Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Jonathan Chait argues that we've actually seen the real Romney in this campaign. Chait makes a very strong case -- but I have some caveats, as I'll explain below:
The vast industry devoted to exploring the unknowable question of Romney's true beliefs has largely ignored a simple and obvious possibility: That Romney has undergone the same political and/or psychological transformation that so many members of his class have since 2009. If there is one hard fact that American journalism has established since 2009, it is that many of America's rich have gone flat-out bonkers under President Obama. Gabriel Sherman first documented this phenomenon in his fantastic 2009 profile in this magazine, "The Wail of the 1%," which described how the financial elite had come to see themselves as persecuted, largely faultless targets of Obama and their greedy countrymen.

... had he retired from public life after 2008, super-wealthy Republican financier Mitt Romney is exactly the kind of person you'd expect to have lost his mind, the perfect socioeconomic profile of a man raging at Obama and his mob. Indeed, it would be strange if, at the very time his entire life had come to focus on the goal of unseating Obama, and he was ensconced among Obama's most affluent and most implacable enemies, Romney was somehow immune to the psychological maladies sweeping through his class.
But is that the real Romney? I see it somewhat differently.

I think Romney has, as Chait says, taken on the coloration of his fellow fat cats -- they hate Obama for his purported hostility to them, and he eagerly nods in agreement. But that's not a core Romney belief. That's just Romney-the-chameleon adopting whatever set of beliefs will get him where he wants to go next.

Which is not to say that Romney was faking it in the "47%" video. The thing about Romney is that he opportunistically shape-shifts in such a sincere fashion that he really believes what he's saying. I bet he really believes he's a centrist now. I bet he really shared those plutocrats' disdain for Obama at that fund-raiser in Boca. I bet if you'd put him through a polygraph in Boca and in the debates this fall, he'd pass as a truth-teller -- even when he contradicted himself.

But that means the important question isn't "Who is the real Romney?" The important question is "Whom will Romney feel the need to please if he's elected president?"

The answer to that question is (1) the people who will have bankrolled his victory and (2) the fellow Republicans in Congress who actually believe in something, even though that something is a set of utterly insane tea party/Limbaugh/Fox News/Koch brothers principles. He'll stop being "moderate Mitt" and turn their color again.

Because if there's one thing Romney really is sincere about, it's finding out whoever has more power than he has and doing whatever that individual or group wants. This month it's moderate voters; if he wins next week, it'll go right back to being the right-wing crazies. And when he shape-shifts back to wingnuttery, he'll mean what he says, just the way he does now.

Just saw this at CNN:
Restore Our Future, a super PAC backing Republican nominee Mitt Romney, is going up with $1.8 million worth of ads in Minnesota and New Mexico – states that have been considered safe bets for Democrats.

The super PAC announced Wednesday it would spend $1.1 million in Minnesota and $700,000 in New Mexico....

Both states have been thought to be in Obama's column, but a recent poll suggests a tightening race in the State of 10,000 Lakes....
Yeah, there have been a couple of tight polls in Minnesota -- but New Mexico? I looked at Real Clear Politics, TPM, and Pollster, and every poll taken from September 7 on has shown Obama with a minimum 7-point lead. Most show Obama with a double-digit lead.

Maybe this is an attempt to transmit cross-border ads into Arizona -- but that seems inefficient. Or maybe it's just the PAC trying to spend an excess of money.

But to me it suggests that Romney and his allies are attempting to generate a positive outcome just by claiming the possibility of a positive outcome. It's a belief in the confidence fairy. And it hints that other state moves by Team Romney are similarly based on smoke and mirrors.

As I said last week, Romney seems to believe that confidence alone can make things happen, in campaigns and elsewhere; see his team's efforts to will a "momentum" narrative into existence after the debates, and also see what he said in the "47%" video about what would happen to the economy and the financial markets if he wins:
We'll see capital come back and we'll see -- without actually doing anything -- we'll actually get a boost in the economy.
Can a candidate win swing states "without actually doing anything" like developing an actual lead in those states? Mitt and his allies sure want you to think so.

Al Gore has issued a statement linking the severity of Hurricane Sandy to climate change. Here in New York, what he's saying is not considered controversial or out of the mainstream. Here's our governor:
Cuomo said he spoke twice yesterday to Obama, joking at one point "we have a 100-year flood every two years now."

"There's no such thing as a 100-year flood," Cuomo said. "These are extreme weather patterns. The frequency has been increasing."
And here's what the dialogue between scientists and government officials has been like here:
The warnings came, again and again.

For nearly a decade, scientists have told city and state officials that New York faces certain peril: rising sea levels, more frequent flooding and extreme weather patterns....

After rising roughly an inch per decade in the last century, coastal waters in New York are expected to climb as fast as six inches per decade, or two feet by midcentury, according to a city-appointed scientific panel. That much more water means the city’s flood risk zones could expand in size.

A state report on rising sea levels, issued on the last day of Gov. David A. Paterson's administration in 2010, suggested that erecting structural barriers to restrain floodwaters could be part of a broader approach, along with relocating buildings and people farther from the coasts.
But right-wingers love Saul Alinsky -- they pay far more attention to him than left-wingers do -- and Alinsky's 12th Rule for Radicals is as follows:
"Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it." Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.
Climate deniers attack as many targets as possible, but attacking Gore has worked very well for them. It helped, of course, that he was already a figure of mockery after what the mainstream press did to him in 2000. So, of course, he's the focus right now at winger sites such as Michelle Malkin's place, along with other Alinsky-ready objects of winger hate:

... And if you're the type that demands confirmation from a more credible scientific source before you'll believe a claim from Gore, Meghan McCain is backing Al up on this all the way. As a matter of fact, Van Jones thinks the right owes Gore an apology.
Let me remind you that David Brooks thinks the Alinskyite targeting of Al Gore on this issue was a perfectly appropriate way for the discussion of the issue to develop (and was Gore's fault):
Al Gore released his movie "An Inconvenient Truth" in 2006. The global warming issue became associated with the highly partisan former vice president. Gore mobilized liberals, but, once he became the global warming spokesman, no Republican could stand shoulder to shoulder with him and survive. Any slim chance of building a bipartisan national consensus was gone.
So if the winger Alinskyites pick you as a target, well, you asked for it, just for being targetable. And the degradation of the debate is your responsibility.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


I've somehow managed to miss Chris Christie's run of media appearances, though I'm starting to catch up. I know that Christie has spoken highly of President Obama's storm response:
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) praised President Obama's work to help states battered by Hurricane Sandy as "outstanding" Tuesday....

"The federal government's response has been great. I was on the phone at midnight again last night with the president, personally, he has expedited the designation of New Jersey as a major disaster area," said Christie, in an interview with NBC's "Today."
I know Christie tsaid on Fox & Friends that he doesn't "give a damn about presidential politics" in this situation, so he's not "the least bit concerned or interested" in whether Mitt Romney will come to New Jersey for a Sandy-related appearance. And I know he "ripped Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford on Monday evening for supposedly asking residents to stay in city shelters instead of evacuating."

That's impressing people who may not have previously been big Christie fans. Noam Scheiber:

Charlie Pierce:
In case you missed it, no matter who wins next Tuesday, Chris Christie almost guaranteed his inauguration on January 20, 2017. From his tough-guy outburst at that dough-brained mayor of Atlantic City, to his outburst of genuine grace regarding the president and the federal response to the deluge that swamped his state, to his fundamental acceptance of the reality that we need a national government to solve national problems, to the way he slapped around the denizens of the Fox News Couch of Stupid, you have to give it to the man. He's been a genuine star over the last 48 hours....
Why don't I agree? Here's the short answer: President Giuliani. Remember, we have one reality test of the premise that a Northeastern loudmouth can catapult himself to the GOP presidential nomination, and then the Oval Office, on the basis of one moment of bipartisan grace in response to a crisis, in the midst of a career otherwise built on fighting everyone who looks at him crosswise. We know how Rudy's story turned out.

The longer answer is this: Do we really believe Christie is going to win the Republican nomination in 2016 because he praised the person Republicans in 2012 hate more than anyone who ever lived? Giuliani, at least, built his moment of grace around mournful rage at swarthy Muslim evildoers; he didn't praise anyone Republican voters think is the Antichrist. Unless we're going to replace Iowa and New Hampshire in 2016 with the Morning Joe Greenroom Primary, what Christie is doing now is going to make him less appealing to the Republican base, not more.

Christie is generally a down-the-line right-winger, but this is just one in a series of deviations from Wingnut Correct Thinking on his part. Acknowledging that humans are causing climate change. Attacking anti-Muslim intolerance. Supporting an assault weapons ban. Supporting immigration reform. Yeah, he can move right on these issues, and Romney got the nomination in spite of greater heresies, but Romney was stinking rich and running against a field of clowns and lightweights. Christie is unlikely to be in the same position.

And there's no evidence that Christie is as shameless about shaking his own personal Etch A Sketch as Romney is -- Christie actually seems to believe what he believes, even when that's not what the GOP base demands. If he sometimes tacks to the center, sincerity is not going to help him in 2016.

And check this out:

"Forward"! "Lean forward"! He used the commie slogan Obama and MSNBC use! That's not the kind of thing that's going to help him four years from now.

David Brooks is pessimistic about a second Obama term, but a nightmare scenario he lays out sounds rather hopeful to me:
The first order of business would be the budget deal, averting the so-called fiscal cliff. Obama would first go to Republicans in the Senate and say, "Look, we're stuck with each other. Let's cut a deal for the sake of the country." He would easily find 10 Republican senators willing to go along with a version of a Grand Bargain.

Then Obama would go to the House. He'd ask Eric Cantor, the majority leader, if there were votes for such a deal. The answer would probably be no. Republican House members still have more to fear from a primary challenge from the right than from a general election challenge from the left....

Legislators would work out some set of fudges and gimmicks to kick the fiscal can down the road.
That's exactly what I think would happen, except for the easily-finding-ten-GOP-senators part, and the notion that House GOP's response would "probably" be no (the correct word there is "absolutely"). Given how far to the right the mainstream discussion of this issue is, a can kicked down the road strikes me as the best of all outcomes that could actually happen. (That's why I don't worry about deficit-hawk talk from Obama -- I don't think the GOP absolutists will ever let him be a deficit hawk. Not as long as it means a dime more in taxes paid by the rich.)

Brooks is, naturally, more hopeful about a Romney presidency:
A President Romney would look at the way Tea Party extremism had cost the G.O.P. Senate seats in Delaware and Nevada -- and possibly Missouri and Indiana.

To get re-elected in a country with a rising minority population and a shrinking Republican coalition, Romney's shape-shifting nature would induce him to govern as a center-right moderate. To get his tax and entitlement reforms through the Democratic Senate, Romney would have to make some serious concessions: increase taxes on the rich as part of an overall reform; abandon the most draconian spending cuts in Paul Ryan's budget; reduce the size of his lavish tax-cut promises.

As President Romney made these concessions, conservatives would be in uproar. Talk-radio hosts would be the ones accusing him of Romneysia, forgetting all the promises he made in the primary season. There'd probably be a primary challenge from the right in 2016.

But Republicans in Congress would probably go along. They wouldn't want to destroy a Republican president. Romney would champion enough conservative reforms to allow some Republicans to justify their votes.
Amazing -- Brooks tells us that House Republicans still fear primary challenges from the right, he tells us that Republicans went extreme in 2010 and 2012 even at the risk of losing Senate seats, he tells us that Romney himself would risk a primary challenge from the right if he went moderate ... and yet he thinks everyone would just suddenly stop adopting a teabaggier-than-thou stance just to preserve the political viability of Mitt Romney? A guy no movement conservative even liked until about three weeks ago?

Oh, and when in his entire chameleon-like political career has it been Mitt Romney who stood firmly on principle and somebody else who blinked?

It's a ridiculous argument. The David Brooks case for a Romney presidency is a case for a second Obama term.
9/11 2.0?

Yeah, I'm here, unscathed and feeling odd about being unscathed. I'm reading that seven and a half million people are without power in the East, many of them here in New York City, but here in Manhattan north of 42nd Street we've had nothing more than flickers; the power's been on consistently, and we're not flooded. It's almost as weird to be unscathed as it was on 9/11. But the city's not functioning very well -- the subways ran the day after 9/11, but they're not running now, and may not soon (who knows how much corrosion the seawater is causing to all that old metal). Meanwhile, the media focus is bizarre -- there's been more attention paid to false rumors of serious flooding at the New York Stock Exchange than there has been to, say, Staten Island, which seems to be experiencing a mini-Katrina.

What's reminding me of 9/11 is the Romney campaign's response: the focus on prayer and private charity in his pronouncements, which is meant to be a contrast to all that icky secularism and big government we liberals and Democrats are said to believe in. (Well, yeah, I do believe in FEMA -- and this week, apparently, Romney says he does too, so never mind what he may have said sixteen months ago.) President Obama will call for prayers and Red Cross donations as well (his campaign Web site was calling for Red Cross donations before the storm hit, as was Romney's), but Romney rushed to brand himself as the private-sector-'n'-Jesus guy in this situation. I fear it's going to play well. This sort of thing has the tendency to make pious heartlanders feel that it's their crisis, merely because they pray harder. I hated that after 9/11, and I'm going to hate it now if it happens.

Monday, October 29, 2012


Tweet from Politico's Jonathan Martin:

Unless my irony detector is on the fritz, Martin is mocking us for believing the exact opposite of what we believe. What we believe is that Nate Silver devised a formula quite a while ago for crunching all the poll numbers he can get his hands on, plus a few other bits of data (for example, on the economy), in order to determine the likelihood, at any given moment, of a victory by each presidential candidate, in each state and thus in the election overall. We don't think there's a "secret sauce" -- we think an attempt to churn through the numbers as dispassionately as possible is the secret sauce.

We're also supposed to be shocked by this, in the linked article (by Dylan Byers):
"Romney, clearly, could still win," Silver told POLITICO today.
Of course Romney, clearly, could still win. It's absolutely not news that Silver thinks this. As Jamelle Bouie says:

This is in response to what Joe Scarborough says in the Politico piece:
"Nate Silver says this is a 73.6 percent chance that the president is going to win? Nobody in that campaign thinks they have a 73 percent chance -- they think they have a 50.1 percent chance of winning. And you talk to the Romney people, it's the same thing," Scarborough said. "Both sides understand that it is close, and it could go either way. And anybody that thinks that this race is anything but a tossup right now is such an ideologue, they should be kept away from typewriters, computers, laptops and microphones for the next 10 days, because they're jokes."
Well, Sam Wang at the Princeton Election Consortium sees an even higher likelihood of victory for Obama. So attack him, too.

These numbers will change when the state polls show a pattern of Obama losing -- not being tied, not being in nailbiter races, but losing -- in more than 270 electoral votes' worth of states. Not before. Got it?

Best tweet on this subject:


Steve Kornacki thinks Republicans would have a hard time selling the idea of overturning an Electoral College victory by Barack Obama if Obama loses the popular vote. Kornacki thinks Americans are now acclimated to the possibility of a split electoral outcome, in the aftermath of 2000:
... it's important to remember that 12 years ago there was no modern precedent for a split verdict. It hadn't happened since 1888. How the public would react to the idea of a president taking office even though he received fewer votes than his opponent was unknown. It at least seemed possible there'd be such an outcry that it would make sense for the losing side to try to flip electors.

But there was no revolt.... the post-election drama focused on Florida, and once that was resolved the popular vote issue was treated as an afterthought by both parties....

[This year] I don't believe there would be any serious talk from GOP leaders about contesting the Electoral College vote, mostly because I don't believe there would be a broad public outcry. 2000 set a modern precedent for this situation, training the media and political world to grant legitimacy to the Electoral College winner.
I have strong doubts about that. Americans tend to have a Memento level of amnesia whenever amnesia suits the GOP: voters nearly elected Gerald Ford two years after Nixon resigned, gave Republicans the White House and the Senate four years after that, let George W. Bush get into the White House with an all-GOP Congress two years after Newt Gingrich crashed and burned, and gave the teabaggers a landslide two years after Bush left office. Oh, and a fair number of voters seem to be forgetting that the Mitt Romney they're warming to now is the same effete, empathy-challenged plutocrat they loathed a month ago.

So why wouldn't voters forget the arguments Republicans made about Bush's election being legitimate despite Florida and the popular vote count? Why wouldn't voters be susceptible to GOP talking points like the ones Republicans intended to use in 2000 if Bush won the Electoral College popular vote and lost the popular vote Electoral College, rather than the other way around?
In league with the campaign -- which is preparing talking points about the Electoral College's essential unfairness -- a massive talk-radio operation would be encouraged. "We'd have ads, too," says a Bush aide, "and I think you can count on the media to fuel the thing big-time. Even papers that supported Gore might turn against him because the will of the people will have been thwarted."

Local business leaders will be urged to lobby their customers, the clergy will be asked to speak up for the popular will and Team Bush will enlist as many Democrats as possible to scream as loud as they can. "You think 'Democrats for Democracy' would be a catchy term for them?" asks a Bush adviser.
It can be stopped, obviously -- Republicans have to compel actual electors to vote against their candidates, and that's an uphill battle -- but I think Republicans will try, if only for the partial victory of delegitimizing Obama's second term. I think it's naive to assume that because most Americans shrugged and moved on without challenging the 2000 results, they'd naturally do the same again. The squeaky wheel got the grease that year -- Republicans shouted louder that they were in the right, they fought harder, and they got the win. I see no evidence that Americans accepted an abstract principle about elections of this kind; Americans accepted a triumph of the strongest, as they often do.

Who'd be the strongest this time? Who'd fight harder? Who'd make a more confident-sounding assertion of rightness? The Obama campaign knows how to fight. But I'm always afraid to count on Democrats in a brawl like this.

Michael Tomasky writes about the"f-you dishonesty" of Mitt Romney on Jeep:
... Romney's new ad about Jeeps and Italy is f-you dishonest. You probably know the background. Bloomberg News moved a confusingly worded article last week suggesting, if you didn't read it closely, that Jeep (under Chrysler, owned by Fiat) was sending all its production to China. Romney said this on the trail.

... then Chrysler ripped Romney and said no way, this is not true. Chrysler is thinking about putting plants in China down the road to try to increase market share there. But as for the here and now and the U.S. market, Chrysler is not only not cutting back domestic Jeep production but expanding it, investing $500 million in the Toledo, Ohio Jeep plant.

... So what did Romney's campaign do? It cut a TV ad doubling down on the claim, cleverly worded so as to suggest that the Obama administration sold out America (and Ohio) by selling Chrysler to the Italians who are moving production to China....
But this is simply what you do if most of your adult life was spent being the kind of businessman Mitt Romney was: you're "data-driven" in the sense that you examine the situation from every possible angle to figure out precisely the maximum of what you can get away with. As a private-equity guy, you scrutinize the spreadsheets and the tax laws and so on to make sure that if the company you buy loses, you win, and if the company you buy wins, you win. You do this by playing every angle, violating the spirit of any law while complying with the letter -- or not necessarily complying fully with the letter of the law, but complying enough that you'll be allowed to slide.

Working the angles is also, as we see today, Mitt and Ann Romney's tax strategy:
Romney Avoids Taxes via Loophole Cutting Mormon Donations

In 1997, Congress cracked down on a popular tax shelter that allowed rich people to take advantage of the exempt status of charities without actually giving away much money.

Individuals who had already set up these vehicles were allowed to keep them. That included Mitt Romney....

The charitable remainder unitrust, as it is known, is one of several strategies Romney has adopted over his career to reduce his tax bill....

"The main benefit from a charitable remainder trust is the renting from your favorite charity of its exemption from taxation," [tax and estates lawyer Jonathan] Blattmachr said. Despite the name, giving a gift or getting a charitable deduction "is just a throwaway," he said. "I used to structure them so the value dedicated to charity was as close to zero as possible without being zero."...
Taking advantage of this makes a mockery of what charitable deductions are supposed to be about -- but Romney can get away with it, so it's cool. Similarly, Romney's weasel words in the Jeep ad make it technically true but staggeringly deceitful -- but if he can get away with it, no biggie.

Work the angles. It's Romney's primary governing principle.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


NewsBusters reports:
Appearing on ABC's This Week, [Newt] Gingrich said of the President, "You'll notice he's canceling his trips over the hurricane. He did not cancel his trips over Benghazi."

...What Gingrich was referring to is when our consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked in September, Obama flew off to a plush fundraiser in Las Vegas rather than stay in Washington, D.C., to monitor the hostilities.

By contrast, as Hurricane Sandy bears down on the East Coast, Obama has canceled some campaign events.
OK, a little perspective: On September 20, 1984, there was a truck-bomb explosion at the U.S. embassy annex in Aukar, Lebanon, just outside Beirut. Twenty-four people were killed. It was third terrorist bombing aimed at U.S. interests in Lebanon in a year and a half.

What did Ronald Reagan do on September 21, 1984? He made three campaign appearances in Iowa -- at an airport rally, a farm, and a church picnic -- despite the fact that a Des Moines Register poll showed him leading Walter Mondale in the state by 23 points. He then returned to Washington and made a well-publicized visit to the home of seven-year-old Rudolph Lee-Hines, who lived in the predominantly black Congress Heights section of Washington. Reagan had dinner at the home of Lee-Hines, who was described in news reports as Reagan's "pen pal"; they'd exchanged several letters after a Reagan visit to the boy's school the previous March.

As a housewarming gift, Reagan brought a jar of jelly beans.

So, no, Saint Reagan didn't let terrorist attacks deter him from campaigning. I would assume Newt Gingrich would regard that as the gold standard.

If there's a silver lining in the poll resurgence Mitt Romney experienced after he cynically rebranded himself as a moderate in the first debate, it's that no one ought to be able to argue ever again that Republicans do best when they run as movement conservatives. Romney ran that way for months, and he languished in the polls against the president; then he shook the Etch A Sketch, started talking like a right-centrist, and pulled even in the popular vote.

Add that to a likely defeat for Todd Akin, a possible loss for Richard Mourdock, and -- who knows, given the fact that the polls are all over the map -- a photo finish between Democrat Richard Carmona and Republican Jeff Flake in Arizona, as well as the possible (likely?) rejection of even moderate-seeming Republicans in Wisconsin, Connecticut, and Massachusetts because of concerns in those states about the direction of the GOP as a whole, and the message ought to be clear: Republicans need to stop being the crazy, extreme party. Voters want Republicans to moderate their views and their rhetoric. Voters want Republicans to back off on extreme positions regarding women, gay people, and immigrants. Change with the times or wither and die. Do as a party what Mitt Romney did as a candidate.

But that won't be the takeaway from this election, for a couple of reasons:

1. Rush Limbaugh
2. Roger Ailes

I think Limbaugh will be too canny to try to argue, as he usually does, that Republicans do best when they run as conservatives -- he'll certainly have a hell of a time making that case if "Moderate Mitt" wins (or nearly wins) the popular vote, and if Romney nearly wins (or, God help us, wins) the Electoral College. So Limbaugh will drop the subject. He won't talk at all about whether this refutes his thesis.

But he are his hundreds of radio imitators have too much invested in the good-vs.-evil narrative to stop pushing it. So they'll go right back to it in the next four years. And Ailes -- well, he just signed another four-year deal to run Fox News, so he's not going to let up.

(In fact, Ailes's right-wing paranoia is becoming so noticeable that even mainstream journalists are starting to detect it. As Media Matters notes, Gabriel Sherman of New York magazine believes Ailes puts Peter Johnson, his personal attorney, on the air at Fox to talk about Ailes's own conspiracy theories -- for instance, that "the Obama administration may have 'sacrificed Americans' as a 'political calculation' in Benghazi" or that Obama "might send American citizens to be tried and executed in Egypt in order to appease anti-American extremists.")

A third reason the GOP won't mellow is that it's still going to be impossible to win a Republican primary in 2014 and 2016 without appealing to the extreme right. Fox and talk radio are by far the biggest recruiting tools for the GOP, and they're sure as hell not encouraging moderation. The moderate voters just aren't there.

Fourth, the paymasters of the GOP now will be the paymasters going forward, and they're not going to mellow.

And, finally, right after the election the mainstream press is going to spend so much time talking about what Obama did wrong this fall that we'll barely hear a word about how Republicans utterly failed to win a winnable election.

It's too bad, because the progressives who keep telling us we have to reject Democrats for failing to live up to our principles (hello, Matt Stoller) might have a point if genuinely right-centrist Republicans could regain some of their lost power, and if a right-centrist had a chance of leading the GOP ticket in 2016.

You could make a case for sitting out an election between an Eisenhower Republican party (the Democrats) and a Bob Dole Republican party (the Republicans). But we're not going to get there, even though the #1 lesson of this election ought to be that the GOP should get there.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


Kathleen Parker finds it unseemly that we're talking about ladyparts in this presidential election:
We should be talking about The Issues, we keep telling ourselves. But in the waning days of the presidential campaign, these are the issues -- binders full of cultural issues that continue to divide us and by which Barack Obama hopes to win reelection.

... the Obama campaign has strategically tried to push the Republican Party and Mitt Romney into a corner by advancing the war-on-women narrative.

... Random comments by a couple of outliers provided wind for Obama's sails. [Todd] Akin's remarks, that women don't get pregnant when "legitimately" raped, was just idiotic and immediately dismissed by Republican Party leadership, including Romney. Yet ... [Richard] Mourdock's argument is not nonsensical. If life begins at conception, then one life is not worth less than another owing to the circumstances of creation.

... [Mitt] Romney's position on the subject is clear. He supports exceptions for rape and incest. He also said early in the primary season: "Contraception, it's working just fine. Just leave it alone."

So why are we still talking about it?
Why are we still taking about it? Oh, I don't know ... Because of the relentless push for laws limiting abortion in states where Republicans triumphed at the polls in 2010? Because a President Romney would get to replace several aging Supreme Court justices, with Roe v. Wade in the balance?

It's particularly rich that Parker is chiding Todd Akin for trying to distinguish "legitimate rape" from other kinds, because she's spent much of her pundit career trying to litigate the definition of rape. Her book, Save the Males -- yes, she's tired of hearing people fight over gender issues, but she wrote a book called Save the Males -- contains a section titled "The Rape of Rape," in which she writes:
In today's hookup culture, there's so much confusion about what constitutes rape that a new term has emerged -- "gray rape" -- to describe that hazy area between consent and denial that often becomes blurred in the heat of the night. Did she mean "no" no? Or did she just mean "maybe" no? Does "stop" mean right this very second? Or could it mean, oh, pleasepleaseplease, just ten more seconds?
This is in keeping with a column she wrote in 1999 about an Oklahoma legislative proposal to define sex as rape when it takes place under circumstances "where the victim is intoxicated by alcohol, a controlled dangerous substance or other intoxicant to such an extent that the victim is incapable of giving legal consent." She opposed this bill, telling us:
As a former college student who once or twice was in the same room with a keg of beer and a bunch of guys, I'm confounded. As a woman who enjoys a little wine now and then and who has, on occasion, enjoyed a candlelight dinner where everyone's intentions were clear, I'm insulted. As a mother of show-stopper sons who are natural-born chick magnets, I'm outraged.
Yes, this was a bad law because her sons were "chick magnets." I'm not making that up.

(The law is on the books. It has apparently not turned Oklahoma into a sexual fascist state.)

Parker has also denounced the attention paid to rape in the military, crowing about the fact that a claim of rape that was later deemed false appeared in a New York Times Magazine story on the subject (as if that delegitimizes other claims of rape and assault), and offering a rather remarkable justification for military sexual violence:
... more overt sexual aggression may be the product of something few will acknowledge, at least on the record: Resentment.

Off the record, in dozens of interviews over a period of years, male soldiers and officers have confided that many men resent women because they've been forced to pretend that women are equals, and men know they're not.

The lie breeds contempt, which leads to a simmering rage that sometimes finds expression in aggression toward those deemed responsible.

Targeting women isn't excusable, obviously. It's also not the women's fault that they've been put in this untenable situation -- exposed both to combat and to the repressed fury of sexually charged young men.

The fault lies with the Pentagon and others who have capitulated to feminist pressures to insert women into combat.
Yes, you read that right: men in the military get so ticked off at having to treat women as equals -- so justifiably ticked off -- that they can't help being sexually violent. It's not their fault -- it's feminism's fault!

These writings are from a few years back. If Parker now wants to stop having these culture-war arguments, the reason is obvious: President Obama and the Democrats are winning them.

The Hill, which is a respectable but clearly right-leaning news source, gives us some of the GOP's November talking points if President Obama loses the popular vote but wins the Electoral College:
President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are among the politicians whose past criticisms of the Electoral College system would draw new scrutiny if there is a split verdict in this year’s presidential election.

... Obama said he supported eliminating the Electoral College as a Senate candidate during a WTTW television debate against Republican Alan Keyes in 2004.

...Shortly after the 2000 election, as a newly-minted Senator-elect, Clinton called for direct elections of the president. She argued the country has changed since the Electoral College was put in place.

... Five days after the 2000 election, [Senator Charles] Schumer called the U.S. voting system "antediluvian" and called for a study of simplified procedures. He, too, favored scrapping the Electoral College but said three-fourths of the states would never ratify an amendment....
Other Electoral College opponents are listed, all of them Democrats. Supporters of the status quo are also listed; they're a mixed group (Joe Biden, for instance, has opposed changing the system, as well as Mitch McConnell).

Yes, it's true that the Electoral College is ridiculous. But it's also true that both campaigns have been trying to win 270 electoral votes, not 50% of the popular vote plus 1 -- and Mitt Romney is on the verge of losing that contest. If this were a popular vote race, the candidates wouldn't be practically living in Ohio and other swing states -- Mitt Romney would have taken up residency in Texas, or somewhere else in the Deep South, and he'd be trying to run up the score there, while the president would be spending so much time here in the Northeast that they'd assign him his own traffic lane in Midtown Manhattan.

But this is why it's going to be a problem if Obama loses the popular vote. The "hypocrite Democrats" message is going to be the polite edge of the Republican election-stealing wedge, while nastier right-wing operatives burrow into whether some poor Democratic elector in Ohio or Wisconsin ever had a tax lien or missed a mortgage payment or drove drunk. Maybe the GOP won't be able to steal the election, but it won't be for lack of trying.

So let's hope Kos is right when he says registered-voter polls are more accurate than likely voter polls. Let's hope RAND and TIPP are right and Gallup is wrong. Let's hope Obama's get-out-the-vote operation is as amazing as it claims to be. Because it's going to get ugly otherwise.

Friday, October 26, 2012


I try to remember that even the people I loathe are human beings, not walking cartoons -- but sometimes it's hard:
Former Republican official: 'You can't be a Christian if you don’t own a gun'

A former Executive Committee member of San Diego's Republican Party, who now heads the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, recently told Texas churchgoers that "you can’t be a Christian if you don't own a gun."

Speaking to the "Deliver Us From Evil" conference at the Upper Room Church in Keller, Texas earlier this week, Dr. Gary Cass explained that America had a "broken moral compass" ....

"By the way, I've got a whole sermon, you can't be a Christian if you don't own a gun," he added. "That preaches in Texas, don't it?"

"You have not just a right not bear arms, you have a duty. How can you protect yourself, your family or your neighbor if you don't have a gun? If I'm supposed to love my neighbor and I can't protect him, what good am I?"
Right Wing Watch has lots more about Cass. I'll just point out that he has produced flyers attacking Islam and accusing Ayatollah Khomeini of having sex with a four-year-old girl, which he handed out at a California high school. He also urged parents not to let their kids watch Barack Obama's inaugural in 2008, calling it "The Flamboyant Homosexual Inaugural" because a gay minister and choir were featured. Oh, and he attacked the Pope for removing words critical of Jews from Good Friday prayers.

In other words, basically your average religious-right loon.

On the one hand, President Obama seems to be on course to win the Electoral College -- Pollster gives him 271 electoral votes right now, Intrade has him with a 63.4% chance of victory as I type, Nate Silver has him at 73.1%. On the other hand, he's down 1 in the new ABC/Washington Post tracking poll, down 5 according to Gallup, and trailing Mitt Romney by a point or so in popular-vote poll averages.

Does that matter? I think it might matter for the next four years.

I think Obama will win the Electoral College. I can spell out a scenario in which the right then steals the election (by persuading us that 2000 is irrelevant to now, by hypocritically demanding that "the will of the people" be obeyed, by digging into the pasts of obscure electors). But it's not clear that will happen, and maybe it's the kind of thing that even the right-wing noise machine can't pull off.

Nevertheless, if Obama wins a second term in a split election, the media will treat him as a loser who backed into office and doesn't really deserve to be there. That wouldn't be true for Romney if he won the presidency this way, because the press has now decided it likes him more than Obama, and because, well, he's Republican Daddy -- just like George W. Bush twelve years ago. Oh, sure, if Romney somehow wins this way, the press will ask him, very politely, to live up to the tone of his debate appearances and govern from the center -- but if he then charges hard to the right, the press will just sit back and speak with awe of his "bold" moves.

The press, treating a split Obama victory as a loss, will demand that he tack right in response to the circumstances of his win. This is what Obama will face going into his second term.

So Romney just has to win the Electoral College. Obama really needs to win the Electoral College and the popular vote so that he can have a third victory -- victory over a press that will tell us he's not really president, or at least he shouldn't be (a meme that will drive public opinion).

The press right now is parroting Romney talking points about the lack of an Obama second-term vision. It doesn't matter that, as Paul Krugman says, Romney's "vision" is threadbare and empty, and Obama's is more substantial and reality-based. Obama isn't really getting across the notion that he has ideas for the future.

Part of this stems from the way he's running his campaign. I really, really understand why he's touting early voting and going on Leno and putting out Lena Dunham ads and so on -- he's trying to drum up turnout among groups that aren't seen as likely to vote (non-whites, "waitress moms," young people). That granular approach will probably get him to 270 electoral votes. It might get him to 50.0001% of the popular vote -- though I wonder.

In the last days of the campaign, I think he should strike more of a balance between these voting-bloc moves and bigger, broader pronouncements of a "vision." Doing that might impress the sorts of voters regarded by pollsters as likely to vote, and thus give Obama a slight uptick in the likely-voter polls. It also might get the press off his back.

I'm not saying he should abandon the segmented appeals. But he should go big, too. Maybe then he can win all the races in November.

The latest fainting-couch response to the Lena Dunham "first time" ad for the Obama campaign is from the deputy chair of the Minnesota GOP, who says it suggests that the Obama campaign is advised by Satan. Also, Erick Erickson tweets: "We do live in a fallen, depraved world destined for the fire."

Right -- Republicans would never put sex in a political ad.

Oh, wait:
The National GOP Senatorial Committee is denying accusations that a recently released Internet attack ad against Lieutenant Govenor Lee Fisher, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, is meant to depict him masturbating. The viral video shows a shirtless Fisher, sitting with eyes closed, set to suggestive music, uses wavy distortion of the photo and salaciously suggest that he "get the job done."

(For the record: "The shirtless image is taken from a few seconds from an on-camera conversation Fisher had with son, Jason, during the filming of a documentary on Ohio's 2006 gubernatorial campaign.")

Oh, and there was this stripper-centered right-wing PAC ad from a California special congressional election:

And, of course, the notorious ad against Harold Ford Jr. in a Tennessee Senate race, the one that ended with a whispery blonde asking Ford to "call me":

Sex in these ads is an ugly, nasty thing. Sex in the Dunham ad is, if things work out, a good, positive, mutual thing. Surprised that the parties' sex ads skew that way? Me either.

You probably already know about this:
John Sununu, a top surrogate for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, said Thursday that Colin Powell's repeat endorsement of President Barack Obama could be explained partly by the two men’s shared race.

Speaking on CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight," Sununu ... explain[ed] that Powell's endorsement of Obama didn't rely solely on the political issues at hand.

"When you take a look at Colin Powell, you have to look at whether that's an endorsement based on issues or he's got a slightly different reason for endorsing President Obama," Sununu said, adding: "I think when you have somebody of your own race that you're proud of being president of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him." ...
Sununu later tried to walk this back ("I do not doubt that it was based on anything but his support of the president’s policies"), but it's something you can't credibly un-say.

BuzzFeed's McKay Coppins tweeted:

To me, there's no surprise in that. Sununu's basically saying that it's appropriate for people to stick with "their own kind." A lot of racists feel that way. To them, it's perfectly natural for a black person to stick up for a black person, and a white for a white -- it's the line-crossing that's depraved and unnatural. Life is tribal. Life should be tribal. Tribalism is the natural order of things.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Right-wingers are horrified at this new Obama Web ad, in which Lena Dunham of Girls talks about her "first time" (wink wink), which refers to voting for Obama:

I'm told it echoes a Vladimir Putin campaign ad -- though it's not exactly an unusual ad concept. (Anyone remember the "You'll never forget your first time" Campari ads from the 1980s, memorably parodied by Hustler magazine?)

But if the right is shocked by the introduction of (gasp!) sex into the campaign, I just want to take a trip down Memory Lane to 2008:
It is not unusual for fans of Sarah Palin to shout out to the Alaska governor in the midst of her stump speeches. It is noteworthy, however, that the crowds are heavily male.

"You rock me out, Sarah," yelled one man, wearing a red-checked hunting jacket....

"I feel like I'm at home," Ms. Palin said, looking out at a boisterous crowd of about 6,000. "I see the Carhartts and the steel-toed boots," she said....

"Marry me, Sarah," a man implored in Weirs Beach, N.H.....

Yes, some men come to ogle the candidate, too. "She's beautiful," said a man wearing a John Deere T-shirt in Weirs Beach. "I came here to look at her," he said, and his admiration for Ms. Palin's appearance became more and more animated....
Its not clear how many of those guys were wearing "ALASKA: Coldest State, Hottest Governor" buttons.

Oh, and of course this was some time after a moment involving the guy at the top of that ticket:
Sen. John McCain, R-Az., perhaps unknowingly, volunteered his wife for a beauty pageant on Monday that often features contestants topless -- and, occasionally, without any decency -- at the Sturgis, South Dakota, motorcycle rally.

"I was looking at the Sturgis schedule, and noticed that you had a beauty pageant, so I encouraged Cindy to compete," McCain told an audience at the rally. "I told her [that] with a little luck, she could be the only woman to serve as both the First Lady and Miss Buffalo Chip."

The audience, clearly better versed in the details of the pageant, cheered and whistled their approval....
So get off the fainting couches, wingers.


UPDATE: Right-wing media personality and former Richard Nixon amanuensis Monica Crowley calls the Dunham ad "super-gross":

Crowley's taste in campaign films is a bit different:
A new "documentary" alleging that President Obama's real father is actually communist writer Frank Marshall Davis was enthusiastically promoted by Fox News contributor and O'Reilly Factor guest host Monica Crowley on her radio show last month.

Dreams from My Real Father ... was written, directed, and produced by conservative filmmaker Joel Gilbert ... its premise [is] that Obama is a "red diaper baby" born to the communist Davis...
Dunham's allusions to sex upset Crowley, but this is apparently just fine:
In Dreams From My Real Father, ... photos of a naked woman wearing leather gloves, boots and a corset in a suggestive pose are featured. The film claims the woman in question is Obama's mother Ann Dunham.
And while we're on the subject of Crowley, let's not forget this choice moment from 2008:
On The Laura Ingraham Show, guest host Monica Crowley stated that "according to this genealogy -- and again, because I haven't done the research, I can't verify this -- but according to this guy Kenneth Lamb, Barack Obama is not black African, he is Arab African." Crowley continued: "And yet, this guy is campaigning as black and painting anybody who dares to criticize him as a racist. I mean, that is -- it is the biggest con I think I've ever seen."
Yup -- Crowley questions whether Obama is actually black. In a tasteful, non-sexual, way, of course, so it's OK.

(Partly X-posted at Balloon Juice.)

Christian Heinze of GOP12 approvingly quotes Condoleezza Rice:
While noting that she disagrees with the Romney-Ryan ticket on some issues, Condoleezza Rice tells Fox News that Democratic rhetoric about a "war on women" is beyond the pale.

"I'm quite comfortable that those who talk about a 'war on women' are not just engaging in hyperbole, it's far worse than that. It's condemning people who are reasonable and who are going to take into account the views of those who don't agree."
Heinze adds:
Imagine, for a second, if the Romney campaign accused Obama of waging a "war on whites" and talked about policies that they claimed damaged whites. There would be no Romney campaign anymore.
That's not exactly the analogous comparison. What if Republicans accused Democrats or liberals of waging a "war on men"? Would they be condemned for it?

No -- and we know this because right-wingers do this all the time. There's Kathryn Jean Lopez making the charge at National Review Online; there's Mrs. Instapundit, Dr. Helen Smith, doing the same; there's the "war against men" being denounced by Phyllis Schlafly, by Fox News Latino essayist Carli Eli, and others; oh, and there's also the "war against/on boys" (Christina Hoff Sommers, Janet Daley, and others).

Is it OK to talk about this? It always has been -- liberals and feminists complain, but who cares what they say? Raise the issue and pundits fall all over themselves to ponder whether boys are being harmed by schools not allowing them to indulge their rambunctiousness (hello, David Brooks) or whether the economic meltdown (and the Obama administration's response to it) hurt men particularly hard.

In any case, you can always say there's such a war -- if you do, you'll never be declared beyond the pale. Romney absolutely could have done it.

When Nevada is polled, President Obama never trails -- he's tied or (more likely) has a small or significant lead. He also has other advantages in the state, as Jonathan Chait notes, citing the dean of Nevada political reporters, Jon Ralston:
Las Vegas reporter Jon Ralston has explained that the polls miss the impact both of [Harry] Reid's turnout operation and the strength of the Latino vote. (Most polls don't ask questions in Spanish, and thus miss the Spanish-speaking vote, which is expanding in size.) About ten days ago, Ralston explained the dynamic in a column, and then, as the early vote has rolled in, has reported on the very sizable Democratic edge, which makes a Romney win in that state nearly impossible.
Read those Ralston links. This is definitely Obama's state to lose, and there's every indication that he's winning it -- with significant registration and early turnout advantages.

And yet Romney keeps campaigning in the state. Why? Ralston today says there are several reasons (Team Romney is counting on its own ground game and super PAC money, and hopes to save down-ballot Republicans). But there's also this:
I think Romney also is playing here because he can -- the money is there -- and because he needs to, as one wag put it, "show off for his investors," including Sheldon Adelson. This is about what happens after the election, too, even if Romney becomes president and has lost Nevada. He at least has to give it the old college try.
Wow. Is he really squandering time and resources in a state where he's likely to lose just to mollify Sheldon Adelson? Is Romney that willing to say "How high?" when one of his top paymasters says "Jump"?

To some extent, that's true of all pols in this big-money age -- but if the Romney campaign can't make his own resource-allocation decisions and, at least on this, requires one particular deep-pocketed patron's approval, it tells you something about how owned Romney will be if he's ever president, doesn't it?

Mitt Romney is still struggling to get to 270 electoral votes, and The New York Times notes his strategy for getting there: he's trying to win by claiming he's winning:
Mitt Romney is ... talking with rising confidence about his ability to overtake President Obama in the closing days of the race.

... Cultivating the image that he is a winner, his aides say, could be Mr. Romney’s best strategy for actually winning.

... projecting confidence ... is now a central piece of Mr. Romney’s strategy. He told supporters on Wednesday that the Obama campaign was "slipping and shrinking," a phrase that his aides say he intends to carry into Ohio.
This is reminiscent of what Team Romney did the day after the final debate, as Jonathan Chait noted:
Despite a lack of any evident positive momentum over the last week — indeed, in the face of a slight decline from its post-Denver high — the Romney camp is suddenly bursting with talk that it will not only win but win handily. ("We're going to win," said one of the former Massachusetts governor’s closest advisers. "Seriously, 305 electoral votes.")

This is a bluff. Romney is carefully attempting to project an atmosphere of momentum, in the hopes of winning positive media coverage and, thus, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.
This idea that confidence equals winning! ... what does it remind me of? Oh, yes: Romney's notion of how his election would affect the economy, as he described it in the hidden-camera Boca Raton video:
If it looks like I’m going to win, the markets will be happy. If it looks like the president's going to win, the markets should not be terribly happy. It depends of course which markets you're talking about, which types of commodities and so forth, but my own view is that if we win on November 6th, there will be a great deal of optimism about the future of this country. We'll see capital come back and we'll see -- without actually doing anything -- we'll actually get a boost in the economy.
(Emphasis added.)

The confidence fairy will save the election for Romney! And then the confidence fairy will magically revive the economy!

And then what? The confidence fairy will dismantle Al Qaeda and destroy Iran's nuclear program and magically make the debt go away? Without Romney actually doing anything?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


(UPDATE: CNN has pulled the story cited in this post. The Yahoo cached version is still up for now. A Texas NBC affiliate has posted the story here.)

This CNN story is getting a lot of attention:
Do Hormones Drive Women's Votes?

... New research suggests that hormones may influence female voting choices differently, depending on whether a woman is single or in a committed relationship.

... Kristina Durante of the University of Texas, San Antonio and colleagues ... found that during the fertile time of the month, when levels of the hormone estrogen are high, single women appeared more likely to vote for Obama and committed women appeared more likely to vote for Romney, by a margin of at least 20%, Durante said....

Here's how Durante explains this: When women are ovulating, they "feel sexier," and therefore lean more toward liberal attitudes on abortion and marriage equality. Married women have the same hormones firing, but tend to take the opposite viewpoint on these issues, she says.

"I think they're overcompensating for the increase of the hormones motivating them to have sex with other men," she said. It's a way of convincing themselves that they're not the type to give in to such sexual urges, she said....
Dames! You can't trust them with serious stuff like voting!

Now, the first you need to know about Professor Durante is that although her Ph.D. and M.A. are in psychology, she's an assistant professor of marketing. That's according to her LinkedIn profile, which also tells us that she used to be Planet Hollywood's head of publicity and the assistant to a VP of publicity at MGM.

So she knows a little bit about selling, and about getting press attention -- skills she's clearly using in her current career. It's curious how much of her research seems expressly designed to garner headlines in the non-academic press.

2009: Beautiful Women More Likely to Have Affair Because of Sex Hormone
Dr Kristina Durante, a psychologist and author of the report, said: "Physically attractive women receive more male attention and, when in relationships, are more likely to be the targets of mate poaching. "Attractive women also have especially high mating standards.

"Because it's difficult to obtain a partner who is a good provider and also has good genes, women often have to trade off between having a long-term mate who provides continual material resources and more physically attractive, short-term sexual partners with good genetic resources..."
2010: Women Buy Sexier Clothes When Fertile: Researchers
... Dr. Kristina Durante, who led the research, told QMI Agency that a change in hormones prompts women to out-primp nearby females.

"Across species, when a female is fertile they ... act to attract the best mate at that time," she said....
2012: Lack of Men Leads Women To Choose Career Over Family
... "Most women don't realize it, but an important factor in a woman's career choice is how easy or difficult it is to find a husband," said Kristina Durante, Ph.D., assistant professor of marketing at the University of Texas at San Antonio College of Business.

"When a woman's dating prospects look bleak, as is the case when there are few available men, she is much more likely to delay starting a family and instead seek a career." ...
2102: Why Women Choose Bad Boys
Women choose bad boys because their hormones make them, new research suggests. When ovulating a woman's hormones influence who she sees as good potential fathers, and they specifically pick sexier men over obviously more dependablemen.

"Previous research has shown in the week near ovulation women become attracted to sexy, rebellious and handsome men like George Clooney or James Bond," study researcher Kristina Durante, of The University of Texas at San Antonio, said in a statement. "But until now it was unclear why women would ever think it's wise to pursue long-term relationships with these kinds of men."...
Give the prof credit: she has serious attention-grabbing skills. You don't suppose that might possibly be what's driving her research, more than a search for scientific truth, do you?

The Donald Trump and Gloria Allred "October surprises" landed (with a muffled thud) at just about the same time -- but the teaser announcements for them don't seem to have happened at the same time, and that has me wondering whether the Romney campaign was genuinely concerned about what Allred was about to announce, and if Trump was deployed to say something, anything, that would neutralize the impact of whatever Allred intended to reveal.

Allred's plan was mentioned in a Matt Drudge tweet on Thursday. Radar wrote about Allred's plans on Friday. Then Trump told us on Monday morning, in a tweet and a Fox & Friends appearance, that he was about to make a "big Obama announcement."

Trump's big news is a big nothing: he's just offering to make a $5 million charitable contribution if President Obama will release all his college and passport records.

Allred's big news is slightly more substantive (though Trump's fishing expedition sets the bar pretty low):
Gloria Allred's 'October Surprise': Mitt Romney Lied Under Oath to Help Staples Founder Keep Money From Wife in Divorce?

...Today, TMZ revealed what it believes is Allred's big "October Surprise": Romney allegedly lied under oath about the value of Staples to prevent Stemberg's wife from walking away with her fair share.

According to TMZ's sources, Romney told the court that Staples -- a company Bain Capital had invested in early on -- was "overvalued," and referred to Stemberg as a "dreamer."

From TMZ:
Partly as a result of Romney's testimony, Maureen got relatively little in the divorce, but we're told just weeks after the divorce ended, Romney and Tom went to Goldman Sachs and cashed in THEIR stock for a fortune. Short story -- Romney allegedly lied to help his friend and screw the friend's wife over....
Romney's been working hard to court women voters. I think his camp suspected what this might be about, or at least assumed it would involve Romney and a woman and could do actual damage to Romney in the eyes of women. One right-wing blogger speculated that Allred would be talking about a Mormon woman reportedly dissuaded from having an abortion despite a life-threatening condition.)

Now, of course, the story is "Both sides do it."

It's hard to say whether any voters would have taken Allred's efforts seriously, but I think Romney's camp wasn't taking any chances.

Another Republican religious rightist has doffed the sheep's clothing and said what a large percentage of them believe:
... tea party-backed Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock ... who's been locked in one of the country's most expensive and closely watched Senate races, was asked during the final minutes of a debate Tuesday night whether abortion should be allowed in cases of rape or incest.

"I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen," Mourdock said....
This is mainstream thinking on among religious rightists -- don't let them tell you otherwise. Here's Rick Santorum in January being asked by Piers Morgan to justify wanting to ban abortion in cases of rape or incest:
... I've always, you know, I believe and I think the right approach is to accept this horribly created -- in the sense of rape -- but nevertheless a gift in a very broken way, the gift of human life, and accept what God has given to you.
Here's Sharron Angle in a 2010 interview with radio talk show host Bill Manders:
MANDERS: Is there any reason at all for an abortion?

ANGLE: Not in my book.

MANDERS: So, in other words, rape and incest would not be something?

ANGLE: You know, I'm a Christian, and I believe that God has a plan and a purpose for each one of our lives and that he can intercede in all kinds of situations and we need to have a little faith in many things.
(In a separate interview, of course, Angle lauded pregnant rape victims who "made what was really a lemon situation into lemonade.")

And National Review's Katrinko Trinko says that Mourdock was impolitic but not wrong.

Mitt Romney has distanced himself from Mourdock's remarks. Debbie Wasserman Schultz has called on Romney to remove his recently released Mourdock endorsement ad from the airwaves.

But what Democrats rarely do is make a sweeping case that the election of any Republican empowers the most repellent Republicans -- Mourdock, Todd Akin, and so on.

Whereas Republicans routinely nationalize campaigns -- every Democrat is the equivalent of some hated Democrat (Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid now, Ted Kennedy a while back). In the right-wing media, Democrats in and out of campaign season are expected to be responsible for the words and deeds of ACORN, the New Black Panthers, Sean Penn, Code Pink, PETA, and Rosie O'Donnell.

Why not say that if you elect Romney, you risk empowering Akin and Mourdock, and you certainly empower dozens of Republicans who think just like them (like, say, Romney's running mate)?

It won't happen. Democrats occasionally say that voting for one mild-seeming Republican empowers scarier others (Elizabeth Warren has a good ad to this effect), but it's the exception, not the rule. For Republicans, it's the rule.

Yes, Democrats made a lot of noise about Todd Akin a few months ago -- but not since. How many ads outside of Missouri has he shown up in? There's the problem.


UPDATE: Well, good -- as Dark Avenger notes in comments, the Obama campaign is trying to link Romney to Mourdock. Go here for details.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Alec MacGillis, speaking for his fellow journalists, explains why the press is feeding us nothing but Romney's spin now:
... we are not driven by politics or ideology, really. Above all, we love a good story.... We crave narrative. And let's face it, the narrative of the 2012 campaign was a real dud. Incumbent president faces tough reelection environment but manages to hold onto slim, steady lead thanks to a just-enough recovery and a singularly uninspiring challenger....

But then: our mile-high salvation! Denver, O Denver. As the dynamic of the first debate began to register just a few minutes in ... we sang our relief across the Twitterverse.... we had our story.

... We will not let it go. It doesn't matter if we have failed in achieving many of the basics of campaign coverage, like getting a candidate to cough up a critical mass of tax returns, release his bundler list, and account for his proposals and position shifts with a minimum of detail and coherence. No, we have our trajectory. And dammit, we're sticking to it.
But the press had a story. It's a great, multi-threaded story, really, even though nobody in the press thinks it is. It's a story the press could have been telling us for years, but never wanted to bother: the story of a major American political party going absolutely stark raving mad, while having the power and persuasive ability to potentially take the country with it. It's a party that flirted with nominating barking lunatics such as Donald Trump, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum before settling on a guy who was able to mollify supporters of those lunatics by faking (or imbibing) madness himself, by being a pathological liar, and by spending millions of dollars -- because this party is crazy about the rich, and has persuaded much of the country to want to coddle the rich even after the rich nearly destroyed the world.

The party lurches from superstitious belief to superstitious belief (in the phoniness of climate change, in the existence of massive Democratic voter fraud, in the imminence of sharia law in the U.S., tin he socialist/Muslim leanings of the centrist Christian in the White House, and so on). The rich guy at its head flirted with some of those beliefs and gave aid and comfort to firm believers in them.

If the party were a celebrity or a historical figure, it would be Charlie Sheen or Caligula, and everyone would want to tell the story. But nobody wants to tell this story. Nobody wants to write that the GOP is insane. Nobody wants to write that a great country can't survive with crazy zillionaires selling conspiracy theories to angry white people via 24/7 media, just so they can get somewhat lower tax rates.

The story is there, guys. It wasn't good enough for you, I guess.

Now that Republicans have, um -- what's the precise political science term? oh, yes -- bullshitted their way to a sense of electoral inevitability, merely by asserting their guy is winning, the reality they've created will probably manifest itself, as the gullible public buys into the notion of Romney-as-winner and votes accordingly.

But if that doesn't happen -- if Nate Silver is right, if Charlie Cook is right, and if Sam Wang of the Princeton Election Consortium is right, then Obama is still on track to win in the Electoral College, even if he loses the popular vote. Wang thinks it would take a shift not yet in evidence for Romney to win the EC, but he thinks a popular vote/electoral vote split is a distinct possibility:
Today, the race is quite close. However, note this. In terms of the Electoral College, President Obama has been ahead on every single day of the campaign, without exception.

I would then give the following verdict: Indeed the race is close, but it seems stable. For the last week, there is no evidence that conditions have been moving toward Romney. There is always the chance that I may have to eat my words -- but that will require movement that is not yet apparent in polls.

The popular vote is a different story. I estimate an approximately 25% chance that the popular vote and the electoral vote will go in opposite directions -- a "Bush v. Gore scenario".
Now, if Obama wins the Electoral College, he wins, right? Republicans insisted in 2000 that there was no other acceptable outcome -- right? And Democrats conceded the point, didn't they?

I've never believed that's how things would go if Romney were in Gore's place. I've always assumed that the GOP would do a 180, flooding the zone with hypocritical new talking points in favor of installing the guy who wins the popular vote ... and get away with it, because the press would go along and Democratic opposition would be weak and ineffectual. (Y'know, kind of the way spin is working in the aftermath of the final presidential debate.)

But wouldn't that be a slap in the face to the last Republican president, who took office in a way Republicans would now be saying is illegitimate? Wouldn't Republicans have to say they were wrong in 2000 to demand that Bush be awarded the presidency?

Well, I think, if pressed, many Republicans really will say that 2000 was settled the wrong way. They'll toss Bush under the bus. After all, when it's suited them, they've declared him a betrayer of Republican principles. (And here we thought that he was the embodiment of Republican principles.)

Consider Paul Ryan, as portrayed in a recent New York Times Magazine article. He postures as a man of deep-rooted deficit-cutting principle who lost his way in the Bush years:
"I did a lot of defensive voting during that time," Ryan said, referring specifically to a 2003 bill that overhauled Medicare and gave seniors prescription-drug benefits at a cost first estimated at $400 billion over 10 years.... Gaining a permanent majority supplanted budget discipline as his party's governing imperative. "Earmark your way, ribbon-cut your way, and you'll keep your job," Ryan said. In 2006, House Democrats reclaimed the majority in the midterm elections, putting what Bush called a "thumpin'" on the Republican Party. It was well deserved, Ryan said. He thought seriously about quitting Congress, maybe joining a policy group. He did a lot of bowhunting, spending long contemplative days in his tree stand. He talked a lot to [Senator Tom] Coburn....

"It set him free," Coburn told me, speaking of Ryan's vow to himself after 2006. "If you decide that you’re just going to ... not play the political game, all of a sudden you can have fun."
This is self-serving nonsense, but it's what a lot of Republicans seem to believe about themselves: We were under a spell for the first six years of Bush's term, then suddenly the scales fell from our eyes when we lost congressional majorities, and we vowed never to overspend again. Hallelujah!

It's a short step from that to repudiating Bush. So if they need to in order to install Romney, it seems quite possible that they will.