Saturday, September 15, 2012

Sunday panel guests for Sept. 16, 2012

Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the U.N.

Meet the Press: Benjamin Netanyahu, Susan Rice, Keith Ellison, Peter King, Bob Woodward, Jeffrey Goldberg, Andrea Mitchell

Face the Nation: Susan Rice, John McCain, Richard Haas, Martin Indyk

This Week: Susan Rice, George Will, Liz Cheney, Wesley Clark, Gwen Ifil, Jonathan Karl

Fox News Sunday: Susan Rice, Mike Rogers

State of the Union: Benjamin Netanyahu, Susan Rice, Nancy Pelosi

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The latest smear: Republicans dishonestly accuse President Obama of "skipping" intelligence briefings

By Michael J.W. Stickings

President Obama, on a secure iPad, with Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Intelligence Integration Robert Cardillo -- January 31, 2012.

Basically, Republicans can say anything they want, and make any ridiculous accusation to try to make President Obama look bad, and suddenly the accusation becomes part of the national discussion, with the media treating the accusation like a legitimate point worthy of serious coverage and consideration.

I'm fucking tired of it. Fucking, fucking, fucking tired of it.

The latest accusation, given prominence initially by Dick Cheney (who made it in an interview with the right-wing Daily Caller the day before 9/11 last week), comes in the context of the Times's remarkable report, published the same day, that the ignorance, incompetence, and stunning gross negligence of the Bush-Cheney administration prior to 9/11 was even worse than we knew -- "The Deafness Before the Storm."

Suddenly on the defensive, Cheney lashed out at Obama, saying that the president wasn't "participating in his intelligence briefings on a regular basis," the implicaton being that Obama is less engaged than his predecessor and possibly even a threat to national security.

And it didn't stop with Cheney. After the Times report and a terrible week for Romney on the foreign policy front, Republicans, with Romney-booster Karl Rove right out in front, are going all-in on this ridiculous accusation, and the media are playing right along.

Consider the title of a piece at ABC News: "Is President Obama 'Skipping' Intelligence Briefings?" Yes, the piece provides the White House response, quoting Press Secretary Jay Carney and noting that the president "religiously reads a written version of the same prepared material, often on a secure iPad (as seen in this official White House PHOTO). He often receives an in-person briefing in addition, aides note, as well as real-time national security updates during the day, both in the office and on the road." But not before taking the Republican accusation seriously and turning the issue into a Crossfire-style debate between two supposedly equal, and equally valid, sides:

Conservative critics of President Obama are accusing him of "skipping" daily intelligence briefings throughout his first term and in the days leading up to this week's deadly attacks on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Libya.

The anti-Obama super PAC American Crossroads levels the charge in a new Web ad HERE.

Right-leaning bloggers and American Enterprise Institute scholar and Washington Post columnist Marc

Thiessen make the case HERE and HERE.

But the substance of the charge, aimed at undermining Obama's credibility as commander in chief, appears to be more a matter of semantics than hard fact.

Uh, no. It's not a matter of semantics, it's a matter of Republicans being dishonest and smearing the president, accusing him of shirking his responsibilities and weakening the country, putting Americans at risk.

Of course, if you look at the facts, he's doing nothing of the kind. President Obama is highly engaged, significantly more so than Bush. And he isn't just consuming information, he's actively questioning the information and analysis he's given, pressing to make sure it's right and asking for alternative analyses and additional information so he can understand what's going on in a highly complex world as fully as possible and make the informed decisions one should expect from the president of the United States.

Indeed, far from shirking his responsibilities and weakening the country, he's taking his responsibilities with the utmost seriousness and strengthening the country by providing mature, responsible leadership, understanding in detail the issues and options he confronts each and every day.

Bush may have preferred oral briefings, but Obama, like Clinton before Bush, takes a more diverse approach -- one that, it seems to me, leads to greater engagement with the challenging issues of the day. He doesn't just want to be told what's going on, he wants to read the materials for himself and push back as required:

"He does both all the time, all the time," White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters [yesterday]. "And when he is here in Washington, he has briefings in person in the Oval Office with his national security team regularly. And when he is on the road, he has phone conversations that supplement and augment the briefings he receives on paper that are specific to the so-called PDB. I hardly think that is different from previous presidents."

Actually, I'd say that makes him quite a bit more engaged, and quite a bit more responsible, than his predecessor. He likes to read, and he wants to know more, and he wants to be able to make decisions based on as much information and with as much comprehensive analysis as possible.

Cheney, other Bush apologists, and the various other Republicans now attacking the president, partly to defend their own massive incompetence and partly to help the struggling Romney, are adding to the Republican narrative that Obama isn't up to the job.

But the record is clear, and even clearer following the Times report: It was Bush and Cheney and their minions in the White House and Pentagon who were negligent and irresponsible, and it's Romney who is unqualified, unprepared, and unfit for the presidency.

Meanwhile, President Obama is doing his job -- and doing it extremely well.

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Kansas Klown Kobach

By Mustang Bobby 

I visit Kansas every year. It's a beautiful place and there are a lot of nice people there that I consider to be good friends. But wow, they're raising an odd crop of elected officials there:

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, an informal advisor to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, said on Thursday he and his fellow members of a state board were considering removing President Barack Obama from the Kansas ballot this November.

Kobach is part of the State Objections Board along with Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, all Republicans. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported that on Thursday the board agreed to consider whether to take Obama off the ballot because they said they lacked sufficient evidence about his birth certificate.

"I don't think it's a frivolous objection," Kobach said, according to the Capital-Journal. "I do think the factual record could be supplemented."

I've said it before, but it bears repeating: anyone who seriously purports that Barack Obama is not a citizen of the United States because of this birther nonsense is a racist asshole. Any elected official who tries to remove the president from the ballot because of birtherism is a loathsome douchebag who should be shunned, ridiculed, and heaped with scorn. 

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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New poll: Obama up big in Pennsylvania

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The Inquirer reports:

President Obama, already ahead in Pennsylvania, received a small bump from the Democratic National Convention and now leads Mitt Romney in the state by 11 points, according to the Inquirer Pennsylvania Poll.

But with eight weeks left before the Nov. 6 election, with debates yet to be held, and with foreign affairs suddenly atop the national agenda, it's early to concede the state to Obama, a bipartisan team of Inquirer pollsters said.

"I'm not 100 percent prepared to say Pennsylvania is not in play," said Adam Geller, of National Research Inc., a Republican firm.

Jeffrey Plaut, of Global Research Strategies, Geller's Democratic partner in the Inquirer poll, put it this way: "Is Pennsylvania done? Put a fork in it? I would say not yet."

The Romney camp clearly has signaled doubts about Pennsylvania by slashing TV ads and candidate appearances. Obama, too, has cut back, and the state lags behind Ohio, Florida, and other swing states as targets for the most intensive campaigning.

Fair enough... it's not over yet.

But Obama had better win Pennsylvania, and fairly easily. If he doesn't, which would mean he also doesn't win much tighter battleground states like Ohio and Florida, it'll be President Romney as of next January.

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On the Chicago teachers strike

By Mustang Bobby

I was going to write a long rant in support of the teachers on strike in Chicago, but Charlie Pierce beat me to it and nobody does rants like him:

I am not flexible about this. If you want to look tough at the expense of public-school teachers, you are a snob or a coward, or perhaps both. Every member of this MSNBC panel that Digby found, including all the liberals and all the Democrats thereon, can bite me, seriously. If I have to read one more smug, Ivy League writer from Slate talking, as the big strike goes on, about public-school teachers as though they were unruly hired help, I may hit someone with a fish. Let Matt Yglesias do 20 percent more work for four percent less pay and see how he likes it. The idea that, say, "Chuck" Lane cares more about "the kids" than do the people walking the picket lines in Chicago is damned near close to obscene.

I couldn't agree more.

To any of you out there who think that teachers have it "easy," that they only work when school is in session, and wow, it must be nice to have all that time off (I get that too, even though my job with the district is full time and summer is the busiest time), I issue the following challenge: go to your neighborhood public school and shadow a teacher for a week. See what they go through, see what they have to do to be ready to put on classes, get ready for the next one, grade papers, go to all the meetings, attend all the after-school and weekend events like football, basketball, and baseball games, drama productions, deal with the parents, work with individual kids before or after class, try to keep up with the professional development requirements, duck the occasional violent outburst, and then listen to some politician or pundit carry on about how public sector union employees are lazy and want it all. Yeah, you'd be walking a picket line, too, if you had the chance.

Oh, look, I ranted anyway. 

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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A.M. Headlines

U.S. Politics

(Associated Press): "Campaigns push forward as Mideast unrest spreads"

(Reuters): "U.S. won't tolerate efforts to harm Americans: Obama"

(New York Times): "Some Romney proposals await further detail"

(Los Angeles Times): "Romney tells Values Voter Summit that 'culture matters'"

(CBS News): "Judge strikes down Wisconsin law limiting union rights"

(Chicago Sun-Times): "Wisconsin new battleground for Obama, Romney"

(CNN): "Tentative deal reached in 5-day Chicago teachers strike"

(Politico): "In Massachusetts, Brown-Warren civility begins to crack"

Other News

(Bloomberg): "Arab protests ease after days of rage against anti-Muslim film"

(CBS News): "Federal authorities question man who may be anti-Muslim filmmaker"

(MarketWatch): "U.S. stocks enter Fed-inspired rally"

(Seattle Post Intelligencer): "University of Texas defends bomb threat response"

(Washington Post): "With lockout looming, NHL and union get back in touch..."


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Friday, September 14, 2012

Culture of victimhood

By Mustang Bobby

Greg Sargent is astonished:

There is an astonishing amount of complaining among conservatives about how unfair the media was to Mitt Romney yesterday in reporting on — and calling out — his criticism of Obama over the Embassy attacks. The gist of the complaining is that the U.S. Embassy statement was, in fact, an apology in the face of aggression, and that news outlets are stifling legitimate criticism of Obama on foreign policy.

But oddly enough, the critiques tend to avoid directly addressing, or defending, the main thing about Romney's comments that news outlets and commentators found newsworthy or objectionable.

So it's the liberal media's fault that Mitt Romney and his campaign are contemptible jerks for exploiting a tragedy?

To quote the immortal Sir Alexander Dane, "It's always about you, isn't it?" 

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Taj Mahal: "Bourgeois Blues"

By Richard K. Barry

Here's a tune by famous bluesman Taj Mahal called "Bourgeois Blues." Something about the lyrics seemed appropriate, in a political sense.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)


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Romney: Once a chickenhawk, always a chickenhawk.

By Comrade Misfit

Seems that ol' Mittens supported the Vietnam War. But being that he was a true chickenhawk, he was happy to use successive deferments to avoid having to serve in it.

Just like a typical right-wing chickenhawk: Always willing to run his mouth to support a war, but never willing to send either himself or his kids to fight in one. 

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

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Turning point

By Mustang Bobby

It seems that in every presidential campaign there comes a moment when it becomes very clear that we have reached a turning point. The choice becomes clear, and from that point on, it becomes a matter of running out the clock until the election. It's essentially over. Usually it's a gaffe or a mistake on the part of one of the candidates rather than a decisive move: Gerald Ford saying that there was no Soviet domination of Poland in 1976; Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan's "there you go again" in 1980; Michael Dukakis's bland response to a question about capital punishment in 1988, and John McCain's panic-stricken call to cancel the debates to deal with the financial crisis in 2008. Each of those snapshots, fair or not, went a long way to close the deal -- and the door -- on the choice in November

It may be too early to judge whether or not Mitt Romney shut the door on his presidential bid yesterday with his kneejerk and blatantly political response to the killing of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, in Libya and the riots in Cairo. Clearly his campaign saw the events in Libya and Egypt as nothing other than a chance to make political hay, going so far as to release statements bashing the Obama administration before all the facts were known. And when the facts and the timeline became known, including the fact that a senior American diplomat had been killed, Mr. Romney and his staff not only did not back off from their first response, they doubled down on it.

As a lot of people from every aspect of the political spectrum have noted, Mr. Romney's response raises a lot of questions about his judgment and temperament, not just as a candidate in at tight race, but as a potential leader of the nation. Turning a tragedy into a series of campaign talking points is bad enough, but the failure or unwillingness to retract or temper the remarks as the facts become known reveals a character flaw that should raise a lot of questions. Ironically, Mr. Romney's reputation as an Etch-A-Sketch on the issues may have come into play; for once he was going to stand his ground even if it was crumbling away underneath his feet.

If Mr. Romney truly believes that President Obama and the White House actually sympathized with the mob that stormed the embassy in Cairo and murdered our ambassador in Libya even though the facts prove otherwise, then he's showing a serious lack of judgment for someone who wants to be president. If Mr. Romney doesn't believe that but still goes ahead with it anyway for the sake of his campaign, then he's showing a degree of cynicism and opportunism that clearly disqualifies him as a leader of all Americans, not just the people who voted for him. In either case it shows us the true measure of his character and trustworthiness, not to mention crisis management and the ability to address a complex and evolving event.

Does any of this matter to the average voter? It may not, but it's hard to tell immediately. Unlike the Romney campaign, voters take a while to react to events like this. We will know in a few weeks if this moment is the one that marks the end of the Romney campaign, but as I noted previously, there have already been signs that the campaign is in trouble. This may have been the one we'll all look back on and know that's when the door slammed shut on Mr. Romney's run for the White House. 

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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It's the economy, stupid -- sort of

By Richard K. Barry

Greg Sargent noticed an interesting trend in recent polling for the presidential election. For quite a while, polls have been showing that voters thought Mitt Romney would do a better job handling the economy than President Obama. But not so much anymore.

He writes:

Well, we now have four national polls that show Obama and Romney tied on the question — perhaps suggesting a potentially signfiicant shift in the race's dynamics:

  • The new Fox News poll shows Obama and Romney exactly tied at 46-46 on who would better improve the economy and create jobs.
  • This week's CNN poll finds Obama and Romney in a statistical tie, 50-49, on who would better handle the economy.
  • This week's Post poll finds Obama and Romney in a statistical tie, 47-45, on the same question
  • A Rasmussen poll on Tuesday found Obama and Romney at 47-45 on who is more trusted on job creation.

As Sargent states:

This again raises the question of whether Romney's basic theory of this race — that it's inevitable that Obama will lose, because voters will conclude that he failed on the economy and will opt for an alternative that clears the most basic threshold of acceptability — is fundamentally flawed. As I keep saying here, it's possible that the true undecided voters may not be concluding Obama failed and are merely disappointed that Obama has not been able to make the recovery go faster but find that understandable, given the severity of the crisis and the depth of our problems.

No one has a magic wand that is going to fix things and, as Sargent concludes:

[Voters] may be open to the argument that Romney doesn't have the answers and that Obama’s approach — despite their disappointment — has at least as good or even a better a chance of working over the long haul.

Sounds reasonable, and the polling trend would seem to support it.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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New polls: Obama up in three key swing states (Ohio, Florida, Virginia)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

First Read reports on three new polls conducted by NBC News / Wall Street Journal / Marist:

In both Florida and Virginia, Obama is ahead of Romney by five points among likely voters (including those leaning toward a particular candidate), 49 percent to 44 percent.

In Ohio, the president's lead is seven points, 50 percent to 43 percent.

Among a larger pool of registered voters, Obama's advantage over Romney slightly increases to 7 points in Virginia, 8 in Florida and 9 in Ohio.

Of course, the usual caveats apply. There's still a long way to go, it's a tight race, the economy sucks, etc. But this is a pretty good position for the president to be in, and these polls show that he came out of the convention on the upswing, building fairly significant leads in these battleground states.

Now let's see what impact Romney's horrendous response to the situation in Egypt and Libya this week has on the polls. There's certainly a possibility that the "unqualified, unprepared, unfit" narrative takes hold and allows Obama to widen his lead.

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From Russia with love

By Mustang Bobby

Mitt Romney isn't even the president, but he's already screwing up foreign policy:

Russian President Vladimir Putin said today that Mitt Romney's characterization of Moscow as the United States' "number one geopolitical foe" has actually helped Russia.

The Russian leader said Romney's comments strengthened his resolve to oppose NATO's plan for a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe, a system Russia believes will degrade its nuclear deterrent. The U.S. insists the system is aimed at Iran, not Russia.

"I'm grateful to him (Romney) for formulating his stance so clearly because he has once again proven the correctness of our approach to missile defense problems," Putin told reporters, according to the Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

Mr. Romney's Secret Service code name is Fustercluck. 

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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A.M. Headlines

U.S. Politics

(Wall Street Pit): "QE3 and the Fed dual mandate"

(Reuters): "No deal in Chicago as strike talks drag on"

(New York Times): "Obama holds narrow edge over Romney"

(Washington Post): "Romney team sharpens attack on Obama's foreign policy"

(The Hill): "Ryan gets hero's welcome from House GOP upon return to DC"

(Houston Chronicle): "Israel leader says U.S. may not act against Iran"

(New York Times): "Fossil fuel industry ads dominate TV campaign"

Other News

(USA Today): "Egypt president: Protecting embassies an Islamic duty"

(Telegraph): "U.S. sends marines to Yemen embassy as turmoil spreads across Muslim world"

(Globe and Mail): China's naval show of strength raises stakes in island dispute with Japan"

(Associated Press): "Packers run fake FG, beat Beats 23-10"


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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Quote of the Day: Jesse Ventura, after one too many body slams

The quote below is from former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, who also used be a professional wrestler with the name Jesse "The Body" Ventura.

BuzzFeed reports that upon being asked who he preferred between Obama and Romney, refused to answer, but he did make a comment that harkened back to the last two administrations:

I can't see any difference in government between Bush and Obama apart from the color of their skin.

Ventura is out flogging a new book with the charming and oh-so-clever title Democrips and Rebloodicans:

[The book] compares the two major political parties to two of the most famous street gangs in the country, the Crips and the Bloods. In the book, Ventura encourages voters to support a third party. "Anyone that reads this book, I don't know how they could possibly vote for a Democrat or a Republican," Ventura told BuzzFeed.

Ventura added that he was supporting the Libertarian candidate, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson in 2012. Unfortunately for the politician previously known as "the body," his first choice, Ron Paul, dropped out.

I just thought you'd want to know what he was up to these days, when he wasn't chasing down wacky conspiracy theories.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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All just bluster

By Mustang Bobby

In case you missed this piece from Kurt Eichenwald in the New York Times the other day:

The direct warnings to Mr. Bush about the possibility of a Qaeda attack began in the spring of 2001. By May 1, the Central Intelligence Agency told the White House of a report that "a group presently in the United States" was planning a terrorist operation. Weeks later, on June 22, the daily brief reported that Qaeda strikes could be "imminent," although intelligence suggested the time frame was flexible.

But some in the administration considered the warning to be just bluster. An intelligence official and a member of the Bush administration both told me in interviews that the neoconservative leaders who had recently assumed power at the Pentagon were warning the White House that the C.I.A. had been fooled; according to this theory, Bin Laden was merely pretending to be planning an attack to distract the administration from Saddam Hussein, whom the neoconservatives saw as a greater threat. Intelligence officials, these sources said, protested that the idea of Bin Laden, an Islamic fundamentalist, conspiring with Mr. Hussein, an Iraqi secularist, was ridiculous, but the neoconservatives' suspicions were nevertheless carrying the day.

In response, the C.I.A. prepared an analysis that all but pleaded with the White House to accept that the danger from Bin Laden was real.

"The U.S. is not the target of a disinformation campaign by Usama Bin Laden," the daily brief of June 29 read, using the government's transliteration of Bin Laden's first name. Going on for more than a page, the document recited much of the evidence, including an interview that month with a Middle Eastern journalist in which Bin Laden aides warned of a coming attack, as well as competitive pressures that the terrorist leader was feeling, given the number of Islamists being recruited for the separatist Russian region of Chechnya.

That makes this more than just a tad ironic:

A day before the 11th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, former Vice President Dick Cheney jabbed President Barack Obama over a new report that he opted not to attend a number of presidential daily briefings, a decision that Cheney claims is indicative of his aloofness on national security.

"If President Obama were participating in his intelligence briefings on a regular basis then perhaps he would understand why people are so offended at his efforts to take sole credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden," a Cheney spokeswoman told The Daily Caller in an email.

So the next time you hear a Republican natter on about being "strong on defense," the most polite response would be derisive laughter.

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Behind the Ad: The Obama campaign on reproductive rights

By Richard K. Barry

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

Who: The Obama-Biden campaign.

Where: Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, and Virginia.

What's  going on: The Obama campaign is still working hard to reach voters about Mitt Romney's dangerous perspective on women's health issues. Steve Benen at The Maddow Blog thinks it could be the fifth ad on Romney and reproductive rights, and I'm not going to argue the point.

It began airing yesterday.

Appropriately, it's called "Dangerous."


(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Craziest Republican of the Day: Jon Kyl

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Let me turn this over to New York magazine's Joe Coscarelli:

Rather than simply paying his respects to the dead from last night's attack in Libya, Republican Senator Jon Kyl somehow managed to make things worse and mention rape. In reference to the controversial statement released — before the killings in Libya — by the U.S. embassy in Cairo, the one already fumbled by Mitt Romney, Kyl explained, "It's like the judge telling the woman who got raped, 'You asked for it because of the way you dressed.' OK? That's the same thing. 'Well America, you should be the ones to apologize, you should have known this would happen, you should have done — what I don't know — but it's your fault that it happened.'" Nope, that's not the same thing at all. Not even a little bit.

Of course, for Republicans, there's rape and there's legitimate rape, and... oh, never mind. 

It's like they just can't help themselves, and like there's just no end to their fevered insanity.

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Behind the Ad: Elizabeth Warren softens her image

By Richard K. Barry

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

Who: The Elizabeth Warren Senate campaign.

Where: Massachusetts.

What's going on: I mostly hate this, but I did see it coming. Elizabeth Warren is being encouraged to ratchet down her intensity a little bit in her ads, which is something men are almost never asked to do.

Aside from the concern that her ads have been too generic and not focused enough on the issues most of interest to Massachusetts voters, the The New York Times adds this:

There have also been worries that Ms. Warren comes across as a scold when she speaks directly into the camera, while [her opponent] Mr. Brown's ads show him driving around in his truck, appearing folksy and down-to-earth.

And this:

But in this newest ad, she is shown in a decidedly softer light. She does not speak into the camera and she does not discuss issues. Instead, ordinary people testify on her behalf that she is fighting for those who find "the system rigged against them." As they speak, soft music rises and the screen fills with images of a smiling Ms. Warren greeting voters, hugging them, listening to them and holding their hands.

Okay, bring in the spinmeisters, make it all warm and fuzzy. Who needs to talk about Wall Street reform anyway?

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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In reacting to the violence in Egypt and Libya, Mitt Romney proves he's unfit for the presidency

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Unqualified, unprepared, unfit.

Even by the embarrassingly low standards (and utter disregard for the truth) he has brought to the 2012 presidential campaign, Mitt Romney's self-serving politicization of the events in Egypt and Libya, including the killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, and three of his aides, marked a new low:

It's disgraceful that the Obama administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.

Actually, there was no sympathizing at all -- and certainly not from the White House. The U.S. embassy in Cairo, confronted with possibly violent protests, issued an entirely sensible statement criticizing "the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims." Both the White House and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton immediately distanced themselves from the embassy's comments, with an Obama administration official saying, "[t]he statement by Embassy Cairo was not cleared by Washington and does not reflect the views of the United States government."

Reaction has been swift -- and overwhelming negative for Romney. (Notably, RNC Chair Reince Priebus, who rivals Romney on the dishonesty front, was even more blatant, tweeting: "Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic.") He has a few supporters, usual suspects like Bill Kristol (more on him in a moment) and others on the knee-jerk jingoist right, but otherwise he is being criticized from all sides:

Mitt Romney's sharply-worded attack on President Obama over a pair of deadly riots in Muslim countries last night has backfired badly among foreign policy hands of both parties, who cast it as hasty and off-key, released before the facts were clear at what has become a moment of tragedy.

Romney keyed his statement to the American Embassy in Cairo's condemnation of an anti-Muslim video that served as the trigger for the latest in a series of regional riots over obscure perceived slights to the faith. But his statement — initially embargoed to avoid release on September 11, then released yesterday evening anyway — came just before news that the American Ambassador to Libya had been killed and broke with a tradition of unity around national tragedies, and of avoiding hasty statements on foreign policy. It was the second time Romney has been burned by an early statement on a complex crisis: Romney denounced the Obama Administration's handling of a Chinese dissident's escape just as the Administration negotiated behind the scenes for his departure from the country.

"They were just trying to score a cheap news cycle hit based on the embassy statement and now it's just completely blown up," said a very senior Republican foreign policy hand, who called the statement an "utter disaster" and a "Lehman moment" — a parallel to the moment when John McCain, amid the 2008 financial crisis, failed to come across as a steady leader.


The pundits' judgment was harsh. Time's Mark Halperin said Romney's "doubling down on criticism of the President for the statement coming out of Cairo is likely to be seen as one of the most craven and ill-advised tactical moves in this entire campaign." A senior Republican told BuzzFeed's Ben Smith it was Romney's "Lehman moment," a reference to John McCain's hasty reaction to the 2008 financial crisis -- a turning point in the last presidential campaign. Conservative pundit Matt Lewis wrote in the Daily Caller, "The problem with Mitt Romney continues to be Mitt Romney," comparing his reaction to the way Michael Dukakis was parodied as "weak and passionless" on Saturday Night Live. On Fox News, conservative commentator and Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan said, "In times of great drama and heightened crisis ... I always think discretion is the better way to go," saying Romney was leaving himself open to accusations of politicizing a tragedy. "I don't feel that Mr. Romney has been doing himself any favors in the past few hours," she said. Though Romney had his defenders as well, the gelling consensus was clearly against him.

Kristol seems to think there's some hope: "If Romney can prove both strong and thoughtful on foreign policy over the next few days, it could be an inflection point in the presidential campaign."

How utterly ridiculous. This could very well turn out to be an inflection point in the campaign, but if so it won't be in Romney's favor. And that's because, among other things, Romney isn't, and won't be in the immediate future (if ever), "strong and thoughtful on foreign policy." It is simply delusional to think that he'll be able to turn this massive blunder into a positive, let alone into something that could shape the rest of the campaign, possibly propelling him to victory. If you think that, you apparently know nothing of Mitt Romney.

He's embarrassed himself before, of course, notably when he went to London for the Olympics and managed to turn Prime Minister Cameron, Mayor Boris Johnson, and pretty much the entirety of the British people against him. And he's proven himself before to be grossly ignorant on matters of foreign policy and international affairs, such as when he called Russia America's #1 enemy, as if somehow we're back in the coldest days of the Cold War.

But this was different -- and for Romney, a different sort of test as he seeks the presidency. It was one of those "3 am" moments: what do you do when faced with a sudden crisis in the middle of the night? There are some who prove to be leaders and other who prove to be anything but. As has been the case throughout his presidency, Obama responded with dignity and gravity -- with leadership. (Including by not overreacting to the Cairo embassy's comments and understanding that the intention was to try to prevent violence: "It came from people on the ground, who are potentially in danger. You know, my tendency is to cut folks a little bit of slack when they're in that circumstance, rather than try to question their judgment from the comfort of a campaign office.") In contrast, Romney used the occasion to politicize a tragedy and smear the president, responding with knee-jerk jingoism and a reckless temperament well before the facts were known. That's not what a president does, and it proves once more that he's not even close to being ready for the job.

But, really, what else should we have expected? Nothing. This is a guy who thinks that America is still embroiled in the Cold War and that the best way to deal with China is to try to bully it into submission, and who otherwise has spent the past several years accusing President Obama, without any basis at all and one of the clearest examples of his utter disregard for the truth and willingness to say anything for votes, of apologizing for America abroad. Indeed, as Jon Chait writes, "Romney's strategy here was a perfectly straightforward application of the foreign-policy principles that have guided his campaign from the outset":

And so, when militant Islamists attacked an American embassy, Romney automatically reverted to this line, releasing a statement charging "that the Obama administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks." This was triply false: (1) The statement in question was not made by the Obama administration but by the embassy staff, (2) it was not a response to the attacks but a (justifiably panicked) attempt to preempt them, in keeping with a long-standing bipartisan practice of distancing the U.S. from inflammatory religious provocation, and (3) it was not an expression of sympathy with attackers or other militants.


The miscalculation at work here is that Romney believed his "Apology Tour" method would neatly fit the events at hand — take an event that sort of vaguely resembled an Obama apology to Muslims who don't like us, twist it around, and call it a day. But Romney had grown accustomed to spinning fantasies cobbled together from months-old Obama speeches and nurtured into legend by extensive repetition and exaggeration in the conservative subculture. What he failed to realize from the outset was that the embassy attack was an immediate, high-profile event that he could not hope to rewrite so brazenly. Forced to confront the yawning chasm between reality and the fantasy he had wallowed in so long, Romney was exposed and, justifiably, discredited.

As I said, even by Romney's already pathetically low standards, this was truly abysmal. And if there's anyone who's weaking and disrespecting America, it's not Obama, it's Romney, who in criticizing the president like this weakened America's standing and credibility (proving once more that Republicans on the whole are indeed the disloyal opposition out for themselves) at a time when everyone should have rallied behind the president following a tragedy, waited for the facts to come in, and recognized that the issue of U.S.-Muslim relations isn't black-and-white (as even George W. Bush recognized) but filled with the sort of complexity and nuance that makes foreign policy and international affairs so challenging.

Indeed, instead of walking back his initial statement somewhat, Romney doubled down: "I think it's a terrible course for America to stand in apology for our values." Again, no one is doing this, President Obama included. It's like Romney just can't get past this little lie of a smear-laden narrative that seems to be the very core of his thinking about foreign policy.

It remains to be seen how much this thorough discrediting will hurt Romney. Maybe he'll be able to pick himself back up by turning the campaign back to the economy. Or maybe this story will simply fade over the coming days, the short-attention-span media turning to other matters.

But one thing's for sure: Once more, Mitt Romney has proven that he's unfit for the presidency. He may still win a tight race at a time of economic difficulty, but it's hard to see how he overcomes his massive ignorance, appalling recklessness, and self-serving opportunism between now and election day.

Thankfully, he keeps reminding us just how unfit he really is.

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New poll: Democrats are more positive about the 2012 campaign

By Richard K. Barry

That's right. Any excuse to post a picture of the New
York Giants with the Super Bowl trophy.

I truly have no idea what to make of polls like this, or what the implications of such findings might be in November, but the Pew Research Center asked the question, so I suppose we should know the answer:

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Sept. 7-9 among 1,012 adults, finds that 66% of Democrats say the presidential campaign is interesting while just 27% say it is dull. Among Republicans 50% say it is interesting while nearly as many (45%) describe it as dull. The gap is about as wide in opinions about whether the presidential campaign is informative – 68% of Democrats say it is informative, compared with 49% of Republicans.

In September 2008, nearly identical percentages of Republicans (75%) and Democrats (74%) said the campaign was interesting. And similar majorities of both groups viewed the campaign as informative (62% of Republicans and 59% of Democrats).

Again, I'm not sure what this means. I will say that, as a football fan, when my team, the New York Giants, is doing well, I'm very interested in the football season, want to know everything that is going on, and find it all very exciting. When they are losing, I find everything about the season dull and don't care to be informed.

Could that be the point? Are Democrats starting to feel that success is within reach with the thought in mind that it's always fun to be engaged when victory is close at hand?

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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The denouement

By Carl 

It may be a bit premature to talk about what comes next, but since Mitt's candidacy effectively ended yesterday with his response to the Islamist uprisings against American embassies in the Middle East and North Africa, I thought it might be fun to riff off a little-noticed news item yesterday.

(Side note: This "Bacile" character, who really appears to be Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, ought to be thrown in Gitmo and the key heaved deep into the Caribbean for essentially shouting "FIRE!" in a crowded theater.)

The item? This:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has chosen Jesse Benton, the chief strategist behind Ron Paul's presidential campaign, to lead his own reelection bid.

"We're committed to running a presidential-level campaign in Kentucky, and that starts with a presidential campaign manager," McConnell said in a statement. "Jesse is literally the best in the business at building and organizing conservative grassroots movements, and I'm thrilled he's chosen to return to Kentucky to lead my campaign." 

This appointment is intriguing. After all, McConnell backed Paul's opponent in the 2010 primary and while they've managed to work together in Kentucky, why is McConnell dumping his in-place team for an outsider from what could be termed a hostile camp?

The key, I think, lies in the characterization "presidential-level campaign."

McConnell doesn't have serious Democratic opponents in the state, unless Governor Steve Beshear decides to challenge McConnell. Lt. Governor Jerry Abramson could run, but would have a hard time overcoming his support of gun control laws.

Yes, liberals exist in Kentucky.

Most likely, Attorney General Jack Conway would toss his hat into the ring. He can't run for Attorney General again, and his term expires in 2015, but he lost to Paul in 2010 quite handily.

I'm thinking, however, that McConnell could face a primary inside his own party, and that's why he's decided to hire Paul's buddy. With a long record in the Senate, it's easy to cherry pick votes where he compromised with Democrats and present them as an agenda.

From a state that elected Aqua Buddha to the Senate, this would not sit well with an obviously rabid electorate, particularly when Mitt Romney loses badly this November.

Which is what I think McConnell is counting on as well, which brings up the topic of this post.

Whither Republicanism? Or perhaps "wither Republicanism" is a better choice.

The argument will be made, when Romney loses, that the primaries ended up choosing a mushy, mealy-mouthed moderate and that if a comparison is made between the relative success of the 2010 midterms and the 2012 presidential election, hard-core conservatives appear to be an attractive choice in the nation.

Never mind that midterm elections usually have about half the electorate of the presidency, and the half that do vote tend to be more ideological than the ones that only vote for the Big O(ffice), which winnows down the moderate vote in midterms.

It's a stupid argument but an easy one to make, especially as the prima facie evidence supports it. And in the end, isn't that precisely how conservatives view the world? Scratch the surface? Never.

I suspect what may end up happening is that the party itself will splinter and hard. I suspect the name "Republican" will remain with the hard-core nutbag conservative Teabaggers, while the more moderate Republicans will either end up in the Democratic fold -- not many, I'm sure -- or lost at sea.

About the only real advantage the moderates might have is a Rolodex and access to big bank accounts, but from what we've seen in this election cycle, that's not a guarantee. When Sheldon Adelson can single-handedly bankroll Newt Gingrich's insurgent candidacy, and the Koch brothers all but pay a salary to Herman Cain, you can bet they'll want a shake up in the ranks.

Here's the "logic," such as it is: By ridding the party of any dissidents to the hard conservative line, the Koch brothers and others have guaranteed themselves an assembly line of soldiers to march out into elections. Then, backed by nearly unlimited monetary resources, reinforced by the abhorrent Citizens United verdict, they can pick and choose key races to win and create a conservative infrastructure.

Nice dream. I wish I had that kind of sleep aid available to me. Too bad it simply won't work.

It's conceivable the Kochs et al. could purchase the government for a term or two, but then what? When it all falls apart, it will fall apart hard, as any movement based on an external infrastructure does. Look at the Teabaggers. After 2010, they've suffered a series of catastrophic defeats, culminating in the selection of Mitt Romney as the GOP candidate this year.

Admittedly, he had enough money to counter the money being poured in, but the money being poured in was not a fully opened spigot: some of it went to preparing for the general election, and we'll start seeing the fruits of those labors popping up any day now that September 11 is behind us.

Indeed, a really paranoid person would claim that the Islamist attacks overseas were put on to try and create a situation where Obama would be immune to defeat, a war president and all that. Evidence suggests otherwise, however.

Still, if I was you, I'd start stocking up on popcorn, because once Mitt loses, it's going to be fun around the GOP.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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