Saturday, August 11, 2012

Paul Ryan, "an authentically dangerous zealot" with little experience

So it's Ryan.

Ryan Lizza has a profile of the candidate in The New Yorker, and he reacts to the pick in a blog post this morning:

For one thing, Ryan has no significant private-sector experience. Besides summer jobs working at McDonald's or at his family's construction company, or waiting tables as a young Washington staffer, Ryan has none of the business-world experience Romney frequently touts as essential for governing. In the run-up to his first campaign for Congress, in 1998, that gap was enough of a concern for Ryan that he briefly became a "marketing consultant" at the family business, an obvious bit of résumé puffing.

But Ryan's Washington experience is also light, at least for a potential President -- which, after all, is the main job description of a Vice-President. Ryan has worked as a think-tank staffer and Congressman, but he's never been in charge of a large organization, and he has little experience with foreign policy. Given how Sarah Palin was criticized for her lack of such experience, I'm surprised that Romney would pick someone whose ability to immediately step into the top job is open to question.

And the experience that Ryan does have is not exactly what voters are clamoring for at the moment. The bulk of Ryan's House career coincided with the Presidency of George W. Bush, during which he was a reliable vote for many Bush policies that have not aged well: Medicare Part D; the Iraq War; and the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Ryan told me that voting for all of that spending, which added trillions to the deficit, made him "miserable," but he'll need a better explanation in his October debate with Joe Biden.

Paul Ryan is an authentically dangerous zealot. He does not want to reform entitlements. He wants to eliminate them. He wants to eliminate them because he doesn't believe they are a legitimate function of government. He is a smiling, aw-shucks murderer of opportunity, a creator of dystopias in which he never will have to live. This now is an argument not over what kind of political commonwealth we will have, but rather whether or not we will have one at all, because Paul Ryan does not believe in the most primary institution of that commonwealth -- our government. The first three words of the Preamble to the Constitution make a lie out of every speech he's ever given. He looks at the country and sees its government as an something alien that is holding down the individual entrepreneurial genius of 200 million people, and not as their creation, and the vehicle through which that genius can be channelled for the general welfare.

Brace yourself for a lot of Eddie Munster comparisons.

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Paul Ryan for VP: A cure worse than the disease?

Well, there it is. Paul Ryan is Mitt Romney's VP choice. As they say in certain parts of the world, I am gobsmacked. Never saw this one coming. I always thought it would be the worst thing in the world for Romney to be forced to talk about the privatization of Medicare in the months leading up to election day. Given that Romney has been loathe to talk about specifics of any kind, it stood to reason that he would avoid the one VP candidate who has been lauded for his "courageous" budget proposals, full of all sorts of details. Mind you, once we got a look at the detials, we realized that Ryan's budget was the same old Republican same old, helping the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

So why would Romney do this? Maybe the answer can be found in his recent postion that the campaign shouldn't be about his business past after all, but should rather be about the direction the country should take moving forward.  Everything should now, according to Romney, be about the future, rather than about his resume because, let's face it, up until now, this presidential campaign has been all about class warefare and Mitt "Montgomery Burns" Romney has been losing.

As Ezra Klein wrote today, when the funadamentals are not going your way, it's time to change the channel. The new channel, it seems, needs to involve so-called "serious" discussions about the deficit and managing the economy and that, I suppose, is going to be Paul Ryan's role.

Here we are in the middle of a campaign that has been almost devoid of substance about to launch into a campaign that may in fact require a serious discussion about the economy, the deficit, and the role of government in a way that absolutely requires a clear articulation of who is going to suffer and who prosper moving forward - exactly the kind of discussion Mitt Romney has tried to avoid so far.

He knows that he has been defined by the Obama Team in a way that will destroy him if things continue as they have been. My guess is that he has taken this radical step of going with Paul Ryan because it allows him to be for something and perhaps redefine himself before it's too late.

But when you consider how ambivalent so many Republicans have been about the Ryan budget plan, and how unpopular it will likely be with the electorate once they understand it, the cure might be worse than the disease.

This has indeed been a good summer for the Obama campaign.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Romney veep pick coming today in Virginia

UPDATE: It's hard to know what to believe at this point, given the secrecy with which the process has been handled and the possibility of further misdirection, but various media outlets, including the Times, National Review, and The Weekly Standard, are saying the signs are pointing to Ryan.

And NBC News is saying it will be Ryan.


It is being reported that Mitt Romney will introduce his running mate today at an event in Virginia.

So... who's it gonna be?

I wrote yesterday that it would be, or should be, Chris Christie. I've had my doubts, but Richard and I have been predicting him for months now. And I do think he's the dark horse here.

The CW was Tim Pawlenty or Rob Portman, two boring white guys, but increasingly the buzz is Paul Ryan, mainly because Romney has been struggling recently, fading badly in the polls, and there's been a lot of pressure from conservatives to pick him.

As the announcement will take place in Virginia, the state's governor, Bob McDonnell has to be viewed as a serious possibility.

But I'll repeat what I wrote yesterday:

I think the "boring white guy" talk has been a diversion. Romney will go with a more exciting pick, and I think that means Ryan, Christie, Marco Rubio, or Bobby Jindal.

Christie is much less ideologically conservative than the others, but any one of the four would energize the right, getting worried conservatives who generally don't much care for Romney even at the best of times back on board.

But I still think Christie makes the most sense.

I've been e-mailing with our friend and contributor tmcbpatriot since the news broke a short while ago, and he makes a strong case for Christie:

I'm going with Christie still. He was the golden boy early on. Everybody wanted him and now there is less than three months to vet him publicly. He is crass and has no respect for anyone, much less his own body. Republicans love that sort of thing and he balances out Romney's elite factor with his New Jersey trash talk and attitude. Plus, Christie appeals to the moron independents. Ryan is too extreme for them. Honestly, nobody can reach the independents except Christie.

The key for Romney, it seems to me, is to pick someone who appeals to conservatives, grassroots and elite alike, while not pushing away swing-state independents and undecideds.

Rubio and Jindal are possibilities in that regard, and Ryan certainly has the political skills to broaden his appeal beyond the Ayn-Rand-loving right, but again it comes back to Christie.

As I wrote in yesterday's post:

Christie isn't necessarily a right-wing ideologue of the kind desired by conservatives, but he's a fighter who would take the fight directly to President Obama. Conservatives would love that. It would fulfill, at least during the heat of the campaign, their wild fantasies about this anti-American foreign interloper being taken down by force, being given the drubbing/lynching he deserves.

There's a sense that Christie would beat up on Obama in a way that Romney can't. And, too, the two of them seem to be a good match: 

[Christie] and Romney genuinely seem to like each other. They're very different, but they seem to have some sort of yin and yang thing going, Romney the privileged rich douchebag, Christie the aggressive, fast-talking bully who does the douchebag's dirty work.

Okay, I'm making such a good case for Christie that I'm beginning to doubt myself. And Christie does have some serious negatives from a conservative perspective, not least his confrontational, bullying way, his refusal to observe right-wing orthodoxy at all times, his New Jersey-ness, and, yes, his size.

So it may very well be Ryan. Or Jindal. Or McDonnell. Or...

Stay tuned.


A final word for tonight from tmcbpatriot: "Word is that it's going to be Paul Ryan. Pretty scary if that is true."

Sure. He's something of a media darling -- mainly because he's attractive, speaks well, seems to know what he's talking about, is politically savvy, and hasn't been subjected to serious scrutiny yet -- and he's certainly a GOP wunderkind.

But, as Jon Chait writes:

Ryan's capacity for national-level wholesale politics has yet to be proven. He has masterfully played the Washington press corps, but it remains largely an inside game. Most Americans have not formed an opinion about him. He has a long record of radical votes and is the functional leader of a wildly unpopular Congressional wing. The one real electoral test of his plan's political tolerability came in a special election in a Republican district in upstate New York in 2011, in which an underdog Democrat swept to victory by relentlessly pounding Ryan's plan, and especially its provision to privatize Medicare.

The right would love it if it's Ryan, and the excitement would surely give Romney a significant boost, with the media playing right along, but to me the addition of Ryan to the ticket would allow President Obama to make the contrast between himself and his opponent all the more stark, and, for voters, all the more terrifying.

As it is, Romney can try to market himself as a business-savvy pragmatist who can get the economy moving again, which is what he's been doing. But if he's got Ryan with him, then it's not about fixing the economy, it's about implementing a far-right agenda that includes Medicare privatization and other deeply unpopular (with the electorate at large, if hugely popular with conservatives) initiatives. It will be hard for Romney to make the case that he's the one to trust with the economy, offering up vague proposals in the hope that voters take a chance on him, if the debate turns into a referendum not on Obama's handling of the economy but on Ryan's budget plan, which, after all, has become Republican orthodoxy.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. If it's Ryan, there will be time to delve into all the reasons he'd be a disaster for the country. For now, let's just wait for the announcement.

Again, stay tuned. Our comprehensive coverage of Election 2012 will continue.

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Friday, August 10, 2012

Fishing polls

Mitt Romney has had a rough couple of weeks, and it's starting to show in the polls:

Fox just released a new presidential poll showing President Obama leading Mitt Romney by 9 points. That's the second poll today and the third in the last two days. The other two (from CNN and Ipsos/Reuters) both had Romney down by 7.

Worth noting that beside PPP, which releases a weekly poll, this is the first big batch of stand alone national presidential polls since mid-July. And a lot has happened since then: the big Obama push on offshore accounts, the foreign trip, the rock-em-sock-em robots with Harry Reid.

This will be mitigated, so to speak, in the next day or so when he announces his running mate and a new shiny object is tossed to the crowd. Then comes the convention in Tampa at the end of the month, which will give him a bump after all the rah-rah Obama-bashing and the chorus of secret-gay-Kenyan-Muslim rants with a couple of amusing sideshows thrown in to placate the base.

A lot of pundits are looking for a historical parallel to this campaign; is it like 1980 or 2004, or 1960 or 1948? There's comfort in drawing a comparison with a known quantity, as if the history teaches us some profound lesson of how to win -- or lose -- an election. And while I'm about as close to a political scientist as Mitt Romney is to a hip-hop star, my hunch is that polls are notoriously short-sighted and unscientific. Last night I got polled twice in the space of an hour: first by a real live person doing a push-poll for a Miami-Dade County commissioner, and the second by a robo-poll that said if I wanted to take the poll in English, press 1; Spanish, press 2. There being no choice for Welsh, I hung up. (I don't speak a word of Welsh, but they deserve a choice.) In neither case was I interested in giving my true opinion, and in the case of the one with the live person asking the questions, I politely ended it before it was done because my dinner was getting cold. Because the poll wasn't completed, it doesn't count, so earlier answers, including my enthusiastic "Strongly Disapprove" of the Florida GOP, went nowhere.

I know pollsters figure that into the "margin of error" in their numbers, so whatever they report gives them room to discount my need to get back to dinner or the person who just likes to mess with the polls by saying they're planning to write in Teddy the Wonder Lizard. And I also figure that the campaigns know this, so no one in any of the headquarters is taking these results any more seriously than I did last night standing in the kitchen watching my macaroni and cheese solidify into a cold mass of gluten and dairy products as the nice lady asked me about Gwen Margolis.

It does, however, give the Villagers something to talk about other than the economy, immigration, taxes, equality, and all that other boring stuff. 

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Science and religion

While the religious whackaloons have been stuffing themselves full of chicken sandwiches to show their support of Chick-Fil-A's homophobic agenda, science has been busy.

In probably the longest-term space research project ever, the data is accumulating that Voyager 1 is about to enter interstellar space. This is a big deal, as we do not know what is out there, but we may be on the verge of finding out. In case you've forgotten, Voyager 1 was launched 25 years ago. She and her sister probe, Voyager 2, were designed for fly-bys of Jupiter and Saturn, a three-year trip for Voyager 1, four years for Voyager 2.

Voyager 2 ended up in position for fly-bys of Uranus and Neptune. NASA had not designed her for that, thinking it to be too costly, but Voyager 2 accomplished those fly-bys and sent back the only close-up data of those two planets that we have.

Both probes are still sending back data from the far reaches of the Solar System.

And this week NASA successfully landed a one-ton nuclear-powered mobile science lab on Mars. Whether or not Curiosity eventually gets stuck, like the Spirit rover, remains to be seen. But since it is powered by a plutonium nugget, Curiosity may be sending back data well into the second half of this century. (Spirit was solar-powered. Its 90-Martian-day mission lasted for over three Martian years. Her twin, Opportunity, is still working and is approaching the fifth Martian anniversary of her landing.)

But hey, if you think that you're going to change the world by stuffing yourselves with fried chicken sandwiches, have at it. Science will still march on without you. 

(Cross-posted at Just an Earth-Bound Misfit, I.)

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Joe Walsh apparently wants to keep proving he's an unmitigated asshole

Rep. Asshole (R-IL)
Back in July, Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois said that his Democratic challenger, Tammy Duckworth, a double amputee Iraq War vet, wasn't a "true hero." It was deeply insulting, and deeply wrong, but it was also, at the time, just the latest example of Walsh's offensive stupidity. His assholery, if you will.

Well, we have another example. Here's what he said about President Obama at a campaign barbeque last Sunday:

There's something different on the ground, and I think it's going to overtake us all again, think it's going to overtake the political class. I think it's going to respectfully pick this president up and pat him on the head and say, son, son, son, Mr. President, you were never ready to be president, now go home and work for somebody and find out how the real world works.

Pat him on the head and say son, son, son? Yes, I'd say that's "racially inflammatory," as some are alleging, and it's certainly disrespectful.

I guess pulling the economy back from the brink of collapse after eight years of Bush's irresponsbility, saving General Motors, killing Osama bin Laden, backing the overthrow of Qaddafi, and passing what once was Republican-style health-care reform aren't good enough in Walsh's "real world," huh?

Joe Walsh: asshole extraordinaire. (His ex-wife probably thinks so too.)

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Harry situation

Ed Kilgore writes:

I don't know whether Harry Reid is making stuff up or not. But I think it's important to stipulate that if he is, that's a bad thing, although it in no way absolves Mitt Romney's completely independent responsibility to release his tax records and resolve all doubts.

I have said all along that I don't know for a fact whether or not Mr. Reid is making stuff up. That is an important element of the story, to be sure, but what's also important is how the defenders of Mr. Romney have reacted to the allegation that he didn't pay taxes for ten years. We've gotten a lot of outrage and accusations flung at Mr. Reid, including the rather laughable riposte from Mr. Romney himself of "put up or shut up," but no one who is defending Mr. Romney has offered any affirmative proof that Mr. Reid is making stuff up.

The Republicans have made a cottage industry out of accusing the Democrats (they're communists and atheists) and the president of terrible things and unsavory associations (he's a Muslim, he's a Kenyan, he's a socialist*) without a shred of evidence. The list of such accusers is long and includes such luminaries as Michele Bachmann, Allen West, Louie Gohmert, Virginia Foxx, Steve King, and Darrell Issa, just to name a few. (And just when you thought he was gone, Newt Gingrich pops up like a toadstool on the lawn.) These are not Cheetos-munching bloggers in some basement, but members of Congress. When they're called out on their fact-free rants, they respond with evasions and red herrings, and when the Republican leaders such as Speaker John Boehner or Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are asked to comment or repudiate their wild-eyed members, they shrug and say "Oh, well, it's not for me to tell others what to say." The harshest pushback from these brave souls is "Those aren't the words I would use."

It's a little more than ironic -- not to mention hypocritical -- to get buckets of crocodile tears and righteous indignation from the GOP when Harry Reid makes a so-far unsubstantiated statement about Mitt Romney's taxes. Their only claim should be one of copyright infringement.

*There's nothing at all wrong with being a Muslim, a Kenyan, or a socialist. It's just that in Mr. Obama's case, he's not.

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Myth Romney campaign gaffe: Please pass the popcorn

So it seems that the Democrats are beating the crap out of Romney because when he was head of Bain Capital, it closed a steel mill, throwing people out of work. Those people lost their health insurance and at least one person died from untreated cancer.

So Mitten's on-duty spokes-troll takes up her verbal arsenal to defend him and offers this corker: If those workers had been in Massachusetts, they'd have had health insurance. Because, as governor, Romney enacted universal health insurance.

Except, of course, that the Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare) was modeled on the Massachusetts universal health care law (Romneycare). Which means that the Romney campaign just backed into endorsing Obamacare.

And since the Republicans have flip-flopped on the universal health insurance mandate from being "the personal responsibility of any sane adult" (when they suggested it in 1993 and later when Romneycare was enacted) to "zOMG!!!1!! Soczialism!!!1!", the conservatives are losing their collective shit.

Pass the popcorn.

(Cross-posted at Just an Earth-Bound Misfit, I.)

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Romney Veepstakes 2012: Why he will, or at least should, pick Chris Christie as his running mate

Husky & Starch

My associate editor Richard Barry and I have been predicting Christie for months. For more, see his post from June, "'Husky and Starch': The best GOP ticket and Obama's worst nightmare."


"Romney Faces Pressure From Right to Put Ryan on Ticket," says the Times.

"Why not Paul Ryan?" asks the Journal.

Well, because then the election could turn on the Ayn-Rand-loving Ryan's far-right budget slashing tax rates for the rich and slashing Medicare and other essential programs for everyone else. Ryan's budget didn't fare well in NY-26, and it likely wouldn't fare well nationally. It's Republican orthodoxy, but the provisions it contains are deeply, deeply unpopular.

That's why.

(Ezra Klein asks why conservatives want Ryan. And looks at why Romney may want him as well -- to take a necessary risk, to run on "big ideas," to pander to the right (as usual), and "to diffuse the blame if he loses.")


Anyway, we're almost there. At the end of Veepstakes 2012, that is.

The two frontrunners to be Romney's running mate appear to be Tim Pawlenty and Rob Portman, two of those "boring white guys" everyone seems to think make up Mitt's wish list.

I'm not convinced. More specifically, I think the whole "boring white guy" thing is a deflection.

Sure, Pawlenty and Portman are Romney's kind of guys, more or less, and perhaps he feels genuinely comfortable with them. But think of the collective yawn picking either one would produce throughout the media and electorate. Picture Romney walking out on some stage somewhere with a boring white guy at his side.


And that goes for John Thune and Bob McDonnell as well as Pawlenty and Portman.

This is not to say that I'm expecting a completely out-of-the-box pick. It won't be Condi Rice and it won't be General Petraeus. And it probably won't be a woman either -- that is, either Susana Martinez or Kelly Ayotte.

And so, I think, we're left with four: Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, and, yes, Paul Ryan.

All four would ignite the party's right-wing base. All four are, each in his own way, exciting. But let's start crossing them off the list:

I don't think Romney wants to have to deal with Ryan's budget plan. Mitt has carefully avoided giving specifics about his policy agenda, while Ryan, while not being entirely honest about just how he'd pay for his tax cuts for the rich (carefully avoiding too much talk of specific spending cuts, most of which would be unpopular), is generally detail-oriented. So it won't be Ryan.

Rubio would help Romney in Florida, but his appeal otherwise is limited and he's too inexperienced for the national stage at this point. (2016? Maybe.) He'd be a sexy pick, the young up-and-comer beloved on the right, but I'm not sure Romney's really all that comfortable with him. So it won't be Rubio.

That leaves us with Jindal and Christie. And, to me, it's a toss-up.

Jindal has more conservative cred, and of course isn't white, but he's not terribly exciting otherwise -- though the media would see any non-boring white guy as an exciting pick. Yes, I can see Jindal on the stage with Romney. Makes sense.

But I'm sticking with the person I've thought for months it was going to be: New Jersey Governor and bullying blowhard Chris Christie.

Yes, he's been out of the national spotlight recently, but that just means his re-emergence would be all the more dramatic. (And you know this whole Veepstakes thing is calculated for effect.) And he and Romney genuinely seem to like each other. They're very different, but they seem to have some sort of yin and yang thing going, Romney the privileged rich douchebag, Christie the aggressive, fast-talking bully who does the douchebag's dirty work.

Christie isn't necessarily a right-wing ideologue of the kind desired by conservatives, but he's a fighter who would take the fight directly to President Obama. Conservatives would love that. It would fulfill, at least during the heat of the campaign, their wild fantasies about this anti-American foreign interloper being taken down by force, being given the drubbing/lynching he deserves.

There wouldn't any yawn.

Picture Romney walking out on stage with Christie. Think of Christie's forceful personality. Think of his aggressive speech. Think of Romney standing there like a doofus with an ear-to-ear grin. Think of Republicans everywhere wetting themselves.

Makes perfect sense, no?

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Harry Reid keeps up the pressure on Romney

What did I do, Harry? I'm just a poor rich guy.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid isn't just not backing down from his claim that he was told by a Bain Capital investor that Mitt Romney didn't play taxes for ten years.

He's actually ramping it up.

And it all makes perfect sense. Consider:

Romney refuses to release any more of his tax returns, prompting very reasonable spectulation that he's hiding something.

Reid adds fuel to the fire by suggesting, from an anonymous source, that what Romney is hiding is that he didn't pay any taxes for ten years.

This puts Romney even more on the defensive.

Romney attacks Reid, saying he should "put up or shut up," but Reid, correctly, throws it right back at Romney, noting that the issue isn't what his source said but that Romney hasn't released his tax returns and is likely hiding something.

Republicans circle the wagons, going on the talk-show circuit last Sunday to attack Reid, but all they really managed to do was keep the story going. Reid doesn't care about whether Republicans like him, nor even about so much about his credibility. He's not running for re-election, and he can take the heat. And he knows that this is about Romney, and about helping President Obama.

And it's working.

As Frank Rich noted the other day:

According to the latest Times swing-state poll, about half the voters already believe that Romney must release more tax returns. The longer Romney refuses, and the more he and his surrogates whine about Reid, the longer the issue stays center stage and the more that poll number is likely to go up. And Republicans know it too — Reid seems to be driving them insane.

But here's the thing about Reid's claim -- something that isn't getting nearly enough attention: He didn't say that his source was right. He just said that a source told him that Romney didn't pay any taxes for ten years. There's a huge difference. Reid was playing messenger, that's it.

Assuming that he actually has a source, of course.

Now, Republicans like Reince Priebus and Lindsey Graham are calling him a liar. But what if he does in fact have a source who told him just that? Then he's not lying, is he?

And while there has been a lot of skepticism, the implication being that he made it all up, he's keeping up the pressure on Romney by asserting that he does in fact have a source.

As HuffPo is reporting:

A top aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) provided new details Wednesday on the identity of Reid's source for the claim that Mitt Romney did not pay taxes for 10 years. Romney has since called on Reid to release the name of the source.

"This person is an investor in Bain Capital, a Republican also, and somebody who has been dealing with Romney's company for a long, long time and he has direct knowledge of this," said Reid aide Jose Parra, referring to Romney's tax returns...

Reid Chief of Staff David Krone previously described the source to Politico as a successful businessman, and CNN's Dana Bash reported that the source was "credible."

Parry now says that he doesn't know if the person is a Republican, but that doesn't take away from the fact that there is a source.

Perhaps Reid shouldn't have gone to the press with the suspicious claim of an anonymous source, but, again, the point of this is to keep the story going.

Maybe the person is right, maybe not. But we won't know until the returns are made public.

The ball is still in Romney's court. He's the one this is all about.

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Thursday, August 09, 2012

Romney lies, Romney whines

Boo... freakin'... hoo:

Mitt Romney is professing disbelief that the Obama campaign keeps airing ads even after fact-checkers have decided that the "charges are wrong." Does he really want to go there? As Greg Sargent points out, fact-checkers have declared Romney's own ads to be "wrong, inaccurate, misleading or false again and again and again and again and again and again and again."

Maybe Romney, an arrogant douchebag living in a bubble of extreme out-of-touchedness, really does think he's being totally honest when he smears the president.

It's either that or he's a shameless liar who has made blatant dishonesty the central element of his campaign.

Either way, he's proving once more that he's a political amateur who lacks the backbone to succeed on the rough-and-tumble national stage. He can dish it out, sure, as long as he can spew his lies to friendly audiences, but when the tables are turned he whines and complains like the entitled little coward he is, the rich daddy's boy who thinks everything, including success, should be handed to him on a platinum platter by kowtowing servants.

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Death squads and vulture capitalism: The money behind Bain Capital and Mitt Romney's political career

In case you missed it...

So how exactly was Bain Capital financed? How did it get started on its work of crushing people and companies into oblivion and profiting off the remains?

Well, how is really who. And the who in large part were El Salvadoran oligarchs with blood-stained hands:

In 1983, Bill Bain asked Mitt Romney to launch Bain Capital, a private equity offshoot of the successful consulting firm Bain & Company. After some initial reluctance, Romney agreed. The new job came with a stipulation: Romney couldn't raise money from any current clients, Bain said, because if the private equity venture failed, he didn't want it taking the consulting firm down with it.

When Romney struggled to raise funds from other traditional sources, he and his partners started thinking outside the box. Bain executive Harry Strachan suggested that Romney meet with a group of Central American oligarchs who were looking for new investment vehicles as turmoil engulfed their region.

Romney was worried that the oligarchs might be tied to "illegal drug money, right-wing death squads, or left-wing terrorism," Strachan later told a Boston Globe reporter, as quoted in the 2012 book "The Real Romney." But, pressed for capital, Romney pushed his concerns aside and flew to Miami in mid-1984 to meet with the Salvadorans at a local bank.

It was a lucrative trip. The Central Americans provided roughly $9 million -- 40 percent -- of Bain Capital's initial outside funding, the Los Angeles Times reported recently. And they became valued clients.

"Over the years, these Latin American friends have loyally rolled over investments in succeeding funds, actively participated in Bain Capital's May investor meetings, and are still today one of the largest investor groups in Bain Capital," Strachan wrote in his memoir in 2008.

And just who were these mysterious Central Americans?

When Romney launched another venture that needed funding -- his first presidential campaign -- he returned to Miami.

"I owe a great deal to Americans of Latin American descent," he said at a dinner in Miami in 2007. "When I was starting my business, I came to Miami to find partners that would believe in me and that would finance my enterprise. My partners were Ricardo Poma, Miguel Dueñas, Pancho Soler, Frank Kardonski, and Diego Ribadeneira."

Romney could also have thanked investors from two other wealthy and powerful Central American clans -- the de Sola and Salaverria families, who the Los Angeles Times and Boston Globe have reported were founding investors in Bain Capital.

While they were on the lookout for investments in the United States, members of some of these prominent families -- including the Salaverria, Poma, de Sola and Dueñas clans -- were also at the time financing, either directly or through political parties, death squads in El Salvador. The ruling classes were deploying the death squads to beat back left-wing guerrillas and reformers during El Salvador's civil war.

Yes, these oligarchic families who helped organize, and supported the activities of, El Salvador's death squads -- see the NBC News report below -- funded not just the firm that made Romney hugely wealthy but Romney's own political career. And they have remained active in both.

This is making a few waves given the appearance of the story at HuffPo yesterday, but it's not the first time it's been reported. The L.A. Times article is from July 19, and The Nation wrote about it the same day, referring back to a Salon piece from way back on January 20 called "The roots of Bain Capital in El Salvador’s civil war." Needless to say, the story deserves much wider attention.

And look for Romney, who likes to play fast and loose with the facts, to deny he ever had anything to do with Bain Capital, or maybe to say that he pre-retired from it before it ever got off the ground, and that he doesn't know anything about anyone from this place called "Al Salvader," the existence of which he can't confirm.

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Racist idiots

By now you've heard of the Oak Creek Asshat[1], a white-supremacist[2] musician, former Army misfit[3], and heavy drinker who walked into a Sikh temple and murdered people, including a woman and an 85-year old man. He shot up the kitchen of the temple, where women were preparing a meal called the "langar," which is free and open to the public. The Sikhs in the temple would have welcomed the Asshat and fed him. Instead, he shot up the place.

First, let's give credit where it is richly due: The two Oak Creek police officers who did not fall back and wait for the cavalry but who engaged the shooter and killed him. Asshat shot and wounded Lt. Brian Murphy, who was trying to aid one of the victims; Officer Sam Lenda then shot and killed Asshat. Those officers probably reduced the carnage by their actions. They are heroes.

Second, all honor to the president of the temple, a 65-year old man named Satwant Singh Kaleka who, armed with only a dull knife, attacked Asshat and was shot fatally by Asshat. Mr. Kaleka's bravery delayed Asshat, and his attack gave time to the women and children in the temple to flee for their lives. If they gave the Medal of Honor to civilians, he should get one. But they don't, so he should be posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Third, remember when the DHS was looking at the domestic terror threat from right-wing extremists and the GOP got all bent out of shape?

Finally, was Asshat's target selection based on deranged thinking such as "Osama bin Ladin wore a turban, bin Ladin was a terrorist, Sikhs wear turbans, so Sikhs are terrorists"?[4] Or was this an attack on the "Other," in which case he could have easily have walked into a mosque, a Buddhist temple, or a synagogue?
[1] I will not refer to clowns like Asshat by their proper names. It would be nice if the traditional press followed a similar practice.
[2] A term that might as well mean "pale-faced loser."
[3] Asshat was busted in rank and tossed out of the Army on "other than honorable" (OTH) conditions, the lowest grade of administrative discharge. An OTH discharge means that he were fired for being an nonredeemable dirtbag.
[4] Asshat reportedly went to high school in Colorado; they need to do a better job in teaching critical thinking skills.

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Romney's welfare lies refuted by Republican expert

Last week, I wrote about how, just like with Marshall McLuhan in Annie Hall, Jared Diamond wrote an op-ed piece in the Times refuting Romney's characterization of his work.

Well, it's happened again, this time regarding Romney's dishonest claim -- lie, actually -- that President Obama has weakened "welfare-to-work" legislation around the country. And it's coming from one of the key Republicans behind welfare reform in the first place:

Mitt Romney's latest television ad attacks the Obama administration for announcing a "plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements." It's a strong allegation, but according to a former Republican congressional aide who was key to crafting welfare reform in the 1990s, it's also not true.

"There's no plausible scenario under which it really constitutes a serious attack on welfare reform," Ron Haskins, who is now co-director of the Brookings Institution's Center on Children and Families, said in an interview with NPR that aired on Wednesday.

Haskins spent 14 years on the staff of the House Ways and Means Committee's Human Resources Subcommittee, first as welfare counsel to the Republican staff, then as the subcommittee's staff director. In 2002, he was President George W. Bush's senior adviser on welfare policy.

Welfare, formally known as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, is administered by states within federal rules. Last month, the Department of Health and Human Services invited states to apply for waivers from some rules in order to run "demonstration projects" so that states could "consider new, more effective ways to meet the goals of TANF, particularly helping parents successfully prepare for, find, and retain employment."

Haskins noted that the requirements states have to meet in order to receive the waivers are quite rigorous.

And, of course, it was Republican governors who requested the change, meaning Romney's charge isn't just dishonest but stupid as well.

"Boy, if life were only like this," says Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) after McLuhan thoroughly dismisses the pretentious blowhard.

Well, it's happening more and more, thanks to Romney's ridiculous lies.


Because it's so good, here's the scene again:

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Craziest Republican of the Day: Steve King

Point of personal insanity!
There's an abundance of craziness in the Republican Party, but it's like our CRD series was tailor-made for the Iowa congressman.

Last Friday, we was CRD for the seventh time, well ahead of anyone else. Today makes eight.

And this one's a doozy:

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), an outspoken critic of just about everything President Obama supports, is considering introducing a bill that would repeal everything Obama has signed into law.

Yes, everything.

Now, I get that King and Obama don't see eye-to-eye on most things, and that King doesn't much care for what Obama's done as president. But even the most extreme partisans usually acknowledge that the president, of whichever party, has the democratic legitimacy and authority to sign bills into law. Sure, the opposing party may seek to overturn some of those laws, or just amend them, but that's usually as far as it goes. King's proposal goes well beyond that, to the point where he seeks to erase the president from legislative history. (I would note that as much as Democrats disliked George W. Bush, they never ever went this far. Not even close.)

Not only that, but he fails to appreciate how American democracy works. The president signs bills into law, but it's Congress that passes them. Even if he objects to everything Obama has done, does he also object to every single bill Congress has passed that the president has signed, even where Republicans were supportive (which wasn't often, admittedly)? If so, he might as well just take a public dump on the Constitution. And resign in shame.

Again, I don't expect King, a right-wing extremist by any measure, to be on Obama's side on anything, and, sure, I expect him to work to undo certain pieces of legislation. But let's take a look at some of the legislation that would be repealed if King got his way:

So King is apparently against fair pay, in favor of smoking, in favor of hate crime, against HIV/AIDS treatment, against helping the survivors of the Haiti earthquake, against providing support to veterans and their families, against the freedom of the press, against sanctioning Iran, against helping small businesses, in favor of cruelty to animals, against feeding children, against helping 9/11 relief workers, against food safety, and against free trade with a key Asian ally, South Korea.

Maybe he is or isn't any of these things, but his irrational hatred for President Obama, his refusal to allow that the president did anything right, is clearly blinding him to anything and everything but absolute partisanship.

Maybe next week he'll propose shutting down General Motors and firings its employees. Because of course it was Obama who saved the industry from collapse.

Or maybe he'll propose finding Osama bin Laden's body, bringing it back to life through the power of prayer, and reinstalling him as head of al Qaeda. Because of course it was Obama who issued the order to kill him.

And that means it was wrong.

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Which Issue Wins?

The truthful one, or the made up shit?
On Wednesday, President Obama flew to Colorado, a key battleground, where he pushed the issue of access to contraceptives, which is also the subject of a campaign ad in swing states featuring quotes from Romney attacking Planned Parenthood.

In Denver, Obama was introduced by Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown University law student who briefly became a political celebrity this spring when her comments about the need for Catholic universities to provide contraceptive coverage drew an attack by radio host Rush Limbaugh, who called her a "slut."

While Obama sought to expand the gender gap, which is especially pronounced among single women, Romney spent a second day going after the president about welfare, using a line of attack that centers on the administration's willingness to let states change current welfare-to-work rules.
Time's up.
The problem with Romney's ridiculous attack is how it's so easily refutable. Indeed, Romney as governor asked for a waiver on the work requirement of welfare reform. He can run all the ads he wants but the first time the issue is brought up in debate-- or indeed, any issue like healthcare reform that Romeny was against being against before he was against being for-- Obama will hammer him for denying other people the same opportunities the people of Massachussetts have.
Which keys into the whole "elitist, out of touch, aphotic asshole" trope that Romney seems to determine to run on.
Meanwhile, President Obama's issue of the rollback of women's rights seems to be a sure-fire winner, in that it has the truth solidly behind it with someone in front of the issue who's stance on it has been solid: no one questions Obama's commitment to women's rights and equality. From the Lily Ledbetter Act to the confirmation of Elena Kagan to the SCOTUS, no President has been as firmly on the side of women as Obama. Clinton, maybe, but you'd have to ignore the whole "Slick Willie" side of him.
Romney and Obama are both appealing to fears, but only Obama's fear-mongering has the truth behind it and that's thanks to the GOP as a whole. From Virginia's transvaginal ultrasound to South Carolina's support for read that correctly...women across the nation should and are going to be terrified to vote for a Republican.
And who would blame them?
(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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Romney confuses "Sikh" and "Sheik"

Mitt Romney mistakenly confused the words "Sikh" and "sheik" at a fundraiser here Tuesday night when he offered his condolences to the victims of last weekend's shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee correctly spoke of the Sikh religion earlier in the day when he observed a moment of silence at a campaign event in Illinois. But at the Iowa fundraiser, he instead talked about the "sheik temple" and the "sheik people." Sheik is an Arabic honorific, whereas Sikh is a religion with roots in South Asia. 


We all misspeak and mispronounce from time to time, sure, so let's not make too much of this. Still, given the context, the aftermath of a deadly shooting at a Sikh temple by a neo-Nazi, it's inexcusable here. (And it's not something President Obama would do.)

Thankfully for Romney, many of his supporters don't give a shit. All those weird brown people are anti-American furriners anyway.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Obama says Romney would take women back to the 1950s

President Obama on Wednesday accused Republicans of wanting to take the nation "back to policies more suited to the 1950s than the 21st century" during a campaign stop aimed at securing support from women.

Stumping on a two-day, four-stop swing through Colorado — a state where Obama needs strong turnout from women in November — the president sought to hammer home the benefits his healthcare law includes for families, such as free mammograms and contraception and cancer screenings with no copay


"The decisions that affect a woman's health aren't up to politicians or insurance companies, they're up to you," Obama said during a fiery speech before a crowd of nearly all women.

Targeting Romney specifically, Obama said, "He said he'd 'get rid of' Planned Parenthood," as the crowd booed.

"He joined the far right to support a bill that would allow an employer to deny contraceptive coverage to their employees," Obama added. "Let me tell you something, Denver — I don't think your boss should control the care you get. I think there is one person who should make decisions on your healthcare, and that person is you," the president said.

Mitt Romney and the Republicans may spin their war on women, and specifically women's health, as a fight for religious freedom, or freedom generally, but their retrograde policies would effectively subject women to the control of theocratic overlords.

Romney himself may not always have been this extreme -- he did, after all, push through progressive health-care reform in Massachusetts, the prototype for Obamacare -- but in this election the contrast between the two options is crystal clear.

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