mykeystrokes.com

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

“It’s All Academic Governor”: Chris Christie’s Debate Phobia Won’t Win Him GOP Support

“We are not a debating society. We are a political operation that needs to win.”

Thus did Chris Christie offer one of the most pregnant statements yet in the ongoing Republican argument over the party’s future. At the risk of sounding like one of those “professors” the New Jersey governor regularly condemns, I’d argue that these 15 words, spoken at a Republican National Committee meeting in Boston last week, raise more questions than they answer. Here are a few.

How do you decide on a winning strategy without debating it first? What is wrong with debating differences on policy and philosophy that people in political parties inevitably have? Don’t the voters expect to have some idea of what a party and a candidate believe before they cast their ballots — and doesn’t that imply debate? Doesn’t the phrase “political operation” risk implying that you are seeking power for power’s sake and not for any larger purpose?

There is also this: Isn’t Christie himself engaged in an important debate with Sen. Rand Paul over national security issues? There’s nothing academic about that.

One of two things is going on here: Either Christie knows he’ll need to have the debate he claims he wishes to avoid but doesn’t want to look like he is questioning fundamental conservative beliefs, or he really believes that the “I can win and the other guys can’t” argument is enough to carry him to the 2016 Republican presidential nomination he shows every sign of seeking. The latest signal came Friday when, under pressure from pro-gun activists, he vetoed a weapon ban he once advocated.

His target audience, after all, is an increasingly right-wing group of Republican primary voters who are unforgiving of ideological deviations. The last thing Christie needs is the sort of debate that casts him as a “moderate.”

Let’s stipulate that Christie is far less “moderate” than either his fans among Democrats and independents or the hardest-core conservatives seem to believe. Simply because Christie was nice to President Obama after Hurricane Sandy — at a moment when New Jersey needed all the federal help it could get — lots of people forget how conservative the pre-Sandy Christie was.

In 2011, he went to the summer seminar sponsored by the Koch brothers in Colorado, heaped praise on them and said, among other things: “We know the answers. They’re painful answers. We’re going to have to reduce Medicare benefits. We’re going to have to reduce Medicaid benefits. We’re going to have to raise the Social Security age. We’re going to have to do these things. We’re going to have to cut all type of other government programs that some people in this room might like. But we’re gonna have to do it.”

If I were on the right, I’d be taken with Christie’s skills at making conservative positions seem “pragmatic” and “practical.” Candidates who are perceived as dogmatic or highly ideological rarely win elections.

But here’s the problem: You can’t run as a pragmatic candidate if your party won’t let you. For Christie to win, he will have to convince the grass-roots Republicans who decide nominations that the party’s steady march rightward is a mistake.

Surely Paul, Ted Cruz and others among Christie’s potential opponents won’t let him slide by without challenging him hard — yes, “debating” him — about what he really stands for. Christie needs something more substantial than “You guys are losers,” even though he would relish saying it.

Mitt Romney’s experience in 2012 is instructive. He was a relatively pragmatic governor, especially on health care, and could have been a more attractive candidate than he turned out to be. Yet the dynamics of a Republican primary electorate that is short on middle-of-the-roaders pushed Romney away from his old self and toward positions that made him less electable. Faced with opponents to his right, he was reactive and drifted their way. In the end, it wasn’t clear who Romney was, other than the candidate who spoke derisively about the “47 percent.”

Those who understand how a “political operation” works know that genuine pragmatism requires a defeated party to engage in rethinking, not just repositioning. Bill Clinton laid out a detailed program and a set of arguments as a “New Democrat.” George W. Bush spoke of “compassionate conservatism” and challenged at least some of the most reactionary positions held by congressional Republicans.

Winning reelection this November by the biggest possible margin will buy Christie time. But eventually the debating society will beckon. He’ll have to be very clear, if not professorial, about the argument he wants to make.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, August 18, 2013

August 20, 2013 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Mitt Romney The Product”: A New Romney Appears On A Monthly, Weekly And Sometimes Daily Basis

As he tries to engineer a comeback in this week’s presidential debate, President Obama needs to recognize two things. First, when it comes to politics, Mitt Romney treats himself as a product, not a person. Second, Republicans cannot defend their proposals in terms that are acceptable to a majority of voters.

You can imagine Romney someday saying: “Politicians are products, my friend.” There’s no other way to explain why a candidate would seem to believe he can alter what he stands for at will. His campaign has been an exercise in identifying which piece of the electorate he needs at any given moment and adjusting his views, sometimes radically, to suit this requirement.

In that respect, Romney does Richard Nixon one better. When Nixon was looking to revive his career in the 1968 campaign, the terribly scarred veteran of so many political wars realized his old persona wouldn’t sell. And so he created what came to be known as the “New Nixon” — thoughtful, statesmanlike and tempered. The operation worked until Nixon’s old self got him into trouble.

But manufacturing the New Nixon took years of painstaking effort. New Romneys appear on a monthly, weekly and sometimes daily basis. Thus did Romney move far to the right on immigration last year because he needed to dispatch nomination rival Rick Perry, a moderate on that one issue. Since then, Romney has been trying to backtrack to appease Latino voters.

During the same nomination battle, Romney abruptly changed his tax policy to placate the supply-side-Wall-Street-Journal-Grover-Norquist axis in the GOP. Romney’s initial tax proposal was relatively modest. The right wasn’t happy. No problem, said Romney, and out came his new tax plan that included a 20 percent cut in income tax rates, “rate cuts” being a term of near-religious significance to supply-siders.

Romney pointedly asserted (again, in the primaries) that he wanted the tax cut to go to everyone, “including the top 1 percent.” But this doesn’t sell to swing voters now, especially after the leaked video in which Romney wrote off 47 percent of Americans as incorrigibly dependent. So in the first debate, Romney tried to pretend that he didn’t want to cut rich people’s taxes. He reassured us that “I’m not going to reduce the share of taxes paid by high-income people.” (By the way, he could cut taxes for the rich a lot and still keep their “share” of the government’s overall tax take the same.)

And then there’s abortion, an issue about which you have to wonder if Romney cares at all. Without much effort, you can find video online in which Romney declares with passion and conviction that he is absolutely committed to a woman’s right to choose — and video in which he declares with equal passion and conviction that he is absolutely opposed to abortion and committed to the right to life. Just recently, Romney moved again, offering this shameless gem of obfuscation to the Des Moines Register editorial board: “There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda.” There is no candidate I am familiar with who has tried to have as many positions on abortion in one lifetime as Mitt Romney.

But there’s an underlying reason for Romney’s shape-shifting. It’s the same reason Rep. Paul Ryan always resorts to impressive-sounding budget speak and mathematical gobbledygook to evade explaining the impact of his budgets on actual human beings.

Romney, Ryan and the entire right know that their most deeply held belief — the one on which they won’t compromise — is rejected by the vast majority of Americans. That’s their faith that every problem in the economy and in society can be solved by throwing more money at rich people through tax cuts.

Vice President Biden kept Ryan on the defensive during most of Thursday night’s debate precisely because he refused to let anything distract him from driving this central point home. Without pause and without mercy, Biden kept bringing viewers back to the obsession of the current Republican Party with “taking care of only the very wealthy.”

Obama doesn’t have to look angry or agitated in this week’s debate. He simply needs to invite voters to see that Romney, the product, will give them no clue as to what Romney, the person, might do as president. Romney keeps changing the packaging because he knows that the policies inside the box are not what voters are looking for.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, October 14, 2012

October 15, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“True Perversity”: Mitt Romney’s Obscene Posturing As A Wall Street Critic

Among the many obfuscations of Mitt Romney last night, this was perhaps the biggest laugher of them all:

ROMNEY: Dodd-Frank was passed, and it includes within it a number of provisions that I think have some unintended consequences that are harmful to the economy. One is it designates a number of banks as too big to fail, and they’re effectively guaranteed by the federal government. This is the biggest kiss that’s been given to—to New York banks I’ve ever seen. This is an enormous boon for them. There’s been—22 community and small banks have closed since Dodd-Frank. So there’s one example I wouldn’t designate five banks as too big to fail and give them a blank check. That’s one of the unintended consequences of Dodd-Frank. It wasn’t thought through properly.

Romney—the private equity veteran running a presidential campaign funded by Wall Street, on a platform that contains a full repeal of every financial regulation over the past four years—positioning himself as an opponent of those big “New York banks” was a historic moment in presidential debate cravenness. (And a real missed opportunity for Obama to wallop his opponent).

So what exactly was Romney talking about? It’s a complicated answer, but understanding it reveals the true perversity of Romney’s posturing.

Dodd-Frank has two provisions regarding too-big-to-fail that Romney is talking about here. The first is the ability of the Financial Stability Oversight Council, created by the legislation, to name financial institutions “systemically significant.” This means they are so big that their failure could threaten the health of the financial sector, and that designation subjects them to heightened regulation and higher capital requirements.

The big banks hate this requirement, for obvious reasons—they come under increased scrutiny and restrictions. So Republicans have been dutifully attacking it. (Romney’s running mate, Representative Paul Ryan, repeatedly blasted it before joining the ticket). The GOP argument, as you heard Romney deliver it, is that by giving them the “systemically significant label, the government is officially “designating” banks as too-big-to-fail—a very bad-sounding thing indeed!

But this is nonsense—these firms are too big to fail. The FSOC designation doesn’t make them so, and is in no way a “kiss” to the big banks—again, it subjects them to higher regulation. Romney and his party would prefer to repeal this provision, full stop, and thus effectively stick their heads in the sand about too-big-to-fail institutions. It’s like saying a doctor who diagnoses someone with cancer has given it to him.

Interestingly, a key feature of this provision is that FSOC can name non-banks as systemically significant, and just this week news broke that AIG is on the verge of receiving this label. Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee have been trying to amend Dodd-Frank to protect AIG from that designation, which to me raises an interesting question about Romney’s timing here.

In any case, when Romney spoke about “guaranteeing” a bailout, and of “blank checks,” he’s echoing another GOP complaint about the resolution authority provision of Dodd-Frank. That gives the federal government the power to wind-down big banks in the event of a failure. The idea is to dissolve the bank, without taxpayer money, not save it—Rep. Barney Frank has called this a “death panel” for big banks. (Pat Garofalo wrote on this issue for us here).

Banks also hate this provision, preferring instead the inevitable ad hoc, blank-check bailout that we saw in 2008. So Republicans have been going after resolution authority—the 2012 Ryan Budget would repeal it—by arguing that the provision somehow guarantees bailouts. This is the same flim-flam as before: the bailout is going to happen either way if the firm is too big to fail, and by repealing resolution authority, you take away the increased power of the government under Dodd-Frank to deal the problem. (Former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson said he “would have loved to have had” resolution authority in 2008 instead if issuing straight-up bailouts).

Many progressive critics have legitimate complaints about the failure of Dodd-Frank to be tougher in dealing with too-big-to-fail firms, but to be absolutely clear, that’s not what Romney and the Republicans are trying to do. They’re trying to get rid of the limited reforms that have been made. To do it while preening as tough-on-Wall-Street politicians is deeply, deeply cynical.

By: George Zornick, The Nation, October 4, 2012

October 5, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, Financial Reform | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Irony Of Tax Day: The Dwindling, Victorious Tea Party

In case you didn’t notice, today is Tax Day, which means it’s also the second anniversary of one of the tea party movement’s biggest moments, April 15, 2009, when dozens, if not hundreds, of well-attended protests were held around the country.

It was a coming-out party of sorts for the movement. No one really knew what the tea party was at that point, and, as momentum built toward the Tax Day rallies, details began to emerge regarding just who they were, and who was organizing them.

Today, the movement seems to be dwindling.

Tax Day, 2011, came and has largely gone without the same kind of massive, irate throngs in every state and major city. We can attribute that, to some degree, to the scheduling shift of Tax Day to April 18 and the movement’s consequent dispersed focus, holding rallies on Friday, Monday, and over the weekend, rather than on just a single day. But you can’t deny that, as an activist movement, the tea party has lost some momentum, attendance-wise.

A Michele Bachmann rally in South Carolina Monday drew a measly 300 people. A few weeks ago, maybe a couple hundred showed up to a Capitol Hill protests held by Tea Party Patriots, the nation’s largest tea party membership group, which once estimated its membership at over 15 million. It was hard to tell how many were there to participate and how many were there to spectate and the tea partiers were almost outnumbered by the reporters.

A Virginia tea party activist told me recently that members of his group are spread too thin. “We’re kind of saturated right now,” he said, explaining that different people and groups ask them to do too many things. He showed me a few of the emails sent around to members, asking various things of them. It’s a problem, he said.

As the activist infrastructure has built up, so have the demands on individual activists. With the initial fervor wearing off, it makes for a tired bunch of crusaders.

And yet the tea party seems to have accomplished its main goal: bending the will of the Republican Party.

Republican politicians widely cater messages and platforms to a tea party audience. Listening to what is said by Republican presidential contenders, House members, and candidates for office, it’s tough to argue the tea party hasn’t left its mark. It’s taboo not to talk about drastic cuts to federal spending, whether or not one has a plan for the specifics.

During the midterms, Republican candidates met with tea party groups, seeking their approval. It became impossible to distinguish a “tea party” candidate from a regular Republican.

That effect has carried over into 2012. The Tea Party Express will partner with CNN to host a GOP presidential debate, and the movement’s influence will finally be institutionalized in the 2012 primary contest.

Perhaps most significantly, Washington is now engaged in a serious discussion of how to reduce spending levels over the long term. While President Obama rejected the House GOP’s drastic 2012 budget proposal out of hand, it’s safe to say he was forced by November’s results and the tea-party-fueled GOP House takeover to propose a big number, $4 trillion, of cuts from the deficit over the next 12 years.

The tea party movement can legitimately take some credit for that. We’ll find out, as the 2012 election approaches, just how much gas is left in the tea party’s tank. It’s likely that the GOP 2012 contest and the tea party’s rallies will blend into one continuous political event, with candidates taking turns on stage and with lots of people turning out.

But the movement is in an ironic place now. Without an election this year and with attendance tapering off, it’s also become institutionalized as a fixture in American politics, having possibly swayed enough 2012 candidates to preempt the presidential primary from even being a flashpoint in the GOP’s identity.

Apparently what we’re seeing now is what victory looks like.

By: Chris Good, The Atlantic, April 18, 2011

April 18, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Deficits, Economy, Elections, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Liberty, Media, Politics, President Obama, Republicans, States, Taxes, Tea Party, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

%d bloggers like this: