Friday, August 31, 2012


Fox Nation reaction to Clint Eastwood speech:


Well, now I understand why the folks in the GOP establishment were so worked up about Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" remark. They weren't worried (or weren't worried exclusively) about the specific content of the remarks. They were worried about the general tone -- the tone of extremism.

A tone of extremism conflicts with their plans for the fall.

I gather this from Sheelah Kolhatkar of Bloomberg Businessweek, who's just published an article about a Karl Rove fund-raising meeting for rich donors to American Crossroads, one of his super PACs. Here's what we learn:
Rove explained that Crossroads had conducted extensive focus groups and shared polling and focus group data with "all the major groups that are playing" in the election....

What had emerged from that data is an "acute understanding of the nature of those undecided, persuadable" voters. "If you say [Obama]'s a socialist, they'll go to defend him. If you call him a 'far out left-winger,' they’ll say, 'no, no, he’s not.'" The proper strategy, Rove declared, was criticizing Obama without really criticizing him -- by reminding voters of what the president said that he was going to do and comparing it to what he's actually done. "If you keep it focused on the facts and adopt a respectful tone, then they’re gonna agree with you."
Extreme rhetoric is a turn-off. Which is presumably why Rove said this at the confab:
"We should sink Todd Akin. If he's found mysteriously murdered, don't look for my whereabouts!"
And it's why Mitt Romney's speech last night took the tone it did:
He urged voters not to feel guilty about giving up on Mr. Obama, even if they were proud to support him as the nation’s first black president.

"You know there's something wrong with the kind of job he's done as president," Mr. Romney said, "when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him."
It's also why Monica Crowley of Fox News wrote this the day after the speeches by Chris Christie and Ann Romney:
Nobody last night launched direct attacks on President Obama....

The Republicans in Tampa instead focused on elevating the discourse.... Instead of falling for the temptation (and the bait laid by the Democrats) to fight from a negative premise and with negative attacks, the GOP speakers fought from the high ground. They are fighting to lead, yes. But they are fighting to lead with meaning -- the positive meaning of an American restoration.
Unless this is all a head fake, it appears that this what they want their message to be this fall: Look at us, we're high-minded! They want to sell that to "persuadable" voters -- and they're desperately afraid some wacko is going to screw it up. They're evil aliens who've landed and want to conquer, and that damn Todd Akin left the spaceship without putting his human mask over his lizard face.

Which means that our task is to highlight every nasty, hateful, intemperate remark, poster, and e-mail exchange we can possibly link to the GOP ticket, and to get word of every one as far up the news food chain as we can. I think there'll be plenty of material -- from talk radio hosts, local pols, local party officers -- but we have to make the maximum effort to highlight the intemperance and demonstrate the link to Romney. GOP policies have to be shown up as extreme, and so does GOP rhetoric.

Karl Rove knows that's the party's big weakness. Remember that.


I should note that Mitt Romney went through a phase of calling President Obama a "nice guy" who was in over his head, but he abandoned that strategy during the summer, partly because of howls of protest from rage junkies like Michelle Malkin. So now we're back to Square One, I guess.

For much of the fall of 2008, Sarah Palin seemed like the person at the top of the Republican ticket. But even then, the nominal presidential candidate, John McCain, had a strong personality, as well as a biography that was hard to ignore, and he had the ability to take the spotlight back from his diva running mate (although he did that mostly with loopy moves like suspending his campaign during the financial collapse, then botching his response to the collapse).

Mitt Romney is different. He can be upstaged by pretty much anybody -- Chris Christie, Condi Rice, Lyin' Paul Ryan, Clint Eastwood talking to an empty chair.

We've had three emotionally reserved presidential candidates from Massachusetts in my lifetime, but the last two, like McCain, had compelling life stories: John Kerry as a Purple Heart winner turned anti-war activist (and, if you lived in the wingnut fever swamps, a gigolo and a guy who lied about his war record), Michael Dukakis as the son of immigrants and thus an embodiment of the American dream (even his flatness of affect in the face of a gang assault from Lee Atwater and outside Republican interest groups was oddly compelling).

Mitt Romney is different. I don't know if it's literally impossible to make his life story compelling or if he and his wife and campaign just refuse to do it, but they failed this week -- the supposedly humanizing touches in Ann's speech were mostly generic (if you have several young sons, they can be boisterous!); in Mitt's speech last night he was able to find some luminous detail about his parents' marriage (the daily rose from George), but he wasn't able (or willing) to reveal anything comparable about his own.

And he seems to be treating the plans for his presidency -- the specifics of his policies -- the way he's treating his marriage (and, for that matter, his tax returns): as something decent people don't talk about in public, and don't ask about.

So he was not compelling last night. He's one of the least compelling Republicans out there (even though many of them are compelling the way a train wreck is compelling).

"Good enough," said CNN commentator and GOP operative Alex Castellanos. "No silver tongue, but Mitt Romney gets job done," said Politico. And what was the "job"? Let Democrat-basher Howie Carr of the Boston Herald answer that:
He's not Barack Obama.

In the end, that's what it comes down to with Mitt Romney. He's running as the non-Barack Obama.

... this election will be about Barack Obama, period.... [Romney]'s just the vessel.
But he's a terrible vessel. So why don't the Republicans just send him home and let him hang out with his grandkids and play with his car elevator? We know he's the guy who'll be sworn in as president if Obama loses. He doesn't have to keep reminding us of that. And we also know he's not the (cankered, diseased) heart and soul of the party.

So send Ryan out on the stump. Send Governor Kramden of New Jersey. Hell, send Eastwood and the chair. Better yet, send the Kochs and Limbaugh and Grover Norquist, because they're going to be running things if Romney wins. Leave Romney at home.

Oscar Wilde wrote this about one of his literary contemporaries:
Mr. Henry James writes fiction as if it were a painful duty.
Well, Mitt Romney campaigns as if it were a painful duty. So relieve him of that duty. This campaign isn't about him anyway.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


Are you pleased that last night's Paul Ryan speech was seriously fact-checked by the press? Yeah, me too.

But you know what happens now: The press, in the name of "balance," will feel compelled to go over the major speeches at next week's Democratic convention with an even finer-toothed comb, and will treat any factually debatable points, however trivial or tangential, as major deviations from basic human decency, all in the name of "balance." The press will feel it has to be as tough on Obama and Biden and their main surrogates as it's been on Ryan in the past 24 hours, even if Obama, Biden, et al. say nothing even remotely comparable in terms of dishonesty. And anything the press finds will be brayed about in Romney/Ryan speeches and advertising, and in the right-wing media, for days if not weeks. It'll be what kicks off the fall campaign. But hey, balance above all, right?

U.S. News reports:
A close friend of Mitt and Ann Romney confirmed to Whispers Wednesday night that Clint Eastwood is indeed Thursday's mystery speaker at the Republican National Convention.
I guess this means Republicans have forgiven Clint Eastwood for doing a Super Bowl ad seen as pro-Obama and pro-auto bailout:

The wingers howled. Karl Rove said: is a sign of what happens when you have Chicago-style politics, and the president of the United States and his political minions are, in essence, using our tax dollars to buy corporate advertising.
Righties excitedly retransmitted a Hollywood Reporter story that said "two members of the creative team that produced the two-minute minute spot for ad agency Wieden+Kennedy donated their personal time in 2008 to make pro-Obama art." Rush Limbaugh said Eastwood "got scammed" and "got suckered into this" (as if Clint Eastwood is a poor, naive, inexperienced, gullible innocent who could possibly be duped into doing something he didn't believe in).

Eastwood has always been a conservative, but he doesn't bother trying to pass right-wing litmus tests, and now he's going to endorse a guy who used to be a moderate and has spent the last six years desperately trying to pass those same litmus tests.

Here's Eastwood, not exactly toeing the party line, as reported by the L.A. Times in 2011:
... he condemned anti-gay marriage fanatics in a recent, profanity-studded GQ interview ("Don't give me that sanctity crap! Just give everybody the chance to have the life they want")....

The only Democrat he can remember voting for is Gray Davis when he was elected governor of California in 1998. Yet Eastwood is also a big admirer of the current governor, Jerry Brown, and what Eastwood likes about Brown is revealing. He sees him as a kindred spirit, a free-thinking libertarian willing to take unpopular or unorthodox positions on key issues. Eastwood says he contributed to Brown’s campaign to establish several charter schools in Oakland when Brown was mayor there, seeing them as an important example of new thinking on education.

"I've always been very liberal when it comes to people thinking for themselves," said Eastwood, who supports gay marriage, abortion rights and environmental protection....
He told the Times he liked Herman Cain. But:
He’s not as bullish on Mitt Romney. As a film icon, Eastwood has been fiercely protective of his image, but he’s not especially enamored by that attitude in a politician. When Eastwood was in Massachusetts in 2002, filming "Mystic River," Romney was running for governor there. "I saw a lot of him and you have to admit -- he looks like a president," Eastwood recalled with a tone that you’d have to describe as being slyly sarcastic. "I mean, if you were casting a movie where you needed someone to play president, you'd definitely pick him."
I'm really sorry there isn't a video clip of that.

Oh, and don't forget that this is a guy who cast two lefties -- Sean Penn and Tim Robbins -- in Mystic River. He'll be the only person in the hall tonight who doesn't think they're both Antichrists.
He would see faces in movies, on TV, in magazines, and in books.
He thought that some of these faces might be right for him
And through the years, by keeing an ideal facial structure fixed in his mind
Or somewhere in the back of his mind
That he might, by force of will,
Cause his face to approach those of his ideal....

--Talking Heads
Charlie Pierce doesn't gives Paul Ryan credit for much, but he thinks Ryan might conceivably have a soul -- which is more than I'm willing to grant. He compares Ryan to Richard Nixon -- a man who let the fact of his deprived childhood eat away at him for life. Pierce theorizes that Ryan can't bear the thought that, as a youth, he got government benefits and thus didn't live up to his own Randian principles:
... during the whole time Paul Ryan was on his own path, his own journey, the American journey where he could think for himself, decide for himself, and define happiness for himself, every rough road was made smooth by his reliance on Social Security survivor's benefits that came to his family upon the death of his father.... The assistance that young Paul Ryan got from "the central planners" as he rose from Janesville, through Miami of Ohio, and to a career in which he never has had a job that wasn't inside, or very close to, the national government was not even acknowledged [in his speech last night]. He knows, in his Randian soul, that he once was a moocher, that in many ways he remains a moocher, and perhaps it galls him just a bit. It eats at him, the way Richard Nixon's childhood poverty was wormwood in his soul. That's where the connection lies. Paul Ryan is the newest new Nixon....
As for me, I see Ryan as a guy who'd deny his own past even to himself. I think that's what makes him such a brazen liar (and ideal Romney soul mate): he genuinely believes whatever he says, however dishonest.

Remember, this is a guy who -- as we learned from yesterday's New York Times -- faked being a laborer with kids during his first run for Congress, when in fact he was a single twentysomething who'd worked in D.C. politics from the time he graduated college:
"Paul Ryan's biggest problem was that he was a young single guy who had lived away from the district," said Lydia Spottswood, the Democrat who ran against him....

Mr. Ryan cheerfully pressed on, with the help of his brother Tobin and Tobin's wife, who took leaves from their jobs to assist him. "He needed to create the impression he was deeply embedded in the district," said Ms. Spottswood, who added that Mr. Ryan would often take his sister-in-law and her baby to factories during the early-morning shift changes to campaign. "Lots and lots of people were getting the impression that was his wife and his baby, and this was critical for him," Ms. Spottswood said.

He also made advertisements in which he wore a hard hat, which left voters with "the impression of Paul that he was actively working in the construction trade and had a family and was older than he was," she said.

"It was awesome to watch it," she added. "It was like an acting job."
He won that race handily, by the way.

I think he's a con artist skilled enough to con himself. The Times notes that he butters up people like a consummate con artist:
Cesar Conda, who was the Republican staff director for the Senate Small Business Committee, on which [Senator Robert] Kasten served as the ranking Republican, recalled an earnest young intern carrying the mail between Mr. Kasten's personal office and his committee office.

"Every chance he got, he'd take the opportunity to pop his head into my office to ask: What's Senator Kasten up to? What did I think about this economic policy or that economic policy? What about supply-side economics?" said Mr. Conda....

While at Empower America, Mr. Ryan did not miss an opportunity to network, [William] Bennett said. Although Mr. Ryan was in the economic section, he went to talk to Mr. Bennett frequently, flattering him, until they became close, a relationship that continues to this day. "I remember he complimented me," Mr. Bennett said, "saying I don’t try to demonize the other side. 'How do you do that?'"
Combine that with his lying and his shape-shifting (remember his recent credulity-straining disavowal of Ayn Rand?) and you've got a guy who's not just the "biggest brown-noser" of his high school class -- he's pathologically dishonest. Even, I bet, in his own thoughts about himself.

It seemed to me last night that Paul Ryan's speech was frighteningly effective, just the sort of thing that gets the faithful all worked up, and also wins over low-info swing voters (Hey, y'know, that guy's right: the problem is we've got too damn much government!). But, of course, I thought Chris Christie hit a home run on Tuesday night, and his speech has been widely reviled as a flop. Today, the Ryan speech isn't garnering the hosannas I expected from the right -- Drudge's headline is muted (Ryan accompanied by a non-red, siren-free, generic-sounding speech quote: "WE DON'T HAVE MUCH TIME"). John Podhoretz is declaring Rand Paul a star, not Paul Ryan. And Paul Ryan isn't trending on Twitter.

I was in pain when I staggered away from the table after the Christie and Ryan all-you-can-eat buffets of red meat. I thought there'd be an equal but opposite reaction on the right.

But it occurs to me that right-wingers hear this kind of non-stop, high-blood-pressure attack-dog rhetoric every single day. They get it 24/7 on Fox. They get it 24/7 on talk radio. The Two Minutes' Hate is on an endless loop. It's been on an endless loop for years and years and years.

So I guess this didn't get their blood pumping because they feel like this all the time. The controlled substance Christie and Ryan dispensed, the one that left me seriously impaired, is, for the right, on a permanent IV drip. They crave it, but they barely respond to it anymore. They need megadose levels, and they're still not getting what they need.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


I'm on Twitter and I'm seeing a lot of references to Paul Ryan's "dishonesty" and "lies." I'm sorry -- "lies" is too weak a word for some of the things Ryan said. We need a stronger word to describe the ability to look you in the eye -- look America in the eye -- and argue the exact opposite of your most deeply held beliefs, and do so in such a sincere-seeming way that it's not even clear you actually grasp your own dishonesty.

For instance:
And the biggest, coldest power play of all in Obamacare came at the expense of the elderly.

You see, even with all the hidden taxes to pay for the health care takeover, even with new taxes on nearly a million small businesses, the planners in Washington still didn't have enough money. They needed more. They needed hundreds of billions more. So, they just took it all away from Medicare. Seven hundred and sixteen billion dollars, funneled out of Medicare by President Obama. An obligation we have to our parents and grandparents is being sacrificed, all to pay for a new entitlement we didn't even ask for. The greatest threat to Medicare is Obamacare, and we're going to stop it.
Which suggests, of course, that Ryan is opposed to the comparable cuts in his own original budget. And he talks as if he really believes he's not itching to gut the Medicare guarantee.

[President Obama] created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing.
Yes, because (for better or worse) you blocked a grand bargain, Paul.

We have responsibilities, one to another -- we do not each face the world alone. And the greatest of all responsibilities, is that of the strong to protect the weak. The truest measure of any society is how it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves.
The man who utters these pretty words is, in fact, a stone-cold Randian. Enough said.

These aren't just lies. These are the pronouncements of a sociopath, someone who knows what he stands for and knows precisely why it shocks the senses, and persuades you that he believes the exact opposite, and maybe even persuades himself.

I just hope he doesn't persuade America. But he did a much better job than I expected him to. I think the sick bastard may have won some votes.

I don't know why Democrats can never pull this kind of thing off, but Democrats can never pull this kind of thing off;
Majority in Poll Say Akin's Remarks Don't Reflect G.O.P.'s Views

In the wake of the widespread outrage over a Missouri congressman's remarks about rape and abortion, about 60 percent of Americans do not think his comments reflect the views of most Republicans, according to the latest CBS News poll.

That result includes a majority of women....

Democrats have tried to link Mr. Akin's comments and stance against all abortions to leading Republicans, including Mitt Romney....
In fact, only 13% think Akin is representative of his party, while 59% don't (27% aren't sure). The poll results are here.

If a Democrat said something that was similarly inflammatory and outrageous, the numbers would be very, very different. That's because the right-wing noise machine works incessantly to persuade rank-and-file Republicans -- and a lot of folks in the middle -- that any dubious thing said or done by any Democrat (or liberal or leftist or left-leaning college professor or Hollywood celebrity or Marxist foreign dictator or Middle Eastern jihadist) is a reflection on every liberal and Democrat in America. We do nothing on our side that's even remotely comparable to what the right-wing noise machine does. And so we never manage to hang the worst deeds and proclamations of the individual Republicans around other Republicans' necks. And we'll never be able to fight them even to a draw until we can manage that.

Here's a line from the speech Paul Ryan will deliver tonight at the Republican convention:
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.
And, well, what do you know: to Politico, Ryan's claim to be a spokesman for his generation isn't an unproven assertion -- it's a fact, as we learn from this story, published to coincide exactly with the release of the speech excerpt:
At 42, Paul Ryan is one of the youngest members of a major party ticket in recent political history.

That fact isn't lost on the Republican Party's newest generation.

Young politicians and leaders here say Ryan’s nomination as vice president is a boon to the party's hopes of exciting the youth vote won heavily by President Barack Obama in 2008. And far from shying away from discussions about Medicare that Ryan inspires, next generation GOPers say they're ready and excited to debate entitlements.

On its face, the Ryan selection is a boost for Republicans hoping to dig into Democrats' youth vote advantage because he's young and energetic.

"[Ryan] is somebody who's closer in age to me than he is to his opponent, Joe Biden," said College Republicans President Alex Schriver, who said he "could not be happier" about Romney's VP choice....
Are Schriver and the other young Republicans quoted in the Politico story genuinely excited about the Ryan pick? Do they really see him as one of their own? Do they honestly think he talks about entitlements in a way their generation understands, and we old codgers just don't get?

Who knows? They've certainly been told to sell this story line as the speech approaches. And Politico's Emily Schultheis and Juana Summers (actual reporters!) have taken this careful recitation of talking points as sincere and heartfelt and spontaneous. Therefore it is! Right?

Hey, why have a candidate or campaign surrogate sell a talking point as a talking point when you can urge rank-and-file delegates to pretend it's an authentic expression of their generational zeitgeist? Fake that and Politico will play along. Soon it'll be a meme, and we'll have stories with titles like "The Millennials: Dumping Obama for Ryan?" Those stories won't have to be based on any genuine sentiment -- just on gullible pseudo-journalism like this.


UPDATE: NBC News regurgitates the same talking point:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

In a lot of ways, Paul Ryan is a bridge, a conduit to the GOP of tomorrow, and at just age 42, he's injected a lot of youthful energy and enthusiasm that's being felt far and wide.
Cut (after some footage of Ryan) to an even younger delegate than the ones quoted above.

You know who's really injected youthful energy into the GOP (even though the GOP doesn't seem to want it)? Ron Paul. That old guy actually draws enthusiastic kids. Ryan? I don't think so. His fans are the same old senior-citizen white Fox News watchers. To paraphrase what was once said of Al Gore, he's an old winger's idea of a young winger.

Verbatim Byron York:
Overall, though, Christie’s address, which focused largely on his own accomplishments in New Jersey and was light on attacks on President Obama, failed to convey the spirit -- the essential Christie-ness -- that millions have seen in YouTube videos of the New Jersey governor in action. Watching Christie's speech was a reminder that most, if not all, of the great Chris Christie moments we've seen have been spontaneous encounters between Christie and others, usually hostile encounters in which Christie flamboyantly puts down some jerk who was unwise enough to take him on. What Christie is not as famous for is the big set-piece speech, and that was his task Tuesday night in Tampa.
Shorter Byron York:
Chris Christie's speech failed last night because he wasn't enough of a dick. It's a shame he squandered this opportunity to show a prime-time national-TV audience the full flower of his dickishness.


UPDATE: Same complaint from Ann Coulter:
"I love Chris Christie," she told Whispers from the convention floor, where she arrived just as the governor took the stage. "But I could have seen a little more of an attack. Which speaker attacks Obama? I thought that was going to happen with him."
And National Review's Robert Costa:
He may be a YouTube sensation, best known for arguing with lefty hecklers, but Governor Chris Christie’s keynote speech late Tuesday was a temperate oration, forceful yet muted....

Christie's approach was a marked departure from previous Republican keynote addresses, which have often featured a rising politician willing to blast the Democratic nominee.
But Monica Crowley at is describing this as a feature not a bug:
Nobody last night launched direct attacks on President Obama. Nobody had to: his catastrophic record speaks for itself. Everybody knows how bad he and his policies truly are.

The Republicans in Tampa instead focused on elevating the discourse: pointing out the current president's failures while talking about how to get us out of the deep ditch he's dug for the nation. Instead of falling for the temptation (and the bait laid by the Democrats) to fight from a negative premise and with negative attacks, the GOP speakers fought from the high ground. They are fighting to lead, yes. But they are fighting to lead with meaning -- the positive meaning of an American restoration.
This Crowley piece was the lead link at Fox Nation for a while this morning, so this may be a message the right and the GOP are planning to emphasize in the weeks to come: We're the nice guys; Obama and his Chicago thugs are the trash-talking haters. (Good luck with that....)

I don't know if we'll ever find out the identities of the racist louts who did 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."
But I predict that if they ever are identified, they're going to insist that they threw nuts at her and referred to her as an "animal" not because she was black, but because she works for CNN.

If I'm correct, this explanation will instantly be accepted by many on the right. And, well, wingers do also, inexplicably, hate CNN; many refer to it as the "Clinton News Network" (yes, still, and even as they sometimes praise the Clintons in order to bash Obama). The obvious explanation for this incident is the correct one -- but there may be a hint of CNN-hate thrown in as well. I'm sure they wouldn't have tossed food at a black camerawoman from Fox.


UPDATE: Excellent point from Dan Savage:

I'm sure they will.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


The press will tell you that Ann Romney did a great job in her speech tonight. The press decided that even before she spoke a word. In fact, she didn't do a particularly good job -- for most of it, she seemed like a grinning prom queen basking in the school body's adulation; she had a lousy speech to deliver, full of generic talk about ordinary life (yours and mine as well as the allegedly ordinary life of her family), but she grinned and waved at people at what were supposed to be poignant moments, and she never really made Mitt Romney seem like a flesh-and-blood person. What she said reminded me of the eulogy for one of my aunts, delivered in a church she hadn't attended in years by a priest who'd never met her. He was working from biographical data given to him by the family, and he pretended he knew her idiosyncrasies and virtues. That's how Ann sounded.

But the point of the speech was to "humanize" Mitt, and people tend not to dislike Ann -- I can't say I really dislike her -- so she's getting a passing grade from the press, as if she really did what she set out to do.

Of course, it doesn't matter what she said, because the yin of her speech was utterly dissipated by the speech of Mr. Yang himself, Chris Christie. You're not going to want to hear this, but I think he has serious political skills -- I'd say he did a hell of a job, although what he really did expertly was make a case for his own presidential candidacy four years from now. (I worry about that because I think he could win; however, I suspect he couldn't physically survive a two-year, seven-day-a-week, ten-hour-a-day presidential campaign.)

I was expecting Pat Buchanan redux, but Christie is shrewd -- he knows how to salt his speeches with (phony) appeals to reasonableness and bipartisanship. He knows how to slip into a (phony) I-don't-want-to-fight tone.

But his secret weapon was that he sounded as if he actually loves and cares about America, and is doing all this hectoring and denigrating because he'd like to restore America to greatness. I thought this crowd of right-wing rage junkies wouldn't respond to a message that sounded in any way positive -- but he interwove the paeans to the Greatest Generation and the nasty attacks on teachers' unions until it was hard to tell where one ended and the other began. You almost think he believes a Koch-drenched, safety-net-deprived future will be the second coming of the New Deal; he gets you thinking he might really care about people, in his own deluded way. It's what Mitt Romney can never, ever convey.

(And speaking of Romney's humanity: the reaction shots while this stem-winder was unwinding showed Mitt looking almost as zombified as James Holmes in that Colorado courtroom.)

I'd be worried about Christie's speech, but I've seen really effective, impassioned speeches at Democratic conventions from people who weren't on the ticket -- Mario Cuomo in '84, Jesse Jackson in '88 -- and they did nothing for the candidates. So this was probably meaningless. Oh, except that Ann Romney's speech will never be remembered.


UPDATE WEDNESDAY: Oh, what the hell do I know? The Huffington Post says, "ANN STEALS THE SHOW," while Alessandra Stanley of The New York Times tells me that Ann Romney "was electric" and "is so gifted at politics, she may actually make her husband look a little bad." Well, jeez -- Rick Santorum is sufficiently gifted at politics that he's been known to make Romney look bad, so how low a bar is that?

This is a dutiful following of the script disguised as a sincere reaction to events. The media rhythm of all this is that Ann Romney's speech was designed to be celebrated this morning in media outlets that seek to appeal to women (the networks' morning news shows, the HuffPo), therefore it was a speech worth celebrating. Sorry, it wasn't. Also, the political press finds the "Ann will reintroduce/humanize Mitt" story line irresistible, because journalists are desperate to see this static race really shaken up. So they're declaring that what they hoped would happen (a new phase in the race) actually happened.

(And maybe I was also wrong about Christie -- the right consumes so much red meat that maybe this just seemed like more of the same, the way the crystal meth doesn't get you high after ten years the way it did the first time you tried it.)


AND: Chris Christie is being criticized for a speech that focused much more on himself than on Romney, but of last night's two prime-time speakers, which one made more people think, "Oh, I like you more than I like Mitt Romney"? It was probably the speech by his own wife. I realize that was the point of her speech, but I'm not sure it was a good idea to say, in effect, "Yeah, we know -- he really does like bad by comparison, doesn't he?"

The New York Times on Chris Christie's upcoming Republican convention speech:
In his keynote address on Tuesday, he is set to assail President Obama's economic record to help drive home the Republican theme of the day, "We Built It." It is a dig at Mr. Obama's recent assertion that businesses do not succeed alone....
And, to this end, what is Mr. Christie likely to talk about?
So when he takes the stage on Tuesday night, his history suggests that he will start, as he did with his questioner last week, with the story of his father, who grew up poor in Newark and, after getting out of the Army, took a job at a Breyers plant, where the man next to him urged him to do something better for himself. He went to Rutgers University at night on the G.I. Bill and became the first person in his family to get a college degree.
(Emphasis added.)

So Chris Christie's dad was in the Army, then got a GI Bill-funded education at Rutgers -- otherwise known as the State University of New Jersey. And Christie will relate this to us as a way of explaining why Barack Obama was wrong when he said that successful people don't make it on their own, and sometimes need government help.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Republicans are trying to gin up some excitement with a stunt:
Buried deep in the convention schedule released Monday is a vague reference to a mystery speaker scheduled for the event’s final evening. “To Be Announced” has a prime speaking slot late in the Thursday program.

...The only other speakers to follow “To Be Announced” will be Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Mr. Romney himself, suggesting that the unnamed guest may appear during the 10 p.m. hour when the networks all will be broadcasting the convention.

... The line-up features a long list of governors and senators, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio. Former presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich are on the agenda, as are former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Former Vice President Dick Cheney and former President George W. Bush have said they won't be attending, but a video from Mr. Bush is on Wednesday's program.

So who’s left? Stay tuned....
A survey follows asking for a vote on several possibilities: Zell Miller, Ted Nugent, David Petraeus, Nancy Reagan, Chesley Sullenberger, Sarah Palin.

National Review's Jim Geraghty really thinks it might be Palin:
The more you think about the idea, the more it makes sense -- whatever controversy and intense reactions Sarah Palin may bring to whatever she does, if there is one thing we know she does exceptionally well, it is give convention speeches! This wouldn't mean turning her into an official Romney surrogate or putting her in a Romney cabinet or anything like that -- just giving one of the Republican figures most beloved by the grassroots -- or at least a large and vocal segment of the grassroots -- a chance to fire up the base and discuss why it is so important that everyone pull out all the stops for Romney.
If God existed, She wouldn't love me enough to do this. Seriously -- on the last night of prime time, you're going to utterly destroy any good feeling you've engendered with swing voters by putting up a Sarah Palin speech?

I don't see why there'd be secrecy about any of the other names of the Journal's list. I suppose the speaker could be Ron or Rand Paul (whose name might be withheld to keep the Paulbots from bouncing off the walls for the next couple of days). Maybe it's a flipped Democrat. (Yeah, Artur Davis is speaking at the RNC, but he's canceled out by Charlie Crist speaking for the Dems, so perhaps Repubs will put up someone like Joe Manchin or Jim Webb in order to win 2-1. Or, God help us, maybe it's Lieberman again.) Could it be a masked SEAL going McCarthyite on Obama?

And then there's this possibility, cited by Geraghty:
... Nick Schultz came up with the only idea that could excite the crowd even more: "Hologram Reagan a la Tupac?"

(If you don't understand the reference, the deceased rapper appeared to "perform" at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts festival through the use of a hologram. Details here.)
Now, that sounds utterly plausible, coming from these folks.

My money's on the hologram.

(X-posted at Balloon Juice.)


OR: It's going to be Donald Trump. Or (really my #2 pick after the hologram) Tim Tebow.

Two big names in the media who are definitely going to vote for Mitt Romney have taken shots at Romney this week. Yesterday it was Rupert Murdoch, whose New York Post was used to humiliate Romney: a cover story claimed that convention keynote speaker Chris Christie turned down the VP slot because he believes Romney will lose. Today it's David Brooks going all Andy Borowitz on 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....
The column goes on and on in this vein. It's gentle. None of Brooks's jokes will really leave a mark -- what stings is the fact that the column exists at all. What Brooks seems to be saying to Romney is For crissakes, lighten up! Have a sense of humor about yourself! Tell some jokes at your own expense! Otherwise, you're going to lose -- we're going to lose! That's what motivates Brooks to use liberal and Democratic punch lines against Romney.

The Post article is far nastier, but that's Murdoch -- he supports Romney, but thinks Romney is a weakling who won't fight like a real tough guy (y'know, like Murdoch):

And he has a mancrush on Christie, not Romney:
Mr. Murdoch has never been particularly impressed with Mr. Romney, friends and associates of both men say. The two times Mr. Romney visited the editorial board of The Journal, Mr. Murdoch did not work very hard to conceal his lack of excitement. "There was zero enthusiasm, no engagement," said one Journal staff member who was at the most recent meeting in December....

Along with Roger Ailes, chairman of Fox News, Mr. Murdoch urged Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey to run. Both men admire Mr. Christie's gusto and toughness -- a sharp edge they have themselves. "He really wanted Christie," said one of Mr. Murdoch's friends. Mr. Ailes, a former campaign strategist for Richard M. Nixon and Ronald Reagan, shares Mr. Murdoch's disdain of how the Romney campaign is being run, telling people privately that it is too soft.
Both Murdoch and Brooks see Romney as a guy who, when you mock or humiliate him, just takes it -- or modifies his behavior in a desperate attempt to please you. That's the guy they want to be our next president? Well, yeah, it is -- they think he can be pushed around (gosh, I wonder what gave them that idea) and they're the guys to do it.

Murdoch, I suspect, doesn't really think Romney has much of a chance this year (and absolutely thinks Christie does four years from now), but he assumes that showing up Romney's weakness isn't going to make Romney look any weaker than he looks now, and might toughen him up enough to get him a victory. Of course, Murdoch's definition of "toughened up" is "prepared to do whatever Murdoch wants" -- an odd notion of personal integrity and backbone.

This is all an intramural variant of Josh Marshall's bitch-slap theory of American politics. In this case, it's not Republicans demonstrating that a Democrat is too weak to fight back -- it's about demonstrating that with regard to their own guy. They're doing it not because they want him to lose, but because they want to be the ones who can claim they shoved him across the finish line -- at which point he'll owe them.


UPDATE: Noah Pollak solves the riddle of the David Brooks column:

He's right -- here's the career-making column in question, which Brooks wrote as an undergraduate about William F. Buckley.

Monday, August 27, 2012


A Scott Pelley interview of Mitt Romney airs on CBS tonight, and the network has posted this excerpt:

... "My position has been clear throughout this campaign," Romney said. "I'm in favor of abortion being legal in the case of rape and incest, and the health and life of the mother."
Now, we know that when Romney was running for office in Massachusetts, he was pro-choice. That was position #1. Since then, he's had three others. In this campaign cycle, at one point when he was asked by Mike Huckabee on Fox News whether he would have supported "a constitutional amendment that would have established the definition of life at conception" -- which, by definition would make all abortions murder -- Romney said, Absolutely." That's #2.

His official position on abortion (#3) has been one of opposition except in cases of rape and incest, and to protect the life of the mother -- but not her health. So what Romney said to Scott Pelley of CBS appears to be his third abortion position of the campaign, and his fourth since he entered public life.

A shift on the health exception is not trivial -- certainly not to anti-abortion zealots such as ... er, his running mate. In 2000, on the House floor, Ryan said a health exception to a bill banning "partial-birth" abortion would be "a loophole wide enough to drive a mack truck through. The health exception would render this ban virtually meaningless."

Anti-abortion absolutists hate the health exemption. As one anti-abortion site puts it:
Pro-abortion doctors have for years considered a "troubled mind" an "impairment of a major bodily function." That is why pro-abortionists pretend to accept "moderate" measures, as long as they include a "health" exception; they know that the exception can be used to allow any abortion at all.
So which of Mitt Romney's three recent positions on abortion should we really believe he holds? Which should religious right voters believe he holds?


In the interview airing tonight, Romney also says this:
"Recognize this is the decision that will be made by the Supreme Court," he said. "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."
Except that wrote in 2011 that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and contrary to the Constitution. He vowed to appoint only judges who'd uphold the Constitution (as he reads it). So won't the Supreme Court after a few years of a Romney presidency conclude that Roe is unconstitutional and overturn it?

On the other hand, if I were anti-abortion, right now I'd be saying: So, Mitt, you really believe Roe is settled law? And you want my vote? Seriously?

Well, the partisan reaction is predictably split:

But I think Chris Matthews lost this battle. He wouldn't have been the loser if this were a wiser, more thoughtful political culture. But we're stuck with the political culture we have.

This reminds me of office arguments I've witnessed (and participated in): if you raise your voice past a certain decibel level, the validity of what you're saying is utterly ignored. You're required to make nice, even if you have a legitimate reason for outrage. You're supposed to tug a forelock and pretend that the sleaziest person in the room is, perhaps, no disrespect intended, inadvertently a tiny bit off base on one or two points. That's the only way you're allowed to argue.

It's unfair, but Matthews needed to seem half as outraged as he was, and make his point twice as effectively as Priebus, in order to be taken seriously at all by Mika and Tom and the other civility cops on the panel. When Priebus said,
And you know what, have we really gotten to the point where we can't have any levity at all in politics? I mean, we have gotten to a place in politics that is ridiculous, and no one can say anything that is remotely humorous.
Matthews should have asked: So if Barack Obama makes a joke about Mormon underwear, you're just going to shrug it off? You're going to say it's just a joke and it's OK, and you're going to go after anyone in your party who's outraged?

Near the end of clip, Matthews has a second wave of high-decibel outrage -- justifiable outrage, given the fact that Priebus played the "un-American" card himself. But under the civility rules imposed upon him, Matthews needed to give us less volume and a more effective counterargument:
PRIEBUS: But I think Obama's policies have created a sense that, for whatever reason, he's looking to guidance -- as far as health care is concerned, as far as our spending is concerned, as far as the stimulus packages are concerned, he's looking to Europe for guidance.
Matthews lost it there. I don't blame him. He asked whether every president who ever followed Keynesianism was European, or every president (both Roosevelts, Truman) who ever wanted universal health coverage was European.

Good as far as it goes. But I wish he'd asked: So what about Romneycare? Did Governor Romney look to Europe for guidance?

Matthews lost this one. Alas, it wasn't a fair fight.


Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen interview Mitt Romney for Politico and find that he is the most self-pitying major-party presidential candidate since Richard Nixon (although that's not how they put it):
Mitt Romney conceded President Barack Obama has succeeded in making him a less likable person, but he offered a defiant retort to those hoping he will open up this week: "I am who I am."
(Yup -- it's all Barack Obama's fault!)
Romney quoted that Popeye line three times in a 30-minute interview with POLITICO about his leadership style and philosophy, swatting away advice from Republicans to focus on connecting with voters in a more emotional, human way at this convention....

"I know there are some people who do a very good job acting and pretend they're something they're not," Romney said. "You get what you see. I am who I am."
Yeah -- the popular kids get away with everything!
"I don't think everybody likes me," Romney said. "I don't believe that, by any means. But I do believe that people of this country are looking for someone who can get the country growing again with more jobs and more take-home pay, and I think they realize this president had four years to do that. ... He got every piece of legislation he wanted passed, and it didn't work. I think they want someone who has a different record, and I do."
That's right -- Obama faced absolutely no resistance from Congress! Gitmo is closed, the Bush tax cuts are history, the DREAM Act is law, cap-and-trade is in place -- and he gets away with asking for more because he's a BMOC, unlike Romney!
... during the interview, Romney made plain he is tired of the criticism that he is stiff, distant or not broadly liked by voters.

Again and again, he argued that he was likable enough to bring together people of divergent views to rescue the Olympics, pioneer profit-making ideas at Bain, govern a Democratic state and even to win over peers in school.

"I was voted the president of my fraternity," he said. "They don't call them fraternities at Brigham Young University. They're called Service Clubs. It was the Cougar Club. But you don't get voted to be head of your group if you don't get along with people, if you don't connect with people."

The issue seems close to the surface for Romney....
This guy is more Nixonian than Nixon. Nixon didn't tell interviewers he was a quivering mass of resentments and grudges -- we had to learn that from journalists and historians. Romney just flat-out admits it. No wonder he's losing!

Except it's not at all certain that he's losing:
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows Romney at 47 percent among registered voters and Obama at 46 percent....
And that's before any convention bounce.

I'm starting to think Romney's going to win this thing. It's the economy, obviously -- but it may also be that, after being asked repeatedly to show us who he really is, Romney is actually doing that -- and the real Romney is a guy with everything who nevertheless feels very, very sorry for himself, and very, very angry at all the mean people who won't leave him alone. (Um, yeah, he did volunteer to run for president, but he seems to think he has a right to do that and not expect scrutiny.)

And maybe his supporters like that about him. Who's going to vote for Romney? White people, obviously, particularly white men. I wonder if they actually relate to Romney in his self-pitying, put-upon mode. Some white men in this country haven't screwed by the economy but think they're victims nevertheless (the rich who whine about lack of respect from Obama even as their wealth increases, the upper middle class). Other white men are screwed by the economy, but they're in the habit of blaming non-whites, women, the media ... pretty much everybody Obama is reaching out to, and pretty much everybody except the fat-cat bosses who use them up and toss them on the trash heap. Struggling white men relate to the people who screw them. So maybe they relate to a guy like Whining Willard.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


One portion of a New York Times story about the Mitt Romney campaign is drawing blog attention. Dennis G. at Balloon Juice publishes the excerpt with emphasis and annotation:
Mr. Romney's chances hinge to a large degree on running up his advantage among white voters in swing states who show deep strains of opposition to Mr. Obama [because he's black] but do not yet trust Mr. Romney to look out for their interests, Republican strategists say.

Many of those voters are economically disaffected, and the Romney campaign has been trying to reach them with appeals built around an assertion that Mr. Obama is making it easier for welfare recipients to avoid work. The Romney campaign is airing an advertisement falsely charging that Mr. Obama has "quietly announced" plans to eliminate work and job training requirements for welfare beneficiaries, a message Mr. Romney's aides said resonates with working-class voters who see government as doing nothing for them.

The moves reflect a campaign infused with a sharper edge and overtones of class and race. On Friday, Mr. Romney said at a rally that no one had ever had to ask him about his birth certificate, and Mr. Ryan invoked his Catholicism and love of hunting. Democrats angrily said Mr. Romney's remark associated him with the fringe "birther" camp seeking falsely to portray Mr. Obama as not American.
Dennis writes:
The GOP convention is going to be three days of code-talking and race baiting dog-whistles. Any lie will be fine if it promotes white fear. And the lies that test best to cause white voters to vote based on race will be repeated over and over and over again by team wingnut.
Similarly, BooMan writes:
So, the New York Times is basically reporting that Team Romney has concluded that the only way to get white working class folks to overlook their candidates' policies, religion, and elitism is to make racist attacks against the president.
I see the point. But I think there's more going on than an appeal to racism.

Republicans seize on anything available to turn the Democrat -- whatever Democrat it may be -- into a freak, a foreigner, a libertine, a heretic, a wuss, a hermaphrodite, an effete snob, a low-life, or whatever will make Real Americans despise that Democrat. Playing the race card is easy in Obama's case; so is his status as a foreigner's child who lived overseas as a boy.

But Republicans also attack him for his (real or imagined) foreign policy (drone strikes and the killing of Osama bin Laden notwithstanding). The right regularly tells us that Obama bows to foreign leaders and apologizes for America. The right claims to have evidence that an adviser (a woman!) talked Obama into delaying the bin Laden raid, which went forward only because the secretary of state (another woman!) had the real backbone, and urged the president to proceed. This is about race to some extent, admittedly (Valerie Jarrett, the allegedly reluctant adviser, is, like Obama, black), but it's also about sex and manliness. Obama wears mom jeans and can't throw a baseball and he didn't really have the guts to kill bin Laden! And the attacks on Obama as a religion-basher (hello, Cardinal Dolan) are primarily about the notion that urban sophisticates hate God.

This is about "whiteness," I suppose -- but it's never merely about skin color with Democrats. Michael Dukakis was white, but apparently not white enough -- remember what Loretta Lynn said about him at a rally for George H.W. Bush?
"Why, I can't even pronounce his name."
I got that from a Washington Post story, which also quotes Bush himself during that campaign:
George H.W. Bush, running that year, described his rival as "guided more by abstract theories and grids and graphs and computer printouts and the history of Swedish social planning."
The story was written in 2004, and also described how a very different Massachusetts Democrat was portrayed as not a real American:
There has been an echo of this kind of down-home invective in the controversy over [John] Kerry's statement that foreign leaders secretly back his candidacy. Pressed last Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" on where and when the leaders told him this, Kerry declined to say, but he noted: "You can go to New York City and you can be in a restaurant and you can meet a foreign leader."

This prompted House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) on Monday to sneer: "I don't know where John Kerry eats, or what restaurants he attends in New York City. But I tell you, at the Taste of Texas restaurant -- it's this great steakhouse in Houston, Texas -- the only foreign leader you meet there is called filet mignon."
If you've got a guy like Bill Clinton, you go the other way: you call him white trash (even if you're in the habit of denouncing Democrats for holding rural whites in contempt) and you denounce him for sexual libertinism (even if your party embraces the likes of Ted Nugent and Kid Rock).

The Democrat is always The Other. The opposite of pure-blooded Americanism is whatever the Democrat seems to represent.

I suppose Frank Bruni may be on to something in his latest column -- he's writing about Compliance, a new indie film based on a series of horrifying incidents in which a telephone caller posing as a police officer would persuade workers at fast-food restaurants to strip-search, degrade, and sometimes sexually assault female employees. Bruni sees the film, and the incidents that inspired it, as evidence that we're all too willing to accept the word of authorities -- a problem he links to our politics.

Bruni finds this tendency on the right, of course -- but watch him struggle to try to make this a character flaw shared by liberals (emphasis added below):
People routinely buy into outlandish claims that calm particular anxieties, fill given needs or affirm preferred worldviews.... someone like Todd Akin, the antihero of last week's news, illustrates it to a T. The notion that a raped woman can miraculously foil and neutralize sperm is a good 10 times crazier than anything in "Compliance," but it dovetails beautifully with his obvious wish -- and the wishes of like-minded extremists -- for an abortion prohibition with no exceptions. So he embraces it.

People also routinely elect trust over skepticism because it's easier, more convenient. Saddam Hussein is stockpiling weapons of mass destruction; the climate isn't changing; Barack Obama's birth certificate is forged; Mitt Romney didn't pay taxes for 10 years. To varying degrees, all of these were or are articles of faith, unverifiable or eventually knocked down. People nonetheless accepted them because the alternative meant confronting outright mendacity from otherwise respected authorities, trading the calm of certainty for the disquiet of doubt, or potentially hunkering down to the hard work of muddling through the elusive truth of things. Better simply to be told what's what.
Excuse me -- who among liberals believes without a shadow of a doubt that Harry Reid is telling the truth regarding Mitt Romney's taxes? Who sees him as an authority one dare not question?

I've seen a lot of liberal condemnation of what Reid said; I've seen it argued that the story may be true but "no taxes" really means an embarrassingly small tax burden for a rich guy. Most of us on the left, I think, believe that it might be true or it might not be; that Reid really might have a source or might not; and that the source (if this person exists) might be in a position to know or might not be. What we believe is that this is politics played as if it ain't beanbag; it's successfully rattling Romney's cage, and we like that. It keeps the story in the news. It makes Romney look defensive and evasive. It reminds people of how easy it would be for him to clear all this up, and makes the point that his failure to do so means he appears to be hiding something that's really bad -- something that quite possibly has nothing to do with an income tax rate and everything to do with tax-avoidance strategies that, regrettably, are perfectly legal.

By contrast, do religious conservatives really unquestioningly believe that rape can't lead to pregnancy? A lot of them do -- and have believed this since the 1970s. Did the right (and most of the center and some of the left) believe that Saddam had WMDs in 2003? Absolutely -- and the right still believes this. Republicans absolutely believe climate change is a hoax. And they absolutely believe Obama was born abroad (or are "not sure").

There's no balance here. Both sides don't do it. Right-wingers believe crazier things than we do, and believe them unquestioningly.

Saturday, August 25, 2012


Regarding the shooting in Manhattan yesterday, Gail Collins is right:
Nine passers-by were also wounded, and it seems almost certain that some or all were accidentally hit by the police. This isn't surprising; it's only in movies that people are good shots during a violent encounter. In 2008, Al Baker reported in The Times that the accuracy rate for New York City officers firing in the line of duty was 34 percent.

And these are people trained for this kind of crisis. The moral is that if a lunatic starts shooting, you will not be made safer if your fellow average citizens are carrying concealed weapons.

This is not the accepted wisdom in many parts of the country. (Certainly not in Congress, where safety was cited as a rationale for letting vacationers take loaded pistols into federal parks.) Shortly after the mass murder at the movie theater in Colorado, I was waiting for a plane at a tiny airport in North Dakota, listening to a group of oil rig workers discuss how many lives would have been saved if only the other theater patrons had been armed. "They could have nipped it in the bud," one man told another confidently.

People, try to imagine what would have happened if, instead of diving for the floor, a bunch of those moviegoers had stood up and started shooting into the dark. Or ask a cop.

We are never going to have a sane national policy on guns until the gun advocates give up on the fantasy that the best protection against armed psychopaths bent on random violence is regular people with loaded pistols on their belts.
But, of course, when I was looking at right-wing comments sections and message boards yesterday after the shooting, quite a few folks were having that precise fantasy. And they were having it not in spite of the fact that trained police officers have trouble with accuracy in situations like this, but because the cops' shots missed the mark.

The one-sentence version of the overarching gunner myth is: The police can't help you, so you have to defend yourself. When the Manhattan shooting happened, that got translated to: The cops are lousy shots, but if there'd been a well-trained True Patriot on the scene, his aim would have been true.

This is, of course, insane. It's a testament to the Walter Mitty nature of the gunners' worldview -- they all think they'd be heroes, pure in heart and flawless in execution, under conditions like this. They're eleven-year-old boys in the bodies of adults.

Now, of course, I could be wrong. It's theoretically possible that, on average, well-trained True Patriots would incapacitate the bad guys and spare the innocents more effectively than trained police officers. (It's also theoretically possible that Roseanne Barr will win the presidential election in every state where she's on the ballot.)

I fear we're going to be testing this premise empirically in America in the near future. I really believe that the gun lobby's next front is going to be challenging the right of business owners to deny entry to people carrying concealed weapons.

I think either they're going to press for laws denying business owners the options of refusing entry to the strapped or, if that conflicts with their beliefs about the sanctity of private property, they're going to boycott businesses that deny entry to people who are packing, and treat businesses that welcome the armed the way right-wingers now treat Chick-fil-A.

Eventually, businesses won't dare to ban armed patrons, either because they won't be allowed to do so by law in red states or because the dropoff in customers will be too great.

And then we'll get plenty of opportunities to test the armed-civilian hypothesis in shootouts.

Gosh, I can't wait.

From Mike Allen yesterday (hat tip: John Aravosis):
ARTICLE OF THE DAY -- JON WARD in Huffington magazine (available today on iPad; article posts Monday), "The One-Termer? Thinking Bold Thoughts With Team Romney": "Matt Rhoades is guarded and intense ... [W]hen I met him in mid-July, in a bohemian coffee shop in Boston's North End, the 37-year-old manager of Mitt Romney's campaign was hesitant to speculate about what the Republican candidate would do as president, and how. ... But when I asked Rhoades ... what Romney might do with the budget and entitlement reform plans Ryan had already outlined, Rhoades' eyes lit up. He gave me a name: James Polk. ... Rhoades and the rest of the members of Romney's inner circle think a Romney presidency could look much like the White House tenure of the 11th U.S. president.

"Polk, who served from 1845 to 1849, presided over the expansion of the U.S. into a coast-to-coast nation, annexing Texas and winning the Mexican-American war for territories that also included New Mexico and California. He reduced trade barriers and strengthened the Treasury system. And he was a one-term president. Polk is an allegory for Rhoades: He did great things, and then exited the scene, and few remember him. That, Rhoades suggested, could be Romney's legacy as well. ... Multiple senior Romney advisers assured me that they had had conversations with the candidate in which he conveyed a depth of conviction about the need to try to enact something like Ryan's controversial budget and entitlement reforms. Romney, they said, was willing to count the cost politically in order to achieve it."
Oh, please, Mitt -- get some original material, won't you?

Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, syndicated column, August 2, 1978:
Romald Reagan has toyed with a dramatic response to the political hazard of his age: a pledge to serve only one term if elected president....
Houston Chronicle, February 3, 1995:
Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole says that in formally declaring his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, he may announce he will seek only one term.

"I haven't ruled that out," Dole told interviewer David Frost in a report to be broadcast on public television Friday night.The move would give the 1996 race an unconventional and possibly controversial twist. Not since the 19th century has a candidate forsworn interest in a second term before being elected to his first, a presidential scholar said. James K. Polk (1845-49) and Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-81) promised to serve only one term and did....
John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, Game Change:
The idea was as simple as it was radical: a one-term pledge. McCain would promise that if he won the White House, he would spend four years in residence and then step down. The pledge would embody the theme that Reagan cared only about solving the country's problems and not about indulging his ambition. It would say that he was going to tackle the hardest issues -- Iraq, immigration, ethics, entitlements, runaway spending -- with no regard for reelection.

...The announcement speech wasd written. The press release was drafted. All systems were go....
Mitt? We've been there. We've done that. Try again.

(And yes, Barack Obama has said on a couple of occasions that one term could have been enough for him. Nobody believed he wouldn't run again. Nobody should believe it about Mitt, either.)

Friday, August 24, 2012


Romney went there today, and -- see the video below -- it seemed carefully rehearsed, not off the cuff (no matter what the Romney campaign says):
At a campaign stop in his home state of Michigan Friday, Mitt Romney made a joke referencing the continued doubts about President Obama's birth certificate raised by Romney supporters like Donald Trump.

"I love being home, in this place where Ann and I were raised, where but the both of us were born," Romney said after introducing his wife, fellow Michigan native Ann. "No one's ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place where we were born and raised."

Digby says Romney's real message is that he's "a white guy for Pete's sakes!" I cringe as I type this, but I think Rush Limbaugh is closer to the mark. On the radio, he said today:
... here is Romney, I'm convinced, test-driving something. I think this line is a test drive.

... So Ryan's out there talking about Obama and his bitter clinger quote. And Romney gets up to the microphone. It's his turn to speak, and he test-drives that line about nobody's ever had to ask to see his birth certificate.

I'm going to tell you what. You know, I'm gonna make a prediction for you. It's going to be fascinating to watch. The Obama-bashing at the Republican convention is going to be delicious. It's going to be five-star-restaurant type stuff. I mean, you're going to love it. You are going to eat it up, all the Obama-bashing.
I think Romney and Ryan are going to go for everything Sarah Palin wanted the McCain campaign to focus on in '08 -- Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers, the whole nine yards, and not just at the convention, but through the fall. Racial stuff? Sure, but not just -- also allegations of anti-Americanism, Tony Rezko, you name it. It's pathetic, but that's what seems like the right strategy in the wingnut bubble. (And Romney still thinks he's undergoing initiation into the wingnut Crips, so he seems to think he has to do this.)

The only difference between this and a campaign run according to Palin's principles is that Romney and Ryan are going to be sneaky about it -- they're going to slip this stuff in, then say, "Who, us? Why, we just want to have a high-minded discussion of serious issues!"

But this is what's coming: a campaign that repeatedly goes there.

You probably know the story, which is horrible:
A recently fired store worker shot a former colleague to death and then randomly started shooting others near the Empire State Building before he was shot by police officers, law enforcement officials said.

Eight other people were struck by bullets when the shooting started at about 9 a.m. on the Fifth Avenue side of the building but those injuries are not believed to be life threatening, police said....
The first reaction of a couple of Gateway Pundit's commenters is snark:
He’s in trouble now..NY is a gun free zone..right Bloomberg?


This has to be a mistake. Guns are not allowed in NYC. Obviously the criminal element doesn't know this or else they would leave their guns at home.
Meanwhile, the Freepers are linking this:
Empire State Building Shooting Is Proof that Gun Control Doesn't Work

The shootings around the Empire State Building today are further proof that gun control simply doesn't work -- except to keep guns out of the hands of those who might want to legally defend themselves.

New York City is a de facto "Gun Free Zone." Thus, by liberal logic, there should be zero gun crime. How, then, is it possible that firearms account for about 60% of all murders in New York? By liberal logic, murderers in New York aren't able to own guns. See how absurd the logic of the gun grabbers is? ...
Yeah, because that huge Berlin Wall around the five boroughs should have kept illegal guns out, but somehow it didn't. Silly liberals!

Five bucks says this weapon came from a No-Tell Motel of a gun shop somewhere in Virginia, where the gun laws are Southern but the travel time to the big cities of the Northeast, and the unsavory folks therein, is conveniently brief.


Gun fetishists are smug after every shooting, regardless of where it takes place, because the gun lobby continually primes them to be dissatisfied with the status quo. There's always another gun law standing between the rubes and real freedom, so wherever there's a mass shooting, those horrible laws are at fault. In New York City, it's all that gun-banning. If there's a mass shooting at a school in Mississippi or Arkansas or Kentucky, then laws against packing concealed heat in schools is at fault.

(I'm not sure how these folks explain away the Fort Hood shooting. I'm pretty sure the soldiers at Fort Hood are allowed to carry weapons.)

If a future Republican president gives us a Supreme Court that overturns all state or local gun law stricter than those in, say, Rick Perry's Texas, the gunners will still blame gun crime on the few laws that remain. Maybe we'll have a rhetorical arms race, until we're seriously debating legalized private ownership of tactical nuclear weapons (because the Framers really wanted it that way, and the ban is the reason for all that crime). Or maybe we'll shift gears and the gunners will start arguing that you simply don't have the legal right to prevent them from carrying concealed weapons on your private property (in the same way that many right-wingers argue that criticizing a right-winger's speech is a violation of that right-winger's First Amendment rights). Whatever happens, we can loosen the gun laws all we want, and it'll never be enough for the gun crowd.

Shorter Mitt Romney:
You didn't build it -- I built it! Or at least the damn government didn't build it!
Verbatim Mitt Romney, in a dull rehash of his economic philosophy in The Wall Street Journal titled "What I Learned at Bain Capital":
A broad message emerges from my Bain Capital days: A good idea is not enough for a business to succeed. It requires a talented team, a good business plan and capital to execute it. That was true of companies we helped start, like Staples and the Bright Horizons child-care provider, and several of the struggling companies we helped turn around, like the Brookstone retailer and the contact-lens maker Wesley Jessen....

My business experience confirmed my belief in empowering people. For example, at Bain Capital we bought Accuride, a company that made truck rims and wheels, because we saw untapped potential there. We instituted performance bonuses for the management team, which had a dramatic impact. The managers made the plants more productive, and the company started growing, adding 300 jobs while Bain was involved.
See? You didn't build it -- Mitt Romney did! So when Barack Obama says successful people don't become successful on your own, he's wrong -- er, he's right! No, wait...

Well, in any case, the government does absolutely nothing of value:
My presidency would make it easier for entrepreneurs and small businesses to get the investment dollars they need to grow, by reducing and simplifying taxes; replacing Obamacare with real health-care reform that contains costs and improves care; and by stemming the flood of new regulations that are tying small businesses in knots.
Government sucks! And so...
We are the most innovative, entrepreneurial nation in the world. To maintain that lead, we must give people the skills to succeed. My plan for a stronger middle class includes policies to give every family access to great schools and quality teachers, to improve access to higher education, and to attract and retain the best talent from around the world.
Which has nothing whatsoever to do with the evil government! Entrepreneurs still build their businesses completely on their own -- except when Mitt Romney does it for them! Or good schools do! Um...
The second lesson is that we must have a level playing field in international trade. As president, I will challenge unfair trade practices that are harming American workers.
Which also has nothing whatsoever to do with government!
Running a business also brings lessons in tackling challenges. I was on the board of a medical diagnostic-laboratory company, Damon, when a competitor announced that it had settled with the government over a charge of fraudulent Medicare billing. I and fellow Damon outside board members joined together and immediately hired an independent law firm to examine Damon's own practices.

The investigation revealed a need to make some changes, which we did. The company, along with several other clinical-laboratory companies, ended up being fined for billing practices. And a Damon manager who was responsible for the fraud went to jail. The experience taught me that when you see a problem, run toward it or it will only get worse.
Oh, and government is evil! Even the part of government that unearthed the original fraud and put a stop to it!

Which is why:
I am committed to capping federal spending below 20% of GDP and reducing nondefense discretionary spending by 5%.
Because fraud at Damon's competitor was really, really bad! Fraud at Damon was really, really bad! So we wouldn't want the government to have the resources it needs to investigate and prosecute fraud, would we?


Thursday, August 23, 2012


The general response to this story is "Oh please -- what's going to be Romney's next excuse for not releasing his tax returns?" But I see something else going on: an end to Romney's silence on Mormonism, and a pivot to a strategy of using the religion to try to win votes -- by claiming persecution at the hands of liberals and elites, a complaint right-wingers love to hear:
Mitt Romney says in a new interview that one of the reasons he’s distressed about disclosing his tax returns is that everyone sees how much money he and his wife, Ann, have donated to the LDS Church, and that’s a number he wants to keep private.

"Our church doesn’t publish how much people have given," Romney tells Parade magazine in an edition due out Sunday. "This is done entirely privately. One of the downsides of releasing one’s financial information is that this is now all public, but we had never intended our contributions to be known. It’s a very personal thing between ourselves and our commitment to our God and to our church." ...
I said a couple of days ago that I thought perhaps the Republicans were pivoting to a campaign that places a new emphasis on claims of religious persecution -- see Paul Ryan, a couple of days ago, boasting of being a Catholic who proudly clings to guns and religion; see the plans for a closing prayer by the highest-profile religious leader to pray at a political convention in years, cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York (a master at claiming persecution); and see the recent "war on religion" ad:

I think Romney and Ryan are going to look for any excuse to portray themselves as aggrieved people of faith -- and that would definitely be a change for Romney. I think they may have figured out that evangelicals love tales of religious persecution more than they distrust Mormons (and certainly more than they distrust Catholics, who are now seen, if they're right-wing, as almost more evangelical than the evangelicals). We'll see if I'm right, but I think we're going to hear a lot of this from the ticket from now on.