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“We Never Liked You Anyway”: The Knives Are Out As Conservatives Turn On Romney

As often as not, parties nominate candidates for president that pretty much all their own partisans acknowledge are less than inspiring. Democrats were so excited about Barack Obama in 2008 partly because their previous two nominees, John Kerry and Al Gore, rode to the nomination on a stirring sentiment of “Well, OK, I guess.” The same happened to Republicans, who adored the easygoing George W. Bush after the grim candidacies of Bob Dole and Bush’s father. And now that Mitt Romney has suffered through an awful few weeks—a mediocre convention, an embarrassing response to the attacks in Cairo and Benghazi, then the release of the “47 percent” video in which Romney accused almost half of America of refusing to “take responsibility for their own lives”—the knives have come out.

First it was a widely shared Politico story full of intramural Romney campaign sniping, most directed at chief strategist Stuart Stevens (the article full of anonymous backstabbing is the hallmark of a struggling campaign, as midlevel staffers explain to reporters how everything would be going better if they were in charge). Then came a parade of criticism from prominent conservative commentators. Peggy Noonan called the Romney campaign a “rolling calamity.” David Brooks responded to the 47 percent comment by sounding like Romney talking about Obama: “It suggests that Romney doesn’t know much about the culture of America.” Former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson said Romney and others in his party “mouth libertarian nonsense, unable to even describe some of the largest challenges of our time.”

William Kristol called Romney’s remarks “arrogant and stupid” and asked, “Has there been a presidential race in modern times featuring two candidates who have done so little over their lifetimes for our country, and who have so little substance to say about the future of our country?” Sarah Palin even got into the act, encouraging Romney and Paul Ryan to “go rogue” to revive their campaign, though whom she thought they should rebel against (themselves?) was unclear. Romney’s problems even trickled down to other races, as one Republican Senate candidate after another rushed to distance themselves from Romney’s dismissal of the 47 percent. No wonder the strain of removing sharp implements from her husband’s back led Ann Romney to tell conservatives, “Stop it. This is hard. You want to try it? Get in the ring.” It’s a little late for that though; Republicans are stuck with Romney whether they like it or not. And they’re making sure everyone knows they don’t.

Romney is not yet doomed, of course. Something might happen to upend the campaign and convince large numbers of people to change their votes. But an Obama victory remains more likely than not, which means that a few months from now Republicans will be telling each other that they saw it coming all along.

It isn’t hard to figure out what they’ll be saying. The first explanation for their loss will be a strategic one. “I worked for the Romney campaign,” Republicans will say, “but they never took my advice.” He should have spent more time talking about the economy, or more time talking about social issues. He should have worked harder to win Hispanic votes, or spent more resources on the ground game and less on television ads. He was too vague in his policy prescriptions, not giving America enough of a sense of what he wanted to do.

Of course, they’ll say the news media were hopelessly biased against Romney, elevating every one of his mistakes and ignoring the self-evidently horrifying things Obama said. (Did you know that once, 14 years ago, Obama used the word “redistribution” favorably? I mean, come on!) Forever seeing ideological bias when the truth is that those trailing in the polls get negative coverage and those leading get positive coverage (a kind of bias in itself, but not the kind conservatives mean), they are practiced at blaming their own failures on the media.

On the fringes, they’ll say Democrats cheated, something they’ve believed in the past and will no doubt believe in the future (in late 2009, one poll found that a majority of Republicans believed ACORN stole the 2008 election for Obama). The idea that a majority of voters willingly chose this president conservatives despise so fervently strikes them as simply impossible, so there must have been a secret conspiracy assuring his election. This year the only voting conspiracy is no secret; it’s the coordinated Republican effort to put as many roadblocks as possible between Democratic voters and the polls, from photo-ID requirements to purging rolls of voters whose names suggest they might just be noncitizens. Yet should Obama win, conservative websites will trumpet every available story of someone suspicious who cast a ballot, as though it were possible to mobilize millions of voter impersonators to flood the booths.

Then there will be the explanations about Mitt Romney himself, and this is where conservatives will begin to move toward agreement. Some may gently suggest that perhaps a party dogged by a reputation for caring only about the rich could have done better than to nominate a guy with a quarter of a billion dollars whose 2011 tax return was so complex it ran to 379 pages, and who exudes a strange combination of overeagerness and sheer terror whenever he comes in contact with people whose incomes fall below six figures. But in the end, Republicans will agree that for all Mitt Romney’s weaknesses as a candidate, his real problem was that he just wasn’t conservative enough.

As Digby has observed many times, as far as Republicans are concerned, conservatism can never fail, it can only be failed. If Republicans lose at the polls or preside over disastrous policies, the only possible explanation is that they weren’t true enough to their ideology. It may be true that Romney became, in his own words, “severely conservative.” He gave the party’s base everything they wanted (and kept giving it to them long after it became a liability). He adopted their agenda, aligned his policy positions with theirs, and told them whatever he thought they wanted to hear, with sometimes disastrous results (see “47 percent”). But they’ll say the problem was that he didn’t really believe it deep down in his heart, and the voters could tell. If only they had nominated a true conservative, everything would have been different.

There may be a Republican here or there telling the party that they’ve gone astray. Perhaps Christie Whitman will write an op-ed lamenting her party’s turn to the right. But as they have in the past, these voices will be ignored. Republicans will promise never to make the same mistake again. Next time, they’ll pledge, we’ll nominate a real conservative, and our ideological purity will be rewarded at the polls.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, September 25, 2012

September 26, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

“Mitt’s De-Pressurized Brain”: Keep This Man Away From The FAA

I’m still not sure exactly what to make of Romney’s comment about airplane windows. I’m sure you know by now that he was talking about his wife’s brush with aviation malfunction last week when he said:

“I appreciate the fact that she is on the ground, safe and sound. And I don’t think she knows just how worried some of us were. When you have a fire in an aircraft, there’s no place to go, exactly, there’s no — and you can’t find any oxygen from outside the aircraft to get in the aircraft, because the windows don’t open. I don’t know why they don’t do that. It’s a real problem. So it’s very dangerous. And she was choking and rubbing her eyes. Fortunately, there was enough oxygen for the pilot and copilot to make a safe landing in Denver. But she’s safe and sound.”

I have a very clear memory from my childhood. I had always assumed–I was five or so–that airplane windows rolled up and down, as in a car. Like all children I loved rolling down the car window and feeling the wind on my face, and I remember thinking, wow, wouldn’t that be cool, imagine the wind smacking you in the face at that speed.

When I got on my first airplane, a little propeller plane ferrying the family Tomasky from Morgantown up to Pittsburgh, I bounded into the window seat, looked around, and with great frustration asked my mother where the hand crank was. She laughed at me. Dad explained the general principle of the pressurized cabin, demonstated so pointedly to American movie-going audiences just a few years before in Goldfinger. And boy did I feel stupid.

Or is Goldfinger a myth? I think of Executive Decision, the awesome 1996 film that I would name as the movie I could watch a million times if NPR asked me (that is, you’re not supposed to name a truly great film, but something a little quirky; I watch ED every time I see it’s on cable). The bomb blows a big hole in the side of the craft, and stuff goes all over the place and a few people are sucked out, but after a while, Kurt Russell does manage to stabilize her, and she lands intact, hole and all. Who out there knows?

Jim Fallows, a highly experienced pilot, as I’m sure you know, wrote the other day that he has heard that Romney is afraid of flying. I have some limited sympathy with this. On the one hand, it always sort of astonishes me that this little metal tube is mightier than nature, and I can’t quite believe it will prove to be so. On the other, I am aware that this truth is demonstrated roughly 50,000 times a day (or more) across the world, every day, and I relax. So I think that’s pretty weird for a man who’s undoubtedly flown all over the world on little corporate jets.

I guess this probably has nothing to do with his fitness for office, on which he’s already disqualified himself several times anyway, but it’s possibly the most bizarre thing I’ve ever heard a supposedly smart grown adult say, that you should be able to open airplane windows. It’s like…what? Like thinking that you should be able to jump off a tall building and live. Yeah–someone get to work on that!

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, September 25, 2012

September 26, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Mitt Romney’s Sham Economic Plan”: A Right Wing Fantasy With A Right Wing Set Of Goals

Well, it seems like a good week for Mitt Romney to try to steer the conversation back to the economy. It doesn’t help him, granted, when people like Bill Kristol are saying that Obama managed the financial crisis “pretty well.” But foreign policy and the culture-warrior stuff hasn’t played so well for him, and after all, the economy was supposed to be his raison d’être in the first place, and the first debate is coming up next week, so why not? The only problem is that the economy doesn’t really help him either. As long as he refuses to be specific about which tax loopholes he’d close, he can’t talk economy with any real credibility.

A quick catch-you-up for those you who haven’t gotten this message yet. Romney wants to cut everyone’s tax rates. He acknowledges this will reduce revenue. He says he’ll make up the revenue by closing loopholes, but only those used by the wealthy. Experts say there aren’t enough of those. So he’ll have to close loopholes that middle-class people depend on. And obviously, that is a subject he has no desire to discuss.

Romney’s tax plan is absolutely central to his economic argument—everything, from growth to jobs to cutting the deficit, starts with cutting taxes. And it’s worth noting that, on this as on all issues, he’s moved hard right. He had one tax plan last year, but it clearly didn’t placate the right wing, so he came back in the late spring and released the new and current one, bigger and “bolder,” more Ryanesque and Norquistesque.

As with everything else he’s done to please the right, it’s causing him all sorts of problems back here on planet Earth. His numbers don’t add up, he knows they don’t add up, and so when pressed, he insists that they do, while ducking the kind of questions that presidential candidates from Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to Gary Bauer and Lamar Alexander routinely have answers for. A number of journalists have tried, and all have failed.

And so, on 60 Minutes Sunday, Steve Kroft gave it another shot, only to be told by Romney that specifics would be a hindrance at this point because “if you want to work together with people across the aisle, you lay out your principles and your policy, you work together with them, but you don’t hand them a complete document and say, ‘Here, take this or leave it.’ Look, leadership is not a take it or leave it thing.

That’s just so obviously a dodge that he doesn’t even deserve an E for effort. No one is compelling him to say to Congress, “Here’s my plan, take it or leave it.” He can and in fact should say to Congress, “Here’s my plan, now let’s talk.” That’s actually what leadership is.

It’s my view that Romney’s intentional vagueness here is hurting him very badly. This may seem on its surface like the kind of thing that’s a little too wonky for your average American, but I say au contraire. I think most people grasp the problem here all too well.

There are a lot of details about politics and policy the American people don’t really get. But there are some things they do get. They get that they are permitted under current law to deduct the interest they pay on their mortgages. They get that their contributions to their health-care premiums are taken out of their paychecks before taxes are levied. And they—a fairly solid majority, anyway—get that supply-side economics has given the middle class the shaft and benefited the wealthy.

So when they hear a guy worth a quarter-billion dollars say he’s cutting taxes but won’t discuss loopholes, this is what I think they hear: he’s going to help himself and his friends, and we’re going to be left paying the bill. There may not be much class envy in America, but there is that much, anyway.

So let’s take a step back and unravel this. The economy was supposed to be Romney’s great strength. The Obama campaign hit him pretty hard on Bain and his business experience, so that advantage was neutralized. But still, he had the chance to say, “Bain aside, this here is how I’m going to fix the economy.” This is something all campaigns do. Romney has a five-point plan, but it’s not really a plan per se. It’s mostly just a set of goals. It’s as if I came up with a five-point plan to become rich and famous that went: write bestselling novel, win Oscar with follow-up screenplay, write movie theme song, and have Adele record it, start successful restaurant chain, invent next Internet.

It’s nice to see that this flimflam actually can’t work. People scoff at politicians’ promises, and I understand why, but in fact, behind most campaign promises are teams of policy experts at least trying to figure out how the candidate can fulfill that promise once in office. Romney’s promise is a right-wing fantasy that will benefit the same people who always benefit from Republican policies. Most voters can sense this. So he can’t really campaign now on the economy either. That doesn’t leave many options.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, September 25, 2012

September 26, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Red Flags Are Flying”: Senate Candidate Tommie Thompson Wants To “Do Away With Medicare And Medicaid”

Paul Ryan admits that he’s an “end Medicare as we know it” candidate.

But, somehow, we are not supposed to think that he would actually end the popular and successful healthcare program for the elderly, as well as related Medicaid programs for the poor and people with disabilities.

The “as we know it” part provides a sort of cover, at least in the eyes of a media that is more inclined toward stenography than journalism.

Never mind that Ryan, a rabid reader of government-can-do-no-good fanatic Ayn Rand, goes positively wide-eyed when he starts talking about how desperately he wants to downsize government—and shift control of healthcare and retirement programs to the insurance and Wall Street interests that so generously fund his campaigns. We’re not supposed to talk about the long-term crony-capitalist scheme of certain Republicans to do away with government programs that work so that private sector profiteers can come in and create programs that don’t work—except for private sector profiteers.

Never mind that the Republican nominee for vice president has a long history of decrying Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in Randian terms such as “collectivist” and “socialistic.”

Never mind that Ryan has griped that “Social Security right now is a collectivist system. It’s a welfare transfer system.”

Never mind that, as recently as 2010, Ryan dismissed Medicare and Medicaid as part of a “socialist based system” that needs to be replaced.

The red flags are not supposed to go up until someone actually says they want to, you know, “do away with Medicaid and Medicare.”

Never mind that, even now, Ryan complains about how America is being overwhelmed by “takers” (citizens who claim benefits to which they are entitled) and the “welfare state” (Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid).

Only when a candidate starts talking about ending entitlement programs—as in “doing away” with them—can we be serious about the immediate threat those programs actually face.

Meet Tommy Thompson, former Republican governor of Wisconsin, former Bush-Cheney administration secretary of health and human services, former candidate for the Republican nomination for president and mentor to Paul Ryan.

Speaking to a Tea Party group while campaigning for Wisconsin’s open US Senate seat, Thompson recounted how he “reformed” welfare in Wisconsin.

Back in the 1990s, Thompson said he wanted to “end welfare as we know it.” In fact, he replaced the program with a classic combination of high-government spending, lots of patronage appointments and rising poverty.

Now, Thompson has dropped the “end welfare as we know it” pretense. He brags that he finished off “one of the entitlement program.”

And he’s gunning for a couple of other entitlement programs.

Which ones?

You guessed it: Medicaid and Medicare.

Declaring that he wants to “change Medicare and Medicaid like I did welfare,” Thompson asked a May gathering of the Lake Country Area Defenders Of Liberty in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin: “Who better to and who better than me, who’s already finished one of the entitlement programs, to come up with programs to do away with Medicaid and Medicare?”

The video has only now surfaced and its a blockbuster—especially in the aftermath of the release last week of a similar video that saw Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney dismissing 47 percent of Americans as a “dependent” class unworthy of Republican consideration.

Just to repeat: a top Republican Senate candidate has been caught on video talking about how he would “DO AWAY WITH MEDICAID, AND MEDICARE.”

Just to repeat: “DO AWAY WITH MEDICAID, AND MEDICARE.”

It should be understood that Thompson is no fringe-dwelling Todd Akin. As the longtime Republican governor of a swing state, he’s worked with every GOP president since Ronald Reagan, and he oversaw social programs for the Bush-Cheney administration. This year, he’s one of his party’s premier recruits in the fight to retake the Senate. Indeed, the race between Thompson and Democratic Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin could decide which party controls the chamber.

Thompson is, as well, closely aligned with Paul Ryan. The Senate candidate’s ties to Ryan’s politically connected family go back to when the Republican vice presidential nominee was a child. Thompson has been a Ryan booster from the very beginning of the younger Wisconsinite’s career in electoral politics—when Thompson was the powerful governor of the state and Ryan was organizing his first Congressional bid.

When Thompson joined the Bush-Cheney Cabinet, he and Ryan kept regular company in Washington. They look forward to working together when Thompson becomes the point man on entitlement debates in a Republican-controlled Senate and Ryan is the Romney White House’s chief liaison to Capitol Hill.

The voters will have something to say about that, however.

If they want to preserve Medicaid and Medicare, they will remember that, while Ryan may add the “as we know it” spin, Thompson gets to the heart of the matter when he says it is the intention of these “reformers” to “do away with Medicaid and Medicare.”

 

By: John Nichols, The Nation, September 24, 2012

September 26, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Redistributing Wealth Upward”: Changing The Rules, Republicans Have Robbed The Middle To Give To The Rich

Which is the more redistributionist of our two parties? In recent decades, as Republicans have devoted themselves with laser-like intensity to redistributing America’s wealth and income upward, the evidence suggests the answer is the GOP.

The most obvious way that Republicans have robbed from the middle to give to the rich has been the changes they wrought in the tax code — reducing income taxes for the wealthy in the Reagan and George W. Bush tax cuts, and cutting the tax rate on capital gains to less than half the rate on the top income of upper-middle-class employees.

The less widely understood way that Republicans have helped redistribute wealth to the already wealthy is by changing the rules. Markets don’t function without rules, and the rules that Republican policymakers have made since Ronald Reagan became president have consistently depressed the share of the nation’s income that the middle class can claim.

Part of the intellectual sleight-of-hand that Republicans employ in discussions of redistribution is to reserve that term solely for government intervention in the market that redistributes income downward. But markets redistribute wealth continuously. In recent decades, markets have redistributed wealth from manufacturing to finance, from Main Street to Wall Street, from workers to shareholders. Rules made by “pro-market” governments (including those of “pro-market” Democrats) have enabled these epochal shifts. Free trade with China helped hollow out manufacturing; the failure to regulate finance enabled Wall Street to swell; the opposition to labor’s efforts to reestablish an even playing field during organizing campaigns has all but eliminated collective bargaining in the private sector.

The conservative counter to such liberal cavils is to assert that the market increases wealth, which will eventually descend on everyone as the gentle rains from heaven. Decrying such Keynesian notions as unions or federally established minimum wages, hedge fund guru Andy Kessler recently argued in the Wall Street Journal that “it is workers’ productivity that drives long-term wage gains, not workers’ wages that drive growth.”

But Kessler assumes — and this is the very essence of the “trickle-down” argument — that workers reap the rewards of productivity gains. Believing and asserting that requires either ignorance or willful denial of economic history. The only time in U.S. history when workers substantially benefited from productivity gains was the three decades that followed World War II, when median household income and productivity gains both increased by 102 percent. Not coincidentally, that was also the only period of genuine union power in U.S. history, and the time when the tax code was at its most progressive. During the past quarter-century, as progressivity was lessened and unions diminished, all productivity gains have gone to the wealthiest 10 percent, according to research published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. In 1955, at the height of union strength, the wealthiest 10 percent received 33 percent of the nation’s personal income. In 2007, they received 50 percent, Economic Policy Institute data show.

If that’s not redistribution, I don’t know what is.

The problem is not just that everyone but the wealthy is claiming a smaller share of the nation’s income; the absolute amount of income they’re getting is declining as well. Median household income has dropped to the levels of the mid-1990s, according to Pew analysis of census data, while the income of the 400 wealthiest Americans rose by a tidy $200 billion last year, according to data released this month by Forbes magazine.

If that’s not redistribution, I don’t know what is.

Indeed, the United States has experienced an upward redistribution so profound that it affects far more than incomes. Whole sectors of the economy and regions of the country have been decimated by these economic changes. The descent in all manner of social indexes is most apparent among poorly educated whites. Conservative commentator Charles Murray has documented in his new book the decline in marriage rates and family stability within the white working class. And now, as the New York Times’ Sabrina Tavernise has reported, that decline includes longevity as well. While other Americans’ life expectancy has advanced, the life expectancy of whites without high school diplomas has declined since 1990 — by three years among men and five years among women.

The market is not just redistributing income in the United States, then. It is redistributing life.

So, which party can claim credit for this — the real redistribution this nation has experienced over the past 30 years? Many Democrats have been complicit in this calamity by their indifference to the consequences of deregulation and trade. But the trophy for promoting the policies that have redistributed wealth, family stability and longevity upward goes to the Republicans, whose standard-bearers are championing even more radical versions of these policies today.

A pro-life party? More like its opposite.

 

By: Harold Meyerson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, September 24, 2012

September 26, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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