.

Tobin Ryan joined the Bain & Co. team after Romney moved to the private-equity firm that the consulting firm spawned, Bain Capital. But the connection has raised eyebrows, and spawned plenty of headlines, in the financial press.

The Ryan brothers are, in Tobin’s words, “very close.” Indeed, they live “about a three-wood away from each other” in the town where the Ryans have for decades been a pre-eminent (construction and contracting) business family. Tobin, a frequent media spokesman and surrogate for his brother, refers to Paul’s first US House race as “our first campaign.”

“So we’ve now got a former private equity executive running for president alongside the brother of a current private equity executive,” observes Fortune senior editor Dan Primack.

And Paul Ryan, like Mitt Romney, is politically committed to the aiding the masters of the universe who run the private-equity empires that now so dominate the US economy.

The “Roadmap for America’s Future” budget plan that Ryan wrote in 2010—the document that, arguably, launched into orbit as a Republican star—pledges to change tax policies to create “an enhanced investment climate.”

Specifically, Ryan proposed to:

* eliminate taxes on “interest, capital gains, or dividends” and estate taxes

* allow investments to be “fully deducted immediately” by corporations

* “eliminate the corporate income tax entirely” and replace it with “a single-digit consumption tax” that businesses and investors would calculate themselves.

* repeal the alternative minimum tax, which was designed to assure that millionaires and billionaires who take advantage of tax-code loopholes will have to pay something

How good would a Romney-Ryan administration be to the private-equity constituency?

According to a study by the chairman’s staff of the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, most working Americans who earn under $200,000 a year would see their taxes go up under the latest version of the Ryan budget. By the same token, Mitt Romney—whose income is “comprised of interest income, capital gains and dividends”—would pay less than 1 percent of his income in taxes.

The Romney-Ryan approach, forged and advocated for by candidates with personal and family ties to private-equity concerns, will yield great benefits for those very wealthy Americans who understand private equity as a personal reality.

But as the Joint Economic Committee report says, “House Budget Committee Chairman Representative Paul Ryan claims that the policies outlined in his budget will reform the broken tax code and put ‘hardworking taxpayers ahead of special interests.’ In reality, the Ryan plan gives the largest tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans and will pay for those tax cuts by raising the tax burden on middle-class workers.”

Indeed, the report concludes, “The richest households would receive the greatest benefit from these changes. The top 0.1 percent, for example, would receive an estimated average federal tax cut of close to $1.18 million per taxpaying household in 2015.”

America’s robber barons have had to wait for more than a century—since Teddy Roosevelt went rogue and joined the anti-trust campaigners—for a Republican ticket that would truly represent their interests.

But every indication is that the Romney-Ryan ticket will be of, by and for the private-equity managers who have become the masters of America’s economic universe.

The Romney-Ryan ticket rejects the American faith of not just Democratic presidents such as Harry Truman and Franklin Roosevelt but of Republican presidents such as Dwight Eisenhower and Teddy Roosevelt.

“The absence of effective State, and, especially, national, restraint upon unfair money-getting has tended to create a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power,” Teddy Roosevelt warned at Osawatomie, Kansas, in 1910. “The prime need to is to change the conditions which enable these men to accumulate power which it is not for the general welfare that they should hold or exercise.”

That remains the prime need.

Now, unfortunately, the party of Teddy Roosevelt is preparing to nominate a ticket that is passionately at odds with the principle that the general welfare must prevail over the passions of men “whose chief object is to hold and increase their power.”


By: John NIchols, The Nation, August 20, 2012

August 21, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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