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“A Deeply Ironic Twist”: Conservative Media Ignore GOP Voter Registration Fraud

Republicans passed new voting restrictions in more than a dozen states since the 2010 election that were purportedly designed to stop voter fraud. Yet, in a deeply ironic twist, the most high-profile instances of election fraud this cycle have been committed by Republicans in states with new voting restrictions.

The RNC-funded Strategic Allied Consulting, run by checkered GOP operative Nathan Sproul, is under criminal investigation in Florida for submitting fraudulent voter registration forms to election officials. (Sproul is still running voter-canvassing operations for conservatives in thirty states.) Sproul’s associate Colin Small, who had worked for Strategic Allied Consulting and as “Grassroots Field Director at the Republican National Committee,” was charged last week with eight felony counts and five misdemeanors for trashing voter registration forms in Virginia.

Republicans claim that the voter registration fraud was committed by a few bad apples and pales in comparison to the fraud committed by ACORN in 2008. But ACORN was never funded by the DNC. And the abuses committed by Sproul and Small were far worse than those attached to ACORN. Unlike Strategic Allied Consulting, ACORN never changed the party affiliations on fraudulent voter registration forms and self-reported suspicious materials to election officials. Nor did ACORN ever destroy valid voter registration forms, as Small is accused of doing. (Not to mention that none of the fictitious characters falsely registered by ACORN workers, like Mickey Mouse, ever voted.)

Despite the right’s preoccupation with voter fraud, Sproul and Small have received scant coverage from conservative media outlets. Fox News, which ran 122 stories on ACORN from 2007–08, mentioned Strategic Allied Consulting only three times since the scandal broke in late September and hasn’t aired a single report on voter registration fraud in Virginia. Nor have National Review or The Weekly Standard, the pre-eminent conservative magazines, run an article about either case.

ACORN was far from perfect, but it did not deserve the witch-hunt treatment it received. In 2009, Peter Dreier of Occidental College and Christopher Martin of Northern Iowa studied the media’s shameful coverage of ACORN during the 2008 election and found:

• 82.8% of the stories failed to mention that actual voter fraud is very rare
• 80.3% of the stories failed to mention that ACORN was reporting registration irregularities to authorities, as required by law
• 85.1% of the stories about ACORN failed to note that ACORN was acting to stop incidents of registration problems by its (mostly temporary) employees when it became aware of these problems
• 95.8% of the stories failed to provide deeper context, especially efforts by Republican Party officials to use allegations of “voter fraud” to dampen voting by low‐income and minority Americans, including the firing of U.S. Attorneys who refused to cooperate with the politicization of voter-fraud accusations—firings that ultimately led to the resignation of U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales

Republicans, it turns out, have committed the very voter registration fraud they once accused ACORN of perpetrating. Nor did new voting restrictions in states like Florida and Virginia, which could collectively make it harder for 5 million Americans to cast a ballot in 2012, prevent the fraud they were supposedly meant to combat.


By: Ari Berman, The Nation, October 23, 2012

October 24, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“When Advantages Matter More Than Humane Ideals”: Does Mitt Romney’s Religion Condone Torture?

Nobody asked Governor Mitt Romney or President Barack Obama about torture during Monday night’s “foreign policy debate”—but someone should have.

Because recently disclosed Romney campaign documents are raising new questions about the candidate’s position, and the recent appointment of a Spokane, Washington LDS bishop who in his professional life as a psychologist pioneered so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” after 9/11 has raised new questions about whether Mormonism condones torture.

Washington newspapers are reporting that Bruce Jessen was called and “sustained” (or approved) to serve as bishop by his Spokane-area congregation in mid-October.

In late 2001, Jessen and James Mitchell (both clinical psychologists with no previous interrogation or intelligence training; both members of the LDS Church) were contracted by the CIA to develop “enhanced interrogation techniques” and to train interrogators during what one source describes as “brutal interrogations that effectively unfolded as live demonstrations.” Together, Jessen and Mitchell came to be known as the “Mormon mafia.”

Other LDS people involved in the development of Bush-administration torture tactics include Jay Bybee, who supervised and signed John Yoo’s 2002 “Torture Memo” effectively authorizing the United States’ use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” in Iraq; and Timothy Flanigan, deputy White House counsel who participated with Alberto Gonzalez in Bush’s “War Council” and testified before a Senate panel that waterboarding and other torture techniques should not necessarily be “off-limits” and that “inhumane can’t be coherently defined.”

When dozens of religious leaders and organizations issued a 2005 statement calling on the Bush administration to rule out torture as anti-biblical, the LDS Church through a spokesman issued a statement “condemning inhumane treatment of any person under any circumstance.”

Romney, however, appears to be lining up with Jessen, Mitchell, Bybee, and Flanigan.

Last month, the New York Times disclosed a September 2011 memo drafted by Romney’s advisors advocating the resumption of so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” initiated under President George W. Bush but banned by President Barack Obama on his second day in office.

In a December 17, 2011 Town Hall meeting, Romney said, “I will not authorize torture.” But at the press conference after the Town Hall meeting, when a reporter asked him if he considered waterboarding to be torture, Romney responded “I don’t.”

Romney’s stance led one UN official to warn last week that his election would amount to “a democratic mandate for torture.”

While some LDS media observers have denied a pattern of Mormon involvement in torture, others in the Mormon community have called for closer consideration of this serious moral and ethical matter.

And it does matter. It matters because unlike in most contemporary American religious communities, Mormons are routinely expected to assess their own moral “worthiness” to participate in religious rites and to serve in their local congregations—including in positions of pastoral responsibility such as bishop (which both Governor Romney and Mr. Jessen have served). And moral worthiness in Mormon communities is now widely framed in terms of highly individualistic choices like payment of tithes, sexual chastity, and observance of restrictions on consumption of alcohol, tobacco, and coffee.

It matters because it points to grave underdevelopment in the public morality and political theology of contemporary Mormonism. As Mormon Studies expert Professor Patrick Mason has told RD, Mormonism has “no systematic theology” on issues like human rights or poverty or war. Its view of morality is “highly individualized.”

And the torture issue matters to the question of how Romney will govern. We’ve consistently seen that the candidate will be essentially values-neutral in his approach to foreign and economic policy and centered on defending and promoting the interests of large institutions that reward loyalty. The chain of command and tactical advantages matter more than time-honored humane ideals. That’s a disposition Romney has in common with Jessen, Mitchell, Bybee, and other Mormons who have been in a position not only to support torture but to develop and implement it.

Once again, the issue is not that Mitt Romney is unduly influenced by his faith. It’s that his faith has little influence when it comes to some extremely serious moral questions.


By: Joanna Brooks, Religion Dispatches, October 23, 2012


October 24, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Who Is This Guy Anyway?”: President Obama Calls Out Mitt Romney For His “Romnesia”

Sunday the Salt Lake City Tribune endorsed President Barack Obama and asked the $64 million question about former Gov. Mitt Romney, which is, “Who is this guy anyway?” The editorial answered its own question when it called Romney, the former liberal and former conservative and current moderate candidate, the “shapeshifting nominee”. In the first debate, a passive President Obama let Romney get away with statements the former governor made that night that contradicted assertions he made during the GOP nomination campaign. Last night and in the previous debate, the president challenged Romney’s flip flops, and the commander in chief scored big points.

To put it in the president’s terms, you have Rommesia if you previously opposed setting a date for U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and flip flopped last night by calling for the withdrawal of American troops from that war torn land by the end of 2014. Romney was the passive voice Monday night when he endorsed much of the president’s foreign policy agenda night, which makes you wonder why Romney is running and why anybody should vote to replace the current commander in chief. I half expected the challenger to end the debate Monday by announcing his withdrawal from the race because he agreed with so many of the president’s decisions.

The first candidate to bring up Russia last night was the president, which is odd because Romney believes that the former Soviet Union was our “No. 1 geopolitical foe.” I’m sure Romney’s foreign policy priority prompted a lot of chuckles from the party boys in the Forbidden City and from the amused mullahs in Tehran. If they were still alive, Osama bin Laden and the rest of the al Qaeda leaders would have laughed when they heard Romney’s claim that the terrorist organization was still a potent force.

Today is the first anniversary of the day when the new provisional government in Libya officially declared that they had ended Muammar Qadhafi’s tyranny. Last night, the president was effective in linking Romney’s policies with the failed presidency of George W. Bush. The difference between the president’s tactics in Libya and Bush’s approach to Iraq is the perfect illustration of President Obama’s superior performance. Bush’s defeat of Saddam Hussein resulted in the deaths of more than 4,000 brave young Americans. Working with the Libyan rebels, the current president got rid of Qadhafi without the loss of a single American life.

Point, set, and match to the president.


By: Brad Bannon, U. S. News and World Report, October 23, 2012

October 24, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Women Don’t Like To Be Lied To”: Mitt Romney’s Case To Women Fails To Convince

Mitt Romney may be a perfect husband. He’s clearly devoted to Ann Romney. Their storybook relationship began as blushing teenagers, and 43 years and five sons later, Mitt is still smitten with Ann. Lovely.

The problem for Romney is that most women don’t live such fairytale lives. And the candidate’s obvious devotion to one woman doesn’t have a great deal of relevance to them as voters. Women are increasingly the household breadwinners, and more women now graduate from college than men. Yet women still earn less then men do, even in comparable positions. They tend to do more of the caring for elderly parents and are more likely to leave the workforce temporarily or limit their hours to see to the needs of young children.

The challenge for both the Romney and Obama campaigns now is to court undecided female voters, a large enough demographic that they could swing the election. To that end, let me make a suggestion: Stop viewing us as a needy constituency and treat us more as equals.

In this, Obama has the edge so far. He shows it in the words he chooses when discussing issues that affect women more directly than men, such as unequal pay and contraception. He also walks the talk, as when he signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

The candidate who will win the undecided women’s vote will be able to honestly discuss inequities that face women, especially in the workplace, yet not talk down to them or only to their wombs. It’s about including women as equals without pandering.

Both Romney and Obama can point to strong, intelligent women who were influential in their lives — both of their mothers qualify. Each man has lived through an era in which women’s roles in the home and workplace changed dramatically.

Many female voters are looking for a candidate who understands the difficult choices women are compelled to make with respect to family and work, who understands the pressure women feel from society’s often-outmoded notions of gender roles. They want a candidate who can show he has learned from women’s experiences during his lifetime, and empathized and stood alongside them when necessary.

Romney’s awkward debate gaffe about “binders full of women” only highlighted what many suspect: that he’s not comfortable discussing the problems many women face. In fact, Romney offered the much-parodied comment while trying to sidestep a question about equal pay. Instead of answering it directly, he boasted about making extra efforts to hire women as cabinet members when he was governor of Massachusetts.

What went unexplained was whether Romney understands why such extra efforts are still needed to ensure a range of qualified people are considered. It’s because the deck is still often stacked against women, with unequal pay and promotion for equal work and by attitudes that continue to see their input as extraneous.

It also raised the question of how a man could rise as high as Romney had in private and public life and not have a Rolodex full of women who had proven their value in his most trusted circles.

The regrettable thing for Romney is women will never know which is his true self. Is it moderate Mitt of years past who conceded that abortion should be legal, not so much as an endorsement of the procedure but as a safeguard of women’s health and safety? That’s the sort of nuanced position many women value. Or is it the “severely conservative” Mitt who pandered to the GOP’s right wing throughout the party’s primaries by mimicking its threats to Planned Parenthood? Romney is forever suspect as a flip-flopper. Women don’t like to be lied to, and many of us know how to listen for clues to that end.

Is Romney the type of man who is respectful in a woman’s presence, but wholly different when he gets back with a huddle of guys? Like many politicians, he holds certain women in places of honor. No arguments there. But it’s not clear that he will have all women’s interests in mind when it counts.

As a prospective steward of public policy that affects all women, he fails to inspire confidence. This is the nearly insurmountable hurdle that Romney now faces.


By: Mary Sanchez, The National Memo, October 23, 2012

October 24, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Neocons’ Long Game”: Don’t Expect Fuzzy Moderate Feelings To Last If Romney Ends Up In The White House

Most of the snap polls taken after last night’s foreign policy debate, the last before the November 6 election, gave the win the President Obama—if not an outright knockout then at least a TKO on points. But beyond the candidates themselves, the debate did have one clear loser: neoconservatives.

During the many years Mitt Romney has been running for president, he’s taken a number of fluid positions on foreign policy. In addition to reflecting Romney’s character as an eager-to-please shape-shifter, the changing positions also represent a genuine—and growing—policy tension among foreign policy factions within the GOP establishment.

Even though old school realists like Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft retain some influence, and more isolationist voices like Senator Rand Paul represent a rising challenge, the neoconservatives remain the most dominant. But even though Romney had worked diligently since 2009 to build ties to the GOP’s neoconservative wing, and relies heavily on a number of them as his key advisers, the foreign policy vision he articulated last night indicates that he understands that American voters (at least the ones he needs to eke out an Electoral College victory) just aren’t that into the expensive, world-transformative schemes that neocons are still busy dreaming up.

Romney’s new foreign policy tack was evident on the very first question of the night, in which moderator Bob Schieffer served the issue of the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attacks to him on a plate. Romney chose not to re-boot his fumbled criticism of the Obama administration from the last debate, something his hawkish surrogates and the GOP’s Fox News annex have been pushing hard for over the last week. Rather, Romney chose to draw back to a broader view of a region in chaos. His Obama-esque declaration that “We can’t kill our way out of this mess,” while surely appealing to voters tired of war in the Middle East, was sure to disappoint the neocons, for whom there are few problems in the world that can’t be solved through the application of American ordnance.

It wouldn’t be the last time Romney echoed the president last night. With regard to the prospect of U.S. military interventions, Romney insisted that “We don’t want another Iraq,” even though neocons still proclaim the Iraq war a success (a commanding majority of Americans disagrees). On Iraq itself, though he criticized the failure to achieve a new status of forces agreement between the U.S. and Iraqi governments, Romney recoiled from President Obama’s suggestion that he didn’t support withdrawing American troops. On Syria and Afghanistan, Romney took positions 180 degree opposite what his neoconservative supporters have been advocating, assuring viewers that “I don’t want to have our military involved” in the former, and agreeing with President Obama’s withdrawal timetable for the latter.

One moment where Romney did let his inner neocon out to play was in his claim that President Obama’s efforts to engage the Iranians in diplomatic talks were taken by Iran as a sign of weakness. “I think from the very beginning, one of the challenges we’ve had with Iran is that they have looked at this administration and—and felt that the administration was not as strong as it needed to be,” Romney said. “I think they saw weakness where they had expected to find American strength.”

First, when one considers how Iran’s hardliners profited—both domestically and in regional influence—from the Bush administration’s reckless show of “strength” in the Middle East, this claim falls apart. But it also seriously misunderstands the manner in which U.S. diplomatic outreach to Iran has discombobulated an Iranian regime that much prefers to deal with an openly hostile U.S. government.

As Israeli analyst Meir Javedanfar noted, President Obama “called this regime’s bluff by recognizing it. This is the worst thing you can do to your enemy, to unmask them.” Exploring this dynamic in a 2010 column, David Ignatius wrote, “White House officials argue that their strategy of engagement has been a form of pressure, and the evidence supports them.”

Perhaps the most brutal moment of the night was President Obama’s takedown of Romney’s claim that the president had gone on an “apology tour” after taking office, a treasured conservative myth despite its pantaloons being rendered aflame by virtually every fact-checking organization in existence. True to form, the Romney campaign blasted out a new “Apology Tour” ad this morning, which notably doesn’t include any footage of President Obama apologizing.

It tells us a lot about Romney’s lack of a clear foreign policy agenda that this was the moment his campaign thought most-worthy of highlighting from last night—a cheap attack based not on any substantive policy difference, but a stylistic difference founded on a complete falsehood, the idea that President Obama hasn’t proclaimed or exerted American power boldly enough.

Which is why, despite Romney’s momentary embrace of President Obama’s policies, we should still be concerned with the role that neoconservatives would play in a Romney administration. It’s important to keep in mind that, as a candidate, Governor George W. Bush made a lot of moderate, reasonable-sounding noises about foreign policy too. But when faced with a crisis on 9/11, the inexperienced president with unformed foreign policy ideas fell back on the comforting but naive idea that America’s greatness could be proclaimed, and its deterrence re-established, through the massive exercise of military force. The next president will likely face a similar crisis, even if not likely on the scale of 9/11. It very much matters who has his ear.


By: Matthew Duss, The American Prospect, October 23, 2012

October 24, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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