Saturday, September 01, 2012

Stevie Ray Vaughan - "Crossfire"

By Richard K. Barry

One of my favourite Stevie Ray Vaughan tunes:


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I can't wait for Obama to ask Romney this

At some point in a debate, Obama is going to turn and challenge Romney, saying, 'Mitt, you have nothing new to offer. In fact, on social issues, foreign policy, taxes, spending, Medicare and everything else, you have nothing different to offer than taking us back to what George Bush proposed. That's what got us into this mess.' Romney has yet to answer that question. He has until the first presidential debate Oct. 3, in Denver, to find a response.
                                                  -Alex Castellanos, former Romney policy advisor

During his convention speech, Mitt Romney came close to repeating Ronald Reagan's line about whether or not Americans are better off now than they were four year ago. It was a fairly obnoxious moment given the fact that a Republican president presided over the economic crash that has been so hard to overcome.

Yet it is true that there is some fatigue that comes with Democrats constantly invoking George W. Bush's name to draw attention to the economic mess left for Obama, but that doesn't mean it's not a relevant piece of information.

Castellanos is right. I can imagine the Obama campaign is doing everything they can to tee up the moment in one of the presidential debates when Obama gets to ask the question posed above. And I can imagine the Romney campaign doing everything they can to avoid letting that happen.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Friday, August 31, 2012

Behind the Ad: More Bain attacks by the Obama campaign

(Another installment in our extensive "Behind the Ad" series.)

Where: The Web.

What's going on: The Obama campaign released a web video yesterday that reintroduces the Etch-A-Sketch theme. The gimmick is in the idea that Romney can't shake his business record. You know, you shake an Etch-A-Sketch to change the picture. It's just another way of hammering on the theme that Mitt Romney is an out-of-touch rich guy. In other words, the truth.

As they say, now that we're in convention season, more people will start paying attention. Those of us who have already been paying attention are just going to have to suffer through the same old same old.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Where's the Tea Party?

By Richard K. Barry

BuzzFeed raised an interesting point a couple of days ago, which is that the words "Tea Party" have not received a single mention in prime time during the GOP convention.

The "Tea Party" band — which energized and even seemed to overtake the Republican Party in 2010 — has been virtually invisible at this Republican National Convention.

Not a single one of the 38 speakers during the convention's key prime time hours has even mentioned the phrase, according to an examination of their transcripts — a sign both of Romney's own distance from the movement and that polls have suggested that voters view the movement negatively.

Senator Rand Paul, another Tea Party favorite, didn't mention it at all.

To be accurate, because the truth is important, one major speaker, Texas Senate candidate Ted Cruz, did allude to the Tea Party directly, though he referred to it only as a "great awakening." Still, that was it.

Considering that the Romney campaign must approve all speeches, this is interesting.

So what gives? If I was one those crazy people who likes to dress up in Revolutionary War costumes, I'd be pretty annoyed. Where's the love? Could it be that the whole thing really was just an astroturf movement, bought and paid for by rich donors, that ended up pissing off more people than it energized?

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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The new Nixon

(Ed. note: 'Twas perhaps the most dishonest convention speech ever. -- MJWS)

Charlie Pierce gives Paul Ryan's convention speech the once-over twice:

TAMPA, Fla. — I think it was when he went to tears, one dab at each eye, while talking about his mother, that it became extraordinarily clear to me that there's a lot of old Dick Nixon in young Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny-starver from Janesville, Wisconsin. It was always floating around the edges of my perception as I listened to his well-crafted, competently delivered, and virtually substance-free acceptance speech on Wednesday night. There was the crass connection to "the working men and women," like himself. The way his voice drops and his eyes glow when he starts talking about the America in which he grew up, where he flipped burgers and washed floors and dreamed very big dreams. There is the obvious effort to... connect, a gift for a simulacrum of empathy that is just inches away from actual sincerity, but which sells on the screen like someone who truly cares about you, his fellow struggling Americans. But it wasn't until he started tearing up that it all came together for me.


He was smooth and he was 'umble. Oh, Lord, was Paul Ryan ever 'umble. If he had a forelock, instead of that odd little Eddie Munster wedge, he'd have tugged it down past his ankles. "I accept the duty to help lead our nation out of a jobs crisis and back to prosperity — and I know we can do this," he began. "I accept the calling of my generation to give our children the America that was given to us, with opportunity for the young and security for the old — and I know that we are ready." He was Nixon doing JFK's shtick from 1960 — "A New Generation Offers a Leader" — and he was more than willing to shoulder the burden with every ounce of ambition in him. And then he left truth far behind and soared into an attack on the current administration that was as fake as blue money, but that wasn't the really wonderfully Nixonian thing about it. It wasn't that Ryan was lying about his opponents. It was that he was able to level out with those big baby-blues, and drop his voice into that kindly voice straight out of the silent confessional, and tell you things that his entire record as a public figure have demonstrated that he does not believe for an instant.

The one thing that Mr. Ryan has going for him that Richard Nixon never had was the polish and charm. Mr. Nixon oozed paranoia and distrust the way some people sweat, and in spite of his gnawing pursuit of power, he never seemed to feel comfortable in the spotlight. Mr. Ryan, however, can pull it off with his butch workout routine and dazzling smile; Mr. Nixon never got further than a smirk.

In Mr. Ryan's case, appearance is a powerful tool. After all, this is a country where American Idol is the number 1 show on television, and as so many have said, if you can fake sincerity, you've got it made.

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Shades of 20 years ago?

The Daily Show is titling its coverage of the Republican National Convention as "RNC 2012: The Road to Jeb Bush 2016."

Which may have a bit of truth to it.

But then again, there were stories of how a lot of senior Democrats figured that they couldn't win against George H.W. Bush, who had a 91% approval rating after the Gulf War. As the stories go, they decided to sit that one out and let some of the younger kids in the party get some experience at running a national campaign.

We know how that worked out for them.

(Not that I want to see the Romneybot win, not with his unspoken motto of "Of the Plutocrats, For the Plutocrats.") 

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

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If it walks like a duck...

Via karoli at C&L, go read in its entirety a thing of beauty by Tim Wise on the deeply ingrained racism being preached in this country by the right wingers and many, many members of the Republican Party:

Although conservatives accuse those of us on the left of thinking that all critiques of President Obama are rooted in racism, this has certainly never been my argument. Indeed, I've written two books highly critical of Obama's positions on a number of issues (from a place well to his left), and am fully aware that decent, honest people can disagree with Barack Obama from the right, too, without their disagreements serving as proof of some latent, let alone blatant, bigotry or anti-black bias.

That said, what I have also long maintained — and what seems increasingly evident as we move into the heart of the 2012 campaign — is that the style of opposition, its specific form, and its particular content are too often embedded in a narrative of white racial resentment, white racial anxiety, and a desire to "other" the president in ways that go well beyond the politically partisan. It is not that criticisms of Obama are quantitatively racist, per se, but rather that they are qualitatively so in too many instances; a distinction, yes, but one that does not alter the underlying reality.

In other words, it is one thing to disagree, even mightily, with a president's policies.


How many times, one is left to wonder, must a person be called un-American before it's accurate to claim that he's being accused of being foreign, and a danger to the nation? A cancer to be excised from the body politic?

How many times can a man be the butt of racist humor, or likened to black dictators, or accused of seeking racial revenge upon white people, before it is no longer outrageous or the playing of some mystical, magical race card to assert that, indeed, the people doing these things are really just race-baiting white nationalists in conservative garb?

How long, in short, before we call that which walks and talks like a duck, a fucking duck? 

Read the whole thing. I insist.

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Tampa and the will to power

As I've been saying since Richard "you sure as hell are a crook" Nixon departed the White house and the Republican War on truth began, if the Republicans accuse their opponents of something, you can be sure not only that it isn't quite true, but that the accusation is an attempt to distract from their own guilt. So when the war criminal Allen West disgusts us with the accusation that the Democrats are "the most racist party I've ever seen in my life," we know the opposite is true.

And why doth West protest? Why because the press isn't showing him the respect his hypertrophied ego demands, and why would anyone detest the torturer of innocent civilians and despise the accusations that Democrats are Nazis and Communists (at the same time, no less?)  It could only be that he's got dark skin, of course. 

And then there's Paul Ryan, the delight of Tea Perverts everywhere, who enlightens us with lies like:

And the biggest, coldest power play of all in Obamacare came at the expense of the elderly... So they just took it all away from Medicare. Seven hundred and sixteen billion dollars, funneled out of Medicare by President Obama...

when it isn't actually true -- the cuts are in payments to hospitals, not in coverage to individuals. The cuts are savings, while Ryan's plan would actually deprive Medicare recipients of coverage. Paul Ryan is a liar, but what did you expect? The truth would ride out of town with him on a rail and covered with feathers.

And then there's Paul Ryan howling like a damned soul about the "corporate welfare" that was the stimulus package. Welfare and Communism and all that, even though the Republicans asked for a much bigger package and with no requirement to tell us who was getting what, even though Ryan stomped his feet and whined and begged for even more money for Wisconsin companies. Paul Ryan is a lying, duplicitous, forked-tongued son of a bitch, but I repeat myself. I already said he is a Republican candidate.

And then there's Paul Ryan, the con man, the liar, the swindler, the bearer of false witness -- there's Paul Ryan blaming Obama for the closure of a Janesville, Wisconsin plant that was shut down before Obama became president.

And there's Ryan claiming from the platform in Tampa that Obama disregarded the advice of a bipartisan debt committee that Ryan himself condemned.

Did I mention that Ryan is a Republican? Lying is what they do, whether it's lying to start wars, lying about how top-bracket tax cuts don't cause recessions when they do and raising them prevents growth when the opposite is true. That's what history says, but hey, you can't believe history -- history is liberal. Hell, you can't even hear history, it speaks in timorous whispers while the right wing roars and threatens and rages from every screen, from every radio speaker and every corporately owned newspaper.

But why lay the lies on Ryan alone? They're all liars and pickpockets and Romney has to take responsibility for it all. He has to explain why taking the $716 billion in Medicare savings achieved by Obama and spending it will reduce spending and why reducing revenue will pay off the debt. He has to give us more than vague generalities and slogans and promises that are negated by other promises, but he can't because what he says is designed to "energize" people who know nothing and prefer to remain angry at their chosen scapegoats.  

But of course the truth would lose the election for him and of course the New Right isn't about fixing the country anyway, it's about power. It's not about you or your life, your liberty or your pursuit of happiness. It's about power, power, and more power, and such concentrated power that answers only to money -- power over a country that is more and more irrelevant, increasingly deluded and ignorant, ever more bellicose, and yet has the power to destroy the world.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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A Cayman Islands flag for Romney. How fitting.

I'm not sure the best way to try to make people forget about your tax shelters in the Cayman Islands, and more generally about what an arrogant, out-of-touch douchebag you are, is to do this:

Gov. Mitt Romney's campaign toasted its top donors Wednesday aboard a 150-foot yacht flying the flag of the Cayman Islands.

The floating party, hosted by a Florida developer on his yacht "Cracker Bay," was one of a dozen exclusive events meant to nurture those who have raised more than $1 million for Romney's bid. 

Am I wrong?

(Yes, I know it's the civil ensign flag and not the national flag, but still. (And it's just red instead of blue.))

(And... Cracker Bay? Really?)

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What has happened to the Republican Party?

I'm not a big fan of making too much of bad behavior when it comes from individuals of one party affiliation or the other. There are stupid people everywhere. You get into a lot of trouble when you point fingers because the next time it's going to be someone on your side who said or did the dumb thing.

Having said that, sometimes bad behavior by a few can signal what the many are thinking, but you have to be careful.

Still, facts are facts and should be reported. And people should draw their own conclusions about the extent to which statements and policies of decision makers are in some way consistent with the statements or actions of the bad actors. Personally, I'm convinced the Romney campaign has shifted to a new Southern Strategy, as I've written, and their views on immigration have been creating a huge problem for them with Hispanic voters. I'm not surprised that a few feel they have permission to be jerks.

A lot of people found two instances very disturbing at the GOP convention thus far. The first, widely noted, was this: 

Two people were removed from the Republican National Convention Tuesday after they threw nuts at an African-American CNN camera operator and said, "This is how we feed animals."

Multiple witnesses observed the exchange and RNC security and police immediately removed the two people from the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

The convention released a statement saying, "Two attendees tonight exhibited deplorable behavior. Their conduct was inexcusable and unacceptable. This kind of behavior will not be tolerated."

The second case was reported by Jack Hitt at Harper's Magazine:

As I was standing in line for a sandwich next to an Italian and a Puerto Rican correspondent, a controversy was unfolding on the floor. The RonPaulites, whose furious devotion to a single idea have made them the Ellen Jamesians of the right, were protesting a decision by RNC officials not to seat members of the Maine delegation, which was split between Paul and Romney supporters following rule changes made just prior to the convention. There were energetic shouts of "Aye!" and "Nay!" as a Puerto Rican party functionary — Zoraida Fonalledas, the chairwoman of the Committee on Permanent Organization — took her turn at the main-stage lectern. As she began speaking in her accented English, some in the crowd started shouting "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!"

None of us could quite believe what we were seeing: A sea of twentysomething bowties and cowboy hats morphing into frat bros apparently shrieking over (or at) a Latina. RNC chairman Reince Priebus quickly stepped up and asked for order and respect for the speaker, suggesting that, yeah, what we had just seen might well have been an ugly outburst of nativism.

Mitt Romney is already headed towards an statistically insignificant portion of the African-American vote. It looks like some of his supporters are trying to help him achieve the same results in the Hispanic community.

Here's a clip of the incident involving Ms. Fonalledas:

(|Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Obama's Republican Convention bounce

By Carl 

A startling column was released this morning by Nate Silver:

Polls that are published during the party conventions can be anticlimactic, representing old news since they won't fully reflect the effects of the convention bounce. And none of the surveys that came out on Wednesday were that newsworthy to begin with – although there was one, in Ohio, that had encouraging news for Barack Obama, and another, in Nevada, that was slightly favorable for Mitt Romney.

The Ohio survey was conducted by the automated-polling firm Gravis Marketing, which had Mr. Obama ahead of Mr. Romney by less than 1 full percentage point.

A one-point lead isn't much, and Mr. Obama has gotten some better numbers than that in Ohio. So why does this qualify as good news for him? Because this firm has had Republican-leaning results in the other states that it has polled, putting Mr. Romney up by 2 points in Florida, 1 point in Colorado and 17 points in Missouri, making it several points more Republican-leaning than the consensus of surveys in those states. Once the model adjusts for the firm's "house effect," it treats Mr. Obama's nominal 1-point lead as being the equivalent of a 4- or 5-point lead instead. Thus, Mr. Obama's chances of winning Ohio rose somewhat based on the survey. 

Now, his first point, about polling during conventions, is an interesting one, and one I'd dispute. The Romney camp has played up the convention heading into Tampa and if anything, should have received a pre-bounce from the naming of Paul Ryan as Veep candidate and the twin stump speeches the two have delivered practically in unison.

That Ohio has shown itself inured to the bullshit says a lot about this poll. Here's why:

By two-to-one (44% to 22%), the public says that raising taxes on incomes above $250,000 would help the economy rather than hurt it, while 24% say this would not make a difference. Moreover, an identical percentage (44%) says a tax increase on higher incomes would make the tax system more fair, while just 21% say it would make the system less fair.

Interestingly, the country is about split between the two men with respect to who would do a better job of handling the economy in the next four years -- Romney 48%, Obama 44% (MoE 3.9%).

So that's the box Romney has painted himself into. He can bash the President over the economy, but that flies in the face of public perception. He already has a monumental task in front of him with regards to firming up his own image, so to try to juggle both of these balls is near impossible.

This is why he's been hesitant to really go after President Obama on the issue of jobs and the economy, which would normally be a strong point for the challenger in a lackluster nation. People get that Obama was handed a heaping plate of crap, one that's only been piled higher and deeper by Republican mayors and governors across the nation who have gone out of their way to destroy jobs in the public sector.

Add to that an openly hostile Republican House, and few people can seriously blame Obama for the jobs problem. He's tried. He's been, if anything, too cooperative with the Republicans... remember the debt ceiling agreement that Weaker Boehner hammered out with the president? Turned out, Tanned Man couldn't even deliver a pizza.

It's safe to say, I think, that the Romney candidacy, quixotic from the outset, is floundering on the reefs of common sense.

In one respect, we should probably be grateful to Mitt Romney's ego in running in 2012, because it saves us the trouble of ever having a Romney presidency, with all its concomittant screw ups. He won't run in 2016, and we can go out and destroy Chris Christie's political career in that election.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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Ann Romney woos Latino voters with the typical Romney mix of ignorance, entitlement, and douchebaggery

By most accounts, it would seem that Ann Romney's pre-Christie speech on Tuesday went quite well, though, really, did anyone expect otherwise? She's a polished business/political wife and she now has a lot of experience trying to humanize her husband.

It went well? Big deal.

Then again, she's one-half of a rich douchebag couple -- she drives a couple o' Cadillacs, is really into dressage (a rich white person's "sport"), comes across as remarkably stuck up despite her various and ongoing attempts at modesty and humility, and refers to those beneath her, which she and Mitt see as pretty much everyone, as "you people."

So there was certainly ample opportunity for her sense of entitlement and privilege to come across in her speech, or at some point during the convention. And... well, it did, just a day after her supposed triumph:

Ann Romney's convention speech was directly aimed at wooing female voters, but at a lunch event Wednesday she changed her focus and pitched her husband to Hispanic voters, a voting bloc that is especially important in this battleground state, urging them to get past the "biases... from the Democratic machine."

Right, their biases. Like, you know, being against xenophobia and immigrant-baiting. Like being for the DREAM Act, addressing the issue of undocumented immigration with compassion, and being open to the idea of America as a land of opportunity for all, not just for the privileged (white) few.

Seriously, is Ann Romney so fucking clueless about the extremist right-wing -- and indeed outright nativist -- positions Republicans have taken on the very existence of Latinos in America?

It's not all about "small business," which Romney mentioned in her speech, as if Latinos are all small business owners -- again, what utter lack of understanding, what utter ignorance.

And then to suggest that she "know[s] what it’s like to be the daughter of immigrants" because her grandfather was a Welsh coalminer? Seriously? Nothing at all against Welsh coalminers, who had it rough, but that's completely ridiculous. (One of my grandfathers landed on the beaches on D-Day with the U.S. Army, while the other was a British bomber pilot. I know what it's like to fight the Germans!)

You know, if Mitt Romney were his own wife, he'd be just like Ann. They're perfect for each other.

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Nature's way

No one would wish a natural disaster on anyone, and I'm glad that Tropical Storm Isaac did not hit Tampa and the Republican convention: it rains on the just and the unjust alike. And I don't believe in such superstitions as divine intervention via floods, earthquakes, and other tectonic phenomena to deliver judgment on the actions of humans.

But I can't help but notice the timing of the arrival of Hurricane Isaac on the Gulf Coast and New Orleans and the fact that anyone over the age of ten is reminded that it was exactly seven years ago that Hurricane Katrina wrought horrible destruction on the city and the heckuva job the last Republican administration did in responding to it.

It doesn't make for good visuals that the GOP is partying on while the networks are breaking away to bring us live coverage from the storm and the overtopping of the levees in Plaquemines Parish.

Call it what you will: the hand of God, karma, or a tropical cyclone. It's just nature's way of reminding us that a sense of timing isn't a quality that is unique to us mere mortals. 

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Chris Christie bombs at convention by setting egotistical sights on 2016

I like Mitt. Mitt's a friend of mine. But, you know, if things don't work out...

The first thing is that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is an egomaniacal blowhard.

The second thing is that, reportedly, one of the reasons he didn't want to give up his current position to be Romney's running mate is that he thinks Romney will lose in November.

The third thing is that, should Romney lose, Christie would be a leading contender for the GOP nod in 2016.

The fourth thing is that Christie's an egomaniacal blowhard.

So, really, it should have come as no surprise that he bombed, at least according to how these things are judged, with his keynote address at the Republican convention Thursday night:

There is no mistaking what a successful keynote speech for Chris Christie would have looked and sounded like. There would have been an electric reaction from the crowd in the convention hall. It would have been followed by waves of effusive media commentary about how people had just heard the future of the Republican Party.

Judged by these standards, there is also no mistaking what the New Jersey governor delivered instead: A prime-time belly-flop, one that notably failed to clear either of those two high bars.

The reaction in the audience was mildly enthusiastic, and muted in comparison to the reception given to Ann Romney just minutes before Christie spoke. Political commentary about the 24-minute speech — while some of it has been favorable — has been dominated by discussion of whether Christie offered too many words about himself and too few about Romney or about the kind of original and provocative ideas that many were expecting on such a major occasion.

Too much about himself? Not enough about his pal Mitt? Huh.

No "original and provocative ideas"? Well, he needed to play it safe, didn't he, even in terms of self-promotion. He's a conservative but not necessarily the sort of right-wing ideologue currently dominating the party. (He's been original and provocative before, but in the Republican Party being something other than, say, an anti-Muslim bigot is original and provocative these days, and it didn't make sense for him to alienate a crowd of true believers given his longer-term political aspirations.)

Chris Christie carefully positioning himself for a 2016 run? Say it ain't so!

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The real David Brooks (on the real Mitt Romney)

(Ed. note: If you missed it, the whole Brooks piece, from Monday, is worth a read. For all its snarky humor, there's more truth in it than in pretty much anything else he's ever written. And even if part of what Brooks is doing is poking fun at the Romney caricature as presented by Democrats (and many in the media), and thereby criticizing not so much Romney but those critical of Romney, his caricature of Romney is so truthful that it makes the Democratic caricature seem like a genuine portrait, which of course it is. And so Mr. Brooks deserves our thanks for distilling the essence of Mitt Romney into a single op-ed piece. Nicely done indeed. -- MJWS)

Believe it or not, David Brooks can get downright snarky about Mitt Romney.

Mitt Romney was born on March 12, 1947, in Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Virginia and several other swing states. He emerged, hair first, believing in America, and especially its national parks. He was given the name Mitt, after the Roman god of mutual funds, and launched into the world with the lofty expectation that he would someday become the Arrow shirt man.

Romney was a precocious and gifted child. He uttered his first words ("I like to fire people") at age 14 months, made his first gaffe at 15 months and purchased his first nursery school at 24 months. The school, highly leveraged, went under, but Romney made 24 million Jujubes on the deal.

Mitt grew up in a modest family. His father had an auto body shop called the American Motors Corporation, and his mother owned a small piece of land, Brazil. He had several boyhood friends, many of whom owned Nascar franchises, and excelled at school, where his fourth-grade project, "Inspiring Actuaries I Have Known," was widely admired.

The Romneys had a special family tradition. The most cherished member got to spend road trips on the roof of the car. Mitt spent many happy hours up there, applying face lotion to combat windburn.

I'm guessing one of two things happened. He lost a bet with Maureen Dowd, or he got hammered at the Club Manilla in Ybor City and cranked this out on his iPad while he was waiting for another round delivered by Kurt with the dreamy eyes and shoulders for days. ("Honey, I only went there because they have free WiFi.") If so, he's a mean one when he gets a couple of apple Martinis in him:

After his governorship, Romney suffered through a midlife crisis, during which he became a social conservative. This prepared the way for his presidential run. He barely won the 2012 Republican primaries after a grueling nine-month campaign, running unopposed. At the convention, where his Secret Service nickname is Mannequin, Romney will talk about his real-life record: successful business leader, superb family man, effective governor, devoted community leader and prudent decision-maker. If elected, he promises to bring all Americans together and make them feel inferior.

It's one thing to get this kind of snark from the left, but when it comes from someone who sells himself as the epitome of the sensible conservative, then Boston, we have a problem. 

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Is Linda McMahon on her way to buying a Connecticut Senate seat?

By Richard K. Barry

Well, this is interesting. Former professional wrestling executive Linda McMahon has a small lead in Connecticut to replace Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID), which is, as the National Journal points out, a "stark reversal from her losing Senate bid in 2010":

The poll, conducted by Quinnipiac University, shows McMahon, the GOP's Senate nominee for the second time in as many election cycles, leading Rep. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., 49 percent to 46 percent. Four percent of likely voters are undecided. 
Apart from the ballot test, McMahon's personal ratings continue to show steady improvement in Quinnipiac's polling. Now, 47 percent of likely voters have a favorable opinion of her, compared to just 35 percent who view her unfavorably. Last September, her favorability rating among registered voters was upside-down. 
McMahon is also being propelled by the surprising strength of the GOP standard-bearer, Mitt Romney, at the top of the ticket. President Obama leads Romney, the former governor of neighboring Massachusetts, 52 percent to 45 percent. Likely voters are split on Obama's job performance -- 49 percent approve, and 48 percent disapprove -- far worse than the 54-percent approval rating Obama recorded among 2010 voters, according to exit polls.

Oh, and let's not forget that McMahon has the ability to spend million and millions of dollars of her own money on her election, which can go a long way to improve anyone's likability numbers (well, not anyone).

This should remind us that nothing is for certain in November, especially with the kind of money that will be spent.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Quote of the Day: Romney won't let the facts get in his way

(Ed. note: For once, you've got to praise the Romney people for their honesty. -- MJWS)

Romney campaign adviser Neil Newhouse:

We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.

Of course not. That would take all the fun out of it.

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The fiscal havoc Republicans have wreaked

Republicans are in Tampa this week blaming President Obama for... well, for pretty much everything, but mostly, it would seem (based on Christie's speech last night), for not being serious enough and so not doing enough about the bloated budget deficit and ballooning national debt.

The propaganda will be in heavy supply, and Romney is being touted as, and will tout himself as when he takes the podium Thursday night, just the sort of responsible fiscal conservative America needs at this time of fiscal crisis.

Don't believe a word of it.

First, of course, there's the Romney-Ryan (and orthodox Republican) "plan," which mostly focuses on tax cuts for the wealthy (you know, people like... Mitt Romney), paying for them, sort of, by crushing government into oblivion -- there are a lot of unspecified spending cuts, though not to national defense, which is indeed rather bloated, unspecified largely because the devil, as they say, is in the details, or in other words because any such cuts would be unpopular, along with entitlement reform of the kind that would essentially destroy hugely popular and hugely successful programs like Social Security and Medicare -- that is, summing up, paying for them by burdening everyone else, the vast majority of Americans who aren't rich.

You won't hear any of that in Tampa, though you'll hear a lot about how Obama and the Democrats are waging class war and unfairly picking on the wonderful job creating "makers" who just happen to be rich, boo-hoo for them, pity the poor souls and their god-given wealth, and you'll hear a lot about how the only way to get the economy moving again, and to resolve the fiscal crisis, is to reintroduce some serious trickling down. Oh, they won't call it that, but that's what they mean when they propose slashing taxes (on the rich, though they'll claim it's much broader than that) and spending (mostly for programs that benefit everyone else).

But then, second, there's this... the fact that the current fiscal crisis is largely a Republican creation, a product of the gluttonous Bush years, when the GOP controlled the White House and Capitol Hill and ran roughshod all over fiscal responsibility through tax cutting and warmongering.

Here's where a graphic would help, and helpfully Ezra Klein provides one:

Pretty clear, no? As Klein explains:

The top layer, the orange one, that's the Bush tax cuts. There is no single policy we have passed that has added as much to the debt, or that is projected to add as much to the debt in the future, as the Bush tax cuts, which Republicans passed in 2001 and 2003 and Obama and the Republicans extended in 2010. To my knowledge, all elected Republicans want to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. Democrats, by and large, want to end them for income over $250,000.

In second place is the economic crisis. That's the medium blue. Recessions drive tax revenue down because people lose their jobs, and when you lose your job, you lose your income, and when you lose your income, you can't pay taxes. Tax revenues in recent years have been 15.4 percent of GDP — the lowest level since the 1950s. Meanwhile, they drive social spending up, because programs like unemployment insurance and Medicaid automatically begin spending more to help the people who have been laid off.

Then comes the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That's the red. And then recovery measures like the stimulus. That's the light blue, and the part for which you can really blame Obama and the Democrats– though it’s worth remembering that the stimulus had to happen because of a recession that began before Obama entered office, and that the Senate Republicans proposed and voted for a $3 trillion tax cut stimulus that would have added almost four times what Obama's stimulus added to the debt.

Then there's the financial rescue measures like TARP, which is the dark blue line. That's almost nothing, as much of that money has been paid back.

In other words, a largely Republican mess, made worse by a global economic downturn that hardly was Obama's fault. And, indeed, the president has tried to do something about it.

First, he pulled the economy back from the brink of collapse, not least through a stimulus package that Republicans tried to block and through rescuing the domestic auto industry, which some Republicans, including Romney, also tried to block.

So contrary to Republican propagands, it's not that Obama has done so poorly at fixing the economy, it's that the economy would be so much worse were it not for him, were Republicans the ones calling the shots.

Which in many ways they have, controlling the House since 2010, using the filibuster like a disloyal opposition in the Senate, and pursuing a course of absolute obstructionism at every turn, even when the president was handing them a deal that was incredibly friendly to conservatism: "Obama has proposed a multi-trillion dollar deficit reduction plan. Republicans just refused to pass it." He was more than willing to compromise, even to put key entitlement programs on the table, much to the chagrin of progressives, but... no. Never. Refusing to hand him any sort of victory, Republicans chose to block any measure other than one steeped in their right-wing extremism, like the Ryan budget, that aimed to get the country's fiscal house in order.

All of which makes their rhetoric about fiscal responsibility, about how Romney will do what needs to be done, complete and utter bullshit.

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Ronald Reagan: Socialist

I just never get tired of this. Bloomberg makes the point made by many, even Republicans like Jeb Bush, that Ronald Reagan would have a very hard time being elected to anything in today's GOP:

During Reagan's eight years in the White House, the federal payroll grew by more than 300,000 workers. Although he was a net tax cutter who slashed individual income-tax rates, Reagan raised taxes about a dozen times.

His rhetoric matched that of many of today's most ardent Christian conservatives, yet he proved to be a reluctant warrior on abortion and other social issues. Perhaps most tellingly, he was willing to cut deals, working closely with Democratic leaders such as House Speaker Tip O'Neill of Massachusetts to overhaul Social Security and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Rostenkowski of Illinois to revamp the tax code.

As Bloomberg notes:

That record prompted President Barack Obama in April to invoke a predecessor's words about tax fairness, quoting a story about an executive who paid lower tax rates than his secretary and millionaires who exploited loopholes to pay no taxes while a bus driver paid his fair share.

"That wild-eyed socialist, tax-hiking class warrior was Ronald Reagan," Obama said.

Okay, it's a good joke, but it does say something about the state of conservatism in American, none of it good.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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One Thing Is For Certain


(CBS/AP) NEW ORLEANS - Hurricane Isaac knocked out power, flooded Gulf-front roads and pushed water over the top of an 18-mile section of a rural Louisiana levee before dawn Wednesday as it began a slow, wet slog across the state with a newly fortified New Orleans in its path.

Wind gusts and sheets of rain pelted the nearly empty streets of New Orleans, where people watched the incoming Isaac from behind levees that were strengthened after the much stronger Hurricane Katrina hit seven years ago to the day.

Water pushed by the large and powerful storm flooded over an 18-mile stretch of one levee in Plaquemines Parish south of New Orleans, flooding some homes in a thinly populated area. No injuries were reported.

"When this is over, I think we need to check the wind speeds because I lost a good portion of my roof, my fence is down, and water is blowing through the sockets in my house from the back wall," Parish President Billy Nungesser said in a phone call to CBS New Orleans affiliate WWL. "That only happened in Katrina."

If ever there was a divine warning to hubris and calumny, it is this: that Isaac devastated the same coastline and regions that Katrina did, just seven years ago.

I don't need to tell you, the reader, of the exposure to the Bush management style that created: bungling patricianism, arms-length leadership, and a blatant disregard for the suffering of working class Americans (oh, happy birthday, Senator McCain!).

This is happening at the precipice of a change in Republican party politics. That party is at a crossroads: will they capitulate to the haranguing Teabaggers or begin to pull away from them? If I was asked that a month ago, I'd say they're all in, but in the past week, there have been many pieces, some from unusual sources, saying "Basta!"

Perhaps they aren't clarion calls for a party purge-- which would make for great television, since that's what the Teabaggers want, too-- but they are an acknowledgement that things have gone south..literally...for the party born of rebellion against the Whigs.

Naturally, the interjection of Isaac will dampen down the proceedings, and distract the viewing audience from the message the RNC has crafted. Imagine flooding on the scale of Katrina, juxtaposed with all those bright, shining faces in Tampa. The memories of 2005 loom large. The RNC would not want to be seen as smiling through a tragedy.
Too, Mitt's message on the economy, which he will have to craft carefully-- devoted family man who's destroyed millions of American families to add another dollar to his Cayman bank account will somehow find jobs for twenty million Americans-- is a difficult enough message for most Americans when they don't have the tragic spectacle of people surviving on rooftops to switch over to the instant he loses their attention.
And, of course, President Obama will have no choice but to fly down to the Gulf coast to inspect the damage and look all Presidential in doing so.
For his part, Obama has played this summer nearly perfectly but in fairness, he's had to do practically nothing: an agreement with Israel there, buying up surplus agricultural products from drought-ravaged farmers here, and just generally keep the focus on Mitt's myriad faux pas.
When your adversary is drowning, don't throw him a life preserver. Good political advice.
Mark Halperin, who usually talks out of his ass (and in this instance, mostly did) posted one piece of cogent advice in Time Magazine this week:

With Mitt Romney locked in a tough fight for the White House, Republican strategists inside and outside his campaign are mentally composing a long to-do list for the former Massachusetts governor to bolster his chances on Election Day ...

Foremost on that list: Make an impression. Romney must introduce himself to the wider electorate during the convention in Tampa with a killer acceptance speech that keeps voters and the press talking all the way through his rival's oration in Charlotte, N.C.

As noted, that's going to be next to impossible with Isaac churning up the levees of New Orleans and environs. Even if Romney was capable of a "killer acceptance speech," with teleprompter, no doubt, it will get lost in translation.

One more thing: Romney may have gotten lucky with the storm in one respect. The introduction speech by Ann Romney contained this gem.

He will take us to a better place, just as he took me home safely from that dance.

Talking about when she and Mitt met. So her raison d'etre for a Romney Presidency is, she didn't get date-raped? Wow. Simply wow.

(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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Healthy choice

Mitt Romney told CBS News:

I'm in favor of abortion being legal in the case of rape and incest and the health and life of the mother. But recognize, this is the decision that will be made by the Supreme Court. The Democrats try and make this a political issue every four years, but this is a matter in the courts. It's been settled for some time in the courts.

This position -- including an exception for the health of the mother -- is in direct contradiction of the stated GOP platform, as well as Mitt Romney himself, according to an e-mail from his spokesperson:

Gov. Romney's position is clear: he opposes abortion except for cases of rape, incest and where the life of the mother is threatened.

Note the deletion of the health exception.

And so it goes. Mr. Romney has more positions on this than the Kama Sutra

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Gov. Christie will apparently play nice at the Republican convention

By Richard K. Barry

What, am I not nice?
According to John Avlon at The Daily Beast, Chris Christie will be on his best behaviour for his key note address at the GOP convention, despite what one might expect:
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s keynote address is the substantive center-piece of this first night of the Republican Convention. But contrary to expectations that he will play the traditional role of attack dog, the former U.S. Attorney will instead lay out a positive Republican vision of change for the nation – rooted in policy, biography and his surprisingly bipartisan accomplishments in the Garden State.

According to Avalon, "it is a surprising and savvy move from a political figure who opponents sometimes accuse of bullying his critics."
There will be none of the expected fire and brimstone – instead Christie will offer a positive vision of Republican philosophy focused on governing and treating American citizens as adults who understand hard truths, such as the need to reform entitlements to ensure the long-term fiscal stability of the nation.

Of course, Christie is at his best when he's beating up on some hapless victim at a town hall meeting, and this kind of event just doesn't lend itself to his real strength, which is basically being a thug.

On the other hand, it's interesting that someone other than Romney is providing the Republican's positive vision for the country. Shouldn't the candidate be doing that?

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Jeb Bush wants Barack Obama to quit picking on his brother

Stop picking on my brother or I'll tell our ma.
And you really don't want that.

Jeb Bush said on Sunday that President Obama should stop blaming the poor economy on his brother, George W. As reported by CNN:

While conceding that Obama did inherit a tough economy when he took office in 2008, Bush said that Obama’s policies have hindered the country's economic growth.

"I think it is time for him to move on," said Bush said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"His policies have failed," said Bush. "And rather than blame others -- which I know we were taught that that was kind of unbecoming, over time you just can't keep doing that -- maybe offer some fresh new solutions to the problems that we face. But that's not going to happen between now and Election Day."

I have a few questions for Jeb:

Could you tell us all how Mitt Romney's policies differ from the policies that got us into so much trouble in the first place, i.e., your brother's policies?

If they are different, and I don't believe they are, could you tell us how your brother could have screwed up so badly?

And if they're not different and Mitt Romney is likely going to pick up where "W." left off, can you tell us why "W." isn't campaigning with Romney and doesn't have a featured spot at the convention?

Just wondering. 

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Craziest Republican of the Day: Pennsylvania GOP Senate candidate Tom Smith

By Richard K. Barry

According to Think Progress, Tom Smith, the Republican challenging for Sen. Bob Casey's (D-PA) seat, "suggested that having a child out of wedlock was analogous to rape during an interview with a reporter at a press club this afternoon, claiming that it would have a 'similar' effect on a father":

MARK SCOLFORO, ASSOCIATED PRESS: How would you tell a daughter or a granddaughter who, God forbid, would be the victim of a rape, to keep the child against her own will? Do you have a way to explain that?

SMITH: I lived something similar to that with my own family. She chose life, and I commend her for that. She knew my views. But, fortunately for me, I didn't have to... she chose they way I thought. No don't get me wrong, it wasn't rape.

SCOLFORO: Similar how

SMITH: Uh, having a baby out of wedlock.

SCOLFORO: That's similar to rape?

SMITH: No, no, no, but... put yourself in a father's situation, yes. It is similar. But, back to the original, I'm pro-life, period.

In fairness, Smith knew he stepped in it as soon as he spoke, but he said what he said, which is disturbing.

I think Daily Kos had this one about right:

The hell? So if you're a father, having your daughter have sex out of wedlock or having her raped is pretty much the same thing?

And that's what you base your reactionary anti-abortion stance on? To hell with violence or consent or anything else, it's just some sort of father-daughter property rights thing?

There are Todd Akins everywhere in the GOP. Crazy, crazy, crazy.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Quote of the Day: Herman Cain on Obama and pizza

Herman Cain, pizza magnate and former candidate for president on the future of America:

It's worse to imagine a world with Obama getting a second term than it is to imagine a world without pizza. Because with Obama in a second term, there will be no pizza. For anyone.

And millions of teenagers with 20-year-old Toyota Corollas with magnetic signs on the top will be deprived of their livelihood.

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Romney's race card and the GOP's new Southern Strategy

By Richard K. Barry

Chris Matthews can sometimes make me crazy, but I was proud of the man yesterday on Morning Joe when he called out RNC Chair Reince Priebus for the particular variant of the Southern Strategy being played out by the GOP with their lies about Obama's supposed changes to welfare rules and equally untrue statements about the reallocation of Medicare funding to Obamacare.

Nothing else is working for Romney, which is why he is playing the "race card," as Matthews correctly pointed out.

There is an excellent piece at The Atlantic Wire by Elspeth Reeve on this shift in strategy.

According to Reeve:
Romney's advisers believe Romney "needs a more combative footing against President Obama in order to appeal to white, working-class voters and to persuade them that he is the best answer to their economic frustrations," The New York Times' Jeff Zeleny and Jim Rutenberg reported. And as we pointed out on Friday, if Romney gets 61 percent of the white vote, he wins. If you have any doubt that Romney is playing the race card, check out his YouTube page. There are five ads falsely accusing Obama of gutting welfare reform. The Republican National Committee has put out its own welfare ad. And another three Romney ads say Obama is raiding Medicare to pay for Obamacare. The latter ads show white faces and say "you paid in" but now health care is going to somebody else.

Here's Matthews's exchange with Priebus:

(Cross-posted at Lippmann`s Ghost.)

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