mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“That’s Just How Those People Are”: Land Of The “Free Stuff,” Home Of The Brave

If you want to explain why your party lost a presidential election, there are a number of places to look. You can blame your candidate and his campaign (which usually means, “If only they had listened to me!”). You can blame your party and ask if it should examine its ideology or its rhetoric. You can blame the media. Or you can blame the voters. As the old political saw says, “The people have spoken—the bastards.” And that is what one conservative after another has been saying over the last week.

They aren’t saying that the voters are uninformed, or that they allowed themselves to be duped. Instead, Barack Obama’s re-election is said to be a moral failing on the part of the American public. They got what they wanted, conservatives are saying. And what was it they wanted? Universal health coverage, higher taxes on the wealthy, strong environmental regulations, legal abortion? Nope. They wanted free stuff. Because that’s just how those people are.

This was perhaps articulated most vividly by Bill O’Reilly, who on election night lamented the fact that “the white establishment is no longer the majority” and said, “It’s not a traditional America anymore, and there are 50 percent of the voting public who want stuff. They want things. And who is going to give them things? President Obama.”

It didn’t start on election day; this is a tune that Republicans have been playing for a couple of years now, and nearly everyone, from media figures to members of Congress to their presidential nominee himself, joined in with increasing frequency over the last few months. “You either get free stuff or you get freedom. You cannot have both,” said Sarah Palin back in September. “Offering Americans a check is a more fruitful political strategy than offering them the opportunity to take control of and responsibility for their own lives,” wrote National Review‘s Kevin Williamson after the election. “You have two generations now who believe that the government owes them something,” said conservative columnist Cal Thomas. “If you’re looking for free stuff you don’t have to pay for, vote for the other guy,” said Mitt Romney during the campaign. And of course, his infamous 47 percent video was all about those people who think they are “entitled” to government benefits.

The truth, of course, is that every single person in America gets benefits from the U.S. government. We get defended from invasion, we get roads to drive on, we get reasonably clean air to breathe, we get parks and schools and so much else. But that’s not the “free stuff” conservatives are talking about. They’re talking about the government giving you something directly as an individual, like money. But there’s a problem here too: Lots and lots of Americans, including most of those whom Republicans deem morally worthy, get plenty of stuff from the government. I’m not even talking about bank bailouts, or corporations like General Electric rewriting the tax code so they pay nothing. I’m talking about individual people, the kind of people Republicans like, getting direct government aid.

There is nothing–nothing–that makes, say, Medicare superior to unemployment benefits, even though as far as conservatives are concerned, only receiving the latter makes you a “taker.” If you’re unemployed, you paid taxes, and now the government is helping you in your time of need. There is nothing that makes the mortgage interest deduction morally superior to food stamps, even though conservatives like one but not the other. The government has decided, wisely or not, that it wants to promote home ownership, so it pays for part of millions of homeowners’ mortgage interest. The government has also decided that it’s bad for our society if people starve, so if your income falls below the level where it will be difficult to afford food and also pay for the other necessities of life, it give you some help in buying food.

So what is it that, in conservatives’ minds, distinguishes the “makers” from the “takers,” particularly when, as political scientists Suzanne Mettler and John Sides report, “97 percent of Republicans and 98 percent of Democrats report that they have used at least one government social policy”? Think hard, and it’ll come to you.

Even if Mitt Romney had not chosen Ayn Rand acolyte Paul Ryan to be his running mate, this election would still have seen the triumph of a Randian attitude on the right, in which every policy and everyone they don’t like is attacked as a despicable parasite sucking off the labors of their economic betters. We had Romney’s absurdly mendacious welfare ad (“You wouldn’t have to work … they just send you your welfare check”). We had Newt Gingrich proclaiming that he’d love to explain to the NAACP “why the African American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.” We had the attack on Sandra Fluke for allegedly wanting “free contraception,” or even asking for taxpayers to pay for it (“Ms. Fluke wants us to pick up her lifestyle expenses!” said Bill O’Reilly), when what she advocated was that the insurance coverage that women themselves pay for should cover contraception. We had conservatives fascinated by the idea that poor voters were being given free “Obama phones” (don’t ask). To the right, if you were voting for Obama it could only be because you wanted to get something from the government you didn’t deserve.

But if you want to find a real sense of entitlement, the place to look is among the country’s wealthy, the people who turned over hundreds of millions of dollars to Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie in their failed attempt to drive Barack Obama from office. They may not have been able to propel one of their own to the White House, but despite all their resentment and complaining things have never been better for the country’s economic Übermenschen. Not only do they hold more of the nation’s wealth than at any time since the Gilded Age, the privileges of that wealth have never been greater. Their taxes have never been lower. The entire world offers special concierge services to shield them from the indignities and inconveniences of everyday life. And now, they have new freedoms in the political realm as well; where they might have had to hold their tongues in the past, thanks to Citizens United they are now free to strong-arm their employees to vote in the right way, complete with threats of layoffs should the voters be so vulgar as to elect a Democratic president.

Perhaps by the time 2016 arrives, the Republican party will find a message that resonates with voters more effectively than “You people make me sick.” For now, though, that’s what they’re sticking with.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, November 12, 2012

November 14, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Unfinished Business”: President’s Obama’s Victory Should Settle A Bitter Argument

President Obama’s reelection was at once a deeply personal triumph and a victory for the younger, highly diverse and broadly progressive America that rallied to him. It was a result that ought to settle the bitter argument that ground the nation’s government to a near-standstill.

The president spent much of the year fighting the effects of a stubbornly sluggish economic recovery and facing implacable opposition among Republicans in Congress who made defeating him a high priority. He fought back by undermining Mitt Romney’s major asset as a private-equity specialist and by enlisting Bill Clinton as his chief explainer.

And he mobilized a mighty army of African American and Hispanic voters. They were all the more determined to exercise their voting rights after Republicans sought in state after state to make it harder for them to cast ballots. Latino voters turned out overwhelmingly for the president, guaranteeing that immigration reform will be on the next Congress’s agenda.

Just as important for governance over the next four years, the president took on an increasingly militant conservatism intent on vastly reducing the responsibilities of government and cutting taxes even more on the wealthiest Americans. In the process, he built a broad alliance of moderates and progressives who still believe in government’s essential role in regulating the marketplace and broadening the reach of opportunity.

Many have argued that the president ran a “small” and “negative” campaign, and he was certainly not shy about going after Romney. But this misses the extent to which Obama made specific commitments and repeatedly cast the election as a choice between two different philosophical directions.

He was not vague about what he meant. Obama campaigned explicitly on higher taxes for the wealthy as part of a balanced budget deal. He stoutly defended the federal government’s interventions to bring the economy back from the brink — and especially his rescue of the auto companies.

It cannot be forgotten that saving General Motors and Chrysler was the most “interventionist” and “intrusive” economic policy Obama pursued — and it proved to be the most electorally successful of all of his decisions. The auto bailout was key to Obama’s crucial victory in Ohio, where six in 10 voters approved the rescue. Union households in the state voted strongly for the president, and he held his own among working-class whites.

The president also called for higher levels of government spending for job training and education, particularly community colleges. And he spoke repeatedly against turning Medicare into a voucher program and sending Medicaid to the states.

The voters who reelected the president knew what they were voting for. They also knew what they were voting against. Romney paid a high price for his comments suggesting that “47 percent” of the electorate was hopelessly dependent on government. Writing off nearly half the potential voters is never a good idea. On Tuesday, a clear majority rejected that notion. It rejected as well Rep. Paul Ryan’s categorization of the country as made up of “makers” and “takers.”

Romney tried hard to scramble toward the political middle in the campaign’s final month, and that too should send a signal: In this election, the hard-line ideas of the tea party were rejected not only by those who voted against the Republicans but also by Republicans themselves. And Republicans will be well aware that tea party candidates, notably in Indiana and Missouri, sharply set back their efforts to take control of the Senate.

Republicans will take solace in their success in holding on to the House of Representatives. But the party as a whole will have to come to terms with its failures to expand beyond its base of older white voters and to translate right-wing slogans into a coherent agenda. Republicans need to have a serious talk with themselves, and they need to change.

All of this strengthens Obama’s hand. It will not be so easy for Republicans to keep saying no. They can no longer use their desire to defeat Obama as a rallying cry. They cannot credibly insist that tax increases can never be part of a solution to the nation’s fiscal problems.

And now Obama will have the strongest argument a politician can offer. Repeatedly, he asked the voters to settle Washington’s squabbles in his favor. On Tuesday, they did. And so a president who took office four years ago on a wave of emotion may now have behind him something more valuable and durable: a majority that thought hard about his stewardship and decided to let him finish the job he had begun.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, November 7, 2012

November 8, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Foundation Of Evasions And Lies”: Can A “Post-Truth” Candidate Be Elected President?

Not long ago, Jay Rosen memorably dubbed Mitt Romney’s bid for the presidency a “post truth” campaign. Within 48 hours, we may find out whether a “post truth” candidate can be elected president.

If there is one constant to this campaign, it’s that Romney has startled many observers by operating from the basic premise that there is literally no set of boundaries he needs to follow when it comes to the veracity of his assertions, the transparency he provides about his fundraising and finances, and the specificity of his plans for the country. On the dishonesty front, this has grown more pronounced in recent days, with Romney’s embrace of the Jeep-to-China lie as a closing argument in Ohio and his absurd attacks on Obama for urging people to vote.

But the key to this is how elemental it has long been to his campaign. Romney’s entire bid for the presidency rests on a foundation of evasions and lies. David Corn explains:

The Republican presidential candidate built much of his campaign on basic untruths about the president. Romney blasted Obama for breaking a “promise” to keep unemployment below 8 percent. He claimed the president was “apologizing for America abroad.” He accused Obama of adding “nearly as much debt as all the previous presidents combined” and of cutting $500 million from Medicare. None of this was true. (See here, here, here, and here.)

All of these apocryphal statements have been essential parts of Romney’s fundamental case against Obama: He’s failed to revive the economy and he’s placed the nation at risk. Rather than stick to a discourse premised on actual differences (he believes in government investments and would raise taxes on the wealthy to fund them; I want to shrink government and cut taxes) — and bend the truth within acceptable boundaries to bolster the argument — Romney has repeatedly relied on elemental falsehoods.

But this goes well beyond Romney’s claims about Obama. It also concerns what he would do as president. Romney’s own campaign has proven unable to back up the promises in his 12 million jobs plan, even though it is the centerpiece of his governing agenda and his response to the most pressing problem facing the nation. And that’s only the beginning. Jonathan Cohn:

Here we are, a day left in the campaign, and Romney still hasn’t told us how he’d offset the cost of his massive tax cut — except to say he’d do it through deductions without raising taxes on the middle class, an approach that independent analysts have said is mathematically impossible. Romney still hasn’t provided details on his “five-point plan” to boost the economy, even though his central claim as a candidate is that he’d do more to improve growth. Romney still hasn’t told us which programs he’d cut in order to cap non-defense federal spending at 16 percent, even though independent analysts have suggested doing so would require draconian cuts few Americans would find acceptable. Even in the spotlight of a nationally televised debate, when confronted with these questions, Romney wouldn’t answer.

And let’s throw Romney’s “47 percent” comments into the mix. Within 48 hours, we may find out whether it’s possible to get elected president after advancing a set of policy proposals that amount to a sham; after openly refusing to share basic governing intentions until after the election; after shifting positions relentlessly on virtually every issue the campaign has touched upon, including the one (health care) that once was seen as central to his case for national office; after refusing to share the most basic info about his own massive fortune and about the mega-bundlers that are fueling his enormous campaign expenditures; and after writing off nearly half the nation as freeloaders.

 

By: Greg Sargent, The Washington Post Plum Line, November 5, 2012

November 6, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Tomorrow, Tomorrow, I Love You, Tomorrow”: Mitt Romney Changing His Tune In Final Hours

As he made his closing appeal to voters on the final day before the election, Mitt Romney sounded as though, at any moment, he might burst into a song from the musical “Annie.”

“Tomorrow’s a moment to look into the future and imagine what we can do,” he said.

“Tomorrow, we get to work rebuilding our country, restoring our confidence and renewing our conviction.”

“Tomorrow, on November 6th, we come together for a better future.”

“Tomorrow is a new beginning. Tomorrow we begin a new tomorrow.”

There was something new and unusual about this Romney — and not only that he had appropriated Stephen Colbert’s campaign theme, “Making a better tomorrow, tomorrow.” Romney in the closing days of the campaign was uplifting, optimistic and inspirational — in other words, almost entirely different from the man we saw and heard these past many months.

“The best achievements are shared achievements,” the reformed Romney told about 5,000 supporters at the Patriot Center at George Mason University in Fairfax. “I’ve learned that respect and goodwill go a long way and are usually returned in kind. That’s how I’ll conduct myself as president. I’ll bring people together. I won’t just represent one party, I’ll represent one nation.”

Jettisoned from the “closing argument” he has made on the stump the last four days of the campaign are the harshest attacks and the most mendacious of his accusations against President Obama. Gone is the charge that Obama is leading the nation into European socialism, his false claims that Obama took an “apology tour” of the country, his insinuations that Obama doesn’t understand the United States, that he’s in over his head — and other lines that identified Obama as un-American, as alien.

In place of those lines, Romney substituted tough but reasonable criticism of Obama, coupled with an appeal for Americans to come together. “I’d like you to reach across the street to that neighbor with the other yard sign,” he said, “and we’ll reach across the aisle here in Washington to people of good faith in the other party.”

As I listened to these rare words come out of Romney’s mouth, I was joined on the floor of the Patriot Center by Stuart Stevens, Romney’s top strategist, who is justifiably pleased that his candidate, left for dead by the pundit class several weeks ago, appears to be heading for a close finish. The Obama campaign, Stevens said, “didn’t disqualify him.”

That’s true, but hearing Romney’s new tone for the last days of the campaign, I couldn’t help but wonder whether he would be in a better position if he had taken the high road months ago. Stevens’s answer: “It would be old by now.”

Maybe so. And maybe Romney would have been destroyed by the Obama campaign’s attacks if he had tried to stay above the fray. But maybe he would have appeared more presidential — which is the image Stevens was going for in the revamped stump speech, delivered off the teleprompter Republicans love to revile when Obama uses it.

The uplifting Mitt has been introduced to crowds in the final days with a soft-focus video set to gentle piano music. Volunteers hand out “Moms for Mitt” signs to audience members, adding to the soft-and-fuzzy feel. The speech begins with a few brief words from Ann Romney, who asked those gathered in Fairfax, “Are we going to be neighbors soon?”

The crowd was big (the campaign decided to use only half of the 10,000-capacity arena, which created an overflow of a couple of thousand outside), but Romney gave them few of the anti-Obama applause lines, delivering his criticism more in sadness than anger: “Four years ago, then-candidate Obama promised to do so very much, but he’s done so very little.”

Of course, Romney’s lofty closing isn’t likely to erase his divisive campaign, in which he wrote off 47 percent of Americans as moochers and went after Obama in ways that were flagrantly false and sometimes racially tinged. And few are likely to believe his late call for bonhomie — that’s a staple of presidential campaigns’ closing arguments — or to accept that he no longer holds the “severely conservative” views that won him the GOP nomination.

Had he offered these views earlier, he might have been viewed as a bigger man, and a better candidate. “I won’t spend my effort trying to pass partisan legislation that’s unrelated to job growth,” he vowed, promising to “speak for the aspirations of all Americans.”

“Walk with me. Let’s walk together,” he offered. A nice sentiment — but it would have been more plausible if he hadn’t spent the past year kneecapping his opponents.

 

By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, November 5, 2012

November 6, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Dreams Of His Father”: Mitt Romney’s Personality Problem

Let me give you the lowdown, one overlooked reason why Republican Mitt Romney will lose the presidential race Tuesday: the man Mitt himself. He can’t overcome his own character.

For 11 months of 2012, he had many chances to say something that was charming, witty, funny, or moving. But what a sour and dour vibe all the way.

We Americans don’t like that, especially in tough times—remember Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s jauntiness in the Great Depression? We like to like our presidents, of whatever party. The winning Barack Obama, on the other hand, is generally liked by the electorate, a large advantage in a close contest.

Laughter and light never broke through on Romney’s trail and grail to match the man his father—Gov. George Romney was—perchance to surpass him. It didn’t happen once. His wife Ann tried so hard to humanize him. Yet Romney never bonded with the American people, not even with the base of white men (mostly) who will vote for him tomorrow. Obama, who grew up a fatherless child and spent years searching for dreams from his absent Kenyan father, by contrast, has much more lightness and grace.

Give Romney this: tall, dark, and handsome, the man does look the part—his hair always perfectly parted. We were relieved to see him win the Republican circus freak primary. And yes, we were impressed at his crisp performance at the first debate.

But that’s all I have to say for the uxorious former governor of Massachusetts. The Mormon Organization Man’s excessive greed and ambition barely lurk below the slick surface. He can’t connect with 47 percent of us, by his own admission. A man of the people, he ain’t.

His vexing negativity goes hand in hand with an unwillingness to stick with any bedrock beliefs. The Washington Post ran an excellent editorial denouncing Romney’s “contempt” for voters, and his changing his positions radically over the course of his career. As the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy declared of Romney back in 1994: “I am pro-choice … My opponent is multiple-choice.” The line brought down the house in Boston.

It’s also worth noting that Romney’s peers—men who have vied with him on political stages—can’t stand him. I mean, it’s more than the usual give-and-take, spirited conflict between rivals. Kennedy, famous for having friends and allies on the other side of the aisle, found Romney hard work on a personal level. Sens. John Kerry, Harry Reid, and John McCain—two Democrats and a Republican—are three other senators known to loathe Romney.

The more we got to know you, Mitt Romney, the less we found to like. And in the end, presidential politics is personal.

 

By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. News and World Report, November 5, 2012

November 6, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

%d bloggers like this: