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“Truth Is An Inconvenient Nuisance”: Mitt Romney Abandons The Pretense Of Caring About Facts

Nearly three weeks ago, Mitt Romney suggested attack ads rejected by “the various fact-checkers” shouldn’t be on the air. Candidates exposed by the fact-checkers should feel “embarrassed” and pull the falsehoods from the air.

Last week, Romney switched gears. Told that “the various fact-checkers” consider his ridiculous welfare smear to be a blatant lie, the Republican said fact-checkers are fine, so long as they agree with him. If not, they must be biased.

Today, Team Romney abandoned the pretense of caring about honesty altogether.

Mitt Romney’s aides explained with unusual political bluntness today why they are spending heavily — and ignoring media criticism — to air an ad accusing President Barack Obama of “gutting” the work requirement for welfare, a marginal political issue since the mid-1990s that Romney pushed back to center stage.

“Our most effective ad is our welfare ad,” a top television advertising strategist for Romney, Ashley O’Connor, said at a forum Tuesday hosted by ABCNews and Yahoo! News. “It’s new information.”

The claims are “new,” of course, because the Romney campaign made them up. Sure, it’s “new information,” in the same way it would be “new information” if Obama said Mitt Romney sold heroin to children — when one invents a lie, its “newness” is self-evident.

Romney pollster Neil Newhouse added, “[W]e’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.”

Right. So, in early August, Team Romney believed “the various fact-checkers” should be the arbiters of rhetorical propriety, but in late August, Team Romney believes they’re irrelevant.

It’s important to realize there is no modern precedent for a presidential candidate rejecting the premise that facts matter. Mitt Romney is trying something no one has ever seen — he’s deemed the truth to be an inconvenient nuisance, which Romney will ignore, without shame, to advance his ambitions for vast power.

If you don’t find that frightening, you’re not paying close enough attention.

I loved Greg Sargent’s take on this, because Greg’s question is so terribly important.

In this sense, the Romney campaign continues to pose a test to the news media and our political system. What happens when one campaign has decided there is literally no set of boundaries that it needs to follow when it comes to the veracity of its assertions? The Romney campaign is betting that the press simply won’t be able to keep voters informed about the disputes that are central to the campaign, in the face of the sheer scope and volume of dishonesty it uncorks daily.

The quotes in the BuzzFeed piece should send a shiver down the spines of the political world. Forget parties and ideologies, put aside agendas and values, and just consider what Team Romney is saying: they can lie with impunity and they don’t give a damn who disapproves. So long as it leads to more power in Romney’s hands, anything goes.

Romney is, in effect, issuing something of a dare — he will ignore facts, thumb his nose at reality, and taunt truths with a childish question: What are you going to do about it?

E. J. Dionne Jr. had a column way back in September 2004 that’s always stuck with me. He noted, in the midst of the Bush-Kerry campaign, that Republicans are not above lying, but Dems seem to be squeamish about it. “A very intelligent political reporter I know said the other night that Republicans simply run better campaigns than Democrats,” Dionne noted. “If I were given a free pass to stretch the truth to the breaking point, I could run a pretty good campaign, too.”

That was nearly eight years ago. It was hard to predict at the time that a candidate would stop trying to “stretch the truth to the breaking point,” and start telling bald-faced lies, confident he could get away with it.

I was always taught that campaigns can spin, slice, fudge, and distort the truth, but they couldn’t literally make stuff up. The political fabric of our democracy tolerates a generous amount of duplicity — so long as there’s at least a kernel of truth in the claim somewhere — but demonstrable lies are unacceptable.

Romney believes the old norms are irrelevant. I wonder if he’s right.

If Romney wins, make no mistake, it will establish a new precedent, and campaigns will receive an unmistakable lesson — go ahead and lie; you’ll be rewarded for it.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 28, 2012

August 29, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Heck Of A Job Romney”: Just Look Around, George W. Bush Blows Into Tampa

Reports are that George W. Bush took the hint and is skipping the Republican National Convention in Florida this week. But if you look around, you can see that he will be there in a very big way.

The hurricane that’s headed for New Orleans by way of Tampa is a tragic reminder of one of the Bush presidency’s greatest failures, the disastrous handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Try as they might, that inescapable reminder of Bush is something that the Romney campaign and the Republican Party just can’t seem to avoid.

As much as they’re trying to have the country forget the Bush years, they just keep on reminding us. Just a few weeks ago, for instance, Romney’s announcement of his vice presidential pick atop the USS Wisconsin brought back warm memories of the “Mission Accomplished” speech on the deck of the Abraham Lincoln .

But maybe we should give credit for truth in advertising. After all, Romney and Ryan have proposed nothing more than a promise to relive an even more extreme version of the George W. Bush administration. Their massive tax cuts for the rich are Bush’s plus some. Their hard line against gay rights and reproductive rights are his plus a lot. Their constant kowtowing to the Religious Right are his as well, although they say that this time around they’ll deliver even more social policy extremism. To prove it, they’ve replaced Bush’s not-quite-accurate “compassionate conservative” catchphrase with the all-too-accurate “severely conservative.”

The stormy reminder of Bush in Tampa threatens to interrupt what will be a week of celebrating the slashing of government agencies, demonizing public employees and those who receive public services, celebrating deregulation, extolling the wonders of tax cuts for the rich, redefining rape, and bowing to the Religious Right. It reminds us of what those things mean in practice: tax breaks for the rich on the backs of the middle class, rapidly widening economic inequality, a federal government that can’t respond to major crises, all while paying back the oligarchs who will have bought his election.

George W. Bush may not be there in person to witness the collision of Hurricane Isaac with his party’s convention. But we already know that Mitt Romney will do a “heck of a job” implementing Bush’s policies.


By: Michael B. Keegan, The Huffington Post Blog, August 28, 2012

August 29, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Fantasy Women of the GOP”: To Republicans, Women Have Been Reduced To Scare Quotes And Head Pats

As the “war on women” continues, my sole comfort has been watching dumbfounded Republicans try to explain away the misogyny that’s so foundational to their agenda.

In the midst of the fallout over Todd Akin’s comments claiming “legitimate” rape victims are unlikely to get pregnant, the science-whiz whined to Mike Huckabee in a radio interview that he “made a single error in one sentence.” He was frustrated that people “are upset over one word spoke in one day in one sentence.”

Bryan Fischer, a spokesperson from the American Family Association, complained about the Akin backlash, saying, “You talk about somebody being a victim of forcible assault, that would be Todd Akin.” Mitt Romney denounced Akin’s remarks as “insulting” and “inexcusable,” but accused the Obama campaign of trying to link Akin to the GOP as a whole, calling it “sad” and that the move stooped “to a low level.”

But what Romney, Akin, and their ilk don’t understand is that women’s anger isn’t about “one word” or one politician—it’s about an ethos, a Republican ideology steeped in misogyny and willful ignorance.

Akin’s remarks—a combination of cluelessness and sexism—were a reminder that it isn’t just disdain for women that directs the GOP agenda on all things female. Misogyny is part of it, but what’s more insidious than the clear-cut contempt embedded in qualifiers like “legitimate” or “forcible,” is the sly sexism of disinterest.

To Republicans, women exist parenthetically—pesky asides that occasionally require some lip service. It’s why Paul Ryan can describe rape as a “method of conception” without batting an eye, dismiss criticisms about the term “forcible rape” by saying it was “stock language,” or call a health exception to abortion legislation a “loophole.” It’s why Republican Senate candidate Tom Smith of Pennsylvania can say rape is “similar” to having a baby “out of wedlock.” It’s the thinking that led John McCain to put air quotes around “health of the mother” in a 2008 presidential debate with Obama, and why during a Republican primary debate earlier this year the candidates had a whole conversation about limiting birth control without even uttering the word “woman.”

Women simply don’t rate in the Republican imagination—our lives have been reduced to scare quotes and head pats.

It may sound hyperbolic to argue that Republicans deny women’s humanity, but there’s no exaggerating how their policies bear this out. Personhood initiatives, for example, legally give fertilized eggs more constitutional rights than women. As Lynn Paltrow of National Advocates for Pregnant Women has pointed out, “There’s no way to give embryos constitutional personhood without subtracting women from the community of constitutional persons.” Abortion legislation like the Republican sponsored HR 3 would have made it legal for hospitals to let women die rather than give them life-saving abortions. And how else do you justify demanding women get a paternal permission slip before obtaining an abortion if not to say that you don’t think her a full person capable of controlling her own life?

Republicans only bother to acknowledge women when they’re reasserting our status as second-class citizens. Sure, they occasionally feign outrage over supposed attacks on stay-at-home moms (while nary a word of paid parental leave is spoken) and they trot out their wives to assure us how much their hubby respects women. But we know the truth—that this “respect” is conditional. It’s not based on a belief that women are deserving of human rights, but on a very specific set of rules and roles we are expected to adhere by.

Republicans can spin all they like, but what they don’t understand is that women can recognize dehumanization from a mile away. We live it every day. We know what it is to talk to a person and suddenly realize they believe us stupid because of our gender. We listen while people mansplain topics we’re experts in. We watch media that presents us as little more than masturbation fodder and walk down the street feeling lecherous stares on our back. We know what you mean when you say “legitimate” rape. We know exactly what you’re thinking when you pretend to give a shit.

This weekend I went to a wedding where I sat next to a woman who was pregnant with her second child. Like me, her health and life were put at risk when she developed pre-eclampsia during her first pregnancy. She was livid. She could hardly contain her rage as she spoke about GOP policies on women’s health. She was fortunate—as I was—to have her wanted pregnancy go to term. But when Republicans mock the health exception, she told me, “they’re talking about me.”

“They’re saying it’s fine if I die.”

Women know exactly how little Republicans think of them. So please, guys, do us the favor of not acting so shocked when we call you on it.


By: Jessica Valenti, The Nation, August 28, 2012

August 29, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Corporate Money Machine Grinds On”: Lobbyist Parties At RNC Narrowly Skirt Ethics Rules

The convention stage may have been empty on Monday, thanks to Hurricane Isaac, but the corporate money machine grinded on as special interests with business before Congress put on swanky gatherings for key lawmakers.

It’s actually against Congressional ethics rules for lobbyists to throw parties for lawmakers at the national conventions—thanks to a 2007 reform bill passed in the wake of the Abramoff scandals—but Monday night showed that the system can easily be gamed.

For example, only about a half-mile from the Tampa Bay Times Forum, a collection of big transportation companies threw a party for transportation “leaders” in Congress. Actually, to be technically accurate, a front group called GOP Convention Strategies sponsored the party—and that’s how everyone involved avoided violating ethics rules. Since GOP Convention Strategies is not a registered lobbyist, it was free to throw a party for whomever it wanted. But it was crystal clear to everyone involved who was paying for the party, and what the goal was.

For $20,000, a corporation could “sponsor” the GOP Convention Strategies event, which would get it prominent placement on all advertising and marketing for the party, as well as twenty-five tickets to the party and a chance to address the crowd personally. This presented any interested transportation company (and its lobbyists) the opportunity to meet and glad-hand key lawmakers from the House and Senate—the exact same thing the 2007 law was trying to outlaw. “In reality, lobbyists are behind this party, but the ethics rules are too porous to recognize the reality,” said Craig Holman of Public Citizen.

Outside the event, which was held at Stump’s Supper Club in the Channelside district, there was a prominent sign that said “THANK YOU” above the logos of many major transportation companies, including BNSF Railways, Canadian National Railway, Norfolk Southern, Expedia and several others. (No advertising for GOP Convention Strategies, though).

I spotted Representative John Mica, chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, holding court on the patio before the event began. His committee passed out a massive transportation bill this year that was repeatedly slammed as a massive giveaway to special interests. (“This is an earmark for a handful of wealthy people who own these companies. This is a windfall,” a transportation union official told the Huffington Post.) Among many heinous provisions, his committee’s version stripped rail-industry workers of federal minimum wage and overtime protections. Rail companies—the very ones sponsoring this party—often pay workers only the minimum wage, and many employees are forced to work long hours during long-distance hauls.

Senator Jim Inhofe, the ranking member and potential future chair of the Senate Public Works Committee and a key figure in getting that transportation bill through the Senate, was also there. I caught him coming out of the party after about ninety minutes inside, and he amiably said he had a “great” time. I asked who was throwing the party, and he responded “it’s a transportation thing. Transportation industry.” I asked if he spoke with any lobbyists, and Inhofe said “it’s funny, I don’t remember meeting many,” before his staff shooed me away. (And called me a “punk” for good measure).

This is hardly the only party of this nature in Tampa Bay this week. The calendar is full of them, each carefully calibrated to avoid violating ethics rules—the storm may stop the speeches, but won’t stop the all-important cash from flowing.

August 29, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Most Extreme Example Of Racial Gerrymandering”: Federal Court Blocks Discriminatory Texas Redistricting Plan

In December of last year, the Justice Department asserted that Texas’s redistricting plans for Congress and the state legislature violated Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act by “diminishing the ability of citizens of the United States, on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group, to elect their preferred candidates of choice.” Today a three-judge federal court in Washington concurred with DOJ, writing that Texas’s redistricting plans were “enacted with discriminatory purpose” and did not deserve preclearance under Section 5.

Here are the relevant facts of the case: Texas gained 4.3 million new residents from 2000-2010. Nearly 90 percent of that growth came from minority citizens (65 percent Hispanic, 13 percent African-American, 10 percent Asian). As a result, Texas gained four new Congressional seats, from thirty-two to thirty-six. Yet, under the Congressional redistricting map passed by Texas Republicans following the 2010 election, white Republicans were awarded three of the four new seats that resulted from Democratic-leaning minority population growth. The League of Women Voters called the plan “the most extreme example of racial gerrymandering among all the redistricting proposals passed by lawmakers so far this year.”

Noted the federal court:

The Black and Hispanic communities currently make up 39.3% of Texas’s CVAP [current voting age population]. Thus, if districts were allocated proportionally, there would be 13 minority districts out of the 32 in the benchmark (39.3% of 32 is 12.6). Yet minorities have only 10 seats in the benchmark, so the representation gap is three districts. In the enacted plan, proportional representation would yield 14 ability districts (39.3% of 36 is 14.1), but there are still only 10 ability districts.

Texas Republicans went to extreme lengths in order to dilute and suppress the state’s booming minority vote, as I reported in The Nation in January (see “How the GOP is Resegregating the South”).

According to a lawsuit filed by a host of civil rights groups, “even though Whites’ share of the population declined from 52 percent to 45 percent, they remain the majority in 70 percent of Congressional Districts.” To cite just one of many examples: in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the Hispanic population increased by 440,898, the African-American population grew by 152,825 and the white population fell by 156,742. Yet white Republicans, a minority in the metropolis, control four of five Congressional seats. Despite declining in population, white Republicans managed to pick up two Congressional seats in the Dallas and Houston areas. In fact, whites are the minority in the state’s five largest counties but control twelve of nineteen Congressional districts.

Texas Republicans not only failed to grant new power to minority voters in the state, they also took away vital economic resources from minority Democratic members of Congress.
Reported the court:

Congressman Al Green, who represents CD 9, testified that “substantial surgery” was done to his district that could not have happened by accident. The Medical Center, Astrodome, rail line, and Houston Baptist University — the “economic engines” of the district — were all removed in the enacted plan. The enacted plan also removed from CD 9 the area where Representative Green had established his district office. Likewise, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who represents CD 18, testified that the plan removed from her district key economic generators as well as her district office. Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson of CD 30 also testified that the plan removed the American Center (home of the Dallas Mavericks), the arts district, her district office, and her home from CD 30. The mapdrawers also removed the district office, the Alamo, and the Convention Center (named after the incumbent’s father), from CD 20, a Hispanic ability district.

No such surgery was performed on the districts of Anglo incumbents. In fact, every Anglo member of Congress retained his or her district office. Anglo district boundaries were redrawn to include particular country clubs and, in one case, the school belonging to the incumbent’s grandchildren. And Texas never challenged evidence that only minority districts lost their economic centers by showing, for example, that the same types of changes had been made in Anglo districts.

The only explanation Texas offers for this pattern is “coincidence.” But if this was coincidence, it was a striking one indeed. It is difficult to believe that pure chance would lead to such results. The State also argues that it “attempted to accommodate unsolicited requests from a bipartisan group of lawmakers,” and that “[w]ithout hearing from the members, the mapdrawers did not know where district offices were located.” But we find this hard to believe as well. We are confident that the mapdrawers can not only draw maps but read them, and the locations of these district offices were not secret. The improbability of these events alone could well qualify as a “clear pattern, unexplainable on grounds other than race,” and lead us to infer a discriminatory purpose behind the Congressional Plan.

The same analysis applied to the state senate and state house maps as well. “Texas has failed to carry its burden that [its redistricting plans] do not have the purpose or effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group under section 5 of the Voting Rights Act,” the court wrote in its conclusion. An interim map drawn by a federal court in San Antonio in February will be used for the 2012 election.

Texas’s redistricting maps and voter ID law (which DOJ has also objected to and will soon be decided by a federal court in Washington) in many ways embody the conservative response to the country’s changing demographics. Instead of courting an increasingly diverse electorate, Republicans in Texas and elsewhere are trying to take away political power from minority voters and make it harder for them to vote.

Texas is one of seven GOP states that recently filed an amicus brief supporting a challenge to the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act before the Supreme Court. The state has already vowed to appeal the redistricting case to the Supreme Court, which could also hear Texas’s voter ID case if overturned. Texas, it should be noted, has lost more Section 5 enforcement suits than any other state. Today’s ruling is another black eye for Republicans in the Lone Star State.


By: Ari Berman, The Nation, August 28, 2012

August 29, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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