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“Still With Worrisome Fundamental Beliefs”: It Says A Lot That A Strong Economy Is Bad News For Mitt Romney in 2016

Nothing says democracy like a private-equity-manager-turned-governor whose dad ran for president facing off against a governor-turned-private-equity-manager whose dad was president over, you guessed it, the presidency.

That’s what we might get, though, if Mitt Romney, who’s “considering” a run in 2016, and Jeb Bush, who’s already formed a political action committee, end up duking it out over the Republican nomination. (Romney started out in private equity before becoming a governor, for those keeping score at home, while Bush was a governor before getting into private equity). But before we, well, get too far into the horserace, we should remember that Romney, at least, lost in no small way because he didn’t have anything approximating a policy agenda.

Think about that. Romney was a professional presidential candidate for almost five years by the time Election Day rolled around in 2012, and he still didn’t have a coherent strategy for the economy by then. His tax plan was a mathematical impossibility: he would have had to either abandon his tax cuts for the rich, raise taxes on the middle class, or run much bigger deficits to make it work.

And his economic plan, well, we’re still waiting for it. Romney told his donors that “if it looks like I’m going to win, the markets will be happy” and “we’ll see capital come back, and we’ll see—without actually doing anything—we’ll actually get a boost to the economy.” And that was it.

Romney really thought President Obama was scaring away a recovery, so all he had to do was win and then do nothing. Now, to be fair, doing nothing has actually worked out okay for Obama since he got re-elected, though not by choice, as the combination of more monetary stimulus, less fiscal austerity, and time have healed the economy enough that unemployment has started falling fast.

In fact, joblessness is already lower after two years, at 5.6 percent, than Romney said he’d get it in four. But, as you might have noticed, the recession put us in such a deep hole that there are still plenty of problems that need fixing. Romney, though, didn’t have a plan to take advantage of can’t-go-any-lower interest rates to rebuild our infrastructure. Or to help underwater homeowners refinance their mortgages. Or, more on this in a minute, to increase worker wages.

Romney, in other words, just ran against the economy, and hoped that would be enough. It wasn’t. And it shouldn’t even be an option in 2016, when unemployment could be as low as 4 percent. The question then won’t be how to get jobs, but rather how to get good ones with good pay.

Now, Romney is ideologically flexible. But he seems to have some worrisome fundamental beliefs that would hurt him if he runs in 2016.

After he lost the presidential race, Romney blamed his loss on Obama giving “gifts” to minorities and women, and warned that “this is really serious” since “we’re following the path of every other great nation, which is we’re following greater government, tax the rich people, promise more stuff to everybody, borrow until you go over a cliff.”

Does that sound like somebody who would try to boost stagnant wages—which should be the issue of 2016—by, say, expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (and the ranks of the “47 43 percent“) like a lot of conservative wonks want to?


By: Matt O’Brien, The Wonk Blog, The Washington Post, January 12, 2015

January 15, 2015 Posted by | Economic Policy, Election 2016, Mitt Romney | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Don’t Call Us; We’ll Call You”: When The Far-Right Isn’t Far-Right Enough

For about four decades, far-right members of Congress have enjoyed a special group separate from the Republican mainstream. It’s called the Republican Study Committee and it’s always been home to the House’s most rigid ideologues and reactionary voices. The faction even releases its own budget plan, and in recent years, has deemed Paul Ryan’s blueprint as far too moderate.

The group has even offered something of a gauge for the party’s overall direction – the larger the RSC’s membership, the more obvious it was that House Republicans had been radicalized.

Now, however, some far-right Republicans have decided some of their brethren just aren’t far-right enough. Politico reported yesterday afternoon:

More than a dozen of the House’s most conservative lawmakers will splinter from the decades-old Republican Study Committee to form a new organization designed to push the GOP caucus to the right.

The currently unnamed group will be led by Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Raúl Labrador of Idaho, sources involved with the planning said, and will probably include 30 or more Republicans – many of them among the most vocal critics of GOP leadership.

Jordan, it’s worth noting, is the former chairman of the Republican Study Committee. In other words, he’s leaving his own group to form an even-more-conservative entity.

At last count, the RSC listed 173 members – that’s more than two-thirds of the entire House Republican conference – while this new faction had 37 conservative lawmakers at their inaugural meeting earlier this week.

In an amazing twist, National Journal added that this group will be “invitation-only.” For those who may not be familiar with these Capitol Hill membership groups, ideological caucuses usually encourage lawmakers to join. Indeed, the whole point is to grow in the hopes of wielding more influence.

But for these far-right Republicans, the message seems to be, “Don’t call us; we’ll call you.”

Of course, all of this helps bolster the larger point: in the wake of a successful election cycle, Republican divisions are a genuine problem.

As the Republican Study Committee breakup shows – on the heels of the failed revolt against Speaker Boehner last week – some of the schisms are within House Republicans. At the same time, as Brian Beutler noted overnight, some of the divisions are also between the Senate GOP and the House GOP: they’re already on very different tracks on issues related to immigration, Homeland Security funding, and even a possible gas-tax hike.

Politico added this morning, “More often than not, House and Senate Republicans seem like they come from different parties, if not different planets.”

With a bruising 2015 just getting underway, Republicans are heading to a two-day retreat in Hershey, Pennsylvania, to see if they can get in sync on their policy priorities – but more important, their expectations.

“It’s time to air the differences, see how big they are and hopefully find the common ground,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who served in the House for 14 years. “There’s no downside to it. It’s kind of the peak and then things disintegrate afterwards. This will be the moment of unity.”

Well, maybe.

For what it’s worth, I think it’s best not to overstate the nature of the intra-party schisms. For all intents and purposes, there are only a small handful of actual Republican moderates left on Capitol Hill – and by historical standards, they’re really not especially “moderate” – and the arguments within the party aren’t especially substantive. Rather, the fight is over tone, tactics, and strategy. The overwhelming majority of congressional Republicans want roughly the same thing; they just disagree over how to get there and whether certain destinations are realistic.

But as we’re seeing, those disagreements obviously matter, and as members sit down for a collective chat this week, the tensions are likely to fester.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 14, 2015

January 15, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, GOP, House Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Are All Terrorists Muslims? It’s Not Even Close”: The Media Simply Does Not Cover Non-Muslim Terror Attacks With The Same Gusto

“Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.” How many times have you heard that one? Sure, we heard Fox News’s Brian Kilmeade say it, but to me, that was simply part of the Fox News plan to make their viewers dumber, as we saw again this past weekend when its terrorism “expert” Steve Emerson was caught fabricating the story that Birmingham, England, is closed to non-Muslims. But more alarmingly, even some reasonable people have uttered this statement.

And that comment is often followed up by the question: Why don’t we see Christian, Buddhist, or Jewish terrorists?

Obviously, there are people who sincerely view themselves as Muslims who have committed horrible acts in the name of Islam. We Muslims can make the case that their actions are not based on any part of the faith but on their own political agenda. But they are Muslims, no denying that.

However, and this will probably shock many, so you might want to take a breath: Overwhelmingly, those who have committed terrorist attacks in the United States and Europe aren’t Muslims. Let’s give that a moment to sink in.

Now, it’s not your fault if you aren’t aware of that fact. You can blame the media. (Yes, Sarah Palin and I actually agree on one thing: The mainstream media sucks.)

So here are some statistics for those interested. Let’s start with Europe. Want to guess what percent of the terrorist attacks there were committed by Muslims over the past five years? Wrong. That is, unless you said less than 2 percent.

As Europol, the European Union’s law-enforcement agency, noted in its report released last year, the vast majority of terror attacks in Europe were perpetrated by separatist groups. For example, in 2013, there were 152 terror attacks in Europe. Only two of them were “religiously motivated,” while 84 were predicated upon ethno-nationalist or separatist beliefs.

We are talking about groups like France’s FLNC, which advocates an independent nation for the island of Corsica. In December 2013, FLNC terrorists carried out simultaneous rocket attacks against police stations in two French cities. And in Greece in late 2013, the left-wing Militant Popular Revolutionary Forces shot and killed two members of the right-wing political party Golden Dawn. While over in Italy, the anarchist group FAI engaged in numerous terror attacks including sending a bomb to a journalist. And the list goes on and on.

Have you heard of these incidents? Probably not. But if Muslims had committed them do you think our media would’ve covered it? No need to answer, that’s a rhetorical question.

Even after one of the worst terror attacks ever in Europe in 2011, when Anders Breivik slaughtered 77 people in Norway to further his anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and pro-“Christian Europe” agenda as he stated in his manifesto, how much press did we see in the United States? Yes, it was covered, but not the way we see when a Muslim terrorist is involved. Plus we didn’t see terrorism experts fill the cable news sphere asking how we can stop future Christian terrorists. In fact, even the suggestion that Breivik was a “Christian terrorist” was met with outrage by many, including Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly.

Have you heard about the Buddhist terrorists? Well, extremist Buddhists have killed many Muslim civilians in Burma, and just a few months ago in Sri Lanka, some went on a violent rampage burning down Muslim homes and businesses and slaughtering four Muslims.

Or what about the (dare I mention them) Jewish terrorists? Per the 2013 State Department’s report on terrorism, there were 399 acts of terror committed by Israeli settlers in what are known as “price tag” attacks. These Jewish terrorists attacked Palestinian civilians causing physical injuries to 93 of them and also vandalized scores of mosques and Christian churches.

Back in the United States, the percentage of terror attacks committed by Muslims is almost as miniscule as in Europe. An FBI study looking at terrorism committed on U.S. soil between 1980 and 2005 found that 94 percent of the terror attacks were committed by non-Muslims. In actuality, 42 percent of terror attacks were carried out by Latino-related groups, followed by 24 percent perpetrated by extreme left-wing actors.

And as a 2014 study by University of North Carolina found, since the 9/11 attacks, Muslim-linked terrorism has claimed the lives of 37 Americans. In that same time period, more than 190,000 Americans were murdered (PDF).

In fact in 2013, it was actually more likely Americans would be killed by a toddler than a terrorist. In that year, three Americans were killed in the Boston Marathon bombing. How many people did toddlers kill in 2013? Five, all by accidentally shooting a gun.

But our media simply do not cover the non-Muslim terror attacks with same gusto. Why? It’s a business decision. Stories about scary “others” play better. It’s a story that can simply be framed as good versus evil with Americans being the good guy and the brown Muslim as the bad.

Honestly, when is the last time we heard the media refer to those who attack abortion clinics as “Christian terrorists,” even though these attacks occur at one of every five reproductive health-care facilities? That doesn’t sell as well. After all we are a so-called Christian nation, so that would require us to look at the enemy within our country, and that makes many uncomfortable. Or worse, it makes them change the channel.

That’s the same reason we don’t see many stories about how to reduce the 30 Americans killed each day by gun violence or the three women per day killed by domestic violence. But the media will have on expert after expert discussing how can we stop these scary brown Muslims from killing any more Americans despite the fact you actually have a better chance of being killed by a refrigerator falling on you.

Look, this article is not going to change the media’s business model. But what I hope it does is cause some to realize that not all terrorists are Muslims. In fact, they are actually a very small percent of those that are. Now, I’m not saying to ignore the dangers posed by Islamic radicals. I’m just saying look out for those refrigerators.


By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, January 14, 2015

January 15, 2015 Posted by | Media, Muslims, Terrorism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Triumph Of American Culture Welcoming Immigrants”: Why Republican Fear-Mongering About France Is Detached From Reality

One frequent criticism conservatives make of Barack Obama when it comes to terrorism is that he doesn’t “understand” the threats we face. This supposed lack of understanding, they say, is what leads the President to be so weak when what is needed is more strength, more military action, more belligerence. Those who “understand” terrorism know that this is the only path to combating it effectively.

With the attacks in Paris last week, conservatives and Republicans are again asserting that Obama’s lethal combination of ignorance and weakness is leaving us vulnerable, because terrorist incidents like the ones in France are soon to occur here in America. For instance, here’s an excerpt from a glowing story about John McCain in today’s New York Times:

He said in an interview last Thursday that Mr. Obama’s decision not to send more American troops to Iraq to thwart the Islamic State had put America at risk.

“That attack you saw in Paris? You’ll see an attack in the United States,” Mr. McCain said. He repeated his frequent assessment that the president’s foreign policy is “a disaster” and “delusional.” He said “of course” he would have made a better commander in chief.

Let’s follow the logic here. McCain is arguing that because we don’t have enough troops in Iraq, someone could get some guns and shoot a bunch of Americans — presumably at ISIS’s behest — whereas if we had more troops there, ISIS would still want to launch (or order, or encourage, or inspire) that kind of an attack, but they wouldn’t be able to.

So what exactly does McCain think was required for those two men to attack the Charlie Hebdo offices? Was it an international conspiracy involving a huge mobilization of resources and the coordination of large numbers of people spread across the world? No. Despite the fact that al Qaeda in Yemen is trying to claim responsibility for it, all that the attack required was two guys and a couple of guns.

Yet McCain thinks that whether such an attack occurs in America will be determined by how strong and aggressive we’re being against ISIS.

McCain’s good friend Lindsey Graham had a similar interpretation of the events in Paris: it’s going to happen here, and it’s because President Obama is weak. “I fear we can expect and must prepare for more attacks like this in the future,” he said, adding that, because of Barack Obama’s poor policy choices, “I fear our intelligence capabilities, those designed to prevent such an attack from taking place on our shores, are quickly eroding.”

But even if you believed that Obama is eroding our intelligence capabilities (and I have no idea what he’s talking about on that score), does that make us more vulnerable to a couple of guys with guns shooting up a public place? If such an attack were in the works, it wouldn’t require getting resources from overseas, and it wouldn’t require coordination and communication of the kind American intelligence might intercept. All that would be necessary is for someone who is angry enough to go to a gun show, pick up some heavy weaponry, and he’d be on his way. And he probably wouldn’t have to go far — according to this calendar, there are 61 gun shows happening this week in America — not this year or this month, but just this week.

Given how easy it would be to carry out an attack like the one on Charlie Hebdo, the real question is why it doesn’t happen all the time. While there have been a number of cases in recent years in which right-wing terrorists have tried to shoot a bunch of people, there have been only a couple of occurrences of politically motivated jihadist attacks like the ones in Paris — not an attempt to plant a bomb or do something similarly elaborate, but just somebody taking a gun and shooting a bunch of people — most notably that of Nidal Hassan, who killed 13 people at Ft. Hood in 2009 (there was also a Seattle man who killed four people last year and claimed it was revenge for American military actions).

So why doesn’t it happen more here? The answer is that unlike their European counterparts, American Muslims are as a group extremely assimilated and patriotic. So there’s virtually no one here who wants to carry out such an attack. Our relative safety on this score isn’t a triumph of intelligence, it’s a triumph of the American culture of welcoming immigrants.

Of course intelligence is important in preventing terrorism. But Republican critics, who are so proud of their supposedly deep understanding of national security issues, seem to believe that every kind of terrorist attack is exactly alike, and is made more or less likely for exactly the same reasons. That’s the kind of sophisticated thinking on terrorism we’ve supposedly been missing for the last six years.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributing Writer, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, January 14, 2015

January 15, 2015 Posted by | John McCain, Paris Shootings, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Whose Security?”: The GOP Is Playing Games With The Department Of Homeland Security’s Funding In Order To Placate Its Extremists

The Republicans are railing against President Barack Obama for not having a high level U.S. official marching in solidarity with the French this past weekend. OK, that was a mistake on Obama’s part, but this from the Republican crowd that was so anti-France it wanted to change the name of “French fries” in the House of Representatives cafeteria to “Freedom fries”? This from the crowd who will vote tomorrow to approve a Homeland Security Bill totaling $39.7 billion only if it guts our immigration system and refuses to fund the Dream Act, deporting hundreds of thousands of children as well as parents? This from the Republicans who refused to act for a year and a half on a bipartisan Senate bill on immigration that passed with over two-thirds of the vote?

Does Speaker John Boehner really want to put in jeopardy the funding for Homeland Security, especially after the attacks in France and the raised threat level? I doubt it. But the speaker needs to throw his sizable right-wing caucus a bone and let them vote to defund Obama’s immigration plans. He then prays that the Senate saves him, doesn’t pass this absurd piece of legislation, so then they can end up passing a clean bill funding Homeland Security before the end of February when funding runs out. Or if the president is forced to veto the bill, he figures that somehow some fig leaf can be created to allow him to basically bring up a clean funding bill.

This strategy, negotiated with the extremist members of the House of Representatives, was lunacy in December; it is akin to a Kamikaze mission for Republicans now.

In fact, it is a double whammy. It convinces voters that Republicans are the anti-Hispanic and anti-immigrant party, and that they are more than willing to sacrifice our nation’s security to prove how intolerant they are as a party.

My guess is that the reason Boehner wants a vote on Wednesday is to get it out of the way, to give the extremists their say and then avoid a last minute crisis over Homeland Security funding. One day of a “shutdown” of those critical agencies is one day too many.

It will be interesting to see how many of these strategic blunders the Republicans make over the course of the next two years. The House, of course, can pass whatever it wants, but if the GOP puts forth bills as unrealistic and unhelpful as this effort, it will certainly pay the price at the ballot box. It will be their own job security that will be put in peril.


By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, January 13, 2015

January 15, 2015 Posted by | Homeland Security, House Republicans, Immigration | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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