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“Make Up Another Lie”: What To Do When A Talking Point Gets Taken Away

Every day for months, the attack on President Obama was the same: the unemployment rate is above 8 percent, so voters have no choice but to consider him a failure — no matter how severe an economic catastrophe he inherited.

This changed on Friday when recent gains pushed the jobless rate to 7.8 percent, the lowest rate in four years. Obama is now overseeing the best election-year improvement in unemployment figures since Reagan’s “Morning in America” re-election bid in 1984.

If you’re a Republican, what do you do? As it turns out, there are two schools of thought.

The first is, keep repeating the attack anyway, even though it’s no longer true. Restore Our Future, the Republican super PAC, expanded an ad buy this week in three swing states describing the jobless rate as “over 8 percent.” Karl Rove’s American Crossroads attack ad shows viewers an 8.1 percent unemployment rate, rather than the actual one.

Why let facts and good economic news get in the way of a perfectly good attack?

The second is the one adopted by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan: move the goalposts. The Republican presidential hopeful is now arguing, “[I]t looks like unemployment is getting better, but the truth is, if the same share of people were participating in the workforce today as on the day the president got elected, our unemployment rate would be around 11 percent.” Ryan said the same thing this week.

Like far too much of Romney’s rhetoric, this is wildly misleading:

[The charge] assumes all things are equal in the labor force, when in fact it is constantly churning and evolving. In particular, besides the aftermath of the Great Recession, the composition of the labor force has been affected by the retirement of the leading edge of the Baby Boom generation.

Our colleagues at WonkBlog explored this issue earlier this year, showing that the peak of the labor force participation rate, or LFPR, was reached during the end of President Bill Clinton’s term and that since then it has been on a downward track…. The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago in March estimated that just over half of the post-1999 decline in the labor force participation rate was explained by long-running demographic patterns, such as the retirement of the baby boomers.

In other words, Romney/Ryan would have you believe the sharp improvement in the job market doesn’t count because of demographic trends. That’s marginally better than simply repeating false and out-of-date attacks, but there’s no reason to take the GOP rhetoric seriously.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 10, 2012

October 11, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Real Mitt Romney”: Bully, Lie, Manipulate,Threaten…Whatever It Takes

Mitt Romney is unbelievable. Literally. On Tuesday the GOP presidential candidate told the Des Moines Register’s editorial board: “There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda.”

With four weeks left until the election, Romney unquestionably needs to win over undecided voters by camouflaging his anti-choice stance. But he’s on record championing some of the most extreme — and more importantly, extremely unpopular — tactics aimed at blocking women’s access to basic reproductive health care, including abortion and birth control.

Throughout his campaign for president, Romney has said again and again that he would end funding for family planning clinics like Planned Parenthood that provide abortion services as part of a broader range of women’s health care.

His own party’s platform states: “We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.” Plain English translation: they support criminalizing abortion.

In October 2011, Romney told Mike Huckabee on FOX News that when he was governor of Massachusetts he “absolutely” would have supported a state constitutional amendment establishing that life begins at conception. Like the measure defeated in Mississippi earlier this year, such “fetal personhood” laws not only criminalize abortion, but would also outlaw popular forms of contraception, fertility treatment and stem cell research. Romney added, “My view is that the Supreme Court should reverse Roe v. Wade,” and promised that he would send justices to the high court who would be inclined to do just that — take us back to the days when abortion was criminalized in much of the country.

But somehow we’re supposed to believe that a President Romney wouldn’t pose any threat to reproductive choice? With a candidate this dishonest, voters have to decide for themselves which version would preside over the nation. Right-wing supporters of Romney are standing by the socially conservative incarnation of their guy.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, told USA TODAY:
“We have full confidence that as president, Gov. Romney will stand by the pro-life commitments he laid out in National Review in June 2011,” including his promise to “advocate for a bill to promote unborn children capable of feeling pain.”

I’m inclined to agree with Dannenfelser. In that National Review piece, penned by Romney himself, the candidate said: “If I have the opportunity to serve as our nation’s next president, I commit to doing everything in my power to cultivate, promote, and support a culture of life in America.”

Interestingly, Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul sent to the conservative National Review a stronger backtrack of her boss’s latest pronouncement than the one she delivered more widely. In an email to the National Review, Saul had this to say: “Governor Romney would of course support legislation aimed at providing greater protections for life.”

It’s not hard to figure out why, where women’s reproductive health care is concerned, Romney flips here, flops there, gives the old Etch-A-Sketch a good shake, and slicks out a sound bite for each new audience du jour. The simple reason: Romney’s policy agenda for women’s health is deeply unpopular with all voters, and especially women voters.

So now it has dawned on Romney that his unpopular positions may hurt him with the voters who are still up for grabs. So what does he do? Lie. Shape his message not to reality but to the goal of winning debates, winning votes, winning at all costs.

Here’s my newsflash for Governor Etch-A-Sketch: Women are not fooled by his shape-shifting public persona. The real Mitt Romney is revealed by what he says in private, when the cameras aren’t rolling (or so he assumes). In these unmasked moments, Romney has revealed a more accurate version of himself. He is the guy who glibly wrote off 47 percent of the U.S. population as lazy, irresponsible moochers. He is the guy who used his position as lay bishop to bully women in his church about their pregnancies, their health and their families. That guy’s the real Romney.

Romney Knows Best

The following stories reveal just how chilling the real Mitt Romney can be. Repeatedly, he has shown himself to be a man who thinks he knows best what women should do with their bodies and how (or even if) they should raise their children.

Before entering politics, Romney served in several positions of authority in the Mormon Church. Judith Dushku, a Mormon feminist who stood up to Romney numerous times when she was in his congregation, shared with the Boston Globe and other media outlets her impression that Mitt’s fleeting pro-choice stance was a strategic move to win votes when he ran for the U.S. Senate. Dushku said Romney told her face-to-face: “Well, they told me in Salt Lake City I could take this position, and in fact I probably had to in order to win in a liberal state like Massachusetts.”

Dushku also brought to light the story of her friend Carrel Hilton Sheldon, a Mormon woman who discovered she had a blood clot while pregnant. With her life potentially at risk, this mother of four children decided to have an abortion, and she even got permission from the proper authorities in the church. But Romney tried to talk her out of it, shaming her with comments like, “Well, why do you get off so easy when other women have their babies?” He told her that “as your bishop, my concern is with the child.”

And it wasn’t just one incident. According to The New York Times, Janna and Randy Sorensen approached Romney in the early 1990s seeking his help in adopting a child. The church did not facilitate adoptions for mothers who worked outside the home, and the couple told Romney they thought the rule was unfair. But Romney would not proceed with helping the couple until he had convinced Janna to quit her job.

Ten years earlier, Romney similarly tried to twist the arm of Peggie Hayes when he was bishop in his local ward. As reported in Vanity Fair, Romney urged the 23-year-old single mother, whom his family had known quite well for years, to give up her soon-to-be-born second child for adoption. When Hayes informed Romney of her intention to keep and raise the child, his response was to threaten her with excommunication from the church.

Bully, lie, manipulate, threaten. Mitt Romney believes these tactics will get him what he wants. But I believe in the good sense of women voters throughout the country. And for the next four weeks, I’ll be working along with thousands of NOW chapter leaders and activists to get the word out: Mitt Romney’s real agenda is dangerous for women. Come Nov. 6, we will defeat Governor Etch-A-Sketch and re-elect President Obama, who actually means it when he says he is pro-choice.


BY: Terry O’Neill, President, National Organization For Women; The Huffington Post, October 10, 2012

October 11, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Insincere And Playing Dumb”: Mitt Romney’s Shameless Appeal To Women

Two things happened yesterday that don’t seem unrelated. First, there was the release of a new poll in Ohio that showed Mitt Romney pulling closer to President Obama but still trailing by 4 points – thanks to a massive 36-point gender gap. Then came Romney’s statement to an editorial board that “there’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda.”

This is an extension of the strategy Romney employed at last week’s debate, simply playing dumb when confronted with the aspects of conservative ideology that are difficult to market outside the Republican Party base. In this case, there is a clear urgency for Romney in creating distance between himself and the right’s recent fixation on reproductive issues: A recent Bloomberg poll of swing voters in Ohio and Virginia found Romney leading among married mothers by a few points in each state – with the potential to open much bigger leads if he can work around the concerns they have about his views on women’s issues.

Romney, the Bloomberg poll showed, enjoys a clear advantage among these women on the economy, but has been hindered by, among other things, his vow to defund Planned Parenthood, his opposition to Obama’s decision to mandate insurance coverage of birth control, and his antiabortion position. The new Ohio numbers, from a CNN poll released yesterday, speak to Romney’s challenge. Among men in the Buckeye State, he’s now clobbering Obama, 56 to 42 percent. But with women, Obama is winning by a 60-38 percent margin. That translates into a 51-47 percent overall lead for the president, but if Romney can erode Obama’s advantage with women even a little, he can make up that ground.

Romney has played this game before, in the only general election before now that he ever won. It was exactly 10 years ago that he was running for governor of Massachusetts and found himself trailing in the race’s final weeks. The Romney campaign’s main strategy was to scare suburban swing voters with the specter of rampant Democratic cronyism in the state capitol – warning voters that a “gang of three” Democrats would run the state if Romney’s Democratic opponent, Shannon O’Brien, were elected.

But part of appealing to these swing voters also involved assuaging any concerns they had about Romney being to their right on cultural issues, particularly abortion. On this front, O’Brien spotted a clear opening. The year before, when he’d been back in Utah overseeing the Olympics, Romney had been thinking that his political future would be in the Beehive State, and not Massachusetts, where a Republican, Jane Swift, was serving as acting governor and where both Democratic senators were entrenched. So Romney, who had run as a passionate abortion rights supporter in his 1994 campaign against Ted Kennedy, began repositioning himself to fit in with Utah’s far-right Republican electorate, penning a letter to the Salt Lake Tribune in July 2001 in which he instructed the paper not to identify him as pro-choice.

It wasn’t a complete policy shift. Romney left himself enough wiggle room in case a 2002 opportunity back in Massachusetts opened up – which it did a few months later, as Swift’s governorship collapsed and Republicans begged Romney to come home and save them. So it was that Romney in ’02 resumed presenting himself as an abortion rights advocate, although this time in more muted terms, promising that he would uphold the state’s laws and do nothing to restrict abortion access, but shying away from the pro-choice label. Presumably, this was meant to seem consistent with the ’01 letter he wrote in Utah; it was probably also done with the knowledge that, if he ever wanted to go national as a Republican candidate, Romney would have to eventually declare himself pro-life.

O’Brien recognized all of this and tried to corner Romney in their final debate, just over a week before the election. It can be maddening to watch their encounter now. O’Brien’s warnings about Romney’s obvious insincerity on the issue seem prescient today, but at the time, Romney did a rather masterful job deflecting them, pretending he had no idea why anyone would be confused about his position and aligning himself perfectly with the sentiments of swing voters. He even turned the tables on O’Brien, who in an effort to show a clear policy difference with Romney on the issue came out against a parental consent law. In other words, on the one abortion policy area where they officially disagreed, Romney managed to express the more broadly popular view.

The Romney who bested O’Brien in that debate was the same Romney who showed up in Denver last week. And it’s the same Romney who expressed bafflement to the Des Moines Register’s editorial board yesterday over why anyone would think he’d make restricting abortion a priority as president.

There is a difference this time, though. As Irin Carmon points out, restricting abortion absolutely is a priority for the national Republican Party, and if Romney is president he won’t have much leeway to defy this sentiment. You can see it already, in fact, with the Romney campaign’s quick clarifying statement last night that he “would of course support legislation aimed at providing greater protections for life.” Consider it a preview of a Romney presidency. If he strays on an issue important to the right, it won’t be long until the right brings him back into line.

The question for now is whether Romney can downplay reproductive issues enough to eat into the gender gap. At the national level, that gap seems to be evaporating quickly in the wake of last week’s debate. But the Ohio numbers suggest that things might be different in the swing states, where the candidates have concentrated their resources and where voters are presumably more familiar with their messages.


By: Steve Kornacki, Salon, October 10, 2012


October 11, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Romney Is One Unique Acrobat”: The Rarely Seen, Hard-To-Execute Flip-Flop-Flip

Back in June, Mitt Romney offered an important insight into how he views economic policy.

“[President Obama] wants to hire more government workers,” Romney said. “He says we need more fireman, more policeman, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin? The American people did. It’s time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.”

Right. It’ll “help the American people” just as soon as we allow more layoffs of school teachers and first responders. Why will the economy benefit when these workers are unemployed? Romney never got around to explaining that, but the larger point was hard to miss: the president believes the country would benefit from fewer teacher layoffs; Romney believes the opposite.

At least, that’s the way it seemed. Four months later, in last week’s debate, President Obama brought this up, noting, “Governor Romney doesn’t think we need more teachers. I do.”

The Republican responded, “I reject the idea that I don’t believe in great teachers or more teachers.” In other words, Romney no longer seems to agree with what he said in June.

That is, until yesterday, when Romney sat down with the editors of the Des Moines Register. As Sam Stein noted, the former governor seemed to revert back to his original stance, arguing, “He wants to hire more school teachers. We all like school teachers. It’s a wonderful thing. Typically, school teachers are hired by states and localities, not by the federal government. But hiring school teachers is not going to raise the growth of the U.S. economy over the next three-to-four years.”

First, as a matter of economic policy, hundreds of thousands of public education jobs have been lost in recent years, and saving those jobs would, in reality, not only help schools, students, families, but also have a meaningful economic impact. Romney resists this, but teaching is a real job involving a real paycheck. Teachers who are employed can then use that paycheck to purchase goods and services, pay bills, make investments, etc. When those teachers are laid off and federal officials let it happen, the workers withdraw from the marketplace and hurt the economy. Why Romney struggles to understand this is unclear.

Second, we rarely see flip-flop-flips, but Romney, if nothing else, is unique.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow, Blog, October 10, 2012

October 11, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Moderate This”: Mitt Romney Is Talking Out Of Both Sides Of His Mouth

So Moderate Mitt Romney told the editorial board of the Des Moines Register yesterday that he had no interest in promoting anti-abortion legislation as president:

“There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda,” the GOP presidential candidate told The Des Moines Register’s editorial board during a meeting today before his campaign rally at a Van Meter farm.

But by executive order, not by legislation, he would reinstate the so-called Mexico City policy that bans U.S. foreign aid dollars from being used to do abortions, he said.

But then there’s this, via HuffPost’s Elise Foley:

The Romney campaign walked back the remark within two hours of the Register posting its story. Spokeswoman Andrea Saul told the National Review Online‘s Katrina Trinko that Romney “would of course support legislation aimed at providing greater protections for life.”

And speaking of National Review Online, that’s who published Romney’s definitive statement on abortion policy during the Republican primary battle, when Romney was justifying his refusal to sign a very radical pledge presented by the Susan B. Anthony List:

I am pro-life and believe that abortion should be limited to only instances of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.

I support the reversal of Roe v. Wade, because it is bad law and bad medicine. Roe was a misguided ruling that was a result of a small group of activist federal judges legislating from the bench.

I support the Hyde Amendment, which broadly bars the use of federal funds for abortions. And as president, I will support efforts to prohibit federal funding for any organization like Planned Parenthood, which primarily performs abortions or offers abortion-related services.

I will reinstate the Mexico City Policy to ensure that nongovernmental organizations that receive funding from America refrain from performing or promoting abortion services, as a method of family planning, in other countries. This includes ending American funding for any United Nations or other foreign assistance program that promotes or performs abortions on women around the world.

I will advocate for and support a Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to protect unborn children who are capable of feeling pain from abortion.

And perhaps most importantly, I will only appoint judges who adhere to the Constitution and the laws as they are written, not as they want them to be written.

So last year, in a carefully considered and drafted statement, Romney was all for new legislation to ban federal funding for Planned Parenthood, and promised to “advocate and support” federal “fetal pain” legislation along the lines of bills being promoted by anti-choice legislators from sea to shining sea. He basically agreed to do anything within the president’s power to help The Cause, with the exception of administering litmus tests to a host of his appointees, which is what the SBA List was asking him to do. To some extent, his comments to the Register simply reflected the limitations of the executive branch on this particular subject, which has been a source of great frustration to anti-choicers over the years.

But Moderate Mitt should not be able to get away with bland reassurances on this issue–with his own campaign repudiating him almost on the spot–without dealing with specific pledges he made during this very campaign. Is he–on behalf of himself and his loyal running-mate, Paul Ryan, who up until now has been universally considered a leader in the anti-choice cause–specifically retracting promises to promote a funding ban on Planned Parenthood and federal legislation flatly banning abortions prior to some arbitrary point in the second trimester of pregnancy?

It would be good to know if Moderate Mitt is talking out of both sides of his mouth.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, October 10, 2012

October 11, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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