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“What Romney Left Behind”: He’s Devoted His Life To The Conservative Base

One of the common misconceptions about the presidential candidate version of Mitt Romney is that he disavowed his greatest achievement in public office, health care reform, in an attempt to appeal to his party’s base. The truth is that he never actually disavowed it or said it was a failure or a mistake. What he did was tell primary voters that Romneycare was really nothing at all like Obamacare, and anyway Romneycare shouldn’t be tried in any other state. His comments were utterly unconvincing, but since they were always accompanied by a thunderous denunciation of Obamacare, Republican voters were assuaged enough to let it slide.

Which means that had he wanted to, Romney probably could have entered the general election making a positive case on health care beyond “Repeal Obamacare!” By continuing to maintain that Romneycare was in fact a good thing when he was challenged on it (even if he didn’t want to talk about it all that much), he gave himself enough rhetorical room that he could now be using the issue to show voters that he’s both competent and compassionate, that he successfully tackled a difficult policy problem in a way that improved people’s lives. Instead, his entire case for competence is that he got really rich in private equity, and his entire case for compassion is that his wife seems nice.

As Charles Pierce explains, he could even use the issue to portray himself as someone who can get past Washington partisanship:

Mitt Romney would be well within his rights to assert that he had this idea first, and that he’d managed to get it passed without the kind of political bloodletting occasioned by the president’s efforts. There was no uprising in Massachusetts over the individual mandate, no howling about “death panels.” A popular bipartisan solution was devised to a vexing social problem, and Romney would be justified fully in basing his campaign purely on the fact that, in an era of gridlock and paralysis, he could get something like health-care reform done.

Pierce tells his own story (he has a pre-existing condition that might have made him uninsurable in any state other than Massachusetts) and reminds us of how thousands of people there have been helped, and in many cases literally saved, because of what Mitt Romney did. But Romney won’t talk about it even now, despite the fact that the pivot from what he said during the primaries really wouldn’t have been that hard to make. And here’s a partial clue why:

Mitt Romney’s campaign has concluded that the 2012 election will not be decided by elusive, much-targeted undecided voters — but by the motivated partisans of the Republican base.

This shifting campaign calculus has produced a split in Romney’s message. His talk show interviews and big ad buys continue to offer a straightforward economic focus aimed at traditional undecided voters. But out stumping day to day is a candidate who wants to talk about patriotism and God, and who is increasingly looking to connect with the right’s intense, personal dislike for President Barack Obama.

You can characterize this as a new strategic turn, but it seems to me that the Romney campaign has never been about independent voters, not for a minute. My theory about why is that for five years, nearly every waking moment of Mitt Romney’s life was devoted to the conservative base—massaging them, figuring out what makes them happy and what makes them angry, determining who they wanted to be their candidate, and trying, trying, trying to be that person. After working so hard at it for so long, he just can’t stop, and he and everyone around him are convinced that it’s the only way to win.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, September 17, 2012

September 18, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Real Awful Mitt Romney”: The Epitome Of Jawdroppingly Stupid Arrogant Privilege

If you thought Mitt Romney had a rotten summer—failing to project a more appealing image of himself and his policies, failing to pin the country’s economic woes on the president, failing to get even the tiniest bounce from his convention—the home stretch is shaping up even worse. Fast on the heels of his aggressively wrong-headed response to the embassy attack in Libya (which gets terrible reviews from most Americans), Mother Jones today released a bombshell video of Romney speaking way too candidly to a small group of well-heeled campaign contributors.

This is must-see footage—and even if you don’t want to see it, you won’t be able to help it over the next few days. These are words that will haunt Romney for the rest of the campaign—and the rest of his political career. He jokes that he’d have a better chance of being elected if he were of Mexican lineage; he insults Obama voters (and 47 percent of the country) in the most stereotypical and racially-tinged terms possible; he brags about sharing campaign consultants with Bibi Netanyahu; and he insists that Americans are, basically, too empty-headed to care about policy specifics. And this is only the first batch of videos to come; God only knows what else he might have let loose with.

We can’t sum it up better than David Corn, who got this “get” for MoJo: “With this crowd of fellow millionaires, he apparently felt free to utter what he really believes and would never dare say out in the open. He displayed a high degree of disgust for nearly half of his fellow citizens, lumping all Obama voters into a mass of shiftless moochers who don’t contribute much, if anything, to society, and he indicated that he viewed the election as a battle between strivers (such as himself and the donors before him) and parasitic free-riders who lack character, fortitude, and initiative. … These were sentiments not to be shared with the voters; it was inside information, available only to the select few who had paid for the privilege of experiencing the real Romney.”

Romney’s comments will inevitably be likened to Barack Obama’s infamous slur (also recorded in a private donor meeting) about white Pennsylvanians clinging to guns and religion. Both expressed the kind of disdain for their fellow Americans that no candidate should allow to escape his or her lips. But in terms of political impact, this is sure to play much worse. For one thing, that was April 2008, and this is mid-September 2012—leaving the candidate little time to recover. Another essential difference: Obama was well-liked and admired by the vast majority of Americans when he had his bigoted slip of the lip; Romney is already overwhelmingly disliked, even by many who plan to vote for him. Obama’s comments surprised people; Romney’s comments confirm what people already suspected about him. He comes across as the epitome of arrogant privilege.

There is no way that this glimpse into the “real Romney” won’t turn off a large majority of the country—including plenty of the same people of privilege he was speaking to in that room. Even if they agree with the candidate secretly, they will have some serious second thoughts: How could anyone running for president, for pete’s sake, be so breathtakingly, jaw-droppingly stupid as to utter such things aloud?

 

By: Bob Moser, The American Prospect, September 17, 2012

September 18, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Packaging Beneath The Skin”: Mitt Romney, The President For The Upper Half

Romney actually said that. He might even believe it. Sometimes you want to go out of your way to wait before reacting to something. Thinking slowly never hurt anyone, at least not in print. But sometimes, your gut instinct is right.

Mother Jones‘ David Corn obtained this video, and no one (as of yet) is disputing its authenticity. Here is what Romney says:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax. [M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

Let’s disregard the factual inaccuracies here, and there are many to disregard. It should be axiomatic that presidential candidates never, even in private, ever insult half of the American people. It should be double-mega axiomatic that he never do so in a room full of people.

Barack Obama, during the primary season in 2008, referred to rural voters who are “bitter” and “cling” to their guns and religion because they had deep economic anxieties. The remarks hurt Obama in the subsequent Pennsylvania primary, and Republicans (like VP nominee Paul Ryan) still use them today to bash the president as insensitive and out of touch. There is a grain of truth in these charges, which is why they’ve stuck.

This video is far worse on its face. Obama was, in a patronizing way, trying to explain why voters in certain areas voted against their economic interests. Romney is simply insulting half of the country in a way that right-wing talk radio show hosts do out of habit. If there is linguistic coding in his speech it is not very subtle: He’s playing on the resentment that many conservatives have for the Obama coalition, and the idea that those who receive government aid don’t deserve it; those who receive our money are moochers. And they of course happen to be disproportionately black and brown. (Disproportionately, maybe, but a majority are white; of the people he actually describes, half probably actually vote for Republicans. Think down-scale whites and seniors. Whoops!)

Does Romney believe this? Was he playing to the crowd? It sounded like he really believed it.

Forget the 47 percent. Independents may not be as economically liberal as the folks allegedly portrayed by Romney, but they are absolutely scared to death of telling their neighbor that they voted for someone with such intolerant views. That is, the skin and packaging of a candidate does indeed matter to independents. Indies have very trigger-sensitive ears to hints of condescension. These are the types of people who decry divisive partisanship.

The only way that Romney’s strategists will try to salvage this video internally is to tell themselves that independents aren’t going to vote for Romney anyway, and that this video might really rally some extreme elements of the conservative base. Or maybe, independents will say to themselves: “Damn it, you know what? He’s right.”

Good luck with that one.

 

By: Marc Ambinder, The Week, September 17, 2012

September 18, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Standing Up For Teachers”: Collective Bargaining Is Not The Problem

Teachers are heroes, not villains, and it’s time to stop demonizing them.

It has become fashionable to blame all of society’s manifold sins and wickedness on “teachers unions,” as if it were possible to separate these supposedly evil organizations from the dedicated public servants who belong to them. News flash: Collective bargaining is not the problem, and taking that right away from teachers will not fix the schools.

It is true that teachers in Chicago have dug in their heels against Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s demands for “reform,” some of which are not unreasonable. I’d dig in, too, if I were constantly being lectured by self-righteous crusaders whose knowledge of the inner-city schools crisis comes from a Hollywood movie.

The problems that afflict public education go far beyond what George W. Bush memorably called “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” They go beyond whatever measure of institutional sclerosis may be attributed to tenure, beyond the inevitable cases of burnout, beyond the fact that teachers in some jurisdictions actually earn halfway decent salaries.

The fact is that teachers are being saddled with absurdly high expectations. Some studies have shown a correlation between student performance and teacher “effectiveness,” depending how this elusive quality is measured. But there is a whole body of academic literature proving the stronger correlation between student performance and a much more important variable: family income.

Yes, I’m talking about poverty. Sorry to be so gauche, but when teachers point out the relationship between income and achievement, they’re not shirking responsibility. They’re just stating an inconvenient truth.

According to figures compiled by the College Board, students from families making more than $200,000 score more than 300 points higher on the SAT, on average, than students from families making less than $20,000 a year. There is, in fact, a clear relationship all the way along the scale: Each increment in higher family income translates into points on the test.

Sean Reardon of Stanford University’s Center for Education Policy Analysis concluded in a recent study that the achievement gap between high-income and low-income students is actually widening. It is unclear why this might be happening; maybe it is due to increased income inequality, maybe the relationship between income and achievement has somehow become stronger, maybe there is some other reason.

Whatever the cause, our society’s answer seems to be: Beat up the teachers.

The brie-and-chablis “reform” movement would have us believe that most of the teachers in low-income, low-performing schools are incompetent — and, by extension, that most of the teachers in upper-crust schools, where students perform well, are paragons of pedagogical virtue.

But some of the most dedicated and talented teachers I’ve ever met were working in “failing” inner-city schools. And yes, in award-winning schools where, as in Lake Wobegon, “all the children are above average,” I’ve met some unimaginative hacks who should never be allowed near a classroom.

It is reasonable to hold teachers accountable for their performance. But it is not reasonable — or, in the end, productive — to hold them accountable for factors that lie far beyond their control. It is fair to insist that teachers approach their jobs with the assumption that every single child, rich or poor, can succeed. It is not fair to expect teachers to correct all the imbalances and remedy all the pathologies that result from growing inequality in our society.

You didn’t see any of this reality in “Waiting for ‘Superman,’ ” the 2010 documentary that argued we should “solve” the education crisis by establishing more charter schools and, of course, stomping the teachers unions. You won’t see it later this month in “Won’t Back Down,” starring Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal, which argues for “parent trigger” laws designed to produce yet more charter schools and yet more teacher-bashing.

I’ve always considered myself an apostate from liberal orthodoxy on the subject of education. I have no fundamental objection to charter schools, as long as they produce results. I believe in the centrality and primacy of public education, but I believe it’s immoral to tell parents, in effect, “Too bad for your kids, but we’ll fix the schools someday.”

But portraying teachers as villains doesn’t help a single child. Ignoring the reasons for the education gap in this country is no way to close it. And there’s a better way to learn about the crisis than going to the movies. Visit a school instead.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, September 17, 2012

September 18, 2012 Posted by | Education | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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