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“I Voted To Send People To War”: Paul Ryan’s Big Foreign Policy Credential Is On The Wrong Side Of History

Defending himself against the perception that he has no significant foreign policy experience, Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan has drawn fresh attention to one of the most controversial acts of the past decade: the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq before UN weapons inspections were completed. Ryan now points to his vote for war as a token of his readiness to serve in the White House, but he is on the wrong side of both history and public opinion.

The Wisconsin Congressman may come to regret his flippant response to Carl Cameron last Saturday, when the Fox News reporter asked how he would respond to critics who question his weak national security resume. “I’ve been in a Congress for a number of years,” he said. “That’s more experience than Barack Obama had when he came into office.” Perhaps he should have stopped there, but instead blundered on: “I voted to send people to war.”

Does Ryan believe that voting for war constitutes foreign policy experience? If so, it is a kind of experience that reflects very poorly on him. Even he must realize that the underlying premise of the war, Saddam Hussein’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction, quickly proved to be nothing more than a Bush administration hoax, along with the secondary claim that Saddam’s regime had some connection with the 9/11 attacks. After casting his party-line vote for a ruinous war because he accepted a faked argument, Ryan never spoke up against its continuation. He ratified every troop escalation and every supplemental appropriation.

Unlike the American people, who turned decisively against the war years ago, and have condemned it by large majorities as a waste of blood and treasure, he apparently still believes it was a swell idea. Concerned as he supposedly is about excessive federal spending, Ryan believes that the Iraq misadventure was worth three trillion dollars it has cost so far (and presumably the lost and destroyed lives of Americans and Iraqis, all the dead, wounded, orphaned, and traumatized, as well).

Except among the neoconservative advisers cocooned in the Romney campaign, such enthusiasm for the war is a very peculiar and distinctly minority perspective. Over the past few years, polls have shown between one-third and one-fifth of voters agreeing that the war was “worth the cost.” Roughly two-thirds to three-fourths of the electorate rejects that assessment and supports President Obama’s withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. That lopsided margin is fair warning for any politician who stakes his reputation on the Iraq war.

What Ryan cites as his chief qualification to serve as commander-in-chief is a series of votes that represent the most fateful, expensive, inexcusable error in recent American history. For him to cite that vote to draw a contrast with President Obama, who got the Iraq issue right, is startling. It reveals something that Americans need to know before he gets any closer to executive power.


By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, August 20, 2012

August 23, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Running Out The Clock On Medicare”: Romney’s Constant “Delaying Counter-Attacks” That He Knows Won’t Survive Serious Scrutiny

Given what we know about the cynicism of the Romney campaign, it’s entirely possible its strategy for dealing with attacks on the Ryan Budget’s effect on Medicare will be to raise constant counter-attacks that don’t survive a moment’s serious scrutiny, but succeed each other quickly until Election Day arrives and the clock runs out.

The Big Bertha rolled out about the time Paul Ryan was selected as Mitt’s running-mate, based on one of the Big Lies of the 2010 campaign, was that Obama and congressional Democrats had “raided” $716 billion in Medicare funds to pay for its socialist efforts to give undeserving poor and sick people health insurance. When it was pointed out that the same “cuts” (actually negotiated reductions in provider reimbursements plus a paring back of the “bonus” subsidies for private Medicare Advantage plans) were included in Paul Ryan’s own budget plan, Romney quickly said he’d restore the money if elected.

Now that promise is drawing scrutiny, as noted by the New York Times‘ Jackie Calmes:

While Republicans have raised legitimate questions about the long-term feasibility of the reimbursement cuts, analysts say, to restore them in the short term would immediately add hundreds of dollars a year to out-of-pocket Medicare expenses for beneficiaries. That would violate Mr. Romney’s vow that neither current beneficiaries nor Americans within 10 years of eligibility would be affected by his proposal to shift Medicare to a voucherlike system in which recipients are given a lump sum to buy coverage from competing insurers.

For those reasons, Henry J. Aaron, an economist and a longtime health policy analyst at the Brookings Institution and the Institute of Medicine, called Mr. Romney’s vow to repeal the savings “both puzzling and bogus at the same time.”

Marilyn Moon, vice president and director of the health program at the American Institutes for Research, calculated that restoring the $716 billion in Medicare savings would increase premiums and co-payments for beneficiaries by $342 a year on average over the next decade; in 2022, the average increase would be $577.

Worse yet, the only thing worse than the suggestion that Obama wants to “raid” Medicare to help “those people” is the idea that Romney wants to boost out-of-pocket expenses for seniors to provide a windfall to providers, a specter congressional Democrats are already raising:

“The bottom line,” said Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the senior Democrat on the House Budget Committee, which Mr. Ryan leads, “is that Romney is proposing to take more money from seniors in higher premiums and co-pays and hand it over to private insurance companies and other providers in the Medicare system.”

I don’t know exactly how the Romney campaign will get itself out of this latest box on Medicare, but I’m sure it will come up with something confusing enough to take time to rebut, and then turn its attention back to the evil plans of the incumbent to bring back the unconditional dole and in general let those people run riot at your expense, middle-class America!

Got that? Vote Romney and there’s more money for you! Vote Obama, and it’s less money for you, more money for those people!

Add in some selectively broadcast messages about stern father Mitt Romney not wanting dirty girls to have sex and get away with it, and that’s the heart of the GOP message this year, sad to say.

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, August 22, 2012

August 23, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Celebrity Avenging Hero”: Todd Akin, The Embodiment Of The Christian Right

So the big question in Politicsland this afternoon is how and why Todd Akin was able to convince himself to defy the entire GOP establishment of his state, the GOP presidential nominee, the major national campaign funders, and nearly the entire Right-Wing commentariat, and stay on the ballot in Missouri. Is he crazy? Is he bluffing?

I can’t answer those questions, but I can see how Akin might be strongly tempted in this direction. Very few if any of the people calling for him to step down supported his very recent primary candidacy; most either backed someone else or hoped he’d lose as the weakest of the potential Republican candidates. He represents a very self-conscious hard-core Christian Right segment of the GOP “base” in his state that undoubtedly feels underrepresented, undervalued, and perhaps even dissed. His candidacy is now indelibly connected with a debate over an issue—legalized abortion, and more generally, the need to rebuild America as a “Christian Nation”—about which he feels very passionately; it may very well be what made him run for office in the first place.

And thanks to the scorn and mockery he has now attracted, this relatively obscure congressman whom I’d bet half the pundits discussing his fate today had barely heard of before his primary win, is a National Superstar, the very embodiment of the Christian Right’s all-too-often abandoned determination to stand up to GOP pols who forever pay them lip service but rarely deliver the goods.

Is he worried about money? Maybe not. Recent political history is littered with relatively minor pols (Michele Bachmann and Allen West on the Right; Alan Grayson on the Left) who have built vast national small-donor fundraising networks on the heels of national notoriety and perceived victimization.

Is he worried about losing? Well, practically the first words out of his mouth before announcing he’d stay in the race on Mike Huckabee’s radio show today were to boast of a snap poll from PPP showing him still ahead of Claire McCaskill.

His family is reportedly running his campaign, so he didn’t have to worry about his staff quitting in disgust or fear of professional consequences. It’s too late for him to reassume his House seat. What does he have to lose, other than the opportunistic support of people who don’t know or like him and would probably have taken credit for his victory had he won without this latest incident?

And if he does win, he will enter the Senate next year not as some random wingnut dude from Missouri who was swept into office on a conservative wave in Missouri, but as Todd Akin, celebrity and Avenging Hero, who owes nothing to anyone other than his God, his family, and his loyal base.

Makes sense, when you look at it from his very unusual point of view.

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, August 21, 2012

August 23, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, Senate | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Fear And Deference To Conservatives”: What A Romney Presidency Would Look Like

Late yesterday afternoon, Mitt Romney released a statement explicitly calling on Todd Akin to withdraw from Missouri’s Senate race.

“Today, his fellow Missourians urged him to step aside, and I think he should accept their counsel and exit the Senate race,” the statement read.

Akin, of course, ignored this. A few hours later, the statutory deadline for a no-questions-asked candidate switch passed and Akin remained the Republican nominee. That doesn’t guarantee he’ll still be around in November; in a series of morning show interviews today, he indicated that he might still reconsider his candidacy. But for now, he’s defied his party’s soon-to-be presidential nominee, who also apparently enlisted his running mate in the effort to push Akin out.

In and of itself, this doesn’t say much about Romney’s clout within his party. After all, literally dozens of leading Republicans have publicly and privately pleaded with Akin to withdraw, urgings that have been backed by threats from the GOP’s national Senate campaign committee and its top outside money group to withhold critical financial support. If Akin is willing to thumb his nose at all of this, then it’s hardly surprising he’d do the same to Romney.

What’s noteworthy, though, is the timing of Romney’s withdrawal call, and the evolution of his public comments on Akin. Here we see further evidence of a phenomenon that has defined Romney’s candidacy and would define a Romney presidency: fear of and deference to conservative leaders.

When news of Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment broke Sunday, the Romney campaign’s initial response was this very tepid statement: “Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape.”

It was only the next day, when outrage began building and Republicans with more credibility with the party’s conservative base began rebuking Akin, that Romney made a more forceful statement to National Review, calling Akin’s words “insulting, inexcusable and, frankly, wrong.” And it was only when just about everyone who’s anyone in the Republican Party had called on Akin to quit that Romney finally did the same late yesterday.

You could argue that this was mainly a case of a campaign trying to protect its candidate from undue embarrassment. By yesterday afternoon, the lack of a withdrawal call from Romney was becoming noticeable, since just about every other Republican had issued one. So he had little choice but to speak up. But before then, maybe it made sense for him to stay quiet, rather than risk looking weak by having Akin ignore his request.

The problem with this theory is that public opinion is so overwhelmingly against Akin and his remarks that there was a clear political incentive for Romney to speak up early – especially when you consider his low personal favorable score and the widespread perception that he lives in terror of offending his party’s base. Here was an opportunity to look like a leader. And if Akin had ignored him, well, that would have said more about him than Romney.

Instead, it looks like Romney chose to take the temperature of conservative leaders first, then adjusted his behavior accordingly. So we went from a weak initial statement Sunday night to a stronger rebuke Monday to a call for withdrawal Tuesday afternoon. This is classic Romney behavior. He’s well aware that conservatives are deeply suspicious of him, and capable of inflicting serious political damage on him if he alienates them. This was obviously true during the GOP primaries and remains true today, with heavy conservative turnout key to Romney’s November hopes. And it would be even more true if he’s elected president; the threat of a conservative activist/media-inspired revolt would hover over every critical Romney decision.

His response to the Akin drama shows that Romney is willing to stand up to a member of his own party – but only if just about everyone else in his party is already doing it.


By: Steve Kornacki, Salon, August 22, 2012

August 23, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Political And Ethical Fraud”: Mitt Romney’s “Nothing We Can Believe In”

One of the things we’ll learn this presidential election is whether the Republican Party can survive itself. As we’ve seen in the ten days since Governor Mitt Romney picked Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate, and most acutely in the last 72 hours since the fiasco involving Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin broke, the party is reaching what may be the most critical moment of its quarter-century-long identity crisis. In the way that Franklin Roosevelt did for Democrats during the 1930s, by sheer force of personality and eloquence Ronald Reagan in the 1980s resolved tensions that had riven the party for years. He could incarnate the party so fully as to invite and absolve fellow travelers who might be suspiciously less than true believers. After Reagan, no one else could do this; even as what now constitutes the conservative wing of the party invokes Reagan’s name with a sobriety that borders on the biblical, that wing has moved considerably to the right of him.

Now the party hastens to control the damage from the Akin episode. This is complicated because, as the record of the last decade makes clear, particularly among Republicans in the House of Representatives, this past weekend Akin expressed, as accurately as he did unartfully, the party’s grim view of women, with its overt implication that rape is the result of women making cavalier and surely sordid choices about their sexuality and its consequences, the conclusion being that a woman who gets pregnant by definition hasn’t been raped. Notwithstanding protests that Akin is an “aberration,” anyone who pays even the most distracted attention knows that what he said reflects not only legislation co-sponsored by Congressman Ryan, not only evangelicals who are closing ranks behind Akin, not only “personhood” amendments on state ballots across the country declaring an embryo a human being with full civil rights, but also the platform that the Republican Party will present to its national convention in five days, with language that replicates language from the platform four years ago and the platform four years before that. Akin is despised by the Republican establishment because his numbskullery has to do not with his convictions, which are entirely in line with the party’s, but with the guileless whim that gave them voice, rather than leaving them shrewdly relegated to less boisterous fine print in a platform that the establishment hopes will appease the party’s base while no one else notices. Whether that comes to pass next week, when the position for which Akin is being chastised this week is codified on the convention floor in Tampa, remains to be seen.

Even as the Akin position on abortion and rape has become more ruthless since the Republican convention that first nominated Reagan more than 30 years ago, the party has gotten away with it because it’s always been able to nullify the position politically. Abortion wasn’t demonstrably a factor in President George W. Bush’s narrow 2004 re-election, and it wasn’t a factor in Senator John McCain’s seven-point loss in 2008. Subterfuge will be more difficult this year. In part this is because of the Akin furor, of course; in part it’s because the furor exists in a context dramatically more difficult to disguise, following similar positions on abortion stated by other candidates who ran for the Republican nomination and the aspersions cast on a female law student by radio goon Rush Limbaugh some months back. In part it’s because the Akin position is held by the party’s prospective nominee for the second highest office in the land. Mostly, however, it’s because the party’s prospective nominee for the first highest office in the land is so spectacularly a political and ethical fraud that no one bothers arguing about it anymore. The base distrusted the party’s nominee four years ago not because it didn’t know what Senator McCain believed but because it did. It knew what he believed about torture as an American policy of war. It knew what he believed about immigration reform. It knew what he believed about campaign-finance reform.

Actually, by now the base knows what Governor Romney believes, too. By now we all know what Governor Romney believes; by now his beliefs are more manifest and less mysterious than that of any candidate who’s ever run. Governor Romney believes nothing. Politically speaking, Governor Romney is nothing. Mustering up outrage over this nothingness makes as much sense as mustering up outrage over a galactic black hole. What’s happening in and to the Republican Party this past week isn’t an aberration; it’s happening because of what the party has become and whom it’s nominating, which is someone caught between the base that he so rapaciously rushed to appease with the Ryan nomination and the other 65 percent of the country that looks at a Rorschach inkblot without seeing a splattered fetus. One of the great modern political organizations of the last century and a half, the party of not only Reagan but Dwight Eisenhower and Theodore Roosevelt and the greatest president the country ever had, is in the grip of a collective psychosis. Like its nominee, the party itself is caught between two political irreconcilables: its own super-conscience, with its barbaric view of human nature that calls itself moral and its hostile regard of empirical fact that calls itself spiritual; and the 2012 model of its embodiment, the nominee who has no view—of fact or humanity or anything else—that doesn’t serve the ends of his own success. When a party is as deeply stricken as the Republicans in terms of who they are, such a nominee can only be the void that stares back.

By: Steve Erickson, The American Prospect, August 22, 2012

August 23, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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