2014

February

  • Qutation Of The Day
  • “We will come out of the Maidan either free or slaves. But we don’t want to be slaves.” Serhiy Sobolov, a member of Ukraine’s Parliament, describing the protest standoff in Kiev’s Independence Square, known as Maidan.

  • $100 Million Ad Campaign to Press for Climate Change
  • Tom Steyer, 56, accumulated more than $1.5 billion during his days as a hedge fund manager before he retired in 2012. Today, he is among the most visible of a new breed of wealthy donors on the left who call themselves “donor-donors,” takang a page ” from the Kochs, Mr. Bloomberg and others to build and run their own political organizations—outside the two parties and sometimes in tension with them. He has also helped finance opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline pipeline, appearing in a s nineries of self-funded 90-second ads seeking to stop the project.

  • Editor Calls Paper’s Endorsement “Regettable’
  • Nearly four months after his newspaper endorsed Chris Christie for a second term as covernor of New Jersey. the editorial page editor of The Star-Ledger called the paper’ decision to back him “regrettable.” The editor, Tom Moran, said the newspaper “blue this one” when it chose Republican over his Democratic opponent, State Senator Barbara Buono, whom he defeatedhandlily in November.

  • BOEHNER ON FANTASY ISLAND
  • REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO OF TEXAS SAYS THAT THEN HE THANKED BOEHNER FOR STANDING UP TO REP. STEVE KING, BOEHNER RESPONDED, WHAT AN ASS. I’M EDITING, BUT YOU GET THE IDEA.’

  • Latest Attack: labeling Obama as “lawless”
  • The Republican messaging attack is at it again. The latest talking point is that the president is a “lawless” dictator” hellbent on operating outside, and indeed, above the law. On Thursday House Speaker John Boehner signaled that he might be C

  • High School Never Ends
  • Chris Christie has given us proof that anyone who clings to high school the way the 51-year old governor of New Jersey does makes her nervous. In his hilariously lame attempt to demonize his old teammate and handpickricked

  • Praising Philip Seymour Hoffman
  • It was clear, at least since he won the Oscar in 2006 for “Capote,” that the actor was an unusually fine actor. Really though, it was clear long before that, depending on when and where you started paying attention. Further evidence is not hard to find. He worked a lot over the past 15 years—in ambitious independent movies, Hollywood blockbusters and theaters on and off Broadway and beyond. An Appraisal, An by A. O. Scott in the New York Times.

January

  • Huge “Super PAC”” Moving To Back Clinton
  • The Obama political operation that once buried Hillary Clinton’s White House ambitions is now converging around her possible 2016 presidential bid, conferring on Clinton enormous early advantages in money, expertise and voter targeting techniques. On Thursday, Priorities USA Action, which played an important role in helping re-elect President Obama, announced that it was formally aligning itself with Mrs. Clinton and would begin raising money to fend off potential opponents for 2016. Jim Messina, Obama’s campaign manager in 2012, who has forged close ties with many Democratic donors, will serve as co-chairman of the revamped super PAC and as an affiliated non-profit, along with Jennifer M. Granholm, the former Michigan governor, who is among the most persistent voices calling for Mrs. Clinton to enter the 2016 race. Messina declined to say whether he had discussed his new role with President Obama or with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., another potential 2016 candidate.

  • Upbeat Brown Looks Ahead
  • When Gov. Jerry Brown stepped up on Wednesday to deliver his 11th State of the State speech - a record for California, the governor momentarily put aside his prepared remarks to offer a more casual greeting. I used to say, “Take the ins and throw them out and take the outs and put them in. “I"I don’t say that any more. My message: There’s no substitute for experience.” Brown, 75, delivered an upbeat speech -proclaiming a California ” that represented the beginning of his expected campaign for a fourth term. Nearly sixty percent of California voters said they approved Brown’s job performance in a Field Poll released last month. His mantra: “Urge California to save surplus.”

  • Another Romney Campaingn?
  • It’s hard to imagine, as Maureen Dowd reminds, anything more painful than going through the presidential campaign all over again with Mitt Romney. Unless it’s going through two presidential campaigns with Mitt Romney. But , yes, that’s the narrative of a new buzzed about documentary that it having its world premiere here on Friday night at the Sundance Film Festival. He could be a loser like Michael Dukakis. He daringly steam irons the French cuffs on a formal shirt while it is on his body, just, before he goes down in tails to the Al Smith dinner at the Waldorf. He stay’s calm when he learns that Obama is winning re-election: “Wow, that’s too bad.”

  • Investigation into New Jersey Bridge Scandal
  • Gov. Chris Christie has apologized ad nauseam for his subordinates’ failings, but he hasn’t adequately addressed the ultimate question addressed to President Richard M. Nixon President after the Watergate break-in: “What did he know and when did he know it?” Even if we give Christie the benefit of the doubt and personally accept his represenation that he personally played no role in the politically motivated lane closings in Fort Lee, N.J., what remains the biggest question and ultimately led to the downfall of President Nixon: Did he participate in a coverup?

  • Was Benghazi Attack Preventable?
  • A stinging report by the Senate Intelligence Committee released Wednesday concluded that the attack 16 months ago that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya could have been prevented, singling out the State Department for criticism for its failure to bolster security in response intelligence warnings about a growing security crisis around the city. It is also the first report to implicitly J. Christopher Stevens, raising questions about his judgments and actions in the weeks before his death The events in Benghazi and their aftermath became the subject of a fiercely partisan debate, with Republicans accusing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton making misleading statements about the attackers and Al Qaeda. Republicans, who believe Clinton will run for president in 2016 , was blamed for lax security at the diplomatic compound Benghaz.

  • Enimies of the Poor
  • Sudden, it’s O.K., even mandatory, for politicians with national ambitions talk about helping the poor. This is easy for Democrats, who can go back to the party of FDR and L.B.J. It’s much more difficult for Republicans having a hard time shaking their reputation for being the party for Robin-Hoodism,  for being the party that takes from the poor and gives to the rich. For now, however, Republicans are in a deep sense enemies of America’s poor. And in deep sense that will remain true no matter how hard the likes of Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio try to convince us otherwise.

  • Maureen Dowd on Politics
  • After being showered with spin, you say to your self, maybe that first impression was wrong. But often it isn’t. Barack Obama is too much in his head. Cris Christie can be a bully. His two-hour ““I am not a bully news conference was operatic about an act of malice so petty it did it did not merit being called “authentic Jersey corruption” as New Jersey native Jon Stewart said, adding that it was unworthy of a state with a severed horse on its flag,

  • What Happened to Transparency?
  • When Presidency Obama took office in 2009, he promised a “rare level of openness in government. The day after his inauguration, he wrote. “The government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculation or abstract fears. In the latest reminder that the Obama administration has failed to live up to the promise, the Justice administration has failed to live up to that promise. The Justice Department last week week won its fight to keep secret a memo that outlines the supposed legal authority for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to collect Americans’ telephone and financial records without a subpoena or court order. Edward Snowden’s unauthorized secret mass surveillance programs have forever changed the public discussion about the relationship between national security and the protection of privacy and civil liberties.

  • David Brooks and Gail Collins
  • Gail: I don’t know of any politician who likes wrestling with the mundane and limited more than Hillary Clinton. If she’s won the presidency in 2008, I don’t think she’d ever have forced the health care act into law. I don’t say, that as a complement, exactly.
    David: If she can prove that she now understands that dumb, simple laws are better than smart, complex ones, I could definitely feel some comfort with her. I do think she is hardheaded and practical. If she runs again Ted Cruz, I’m going to be in an awful pickle.

    The Conversation appears weekly in the New York Times.

  • Tactic to keep Republican rank-and-file riled up
  • New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow believes something else is also at play here, something more cynical. I believe this is a natural result of a long-running ploy by Republican party leaders to play on the most base convictions of conservative voters in order to solidify their support. Convince people that they are fighting a religious war for religious free, a war in which passion passion and devotion are one’s weapons against doubts an you make loyal soldiers. Pew defines “staunch conservatives” as those “who take extremely conservatives positions on nearly all issues.” Pew found that most staunch conservatives were regular views of Fox News, preferring the network to any other news source. The face of the network’s defense-of-Christmas crusade has been “the Killing Jesus” co-author Bill O’ Reilly, who declared victory this season. In December he said on his show: “It isn’t a mystical war on Christmas. It’ real and we just won. Really?

  • Boehner Said to Back Change on Immigration
  • The Speaker’s ‘Step by Step” moves suggest a new commitment on a divisive issue for Republicans which signal that he may embrace a series of limited changes in nation’s immigration laws in the coming months, giving advocates for change new hope that 2014 might be the year that a bitterly divided Congress reaches a political compromise to overhaul the sprawling system. Boehner in recent a weeks hired Rebecca Tallent, a longtime immigration adviser to Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who has long backed broad immigration changes. Advocates for an overhaul say the hiring, as well as angry comments by Boehner critical of the Tea Party opposition to the recent budget in Congress, suggests that he is serious about revamping the immigration system despite deep reservations from conservative Republicans.

2013

December

  • Philadelphia Monsiginor’s Case Overturned
  • The Philadelphia district attorney who pressed the case, R.Seth Williams, said in a statement Thursday, “I am disappointed and strongly disagree with the court’s decision. Whether or not the conviction stands up, Monsignor William J. Lynn’s trial remains a warning to church officials everywhere, said the Rev. Thomas J. Reese, a senior analyst for the National Catholic Reporter and expert on church leadership. New accusations are less frequent, Father Reese noted, “but in general when a case comes up, everyone is picking up the phone and dialing 911.”

  • Christie’s Growing Bully Image
  • The early conventional wisdom among Republicans is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is the leading candidate for his party’s presidential nomination in 20016. In 2010, John F. McKeon, a New Jersey assemblyman, made what he thought was a mild comment over a relatively minor comment.” He was surprised to receive a handwritten comment from Christie, telling him that he didn’t like them. It was the governor’s penchant for confrontation that first propelled him onto the national stage in 2010. As he pushed to cut public employee benefits, his staff celebrated video clips of him dressing down teachers at town hall-style meetings by posting them on YouTube.

  • John McCain: Learning to Let Go
  • The ‘Brave Maverick’ who became the ‘Bitter Old Man’ is now ‘Learning to Let Go and ‘Looking Back On His Life.’ How McCain turned his cliches into meaning. Mark Leibovich is the New York Times Magazine’s chief correspondent.
     

  • Obama’s Bland Reassurances
  • In a New York Times editorial Saturday on runaway surveillance, by the time the president gave his news conference on Friday, there was really only one course of action to take on surveillance policy from an ethical, moral, constitutional and even political point of view. And that was to embrace the recommendations of his handpicked panel on government spying-and bills-pending in Congress to end the obvious excesses. The President has had plenty of time to consider this issue, and the only specific thing he said on the panel’s proposals was that it might be a good idea to let communications companies keep the data and e-mails rather than store then in vast government databases. Six months age he thought the data collection struck the “right balance” between security and civil liberties. On Friday he said that the government had not abused its access to private information, and continued to defend the mostly secret, internal protocols.     

  • The Austerity Issue
  • Paul Krugman has pointed out that it’s true that the human cost has been nothing like what happened during the 1930. But that’s thanks to government policies like employment and a strong social safety net—the very policies austerians insisted must be dismanteled in the name of “structural reform.” The depressing effect of austerity is, in short, as clear a story as anything in the annals 0f economic history. Perhaps the most brazen example is George Osborne, Britain’s chancellor of the Exchquer, and the prime mover behind his country’s austerity agenda.

  • White House Warning To Congress
  • Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warned Congressional authorities on Thursday that the government could be out of borrowing authority by February if the debt sealing is not raised.

  • Pope Replaces Conservative U.S. Cardinal on Key Committee
  • Francis moved on Monday against an outspoken critic of abortion and same-sex marriage, by replacing Cardinal Raymond Burke with another American who is less identified with the cultural wars within the Roman Catholic Church. It was a signal that the pope is willing to disrupt the Vatican establishment in order to be more inclusive. Cardinal Burke, who came to the Vatican after serving as Archbishop of St Louis, is a favorite of many conservative Catholics in the the United States. Cardinal Burke will be succeeded by Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, an ideological moderate with deep knowledge of the Vatican but also with pastoral experience. Francis reconfirmed the congressional posting of Cardinal William Levada, a former prefect of the Congregation for the Faith. Like Cardinal Wuerl, Cardinal Levada is considered a moderate. Last week Cardinal Wuerl suggested that the pope was altering the way that the bishops’ congregation functioned.

  • Why Inequality Matters
  • Paul Krugman notes that it does matter. But politicians, intimidated by crises of “class warfare,” have shied away from making a major issue out of the evergrowing gap between the rich and the rest. That may, however, be changing. We can argue about the significance of Bill de Blasio’s victory in the New York mayoral race or Elizabeth Warren’s endorsement of Social Security expansion. And we have yet to see whether President Obama’s declaration that inequality “is the defining of our age” will translate into policy changes. Still, the discussion has shifted enough to produce a backlash from pundits arguing that inequality isn’t that big a deal. They’re wrong. The best argument for putting inequality on the back burner is the depressed state of the economy.

  • Pope not a Marxist
  • Political conservatives are now trying to accuse Pope Francis of being a Marxist. But he told the Italian newspaper La Stampa he has met Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don’t feel offended. “I am not, repeat, speaking from a point of view according to the Church’s social teaching, that doesn’t mean being a Marxist.

  • Paul Ryan’s Very Big Week
  • The chairman of the House Budget Committee teamed up with Democratic Sen. Patty Murry and succeeded in crafting a bipartisan budget. More important for Ryan was that he finished first in a new Iowa poll among 10 potential Republican presidential candidates. He scored 73% in the poll while Sen. Ted Cruz, after a brief spurt, finished dead last. Hillary Rodham Clinton scored 89 percent among Democrats but, even with a strong Republican challenge, still gets half the Iowa vote. That said, the 2016 presidential election is far from around the corner.

  • Mike Huckbee’s Eye on 2016
  • The former governor of Arkansas has not been among Republicans frequently named as a potential 2016 presidential candidate, but “I’m keeping the door open and would like that to change.” In an interview last week in Little Rock he said “the focus needs to be on 2014, but I’m focus of the fact that there’s a real opportunity for me.” A Christian conservative who made a splash by winning the 2008 Iowa caucuses before seeing his cash-run short bid overwhelmed in subsequent states said he would not run win again unless he could finance a durable campaign. While a strict conservative on social issues, Huckabee, 58, has been criticized by fiscal conservative organizations over his economic record. He remains contemptuous of such groups as the Club of Growth. “Does the Republican Party want to win elections or fight each other in “a purity war,” he asked. For it’s part the Club of Growth on Friday waited little time in reviving longstanding criticisms of Huckabee. Asked if he was financially comfortable enough to give up his lucrative television job, Huckabee conceded that this was ” a big issue.”

  • John Boehner Finds His Grove
  • The House Speaker ‘s rare public rebuke of conservative groups who oppose a pending bipartisan deal marks his clearest signal yet that GOP leadership has had enough of tea party-driven intransigence. They’re using our members and they’‘re using the American people for their own goals,” Boehner said, his voice rising with anger during a press conference at the Capitol yesterday. ““This is ridiculous. Listen, if you are for more deficit deduction, you are for this agreement. From Boehner, it was a rare and pointed public dressing-down of the Club of Growth, Heritage Action, the Koch Brothers and other conservative groups that have urged Republicans to oppose the budget deal. In response to Boehner’s comments, Club of Growth President Chris Chocola said his group will stand with lawmakers who oppose the deal. “We stand with Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Tom Coburn, Rand Paul, members of the Republican Study Committee and every other fiscal conservative who opposes the Ryan-Murray deal,” Chocola said in a statement.

  • Honoring Roger Angell
  • His graceful prose has made him baseball’s foremost essayist for more than half a century, and Angell, 93, will be honored at the Hall of Fame next summer as the winner of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award . A senior editor at The New Yorker and the first winner not to be a member of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, which made the announcement of Tuesday. Angell’s elegant style and rich, erudite writing have always set him above the rest. It’s a great day—for me, if not for baseball. He first contributed to The New Yorker in 1944 and became its fiction editor in 1956. He first wrote about baseball in 1962. Since baseball time is measured only in outs, all you have to is to succeed utterly; keep hitting, keep the rally alive, and you have defeated time. Angell wrote in 1971. “You remain forever young.”

    His graceful prose, and baseball’s foremost essayist for more than half a century, will be honored at the Hall of Fame next summer. Angell, 93, a senior writer at The New Yorker and is the first winner not to be a member of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. “It’s a great day—if not for baseball.” He first contributed to The New Yorker in 1944 and became its fiction editor in 1956. He first wrote about baseball in 1962. “Since baseball time is measured only in outs, all you have to do is succeed utterly; to keep hitting, keep the rally alive. “You remain forever young.”

  • Ex-Clinton Aide to Join Obama
  • President Obama, at the lowest ebb of his presidency, is bringing into his White House circle the long-time Democratic strategist John D. Podesta, a former chief of staff for President Bill Clinton. Podesta, who has agreed to serve as counselor for a year, led Obama’s presidential transition in 2008 and has been an outside adviser since then. He also has occasionally criticized the administration, if gently, from his perch at the founder and former president of the Center for American Progress, a center-left public policy research group that has provided personnel and policy ideas to the administration. Word that Podesta would for the first time join Obama’ official staff, from people familiar with the discussions, comes as the president is seeking to recover public support and credibility after a flawed introduction in October of the insurance marketplaces that are key part of his signature Affordable Care Act. This week, he brought back his former chief congressional lobbyist, Phil Schiliro, to help on health care issues.   

  • Nelson Mandela, Communist
  • A third reason the Communist affiliation matters is that it helps explain why South Africa has not made greater progress toward improving the lives of its large underclass, rooting out corruption and unifying a fractious populance.—- In the end, of course, the greatest favor Communism performed for Mandala and the A.N.C. was collapsing. Once the Soviet bloc had disintegrated and China had gone capitalist, the last white rulers of South Africa could no longer pose as necessary allies on the right side of the Cold War. They knew the game was up.
    Bill Keller, the former Executive Editor of the New York Times. 

  • Coaltion of Liberials Strikes Back at Centrist Democrats
  • As a sign of the left’s new aggressiveness, a coalition of liberals have urged their members to contact a group of congressional Democrats who are honorary leaders of the centrist group, Third Way. In a Wall Street Journal opened article this week it suggests that Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio of New York City and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts would “lead Democrats over the populist cliff.” The liberal group’s campaign has already started, suggesting that the liberal wing of the Democratic Party is ascendant. Warren has already raised questions about the funding sources of policy groups like Third Way. On Thursday, the liberal blog Daily Kos announced that it would endorse and raise money only for candidates who promises not to join Third Way. By directly going after Warren, who has an avid following among progressives. Third World has all but ensured that it would get the fight it seems to wants to pick. While she has said she will not run for president, Warren is seen by many on the left as the candidate who on the left could stop Hillary Rodham Clinton from claiming the Democratic nomination in 2016. Progressives want to use this period to send a message that the Democratic Party is far more unabashedly liberal than it was when her husband was elected president in 1992.

  • Warren Passes on Run for President
  • Senator Elizabeth Warren, the freshman Massachusetts Democrat, widely mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2016, said Wednesday that she would not run. “I will serve out my term which expires in January, 2019. “I am working as hard as I can to be the best senator that I can be.” She had been promoted by some liberal Democrats, without her encouragement, as a populist to Hillary Rodham Clinton. Vice President Joe Biden has not ruled out the possibility that he will mount a candidacy perhaps as early as late 2014. 

  • Yes, The Drones Have Arrived
  • Maureen Dowd notes in her New York Tiimes column that the novelty of flying cars never arrived. But flying novels are right around the corner.  If you aren’t nervous enough reading about 3-D printers spitting out handguns or Goggle robots with Android phones, imagine the skies thick with crisscrossing tiny drones. “I know it looks like science fiction. “It’s not,” Jess Bezos told Charlie Rose on “60 Minutes Sunday, unveiling his octocopter. drones. The Amazon founder is optimistic that the fleet of miniature robot helicopters clutching plastic containers will be able to follow GPS coordinates within a radius of ten miles and zip around the country providing half-hour delivery of packages up to 5 pounds—86 percent of Amazon’s stock - just as soon as the F.A.A. approves. “Wow! Rose said, absorbing it all.” 

  • View of Church as Anti-Gay Is a Caricature
  • Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York said on Friday that the Roman Catholic Church was being “caricatured as being anti-gay,” even as he lamented the continued expansion of same-sex marriage in the United States and vowed to keep fighting it. The remarks were made in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” in which he discussed the church’s positions on abortion and the Affordable Care Act in addition to gay rights. He said the church had been “out-marketed” on the issue of same-sex marriage by Hollywood and by some politicians who have tried to paint the church in a negative light. “We’re pro-marriage, we’re pro-traditional marriage, we’re not anti-anybody.” The cardinal’s comments on same-sex marriage come amid a recalibration of tone in the church on the issue of homosexuality, a move led by Pope Francis. even as the substance of its position remains largely unchanged. In July, Pope Francis surprised many when he suggested that he would not judge priests for their sexual orientation. He has since cautioned against succumbing to moral relativism.

November

  • Iran-Vatican Detente?
  • Iran’s President Hassan Rohani has informally begun a dialogue between the Islamic and Christian worlds, America, the Jesuit magazine, reported this week. He expressed hope for the alliance between Iran and the Holy See regarding major issues that shake humanity, like the fight against radicalism, injustice and poverty. Rohani’s appeal was launched on the occasion of his meeting with Archbishop Leo Boccardi, the new apostolic nuncio, on Nov. 2 in Tehran.  Rohani wrote that “Islam and Christianity need to dialogue more than ever today, as the conflicts between religions is mainly ignorance and a lack of mutual understanding. Rohani remarked that the Vatican and Iran have common enemies,” like terrorism and extremism, like the defeat of injustice and terrorism in the world. Right-wing Republican leaders flatly reject any such thesis.

  • Clinton: Seeking State Department Legacy
  • Secretary of State John Kerry, at a recent symposium on Afghan women at Georgetown, praised his predecessor, Hillary Rodham Clinton, whom he referred to “Madam Secretary-Senator-First Lady-Everything. Kerry’s remarks drew applause from the crowd but they also pointed to a dilemma for Clinton in an effort to define her tenure as secretary of state. But some people close to Clinton worry that because of her high profile given to her work for women’s rights, and the headlines now being generated by the hyperkinetic Kerry, her efforts on trickier diplomatic situations may have been eclipsed. Her biggest chance to shape how she is views may be through her memoir, which is due next summer. Two of her aides, to who worked with her at the State Department, are assisting with the book. Republicans argue, more generally, that scrutiny of her time at the State Department is overdue.

  • Pope Francis Slams Unholy Markets, Idolaltry of Money
  • In his first major work Pope Francis urged the Catholic Church to commit itself to fighting poverty and called on world leaders to become more concerned about the current state of society. He opened the door to reforms in the Vatican bureaucracy while reaffirming that female priests and the church’s opposition to abortion is “not open to discussion.” “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless man dies of exposure, but it is not news when the stock market loses two point? Francis, 76, called on leaders the world over to guarantee people “dignified work, education and health care in the exhortation called “Evangelli Gaudium.” (Yhe Joy of the Gospel). “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and clinging to its own security. The male-only priesthood, he said, “is not a question open for discussion,” but women must have more influence in church leadership, he wrote.

  • GOP Governors Distance Themselves From DC
  • An ambitious group of powerful state governors, led by Cris Christie of New Jersey and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana used the Republican Governors Association annual conference in Arizona last week to both criticise the strategy of their party’s leaders in DC and boost why state governors were more natural pragmatists. Christie said his view has always been that when a Republican deserves criticism, he or she gets it. “If they deserve praise, they get it, too.” but they get it honestly and directly.”  The faces of the 30 chief executives running red states had a common theme: “Republican governors are driving American’s comeback.” The challenge posed by ambitious by ambitious governors as varied as Rick Perry in Texas and Scott Walker in Wisconsin have not gone unnoticed in Congress where Republican senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marc Rubio been left tarnished in opinion polls by their clashes with Democrats over the government shutdown and Obama’s heath care reform. Christie, the new RGA chairman, revealed fewer policies than in his gubernatorial race as he began what be a long, tough campaign to win the Republican presidential nomination.

  • Unmasking Gov. Scott Walker
  • Democratic Party of Wisconsin chairman Mike Tate savaged Walker’s new book on Monday, saying he omitted critical facts and using it as a promotional tool to run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. Tate said glaring omissions include the campaign pledge Walker made in 2010 to create 250,000 jobs during his first term in office and his admission to a liberal blogger posing as billionaire industrialist David Koch during a prank call in 2011 that his administration was considering planting “troublemakers” in crowds of protestors. Walker also neglected to say that a John Doe investigation during his final years as Milwaukee County executive led to six criminal convictions, some to high-level members of his campaign staff.

  • Can Obama Learn from J.F. K.‘s Mistake?
  • The greatest problem of Kennedy’s presidency was the Bay of Pigs invasion. No sooner had he taken the oath of office than he discovered that the Pentagon and the C.I. A. were preparing to sent 1,500 Cuban exiles to Cuba. The American military and C.I. A. assumed that once the attack began, the Cuban people would rise up and overthrow Fidel Castro. Kennedy was privately skeptical and didn’t yet have the judgement he was surrounded by.  The exiles were quickly routed, America was humiliated and Kennedy was left to take the blame. So far, at least, as New York Times columnist Joe Nocera has noted the implementation of the Affordable Car Act has been President Obama’s Bay of Pigs. Led to believe that the preparation for Obamacare was on track, Obama was blindsided when that turned out not to be the case.

    There are two primary reasons Obamacare has gotten off to such a terrible start. The first is that it is one of the most complicated things the federal government has ever tried to do. It was inevitable that what there would be problems. that there would be problems. The second, as has been noted, is that entitlement programs have to coexist within the complicated “patchwork” of the American health care system. Soon after the Bay of Pigs Kennedy was confronted by the Cuban missile crisis. This time, Kennedy ignored the Pentagon generals, took a different path, defused the crisis and avoided a war with the Soviet Union. He learned from the Bay of Pigs disaster. As President Obama tries to turn Obamacare around, that is the looming question: Can he learn?

  • Senate: New Rules on Filibusters
  • A historic and bitterly divided Senate voted Thursday to ease the confirmation process for most presidential nominees, a momentous and potentially risky step that limits the ability of Republicans to block President Barack Obama’s choices for executive-branch and most judicial posts. Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D.,Nev. engineered the rules change, over Republican objections, with a complicated parliamentary maneuver that ended up placing new curbs on the use of the filibuster—a move so controversial that it is often called the “nuclear option.” The American people believe Congress is broken. The American people believe the Senate is broken….It’s time to change the Senate before this institution becomes obsolete. The key vote was 52-48, with all but three Democrats—Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Joe Manchin of West Virginia—voting for the change and all 45 Republicans opposed. The move would limit the ability of the minority party to deploy a filibuster, a delaying and blocking tactic. In an institution that prides itself on giving power to the minority party, the filibuster is the minority’s main source of leverage. The rules change, advanced by Reid, makes it easier to confirm nominations along party lines.

  • Tea Partiers Debate New Shutdown
  • Conservative leaders from more than a dozen outside groups warned congressional Tea Party Caucus members against another government shutdown. A heated discussion broke out Wednesday at a closed-door Tea Party Party Caucus meeting organized by the group TheTeaParty.net, according to a source in the room.  The consensus in the meeting was that House Republicans should work to avoid another government funding fight when current funding levels expire on Jan. 15—“though there was a vocal minority cheering it on.” But, as Politico reported, members of prominent conservative outside groups warned the Tea Party Caucus against a repeat of October’s 16-day impasse over government funding, warning that the shutdown fight was the Democrat’s best chance to recapture the House. GOP Reps. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Steve King of Iowa were among a dozen other conservative lawmakers in attendance. Other groups, including Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, were also represented.

  • The Cheney Feud
  • As Maureen Dowd reported the Cheney feud is the most stomach-turning, with Liz Cheney grubbing for a Senate seat as a carpetbagger against an incumbent Republican. What on earth makes her qualified to be a senator? How come she simply didn’t run for in her real home state of Virginia. Dick Cheney’s Secret Service code name was once “Backseat.” Liz’s should be “Backstab.” As bruised family friend and former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson told NBC News about Liz, ‘It’s almost,“I will do anything to win this race,’ because I cannot ever believe that there will be a breach between she and her sister Mary.” The Cheney’s have caused enough damage to this country. They should exit, stage right.

  • Catholic Bishops: Expand Priorities
  • Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, in his final address as president of the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops, called on them to take up the cause of Christians in many countries who have been persecuted and killed for their faith. But the shift in emphasis was the clearest sign yet that eight months after Pope Francis was elected, his priorities were beginning to trickle down to the organization that conservative Cardinal Dolan has led. Francis provoked widespread discussion in the church in an interview published in September in which he said that the church should not be so “obsessed” with issues like abortion, gay marriage and contraception—but should instead lead with the Gospel’s message of love and mercy. He said the church “must be for the poor,” and has visited with refugees and washed the feet of juveniles in prison , cameras in tow.

    The Rev. Thomas J. Reese, a senior analyst for the National Catholic Reporter, a liberal Catholic newspaper and website, said he perceived Francis’s effect in the bishops’ new approach to religious liberty: “They’re not withdrawing that agenda item, but so far in this meeting, ‘they’re just not obsessing.”

  • Boehner Kills Immigration Push
  • The House Speaker signaled the end to push for major immigration legislation this year. He ruled out negotiations between the House and the Senate on an expansive immigration overhaul similar to one approved by the Senate and with bipartisan support in June. “The idea that we’re going to take up a 1,300-page bill that no one has every read, which the Senate did,” he said. With few legislative days left in 2013 and nearly all the focus on the health care law and House-Senate budget talks. Boehner said that House Republicans had little interest in detouring on two immigration legislation that divides the party. The Speaker’s stance means the the immigration fight would be pushed back to 2014. Any movement would probably have to come earlier in the year before the midterm elections get to close. The bottom line means to me that the Speaker is not in a hurry to do anything next year.

  • Bulger’s Victims
  • It was a flood of emotion that overwhelmed a federal courtroom in Boston on Wednesday when relatives of Whitey Bulger told of ther loves and their losses—and their utter contempt for the defendant. Bulger , 84, was convicted in August of 11 murders when he was the overtlord of the Boston underworld from the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s. Many acknowledged that their fathers or husbands were no saints. Sean McGonagle, whose father, Paul, was a Bulger victim, called the gangster mentally deficient. Theresa Bond, whose father, Arther, was shot in the head by Bulger, was charitable toward Bulger, who did not look at family members as they spoke.

  • Archbishop To Lead U.S. Bishops
  • The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops on Tuesday elected Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville Ky..a prelate who has earned a reputation as a consensus-seeker, president of their conference on the first ballot. He succeeds Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York whose three-year term ended this week. In a closely watched decision, the bishops elected Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston as vice-president. In the runoff vote, the bishops passed over Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, a razor-sharp writer who often weighs in on politics from a markedly conservative point of view.

  • Food Stamps: Harder Choices on Poor
  • Cuts in food stamps, a $10 or $20 cut in in the monthly food budget would be absorbed with little notice.  But for millions of poor Americans who rely on food stamps, reductions that begin this month present awful choices. One gallon of milk for kids instead of two. No fresh broccoli for dinner or snacks to take to school. Weeks of grits and margarine for breakfast. For many, it will mean turning to a food pantry or soup kitchen by the middle of the month. In 2009, people started getting as much as 13.6 percent more in food stamps as part of the federal economic stimulus package, but that increase has expired. That reduction will save the government about $5 billion next year.

    Food stamps are likely to be cut more in the coming years if Congress can agree on a new farm bill, which House and Senate negotiators began tackling this week. The Republican-controlled House has approved cutting as much as $40 billion from the program by making it harder to qualify. The Democratic-controlled Senate is suggesting a $4 billion cut by making administration cuts. It’s an unspeakable national disgrace!

  • GOP Weighs Clout Of Right Wing
  • Party leaders are grappling with the vexing divisions over its identity and image, and mainstream leaders complain that more ideologically-driven conservatives are damaging the party with tactics like the government shutdown. The debate intensified on Wednesday after Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, lost a close race, the deeply conservative Republican candidate for governor of Virginia, lost a close race in which Democrats highlighted his opposition to abortion and comments in which he seemed to liken immigration policy to pest control. Mitt Romney said Republicans should consider that states holding open primaries be rewarded with more delegates to the party’s national convention. “The convention method is political arsenic, pure and simple,” said Mike Murphy, a veteran Republican strategist. “It incentives our candidates to appeal to the base voters they already get for free, not the swing voters they need.”

  • Joe Biden Deserves Respect
  • As Mark Halperin and John Heilemann write in their new book, “Double Down,” Joe Biden worried that he would be cast as the buffoon, calling it the “Uncle Joe Syndrome,” and he confronted the president about it at a weekly lunch. As Maureen Dowd noted, it is fair to say that Biden has not been given the respect he deserves in the White House. It’s the story of the ultimate team player who has not been treated that way himself. Biden has bent over backward to put the president in a good light, even as the president and Obamaworld have bent over backward to treat Hillary like the rightful successor to Obama. They say loyalty is its own reward, and in the case of Biden, it will have to be, said a key Clinton aid.

    Bill Daley, Obama’s former chief of staff, acknowledged last week that he had pushed a poll to see if Biden should be dumped from the 2012 ticket and replaced by Hillary Clinton , something he never told Biden. He was Biden’s national political director in his ‘88 presidential bid. Biden loyalists believe that Daley added insult by dishing to the “Double Down” authors. One Biden loyalist asked, “How does Bill Daley get out of bed very morning?” I believe that Biden will run for president in 2016, announcing his candidacy far in advance of Clinton.

  • 2016: Is Hillary Already In?
  • A poll released last week by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal charted the decline. It found that the percentage of Americans who favor her favorably dropped to 46 from 56. The percentage with unfavorable views had risen, less strikingly, to 33 from 29. It’s about time, because the truth each day, is that she has serious problems as a potential 2016 presidential contender, and the premature cheering of Chuck Schumer and other Democrats won’t change that. New York Times columnist Frank Bruni points out that in the wake of the federal shutdown, in the midst of the Obamacare meltdown, voter disgust with business as usual is at the very peak that ensures more than the usual share of surprises in the next few elections.

    In one recent poll large numbers suggest a climate in which someone who has been front and center in politics for nearly for nearly a quarter-century won’t make all that many hearts beat all that much faster. Voters are souring on familiar political operators, especially those in, or associated with, Washington. That’s why Clinton has fallen. She’s lumped together with President Obama, with congressional leaders, with the whole reviled lot of them. In September, Piers Morgan asked Bill Clinton whether Hillary or Chelsea who would make a better president. “Over the long run, Chelsea,” Bill said. “She knows more than we know about everything.” 

  • Virginia GOP Wake-Up Call
  • Kathleen Parker, the Washington Post conservative columnist, is among those predicting that Terry McAuliffe will be elected Virginia governor on Tuesday. Washington Post polling shows that the Democratic businessman and fundraiser has a double-digit lead over Republican Ken Cuccinelli II following a campaign ad blitz that shredded the attorney general over his very conservative positions. Seeing Virginia as a bellwether state does have certain limitations. The shut-down was higher than the national average.  A recent Post-ABC poll found that 81 percent of Americans disapproved of the shutdown and 53% blamed Republicans compared with 29% blaming the President. Some GOP strategists would argue that getting rid of tea party candidates is burning down the village in order to save it. It’s time to dump the tea party in the Potomac.

  • Replacing Biden with Clinton?
  • The journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, in their new book, “Double Down,” being released this week, provides a detailed description of the effort inside the senior circle of Obama advisers to replace Vice President Joseph R. Biden with   Hillary Rodham Clinton on the 2012 ticket. In the end the aides concluded that despite Clinton’s popularity, the move would not offer a significant enough boost to Obama to justify such a radical move. Obama’s chief of staff at the time, William M. Daley. had developed a close personal rapport with Biden, a fellow Irish Catholic and veteran of Washington politics. Biden, who may run for president in 2016, is viewed warily by Obama’s circle not only for being a gaffe-prone “Uncle Joe.” but also for, in their minds being overly consumed with his own political future. 

  • Obama and Big Donors
  • The President, who is known to detest the intense care and feeding some campaign donors require, told his campaign manager that he could not even name his top five bundlers—“I just have no idea.” After meeting with the liberal billionaire George Soros, a potential major donor to Democratic 2012 efforts, the president said that “if we don’t get anything out of him,” he would never sit with him again.

October

  • Whispers of Race Persist
  • John Harwood wrote in The New York Times last week President Obama sought to turn attention from health care to immigration—in other words, from one racially divisive issue to another. Whites tend to hold negative views of Obamacare, while blacks tend to like it. Now two factors have combined to raise the racial volume. First, the growing voting strength and allegiance of black, Hispanic and Asian Americans have made nonwhites an increasing share of the Democratic coalition. Second, conservative whites are bitterly resisting both Obama and his agenda.

    Stanley Greenberg, a pollster for Bill Clinton and other Democrats, has observed in recent focus groups among core Republican voters highlighted anxiety that “big government is meant to create rights and dependency and electoral support from mostly minorities who will reward the Democratic Party with their votes.” Fred Steeper, a Republican pollster, who has advised both Presidents Bush, worries about the renewed attention to racial divisions for two reasons. One is it could taint what he calls the Republican Party’s “legitimate argument” in favor of self-reliance and smaller government. The Democrats’ problem is winning over whites. At the moment that’s the challenge of government—as Obama’s struggle to implement his health care law demonstrates. The risk for the country is heightened racial tensions.

  • Remembering Reagan’s Advice
  • Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, the leader of Iraq, is meeting with President Obama in the White House on Friday. Iraq, he insists, has matured into a country with democratic institutions that are bound by a Constitution. He says “while we still have a long way to go, we want to walk the road together with the United States.” The president ought to recall his famous phrase, “trust but verify.”

  • Get Beyond Politics
  • A New York Times editorial noted the talk in Washington has focused on how, after the shutdown debacle, Republicans and Democrats might exploit immigration for political advantage. But last week, the genuine immigration crisis intruded, as if from another universe. Busloads of Arizonans—parents, childrens, students known as Dreamers—lined up outside House Speaker John Boehner’s office, pleading for a meeting and praying for action on reform. Mr. Boehner had no time for them. The shutdown was a fake emergency. Immigration is a real one, harming lives every day in every state. President Obama has sometimes been resentful when immigrant advocates remind him of his failures. Now, at least, he has invited their pressure.

  • Camelot’s Court: Inside JFK White House
  • It is tempting, as Evan Thomas in his review of Robert Dallek’s latest book on JFK notes, that there is nothing really new here. But Dallek, whose “An Unfinished Life (9003),” was the first to expose the severity of the president’s medical condition. The story of how a glamorous but green young president struggled with conflicting and often bad advice while trying to avoid nuclear Armageddon remains a gripping and cautionary tale of the loneliness of command. He surrounded himself with what he called a “ministry of talent,” personified by McGeorge Bundy, the brainy but chilly Harvard dean who became national security adviser. Dallek shows that while well-intentioned, they often served Kennedy badly. In his first months in office Kennedy was bamboozled by the CIA, which persuaded the new president to back a “secret” invasion of Cuba. The Bay of Pigs was a fiasco. After the defeat, Jackie Kennedy recalled her husband crying in the privacy of his bedroom. “He put his head in his hands and sort of weep,” she said, according to Dallek’s recounting.

  • Finding GOP Grown-Ups
  • Leaders of the Republican Party are said to be restocking their ranks, Sen.Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) told The New York Times, to restore the public’s trust. “You’ve got to have adults running the thing.” Hatch and other establishment senators believe that grown-ups would not threaten the country’s full faith and credit, or keep the government closed, in order to get their way. The Times’ editorial suggests that Republicans—whether adults or Tea Party members—continue to let the public down.

    At a time when the economy is desperate for federal help and 11.3 million people are still unemployed, the party—and not just it’s far-right wing—is still pretending that cutting spending and lowering the deficit remain the country’s most urgent priorities. Democrats understand that finally setting aside the sequester cuts that have hobbled the economy creates an opportunity to begin needed investments in education and infrastructure, rebuilding cities and the lives of people left behind.

    But Republicans won’t hear of it. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama), the ranking member of the budget panel, says that keeping the current spending caps, is a bedrock principle. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), wants to use the conference to cut social-welfare entitlements and relieve the tax burden on corporations. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), a grown-up, says his party needs to persuade the public that it can be trusted with government.
    Not ending the scheduled cut for all food stamp recipients which begins next Friday could be a start.

  • Biggest Economy Killer: U.S. Government
  • Steven Rattner, a longtime Wall Street executive who served as a lead auto adviser in the Obama administration, suggests that the government shutdown and debt ceiling inflicted a toll on the American economy, but that cost is only a fraction of he total damage that the federal government has been causing to the American economy. He poses two questions: what should be done is easier to answer than the question of how to cut trough Washington’s Gordan knot. He suggests the practice of making key financial decisions a few months at a time, under the threat of draconian consequences, should come to an end. Also, both business and consumers are reasonably entitled to be able to plan. He also recommends the need to bring sanity to fiscal policy. The growth in spending for Medicare, Social Security and other “entitlement” programs brings the distasteful prospect of continuing cuts in other programs, higher taxes, growing deficits or some other combination of them all.

  • Francis and a New Order
  • The Pope, who has made humility and modesty his hallmark, sent a swift and clear message to Roman Catholics around the world Wednesday that he wants all representatives of the church to do the same. He suspended a German bishop of spending millions of dollars of lavish renovations to his residence, and forced the chief administrator of the bishop’s diocese into early retirement. His decision signals that the pope deems pastoral life and moral examples important, not an accessory,” said Alberto Melllioni, a Vatican historian and director of the John XXIII Foundation for Religious Studies, a liberal Catholic research institute in Bologna, Italy.

    Carlo Marroni, a Vatican expert with the Italian financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore, noted in a telephone interview that the pope is “intervening personally and swiftly on issues that worry his faithful.” Francis has made simplicity an emblem of his papacy. He chose the name of the medieval saint known in Italy as the “poor man” and has said, that along with St. Augustine. St. Francis is closest to his soul.”

  • Sharp Words From Business
  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donahue had some specific suggestions for Ted Cruz, the Tea Party’s newest star, on Monday. Donahue said he didn’t know Cruz, but watching the Texas senator from the perspective of someone who watches tennis, “if you’re going to run to the net all the time, you better have a lot of moves to the right and left, and I haven’‘s seen that yet.” Whatever one thinks of Cruz he has accomplished an extraordinary feat in capturing national attention after only eight months in the senate. Cruz has a whole new playbook and working with his colleagues in the senate, or with the GOP’s traditional allies in the business community, like Donahue, is not a strategy that Cruz is endorsing. But his apostasy is not enough to shake the Chamber’s backing for the Republican-led the House as a bulwark against one party-government with a Democrat in the White House and a Democrat-led senate. “We will spend what it takes.” Donahue should measure his words very carefully.

  • DeMint Rules
  • A weak John Boehner’s sorry reality is that he is no longer the real leader of the Republican Party. The true leader is the former senator isn’t just the head of the right’s premier thank tank—he’s now running the Republican Party. As DeMint made it abundantly clear in a recent Bloomberg Businessweek cover story—in which he comes off as a utopian, delusional, ruthless and disarmingly serene—his goal, and thus the goal of the institutional organs he controls and the hardcore activist base he leads, is the defunding (or at least the delay) of Obamacare itself. Returning to the Bloomberg Businessweek piece, what’s most striking about DeMint is his boundless optimism. He’s not only utterly convinced that there’s a silent majority of conservatives dotting on the American landscape, but he also believes that Republican’s failures in 2008 and 2012 were the product of the party not being conservative enough.

  • Colbert at Al Smith Dinner
  • The comedian took the dais on Thursday for his keynote speech at the Al Smith white-tie charity dinner, the annual gathering of New York’s Roman Catholic elite and didn’t spare any politicians.. “I have great respect for Cardinal Dolan , though I have to say, sir, it’s not easy when you are wearing that outfit. In that cape and red slash, you look like a matador who’s really let himself go.“On Thursday, Colbert—who teaches Sunday school and is viewed as a fresh, charismatic ambassador for American Catholicism, opened his remarks by declaring himself “America’s most famous Catholic.” “I know what the cardinal is thinking: Stephen, pride is a sin,‘Colbert said. “Well, Cardinal, so is envy, so we’re even.” Alfred E. Smith IV, the former governor’s great-grandson and master of ceremonies, noted the presence of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo who might be mulling a presidential run in 2016 and is planning to write a book. The title, Smith said, was going to be “The Sun Also Rises.” “But he can’t. Not because of Hemingway, but because of Hillary.”

  • Examining the Crux of Ted Cruz
  • Kathleen Parker, the Washington Post opinion writer, makes a strong case for outing Ted Cruz.The only person who loves Cruz more than Ted Cruz is Barack Obama. It is the White House and Democrats, not Republicans, who have advanced the idea that Cruz is the face of the GOP . Remember when the White House insisted that Rush Limbaugh was the leader of the GOP? These narratives are useful to Democrats because they loonify the GOP, driving voters away from their fiery rhetoric just as intense heat repels any sensible mammal. The only hope for Republicans going forward is that Cruz resists the allure of his own voice. 

  • Shutdown: Months to Assess Damage in Detail
  • It will cost the U.S. economy several billion dollars, according to estimates by economic research firms. But the affiliated damage will be far greater, economists said, while eroding confidence. “The three weeks of government shutdown will cost the economy $3.1 billion in gross domestic product from lost government services. The government has lost out on millions of dollars that would have been spent on shuttered parks, caves, monuments and museums, for instance, with the National Park Service putting its toll at $450,000 a day. But the heftiest cost will be paying government workers for time—about 800,000 workers were barred from working. 

  • GOP: New Round of Soul-Searching
  • Washington Post reporter Karen Tumulty asked a key question: “What will it take to save the Republicans from the self-destructive impluses of the tea party movement.” Former Senate majority leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) advised “I do thinkl we need stronger leadership, and there’s got to be some pushback on these guys.” Added another Mississippian, former Gov. Haley Barbour: They need to get back to substance. Some of the GOP’s leading figures sound as though they have all but given up on Washington.” Ed Gillespie, former Republican National Committee Chairman , said “The party writ large is discouraged with Washington.” The shutdown strategy failed, and left the Republicans with their lowest approval ratings in the history of polling on that subject. There’s no guarantee the Republicans won’t be back in January, in the same place when another funding bill will be needed.

    Unapologetic figures like Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) have built a national following and fundraising base on the strength of their obstructionism. Former Alaska Gov, Sarah Palin, posted on her Facebook page: “We’re energized. We’re going to shake things up in 2014. Let’s start with Kentucky where Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell will not be endorsement by the tea party candidate—which happens to be awfully close to South Carolina, Tennessee and Mississippi.”

  • The Republican Surrender
  • “We fought the good fight. We just didn’t win,” Speaker John Boehner said. The New York Times Editorial Board noted that he failed to grasp the destruction his battle caused. The result: It has hurt federal employees and needy people dependent on government programs, and it threatened to alter Washington’s balance permanently by giving a fringe group outside power over the executive branch and the normal functions of government. While not perfect, the outcome vindicates the strong stance taken by President Obama and Senate Democrats against the Republicans’ extortionate demands. When the president was first confronted with the Republican refusal to raise the dept ceiling he blinked and agreed to a budget control law that severely slashed domestic spending and will continue to do so for years though the sequester. This time Obama refused the most outrageous demands. The Republicans pushed the nation to the brink of default, and pulled back at the last minute when it was clear the White House would not capitulate. Many in the party remain defiant, opposing this week’s deal and vowing to keep waging their crusade.Those refusing to submit to blackmail in Washington need to remain vigilant. Brinkmanship is far from over.

  • Ending the Crisis?
  • The hope was that the Senate would reach a deal on Tuesday but would only go into effect if weak Speaker John Boehner allowed it to go to a vote in the House. That didn’t happen because Boehner continues to cater to the Tea Party wing of his caucus, piling on new demands. On Tuesday morning it looked like a vote would take place but an hour later a vote was canceled and Jim Demint, the former Republican senator, who is now payed one million dollars a year to run the Heritage Foundation, convinced Boehner’s Tea Party group to vote against supporting it. The co-executive executive of Deutsche Bank called it a “rapidly spreading fatal disease.” The next thirty six hours are now crucial.

  • Nation’s Fate in Boehner’s Hands
  • It looks like Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell are within a breath’s hair of a deal to reopen the government and extend the debt limit for several months.If they ink it on Tuesday, they can probably pass it before Thursday, at which time the Treasury Department will run out of headroom under the debt limit and the country will be at the mercy of its lenders. But the troubling question, as Salon posted, is what happens in the House? Unfortunately, the only evidence we have to go one is that Boehner has never explicitly invoked the Hastert Rule over the debt limit and government funding bills and he has never publicly foreclosed on allowing the country to default. It stands to reason that GOP dead-enders will oppose any bipartisan deal—and even threaten to defrock Boehner if he defies them. But as weak as his control of the House is, Boehner’s still officially the speaker—and as long as he’s officially the speaker, he controls the floor. The logical assumption is that Boehner will put the Senate plan on the floor long before midnight. There are 217-plus votes for any deal that comes from the Senate and his chance to preserve his speakership.

  • For the GOP, moving rightward
  • As Doyle McManus reported in the Los Angeles Times the Republican Party is at war with itself. The most important actors aren’t Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and the tea party members of the House who brought us to the government shutdown. The party rift’s chief driver is a former senator most Americans couldn’t pick out of a lineup, former South Carolina senator Jim DeMint. He resigned from the Senate in January to become president of Washington’s Heritage Foundation. He has quickly turned Heritage—especially its new lobbying arm, Heritage Action for America,—into a powerful engine of pressure on Republicans in Congress. Aside from defunding Obamacare the Senate Conservative Fund, a separate political action group that DeMint founded, played the role of enforcer, attacking GOP members who didn’t fall in line.

    What’s clear is that earlier movements, like this one, have aimed to change their own parties first, on the assumption that voters wanted a purer form of politics. As a result, some of the toughest, more expensive campaigns in next year’s congressional election cycle may not be between Republicans and Democrats but in primaries that pit Republicans against each other—with the future of the GOP at stake.

  • New Peril Engulfs GOP Brand
  • A new poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal indicates that the Republicans share a far larger share of the blame for a government shutdown than President Obama. Just 24 percent of Americans viewed the GOP favorably, an all-time low in the survey. ‘The reality is we are, in the eyes of the American people, in very bad shape. You can’t argue with the polls,” said Sen. John McCain, Republican of Arizona. To the dismay of conservatives revisions of Obama’s health care program have been dropped in the most serious negotiations. The Tea Party Express summer up their frustration on Friday, “Are you like us and wondering where the fight against Obamacare went,“it asked. McCain asked a roomful of Republican senators at lunch in the Capital last week if any parts of the program could be reversed. No one raised a hand, not even radical Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, public face of the conservative push in Congress to repeal the health care law. l

  • Netanyahu Observed
  • “Netanyahu is most comfortable predicting disaster, scaring people into doing something. The problem is now he’s lost momentum. His message is clear, his message is the same, but everyone else’s perspective has changed. It’s like you’re the only one in a dark room with a flashlight.” Mitchell Barak, a Jerusalem political consultant who worked for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel in the early 1990s.

  • Kochs, Other Conservatives Split On Health Law Strategy
  • Under attack for the government shutdown, some of the most vocal elements of the Conservative Party are publicly splintering, a sign of growing concerns that the defeat of among even hard-core conservatives that the defeat-health-care-at-any-cost may have backfired. The issue is the best way to oppose President Obama’s health care plan: to immediately bring it down by blocking an federal federal budge deal that includes funding it, or to gradually build public opposition until Congress and the White House are controlled by elected officials willing to repeal the law. On Thursday, the divisions were on public display as conservative groups like the Heritage Action for America said they would not fight a short-term in the ceiling while Americans for Prosperity insisted just a few days ago that any increase be tied to cuts in social programs.

    Their actions followed an unusual public statement on Wednesday by the Koch Company, the conglomerate controlled by the billionaire conservative brothers Charles and David Koch brothers, who sent a letter to the Senate ting that they did not support the effort by Heritage Action to force the partial closing of federal government as a way to eliminate funding for the health care program. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that “by shutting down the government, Republicans are satisfying the Koch brothers while millions of people are suffering.” 

  • Obama Not Buying GOP Deal Yet
  • In a meeting at the White House Thursday afternoon the President rejected a proposal from politically besieged GOP leaders to extend the nation’s borrowing authority for six weeks because it could not also reopen the government. Yet both parties saw it as the first break in the GOP’s brinkmanship and a step toward a fiscal reality. The Republican proposal could come as early as Friday. But the White House and Congressional Democrats remained skeptical that House GOP leaders could pass the proposal. 

  • Yellen: First Woman To Head Federal Reserve
  • President Obama’s clear first choice to succeed Ben S. Bernanke as Fed chair was Lawrence H. Summers, a former adviser. But Summers dropped out of the running on Sept.5 in the face of opposition by Democratic senators after an unusually long and public search to fill one of the most important economic policy-making jobs in the world. Janet I.Yellen, 67, was previously president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, a White House adviser, a Fed governor during the Clinton administration and a longtime professor at the University of California, Berkeley.I f anything. Yellen has wanted the Fed to take even more aggressive measures to lift growth, believing the risks of inflation are modest. Her nomination culminates an unprecedented public campaign on her behalf that included letters from members of Congress as well as extensive lobbying by economists.

  • Showing Language and History More Respect
  • Frank Bruni opines in The New York Times that the methodical extermination of millions of Jews by a brutal regime intent on world domination would resist appropriation as an all-purpose metaphor.You mind think, of all things, genocide might be safe from conversation into sloppy simile. You’re be wrong. After Paul Ryann’s fact-challenged address at the Republican National Convention last year. the chairman of the Democratic Party in California actually compared him and his compatriots to the Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. A short time later, the chairman of thr Democratic Party in South Carolina likened the state’s Republican governor, Nicky Haley, to Adolf Hitler’s mistress, Eva Braun. At that point Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, implored politicians and pundits, to stop it already. No matter. Allusions to Nazi Germany were back for debates over gun control and of course, Obamacare. Ted Cruz, the Senate’s prince of tirades, compared people who claim that the new insurance program that can’t be stopped to those who who rolled over for the Third Reich. This prompted a public reprimand from John McCain, who has developed something of a sideline career of swatting Cruz.

  • Conservatives Focus on Killing Budget as Health Care Law Weapon
  • Soon after President Obama started a second term, a loose-knit coalition of conservative activists led by former Reagan Attorney General Edwin Meese III gathered in Washington to plot strategy.Their push was to repeal Obama’s health care law which was going nowhere and needed a new plan. Meese and leaders of more than three dozen conservative groups came up with a little noticed “blue-print to defund Obamacare.“It articulated a take-no prisoners legislative strategy that had long percolated in conservative circles, as the New York Times reported Sunday. The Republican goal could derail the health care law overhaul if conservative lawmakers were willing to push fellow Republicans—including their cautious lawmakers—into cutting off financing for the entire federal government. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, speaking to a group in Dallas in August, said “now is the single best time to defund Obama. This is a fight we can win.” One sample Twitter offering—“Obamacare is a train wreck”—is a common refrain from Republican Speaker John A. Boehner. But the Speaker, a weak leader, seeks a grand bargain with the president which he will never get. Cruz is calling the shots. Last Tuesday, the new online health insurance marketplaces, called exchanges, were set to open. If the law took full effect as planned, many conservatives feared, it would be nearly impossible to repeal.

  • Boehner’s False Pledge
  • The Speaker has privately told Republican lawmakers anxious about the fallout from the government shutdown that he would not allow a potentially more crippling federal fallout as the atmosphere on Capitol Hill turned increasingly tense on Thursday. His comments, based on multiple accounts that he would use a combination of Republican and Democratic votes to increase the federal debt limit if necessary appeared aimed at reassuring his colleagues—and nervous financial markets—that he did not intend to let the economic crisis spiral further out of control. His comments came even though he has so far refused to allow a Senate budget measure to end the shutdown that many believe could pass with bipartisan backing. What’s clear to me is that Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, and his small band of followers, are still calling the shots to block funding for the health care law, and Boehner remains afraid to cross him.

  • Obama to Republicans: Get Real
  • The President showed defiance and admonished House Republicans on Tuesday to quit fighting his three-year-old health care law and “to reopen the the government.” It was a show of defiance that reflected Democrats’ confidence that conservatives have overreached after after years of budget battles with the White House. In a meeting in the Oval Office late yesterday afternoon which lasted ninety minutes nothing was was accomplished and House Speaker John A. Boehner left the meeting and with House Republicans tried without success tried to ease the effects of the shutdown and force Democrats into negotiation. The Republicans proposed three bills—but because they introduced the measures under a fast-track procedural rule that required a two-thirds vote , each of them failed.

    Republicans were considering bringing up the bills again under a difference rule that would require only a simple majority, but they have no chance of moving it forward. “By refusing to let the House vote on only one bill that would reopen the government, Speaker Boehner is single-handedly keeping the government shut down,” said Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader. House leaders also vow to oppose an increase in the debt ceiling unless Obama delays the health care law. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has emerged as the shadow leader of House Republicans, and it remains to seen if Boehner can survive as the GOP house leader.

  • Dishonesty of Voter ID Laws
  • The Justice Department on Monday sued North Carolina over the state’s restrictive new voting law, which requires photo identification for in-person voting and cuts back on early voting and same-day registration—all of which will disproportionately affect black voters. The suit, which follows similar litigation against Texas, is the latest effort by the department to go after voting discrimination in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling in June striking down part of the Voting Rights Act. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. called the North Carolina law “an intentional attempt to break a system that was working,” and said that it was clearly intended to discriminate on the basis of race. But North Carolina and Texas represent only one front in the continuing battle to protect voting rights. The 1993 law, formally known as the National Voter Registration Act, established a uniform federal form that requires only that voters attest under penalty of perjury that they are citizens. The form, which states must “accept and use” when people apply for a driver’ license, has helped millions of Americans register to vote.

September

  • Populist Left: A New Hot Ticket?
  • After Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren spoke at a luncheon in Beverly Hills last month, women from the audience swarmed around her. many asking the same question: will you run for president? This month Warren’s fiery speech at the national AFL.CIO convention, with some union members stood on chairs, shouting out to her. When she joined a MoveOn.org conference this summer to promote her student loan legislation, 10,000 people got on the line—the liberal group’s biggest audience on any call in four years. Sworn in just ten months ago, the Massachusetts Democrat said she is not interested in running for president.

    But in seizing on issues animating her party’s base—the influence of big banks, soaring student loan debt and the widening gulf between the wealthy and the working class—Warren is challenging the centrist economic approach that has been the defacto Democratic policy since President Bill Clinton and his fellow moderates took control of the party two decades ago. Privately, some Democratic donors from the financial industry seem unnerved by Warren’s rise, underscoring the tension between the party’s liberal and centrist wings. The ascendent power of Warren and her fellow populists is best captured by their torpedoing the nomination of Lawrence H. Summers, President Clinton’s treasury secretary. who was blocked before President Obama could even nominate him to lead the Federal Reserve.

  • Cruz on Meet the Press
  • My take on Ted Cruz’s much anticipated interview with David Gregory on Sunday was that he threw the irrepressible Republican senator from Texas a series of softballs without once challenging his credibility in defunding Obamacare. Any doubt that Cruz is running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, with the support of the Koch billionaires, is now certain. 

  • Hispanics Cool to GOP, Poll Finds
  • A new survey shows that Hispanics, the nation’s largest minority group, are increasingly hostile toward the Republican Party during the political battle over changing immigration law and lean surprisingly liberal on social issues like gay marriage. More than 6 in 10 Hispanic respondents said they felt closer to the Democratic Party than they had in the past. while only 3 in 10 said said they felt closer to the Republican Party. When Hispanics were asked to offer descriptions of the parties, 48 percent of the responses about Republicans were negative associations like “intolerant,” and “out of touch” while 22 percent of the responses for the Democrats were negative.

    The outlook for Republicans has grown increasingly negative since 2004, when President George W. Bush won reelection with 44 percent of the Hispanic vote. The survey by thr Public Religion Research Institute, a nonprofit research group in Washington, found that 56 percent of registered Hispanic voters identified with the Democrats, while 19 percent identified with Republicans, and 19 percent as independents.

  • Plutocrats Feeling Persecuted
  • As Paul Krugman points out sometimes the wealthy talk as if they were characters in “Atlas Shrugged,” demanding nothing more from society than that the moochers leave them alone. But these men were speaking for, not against, redistribution from the 99 percent of people like them. This isn’t libertarianism; it’s a demand for special treatment. It’s not Ayn Rand; it’s ancien regime.

  • House GOP Raises Stakes in Debt-Ceiling Fight
  • If the Democrats muster 60 votes, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, will move to strip out House language that guts the health care law and pass a stopgap spending bill that finances the government through Nov. 15, without Republican policy prescriptions. At that point, no one is sure how the House will react. But in their efforts to unify restive Republicans, House leaders were only widening the partisan divisions. Behind closed doors on Thursday, they laid out their plans for a debt ceiling increase that include the health policy delay. fast-track authority to overhaul the tax code and, among other goals, construct the very controversial XL oil pipeline.

    Republican divisions in the Senate burst into full public view on Thursday. Incensed that hardliners in his party were slowing final votes on legislation to keep the government open, Sen. Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, went to the Senate floor to accuse two fellow Republican senator, Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah, of grandstanding for the benefit of their conservative-activist followers. Democrats—and some Republicans—worried that the shift to the debt-ceiling fight is leaving the government heading into a shutdown on Tuesday with no resolution in sight. 

  • Ted Cruz Ascending
  • The freshman Republican senator talked for 21 hours and 19 minutes on the Senate floor this week to hope that the public would carry out his message to oppose President Obama’s healthcare law. Within the hour, he was Rush Limbaugh’s afternoon radio talk show being grilled by the master who had a fat cigar in his mouth as smoke began to filter up from the screen. Rush talked little and even offered him another half hour to rant which Cruz quipped, ed, “I’m here as long as you like.” It was the fourth-longest streak in the so-called world’s greatest deliberative body. Cruz repeated his main message often in the subsequent hours: Washington wasn’t listening to the public, which opposes the Affordable Care Act, and the law will put the nation on a path to ruin. Cruz was challenged by Sen. John McCain who said that the healthcare law was a major issue in the campaign for him and the GOP nominee, Mitt Romney, but that the people had spoken and Obama was reelected. Cruz is emerging as the Republicans’ Lone Ranger on the radical right, bypassing the party establishment and emerging as a major player in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

  • Ted Cruz’s Campaign
  • On Fox News last Sunday Chris Wallace’s demeanor and the bafflement of an entire nation was about what Cruz hoped to accomplish with his flawed campaign to defund Obamacare. There’s Cruz’s sickly look after Wallace recites derisive statements about him from fellow Republicans and he’s reminded that even in his party and even on Fox, the distaste for him is robust. The best part in the belly laugh when Cruz is asked to respond to these digs. “There are lots of folks in Washington that can choose to throw rocks,” he says, “and I’m not going to throw rocks. Because he’s nobler than that. Please. Cruz has been casting stones since he first moved into his Senate office nine months ago. His quarry is bottomless. In terms of Chuck Hagel’s confirmation as secretary of defense, Cruz wondered aloud whether Hagel had taken honorariums from countries hostile to the United States. He went on to lecture Dianne Feinstein, a Senate elder whom he condescendingly lectured about the Constitution . The Texas senator clumsily pursues his dearest cause: himself.
    Now, as it turns out, right-wing extremist Sen. Rand Paul has joined Cruz’s team.

  • A Radical Whisper
  • Frank Bruni, in a New York Times op-ed, said it wasn’t the particulars of Pope Francis’ groundbreaking message in an interview published last week that stopped him in his tracks, gave fresh hope to many embittered Catholics and caused hardened commentators to perk up. It was the sweetness of his timbre, the meekness of his posture. It was the revelation that a man can wear the loftiest of miters without having his head swell to fit it, and can hold an office to to which the term “infallible” is often attached without forgetting his failings.

    In the interview, Francis called himself naive, worried that he’s often been rash in the past and made clear that the flock harbored as much wisdom as the shepherds. Instead of commanding people to follow him, he invited them to join him. And so gently, in what felt like a whisper.  What a surprising portrait of modest in a church that had lost tough with it. But Francis’ tone so far has been interesting not just as a departure for the church but as counterpoint to the prevailing sensibility in our country, where humility is endangered if not quite extinct. Francis cast himself as a struggling pastor, determined to work in a collaborative fashion. He characterized himself as a sinner.

  • The Crazy Party
  • Paul Krugman notes that the Republicans are approaching a political moment of truth where the elite has lost control of the Frankenstein-like monster it created. So now we get to witness the hilarious spectacle of Karl Rove in the Wall Street Journal, pleading with Republicans to recognize the reality that Obamacare can’t be defunded. Why hilarious? Because Mr. Rove and his colleagues have spent decades trying to ensure that the Republican base lives in an alternate reality defined by Rush Limbaugh and Fox News. Can we now say “hoist with their own petard”? Of course, the coming confrontations are likely to damage America as a whole, not just the Republican brand. But, you know, the political moment of truth was going to happen sooner or later. We might as well have it now.

  • Another Insult to the Poor
  • On Thursday House Republicans passed a bill that would drastically cut federal food stamps and throw 3.8 million Americans out of the program in 2014. This vote came two weeks after the Agriculture Department reported that 17.6 million households did not have enough to eat at some point in 2012 because they lacked resources to put food on the table It came two days after the Census Bureau reported that 15 percent of Americans, or 46.5 million people, live in poverty. Congressional Republicans have shown no inclination to end the automatic budget cuts that, if left in place, will lead to an estimated loss of 900,000 jobs in the coming year, keeping poverty high and incomes stagnant. A New York Times editorial on Friday noted there seems to be little Republican appetite for renewing federal unemployment benefits—a lifeline for millions of unemployed Americans—when they expire in 2013. That, of course, is of no concern to the Republicans’ dominant Tea Party. Against that backdrop, there is no justification for savaging the safety net and decimating the budget.

  • Health Care Law: Live or Die GOP Issue
  • The House leadership has now announced plans to make a series of demands of the White House in exchange for raising the debt ceiling in mid-October, threatening a government default if they don’t get they way. Eric Cantor, the majority leader, has a goodie-bag full of Republican priorities: approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline, delaying health reform for one year, and changing the tax code in ways that will undoubtedly benefit corporations and the wealthy. President Obama has said that he will not negotiate on raising the debt ceiling. If Republicans don’t back down, the double blow of a government shutdown, followed by a default would be ruinous for the economy.

    As a New York Times editorial noted, Speaker Boehner is playing a dangerous game of trying to placate the extremists for a few days. But, in the end, the burden will be squarely on his shoulders. If he allows the entire House, including Democrats, to vote on the straightforward measures to pay for the government and raise the debt limit, the double crisis will instantly end. If he does not, he will give free reign to his party’s worse impulses.

  • Boehner, Pressed 0n The Right, Yields
  • The Speaker, after three years of cajoling, finessing and occasionally strong-arming his fitful conservative majority, Boehner waved the white flag on Wednesday, surrendering to demands from his right flank that he tie money to keep the government open after Sept.30 to stripping President Obama’s health care law of any financing. He knows the plan he unveiled cannot pass the Senate, and that it may prove unwise politically and economically.With conservative forces uniting against him, he ultimately saw no alternative but to capitulate—and few good options to stop a government shutdown in two weeks. On Wednesday the Speaker announced his choice. “The law’s a train wreck,” he said. “It’s time to protect American families.” He added, “The key to any leadership job is to listen,“Boehner said. Meanwhile, the uninsured will be enrolled beginning Oct.1.

  • Why Summers Struck Out
  • Some presidential advisers, including those closest to President Obama, argued that Larry Summers brought crisis management experience and a working knowledge of financial markets that Janet L. Yellen lacks. So did Ben S. Bernanke when President George W. Bush selected him as the Federal Reserve chairman. Obama set the wheels in motion for Summers by assigning Rob Nabors, a deputy chief of staff, to work with him, and recruited two fomer campaign consultants, Jim Messina and Stephanie Cutter to talk him up with the press. Summers, who pulled out of contention on Sunday to run the Federal Reserve, had alienated a bloc of liberal Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee, requiring horse-trading with Republicans.

    Stock markets soared on Monday on the withdrawal of Summers. Many investors regarded Summers as less committed to the Fed’s monetary campaign than Ms. Yellen who now becomes the presumptive nominee for the top job at the Fed. Her supporters waited with a mixture of elation and apprehension for the president’s next step. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat was one of those warning the White House against Summers nomination. 

  • White House Warning: Debt Default
  • This weekend the White House made clear that Congressional recalcitrance on raising the federal debt ceiling might hurt the economy at a stay-fragile time, warning in a call with reporters about the “unnecessary threatening of a default” this fall. Gene Sperling, the chief White House economic adviser. said that negotiations over the debt ceiling in 2011 proved harmful to the economy-with some business leaders ranking them “with Pearl Harbor or 9/11”  in terms of their hit on consumer confidence.

    The economy remains weak as the Obama administration and Congressional Republicans prepare themselves for another round of bruising budget talks. The short-term measure will run out at the end of September, raising the risk of a government shutdown. The Obama administration anticipates running out of room under its statutory debt ceiling around mid-October. The GOP’s dominant Tea Party wing will do everything possible to obstruct President Obama before then. But the party’s far-right extremists, led by Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Rand Paul (Kentucky), are focused on defunding Obamacare.
    So the next 30 days may decide the unprecedented consequences of a default.

  • Summers Pulls Name From Fed Consideration
  • Lawrence H. Summers, one of President Obama’s closest economic and a former Treasury secretary, on Sunday withdrew his name from consideration for the position of chairman of he Federal Reserve amid rising opposition from Obama’s own Democratic allies on Capitol Hill. The president said he accepted the decision of his friend even as he praised him for helping to rescue the country from economic disaster early in the president’s first term. Summers appeared to have been the White House’s favorite candidate to succeed Ben. S. Bernanke as chairman of the Fed, although Obama had repeatedly said he had not yet made up his mind between Summers or Janet L. Yellen, who is vice chairwoman of the Fed.

    From the very beginning, Summers ’ decisions on financial regulatory matters in the Clinton and Obama administrations had made him a controversial choice. In a closely door meeting in July with the House Democratic Caucus Obama offered a strong defense of Summers’s contributions to the economic health of the country and said he was being unfairly maligned by critics. Much of the advocacy behind Yellen, who would be the first woman chairman of the Federal Reserve , rose from Summers’ reputation for being brusque, his comments about women’s natural aptitude in mathematics and science, and his decisions on financial regulatory matters. He lost backing in both the Clinton and Obama administrations, weakening his chances. In a letter to the president, Summers “concluded that any possible confirmation for me would be acrimonious and not serve the interests of the Federal Reserve, or the best interest of nation.

  • Yellen Backed For Fed Post
  • Over 300 economists have signed an open letter to President Obama urging him to nominate Janet L. Yellen to be the next head of the Federal Reserve, citing her “consistently good judgement ” and her commitment to reducing unemployment. Among those signing the letter are Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz, former Fed governors Alan Binder and Alice Rivlin, and two prominent former Yellen colleagues at UC Berkeley, Christina Romer and Laura D’Andrea Tyson. The letter, which is still adding names, comes as supporters of Yellen, the Fed’s vice chair, and former Treasurer Secretary Lawrence H. Summers are locked in an unpresedented public campaign to influence Obama’s decision on who will replace Ben S. Bernanke. The letter saiad Yellen had the ability to work “through cooperation and consensus”—a thinly veiled swipe at Summers, who has a reputation for being domineering and difficult to work with.

  • Bill de Blasio: Luck and Strategy
  • New York’s Public Advocate started out as a long shot in the battle to succeed Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. But when a commercial was finally shown to de Blasio and his wife, they seemed overwhelmed, instantly recognizing the power of its message: that the aggressive policing of the Bloomberg era was not an abstraction to de Blasio, it was an urgent personal worry within his biracial household. “This,” predicted the campaign’s pollster, Anna Greenberg, will be huge.” The result was that in the last month of the primary campaign de Blasio zoomed to a commanding lead and could be within a few hundred votes of avoiding a runoff. Christine C. Quinn, the long time City Council speaker who held a strong early lead for some time saw it begin to crumble. She wanted to please the mayor, whose gaffe about de Blasio backfired. He praised Quinn for sitting on legislation that he did not like. As Quinn began to smile gamely she tried without success to unglue her image from the mayor’s. She slipped to third place, out of the runoff

  • Washington Words
  • Ben Schoot and Mark Leibovich have compiled a glossary of “Inside the Beltway” vocabulary. Some samples.

    Sherpa: A Graybeard who guides a nominee through a confirmation process..

    Body Man:  A personal aide to a Principal.

    Dog Whistle: Coded political language.

    Optics: The media or public perception.

    Strategist: Resume-inflated cable- news pundit.

  • Our New Isolationism
  • How does a president sell foreign involvement to a gun-shy public? Lynne Olson told me she was startled to hear Secretary of State John Kerry get into it because of Pearl Harbor. Congress in recent years has not won much respect in policy debate, but it was heartening last week to hear leaders of both parties moving a little beyond petty obstructism and inviting a serious discussion. I hope Congress can elicit from the president a clear and candid statement of America’s vital interest in the world.   

  • Which Way Will 44 Go
  • The president looked exhausted as he met with the press in St. Petersburg on Friday. The man elected because of his magical powers of persuastion had failed to persuade other world leaders the night before about a strike in Syria. “I was elected to end wars and not start them.” In his head, is Barry at war with the commander in chief. As he told Charlie Savage, then a Boston Globe reporter in 2007, “The president does not have the power under the Constituation to unilaterally authorize a military strike in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.

    Obama knows that if he doesn’t punish Bashar al-Assad, America and his presidency will be forever reduced. He thinks a limited strike-not a war, as many all calling it—is the right thing to do. But as Barry talked to the press in St. Petersburg, his lack of enthusiasm came across. He was not thundering from the top of the moral ramparts. He talked about the breach of international “norms.” It’s a weak, wonk word. Obama needs to do the right thing.

  • The Federal Reserve Nominaton
  • In July, when it appeared that President Obama might nominate Lawrence Summers to be the next chairman of the Federal Reserve, several Democratic senators wrote a letter to the president in praise of Janet Yellen, the current Fed vice chairwoman who many presumed would be the nominee. The letter didn’t mention Summers;  rather, it recounted Yellen’s formidable qualifications. As the New York Times mentioned Summers would be the wrong choice. His reputation is replete with evidence of a temperament unsuited to lead the Fed.

    His record on financial regulation is abysmal, and he has not acknowledged the errors. In the late 1990s, Summers was instrumental in deregulating derivatives and in repealing the Glass-Steagall banking law. Most recently, as the top adviser to Obama in his first term, Summers only belatedly supported reforms under the Volcker Rule to curb bank size and recklessness. Under the law, the next Fed leader is supposed to work with other regulations to dismantle big banks on the verge of failure, rather than prop them up. Obama should the heed the warning.

  • Bill O’Reilly: Conservaties Wrong on Assad
  • The Fox News host is supporting military action in Syria and slamming the Syrian dictator over distrust of President Obama. “America cannot let evil go unchecked.“O’Reilly said Assad is a war criminal” for using poison gas, and the U.S. must show it’s resolve. “We can send a message to every tyrant in the world: “Slaughter civilians and you’re play a sleep price.” O’Reilly said Obama was “correct” to go to Congress for authorization and that politics shouldn’t prevent conservatives from doing what’s right.

  • Summers or Yellen: Obama’s Error
  • The odds increase that the President will name Summers to lead the Federal Reserve Board, a move that appears to be working against the central bank’s efforts to stimulate the economy. Some analysts believe that a Summers nomination could lead to a slower economic growth, less job creation, higher interest rates than if the president named Janet L. Yellen, the Fed’s vice chairwoman. Many investors expected that Yellen would be nominated to replace Ben S. Bernanke as head of the central bank, a choice that would have sent a clear message of continuity. Instead, investors are now trying to anticipate how Summers might change the Fed.

    The unease about Summers is the product of little information and a lot of speculation. He served two years as Obama’s chief economic adviser but has said little about economic policy in recent years. “People don’t know what Larry might do, ” said Mohamed El-Erian, chief executive of Pimco, the giant bond fund manager. “We don’t have enough information to make an assessment.” For my two-cents worth the president is being badly mislead.

  • Campaign Journalism: New Age of Twitter
  • David Carr noted in the New York Times the death of the hallowed political reporter Jack Germond recently served as a vivid reminder that the hallowed day story—a totemic representation of How It Was—has given way to a mosaic of posts on Twitter and blogs that form a running, constantly updated feed. According to the report, the Obama campaign did a much better job of adapting those realities than the Republican opposition. “A negative story on provocative Web video could fly from the desk of an Obama staffer to Buzz Feed and onto Twitter in a matter of minutes. David Axelrod spend a fair amount of time as a senior adviser to the Obama campaign watching things blow up on Twitter and promoting agendas there as well.

    Peter Hamby, a political reporter at CNN, writes about the extend to which reporters in the bubble—on the bus, the plane, at the rope line—have become “one giant , tweeting blob.” What does this all mean for the next election? Liz Sidoti, national political editor for Th Associated Press, loves social media’s ability to reach and involve audiences, but she is less fond of what it is doing to the political press corps that is feeding the beast. Hamby reminds that politicians who have come of age in the Twitter era,—Gov. Martin O’Malley, Senator Marco Rubio and others—will have an advantage over Hillary Rodham Clinton, who relies on a command-and-control approach in which information is carefully doled out and any journalistic offenders are disciplined.

  • Box Obama Made For Congress
  • After appearing to be rushing toward a military strike on Syria , President Obama decided Saturday that he wanted to pull back and seek Congressional approval first. After the terrible setback in the British Parliament a bigger reason have been that acting alone would have undercut him in the next three years of his term. Worse still, he may again need Congressional authority in his next confrontation the Middle East, probably with Iran. On Friday, shortly before 7, Obama summoned his senior staff and told him he had decided to take military action, but with a caveat. The resistance from the group was immediate. The political team worried that Obama could lose the vote, as Prime Minister Cameron did, and that could complicate the White House’s other legislative priorities. The national security teams argued that international support for an operation was unlikely to improve. At 9 pm. the president drew the debate to a close. The issue with play out in Congress over the next ten days and Obama can not afford to lose.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

August

  • Bill O’Reilliy’s False Claim
  • The Fox News host as apologized for incorrectly stating that no Republicans were invited to participate in a ceremony this week marking the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for civil rights and Martin Luther King Jr.‘s “I Have a Dream’ speech. In fact, Republican House Speaker John Boedhner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor were invited but did not attend.  Former President George W. Bush sent a statement in commemoration. Reilly made the incorrect claim on Wednesday, the day of the ceremony. “The mistake—entirely on me. “I simply assumed that since all the speakers were liberal Democrats, Republicans had been excluded. He added that Republicans made a mistake, too. He said they should have been there.

  • Murdock: Buying the Times?
  • Billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdock has closed on his purchase of the Moraga Vineyards estate in the hills above Bel-Air for a tidy $28.8 million, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday. As I have reported for months there is a growing belief that the 82-year-old chairman of News Corp. and 21st Century Fox is seriously interested in acquiring the Times. Stay tuned.

  • Jack Lew: No Deal on Debt
  • The Treasury Secretary told CNBC on Tuesday, after formally notifying Congress the day before. that the federal would run out of borrowing authority in mid-October. “Congress has already authorized funding committing us to make expenditures,” Lew said. “We’re now in the place where the only question is will be pay the bills that the United States has incurred. The only way to do that is for Congress to act, for it to act quickly. Lew went on to say there’s a broad agreement that the nation should avoid a repeat of the mid-2011 showdown over the debt limit, which led to the first-ever cut in the U.S. credit rating from Standard @ Poors.

    President Obama will not bargain on raising the spending limit., and the mid-October deadline puts the White House and Congress on a collision course on the debit limit around the same time they are facing the need to enact a new spending a new spending bill to keep the government running past September 31. Lew had previously said in May that lawmakers had until at least Labor Day to raise the debt limit, including a suggestion that the debt limit might not hit until November. Speaker John Boehner of Ohio said that increase in the debt limit must be offset by budget cuts or spending reforms at least as large as the increase. Other Republicans have insisted on other conditions, including cutting spending for the healthcare law. The House and Senate return after the summer recess Sept. 9, but Lew was clear about Obama’s opposition to negotiating conditions to a debt limit increase.

  • Falsed Impeachment Game
  • As Maureen Dowd reported this week the far right GOP wing of the party is determined to impeach President Obama but it’s not going to happen. Sen.Tom Coburn of Oklahoma said that the president was “getting perliously close ” to the standard of high crimes and misdemeanors. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas , asked why wont’ happen is become Democrats control the Senate.This month has been rife with efforts among G.O.P. “wise men, using every channel possible—“polls, op-eds cable, Twitter—to try to talk sense to the goons of August. When Condi Rice is a “wise man,” you know you’re in trouble.

    The Democrats never impeached W. and they had real grounds: starting a war in on false premises and sanctioning torture. “The Republican Party is in a constant struggle between its ego and it’ id,” David Axelrod, Obama’s guru has said. It isn’t the president who should leave. It’s the misguided lawmakers trying to drive him out. For some of the rodeo clowns clamoring for impeachment around the country, Barack Obama’s real crime is presiding while black.

  • Hillary Coronation Premature
  • Pundits on the right and left are already spreading the gospel that if Clinton gets into the race within the next year or so she will be the next president of the United States. A long shot at first Bill Clinton not only got elected but despite many predictions to the contrary, emerged as a political genius. The Clintons understand how hardball politics is played, and Hillary in particular, bitterly recalls the slings and arrows in losing to Barack Obama.

    One major stumbling block for Hillary will be the mainstream media, which despite their denials, still leans to the left of center politically. As in 2008, political reporters side overwhelmingly with the more liberal candidates, and their bias is thinly disguised. Clinton will be challenged by more liberal candidates. perhaps including Sen Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Already it is clear that many angry liberals believe that Warren should get the nomination over Clinton at any cost. They can’t forgive Clinton for her vote in favor of the invasion of Iraq and her embrace of mainstream foreign policy. Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland is another potential candidate who knows how to play hardball politics. It is impossible to rule out Vice President Joe Biden under certain circumstances to enter the race.

  • Three Cheers for Justice Ginsburg
  • Ginsburg, now 80, vowed in an interview with the New York Times. to stay on the Supreme Court as long as her health and intellect remained strong, saying she was fully engaged in her work as the leader of the liberal opposition wing on what she called “one of the most activist courts in history.” In an interview in her chambers on Friday that touched on affirmative action, abortion and same-sex marriage. She said she made a mistake in joining a 2009 decision that laid the groundwork for the court’s decision in June effectively striking down the the heart of the voting rights act of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. She said the recent decision was “stunning in terms of activism.” While Supreme Court justices rarely give interviews she has given several this summer even as some liberals suggest that she step down nowin time for President Obama to name her successor.

    Ginsburg has survived two bouts with cancer, but she says her health is now good and her work ethic exceptional. Appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993, she said she intended to stay on the court “as long as I can due the job full steam.” With departure of Justice John Paul Stevens in 2010, Justice Ginsburg became the leader of the court’s ‘four-member liberal wing. The recent voting rights decision also invited Congress to enact new legislation. But Ginsburg, who dissented, did not sound optimistic. “The Voting Rights Act passed by overwhelming majorities” she said of its reauthorization in 2006, “but this Congress I don’t think is equipped to do anything about it.” Asked if she was disappointed by the almost immediate tightening of voting rights laws in Texas and North Carolina after the decision, she chose a different word: “Disillusioned.”

  • Clock Running: No Deficit Deal
  • An autumn shutdown looms as talks between the White House and Senate Republicans have gone nowhere since Congress began its summer recess, increasing the chances of a fiscal stalemate that could lead to to a government shutdown in October or the threat of a government default later in the fall. Negotiators who had hoped for a summer breakthrough say the chances of a major deficit deal are rapidly slipping away. “It ends badly for the American people and the Republican Party if we shut down the government ,” said Red Ribblee R-Wisconsin. In search of a ccmpromise, a group of Republican Senators are scheduled to meet with top House officials next Thursday, the first such meeting since August 11, when negotiators promised that staff and high-level talks would continue through the month. Given the lack of progress, those involved say Speaker John A. Boehner will need to play a crucial role in finding an agreement. One hopes that the Speaker will curb his habit of tearing up.

  • Clinton Dramas: New Iterations Ahead?
  • As Maggie Haberman reports in Politico the swirl of headlines surrounding Bill and Hillary Clinton in the summer of 2013 should lead to a grand conclusion about whether another iteration of a Clinton campaign can be run effectively, free of the internecine warfare and incessant drama that marked her 2008 bid. But if Clinton and her supporters were hoping to allay those doubts well ahead of a possible 2016 run, the past few months have not been helpful. Clinton supporters would point out, fairly, that much of what has happened to them this summer—the steady stream of unseemly stories about Anthony Weiner’s continued virtual liasions, his wife and Clinton confidante Huma Abedin’s very public decision to stand by him, and reports of mismanagement at the Clinton Foundation—has been beyond their control.

    But it has all still renewed the question that hangs over Hillary Clinton. Has she learned from the mistakes of the past, and can she finally break some recurring cycles in her public life? Can she still manage a functional, and focused, national campaign? That probably can’t be fully answered and unless Hillary Clinton clarifies whether she plans to run for president. Only then, when she assembles a new team and makes clear whether she is bringing in new blood amid the old Clinton hands, will it become clear about what the latest iteration of a Clinton campaign looks like.

  • A Moment of Truth
  • Two political scientists, Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels. reported on a 1996 survey that asked voters whether the budget deficit had increased or decreased under President Clinton. In fact, the deficit was down sharply—and a majority of Republicans—believed that it had gone up. Paul Krugman wondered on his blog whether the defiicit had gone up or down since 2010. The result indicated that it had gone up, more than 40 percent saying that it had gone up a lot. After all, Republicans a made a lot of hay over a supposedly runaway deficit early in the Obama administration. Thus Eric Cantor, the second ranking Republican in the House, declared on Fox News that we have a growing deficit,” while Rand Paul told Bloomberg Businessweek that we’re running a “trillion-dollar deficit every year.”  Do people like Cantor and Paul know that what they’re saying isn’t true? Do they care? The fact-checking site PolitiFact rated Cantor’s flatly false statement as “half true.” 

  • Dual Role of Clinton Aide Shocks
  • When the news surfaced in May that the State Department had approved an arrangement that allowed Huma Abedin, top adviser to Secretary pf State Hillary Rodham Clinton, to take on work for private clients officials at the department described it as nothing unusual. But three months later, many questions about the arrangement remain. Ms. Abedin, 37, a confiidante of Clinton was made “a special government employee” in June 2012. That allowed her to continue her employment at State but also work for Teneo, a consulting firm, founded in part by a former aide to President Bill Clinton, that has a number of corporate clients, including Coca-Cola. In addition, Ms Abedin has worked privately for the Clinton Foundation and for Mrs. Clinton personally. She resigned from State on Feb. 1.

    In a statement to the New York Times on Sunday, a State Department spokesman said “Ms. Abedin was invaluable to the secretary and to her entire operation, providing a breath of broad-based and specific expertise from her years in the White House and the department that was irreplaceable. The news of agreement that Ms. Abedin made with the State Department was reported at a time when her husband, Anthony D. Weiner, a Democrat and former congressman, was laying the groundwork for a candidacy for mayor of New York. Ms. Abedin is now working for Mrs.Clinton’s in the former secretary’s transition office in New York. Just how far-ranging her scope of influence is remains to be seen.

  • McConnell: Pressure To Defund ObamaCare
  • A conservative group headed by ex-Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina has launched a media campaign in Kentucky to pressure Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to back an effort to threaten a government shutdown over defunding ObamaCare. McConnell is not caving in, suggesting a shutdown would not stop the healthcare law. He also said certain parts of the healthcare law are “probably “OK.” The conservative group accused the GOP leader of “waiving the white flag and blamed him for the fact that other senators were not backing Sen. Mike Lee’s of Utah’s effort to move a government funding effort that defunds ObamaCare. The conservative group says it wants to “expose McConnell’s record on this issue and persuade him to lead the fight.” But the issue continues to have momentum with the grassroots, and could pose a dilemma for McConnell who faces reelection next year, and is being challenged by right-wing Marc Bevin in the GOP primary.

  • Right Targets “Gutless” House GOP
  • Heritage Action for America , a leader of the defund-Obama care crusade, tears into House GOP leaders for refusing to show the spine to do what it takes to block the law. To understand what this means, Jonathan Bernstein writes about how conservatives need to be able to pillory Republican leaders as soft, for their own cynical purposes. The question remains whether this will continue to take hold among House conservatives, creating a situation in which Republicans are incapable of passing anything funding the government even at current levels, and then how GOP leaders will deal with it.

    The Washington Post has a good editorial excoriating the new North Carolina law as “a truly abominable piece of anti-democratic legislation” and a direct assault on the right to vote.

  • Full Blown Panic Now
  • As Greg Sargent signaled in his Morning Plum The Washington Post’s Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei are well sourced among the party’s elites, notably the drift towards a series of Apocalyptic showdowns this fall. Most urgently, according to some conservative GOP senators have got to give up their insistence that the party allow the government to shut down the government after Sept. 30 if they don’t get their way on defunding Obamacare. The quixotic effort—led by Rubio, Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Mike Lee—is part of Rubio’s effort to make up with the conservative base after he was stunned by the backlash over his deal-making over immigration.

    Whit Ayres of North Star Opinion Research, who has been drilling down on this issue for the conservative public-opinion group Resurgent Republic, said: “Shutting down the government is the one way that Republicans can turn Obamacare from a political advantage to a political disadvantage in 2014.” The fundamental question Republicans need to answer is whether they view government as having a legitimate and meaningful role in fixing our health care system, and if so, what the Republican version of that looks like. Maybe the answer to this question is No, but if so, the next question then becomes, is that position tenable over the long term, particularly now, as Obamacare is set to conferring benefits on people?

  • Gingrich: Can GOP Be Party Of Ideas?
  • The former Speaker of the House told a gathering of GOP operatives this week in Boston that lawmakers who criticize Obamacare but offer no alternatives who will left with “zero answer” to constituents who ask for a policy solutions to the president’s health care reform law. “I bet for most of you, you go home in the next two weeks while your members of Congress are home and you look them in the eye and say, “What is your positive replacement for Obamacare? Gingrich, who has a new CNN show that will start airing this fall, argued that the Republican Party has a “chance” in 2014 and 2016 “to offer a vision of the future.” “I don’t think we beat Hilary Clinton in a personality fight because the news media will prop her up,” Gingrich said. “She has to defend the current failures and we get to offer a dramatically better future.”

    RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, the youngest and most clueless party leader in memory, said he agreed that there needs to be a positive message attached to Republican candidates and lawmakers, saying they should be able to complete the phrase, “I’m a Republican because…“and it it should be a message all Republicans should all be proud to promote. He later told reporters he would “absolutely” talk to candidates about keeping a positive message. Don’t’ bet the ranch.

  • Summers is the Wrong Choice
  • The rumors persist that Larry Summers is President Obama’s choice to become chairman of the Federal Reserve. After all,  Summers is the son of two Nobel laureates in economics is, has a high I.Q. and inspired a great cameo bit in “The Social Network. But there has to be somebody out there to run the economy who wasn’t part of the culture that ran the economy into the ground. Jane Yellen, the Fed’s vice chair, has more generally aligned with Ben Bernanke than Summers has been in using monetary to revive the economy. If the president passes over the trailblazing and more temperamentally stable Yellen and to appoint Summers, he’ll be giving Larry some vindication on his famous critique of women that helped him get ousted as president of Harvard—a job he got thanks to former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin who paved the way for the country’s ruin.

    As Maureen Dowd wrote does the fact that we’re never had no female Fed chairs and no female Treasury secretaries mean that Summers was right when he said women are less likely to have the kind of brains that would allow them to get the top jobs requiring math skills. Is that what makes Larry Summers so brilliant?

  • Is Hannity Being Pushed Out?
  • While Fox News is silent the certainty is growing that rising star Megyn Kelly is pushing Sean Hannity out of the coveted 9 p.m. prime time slot, one he has held for 17 years. The assumption is that 42-year-old Kelly , who leaped to local television is easier on the eyes than the 51-year old Hannity. In recent sweeps periods—especially after Fox News chairman Roger Ailes choreographed the 2008 departure of Hannity’s liberal-Democrat foil, Alan Colmes, and then,of course, the shocking results of the 2012 presidential election—his stats have been trending downward and older.

    Add to the mix Hannity’s contract troubles with Cumulus Radio, which is reportedly ready to drop his afternoon drive time show from stations in 40 cities, and you’ve got a commodity that is potentially reaching its sell-by date. Kelly, on the other hand, has that irresistible litigator-next-door allure.She can be funny and earthly.

  • Iowa Speech Hints At Biden Run
  • Vice President Joseph R. Biden will be a keynote speaker at Senator Tom Harkin’s annual steak fry next month, a signature political event that often showcases as featured speakers those aspiriing to be president. He will speak after Mayor Julian Castro of San Antonio, a fast-rising lqtino star in national Democratic politics. Democratic officials in Des Moines say that the vice president is very much considering another White House bid in 2016. The Sept. 15 gathering at the county fairgrounds south of Des Moines underscores, which holds the first presidential nominating contest in the nation.

    Biden has many longtime friends in Iowa, dating to 1988 and his first presidential runs. They include Harkin, a longtime Senate colleague. His decision to speak at the annual steak fray comes amid much anticipation about Hillary Rodham Clinton’s plans. At a forum convened in Des Moines by the Democratic women’s group Emily’s List illustrated the hope some party activists have that she would run for president again and not let her third-place finish in the state’s caucuses in 2008 dissuade her from beginning her bid in Iowa.

  • Cruz: Early Start Before Iowa Caucuses
  • The freshman Texas senator gave a campaign stump speech to a crowd of social conservatives gathered in Ames, Iowa for the Family Leadership conference on Saturday and held the crowd of about 500 in the palm of his hand. Cruz nominally framed his remarks around his effort to defund Obamacare by preventing Congress from passing a budget that defunds President Obama’s signature law. This would risk a government shutdown and has faced opposition from many Republicans and virtually all Democrats. Cruz cited the need for a grassroots army of millions of Americans to stop Obamacare. Cruz gave the crowd red meat on just about every issue they desired. He likes the Second Amendment, secure borders and low taxes, and he dislikes abortion, the IRS, and the Republican establishment. After Cruz’s speech, a crowd of reporters waited eagerly for a chance to talk. Donald Trump may have been talking inside the room but no one cared. After all Trump may have been a celebrity but he wasn’t Ted Cruz.

  • Clinton in 2016?
  • At this point, Hillary Rodham Clinton has been awarded the Democratic nomination virtually by default and declared the clear favorite to win the general election against her as yet unknown Republican opponent. As Dan Balz noted this weekend in The Washington Post, she stands far above others in the Democratic Party whose might seek the nomination, including Vice President Biden. After Bidden, the field of possible Democratic candidates appears thin and inexperienced. If Clinton were as good a politician as people say she is, she might be serving her second term as president. It was a contest she was supposed to win. That she did not is more than testament to Obama’s charismatic appeal. She lost for other reasons. One was her vote to authorize war in Iraq. But she also lacked a compelling message and was hobbled by a campaign team that made critical strategic mistakes, had no clear leadership, was not as modern as it needed to be and was torn apart by internal feuding.

    Would she do better a second time? No doubt she would. She was a tougher candidate in the later primaries in 2008, when the race was all but lost, than she was as the front-runner. But before anyone assumes she has a clear path to the Oval Office, she will have to demonstrate that she learned lessons from her previous campaign and taken steps to correct them. She could make history, which may be reason enough to run. Clinton’s gender likely would be a significant asset.

  • Research Papers: Holding the Economy Back?
  • As Paul Krugman points out in a New York Times column the truth is that we understand perfectly well why the recovery has been slow, and confidence has nothing to do with it. What we’re looking, instead, is the normal aftermath of a debt-fueled asset bubble; the sluggish U.S. recovery since 2009 is more or less in line with many historical examples, running all the way back to the panic of 1893. Further, the recovery has been hobbled by spending cuts—cuts that were motivated by what we now know was completely wrongheaded deficit panic.

    And the policy moral is clear: We need to stop talking about spending cuts and start talking about job-creating spending increases instead. Yes, I know that the politics of doing just the right thing will be very hard. But, as far as the economics goes, the only thing we have to fear is fear-mongering itself

  • Priebus Warns NBC and CNN On Debates
  • The Republican national chairman has threatened to pull the group’s partnership with both networks if they moved ahead with plans to air films on Hilary Clinton. for the 2o16. “If they have not agreed to pull this programming prior to the stat of the RNC’s Summer Meeting on August, I will seek a binding vote stating that the RNC will neither partner with these networks in 2016 primary debates nor sanction primary debates they sponsor, Preibus said in a statement.

    The RNC chairman cited executives and employees from both networks who have been “generous supporters” of Clinton and the Democrats. “This suggests a deliberate attempt at influencing American political opinion in favor of a preferred candidate, Priebus wrote. “I find this disturbing and disappointing.” The Republican party chairmen of two-early voting primary states quickly backed Priebus’s stance. Polls show Clinton is the early favorite for the Democratic nomination, but she has yet to declare an interest in the 2016 bid. All odds suggest the Republicans will nominate a candidate from the far right of the party.

  • Putin Plays Games
  • President Obama has apparently decided not to proceed with a planned summit meeting with President Putin of Russia next month in Moscow. Along with other legitimates grievances with Putin’s policies came his decision to stick a thumb in Obama’s eye by granting asylum to Edward Snowden, the man who disclosed to the world the National Security Agency sweeps of Americans’ telephone records.  On Friday Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and their Russian counterparts are scheduled to meet and discuss the agenda. The bigger problem is that the partnership that Obama sought to build with Russia is seriously broken. Ever since Putin reclaimed the presidency in 2012, he has been profoundly at odds with the administration over the Syrian civil war, missile defense issues and further reductions in nuclear weapons

    Putin will be the host of the Group of 20 meeting in St. Petersburg on Sept 5 and 6, and Obama plans to be there. But the bilateral in Moscow, which is supposed to follow immediately after, is another matter. Obama has no reason to attend unless Putin provides solid assurances that he is prepared to address contentious issues in a substantive way. Otherwise, as the New York Times editorialized, it will be clear that Putin will not cooperate.

  • Mikulski:Refereeing A Fiscal Showtown
  • Seven months into her new assignment as chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, there is already a saying among members: “We loved Byrd, we respected Inouye, we fear Barbara. During a March floor debate Ms. Mikulski ordered Sen. John McCain of Arizona to go back to his office and read a bill so he could properly vote on it—and McCain. chastened but cheerful, agreed. “I will now try to carry out my mission as assigned by the distinguished chairwoman.” he said.

    Mikulski now finds herself at the center of a spending brawl on Capitol Hill. At 77, she is the longest serving woman in Congress, the first female leader of its most august committee and the fulcrum in a fight that will dominate Washington this fall. “You take your persona from the generation you come in with, she told the New York Times in an interview. “And mine is a very activist generation.” The question is whether she can forge an agreement among the Senate, House Republicans and the White House , particularly when she is hobbled by an earmark ban, an austerity movement in Congress and severe discord between the House and Senate over how much money there is to spend in the first place. “The Republicans act like sequestration is the new normal,” Milulski said. “I reject that it is.”

  • Rubio’s New Mission: Win Back The GOP’s Base
  • The Florida senator’s chances of winning the GOP presidential nomination in 2016 have taken a solid hit and he will have to repair his standing with the conservative base. “There’s a terrible disappointment with Rubio specifically” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), an opponent of the Senate immigration bill that Rubio helped write and pass. “I don’t think it’s going to help him anywhere.”

    Rubio has slipped from leading presidential polls of Republican voters to sitting in forth to sixth place, depending on the survey. Polls in early-voting Iowa and other state-level surveys have reflected a similar pattern. The biggest dips in support for Rubio have come from voters who identify themselves a very conservative. But Senators Lindsey Graham, (R. S.C.), Jeff Sessions (R. Alabama), and John Cornyn (R-Tex) have each offered more rosier appraisals. The elephant in the room is radical Texas Senator Ted Cruz whose sole mission in the next two months is killing Obamacare.

  • CBS and Time Warner Cable Dispute
  • The standoff between the giants has drawn unhappy reactions from New York local officials, and Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker, and a mayoral candidate, said she would hold a hearing on the dispute on Thursday. Why is newly elected L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti missing in action?

  • Press Congress for Immigration Reform Now
  • While a pillar of the Senate’s bipartisan compromise is"path to citizenship” it remains dirty words to Republicans like Representative Steve King of Iowa, who has likened immigrants to dogs and live stock. He has recently taken to calling them mules—drug runners, that is, with calves the size of cantaloupes” from lugging marijuana bales over the border. Dysfunction, inaction, demeaning blather—is this any time to be optimistic about immigration reform? As a New York Times editorial noted this week if reason doesn’t work, maybe embarrassment will, unease at having to associate with the anti-immigration hardcore, exemplified by people like Mr. King, who is Exhibit A for those who see the ugly nativism behind the ugly naysaying.
    A sticker pinned on each cantaloupe reads, “This cantaloupe was picked by immigrants in alifornia . You gave Steve King a vote. Give us one for citizenship.”

  • Trend: More Layoffs If Cuts Remain
  • “At a time of mass unemployment, it’s clear, the economics textbooks tell us, that this is not the right time for fiscal retrenchment. To watch it be ignored like this is exasperating , horrifying, disheartening.”—Justin Wolfers, an economics professor at the University of Michigan Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

  • GOP: Cripple Health Care Law
  • The House was poised Friday on yet another bill to cripple President’s health care law. raising anew the question of why the Republicans persist in their so-far failed efforts? Democrats speculate on many theories. Republicans, they suggest, care little about the uninsured. Many, they say, dislike Obama and want him to fail. The health care law has become the Republicans’ great white whale,” Rep. Henry Waxman, Democrat of California, said Thursday. “They will stop at nothing to kill it.” Republicans say they persist because the law is an example of government overreach and is proving unworkable. Many elected in 2010 say voting to repeal the law is good politics, as it remains extremely unpopular among Republican voters. So the question remains why Republicans have failed 42 times so far to cripple the law?

  • Mitch McConnell: Out of Favor in Kentucky
  • New poll numbers released Thursday suggest that Senate Minority Leader enters his reelection campaign facing two perilous obstacles: an electorate that wants him out of office and a viable Democratic challenger. The latest survey from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling found Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who launched her Senate campaign on Tuesday. drawing the support of 45 % of Bluegrass State voters and narrowly edging McConnell by a single point.

    A slight majority of Kentucky voters—51 percent—disapprove of the job McConnell is doing, giving the GOP leader an approval rating of 40 percent. PPP has previously identified McConnell as the least popular senator in the country, but the latest poll marks a marginal improvement bump since April when McConnell nursed a 36 percent approval rating. PPP’s numbers are far less encouraging for McConnell than the finding from GOP polling firm Wenzel Strategies last week. which found the incumbent topping Grimed by eight points. The same Republican poll showed McConnell crushing his tea party challenger Matt Bevin. McConnell vs. Grimes will be the most hotly contested Senate race in 2014.

July

  • Cruz: Tea Party Senator, Far Right 2016 Candidate
  • The Texas U.S. senator has been in office for just seven months and already is looking like a strong contender for the Republican presidential nomination. Last week, Cruz won a straw poll at a major gathering of the party’s conservative wing in Denver, getting 45% of the vote. Before that, he wowed social conservatives in Iowa, the first stop in the long road that leads to the nomination. Los Angeles Times political columnist Doyle McManus wondered whether a presidential campaign might be a stretch for a 42-year-old first time office holder whose initial media coverage painted him as a combination of Joseph McCarthy and Sarah Palin—not good omens.

    Cruz’s first moments in the national spotlight came during Chuck Hagel’s nomination hearing to become Defense secretary when Cruz asked whether the nominee might be hiding secret income from North Korea. Fellow Senate Republican John McCain dismissed him as a “wacko bird.” Cruz sees government spending as the big problem, and if the tea party movement, if better organized, could for the GOP establishment to the far right. So far, Cruz has focused in Washington has focused on a series of high-profile “no” votes. Like most Republicans he’s voted against immigration reform, and is leading a campaign to press Republican senators to threaten a government shutdown in October if President Obama’s health care program is entirely defunded—a proposal several conservatives have denounced as suicidal. Cruz’s rawboned attacks on Republicans have one goal which he says is designed to mobilize the GOP’s most conservatives and push the party in their direction. Cruz likes the sound of “opportunity conservatism” and opposes hiking the minimum wage, but on grounds that it would be harmful to “young people, African Americans Hispanics, single women.” What planet is Cruz on?

  • Anthony Weiner: Signs of a Crack Up
  • In an interview with the New York Times Magazine published in April, Weiner denied that his original misbehavior was a result of troubles in his marriage. He spoke of feeling isolated, saying he did not like “being in empty spaces” and said he liked the affirmation of online interaction.He has shared only limited details about his treatment. In an interview during early stages of the campaign, he said that, after his resignation, he sought help at a mental health clinic health in Texas and hired a therapist.  Last week he suggested that he still had a team of people caring for him. Mental health experts have said, were they treating Weiner, they would want to know when his risky online behavior started and whether it might have been set off by some external factor, like stress in his marriage or anxiety about fatherhood. Some suggested that the indiscretions might be an addiction with neurological roots. A central question is whether his online behavior with women and other damaging revelations will doom his fading candidacy.

  • Profiling Obama
  • Bill Keller, the former executive editor of the New York Times , has raised an important question. “Why is it President Obama’s job to confront American’s racism. The answer is that there’s sort of persistent misperception that talking about race is black tolk’s’ burden. When Keller asked Benjamin Jealous, president of the NAACP., about Obama’s obligation he replied “ultimately, only men can end sexism, and only white people can end racism.” Wouldn’t you like to hear John Boehner, r Mitch McConnell, Chris Christie or Rick Perry own up as candidly as the president has to the corrosive vestiges of racism in our society. The silence is defining.

  • War Over Health Care Exchanges
  • Federal and state governments are entering the home stretch in the race to carry out the most important health care reform in more than four decades. The most pressing task is to establish new health care exchanges, the electronic marketplaces in which consumers will be able to compare and buy insurance plans just as they buy eickets or rent cars on the Internet. The exchanges are scheduled to start enrolling people on Oct. 1 in policies that will become effective in January January 2014. Rarely do Republicans ever mention that millions of people who lack health insurance or have lousy olicies could obtain comprehensive coverage on the exchanges and that most of them would qualify for federal subsidies to lower costs.

    Republicans are trying to block efforts to inform people about the law and are using scare tactics to keep them from enrolling. House Republicans are advising their members on how to organize “emergence health care town halls during the August recess to denounce the law. Senate Republicans are threatening to oppose any spending bill that provides a single cent toward health care reform, a threat that could shut down the government this fall. House Republicans are planning their own draconian cuts in funding to carry out the law. The administration is mounting a fierce campaign to publicize the law and spur enrollment.

  • Democrats in Flux on Economy
  • Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, the former Harvard law professor, has suddenly emerged as that state’s senior senator as a freshman. As the New York Times reported this week she has been the center of two issues that will be sharply debated with the Democrat Party heading into 2016. Warren is drawing attention to the college students and recent graduates besieged by debt by proposing to offer them the same interest rate for a year, 0.75 percent, as the Federal Reserve offers banks. When a bipartisan compromise was struck last week on federal student loans, she declined to support the deal—irritating some of her more senior Democratic colleagues.

    Senator Warren is also challenging the centrist consensus on high finance and has sought to revive a dormant conversation Democrats on either about investment and commercial banking should be intermingled by introducing a bill to restore Glass-Steagall , an issue few senior Democrats on either end of Pennsylvania want to revisit. Too much should not be read into one part of one speech. And Mrs. Clinton’s sheer force of personality could overshadow any internecine policy debates. But past arguments by Clinton and other moderate Democrats that positioning the Democratic Party in the political center was the only way to win elections when powerful strains of populism have emerged in both parties.

  • Mitch McConnell Faces Rare Woman Challenger
  • The 71-year-old- Republican fixture in Washington is preparing to fend off a challenge by Alison Lundergan Grimes, a 34-four-old Democratic political newcomer. His team says he will address and even embrace the gender and generational differences between them. His advisers say they intend to confront head-on criticism Democrats have already begun of leveling against him on issues they view as particularly important to female voters. McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, has faced a female opponent only once in nearly 30 years in the Senate. He has offered up interviews with “strong women” with whom McConnell as always surrounded himself. His wife, Elaine Chao, served a labor secretary during President George W. Bush’s entire time in office.

    McConnell now also faces a Tea Party primary challenge from the right, which could complicate his efforts as he tries to simultaneously appeal to his party’s more conservative base and peal off female voters Ms. Grimes is targeting.  Matthew Bevin, a Louisville businessman, announced this week that he plans to target McConnell in the Republican primary. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is already attacking McConnell on his opposition to the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would help women fight pay discrimination in the work place.

  • Warmed-Over Jobs Message
  • “I don’t normally do this,”President Obama’s senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer wrote in the subject line of an email to reporters on Sunday night. As Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank wrote, this was tantalizing. What would this top White House official be doing? Singing karaoke on the North Lawn? Getting a “POTUS” tattoo on his arm? No, Pfeiffer was announcing the rollout of a series of economic speeches Obama would begin on Wednesday—roughly the 10th time the White House has made such a pivot to refocus on jobs and growth.

    What would set this one apart is that Obama would be reprising a speech he made eight years ago, when he first became a senator. How can the president make news, and remake the agenda, by delivering the same message he gave in 2005? He’s even giving the speech from the same place, Galesburg, Ill., and his speech in Osawatomie, [Kansas, in 2011]. Yes, but this also risks sending the signal that, just six months into his second term, Obama is fresh out of new ideas. But while that message remains relevant, Obama now faces a Republican opposition that, by House Speaker John Boehner’s own account, is measuring its success by how many laws it can undo.

    Pfeiffer told Milbank on Tuesday that Obama, in his series of speeches, will eventually get around to ideas about “some things that Congress could do, things they should do but probably won’t in the near term. But, as he explained, it would be easier to rally enthusiasm if he gave supporters something big, bold and easy to reach. Jobs yes, but fresh ideas trumpet.

  • Mitch McConnell: No Free Ride In 2014
  • A tea party challenger signaled Monday that he plains to take on Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell in next year’s GOP primary in Kentucky. Louisville businessman Matt Bevin’s entry in the race would force a major shift in the McConnell campaign, which has been concentrating entirely on Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky’s 34-year-old secretary of state. McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton said the 46-year-old Bevin, a partner in a Louisville law firm would be “nothing more than a nuisance ” if he runs. Democrats hope that McConnell is forced to deplete his campaign account in the primary. He has nearly $10 million left of the 15 million he’s raised from his re-election bid. A political adviser to Grimes said “Republicans not only in Washington, but right here in Kentucky, are tired of his obstruction. 

  • Francis: Focus on Social Justice
  • The new pope, in his first venture abroad, arrived in Brazil today on a weeklong visit to the world’s largest Roman Catholic country. “This is a crucial moment for the church, the nation, society and the people, heightened by the fact this is Francis’ first trip. Fernando Altemer Jr., a theologian and philosopher at the Pontifical Catholic University in San Paulo. “This is a crucial moment for the church, the nation, society and the people. Brazil has changed and things are bubbling, but there is no clarity. Everything is new and unknown, in the country and the church, even for the bishops.“Two Brazilian cardinals have been working closely with the Vatican to assure that Francis’ declarations on social justice here will convey sympathy both for the protest demands and those involved in the liberation theology movement.

    The trip, whose nominal purpose is to have the pope meet with and speak to participants in the World Youth Day, a conference of Catholic Youth in Rio de Janeiro, originally planned for Benedict XV1, was almost cancelled because of the serious scandals the Argentine-born Francis is confronting at the Vatican. John Thavis, author or “The Vatican Diaries” and a former Rome bureau chief for the Catholic News Service, said it puts Francis back in the world spotlight, and I suspect we are going to hear a lot not just about the Brazilian situation, the divide between the rich and poor and the church’s social teaching.”

  • Liz Cheney’s Wyo. Senate Run
  • Incumbent Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) is leading Liz Cheney by more than 30 points in the GOP primary to keep his Senate seat, according to a new poll. He gets 55 percent in the poll, compared with 21 percent for Cheney. Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, announced last week that she would challenge Enzi—setting off what could be a highly competitive contest that was previously expected to be a lock for Enzi. Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank wrote that he was filled with hope that there would be an instant denunciation of her run—by conservative Republicans. Sen. John Barrasso, a Cowboy State conservative like Enzi, called Cheney’s bid “the wrong race at the wrong time.”

    Rep. Cynthia Lummis, a Wyoming Republican who was an early member of the House Tea Party Caucus, called Cheney a “shiny new pony,” suggesting that Enzi “has done nothing to merit a primary challenge.” Even Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a tea party icon, mocked the recently transplanted Cheney by saying he “wondered if she was running in her home state of Virginia.” But the defense of Enzi suggests recovery is possible. Cheney, in her announcement speech, didn’t go after the incumbent on substance. Rather, she decided to make issues of Enzi’s age (69 to her 46) and his nonconfrontational style. Cheney argues that “we can no longer afford simply to go along to get along.” The question now is whether a saner GOP is ready to push back against her divisiveness.

  • Catholic Educators Push Immigration Bill
  • The presidents of 93 colleges and universities have sent a letter to the House speaker, John A. Boehner, and the minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, urging them to pass a comprehensive immigration bill that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Roman Catholic bishops have been lobbying hard for such a bill, but the college presidents’ organized involvement is new. They announced on Thursday that they plan to personally call their members of Congress and will hold events with local church leaders to get Catholic laypeople to pressure their representatives to pass a bill. Boehner, a Catholic like Pelosi, will be under intense pressure to do the right thing.

  • House Fights Losing Affordable Care Battle
  • Since early 2011, the House has voted more than 37 times to repeal all or part of the law, to scale it back, or to cut financing for its operation. The House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi of California, said the debate on Wednesday was a political stunt, a futile effort to reopen an issue that “has been settled in Congress, at the Supreme Court and at the ballot box.” Rep. Louise Slaughter, said the Republican attacks were “the height of irresponsibility and nihilistic obstruction.” The law, she said, is already reducing health insurance premiums in New York, Washington, Oregon , California and other states. Representative Luke Messer, Republican of Indiana, said “fundamental fairness dictates that individuals get the same reprieve. Each day this law is delayed gives us more time to seek its total repeal. For Republicans it is a battle they have lost.

  • Trayvon Martin’s Legacy
  • In the end what is most frightening is that there are so many people with guns who are like George Zimmerman. Fear and racism may never be fully eliminated by legislative or judicial order, but neither should our laws allow and even facilitate their most deadly expression. Trayvon Martin was an unarmed boy walking home from the convenience story. If only Florida could give him back his life as easily as it is giving back George Zimmerman’s gun.—New York Times Editorial Board.

  • Black Boys Denied The Right To be Young
  • Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, in a post long to be remembered, wrote that justice failed Trayvon Martin the night he was             killed. We should be appalled and outraged, but perhaps not surprised, that it failed him again Saturday night, with a verdict setting his killer free. Our society considers young black men to be dangerous, interchangeable, guilty, expendable, guilty until proven innocent. George Zimmerman’s acquittal was set in motion on Feb. 26, 2012, before Martin’s body was cold. When Sanford, Fla. police arrived, they encountered a grown man who acknowledged killing an unarmed 17-year-old boy. They conducted a less-than-energetic search for forensic evidence. They hardly looked for witnesses.

    Only a national outcry forced authorities to investigate the killing seriously. Even after six weeks, evidence was found to justify arresting Zimmerman, charging him with second-degree murder and putting him on trial. But the chance of dispassionately establishing what happened that night was probably lost. The only complete narrative of what happened was Zimmerman’s. The assumption underlying the case was that Zimmerman had the right to serf-defense but Martin-young, male-black-did not. The assumption was that Zimmerman would fear for his life in a hand-to-hand struggle but Martin—young, male, black—would not. Robinson writes that the conversation we need to have is about black men, even black boys, are denied the right to be young, be vulnerable, to make mistakes. We need to talk about why, for example black men are no more likely than white men to smoke marijuana but nearly four times as likely to be arrested for it—and condemned to a dead-end cycle of incarceration and unemployment. I call this racism. What to you call it?

  • Thinking The Unthinkable
  • George Zimmerman spent Sunday in seclusion after a six-person jury of all white women found him not quilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter Saturday night. The Los Angeles Times reported that one of his attorneys said Zimmerman intended to get his gun back because he needed it more than ever now. But his legal woes may be far from over. The Justice Department announced Sunday that it would continue its investigation of the case to determine whether any federal civil rights laws were violated in the shooting of Trayvon Martin.

  • Screw The Food Stamps Program
  • “We’ll get to that later.” That was the dismissive answer of Speaker John Boehner last week when asked if the House would restore the food stamps program it had coldly ripped out of the farm bill. “Later,” he said, Republicans will deal with nation’s most important anti-hunger program. “Later, maybe, they will think about the needs of 47 million people who can’t afford adequate food, probably by cutting the average daily subsidy to $4.39. As the New York Times editorialized, the choice made by the House in cutting apart the farm bill was one of the most brutal, even in the short history of the House’s domination by the Tea Party.

    The future of food stamps is now threatened. If the program is not returned to the five-year farm bill, it will have to be financed through annual appropriations, which puts it at the mercy of the Republicans’ usual debt-ceiling stunts and government shutdown threats. Since compassion is no longer an incentive for the House, the threat of a cutoff to big lobbyists will have to work, just as it always has. One wonders how Boehner, a professed Catholic, can remain silent on such moral issue.

  • Garcetti’s Weak Joke
  • L.A.‘s new mayor was asked this week if he has an opinion on the rumor about the billionaire Koch brothers possibly wanting to buy the Los Angeles Times. He took the safe route and quipped that he would prefer local ownership. Then he got a little twinkle in his eye and added that the Huffington Post should buy the Times. In it’s coverage today, as reported by LA Observed, the site played it straight but Arianna Huffington played along with a tweet. As I have reported for over a year billionaire Rupert Murdock, who has a home in Beverly Hills, remains the frontrunner to buy the Times.

  • House GOP Resists Senate Plan For Immigraton Overhaul
  • House Republicans met just hours after former President George W. Bush added his voice to the immigration debate during a naturalization ceremony at his new presidential center outside Dallas.“The laws governing the immigration system aren’t working.We’re now in an important debate in reforming those laws, and that’s good.” The GOP came down overwhelmingly against a comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws, putting in jeopardy the future of of sweeping legislation that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

    But weak Speaker John A. Boehner warned about the steep price of inaction, telling House Republicans they would be in a weaker political position against a bipartisan Senate and President Obama if they did nothing to answer to the immigration measure passed by the Senate last month. The bottom line was quite clear: The Republican-controlled House does not plan to take up anything resembling the Senate bill, which many believe is bad policy and smacks of an amnesty strongly opposed by the conservatives who hold sway over much of the rank and file. Bush 43 needs to reengage.

  • Detroit: Quotation Of The Day
  • “The city is past being a city now. It’s gone.” Kendrick Benguche, a resident in Detroit, whose family lives on a block with a single streetlight, just down from a vacant firehouse that sits beside a burnedout home.

  • Ways to Praise Jarrett in ‘This Town’
  • A 33-point memo detailing ways to praise top White House aide Valerie Jarrett was send out by staffers shortly after an unflattering profile of the adviser was published in The New York Times last year, the new book “This Town” by Mark Leibovich says. One bullet point says “Valerie is someone who 0ther people inside the building know they can trust, according to an advance copy obtained by the Washington Post. The memo, written by deputy press secretary Jamie Smith, was titled “The Magic of Valerie” and circulated through the West Wing as the Times was working on the profile. The book also says some White House employees believed that Jarrett got Secret Service protection because she also wanted to feel as important as David Axelrod,  Barack Obama’s campaign manager and closest adviser.

    “While a high-profile White House official—especially an African-American woman, such as Jarrett—could legitimately be considered a more likely target than most, several West Wing officials I spoke to were dubious there had been any special threats to her,” Leibovich writes. ‘The person Valerie felt most threatened by was Axe, quipped one top aide.” Lebovich’s book is set to be released on July 16.

  • Putin Is Not Amused
  • Fugitive intelligence contractor Edward J. Snowden has finally received offers of asylum from Presidents Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela and Daniel Ortega, of Nicaragua. In Russia, officials have expressed dismay over Snowden’s continuing sojourn in the transit zone of Shermetyevo airport and was told he should to pick a destination and leave as soon as possible. On Thursday, Russian President V. Putin sent a telegram to President Obama noting the Fourth of July holiday and restating his commitment to holding a summit meeting in Moscow in September, ahead of the G29 conference, which will be held in St. Petersburg.

  • Dolan and the Sexual Abuse Scandal
  • Tragic as the sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church has been for many years, it is shocking to discover that Cardinal Timothy Dolan, while archbishop of Milwaukee, moved $57 million off the archdiocesan books into a cemetery trust fund six years ago in order to protect the money from damage suits by victims of sexual abuse by priests. As if the scandal in the Los Angeles Archdiocese has not been disgraceful enough it turns out that Cardinal Dolan, now the archbishop of New York, has denied shielding the funds as an “old and discredited” allegation and “malarkey. But, as the New York Times has reported, newly released court documents make it clear that he sought and received fast approval from the Vatican to transfer money just as the Wisconsin Supreme Court was about to open the door to damage suits by victims raped and abused by Roman Catholic clergy.

    “I forsee an improved protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability, Cardinal Dolan wrote rather cynically in his 2007 letter to the Vatican The release of about 6,000 pages of documents provided a grim backstage look at the scandal, graphically detailing the patterns of serial abuse use by dozens of priests who were systematically rotated to a new assignment as church officials keep secret criminal behavior from civil authority—a pattern followed for many years under now retired Cardinal Roger Mahony. Cardinal Dolan was not a Milwaukee prelate during most of the abuse cases, but he faced a costly aftermath of troubles and warned the Vatican in 2003: As victims organize and become more public, the potential scandal is very real. The documents showed how the Vatican took years to defrock embarrassing priests. Yet the same bureaucracy approved Cardinal Dolan’s $57 million transfers just days after the Wisconsin court allowed victims’ damage suits. There are encouraging signs that Pope Francis will radically reshape the Vatican hierarchy and signal a return to a church of the faithful.

  • Tribune’s $2.7 Billion Deal for 19 Local TV Stations
  • The purchase shows that the Chicago company intends to remake itself as a TV broadcaster with less emphasis on newspapers. Peter Liguori, CEO of Tribune, said Monday would have no bearing on the future of newspapers like the Los Angeles Times. but analysts told The New York Times it looked more likely that the Tribune would try to unload them.  It remains unclear whether the company will sell the papers as a group or individually. Those who have expressed interest include billionaires Eli Broad; David H. and Charles G. Koch; and Rupert Murdoch. Of the group Murdoch, who has a home in Los Angeles, is clearly the most experienced journalist in the group. My money is on him.

June

  • Retired U.S. General: Target of Inquiry Over Iran Leak
  • Retired Marine General James E. Cartwright is a target of an investigation into the leak of classified information about American cyberattacks on Iran’s nuclear program, a person familiar with the investigation confirmed Thursday night confirmed. The leak is being carried out by the U.S. Attorney attorney for Maryland, which Attorney General Jr. Eric Holder announced after articles in The New York Times described as an ambitious series of cyberattacks under the code name Olympic Games attended to slow Iran’s progress toward a nuclear bomb. That Cartwright is a focus of the leak inquiry was first reported by NBC News. Asked about the NBC News report, Jill Abramson, executive editor of the New York Times , said, “We don’t comment on our confidential sources.”

    The general, 63, who served as vice chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff from 2007 to 2011, became a favorite adviser of President Obama and was considered an influential voice in the White House on security matters. A lawyer for General; Cartwright, Gregory B. Craig, who served as White House counsel early in the Obama administration, declined to comment. If there is growing unease in the Oval Office it raises questions about what kind of advice the president is receiving.

  • Quote Of The Day
  • “I’m not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker.”—President Obama, on Edward J. Snowden, who is accused of leaking government secrets and remains at an airport to Moscow.

  • How Hollywood Avidly Aided Nazis
  • The list of institutions and industries that have been accused of whitewashing their links to the Third Reich is long, including various governments, the Vatican, Swiss banks and many American corporations. Add Hollywood to that roll call. In “The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact With Hitler,” the young historian Ben Urwand, has written a book to be published by Harvard University Press in October, which goes way beyond not just a collaborating with “Nazi Germany,” but also “collaborating with Hitler, the person and human being.”

    That the German government meddled in the film industry during Hollywood’s golden age has long been known. Urwand, 35, argues that material from both German and American archives argues that the relationship between Hollywood and the Third Reich ran much deeper—and went much longer—than any scholar has so far suggested. Urwand shows studio bosses,, many of them Jewish immigrants, cutting films scene by scene to suit Nazi officials in producing Nazi propaganda films. He came across an interview with the screen writer Budd Schulberg vaguely mentioning that MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer used to meet with a German consul in Los Angeles to discuss cuts to his studios movies. Even Jack Warner, who ran Warner Brothers, was the first to try to appease the Nazis in 1933. It was Warner who personally ordered the word “Jew” be removed from a 1937 film about the life of Emile Zola.” His studio was the first in invite Nazi officials to its Los Angeles headquarters to screen films and make suggested cuts. 

  • Supreme Court’s Mistaken Judgment
  • On Tuesday the Supreme Court effectively struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by a 5-to-4,vote, ruling that Congress had not provided adequate justification for subjecting nine states, mostly, in the South, to federal oversight. Chief Justice John G. Roberts, wrote for the majority. “Congress based its coverage formula on that distinction. Today, the nation is no longer divided along those lines, yet the Voting Rights Act continues to treat it as if it were,” Roberts said in a triumphant
    moment.

    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in summarizing her dissent from the bench, an unusual move and a sign of deep disappointment,  called on the words of late Rev. Dr. Martin King Jr, who led the march from from Selma to Montgomery where he observed the passage of the Voting Rights Act which foresaw progress, even in Alabama. “The court errs egregiously, Ginsberg concluded, in overriding Congress’s decision.” President Obama said he was “deeply disappointed” by the ruling. Greg Abbott, Texas’ attorney general, said “the state’s voter ID law will take immediate effect. Redistricting maps passed by the Legislature may also take effect without approval from the federal government.

  • Flights to Paris: Senatorial Scandal
  • The Hill, in a shocking report, notes that flights to Paris are among reasons given by senators for missing classified intelligence briefings. Turns out that half of the Senate missed a recent high-level classified briefing ranging from afternoon flights to Paris to meetings at the White House. The paltry attendance at the briefing has exasperated Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif), who says colleagues should have known about the surveillance activities that have provoked a public outcry. The Hill surveyed all 100 members of the Senate to find out who sat in on the briefing with James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, Keith Alexander of the National Security Agency (NSA), and other officials who missed it. My question: is our government asleep at the switch? 

  • Ted Cruz’s Dad: Bribe Helped Cuba Exit
  • The freshman U.S. senator has become a vocal part of the debate over immigration reform in Washington reform, even as his father said he had some troubles of his own when he tried to leave his native Cuba decades ago. Cruz senior told NPR in an interview that posted online Thursday that he bribed a government official to stamp his passport so he could escape Cuba and enter the U.S. “A friend of the family, a lawyer friend of of my father, basically bribed a Batista official to stamp my passport with an exit permit, Rafael Cruz told NPR. As a teenager Rafael Cruz fought with Fidel Castro’s forces to overthrow U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista. He was later caught by Batista officials, jailed and beaten before being released. Ted Cruz, far to the right on immigration reform and other related issued, likes to brag his father arrived in the U.S. with only $100, with little knowledge of English and washing dishes for 50 cents an hour.

  • The Chief Justice’s Long Game
  • The court’s hubris on voting demands a legislative response. Chief Justice John G. Roberts writes that Tuesday’s decision has real consequences. His attitude is quite simple. “Regardless of how we look at the record , “no one can fairly say it shows anything approaching the ‘pervasive,’ ‘flagrant,’ ‘widespread,’ and ‘rampant discrimination ’ in the past. If that’s true, it’s because the Voting Rights Act works.

    So here’s what’s going to happen now. Texas has already announced that it will put voter-ID law into effect, , a law that was put on hold under Section 5 awaiting Supreme Court review. Richard L. Hasen, a professor of law and political science at UC, Irvine, suggests that the ball is now in Congress’s court . If House Republicans don’t want to alienate minority voters further, they will stop discriminatory voter-ID laws or to require nonpartisan redistricting, particularly when some of its members believe these laws help them get elected. 

  • Shut Wallets Over Gun Votes?
  • New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in a sharp exchange in the battle over gun control, wants to punish Democratic senators by taking away the one thing they need the most from New Yorkers: money. On Wednesday, Bloomberg sent out a personal letter to hundreds of the biggest Democratic donors in New York urging them to cut off contributions to the four Democratic senators who helped block end a bill in April that would have strenghted background checks on gun purchasers.

    The four Democratic defectors are Mark Begich (Alaska); Max Baucus (Montana); Mark Pryer (Arkansas) and Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota). Bloomberg’s threat to use his formidable resources against Senate Democrats was enough of a threat to Democratic majority leader Harry Reid that he raised the issue with Bloomberg in Washington. Reid said he was afraid that any effort to attack Democrats could ultimately result in a Republican Senate majority. Other Democrats fear that it could benefit the N.R.A. It’s time for Senator Charles Schumer, architect of his party’s takeover in 2006 to bid Reid goodbye. 

  • Obama Plays Defense
  • “Nobody is listening to your telephone calls.” said President Obama in defending government surveillance programs.” He said he came with a healthy skepticism about their programs. My team evaluated them. We scrubbed them thoroughly. “In the end,  he concluded that they help us prevent terrorist attacks.” While Obama defends mining of data. the disclosures have united both liberal Democrats and libertarian Republicans in accusing him of abandoning values he once espoused. Senator Richard Durbin, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat from Illinois, rebuffed the president’s contention that Congress had been kept abreast of the programs, saying that only a handful of top leaders are regularly briefed.

    As Maureen Dowd noted in the New York Times it was a bit of a shock to find out that No Such Agency, as the N.S.A. is nicknamed , has been collecting information for seven years on every phone call, domestic and foreign, that Americans make. The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald, who first reported the collection of data from Verizon, called the N.S.A. “the crown jewel in government secret.” 

  • GOP Leadership to Darrell Issa
  • Soon after Darrell Issa dubbed Jay Carney a “paid liar” on CNN last Sunday, House Republican leadership staffers called the California Republican’s aides with a message: Cool it. Issa’s aides promptly responded. The remark was over the top, they agreed, according to sources familiar with the transaction. But Issa himself remains unbowed. In an interview with POLITICO, he again accused the White House of being less than truthful on key subjects—while avoiding the word “liar’”—and refused to apologize to White House press secretary Jay Carney for his broadside. Internal discussion has continued all week about Issa’s outburst at President Obama’s top spokesman. Key Republicans have privately quizzed Issa’s friends and members of his House Oversight and Reform Committee about how Issa could slip up at such an inopportune time. Issa’s behavior came up at meetings of GOP leaders this week, according to sources involved. Since then, Issa has not appeared on television—a development Republican leadership has welcomed.

  • Sexual Assaults in the Military: Time to Act
  • John McCain came to Capitol Hill on Tuesday and glared at the ribbon-decked white male heads of all the services testifying before the Armed Services Committee. He scolded: “Just last night a woman came to me and said her daughter wanted to join, and could I give my unqualified support for her doing so. I could not.” The seven women on the committee are driving the mission to curb the plague of sexual transgressions in the military, with 26,000 service men and women assaulted in 2012. “Women are not going to be turned away n this one,” Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri told Maureen Dowd. While men on both sides of the aisle were also pressing top generals and admirals, Senator Saxby Chambliss, Republican of Georgia, was not quite up to speed.

    “Several years ago, when we had the first females go out on an aircraft carrier that when they returned to port, Chambliss said he recalled, a significant percentage of these females were pregnant.“Was any investigation done, he asked, to determine whether those pregnancies were the result of “consensual acts”?” “Commanders having the authority to take a case to trial hasn’t gotten rid of the large number of sexual assaults and rapes or encouraged more people to come forward and report crimes.” Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said, “In fact, it has had the opposite effect.” She told the military chiefs that “not “every single commander can distinguish between a slap on the ass and a rape. This is an issue that will continue to fester. 

  • I.R.S.—4.1 Million on a Single Conference
  • The New York Times reported Tuesday that the Internal Revenue Service spent $4.1 million on a single conference in Anaheim, California in 2010,  paying top dollar for luxury suites,$27,500 for a keynote speaker and tens of thousands of dollars for gifts for the 2,600 people who attended, according to a newly released Treasury Department audit. But the audit also shows that such expenditures fell dramatically when the Obama White House clamped down on travel and conferences as budgets tightened and a scandal erupted over how much the General Services Administration had spent on conferences. I.R.S.spending on such meetings fell to $4.8 million in the 2012 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, from $37.5 million in fiscal 2010.

    The audit, conducted by the Treasury inspector general, has given Republicans a new reason to be outraged at the nation’s tax-collecting agency, which is already under fire for targeting conservative groups for special scrutiny when applying for tax-exempt status. The House Ways and Means Committee opened hearings “Victims included Tea Party and non-Tea Party groups, 501(c) (4) social organizations and (501(c)(3) charitable organizations, including religious organizations. 

  • Hello Eric, Goodby Antonio
  • Los Angeles mayor-elect Eric Garcetti has oddly picked a transition team of just 1 to help him assemble his administration which will include scores of volunteers who will site on city commissioners, as well as regional boards such as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Metropolitan Water District. He’s selected Rich Llewellyn, who’s spent the last dozen years as a high level manager at City Hall. Garcetti’s transition strategy suggests that he may have a lower outreach profile over the next several months than the one followed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa who leaves office a the end of June after serving two terms. There’s already a developing consensus that Garcetti may be too cautious. Villaraigosa had an 81-member transition made up of city power brokers—labor leaders, education officials, newspaper publishers, non-profit group executives, and former elected officials. Llewellyn mocked the traditional big blue-ribbon commission idea. Garcetti told him “to reach to a lot of different people.”                                       

  • On Immigration: Schlafly’s Far Right Rhetoric
  • As Charles M. Blow, the New York Times columnist observed, the most outlandish example of conservative rhetoric in its truly offensive glory on the subject came in an interview with Phyllis Schlafly last week, the prominent conservative activist , on the news site PolicyMic. “I don’t see any evidence that Hispanics resonate with Republican values.They have no experience or knowledge of the whole idea of limited government and keeping the government out of our private lives. They come from a country where the government has to decide everything. I don’t know where you get the idea that the Mexicans coming in resonate with Republican values. There’re running an illegitimacy rate that is extremely high. I think it’s the highest of any ethnic group. Blow said he would contest the notion that even if Republicans changed their rhetoric and tactics, they wouldn’t gain traction with Hispanics (not all of whom are Mexicans, by the way, Ms. Schlafly.)

    A Quinnipiac University National Poll was revealing. Republicans (39%) thought they should be allowed to stay in the United States and eventually apply for U.S. Independents (52%) and Democrats (72%). Republicans (15% would allow immigrants to stay in the U.S. but not be allowed to apply for citizenship. Republicans (40%) said they should be required to leave the U.S. So Blow asks what some Republican lawmakers want to do to the only segment of the population in which a majority now has a favorable approve of Congress. Brilliant, if you want to cement Democratic preference among Hispanics in perpetuity.

  • Remembering Greeley
  • The Rev. Andrew Greeley, who died this week in Chicago, gained fame and wealth writing best-selling novels combining Catholicism, Irish America and sex. But what made Father Greeley a writer of influence and heroism was far more serious. His early effort to raise the alarm about what he called the gravest crisis in the Church Church since the Reformation, the sexual abuse of children. From the mid-1980’s to the early 1990’s’ before the scandal metastasized in Boston and engulfed the church worldwide, he sounded a prophetic warning about predator priests and bishops who protected them. (The Los Angeles Archdiocese, the largest in the country, shameless for many years did little to expose the scandal.)

    Greeley wasn’t alone: parents and victims had been battling the church hierarchy for years and journalists like Jason Berry did much to expose those crimes. Greeley was among the first and the most effective from within, defying his fellow priests on behalf of the betrayed laity. He had a pulpit, a column in the Chicago Sun-Times. and he used it often. As the New York Times wrote Greeley, a sociologist, had great affection for the people in the pews. His words in their defense were strident, defiant, alarmist, and exactly right.

May

  • The Wisdom of Bob Dole
  • Old-school Republicans cannot recognize a party that wants to break the government and which Bob Dole helped lead for years. He told “Fox News Sunday” that his party should hang a “closed for repairs” sign on its doors until it comes up with a few positive ideas, because neither he nor Ronald Reagan would now feel comfortable in its membership.The former Senate majority leader and presidential candidate said, “I mean we weren’t perfect by a long short, but at least we got our work done.”

    Senator Marco Rubio of Florida is one of several senators who have blocked a basic function of government. One of them, Ted Cruz of Texas, admitted that he didn’t even trust House Republicans to practice blackmail properly. The furiously oppositional Republican Party has left mainstream conservatives like Dole and Senator John McCain shaking their heads in disgust. Republicans used to set aside their grandstanding, recognize that a two-party system requires compromise and make deals to keep the government working on the people’s behalf. The current generation refuses to do that. It’s members want to dismember government. Dole’s words should remind his party that it is not only abandoning its past, but damaging the country’s future. 

  • Michele Bachmann: Out of Control
  • “Carbon dioxide is portrayed as harmful. But there isn’t even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas.”—Bachmann on the House floor in April, 2009.

  • Health Care Law and Partisan Gridlock
  • Republicans insist on total repeal of the Affordable Health Care Act and will not take part in adjusting it. Democrats say it is the law of the land. It’s goal of universal health coverage is laudable, but its unintended consequences will hurt the cause. Almost no law as sprawling and consequential as AFCA has passed without changes—significant structural changes or routine tweaks known as “technical corrections”—in subsequent months and years. Once again, Republicans will seize on it before an election year. As a result, a landmark law that almost everyone agrees has flaws is likely to take effect unchanged.

    “I don’t think it can be fixed,” Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, told The New York Times. “The only solution is to repeal it, root and branch.” Sen. Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana and one of the law’s primary authors, said: “I’m not sure we’re going to get to the point where it’s time to open the bill and make some changes. Once you start, it’s Pandora’s box. As the clock tricks toward 2014, when the law is fully in effect, some businesses say without changes, it may be their undoing.

    The enactment of Medicare in 1965 was followed by changes in 1967, and again in 1972. In November 1986, President Reagan signed a landmark immigration bill that offered legal status to many unauthorized immigrants. Two years later, Congress made dozens of “technical correstions.”

  • GOP Senate Rift Deepens
  • Senate Republicans are locked in a battle over future budget negotiations, splitting along generational and ideological lines about how to deal with the federal budget. Seen in full view of C-Span cameras last week, Senators John McCain of Arizona and Susan Collins of Maine jousted with a new generation of conservatives—Marco Rubio of Florida, Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah, and Rand Paul of Kentucky—over the party’s refusal to allow the Senate to open budget talks with the House despite Senate Republicans’ long call for Democrats to produce a budget. It was the Old Guard versus the Tea Party, with but with real ramifications, as Congress careens toward another debt limit. McCain called the Republican demands of his colleagues “absolutely out of line and unprecedented.” Cruz replied, “Here is the dirty little secret about some of those on the right side of the aisle,” he said of his fellow Republicans. “There are some who w0uld very much like to cast a symbolic vote against raising the debt ceiling and nevertheless allow our friends on the left side of the aisle to raise the debt ceiling. That, to some Republicans, is the ideal outcome.”

  • Gruel’s Failed Campaign
  • The Times late Tuesday night called the race for mayor too close to call. But it was apparent that city councilman Eric Garcetti was going to become the 42nd mayor of Los Angeles. Both Garcetti, 42, and Wendy Greuel, 51, the city controller, worked hard—without success—to set themselves apart on the issues. But the reality was that as many as three of four Angelenos did not bother to vote for their next mayor. At $33 million, the mayoral campaign was the most expensive in city history. While pushing past six other candidates in the March primary, the two finalists. notably Gruel,, leaned on large, unregulated campaigns by outside groups. Spending by city unions, on behalf of Greuel became a central issue in the campaign. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers gave $2 million that helped power television ads in which former President Bill Clinton strongly backed Greuel who hoped to become the city’s first woman mayor. A number of prominent political figures, including former Republican Mayor Richard Riordan, Sen. Barbara Boxer and Magic Johnson, backed her candidacy. But Garcetti, who finished first in the March primary, beat her by about eight points in the run-off.   

  • Celebrating Inequality
  • This new kind of celebrity is the ultimate costume ball, far more exclusive and decadent than even the most potent magnates of Hollywood’s studio era could have dreamed up. Their superficial diversity dangles before us the myth that in America, anything is possible—even as the American dream quietly dies, a victim of the calcification of a class system that is nearly hereditary. As mindless diversions from a sluggish economy and chronic malaise, the new aristocrats play a useful role. But their advent suggests that, after of widening income gap, unequal distribution of opportunity and reward, and corroding public institutions, we have gone back to Gatsby’s time—or something far more perverse. We know our stars aren’t inviting us to think we can be just like them. Their success is based on leaving the rest of us behind.—George Packer, a staff writer at The New Yorker, in a New York Times op-ed.

  • Noonan and I.R.S. Audits
  • Nate Silver’s New York Times FiveThirtyEight column notes that some conservatives accuse the I.R.S. of targeting not just conservative groups that sought 501(c) (4) status but also individual taxpayers who oppose President Obama or support conservative causes. Critics are correct that many conservative taxpayers were audited, including the fact that hundreds of thousands of Mitt Romney voters were selected for an audit last year. However, it is also likely that hundreds of Obama supporters were also audited. This results in an estimate that about 380,000 of Romney’s voters were audited last year, as were 480,000 of
    Obama’s voters. The fact that the conservative writer Peggy Noonan has identified four conservatives from that group of thousands, to take one example of that criticism, provides no evidence at all toward her hypothesis that the I.R.S. targeted taxpayers for political purposes.

    Notable

    President Obama’s job approval rating has reached 53% in a new CNN/ORG poll. 

  • Resonance Resistant
  • According to a Gallup report released on Thursday, “the amount of attention Americans are paying to the I.R.S. and Benghazi situations are well below the average for stories Gallup has tracked over the years.” As New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow reports, Republicans have exhibited a near-pathological need to say anything, no matter how outlandish, that would invalidate the Obama presidency.

    I was struck by the zealotry of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus founder, Michelle Bachmann, who never misses a chance to say something asine, who suggested to the web site wnd.com that is was “reasonable” to worry that the I.R.S. might use Obamacare to kill conservatives.“Reasonable” and “Bachmann” don’t even belong in the same conversation, yet alone the some sentence, and yet she remains one of the most visible spokeswomen for the movement. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich warned Republicans in an NPR interview that aired Friday about overreaching, referring to the impeachment of President Clinton. Gingrich said “I think we overreached in “98.” 

  • Murdock Grows Closer to L.A.
  • The media mogul announced via Twitter that he has bought the Moraga estate on the Bel-Air ridge that faces across the 405 freeway at the Getty Center. Curbed LA said back in February that the estate was listed for $29 million, and posted Murdoch’s tweet on Saturday. It’s where Thomas Jones, the former Northrop CEO, has grown grapes on 13 acres and made his Moraga label of Los Angeles wine.@rupertmurdock
    About to celebrate buying beautiful small vineyard right in LA. Great wine, Moraga, owned by great Angeleno, Tom Jones, Time cover,1961!

    As LAObserved and I have predicted, the sale makes it more certain that Murdock becomes a serious bidder for the Los Angeles Times. The mogul’s only known interest is buying what was once a great newspaper.

  • Immigration Billl: Will Anything Happen?
  • A bipartisan group in the House of Representatives has been meeting on and off for four years behind closed doors, working on its own version of legislation to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws. But with a comprehensive bill already working its way through the Senate Judiciary Committee, the House group is fast losing its chance to shape the debate percolating on Capitol Hill, let along put forth a proposal of its own. Many in the bipartisan group believed that “we would be finished some time ago,” said Rep. Xavier Becerra, Democrat of California and a member of the group.

    One major block, aides say, is a reluctance on the part of Republicans in the group to accept a deal between the nation’s leading business and labor organizations, which would establish a guest worker program, known as a W-Visa program, for low-skilled, year-round temporary workers, those who perform seasonal work but are allowed to stay in the country throughout the year. Though the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO reached an agreement in late March on a guest worker program, House Republicans believe the deal is too favorable to labor and are trying to rework it. “The moment you pull the thread from one side or the other on this fabric, this compromise, the moment it gets undone on the other said,” Becerra said. The conservative Heritage Foundation issued a study estimating that the legislating would cost taxpayers roughly $6-3 trillion over the next 50 years. But members of both parties objected to it.   

  • “We’re Under Attack,” Dying U.S. Ambassador Said
  • A State Department o         fficial presented a minute-by-minute account on Wednesday of what happened during a seige of the diplomatic compound in Benghazi last Sept. 1, offering the first public testimony from an American official who was on the ground in Libya that night. The official, Gregory Hicks, described a series of frantic series of phone calls from the American Embassy in Tripoli, and, ultimately to J. Christopher Stevens, who was in Benghazi, and whose line went dead right after his uttered, “Greg, we’re under attack.”

    Hicks, who was serving as the deputy chief of mission at the Tripoli embassy at the time of the attack, told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which was conducting a hearing on how the Obama administration handled its response to the Benghazi assault. Republicans insisted that the military could have done more to scramble fighter jets and deploy forces to fight the militants. Democrats were firm that the military did all it could in a confusing situation in which the closed help was too far away. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland , the committee’s senior Democrat, flayed Republicans and the committee chairman , Rep. Darrell Issa of California , in particular, accusing them of distorting the facts of the investigation for their own partisan purposes. For his part, Issa, one of the Obama administration’s biggest foes in Congress, appeared unusually measured, even as Democrats on the panel attacked him. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, of Utah, on a Fox News program, acknowledged in an interview with the Washington Post Monday that military help would not have arrived after the attack on the CIA annex was over. He suggested that help could have provided first aid. Really!

  • California: Real Gun Control
  • A continent away from Washington’s shamefaced resistance to new gun controls, California has just enacted a law that will speed up confiscation of firearms from an estimated 20,000 people who have bought them legally but were later disqualified because of a conviction for a violent crime, a finding a mental illness or a restraining order for domestic violence. Last Wednesday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law after passage by the Democrat-controlled Legislature, is a sign that enlightened lawmaking unhinged by gun lobby scare tactics and Capitol Hill filibustering is possible in American politics.The law allocates $24 million to hire 36 state agents specifically assigned, over the next three years, an estimated 39,000 handguns and 1,670 assault weapons now in the hands of potentially dangerous Californians, as the New York Times noted in an editorial.

    The gun lobby was smart enough not to oppose a law to take guns away from convicted criminals and the mentally ill. It did, however, unsuccessfully challenge the financing mechanism, which will tap gun owners’ registration fees to pay for the program. Pro-gun Republicans were rebuffed in their simplistic proposal to authorize the arming of school teachers as a result of the shooting rampage in Connecticut in December that killed 20 children and six school staff members. Final enactment of these proposals would be a further sign of California’s leadership on gun safety issues.
     

  • GOP Prefers Chaos, Not Order
  • “Regular order!” That’s been the demand of House Republicans for three years, insisting on a return to the distant days when Congress actually passed budget resolutions and spending bills. House Speaker John Boehner said on “Meet the Press” in early March that the Senate had failed to pass a budget since 2009. But a funny thing happened a few days after these comments were made: the Senate agreed to that demand and actually passed a budget. But suddenly all those Republican cries for regular order stopped. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to appoint members of a conference committee, but Republican Jeff Sessions, the leading Republican on the Budget Committee, said it would cause “complications for the House.”

    In fact, the Republicans knew exactly how it would work: they would have to compromise. The Senate would have to agree to some of the House ‘s spending cuts, and the House would have to agree to some of the Senate’s spending increase and tax increases on the rich to pay for them. What the country has learned over the years is that House Republicans are incapable of compromise on these issues. What frustrates Republicans is that they do not have an immediate crisis to get their way. Since 2011, they have repeatedly relied on the threat of a government shutdown, or a possible credit default to force damaging spending cuts which, as the New York Times noted, is how the sequester was created. The only way Republicans can achieve their extremist agenda is not through preserving order, but by causing chaos. 

  • Karzai, CIA, Bags of Cash
  • President Hamid Karzai, the Afghan leader, was assured by the C.I. A.‘s station chief in Kabul not to worry—the agency would continue dropping off stacks of cash at his office. He suggested to reporters that some of it was an “easy source of petty cash” to pay off warlords and power brokers. Not only many Afghans and some American and European officials have complained to the agency that it has essentially created a presidential slush fund to retain access to the presidential place.

    Current and former Afghan officials who spoke before last week said the payments had totaled tens of millions of dollars since they began a decade ago. Karzai is not the first Afghan to receive money from the C.I.A., which paid millions to fight the Taliban during the invasion in 2001 and has paid others to keep fighting in the years since. It’s a sweet deal for Karazi.who knows how to play the game. But the Obama administration cannot continue to play Santa Claus as more Americans continue to die on the battlefield.

  • Obama Gone Wobbly?
  • Eugene Robinson, the Washington Post columnist, makes the point that the president looks and sounds like the one reasonable man on a ship of fools which may be good for his political standing. But he’s no longer running for anything. Somehow,, he has to govern until January 2017. In his quest to find a way to work with a hostile Congress, he might consider trying something new. The next time Congress tries to undo one of the sequestration cuts, Obama should just say no. Let the Republicans jump up and down and and call him names. Tell them to sit down and negotiate a proper budget deal, and even a grand bargain—or else live with the pain. The president should find that forgotten veto pen. And he should use it. 

  • L.A. County Sheriff’s Dept. Feud: Baca, Tanaka Fallout
  • The former undersheriff, accused of fostering a culture of jailhouse abuse, offered a searing critique of his boss Sheriff Lee Baca. Tanaka told the Los Angeles Times that he seemed like a confused and erratic leader who cares more about politics than public safety. Baca brought Tanaka up through the ranks but former Sheriff Sherman Block was the only member of his command staff to support the addition of Baca. The two were once close and Tanaka was Baca’s accountant.

April

  • Times Reaffirms Garcetti Primary Endorsement
  • While he lacks executive experience the newspaper’s editorial board has concluded that Eric Garcetti is more likely than Wendy Grueul to rise to the occasion and lead Los Angeles into a successful future. Did Greuel really propose an irresponsible police hiring binge that the city cannot afford? Was Garcetti, as council president, any more responsible than was Greuel, as city controller. for the rising unemployment rate in Los Angeles during the mortgage rate and recession? Is Greuel a political climber who covered up her Republican past to be viable in an overwhelmingly Democratic town, and Garcetti a trust fund baby who has latched on to liberal causes for their cachet?

    Grueul disappointed as city controller, earning a grade of “meets expectations.” But she didn’t earn a promotion. Garcetti, as Council president, had a different role, but he did a better job with it. He demonstrated his capacity to grow, and improve his performance. Neither candidate has the executive experience one would like to see in a mayoral candidate. Greuel’s response, tellingly, is to cite her role helping to manage a small family construction business and to assert, and perhaps believe, that it is sufficient. But, despite big name endorsements from Bill Clinton, Magic Johnson, big name Democratic women pols, and even flip-flop former Republican mayor Richard Riordan, Greuel falls short.

  • History Returns to Boston
  • A man named Ian wrote in an e-mail, “Although I have lived in the area for almost thirty years, I haven’t necessarily thought of myself as a Bostonian. Although I think Boston is a nice enough city in which to live, I’ve never really been connected to it as a whole community. I like the parts I like, and I don’t like the parts I don’t like. In terms of attitude, I often identify more with the people in San Francisco or New York than those in Boston. But when the marathon bombers struck, I took it personally. They attacked my city. I felt a real kinship, a real connection with the people of Boston, all the people of Boston. And I realized that I don’t just live here This is my home.”—George Packer, The New Yorker.

  • L.A. Mayor’s Race Heats Up
  • A day after a USC Price/Los Angeles Times Poll showed her trailing Councilman Gil Garcetti by 10 points City Controller Wendy Grueul is struggling to reestablish a central theme—that she is the workhorse who can get things done, while Garcetti is a show horse, who knows how to campaign but not to lead. “There may be a lot of people who are great campaigners, but I’m a great leader,” Gruel said. “There may be a lot of people who can talk a lot, but I’m a good manager. I’m going to lead the city of L.A. in a way that will distinguish myself.” While boasting she had the endorsement from the power-brokers in business and labor, Garcetti said he had results people could see with their own eyes.” With the runoff election May 21, and the next debate scheduled to be broadcast May 1 by KCAL-TV Channel 9, voting by mail starts this week.

  • Rupert Murdoch Wins Out In Settlement
  • Two years ago, Murdock and other board members of News Corp. were sued by shareholders for lax oversight and alleged misdeeds within the sprawling media conglomerate. On Monday News Corp. agreed to settle the $139-million case. The punch line is that News Corp. will be the one collecting the money—not the shareholders who brought the suit. Insurance companies that represent News Corp.‘s board will make the payout on behalf of Murdock and others on News Corp., board. The money will go into News Corp.‘s corporate coffers. A Delaware judge overseeing the case must approve the settlement.

    News Corp. had hoped to resolve the claims in advance of its corporate split this summer. News Corp. is spinning off its newspaper and book publishing house into a separate company that will retain the News Corp. name. The entertainment division, including the 20th Century Fox film studio, television studio and profitable TV networks, will be remained 21st Century Fox. It has long be known that Murdock, who has a home in Los Angeles, is seriously interested in buying the Los Angeles Times but not the chain of newspapers that Tribune Co. wants to unload as a group.

  • Koch Brothers:Inside Track on LAT?
  • Sunday’s New York Times story about the Koch brothers’ interest in the Tribune Co. newspapers offers little that has not been reported elsewhere although the LA Weekly had the scoop last month. What is new, as LA Observed reported, is that financial information on the papers will go out to interested bidders in early May. One key question is whether the Tribune board will only accept offers for the entire newspaper group or consider selling the properties in pieces. But a number of groups going after the Los Angeles Times have little interest in papers like the Chicago Tribune or the Baltimore Sun. The Koch brothers, however, appear to be going after all eight papers. A Koch representative this month contacted Eddy W. Hartenstein, publisher and chief executive of Los Angeles Times to discuss the bid. Politically, however, the papers could serve as a broader platform for the Kochs’ laissez-faire ideas which would have zero appeal in the liberal Times. British publisher Rupert Burdoch, who has a home in Los Angeles and owns News Corporation, in addition to The Wall Street Journal, would prefer only to buy the Times.

  • Gabrielle Giffords Is Furious
  • It is not hard to understand why, writing in The New York Times. the former Congresswoman from Arizona is on fire. Some of the senators who voted against the background-check have met with grieving parents whose children were murdered at Sandy Hook, in Newtown. Some of the senators who voted no have have also looked into my eyes as I talked about being shot in the head at point-blank range in suburban Tucson two years ago, and expressed sympathy or the other 18 people shot besides me, six of whom died. These senators have heard from their constituents—who polls showed overwhelmingly favored expanding background checks. And still these senators decided to do nothing.

    I watch TV and read the newspapers like everyone else. I was elected six times to represent southern Arizona, in the State Legislature and then in Congress. I know what it feels like to tough a tough vote . This vote was neither. These senators made their decision based on political fear and on cold calculations about the money of special interests like the National Rifle Association. Speaking is physically difficult for me. But my feelings are clear: I’m furious. I will not rest until we have righted the wrong these senators have done, and until we have changed our laws so we can look parents in the face and say: We are trying to keep your children safe. We cannot allow the status quo—desperately protected by the gun lobby so they can make more money by spreading fear and misrepresentation—to go on.

  • Mourning Boston While Gun Bill Dies
  • Against the backdrop of the Boston Marathon tragedy. as Joan Walsh writes in Salon, it feels unspeakably sad that even the compromise gun control legislation has has been doomed in the Senate. Bombs, not guns, were used in the the Boston attack—trauma surgeons say they’ve pulled pellets and nails out of the bombing victims ; some had between 10 and 40 pieces of shrapnel inside them. The Associated Press reported that the explosives may have been made with pressure cookers along with metal and ball bearings. Tucson shooting victim survivor Gabby Griffords was supposed to appear but cancelled. The bombing occurred on Patriot’s Day, which celebrates the Battles of Lexington and Concord, a day that has practically become a right-wing militia-survivalist-patriot holiday. Walsh notes that the tragedy in Boston occurred on the same day as the marathon honored the 26 victims of the Newtown massacre. “We fail them, and we fail the Boston victims, by surrendering to the bullies who protect guns and neuter government agencies like the ATF and make make us all less safe.” 

  • Social Security: Will Democrats Suffer in 2014 Races?
  • President Obama’s proposal to cut Social Security benefits have raised serious concerns about a growing number of House Democrats who believe that the party could suffer in the mid-term elections, Although Democrats have long-championed the retirement program, they say that Obama ‘s plan to reduce payments through a chained consumer index (CPI) has weakened their stance and opened the door for Republicans to vilify the president. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the leader of the campaign arm for House Republicans, called Obama’s plan a “shocking attack on seniors.”

    Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D.Md.), the former head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told The Hill that Walden’s comments foreshadow a line of attack the GOP will use on the campaign trail next years. It’s a reason, he added, for Democrats to worry. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-New Jersey), said Obama’s Social Security proposal was a gift to Republicans that could single-handedly kill any chance the party had in regaining the Speaker’s gavel in 2014. But Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) argued that Republicans’ track record on Social Security—which includes the failed effort by President George W. Bush to privatize the program—would make it “immensely” for GOP leaders to make an effective campaign strategy out of Obama’s proposal.   

  • Cheney on Deep Doo-Doo
  • Howard Kurtz, in The Daily Beast, discusses Dick Cheney’s assessment of how to deal with Kim Jong-un’s saber rattling. Thus is a man who was determined to go after Saddam Hussein, who wanted to stand up to Iran, who pushed domestic surveillance, who championed such a bellicose foreign policy that George W.Bush had to rein him in during his second term. So it was not surprising, therefore, that Cheney in his briefing with Republican leaders in Washington this week counseled a very aggressive stand toward the young North Korean leader who is striking a warlike pose toward the United States. The former vice president’s assessment was indeed concise. “We’re in deep doo-doo.”

    George Bush’s father was the first public figure associated with the phrase, so Kurtz thinks it’s nice to see it’s still getting traction decades later.” But since the briefing was behind closed doors. we don’t know what else Cheney might have said beyond beside the fact that the United States has little intel on the situation in the secretive communist country, and so you never know what they’re thinking.” A recent Showtime documentary, The World According to Dick Cheney, helped revive his Darth Vader image. And while he has continued to criticize Barack Obama—recently accusing him of assembling a “dismal” national-security record and a “second-rate” team—the president’s reelection has quieted that debate for now. Love him or hate him, the man, who has major health problems, speaks his mind, even when he ends up in the deep stuff himself.

  • Remembering Margaret Thatcher
  • New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd recalls some memories of The Iron Lady. The grocer’s daughter and the mother of modern conservatism, had her faults, heaven knows. The New Yorker’s John Cassidy called her a combination of Ronald Reagan, Ayn Rand and Dr. Stranglelove. Francois Mitterrand said she had the eyes of Caligula and the mouth of Marilyn Monroe. Dowd, in Aspen in 1990, remembers when she told President Bush not to go “wobbly” on Saddam, blithely drilling down on the most sensitive part of the Bush psyche, the fear of being labeled a wimp. 

  • Why Republicans Are Salivating
  • Katrina vanden Heuvel, the editor and publisher of the Nation magazine, has got it right. On the very day that a bleak jobs report showed just how feeble the recovery is, the White House revealed that the president will propose a budget that features cuts in Social Security. This was designed to get Republicans to agree to negotiate a grand bargain on deficit reduction—or to prove that they are obstructing any deal. The exchange has Republicans salivating . Cutting Social Security becomes the president’s choice, not something extorted by Republicans. If Democrats stand for anything it is defense of Social Security and Medicare, the United States’ most beloved and the vital social programs, a proud legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society.

    If Democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have any sense, they will organize their entire caucuses and pledge to oppose any deal that cuts a dime out of Social Security benefits.The economics of the president’s proposal are even worse than the politics. The crisis we face in Social Security isn’t that the benefits are too generous; it is that more and more Americans lack the savings for a secure retirement. Obama could be rallying Americans to address the growing retirement crisis. He could focus attention on continuing to challenge the entrenched interests that drive up costs in our health system, the greatest source of our long-term debt crisis. Instead, he is fixated on more austerity, on a “grand bargain” that will include cuts to already inadequate Social Security payments.

  • A Fine Line in Congress
  • Obama’s three major priorities are shaping up as test cases for how he and Republicans will work together—or not—in his second term. While he is said to be actively involved in the immigration talks behind the scenes because of that bill’s better odds, on gun measures like tighter background checks of firearms purchasers he is waging his fight mostly in public settings far from Washington. On Monday he traveled to Connecticut to meet again with families of those killed in school shootings in Newtown last year. Even Democrats say these speeches are having no effect on Republican lawmakers.Yet, White House aides predict that even if the gun issue dies, Obama will get credit for trying and Republicans will be blamed by a majority of Americans who favor tighter controls.

    On Sunday, Dan Pfeiffer, a senior adviser to Obama, intensified the White House’s effort to shame Republicans who are threatening to filibuster a Senate vote on gun measures.“Now that the cameras are off and they are not forced to look the Newtown families in the face and filibuster it,” Pfeiffer told the ABC News program “This Week.”On Wednesday, the president will dine with a dozen rank-and-file Republican senators, hoping they might deal with him on the budget, as well as immigration and gun measures. The odds are not favorable.

  • Obama’s Plan: A Very Tough Sell
  • Already criticized by friends and foes alike President Obama admits his soon to be released plan on Wednesday is “not ideal” but offers “tough reforms” and scuttles some tax breaks for the wealthy. It’s a mix, he contends, that will provide long-term deficit eduction without harming the economy. He intends to reduce deficits and provide new money for public works projects, early education and job training. On Saturday in his radio address he said “we don’t have to choose between these goals—we can do both. His plan for the budget year beginning Oct. 1 calls for slower growth in government benefit programs for the poor, veterans and the elderly, as well as higher taxes, primarily on the wealthy.

    Some details, already made public, drew fierce response from liberals, labor unions and advocates for older Americans. Not surprisingly House Speaker John Boehner was not impressed, either. Obama proposes spending cuts and revenue increases that would result in$1.8 billion in deficit reductions over 10 years, replacing $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts that are otherwise poised to take effect over the next 10 years. Obama’s plan includes $580 billion in new taxes that Republicans oppose.There’s also a new inflation formula, rejected by many liberals, that would reduce the annual cost of living adjustments for a range of government programs, including Social Security and benefits for veterans.

    Obama made no mention of the effect is budget would have on Social Security and other safety net programs. The idea drew a hostile reaction from some of his most ardent political allies. An Associated Press—GFK poll conducted late last year found that 49 percent of those asked were opposed to changing the way Social Security benefits are calculated to produce smaller annual increases and reduce the federal deficit. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said, “The president should drop these misguided cuts in benefits and focus instead on building support in Congress for investing in jobs.” Well spoken.

  • Obama’s Worst Week
  • The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza reprised Corey Flood in the classic 1980s film “Say Anything.”“Be a man. Don’t be a guy.“The President forgot that life lesson during a speech at a fundraiser in the San Francisco suburbs. He sang the praises of California Attorney General Kamala Harris calling her “brilliant,” “dedicated” and “tough” He should have stopped there. Then he added: “She also happens to be, by far, the best looking looking attorney general in the country.” The Twittersphere exploded—with voices on the left condemning Obama for indulging a sort of locker—room, boys-will-be boys mentality and those on the right insisting that if a Republican politician had said something familiar the media would have treated it as a national scandal. New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait summed up the sentiment. “For a president who has become a cultural model for so many of his supporters in so many other ways, the example he’s setting here matters.

    The House speaker John Boehner on Friday waved aside reports that Obama would seek a new budget compromise next week, accusing the president of again demanding tax increases in exchange for “modest entititlement savings.” At the same time, liberals quickly vented their anger about the president’s plans, saying they would not accept changes to Social Security and Medicare that would threaten the programs and beneficiaries. The question Wednesday may be whether Obama’s budget is already history                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

  • Gun Lobbyists Who Pack Guns
  • Once upon a time The National Rifle Association supported background checks for gun owners. No more. As The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank pointed out the organization’s security guards were back on Capitol Hill on Tuesday when the NRA rolled out its “National School Shield”—the gun lobbyists’ plan to get armed guards in public schools—and this time they were packing heat. About twenty of them—roughly one for every three reporters—fanned out through the National Press Club, some in uniforms with gun holsters exposed, others with ear pieces and bulges under their suit jackets.

    Officials at the National Press Club said they had never seen such a spectacle. The NRA gunmen directed some photographers not to take pictures, ordered reporters out of the lobby when NRA officials passed and inspected reporters’ briefcases before granting them access to the news conference. Milbank noted that by journalistic custom and D.C. law, reporters don’t carry guns to news conferences—and certainly not when a person at the lectern is the NRA’s Asa Hutchinson, an unremarkable former congressman and Bush administration official. The gun debate in Washington is about to be taken up in Congress, but by most accounts the NRA has already won. Plans for limiting assault weapons and ammunition clips are history. The Post’s Philip Rucker and Ed O’Keefe reported that the NRA is proposing language to cut the last meaningful gun-control legislation, making gun trafficking a federal crime. 

    Queried by a reporter in Connecticut Hutchinson said that limiting assault weapons is “totally inadequate” because it doesn’t stop violence in schools. He told CBS News’s Nancy Cordes that limiting magazine clips won’t work as well as his plan to “give schools more tools.” And CNN’s Jim Acosta was told that background checks weren’t related to his focus of gun safety. Asked he was afraid Hutchinson said “there’s nothing I’m afraid of.” Being separated from unarmed questioners by an eight-foot buffer zone, a lectern, a raised podium, a red-velvet rope and a score of gun-toting men does give one a sense of security.

  • Rubio’s Immigration Fear
  • The Florida senator’s little intervention into the immigration bill basically was designed to achieve two obvious goals: to block Sen. Chuck Schumer from public framing of the issue, and to tell the Beltway Crowd that he’s the one driving the train. Rubio gets some credit for taking steps on immigration reform. But what he said over the weekend sounded to the world like someone who secretly wants to kill the bill. As The Daily Beast reported the other big deal was that the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO reached an agreement on the temporary and low-skill workers program.Then Schumer and some Republicans when on Sunday shows to talk about the deal among the Senate Gang of Eight.

    It was at that moment that Rubio chose to release a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy suggesting ‘excessive haste in the pursuit of a lasting solution is perhaps even more dangerous to the goals many of us share.’ The translation was simple, meaning that “I’m not for this quite yet.” So he ‘s trying to do two things at the same time, things that are at complete odds with each other. As TPM reported yesterday this is the second time in this process that Rubio is “once again setting himself up to claim credit for winning concessions that no one opposed in the first place.” On the other hand, he wants to try and protect himself from being too damaged if reform collapses. He, like others, is not sure whether hard-shell elements in the GOP will rise up against reform when crunch time hits, No one knows what the Tea Party view will be, and Rubio comes from that crowd.The bottom line is that he will do nothing to hurt his chances of winning the Republican nomination in 2016.

  • Right-Wing Conservativism in California
  • What was once the a moderate party of Dwight Eisenhower was transformed into a radical right-wing organization we see today, was largely born in California. Paul Krugman, the liberal columnist, has pointed out that the Golden State, even more than the South, created today’s religious conservatism; it elected Ronald Reagan; it was where the tax revolt of the 1970s began. But that was then. In the decades since, the state has grown even more liberal, attributable in large part to an ever growing—nonwhite share of the electorate in the decades since. Conservatives have reacted by declaring the state doomed. Their gripe: liberal do—gooders are bringing California to its knees.

    A dozen years ago The Wall Street Journal suggested the state, supposedly doomed by all it’s environmentalists, “has become to look like a hapless banana republic.” But a funny thing happened on the road to collapse: it became known that the main culprit in the electricity crisis was deregulation, which opened the door for ruthless deregulation. Undeterred, a few years later conservatives found another line of attack, saying that liberal big spending and overpaid public employees were bringing on a collapse. When the national housing bubble burst, California was again hit hard and the economic downtown led to sharpy reduced revenue.

    The implosion of the state’s Republican Party finally gave Democrats a big enough political advantage to push through desperately needed tax increases, and Gov. Jerry Brown proclaiming a comeback. Problems remain but not to the death-of—liberalism that California-bashers keep peddling. California’s Republicans over the years have moved right as the state has moved left. Brown’s agenda could have national implications, in which a radicalized GOP fell increasingly out of touch with an increasingly diverse and socially liberal electorate. All this is arguably playing out with a lag on the national scene too. 

March

  • A Partnership to Rebuild America
  • When FDR became president in 1933 one of his first tasks was to put millions of unemployed Americans back to work. He announced the creation of a Civil Works Administration under Relief Administrator Harry Hopkins. CWA took $400 million from the Public Works Fund, $150 million from the Relief Administration, released two million men from local and State relief rolls at once, and put two million other unemployed to work by Dec. 15. CWA workers were employed 30 hours a week on small local projects (playgrounds, sanitation, pest control. repairs), received approximately $50 dollars a month. Eighty years after the Great Depression President Obama is calling on lawmakers to approve a $21 billion infrastructure bill. The aim is to build public-private partnerships to improve the nation’s crumbling infrastructure.

    “Let’s get this done.Let’s rebuild this country we love,” he told a boisterous crowd on a platform overlooking the Port of Miami. “We can do this not just here in Miami Dade, but we can do this all across the country,” calling for “a partnership to rebuild America.” The president also unveiled a $4 billion investment program in support of the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. “Instead of picking projects based on pork barrel politics, we’ll pick them based on how good they are for the economy,” he said. Obama suggested there was a bipartisan consensus for his proposals, noting the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the national’s largest labor organization both back infrastructure spending. Still, the plan, which will include the president’s budget when it is released April 10, will likely face stiff opposition from Republicans in Congress. Last January, Speaker John Boehner said he favored infrastructural spending but questioned how they would be funded. “But at some point somebody has to pay the bill.” It was a fresh manifestation of the GOP’s obsession with trimming government rather than building public-private partnerships for the common good.

  • Questions on Enforcing DOMA
  • The Supreme Court’s conservative bloc is aggressively asking a question: why is the Obama administration not defending the Defense of Marriage Act, even as they continue to enforce it? The Wall Street Journal reports that Chief Justice John Roberts called the move “unprecedented ” and Justice Antonin Scalia said it was a “new world” if Attorney General Eric Holder can argue a law unconstitutional while continuing to enforce it. 

    Justice Anthony Kennedy cited the controversial and “questionable” practice of presidential signing statements as an example. He said that if the president doesn’t think a law is constitutional then he shouldn’t sign it. And said the same principle perhaps in this case—meaning if the president believes the law is unconstitutional, he shouldn’t enforce it.  Under questioning, Principal Deputy Solicitor General Sri Srinivasan said he couldn’t give the court an “algorithm” on when the Justice Department would decide not to defend the law. “What is your test?“Roberts pressed according to Reuters. Paul Clement, the attorney defending the law on behalf of the GOP, told the Justices that Congress passing laws and making sure they were defended was the legislative branch’s “single most important” responsibility. 

  • Supreme Court, Obama, Syria
  • A new ABC News-Washington Post poll indicates fifty-five percent of Americans overall hold a favorable opinion of the Supreme Court, which this week is hearing arguments on gay marriage, a major civil rights issue. That’s despite some less-than-poplar recent opinions; the public is divided on the court’s ruling on health care reform in 2012 and broadly opposed its 2010 decision on political campaign financing. President Obama, for his part, is seen positively by 57 percent of Americans, near his high, 60 percent, in January. That’s despite the fact that his job approval slipped from a three-year peak of 55 percent in January to 50 percent earlier this month. The two assessments differ; the first measures basic goodwill while the latter is more performance-based.

    Quotable

    I’m dubious that just arming “nice” rebels will product the Syria that we want; it could, though, drag us in in ways we might not want. But if someone can make the case that arming secular-nation rebels increases the chances of forcing Assad and the Russians into a settlement, and defeating the Islamists rebels after Assad falls, I’m ready to listen.—Thomas L Friedman, The New York Times. 

  • Supreme Court: Rightward Shift?
  • A new Pew Research Center poll shows conservatives think the Supreme Court is a bunch of liberals, while liberals think the court is a bunch of conservatives. The Washington Post raises the question about who is right, and looks at two competing theories compiled by academics at two major universities First are the ideology scores put out by Washington University in St. Louis. The so-called Quinn—Martin scores show the court trending significantly to the right in recent years, with even its left flank being relatively middle-of-the road, relative to history. The court’s five more conservative justices, meanwhile, are clearly right-of-center, with four of them (Thomas, Scalia, Alito and Roberts) being among the most conservative justices since 1935. This suggests the court has a clear conservative majority in addition to a left-wing that isn’t all that left-wing.

    Another measure of the ideology of the Supreme Court justices comes from Michael A. Bailey at Georgetown University. While Bailey shows the court has become significantly more conservative since, for example, the 1960, he still pegs the four liberal justices as clearly to the left of the court, historically speaking. In addition, Bailey’s model actually suggest the court, while more conservative than in most of the last several decades, isn’t all that much more so than it was in the 1970s or when Sandra Day O’Connor was the swing vote in the 1990s and early 2000s He also shows the left wing not moving to the middle but getting more liberal. What both of them agree on, though, is that the swing vote in both charts, with the exception of the 1960s, has been consistently a little to the right of center. 

  • Guns Showdown: Bloomberg vs. LaPierre
  • The chief executive of the National Rifle Association said Sunday that his organization would lead a national campaign against efforts by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York to persuade Congress to adopt tougher gun restrictions. The mayor and Wayne LaPierre, said to make over a million dollars annually, appeared separately on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” on Sunday. Bloomberg, a billionaire and registered independent, said he was spending $12 million on advertising in support of pending federal legislation to curb gun violence. In response, LaPierre made the absurd suggestion that Bloomberg “can’t buy America.” Mocking Bloomberg’s campaigns against smoking and junk food the N.R.A. chief said Americans don’t want him telling Americans what they can eat, and that they certainly don’t him telling what self-defensive firearms to own.”

    Last year Bloomberg formed a “super PAC” to donate to favored candidates and causes, including gay rights and tougher gun laws. “We’re running ads around the country,” suggesting people are manning phone banks and calling. He said the focus that everything must be done to impress upon senators that is what survivors want, this is what the public wants.” LaPierre countered by saying that gun owners would make up the counterweight in mocking the mayor. “Stand up to this guy that says we can only have three bullets.” The Senate is expected to begin debate on gun legislation after it returns from a two-week break for Easter and Passover. The bill going to the Senate floor is expected to include enhanced background checks for gun buyers. LaPierre demurred, in insisting “that the whole thing, universal checks, is a dishonest premise. There’s not a bill on the Hill that provides a universal check. Criminals aren’t going to be checked.” What interests me is why LaPierre will never directly address the depth of the Newtown tragedy, choosing instead to deride Bloomberg who wants firearms with nukes on them.

  • How Bush’s Foreign Policy Revived The Democrats
  • Conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat pointed out Barack Obama didn’t just benefit from the zeal that entered the Democrat Party through the antiwar movement; he also benefited from the domestic policy vacuum left by Bush’s Iraq-ruined second term. The Bush White House’s ‘s “compassionate conservatism” was the last major Republican attempt to claim the political center—to balance traditional conservative goals on taxes and entitlement reform with more bipartisan appeals on education, health care, immigration and poverty. But once Bush’s foreign policy credibility collapsed, his domestic political capital collapsed as well.

    Douthat notes that in a similar way, even though Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney weren’t culture warriors or evangelical Christians, in the popular imagination of their legacy of incompetence has become reason to reject social conservatism as well. Just as the post-Vietnam Democrats came to be regarded as incompetent, wimpy and dangerously radical all at once, since 2004 the Bush administration’s blunders—the missing W.M.D., the botched occupation—have been woven into a larger story about Youth and Science and Reason and Diversity triumphing over Old White Male Faith-based Cluelessness. Of all the Iraq war’s consequences for our politics , it’s this narrative that may be the war’s most lasting legacy, and the most difficult for conservatives to overcome.

    Quotable

    I think about the U.N. the way that Winston Churchill thought about democracy, which he described as the worst system except for all the others.—Mary Robinson, Ireland’s first female president. 

  • Shame on Harry Reid
  • Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson slammed the Democratic majority leader for killing any prospect of any assault weapons ban. Even though President Obama spoke in his State of the Union address last month with fiery eloquence about the cost of gun violence Reid decided on Tuesday to kill a propose by Sen. Dianne Feinstein that would have banned the sale of some military assault firearms designed not for weapons of self-defense but for killing enemy soldiers in battle. Reid said he was dropping the measure-without a vote-because it would fail. “I’m not going to try to put something on the floor that won’t succeed.” His excuse was that he couldn’t even get 40 votes for Feinstein’s vote, far short of the 60 votes needed to break an anticipated GOP filibuster.

    Robinson said the answer isn’t political , it’s moral. The answer is that this is a moment not to do the expedient thing but doing the right thing.” In a dramatic moment on Thursday Vice President Joe Biden joined forces with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to spoil Reid’s easy way out by building strong support for an assault weapons ban as media support begins to build across the country. And get what has happened? Reid overnight has suddenly changed course and now will push hard in the Democratic controlled Senate to support the ban. The NRA and Republicans will fight hard to kill it. But the shocking massacre in Newtown, Conn. will never be forgotten. 

  • Assault Weapons Ban; Iraq War
  • Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who 35 years ago discovered the bullet-riddled memory of gay activist Harvey Milk has a long memory. So it was no surprise that she reacted with anger on Tuesday that gun control legislation the Senate will consider next month will not include the reinstatement of an assault weapons ban, a measure she had fought desperately to keep. At a Senate hearing last week Feinstein said that she still could not get out of her mind looking for the pulse of Milk, her colleague at the time on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and in the process “putting my fingers in a bullet hole.” With obvious disappointment Feinstein said, “My best was not good enough.” Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, told Feinstein on Monday that her assault weapons ban would not be included in the bill. As it stands, the assault weapons ban will probably still receive a vote as an amendment to the underlying package, as will a separate measure that would limit magazine sizes to 10 rounds. For my two cents plain,  pro-gun Reid has again shown a lack of courage.

    Ten Years Later

    The Iraq war still haunts the United States in the nearly 4,500 troops that died there; more than 30,000 American wounded who have come home; more than $2 trillion spent on combat operations and reconstruction, which inflated the deficit; and the lessons learned about the limits on American leadership and power, as The New York Times noted in a lead editorial. Yet none of the Bush administration’s war architects have ever been called to account for their mistakes. Even now, many are invited to speak on policy issues as if they were not responsible for one of the worst strategic blunders in American’s foreign policy. Paul Wolfowitz,the deputy defense secretary said recently he still believed the war was the right thing to do. President Obama opposed the Iraq war from the start and has been single-minded about ending it.

  • NFL and Pro Football in L.A.
  • Reluctant billionaire Phillip Anschutz now says he’s willing to talk with the NFL about a stadium in downtown Los Angeles. The NFL says it’s ready to talk to Anschutz. “I think it’s a positive that Phil Anschutz is reengaging,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said on the first day of the annual NFL owners meeting in Phoenix. He seems that he would like to get a stadium built in Los Angeles that would be suitable for an NFL team. Asked by The Los Angeles Times whether the league considers Chavez as a viable site, Goodell said: “We think it’s a viable site. There are several other viable sites in Los Angeles. All of them are on the table for us. “We want to get back to Los Angeles, but we are going to look at every alternative we have to do that successfully. With the unexplained and sudden departure of Tim Leiweike, Anschutz’s front man, who sold the local business and political communities on the concept of Farmer’s Field, the question remains if talks about the congested downtown site may ever amount to anything.

    The untold story is why The Times continues to ignore the formative presence of Ed Roski, another Los Angeles billionaire, who has been years ahead of Anschutz in pursuing a return of pro football here. He continues to quietly woo three NFL teams about moving here. He also has 500 acres of undeveloped land connecting two freeways just 19 miles east of Los Angeles in City of Industry which may increase the fan base to more local counties. The Times needs to get in the game.

  • Assessing GOP’s Terminal Illness
  • Republican National Chairman Reince Preibus dislikes the word but that’s what he labeled his four-month examination of his party’s 2012 defeat. It turns out he believes in truth in labeling. As Salon’s Joan Walsh reports, Priebus’s investigation leaves the modern GOP dismembered, its diseased vital organs cut out, their toxicity examined, and the patient lying dead on the table. Some of his recommendations are surprisingly substantive, urging the party to rethink its harsh stands on gay rights and to back comprehensive immigration reform, for instance. It’s hard to see any organized GOP constituency for such change while there’s plenty of party opposition.

    “Let’s be clear about one thing, we’re not here to rebrand a party,”Sarah Palin declared at the CPAC conference. “We’re here to rebuild a country.” Rush Limbaugh has already declared war on Priebus and his makeover plans. “The Republicans are just getting totally bamboozled right now. he told his listeners. “The Republican Party lost because it’s not conservative, it didn’t turn out it’s base. People say they need to moderate their tone—they don’t.” It’s clear Priebus is concerned that the party is perceived as the protector of the top 1 percent—because that’s what it is. The report recommends a $10 million outreach effort to Latinos, African Americans and Asians, concluding “if we want ethnic minority voters to support Republicans, we have to engage them.

    The report pledges to do more outreach to lower income voters, and help them become middle class, but since Paul Ryan’s latest budget gets two-thirds of its cuts from programs for the poor and working class, that’s going to be a hard sell. Even at CPAC, where the report endorses comprehensive immigration reform, there’s a split in the party. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a 2016 hopeful, pushes reform that includes some path to citizenship. Right-wing firebrand Ann Coulter blasted it as self-destructive, suggesting “if amnesty goes through, America becomes California and no Republican will ever win another national election.”

  • Sarah Palin’s Newest Puppet
  • The former Alaska governor and losing Republican vice presidential candidate made a sweeping pep talk at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland on Saturday, blasting President Obama and Beltway Republican candidates that are promoting traditional candidates over insurgents in Republican primaries. Palin has had success and enduring influence on upstart candidates. They include Texas Senator Ted Cruz, the Tea Party candidate who delivered the keynote address and said “Palin can pick winners.” In office only months Cruz has quickly established himself on the Republican far right. His nasty joust with Senator Dianne Feinstein last week during a Senate Judiciary committee on assault weapons made quite a bizarre impression looking forward. Palin said “the last thing we need is Washington, D.C. vetting more candidates.” In a slap at Karl Rove’s Conservative Victory Fund, she will aim to recruit more insurgent primary candidates in 2014 and 2016.

  • Francis: A Shift Away From Rome
  • The new pope is the 266th pontiff of the Catholic Church, the first from Latin America, and the first member of the Jesuit order to lead the church. “My brother cardinals have chosen one who is from away, but I am here.” The cardinals could have chosen a pope from a country in Africa or Asia where Catholic converts are plentiful and the church is vibrant. Instead,they selected a cardinal from Argentina, to the surprise of even those who had hoped for a non-European.

  • New Dawn in Roman Catholicism
  • Frank Bruni, the New York Times reporter who has been covering the cardinals to the Sistine Chapel in search of the next pope raised this question: Will the next pope chart a course of truly significant change for the church, which could certainly use some changing? The answer is in the very nature and composition of the conclave. No. Much of what has eroded the church’s authority and must be addressed is its addiction, its rejection of transparency. This dictated its botched, disastrous response to the child sexual abuse crisis. It’s the root problem with the Vatican bank. Bruni’s conclusion, based on well established precedent had, until today, been that the next pope won’t be so difference from the past two.

    Clinging to its ways, the the Roman Catholic hierarchy has outlasted other ruling classes. Despite ample turmoil, despite all the scandals. much of the world turns its gaze toward Rome this week. What Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, and his peers disregard is how many facets of the tradition they stubbornly protect reflect their predecessors’ subjective, utterly human interpretation of how God speaks and what God wants. This was implicit in an interview that one of the most prominent cardinals from the last conclave, Carlo Maria Martini of Milan, gave right before his death.  He reportedly complained that the church was two centuries behind the times. “Our rites, he added, “are pompous.”In the past hours the world has its first pope from South America - from Argentina and a Jesuit follower of Ignatius Loyola who will fight for justice and the poor. To be continued.

  • Ryan’s Make-Believe Budget
  • Four months after Republicans suffered convincing defeat in the presidential election, Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the party’s vice party-s vice presidential nominee, unveiled a spending-and-tax plan that relies on the same lightening rod proposals of his 2012 campaign to balance the budget in 10 years. One recalls that the Ryan Budget was a big Republican selling point in last year’s election. Most famously, Ryan proposed turning Medicare into a voucher program. If the plan Ryan had been enacted, the federal budget would not come into balance until 2040. As Washington Post reporter Eugene Robinson noted Republicans forgot to mention this detail in their stump speeches and campaign ads. Now Ryan, as chairman of the HOuse Budget Committee, is coming back with an ostensibly new and improved version of the framework that voters rejected in November. Judging from the preview he offered Sunday, the new plan is even less grounded in reality than was the old one. On “Fox News Sunday, Ryan said his plan assumes that the far-reaching reforms known as Obamacare will be repealed. Host Chris Wallace reacted with open disbelief: That’s not going to happen.” Asked Monday what the odds are, Robinson said “That’s a clown question.”

    Media

    The L.A. Weekly reports the latest rumor is that the far right-wing Charles and David Koch brothers, each worth about $34 billion, are considering an offer on either the Tribune Co. newspaper group, which includes The Los Angeles Times and 20 stations including KTLA Channel 5 in Los Angeles, or the entire Tribune Co. The one definitely interested party in Austin Beutner, co-founder of Evercore, a former Los Angeles deputy mayor and one-time mayoral candidate. He’s leading a group of wealthy Angelenos who would buy the Times and run it as a non-profit. The most interesting rumor remains Rupert Murdock, who owns 175 newspapers across the world, has long been obsessed with buying The Times and has a home in Los Angeles. Despite all the buzz, Murdock could be in play before year’s end.

  • Keystone Oil Pipeline Plan
  • President Obama is under increasing pressure to approve the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline even though the State Department’s latest environmental assessment makes no recommendation. Eager Republicans, joined by some Democrats in some western states, are pushing hard but the president should object for one compelling reason: he has identified climate change as one of humanity’s most pressing dangers - and even by the State Department’s most careful calculations - can only exasperate the problem. 

    The 875-pipeline avoids the route of an earlier proposal that treversed the ecologically sensitive Sand Hills of Nebraska and threatened an important aquifer. It would carry 830,000 barrels a day of crude oil from the tar sands of Alberta to pipelines in the United States and then onward to refineries on the Gulf Coast . From there, most of its fuel would be sent abroad. For all its dry language, as a New York Times opinion piece states, it fails to underestimate the damage involved: the destruction of forests that lie atop the sands and are themselves an important storehouse for carbon.

    I don’t buy the argument of pipeline supporters that this is oil from a friendly country and Canada will sell it anyway. The State Department is issuing a further review in early summer. That decision will say much about whether Obama and his secretary of state, John Kerry, are really willing to exert global pressure on the climate change issue. Speaking about global warning in his State of the Union address, Obama pledged that “if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.” 

  • Murdock and the L.A. Times
  • News Corporation’s new publishing company’s will receive a $2.6 billion infusion of cash and have no debt when it separates this summer from the company’s higher growth cable channels and Hollywood studio. On Friday a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission confirmed what analysts had expected: Rupert Murdock will make certain his beloved trove of roughly 175 newspapers will have plenty of capital once they are split off on their own. The new company, which will carry the News Corporation name, will include the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, the New York Post, The Times of London, and the Harper Collins book publishing company.

    The Tribune Company, which emerged from bankruptcy late last year, is looking for a potential buyer for its eight newspapers, including The Los Angeles Times. News Corp. executives refuse to hint at acquisitions they would like to buy, although it is well known that Murdock, who has a home in Los Angeles, has long coveted the paper. Several people with knowledge of his thinking could not discuss the News Corporation chairman publicly. My hunch is a deal will be in the the works before year’s end.
       

  • CPAC: No Longer Relevant?
  • Attendees at the annual conservative confab known as CPAC won’t get to hear from New Jersey Gov. Christ Christie or Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell because neither one was invited. One person they will see is Donald Trump. His appearance has already stoked the ire of some conservative activists like far-right Michele Malkin who declared this week that “CPAC is dead.” For a party that aspires for an even bigger tent after their losses last year, it is a curious move by the American Conservative Union to exclude some big-name governors. ACU Chairman Al Cardenas hailed Trump as an “American patriot and success story with a massive following among small government conservatives. Trump’s appearance in 2001 was under very different circumstances. “If I run and if I win,” he said in February of that year when he was still considering a presidential bid, “this country will be respected again. I can tell you that.” Whether he knows it ,or even cares, Trump has become American’s clown without portfolio.

    L.A.s Race for Mayor

    When the polls closed in Tuesdays primary election City Controller Wendi Gruel and Councilman Eric Garcetti each raised and spent more than $4 million. Both candidates have only eleven weeks to raise thousands of dollars limited to donations limited by city law to $1,000 or less. Garcetti, who finished first, spent $53 dollars for every vote he received in the primary but independent groups gave him little money. Bill Carrick, his campaign consultant, said his candidate’s success has prompted a boost in contributions. Gruel, in contrast, spend $93 and has no money in the bank. She could get quick push from independent groups that spent $2.8 million for advertising and mailers. She could suffer from her association with employee unions that are providing her with a financial advantage. A key fundraising battle will be in Hollywood where the industry has raised more than $746,000 directly to candidates, with $462,000 going to Garcetti and $226,000 to Gruel. Neither candidate yet as broken new ground in the race, recycling the same stale stuff.   

  • Cheney Fights The Old Wars Again
  • Just as rational people were beginning to consider him a relic of the past the former vice president is reemerging from the shadows. Columnist Maureen Dowd nailed it by suggesting that Dick Cheney gives certainty a black eye. In a documentary soon to appear on Showtime. “The World According to Dick Cheney,” America’s most powerful and destructive vice president woes history by growling yet again that he was right and everybody else was wrong.

    A.J.Cutler, who has done documentaries on the Clinton campaign war room and Anna Wintour’s Vogue war point room, now chronicles Cheney’s war boom. “If I had it to do over,” the 72-yeqr-old says chillingly of his reign of error, “I’d do it over in a minute.” As Dowd notes maybe if he’d paid more attention to the actual war, conducted with a phony casus belli in a country where we did not understand the culture, he wouldn’t have propelled America into two more Vietnams.

    Talking to Cutler in his deep headmaster’s monotone Cheney dispenses with the fig leaf of “we.” He no longer feigns deference to W., whom he now disdains for favoring Condi over him in the second term, and for not pardoning “Cheny’s Cheny,” Scooter Libby. The documentary reveals the lengths Cheney went to in order to in order to manipulate the unprepared Bush. Vice had learned turf fighting from a maniacal master of the arts, his mentor Donald Rumsfeld.   

  • Roger Mahony in Rome
  • The Los Angeles Cardinal, in the Vatican for talks ahead of a conclave to elect a new pope to succeed Pope Benedict, has defended his record on sexual abuse in the church. But he has refused interviews in recent months with the Los Angeles Times. Instead, in an interview with Corriere della Sera, “that after 20 years. people are talking about abuse as if we have done nothing,“he told the Italian newspaper. “However, since 2002, we have had our program Protecting the Children, in which we illustrate procedures and guidelines of our zero-tolerance program of our zero-tolerance program policy that allows no possibility, for example, of anyone found guilty of abuse of minors working for the diocese.”

    Mahony described his approach to abuse in earlier years, saying: “I did not understand the real nature of the problem, that abuse who commit abuse—not only in the church—continue to commit their crimes. These things were not so well understood then as they are now.” He went on to say “My rather painful mistake was not to apply the work of the Sexual Abuse Advisory Board of Los Angeles, established in 1994 , to previous cases. I was more focused on new cases. “It was an error I completely rectified in 2002.”

    The cardinal made a point of saying that he would seek to share his experience of tackling abuse with fellow cardinals attending the conclave. It is unlikely he will get any hearing based on new information about prelates hiding the misdeeds of pedophile priests which has taken a toll. A new New York Times/ CBS News poll reports a higher persentage of Catholics said the pope and the Vatican had done a poor job of handling past sexual abuse recently. During Mahony’s long tenure the Los Angeles County district attorney’s never made any serious effort to call him before a special grand jury. It was a major blunder.


     

  • Rick Perry Under Fire
  • Texas Gov. Rick Perry is under intense pressure from hundreds of uninsured Texans today to switch his stance on expanding Medicare, a major provision of President Obama’s health care overhaul. It’s a comedown from his position last July when he wrote that he stood with a growing chorus of Republican governors “who reject the growing Obamacare power grab.” 

    That chorus has diminished in recent weeks when several Republican governors—including Chris Christie of New Jersey and Rick Scott of Florida—said they would accept federal money to expand the program. Texas has the highest rate of uninsured residents of any state. 24 percent of the population. Supporters said the Medicade expansion would provide provide coverage to more than one million lower income Texas and ease the burden on local taxpayers.

    A spokeswoman for Perry said the governor’s position has not changed, saying that it would be irresponsible to add more Texans and dump more taxpayers into a broken and unsustainable system that already consumes a quarter of our budget.” 

  • How Obama Missed The Boat
  • It’s hard to imagine but it took a daredevil HBO executive to figure out a way to get his country into North Korea. Michael Lombardo, a partner in the Brooklyn media firm, planned a trip to the secretive kingdom by setting up a exhibition between with former NBA star Dennis Rodman and three members of the Harlem Globetrotters in a game last week in Pyongyang.

    What’s amazing is that the idea totally escaped President Obama and the State Department as a way to open a dialogue with Kim Jong-un. Secretary of State John Kerry has some homework to do.

February

  • Why Hagel Wiil Be Confirmed
  • Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked a vote to confirm Sen. Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense, arguing that Democrats were trying to rush a choice that they think needed more time to consider. In a 58-to-40 vote that broke down almost strictly along partisan lines Democrats said the Republican position amounted to a historic filibuster of a nominee that is usually filled by nonpartisan support. Democrats vowed to hold another vote when the Senate returns from recess. All signs indicated that many Republicans who voted against Hagel on Thursday would not do so then. Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, in office only weeks, led the vicious attack on Hegel, suggesting he was cozy with Iran, reminiscent of the late Republican Sen. Joe McCarthy’s 1954 attacks on Joseph Welch during the Army hearings.

    Rand vs. Brennan

    It’s been a busy 24 hours for Rand Paul. First, ABC noted the Kentucky Republican delivered the “tea party response” to President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night, webcast by the group Tea Party Express. On Wednesday, Paul said he’ll block the nomination of John Brennan, Obama’s nomination to head the Central Intelligence Agency, until Brennan says he believes the president has the authority to kill Americans on American soil. “I have asked Brennan if he believed that the President has the power to authorize to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on American soil, and my question remains unanswered. Brennan came before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week at a sensitive time for the U.S. Intelligence community, after the revelation that Obama’s Office of Legal Counsel had advised that’s O.K. to kill American citizens without any judicial proceedings.

    Quotable

    “Make no mistake: Republicans are trying to defeat Senator Hagel’s nomination by filibustering while submitting extraneous requests that will never be satisfied.”—Majority Leader Harry Reid, adding “I’m sorry for the president, I’m sorry for the country, and I’m sorry for you. But we’re not going to give up.”

    According to the Senate’s historian, Donald A. Ritchie, only five percent of presidential cabinet nominees have been blocked or rejected by the Senate. And only twice since 1917, when the Senate’s modern filibuster rules were created, has a cabinet-level nominee been subject to a supermajority vote of 60, as Republicans are forcing with Hagel.

    Following the Postal Service’s announcement that it will end Saturday mail delivery come August, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs met Wednesday to chew over possible solutions to the financial difficulties facing the U.S. Postal Service, ABC reported. 
                                                                           

  • Obama vs. Rubio: New Tea Party Star
  • Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night vowed to lift the economy for the middle class, calling on Congress to seek a higher minimum wage and aggressive action on immigrants, climate and guns. Speaking to a divided Congress, with many Republicans still smarting from his November victory, the president declared, “Together, we have cleared away the rubble of crisis, and say with renewed confidence that the state of our union is stronger.” Republicans quickly rejected the president’s activist approach, saying it would inevitably translate into higher taxes and an overweening government role, strangling economic growth and deepening the nation’s fiscal hole. Still, in selecting tea party favorite Sen. Mario Rubio, a Cuban-American from Florida to deliver the party’s official rebuff, the GOP implicated acknowledged the damage they had suffered at the polls from their hard line stance on immigration. He took the unprecedented step for the party of speaking in both English and Spanish to reach Latino voters which the party ignored in November. Rubio favors overhauling immigration laws, although he did not mention it on Tuesday. Instead, he complained that Obama’s “solution to virtually every problem we face is for Washington to tax more, spend more, and spend more.” Rubio has since edged away from the conservative movement as he settles in Washington. That left Sen. Rand of Kentucky, also a tea party favorite, to deliver his response to the president who took aim at both parties. He broke with Rubio on one major point— defense cuts. Congress is currently trying to head off the so-called sequestration, which would slash half a trillion dollars from the Pentagon. Republicans want to stop it, but Rand Paul doesn’t. 

    Quotable

    Right now, Marco is like a paper doll, trying on different outfits of style and substance as the party oohs and aahs. As Nicolle Wallace, former adviser to Sarah Palin, gushed to George Stephanopoulos, “He’s modern. He knows who Tupac is. He is on social media.—Maureen Dowd, in the New York Times about The Rap on Rubio.                                 

  • Rubio’s First Big Test
  • DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Shultz told reporters in a Monday conference call that Republicans—Marco Rubio specifically, and the majority of both Senate and House Republicans—that we should turn Medicare into a voucher program—that Medicare is not a program that’s worth preserving as the safety net it’s been more that 40 years. It was a pre-buttal to Rubio, who will deliver the official response to President Obama’s address, what the very differences that the President and Democrats have …and the voting records of Senator Rubio.

    As The Hill noted Rubio has been everywhere in the past few weeks, leads in the 2016 GOP field, and the conventional wisdom is that he’s a lock to run for president. He’s become the bipartisan Senate proposal’s chief spokesman for his party’s conservative base, a risky position to take. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is almost certain in run, his growing family is an issue, and he is not wealthy. While Rubio has led in early polls for 2016, he is not a lock for the nomination and more a babe in toy land in a face off with Hillary Clinton who beats him 49-41 in Democratic polls, even in such red states as Texas and Kentucky. My take: Rubio is too young and inexperienced to run now. At least he’s no longer promoting the myth that his parents fled to the U.S. to escape Fidel Castro.

  • Tea Party: ‘Suicide Conservatives’
  • Charles M. Blow, the New York Times columnist, said there used to be a political truism: Democrats fall in love, while Republicans fall in line.” It’s no longer true. Democrats have learned to fall in love and fall in love. Republicans are just falling apart. A nasty civil war between establishment Republicans and Tea Party supporters was triggered when Karl Rove began backing a new group, The Conservative Victory Project. His goal is counter the Tea Party’s selection of poor congressional candidates who lose general elections.

    Sal Russo, a longtime California politico operative and now a Tea Party strategist, told Politico: “We discourage our people from supporting third-party candidates by saying “that it’s a big mistake. We shouldn’t do that.” He added, “But if the position [Rove’s allies] take is rule over ruin—well two guys can play that game. And we get pushed. We’re not going to be able to keep the lid on that.” 

    The question arises for Republicans as to how they can sell this message to a public that has rejected it in the last two presidential elections. Several different Republicans, many possible contenders in 2016, have been trying a new and softer approach. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal chastised his party for being “the stupid party,” and Sen. Marco Rubio is working for an immigration proposal that would offer a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants in this country.

    The Tea Party crowd is not pleased with that plan. Glenn Beck, the self-described “rodeo clown” of the right said: “”You’ve got John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and now Marco Rubio joining them because Rubio just has to win elections. “I’ve done. I’ve done. Learn the Constitution. Somebody has to keep a remnant of the Constitution alive.” The Pew Research Center reported in January that the zealots have a chokehold on that party, and they’re sucking the life –and common sense out of it.

    Quotations

    LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and his predecessor as chief, William Bratton, have gone a long way toward repairing relations between the black and Latino communities in Los Angeles. “But old suspicions die hard.”—Joe Dominic, a professor at USC’s Annenberg Institute for Justice and Journalism.

    “I think it is favor to say we were very lucky.”—Mayor Michael R. Blumberg on the storm’s effect onNew York City.

  • Rubio Gets The Call
  • Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, will deliver the Republican response to the president’s State of the Union address on Feb. 12. It’s now clear that the nation is in the midst of a Rubio moment, raising intense speculation about a 2016 presidential bid even as Republicans consider how to broaden their appeal to Hispanic voters. On Thursday he was the subject of a Time Magazine cover treatment with the headline that reads, “The Republican Savior” During the day Rubio responded to the newest burst of attention on Twitter One issue that will not endear him to Republican moderates, and certainly not Democrats, is that he is a Tea Party stalwart.

    Women and Guns

    From a historical prospective women don’t usually vote in midterm elections—the same women who generally drive Democratic victories—will turn out in 2014 over the issue of guns, according to a recent poll. The survey released by Women Donor’s Network, a self-described progressive “community of women philanthropists,” found that a subset of women voters who usually don’t vote in mid-tern elections are more likely to vote in 2014 on the issue of gun violence. A former Republican congressman from Ohio, now a militant moderate leader in the Republican Party, cautioned his party against sticking too close to the National Rifle Association in the post Newtown legislative push to reduce gun violence. The survey by a Democratic and Republican pollster using live phonecalls to 1,500 women, found that “women who may not ordinarily vote in non-presidential years are among those must engaged with issues of gun violence. Democratic pollster Diane Feldman said “You’re not talking about older white men being the electorate who drops off in off-years, she said. “We have far more capacity to motivate our base to participate in an unusual way than they do, she said.


    Poster Boy No More

    Dick Morris opened up about his departure from Fox News in an interview with CNN Wednesday night, telling Piers Morgan, “I was wrong and I was wrong at the top of my lungs.” Morris said he doesn’t resent the decision for Fox News to terminate him. “Look, Fox has given me the opportunity of a lifetime. Fifteen years, 3000 interviews, and at some point a great marriage has come to an end.” Morris, a former Democrat, was a former adviser to Bill Clinton on his road to the White House. Today, he’s a sad, burnt out political case who no longer has to pretend that he’s a poster boy..

  • India, China and Egypt
  • In New Delhi, Thomas L. Friedman is comparing India without someone asking you to compare it to China. This visit is no exception, but I think it is more revealing to widen the aperture and compare India, China and Egypt. India has a weak central government but a really strong civic society, bubbling with elections and associations at every level. China has a muscular central government but a weak civil society, yet one that is clearly straining to express itself. Egypt, alas, has a weak government and a very weak civil society, one that was suppressed for 50 years, denied real elections, and therefore easy prey to have its revolution diverted by one group that could organize, in the one free space, the mosque. Friedman cites Gurcharan Das, the former CEO of Proctor & Gamble India, whose latest book is “India Grows at Night: A Liberal Case for a Strong State” as an aspirational state which has no one to vote for, because no one is talking the language of public goods. That is what Das means by India grows at night, when government sleeps. “But India must learn to grow by day, “he said. “But if India fixes its governance before China fixes its politics that is who will win.” A stunning thesis, but one that could shape the world in the future.

    Perry vs. Brown

    One day after Texas Gov. Rick Perry released a radio ad in California criticizing the Golden State’s business climate an encouraging businesses to relocate in Texas, California Gov. Jerry Brown said the Perry’s campaign is “barely a fart.” “It’s not serious, guys,” the Democratic governor told reporters at a business event. “It’s not a burp. It’s barely a fart.”

  • A Filibuster That Failed
  • The filibuster against the nomination of Chuck Hagel has blown up despite the frantic one-man effort by Sen. Lindsay Graham to convince President Obama that he is wrong for the job as secretary of defense. Notably, Graham’s buddy, Sen. John McCain and other Republican senators like Sen. Roy Blount of Missouri, oppose the filibuster, moving the domination much closer toward approval. McCain and others cannot stop a single senator from blocking Hagel’s nomination from coming in an up-or-down vote, but his statement declared what other Republican aides said Friday: In the event of a filibuster, Hagel almost certainly will have 60 votes. The Senate Armed Services Committee is expect to send the confirmation to the full Senate on Thursday, most likely along partisan lines. The 53 Democrats, along with Republican senators Mike Johanns of Nebraska and Thad Cochran of Mississippi are for Hagel, and it became apparent Monday that Republicans lack the stomach for a fight. Only right-wing Republicans Sen. John Cornyn and incoming Sen. Ted Cruz, both from Texas, said they would not take any option off the table. Here’s the reality—Hagel is on his way to the Defense Department.

    Convenient Morality

    The New York Times’s Frank Bruni wrote about Catholic officials who pick and choose when laws apply to them. So a fetus matters more than the ravaged psyche of a raped adolescent? And Sister Margaret McBride deserved a sharper rebuke than a rapist. It’s hard not to conclude that the church run by men shows them more mercy than it does a women (or for that matter, children.) And it’s hard to keep tack: just when the church of this world, and when not? It inserts itself into political debates trying to shape legislation to its ethics. But it also demands exemptions: from taxes, from accountability, from health care directives. Bruni also called attention to the court-ordered release of documents from the Los Angeles Archdiocese, which indicated a willful blindness and outright cover-up so egregious that the current archbishop, Jose Gomez, took the shocking step last week of publicly reprimanding his predecessor, Cardinal Roger Mahony, for failing to report to law enforcement for years s charges of child abuse by priests.

  • Too Far Right To Win?
  • The biggest donors in the Republican Party are speaking out and recruiting a new group of seasoned candidates and protect Senate incumbents from far-right conservatives and Tea Party enthusiasts who Republican leaders fret could complicate the party’s effort to win control of the Senate. The group, The Conservative Victory Project, has an objective—to counter organizations that have helped defeat establishment Republicans over the last two election cycles. 

    The first test of the group’s effort to influence primary races could come in Iowa, where some Republicans are worrying about who will run for the seat being vacated by Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat, and the first open seat in Iowa since 1974, and Republicans are fearful of squandering a rare opportunity.

    The Conservative Victory Project, which is backed by Karl Rove and his allies who built American Crossroads into the largest Republican super PAC of the 2012 election cycle, will begin intensely vetting prospective contenders for Congressional races and weed out candidates who are too flawed to win a general elections. Steven J. Law, the president of American Crossroads, will call for hard-edged campaign tactics, including television and advertising, to weed out candidates seen as unelectable like winning a Senate seat in Iowa.

    “Our approach will be to institutionalize the Buckley Rule: Support the most conservative candidate who can win.” But by imposing the rule of conservative William F. Buckley, the group could run afoul of Ronald Reagan’s “11th Commandment” to not speak ill of a fellow Republican”

    Window on Fraud

    As history has shown, the financial industry’s wealth and influence can all too easily turn those who are supposed to serve as watchdogs into lap dogs instead. But, as Paul Krugman writes in The New York Times, there was, however, one piece of the reform that was a shining example of how to do it right: the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a stand-alone agency with its own funding, charged with protecting consumers against financial fraud and abuse. And, sure enough, Senate Republicans are going all out in an attempt to kill that bureau. You may wonder why consumer financial protection is necessary. Because fraud and abuse happen.

  • Hagel Confirmation
  • Amy Davidson, writing in The New Yorker, asked Sen. Joe Manchin (D. West Virginia) to describe how Chuck Hagel ended up in Vietnam after joining the infantry in 1967. He was assigned to a select and secret team that was trained to use shoulder-fired-hear-seeking missiles and was about to be sent to Germany. “And so I just decided, if I was going to be in the military, it didn’t make sense to go to Germany “ Hagel said. So he asked to be sent to Vietnam. Sunday on ‘Meet the Press’ conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks made the bizarre suggestion that, despite his support for Israel and a consensus that he had not done well in the Congressional hearings, Hagel should have a sit down on the subject with President Obama. That won’t happen and, despite vicious grilling by John McCain and Lindsay Graham, there are enough Democrats, including a handful of rational Republicans, to confirm Hagel as secretary of defense. The Marine Corps Times, in a piece, described how Hagel would be the first enlisted man to serve in the position.

    Quotable

    Moderate Republican columnist Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal on freshman Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas: Mr. Cruz was, alas, less impressive this week on the subject of Chuck Hagel, whom he charged with a lack of sympathy for the military. Really? Hagel was sympathetic enough to volunteer for Vietnam, where he won two Purple hearts.  Does Cruz have a comparable record. Then maybe some due respect is in order. My take is Cruz may be a carbon-copy of the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy who in 1954 conducted which suggested that the Army was protecting alleged communists.

    “Mr. Koch is survived by New York itself.—New York Times who was a three-term mayor. 

    “The city needed hope, it needed a champion, it needed a voice. Ed Koch became that voice.—Mitchell Moss, a professor of urban policy at New York University.

  • Destroying Chuck Hagel
  • President Obama’s nominee for secretary of defense came under bizarre attack from conservative Republicans at his Senate confirmation, notably from his old friend, Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who is still smoldering about their break over the Iraq war. Hagel, 66, a former senator from Nebraska, and a decorated Vietnam veteran who would be the first former enlisted soldier to be secretary of defense. He was attacked by Sen. Lindsey Graham on being intimated by the Israeli-Jewish lobby; Sen. Deb Fisher for extreme views and being “too far left from this administration;” and Sen. Ted Cruz from giving an interview to Al Jazeera in 2009. Hagel was savaged in his exchange with McCain, close friends when both served in the Senator until Hagel’s views on the Iraq war caused a split in 2008. McCain demanded to know whether Hagel was right or wrong in opposing the serge in American armed forces when he was in the Senate. Hagel’s views frequently echoed the policies of the departing defense secretary Leon E. Panetta and at several points used identical phrasing.

    Bill Maher Responds

    The liberal comic blasted tea partier Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), taking the freshman senator to task for attacking Chuck Hagel and John Kerry—whom Maher noted won their medals before Cruz was even born. His take on Cruz: He is the newly minted, teabag-endorsed, junior senator from Texas. He questioned why Cruz was doing “eye-rolls” at Kerry and Hagel after being in the Senate for a month.

    Public Corruption

    The Los Angeles Times has published an internal memo from Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca saying he will no longer accept campaign contributions from department employees. Baca said other sheriff’s managers who hold outside elected office would be barred from making employment decisions affecting employees who have donated to their campaigns. The sheriff’s memo said that “Nothing less than the public’s trust is at stake.” Baca and his second in command, Paul Tanaka, who is also mayor of Gardena, have over the years accepted thousands of dollars in contributions from department employees. His predecessor, the highly respected late Sherman Block, would never have tolerated such a practice before since Baca took office 13 years ago. A 2006 Times analysis, according to a report last year found that of the sheriff’s managers who gave to Baca, 73% received promotions, while those who did not contribute, 26% received promotions. This is a corrupt practice which the Board of Supervisors must investigate and condemn.

January

  • “Yes You Can” and “Yes You Must”
  • Thomas L. Friedman, perhaps the most prescient writer about the annals of American politics today, wrote in the New York Times on Wednesday that he hopes in his second term President Obama will be able to devote more attention to the Great Inflection—not about the Great Recession which was largely about “Yes We Can”—about government, about what we can and must do “together” to shore up the safety nets and institutions our society and economy.

    What Friedman means about the Great Inflection is that something very big happened in the last decade. The world went from connected to hyperconnected in a way that is impacting every job, industry and school, but was largely disguised by post 9/11 and the Great Recession. In 2004, I wrote a book called “The World is Flat,” about how the world was getting digitally connected so more people could compete, connect and collaborate from anywhere.  collaborate from anywhere.

    When I wrote that book, Facebook, Twitter, cloud computing, Linkedin, 4G wireless, ultra-high-speed bandwidth, big data, Skype, system-on-a-hip (SOC) circuits, iPods, iPhones, iPads and other cellphone apps didn’t exist, or were in their infancy. Today, not only do all these things exist, but in combination, Government can and must help, but the president needs to explain that this won’t just be an era of “Yes We Can.” It will also an era of “Yes You Can,” and “Yes You Must.”

    Chatter

    Speculation on Ray LaHood’s replacement as President Obama’s Transportation secretary is focusing on a group of former transportation officials and 2012 presidential Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has been at the top of the list based on his visible role in pushing Congress to approve a $105 billion surface transportation bill last year. Obama has come under fire with his recent appointments of the secretaries of State, Defense and Treasury and the head of the CIA –all white men. A pair of former female governors who were surrogates for his 2012 campaign—former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and former Washington state Gov. Christine Gregoire who’s also mentioned as administrator for the EPA.

    Read ‘em and Weep

    “No we’d better do an MRI, we’d better do this, we’d better do that, retiring Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said of her recent illness, calling herself lucky.

    “Speaking is difficult but I need to say something important,” Giffords said in halting language as the packed hearing room hung on every word. “Too many children are dying. We must do something.”

    Ex.Rep. Gabriella Giffords (D-Ariz.) shook up the gun-control debate Wednesday with a stunning appearance at a Senate hearing on gun violence no more than two years ago after she was gravely wounded in a shooting rampage which led to her early retirement. 

  • Hillary: Leaving The Door Open
  • The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Hillary Rodham Clinton said she is “not inclined” to run for president in 2016 but left the door open for what is widely considered her likely return to politics after she steps down as secretary of state. Clinton, who steps down Friday. “I’m not thinking about anything like that t right now. I’m looking forward to finishing up my tenure as secretary of state and then catching up on about 20 years of sleep deprivation.” Clinton is also one of the world’s most admired and is the object of intense speculation about her future. Plenty of people are eager to see her run. A super PAC supporting Clinton for president in 2016, Ready for Hillary, was registered with the Federal Election Commission last Friday. In his harshest comments to date, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Monday on Fox News that he thinks Clinton “got away with murder” for failing to protect diplomats in danger. “I haven’t forgotten about Benghazi.” At least Sen. John McCain, Graham’s sidekick, had the decency to move on. 

    Lost in the Wilderness

    Republicans shouldn’t’ worry about President Obama trying to destroy the GOP. As the Post’s Eugene Robinson noted, the party’s leaders are doing a pretty good job of it themselves. House Speaker John Boehner told the Ripon Society that Obama is trying to annihilate the Republican Party.” Rep. Paul Ryan, the party’s fiscal guru and a failed vice presidential candidate, claimed Sunday on “Meet the Press” that Obama seeks “political conquest’ of the GOP. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, one of the party’s bright young stars, said, “We’ve got to stop being stupid. We’ve got to stop insulting the intelligence of voters.”

    Quotable

    Governors and legislatures are trying to exert more influence on state colleges, often trying to prod the schools to save money, matters that some say are “arguably best left to the academic institution,” said John Aubrey Douglass, a senior research fellow of public policy and higher education at UC Berkeley. “The old days of the social compact with the state is gone,” Douglass said. “It seems clear that it will not come back.” Gov. Jerry Brown has his work cut out.

    Four years ago yesterday, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. It was opposed by all but 8 Congressional Republicans. 

  • Why 44 Picked Hagel
  • In the first months of the Obama presidency in 2009, Chuck Hagel, who had just finished two terms as a U.S. senator, visited the White House to visit the friend he had made during the four years they overlapped in the Senate. The President asked him what he thought about foreign policy and defense issues. According to the account that Hagel gave later—which Bob Woodard reported in The Washington Post for the first time Monday—Hagel told Obama “We are at a time when there is a new world order. We don’t control it. You must question everything, every assumption, everything they”—the military and diplomats—“tell you. Any assumption 10 years old is out of date. You need to question our role. You need to question the military. You need to question what we are using the military for. The two share similar views and philosophies as Obama attempts to define the role of the United States in the transition to a post-superpower world. So, this thinking goes, the U.S. role in the world mist be carefully scaled back—this is not a matter of choice but facing reality. The bottom line: The United States must get out of these massive land wars—Iraq and Afghanistan—and, if possible, avoid future large-scale war.

    Palin: Old News

    It turns out that Fox News made a limited effort to keep Sarah Palin before she decided to part ways where she held forth as a commentator over the past three years.
    She was paid an annual salary of a million dollars, and Fox even build her a studio in her Wasilla home. A study found that she made $15.85 per word, according to the University of Minnesota’s Smart Politics published Monday. Palin’s star has faded and she was no longer the rock star of 2008. And Fox has moved a little closer to the center after presidential defeats by John McCain and Mitt Romney. The political climate has also shifted, with the Republican future involving the likes of Mario Rubio, Chris Christie and Paul Ran but not Palin. She has a passionate following among some conservatives but she will have to build a new brand without the Fox platform. 

    Quotable

    In its range, learning and appetite for fun, Bernard Kalb, the former CBS reporter and Karnow’s friend since Vietnam, told the Associated Press in 2009, the memoir was vintage Karnow. “Stanley had a great line about being a journalist is like being an adolescent all your life.”—Stanley Karnow, a Pulitzer Prize winning historian and journalist, who produced acclaimed books and television documentaries about Vietnam, at 87.

    In deep red states like Louisiana or Kansas, Republicans are much freer to act on their beliefs—which mean moving strongly to comfort the comfortable while afflicting the afflicted. This brings me back to Mr. Jindal, who declared in his speech that “we are a populist party.” No. you aren’t. You’re a party that holds a larger portion of Americans in contempt. And the public may have figured that out.”—Paul Krugman, New York Times.

  • Nieman Journalism Lab
  • With The Tribune now out of bankruptcy the question is whether the newspapers will now be sold as a group or separately? Combining print/digital operations, though, as the Sun-Times could do in Chicago or several buyers could do in L.A., is right in line with one of the dailies’ prime strategies of the day: cost-cutting. Expect synergy-seeking buyers. Though their market value is historically tiny, the Times, Tribune and Sun are iconic, and all six retain community sway far beyond their profits. For the right buyer, that’s worth money. Rupert Murdoch, with the most money, and a home in Los Angeles, has long coveted ownership of the Times. Expect some movement before year’s end.

    GOP Mulls Obama Playbook

    Republican leaders met last week in North Carolina to consider how to rebuild a chattered party. “We need to get people organized and learn from what Obama did,” former national party chairman Mike Duncan who now represents Kentucky on the committee. Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. “We need to recalibrate the compass of conservatism.” Tensions remain high among the Tea Party movement, the Republican establishment and other segments of the party.

    Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, who competed with Mitt Romney for the Republican presidential nomination, said that the party had been “outmaneuvered” by the Obama campaign and that its ideas were not creative enough. “A lot of Republicans, frankly, spent the last two years saying, ‘Oh, gee, because after Obama loses we’ll all work for the new Republican president. “Well, that world ain’t there, so now they have to make adjustments. They have to understand that this is a different game.”

    Quotable

    Prominent deficit scolds can no longer count on being treated as if their wisdom, probity and public-spiritedness were beyond question. But what difference will it make? Sad to say, G.O.P. control of the House means that we won’t do what we should be doing: spend more, not less, until the recovery is complete.—Economist Paul Krugman, The New York Times.                                                     

  • Hillary In 2016?
  • Steve Kornacki writes about politics for Salon, and his piece about Hillary Clinton’s hours of testimony before both Senate and House committees about how she masterfully handled it. One wonders, after four years as Secretary of State, just the idea of running for president in 2016 may eventually become quite appealing. Take John McCain for example. He praised her for outstanding and dedicated service to the country, the kind of bipartisan warmth that was her hallmark during Obama’s first term in office. But then McCain switched gears and told Clinton that the answers, frankly, that “you have given this morning are not satisfactory to me.” Republicans pushed about whether the Benghazi attack was a cover-up or might still be—afoot. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said that if he were president I would have relieved her of her duties.” Clinton, if she decides to run, will be the early frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. But she’s got lots of time to make that decision.

    Quotable

    “Perhaps he is being vague because he hasn’t entirely shut the door on running for office again. He says that “The Future” is not “a manifesto intended to lay the groundwork for some future political campaign,” but he also repeats a joke he’s used in the past that deflects but does not entirely smother the possibility of running again: “I am a recovering politician and the chances of a relapse have been diminishing for long enough to increase my confidence that I will not succumb to that temptation again.”—Michiko Kakutani, reviewing Al Gore’s new book in The New York Times.

  • Congressional Battle Over Gun Rights Nears
  • Wayne LaPierre, the executive director of the National Rifle Association, accused President Obama on Tuesday of demonizing law-abiding gun owners and suggesting that he wants to put “every private personal firearms transaction under the thumb of the federal government.” LaPierre when on to say that “the president should use caution when attacking clearly defined absolutes in favor of his principles.” The debate is certain to begin soon as Obama’s allies in Congress formally introduce legislation seeking a ban on assault weapons. Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader and a supporter of gun rights, said he would not stand in the way of bringing such legislation to the floor of the Senate.

    Briefs: Chatter, with the senate seat in Massachusetts about to open up, there is talk about Victoria Reggie Kennedy, Sen. Kennedy’s widow, filling the seat on a temporary basis. …House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan is drafting a 10-year budget by the April 15 deadline. He hopes this week’s agreement helps spur action by his Senate counterparts to do the same….Looks like either Illinois AG Lisa Madigan or Bill Daley will challenge Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn in 2014 primary….ABC’s George Stephanopoulos said in an interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly that the country has decided that they basically like the reforms that were first put in place by Franklin Roosevelt in 1933. They like Social Security, they like Medicare. They think these programs have made a difference.

    Quotable

    “You can take specific things he said that you agree with, emphasize those, and take the things that you don’t agree with and propose alternatives.—Newt Gingrich, the last Republican speaker to face a re-elected president.

    “We clearly have this moment where we can get immigration done. If we don’t get it done, then shame on us. We’ve got to seize this opportunity.—David Plouffe, senior adviser to President Obama. 

  • Harsh Criticism From Far Right
  • Americans for a Strong Defense, a group devoted to crushing former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel’s nomination as the next Secretary of Defense, has announced multi-state television advertising. The ad notes the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea, as the narrator says: “Barack Obama’s nominee for Secretary of State wants America to back down. And end to our nuclear program. Devastating defense cuts. The ads call on Senators to stay no to Chuck Hagel—before its too late. The advertisements will air on broadcast and cable television in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana and North Carolina. The odds in recent weeks suggest that despite tough questions by conservative Republicans Hagel is a strong favorite to be confirmed by the Senate.

    Speech ‘Harshly Ideological’

    The conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity and a big player during the 2010 election cycle, responded negatively to Obama’s second inaugural address. “For generations, presidents have used inaugural addresses to unite the nation by reaffirming our democratic traditions and touching on broad aspiration themes. Disappointingly, the president chose to deliver an aggressively partisan speech more appropriate for the campaign trail than for a solemn occasion. His address read like a laundry list with global warning at the top. Tim Phillips, the group’s president, said Americans will reject environmental extremism again as they have in the past.

    Quotable

    “The President’s second-term represents a fresh start when it comes to dealing with the great challenges of our day, particularly, the transcendental challenge of unsustainable federal spending and debt. Republicans are eager to work with the President on achieving this common goal.”—Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), finally walking away from the GOP’s top goal of making Obama a one-term president.

    Obama’s progressive doctrine: “My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it—as long as we seize it together,” he declared. That word “together” appeared seven times in his speech. He used the phrase, “we the people” five times. Notably, the president said “our time” five times.

    Vice President Joe Biden, kicking off a second term Monday, could be gearing up for another run at the presidency fairly soon. Over Inauguration Weekend, Biden squeezed in some time with leaders from three background states—Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

  • Climate Change: 44’s Second-Term Priority
  • President Obama made addressing climate change the most prominent policy vow of his second inaugural address on Monday, setting in motion what Democrats say will be a deliberately paced but aggressive campaign built around the use of his executive powers to sidestep Congressional opposition. “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that failure to do so would betray our children and future generations, Obama said, using eight full sentences on the subject, more than he devoted to any other specific area. The central focus he gave to the subject seemed to put to rest whether he considered it a realistic second–term priority. He gave scant attention to the subject during the campaign and has delivered a mixed message about its importance since the campaign, having extensively studied the lessons of his first term. This time, Obama suggested, the White House plans to sidestep a fight and instead focus on what it can do administratively to reduce omissions from power plants, increase the efficiency of home appliances and have the federal government itself produce less carbon. It’s a far cry from Obama’s 2008 pledge to heal the planet and a reflection of recalibrated strategy—and more realistic expectations as he embarks on his second term. The centerpiece will be the Environmental Protection Agency to clamp down further on emissions from coal-burning power plants under regulations still being drafted and likely to draw legal challenges. The Pentagon, one of the country’s largest energy users, is also moving toward cutting use and converting to renewal fuels. Obama’s aides are planning these steps in conjunction with a national campaign to build public support and head off political opposition in a way that the administration did not use in his first term. But the White House has cautioned environment activists not to expect full-scale engagement while Congress remains dealing with guns, immigration and the budget.

    Quotable

    “I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment…when the rise of oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.—June 2008 when Barack Obama accepted the Democratic presidential nomination in St. Paul.

    “This is the neocons’ worst nightmare because you’ve got a combat soldier, successful businessman and senator who actually think there may be other ways to resolve some questions other than force.”—Richard L. Armitage, who broke with the more hawkish members of the Bush team during the Iraq war when he was deputy to Secretary of State Colin Powell.—William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, who championed the Iraq invasion and is leading the opposition to former Republican senator Chuck Hagel’s nomination as secretary of defense.

  • One Helluva Time
  • Four years ago, on the eve of Barack Obama’s inauguration, The New York Times Magazine devoted nearly an entire issue to a photo essay, “Obama’s People”. The photographs, 52 of them, depicted a team arriving on a wave of hope despite inheriting an economy in trouble, a collapsing auto industry, two wars and a continuing terrorist threat. Roughly half the people in the photo essay are gone, some bitter because of the realities or cast aside by a president cutting losses. The hope of 2009 has faded into the starker realism of 2003. Times’ reporter Peter Baker said that the first term team learned a humbling lesson in Washington realpolitik, but they remember it more as a great episode of “The West Wing.” Vice President Joe Biden shows up seven times with the some compelling comments. He said that he advised against the raid on a house in Pakistan which was supposedly Osma bin Laden’s hideaway. “I remember walking up to Obama’s office and saving, “Look, follow your instincts, follow your instincts,” and him coming down the next morning to say,” Go.”   

    Briefs

    Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o will be interviewed Thursday on ABC by Katie Couric, the first on-camera interview given by the All-American since news broke last week about the dead girlfriend hoax….Arnold Schwarzenegger’s comeback flops. His stature has been diminished by age (he’s now a 65-year-old action star). Lion gate’s “The Last Stand” opened over the weekend to just $6.3 million, taking 10th place at the box office, a reminder that his 1993 “The Last Action Hero,” famously bombed….After Alabama crushed Notre Dame for the national championship on Jan.7, a Web site called Real Southern Men explained the significance in terms of regional defiance: Football matters here, because it is symbolic of the fight we all have. That defiance, as The New Yorker reported, is a sure sign, like Gov. Rick Perry’s loose talk about Texas seceding, that Southernization has run its course.

    Quotable

    The governor doesn’t have the president’s public magnetism. But Cuomo, who devotes a lot of time to wining, dining and wheedling legislators, is far more deft at carrots, sticks and baby talk than President Obama. It’s a fascinating –and open—question about whether those skills could work the same way to jolt comatose Washington.—Maureen Dowd, The New York Times.

     

  • Biden’s Political Capital
  • IN an interview The New York Times Magazine published Wednesday, Vice President Joe Biden reflected on his feelings about the vice pr4esidency when he presided over the troop withdrawal in Iraq. It’s not a particularly great job, but I called him and said, “All I’ve said about this job, I take back,” Biden said.  He may have been bet up on the campaign trail for his slips and blunders, but the vice president has shown a willingness to lend his political capital for a job that at times is not publicly rewarding.

    Obama and Jefferson

    Jon Meacham has some advice for President Obama: Take a lesson from your long since deceased predecessor Thomas Jefferson. Meacham, author of “Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power,” told ABC’s Jonathan Karl that “one of the keys to Jefferson’s success was that he built personal relationships with senators and members of Congress. He says Obama has not been particularly good at this.” 

    GOP’s Way Out

    Republicans need to accept the inevitable: Either agree to a lean debt ceiling hike, or accept the need to compromise, agree to a deal with revenues that can pass the House with Dems, and attach a debt ceiling hike to that. The easiest way out of this hostage crisis is for Republicans to release the hostage.—Greg Sargent, The Washington Post

  • Guns, Kids And The NRA
  • The National Rifle Association has launched a pre-emptive strike, personal attack on President Obama, calling him an “elitist hypocrite” who, the group claims, is putting American children at risk, ABC’ Devin Dwyer noticed in a 35-second video posted on line Tuesday night. The NRA criticized Obama for accepting Secret Service protection for his daughters, Sasha and Malia, at their private Washington, D.C. school, while questioning the placement of similar security at other schools. “Are the president’s kids more important than yours? Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools, when his kids are protected by armed guards at their schools. Why is it that the NRA is so far of the mark?

    What They Said

    “There should be changes in the law on guns. It’s a free country, but I recommend there needs to be a limit with guns Please don’t let people own machine guns or other powerful weapons like that.—Eight-year-old Grant in a letter to President Obama, one in a series of ideas from children which go significantly further than the President’s plan, as noted by ABC Chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl. 

    “In an interview, RNC Chairman said he expects the Republican National Committee’s Growth and Opportunity Project will recommend a more sustained effort to recruit and communicate with Republicans and potential party voters. The days of building up for three years and then running a short-sprint campaign again.—Reince Priebus to Bloomberg News,

    “It is striking how subdued the mood is as the president heads into his second inauguration party Now the thrill is dimmed, with a series of grinding, petty fights ahead. Certainly, there’s a sense among Democrats that they’re happy that Obama is president; the race was close enough that they got a metallic taste of how bad the country would have been if that bunch of backward Republicans got in.—Maureen Dowd, New York Times.

    “Democrats feel as if they’re on a roll. But once spending cuts are on the table, their divisions will reemerge.”—Doyle McManus, The Los Angeles Times. 

  • Schumer Moves Toward Hagel Nomination
  • Robert B.Reich, Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration and now Professor of Public Policy at UC Berkeley, has weighed in on the battle between the neocons vs. Chuck Hagel. It is the Republican neocons who brought us the Iraq war and conjured up “weapons of mass destruction” to justify it are against him for Defense Secretary. In his book Hagel gets bonus points. Reich notes that they’re a hawkish, bellicose bunch in the Republican Party—William Kristol, Richard Perle and Elliot Abrams—who shaped Dick Cheney’s and Don Rumsfeld’s disastrous foreign policy.

    These are also the people who have supported Israel’s rightward lurch in recent years. They don’t want a two-state solution. They reject any possibility of talks with Hamas or Iran. They favor building more settlements on the West Bank. It was a mistake for Hagel to use the term “Jewish instead of “Israel lobby.” but that alone shouldn’t disqualify him. Everyone in official Washington knows how much power is wielded in that city by the Sheldon Adelsons of American politics who think Israel can do no wrong,

    Reich believes the problem in Washington pays too little to the large number of Americans—Jewish and non-Jewish—who think Israel is doing a lot that is wrong, and worry that the path it is on threatens its long-term survival. The real question is what Hagel believes about the appropriate use of American power.
    That the neocons hate him is the best sign yet that Chuck Hagel may be the right person for the job.

    Hagel got a huge boost on Tuesday when Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, the most influential Jewish member of the Senate, told President Obama that he was optimistic he could vote of Hagel’s confirmation based on his grilling of Hagel on a variety of issues pertaining to Israel and Iran.

    Quotable

    “Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief,” by Lawrence Wright, offers one perfect formulation of L.  Ron Hubbard’s staying power as a theological figure.  “He was bold. He was fanciful. He could easily invent an elaborate, plausible universe. But it was one thing to make that universe believable, and another to believe it. That is the difference between art and religion.”   

     

  • Rebutting The ‘Deadbeat Nation’ Slur
  • WHEN President Obama said at the last news conference yesterday in his first term was “we are not a deadbeat nation” it caught a lot of people’s ears. Many may not know that he was referring to freshman Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who used the phrase in his Jan. 8 letter to Obama, as Michael Tomasky reported in The Daily Beast.

    Rubio wrote, in part, “As I wrote in The Wall Street Journal in March 2011, I will oppose such a debt ceiling increase unless such an authorization is accompanied by a real plan to tackle our debt. Ideally, such a plan would feature both pro-growth elements and spending restraints, including fundamental tax reform, regulatory reform, meaningful cuts to discretionary spending, a balanced-budget amendment and reforms to save Social Security and Medicare. If we had done this in-2011 when we last debated the debt ceiling, we could have set America on a path to economic growth and prosperity…It’s a tragic reality but, on your watch, more and more people come to believe that America is becoming a deadbeat nation inevitably heading toward a European-style debt crisis.

    Tomasky writes that while Obama accepts both revenues and cuts, Rubio has no room for revenues.
    “I think most Republicans actually know this deep down, although it’s not clear in Rubio’s case how intelligent he is. The phrase, “deadbeat nation,” is going to have a lot more resonance coming out of Obama’s mouth than in Rubio’s letter. He has managed to turn the phrase around on the GOP.”

    TV Fiction, Real World Violence 

    When Kevin Reilly, the chairman for entertainment at the Fox network, commissioned an ambitious thriller series called “The Following” about a Hannibal Lecter-like serial killer who inspires a legion of deranged followers, his intention was to challenge the cable business, not the culture.  As the New York Times’ Bill Carter points out Reilly understands that in the wake of the shooting of children in Newton, Conn. he cannot avoid questions about the propriety of putting that kind of fictional content on television in an atmosphere of heightened sensitivity about violence. But the FOX network has no intention of backing away from “The Following,” which stands as its most important show of a dismal season. What does Rupert Murdock think?

     

  • The Rage of ‘Patriot’ Groups
  • A Collection of far-right conservative groups have declared Jan. 19, during the week-end celebration of President Obama’s inauguration and Martin Luther King’s birthday, as Gun Appreciation Day. The event chairman, Larry Ward, sounded the battle cry: “The Obama administration has shown that it is more than willing to trample the Constitution to impose its dictates on the American people.” Using the word “dictates” is a subtle, but intentional, effort to frame the president as dangerous.

    Andrew F. Napolitano, a Fox News analyst, posted a blog on the network’s blog last week with an unmistakably message: “Here’s the dirty little secret about the Second Amendment,  the Second Amendment was not written in order to protect your right to shoot deer, it was written to protect your right to shoot tyrants if they take over the government. How about chewing on that one.”

    New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow pointed out, and the Southern Poverty Law Center said in a spring 2012 report, the number surged after Barack Obama was first elected president. “The swelling of the Patriot movement since that time has been astonishing. “From 140 groups in 2008, the number of Patriot organizations skyrocketed to 512 in 2009, shot up again in 2010 to 824, and then, last year jumped up to 1,274. The center also pointed out that fears of impending gun control or weapons or weapon con fiscations, either by the government or international agencies, also run rampant in antigovernment circles.

    James Yeager, the CEO of a Tennessee company that trains civilians in weapons on tactical skill, posted a video online (since removed) saying he was going to start killing people if gun control moved forward. He said, “I’m telling you that if that happens, it’s going to spark a civil war, and I’ll be glad to fire the first shot.”  Blow said, calling the ‘patriots” to arms is, I think, no accident.  Chew on that.

  • Climate Change Is Real
  • Economist Joseph Stiglitz recently opined that he believes climate change is the most important issue facing the U.S, economy today. The Huffington Post cited several facts which prove Stiglitz is right about the subject. By 2020 it is projected to cost the average American household $1,259 per year and up to $2,750 per year by 2020. It will cost the economy $3.8 billion per year by 2020. Climate change is a leading global cause of death, responsible for an estimated 5 million deaths each year. From 1980 through 2011, U.S. weather disasters caused losses of $1.06 trillion.

    Quotable

    The Team of Rivals is turning in its uniforms. What’s left is a team of loyalists—and a team of managers faced with intractable issues on foreign and domestic fronts. The men (and yes, it’s just about men so far) tasked with managing the economy and national security are charged with putting out fires for more often than launching new initiatives. It’s a reflection of the way President Obama campaign for reelection –less inspiration, more perspiration.”—Rick Klein, ABC News

  • Obama Takes On NRA
  • Vice President Biden said on Thursday he sees an emerging consensus around “universal background checks” for all gun owners and a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines as he completes the Obama administration’s broad study of ways to curb the nation’s gun violence. But the National Rifle Association, a participant in the meeting, strongly objected to what it called “an attack on the Second Amendment” and said it would have nothing more to do with the president’s task force on guns.

    On the same morning in Taft, California, panicked Kern County parents rushed to Taft Union High School after the campus shooting when two students were sent to area hospitals, one with a gunshot wound. The suspected gunman, also a student, was taken into custody by sheriff’s officials, and a shotgun recovered from the scene.

    Given the Dec. 14 massacre at a Newtown, Conn, elementary school that left 29 students and six adults dead, one parent with a fourth grader said she feared the worst.

  • Chuck Hagel, Under Attack Again
  • Chuck Hagel, a Republican former senator from Nebraska whom President Obama has nominated for secretary of defense, faces another battle—as a maverick who was once a foot soldier in the conservative Congressional ranks. Myra MacPherson, a journalist, is the author of “Long Time Passing: Vietnam and the Haunted Generation. Hagel would be the first enlisted combat veteran to be defense secretary, a grunt who has seen war from the trenches. Others, as MacPherson points out in a NYT op-ed, who have plunged America into war—like the former defense secretaries s Robert S. McNamara and Donald Rumsfeld, both former officers, had never fought in combat. Hagel is ready.   

    Notable Death

    Ada Louise Huxtable, the great architecture critic, died on Monday at 91. ”I have never joined architectural groupies of any persuasion.” This allowed her to weather shifting fashions without having to say she was sorry. Her tastes didn’t wave over the decades, nor did her standards. The New York Times wrote she was Patrician, old-school, tough but softhearted, she never wrote as if she owed anything to anyone except her readers, treating her beat as a mix of aesthetics and public policy, art and advocacy, technology and politics. In 1970, in The New York Times newsroom, she won the first Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

    All-Male Look

    While the White House itself employs about an equal number of men and women under President Obama. the gender ratio of appointments in 11 of 15 cabinet appointments favors men. That’s it, so far. 

    Just In

    Labor Secretary Hilda Solis is resigning from the Obama administration, the White House announced Wednesday. It did not come as a surprise. The former California Democratic assemblywoman was thanked by President Obama for “her steadfast commitment and service not only to the Administration, but on behalf of the American people.” Rumors have long persisted that Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa might be a top choice for the appointment but in recent weeks sources say his chances have crashed.

    Quotable

    “It’s never done, ‘till its done.—New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, cautiously optimistic that Congress will be able to pass a federal relief aid for the victims of superstorm Sandy. This week, Christie is enjoying the Time Magazine cover treatment under the enormous headline, “The Boss” and “the master of disaster.”

  • Remembering Richard Ben Cramer
  • The Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter was the author of “What It Takes,” a stirring account of the 1988 presidential campaign that has been widely hailed as among the finest books about American politics, died Monday night in Baltimore. He was 62. He was awarded a Pulitzer in 1979 for his coverage of the Middle East as a correspondent for the Philadelphia Inquirer and a best-selling biography of Joe DiMaggio, but he was most known for :What It Takes: The Way to the White House,” published in 1992.

    “He made no bones about the fact he was friendly with the people he was reporting on,” said Cramer’s longtime friend Stuart Seidel, an editor at NPR. The e book is a product of a bygone era, before campaigns tried to micromanage the press corps as they do now, granting interviews, for example, only on condition that quotations for publication be subject to the campaigns’ approval.

    After “What It Takes” was published, Cramer when on to write for Sports Illustrated,” Rolling Stone and Esquire, where in 1986 he wrote on article about Ted Williams that became a hallmark of sports journalism.” The article, titled in “What Do You Think of Ted Williams Now,” demythologized one of the greatest hitters in baseball. But campaigns and the news media’s role in them remained an abiding interest with Cramer. In an interview with The New York Times, he described political journalists in his day as wielding real power, in contrast to their heirs today, who often appear to be at the mercy of the campaigns they cover. 

    Quotable

    “Biden did for the president on Capitol Hill what J.F. K. was always too wary to let the experience of L.B.J. do for him.”—The presidential historian Michael Beschloss said on Twitter.

    “But when Obama let Biden take over the cliff talks, and when he noted with asperity that he would not debate Congress again over paying its bills, he dug into his revulsion at playing the game, his reluctance to even fake the flattering, schmoozing and ring-kissing needed to coax Congress into doing what he wants. Even members of his own party have lost faith in his ability to use the White House as a social lubricant to get his agenda passed, or to use that big brain of his to become a more clever negotiator, rather than a scolding lecturer.”—Columnist Maureen Dowd, blasting Obama in the New York Times.

    “I wholeheartedly endorse President Obama’s nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel to the next Secretary of Defense.”—Colin Powell, Former Secretary of State

  • Obama Picks Hagel, Divisive Choice, For Defense
  • JOHN McCAIN’s stunning hypocrisy in view of President Obama’s nomination of former Republican Chuck Hagel as the next secretary of defense suggests anew that decency is a dying art in American politics. No example is clearer than McCain’s past advocacy of Hagel’s character—even though his dissent on U.S. foreign policy regarding Iran and Israel which is well-known.

    In 2006, while he was preparing to run for president, McCain was asked whether he’d consider Hagel for a cabinet post. “He’d make a great secretary of state,” he said about the former Nebraska senator. Two years later, McCain reaffirmed that position in securing the Republican presidential nomination. He told the Associated Press that Hagel is a “respected leader in America” who served “his country admirably, with honor and distinction.”

    In July 2008, during the presidential campaign, Hagel accompanied Obama on a six-day trip to Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan and Kuwait. When McCain, the Republican presidential nominee that year, asserted that Obama’s motive for the trip was political, Hagel strongly defended him, say in a television interview that McCain was on thin ground, in trying to impugn Obama’s patriotism. 

    Among those praising Hagel’s retirement in 2008 was Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who called him “a leading voice on foreign affairs.” Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina said he personally liked Hagel but considered him “out of the mainstream of thinking on most issues regarding foreign policy, and an incredibly controversial choice.”

    Some Jewish groups, notably chapters of the American Jewish Committee, while recognizing his service, said his opinions run counter to what AJC and Obama has articulated in terms of military options on Iran, or branding Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. Other critics have focused on a comment he made in the late 1990’s, opposing a Clinton administration ambassadorial nominee for being openly, aggressively gay.”

    An administration official, who requested anonymity before the nomination was announced, said that ultimately Republicans will support the decorated war hero who was their colleague for 12 years, and disgruntled Democrats will ultimately not delay their president his choice.”     


       

  • White House Plan: Defeat NRA With Quick Victory
  • The White House and gun control supporters are gearing up for a whirlwind month, with plans to pass reform legislation before the Sandy Hook massacre has a chance to fade. Talking Points Memo reported that Vice President Joe Biden , who heads the commission to investigate gun violence, has quietly been meeting with experts, interest groups and public officials and is expected to release a set of regulations within weeks.
    Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, co-chair of Michael Bloomberg’s Mayor’s Against Illegal Guns, told the Boston Herald than an optimistic Biden had assured him that Obama would sign legislation “by the end of January.” Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Gun Violence, told TPM that while the report would come out by the end of January, it might come out by January 15.

    House Democrats are moving ahead with their own plans as well. Rep. Mike Thomson )D-CA), chair of the newly created Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, announced the appointment of 12 vice chairs, including Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), the body’s leading vice on gun control. The group plans to release its recommendations in early February and is already organizing public hearings. Dozens of mayors will descend on Washington later this month to attend The United States Conference of Mayors winter meeting.

    Gun violence survivors are also planning trips to lobby lawmakers to support legislation. Former Rep. Gabby GIffords, (D-Az.), who survived a mass shooting in 2011, could play a prominent role in that regard: In that regard she met with Bloomberg in New York and on Friday traveled to Newtown to comfort families who lost loved ones in the attack there.

    The National Rifle Association has remained relatively quiet in recent weeks but any legislation could face difficult passage, or even a vote, in the Republican-led House.

    Predictions

    Republican columnist Peggy Noonan, in her Wall Street Journal post-election column, summed it up this way: It turns out, and I’m sure you noticed it, that the numbers, the data—at least the data the Democrats had—was right. What was it somebody said? “I’ll be smiling soon as the swelling goes down.”

  • Ryan’s Take Defending Fiscal Cliff Vote
  • THE Wisconsin Republican joined a minority of his fellow House Republicans this week in voting for the fiscal cliff deal that allowed tax rates to rise on the op one percent of taxpayers. For the next two days he took to the conservative talk radio circuit in order to defend that vote.

    Ryan said, “We had been hit with a $4.4 trillion dollar tax increase yesterday, and I had the opportunity to knock it down by $3.8 trillion dollars,” Ryan told radio host Hugh Hewitt Wednesday. Since the tax rates had already reverted back to the Clinton-era levels for everyone once the vote took place January 1, he argued he was actually voting to cut taxes.

    In addition to allowing the tax rates to rise on income over 400,000 for individuals ($450,000 for households, many conservatives, including the 154 Representative representatives who did not back the bill, also took issue with the deal because it lacked serious spending cuts and entitlement measures.

    But Ryan pushed back hard against this line of criticism as well. With the tax to bed, Ryan said. “How do we get the most out of spending cuts and reforms during this debate?

    Ryan also took the opportunity to knock fellow Republicans who, he explained, on Wisconsin radio host Charlie Sykes’ radio show on Thursday wanted the bill to pass “but not with my vote.”

    Ryan may have learned something important from the loss of Wisconsin in the 2012 presidential campaign, and even his home town. “If you think something needs to pass, then, have the guts to vote for it, and face the music, endure the criticism you will inevitably get. 

  • Boehner vs. Reid, and More
  • HOUSE Speaker John Boehner’s four-letter-word blast at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is the latest nasty back-and-forth between warring Washington pols and confirms the decline of Capitol Hill civility. Both men are constitutional officers of the United States so their sulphurous, X-rated squabble last Friday, in the middle of fiscal-cliff negotiations at the White House, had no consequences beyond the coarsening of political ideologue and a decrease likelihood of bipartisan cooperation in the nation’s capital. “Go fuck yourself,” Boehner, a Catholic, advised Reid, a Morman, as they crossed paths outside the Oval Office. “What are you talking about” Reid, a Morman, asked in surprise. “Go fuck yourself,” Boehner explained.

    As The Daily Beast reported the annals of Washington dysfunction have been memorable and certainly not unprecedented. Boehner’s outburst was a near-verbatim replay of Vice President Dick Cheney’s notorious recommendation to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) eight years ago on the Senate floor. (Cheney was irate about Leahy’s attacks on his former company, Halliburton.)

    I was struck by the observation of political scientist Kathleen Hall Jamison, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. , who has studied the decline of civility in Congress—and says Nevada’s Harry Reid is a repeat offender. “He’s known for these strange outbursts,” she said.  Jamison added: you recognize that kind of locker-room talk in private conversations, largely among men. You don’t expect congressional leaders to use that kind of language with each other and brag about it—especially outside the Oval Office.

    Dereliction of Duty

    There is a lot of finger pointing in Washington about who is responsible for the for the mess made of the so-called fiscal-cliff negotiations, but there is no doubt about who failed thousands of residents and businesses devastated by Hurricane Sandy and still waiting for help: Speaker John Boehner.—New York Times editorial.

    “I’m not going to get into specifics of what I discussed with John Boehner today. But I will tell you is there is no reason at the moment for me to believe anything they tell me. Because they have for weeks been telling me stuff and they didn’t deliver.—Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey.

     

2012

December

  • New Year: 2013
  • And now let us believe in the long year that is given to us, new and untouched, full of things that have never been.—The poet Rainer Maria Rilke (d. 1926), inviting us in 2013 to new and unimaginable possibilities—fighting for peace, social justice, the common good, and assisting those less fortunate.

  • Over The Brink?
  • “WE just can’t afford a politically self-inflicted wound to our economy,” President Obama said Saturday in his weekly address. “The housing market is healing, but that could stall if folks are seeing smaller paychecks. The unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been sense 2008 but already families and businesses are starting to hold back because of the dysfunction they see in Washington.” Given the urgency the president will appear on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ Sunday as Senate leaders and their aides searched on Saturday for a formula to extend tax cuts for most Americans that could win bipartisan approval support in the Senate and for final approval in a divided House by the new year, hoping to prevent large tax increases and budget cuts that could threaten the fragile economy

    With fear of another painful economic slowdown accelerating less than 48 hours before the so-called fiscal cliff arrives Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, and Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader,  finally acted like grown-ups on Friday night with pledges of cooperation and confidence. The first votes in the Senate, if needed, are scheduled for Sunday afternoon. Even if the talks are positive, Senate aides said no announcement was expected before the leaders briefed their caucuses on Sunday. Speaker John Boehner, held hostage by the Tea Party caucus, visited the Capitol briefly on Saturday but otherwise emerges as a cry baby who has lost any serious credibility.

    Obama made clear that if talks between the Senate leaders broke down, he wanted the Senate to schedule an up-or-down vote on a narrower measure that would extend only the middle-class tax breaks and unemployment benefits. Regardless of whether Congress and Obama reach a deal—every working American’s taxes will go up because neither party is fighting to extend a Social Security payroll tax cut that has been in place for two years.
    . .

  • Neocons, Dems Muster To Take Hagel Out
  • Connie Bruck, the brilliant New Yorker writer, has written a number of lengthy pieces touching on California politics in recent years. Currently, she has another provocative piece, Chuck Hagel and His Enemies, in the magazine. In his latest battle, in the unsightly war zone that Washington has become, he is not been allowed to retaliate. Ellen Tauscher, formerly the Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control, said she has known Hagel well since she served on the House Armed Services Committee and Hagel, a Republican,  served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Tauscher said. “This is not meant to be a fair fight. This is a knife in the back. Because you cannot defend yourself when you have not been nominated.

    Since Hagel’s name was leaked as a possible nominee for Secretary of Defense, his most vocal critics have been members of the so-called Israel lobby. Their enmity goes back to his two terms in the Senate.. A committed supporter of Israel and, also, of a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine. He also said the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people here, but I’m a United States senator. I’m not an Israeli senator.” Hagel now says he misspoke, and should have said “Israel lobby.”

    Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York and the chief of staff to Prime Minister Ehud Barak, wrote in Al-Monitor recently that he got to know Hagel during his various meetings with Barak. “Barak was thoroughly impressed not only with Hagel’s military background, but with his analysis, knowledge of the Middle East, and understanding of Israel’s security issues.and predicaments. Pinks wrote, “Hagel “is not anti-Israeli and he is not an anti-Semite. It promises to be a bloody confirmation battle. Besides the neocons who championed the war many Democrats have misgivings about Hagel who attack him as anti-Israel. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, known for her independence, said Hagel is “honest, he’s direct and he’s smart.

    Why?

    Josh Marshall, the editor and publisher of Talking Points Memo noted last night, John Boehner has now abdicated his responsibility to do anything to negotiate some solution to the so-called ‘fiscal cliff’ problem. He now says, incredible as it may seen, that the Senate has to do something first. And only then will the House review the Senate’s proposal. So what’s going on? The only reasonable explanation is that he is unwillingly to act until he’s reelected as Speaker, as Harry Reid just said.

    No Ban on Assault Weapons

    A slight majority of Americans do not want assault weapons banned in the aftermath of the Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooting. Specifically on an assault weapons ban, 51 percent of respondents were against the measure, while 44 percent said they support it. Support for stricter gun control measures in general has jumped from 43 percent in October 2011 to 58 percent this month, according to the poll.

  • Giving Hagel A Chance
  • PRESIDENT Obama is considering appointing Chuck Hagel, a former United States senator from Nebraska and a Purple Heart winner, as the next secretary of defense—a possibility that has unreleased a minifirefight among Hagel critics and supporters. Thomas L. Friedman, a deeply respected New York Times columnist, is supporting Hagel—precisely because some of his views are not mainstream. He wants us to consider to two possibilities—the disgusting and the philosophical. Looking at both suggest to him that Hagel would be the best fit for Defense at this time.

    The disgusting is that fact that because Hagel once described the Israel lobby as the “Jewish” lobby. And because he also bluntly stated that his job as a U.S. senator was not to take orders from the Israel lobby but to advance U.S. interests. For that, Friedman states, he is smeared as an Israel-hater at best and anti-Semite at worst. “If ever Israel needed a U.S. defense secretary who was committed to Israel’s survival it is now.”

    No one, Friedman believes, has better captured the despair in Israel better than Bradley Burston, a columnist for the Israeli nespaper Haaretz, who wrote the other day: “This year, for Hanukkah, I want one person running the country a person running this country, this Israel, to show me one scrap of light. One move—any move—for freedom, for all the peoples who live here. One step—no matter how slight—in the direction of a better future. What makes this Hanukkah different from all the others? It’s the dark. It’s the sense of a country –beset by enemies, beset by itself—has locked down every single door against the future, and sealed every window shut against hope. This country has begun to feel like a lamp whose body has cracked and whose light seems all but spent. On these long nights, we can make little but an occupation growing even more permanent, and democracy growing even more temporary.”

    So yes, Friedman opines, “put me in the camp of those who think that a few more bluntly outspoken friends of Israel in the U.S. cabinet would be a good thing. So yes, Hagel is out of the mainstream. But that is exactly why his voice is valuable right right now. President Obama will still make all the final calls, but let him do so after having heard all the alternatives.

    Comment

    It is not every day that we are needed.—Samuel Beckett

  • Tea Party Turns To Fringe Issues
  • HAS the Tea Party, a once-surging movement which nearly captured control of the Republican Party, become a distraction?  Fury and populism have been replaced by leading Congressional Republicans who, while they are far to the right of President Obama, now favor raising tax revenues in budget negotiations, a repudiation of a central tenet of the Tea Party.    More telling, activists in the middle of the country are skirting the fiscal showdown in Congress and retreating to fringe issues, raising for the first time questions about whether the movement still represents a citizen groundswell which commands attention. This month grass-roots leaders, after losing any change of repealing the health-care law, said they would press to “nullify,” or ignore, it. Increasingly reactionary, they plan to focus on a two-decade-old United Nations resolution that they call a plot against property rights, and on “fraud” fraud: by local election boards that, some believe, let the Democrats steel the November vote. Such new topics seem likely to bolster critics who portray the movement as a distraction to the Republican Party. “People in positions of responsibility within the Republican Party tolerated too much of this,” Fergus Cullen, a former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party, told The New York Times. He noted a backlash against “tinfoil hat” issues pushed by the Tea Party-dominated state legislature for the loss of Republican majorities in both chambers. An unpopular budget deal could reignite the Tea Party, the antitax crusade Grove Norquist predicts. It is unclear whether its ranks shrunk after many electoral feats last month, which activists said caused grief and deep frustration. The leader of a Tea Party group in rural Decatur County, Iowa, said his group had picked up 12 members since the election, for a total of about fifty. Is it an omen for 2014?

  • Romney’s Latest Excuse: “No Desire” To Run?
  • The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart got a real scoop, noting that Tagg Romney, the eldest son of Mitt Romney, who wanted to take a swing at President Obama after the second debate, made an unbelievable revelation in an interview with the Boston Globe. Turns out, his dad never really wanted to be president. “He wanted to be president less than anyone I’ve met in my life.” Globe reporter Michael Kranish noted that “Tagg…worked with his mother, Ann, to persuade his father to seek the presidency. Capehart said on one hand that he was inclined to believe Tagg. His father ran one of the worst presidential campaigns in modern history. On the other hand Capehart said “horse hockey” to Tagg’s assertion. His father spent the better part of six years running for the White House. And he did so in a manner that led to frequent charges of ideological and deep-seated mistrust among conservatives. Capehart fully believed that Ann was totally behind the effort to get her husband to run again. The Post’s Philip Rucker reported that friends of the Romneys said that the would-be first lady was talking her husband’s loss especially hard because she “believed up until the end that ascending to the White House was their destiny.”

    Reason to Believe

    Karl Rove’s election night freak out on Fox gave Romney enough hope to delay his presidential concession speech for another hour on election night.—Josh Marshall, editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com

    Newsweek

    The issue in the hands of subscribers will be the last in print. The next, in the first week of January, will be on their IPad or Kindle or phone. By late February, editor Tina Brown said that subscribers will see the full evolution of the spanking new, all-digital Newsweek Global, currently in development. The venerable magazine’s first issue from 1933 covered FDR and the Great Depression.

  • NRA: Dismissive Of Obama, Congress
  • “THE ONLY THING that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,“ said a defiant Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s vice president who, after a weeklong silence following the Connecticut school shootings, in calling for armed guards in schools, but no gun curbs.  Leaders of the NRA said Sunday that they would fight any new gun restrictions introduced in Congress, and are not interested in working with President Obama to develop a broad response to the Connecticut school massacre. The group blamed video games, the news media and lax law enforcement—but not guns—for the problem. Advocates for gun control were unimpressed with the NRA’s announcement, with some critics calling it paranoid and out of step with much of the country. On NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday LaPierre was equally aggressive. “If it’s a panel that’s just going to be made up of a bunch of people that, for the past 20 years, have been trying to destroy the Second Amendment, I’m not interested in sitting on the panel.” 

    Comment

    When I hear people talking about the troubled state of today’s Republican Party, it calls to mind something Lester Maddox said one time back then he was governor of Georgia. He said the ‘problem with Georgia prisons was ‘the quality of the inmates.’ The political obsessions of the Republican base—from denying global warning to defending assault weapons to opposing tax increases under any conditions, to resisting immigration reform—are making it impossible to be a Republican moderate.”—Thomas L. Friedman, in the New York Times, quoting Democratic consultant James Carville.

    President Obama, who should have been alarmed that his re-election inspired a boom in gun sales, seems daunted at the prospect of taking on gun lovers, having handed the matter off to Joe Biden to study. “The president seems to be setting the table for defeat. If only he had the visceral outrage of a Bloomberg. Who knows what could happen?—Maureen Dowd, faulting Obama in the New York Times for lacking Bloomberg’s passion when, in fact, the president showed defiant outrage and an end to such violence last Sunday in visiting Newtown, CT.

  • Humor
  • NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report)—In an extraordinary gesture of recognition for a losing Presidential candidate, Time magazine today named former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney Man of the Year 1912.

    In a press release explaining its decision, Times editorial board wrote, ”Even though his quest for the Presidency was unsuccessful, his ideas about foreign policy, taxation, wealth inequality, and women’s rights, typified 1912 as no one else has.

    In giving Romney the nod, Time said that he had beaten out such other candidates for Man of the Year 1912 as Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, Kaiser William II of Germany, and Edward Smith, captain of the Titanic. ”It was very close between Romney and the Titanic guy, but we gave it to Romney because it took him slightly longer to sink,” Time wrote.

    Romney could not be reached for comment, a spokesman said, because he was traveling around the world visiting his money.

  • Scott Brown: The Comeback Kid?
  • SEN. SCOTT BROWN (R-MA), lost his seat following his November defeat by Democrat Elizabeth Warren but a poll released Thursday indicates that the moderate Republican may be well-positioned for a shot at political redemption. Conducted by MassNC Polling Group it shows that Brown remains in good standing among Massachusetts constituents, with 58 percent of viewing their junior senator favorably. He emerges the favorite in the special election to fill the seat expected to be vacated by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), the presumed successor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He leads Gov. Deval Patrick (D)—the preferred choice among Democrats to run in the special election and every Democratic opponent in hypothetical matchups tested in the polls. Here’s the question: why have Democratic professionals failed to recruit a stronger candidate than Patrick and run the risk of losing a powerful seat in the Senate? 

  • Christie Too Tough; Booker Opts For Senate
  • Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D) has decided not to challenge Gov. Chris Christie (R) in 2013, choosing instead to seek Democrat Frank Lautenberg’s Senate seat in 2014. Sources said Booker decided not to challenge Christie whose reputation went sky high after the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The Newark Star-Ledger reported that Booker informed Democratic Party leads of his decision Thursday morning. Booker said earlier that he was absolutely considering a plan to challenge. Christie. His past uncertainty had “frozen” the state’s Democratic Party.

  • Obama Hits Social Security In Fiscal Cliff Offer To Wealthy
  • The first Washington Post-ABC poll since President Obama’s reelection six weeks ago indicates 54 percent of all Americans say they approve of how he is handling his job—his highest mark in nearly two years, other than a momentary high of 56 percent after the killing of Osama bin Laden. The positive trend for Obama extends to another key measure: For the first time in two and a half years, 50 percent approve of Obama’s handling of the economy. Ratings of overall job performance continue to peak among women and non-whites but he is also at his strongest position in years with seniors, an important part of the Romney coalition. Just over half of those 65 or older now approve Obama’s job performance, marking the first time the number has topped 50 percent since July 2009, during his first summer in office.

    That said, Obama, with his latest fiscal cliff offer, proposes extending the Bush tax cuts for everyone earning less than 400,000 a year, and paying for it by increasing taxes on the middle class and cutting Social Security and Medicare. The offer would allow the payroll tax holiday to expire with workers seeing smaller paychecks in 2013. The offer will gradually reduce Social Security and disability benefits seniors are due to receive, taking a small bite up front, but building up to much larger cuts over time. Obama’s concession to Republicans is opposed by a majority of Americans, according to a HuffPost/YouGov poll. Fifty-two percent of respondents said the payroll tax cut should be extended to avoid taxing the middle class, while 22 percent said that it should be allowed to expire to help pat down the deficit. Extending the payroll tax cut received bipartisan support—64 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of Republicans. But MoveOn.org, the largest online progressive organization in Washington, reacted angrily to reports that Obama was softening There is every expectation that there will be fierce opposition to cuts in Social Security and Medicare.

    Engel Freed

    NBC News reported Wednesday that Richard Engel, its chief foreign correspondent and three members of his crew were kidnapped after five days in captivity in Syria. Engel was last seen on television in a taped report from Aleppo, Syria’s commercial capital, where he reported that “the Syrian regime appears to be cracking.  He has had more air time than any other such correspondent at NBC, ABC or CBS and his kidnapping and safe release is likely to spark widespread viewer interest.

  • Push for New Gun Laws Grows
  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein is already drafting anti-assault weapon legislation while some Congressional Democrats, in the wake of the Newtown killings, showed signs on Monday of a more aggressive push on gun control, while Republicans and gun rights advocates remained largely silent on policy matters. Joe Manchin III, the pro-gun rights West Virginia senator who drew attention in 2010 after running a commercial that showed him firing a rifle at an environmental bill, said that “everything should be on the table” as gun control is debated in the coming weeks and months. Senator Mark Warner of Virginia called the episode “a game changer.” Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York demanded that President Obama and Congress do something about guns and put his billion-dollar fortune in play as necessary. The National Rifle Association has remained largely silent since last Friday. Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the Majority leader and staunch NRA supporter, fell far short of colleagues in supporting new laws while Sen. Minority leader Mitch McConnell predictably sidestepped the issue.

    Scott to Senate

    South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has appointed Rep. Tim Scott to fill the Senate seat vacated by the departure of conservative Sen. Jim DeMint who will lead the Heritage Foundation. Scott will be the first black Republican senator from the South since the late 19th century.

    Engel is Missing

    NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel, one of the most prominent and accomplished international foreign correspondents in the world, is reportedly missing in Syria. Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reports that Engel, together with Turkish journalist Aziz Akyavas, were last known to be in Syria and haven’t been in contact with NBC News since Thursday morning. American outlets had been operating under a news blackout requested by NBC until yesterday. The story was first published by dailymail.co.uk. NBC’s Brian Williams remained silent in last night’s broadcast.

    God and Public Schools

    Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and GOP presidential candidate attributed Friday’s deadly massacre in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut to the lack of God and religion in public schools. Addressing the tragedy on the conservative Fox News channel, Huckabee dismissed calls for stricter gun control and claimed that future violence can only be prevented by solving matters of “the heart” and turning to God. An ordained Southern Baptist minister he asked why there is violence in our public schools, but said we’ve systematically removed God from our schools. It’s curious that the conservative Huckabee dismisses tighter gun control laws but apparently has little concern about reining in the National Rifle Association over the assault weapons issue. 

  • Obama: Tragedies Must End
  • THE DAY before the massacre of 20 school children by a gunman at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. lawmakers in Michigan—despite the objections of the state’s school board—allowed people to carry concealed weapons in schools. If that was not shocking enough that same day, Ohio lawmakers passed a bill that would allow guns in cars at the Statehouse garage, Earlier in the week, a federal appeals court struck down a ban on carrying concealed weapons in Illinois. And Florida officials announced that they would soon issue their millionth concealed weapon and firearm license—or as a state news release put it, the program would be “One Million Strong.” The debate on gun control has now been revived, amid a trend toward fewer restrictions. Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois, a Democrat, pledged to push for stricter gun laws, Gov Andrew Cuomo of New York, another Democrat, called the shooting a “wake-up call for aggressive action.” Republicans were drawing other lessons from the shooting. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, an outspoken supporter of gun rights, issued a statement telling the state’s school districts to review their emergency operations.  But the National Rifle Association, a powerful interest group in Washington and in statehouses across the nation, has been gearing up to oppose any effort to tighten the nation’s gun laws. The next test in the debate may come in Michigan, where the bill that would allow people to carry concealed weapons in schools is being weighed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.

    Comment

    In the same way, the only thing that my religious tradition has to offer to the bereaved in Newtown today—besides an appropriately respectful witness to their awful sorrow—is a version of that story, and the realism about suffering that it contains. That realism may be hard to see at Christmastime, when the sentimental side of faith owns the cultural stage. But the Christmas story isn’t just about the manger and the shepherds and the baby Jesus, meek and mild. The rage of Herod is there as well, and the slaughtered innocents of Bethlehem, the myth that prepares bodies for the grave. The cross looms behind the stable—the shadow of violence, agony and death. In the leafless hills of western Connecticut, this is the only Christmas spirit that could possibly matter now.—Ross Douthat, in the New York Times. 

  • Tragedy and Evil
  • ON FRIDAY, a 20-year-old gunman identified as Adam Lanza, killed 26 people, including 20 children between the ages of 5 and 10. He also killed his mother, a kindergarten teacher at the school, and committed suicide.  President Obama, visibly shaken and shredding tears, said “as a country, we have been through this too many times.” He continued, ‘we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent tragedies like this, regardless of the politics. As New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow noted how many more deaths and mass shootings will it take for Washington to begin to lead the country in a deeper conservation about sensible gun controls? As Bloomberg noted in an August report, “background checks for gun purchases spiked 41 percent in Colorado after 12 people were killed inside a suburban Denver movie. The problem is that while gun control advocates grow more quiet, the gun lobby groups stronger and louder. According to the Center for Responsible Politics, “For gun rights groups, 2012 was the most active election cycle since 2000. They contributed $3 million to candidates, 96 percent of them Republicans. Gallup found that the number of Americans who believe that these laws should be stricter fell more than percent from 1991 to 2011. Mother Jones reported that the vast majority of mass shootings in the last three decades involved assault weapons and automatic weapons. While religious conservative political commentator Mike Huckabee laid the blame on the absence of God in public schools Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York spoke for many gun-control advocates, and expressed disappointment about Obama’s failure to embrace the issue. While Republicans and some Democrats expressed horror about the mass killing, liberal Democrats said it was time to move forward with serious gun laws, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), whose husband was one of six people killed in a shooting on the Long Island Rail Road in 1993, said she would resume her request for broad gun violence. : I’m not going to be shy any more.” Some advocates said Obama should focus on steps that he could do through an executive order. Like President Bill Clinton and the elder George Bush, he could ban the import of assault rifles like AK gun. The President comforts grieving families today in Connecticut.

    Quotation of the Day

    “I can’t imagine who would do this to our poor little babies.”—Laura Feinstein, a teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

  • Rice Drops Bid for Secretary of State
  • U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice withdrew her name from consideration to replace Hillary Clinton on Thursday. In her letter to President Obama she said “I am convinced that the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive and costly. The tradeoff is simply not worth it to the country. Therefore, I respectfully request that you no longer consider my candidacy at this time.” Her withdrawal was not unexpected by the foreign policy establishment even as highly respected Sen. John Kerry, with far broader experience, appeared to have strong support for the nomination and likely early bipartisan confirmation by the Senate. Obama said shortly after the announcement that he lamented partisan attacks that plagued Rice following the attacks in Benghazi, Libya. The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart wrote that somewhere on Capitol Hill, Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte must be smiling now that Rice has withdrawn her name. “Their ignoble hounding of Rice is another sorry episode in the politics of personal destruction in Washington,” even as the trio questioned her competence and wondered about her temperament for the job.

    Which Path for the Right

    As Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. noted the new right–to-work law, passed Tuesday is a travesty of normal democratic deliberation. Beyond that the way Gov. Rick Snyder and the Republican Michigan Legislature rushed the legislation through a lame-duck session was insidious. The political motivation was obvious. Union families are the premier cross-racial Democratic constituency. Nationwide, President Obama carried union households by 18 points but non-union households by one point. In Michigan the union gap was an astonishing 32 points: Obama won union households 66 percent to 33 percent, the rest of the electorate by 50 percent to 49 percent. Dionne said the most disturbing aspect of the Michigan power grab is what it says about where the conservative argument may go.

    Comment 

    As Eva Longoria supersedes Karl Rove as a power player, Republicans act as shell-shocked as the Southern gentry overrun by Yankee carpetbaggers in “Gone with the Wind.” As the movie eulogized: “Here was the last ever to be seen of Knights and their Ladies Fair, of Master and Slave. Look for it only in books, for it is no more than dream remembered, a Civilization gone with the wind.”—Maureen Dowd, in the Sunday New York Times.

    I’m not concerned about my job on the debt talks.—Speaker John Boehner deflecting growing questions about his leadership by far right House members.

  • Kerry Instead of Rice?
  • Lloyd Grove reports in The Daily Beast the working assumption among some well respected members of Washington’s foreign policy community is that, .in the end, Obama will nominate John Kerry, the easily confirmable chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, for State; pick Rice to replace Tom Donilon as his National Security adviser, which requires no confirmation; and move Donilon over to State as Secretary Kerry’s chief of staff.

    GOP Woes

    Republicans need to dramatically improve their standing with Latino voters or risk becoming a “regional party” of disaffected whites, according to a study released by a GOP pollster. Talking Points Memo cited a report by Republican pollster Whit Ayres and the conservative Hispanic Leadership Network’s Jennifer Korn that “Republicans have run out of persuadable white voters.” A survey of Latino voters in four states—New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado and Florida—concluded that the Republican brand was on life support.

    Climate Change

    Rep. Henry Waxman of Los Angeles, the ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has sent his 21st letter requesting a hearing on climate change, this time a report by PricewaterhouseCooper s that says we are on our way to a four degree centigrade world, and possibly six, instead, instead of the two degree warming that governments hoped could be achieved. “It’s time for a warmer world,” the report said. “We have passed a critical threshold.” Waxman noted that despite the enormous costs of limiting carbon dioxide emissions, it would be cheaper than a catastrophic warming. One would think that after 21 letters someone in the White House or the House GOP majority might be paying attention. 

    Insight

    God is not going to save Egypt. It will be saved only if the opposition here to the Muslim Brotherhood won in the election fairly—and resists its excesses not with boycotts (or dreams of a coup) but with better ideas that win the public to the opposition’s side.—Thomas L. Friedman in The New York Times.

  • Right to Work: Michigan Follows GOP Path
  • WHILE Republicans finally succeeded in getting novice Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to sign a bill limiting the power of labor unions President Obama denounced the idea. “You know these so-called right-to-work laws, they don’t have much to do with economics. They have everything to with politics. What they’re really talking about is giving you the right for less money.” Snyder, an accountant and venture capitalist in his first term as governor, prided himself on avoiding partisan labels and said over and over again that a “right-to-work” label was not on his agenda. “This is not Wisconsin.” So much for all that talk. Snyder caved in.

    Replacing Clinton

    Doubts continue to be raised about whether Susan Rice has the gravitas to succeed the secretary of state early in 2013. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is touted as an alternative but it would mean opening up a potential opportunity for Republicans to regain a Senate seat. Former moderate Sen. Chuck Hagel (R. Neb.) is expected to join the Obama administration early in the New Year. Some pundits see him as a potential dark horse candidate to emerge if either Rice or Kerry stumble.

    Scalia on Gays

    On Monday Supreme Court Justice Anton Scalia promoted his new book at Princeton, and defended his previous controversial writings on gay rights, and explained to a gay student why he drew a legal analogy between laws banning sodomy to murder and bestiality. “I don’t think it’s necessary, but it’s effective,’ he said in response to a student’s question, the Associated Press reported. “It’s a form of argument that I thought you would have known which is called the “reduction to the absurd.” “If we can’t have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?” When pressed by a student, the justice reportedly quipped,” “I’m surprised you aren’t persuaded.” Next spring the Court will take up cases on the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8.

    Quotable

    We are a major turning point in the arc of gay and lesbian rights. The cases are moving fact, and the country is as well.—Suzanne B. Goldberg, a law professor at Columbia, on the decision by the Supreme Court to hear cases on same-sex marriage.

    “Who will decide your taxes increase in just 22 days? A few dozen members of the House of Representatives, that’s who.”Stephanie Cutter, Obama deputy campaign manager, urging supporters in Republican districts to press their representatives to agree to a mix of higher tax rates and spending cuts offers by President Obama. 

  • Susan Rice and African Despots
  • ON Sept. 2, Susan Rice, the United States’ representative to the United Nations, and said to be President Obama’s choice to succeed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, delivered a eulogy for a man she called “a true friend to me.” Before thousands of mourners and more than more than 20 African heads of state in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia , Rice lauded the country’s late prime minister, Meleshe Zenawi, calling him :brilliant”—a son of Ethiopia and father of its rebirth.

    In an op-ed piece for The New York Times on Monday, Salem Solomon, an Eritrean-American journalist who runs Africa Talks, a news and opinion, raised some concerns that during hew career she has shown a surprising and unsettling sympathy for African despots. She served as assistant secretary of state for African under President Bill Clinton, who in 1998 celebrated a new generation of African leaders, many of whom were ex-rebel commanders.

    That year in remarks to a subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs was equally breathless about the continent’s future. Solomon suggests that Rice’s optimism was misplaced in the 14 years since, many of tried on the strongman’s cloak, and like Meles found that it fit nicely. Critics, like Howard W. French, a former correspondent for The New York Times, say that in the late 1990’s, Rice tacitly approved an invasion of the Democratic of Congo that was orchestrated by Paul Kagame of Rwanda. Solomon’s conclusion, despite Rice’s long service as assistant secretary of state for African affairs and surprising sympathy for Africa despots, suggests Obama would do well to appoint someone other than Susan Rice as America’s top diplomat.

    Notable

    Richard Neustadt, who died in 2003, was the most influential scholar of the American Presidency.  He was a founder of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and an adviser to Harry Truman, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Bill Clinton, and, in his book “Presidential Power” (1960) he wrote the most frequently quoted line in Presidential studies: “The power of the presidency is the power to persuade.”—Ezra Klein, in The New Yorker.

  • Supreme Court: Scalia vs. Kennedy
  • THE defining battles within the Supreme Court for more than two decades over social and moral controversies have been fought between two devout Catholics appointed by President Reagan. Justice Antonin Scalia believes the law can and should enforce moral standards, including criminal bans on abortion and on “homosexual conduct” that man “believe to be immoral and destructive.” Justice Anthony Kennedy is a libertarian conservative who believes the Constitution protects the freedom of individuals to “make personal decisions relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, and child rearing the education.” Both have much in common. Born in 1930, they graduate from high school and excelled at Harvard Law School and as Republicans rose through the legal ranks. Both voted to strike down President Obama’s health care law and Scalia joined the Citizens United case that freed corporate and union spending on political ads. In 1992 Kennedy, while opposed to abortion, switched sides and upheld a woman’s right to choose. The battle for gay rights is now set for another round. The California case on Proposition 8 is far more critical because it involves the right to marry as a fundamental right and excluding them from marriage denies them equal protection of law.

    Making History 

    With right-wing conservative Republican Sen. Jim DeMint resigning from the Senate to run the Heritage Foundation Republican Indian American Gov. Nikki Haley has a chance to make history. Rep Tim Scott, an African-American Rep. from Charleston, is said to be the frontrunner. Young, charismatic and a Tea Party warrior himself, Scott would be just the fifth black Senator since Reconstruction, He would have to face voters in 2014.   

    High-Speed Rail

    Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), the third-highest ranking Republican in Congress, has suggested that the federal government should cut its losses and not provide any more money for the state’s high-speed rail system. He said the revised high-speed rail plan calls for the $38 billion more federal spending. He suggested an estimate about the train’s ridership is overblown and that Congress would still have to subsidize the operation of the train if ever built.

    What They Said

    If the Republicans don’t want to see their party go the way of the dinosaurs, they have to step out of the past.—New York Times columnist Charles Blow, suggesting that Republican anti-intellectualism is antediluvian.

    If you believe in a vast, right-wing conspiracy this is its clubhouse.—An NPR reporter told listeners in 2001 about Americans for Tax Reform and the weekly confabs that founder Grover Norquist has with various conservative operatives in Washington, D,C,

    But history will no doubt record that withering Republicans were finally wiped from the face of the earth in 2016 when the relentless (and rested) Conquistadora Hillary marched in, General Bill on a horse before her, and finally finished them off—New .York Times’ Maureen Dowd musing about Hillary Clinton’s possible run for president in four years.

  • Clinton, Rubio Lead in 2016
  • HILLARY is the dominate 2016 primary favorite if she decides to mount a president campaign in 2016, while Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) leads the GOP field, according to a new survey from Democratic pollster Public Policy Polling, The Hill reports. Clinton is the choice of more than six Democratic voters, far outpacing Vice President Biden. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pulls 5 percent of the electorate, while Senate-elect Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts earns 4 percent. Rubio is the early front-runner for the Republican nomination, according to a new national poll, the choice of 18 percent of Republican primary voters, with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) at 14 percent.
    .
    Boehner Gains

    The Speaker appears to enjoy the broadest support of his tumultuous two-year speakership from House Republicans. As Boehner girds for an intense fiscal confrontation with President Obama, the strong embrace may empower him as he tries to strike a deal on spending cuts and tax increases that spares the country a recession without costing Republicans too much in terms of political principle. With Romney and Ryan’s White House dreams gone Boehner resumes the role of titular head of the party, and many House members believe they have little choice but to support him.

    DeMint Exits

    The conservative Republican senator from South Carolina who helped ignite the Tea Party movement will depart in January to become president of the Heritage Foundation, a very conservative research group. “I’m not leaving the fight,” he said about his efforts to move the Republican Party further to the right. While a great fundraiser DeMint frustrated many Senate colleagues by aggressively backing loser Sharron Angle of Nevada in 2010 and Richard Mourdock of Indiana this year. Other candidates endorsed by DeMint in the last two elections to retake the Senate lost but he backed conservative candidates in Florida, Utah and Utah.

    What They Said

    “There are a lot of people in there who support the Republican Congress, who were ‘super PAC’ donors to Mitt Romney, yet they want a solution here,” David Plouffe, the president’s senior adviser said after the Business Roundtable visit.” 

    “I’m not with Boehner”.—Sen. Jim DeMint (R.S.C.), on Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) leadership.

  • 2016 Stars Rubio and Ryan Surface
  • THIS week two emerging Republican stars, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis), laid out visions for the Republican Party as it focuses on upward mobility. Both spoke at the Jack Kemp Foundation’s Leadership Award Dinner, The Hill reported. Rubio was this year’s honoree, while Ryan, last years award winner, delivered the keynote address. Ryan said he believes “we can turn back the engines of upward mobility so that no one is left out of the promise of America.” Rubio sounded a familiar theme but got off point, of expressing his opposition to tax increases on wealthier families proposed by President Obama. 
     
    Briefs

    A new Washington Post, ABC poll reported that 57 percent of Americans expect Hillary Clinton to run for president vs 37 percent who are opposed. There is a broad gender gap—66 percent support Clinton among women, dropping to 49 percent among men….Former GOP House Majority Leader Dick Armey said he has left the conservative tea party group Freedom Works because of an internal split over the group’s future direction. Re AP, Armey agreed to resign in September in exchange for $8 million in consulting fees paid in annual $400,000 installments…. Former Republican Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas appeared on the Senate floor in a wheelchair Wednesday, six days after being released from a hospital, to make a last minute appeal for senators to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities. It failed by a vote of 61-38, just short of a super majority needed for passage. Democratic Sen. John Kerry vowed to re-introduce the disability treaty next year.

    Death in the Morning

    Dave Brubeck, a pianist and composer whose distinctive mixture of experimentalism and accessibility which made him one of the most popular jazz musicians of the 1950s and ‘60s, died Wednesday morning on the way to a cardiology appointment in Norwalk, Conn. Born in Concord, Calif., he would have turned 92 today. Some of his group’s most famous originals were pop songs like “Take Five,” and “Blue Rondo a’ la Turk.” A great loss for the jazz world, he was named Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1999. Ten years later he received a Kennedy Center Honor for his contribution to American culture. RIP.

    Quotable

    In a dispatch headlined “Hillary Is Running,” David Remnick, The New Yorker editor, wrote: “The film was like an international endorsement four years in advance of the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary.” The reference was to a film that introduced that introduced Hillary and Israeli pols, including Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Shimon Perez—gushing over the secretary.

    But most important, campaigns would be wise not to have their pollsters serve as spokespeople or spin doctors. The role of the pollster should be just the opposite: to provide a reality check so that the campaign does not begin to believe its own spin.—Nate Silver, on spin and bias as the norm in campaigns’ internal polling. 

  • Democratic Group, Tax Plan, Big Payoff
  • Democratic luminaries with ties to the Obama and Clinton administrations, including two former Treasury secretaries and two former White House chiefs of staff, centered the tax debate on Tuesday, with an overhaul plan that would raise an additional $1.8 trillion in the first decade. The New York Times reported that it is $200 billion more than President Obama has proposed and $1 trillion more than the Republicans in Congress support. It would mostly result from a simplification of the tax code that produces higher taxes from the wealthy, but would also involve higher taxes on cigarettes, alcoholic beverages and Internet gambling that would hit people of all incomes. John Podesta, a former chief of staff for President Bill Clinton, in reference to the Clinton-era pedigrees of many of the plan’s sponsors. He said “This is from the team that brought you the last good economy.” The recommendations are likely to influence Democrats in the White House and Congress in budget negotiations now and in the coming year. Like Obama, the group calls for letting the top marginal income-tax rates return to the Clinton-era 3.6 percent as scheduled on Dec. 31, while keeping other rates at the lower Bush-era levels. But the higher rate would apply on income for individuals and couples of $422,000 and up; Obama would have the thresholds at $220,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples. How Republicans will respond is anybody’s guess, but the window for action is closing.

    Fiscal Cliff Backlash

    Two high profile conservative groups lashed out Monday at the counteroffer made by House Republicans to the President Obama’s agenda. Dan Holler, communications director for Heritage Action for America, told The Hill. And Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group partially funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, said the GOP offer “left conservatives wanting.” In short, Speaker John Boehner’s counteroffer Monday “offers disappointingly small reductions,” AFP’s policy director James Valvo said in a statement. 

    Quotable

    “The Republican Party is making a terrible mistake if it appears to ally itself with the Christian right. There are some fine, sincere people in its ranks, but there are enough anti-abortion zealots, would-be censors, homophobes, bigots and latter-day Elmer Gantrys to discredit any party that is unwise enough to embrace such a group.”—Sen. Warren B. Rudman (R-New Hampshire), 82, a blunt solon who waged a frustrating fight to balance the federal budget and warned of a terrorist strike against the United States months before 9-11, in Washington on November 21st.

  • House GOP Still Doesn’t Get It
  • House Republicans late Monday afternoon made a counteroffer to President Obama on the fiscal cliff negotiations, proposing to cut $2.2 trillion with a combination of spending cuts, entitlements and $800 billion in new revenue. The leaders delivered the offer with a three-page letter signed by House Speaker Joh Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and four other senior Republicans, including Rep. Paul Ryan, the party’s just-defeated vice presidential nominee. The GOP offered is a response to Obama’s opening bid, which called for $1.6 trillion in tax increases and reducing the power of Congress to block an increase the debt ceiling. Boehner said “what we are putting forward is a credible plan that deserves serious consideration by the White House. Boehner told reporters in a brief appearance at the Capitol. He said he hoped the administration would respond in a timely manner. Odds are overwhelming that the counteroffer is already dead on arrival. Obama, a huge reelection winner, is prepared to play hardball.

    A Stumble with Women

    Less than a month after the November presidential election Republicans are already fumbling on issues with women. It could be a real problem, with exit polls showing Obama winning the female vote in double digits, compounding losses Republicans suffered in red state races. Republican, Democrats and women’s rights advocates publicly criticized the House leadership after it failed to select a single woman to lead Congress’ so-called major committees. This followed a leadership battle where vice presidential nominee Pal Ryan backed a conservative purist over the highest ranking woman in the House. House leaders finally selected Rep. Candice Miller to lead the administration committee. But Democrats and women’s groups dismissed the pick as “tokenism,”

    California Politic

    Bloomberg reports that the state is courting sovereign wealth-funds, pensions and endowments for more than $50 billion to build Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed bullet train to link the state’s two largest cities, the most expensive public-works project in U.S. history. Andy Kunz, president of the High Speed Rail Association, said in Los Angeles that the ventures pose attractive opportunities for such investors, who together have $6 trillion in assets. California is the only U.S. state working to lay tracks for trains running as fast as 220 miles an hour (354 kilometers an hour. The $68.4 billion project would link San Francisco and Los Angeles.

    Quotable

    Friends say he is enjoying his role enough that he plans to continue as the go-to-sugar daddy for Republican candidates in 2016 as well.—Las Vegas Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, worth just over $21 billion, has made history. He is the first person to spend $70 million to sway a presidential election. “I’ll always be available, ”the 70-year-old mega-donor said before Mitt Romney lost to Obama. 

     

     

  • How the GOP Lost the Silicon Valley
  • Since George H. W. Bush won Napa County in 1988 Republicans have lost every county in the Silicon Valley by double-digit margins. As Nate Silver has pointed out the left tilt has left the GOP in a tech gap. President Obama’s 40-point margin throughout the Bay area this year was considerably larger than Al Gore’s 34-point win in 2000, or even Bill Clinton’s 37-point margin in 1992.  Silver calculates that the Democrats’ strength in the region is hard to separate out from the growth of its core industry, information technology –and the advantage that having access to some of the most talented individuals working in the field could provide to Democratic campaigns. As an example, among employees working for Google, Obama received about 720,000 in itemized contributions this year, compared to only $25,000 Mitt Romney. Over all, among the 10 American information technology companies listed on Fortune magazine’s list of 50   most-admired companies, Obama raised 83 percent of the funds between the two major candidates. Silver speculates that perhaps a different kind of Republican candidate, whose social views are more in line with the Bay Area and the cultures of the leading companies there, could gather more support among information technology professionals. Ron Paul, the libertarian-leaning Republican, raised about $42,000 among Google employees, considerably more than Romney.

    Rumor of the Week

    Chatter that J.C. Watts, a former black Republican congressman from Oklahoma (1995-2003), and star quarterback at Oklahoma U. might be considering a run for Republican National Chairman. Anyone would be better to broaden the reach of the party than clueless Reince Priebus from Wisconsin, the current chairman.

    Quotable

    I feel almost sorry for John Boehner…In some ways, he’s got to deal with this base of the Republican party. . And you know, everybody’s elevated Grover Norquist. I met him for the first time this morning. Nice to meet him—but you know, who is he?Sen. Clare McCaskill (D.Mo.), on meeting the keeper of the “Pledge” in the Green Room before NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. 

  • The New Yorker: Humor
  • WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—A trio of Republican senators today blasted U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice for misleading the American public, which, in the words of Sen. Lindsay Graham (R.S.C.), “has traditionally been our job.” “Ambassador Rice has been engaged in non-stop lies and double-talk,” said Sen. Graham, one of the three Republican senators who had a closed-door meeting with Rice. “If she wants to do those things so badly, she should run for the U.S. Senate like the rest of us.”

    Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R., N.H.) agreed with Sen. Graham’s assessment, saying of the meeting, “I heard Susan Rice spew nothing but half-truths, distortions and complete fabrications. It felt like I was watching Fox News, except that she’s black.”

    The third senator, John McCain (R., Ariz), said that he found Ambassador Rice’s story profoundly disappointing: “Considering that the C.I.A. was involved, I sought there’d be more sex.”

November

  • McCain’s New Recruit to Savage Rice
  • JOINING the dynamic duo of John McCain and Lindsay Graham in their Washington meeting this week to discredit Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations over what she said about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya was Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. The newcomer to foreign policy issues, has stood by her more senior Senate colleagues throughout the Rice debacle. The unusual new alliance suggested that the two men wanted a female for balance even as Ayotte positions herself for a 2016 presidential run. New Hampshire political expert, James Pindell, explained her reason for teaming up with the two amigos: “Kelly Ayotte is dancing with the one the one who took her to the ball. Outside the NRSC itself, McCain was Ayotte’s biggest outside backer in a primary she won by 1,500 votes against a conservative insurgent and two self-funding millionaires. McCain invited her to Phoenix for a major fundraiser, introduced her to bundlers, and campaigned for her at town hall meetings in New Hampshire, where he is a two-time winner of competitive primaries. Ayotte came to the Senate without ever working in Washington before, not even as a hill staffer. She also had never been elected to anything before. She needed others to help her navigate the place and McCain took her under his wing. Because of McCain and Mitt Romney her profile has risen to the point where most Washington pundits can correctly pronounce her name now.”

    Quotable

    Alan Simpson and Democratic counterpart, Erskine Bowles, “have been on the road, sometimes solo but often together, perfecting a sort of Off Broadway show that has kept their panel’s recommendations alive.”—New York Times writer Jackie Calmes. 

    There are 33 Republicans from the 112th Congress who signed the pledge and aren’t coming back next year because they are either retiring or they have lost re-election. How many of these lame ducks feel compelled to stick to Grover’s pledge? And, will they be courted and arm-twisted “Lincoln” style by the White House?ABC News

    I should note that former John McCain strategist Mike Murphy who is one of the handful of Republicans that sort of get it; I’m sure Murphy and I would disagree about exactly how his party can fix its problems. Murphy said the Republican challenge was about policy. “We repel Latinos, the fastest growing voter group in the country. We repel younger voters, who are much more secular than their parents.”—Joan Walsh, Salon’s editor at large, and author of “What’s the Matter with White People.”

  • Susan Rice’s World VIew
  • As Nicholas Lemann notes in The New Yorker why is there a gathering storm of opposition to the prospect of Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador, becoming Secretary of State? Rice is as much a child of the Washington establishment as anybody in the Obama Administration—her father was a governor of the Federal Reserve Board, and she has risen steadily through the ranks of the foreign-policy world. She is hardly an outsider with unorthodox views. The constitutional requirement of Senate confirmation for cabinet appointees gives the party that lost the election a chance to strike back quickly by attacking nominees of the party that won seem vulnerable. Rice’s vulnerability is related to the Republican supposition that the deadly attack in September on the U.S. embassy in Libya can be seen as a major failure by the Obama Administration: her sin was going on the Sunday talk shows immediately after the attack and saying that it looked to be spontaneous, a reaction to an anti-Islamic film, rather than attributing it to Al Qaeda affiliates. Attacking her is a way of keeping the spotlight on Benghazi, and using it to promote the perception Administration is weak and inept in foreign policy. But as Lemann points out, if Rice might be Secretary of State, it’s worth wondering about her world view, beyond one morning’s misstatement. It’s not immediately easy to discern. The foreign policy world extravagantly admires intellectual brilliance, but rarely produces it. Sweeping conceptual breakthroughs don’t come very often. For Rice, the closest we have to an over-all vision statement was a document published in the summer of 2008. Lemann suggests it’s a pretty good predictor of Obama’s first-term foreign policy. Beginning with Rice’s preface, it stresses diplomacy over power and imagines that a United States that has become less bellicose than it was during George W. Bush’s presidency can exert greater influence in the world. John McCain, Lindsey Graham and others on the right are determined to take Rice down. But her world view, a ringing call for “strategic leadership,” is rarely heard in Washington.

    Quotable

    “Who knows? Life is full of serendipity. This is a BS way of answering it, but I never would have guessed I’d be a governor. I would never have guessed I would go to China as ambassador. I would never have guessed I’d run for president.”—Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman upon briefly entering the 2012 race for president and suggesting he had one more run in him, to The Huffington Post.

    “It’s called the new reality.” We can no longer afford to marginalize ourselves as a party. The GOP has gone “off the rails. We are becoming increasingly irrelevant to the political conversation.”—Former Republican chairman Michael Steele to Howard Kurtz, The Daily Beast.

    Pretending that Norquist is more powerful than he is allows Republicans to win acclaim they haven’t earned yet. Without making a single substantive concession, they get lots of praise just for saying they are ready to ignore those old pledges to Grover.”—E.J. Dionne Jr., The Washington Post.

  • Benghazi Blame: McCain, Graham Fight On
  • Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a Democrat turned independent, retires in January, so the Senate’s foreign policy trio becomes a Republican duo with Sen. John McCain and Lindsay Graham. Their relentless attack Tuesday on Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, for conceding on Tuesday that she incorrectly described the attack on the American mission in Benghazi, Libya—even based on her earlier statement on the available intelligence at the time—did nothing to satisfy the two senatorial doubters. Even Lieberman, calling McCain and Graham foreign policy leaders, suggested in an interview that “their voices would be stronger if they were part of a bipartisan group. It was refreshing to hear former Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, who was U.S. ambassador to China in the Obama administration, temper their criticism of the administration’s handling of the attack. “Benghazi, I think you can contribute to the fog of war more than anything else.”   

    CNN and Zucker

    The struggling network is expected in the near future to name Jeffrey Zucker, the former chief executive of NBC Universal, as its new leader. While CNN is on track to have its most profitable year ever, its flagship channel in the United States appears rudderless, run by layers of producers and executives—many with competing visions. Zucker could check all the boxes, starting with a 16-year winning streak for the “Today: show. Many in an around CNN spoke on the record about the challenges ahead. Getting the 4,000 person company, spread around the world, to row in the same direction will be one of the toughest tasks. As Fox News, and later MSNBC, put on confrontational programs with partisan points of view, CNN made a point of being proudly nonpartisan. This should have been an “up” year for the channel because of the presidential election but through mid-November the channel had drawn 412,000 viewers at any given time, down 16 percent from the previous 12 months. 

    Anti-Norquist

    TalkingPointsMemo reports that seven key Republicans have disowned lobbyist Grover Norquist’s infamous “pledge. They include Senators Saxby Chambliss, Tom Coburn, Lindsey Graham, John McCain and former Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming who co-chaired the White House fiscal commission which proposed trillions of dollars in new taxes—and earned accolades from he Beltway establishment. Back in May Simpson pulled no punches in an interview with CNN: For heaven’s sake, you have Grover Norquist wandering the earth in his white robes saying that if you raise taxes one penny, he’ll defeat you. He can’t murder you. He can’t burn your house. The only thing he can do, as an elected official, is defeat you for reelection.

    What They Said

    “We would love to have Nate continue to be part of the New York Times family and expand on what he does.—Executive editor Jill Abramson, making it clear that the newspaper wants to keep famed political statistician Nate Silver on staff.

    “I think Benghazi was generally hyped by this network especially.”—Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Thomas Ricks, interviewed by Fox on Monday, added, “I think the emphasis on Benghazi has been extremely political, partly because Fox is operating as the wing of the Republican Party.”

     

  • Obama: Follow Jefferson’s Food as Social Tool
  • Maureen Dowd fretted in her New York Times column on Sunday that President Obama gets tangled up in his head –trying to decide if he’s too noble to play politics or if spending some evenings schmoozing and flattering them to further his agenda will leave him too depleted. She cites a Democratic senator who recently told her this: “If only the president would have us over to the White House sometimes and talk with us, it could really help. When Bill Clinton called and asked if he could have my vote. I was more prone to do it because we had developed a rapport.” Switch reels.

    Jon Meacham, author of “Thomas Jefferson, The Art of Power,” raised an intriguing question in The Times on Monday as to whether Obama can do anything to create enough good will to pass some lasting reforms. Under the intriguing headline, Socializing as a Political Tool, Meacham argued that Obama should follow Jefferson and use some food to bring people together. His modest proposal is drawn from the presidency of another tall, cool, cerebral politician-writer: use the White House and the president’s personal company to attempt to weave attachments and increase a sense of common purpose to the capital. Dinners with the president—or breakfast or lunch or coffee or drinks or golf—won’t create a glorious bipartisan Valhalla but history suggests that at least one of our greatest presidents mastered the means of entertaining to political effect. The Jefferson strategy largely worked. In the Jefferson years, from 1801 to 1809, Republicans were heard to acknowledge that the President’s dinners had silenced them” at moments when they were inclined to vote against the administration. The Federalist Senator William Plumer of New Hampshire began his Washington career with predictably harsh assessment of Jefferson, dismissing him as the leader of a feeble, nerveless administration. His opinion changed dramatically, he wrote in 1806. Dinner at the President’s House was unlike Presidents Washington or Adams, with Jefferson following a more democratic practice of having guests sit where they chose. He was under no utopian illusions about the efficacy of political entertaining. He knew that interests would always clash; as his presidential years went by, his goal was to ameliorate party differences, not eliminate them since elimination was not possible. As Jefferson put it, though, “the ground of liberty is to be gained by inches.” Dowd noted, Obama—who has had a failure to communicate—finds media a bother. The president can learn from Robert Griffin III, the Heisman Trophy winner and Washington Redskins’ electrifying rookie, that rocking opponents with big plays, can energize the Democratic base, scare far right Republicans and lead to significant achievements in his second term. Is Obama ready to embrace Jefferson’s lack of interest in his last four years to waste time on arguments, even polite ones, between differing factions at his table. He chose dinner in his house to put himself and his own agenda at the center of things.

  • Lincoln, Liberty and Two Americas
  • Charles M. Blow reprises the opening words of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. The New York Times columnist suggests that they seem eerily prescient today because once again the country finds itself increasingly divided and pondering the future of this great union and the very ideas of justice and equality for all. The gap is growing between liberals, conservatives, the rich and the not rich, intergenerational and new-immigrant power, patriarchy and general equality. And that gap, which has geographical contours—the densely populated coastal states vs. the less populated states of the Rocky Mountains, Mississippi Delta and Great Plains –threatens the very concept of a United States and is pushing conservatives, left quaking after this month’s election, to extremes.

    The conservative Daily Caller reported last week more than 675,000 digital signatures appeared on more than 69 separate succession signatures covering all 50 states. ”Former libertarian presidential candidate Ron Paul lauded the petitions, of those bent on leaving the union, suggesting that “sesessionis a deeply felt American principle. As Monica Davey reported in The New York Times last Friday, starting in January, “one party will hold the governor’s office and majorities in both legislative chambers in at least 37 states, the largest number in 60 years and a significant jump from two years ago. As Davey’s article pointed out, single-party control raises “the prospect that bold partisan agendas—on both ends of the political spectrum—will flourish over the next couple of years. Democrats may want to expand personal liberties, but Republicans for the past several years have worked feverishly to restrict them. So, as Blow ominously suggests, we are moving toward two Americas, with two contrasting—and increasingly codified—concepts of liberty. Can such a nation long endure? 

    Quotation of the Day

    “God’s will and elections made me the captain of this ship.”—Mohamed Morsi, the president of Egypt. But does he really believe, in response to protests over his seizure of unchecked authority, he’s a modern day pharaoh?

  • Christie Hails Obama but No GOP Hugs
  • A Few Days after Hurricane Sandy destroyed the shores of New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie picked up the phone to address another kind of recovery: taming the Republican Party fury over his effusive embrace of President Obama. Christie called Rupert Murdoch, the News Corp chief and would-be kingmaker, who had warned in a biting Twitter that Christie might be responsible for Obama’s re-election if he did not endorse Mitt Romney. The governor was surprised by the uproar, requiring a rising Republican star to contain the tempest that left him heeling, as The New York Times reported feeling deeply misunderstood and wounded. He locked arms with Obama, flew with him on Marine One and praised him as “incredibly supportive.” It did not help that Romney never called Christie. At last week’s meeting of the Republican Governor’s Assn. in Las Vegas, Christie, instead of being celebrated, was often reminded about how he had offended fellow Republicans. Romney’s political advisers looked over data that showed an unusual number of voters backed Obama. “Christie,” a Romney adviser said, “allowed Obama to be president, not a politician.” Some party loyalists saw his behavior as an echo of the August convention when he trumpeted his own accomplishments but made scant reference to Romney. Christie is positioning himself to run for re-election next year as a softer, post-partisan figure. The odds are increasingy that Newark’s popular Democratic mayor and Twitter superhero, Cory A. Booker, may oppose Christie.

    More Murdoch

    Rising from the ashes of scandal, the billionaire’s News Corporation is on the prowl again. There are publishing assets that the 81-year-old Murdoch has long coveted, most notably The Los Angeles Times. Its owner, the bankrupt Tribune Company, is looking for a buyer for its struggling newspapers, including The Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune. Stay tuned.

    Tax Pledge

    Grover Norquist, who leads Americans for Tax Reform, is famous for inventing the so-called “pledge” issue which has locked in gullible Republicans, most notably in the House, for over 20 years. He famously boosts of wanting to reducing government “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” But there are clear signs that he’s losing his grip as lawmakers debate a fiscal plan. Undeterred, Norquist says “This is not my first rodeo.” Senator John McCain, still pretending that he’s a major player in American politics, noted with a sense of satisfaction at an Atlantic magazine forum last week fewer and fewer people are signing this, quote, pledge.”

    Tweets

    @dave weigel: bogus schadenfreude for Dems: the Allen West strategist promising to fight on was Chris LaCaVita, of Swift Boat fame.

    @ sabrina siddiqui: Messina says the dumbest move by the Romney campaign was the Jeep ad-put them on defense in the last few weeks.

  • Red States Turning Blue: New GOP Platform?
  • BEFORE the 2012 presidential election was called Bill O’Reilly, after acknowledging that the demographics are changing, offered the following explanation for the Obama victory: “It’s not a traditional America anymore.” As Ryan Lizza wrote in The New Yorker, as immigration turns red states into blue, how can Republicans transform their platform? Ted Cruz, now the senator-elect from Texas, represents one strategy: continue its ideological shift to the right, especially on immigration, and appeal to Hispanics with candidates who share their ethnicity and perhaps speak their language. The more difficulty path would see the GOP retreat from its position on immigration and take the direction advocated by Martinez de Vara, who founded the Latino National Republican Coalition of Texas, now called the Texas Federation of Hispanic Republicans, and the Bush family.

    If neither of these strategies succeeds, as Lizza points out, the consequences are clear. California was once a competitive state, but now the GOP there has been reduced to a rump party. The beginning of the Republican decline in California is traced back to former Governor Pete Wilson’s attacks on benefits for unauthorized immigrants, which sounded to many voters like attacks on Hispanics. In 2000 and 2004, New Mexico was one of the closest states in Presidential politics. In 2008, Obama won by fifteen points. But 2012, it was no longer contested. Nevada was fought over by both parties with Obama winning by six points. Like California and New Mexico it is likely safe for 2016. “For now, the field belongs to Obama and the Democrats, and the storyline on immigration I theirs to lose.

    LA Pension Reform

    Former Mayor Richard Riordan’s plan to dramatically revise the city’s three pension systems was developed without an actuarial study that would determine the costs of any new system. Before changes can be put in place occur the City Charter requires “that all pension changes have an independent actual analysis. The wealthy former Republican mayor is now doing one and slammed opponents for a political charge. The president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which is already campaigning against it, said Riordan is trying to hide the costs. 

  • How the GOP Misread Obama’s Win
  • Frank Rich, writing about Fantasyland in New York magazine, describes how denial has poisoned the GOP and threatens the rest of the country too. Turns out the most histrionic indicator of the GOP’s Establishment’s enlistment in the post-fact alternative universe was the pillorying of Nate Silver, whose FiveThirtyEight statistical model got all 50 states right. In the waning days of October Joe Scarborough, the former Republican Florida congressman on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, discounted Silver’s findings that Obama (then) had a 73.6 percent probability of victory by insisting that “anybody who thinks that this race is over but a toss-up right now “ is an ideologue. The effort by Scarborough and others to discredit FiveThirtyEight mirrored their partisan attempt to demonize nonpartisan organizations that questioned Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s voodoo economics. Turns out the GOP’s wholesale retreat from reality found its ultimate expression in Peggy Noonan’s blog in The Wall Street Journal which informed the faithful that “Romney’s slipping into the presidency” and will win. Noon’s revealing summation of her thought process was this: “Is it possible this whole thing is playing out before our eyes and we’re really not noticing because we’re too busy looking at data on paper instead of what’s in front of us.” Noonan might have wondered if the neighborhoods in Florida with Romney signs, not Obama ones, was not representative of either Florida or the country. Bill O’Reilly’s Election Night revelation “that the white Establishment is now the minority” was, as Rich wrote, almost pathetic in its naiveté. 

    Read ‘em and weep

    Add New Mexico governor Susana Martinez (R) to the list of Republican leaders upset with Mitt Romney’s claim that President Obama won the election by doling out “gifts” to minorities, youth and women. “That unfortunately is what sets us back as a party—our comments that are not thought through carefully. Martinez, who previously criticized Romney’s “47 percent” remarks in September, added that his fundraiser video was a “ridiculous statement. Why would you write off 47 percent?”

    “The surprise was some of the turnout especially in urban areas, which gave President Obama the big margin to win this race. When we watched Virginia and Ohio coming in, and those ones coming in as tight as they were and looking like we were going to lose them, that’s went it became clear we weren’t going to win.”—A naïve Rep. Paul D. Ryan, attributing the Republican defeat to a large Democratic turnout.

    “If I have any message, we can’t get so focused on one issue that we can’t lose sight of the main issue for women—economic security.”—Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, re-elected this month.   

  • Romney’s Ugly Vision of Politics
  • During the campaign Mitt Romney made a lot of promises to seniors: restoring Obama’s $716 billion Medicare cuts; unlike Obama not a single change to Medicare or Social Security for 10 years. The rich would get a lower tax rate, close some loopholes and faster growth to pay for the cuts. What he really meant was promising tax cuts to the rich at a time when he said deficit should be a top priority. This week he had a simple explanation why his campaign came up short. Obama was too generous, doling out big gifts to African Americans, Hispanic Americans and “young people.” Early in the year he told major campaign donors that Obama’s strength came from 47 percent of Americans who consider themselves “victims” and “dependent” on government. Until the end he believed he would be elected, but his campaign missed the mark badly on polling and turnout operations. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal strongly condemned Romney on Wednesday night for “wrong remarks” he made blaming Obama’s re-election on “big gifts” for minorities and women. Jindal said he that he absolutely rejected Romney’s comments and that they were indicative of broader problems for the GOP as they regroup in the wake of last week’s defeat.

    White House Today

    President Obama meets with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev), Senate Minority Leader Mitchell McConnell (R-Ky.), Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D.Calif.) at 10:15. Will McConnell again flash his “Doctor No” smile?

    Health Care Law

    States are supposed to tell the Obama administration by today whether they want to create their own health exchange –a deadline that many thought would never happen, hoping that Romney would become president and the health care law would be repealed. Insurance exchanges—basically online markets where the insured can shop for private health insurance, often with federal subsidies to pay—are considered crucial to making the health care law work. So far, 17 states, led by Democrats and the District of Columbia have indicated they will create their own state-run exchanges. Every state is supposed to have an exchange by Jan. 1, 2014.

    What They Said

    “Global warning happens just slowly enough that political systems have been able to ignore it. The distress signal is emitted at a frequently that scientists can hear quite clearly, but is seemingly just beyond the reach of most politicians.—Writer and activist Bill McKibben in the New York Review of Books.   

    “I believe that tax increases, especially for the wealthy, are appropriate, but only if they are joined by serious tax cuts in discretionary spending.”—Lloyd C. Blankfein, chief executive of Goldman Sachs, publicly endorsed higher tax rates in an opinion article published in The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.

    “Our Constitution, which was intended to limit government power and abuse, has failed.”—Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, the libertarian hero and perennial presidential candidate, in his likely last ever speech from the House floor, who said the answer lies in a return to the Constitution and its restrictions on government power. 

    “I was the first Democratic woman elected to the Senate in her own right. The 16th women to serve in the Senate in all of American history.—Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.)

  • Obama vs. McCain and Graham Poisons
  • The most striking moment at President Obama’s press conference Wednesday was when he went after Sens Lindsey Graham (R. S.C.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) in no uncertain terms. Like badly spoiled children both made it clear that they wouldn’t confirm U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice as Secretary of State due to the lingering controversy about what Rice said in the days after the attack on Benghazi, Libya. Rice had suggested at the time that the deaths were due to a spontaneous demonstration sparked by an anti-Islam video, but is soon became apparent that it was a planned attack. Graham has stated that Rice is “incompetent” and that he doesn’t trust her, while McCain aid she was “not qualified” to serve as secretary of state. “If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after somebody they should go after me, Obama said, adding: “When they go after the U.N. ambassador, apparently because they think she is an easy target, then they’ve got a problem with me.” Graham fired back. “Mr. President, don’t think for a minute that I don’t hold you ultimately response for Benghazi. I think you failed as Commander in Chief, before, during and after the attack.” McCain, who remains embittered since Obama defeated him for president in 2008, was more measured but said many Democrats would vote against Rice’s confirmation.

    GOP Leadership Fight

    The House’s leadership wanted to elevate Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers of Washington to lead the House Republican Conference. But Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, one of the most conservative members of the House, stood in the way. Rep. Paul Ryan, the defeated GOP vice presidential, wasn’t buying it and sent a letter to colleagues Tuesday backing Price. Guess what? Ryan’s hard-right faction lost.

    Quotable

    Washington is suffused with schadenfreude. Yet President Obama and others felt genuinely sad to see a man so controlling about integrity and image –he warned protégés that “someone is always watching”—spin out of control on integrity and image. As Shakespeare wrote in “Othello”: “Reputation, reputation, reputation.”—Maureen Dowd, The New York Times 

    “This is the National Enquirer,” an alarmed Senator Dianne Feinstein told Wolf Blitzer of CNN. Even when he was the C.I.A. director Petraeus’s ego was so wrapped up in being a shiny military that, according to the Washington Post, he recently surprised guests at a D.C. dinner when he arrived to speak wearing his medals on the lapel of his suit jacket.—Maureen Dowd.

     

  • Krugman on Deficit Hawks
  • The commendable thing about Paul Krugman, the liberal New York Times columnist, is that he is not afraid to challenge the self-styled deficit hawks that have convinced much of our political class that deficits rather than jobs should be our top economic priority. He notes, for example, that contrary to the way it’s often portrayed, the looming prospect of spending cuts and tax increases isn’t a fiscal crisis. It is, instead in his view, a political crisis brought on by the GOP’s attempt to take the economy hostage. Krugman is not sure about how serious the buzz is to appoint Erskine Bowles to replace Timothy Geithner. Recalling his record, Krugman suggests like others in the deficit-scold community, Bowles has engaged in scare tactics, warning of an imminent fiscal crisis that keeps not coming. Meanwhile, the report he co-wrote was supposed to be about deficit reduction—yet, true to form, it called for lower rather than higher tax rates, as a “guiding principle” Krugman opines that there has been no serious discussion on America’s fiscal future in the last two years—because the discourse was highjacked by the wrong people, with the wrong agenda. Let’s show them the door.

    Filibuster

    If the despicable Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell continues to wield it as he did in President Obama’s first term, Majority Leader Harry Reid will need at least five rational Republican senators who advance important initiatives. Susan Collins, the most moderate Republican in the Senate heads the list. Lisa Murkowski, the Alaska Republican, broke with the GOP on a series of defining votes, including the Dream Act and the Paul Ryan budget. Dean Heller, who replaced Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) last year, will have an incentive not to be a problem as constituents voted to give Obama a second term. Mark Kirk (R-Ill), a relative moderate is from a liberal state, sometimes breaks with his party, making him a winnable vote for Reid. Lindsey Graham, from South Carolina, up for re-election in South Carolina in 2014, has in recent years collaborated with Democrats on major issues like immigration and climate change. 
    .
    Quotable

    Petraeus’s choice suggests an additional measure of vanity. Broadwell exercises compulsively, as he does. She’s fascinated by all matters military, as he is. “Petraeus once joked I was his avatar,” she told the Charlotte Observer a while back. So by his own assessment, he was having an affair with a version of himself.—Frank Bruni, The New York Times.

    “The worst time to work together on a bipartisan basis is right before the election. The best time to work on a bipartisan basis is right after an election.”— Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the House Republican Conference, on the start of Congressional negotiations to avert a fiscal crisis.

  • Let the Republican Civil War Begin
  • Since President Obama was elected in 2008 he has been the leader most capable of unifying the fractious Republican Party. But the party now finds itself more divided than ever with potent demographical shifts, setting the stage between those determined to rebrand the Republicans in a softer light and those committed to hardline ideological purity. Some leaders believe the faithful must find new ways to talk about issues like immigration, abortion and same-sex marriage. Others attributed Republican losses to poor candidates, messaging missteps and President Obama’s superior political operation.
    Joshua S. Trevino, a speechwriter in George W. Bush’s administration, mentioned that “we continue to crank out modern loser after moderate loser, suggesting Mitt Romney was part of a “pattern” of Republican nominees, preceded by John McCain, Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush, who were rejected by voters because of “perceived inauthenticity.” Ralph Reed, the longtime Republican strategist and chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, said he would redouble efforts in the next four years to recruit women, Latinos and young people as grass-roots organizers.”We cannot win by relying on white voters and evangelicals alone”   

    Alan I. Abramowitz, a political scientist at Emory University, said is was stunning that Republicans won the white vote by 20 points and still lost.” Unless Republicans reverse the trend, he said, the rising strength of the Latino vote could doom the party’s ability to map a winning electoral strategy. Colorado and Nevada could soon join California and New Mexico as non competitive states in Republican presidential elections. “If Texas becomes a swing state, it’s all over.” Ryan A. Call, the GOP chairman in Colorado, where, Hispanics made up 14 percent of the vote last week, noted that “We simply cannot be the party of no.”

    But the party’s staunchest conservatives, including Tea Party leaders, are not ready to yield, and deep-pocketed financiers hold enormous clout in the party. Richard A. Viguerie, the longtime conservative strategist, said “Never again are we going to nominate a big-government, establishment Republican for president.”

    Read ‘em and weep

    The FBI made a clear mistake by not informing congressional intelligence panels when it investigated CIA Director David Petraeus and discovered an affair.—Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Senate intelligence panel, said it was “puzzling” neither President Obama nor the committees had been informed. Question: How was it that House majority leader Eric Canter seemed to know first?

    “I don’t think it’s about the Republican Party needing to become more moderate. I really believe it’s the Republican Party becoming more modern.”—Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA, the highest ranked House Republican woman. 

  • GOP Reconsiders Immigration Reform
  • AFTER a presidential campaign in which Latino voters rewarded Presidential Obama while punishing Republicans for their positions on illegal immigration, party leaders abruptly shifted course, saying they could support some kind of legislation. The prospects for a 2013 overhaul suddenly improved at flank speed, with House Speaker John Boehner saying that “a comprehensive approach is long overdue.” Suddenly Haley Barbour, a Republican elder statesman and former governor of Mississippi, echoed Boehner’s remarks and, in a stunning surprise, Sean Hannity, the Fox News conservative talk show host, were suddenly joining calls for measures opening pathways to legal status for illegal immigrants.

    The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Leadership Conference, the largest organization of Hispanic evangelicals, said Republicans can redeem the narrative with this community by passing comprehensive immigration reform.” Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, said, “How you talked about immigrants sent a signal on what kind of perspective you had on Latinos over all.”

    Hannity was far more forthright on the subject. On his show last Thursday, he said he said he had “evolved” and now believed that if “people are here, law-abiding , their kids are born here, you know, first secure the border, then pathway to citizenship, done,” It was evident, immediately after Boehner spoke on Thursday that many Congressional Republicans would be hostile to comprehensive-reform efforts.

    What They Said

    “Don’t’ scream and yell when one person says, ‘you know what, it won’t kill the country if we raise taxes a little bit on millionaires. Really? The Republican Party is going to fall on its sword to defend a bunch of millionaires, half of who voted Democratic and half of whom live in Hollywood.”—Bill Kristol, the influential Weekly Standard columnist and editor.

    Some Republicans conceded they were “a Mad Money party in a ‘Modern Family world” (although “Mad Money’ seems too louche for a candidate who doesn’t drink or smoke and who apparently dated only one woman). They also acknowledged that the Romney strategists ran a 20th century campaign against David Plouffe’s 21-century one.—New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.

  • Looking Ahead
  • Much of the American electorate after the presidential campaign is weary about politics. But not for the prolific pollsters at Public Policy Polling. Has the 2016 race for the White House already started?

    The Democratic-leaning firm gave Talking Points Memo an early look at its survey of the field in New Hampshire, which, given the reshuffling of the primary calendar in recent years, may not even maintain its outsized role in the next four years.

    To the point, the poll found two clear frontrunners in the race: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for the Republicans and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the Democrats. Twenty-one percent of Republicans in the state favor Christie as the nominee. A cluster of other perspective candidates trail him but still crack 10 percent. They include Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (14%), former Secretary of State Condoleezza (13%), former Florida Jeb Bush (11 percent,) and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan (10%). Ryan and Rice have the highest name recognition in the state.

    Democrats overwhelmingly back a Clinton candidacy, strongly suggesting that she can get the nomination if she wants it. The poll shows that 60% of Democrats would give her the nod. Only Vice President Joe Biden reaches 10%. If Clinton passes, Biden is considered a mild favorite with the support of 20 percent. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (15%), newly elected Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (11 percent) and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (9 percent) trail Biden.

    PPP’s survey indicated that nearly 30% 0f New Hampshire Republicans don’t have an opinion about Florida’s junior senator.

  • The Right Hated Mitt But Loves Ryan
  • Mitt Romney’s loss to a Democratic president is certain to spur an internecine struggle over the future of the Republican Party as it begins to retool and focus on the 2016 election. A prescient ‘Mr. Right’ cover piece by Mark Leibovich on Oct. 21 in The New York Times is largely built around on Paul Ryan if Romney should campaign as a moderate, wins and then tries to govern as one. Curious, Leibovich asked Jeb Hensarling, a Republican congressman from Texas and former chairman of the House Conservative Caucus, if he had ant concerns about Romney’s recent tack to the center. Hensarling immediately pushed back. “Any question a conservative ever had about Mitt Romney,” he added, “was erased when he asked Paul Ryan to be his vice presidential candidate.” Leibovich was struck by the degree to which conservatives have taken to using the fact that Ryan’s selection as all all-purpose, get-out-of-jail card for Romney, even as his campaign coordinators have begun speaking a somewhat different language. He asked Ryan about on the trail if he was satisfied with his role in the campaign. Yes, he replied, called second-guessing about his role in the campaign “just noise.” He declined to consider Romney as a mentor, and paused for a second. I see him as an older partner. “I’m used to working with a lot of people who are much older,” he replied. If Romney loses, the recriminations play out in two predictable ways, Leibovich wrote. Some will say that the party must attract a broader base of support among independent and moderate and nonwhite voters. But a more vocal and probably bigger group on the right will insist that the ticket was not conservative enough. They will say Mitt Romney ran a lousy general election campaign, except for his finest act, the elevation of Paul Ryan, who was a very good Boy Scout and who waited his turn.

    Sore Losers

    “The white establishment is now a minority.”—Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly.

    Congrats to @karlrove on blowing $400 million this cycle. Every race@crossroadsgps ran ads in, the Republicans lost. What a waste of money.—Donald J. Trump@real Donald Trump.

  • Obama Wins Swing States; Republicans In Disarray
  • President Obama gets a second chance to catch up to his epochal vision—and find a place in history. But first, as The Washington Post wrote ”Can the same president build a new landscape in binding together a deeply divided nation shift from campaigning to governing? The most expensive election in American history produced a status-quo outcome. Will it change the status quo that has governed Washington not just during Obama’s presidency but for most of the past decade? His campaign was geared more to attacking Mitt Romney than creating a mandate for a second term. The New York Times suggested that the president will be confronted with granular negotiations over spending cuts and taxes increases plus a looming showdown with Iran. Liberals will now push for their ideas. Other Democrats, and some Republicans will push for him to be more open to the views of those who voted against him, As Obama said in Mentor, Ohio days ago, “”I will work with anybody, of any party, to move this country forward.” The question now is: Swing for the fences?

    Romney’ defeat

    ABC’s “Good Morning America” reported that his campaign aides were emotional after his loss, thinking right up until the end that their candidate could defeat Obama. After Ohio went for the president there was a brief moment when Romney’s senior advisers talked about challeng the networks call in the Buckeye state…. Romney sources attributed his defeat to three major problems: The 47% problem; the successful effort to define Romney early; and Hurricane Sandy. Karl Rove, who called the race for Romney last week, declared that the storm helped Obama and caused the Romney campaign to “stutter” in its message on the economy. Question: can “Bush’s brain” groom a non-white presidential candidate to reposition a dying Republican brand?

    What They Said

    Things I was wrong about: Obama couldn’t repeat his ’08 victories in VA and Fl. Hr did both. Both states have changed – big time.—@The Fix

    Wait—was anybody thinking pollsters don’t know what they’re doing? That their #s are all “skewed” and biased”? Where’s that idea come from?—John Harwood.

    I am proud to have cast my vote for Mitt Romney. Now comes the hard part. America faces monumental challenges in putting people back to work, reducing our critical debt and advancing our interests around the world.—Marco Rubio, one of the first potential 2016 candidates to release a statement on the election

    LA Politic

    Jackie Lacey is the new Los Angeles County District Attorney, the first woman and first African American in county history, and long overdue. …The race for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination is already heating up. Will Hillary Clinton’s decision shape the race? Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has been courting national Latino support for some time but not close to the top tier. If Clinton passes, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York will be a formidable figure. It’s noteworthy that 60% of Democratic primary voters were women.

  • Final Pew Poll: Obama Has ‘Modest Lead’
  • Barack Obama heads into Election Day having regained a “modest” 3-point lead over Mitt Romney, according to the final election poll by the Pew Research Center. The poll, released Sunday afternoon, gives Obama a 50-to-45 edge among likely voters after the 3 percent of undecided voters are divided between the candidates. Some voters have already cast their ballots—about a third, with 48 percent picking Obama and 46 percent choosing Romney, according to Pew. The two candidates were deadlocked last week.

    Romney continues to lead among men and among voters 65 and older, although his lead with the latter group slipped 10 points in the last week. The president has restored the gender gap among women—he now leads 53 to 40 percent, a six-point shift from last week. He also gained among moderates and voters in the storm-battered Northeast.

    Sunday’s poll is Pew’s first since the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and it supports finds elsewhere that Obama’s handling of the crisis may have boosted his standing. Nearly seven in 10 likely voters, including 46 percent of Romney voters and 63 percent of swig voters, approved the way Obama managed the crisis. Perhaps the best news for Obama is the poll is the strength of his supporters’ enthusiasm. Eight in 10 Obama supporters say they’re voting for him rather than against.him.

  • Karl Rove; Sandy; Gallup Poll
  • With the election three days off, a growing chorus of Republican operatives and strategists believe that Hurricane Sandy may be the game changer in the presidential campaign. GOP strategist Karl Rove, George W. Bush’s brain, who called the race for Mitt Romney a few days ago, went further, telling The Washington Post late Tuesday night “it’s the October surprise. For once, the October surprise was a real surprise.” He said the president “has temporarily been a bipartisan figure this week. He has been the Comforter-in-Chief and that helps.” Pollster Dick Morris, the Fox News contributor, only days ago predicted a 400+ Romney landslide. Morris now says, “So, just for the record, I was right. Romney wins. Except then there was Sandy, which no one could have predicted, so he doesn’t win. Bummer.”

    Gallup Poll

    Released Wednesday, the poll suggests Americans expect Obama to be re-elected by 54 percent to 34 percent. Among those believing that Obama will win were most independents and almost a fifth of Republicans.

  • Polls: Romney’s Last Hurrah?
  • President Obama is now better than a 4-in-5 chance to win the Electoral College, according to Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight forecast in The New York Times. His chances of winning it increased to 83.7 percent on Friday, his highest figure since the Denver debate and improved from 80.8 percent on Thursday.

    Silver argues that “we’ve reached the point where if Romney wins, it can only be because the polls have been biased against him. Almost all of the chance that Romney has in the FiveThirtyEight forecast, about 16 percent, reflects this possibility.

    Nevertheless, arguments that the polls are necessarily biased against Romney reflect little more than wishful thinking. These arguments are potentially more coherent than the ones that the race is “too close to call.” It isn’t. If the state polls are right, then Obama will win the Electoral College. If you can’t acknowledge that after a day when Obama leads 19 out of 20 swing-state polls, then you should abandon the pretense that your goal is to inform rather than entertain the public.

  • Climate Change Bloomberg Backs Obama
  • THE COUNTRY now knows that Hurricane Sandy turned out to be the “October Surprise” in the 2012 presidential election. Columnist Nicholas D. Kristof, in The New York Times, wrote that President Obama and Mitt Romney seemed determined not to discuss climate change. But the hurricane changed all that. Turns out aggressive New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, scheduled to campaign against Obama last week, called the president at the White House and pleaded for help. Over several hours they bonded, and in a remarkable spirit of bipartisanship both leaders toured the ravaged Jersey Shore on Marine One. Obama said FEMA was all in, and Christie added “it’s been a great working relationship.” 

    But in a surprise announcement Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said Thursday that he had reshaped his thinking about the presidential campaign, resulting in an endorsement of President Obama as the best candidate to tackle the global climate change issue. “The devastation that Hurricane Sandy brought to New York City and much of the Northeast brought the stakes of next Tuesday’s election into sharp relief,” Bloomberg, an independent nearing the end of his third term as mayor of New York City, wrote in an editorial for Bloomberg View. He did not endorse either Obama or Senator John McCain in 2008. Despite his endorsement Bloomberg continued to criticism the president as falling short on his campaign promise to be a problem-solver and consensus builder.

    Bloomberg said he might have endorsed Romney, except for the fact that the Republican had abandoned positions he once held publicly, including immigration, illegal guns, abortion rights and health care—and running against the health care model he signed into law in Massachusetts.

    FiveThirtyEight

    Nate Silver: We are approaching the point where Romney may need the state polls to be systematically biased against him in order to win the Electoral College. That certainly could turn out to be the case: If Romney wins the popular vote by more than two points, for example, he will be very likely be able to cobble together a winning electoral map. But the historical evidence slightly favors the state polls, in my view, when they seem to contradict the national ones. If the state polls are right, then Obama is not just the favorite in the Electoral College but probably also in the popular vote.

    Quotable

    Romney wouldn’t acknowledge the truth if it kissed him on the cheek. In fact, Romney seems to have decided that the only things standing between him and the White House are stubborn facts, He continues to roll right over them….I recognize that Obama hatred is a real thing, but disliking the president so much that you would do harm to yourself by voting for someone you admit you don’t trust seems to be taking things to extremes. All the voters are who are aware of Romney’s fact-mangling but vote for him anyway must ask themselves this question: are they granting him the liberty to lie?Charles M. Blow, The New York Times.

    “I think Gov. Romney has diminished himself in the last couple of days. It’s important to do what Chris Christie did. Mitt Romney would have got much further to say, “I’m 100 percent behind the president. We are all Americans right now, his leadership is important for the country.”—Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley said Wednesday that President Obama’s response to Hurricane Sandy has been “astute.”

  • For Obama, Commnder-in-Chief Moment
  • WHEN the Republican National Convention convened in Tampa in late summer New Jersey’s firebrand Gov. Chris Christie delivered the keynote address with a rousing address attacking President Barack Obama’s leadership. Switch reels to the devastating assault by ‘Hurricane Sandy’ on the American mainland Monday, most seriously devastating both New Jersey and New York. Gov. Christie immediately called Obama for help and the president responded at flank speed with FEMA involvement, leading to six conversations in the opening hours of the crisis between the two leaders. It was a vivid display of big government muscle and rare bipartisan harmony that confronted Mitt Romney with a vexing challenge days before the election. On Marine One, Obama greeted his onetime antagonist, saying “We are going to be here for the long haul.” Christie responded, “It’s really important to have the president of the United States acknowledge all the suffering that’s going on here in New Jersey.” What a departure from Hurricane Katrina and display of
    ineptitude by 43.

    Romney Team Confident

    Obama has a political environment problem,” Romney pollster Neil Newhouse and top staffers told a conference call of reporters Wednesday. Newhouse said “He’s got an intensity problem, he’s got any image problem and he’s got a ballot problem—and they all add up to a challenging Tuesday The call came as recent data shows Obama with a small, but persistent lead in enough states to win 270 electoral votes. “Right now their firewall is burning,” political director Rich Beeson told reporters. But the Romney team’s lack of any clear polling advantage in the key states puts them in a tough spot, lacking any clear polling advantage in the key states. Polling analysts like Nate Silver suggest Romney may need state polls to be systematically wrong across the board for him to prevail at this point. 

    On Wisconsin

    Obama lost his double-digit following the first debate earlier this month. He’s re-emerged as the favorite. A Marquette University Law School Poll shows Obama crossing 50 percent to open up an 8-point lead over Romney. Republican hopes brightened when Romney tapped Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as his running mate.

    Tweet

    @billmaher: Looking forward to James Bond movie; Obama’s like him cuz he’s cool, has license to kill; and Mitt’s like him cuz he’s been 6 different guys.

    Noteworthy

    It’s still Obama’s map, as it’s been from the start. But it’s growing the way Romney always probably needed it to. Romney may be tossing Hail Marys, but they’re all on the Obama side on the field.—ABC’s Rick Klein.

    “We are ahead or tied in every single battleground state. That means that Mitt Romney has to win not only all the toss-ups, but also a couple of states where we have a clear lead in order to have any chance of winning the presidency.”—Obama campaign manager Jim Messina, asserting that President Obama in a dominant position heading into Election Day.

October

  • Serious Play in Pennsylvania?
  • THE TRUTH is Pennsylvania hasn’t picked a Republican candidate for president in 24 years. Less than a week before the election, the Romney campaign claims it is now making a serious play for the Keystone state. According to the Associated Press, campaign sources say as much as two million in super-PAC money will be spent in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh media markets beginning today. The last-ditch effort by Romney apes what John McCain failed to accomplish against Obama in 2008 although he was much further behind in the polls. Jim Messina, Obama’s manager, noted that “we have a significant early vote advantage in states from North Carolina to Nevada, there is no momentum for Romney in the battleground states, and Romney has a very narrow path to 270 electoral votes.” Messina said the campaign would be competitive.

    Fear of Defeat

    Mitt Romney has released a new radio ad against Obama. repeating a debunked claim about Jeep jobs going to China. Behind in Ohio his campaign is spending $224,000 in the Toledo and Dayton markets. Mitt Romney – he’ll stand up for the auto industry. In Ohio, not China. The Romney campaign has repeatedly declined to defend the original claim on television. A fair reading of the script suggests that the new attack is even more misleading than the Romney campaign has already aired. Romney’s deliberate misreading of the facts, in view of his statement that “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” has earned him four Pinocchios from the media.

    Overheard

    “There’s a positively Giuliani-esque quality to Christie right now—seeing an opportunity and seizing it. Between his convention speech and wet kiss in POTUS on all the morning shows, it’s remarkably clear how he wants this election to turn out, and it’s not with a Romney win.”—One smart GOP strategist writes to the ABC News political desk.

    “The federal government response has been great. I was on the phone at midnight at midnight again last night with president personally. The president has been outstanding on this.—New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. “I’ve got a job to do here that’s much bigger than presidential politics.”

    “Romney needs not only to win among seniors but to win big. In the 2008 election, Republican Sen. John McCain captured the group by an 8% margin in Florida but lost the state to President Obama. Polls show Romney leading by 6% to 12% but fighting charges among Democrats he would undermine Medicare. Among all voters in Florida, Romney leads Obama by an average of less than 2%.—The Wall Street Journal.

    “Republicans hopeful of taking over the Senate should be measuring the drapes. Flawed, gaffe-prone nominees may have cost them the chance to win three seats in the 2010 GOP wave. Now, an easy pickup in Missouri and a longtime GOP seat in Indiana are in question after high-profile stumbles on rape and abortion.—The Associated Press.

  • ‘Sandy’ Upstages Election; Mitt Backfire
  • Hurricane Sandy, eight days before the 2012 presidential election, slammed ashore along the New Jersey coast on Monday, expected to paralyze life for millions of people in more than half a dozen states, with extensive evacuations, once-in-a-generation flooding , widespread power failures and disruptions of mass transit. Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney campaigns suspended their operations while the president returned to the White House. “This is going to be a big storm,” he said, adding that transportation is going to be tied up for a long time, adding that besides flooding, there would probably be widespread power failures. Obama, in a “command presence” situation, spoke with affected governors, notably outspoken New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a key supporter of Romney. In a televised press conference Christie praised the president who said, in turn, to call if he needed anything.

    The Romney campaign, on the other hand, stressed Monday that states should take the lead on responding to emergencies like hurricanes, adding that as president he would not abolish the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It was yet another sudden reversal of position for the severely conservative governor who, in a June 2011 CNN primary debate, suggested FEMA should be shut down, making it a problem for the states. On that question debate moderator John King asked Romney during the debate, pointing to the May 2011 tornado that killed more than 150 people in Joplin, Mo. “Absolutely. Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to private sector, that’s even better,” Romney responded.

    Romney Auto Ad

    His final attempt to swing Ohio polls bombs. Members of the national press, news articles, and other media have taken Romney to task for running a misleading TV ad creating the false impression that Jeep will ship jobs to China because of President Obama’s auto rescue. The National Journal’s Ron Fournier said there is no sound defense for the ad. Politico’s Ben White tweeted “Wait, not only has the Romney campaign not backed off the erroneous ad, but they made an ad out of it? My god.” The Obama campaign dispatched former auto adviser Steve Rattner to debunk the ad, both in Ohio but nationally, as did Bill Clinton.

  • Auto Industry: False Mitt Claims
  • President Obama’s successful rescue of the auto industry is helping him maintain a small lead in the crucial battleground state of Ohio—something Mitt Romney is trying to erode in the final days of the campaign. In a new ad in Ohio, the Romney campaign argues that it’s Mitt Romney who will support the auto industry and that the president put the companies through a destructive bankruptcy process that will result in jobs going overseas.

    Fact checkers confirm Obama’s attacks on Romney are false. The truth? Mitt Romney has a plan to help the auto industry. He’s supported by Lee Iacocca and the Detroit News. The ad goes on to falsely assert that Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build jeeps in China.

    The Obama campaign often references Romney’s 2008 New York Times op-ed “Let Detroit Go Bankruptcy” to contrast Obama’s position on the rescue to Romney’s. It’s an attack ad that tries to turn around by associating Obama with the word “bankruptcy,” even though the managed bankruptcy plan is one Romney has tried repeatedly to take credit for, including last Monday’s final debate.

    The claim in the ad on Jeep jobs moving to China is flatly misleading. Earlier last week, Gualberto Ranieri, senior vice president of Chrysler’s corporate communications, wrote on the company’s blog: “Let’s set the record straight: Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China for the world’s largest auto market.” In other words, it may build Jeeps in China that are meant to be sold in China but will not relocate any current domestic production to China.

    What’s telling is that the ad’s mention in the Detroit News endorsement fails to mention that the conservative paper’s endorsement came in spite of what it’s editors called Romney’s wrong-headedness on the auto bailout. It confirms Romney’s frequent inability to tell the truth.

     

     


     

  • Mitt Romney: No George Romney
  • Mitt Romney turns out to be far different from his father, George Romney, a former Michigan governor, who unsuccessfully ran against Richard Nixon for the Republican presidential nomination in 1968. Theodore H. White, who famously wrote “The Making of a President” in 1960, described the elder Romney as honest and decent but not cut out to be president. At least the elder Romney released 12 years of his tax returns compared to just two by his son. As Charles Blow, the New York Times columnist wrote, the saying goes: a man is known by the company he keeps.

    Last week, Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama again, as he did in 2008, which caused John Sununu, a co-chairman of the Romney campaign, to once again to descend into the shady world of racial politics. In this example it was a black thing. “I think when you have someone of your own race that you’re proud of being president; I applaud Colin for standing with him.” Sununu is the same racist who said that the president performed poorly in the first debate because “he’s lazy and disengaged.” He is also the same man who said of the president in July, “I wish this president would learn how to be an American.”

    Sununu is no stranger to racial controversies. When President George H. W. Bush selected him as chief of staff in1988, the New York Times noted that “Sununu’s selection was shadowed by concern among many key Jewish leaders.” By the end of 1991, Bush saw him as a problem and unceremoniously relieved him of his post. Sununu did apologize, somewhat, for his racial attacks on Powell’s motives, but what does it say about Romney? Blow, who is black, worries that Sununu’s statements intentionally go beyond recognizing racial disparities and seek to the exploit them.

    Romney, deep down a control freak who re-writes campaign speeches, may call himself an extreme conservative, but in the next breath he’s a moderate. Last week Richard Mourdock, a Senate candidate in Indiana, said in a debate that “even when life begins in the horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” After the Mourdock statement went viral, Romney didn’t take back his endorsement, and hide from reporters on his campaign plane.

    FiveThirtyFive

    That is pretty much how we see it in Ohio right now, with the edge in this polling average remaining with Obama. The new poll reduced his chances of winning the state to 73 percent from 77 percent. A Washington Post poll in Virginia has Obama up by 4 points.

  • Dirty Style Tricks Again in Ohio?
  • Karl Rove appears to be up to his dirty tricks again. That’s the view of author Craig Unger, author of “Boss Rove: Inside Karl Rove’s Secret Kingdom of Power” which was published by Scribner in September. In 2004 the presidential campaign ultimately came down to Ohio, and today, with the election neck and neck once again, observers are asking whether this election will rest on a variety of unusual tactics used by the GOP to game the system in favor of the Republicans. Among the techniques the GOP used in 2004, Democrats complained about the unusual distribution of voting machines so that students at liberal Kenyon College had to wait in long as twelve hours, while conservative voters at evangelical schools zipped right through with no lines. Exit polls showed that Democrat John Kerry was winning Ohio by 4.2 points, but in the end, George W. Bush emerged victorious.

    Switch reels to 2012 when Rove has not been as personally close to Mitt Romney as he was to Bush. But he is a party boss of sorts, flooding the political ads flooding the airwaves in Ohio. In 2004 the Secretary of State’s office used a firm with strong GOP ties, Smartech, to handle election night returns. This time, Smartech does not have the more defined role it had four years ago. But three days ago, Unger reported that votes in several Ohio counties were being counted by Hart Intercivic, a voting machine linked to the Romney camp, even though a study by the state of Ohio had labeled its voting system a “failure” when it comes to protecting the integrity of elections.

    So far more than 800,000 people have requested absentee ballots but not completed and returned them. State law also says those ballots may not be counted until November 17, meaning that the outcome of the entire election might be delayed. “That would be called a nightmare scenario, said Amy Searcy, director of the Hamilton County Board of Elections. Barack Obama has a better path to 270 Electoral Votes by winning Ohio but a worse case scenario could play out.

  • Poverty Speech, Programs for the Poor
  • Paul Ryan, in his first policy speech since becoming the Republican vice presidential nominee, said he and Mitt Romney will restore upward mobility and fight poverty in part by limiting the federal government’s commitment to safety net programs. Until now poverty has all but been ignored by the Republican ticket, except when accusing President Obama of presiding over years of increased reliance on food stamps and the highest poverty rate in a generation. Ryan, a very conservative Catholic, said he and Romney agree that Americans are better off in a dynamic free-enterprise based community that fosters economic growth and upward mobility instead of a stagnant, government-directed economy that stifles job creation and fosters government dependency, a phrase that Ryan repeated several times in his speech. He has authored several programs to slash spending on programs for poor people by turning then into block grants. According to an analysis by the centrist Urban Institute, Ryan’s proposal to repeal health care reform and block grant Medicaid, which provides health insurance to people below near-poverty income levels, would reduce federal spending by $1.7 trillion and Medicaid enrollment by 50 percent, resulting in the loss of insurance for 35.7 million Americans. Ryan said a Romney administration would seek balance between “allowing government to act for the common good, while allowing private groups free to do the work that they only they can do.” Somehow, “Social Justice,” a powerful Christian phase, was never mentioned.

    Electoral College

    President Obama can win reelection by carrying Iowa, Ohio and Wisconsin, in addition to holding other Democratic-leaning states across the country. Romney must capture more states. Even if he wins Ohio, Romney must still win Florida, North Carolina, Virginia—and one more state. The outcome, advisers suggest, could depend on the performance of the candidates in the next twelve days. Romney is fantasying about his strong debate performances, telling supporters on Wednesday that the Obama campaign was “slipping and sinking.” In Colorado Obama has 60 campaign offices compared with just 19 for Romney.

    Colin Powell

    The former Republican secretary of state and retired four-star general said on Thursday that he had decided to endorse President Obama’s bid for re-election and was concerned that Mitt Romney was “a moving target” on foreign policy. In an interview with CBS, Powell, who endorsed Obama in 2008, said he was “more comfortable” with the president’s views on foreign policy, education and immigration. “I do not want to see the new Obamacare plan thrown of the table,” Powell said. “It has issues—you have to fix some of the things in that plan—but what I see is that 30 million fellow citizens will now be covered.” On Afghanistan and other foreign policy concerns, Powell said he was concerned that Romney had not thought though the issues. “There are some very, very strong neo-conservative views that are presented by the governor that I have trouble with.”

  • Mitt’s Scary Double Vision
  • The New Yorker has posed an intriguing question: Why has Romney become cool-headed and middling abroad while remaining far-out and irrational at home? Why the different learning curves? In Boca Raton on Monday he pretended to be a born-again moderate: He aped President Obama’s positions on foreign policy on almost everything but chastising him for failing to leave a residual force behind in Iraq—fair comment but is he aware that the country teeters toward civil war. What about Romney’s domestic agenda? The overwhelming weight of evidence suggest the financial crisis was a direct result consequence of three decades of ideologically motivated legislative agenda and regulatory change, spearheaded by conservative elected officials and paid for by their wealthy benefactors, with much Democratic support and in enactment in much of their agenda. When it comes to Ayn Rand and Arthur Laffer, the Republicans are doubling down. The economic hole Obama inherited was so vast that if he loses next month, an outcome that would sustain the GOP’s ideological agenda for years to come.

    Rape: God’s Plan?

    Richard Mourdock, the Republican U.S. Senate nominee, in Indiana told reporters as a press conference Wednesday in Indianapolis that people misunderstood him during Tuesday night’s debate when he said, “Even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that is something that God intended to happen.” Mitt Romney disavowed the damming statement but shamelessly stars in an ad for Mourdock that is running statewide in the Hoosier state. Loose comments like that sink candidacies. The NRSC stood behind Mourdock, sharing his view that outrage over the remarks at the debate was politically motivated. 

    What They Said

    The race is vise-right because Mitt’s a marvel. Never in modern memory has a presidential candidate so brazenly contorted himself, switching positions to suit the moment and pushing claims, like Obama’s imaginary “apology tour,” that have been debunked. But as Bill Clinton warned the Obama team last year, attacking Romney as a “flip-flopper, as the president did Monday night in Boca Raton, can help Mitt with centrist voters with like the idea that he’s actually a sheep in Wolfowitz clothing.—Maureen Dowd, The New York Times.

    On Monday, in their final debate, Mitt Romney denounced President Obama for creation “tension” and “turmoil” for having “skipped Israel” during his travels in the Middle East, and during the campaign repeatedly accused Obama of having thrown allies like Israel under the bus.” But history tells a different story. Whenever the United States has put serious, sustained pressure on Israel’s leaders—from the 1950s on—it has come from Republican presidents, not Democratic ones.—Efraim Halevy, the director of Mossad from 1998 to 2002 and national security adviser to the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon from 2002-2003—from Jerusalem.

  • Cutting to the Chase: Weighing the Odds
  • Nate Silver, The New York Times’s FiveThIrtyFive polling guru, notes that while Barack Obama won the second presidential debate last week in Hempstead. N.Y., he got little bump in the head-to-head polls against Mitt Romney—with the average of national polls showing a virtually tied race. There is bad news also for
    Romney, despite his strong showing in their first debate in Denver. However, he still seems to be trailing, perhaps by two percentage points, in the states that are most vital in the Electoral College. “the tipping point” states.

    Among the battleground states, Obama could win the Electoral College by taking Ohio, Wisconsin and either Iowa or Nevada. The FiveThirtyEight forecast shows the president with a 1.5-point margin in Iowa and a 2,5 margin in Nevada. In Ohio, it gives Obama an advantage of 1.7 points, and in Wisconsin a 2.9 point advantage. We calculate Obama’s odds of re-election as being about two chances out of three. While we stipulate that the race is very close, however, the central reason we see Obama as the moderate favorite is simple: he seems to hold a slight advantage right now in enough states to carry 270 electoral votes.

    Villaraigosa

    The politically ambitious Los Angeles mayor, chairman of the Democratic National Convention this summer, was in Iowa the past weekend to headline the state Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner. The event, as Politico noted, is of course what you want to do if you are simply interested in promoting policies of the “radical middle,” an emerging theme in state and national Democratic politics.  Asked by Iowa Radio as to whether he might run for president in 2016, Villaraigosa said he plans to “reflect” when his term as major ends next year. In the past the driven mayor has talked about running for governor of California. But his coziness with the Obama administration suggests that, like other mayors, notably Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, the president’s former chief of staff, Villaraigosa is clearly thinking about his presidential prospects in the next cycle. The number of governors and senators who might run is relatively thin should retiring Secretary of State Hillary Clinton decide not to run.

    Quotable

    Romney falters on foreign policy, sounding confused and incoherent. His closing statement summed it all up.
    He said almost nothing about foreign policy. He moved back to his comfort zone: cheerfully delivered disinformation about domestic policy.—New York Times editorial on the final Obama-Romney debate.

    Romney Endorses Obama—Los Angeles Times editorial page headline.

  • Rivals Argue Global Policy; Mitt Loser
  • President Obama and Mitt Romney wrapped up a series of debates on Monday night with a fiery exchange over America’s place in the world as each sought to portray the other as an unreliable commander in chief in a dangerous time. Obama picked up right where he left off in last week’s debate, accusing Romney of articulating an incoherent foreign policy. Obama struck first, citing Romney’s assessment that Russia was America’s No. 1 geopolitical foe as a relic of cold war thinking. “The 1980s, they’re not calling to ask for their foreign policy back,” the president said. Much to the discomfort of Republican neoconservatives Romney more often than not agreed with Obama. If Romney controlled the first debate the president dominated the third, and clearly came loaded for bear. He came across this time as more confident and a commanding presence. Romney clearly tried to distance himself from right and decided to play it safe as a new found moderate. Republicans were determined to frame the issue better than last week heading into Monday night. But it fell flat. The fight for the Jewish vote has been an uphill struggle for Republicans, but Romney aides believe if   can make a dent in the Democratic Party’s Jewish base in Florida, they can increase Romney’s chances in the crucial state.

    Snap polls: CBS scored it 53% Obama; Romney 23%;
    CNN: Obama 48%, Romney 40%, Draw 24%.

    Comments: Obama quotable lines: 1.The 80s called 2. Bayonets and horses—The Fix; Romney using kid gloves ag Obama tonight—WHY? Laura Ingraham; Sheldon Adelson. Choking on a pretzel now—John Heilemann;—I think POTUS just sank Romney’s battleship—John Kerry; Obama is wiping the floor with him on substance, and Romney has basically fled neoconservatism—Andrew Sullivan.

    Grotesque Footnote

    Josh Marshall, the editor and publisher of Talking Points Memo, in a shocking blog just hours before the last presidential debate: I guess this is what happens in the tight presidential race. Ronna Romney is the ex-sister-in-law of Mitt Romney. She’s apparently remained close to the Romney family. She has a minor role in the Romney campaign in Florida and has recently appeared at campaign events in Michigan with her daughter. Earlier this afternoon she posted these grotesque images of the mangled body of the late Ambassador Chris Stevens with the words”Obama killed him” surrounded by dripping blood. Unbelievable!

  • Foreign Policy: Third Debate Could Decide
  • It is hard to comprehend but in this fight for president the outcome of Monday’s foreign-policy debate in Boca Raton, Fla, may prove pivotal, with the terrorist attack n Benghazi, Libya that killed Ambassador J. Chris Stevens and three other Americans an early question. Mitt Romney seized upon it to attack President Obama. He swung twice on the issue, first issuing a press release before Steven’s death broke. In the second debate he failed to corner Obama and got cornered himself. The question is whether he will fail on a third try. There may be a surprise if one of the candidates, more likely Romney, fumbles an answer which displays ignorance. The vision thing could emerge as the defining issue. The latest Washington Post-ABC national poll gave Obama a 10-point lead on which candidate registered voters trusted more to handle international affairs. Romney trailed Obama by 17 points among registered voters on that world-leader issue in February and has not been able to close the gap. Romney remains mum on Iran until after the debate.

    Bob Schieffer

    The veteran journalist and host of CBS’ “Face the Nation” has moderated presidential debates before, in 2004 and 2008, but never amid so much tension and confusion over the rules. He will moderate the final debate before the election between Obama and Mitt Romney, dealing with two candidates who have shown no qualms and have disobeyed the ground rules their own campaigns have agreed to honor. During the 90-minute debate, Schieffer’s role will be uncertain because his predecessors have provided little clarity about how the job is supposed to be done. Jim Lehrer, who moderated the first debate, told Politico that “in 2012 there is no way for any moderator to walk through these briar patches without getting stuck,” He described dealing with the candidates’ aggressiveness as a “form of hell.” Lehrer has moderated more presidential debates than anyone, added, “I was surprised by that. I didn’t expect it. No pair of candidates has ever done that before.”

    Quotable

    Romney can only play offense, not defense. He expects to be catered to as the smartest guy in the room, and he clearly loathes being patronized by Obama. But some who have worked with Mitt say his teeth-baring is an act, is overlaying indifference.  Romney, they say, is all about crunching the data, regarding Obama coldly as an impediment to his dream of being the first Mormon president.—Maureen Dowd, in The New York Times.

  • U.S. Says Iran Has Agreed to Nuclear Talks
  • The United States and Iran have agreed in principle for the first time to one-on-one negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, according to Obama administration officials, setting the stage for what could be a last-ditch diplomatic effort to avert a military strike on Iran.

    In a breaking news alert Sunday’s New York Times, Helene Cooper and Mark Landler, citing Obama administration officials, write that Iranian officials have insisted that the talks wait until after the presidential election so that they may know which American president they would be dealing with.

    News of the agreement comes at a critical moment in the presidential campaign, just before Monday’s last presidential debate between President Obama and Gov. Romney on foreign policy. It could dramatically shake up the race and has the potential to make a case that Obama is nearing a breakthrough in the effort to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, but could pose a risk if Iran is seen as using the prospect of direct talks to buy time. It is also far from clear that Obama’s opponent, Mitt Romney, would go through with the negotiation should he win the election because he lacks any foreign policy experience.   

  • Utah’s Largest Paper Endorses Obama
  • The Salt Lake Tribune, the largest paper in Utah, on Friday endorsed President Obama for re-election rather than the first Mormon presidential nominee, Mitt Romney.

    In an editorial entitled “Too Many Mitts,” the paper castigated Romney for his frequent reinventions and changes of position:

    From his embrace of his party’s radical right wing, to his frequent portrayals of himself as a moderate champion of the middle class, Romney has raised the most frequently asked question of the campaign: “Who is this guy, really, and what does he truly believe?”

    The evidence suggests no clear answer, or at least one that would survive Romney’s next speech or sound bite. Politicians routinely tailor their words to an audience. Romney, though, is shameless, lavishing vastly diverse audiences with words, any words, they would trade their votes to hear. 

    The Tribune endorsed Obama in 2008 and George W. Bush in 2004.

  • Romney, Business Owners, Worker Advice
  • The Republican presidential nominee and business tycoon likes to think of himself as a boss. So it is not surprising that in a June conference call hosted buy the conservative-leaning National Federation of Independent Businesses, Mitt Romney encouraged business owners to let their employees know which candidate they support and how the outcome will affect their business. During a telephone town hall with small business owners Romney raised the stakes, adding that President Obama’s policies have hurt employers, criticizing the president on trade, labor and his signature health care law. “It’s an anti-business and anti-job agenda,” Romney said, making clear to employers and the best interest of employees about their jobs and future rest with the outcome of the presidential election. But the former Massachusetts governor drilled down deeper. “Nothing illegal about you talking to your employees about how you believe it is best for the business, because I think that will figure in their election decision, their voting decision, and of course doing that with your family and your kids. How successful Romney’s threat will be is unclear but his veiled behavior is not illegal. After the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, which greatly expanded corporations and unions’ political speech, employers can legally compel workers to participate in political campaigns. In a conference call this week with reporters, Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, accused Romney of trying to mislead the American people about his plan to turn women’s health care decisions over to their bosses.”

    What They Said

    Women enjoy a good pander.as much as anybody else and it was great to have the candidates tackle issues like equal pay and reproductive rights. Although it was a little weird that the two men vied for female favor by interrupting and barking at one another like a Worst Boyfriend.—Gail Collins, The New York Times.

    I get to speak after President Clinton. This is like going on after Elvis.—Bruce Springsteen, joining with the former president to put on a good, long show in Parma, Ohio on Thursday. 

    I love Ohio. It’s an old school place. The president had your back. You’ve gotta have his now.—Bill Clinton, in his warm-up act, opening with GOP-sponsored voting laws and finally ending with Obama’s auto-industry rescue.

    The overall impression left by the debate was of a president once again in control and a challenger out of control. Obama, defending his own record and not letting Romney slip away from his.—Charles Blow, The New York Times. 

  • Young Voters: Big Gains for Obama
  • Despite intense efforts by Republicans to cast President Obama as a failed leader, he has maintained a strong advantage among a crucial constituency among young people over Romney—slightly increasing his lead since last spring. A New York Times article suggests that Romney has made very limited gains since last spring among likely voters 18 to 29. Those findings from a national poll of young voters conducted for the Harvard Institute of Politics highlighted a lost opportunity for Romney. His selection of a more youthful and conservative running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, seems to have had a negative effect on some younger voters, with 40 percent saying the nomination of Ryan, made them “much less likely to vote for Romney. The latest Harvard survey, from Sept. 19 to Oct. 3 and released Wednesday, found Romney’s level of support went to 36 percent from 34 percent, but that Obama’s support had grown to 55 percent from 51 percent. Female voters favored Obama, 53 to 33 percent, and among men his advantage was 54 percent to 38 percent. Obama led among blacks and Hispanics, but Romney had a four-point edge among young whites.

    What They Said

    “At the best for Obama, Hofstra will vaunt him back into the lead he enjoyed all year and make him the front-runner again. At worse, it won’t mean anything—no bump or him, but no big gains for Romney either. He came through with the best performance of his career at just the right moment, but he may need another week like this.”—Steve Kornacki writes about politics for Salon.

    President Obama scored a TKO on foreign policy Tuesday night dodging and weaving his way through a tricky question on Libya until debate moderator Candy Crowley declared him the winner. Obama cast himself as a clear-eyed commander-in-chief after he found out that Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya had been killed. And he accused Republican rival Mitt Romney of playing politics with tragedy. Romney questioned whether Obama said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack was an act of terror. Crowley, with the transcript, then jumped in with an instant fact-check: “He did in fact, sir. So let me—let me call it an act of terror.” 

    Romney’s campaign was unable to produce a clear answer after the debate on whether he supports the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a problem that goes back months. Romney adviser Ed Gillespie told The Huffington Post after the debate that Romney opposed the passage of the bill, but would not repeal it. Later, he said something completely different to Talking Points Memo.  “I was wrong when I said last night Governor Romney opposed the Lilly Ledbetter act.” “He never weighed in on it. As President he world not seek to repeal it.”

  • Rivals, Bare Fists, Rematch
  • President Obama, facing a strong challenge from Mitt Romney, portrayed his rival as a former corporate raider who would favor the wealthy over the middle class and a political vacillator during their second debate on Tuesday, displaying a fighting spirit that he did not bring to their second debate two weeks ago. During their 90-minute encounter during a clash over the killing of Americans in Libya the two became heated, with Romney saying that the president had mislead the country about the attacks and Obama taking offense by directly addressing his Republican rival. “The suggestion that anybody on my team, the Secretary of State, our U.N. ambassador, anybody on my team, would play politics or mislead, when we have lost four of our own, is offensive, governor,” Obama said. It was Romney’s worst moment, but the president kept pressing Romney by raising issues which did not come up in their first debate.

    In the final question of the town hall debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Long Island, the candidates were asked what they thought the greatest misconception was about them. President Obama, in a stunning comeback after a weak performance in his first debate with Gov. Mitt Romney, used the opportunity to explain his views on free enterprise—and to go after Mitt Romney’s secretly recorded comments about ’47 percent’ of Americans. It was the final question of the night, Romney did not appear to have any chance to respond.

    “I think a lot of the campaign, maybe over the last four years, has been devoted to this notion that I think government creates jobs, that that’s somehow is the answer. That’s not what I believe. I believe that the free enterprise system is the greatest engine of the world’s ever known…But I also believe that everybody should have a fair shot, and everybody should do their fair share, and everybody should play by the same rules, because that’s how our economy is grown.

    Obama went on take on Romney: “I believe Gov. Romney is a good man—loves his family, cares about his faith. But I also believe that he was behind closed doors. That 47 percent of the country considered themselves victims, who refuse to take personal responsibility—think what he was talking about. Folks on Social Security who have worked all their lives; veterans who sacrifice for this country; students who are out there trying to hopefully advance their own dreams, but also the country’s dreams. Polls taken by both CBS and CNN clearly showed Obama with an edge over Romney in the debate.

      .   

     

  • Obama Edge in Battleground States
  • Going into tonight’s town meeting format at Hofstra University, N.Y. new 2012 polls continue to show a close race nationwide, with President Obama with a slight three point edge over Mitt Romney which gave Democrats some cheer on Monday. The survey found Obama with an edge in battleground states. The Washington Post added a caution, however, that “Democrats outnumber Republicans by nine percentage points among likely voters” on their latest survey, a more favorable margin than the “three, six and five-percent-point edges for Democrats among likely voters on their last three polls.

    Benghazi

    One topic certain to arise in the town meeting will be the vicious assault in Libya last month which killed four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. What’s disturbing is the Republican attack on Obama which has blocked formulation of an effective response. In an Oversight and Government Reform hearing last week Rep. Darrell Issa (R. Ca.), the committee’s obnoxious chairman, focused on examining security failures. Ironically, Issa joined in cutting nearly a half billion dollars from the State Department’s two main security accounts. In 2011 and 2012 the president sought a total pf $5 billion, and the House approved $4.5 billion. In 2009 Issa voted for an amendment that would have cut nearly 300 diplomatic security positions. And Rep. Paul Ryan would cut foreign affairs by 10 percent in 2013 and even more in 2016. What hypocrisy!

    Tax Plan Unravels

    Dispute persistent questions that the math of his tax plan doesn’t add up, Mitt Romney and his campaign continue to argue that independent studies back him up on the arithmetic. As in recent weeks Romney senior adviser Ed Gillespie continued to pedal it’s validation on Sunday shows. He was challenged on Fox News by Chris Wallace, who questioned whether the studies are really nonpartisan. Gillespie insisted that the sources are very credible. “Those are very questionable. Some of them are blogs. Some of them are from the AEI [American Enterprise Institute], which is hardly an independent group,” Wallace said. “One of them is from a guy who is—a blog from a guy who was a top adviser to George W. Bush. These are hardly nonpartisan studies.”

    Quotable

    Mitt Romney, moderate. That earnestly sought post-debate public image contrasts starkly with Romney’s actual positions on many issues, especially the future trajectory of government spending….He had put forth a budget framework that would not eviscerate Medicare and Social Security, as commonly believed, but would slash everything else that’s not defense. President Obama should use Tuesday night’s debate to press Romney to defend –or even explain—these proposed cuts, that would be far more draconian than proposed by his running mate, Paul Ryan.—Steven Rattner, a counselor to the Treasury secretary in the Obama administration.

  • Why is Mitt Hiding His Tax Plan?
  • Ed Gillespie, a senior Mitt Romney strategist, went on TV Sunday morning and said that the candidate would only reveal the details of his tax plan after he was sworn into office. As Josh Marshall, the editor and publisher of Talking Points Memo noted, that alone should be enough to disqualify him, though confessing he was not holding his breath. As in The Hill reporting Ed Gillespie is “defending the GOP against criticism that his tax-cutting plan lacks specifics.” But specifics aren’t the issue here. Every independent expert who’s looked at Romney’s play says that the math simply doesn’t work. You can’t cut rates by 20% for the highest income earners and then make up the lost revenue by closing loopholes deductions unless you dramatically hike taxes for the middle income families. Marshall and other keen political analysts have concluded that it’s not bad math. It’s because the Romney campaign is lying, trying to get elected based on a fraud. On Saturday Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation reported that their study showed cutting all the deductions and loopholes would only pay for a 4% cut in the rates. 4% vs. 20%. Not the same. But the huge difference in these two numbers should give voters a sense of the numbers Romney’s peddling. Romney’s in the habit of saying there are “six studies” which validates his math. But these are mostly from articles and blog posts which in most cases don’t themselves back up his math. The central claim of Romney’s campaign, Marshall believes, is a fraud. People are pressing for details because he’s saying that 2 + 2 = 6 and that should make people suspicious. During Tuesday’s second debate in New York President Obama must directly confront Romney to come clean on his suspicious tax-cutting plan.

    Time to Pack Up

    The New York Times, in its lead editorial on Sunday, wrote that it should not take two more years for the United States to leave Afghanistan. After more than a decade of having American blood spilled in Afghanistan …it is time for to leave Afghanistan dictated only by the security of the troops. It should not take more than a year. President Obama indicated earlier that this could mean the end of 2014. The United States will not achieve Obama’s narrowing goals, and prolonging the war will only do more harm. This conclusion represents a change on our part. The war in Afghanistan had powerful support at the outset ….but it is now clear that even if there was ever a chance of “victory” in Afghanistan, it evaporated when American troops went off to fight the pointless war in Iraq.

  • Abortion and China
  • Moderator Martha Raddatz mentioned the historic nature of Thursday night’s debate, the first ever featuring two Catholic vice presidential nominees, when she raised the question about abortion and their religion. Jesuit Father James Martin, who writes for America, the national Catholic weekly, has explained how Paul Ryan and Joe Biden represent two distinct strains of American Catholicism. Both Ryan and Biden are obviously serious about their Catholicism. They also offer a kind of Rorschach test for American Catholic voters. Ryan is clearly opposed to abortion and not so clearly in support of programs that would help the poor. Biden is not so clearly opposed to abortion and clearly in support of programs that would help the poor. They represent, in a sense, two distinct types of “Catholicism” alive in the country today. Their commentary last night (and beforehand) also points out that no one party fully embraces the entirely of Catholic teaching. Put another way, one which will be familiar to many Catholics, there was an echo of the Latin mass vs. guitar mass divide in the vice presidential debate , an event billed in advance by some in advance as a Catholic “smack down.” As The New Yorker noted, Ryan did not say, as John Kennedy had said before him, that faith was faith and public service, public service, each to be honored and kept separate from the other. Ryan’s position is that he cannot see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or their faith.

    The Obama campaign has stated that Mitt Romney has given different answers on abortion as part of a broader effort to hide his more conservative views from centrist voters who will help decide the election. What’s clear is that Romney, going back to October 1994, has offered conflicting claims about the issue. He said then that abortion should be safe and legal. In October 2002 he said he would preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose, In August 2007 Romney said “I was never said I was pro-choice, but my position was effectively pro-choice at the time.” Last February he said “My presidency will be a pro-life presidency…and organizations like Planned Parenthood will get no more federal support.” Romney’s tangled history on abortion, among other issues, raises serious questions about his ability to lead.

    Quotable

    “This goes to show the unbelievable hypocrisy of this man. He talks about how we need to get tough on China and stop China from taking our jobs…and shipping our jobs there.”—Tom Gaulrapp has operated automobile sensor machines for 33 years at a plant in Freeport, Ill., and fears that he will lose his job on Nov. 5 if Romney is elected.

  • Ryan: Tax Plan Specifics After We Win?
  • Paul Ryan’s refusal during Thursday night’s debate to explain how the Romney tax cuts would be paid for caught the attention of blogger Andrew Sullivan who questioned its impossible mathematics if the former Massachusetts governor is elected. As Greg Sargent noted in The Washington Post moderator Martha Raddatz did what Jim Lehrer refused to do—ask Ryan how the massive tax cuts, which disproportionately benefit the rich, would be paid for. Ryan kept repeating that this will be worked out between Romney/Ryan and Congress. Which is to say: Never mind those pesky details for the time being, we’ll work it out after we’re elected. But Ryan’s evasions going into the final weeks of the campaign you can expect the Obama campaign to seize the opportunity and hammer Romney/Ryan hard. One explanation is that one of the key reasons Romney’s debate performance was so successful is that he managed to dispel doubts about the lack of specificity in his plans, projecting a general air of competence, authority and policy know how. In Tuesday night’s town meeting debate at Hofstra University, in Hempstead, N.Y., President Obama, his mojo regained, must repeatedly push Romney on his pesky tax plan.   

  • Biden Restores Faith in Obama
  • Vice President Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan quarreled and exchanged sharp words on foreign policy and the economy in the campaign’s only vice-presidential debate Thursday night at Centre College in Danville, Ky. They interrupted and re-interrupted one another during the 90-minute exchange shaped by Biden’s aggressive tone. Ryan picked up the themes used by his running mate, Mitt Romney, in last week’s presidential debate, who trounced President Obama. “That’s what we get in this Administration for its handling of an attack in Libya, and accused it of dodging hard questions about the debt.”

    But, as The Washington Post reported, the dominant voice was Biden’s. His sharpest moment may have been when he picked up on the theme that President Obama did not touch in the first presidential debate. He called a Romney speech that was secretly recorded in which the Republican candidate described 47 percent of Americans as people who considered themselves primary victims. At another point, Biden labeled Ryan’s answer about a question on Iran “a bunch of stuff.” He had the night’s most notable one-liners, including “malarkey” and “loose talk.”

    There were two snap polls taken immediately after the debate. CBS said 19% of viewers found the debate a draw, 31% favored Ryan while Biden won with 50%. A less scientific CNN sample showed Ryan at 48% with Biden at 44%. The most significant takeaway was that the vice president’s strong performance fired up the Democratic base—and that a more aggressive Obama will show up at the Oct. 16 town meeting at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. 
     

  • Abortion Rights: Mitt vs. Mitt
  • Abortion has suddenly surface just weeks before the election as Mitt Romney told the Des Moines Register that abortion won’t be part of his agenda in the White House—and Democrats immediately pounced on his words, with the Obama campaign saying, “Women cannot trust him. In an interview with the newspaper in Iowa—one of the key swing states—Romney said, “There is no legislation with regard to abortion that I’m familiar with which would be part of my agenda. While an aide said Romney is pro-life, a position Romney has had to defend in the past, especially after he insisted he was pro-choice while running for governor of Massachusetts. The Obama position is that the Republican candidate has given different answers on abortion to hide his more conservative views from centrist voters who will decide the election next month. 

    Briefs

    Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, will no longer be contributing to Fortune. Fortune’s managing editor said there were a number of things wrong with Welch’s tweet, the biggest of which was that the economy doesn’t back up the former executive’s claim that the numbers were faked. Fortune then ran a story detailing Welch’s record as a job destroyer—nearly 100,000 lost jobs during the 20 years Welch ran the company. Welch and his wife will now be contributing to The Wall Street Journal. … Ann Romney’s popularity surges but Michelle Obama maintains a clear advantage as both spouses have higher ratings than their battered husbands—Obama 69% vs. Romney 52%.

    L.A. Politic

    The County Board of Supervisors this week embraced a jail reform plan. Meanwhile, Sheriff Lee Baca, seen as out of touch on jail operations, continues his fairly frequent paid visits to the Middle East, this time to Qatar for a conference on policing and terrorism. His spokesman said “the sheriff decides when it’s the best time to go and when it’s the best time to stay.” What remains too often missing is the total absence of command presence.”

    Quotable

    Mitt Romney gave a foreign policy speech on Monday that could be boiled down to one argument: everything wrong with the Middle East today can be traced to a lack of leadership by President Obama. If this speech is any indication of the quality of Romney’s thinking on foreign policy. Then we should worry…It was not accurate in describing what Obama has done or honest about the prior positions that Romney has articulated…—Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times.

    I once asked Democratic mandarin Bob Strauss—who know both Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan well—what their secret was. Trying to quantify charisma, Strauss said, “is like trying to nail Jello to the wall.”Paul Begala, on why Bill Clinton, riding to Obama’s rescue, still has the magic.

  • Brainwashing: An Inherited Trait?
  • A TV interviewer asked George Romney in 1967 why he supported the Vietnam War after a trip to that country in 1965 but opposed it two years later when he was running for president. He explained that when he came back from Vietnam “I just got the greatest brainwashing that anybody could get.” Asked by whom, he said “not only by the generals but by the diplomatic corps over there.” The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank reported that brainwashing is apparently an inherited trait by George’s son, Mitt, who has had his gray matter cleaned more often than most people shampoo their hair. Scrubbing his brain clean of previous positions has become Romney’s stock in trade, noticeable Tuesday in VMI speech on foreign policy.  Last year, he called Obama’s intervention in Libya “mission creep.” On Monday he accused the president of declining “to use America’s greatest power to shape history,” Last year, Romney said American troops shouldn’t go off and fight a war of independence for another nation. Last year, he reversed his position on the Iraq war, saying “if we knew there were no weapons of mass destruction we would not have gone in.” On Monday, he accused Obama “of an abrupt withdrawal from Iraq in the struggle between liberty and tyranny.” Months ago he suggested there was no way to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians because the latter “don’t want peace.” Now he’s talking about a democratic Palestinian state living side by side with Israel. Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom famously predicted the candidate would use an Etch-a-Sketch approach in the general election, As Milbank noted, by Monday’s speech, Romney might as well have been carrying a bottle of Listerine: another wash was obviously coming.

    Ohio Stays with Obama

    A new CNN poll released Tuesday shows the President has retained his lead as the big prize on the electoral map. Obama leads Romney 51 percent to 47 percent, contradicting four other polls after the debate. CNN pointed to the gender gap as the reason for Obama’s lead –the president is up 22 points among women, while Romney leads with men by 14 points. Obama also leads by 51% to 40% among independent voters.

    Humor
    (The Borowitz Report)—The White House today announced that it was offering a “substantial cash remark” for information leading to (the location and safe return of President Obama’s mojo.” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney announced the search with an air of urgency: “We will use every resource at our disposal to ensure the return of the President’s mojo, and that goes double for his grove.” Carney said that as of late Wednesday afternoon at the White House knew the President’s mojo was missing, but that minutes into last night’s televised debate “it become clear that something was terribly, horribly wrong.” Even if the White House is successful in locating Obama’s mojo, Carney acknowledged, it could take days or even weeks to get it working. In an effort to reboot his campaign, President Obama plans to announce some bold initiatives for his second term, including killing Osama bin Laden again. 

  • Lara Logan Warning; Mitt’s Global Fumble
  • Logan, a CBS correspondent for “60 Minutes,” delivered a provocative luncheon speech to over a thousand Chicago ifluentials from government, politics, media, and the legal and corporate that should give pause to Mitt Romney in his first clumsy foray into foreign policy. Her ominous and frightening message, reported by The Sun-Times, was gleaned from years of covering our wars in the Middle East. Her speech came after her Sept. 30 report, “The Longest War.” It examined the Afghanistan conflict and exposed the perils that still confront America, eleven years after 9/11. Eleven years later, “they” still hate us, now more than ever, she said. The Taliban and al-Qaida have not been vanquished, she added. They’re coming back. “I chose this subject because, one, I can’t stand, that there is a major lie being propagated…” Logan declared in her native South African accent. “The lie is that America’s military might has tamed the Taliban.”

    Romney’s Foreign Policy

    Speaking at the Virginia Military Institute on Monday, the Republican presidential candidate talked about dealing with the risen of Islamist governments, or dealing with Iran’s capacity to build a nuclear weapon. While accusing President Obama of failing to project American strength abroad he failed to explain how he would conduct policy toward the rest of the world, or resolve deep ideological rifts within the Republican Party and his own foreign policy team. And, as the New York Times’s David E. Sanger noted, drawing lines on Iran’s nuclear program, or threatening to cut off military aide to difficult allies like Pakistan or Egypt have sounded very close to Obama’s own positions. Last spring Romney was caught on tape telling donors he believed there was just no way a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would work. In a television interview two weeks ago, Romney seemed to forget his position that he would halt Iran from getting a “nuclear” capacity—something it would reach long before it had a weapon—and sounded like he was in agreement with the president that he would simply stop Iran from gaining a weapon. At V.M.I. he discussed primarily “new sanctions on Iran,” at a moment when Obama has imposed what Republicans from the Bush administration agree are the most severe sanctions in history.

    Quotable

    “I find him very shallow in the ideas he has. Shallow. The op-ed that he had in the Wall Street Journal a couple of days ago.” I’m professor and if one of my students turned it in they’d get a ‘C’ because he gave absolutely no specifics.”—Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright who said the truth is that the Russians have been very helpful on Iran.

    That’s how Romney signed Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge after opposing it in Massachusetts. That’s how he came to call the individual mandate, a policy he’d passed in his state and publicly championed for the nation, unconstitutional.—Ezra Klein, The Washington Post  

  • Obama’s Plan to Win
  • John Heilemann, in New York Magazine, wrote that Romney’s late-stage repositioning, presents a strategic conundrum for Obama’s campaign. Confronted with two different, contradictory, framings of Romney, a flip-flopping phony, or right-wing extremist, Obamans are embracing Bill Clinton’s message and reprising what they did to John McCain in 2008. That tactic calls for Romney to be portrayed as a clone of George W. Bush –and pursuing an agenda indistinguishable from tea-quaffing congressional Republicans, with Romney playing into the caricature. Heilemann suggests Romney’s Etch-a-Sketch moment has finally arrived. Obama will synthesize to areas of attack–as an extremist and flip-flopper—somewhat like Bush proved in 2004 against John Kerry. Many Democrats worry that Obama has lost his mojo, but as he notes, chances are the bed-wetters will be proved wrong, that Obama will raise his game in the final innings as he has done before.

    Blatant Flip-Flop Lie

    Romney’s secretly taped comment about “47” percent of Americans never showed up in the Denver debate but he rushed to his guru, Sean Hannity, the next night to confess “that I said something that’s completely wrong. I absolutely believe however that my life has shown that I care about the 100 percent.” Not true. Turns out a leaked video of controversial comments he made at a Florida fundraiser this summer forced a press conference shortly after the tape was released by Mother Jones. Romney then had a very different position. He said while his comments about the 47 percent were “not elegantly stated,” and “off the cuff.” He insisted then it was a message that “I’m going to carry.” He said that the 47 percent of Americans who don’t pay taxes are going to vote for the president so he doesn’t have to worry about them, and also said that he’s trying “to get as many votes as I can from every single cohort in the country.” His goal, he told Fox News, is 50.1 percent or more.

    California Politic

    Until now millionaire civil rights attorney Molly Munger has said she supports both Gov. Jerry Brown’s Prop. 30 and her Prop 38 tax hike ballot measures. Munger, who has spent an estimated $28 million of her personal fortune, is now running “compare and contrast” commercials. Her measure would raise an estimated $10 billion for elementary and secondary education with taxes. Brown’s would raise an estimated $6 billion through a temporary increase in the sales tax and an income tax on high earners. Prediction: a very close race.

    Quotable

    Maybe, just as Obama yelled at Vanity Fair’s Michael Lewis during a basketball game, someone needs to yell at him. “Don’t be looking to the sidelines all sheepish, You got to get back and play D!”—Melinda Henneberger, The Washington Post

  • Humor Department
  • New York (The Borowitz Report)

    Taking a victory lap after their candidate’s win in the first Presidential debate Wednesday night, Romney campaign insiders today attributed his success to his strategic use of relentless lying. “We worked for hours on this during the practice sessions,” said campaign manager Matt Rhoades. “We were, like, ‘Mitt, if you find yourself on the verge of saying something true, bite your tongue.’”

    Mr. Rhoades said that the nominee was allowed to say his real name and acknowledge that he used to be a Governor, ”but other than that, he was on a very short leash, truth-wise.

    While Mr. Romney’s talent for lying was in evidence during the Republican presidential debates, it was nothing like the “mad skills” he displayed Wednesday night, the campaign manager said. “All the hard work and practice lying really paid off, Mr. Rhoades said, “Plus hanging out with Paul Ryan.”

     

     

  • Don’t Mess with Big Bird
  • Mitt Romney’s reckless Big Bird swipe in his Wednesday debate with Barack Obama raised some real hackles: PBS’s, many on social media and the New York Times’s Charles Blow who minced no words in his Sunday column. The impudent former Massachusetts governor, acting as if he already has 270 Electoral Votes, told this to the debate moderator, Jim Lehrer: “I’m sorry, Jim. I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things. I like Big Bird. I actually like you, too.  But I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow from China to pay for it.”

    Social media, and others, exploded in Big Bird’s defense. PBS itself issued a tersely worded statement on Thursday, saying: Governor Romney does not understand the value the American people place on public broadcasting and the outstanding return on investment the system delivers to our nation. We think it is important to se the record straight and let the facts speak for themselves.”

    What was especially moving was Blow’s observation about since 1969 Big Bird has been king of the block on “Sesame Street.” When I was a child, he and his friends taught me the alphabet and the colors and how to do simple math. Big Bird and his friends also showed me what it meant to resolve conflicts with kindness and how to accept people’s differences and look out for the less fortunate. Do you know anything about looking for the less fortunate, Mr. Romney? Or do you think they’re all grouches scrounging around in trash cans. Let me make it simple for you, Mr. Romney. I’m down with Big Bird. You pick on him, you answer to me.

    Blow says he doesn’t really expect Mitt Romney to understand the value of PBS to people, like him. who grew up poor, rural areas and went to small schools. I honestly don’t know where I would be in the world without it. For Romney to inject defunding PBS into the debate is more revealing than he may be capable of understanding. He will do, or saying anything, to become president, a goal which escaped George Romney, his father. 

  • Jobs and Obama
  • Whenever a new set of jobs numbers is announced, it is important to keep in mind just how noisy the date can be, as Nate Silver’s Political Calculus reports. This is not merely because economic forecasting is difficult. It is also because the economy is a hard thing to measure, and the initial estimates of job growth are crude. Instead, whole seasons and indeed whole years, can sometimes be revised. Was Friday’s jobs report, which showed 114,000 jobs added in September and the unemployment rate dropping to 7.8 percent, strong enough to be on of exceptional cases? My view is that the answer is yes: this report really does warrant some attention. Jack Welch, the former chairman of General Electric and a supporter of Mitt Romney, in a tweet, said he doesn’t buy the new figures, but he has no evidence to disprove them. Silver thinks it makes the case for Obama’s reelection easier.   

    Debate Postmortem

    Peggy Noonan’s advice to the Romney campaign: 5. Watch out for Big Bird. Putting the merits and realities of overall PBS funding aside, Mr. Romney here gave a small gift to the incumbent. Democrats will merrily exploit it. Big Bird will start showing up outside Romney rallies, holding up signs saying “Don’t Kill Me!” Think this through. Her advice is real because Romney made it clear that, if elected, he would please right-wing conservatives, defund public television and auction off Big Bird.

  • Romney Takes the Stage
  • The Wall Street Journal editorial board could barely contain its enthusiasm that Mitt Romney dominated the first debate on Wednesday in Denver. The former governor, it opined, appeared Presidential, showing a superior command of fact and argument than the incumbent. These columns, board conceded, have often criticized the former Massachusetts Governor. But this was easily his finest performance as a candidate, and the best debate effort by any Republican nominee since Ronald Reagan in 1980. The cheering goes on to see how this debate influences the race that the pundit class and most Democrats had all but declared over. But it directly suggests that the campaign most improve its lackluster advertising that continues to traffic in general promises and platitudes. Far from being shy, the board has also suggested a reworked stump speech. One can only wonder whether someone on the board is already working on some drafts.

    The Dish

    Andrew Sullivan, writing in The Daily Beast, suggests that if you are a salesman and you see life and politics as about the sell, you adjust the sell every time to a different customer-base. Now that I’ve slept on it, seems to me what happened last night. It was such a mesmerizing sales job and so relentless, checked at no point by Lehrer, and at no point checked by past reality or facts. Obama was left with two options. Say this pleasant-seaming guy next to me is a shameless weather-vane and liar, or try to remind the country of Romney’s actually policies as he laid them out, and rebut the facts relentlessly. Obama tried the latter really, really badly, but the obvious retort to Romney’s total pivot was: what on earth are you really talking about…If I were Obama, I’d focus entirely on Romney’s new plan. What is it? How is it paid for? What is he hiding from us? And why?

    Fact-Check: Who Lied

    Romney: On Medicare for current retirees, [Obama’s] cutting $716 billion from the program.” Politifact says this claim—a major talking point in the Denver debate—is half true. While $716 is not a man-made number, if refers to how much the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, would take away from Medicare spending—mostly to hospitals and insurers—over ten years. Obamacare does not, as Romney insinuated, take $716 billion away from current Medicare recipients.

    Debate

    “You know that this is the most important debate of the campaign. Everybody has been saying that, including his advisers. Get it together; you’re the president of the United States.”—Tom Brokaw told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd that if Romney performed the way that the President did last night it would have been over.

    “Mitt Romney won this debate. Barack Obama lost it….It was one of the most inept performances I’ve ever seen by a sitting president. …The real mystery was Obama. Where on earth was he? Was his debate strategy unilateral disarmament? Why did he not speak in plain English? “Mitt, you’re selling a fantasy. Bill Clinton proved it.—Joe Klein, Time.

  • Romney’s Big Win; Obama Was Absent
  • Mitt Romney aggressively pressed President Obama on the economy, jobs and health care in a debate Wednesday night in a high-stakes face-off as reported by The New York Times. For Romney, the stakes were very high in his first debate with the president even as Obama sought to portray Romney has making irresponsible proposals that would not help the middle class. He did not talk about Romney’s “47 percent” comment fro last month. He did not raise issues about his personal wealth or the impact of his experiences at Bain Capital. By contrast Romney was on the offensive from the beginning. He accused Obama of failing to address jobs right away as president, and being distracted by a misplaced effort to reform health care. For much of the night Obama sought to explain his programs, including a long defense of Obamacare, a term he now says he likes. He also took a long time to explain his efforts to cut the deficit and to reform Medicare. Romney directly accused the president of distorting his policies. “Virtually everything he just said about my tax plan is inaccurate.” The two candidates early commandeered the stage, taking control away from the moderator, Jim Lehrer of PBS, a result of new rules that were intended to allow for a deeper and more freewheeling conservation. It appears Colorado, with its nine electoral votes, is emerging as increasingly important for Romney, with Ohio as a bigger challenge than expected, in terms of winning the Electoral College. Two polls taken within the first hourafter the debate showed Romney getting 67% of the vote compared with Obama’s 25% on CNN; CBS had Romney at 46%, Obama 22% and 32% calling it a draw.

    The Washington Post’s first thoughts were more biting. When Lehrer interrupted him, Obama looked like he’d prefer to be somewhere else. “In many ways what Obama seemed to be doing was taking on the persona he used with much success in 2008 when he was careful to show he was ready for the job. But, now, that he has been in the job for four years, Obama’s demeanor came across as far less well. Remember that voters see their vote for president as electing a leader not just a set of policy positions. And, Obama the glum is not the leader people want to vote for.”

  • Faceoff In Denver: Obama vs. Romney
  • As ABC News reported, by keeping it close nationally isn’t going to win Romney the White House if he can’t prevail in states like Colorado where most of the recent polls give Obama the edge—by several points. ABC News Political Director Amy Walters notes, after looking through the past 40 plus years of date, Gallup reported back in 2008 that “presidential debates are rarely game changers” and pointed to just a “few instances in which the debates may have had a substantial impact on election outcomes.”

    John Harwood in The New York Times this week: “history shows that candidates have different ways to score through presidential debates: the forceful put down, the surprising show of skill, the opponent’s fumble, superior post-debate tactics.  But is also shows that to fundamentally alter the direction of a campaign, a candidate usually has to accomplish all those things.” Besides the Nixon-Kennedy debates of 1960, the only recent series of candidate match-ups that definitely helped one candidate over another were the Gore-Bush debates in 2000.

    Estate Tax Mischief

    As billionaire Warren Buffett has said, the estate tax increases equality of opportunity and curbs the movement toward a plutocracy. Romney’s plan to get rid of it, helping his family but few others, is one of the sharpest illustrations of his distance from ordinary Americans.

    Humor

    At a joint campaign appearance in Ohio today, Ann Romney attempted to lower expectations for her husband’s performance at this Wednesday’s debate: When Mitt starts working his mouth and goes off on some weird tangent about who knows what, please just tune him out. God knows that’s how I’ve survived all these years.”—The New Yorker, The Borowitz Report.

  • First Debate: Mitt’s Chance to Score Big
  • The nation’s attention will be focused on the first of three Presidential debates between President Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney Wednesday night at the University of Denver with domestic policy as the issue. But national tracking polls published Saturday continued to show Obama in a fairly strong position. He held a six-point lead in the Gallup national tracking poll, although his approval rating dipped. He also maintained a rough seven-point advantage in the RAND Corporation’s online tracking poll, and pulled ahead by two points in the Rasmussen Reports tracking poll. As Nate Silver’s Political Calculus in The New York Times pointed out “we’re getting to the point in the campaign where on a day on which the polls are in line with expectations is winning one for Obama because Romney trails in the race and now has just five full weeks to make up the deficit. At week’s end Obama’s chances of winning the Electoral College rose to 83.8 percent.

    The Des Moines Register also published its highly regarded Iowa Poll on Saturday, which showed Obama with a four point lead, 49 to 45. The result is quite consistent with other polls in Iowa published since the conventions. In another national poll for Bloomberg nationally poll has Obama with a six-point lead. The FiveThirtyEight forecast projects Obama to win Iowa by 3.6 percentage points on Nov. 6, smaller than his 4.1-point advantage in the national race. Silver suggest that any hope of winning the Electoral College without Ohio probably requires him to win Iowa. In simulations run on Saturday, Romney won the election by only 2 percent of the time that he lost Iowa. While not a good poll for Romney it does suggest that it could trend back to him if the national race does. Iowa ranks seventh on Silver’s list of tipping-point states, but it packs a lot of bang for the buck because its television markets are fairly small and cheap to advertise it. Silver estimates that a dollar spent there will do twice has much to sway the Electoral College outcome as one spent in Florida.

    Quotable

    He has to erase the impressions left by all the Mitt Romneys we met earlier—the clueless rich guy, the heartless private-equity baron who likes “being able to fire people,” the moderate who became a hard-line conservative and then became a little bit more moderate again, kind of. And he has to reveal a coherent person, one whom voters can imagine as a leader. Eugene Robinson. The Washington Post.

  • Mitt’s Tax Plan; Christie, McCain Demur
  • Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan promised again Sunday that Mitt Romney’s tax plan would bring lower taxes for all Americans while remaining revenue-neutral, although he didn’t explain how he would accomplish that. This failure plays into the Obama campaign’s charge that the Romney-Ryan ticket has not provided details on how it would give Americans such large tax breaks without growing the deficit, Huff Post reported. Ryan reiterated in an interview on “Fox News Sunday” that the plan would drop taxpayers’ bills by 20 percent without costing a dime, due to closed tax loop holes, but produced few specifics when pressed by host Chris Wallace. “You haven’t given me the math,” Wallace send in one exchange. “I don’t have the…it would take me too long to go through all the math,” Ryan responded. “What we’re saying is people are going to get lower taxes and therefore they will not send as much money to Washington.” Wallace played a clip of President Obama mocking the Romney campaign’s lack of details on the loopholes while on the campaign trail. “No matter how many times they tell you they’re gonna start talking campaign specifics real soon, they don’t do it,” Obama said,  “And the reason is because the math doesn’t’ work.” A report from the Tax Policy Center found that Romney’s tax plan would actually raise taxes on many middle-class Americans although the Romney campaign has dismissed the report as partisan.

    Conservatives Speak Out

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” that he doesn’t buy the argument advanced by various conservatives that recent polls showing Mitt Romney are biased against him. “I don’t think it’s intentional—you look at every different poll and look at its methodology and you can say whether it’s a good or bad poll. But do I think there’s a concerted effort to skew the polls against Governor Romney? No, I don’t buy that.” Not to be left out Sen. John McCain said that Mitt Romney is trailing in the presidential race because voters are slowly taking a better view of the nation’s once-wheezing economy. “I think he’s behind because Americans probably feel better than they did about jobs and the economy,” McCain said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Voters, McCain said, “see a glimmer of hope—a dynamic that benefits President Barack Obama.

September

  • Why ‘Better Off’ Will Not Save Romney
  • That phrase going into the debates is back in the news. As he accepted the Republican presidential nomination Mitt Romney predictably said “This president cannot tell us that you are better off today than when he took office.”  Romney will echo Ronald Reagan’s famous closer during his 1980 debate with Jimmy Carter, which is widely credited with swinging the election in Reagan’s favor. Is it really always true? New York Times columnist James B. Stewart suggests that the “better off” question is often a matter of perspective. The best the Obama administration can say is that the trends show slow but steady improvement. Stewart suggests that ambiguity is showing up in several national polls. In Florida voters are split 40 percent to 43 percent on the question; In Ohio, it was tied at 39 percent, an in Pennsylvania it was 35 percent to 41 percent. In all three states Romney trailed Obama by widening margins. As Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Analytics, told Stewart last week, “From the perspective of the aggregate of household balance sheet, we’re unambiguously better off than four years ago and almost all the way back” to the peak before the financial crisis. Zandi did say that “for low income households, their balance sheets are still under pressure. Many have been through foreclosure…and they’re still struggling with credit card bet and auto loans.” This is the group most likely to feel they aren’t better of, and thus more inclined to vote for Romney. But they also tend to be the 47 percent of the population with no exposure to rising stock prices. While Romney says he wants to be the president of all Americans, that’s the same percentage of the population he wants to write off when he said “my job is not to worry about those people,” at a Florida fund-raiser. For Romney the ‘better off’ pitch won’t fly.

    Tracking Polls Matter

    If the Gallup tracking poll of the presidential race is any guide, historically, President Obama is in a solid position. Wednesday’s release of Gallup’s 7-day tracker puts him at 50 percent to Republican candidate’s 44 percent, which is well above the trend in the 2004 and 2000 elections. Those elections were dead heats. The current Gallup tracking poll has a 2 percent margin of error, which indicates Obama’s lead is statically significant. The charts in each of the last three elections going into October and the sprint to the finish line—where they were in the Gallup poll a little more than a month and then the final result. In 2008 Obama led McCain 50 percent to 45 percent and won 52.9 percent to 45.7 percent. In 2004 Bush and Kerry were tied at 49 percent but Bush won 50.7 percent to 48.3 percent.

    Who’s Tweeting?

    @HotlineJosh: Obama spent more time in IA last month than any other state. Got lots of earned media. In same state, that makes a difference.

  • Mitt’s Tangled Mess on Health Care
  • Romney’s love-hate relationship with Romneycare seems to be accelerating. This week he again began touting the health care reform law he enacted as governor of Massachusetts, saying it illustrates “his empathy and care about people of this country.”While running for president in oo8, and the following year while the Affordable Care Act was still being crafted, Romney was actively evoking ‘Romneycare’ as a model for federal health care reform. That changed after President Obama signed the law in March 2010, at which point repeal became the Republican Party’s raison d’entre. Romney quickly joined the fray, as Talking Points Memo has pointed out. But that’s when the relationship between the now-Republican nominee and his signature achievement grew very complicated. On Fed, 2, 2007 he hailed it as a model for the nation. On Jan. 5, 2008 he defended Romneycare and the individual mandate. On July 30, 2009 he called on Obama to embrace the tenets of Romneycare. On March 30, 2010 Romney proceeded to channel his party’s calls to unwind Obamacare, saying it was different than his plan. On May 12, 2011 he defended his law but said he would never impose it on the nation. On June 12, 2011 he said if elected he would repeal Obamacare. On Sept. 15, 2011 he said repealing Obamacare would be one of his best assets. On Dec. 7, 2011 Romney put more distance between himself and Romneycare than ever before. On June 28, The Supreme Curt upholds the Affordable Care Act. On August 8, Romney seeks to soften his image by saying that the Massachusetts law would have covered a woman who lost her job. On Aug. 25 Romney says he’s proud of his Massachusetts law which gave care to many women. On Sept. 8, he tells NBC that he likes two parts of Obamacare. On Sept. 25, under attack for remarks deriding 47 percent of Americans as freeloaders, he cites Romneycare in a national interview as evidence of his compassion for ordinary people.

  • Transaction Man
  • The New Yorker, in its Oct. 1 issue, has a compelling 11-page article on Mitt Romney by Nicholas Lemann, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia. The piece has sections devoted to Church, Business, Politics and The Rescuer. A key excerpt: Romney is a creature of two realms that he evidently believes American society does not understand, and that have been frequent objects of hostility: his church and the corner of business where he has spent his career. He combines an utter confidence in his ability to fix anything with an utter lack of confidence in his ability to explain to people what he intends to do, which is why he appears so stiff and so unspecific in talking about his prospective Presidency. Even Romney’s friends and business associates find him guarded. He does not give anybody, except his immediate family, access to his emotional life. He has the caution of a crown prince who has always been intensely aware of the demands imposed on his destiny.

    Advantage Obama

    The National Catholic Reporter, per The Daily Beast, finds something significant in a new Pew Research survey. On June 17, Obama held a slight edge over Mitt Romney among Catholics (49 percent to 47 percent). Since then, Obama has surged ahead, and now leads 52 percent to 39 percent, according to a Pew poll conducted Sept. 16. Among all registered voters, Obama leads Romney 51 percent to 42 percent. Obama and Romney are essentially tied among white Catholics, which some pollsters call the ultimate swing vote. But Obama’s current even status among white Catholics now is an improvement over 2008, when McCain beat Obama among white Catholics by 52—47. Obama’s total Catholic vote against McCain was where he is now: 54 percent. But Romney has only 39 percent compared with McCain’s 45. Conservative New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan is given a small word of thanks for helping shift the Catholic vote massively toward Obama with their summer campaign for religious liberty.

    Quotable

    “Why would pollsters want to look inaccurate?”—Lew Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, in a telephone interview with to Ana Marie Cox, Guardian. 

     
     

  • Ohio and Florida Dim Mitt’s Chances
  • President Obama holds a 77.7 percent chance of winning the Electoral College as of Monday, according to Nate Silver’s Political Calculus in The New York Times, receiving a number of strong-looking state polls. Most noteworthy of those was a Wisconsin poll from We Ask America, which put Obama ahead of Mitt Romney by 11.5 percentage points there. The data suggests that Obama has gained more ground than in any other state—perhaps because they may have nullified a bounce that Romney received in polls in August which showed the selection of Rep. Paul D. Ryan as his running mate. State polls can be use to make inferences about where the national race stands, and Silver says his program reads the collective sum of state-level data as implying that Obama has just slightly more than a 5-point lead in the national race right now. In a wider context cross-tab in the latest Washington Post suggest that a majority of independents view Romney’s ’47 percent’ negatively. Sixty-one percent of all Americans—and voters alike—express negative views about how the Republican challenger is running his campaign. As Talking Points Memo noted, those 47% comments came along and it turned out that cartoon caricature of Mitt Romney was actually real Mitt Romney. “I suspect that’s when he definitively lost the race,“said TPM editor Josh Marshall.

    “Legitimate Rape”

    When establishment Republicans started calling for far-right Rep. Todd Akin to bow out of the U.S. Senate race in Missouri last month, Sen. Claire McCaskill, his Democratic opponent, tried to avoid talking about his “legitimate rape” controversy on the campaign trail. But since Akin did not withdraw, and is locked in as the GOP nominee, she is swinging as expected. Her first TV spot threw the initial punch. On Aug. 19 Akin said on TV that the female body naturally prevents pregnancy in stances of “legitimate rape.” He lost the backing and financing of the GOP establishment, but now some Republicans are reconsidering their support. On Wednesday right-wing former presidential candidates like Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, together with Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., were among those reluctantly reversing course. How pathetic.

    California Politic

    The Proposition 38 campaign, funded by wealthy L.A. lawyer Molly Munger, released its first statewide TV commercial aiming to gain ground by playing to voters’ distrust of Sacramento politicians. Her proposition would increase education spending by hiking income taxes on most residents. The spot increases tension as Gov. Jerry Brown pushes rival Proposition 30, which would raise sales taxes and levies on the state’s wealthiest to pump more money into the budget. Democrats fear 38 will undermine support for 30, triggering spending cuts. Two statewide polls show Brown’s plan is a close call with voters, still ahead of Munger’s.

  • Mitt Confidence: Swing State Problems
  • Romney told CBS News’s “60 Minutes” that he is tied with Obama; he has a “very effective campaign; it’s doing a very good job; and that all he needs to do to win is keep repeating his plan to restore economic freedom.” The political reality is otherwise: all reliable polls now show Obama ahead, often beyond the margin of error, and with growing leads in most of the important swing states. That said, what’s mystifying is his campaign is moving full steam ahead, as Politico reported, with his Washington team set to fill official office space and holding meetings on Capitol Hill. Dubbed “The Readiness Project” Romneyworld has been gearing up since the GOP convention, compiling a list of job candidates for congressional relations during the post-election lame duck session and beyond. The transition effort is being led by former Bush Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, a former Utah governor and fellow Mormon who is expected to play a senior role in any Romney White House. Leavitt and Drew Maloney, another close Romney associate, have held at least two meetings with House Republicans in as many weeks. The pair held a meeting with ambitious House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), and has also met with House Majority Whip Ken McCarthy (R-Calif.) and his deputy whips. The rational for this fantasy exercise: the transition team must prepare as if he wins.

    State of Presidential Race

    With less than 45 days left in the presidential election Nate Silver’s Political Calculus suggests this is probably about the last week in which Romney can reasonably hope that President Obama’s numbers will deteriorate organically because of a convention bounce. Turns out that last week’s numbers started out a bit underwhelming for Obama –but then picked up strength as the week wore on. To the extent there’s a useful rule of thumb about a candidate achieving 50 percent in the polls, it is this: a candidate who reaches 50 percent of the vote late in the race is almost certain to win. But a candidate (incumbent or challenger) at 48 or 49 percent of the vote will normally be a clear favorite.

    Quotable

    “If it looks like I’m gong to win, the markets will be happy.” If it looks like I’m going to lose, the markets will not be terribly happy.”—Mitt Romney, declaring himself “a confidence fairy,” even as the markets are up, not down, with major stock indexes hitting their highest levels since the economic downturn began.

    “I hate to say this, but if Ryan wants to run for national office again, he’ll probably have to wash the stench of Romney off of him.”—Craig Robinson, a former political director of the Republican Party of Iowa, to The New York Times.

     

  • Obama’s Second Term: Democrats’ Reagan?
  • With his first term behind him, Obama is poised to be as significant a president as Reagan—tackling the deficit, spearheading immigration reform, and jolting the GOP back to sanity. As Andrew Sullivan writes in Newsweek, one thing has been underestimated is the potential impact of a solid Obama win, and perhaps a Democratic retention of the Senate even and some progress in the House. Obama’s potential for status in real. Yes, Bill Clinton won two terms and is a brilliant pol bar none, as he showed in Charlotte in the best speak of both conventions. But the crisis Obama faced on his first day—like the one Reagan faced—was far deeper than anything Clinton confronted, and the future upside therefore is much greater. And unlike Clinton’s constant triangulating improvisation. Obama has been playing a long, strategic game from the very start—a long game that will only pay off if he gets eight full years to see it through. That game is not only changing America. It may also bring his opposition, the GOP, back to the center, just as Reagan indelibly moved the Democrats away from the far left.

    Rand vs. Ryan

    At long last Paul Ryan has begun to further distance himself from Ayn Rand, his intellectual heroine,. He will no longer describe programs like Social Security as “collectivist” and he did in a speech before the Randian Atlas Society in 2005. “I don’t think of it like that,” he told the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal Saturday when asked about his past remarks, In his remarks to the Atlas Society he called for privatizing Social Security in terms familiar to Rand’s disciples, saying it was part of broader “fight of individualism versus collectivism.” He described Medicare and Medicaid in the same speech using similar language, offering up a preview of his 2010 House plan to replace “socialist based” Medicare with a privatized structure, Ryan still frequently cites Rand as one of his biggest influences, but has been careful since ascending in his transition as a national figure. Still, as one Randian told Talking Points Memo, Ryan was never truly one of them.

  • Clinton Attacks Romney’s 47 Percent Claim
  • Bill Clinton, appearing on two Sunday shows, addressed the controversy surrounding Mitt Romneys newly unearthed remarks that 47 percent of Americans who don’t pay federal income taxes as essentially freeloaders. The former president rebutted the charge on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “First. They do pay taxes—they pay Social Security taxes, they pay Medicare taxes, they pay state and local taxes. On CNN’s Fareed Zakaria” Clinton said the comment “puts a heavier burden on [Romney] in the debates about what he meant.”

    Pelosi

    The House minority leader, in a wide-ranging interview with reporters as the House left town until after Labor Day, dismissed Romney’s chances of defeating Obama. She was equally critical of Paul Ryan, Romney’s running mate, is the author of a GOP budget plan that would transform Medicare into a program that subsides private insurance plans. Pelosi asserts Obama’s nomination has increased Democratic chances of retaking the House. She declined to say whether she would stay on as Democratic leader if her party doesn’t win back a majority. She objected to Romney’s 30-second ad titled “Mute Button,” that shows Pelosi muting Obama while he was on a speaker phone during negotiations for an economic stimulus package early in the president’s term. In a statement Sunday, Pelosi called the ad clearly an act of desperation” and denied that she ever muted Obama.   

    What They Said

    “He has to look at what the president’s weakness is. He’s never gonna win a popularity contest. As you said, he’s the least popular candidate in history. He doesn’t have the passion for the stuff he’s talking about.”—New York Times columnist David Brooks, on NBC’s “Meet the Press” roundtable Sunday.

    “I haven’t seen that as much lately, and I think they need to get back to that if they’re going to win this election.”—Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, decrying that lack of enthusiasm and excitement for the Romney-Ryan ticket seems to have evaporated this summer.

    “With so much at stake in this election, both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan need to “go Rogue” and “come to a Jesus” moment. America needs it in discussing our big dysfunctional, disconnected and debt-ridden federal government.”—Sarah Palin, in a statement to The Weekly Standard.

    When Mitt Romney released his official 2011 tax return Friday, he (or whoever actually filled out the forum) appeared to have mistakenly referred to the United States as a foreign country. “If you have a foreign address,” the tax reform instruction reads, “also complete spaces below.” In the space below, under foreign country name,” Romney’s form reads “USA.”—U.S. News and World Report.

  • AARP: Obama and Ryan Debate Medicare
  • President Obama traded charges with Rep. Paul Ryan on Friday in Virginia over the financing of Medicare, as each candidate sought to appeal to older voters by warning them that his opponent would threaten this signature federal health care program. Speaking in back-to-back appearances at the AARP convention in New Orleans, both Obama and Ryan insisted that their policies would safeguard Medicare. Ryan faced a far less friendly audience, drawing widespread boos and cries of “No!” when he called for the repeal of Obama’s health care law. Ryan insisted that “the first step toward a stronger Medicare is to repeal ‘Obamacare’ because it represents the worst of both worlds. The president countered that Republican proposals would turn Medicare into a voucher program that would raise the cost of care for many older people, and place them at the mercy of insurance companies. He acknowledged that Ryan had modified his original proposal so that current beneficiaries would not be affected by the voucher system. Ryan drew a negative response when he implied that Obama was willing to forsake retirees for his own personal survival. “He has said he would be willing to work with Republicans, but he has not moved an inch closer to common ground.” Late Friday, Ryan stopped at a fruit stand in Bartow, Fla. and was asked about the negative reaction. “You know, entitlement reform has, unfortunately, been made very partisan, by partisans.” Obama addressed a huge crowd at a minor league baseball stadium 23 miles outside Washington which came amid signs that he was firming up his lead over Mitt Romney in some battleground states, including Virginia.

    What They Said

    “Romney says Obama’s America is a socialist hellhole like California…where he bought a new home in La Jolla.”—Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo.

    “Stop it.”—Ann Romney‘s tough response to Republican critics of her husband’s campaign. “You want to try it? Get in the ring.”

    “I think it puts a ‘heavier burden’ on him in the presidential debates to explain his ‘47%’ remark.”—Bill Clinton to CNN.

  • Tax Code Distortion: Debt More Attractive to Banks
  • Thanks to a leaked video, we now know that Mitt Romney divides the country into those who pay taxes and those who don’t, the makers and the moochers. There is, as ProPublica notes, perhaps one surprising group you can put in the latter category: the nation’s banks. Sure, banks pay taxes, but they pay a lot less thanks to giant and unappreciated distortion in our nation’s tax laws. President Obama’s tax proposals   note the tax code favoring debt over equity, will no specific fixes. Mitt Romney has vowed to close tax loopholes, but has not mentioned the one that lets corporations deduct debt interest.

    Looking Ahead

    President Bill Clinton plans to return to the Sunday talk-show circuit with an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” The interview coincides with the annual three-day meeting of Clinton’s philanthropic organization, the Clinton Global Initiative, In New York. Both President Obama and Mitt Romney will speak. Two-thirds of registered voters have a favorable view of the former president, according to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll—meaning he is more popular now than he has been at any time since he was a presidential candidate 20 years ago.

    L.A. Politic

    An L.A. Times editorial correctly points out that with Denver billionaire Phil Anschutz deciding to unload the Anschutz Entertainment Group, its plans to build a downtown stadium on just 14 acres and bring a pro football team, or two, need to be carefully reviewed by the Los Angeles City Council before it moves forward. The price tag is somewhere between five and seven billion, with several potential bidders in what will be a very complex deal. Billionaire Ed Roski has five hundred acres 20 miles east in City of Commerce between major freeways which some believe will be far more appealing to NFL owners in relocating two teams.

    Quotable

    On Wednesday night Romney said three times in the opening 10 minutes of Univision’s “Meet the Candidate” forum that his campaign “is about the 100 percent,” trying to correct the earlier impression that he wasn’t concerned about the 47 percent unlikely to vote for him. He added then, “all right, there are 47 percent who are with him who are dependent upon government, who believe thy are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, you-name-it.”

  • Noonan: Mitt Campaign Intervention; Right Appears Split
  • Columnist Peggy Noonan, the most gifted conservative writer of her generation, denounced Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in a blistering blog post on Tuesday. Noonan, who has been increasingly agitated over the GOP candidate’s missteps—notably saying she thought he “looks like Richard Nixon”—used the scandal over Romney’s comments about the “47 percent” to give him a dressing down. Speaking about Romney’s leaked fundraiser video, she wrote, “This is not how big leaders talk, it’s about how shallow campaign operatives talk.” Noonan said that the misstep was indicative of the broader rot within the campaign. She described the Romney campaign as incompetent, not big, not brave, not thoughtfully talking great issues. All the activists, party supporters and big donors should be pushing for change. He chooses who to listen to. ”Mitt, this isn’t working.” Noonan’s column drew attention because of her statute and because of its vehemence, Huff Post
    reported. But it’s clear that she is not speaking for a unanimous bloc of conservatives. While many on the right have joined the broader consensus that the leaked video was a disaster for Romney, many others have praised the sentiments and advised him to make it a core component of his message. Romney seems to be taking that advice.

    New Polls

    Obama opens up a 5-point lead, 50% to 45%, among likely voters in a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. Optimism on the economy is the driving force behind the president’s strong numbers. The number of Americans who think the country is on the right track has improved by 7 points, to 39 %. Obama’s overall job-approval rating stands at 50% for the first time since March…..New polls from Quinnipiac University, CBS News and the New York Times leads in two swing states, including Paul Ryan’s native Wisconsin. In Wisconsin, 44 leads Romney 51% to 45%; and Virginia 50% to 46%. A month ago Wisconsin voters preferred Romney at 49% on the economy. Today 49% to 46% favor 44, yet another blow to Ryan. The president also has an advantage in Virginia, 49%-47%, reversing a Mitt advantage a month ago… Three new Massachusetts polls now show Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic candidate, leading the incumbent Republican senator, Scott P. Brown. Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight forecast model has Warren about a 65% favorite.   

    Read ‘em and weep

    We’re in search of the real Romney. But, disturbingly, so is he. One thing we have to give Mitt, though: He is, as advertised, a brilliant manager. He’s managed to ensure that President Obama has a much better chance of re-election.—Maureen Dowd, The New York Times.

    So, which is it, Mr. Ryan? Will your plan cause Medicare beneficiaries to lose access to their doctors, or are your budget numbers too rosy because you haven’ counted the extra payments needed to keep doctors in the program?—Peter Orszag, former director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Obama administration.

  • A Nation of Moochers? Romney Doesn’t Get It
  • Romney’s comments at a private fundraiser have created alarms among a number of Republican strategists, some of whom believe it could be a knockout blow for the nominee’s struggling campaign. Mark McKinnon, who served as top strategist for to former President George W. Bush, told The Hill “It’s a kidney shot because it reveals a very cynical view. “He’s pushing independent voters out the door.” Romney’s remarks, caught on tape, said that 47 percent of Americans who don’t pay income taxes “are dependent on the government “and “believe they are victims.” He added that his “job is not to worry about these people. I’ll never convenience them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” But many GOP strategists, speaking in private about the party’s nominee, were just as harsh in their criticism, warning that the comment reinforced perceptions that Romney is an uncaring, out of touch millionaire. Adding to the such voices, conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote a harsh critique of Romney, noting the comments suggest “he really doesn’t know much about the country he inhabits. “Who are the those freeloaders? Is it the Iraq war veteran who goes to the V.A.? Is it the student getting a loan to go to college? Is it the retiree on Social Security or Medicare? He added: “It reinforces every negative view people have about Romney.” Brooks concluded that “he’s running a depressingly inept presidential campaign. “Mr. Romney, your entitlement reform ideas are essential, but then will the incompetence stop” Speaking to Fox News Romney said he stands by comments that he said demonstrates his belief in the power of free enterprise rather than the growing reliance on largess from the federal treasury. “The president’s view is one of larger government, Romney said. “I think a society based upon a government-centered nation, where government plays a larger and larger role, redistributes money. He added, “We believe in free people and free enterprise, not redistribution.”

    Quotable

    “Mitt Romney’s week just got worse. And the worst of the worse is Romney’s contention that 47% of the county who support Obama are just looking out for handouts. This from a man who pays 14% in taxes—a multi-million dollar handout that Romney receives because he makes his money via a financial scheme that enjoys a major tax break from the government. …Romney keeps on kicking himself in the face.—Joe Klein, Time.

    Tweet

    @Glenn Thrush: Video clearest articulation of Romney’s governing philosophy yet. Finally he defined himself. Why didn’t he do more elegant version at RNC?

  • Fed Steps In: Romney Outrage
  • When Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, announced last week a change in his institution’s recession-fighting strategies in response to critics who said the Fed can and should do more, Republicans went wild. As Paul Krugman noted in his Monday column people on the right have long been obsessed with the notion that we’ll be facing runaway inflation any day now. Krugman expressed surprise at how readily Mitt Romney joined in the craziness. His campaign issued a statement denouncing the Fed’s move as giving the economy an artificial boost, and declaring that “we should be creating wealth, not printing dollars.” Romney’s outrage echoed that of the liquidationists of the 1930s, who argued against doing anything to mitigate the Great Depression. Until recently, the verdict on liquidationism seemed clear: it had been rejected and ridiculed not just by liberals and Keynesians but by conservatives too, including Milton Friedman. “Aggressive monetary policy can reduce the depth of a recession,” declared the George W. Bush administration in its 2004 Economic Report to the President. That said, it indicates anew just how far Romney remains out of touch and aloof with the real world.

    Middle East Poll

    Nearly half of Americans aware of attacks against U.S. outposts approve of Obama’s handling of the crisis, compared with only a quarter who approve of Romney’s comments on, according to the Pew Research Center for the People. It was a gauche reminder that after the murder of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya that Romney made a statement criticizing Obama’s response to the protests and accusing him of apologizing for American values and sympathizing with the rioters. Critics, including many Republicans, criticized his tone and time, and questioned the accuracy of his accusations.   

    Roberts’ Health Care Switch

    Court observer Jeffrey Toobin’s new book, “The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court,” jibes with earlier reports that the chief justice changed his mind as the ruling neared and became the deciding vote to uphold the Affordable Health Care Act. Toobin writes that the Bush-appointed jurist was caught in a bind, forced to choose between rebuking the conservative movement and his risking his—and the court’s—legacy. A key factor was the insistence of the four conservative justices on nullifying the health care law in its entirety. “Justice Antonin Scalia was enraged at the chief,” but Scalia has denied that he and Roberts had a falling out.

    Romney and Hispanic Outreach

    In a Los Angeles speech Monday the GOP nominee said nothing new on immigration billed by his campaign as an example of a new specifics—oriented push. Instead, Romney reasserted stances that Hispanic advocates say have kept him way back in the polls. He reiterated many existing views on immigration to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “I oppose amnesty,” a cornerstone of his campaign so far.

     

  • Is Romney Campaign Beginning To Implode?
  • Mitt Romney described half of Americans as “dependent upon government” during a private reception with donors earlier this year and said those voters will likely support President Obama because they believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to you –name-it. The blunt political and cultural assessment by the Republican presidential candidate surfaced Monday evening in recordings even as Romney sought to relaunch his campaign message amid internal campaign sniping and calls from Republicans outside the campaign for him to be more specific about how his policies will fix the nation’s economy. Video clips of Romney making the comments were posted on the Internet Monday afternoon by Mother Jones, a liberal magazine, which said it had obtained them and had confirmed its authenticity. In one video segment of the fundraiser Romney described how his campaign is writing off “47 percent of the people” who will vote for Obama “no matter what.” Romney said “my job is not to worry about those people.” Jim Messina, Obama’s campaign manager, said in a statement Monday evening it was shocking that Romney would go behind closed doors to describe nearly half the country in such terms. Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, has long argued that nearly half the people in America are either “dependent” or “reliant” on the federal government. The videos, with more to follow, raised the possibility that his campaign would once again be sidetracked by his own words.

  • Medicare: Ryan Voucher Plan In Trouble
  • Once upon a time successful Republican House candidates believed that they had found a way to challenge the future of Medicare with Obama’s unpopular health insurance overhaul and accusing Democrats of cutting Medicare to pay for it. At first, polls suggested that the Republican strategy was working. But in recent weeks the Obama campaign has hit back hard, making the case that the Romney-Ryan approach to Medicare would leave older Americans vulnerable to rising health care costs. New polls found that Obama holds an advantage over Romney on the question of who would do a better job of handling Medicare. The Republican ticket wants to change the way Medicare works to drive down costs. Retirees would get a fixed annual payment from the government that they could use and put competition into the system.

    A New York Times/CBS poll last week found that more than three-quarters of voters favored keeping Medicare the way it is rather than a system pushed by Romney and Ryan, one which Democrats accuse the Republicans of referring to it as a “voucher plan.” Andrew Kohut, the president of the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, said “it’s pretty clear that Medicare is the one issue that could dislodge the Republicans’ headlock on these voters.” Joel Benenson, an Obama pollster, said “it’s a big problem for them, especially after they put Paul Ryan, the author of the voucher scheme, on their ticket.”

    Charlotte Convention

    “When Congressman Ryan looked into the TV camera and attacked President Obama’s Medicare savings as, quote, ‘the biggest, coldest power play.’ I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry,“ former President Clinton said—laughing, “Because that that $716 billion is exactly to the dollar the same amount of Medicare savings that he has in his own budget! You got to give him one thing: It takes some brass to attack a guy for going what you did.”

    “But from all we’ve seen and heard, they want to take us back to the era of blustering and blundering that cost America so dearly. After all, you don’t call our No. 1 enemy—not Al Qaeda, Russia—unless you’re stuck in a Cold War mind warp. You might not be ready for diplomacy with Beijing if you can’t visit the Olympics without insulating our closest ally.”—President Obama, about Mitt Romney.

    Quotable

    One minute Romney parrots Bibi Netanyahu’s position on Iran, the next on Obama’s.—Maureen Dowd, on the governor’s flip-flop positions.

  • Romney’s Stumble On Iran
  • Mitt Romney is determined to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear “capacity”—the combination of nuclear fuel, the technology of fashion it into a weapon and a delivery device—that would enable it to build a weapon in a matter of weeks or months, his adviser Eliot Cohen told the New York Times in an interview. Romney, visiting Israel on July 29, it was clear that both he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were on the same page on Iran policy. For much of the past week both he and President Obama have argued where to draw the red line –at capacity or an actual weapon—with a heated conversation on Tuesday night. But when Romney sat down with George Stephanopoulos of ABC on Thursday, he appeared to forget his own position.“ My red line in Iran may not have a nuclear weapon,” he told Stephanopolous. “It is inappropriate for them to have the capacity to terrorize the world.” If he sounded a lot like President Obama,” as The New York Times reported, well, it is because the position sounded a lot like Obama’s. Romney went on to say “what he would do to keep Iran from reaching that red line.” He talked about seven steps, including crippling sanctions, which would bring Iran’s economy to its knees. He never mentioned sanctions that Obama has engineered on Iran but Stephanopoulos gave Romney another chance. “But your red line going forward is the same?” ”Yes,” Romney said, going on to describe how it is important that the United States “means what it says.” Obama makes the case that the only sensible red line is the acquisition of an actual weapon. There was another camp. Romney seemed clearly part of, until he sat down with Stephanopolous. Will he backslide in the foreign policy debate?

    Quotation of the Day

    “We are an example. If it can be done here, it can be done anywhere.”—Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, whose state is home to seven million uninsured people, more than any other state, and in the vanguard of aggressively implementing the Affordable Care Act.

  • Romney: No clues on Foreign Policy
  • Mitt Romney brushed aside criticism of his brisk critique of the Obama administration’s response to a controversial Web video and the protests it seemed to spawn. Some Republicans thought it might have rushed too soon when he called the White House “disgraceful” after the American Embassy in Cairo issued a statement, that came out before the protests began, condemning the anti-Islam video. Romney “assailed the administration’s first response not to condemn the attacks on U.S. diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”  Many leading members of the media reacted harshly. Chuck Todd called the statement “irresponsible; National Journal’s Ron Fournier: “ham-handed “and “inaccurate.” Perhaps most savage came from Mark Halpern of Time magazine: Unless Mitt gamed crisis out in some manner completely invisible to Gang 500, doubling down=most craven+ill-advised move of ’12. On Thursday he sought to move beyond his criticism of Obama’s response to the turmoil both in Libya and Egypt and, instead, broadly painted the president as weak on foreign policy. He is determined to link Obama to former President Jimmy Carter who presided over the tragic Iran hostage crisis in 1979 which lasted 444 days while 52 American hostages were held captive. It doomed Carter and led the way for Ronald Reagan’s presidency. The irony here is Romney has no foreign policy experience compared to Carter. It should make the Mitt vs, Barack debate next month compelling,

    The Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan criticized Romney’s response to the death of a U.S. diplomat In Libya, telling Fox News in her column that she doesn’t feel the Republican nominee has been doing himself any favors. ”I was thinking as he spoke, I think I belong to the old school of thinking that in times of great drama and heightened crisis, and in times when something violent has happened to your people, I always think that discretion is the better way to go.” Noonan’s criticism delivers a harder blow however, coming as it does from high within the ranks of conservative establishment. It is the latest in a string of criticisms Romney has faced from the right’s most influential media outlets in recent days, including The Wall Street Journal editorial page and the Weekly Standard.

    What They Said

    Rush Limbaugh wondered Thursday whether Al Qaeda “gave up” Osama bin Laden to help President Obama win reelection. He admitted he had a “wild theory” and was just thinking off the top of my head. He said the terrorist group would rather have Obama in power to help them get “what they want more than anyone in the world”—the destruction of Israel.”  How disordered is Rush?

  • The Problem with Mitt: Conservatives Despair
  • ROMNEY put his presidential campaign on the line Wednesday morning after the deaths of four American diplomats including the U.S. ambassador to Libya. On Tuesday night he accused President Obama’s handling of the Libya and Egypt attacks “disgraceful.” And apology for American values is never the right course,” he said, slamming the Obama administration for “sympathizing” with those who waged the attacks.” As Huffington Post reported, Romney’s assault was rare among Republicans. Sarah Palin and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus joined Romney is condemning the president. What’s noteworthy is that no other significant leader thought it prudent to immediately single out the president for criticism. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R.Va., and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla,) all put out statements on the crisis.

    Florida: Must Win for Romney

    The New York Times’s Nate Silver suggests that Florida now ranks a clear second on Five Thirty Eight’s list of tipping point states, those most likely to provide the decisive votes in the Electoral College, behind only Ohio. It is typically only slightly Republican-leaning and a state which Romney must win but where Obama is on offense. A win there would solve all his other problems. He could lose each of Virginia, Colorado and Iowa, along with Ohio, Wisconsin, North Carolina, or New Hampshire or Nevada, and still win the Electoral College

    Quotable

    “In times of great drama and heightened crisis…I think discretion is the way to go.”—Peggy Noonan, suggesting Romney is not doing himself any favors.

    “Who told Mr. Romney to issue a political broadside against the commander-in-chief the day after a U.S. ambassador was murdered? Conservative Republican talk show host Joe Scarborough.

    “It wasn’t presidential of Romney to go political immediately—a tragedy of this magnitude should be something the nation collectively grieves before politics enters the conversation.—a Republican and former State Department official.

    “Romney blew it and revealed how seriously maladroit he is when it comes to foreign affairs and national security.”—Steve Clemons, the founder of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation.

    “He did jump the gun. It revealed yet again that his foreign policy team is not ready for prime time.”—David Rothkopf, a former Clinton State Department official.

  • Debating Obama: Does Conventional Wisdom Matter?
  • Conservative Peggy Noonan, The Wall Street Journal’s respected and lyrical columnist, has gone far out on a limb to size up the presidential debates between President Obama and Mitt Romney, arguing “advantage Romney” to those who anticipate the incumbent’s rhetorical skills will trump Romney’s stiffness. She insists that Obama is not a good debater but that it’s untrue. “He won the 2008 election, so people think, retrospectively, that he was great at debate. But he wasn’t, he just never lost an inch to John McCain and seemed steadier, less scattered. …What Mr. Obama tends to be is unruffled, stead and cool. But this can also come across as passive, uninterested and unforthcoming. He has more to defend…He’s not promising a better future, he’s saying he did a good job to merit re-election, which will usher in a better future. Everyone knows the economic facts: There’s a lot to defend.” Noonan’s problem is that she never grasped Obama’s toughness in his bruising campaign with Hillary Clinton to win the Democratic presidential in 2008; or that a stiff and robotic Romney, in debates with a gaggle of would-be Republican nominees early this year, has yet to show the fire in the belly to dethrone the cool champion.

    Poll Bounces

    Obama almost certainly had the more successful convention than Romney. But in some sense, his bounce has been fairly ordinary; conventions typically do produce bounces. It was a very small bounce that Romney received in the polls after his convention—about two points—that is more unusual historically, and somewhat low even relative to reasonably diminished expectations. When incumbents receive a bounce in the polls after the conventions, it can potentially be more persistent. In year between 988 and 2004, there was little immediate sign of decline in the incumbent party’s numbers after its convention, with its results holding in about the same place for up to five weeks.

    Read ‘em and weep

    “If you can’t beat Barack Obama with this record, then shut down the party. Shut it down. Start new, with new people.”—Conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham, expressing dissatisfaction with consultants Romney has brought in to run his campaign.

    Richard Nixon criticized the handling of the Vietnam War. So did other Republican presidents like Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush in discussing the conduct of other wars, But Mitt Romney is the first GOP nominee since 1952 not to mention war.—Huffington Post

    “There is uncertainty surrounding the Romney-Ryan tax cut plan, because they have not specified the deductions that will be closed. And we know where the big money is: mortgage interest deductions, charitable deductions…employer provided health insurance. All of those, you either hit only the rich, in which you don’t get much money, or you hit the middle class.”—George Will, on ABC’s “This Week.”

  • Will Romney Pivot and Go Bold?
  • Are the wheels coming off Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign? The old formula that failed Bob Dole and John McCain isn’t working in 2012. The question now is whether Mitt will change course long before the first debate on October 3.

    Last Saturday the candidate, plunging into the culture wars, hooked up with televangelist Pat Robertson in Virginia Beach, Va. and all but accused Barack Obama of turning his back on God. “That pledge says ‘under God.’ I will not take God out of our platform. “I will not take God out of our coins. And I will not take God out of my heart.” That was the prequel for a disastrous week. All of a sudden Romney said Sunday he would retain parts of Obama’s health care overhaul, blamed Republicans, including Paul Ryan, as much as Democrats for the “mistake” of agreeing to automatic cuts in military spending and opined that Obama’s national security strategy had made America in “some ways safer.” Neither Romney, on “Meet the Press,” nor Ryan, on “This Week,” offered any details about how they would balance the budget. Asked separately what loopholes they would close to prepare for their proposed tax cut, neither of them answered. Romney was defensive when David Gregory asked him about criticism from the conservative Daily Standard—and from both sides of the ideological divide –why he did not mention the conflict in Afghanistan on numerous occasions. He said he spoke to the American Legion just before Tampa and shared his policy on the subject and other foreign policy and the military. Gregory questioned whether his speech to the veterans would had the same impact as at the convention—“tens of millions of people.” His strange reply: “What I’ve found is that wherever I go, I’m speaking to tens of millions of people.” Ahead of Romney’s Tuesday speech to the National Guard Association, retired Gen. Wesley Clark said the exclusion shows Romney is not ready to lead America’s military. Clark said on an Obama conference call Monday “that it reveals a severe lack of understanding about the job as president, doesn’t reflect well on what kind of leadership you would ring and frankly it’s just unbecoming of someone who wants to be commander-in-chief.”

    Just Asking

    No sign of Donald Trump at the GOP convention in Tampa. On Monday ‘The Donald’ said “the one thing I have to tell the Republicans, they have to get tougher. If they don’t get tougher, they’re not going to win the election.”

    Tweet

    @davidaxelrod: I don’t quote George Will often, except on baseball, but he nailed truth on Mitt tax plan: middle class will pay.

  • Woodward Book, Insiders and Other Journalists
  • Michiko Kakutani’s review of Bob Woodward’s new book, “The Price of Politics,” in The New York Times, details “the struggle between President Obama and the United States Congress to manage federal spending and tax policy for the three and one-half years between 2009 and the summer of 2012.” It is often, she writes, depressing and often tedious. Much of Woodward’s story has already been told in lengthy articles in the New York Times Magazine and The Washington Post. The book focuses on the president’ struggles with House Speaker John Boehner, then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the suggestion that on the Obama team “there’s no adult in charge.” Much of the book’s portrait of Obama is shaped by Washington insiders, mostly on background, and other journalists who suggest that the president has not spend a lot of time like Lyndon Johnson cultivating relationships with members of Congress, Republican or Democrat. Woodward, in the past best known for writing straight ahead narratives, with little analysis or context. But he savaged George W. Bush in two books, faulting 43 for his “certainty about decision making,” instead of real leadership. He editorializes again about Obama, suggesting that despite a faltering economy, he has failed to do what other presidents have done. He mentions both Presidents Reagan and Clinton as both open to serious criticism, but nevertheless worked their will. Woodward faults Obama for not doing so. “The mission of stabilizing the country and improving the economy is incomplete.” My sense of Woodward: long ago he became too cute by half!

    Brown: Bring It On

    California Gov. Jerry Brown isn’t backing down on his chin-up-and push-ups challenge to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. The two governors got into a tit-for tat when Christie initially called Brown, 74, an “old retread” who won the Garden State’s Democratic presidential primary when Christie was merely 14 years old. “So I kind of warmed up…and said, OK, Christie, I challenge you to a three-mile race. Try some chin-ups maybe and some pushups.” Does it have something to do with Christie being grossly overweight?

     

  • Obama’s Victory Path Clearer, Mitt Advisers Admit
  • David Gregory’s unusual interview for Meet the Press with Mitt Romney, both on his campaign bus and high-rise compound in Boston, did almost nothing to assuage concerns that he’s in serious trouble. You could see it clearly in the anguished face and gestures by Peggy Noonan, the respected conservative columnist for the Wall Street Journal who, like other worried Republicans, said her candidate must make major adjustments before the pivotal first debate on October 3. As Politico reported in terms of the state of the race Obama has a much clearer path to winning, advisers to Romney privately concede. Unlike Romney, Obama clearly got a convention bounce and state-by-state polling numbers—most glaringly in Ohio—are working in the president’s favor.  Both campaigns agree that the election will come down to whether Romney can persuade voters that he understands the problems of ordinary people and that his solutions are at least marginally better for turning things around with the economy. The Republican plan rests heavily on Romney’s capacity to bury Obama with negative ads—and reap the benefits of his billionaire backers. The Democratic worry is that with only a small slice of undecided (6 percent to eight percent) the demographics may not be favorable among mostly white voters. The sense in both camps is that Obama is better positioned in the ten states they are fighting on. Two months ago, a Romney official said they needed to have at least two of these states in the bag to be on the course to win. They do not. Stuart Stevens, Romney’s chief strategist, said “We’re a very patient campaign,” insisting the candidate is unfazed by hand-wringing among Republicans and staff.

    Briefly

    Democratic convention draws 35.7 million viewers, off from 38.4 million in 2008. Republican convention draws 30.3 million viewers, down from 38.9 million in 2008….Clinton makes clear he will campaign extensively for Obama this fall. Romney is defenseless, unable to defang the Big Dog….Michael Grunwald’s “The NEW New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era,” about the lasting impact of the stimulus, hits New York Times bestseller list Monday and following week.

    Quotable

    “Romney will lose if he doesn’t change his strategy. Negative ads won’t substitute for conservative ideas.—MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, a conservative former Republican congressman from Florida suggesting that a real conservative would be winning. Really?

    “There are relatively few Republicans deeply in love with Romney. There never have been. Rooney won the nomination by being the most electable general election candidate in a weak and whacky field. He won, not by devotion, but by default.”—Roger Simon, Politico.

     

  • Obama Convention Bounce: Can Romney Rebound?
  • Three national tracking polls, including Ipsos, published Friday all moved toward President Obama, reflecting momentum from the Democratic convention in Charlotte. Gallup showed Obama moving into a three-point lead over Romney, up from one point on Thursday. Most of the interviews on the poll were conducted just after the Republican convention in Tampa, a period in which Mitt Romney should have enjoyed a convention bump on his own. Obama’s approval ratings shot up to 52 percent in the version of the poll published Friday, while his disapproval rating declined to 43 percent. Nate Silver’s Political Calculus suggests there may be better news for the president in the days ahead. Obama stills trail Romney in the Rasmussen Reports in the national tracking poll, but he narrowed his deficit to one point from three on Thursday. “It’s certainly important to be cautious while interpreting one-day changes in the polls,” Silver wrote, “but so far, this data is tracking toward a decent-size convention bounce for Obama.” Silver thought the speeches by Mrs. Obama and Bill Clinton were stronger than the one given by Obama himself,” just before the mediocre jobs report. He suggests, more specifically, that Obama needs to show a lead of around four or five points in national polls next week to maintain the model advantage now showing for him.  Republicans could use a buzzkill after the convention period that does not appear to have gone terribly well for them.

  • Obama, Unlike Romney, Hits Grand Slam
  • President Barack Obama delivered a powerful and optimistic speech Thursday night that succeeded all expectations, including the “Made in America” phrase which drew roaring applause and generated a record 52,000 tweets within minutes. To the Mitt Romney camp it had to come as a stunning surprise. “I am the president,” Obama said, channeling FDR. He talked about tough choices and paths that are not “quick or easy” and will take time. It was a values speech in every respect. Obama had a rare opportunity to draw the contrast between himself and Romney on issues and what they will do as president, and turn the fall campaign into the kind of election he has always wanted: a starkly different choice between two visions of government’s role in America’s future. Bill Clinton offered Obama a road map on how to present those choices, and Obama is not too proud to take such advice from the last Democratic president.

    Obamacare Cash

    Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan is barnstorming the country, promising to repeal every provision of the Affordable Care Act if the Romney-Ryan ticket is elected. But on December 19, 2010 Ryan wrote a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services to recommend a grant application for the Kenosha Community Health Center, Inc. to develop a new facility in Racine, Wisconsin, an area within Ryan’s district. “The proposed new facility will serve both the preventive and comprehensive primary healthcare needs of thousands of new patients of all ages who are currently without healthcare,” Ryan wrote. The grant Ryan requested was funded directly by Obamacare.—The Nation.

    Clinton 2016?

    NBC’s Brian Williams asked Bill Clinton on Wednesday about whether Hillary Clinton will run again in 2016: You know, she—we’re not kids anymore. I don’t have any idea if she’ll ever run again.” Secretary of State Clinton watched a taped version of her husband’s speech Thursday morning in East Timor, 9,930 miles from the Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C. where the buzz about her potential candidacy was clearly apparent. Clinton’s popularity has soared since her bruising campaign against Obama, and would begin the 2016 nomination contest as a heavy favorite.

    Overheard

    “I’m just glad I won’t be debating Rob Portman in the final debates.”—Mitt Romney, avoiding the media and preparing for two debates with Barack Obama in October. (Romney appears Sunday on “Meet the press.”)

    “I just find all the special-interest money lined up on the other side, tilting the scales in a way that I don’t want to see. So if I can help, I’m going to help.”—Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago will take a new role to lead Priorities USA Action, a super PAC founded by two former Obama aides.

    New York Sen. Chuck Schumer told Politico Thursday that Bill Clinton informed him before the big speech that he’s is going around the country in October to promote President Obama’s re-election.

    Alex Castellanos, a longtime Republican strategist, cable commentator and former aide to Mitt Romney, told Democratic strategist Paul Begala, on CNN that Clinton’s speech “probably re-elected Obama.”

     

  • Clinton: Let Obama Finish The Job; Target Undecided
  • Former President Bill Clinton rallied the Democratic base and delivered a spirited defense of President Obama’s handling of the nation’s struggling economy in Charlotte on Wednesday night as he criticized the economic agenda of Republican nominee Mitt Romney and an opposition GOP he argued has been unwilling to compromise for the good of the country. In the speech aimed squarely at independent voters, Clinton said America is “clearly better off” than four years ago and argued that many of the serious problems facing the economy were “inherited” from Republicans. “The most important question is, what kind of country do you want to live in? Clinton said. “If you want a you’re on your own, a winner-take-all-society, you should support the Republican ticket. If you want a country with shared prosperity and shared responsibility—a we’re in this together society—you should vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden.”

    Electoral College

    Nate Silver’s Political Calculus in The New York Times has moved toward Barack Obama in the last few days. It now gives him about a three-in-four chance of winning the Electoral College on Nov. 6. “The intuition behind it is pretty simple.” 1. Polls usually overrate the standing of a candidate who just held his convention. 2. Mitt Romney just held his convention. But he seems to have gotten a below-average bounce out of it. The national polls that have come out since the Republican National Convention have shown an almost exact tie in the race. 3. If the polls show only a tie for him now, then he will eventually loses….Obama seems to have more control of his own destiny right now. If he carries even a modest bounce out of Charlotte, he’ll remain in the front-runner’s position. If Obama gets a bounce that’s a bit better than modest—say, he leads in the national polls by in the neighborhood five or six points next week, as Bush 43 did following his convention in 2004—Romney’s position will start to start to look fairly grim.

    Noted

    ABC reported that the end of Mrs. Obama’s speech drove a higher Tweets-per-minute peak than Mitt Romney’s speech at the Republican Convention last week—28,003 for Obama vs. 14,289 for Romney.

    What They Said

    “It’s not a bromance, like Romney and Paul Ryan. It’s a transaction. Obama needs his Democratic predecessor to reassure jittery voters that the future can look like the past, with a lower deficit, plenty of jobs, and two patties actually talking. In return, Bill will have the capital to ensure that the past can look like the future, with Hillary as Obama’s successor.”—Maureen Dowd, New York Times. 

    “”I think the president is who he is. He is an extraordinary leader who is respectful of other people’s opinions, and projects the decency on them that they might be respectful of his opinion. Its’ never going to happen.”—Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, about a second Obama term.

  • Dems: Fiery Rebuttal To Romney
  • For Democrats their opening night pitch in Charlotte offered two simple messages to Americans:”Mitt Romney doesn’t get it, and Barack Obama does.” It was a thundering response to last week’s Republican convention in Tampa. A score of Democratic officials detailed a political indictment against Romney as being out of touch with the middle class and focused on taking the country back to the policies of the Bush administration that caused the economy’s problems in the first place. “Their theory has been tested. It failed. Our economy failed,” Mayor Julian Castro of San Antonio, 37, the first Latino ever to give a convention keynote address and a future star in national Democratic politics, said in electrifying delegates. “The middle class has paid the price. Your family paid the price. Mitt Romney just doesn’t’ get it.” It was a stark contrast to the keynote address by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at the GOP convention last week which was a major disaster. The main attraction on opening night was the powerful address by the President’s lead character witness, First Lady Michele Obama. She surpassed Ann Romney in making an impression to soften his persona. Obama’s mission was to lay the foundation for a convention program devised to remind wavering voters—the ones that Romney is trying to woo away—about what they admired when they backed him four years ago, and what has motivated his decisions. The subtle theme from each speaker was to reinforce Obama’s strong victory in 2008. 
    Quasi-friendship

    For Clinton, the politics are more complicated. His associates take it as a given that he would like nothing more than to see his wife become President. Hillary Clinton will step down as Secretary of State after the campaign and begin the process of deciding whether she will run in 2016. By some measures, a defeat of Obama in November would leave Hillary as the undisputed leader of her party and propel her toward the Oval Office that much faster. At least one of Clinton’s closest advisers seems to be backing that strategy. According to two people with direct knowledge, Douglas Band has said that he will vote for Mitt Romney. Now that Obama has turned the campaign into something of a referendum on Clinton’s sterling record on the economy, Clinton hardly complain. That may be part of Obama’s strategy, too. Flattered by the attention, Clinton now has an incentive to work hard Obama, who seems to have learned how to tame the former President. “In many ways, the President has been using Bill Clinton as an economic role model, “the senior official said. “I would guess that President Clinton views this as a compliment.”— Ryan Lizza, The New Yorker, 9/10. (Band reportedly said Tuesday that the idea he would vote for Mitt Romney
    was “preposterous.”)

    Notable

    Dolores Huerta, a revered labor leader who co-founded the United Farmer Workers with the late Cesar Chavez, expressed dissatisfaction with the state of Latino outreach. “We don’t need more ads…”We need resources for on-the- ground, door-to door organizers.”

  • Castro: Rising Latino Star; Clinton Bombshell?
  • Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, 59, the ambitious and driven Latino chairman of the Democratic National Convention this week in Charlotte, N.C., will deliver a six-minute address to thousands of delegates on Thursday. But it is Mayor Julian Castro of San Antonio who will take the stage Tuesday evening to give the most important speech of his life – the first Latino to give the keynote address in the convention’s history—it was hard to decide what was consuming this city more: Castro’s rising political cachet, or a the vote on his pre-K program. He is a friend of the Obama administration, having sat with Michelle Obama in January during the State of the Union address. The pre-K program illustrates the extent to which Castro, 37, though of a different ideological stripe, has forged an identity as Texas’ version of vice-presidential candidate Paul D. Ryan—a youthful, ambitious and dynamic policy wonk turned political star. Castro’s ascent recalls 2004, when a state senator from Illinois named Barack Obama delivered the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention which catapulted him to national prominence. When Castro delivers his speech on Tuesday, he will be 12 days short of 38. A lawyer and former city councilman Castro represents a new generation of Hispanic-American leaders in Texas from both parties. An assistant professor of political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio said “he positions himself as a politician who is Latino, rather than a Latino politician.“ San Antonio has become a kind of Berkeley of the Southwest, progressive and vibrant. Speculation lately about Castro’s future has reached a fever pitch; there is talk about him running or governor, earning a place in Obama’s cabinet and even becoming the first Latino president.

    Clinton Aide Bombshell?

    According to a report in The New Yorker, Douglas Band, a top Clinton confident has say he will vote for Mitt Romney, apparently a move to strength Hillary Clinton’s position in the Democratic Party. The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza offered a fascinating tidbit in the second-to-last paragraph in the story. “By some measures, a defeat for Obama in November would leave Hillary the undisputed leader of her party and propel her toward the Oval Office uch faster. At least one of Clinton’s closest advisers seems to be backing that strategy,” writes Lizza. According to two people with direct knowledge, Band has said he will vote for Romney. He is a longtime former adviser to President Clinton, and played a key role in creating and managing the Clinton Global Initiative. Bill Clinton-Obama problem? 

  • Romney’s Big Speech ‘Gamble’
  • The Wall Street Journal editorial page appears less than thrilled with Mitt Romney’s convention speech, sighting a lack of specifics, a critique it shared to some degree. Politico noted that while the speech hit all the essential points, the one thing it didn’t due constitutes a major political gamble. Neither he nor the entire convention made a case for his economic policy agenda. He and Paul Ryan promised to help the middle class, but they never explained other than in passing how they would do it. Romney tossed out his five policy ideas almost as an afterthought. Energy got one sentence, education scored big with two. Neil Armstrong received almost as much speech time as what Romney would specifically due to spur faster growth and raise middle-class incomes. By failing to explain his own agenda, Romney has left an opening for Democrats and Obama to define it instead, We shouldn’t be surprised to see them pivot away from personal attacks on Romney and Bain this week and devote all their time to assailing his policies. If not in their own speeches, then surely at the debates when Obama and the moderators won’t let them avoid it.”

    Media Chatter

    Sarah Palin’s reportedly $1 million a year contract with Fox News may be in jeopardy according to The Huffington Post. On Wednesday Palin wrote on her Facebook post noting that the network had cancalled all her scheduled interviews for that day in Tampa. Her relationship has soured with Fox CEO Roger Ailes who once said that the only reason he hired her was because she was”hot and got ratings.”

    Romney Bounce

    New York Times’s Nate Silver suggests that Republican National Convention in Florida received mediocre television ratings—and only a modest bounce in the polls for Romney. The most favorable number for Romney is the Republican leaning Rasmussen Reports tracking poll—with a 3-point lead for Romney over Obama as of Saturday.

    What They Said

    “The president’s advisers believe the instinct for consensus remains part of Obama’s basic political makeup—though Republicans still do not. Obama’s team points to the fact that whether as president of the Harvard Law Review or as a member of the Illinois Senate, he found ways to bring together people of opposing views.”—Dan Balz, Washington Post

    “Right now their campaign is built on a tripod of lies.”—White House senior adviser David Plouffe on ABC’s “This Week.”—a welfare arrack that is just absolutely untrue. The suggestion that we’re raiding Medicare—absolutely untrue.

    “It was more of a checklist than I expected. I thought maybe we would have a more eloquent statement tonight, kind of thematic about who he is.”—NBC’s Tom Brokaw on Romney’s acceptance speech.


  • Electoral College: Is Ohio The Key?
  • Nate Silver’s Political Calculus, in The New York Times, suggests that none of the surveys that came out on Wednesday were noteworthy to begin with. But there was one, in Ohio, that had encouraging news for Barack Obama, and another, in Nevada, that was slightly favorable for Mitt Romney. The Ohio survey showed Obama ahead of Romney by less than 1 full percentage point. That said, it isn’t much, but Obama has gotten better numbers than that in Ohio Barack nominal 1-point advantage is the equivalent of a 4-or 5-point lead instead. “The broader point is simply that Ohio is so important to the electoral calculus that it’s good news when a polling firm shows him doing relatively well there compared with the other states that it polls. Ohio has a 30 percent chance of being the tipping-point state, meaning that it could cast the decisive votes in the Electoral College. If you give Ohio to Obama, plus all the states in the where the forecast model now estimates that he has at least a 75 percent chance of winning; he’s up to 265 electoral votes. That means he could win any of Colorado, Virginia, Iowa, Wisconsin, Florida or North Carolina to put him over the top. Romney is fortunate that he has Wisconsin in play; it gives him a few more ways to win without Ohio, although it would still be a daunting task. In the last 12 Nevada surveys in the database, Obama has never trailed—but nor has he led in any survey by more than 8 points. With a strong Mormon turnout and the state’s poor economy, Romney has some angles to work there.

    One Liners

    “Put me down as undecided.”- Rep. Ron Paul, on his vote in November.

    “Ryan is the devil in disquise”- “View” co-host Joy Behar.

  • Romney’s Extreme Foreign Policy
  • The Speech Mitt Romney delivered on the closing night of the Republican convention in Tampa signaled a bold attempt to refine the race around his business background with an appeal to voters disillusioned by President Obama. But his pointed critiques of Obama’s domestic policy toward the end of the speech shifted to his foreign policy intentions. Before American Legion veterans in Indianapolis Romney proclaimed that Obama allowed “our leadership to diminish.” The hawkish businessman has made it clear that he does not intend to shy away from the president’s policies, saying he had abandoned “our friends in Poland,” been duped by Iran and been too weak toward Russia.” He’s accused Obama of “throwing Israel under the bus” even though both parties are in solid agreement on protecting that nation. Romney has accused Obama of being weak on Iraq, talking to Teheran instead of getting tough. As for Russia, Obama has said he would have more flexibility to deal with its leader, Vladimir Putin, in a second term. Romney drew a roar when he vowed, “Under my administration, our friends will see more loyalty and Putin will see less flexibility and more backbone.” Romney’s increasing jingoism is said to worry Colin Powell, who met with him recently. He endorsed Obama in 2008, and has yet to reveal who he may support in November. 

    What They Said

    “Not me,” said an exasperated-looking senior adviser when asked who was responsible for Mr. Eastwood’s speech. In late night interviews, aides variously called the speech “strange,” and “weird.” One described it as “theater of the absurd.” Finger-pointing quickly ensued, suggesting real displeasure and even confusion in handling Eastwood’s performance, which was kept secret until the last minute and offered an off-key attack on Obama just before as Romney accepted the Republican nomination.

August

  • Romney Makes Case For Change; Eastwood Bombs
  • With 67 days remaining before Election Day. the presidential election has essentially been locked in place, with both sides hoping to grab a small slice of the electorate that is still undecided in fewer than a dozen states that are leading battlegrounds across the country that is still undecided. The speech loomed as arguably Mitt Romney’s most important since he began acting on his presidential aspirations nearly a decade ago. It was an opportunity to present himself to Americans who are just now beginning to tune in to this campaign and, more to the point, make the case against Obama, particularly to the people who voted for him. “I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed. This isn’t something we have to accept. Now is the moment when we can do something.” Romney, the new suitor, now faces the daunting task of persuading voters to fire the incumbent. “It’s going to be hard to break the bond a lot of voters feel with Obama, even if they are disappointed,: said Mark McKinnon, a former strategist for President George W. Bush. “It may be a bad marriage, but they still want to save it.”

    Gaffe

    The actor Clint Eastwood, 82 and a Republican, made a fool of himself in a bizarre skit interviewing Obama. The episode is certain to get national media coverage on Friday.

    Quotable

    Romney’s key quote: President Obama’s promise to slow the rise of the oceans, and heal the planet. I promise to help you and your family.”

    This synthetic convention aches with the enormity of the effort involved in trying, and failing, to make Mitt alluring and compelling, the fruitless, unending hunt for the enigma code that will decipher the cipher.—Maureen Dowd, suggesting that Romney doesn’t elicit passion while the emotion he evokes is pity. 

    Steven Rattner, who oversaw the Obama administration’s auto rescue, told Talking Points Memo Thursday that Paul Ryan personally lobbied him in 2009 to intervene to reopen the Janesville, Wis. plant he cited in his convention speech on Wednesday. Rattner recalled telling him the same thing he told other lawmakers with similar requests. The White House left these decisions to the car companies. Ryan lied in blaming Obama for the decision not to reopen Janesville.

  • Ryan, Attack Dog, Gambles On Medicare
  • Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, whose radical budget plans have come to define conservative opposition to President Obama’s governing philosophy accepted the Republican vice-presidential nomination on Wednesday as his party embraced an enormous gamble that small-government principles he embraces have more political payoff than peril. As the New York Times reported, Ryan, 42, sought to turn his relative youth to his advantage, saying he would stand with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in embarking on a generational struggle to protect the very social program—Medicare—that Democrats accuse him of trying to dismantle. Ryan’s appearance was a resounding affirmation of his popularity with conservatives who have shown far less enthusiasm for Romney. There was a strong consensus within in the media that B43’s secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, who broke from her general avoidance of politics, gave a powerful speech despite associating with Republican accusations that Obama has failed to lead internationally, saying, “We cannot be reluctant to lead –and one cannot lead from behind.”

    NYT: Fact-Checking Ryan

    Ryan, in his convention speech, criticized Obama for seeking Medicare cuts that he once sought as well, and for failing to act on a deficit-reduction plan that he too opposed…..He did not mention that a third of the stimulus was in the form of tax cuts…..In an extended critique of the president’s stimulus plan, Ryan said: “What did taxpayers get out of the Obama stimulus plan? More debt.”…..Ryan also criticized the president for failing to act on set recommendations of the bipartisan debt commission that Obama created. “They came back with an urgent report,” he said. “He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing.”…..That appeared to be a reference to the Simpson-Bowles commission—which Ryan served on, but whose plan he ultimately opposed, saying it would raise taxes and not cut enough for health programs.

    Convention Prayers

    Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, a close friend of Paul Ryan, will give the closing prayer at the RNC on Thursday. He has accepted an invitation by the DNC to do the same to close their convention next week.  Sister Simone Campbell, an outspoken advocate for the poor and the elderly, will have a speaking slot, according to President Obama’s campaign. 

    Read ‘em and weep

    “They’re hungry for someone who is an elected official at a high level, and who is admired, to push back, to have fun, to stir the blood, to make the case, to get the troops going again. Chris Christie is a politician and there’s nothing in it for him, as a New Jersey Republican, as a guy trying to survive and prosper in a Democratic state, in really bringing it to President Obama. He stuck to his thoughts on governance. This was worthy.”—Peggy Noonan, while justifying Christie’s on his state record, said that the Republican Party faithful was left wanting more.

    “Maybe I should do all the talking and let him just stand there and watch me.”—Ann Romney, in joking remarks in Troy, Michigan about the Republican presidential nominee. 

  • Chris and Ann: Hard and Soft
  • Chris Christie, the tough-guy governor of New Jersey, tardily extolled Mitt Romney in his keynote address as an exceptional leader willing to speak hard truths to a nation weary of President Obama and ready to make a much-needed change. “It’s time to end this era of absentee leadership in the Oval Office and send real leaders to the White House. America needs Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, and we need them right now.” Christie said the nation could do better, saying that he had learned to work across the aisle with Democrats—a claim that few members of the party opposite would dispute. He did offer some sharp jabs at Obama that whipped up the partisan crowd in the hall. “It takes leadership that you don’t get from reading a poll,” Christie said, directing his remarks at the president. “You see, Mr. President—real leaders don’t follow polls. Real leaders change polls. Political observers suggested it was not one of his best addresses and lacked more punchy, off-the-cuff comments in the past. But he mentioned the GOP ticket and only twice and with little specificity. It’s no secret that should Romney lose Christie will run in 2016. Romney and his wife, Ann, watched the address in a box. She stood up several times but he remained seated, serious and subdued. Ann Romney’s speech was aimed at introducing a warmer and more personal side of her husband. What stood out was her focus on women as being the centerpiece of upholding family values and a clear pitch to support the Republican presidential nominee. 
     
    What They Said

    Who’s winning the presidential race? There’s an odd disconnect between the polls and the body language of the candidates. “Republicans believe Obama’s governing defects should make a GOP victory virtually inevitable, but Romney’s political defects make it only a long-shot possibility.—Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine.

    Governor Romney and congressional Republicans continue to repeat a widely discredited claim that President Obama is dismantling work requirements for welfare recipients. President Clinton, who enacted the 1996 welfare reform law, says that Romney’s is false. FactCheck.org says Romney’s suggestions are simply not true. The Washington Post Fact Checker gives his claim “Four Pinocchios: for being blatantly dishonest. And the Pulitzer-prize winning PoliFact.com says the Romney claim is “pants on fire”—Sen. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), Detroit News. (Former Senator Rick Santorum eagerly repeated the lie in a speech last night at GOP convention.)

  • Storm Rewrites Script; Restive Delegates
  • Hopes by Mitt Romney for a highly disciplined and scripted nominating convention in Tampa faded Monday for two reasons; a tropical storm barreling toward New Orleans expected to strengthen into a hurricane—and concerns by convention organizers about some restive delegates, including supporters of Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, poised to challenge parts of the convention rules and platform when it begins this afternoon. Broadcast and cable networks on Monday, The New York Times reported, began shifting much of their resources toward the Golf Coast after it became clear that the impact on the Tampa area would be minimal. Seven years ago on Aug. 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina barreled into the New Orleans area, and a replay is certain to draw serious media attention away Romney’s coronation. The delay gave more time for some delegates to plot against changes to the party’s nominating rules that Romney’s campaign tried to push through late last week. A national committeeman from Indiana said, “It would make the Republican Party a top-down, not bottom up, party.” Ron Paul, with 200 delegates, spoke to almost 10,000 supporters during a several hour rally in the South Florida University arena Sunday night.

    Christie Attacks Brown, Praises Wilson

    The New Jersey governor and Rep. Paul Ryan, Romney’s VP choice, are the two biggest stars at the Tampa convention. But all eyes will be on brusque and fiery Chris Christie who will give the keynote address on Tuesday evening aimed at destroying Barack Obama. On Monday he spoke to the California delegation and called Gov. Jerry Brown an ‘old retread’ and a ‘bad choice.’ “The message I want to deliver to California is: There is hope,” he told delegates. “Don’t give up on the fact that California can be governed. You’ve seen it governed before, and you’ve seen it governed effectively.” Christie complained that “now I’ve got to sit at the National Governor’s Association with this guy and have him come up to me and say, ’Gov. Christie, stop telling people that I want to raise taxes. I’m not trying to raise taxes.’ “And I said, ‘Yeah you are, Jerry.’ Christie went on to say that 2012 could be a “launching point” for California Republicans. Christie also praised former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson who was also in the room. But let’s get real: chances of a Republican revival in the Golden State in the near future are slim to none. 
     

  • Will Mitt Show Us Who He Is?
  • Tropical Storm Isaac aside, Romney is being advised that he needs to be more combative against President Obama to appeal to white, working class voters and convince them he is the winning answer to their economic frustrations. What’s happened is that Romney’s advisers are convinced Obama’s poor stewardship is not sufficient to propel him to victory on its own. Republicans are nervously monitoring the pivotal battleground state of Ohio, where Romney has had trouble making headway against Obama because of an uptick in employment. As The New York Times notes the battleground map has remained remarkable stable for months, which leaves Obama with far more paths to win 270 electoral votes than Romney. The formidable Maureen Dowd suggested that it is ‘Too Late for Shake That Etch A Sketch,’ despite the frantic rush to humanize him in Tampa. Romney told The Wall Street Journal that he won’t indulge those who want him to “lie down and let it all out,” or be personalized “like I’m a piece of meat.” Incredibly, Romney has reversed course and is now touting his Massachusetts health care plan in an effort to appeal to women voters, which served as the blueprint for Obama’s health care law Romney has pledged to repeal. On Fox News Sunday the former governor brought up again the Massachusetts law in order to contradict the assumption that Obama offers more to women on the issue of women’s health care. It’s a feeble way for Romney to suggest that he could narrow the gender gap. Several prominent conservatives were furious weeks ago when he touted the issue. He stopped until last week before again pushing ‘Romneycare,’ a suggestion, unlike Obama, that he remains very insecure about his base.   

    O44

    Obama told the Associated Press that if he’s re-elected Republicans may be more willing to play ball. “I’m prepared to make a whole range of compromises” that could rankle his own party. Is it credible or just trash talk?

    Quotable

    “We have got to be open,” Bob Dole, 89, told the Daily Telegraph of London. “We cannot be a single-issue party or a single-philosophy party,” expressing concern about the “undercurrent of rigid conservatism where you don’t dare cross the line.”

    Since 1972, the candidate who has won the Catholic vote has won the popular vote as well. The Catholic vote does tend to be on the side of the winning candidate. It’s the quintessential religious swing group.”—Robert P. Jones, chief executive and founder of the Public Religion Research Institute in Washington. It is a clear signal to Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops, to be cautious in leaning toward Mitt Romney, a Mormon, and the Republican presidential nominee. It raises the specter that the bishops are turning the church “into the Republican Party at prayer” when the bishops have repeatedly criticized the budget proposed by Paul Ryan over its failure to protect what the Bible calls “the least of these.”   

     

  • Convention: ‘Birther’ Issue Returns
  • Romney made a joke about his birth certificate at a rally in Commerce. Mich. on Friday. Recalling his Michigan roots he said, “No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know this is the place that we were born and raised.” The joke was received with hearty applause by the audience. Rush Limbaugh cheered the joke, saying “Right on! Right one! Right on! on his radio show Friday. President Obama, long plagued by the “birther” issue, released his long-form” birth certificate in 2011. Romney’s own birth certificate was released by Reuters on the same day as the candidate appeared with Donald Trump, who has loudly amplified doubts about the president’s birthplace. Romney has said that he believes that Obama was born in the United States. He reiterated to CBS News Friday night that he does not agree with those who question the president’s birthplace and denied that the line was a “swipe” at Obama. The Obama campaign was not amused, noting that Romney has consistently refused to denounce supporters at the forefront of the birther movement like Trump. “That’s one thing to give the stage in Tampa to the most strident voices and not denounce them,” said Obama press secretary Ben LaBolt, singling out Trump, Sheriff Arpaio and Kris Kobach.

    Tampa Platform

    The Republican Party is set to call for the creation of a commission to look at restoring a link between the U.S. dollar and gold severed 40 years ago, the Financial Times reported on its website Thursday. The draft also calls for an audit of Federal Reserve monetary policy. Marsha Blackburn (R- Tenn.), co-chair of the platform committee, said these points were adopted because they are things that Republicans in the House agree on.” Paul Ryan favors a return to gold coins, not a U.S. currency supply overwhelmingly in paper money. Paul Krugman thinks he wants to turn the clock back not one but two centuries. 

    Celebrating Vidal

    He was remembered fondly, by a glittering retinue of friends and admirers at the Schoenfeld Theater in Manhattan, where his 1960 play, “The Best Man,” about a presidential campaign, is currently being revived. But the oddest speaker, and when Vidal would have relished most, came from an impassioned Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D. Ohio) who recalled that he first met him in March 2003, when he was contemplating a run for the presidency, and asked for advice. ”You’ve got to do something about your hair,” Vidal told him. “It’s dreadful. I can’t bear to look at it.” 

  • Polls: O44 Trusted on Medicare; McCaskill Suprise
  • Romney-Ryan proposal to reshape Medicare by giving future beneficiaries fixed amounts of money to buy health care is deeply unpopular in Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin. New polls find that likely voters in each state trust President Obama to handle Medicare. The Medicare debate zoomed to the forefront o the presidential campaign when Mitt Romney announced that his running mate would be Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, well known for his budget plan, supported by Romney, to overhaul Medicare to rein its costs. Medicare now ranks as the third most critical issue to likely voters in Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin—behind the economy and health care. Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News polls of the three swing states suggest that the Republican proposal to retool the program a decade from now is widely disliked. Roughly 6 in 10 likely voters in each state want Medicare to continue providing health insurance to older Americans the way it does today; fewer than a third of those polled said Medicare should be changed in the future to a system in which the government gives the elderly fixed amounts of money to buy health insurance or Medicare insurance, as Romney has proposed. And Medicare is seen as a good value. The races in Florida and Wisconsin have tightened while Obama maintains his lead in Ohio. Obama enjoys solid support from women in all three states but lead in Wisconsin has narrowed since 2008 election.

    Show Me State

    On Thursday, Republicans’ favorite pollster, Rasmussen Reports, had Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill leading Rep. Todd Akin by 10 points, a stunning reversal after trailing virtually every prospective Republican nominee throughout the year.

    What They Said

    In an interview last week, Brian Williams, the NBC News anchor, thought for a moment when asked if it was possible to recapture Americans’ interest in the presidential election. “I think if we could sprinkle in some Olympic events,” he deadpanned. “Floor vault is a personal favorite. Badminton, but it takes up a lot of floor space.”

    “I don’t think it’s a decision that Bill Paley would have made, “said Russ Schriefer, a senior Romney aide, referring to the executive who ran CBS during the days of Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite. Networks have said they will broadcast an hour of convention coverage on the final three nights of the Republican convention next week—but no more. On Monday night, Ann Romney is scheduled to take the stage at the convention. May not happen.

  • Mitt’s All-In Move: Ryan Ratings Flop
  • Nate Silver’s ‘Political Calculus’, in The New York Times last week, is instructive in understanding Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as his running mate. The last five Republican vice-presidential candidates have all been quite conservative. But the four had other strengths—and they were usually chosen in the hope that balancing out some perceived deficiency at the top of the ticket.  Politico theory dictates that this is a dubious choice for Romney. since Ryan’s views, especially on Medicare, are not likely to poll well with the average voter. Silver notes that it is too early to say how the Ryan pick will play out, but early reviews of Ryan are lukewarm. State and national polls conducted since the selection have shown, on average, a one-point gain for Romney in his race against President Obama. It is possible that Ryan could have a net negative favorability rating by Election Day, as Romney does now. But Ryan was not a choice made to win a popularity contest. Silver said his first take on the selection was that Romney had looked at the polls, concluded that he was losing, and deliberately made a high-risk choice that could shake up the campaign—somewhat like what John McCain did with Sarah Palin four years ago. 

    NBC/Wall Street Journal poll Wednesday showed mixed reviews on Ryan, with his favorable/unfavorable ratings just about even. Twenty-two percent say Ryan makes them more likely to vote for him, while 23 percent say they are less likely to vote for him, and 54 percent say the pick doesn’t affect their vote either way. That margin (-1) is compared with Joe Biden’s in 2008 (+8), Sarah Palin’s in 2008 (+9). Ryan’s numbers come closest to Dick Cheney’s in 2000 (+2). In the poll’s feeling thermometer, Ryan’s favorable/unfavorable score stands at 33 percent/32 percent.

    Read ‘em and weep

    So thank you, Todd Akin. Just as the Republicans were opening their show and hoping to widen the tent, you’ve managed to attract attention to yourself and your caveman views. Here that sound, GOP. That’s women running for the exits—and the big tent collapsing.—Mark McKinnon, Republican strategist.

  • GOP: Abortion Key Campaign Issue
  • Rep. Todd Akin vowed to stay in Missouri’s Senate race on Tuesday as a number of former Missouri senators, led by Missouri Republican Sen., Roy Blunt called on him to exit. But Akin told conservative talk show host Mike Huckabee he’s staying in the race. Besides Blunt, Missouri Sens. John Ashcroft, Kit Bond, John Danforth and Jim Talent urged him to withdraw. Karl Rove had earlier pulled $5 million from American Crossroads to help Akin. Senate Minority Leader demanded he step down. Shawn Hannity got tough and Tuesday even Rush Limbaugh pulled the plug. Also yesterday Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan were forced to pull their backing. One wonders about Ryan, who along with Akin, unsuccessfully pushed H.R. 3 on the failed abortion bill. Heading for the Republican convention in Tampa beginning Monday, the fight over rolling back abortion has wedged itself into the center of the 2012 campaign.

    What They Said

    Romney may expect Paul Ryan to help deliver the Catholic vote and smooth over any discomfort among Catholics about Mormonism. But Jesuits were even more tart, with one group writing to Ryan that “Your budget appears to reflect the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

    CNN’s Piers Morgan tweeted Monday that Rep. Todd Akin would appear for an interview on his show Monday night. Morgan opened the show by saying, “Good evening. You’re looking at an empty chair that Atkin was supposedly to be sitting in. His failure to appear led Morgan to say “what we would call in England a gutless little twerp.” 

  • GOP Panic: Missouri Abortion Issue
  • In a blow to the Romney-Ryan ticket top Republican leaders in the Senate moved at flank speed to nudge Rep. Todd Akin out of his Senate race in Missouri after he made explosive comments about rape. But the six-term congressman, backed by the Tea Party, indicated in an interview on Mike Huckabee’s radio program Monday that he would not would not drop out. Akin told an interviewer in remarks released on Sunday that pregnancies resulting from rape were rare because women’s bodies shut down in a way that prevented pregnancy. On Monday Democrats highlighted Ryan’s history of opposing abortion—even in cases in which the woman was raped—after controversial statements by Akin. Ryan’s different position on abortion has given President Obama an opening, much the way his proposals for turning Medicare into a voucher program as Democrats attack the GOP ticket as they appeal to older people. As a Republican leader in the House, Ryan worked with Atkin to try and pass laws like H.R. 3 that would ban abortion in all cases, and even narrow the definition of ‘rape.’” The strongest sign of Republican displeasure with Akins came from Karl Rove, who has spent millions of dollars through Crossroads America on behalf of Republican candidates across the country. Desperate Republicans are in crisis mode in Missouri against incumbent Democratic Claire McCaskill, believed to be one of the vulnerable Democrats seeking re-election. The rebuke of Akin creates a major problem of how important women’s votes are in many states where Republicans are in close races.

    Column

    Paul Krugman on Ryanomics: “Mr. Ryan claims to be a deficit hawk. What is the basis for that claim? Well, he says that he would offset his tax cuts by “base broadening,” eliminating enough tax deductions to make up lost revenue. Which deductions would he eliminate? He won’t say—abd realistically, revenue gain on the scale he claims would be virtually impossible.”… So will the choice of Mr. Ryan mean a serious campaign? No, because Mr. Ryan isn’t a serious person—he just plays one on TV.

    Quotable

    “As a woman I’m really concerned that Paul Ryan doesn’t understand that rape is rape.”—DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz told CBS This Morning.

    “Here is what Mitt Romney and I will do. We will end the raid on Medicare. We will restore the promise of the program and restore the promise of this program.”—The question is whether he and Romney will be able to move beyond Medicare and onto the issue they’d really like to define this campaign: Obama’s record on the economy.”

    “Ryan turns out, upon closer inspection, not to be purifying ideologue, but rather a young, power-hungry, ladder-climbing trimmer.”—Howard Fineman in the Huffington Post, describing a self-styled deficit cutter who backed W.’s deficit-exploding agenda.

  • Debate Uproar; Romney Cuts; Catholics/Mormons
  • Complaints are rife about the choice of moderators for the presidential debates, a time-honored tradition of the fall election season. Jim Lehrer and Bob Schieffer will preside over two presidential debates; CNN’s Candy Crowley over a third ; and ABC’s Martha Raddatz will moderate the vice presidential debate. The secretive Commission on Presidential Debate, steeped in the traditions of prior decades, has exposed a gulf between a new media environment moving at flank speed to challenge the old system. Strategists at both campaigns believe the series of October face-offs could be critical in determining who will the White House. But Univision, the Spanish language broadcasting giant has questioned the lack of bilingual moderators and calls for a forum on its network. The National Assn. of Black journalists bemoaned the lack of black moderators “as unacceptable.” Fox News, the only independent television network that has not been selected, made an aggressive push this year. PBS’s NewsHour was also shut out. On Friday, Rush Limbaugh weighed in, calling Crowley a “far, far; left-wing Democrat momma” and Schieffer (a “far, far left-wing Democrat and dinosaur”). Raddatz and Lehrer were also called “far, far left” as well. Limbaugh aside, I have a feeling other debates will be squeezed in.

    Ducking Painful Cuts

    In an interview with Fortune Magazine published last week Mitt Romney said he would slash Amtrak, PBS funding, but defense cuts and middle class tax cuts would be off the table. But the proposals he laid out largely ducked the so-called “painful” choices that experts say must be made, and seemed to be drawn from rosy assumptions about the immediate and economic future. “They made garbage assumptions and they reached garbage conclusions,” he said about the experts.

    What They Said

    Romney expects his running mate to help deliver the Catholic vote and smooth over any discomfort among Catholics about Mormonism. Yet after Ryan claimed his budget was shaped by his faith, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops deemed it immoral. 

  • Ryan and Hume: The Art of Evasion
  • In poker, as Washington Post columnist Matt Miller describes it, a “tell” is the physical giveaway or tic that lets you know someone in lying about his or her hand. In politics it’s the mode of evasion a politician chooses to sidestep a truth the candidate doesn’t want to admit or avoid saying something against self interest. In his debut interview with Fox News’ respected Brit Hume last Tuesday, Paul Ryan’s “tells” were audacious and revealing. They suggest an opening Democrats would be wise to pursue. As Miller wrote, Ryan tried to cloak himself in his supposedly “wonky-ness” to side step two simple questions by Hume. “The budget plan that you’re now supporting would get to balance when?” Since Ryan knows that Romney’s bare sketch of a plan never reaches balance, he stumbles momentarily, before trying to move the conversation to his comfortable talking points about Romney’s goal of reducing spending to historic norms as a share of gross domestic product. Hume grows quietly impatient. “I get that,” Hume says. “But what about balance? Miller writes that you can see Ryan flinch. He doesn’t know, he says. “I don’t want to get wonky on you,” he says, recovering, “because we haven’t run the numbers on that specific plan.” Ryan then adds that “the plan we’ve offered the House balances the budget. But he immediately stops short of saying when—you see his eyes dart to the right at that moment, his next tell—because that would mean admitting it reaches balance in the 2030s. There’s no exit. Not until the 2030s, Ryan finally admits, looking uncomfortable. You get the idea. A “tell” also matters.in politics. 

    Quotable

    “The economy has to be at the center of Romney’s case, of course, but focusing on it exclusively, as he campaign has done since April, isn’t working. And for Mitt Romney to have chosen Paul Ryan and sought to avoid a discussion of debt/entitlement reform would have been malpractice.—Stephen Hayes, in the Weekly Standard, although there are few reasons to believe that talking Medicare is the magic bullet that the Romney needs at this stage in the presidential race.

  • Ryan’s Budget: Protecting The Poor?
  • Sister Simone Campbell, leader of the recent “Nuns on the Bus” tour across the country, is stepping up her campaign against Mitt Romney’s running mate, targeting Paul Ryan’s proposed budget plan. She says she’s on a mission to protect the poor—which would slash funds for social programs for low-income people. She told The Daily Beast she’s invited Ryan and Romney to join her in spending a day with poor people. She even took on conservative pundit Bill O’Reilly on Fox News this week to make her point. Simone is executive director of a Catholic advocacy group in Washington, D.C. which lobbies Congress for policies to help the poor. She met personally with Ryan, also a Catholic, in July, after her bus tour. “We agreed to disagree,” adding that she doesn’t see what he brings to the ticket. “Seniors are getting too big for a free ride.” The nuns aren’t the only Catholics making noise. Speaking on behalf of the Conference of Catholic Bishops, two bishops “have said Ryan’s budget doesn’t pass the moral test.” As for her invitation to Ryan and Romney to come spend a day with the poor, she says, she’s waiting for a reply.

    Bin Laden Leaks

    In a calculated attack on one of President Obama’s political strengths, a disgruntled group of former special operations officers and C.I.A. operatives started a campaign Tuesday night accusing Obama of recklessly leaking information about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in a video that appears to omit some of the president’s remarks in announcing Bin Laden’s killing. In a CNN interview last month, Adm William H. McRaven of the Navy, who oversaw the raid as commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, said ”The president and his national security team—I’m not a political guy, but I will tell you as, as an interested observer in this—they were magnificent in how they handled it start to finish.” The aggrieved group is called the Special Operations Opsec Education Fund and does not have to disclose its donors.

    What They Said

    Judge Robert Simpson of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania has elevated Republican ballot restrictions over fundamental voting rights which will have a disparate impact on minorities. He ackowledged he was aware of the remarks of Michael Turzai, the Republican House Republican leader, that the voter ID requirement would win the state for Mitt Romney in November. But he said there was no proof that other lawmakers shared that view. Did Judge Simpson poll them?

    “I should know it. I’m embarrassed on your air that I don’t have that number been my head. I didn’t know we were going to talk about it today.”—Romney adviser Ed Gillespie admitting to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer he was unable to name the time frame when Romney’s plan would balance the federal budget.

    “Ryan should declare Ryan plan history.”—Byron York, at the Washington Examiner, aping nationally syndicated conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer.

  • GOP Pros Fret Over Mitt’s Risk With Ryan
  • As Politico reported there’s almost a unanimous belief among Republican operatives that Romney has taken a risk in tapping Paul Ryan whose vocal views on overhauling Medicare will hurt other GOP candidates in critical House and Senate races. Mark McKinnon, a senior adviser to Bush 43, said “it’s a very bold choice.” He added, “and probably loses. Maybe big.” Some said Ryan is not ready to be president—or comes across as being ready. Sources close to the selection process said that within the Romney campaign there was considerable unease about tapping Ryan. In the first 36 hours since Ryan was tapped the Romney campaign had quieted few doubts. The Republican presidential nominee has rejected billions in Medicare cuts by Ryan. . Poll data suggests Ryan pick gives Mitt little bounce.     

    Grilling Mitt’s Pick

    Fox News’ Brit Hume landed Ryan’s first solo interview as Romney’s VP on Tuesday and pressed the House Budget Committee chairman for details on the campaign’s policy claims—pushing for specific answers on Medicare cuts in his own budget plan, taxes and how long it would take before that plan balances the budget. “The House budget doesn’t until the 2030s… We believe that if we get the economy working, if we get people back to work, we’ll balance a budget within 10 years.” Hume: “But is it the case that in the budget that you passed for the House of Representatives, significant savings of upwards of $500 billion dollars are planned? Ryan: We do not add cuts to Medicare in the House budget. We don’t take more cuts to Medicare. We simply prevent the raid of Medicare so that these dollars go to setting up the life of Medicare. 

    Christie and Rubio

    No surprises here. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, with his blunt and insulting style, will be the keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention which starts Aug.27 in Tampa, Fla. Skipping the usual pleasantries in favor of a brash and often abrasive approach to governing Christie is viewed as a likely candidate for the Republican nomination in 2016 should Mitt Romney be defeated in November. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida will introduce the Romney in the hope that he can appeal to independents and Latino voters. 

    Read ‘em and Weep

    “The president, I’m told, is talking about Medicare today. We want this debate.”—Paul Ryan, speaking at his alma mater Miami University in Ohio on Wednesday, slamming Obama for adopting Medicare cuts that, until last week, were openly supported by Ryan himself.

    Rush Limbaugh hails Ryan as “the last Boy Scout,” noting that the tall, slender 42-year-old is a true believer: “We now have somebody on the ticket who’s us.” Why bother with some silly scruple or toehold of conscience?

    Gov. Jerry Brown kicked off his campaign to pass Proposition 30 on Wednesday. Dan Schnur, a longtime Republican political operative and now director of the USC Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics, called it “the most expensive ransom note in California political history.” Battle on!

  • Ayn Rand: Her Influence on Paul Ryan
  • Ryan Lizza’s compelling article in The New Yorker (August 6) underscores the profound influence that libertarian Ayn Rand had on shaping Paul Ryan’s political mindset. After reading “Atlas Shrugged, “he told Lizza, “Wow. I’ve got to check out this economic thing.” He loved her novels and their devastating indictment of the fatal conceit of socialism, of too much government.” He dived into Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, and Milton Friedman. In a 2005 speech to the Atlas Society Ryan said that “if I had to credit one thinker, it would be Ayn Rand.” For him “the fight would be between individualism versus collectivism.” He’s now disavowed her and called her an atheist. But in 2009 he said in an interview with Politico that conditions in America were equivalent to a novel by Rand, who “did the best job of anybody to build a moral case of capitalism, and that morality of capitalism is under assault.” A conservative Catholic Ryan’s obsession with ending Medicare as we know it for future retirees reeks with echoes of Randism and a “me first” philosophy to protect the rich.. 

    Screw the Media

    Paul Ryan’s first major fundraiser as the presumptive vice presidential nominee in Las Vegas last night was closed to the media. The event at the Venetian, owned by billionaire Sheldon Adelson, was in ways an opportunity for Ryan to meet and mingle with Adelson, the Daddy Warbucks of Republican politics, and some of the party’s biggest money players and get briefed on their fundraising strategies. Mitt Romney’s recent trip to London and Israel was very tightly controlled by his campaign staff. MSNBC’s Chuck Todd tweeted that in London Romney only answered questions from the British press but not from American journalists traveling with him overseas.

    Unpopular

    Americans’ initial reaction to Paul Ryan is decidedly lukewarm, with more rating his selection as vice president negatively, according to a USA Today/Gallup poll taken after the announcement. Ryan’s ratings were less positive than those of six others presidential picks of Gallup since 2000, including Sarah Palin, Joe Biden and Dick Cheney. The only other recent vice presidential selection to gain net negative ratings was Dan Quayle in 1988.

    What They Said

    “Paul Ryan, talking about walking away from a balanced plan like Bowles-Simpson is, I don’t know, somewhere between laughable and a new definition of chutzpah.”—Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council under President Obama, to retort on CNN.

    “Ryan’s plan is void of credible math or hard policy choices. And it couldn’t pass even if the Republicans were to take the presidency and both houses of Congress. Romney and Ryan have no plan to take to Wall Street, the Fed, the military-industrial complex, social insurance or the nation’s fiscal calamity and no plan to revive capitalist prosperity—just empty sermons.”—David A. Stockman, director of the Office of Management and Budget from 1981 to 1985.

  • Adelson, China, Fed Probe: Ryan in Vegas
  • When Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire Sands casino magnate needed something done in China, he often turned to his company’s “chief Beijing representative,” a mysterious businessman named Yang Saixin As he told The New York Times in a recent interview in Hong Kong, “Adelson and I had a good relationship. He should thank me.” But today, Yang, along with tens of millions of dollars the Sands made through him in China, is the focus of a wide-ranging federal investigation into potential bribery of foreign officials, The New York Times reported Monday. Adelson has become an increasing presence in this year’s presidential election, contributing at least $35 million to Republican groups.  On Tuesday Mitt Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, in a stunning surprise less than a hundred hours after joining the ticket, will appear at a fund-raiser at the Sand’s Venetian casino in Las Vegas. Adelson, never one to miss a beat, may attend, a person close to him said. Adelson has emerged as perhaps the biggest donor in the presidential race, but has remained defiant about the legal questions swirling around his company, The Times said.

    Ryan’s Expertise

    The Wall Street Journal noted that there are a few unanswered questions about the Romney/Ryan debut interview. “Just whose plans will the GOP ticket run on? Ryan’s controversial proposals have galvanized conservatives but it’s not clear to what extent Ryan’s ideas will be endorsed by his new partner. Both defended the idea of overhauling but Romney brushed off the idea that the election could be a referendum on Ryan’s proposals. “I have a budget plan that we’re going to run on.” Does Ryan understand the message? 

    Palin: Out In the Cold

    Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren got this statement from former GOP presidential nominee Sarah Palin: “Everything I said at the 2008 convention about then-candidate Obama still stands today. This year is a good time for other voices to speak at the convention and I’m excited to hear them. As I’ve repeatedly said I support Mitt Romney and their efforts to replace President Obama at the ballot box.” What’s interesting is that with the nonstop galaxy of speakers putting in their two cents plain to savage Obama it’s significant that Mama Grizzly failed to make the cut. Rumors have circulated for some time that Romney is not especially high on her. As ABC’s Rick Klein reported “ask McCain–Palin vets whether a gangbusters convention is enough.”

    Quotable

    “Ryan provides a target-rich environment that reaches beyond seniors. He eases none of Romney’s potentially fatal deficit among both women and Hispanics. He voted against the Dream Act. And Ryan has reportedly trafficked in incendiary, anti-immigrants epithets like “anchor babies.” Ryan-Romney will be a ticket to nowhere on Hispanic television.”—Robert Shrum in The Daily Beast.

  • Two Introverts, Two Space Ships: One Has Edge
  • Odd as it may seem, discomfort and disbelief have become factors in the race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in the fall campaign, two recent polls indicate. A Fox News poll asked “Regardless of how you would vote, how comfortable would you be with Mitt Romney as president (Percentage responding “extremely comfortable or “somewhat comfortable.”) 26%.  Barack Obama, president for four more years—41%.  CNN/ORC poll: “Regardless of whom you support, and trying to be as objective as possible, who do you think will win the election in November?” Mitt Romney, 33%; Barack Obama 63%.

    More to the point, likeability is even more telling as the two introverts face off. The big difference, the one that columnist Maureen Dowd has written about, is that Obama is able to convey an impression of likeability to voters. Given how private he is, he’s an enigma even to some who are close to him. It’s an incredible performance. Even Republicans seem to have given up defending Mitt’s charms. As Speaker John Boehner famously said, “The American people probably aren’t going to fall in love with Mitt Romney.”

    Ryan’s Wealth

    Unlike Romney his personal wealth is no mystery but he’s not poor. Ryan’s overall net worth falls between $927,100 and $3.20 million, making him the 124th wealthiest member of the House. Ryan has to date not been under significant pressure or obligation to release his personal Internal Revenue Service filings although calls to do so will likely begin immediately. His wife, Janna Ryan, also individually reported a living trust fund worth $1 million to $5 million than ranks among the largest asset they collectively reported last year. Significantly, he was asked on “60 Minutes” by CBS’s Bob Schieffer whether he would list all past tax returns. Like Romney, he said he would list only two years.

    Question of the Day

    Ryan is now the Republican candidate for vice president on November 6. He was asked by Schieffer about his status to seek re-election should he lose. His answer was that he took the precaution last June to file for re-election to the House.

     

     

  • Ryan, His Budget and Romney Gamble
  • Romney’s choice of Ryan as his running mate, forced by the conservative right wing with assistance from The Wall Street Journal and the National Review, is a bold but risky move. Two months after the House passed the 2012 budget authored by Ryan—note that its centerpiece a controversial plan to reform Medicare, the healthcare plan for seniors—CNN found that 58% of Americans opposed the Republican plan and just 35% supported it. In the poll conducted in late May 2011, about 50% of respondents said they feared the country would be worse off under the plan’s Medicare changes. Resistance was higher among seniors, who are the most reliable group of voters. Romney has endorsed Ryan’s plan and has argued that returning Medicare to the states would offer more flexibility to spend the money in a way best tailored to those states.

    As Jackie Calmes pointed out in The New York Times Saturday the budgets that Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, has pushed through the Republican-controlled House this year and last have defined nothing short of a conservative reordering of the nation’s tax and spending priorities for the 21st Century. It would largely undo the social safety net—shifting more costs onto individuals and essentially converting Medicare into a voucher program—and adjust the progressive income-tax system, both built through the 20th century under Republican as well as Democratic presidents. The choice promises a fierce debate over the size and role of government over the next 87 days and the Democrats relish the chance to take on that fight.

    Overheard on the Trail

    “He’s part of the Washington crowd. His proposal does not balance the budget for 28 years. Since Romney was not the first, second or third choice of most grass-roots conservatives and he has spent massive amounts of money trashing conservative candidates, there is a lot of healing that needs to take place.”—Richard Viguerie, the conservative direct mail pioneer.

  • The Right Wants Ryan as Veep
  • The good news for Mitt is that Romney supporters are increasingly getting behind he presumptive Republican nominee.  But the bad news in a new CNN poll is that his unfavorable rating is up, most Americans think the Republican challenger favors the rich, and appears that the number of people who believe the economy will not get better if Romney wins has edged up slightly. The poll adds up to a seven point advantage for President Obama, with 52% of registered voters questioned in the survey saying that they would vote to re-elect him and 45% backing Romney. Among independent voters, the poll indicates that Obama has a 53%-42% lead.  The president holds a nine point advantage among women voters and a smaller six point edge among men. Among independents Romney’s image has taken a beating. In May, only 40% of independents had an unfavorable view of Romney. Now, 52% of independents have a negative view of him.

    Rallying to Sway Mitt

    Many political gurus believe that Romney has made up his mind about who he wants to be his running mate. Despite all the advise and urging he’s hearing this week it may not matter. The influential Wall Street Journal editorial page is pushing hard for House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan. Its editors cast Ryan as a one of “the generation of reformers who turned down the advice of “every Beltway bedwetter” and decided to tackle the fraught issue of entitlement reform.” Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review, in an Op-Ed in the liberal Politico, suggested that “Ryan would inject a jolt of energy into the campaign and reorient the debate around policy. “The Romney campaign doesn’t have to be reckless.” Even the editors of the Weekly Standard have been extolling the virtues of picking Ryan who begins a week-long vacation in Colorado this weekend and said, if picked, he’s ready for the fight. But, in the end, a bottoned down Rob Portman appears much closer to the profile of a Romney running mate than does Ryan who’s already laying down the ground work for 2016.

    Overheard

    Democratic Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, one of the most ambitious and prominent Latino elected officials in the country and chairman of the Democratic National Convention, said in an interview with the Huffington Post, that “Sen. Marco Rubio is even less qualified to be vice president than Sarah Palin. He has been in the U.S. Senate for less than two years, while Palin was governor of Alaska when she was picked” Not to worry! 

  • In Romney World Signs Of Collapse
  • ABC News/Washington Post: A new poll shows Mitt Romney’s not just treading water, he’s underwater when it comes to personal favorability as the clock ticks down to Election Day. 40 percent of Americans view Romney favorably while 49 percent unfavorably. That means Romney has been “underwater” in 10 consecutive polls this year. Worse still, the presumptive Republican nominee’s favorables have ticked up by 7 percentage points this year while his unfavorable score is up more than double that –18 points. ABC News Pollster Gay Langer said that he is laboring under the lowest personal popularity ratings for a presumptive presidential nominee in mid-summer polls back to 1984. President Obama gets more positive ratings, favorably seen favorably by 53 percent b adults and unfavorably by 43 percent. Among women, his favorably is 58 percent, vs. 47 percent of men. Among all independents, Obama’s favorability is now 16 points higher than Romney’s (53 percent vs. 37 percent). ...TPM’s Electoral Scoreboard moves Obama up to 323 from 319 with 270 needed to be elected.

    Quotable

    Three weeks ago CNN’s Wolf Blitzer made an uncharacteristic display of emotion when he defended s friend Huma Abedin, a State Department aide, against charges that she was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. “It’s an outrageous, a McCarthy-like charge to be sure.” In an interview with former Speaker Newt Gingrich Wednesday night, who seconded the charges that Rep. Michele Bachmann and others have made against Abedin, Blitzer repeated his comments which Gingrich called “baloney.” Is any one surprised? … Rush Limbaugh joins a growing number of conservatives who are completely shocked by Team Romney’s latest move to defend itself by touting Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts health care law. Spokesperson Andrea Saul’s appearance on Fox News was a potential gold mine for Obama supporters, leaving Rush literally sputtering. …Former President Bill Clinton issued a statement late Tuesday denouncing a new ad from the Romney campaign that accuses President Obama of “gutting “ the bipartisan welfare reforms enacted during his administration….

    California Politic

    In a campaign stop Wednesday in Iowa the former Massachusetts governor who owns an oceanfront home in La Jolla compared the state to struggling European nations, warning that Obama is leading the nation down a similar path with huge debt and comparing California with debt-burdened countries. If Romney did his homework he would learn that the state has a $1.9 trillion economy, the ninth largest in the world. Maybe Mitt’s frustrated because he will lose the Golden State.

  • Mitt’s Running Mate: Betting On Portman
  • Gamblers, in new twist, have moved from waging on sports to making their predictions on politics, in this case —betting on veepstakes, as reported by ABC News’ Amy Bingham. The focus appears to be on Tim Pawlenty or Rob Portman to fill the number two slot. Betters from Los Angeles to London are waging their loot on Ohio Sen. Rob Portman or former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, both of whom are ranked in the top tier of possible running mates. “Traders from the Ireland-based Intrade political betting market have placed $17.8 million worth of bets on whom Romney will pick. But of the 58 possible picks being traded on the market, Portman and Pawlenty are the only two Veepstakes short-listers who have even hit double-digits. Portman hovered around a five percent chance until April, then as his appearances with Romney increased, so did his Intrade odds. The Ohio senator’s peak value of 39 percent came on July 11, the day after he met with chief Romney advisers. Traders are now giving Portman a 30 percent chance of scoring the VP spot.” The information gives fresh credence to a tweet by Beth Myers, the Romney vetter in charge of the Veep selection process. As reported by The Body Politic on July 28, Portman headed the list.

    Courting Single Women

    “They are one of the country’s fastest-growing demographic groups—there are 1.8 million more now than just two years ago. They make up a quarter of the voting-age population nationally, and even more in several swing states, including Nevada. And though they lean Democratic—in a recent New York Times/CBS News poll, single women favored Obama over Romney by 29 points—they are also fickle about casting their ballots.”

    Quotable

    A Republican strategist recommended that Romney take a page from Ronald Reagan, and select a keynote speaker of restrained wattage. “Do you know who did the 1980 keynote for Reagan? Frank Bruni, a New York Times columnist, said he was mortified because he didn’t know. “Guy Vander Jagt,” the strategist said. “Guy who?” “Exactly.” Reagan understood what it meant to be a star, and he had seen “All About Eve.”

  • Veepstakes Derby: Boring Or Bold?
  • The next big thing in the 2012 presidential campaign, as The New York Times reported Monday, will be Mitt Romney’s choice of a running mate. Several possible announcement dates have been advanced.  Early This Week would be a surprise. An aggressive attack dog could hit hard at President Obama’s political machine, but with a week of Olympic competition remaining, the decision would compete for the voting public….Late This Week would compete with the last few days of the Olympic Games, and would serve as a setup for the Sunday news talk shows. With first impressions critical, a late Friday announcement would give journalists little time to vet the nominee…Before The Convention, a more traditional choice days before the convention would create momentum and wall-to wall convention coverage, putting off weeks of scrutiny of the running mate, and robbing Romney of several weeks of help campaigning. … At The Convention seems the least likely, with the danger of a Sarah Palin-like choice unappealing to a risk-averse Romney. On July 28 I reported that Beth Myers, the Romney vetter in charge of his vice presidential selection process, name-checked several people considered to top Romney picks. Heading the list that Friday was Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio.). For my two cents plain I’m betting it will be Portman, largely because of his Washington experience. Romney-like, he’s more cautious, more scripted. That said, Romney is getting strong urging from the conservative Weekly Standard and others on the right to “Go bold, Mitt! Pick Paul Ryan, the GOP’s intellectual leader, or Marco Rubio, the GOP’s most gifted young politician who embodies what is best about the Tea Party and a vision of a broad-based Republican governing majority of the future.

    Quotable

    “I don’t know who Harry Reid’s source is, but I do know that Mitt Romney could clear this up in 10 seconds by releasing 23 years of tax returns that he gave to John McCain when he was being vetted for vice president in 2008.”—Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, on “This Week.”

    “As far as Harry Reid is concerned, listen, I know you might want to go down that road—I’m not going to respond to a dirty liar who hasn’t filed a single page of tax returns himself.”—Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, on “This Week.” (The difference, of course, is that Reid in not running for president.)

  • Dog Days of August: Mitt’s Heavy Workload
  • Let’s face it. The most that can be send about how Romney fared in July is that he survived. As Dan Balz pointed out in The Washington Post the stakes have dramatically raised for what the presumptive Republican presidential nominee must do in August. His foreign trip drew extensive and negative news coverage, most of it. Back in the U.S. his daily combat with President Obama suffered, and not without some damage. Since the end of June President Obama holds a small but not huge lead. But the most damage came late last week in a poll by the Pew Research Center which found that voters have a more negative impression of the GOP candidate than they did only a month ago. After the tough primary fight the Pew Research Center found his negatives surprisingly high for a presumptive nominee. Then from March through early summer, Romney gained ground from Pew research with his favorability rising from 29 percent to 41 percent. In July he slid backward, falling 15 percent. The new numbers put Romney among the worst-rated presidential nominees in the past seven elections. His numbers were in the same range as 1996 GOP nominee Bob Dole and those of President George H. W. Bush in 1992. Both lost. Romney’leads with only two groups: Republicans and white evangelical Protestants. He is just 32 percent favorable among women; 38 percent with college graduates; and just 40 percent among those with incomes above $75,000.Among independents. He is at 41 percent positive.  The Post noted that Obama’s numbers are far below their 2008 levels, but still in positive territory. Romney is far worse shape, with the pounding he’s taken on Bain and his tax returns. His challenge this month is to reintroduce himself to voters in a fresh and appealing way. Counting a weak economy to win, he needs more than counting on his wealth.

    In their book “The Real Romney,” Michael Kranish and Scott Helman quoted Mitt’s sister Jane as saying the episode in which his father George Romney, running for president in 1967, asserted that generals and diplomats destroyed his candidacy with the “greatest brainwashing that anyone can get” when he toured Vietnam two years earlier. The episode, she said, deeply affected Mitt: “He’s not going to put himself out on a limb. He’s more cautious, more scripted.”“
     

  • WSJ: Las Vegas Sands U.S. Money-Laundering Probe
  • The Las Vegas Sands, controlled by billionaire Republican donor Sheldon Adelson, is the target of a federal investigation into possible violations of U.S. money-laundering laws, the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday. The Los Angeles U.S. attorney’s office is looking into the casino company’s handling of the receipt of millions of dollars from a Mexican businessman, later indicted in the United States for drug trafficking, and a former California businessman. Later convicted of tacking illegal kickbacks, the Journal said, citing lawyers and others involved in the matter. The transactions date from the mid-2000s. The Journal said there are no indications that actions by Adelson, who is the company’s chief executive officer and largest shareholder, are being investigated. Adelson, who owns casinos in Las Vegas, Macau and Singapore, began this campaign season as a major donor of tens of millions to Newt Gingrich, before Gingrich dropped out of the Republican presidential race. He has since switched his support to Mitt Romney last month. He was in Jerusalem with the candidate when Romney met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who Adelson also strong supports. One question is whether the investigation will open the Justice Department to criticism that it is politically motivated, the Journal said. Regardless, Adelson is a major donor to the super PAC supporting presumed Republican presidential nominee Romney against President Barack Obama and plans to spend $100 million on Republican candidates in November’s elections.

    Read ‘em and weep

    “Just this week, Congress failed to protect the Postal Service from tumbling, and the service defaulted on a $5.5 billion payment for future retiree health benefits. It was the first time that the U.S. mail system failed to meet a financial obligation since Benjamin Franklin invented it.”—NYT Columnist Gail Collins, noting the five-week recess of Congress and its approval rating, which had climbed all the way up to 17 percent at one point this year. Something is rotten in Washington!

    (He) is “the only guy I know—I think the only guy I know at all—who never did drugs.”—Steve Van Zandt, Bruce Springsteen’s childhood friend and guitarist, who keeps up a brutal schedule as an actor and a d.j, in The New Yorker, his eyes drooping under a piratical purple head scarf.

  • Polls: Obama Lead, Electorial College Edge
  • Barack Obama’s standing in the FiveThirtyEight forecast by the New York Times’s Nate Silver indicates the President’s standing this week as a result of favorable polls in a set of swing states. The forecast now gives Obama a 70.8 percent chance of winning the Electoral College, up from 69.0 percent on Monday and from 65.0 percent last Tuesday. Three of the polls were conducted by Quinnipiac University in conjunction with The New York Times and CBS News. Obama led by 6 points in each of Ohio and Florida, and an 11-point lead in Pennsylvania. In Michigan, another swing state, Obama held 6-point lead. Silver pointed out that his forecast model is starting to calculate a gap between the swing states and those elsewhere. As a result, it gives Obama a 4.6 percent chance of winning the Electoral College despite losing the national vote, but just a 1.2 percent chance of that happening to Romney.

    A new Pew Research Center pollshows Obama with a double-digit lead over Mitt Romney. Currently, 51% say they support Obama or lean toward him. This is largely unchanged from early July and consistent with polling over the course of this year. Across eight Pew Center surveys since January, Obama has led Romney by between four and 12 percentage points. The poll also finds that Romney’s favorability has taken a hit this summer. By a 52% to 37% margin, more voters say they have an unfavorable than favorable view of Mitt Romney. The poll, conducted prior to Romney’s recent overseas trip, represents the sixth consecutive survey over the past nine months in which his image has been in negative territory. While Romney’s image improved between March and June –as Republicans rallied around him after the primary season ended—his image has slipped again over the past month. Obama’s image remains, by comparison, more favorable—50% offer a favorable assessment of the president, 45% an unfavorable one.

    Paul Ryan’s GOP Influence

    “In a 2005 speech to a group of Rand devotes called the Atlas Society, Ryan said that Rand was required reading for his office staff and interns. “The reason I got involved in public service, by and a large, if I had to credit one thinker, it would be Ayn Rand. The fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is the fight of individualism versus collectivism.”—Ryan Lizza, in The New Yorker (Aug. 6), noting Ryan was careful to point out that he rejects Rand’s atheism. (How Ryan, a staunch conservative Catholic, justifies his dance with the likes of Rand, Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises and Milton Friedman in terms of Christian social justice issues, would be fascinating to dissect.) 

  • Three Faces of Romney
  • Last Sunday, as Talking Points Memo assured us, Mitt Romney boldly declared that Israel’s economic superiority over the Palestinians was due to its culture. On Tuesday morning he dismissed any notion that he had even discussed Palestinian culture. On Tuesday night, Romney reversed himself yet again, in an op-ed entitled “Culture does matter.” He suggested that the choices a society makes about its culture plays a role in creating prosperity, Romney wrote in the National Review. In an interview earlier on the same day with FOX News he said he did not speak about the Palestinian culture or the decisions made in there economy, or in his campaign. That interview appeared to be at direct odds with his Romney’s original statement in which he directly compared the per capita GDP of Israel and the Palestinian territories and attributed Israel’s comparative strength to “culture.” It also contradicts the first paragraph of his National Review op-ed, in which he was comparing the two economies and cultures. Thomas L. Friedman wondered why since the visit to Israel was not about learning anything but satisfying the political whims of the right-wing, super pro-Bibi Netanyahu, American Jewish casino magnate why didn’t they do the whole thing in Vegas?

    Veep Beat

    Marc Thiessen, a former speech writer for President George W. Bush, wrote that Romney needs to select a running mate like Dick Cheney, suggesting that Rep. Paul Ryan would fit the mold. “Romney first needs to shore up his right flank, and generate enthusiasm for his ticket that is currently lacking with the GOP’s conservative base. One obvious choice is Paul Ryan, serious, substantive, wonky, even—and is clearly ready for the presidency. The problem is Romney seems to be in the first camp which believes that the GOP can win by pointing to Obama’s failures. Ryan’s policy agenda won’t pass muster. 

    Electoral College Tally

    Obama moves up to 310, Romney at 191 with 270 needed to win the presidency.

    Vidal and Memorable Quotes

    “I always thought about Gore that he was not really a novelist, that he had too much ego to be a writer of fiction because he couldn’t subordinate himself to other people the way you have to as a novelist.”—Jason Epstein, Vidal’s longtime editor at Random House, once admitted that he preferred the essays to novelists, calling l Vidal “an American version of Montaigne.”

    “Democracy is supposed to give you the feeling of choice, like
    Painkiller X and Painkiller Y. But they’re both just aspirin.”…”Apparently, a democracy is a place where numerous elections are held at great cost without issues and with interchangeable candidates.” …”Any American who is prepared to run for president should automatically by definition be disqualified from ever doing so.” … “As the age of television progresses the Reagans will be the rule. Not the exception. To be perfect for television is all a President has to be these days.”

    What They Said

    “Romney is not on the mountaintop. He’s here, mingling among us, present but absent. A fence wrapped around a wall.”—Maureen Dowd, suggesting that Mitt comes down from the mountaintop during campaigns to assure us he’s just like us.” 

  • Romney: Qualified To Be President?
  • Though his advisers keep putting Romney in a message box, he keeps bursting out with gaffes, Robert Shrum writes in The Daily Beast. Romney was programmed to be gaffe-free as he made a political pilgrimage to the Holy Land in search of the holy grail of Jewish votes back home. In Israel, Mitt was supposed to act like a mutt brought to heel after he earned the worst welcome in London since King Richard II was deposed following an ill-timed and inconclusive invasion of Ireland. Of all the gaffes, and the one most widely noted by the British media, was that he didn’t know that he wasn’t supposedly to—no one does—that he had just been briefed by M16, Britain’s secret intelligence service. Worse still for Romney, and one certain to haunt him on both sides of the Pond, are words in his campaign tome “No Apology:  “England is just a small island. It’s road and houses are small….With few exceptions, it doesn’t make things that people in the rest of the world want to buy.” Romney is said to deliver a major foreign policy address next week. Given his disastrous overseas excursion, as Shrum notes, the country will have a first chance to question Mitt’s ability to be president. 

    What They Said

    Karl Rove on how Romney blew it in London: “You have to shake your head. I bet there is lots of stories he could be talking about what a wonderful experience it was and how uplifting and inspiring it was. Instead he got stuck making a. somehow or another that he comments of the Brits took as insult, and walked it back pretty quickly and walked it back adroitly, but nevertheless the damage was done.”—Bush’s brain, first suggesting that his client’s London gaffe is not “a big deal” in the grand scheme of things. Turns out it was, ranging in comments from Charles Krauthammer to Harry Reid. Rove should also be concerned that Romney has not held media availability for his traveling press corps since taking three questions outside 10 Downing Street in London last Thursday. In Poland, the Romney team went three-for-three in botched opportunities. His spokesman fired back at reporters peppering the candidate with questions, only to be caught on camera shouting “kiss my ass,” before later apologizing. As Salon suggested, “His disastrous British visit has to raise questions about his capacity for the diplomacy required to be president.

July

  • Socialized Medicine: Good for Israel, Lesson for Mitt?
  • Romney’s trip to Israel ended Monday and produced some good moments—and some less rewarding—for the Republican candidate with a lucrative fundraiser and fawning praise from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. More revealing was Romney’s praise of Israel’s national health system for holding down costs and broadening coverage more effectively than in the U.S., and anathema to his Republican Party. “Do you realize what health care spending is as a percentage of GDP in Israel? You’re a pretty health nation.“ We have to find ways –not just to provide health care to more people, Romney added, but he has no clue. Several Israeli officials also lent encouragement to his opponent. Israeli President Shimon Peres offered words for the Obama’s administration approach to a nuclear Iran. Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that Obama’s administration has done more to support the relationship between the two nations than any he can remember.

    Middle-Income Tax Cuts

    House Democrats will put Republicans on record this week voting down an extension of the middle-income Bush tax cuts unless the tax cuts that benefit the wealthiest Americans are also extended. On Monday, Ways and Means Committee ranking member Sander Levin (D-MI) introduced legislation mirroring a bill Senate Democrats passed last week to extend the Bush tax cuts up to a family’s first $250,000 in income. “This issue of holding hostage middle-class tax cuts for those over a million essentially is the first order of business in my judgment that has to be addressed and resolved.” Levin said. A floor vote is expected Thursday.

    Quotable

    This is the kind of tactic Lyndon Johnson would have used with relish. You can imagine Bill Clinton pulling it off. President Obama, whether out of diffidence or inexperience, has not shown a comparable audacity or mastery of political leverage.—Bill Keller, the former executive editor of the New York Times, in an op-ed, noting that Erskine Bowles, the co-chair of the Simpson-Bowles commission, has quietly proposed that Obama treat the January Armageddon as an opportunity. The president should head straight for the cliff and let Congress know that he’s prepared to take us over the edge unless they build a bridge. Has he the cojones to act? 

  • Hysterical Panic and American Exceptionalism
  • Is America Dead? Frank Rich, in the July 30 issue of New York, zeroes in on declinist panic, suggesting our legion of white-male Cassandras may not be wrong. America may well be in a fateful decline. But given that the country has survived a civil war, two world wars, the Great Depression, 9/11, and the quagmires of Vietnam and Iraq, is our current crisis proportionate to the doomsday hysteria—or have we lost perspective? A more revealing question is why it has been accompanied by a strange parallel infatuation with American exceptionalism. This once little-heard term was coined by Joseph Stalin in a 1929 anti-American sneer. Now it is flung about as the ubiquitous, defensive measure of America’s global standing. Now the phrase has gone viral, championed late in the 2008 campaign by Sara Palin who told her fans, “You are all exceptional Americans.” About Obama she said, “This is not a man who sees America like you and I see America. We see American as a force of good in this world. We see American as a force for exceptionalism. The columnist Kathleen Parker attacked the President, who much to the dismay of fellow conservatives during his 2011 State of the Union address, did not obediently say “that word’” The only flaw in her argument is that no American president has ever publicly referred to “American exceptionalism” in the more than eight decades since Stalin coined it—with the sole exception of Obama. The debate between Obama and the radical Republican right will continue: Romney: “Our president doesn’t have the same feelings about exceptionalism as we do.” Palin: Our president is not in this to unify America and to solidify our place as the exceptional nation in the world. He is trying to divide us; ” Bush 41 chief of staff John Sununu: “The President needs to learn how to be an American.” Rich notes that “lost in our declinist panic is the fact that the election of an African-American president is in itself an instance of American exceptionalism—an unexpected triumph for a country that has struggled for its entire history with the stain of slavery.”

    What They Said

    “Those are important issues, but they should never be allowed to override the first proposition.—Former Vice President Dick Cheney to ABC News, saying Sarah Palin was not ready to be vice president, and picking her was a mistake Mitt Romney should avoid in making his choice.” 

    “This is Ann’s sport.” Mitt Romney to NBC’s Brian Williams in London “’I’m not even sure which day the sport goes on. She will get a chance to see it. I will not be watching her mare compete in horse ballet.”

  • Britain-U.S. Special Relationship: Was Romney Claiming It?
  • The New York Times columnist Charles Blow noted a story in The Daily Telegraph, a leading conservative newspaper in Britain which quoted an anonymous adviser to Mitt Romney, commenting on the so-called special relationship between Britain and the United States. “We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special, the adviser said of Romney, adding ”the White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have.”  The Telegraph pointed out that the comments “may prompt accusations of racial insensitivity,” and they did. The reporter who wrote the story said later on Twitter that the anonymous adviser “was a member of the foreign policy advisory team.” The Romney campaign sought to distance itself from the remarks. It’s not true,” a spokesperson said in quotes confirmed by Talking Points Memo. Vice President Biden said in part, “This assertion is beneath a presidential campaign.” Rebutting Biden, another Romney spokesperson said he “used an anonymous and false quote from a foreign newspaper to prop up their failing campaign.” But according to Talking Points Memo, The Telegraph, which stands by the piece, told T.P.M. that the paper had not received a request from the Romney campaign to retract or correct the story. What seems clear is that Romney’s team stopped short of issuing a complete retraction and demanding a total cleansing of these poisonous ideas from their ranks.

    Read ‘em and weep

    “What the Supreme Court did in Citizens United is to say to those same billionaires and the corporations they control: ‘You own and control the economy; you own and control Wall Street; you own the coal companies; you own the oil companies. Now, for a very small percentage of your wealth, we’re going to give you the opportunity to own the United States government.’”—Senator Bernard Sanders of Vermont during a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing Tuesday who put it this way.

    Last week, Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Ariz. held a press conference to announce that he believed that the birth certificate that the president supplied was fake. That prompted Donald Trump, one of America’s most prominent and vocal birthers who is also a major Romney surrogate and major fundraiser to go on Fox radio’s Sean Hannity to say: “The fact is Sheriff Arpaio is, in my opinion, correct.”

    Answering a question from a reporter last week, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, couldn’t remember which types of ID’s were accepted under the law he signed. Pathetic!

  • Romney VP Vetter: Is It Portman?
  • Beth Myers, the Mitt Romney vetter in charge of his vice presidential selection process, name-checked several people considered to be top Romney picks in a tweet Friday. Heading the list was Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio.) 

  • Mitt’s Stunning British Blunders
  • Romney got off to a spectacularly bad start in Great Britain on Thursday, questioning whether London is well-prepared to handle to handle the security issues ahead of the summer games beginning Friday. He called the situation “disconcerting.” British Prime Minister David Cameron hit back hard. “We are holding an Olympics Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world.” Cameron sarcastically added, “Of course, it’s easier if you hold the Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere.” It was an obvious slap back at Romney who ran the Salt Lake Winter Olympics in 2002. The UK press was far less kind. He forgot Labour leader Ed Miliband’s name, referring to him as “Mr. Leader.” Rupert Murdoch’s The Sun tabloid wrote, All in all. “not a great day at the office.” The Guardian had an entire live blog devoted to Britons rebuking Romney’s visit. The Times of London’s home page led with the following headline: PM delivers Olympic putdown to Romney.  Interesting to see how the aloof and fumbling Republican tycoon can recover from these gaffes in Israel and finally Poland.

    October Debates

    The Commission on Presidential Debates has released dates and formats for the three debates of ninety minutes each with a single moderator, between President Obama and Mitt Romney. The first debate, on Oct. 3 at the University of Denver, will focus on domestic policy, in six segments, with the topics selected by the moderator and announced in advance. The second debate will be a town-hall style meeting on domestic and foreign issues on Oct. 16 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.  The final debate on Oct. 22 at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., will focus on foreign policy. 

    On the Trail

    Jeb Bush is pushing Marco Rubio for vice president. Forget it. … New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he’s available for the GOP nomination in 2016 if Romney falls short. His enormous weigh problem and mean temperament say it all. 

    What They Said

    “It’s unfortunate because I think comments like that demonstrate only too well a lack of understanding that some of our citizens have about the role of the judicial branch.”—Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor defending Chief Justice John G. Roberts vote on the healthcare law.

    “Getting rid of Glass-Steagall was a big mistake.”—Sanford I. Weill once aggressively pushed “a bigger bank is better. “ He had a plaque in his office that listed his accomplishments, including “The Shatterer of Glass-Steagal.” Now he doubts the need for megabanks. The Glass-Steagall Act, enacted in 1933, separated commercial banks from investment banks.  In

  • Who Deserves a Tax Break?
  • Old-fashioned democracy briefly flourished Wednesday when Senate Republicans allowed Democrats a simple-majority Wednesday to pass a bill extending tax cuts on income above to $250,000 a year. Republicans, knowing the measure would be killed by the House because it raises taxes on the rich, chose not to filibuster it. But Democrats finally put the Senate on record in terms of a sensible tax plan. Polls show overwhelming public support for this plan, giving even the most embattled Democratic candidates a strong platform to run on. No Senate Republican agreed to support the middle-class tax cut by itself because they insisted the rich get one, too. What was stunning was the 44 Republicans and one Democrat voted for an alternative bill that would give wildly generous estate tax breaks to a few of the richest American heirs at a cost of $119 billion to the deficit.  This time, Democrats say they are willing to standup to the hostage-taking and let all tax cuts expire on New Years Day, then reinstate those for the middle class.

    Mitt: End Hide-and-Seek Game

    Maureen Dowd, in the New York Times, said if she closed her eyes, and added a creepy monotone, she could have been listening to Dick Cheney. Mitt Romney, addressing the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention in Reno, Nevada slashed away at President Obama with lots of jingoistic jingles—he is ashamed of America, an apologist sapping the greatness of the country and a White House that doesn’t know how to keep stuff secret. Despite all his chest-thumbing clichés it turns out that Mitt passed on Vietnam, or none of his five strapping sons, none of whom have volunteered for the volunteer military. It was at the V.F.W convention in 2002 when Cheney, who got five deferments from Vietnam, set the gold standard for mindless belligerence, pushing for pre-emptive action in Iraq. In terms of his presidential campaign, as Maggie Haberman observed in Politico, that Romney has made a calculated decision to hide three major elements in his background: his Mormonism, his record at Bain and his time as governor. Dowd suggests that Romney is so secretive that he’s beginning to make the uber-clandestine Cheney look like The Bachelorette. “Americans don’t want to play-hide-and-seek with their presidential candidates. The time for stonewalling is over.”

    Quotable

    “You knew full well what was right, Monsignor Lynn, but you chose wrong.”—M. Teresa Sarmina, a judge sentencing Msgr. William J. Lyon, a former aide to the archbishop of Philadelphia, to up to six years in prison for covering up the sexual abuse of children.

  • Voter ID Law Trial: No Proof Of In-Person Voter Fraud
  • DEFENDANTS in a major case against one of the nation’s strictest voter ID laws in Pennsylvania made a major concession to plaintiffs before the start of a trial this week. In a stipulated agreement signed in early July, state officials conceded that they have no evidence of prior in-person voter fraud, or even a reason to believe that such crimes would occur would more frequency if a voter ID law wasn’t in effect.  According to the agreement, the state “will not offer any evidence in this action that in-person voter fraud has in fact occurred in Pennsylvania and elsewhere,” nor will it “offer argument or evidence that in-person fraud is likely to occur in November 2012 in he absence of the Photo ID law.” Opponents of the ID law argue that such legislation is an effort to establish obstacles for potential votes, particularly college students, minorities or the elderly, who tend to vote Democratic. A recent report from the Brennan Center for Justice found that a variety of factors could seriously hamper the ability of a half-million Americans in ten states that have passed voter ID laws in to obtain the required documents they would need to cast votes in November. Earlier this year Pennsylvania GOP Majority Leader Mike Turzai fueled the debate by boosting that the recently enacted measure would “allow Gov. [Mitt] Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”

    Repealing Health Care

    The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office on Tuesday said repeating President Obama’s healthcare reform increases the deficit by 109 billion over ten years. The continued finding by the CEO that healthcare helps the deficit may boost Democrats in their quest to keep the law in effect, certain to continue Republican criticism of CBO methods. 

    Polls

    New NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows Obama leading Romney 49% to 43%.
    The clear sense is that Americans have become tired of both candidates. … Latest Poll Tracker has Obama with 281 votes; Romney at 191. To become president the winner needs 270 votes in the Electoral College.

    Notable

    Ride, Sally, Ride! And You Guys Can Tag Along, Too! A billboard in 1983, days before Dr. Sally Ride became
    the first American woman to fly in space. She died Monday in San Diego of pancreatic cancer. She was 61. Obama called her “a national hero and powerful role model”—especially for young girls.

     

  • Shrinking California Republicans: A Minority Party?
  • THE REPUBLICAN PARTY, as Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein have written, “has become an insurgent outlier—ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.” Its reckless behavior helps drive the political dysfunction crippling our nation.

    Adam Nagourney, the New York Times’ chief correspondent in Los Angeles, described the California party, once a symbol of Republican hope and geographical reach and which gave the nation Ronald Reagan (and Richard M. Nixon)—is caught in a cycle of relentless decline and appears to be shrinking to the rank of a minority party. Registered Republicans now account for just 30 percent of the state electorate, compared to Democrats who make up 43 percent, and independent voters, with 21 percent. Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, the No. 3 Republican in the House, said “we are at the lower point that we’ve ever been.” He believes that that the party can rebound in the next two and a half years with stronger candidates and an alternative agenda for the state. Steve Schmidt, who ran Sen. John McCain’s unsuccessful 2008 campaign, and was a senior adviser to former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, thinks the Republican Party in the state has become a small ideological club that is basically in the business of hunting out heretics—becoming more white and older.” 

    Quotations: Tweaking Sources

    The National Journal is joining a growing chorus of news organizations that are objecting to a practice that has become increasingly common in political journalism. NJ said it would ban the use of quotes that have been massaged or manipulated by its sources. “If a public official wants to use NJ as a platform for his/her point of view, the price of admission in a quote that is on-record, unedited and unadulterated, ” said editor-in-chief Ron Fournier. Quote approval has become a big issue with politicians and candidates often refusing to grant interviews unless they have the final say over how their quotes appear in print. Both the Obama and Romney campaigns demand that reporters consent to quote approval when giving interviews. The New York Times encourages its reporters to push back against sources who demand quote approval. Politico’s editor in chief, John Harris, said he advised reporters to resist such conditions and expressed dismay that political figures were becoming more comfortable avoiding-in-the-record interviews. 

    Read ‘em and weep

    “Even in the darkest of days, life continues and people are strong. I come to them not so much as a president as I do as a father and as a husband.”—President Obama, speaking at the University of Colorado Medical Center in Aurora on Sunday after the shooting rampage at a movie theater in which 12 people were killed and dozens wounded in the attack.

    “A lot of politicians know it’s the right thing to try to fight for something to save lives. They don’t have a spine anymore. They pander to who’s giving them money.”—Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D.N.Y.), whose husband was killed in the 1993 Long Island Railroad shooting.

  • Bloomberg to Obama, Mitt: Address Gun Control Now
  • Mayor Michael Bloomberg told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday that both candidates for president step up and explain how they intend to avoid future tragedies like the massive shootings in Aurora, Colo. “This is really an enormous problem for the country and if they want to lead the country they’ve said things before that they’re in favor of banning things like assault weapons. He said both President Obama and Mitt Romney have previously backed measures to limit the sale of deadly weapons, accusing both of them of going soft on the cause in the face of political pressure. As a presidential candidate Obama supported a renewal of the assault weapons ban, but ran away from the cause shortly after getting elected. As Massachusetts governor, Romney in 2004 signed a state ban on assault weapons, saying “These guns are made for self-defense. They are instruments of destruction with the sole purpose of hinting down and killing people.” Bloomberg demanded that both candidates “tell us specifically tell us, not just in broad terms, what they will do. The mayor held out little hope that Obama would act in a review of gun safety laws. White House Spokesman Jay Carney would only say the president supports “common sense measures that protect the Second Amendment rights of Americans while ensuring that those who should not have guns under existing laws don’t get them.” The appetite for gun restrictions in Congress has plummeted since the 1990s, Democratic leaders have largely abandoned the issue and the NRA has scored victory after victory. Killing dozens of people and wounding dozens of others was enough to bring terror to a midnight movie screening in Aurora for James Egan Holmes, 24, a lone gunman behind the deadliest mass shooting since the 1999 Columbine High School attacks in 1999. The deeper question is whether Bloomberg’s real concerns will once again be ignored. 

  • McAuliffe, Clinton and the Other Green Party
  • Terry McAuliffe, the multimillionare former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, featured in the New York Times Sunday magazine this week, is starting a company that makes little electric cars. He unveiled his signature vehicle –the MyCar—at a plant opening in the North Mississippi town of Horn Lake in early July, joined by his pals Bill Clinton and Haley Barbour, the former governor of Mississippi and archetypal Republican lobbyist. Mark Leibovich, the magazine’s chief national correspondent, asked Clinton if he would ever consider buying a new car from McAuliffe. “He told me he absolutely would. But a used car? I’m not so sure about a used car.” If McAuliffe’s trademark is fund-raising, his principal identity is as a Professional Friend to Bill Clinton. GreenTech’s story is in part a monument to the power of a politically connected company. Leibovich notes the Washington Political Class, as it is called by those in the media who are part of it—journalists, the Democrats, the Republicans, the superlawyers, superlobbyists, fund-raisers, David Gergens, Donna Braziles and Karl Roves.  One quaint maxim of he Political Class is that there is no such thing as Democrats or Republicans in Washington, only the Green Party. Green as in money, not GreenTech, or anything having to do with clean energy. The segment honoring CNBC host Maria Bartiromo –a k a the “Money Honey”—is especially revealing.  It was as it Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton never existed. A must read.   

    What They Said

    Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, said in a 1994 debate with Sen. Edward Kennedy that he believed the Boy Scouts should be open to all, ”regardless of their sexual orientation.”—So far, he has been silent of the issue. If he still believes that, it might be important to reprise the thought.

    The other thing we have to realize is that there is an impossibility of any symmetry between Fox and MSNBC. And the reason is because of the two men who run the networks. Roger Ailes is a lifetime, hard-right conservative ideologue and Republican partisan. He worked in politics. He helped Nixon get elected. This is his vision. If he wasn’t doing this, he probably would be doing something else that would be furthering these goals.—MSNBC’s emerging Chris Hayes, admitting that he can’t host the nightly news, but can be a successful in hosting a cable news show.

    “I mean, I have 300 stations on my satellite radio—does the federal government need to be involved in the broadcasting business?”—Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), an unlikely Romney running mate, grasping for straws and questioning federal funding for National Public Radio.

     

  • The Truth About Romney’s Bain Exit
  • “INTERVIEWS with a half-dozen of Mitt Romney’s former business partners and associates, as well as public records, show that he was not merely an absentee owner during this [after taking leave to run the Olympics in 1999]. He signed dozens of company documents, including filings with regulators on a vast array of Bain’s investments entities. And he drove the complex negotiations over his own large severance package a deal that was critical to the firm’s future without him, according to his former associates. Indeed, by remaining CEO and sole shareholder, Romney held on to his leverage in the talks that resulted in his generous 10-year retirement package, according to former associates.”—The Boston Globe’s Beth Healy and Michael Kranish, shattering the myth that Mitt Romney’s departure from Bain Capital severed his control over the company. 

  • Ann Romney vs. You the People
  • Ann Romney said “we’ve given all you people need to know,” on “Good Morning America” Thursday when asked about the Romney tax returns. There are many worse things to be called than “you people,” columnist Alexandra Petri wrote in The Washington Post. But if this is the closest thing to gold that Ann Romney gives the Machine to use, then this is what the Machine will spin back into straw and set on fire. This marks her as another victim of my first law of commentary: Give anyone a microphone and sufficient time, and he or she is guaranteed to make a career-ending gaffe.

    John McCain on Mitt’s Return

    Growing choruses of Republicans, including editors at the National Review, are calling on Romney to release more tax returns. New York Magazine’s Frank Rich wonders whether it would be smart politics. Or wait out this storm. John McCain, who has famously seen 23 years of Romney’s tax returns, said it was outrageous that people would speculate that Mitt’s IRS filings disqualified him from the VP shot in 2008. Rich noted that one Romney flack, Gail Gitcho, was so incompetent at fielding questions on MSNC this week you’d think she was being interviewed by Mike Wallace in full prosecutorial mode rather than the respectful Luke Russert.

    Tax Returns and Congressional Leaders

    Romney may be “the most secretive candidate for president in modern history,” said a top Democratic leader. But other congressional leaders show little interest in being held to the same disclosure standard. The Los Angeles Times reported that House Speaker John A. Boehner said, “That’s my private business.” Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader, one of wealthiest members of Congress, gave a long explanation for not releasing her own tax returns, going so far as to suggest in jest that perhaps the media should disclose its tax information.

    Sports Politic

    It’s of note that a small group of students at Penn State are guarding the statue of Joe Paterno outside Beaver Stadium. But the damage that Paterno and several other high-ranking officials concealed information concerning allegations against former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, who has been convicted on 45 counts of child sex abuse, strongly suggests the university will make a decision by the end of July. The odds are slim to none that the statute will remain on campus.

    Read ‘em and Weep

    “No, I think Thomas Jefferson would have said the more speech the better. That’s what the First Amendment is all about. So long as the people know where the speech is coming from…You can’t separate speech from the money that facilitates the speech.”—Justice Antonin Scalia to CNN’s Piers Morgan in which he defended the controversial Citizens United ruling affirming unlimited spending to influence elections. He rejected the view that it has led to an abuse of the political process, certain to please the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party.

  • Choice of a Running Mate
  • Mitt Romney is conducting an intensive vetting process for potential running mates, but the question remains: How important is the vice presidential nominee to voters? In a fresh New York Times/CBS News poll, only a quarter of voters say the selection of the vice presidential candidate matters a lot to their decision in November. Another quarter says the choice of a running mate doesn’t affect their vote at all. The rest say they consider the selection to some degree. Tea Party supporters and people who voted for John McCain in 2008 say they are more excited about voting this year. Six in 10 of the voters who see the country heading in the right direction say they are just as eager to vote this year as usual. But voters who think the country is off on the wrong track are more closely divided between enthusiasm and apathy. My sense is Romney will choose a conservative with notable political experience. Ohio Sen. Rob Portman fits that description.

    Attacking Bachmann

    Sen. John McCain in a floor speech Wednesday called out Bachmann for writing a letter urging the State Department to investigate whether Huma Abedin—a Muslim American and wife of former Rep. Anthony Weiner—and other officials were trying to influence U.S. foreign policy to aid Islamist causes. “Her unsubstantiated charge against Abedin, a widely respected aide to Secretary Hillary Clinton, accusing her of some sort of far-fetched connection to the Muslim brotherhood, is “extreme” and dishonest.” Edward Rollins, Bachmann’s former presidential campaign manager, called the accusations “outrageous and false.”

    L.A. Notebook

    Undersheriff Paul Tanaka is apologizing for his comments, saying his ‘gray area’ comments were not meant to condone deputy misconduct. His reputation has come under severe attack during recent testimony before a county commission created to investigate of jail abuse. Current and recent retired sheriff’s officials have blamed Tanaka for some of the department’s problems. Both Tanaka and Sheriff Lee Baca will be on the hot seat when the next jail commission meeting takes place later this month.

    Quotable

    “Our country in particular—and the whole world—has a real challenge in bringing more women into the engineering and technical fields. It’s good to show that you don’t need to sacrifice your sense of femininity because you are an engineer.”—Marissa Mayer, the new Yahoo CEO.

     

  • GOP Hits Obama On Jobs, Lack Their Own Plan
  • LAST WEEK Mitt Romney tried to defend himself from attacks on his record at Bain Capital, while Republicans complained that the Obama campaign is guilty of distracting Americans from the central issues of the 2012 presidential race—jobs and the economy. In point of fact, fixing the economy is the entire base of Romney’s campaign. The blunt fact is that while the party opposite jabs Obama on jobs, as Juan Williams noted on The Hill, Republicans have no plan of their own. Romney has complained that the latest U.S. jobs report for June 2012, which showed that the U.S. economy created 80,000 jobs in one month, is evidence of the failure of Obama’s job creation policies. A recent Fox News poll found only 27 percent of Americans who think Romney has a plan to revive the American economy. By comparison, 41 percent of registered voters think Obama has a clear plan. That’s a 14-point gap. It’s interesting to note that only 49 percent of Republican voters in the same poll said Romney has a plan to improve the economy. By contrast, 72 percent of Democratic voters said Obama does.

    Climate of Fear

    The clamor is growing for Romney to release his tax returns, something he continues to resist. The right-leaning National Review released an editorial Tuesday arguing that Romney may not be legally required but at this point, he needs to do so anyway. “Romney is playing into the president’s hands. He should release them, response to any attacks they bring, and move on.” A number of conservatives have joined with GOP pundits like Bill Kristol, and George Will in urging him to comply, and now Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, his primary rival, has joined the chorus. The New York Post’s John Podhoretz said Mitt’s demand for an “apology” was a mistake because the most effective response is a pretty simple one, and Obama gave it a “No.” It was pure rope-a-dope. Obama’s surrogates attacked unfairly and thereby drew an irate demand for an apology. Then Obama threw him by refusing.

    Overheard

    CNN‘s Erin Burnett called for Romney to release more of his tax returns on Monday. On her show “Outfront,” the host said that the only reasons not to do so were evasiveness or stupidity. “It’s time, Mitt, time to put them on the table.”

    John Sununu, a key Romney surrogate parroting Rush Limbaugh on Monday, apologized on CNN Tuesday for his comment wishing that the president would learn “how to be an American,” saying he had meant it as part of his take on jobs creation, “I did say those words that are there. And, frankly I made a mistake. I apologize for using those words.”

  • Mitt’s Tampa Problem: Will Palin Speak?
  • Romney hasn’t invited Sarah Palin to speak at the Republican National Convention in Tampa next month, and the Tea Party is furious. Last summer, as the Daily Beast/Newsweek reported this week, Palin didn’t jump into the race for the GOP primary fight but shadowed it closely. Palin has yet to extend her full endorsement to Romney who only meets her threshold qualification as “anybody except Obama.” What galls Tea Party activists is the sense that Romney represents a lost opportunity for their agenda of less government, flatter taxes and constitutional restraint. “Romney’s not a fighter, said Jenny Beth Martin, head of the Tea Party Patriots. As Peter J. Boyer wrote, the Romney campaign prides itself on a slavish adherence to script, and Palin cannot be trusted to avoid the impulse of going rogue.” The Romney camp will not comment on Palin, or plans for the convention, but one adviser said that Palin would not be permitted to speak at the convention by her contract with Fox News She said she was quite confident that Fox’s top brass would not object if she sought permission, and she’s keeping dates open in late August, just in case. The Tea Party believes she can excite the base like no one since Reagan, and one gets the sense a rapprochement with Romney is in the cards.

    Proposition 30

    Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax-raising measure released its first web ad Monday and, as The San Francisco Chronicle noted, not once was the word “tax” mentioned. The Chron’s translation: You can trust Brown with your tax money, though, again, the T-word never comes up. In its place are the “plan asks the wealthiest to pay their fair share” and that it asks everyone else to do their part.”

    What They Said

    “This election is, in substantive terms, about the rich versus the rest, and it would be doing voters a disservice to pretend otherwise. However, why not run a campaign based on that substance, and leave Romney’s personal history alone? The short answer is, get real.”—Paul Krugman, in The New York Times.

    ‘We’re accused of being the party of the rich. And it’s an awful moniker, because it’s just not true. We’re the party of people who want to get rich.”—Romney at a Jackson, Miss. fundraiser.

    “The advice I would give Romney is, ‘who cares about your tax returns?’ Release them.”—Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. The spreading perception, however, is that the former governor has much to hide.

  • Is Inequality Bad or Good?
  • Sunday’s New York Times Book Review has for several weeks now offered very different arguments about America’s income gap which has bounced around on the hardcover nonfiction list. “The Price of Inequality”, No. 27 on the list is by the Columbia professor and Nobel-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz. He makes the case that the growing gap between the haves and have nots is a drag on the economy and a drain on society. “Unintended Consequences,” (at No. 12), by former Bain Capital managing director Edward Conard says inequality is healthy and Americans could use more of it. Stiglitz was chairman of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers from 1995 to 1997. Conard is close to his old Bain colleague Mitt Romney.

    Inequality Is Bad. Stiglitz does not argue that there should be no inequality. “There is a need for incentives, and any system of incentives will lead to some differences—perhaps large differences in incomes. But I’m arguing that excessive inequality is bad for economic growth.”

    Inequality Is Good. Conard says that he and Stiglitz have the same objective. “Growing middle-and working class employment as fast as possible. We should grow concerned about income inequality when it sets back this objective. –if and when the rich use their wealth to thwart innovation or to take rightfully earned income away from the middle class and the working poor, for example.

    Tweet

    New York Times’s Jeff Zeleny says friends believe Romney has decided on a VP and may announce this week. Looks like Pawlenty or Portman.

  • What’s Mitt Got To Hide?
  • Personal finances became an odd topic of speculation by both Democratic and Republican pundits on Sunday talk shows over why Mitt Romney might be hiding something in unreleased tax returns. On “This Week” George Stephanopolous asked which campaign was winning the argument over Romney’s career at Bain Capital and his personal finances. George Will contended that Romney should have taken care of those issues years ago, as soon as he knew he would be winning for president in 2012. “I don’t know why…he didn’t get all of this out and tidy up some of his offshore accounts and all the rest. He’s done nothing illegal, nothing unseemly, but lots that’s impolitic.” He remembered that Romney faced the same scrutiny over his private sector experience during his 1994 race for the Senate when he lost to Ted Kennedy. That wasn’t all. Republican strategist Matthew Doud said on ABC “There’s obviously something there, because if there was nothing there, he would say, “Have at it.” Doud added, “There’s obviously something there that compromises what he said in the past about something.” Conservative political analyst Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday went further, suggesting “He should release the tax returns tomorrow. It’s crazy. You gotta release six, eight or ten years of back tax returns. Take a hit for a day or two.” David Axelrod, President Obama’s chief strategist, told CNN’s Candy Crowley on “State of the Nation” that while he wasn’t suggesting that Romney had done anything illegal, he was suggesting that “he’s taken advantage of every single conceivable tax shelter and loophole that we can see.” Unlike his father George Romney who ran for president and released 12 years of tax returns, Willard Mitt Romney is marching to his own drummer.

  • Romney: What’s In His Heart Or Head?
  • LAST WEEK he told the NAACP convention that they would support him for president if they only “understood who I truly am in my heart.” It sounded similar to a comment the Republican presidential candidate made last January 9 during the New Hampshire primary. After his speech a woman rose from the audience and told the candidate that Republicans needed “to do a better job of telling our story.” Romney agreed, “describing my heart, my passion to help the great majority of Americans.” That message is not selling but he’ll have another chance to introduce himself next month at the national GOP convention in Florida. Before then Democrats hope is to bloody him like Republican Bob Dole was in 1996, sending him to the convention as a burnt out case. The Romney campaign admits that Romney’s business background is a negative factor as shown by Wall Street Journal cross-tabs last week while USA reported Obama is winning the “ad wars” in key states that will decide the election. The WSJ warned that Romney may be headed for a “Dukakis-like catastrophe,” lamenting is decision to allow the press to take pictures of the very wealthy businessman and his wife on a jet-ski during their recent vacation. Ross Douthat, the conservative New York Times columnist, suggested he read Michael Lewis’s “The Big Short” to gain empathy for working-class Americans. Karl Rove, Bush’s brain, ended his WSJ dispatch this week with a warning to Romney about the need for the candidate to begin talking more about his own ideas for how he would run the country. To close the sale Rove said Romney “must be perceived by Election Day as the man with a plan.” It may already be too late.

    A Clear Choice

    Joe Walsh, the freshman congressman from Illinois and a Tea Party Republican, has an unflattering reputation for making outrageous statements whether yelling at constituents or interviewers. But now he’s gone too far, attacking his Democratic opponent, Tammy Duckworth, who also happens to be a National Guard helicopter pilot who lost her legs and the use of her right arm when she was shot down in Iraq. “Female, wounded veteran…ehhh,” Walsh told Politico. He likes to mock Duckworth and belittle her service. “Now I’m running against a woman who, my God, that’s all she talks about.” Walsh’s deplorable comments, as a New York Times editorial noted, are best ignored. On television he comes across as a raving clown. He was the only member of the Illinois Congressional delegation to vote against this year’s transportation bill, even though he represents a district, west and north of Chicago, that includes part of O’Hare Airport. He’s championed oddball bills like abolishing the Office of Polar Programs of the National Science Foundation and, yes, he’s a sponsor of the Save Christmas Act. Unlike Duckworth’s incredible record of service, Walsh is a disgrace to party and country.

  • The Trust Gap
  • How important are characteristics and qualities in weighing the merits of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney? Two polls, one taken by CNN/ORC April 13-15, and a second by Gallup June 7-10, may provide some answers.

    The CNN survey of 1,015 adults on who is most honest and trustworthy showed Obama at 44%, with Romney at 33%. The Gallup poll of 1,004 adults had Obama at 60% and Romney at 50%. 

  • Mitt and Barack Battle; Penn State Horror
  • THE gloves are off with President Obama’s campaign on Thursday seizing on a new report on Mitt Romney’s truthfulness about his tenure at Bain Capital even as the Republican candidate began airing a television commercial calling the president a liar. The competing character attacks confirm that a new phase of the fall presidential campaign is underway. The Romney camp on Thursday demanded a retraction from the Boston Globe over SEC filings, part of a Republican effort to get their candidate to become more aggressive to fend off Democratic attacks. The campaign previously was unsuccessful in getting a similar retraction from the Washington Post after it published a story on Bain Capital’s investments in companies that outsourced jobs. The Obama campaign seized on a Globe article Thursday reporting that Romney has served as the owner, board chairman, chief executive and president of Bain for several years after he had claimed publicity to have left the firm. The question is why Romney kept those titles and earned income if he was no longer making decisions. Obama’s deputy campaign manager said Romney could clear up some of the questions by releasing multiple years of his tax returns, something that Romney has so far refused to do.

    Penn State Sexual Abuse Scandal

    Louis J. Freeh, the former federal judge and director of the F.B.I., summarized it succinctly: “The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Jerry Sandusky victimized.” Freeh’s investigation—which took seven months and involved more than 400 interviews and the review of more than 3.5 million documents—accuses head football coach Joe Paterno, the university’s former president and others of deliberately hiding the facts about Sandusky’s sexually predatory behavior over the years. Freeh’s report, despite denials by the late coach’s family, asserts that Paterno not only knew of the investigation, but followed it closely. He failed to take any action, the investigation found, “even though Sandusky had been a key member of his coaching staff for almost 30 years and had an office just steps away from Paterno. ”In order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity,: the most powerful leaders of Penn State, Freeh’s group said, “repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse to the authorities, the board of trustees, the Penn State community and the public at large.” The investigation’s findings will have significant ramifications not only for the coach’s legacy but serve as a up wake call for college football. Removing his statue on campus would be a good place to start the healing process. 

  • The Rich: Why Mitt Is Not FDR, JFK Or Reagan
  • ROMNEY’S wealth is becoming even more of a campaign liability as the nation’s economy limps along. Robert Shrum, the venerable Democratic strategist, asks why rich candidates like FDR and JFK won. It involves sensitivity to average Americans—something that Mitt seems incapable of showing. People cheered wildly for Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 because they believed that he could imagine their lives, that he could comprehend their hurts and hopes—and that he would fight for them. And that’s the difference between FDR’s yacht and Mitt Romney’s Jet Ski. Shrum, writing in The Daily Beast, suggests the media have let Romney get away with a degree of secrecy unprecedented in national politics since Richard Nixon. Ultimately, Romney will be in a mess not because he’s a rich candidate but because he is the candidate of the rich. He lacks even a sliver of Ronald Reagan’ capacity to be a conservative and yet speak for the common man. In 1980 Reagan called for “a commitment to care for the needy” This winter Romney blurted out that “I’m not concerned about the poor.”

    Quotable

    When it comes to health care, Congress is certainly a better place for that than the Supreme Court was. One of the purposes of a legislature is as a place where hopeless bills can be heard and argued over and stands can be taken. There can be a moment, as with the civil-rights bills that for decades died in the Senate, when the lonely cause becomes law. (This is also why the sections in John Roberts’s opinion dealing with the Commence Clause are strikingly radical.) If the Republican Party wants to present a picture of the country as it would look under a President Romney with a compliant legislature, let them give it a try. It’s the Democrats’ job to argue back, and explain their own vision. (It’s the one that involves millions more Americans having health insurance.)—Amy Davidson, The New Yorker, July 11.

    A foreign investment, however, is not the same as an offshore tax shelter. A more conscientious politician would have urged his blind trusts to have nothing to do with shelters not available to the general public. And Mr. Romney is tarnishing an important political tradition—one set by his father, George Romney, who released 12 years of tax returns in 1967—by continuing to keep the sources of his income in the shadows.—New York Times editorial, July 11.

    That Romney is “a man without an ideological core” (in the words of another conservative critic, John Podhoretz) only adds to his weightlessness.—New York Magazine.

  • Romney’s Identity Crisis: How Obama Can Win
  • IF President Obama’s campaign can define Mitt Romney before his campaign even tries, my bet is Obama wins reelection. Charlie Cook, writing in The Atlantic and perhaps the country’s best political handicapper, suggests the Romney campaign believes that any day or dollar spent talking about anything other than the economy is a day or a dollar wasted. Without question, the economy’s state and direction, as well as voters’ perceptions on Obama’s handling of it –are important. His approval ratings on the subject are terrible. In the June NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, only 42 percent of voters approved the way Obama is handling the economy, while just 31 percent think the country is headed in the right direction. Short of firing the president, voters also seem willing to hire Romney. If the challenger is rated unacceptable, a large slice of the electorate could reluctantly return to the incumbent. But, as Cook notes, voters’ willingness to hire Romney is being severely damaged, notably in the swing states, by the advertising efforts of the Obama campaign and Priorities USA, a pro-Obama super PAC. The ads are tough, portraying the former Massachusetts governor as a private-equity version of Gordon Gekko. He’s cast as a heartless corporate barracuda that has made a fortune acquiring and looting companies, laying off workers, and ruining lives and communities. Romney’s tenure running Bain Capital, layoffs, outsourcing, and his personal finances give the Democrats plenty of fodder. What makes the ads effective is that voters know next to nothing about Romney, other than he is a rich and successful businessman, and perhaps that he is a Mormon. The only ad that has attempted to connect Romney to voters in a way that portrays him as a three-dimensional human being wasn’t even put out by his campaign. Worse still for the candidate, Restore Our Future hasn’t run a spot since May 17. Now it’s just about the economy, oddly never about him. In terms of introducing a candidate to voters one campaign that did it was Obama’s in 2008. Four years ago he connected with voters on a personal level. Voters were in a mood for change, the economy was awful, and Obama had more money. But he did connect on a personal level.   

    Quotable

    Obama “is getting more focused now, and he’s I don’t know how many times better than Romney on this question, but to do better than Romney is not [difficult]. Romney doesn’t even notice the middle class. “They deny it’s a problem. They just say ‘Everybody’s got cell phones, and why you are worried about it?’ They’re kind of the economic equivalent of birthers.”—James Carville, key in electing Bill Clinton, in his rambling new book, ‘It’s the Middle Class, Stupid!’

  • George Romney v. Mitt Romney: A Changed America
  • Romney the Elder was a rich man who ran for president 44 years ago, could claim that his wealth was well-earned, that he did a lot to create good jobs for American workers. The public was curious about what he did with his wealth and, surprisingly enough, he obliged by releasing substantial information about his financial history. As New York Times columnist Paul Krugman recalls the contrast between George Romney and his son Mitt is startling both in terms of their business careers and their willingness to make available their financial affairs—dramatically illustrating how America has changed. Romney the Younger, as the New York Times noted, made even more money in his business career at Bain Capital. Unlike the Elder, he didn’t get rich by producing things people wanted to buy; but made his fortune through financial engineering that seems often to have left workers worse off, and in some cases driven companies into bankruptcy. Unlike his father Mitt has largely kept his finances secret. As a recent Vanity Fair report notes, we’re very much in the dark about his investments. Put it this way: Has there ever before been a major presidential candidate who has a multimillion-dollar Swiss bank account, plus tens of millions invested in the Cayman Islands, famed as a tax haven?              :   

    Real Media Chatter

    ABC’s ‘The Note’ suggests that the Obama campaign’s intense mantra is making Romney out to be a cross between Gordon Gekko and George W. Bush. Latest USA/Gallup poll in battleground states suggests Obama is winning the ad wars….Wall Street Journal wrote that “Team Obama is opening up new assault on Romney as a job outsourcer with foreign bank accounts, and if the Boston boys let this one go unanswered, they ought to be fired for malpractice.”…WSJ asks when Romney will start to define himself on his terms….Obama campaign renews calls for him to release more of his tax returns. He released 2010 tax return after immense public pressure. He stopped far short of releasing 12 years worth of returns that his father did in running for president and as President Obama has done…The Progressive Change Campaign Committee released a five part campaign Monday aimed at Citizens United. The plan includes passing a constitutional amendment to overturn it. Other points include require corporations to get shareholder approval before political spending and pass the Disclosure Act to force anonymous big-dollar donors out of the shadows.

    What They Said

    “I don’t think the common person is getting it. Nobody understands why Obama is hurting them.”—A New York City donor who declined to give her name, sitting in the passenger seat of a Range Rover at a one of three fundraisers for Romney over the weekend in the Hamptons, adding that the candidate needs to do a better job connecting.

    The diminution of the Times-Picayune in New Orleans is a profound loss and a bet on some very wobbly assets. Still, who is to say that the Newhouse family is any more misguided than the rest of the industry that is scrambling for safe ground?—David Carr, in The New York Times, noting that “while the rest of us were burning hot dogs on the grill last week, the newspaper industry seemed to be lighting itself on fire.”

  • Boehner: Trying To Fall in Love With Mitt
  • The Speaker of the House said at a fundraiser in West Virginia last month that “the American people probably aren’t gong to fall in love with Mitt Romney. A female attendee asked Boehner, “Can you make me fall in love with Mitt Romney?’ He responded, “No.” After dodging an endorsement of Romney for months the Speaker finally did so in April. The legion of conservative supporters or nonpartisan, credible voices in the media have repeatedly said the same thing—that Romney is either failing to provide a compelling vision for his candidacy or failing to lay out sufficient detail to explain how he would govern if elected president. On Sunday morning The Hilll published an article in which a Boehner source talked up the Romney nominee and the strengthening “bond” between him and the Speaker. The article reported that “the relationship between Boehner and Romney has evolved into one of deep respect and behind-the-scenes communications”—whatever that means. Here’s the real question: Can Romney really connect with the Republican tea party base and white voters, or will he march—as many analysts believe—to his own drummer and over the cliff.

    Why is McConnell Nervous?

    The Senate Republican leader, famous for saying that the first task of the country is to deny Obama a second term, is warning that American corporations and their executives are in grave danger. In an op-ed in USA Today on Thursday, he wrote that if the president were to find out who was giving hundreds of millions to secretive groups running political attack ads, “he would punish and intimidate them with all the government tools available. McConnell’s fear is the Disclose Act which is coming up for another vote in a few weeks, would end the practice of secret political donations, which he considers “un-American” and an attempt to limit free speech.. The New York Times pointed out in a Sunday editorial that McConnell’s charge that the president has loosed the Internal Revenue Service on his enemies is breathtaking. After years of indifference, the IRS is finally examining whether these “social welfare” groups are abusing their tax-exempt status by spending anonymous donations on political attack ads.  The senator compares them to the NAACP, but Karl Roves’ Crossroads GPS and others exist for no other purpose than to run political ads. McConnell should worry. 

    Quotable

    In an interview with Talk, The New York Times Sunday magazine, Mike Huckabee was asked about his memoir of the 2008 election in which he wrote about Romney’s changing views on abortion, gun control and gay rights; “And we thought nobody could fill John Kerry’s flip-flops. Yet you can wholeheartedly endorse him? “Oh, sure, because Mitt Romney far more closely represents what I find important than Obama ever will.”

    “This president has already shown that he’s not who he said he was…He’s been the most divisive, nasty, negative campaigner that this country’s ever seen. He’s not running any positive ads at all.”—Reince Priebus, 40, the hot shot, grossly ill-informed chairman of the Republican National Committee who needs a crash course to brush up on the rough and tumble of American politics since 1932.

  • GOP Medicare Fury; California Gets High-Speed Rail
  • WHILE Republicans have backed Medicare spending reductions, even as they have attacked Obama and the Democrats for enacting them, they would end new benefits. Mitt Romney’s steady mantra is “Obama cuts Medicare by approximately 500 billion.” Last Sunday, on ABC’s “This Week, Paul Ryan, the GOP House Budget Committee chairman who calls Obama “gutless,” said “Well, our budget keeps that money for Medicare to extend its solvency. What Obama does it takes that money away from Medicare to spend on Obamacare.” Robert Greenstein, the executive director of the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, called Ryan’s claim “somewhere between a misstatement and a flat-out untruth.” The Congressional Budget Office and the chief actuary for the Medicare and Medicaid programs, Richard S. Foster, told The New York Times, they have concluded that the $500 billion in savings would extend the solvency of Medicare’s hospital insurance trust fund. Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the Medicare trustees have shifted the projected date of insolvency to 2024 from 2016.

    Rail Project Approved

    Despite doubts about the cost and feasibility of a $70 billion high-speed rail proposed to cross California from north to south, the State Senate narrowly approved legislation to spend $ 8 billion in federal and state money to begin construction, starting with a 130-mile stretch through the rural Central Valley. The vote came as the federal government threatened to withdraw 3.3 billion in financing for the 520-mile project if the Legislature did not approve the release of state bond money to begin construction. The vote was major victory for Gov. Jerry Brown, who urged lawmakers to approve the project, which eventually would link San Francisco to Los Angeles. Opposition came from across party lines. Speaker after speaker said there was no source of revenue beyond the initial $8 billion. Senator Tony Strickland, a Republican, said “This is a colossal train wreck for California.” For the governor it gives him a legacy on a par with his dynamic father, former Gov. Pat Brown, who thought big and accomplished much.

  • Mitt’s Disconnect With The GOP Right Grows
  • Romney, despite the comment of his senior strategist two days earlier that the former governor did not believe the mandate should be called a tax, he said Wednesday that President Obama’s health care mandate was a tax. Already at odds with the dominant Republican Party message on health care Romney has stumbled badly. As Rupert Murdoch said, he “seems to play everything safe.” Then, on Thursday, his flagship newspaper, The Wall Street Journal, published a blistering editorial criticizing his campaign, accusing it of being hapless and “looking confused in addition to being politically dumb.” Romney got off to a bad start at a meeting of The Journal’s editorial board in 2007 two months before the Iowa caucuses. Romney talked about bringing in a management consultant to help him set up his presidential cabinet, a comment which startled editors and left Murdock in a state of shock. The Journal’s write-up of that meeting left Murdoch visibly shaken. By the time the first Republican primaries of 2012 were closing in, Romney met again with The Journal’s editorial board. Murdoch sat in. The Romney campaign thought the meeting went well—so well that it was surprised when The Journal kept hammering him  

    Biggest Ever?

    Is the Affordable Care Act really the biggest tax increase in the history of the world, as Rush Limbaugh so grandly put it? No, it’s not even the largest tax increase in the history of the country. Or of the past 50 years. Or 20.  It’s not even the biggest tax increase scheduled to take effect in the very near future. (That’s the expiration of the George W. Bush tax cuts slated for New Years Day). Ezra Klein, a columnist and blogger at The Washington Post and policy analyst at MSNBC, writes in Bloomberg View that the mandate is not the only health tax Republicans have backed in the past.

    What They Said

    In an interview with Romney on Wednesday, CBS News’ Jan Crawford asked him whether he would still nominate justices like John Roberts if elected president. “Well, I certainly wouldn’t nominee someone who I knew was going to come out with a decision I violently disagreed with—or vehemently, rather disagreed with.”

    ‘If the election’s about Romney and Bain, then the president’s going to win, said Stu Rothenberg, editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report in Washington. ‘For Romney, it has to be about Obama: Obama and jobs, Obama on leadership, Obama and the economy, and Obama and health care.”

     

  • Obama Campaign Too Quiet on Health Care; Rush Worry
  • The New York Times, in a strong editorial Wednesday, raised a crucial question: Why has the Obama administration not forcefully countered Republican misinformation about the health care law? Many interviewed by the newspaper said while it would benefit them many expressed fears about a loss of control over their health care that is nowhere in the law. Two reasons for this situation are being repeated around the country. Business groups, allied with Republicans, have spent $235 million dollars on TV, falsely attacking the law, with the rigorous aid of Mitt Romney and his campaign. The Democrats and the Obama campaign have been reluctant thus far in speaking up for the president’s biggest accomplishment to tell voters what’s in it. The president has yet to capitalize on his victory in the Supreme Court last week over his opponent’s attempt to dismantle the law on constitutional grounds. Except for one ad in Spanish there have been none about health care. Jack Lew, the White House chief of staff, said it was time for the divisive debate on health care to stop, and for Democrats to move on. Wrong! Republicans are eager to continue it with obvious propaganda that “Obamacare is the largest tax increase in U.S. history.” The editorial suggests that the idea is worth defending, particularly when Republican leaders like John Boehner and Mitch McConnell have little interest in doing so. “It’s past time for the White House and the Obama campaign to set aside their diffidence and begin playing an equally aggressive offense.”

    Quotable

    Rush Limbaugh, pushing Romney to go after Obama, said on Tuesday there is no upside to the Supreme Court ruling for the GOP “unless we get past this semantic debate we’re going to lose in November.”

     

     

  • Gallup Poll: First Sustained Obama Lead
  • President Obama, for the first time since April, has opened up a sustained lead over Mitt Romney in Gallup’s daily tracking poll of the presidential race. Obama’s lead, 48%-44%, marks the sixth consecutive day in which the poll has showed him with a small, but statistically meaningful lead. The shift comes after nearly two month in which the two candidates were essentially tied in the poll’s results. The advance for the president started before the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding most of Obama’s health care ruling. Democratic strategists believe, despite the ruling, that the campaign’s repeated attacks on Romney’s business record, notably the involvement of his company, Bain Capital, in “offshoring” of jobs, has begun to connect with voters. Several recent state-by-state polls also have shown results consistent with a small increase in Obama’s support. At about the same time in 2004, then-President George W. Bush took a small lead over Democratic Sen. John Kerry at this point in the, and went on to win re-election. Obama’s level of job approval in Gallup’s surveys stands at exactly the level that Bush had at this point in 2004.

  • Romney Campaign, G.O.P. Disagree on Health Care ‘Tax’
  • Mitt Romney’s campaign threw cold water on a central Republican attack line Monday, noting that President Obama’s health care mandate should be thought of as a penalty and not a tax. That message from Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney’s senior adviser, said the Massachusetts mandate was a penalty and that Romney agrees with Democrats that Obama’s health care mandate is not a tax, either. David Axelrod, Obama’s senior campaign adviser, said that Romney cannot agree with his fellow Republicans because to do so is “to condemn himself.” For much of Monday Republicans sought to minimize the differences between themselves and Romney. By insisting on calling the mandate a penalty, Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for Romney, effectively endorsed the weekend’s Democratic talking points and added to the clash with the Republicans’ line. The disagreement between Romney and some of his Republican rivals has every indication of festering. Texas Gov. Rick Perry predicted that health care would be a major “anchor” around Romney’s neck. Rick Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania, called Romney “the weakest candidate” to prosecute” the case against Obama’s health care plan. The Obama-Romney debates this fall will be telling.

    CNN Poll

    Democrats show a solid uptick in enthusiasm. From 46 percent in late March the number has moved to 59 percent; Republicans dipped from 51 percent to 52 percent in March. Democrats lead by three points nationally.

    Read ‘em and weep

    “He does not want you to have the self-esteem of getting up and earning and having that title of American. He’d rather you be his slave.”—Rep. Allen West (R-FL), accusing President Obama of wanting to enslave America. 

    “We disagree with the notion that our rights come from government. Those are ours, and they come from nature and God, according to the Declaration of Independence.”—House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan bashing ‘Obamacare’ which raises a broader question for Ryan: would God deny health care to 30 million Americans who lack it?

    “That is not the issue. We’re not going to turn the American health care system into a Western European system.”—Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) telling Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace that health care coverage is not a priority in GOP plans to address the issue.

  • Mocked and Scorned, Solicitor General Wins
  • The First Call President Obama made after learning that the Supreme Court had upheld his health care law was to his solicitor general, Donald B. Verrilli Jr., much maligned for his at times rocky performance during the oral arguments in March.  For Verrilli it was sweet vindication. His face was grim as Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. explained why the court had rejected the government’s primary argument that the commence clause of the Constitution empowered Congress to impose a mandate on individuals to obtain health insurance. The questioning from the justices in March had been brutal, even by the combative standards of the court. He was cut off 180 times during the three days of argument on national television, interrupted after speaking for ten seconds or less more than 40 percent of the time. He believed that his argument that the penalty for not obtaining health insurance was a tax and not a forced purchase Afterward, legal commentators mocked him and he was lampooned by Jon Stewart. Afterwards, he said “there is definitely bad publicity. Being on the wrong side of a Jon Stewart monologue is bad publicity.” The most interesting mea culpa came from Jeffrey Toobin, a CNN legal commentator, who issued some of the harshest criticism of Verrilli. Toobin apologized on the air Thursday after the decision was handed down. “This is a day for Dan Verrilli to take an enormous amount of credit, and for me to eat a bit of crow, because he won, and everybody should know that that argument was a winning argument, whatever you thought of it,” Toobin said.

    Country First

    “There are two lessons from the Supreme Court’s 5-4- decision to support President Obama’s health care plan: 1) how starved the country is for leadership that puts the nation’s interest before partisan politics, which is what Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. did; and (2) the virtue of audacity in politics and thinking big….It’s the feeling that it has been so long since a national leader “surprised” us. It’s the feeling that it has been so long since a national leader ripped up the polls and not only acted out of political character—but did so truly for the good of the country—as Chief Justice Roberts seemingly did.”—Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times.

    “I wish today’s political leaders, especially in Washington, would show the courage and willingness to fight for what they believe in, but possess an understanding of the need to compromise to solve the nation’s problems. They all need to go off and read “The Summer of 1787.”—Colin Powell, the retired general and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, an author who has urged President Obama to read “The Best and the Brightest” by David Halberstram. 

  • Tax or Penalty? Defining Court’s Ruling
  • Both Democrats and Republican campaigns scrambled Friday to define the issue of tax or penalty to their and the others detriment. President Obama has long maintained with his supporters that the law’s penalty for people who do not buy health insurance is not a tax, but a penalty. Unlike Mitt Romney who focused on more general objections to the health care law, Republicans called it a tax, insisting Obama had broken his 2008 pledge not to raise “a single dime of taxes” on the middle class. Democrats argued that Romney was constrained by the health care law he signed as governor of Massachusetts, which is structurally similarly to Obama’s health care overhaul and which Romney has in past years acknowledged relies on a tax penalty to enforce the requirement that everyone purchase insurance coverage. Both candidates have shown vulnerability on the issue. Democratic pollster Geoff Garin said that for Romney to single out the mandate’s penalty would only invite Democrats to counter—“it was his idea in the first place—but would also draw closer attention to his health care law in Massachusetts, an achievement that Romney has virtually air brushed from his resume given its unpopularity with his party’s tight-wing base.  As governor in 2006, Romney called his own mandate and penalty an “individual responsibly program. And in 2008, attacked by Republican rivals in a presidential debate, he replied that if somebody can afford insurance but decides not to buy it, they ought to pay their own way as opposed to expecting the government to pay their way.” Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, told reporters Friday, “You can call it what you want, but it is affecting 1 percent of the population” once the mandate takes effect in 2014.

    World Health Organization

    Why is there so little reaction among wealthy Republicans and their Tea Party chorus—most notably their presidential candidate—to the WHO’s first ever analysis of the world’s health systems which ranks the United States 37th out of 56 countries in the world. The U.S. trails France (1), Italy (2), Spain (7), Japan (10), United Kingdom (18), Ireland (19), and Germany (25). Among 56 countries only the U.S. shows one percent per capita in expenditure.

    What They Said

    “The pressure was really crazy, and I had fun doing it.”—Terry Moran, who covers the Supreme Court for ABC News to The Huffington Post, admitting he felt the pressure when he delivered the ruling’s biggest point within thirty seconds of receiving the papers while both CNN and Fox News were asleep at the switch.

    “You know, I’m personally rallied out. And I think a lot of our members are. In 2009 and 2010, we had so many rallies.”—While Tea Party Groups are planning a July 4 comeback rally characterized as the second revolutionary war against “Obamacare” Everett Wilkinnson, president of the South Florida Tea Party, said he and his troops were exhausted.

    “Who would have ever thought that the Republicans would embrace the austerity and jobless policies of what they used to derisively call old Europe.”—Former President Clinton in June, saying Romney’s vision of smaller government would kill jobs, both public.

June

  • Ayn Rand
  • SHE’S back in the news. Her “Atlas Shrugged” is the subject of a three-day summit in Washington, D.C. this weekend. “Many have been struck by the chilling parallels between the novel and the current state of the world, and of America in particular,” states an e-mail to journalists from summit organizers. “What do the incisive truths contained within the novel mean for our future as individuals and for the United States?” Fox Business Network’s John Stossel, billed as a “world famous journalist,” hosts a dinner Saturday night, and some of the usual suspects are headliners. They include America for Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist, Florida Rep. Allen West and Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson. Republican House budget chairman Paul Ryan, whose past embrace has been influenced by Rand’s far-out screed, is not listed. 

  • Is Roberts New Style Conservative?
  • THE opinion about Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr, is likely to surprise his liberal critics and conservative admirers, who provided the fifth vote in upholding President Obama’s health care law on Thursday. surprised many on the left viewed him as an ideologue eager to pull the court to the right, the ruling will rigger a re-examination of Roberts’s style and legacy, as it will for those on the right who considered the law unconstitutional and relied on him to make that point. Some scholars, as The New York Times reported, have felt that Roberts, leading the court since 2005, is seeking to strike a balance between his own conservatism with his desire to build faith in the law and the nation’s legal institutions. What surprised was hearing the chief justice, appointed to the court in 2005 by President George W. Bush, announce the upholding the central legislative pillar of the Obama administration. In the past, especially on campaign finance law but also other socially sensitive issues like abortion and affirmative action, Roberts has not shied away from leading a conservative redraft of established law, leading some to accuse him of judicial activism. But in this case, by referring to Congress’s powerful power to impose a tax rather than a mandate, Roberts used the Obama’s administration’s backup argument about what makes the health care law constitutional. If Bush ends up ruing the day he chose Roberts to lead the court he would not be the first president to do so. President Dwight D. Eisenhower was said to have called his appointment of Chief Justice Earl Warren in later years one of his two biggest mistakes. But Eisenhower appointed Republican Warren, the moderate former governor of California, as Chief Justice in 1953 to succeed the late Chief Justice Fred Vinson. The sweeping decisions of the Warren Court, which ended school segregation and transformed many areas of American law, and requiring “one-man-one vote” rules of apportionment, made the Court a power center and on an more even base with Congress and the presidency especially on four landmark decisions, notably Brown v. Board of Education (1954). Roberts, 57, younger and more conservative than Warren, is concerned with the court’s reputation and reducing partisan language. He qualifies for much longer re-evaluation. 

  • Health Care Law Win For 44
  • The Supreme Court on Thursday largely let stand President Obama’s health care overhaul, in a mixed ruling that veteran court observers were rushing to analyze. The decision was a stunning victory for both the president and Congressional Democrats, with a majority of the court. Including the conservative chief justice, John G. Roberts, affirming the central legislative pillar of Obama’s term. Many observers regard it as the most significant before the court since at least the Bush v. Gore ruling that decided a presidential election. The law requires states to expand Medicare coverage for poor and nearly poor household. Most compelling is that the goal of universal coverage has eluded legislators and presidents—including FDR, Truman, Johnson, Nixon and Clinton—for generations. Obama’s urgent challenge now is to sell the win to voters undecided in terms of the November election.

    Mitt Romney’s goal now is to challenge the court’s decision in upholding the law, and calling Republicans to arms. “This is a time of choice for the American people. Our mission is clear. If we want to get rid of Obamacare, we’re doing to have to replace President Obama. My mission is to make sure we do exactly that.” A major flaw in his argument is that the president has modeled his own plan on a similar law Romney championed when he was governor of Massachusetts.

    Media

    CNN and Fox News Channel, unlike MSNBC, blew it Thursday, as they got the Supreme Court’s ruling on President Obama’s health care law wrong.  CNN left off when their chief congressional correspondent said the individual mandate could not be upheld using the Commerce Clause. What the correspondent failed to pick up the other part of the ruling, which was that it could be upheld as a tax. Wolf Blitzer reported that the justices gutted the individual mandate. The original report was soon created, and Blitzer said “It’s a huge, huge victory for President Obama.” Fox News made the identical error, initially saying the mandate has been struck down before switching its headline. So much for shoddy TV reporting.

    What They Said

    “I’ve been listening to Attorney General and Governor McDonnell and very clear that a big decision is coming tomorrow on the Supreme Court. My guess is they’re not sleeping very well at the White House tonight.”—Romney in Virginia on Wednesday, attacking Obama for a moral failure to put forward Obamacare that won’t help get Americans back to work.

    “He’d have a lot of things to do. He’s a fine public speaker and teacher. He’d be a heck of a columnist and blogger. But he really seems to aspire to being a politician—and that’s the problem.—Columnist E.J. Dionne on Justice Antonin Scalia.

     

  • SCOTUS: Which Way On The Mandate?
  • Washington Post columnist Erza Klein describes how the Republicans made it possible for the Supreme Court to rule against the health care law. Over the past two years, the Republican Party has slowly been building a permission structure for the five Republicans on the Supreme Court to feel comfortable being what no one thought they could do: Violate the existing understanding of the Commerce Clause and, perhaps, the most significant moment of judicial activism since the New Deal, either overturn either all or part of the Affordable Care Act. The individual mandate was, as he described it, a Republican thought dating back to the late-1980s and supported for two decades. In December 2009 every Senate Republican voted to call the individual mandate unconstitutional. All institutions associated with the Republican Party, Fox News and right-win talk radio pushed the idea that the mandate was unconstitutional. Within months it was as much of a part of the Republican Party as “no new taxes.” CNN analyst Jeffery Toobin told Politico, “I was just shocked.” The two opposing arguments, Klein pointed out, met in front of the Supreme Court and the argument against the mandate’s constitutionality had clearly won. Intrade, a political betting market, puts a
    67 percent chance on the mandate being overturned. When this campaign began, it was unthinkable that the Supreme Court will indulge in it, even though some on the Supreme Court were sympathetic to its aims. Orin Kerr, a former law clerk for Justice Anthony Kennedy, said at the time that “There is less than a one-percent chance that the courts will invalidate the individual mandate.” Klein says that today it is entirely thinkable that the Supreme Court will indulge it.” The country will find out Thursday. Public option advocates are prepared to move swiftly if the Court strikes down “Obamacare.”

    Overheard

    “There is no way that I will do this. I didn’t run for student council president. I don’t see myself in any way in elected office. I love policy. I’m not particularly fond of politics.”—Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in an interview with Charlie Rose on “CBS This Morning,” adding that she thinks Romney “has terrific judgment.”

    “Now you can say you interned for Vice President Portman.”—Arizona Sen. John McCain, walking through the U.S. Capitol when he came upon Ohio Sen. John Portman giving a tour to a group of interns. McCain and Portman and a group of top GOP donors were at a swank retreat with Mitt Romney last weekend in Park City, Utah.

  • Romney, Scalia Rail Against 44
  • ONCE AGAIN Mitt Romney has demanded that President Obama has failed to “lead” on immigration in a statement reacting to the Supreme Court’s decision on Arizona’s SB 1070 law. Yet, in what has become a significant move for his candidacy, he offered no clear position himself, leaving Americans to wonder where exactly he would “lead” them forward. In Arizona for a fundraiser Monday he described the president as breaking another promise in “securing our borders and preserving the rule of law.” What’s clear, despite his defense of state’s rights, Romney did not say whether he agreed with any or all of the Supreme Court’s decision. This is a pattern that Romney has followed in recent months. He decisively opposed a number of immigration laws and proposals during the GOP primary, slamming Texas’s granting in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, pledging to veto the DREAM Act that Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has been advocating without success. More bizarre was the aggressive defense of Arizona’s immigration law by conservative Justice Antonin Scalia who pointedly went after Obama’s recent immigration policy shift and accused him of deliberately refusing to enforce immigration statutes. Scalia wrote a 22-page angry dissent against the court’s 5-3 decision Monday which found major provisions of S.B. 1070 violate the Constitution. The law-and-order defend by the justice surmised that the Obama administration “desperately wants to avoid upsetting for foreign powers” and accusing federal officials of “willful blindness or deliberate inattention” to the presence of illegal immigrants in Arizona. Adam Winkler, a constitutional lawyer at UCLA, pushed back on Scalia’s argument. “Scalia has finally jumped the shark,” he told Talking Points Memo. “He claims to respect the founding fathers, but his dissent channels the opponents of the Constitution.

  • SCOTUS Upholds Key Part Of Arizona Law
  • The Supreme Court on Monday rejected much of Arizona’s tough new immigration law but allowed one key provision to stand, saying that federal law did not pre-empt the state’s instruction to its police to check the immigration status of people they detain. In the 5-3 ruling handed down by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the high court held that most of the provisions being challenged encroached on turf hat is constitutionally reserved for the federal government. “The government of the United States has broad, undoubted power over the subject of immigration and the status of aliens.” Kennedy was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Steven Beyer and Sonia Sotomayor. Justice Elena Kagan, who worked on the issue as Obama’s solicitor general, did not participate in the case. Justice Antonin Scalia, emphatically came to Arizona’s defense in his dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Samuel A. Alito, Jr., and Clarence Thomas dissented. Overall, the decision was an election-year victory for President Obama, who led the challenge. Overall, it was a blow to Republican Gov. Jan Brewer. On the one hand it could help energize conservatives, who are strongly supportive of the law. On the other hand, it could help Democrats galvanize Hispanics, who would be disproportionately targeted by the law and broadly oppose it.

  • Health Care Ruling: Decision On Thursday
  • The Supreme Court on Thursday indicated that it is likely to go into overtime next week, as the nation awaits its decisions in challenges to President Obama’s health care law. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. made no announcement Thursday that Monday would be its final day. The New York Times reported that there will be at least one additional day for decision on the last day, now set for Thursday. Ezra Klein, a columnist and editor at the Washington Post and contributor to MSNBC wrote a must read in The New Yorker (June 25), “Unpopular Mandate,” which examines the bizarre transformation of the 23-year-old issue. Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Irvine law school told the Times, “There is no case law, post 1937, that would support an individual right’s not to buy health care if the government wants to mandate it.” 

    The mandate made its political debut in a 1989 Heritage Foundation brief titled “Assuring Affordable Health Care for All Americans.” It made its first legislative appearance in 1993—the Republicans’ alternative to President Clinton’s health reform bill, sponsored by eighteen Republicans, including Bob Dole, then the Senate Minority Leader. Ten years later Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, began building up support around the individual mandate. Between 2004 and 2008, he tested it and found over 80 members of the Senate in support—notably Utah Republican Senator Bob Bennett, with very few who objected. In a 2009 interview on “Meet the Press,” Mitt Romney. a presidential aspirant and former Massachusetts governor who had signed an individual.mandate, said the Wyden-Bennett was a plan “that a number of Republicans think is a very good health-care plan—one we support.” Several Democrats, notably John Edwards and Hillary Clinton, built a mandate into their health care proposals. The main Democratic holdout was Barack Obama. But by July 2009, he changed his mind, telling CBS News he was in favor of sort of an individual mandate but said as the bill came closer to passing, Republicans began coalescing about the mandate, which polling showed to be one of the mandate’s least popular elements. In December, 2009, every Senate Republican voted to call the mandate “unconstitutional.” Wyden characterized Washington, D.C. relationship with the individual mandate as ‘truly schizophrenic.” Orin Kerr, a George Washington University professor who once clerked for Justice Anthony Kennedy, said two years ago he gave the individual mandate only one percent chance of being overturned, said three things have happened since. Congressional Republicans notably made the argument against the mandate a Republican position. Once Republicans say it is unconstitutional it gets repeatedly endless in the partisan media that is friendly to the Republican Party, Fox News, conservative media etc. Klein points out that is notable about the conservative response to the individual mandate is not only the speed with which a legal argument that was considered fringe in 2010 has become mainstream by 2012; it’s the implication that Republicans spent two decades pushing legislation that was in clear violation of the nation’s founding document. But in this case the mandate’s supporters simply became its opponents. As for Romney, who passed an individual mandate and supported Wyden-Bennett, he now calls Obama’s law “an unconstitutional power grab from the states,” promising if elected to begin repealing the law on Day One.” What’s remarkable is just how malleable Mitt can be, a classic flip-flop artist.

  • Bain Capital and the Immigration Issue
  • DURING the 15 years that Mitt Romney was actively involved in running Bain Capital, a private equity firm that he founded, it owned companies that were pioneers in the practice of shipping work from the United States to overseas call centers and factories making computer components, according to filings with the Security and Exchanges Commission. The bottom line was that Bain specialized in relocating jobs done by American workers to new facilities in low-wage countries like China and India. But for years, as the Washington Post reported, Romney’s political opponents have tried to tie him to practices of outsourcing American jobs. These political attacks have often focused on Bain’s involvement in specific business deals that have resulted in job losses. But the Post’s examination of security filings shows the extent of Bain’s investment in firms that specialized in helping companies move or expand operations oversees. What’s ironic is that while Romney has long touted himself primarily as a successful business executive and jobs creator his record as Massachusetts governor was dismal. Yet he continues to flay Obama as a politician who is incapable of improving the economy. 

    Obama Replies To Romney

    “It’s long past time we gave them a sense of hope. Now, your speaker from yesterday has a different view. In his speech, he said when he makes a promise he’ll keep it. Well, he promised to veto the Dream Act and we should have taken him at his word. I’m just saying. I believe that would be a tragic mistake.”—The president  
    assailed Republicans on Friday as obstacles to fixing the nation’s immigration system and said his opponent would block efforts to let to let young immigrants stay if they were brought into the United States illegally by their parents.

  • Mitt Speech to Latino Leaders Falls Short
  • Presumptive GOP Nominee’s Thursday speech to the National Association of Latino Elected Officials in Orlando, Fla., disappointed, leaving more questions than answers when it comes how the GOP’s nominee will deal with illegal immigration and attract the support of Hispanic voters—who have yet to warm up to his campaign. There was little in the way of new information in the speech Hispanic elects but he promised the audience he’ll seek out long-term solutions to the nation’s outstanding immigration issues. When asked what happens with Obama’s immigration order when he takes office Romney wasn’t clear to the action taken by the White House implementing the idea behind the DREAM Act. “Some people may ask if I will let stand the president’s executive order,” he said. “The answer is that I will put in place my own long-term solution that will replace and supersede the president’s temporary measure.”

    Florida Poll Shift

    A new survey from Quinnipiac shows Obama leading Romney 46 percent to 42 percent with a shift from independents giving him the lead. Quinnipiac writes: “Independent votes shift from 44-36 for Romney in a May 23 Quinnipiac University poll, showing Romney ahead overall, to 46-37 percent for Obama today.

    The Mormon Factor

    The percentage of Americans who would not vote for a Mormon presidential candidate because of his religion is the same today as it was in 1967 when George Romney, his father, unsuccessful ran for the White House in 1968, according to a new Gallup Poll. The pattern of resistance has essentially changed. In the most recent survey, Democrats and those who are least educated are the most likely to discount a presidential candidate based on Mormonism. Meanwhile, 24 percent would oppose a candidate based on Mormonism, compared with just 10 percent of Republicans.

    What They Said

    “I wouldn’t accept the proposition that the Fed has no more ammunition.”—Ben S. Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, responding to criticism from Republican legislators that additional efforts to stimulate the economy are more likely to spark higher inflation than lower unemployment.

    “Mitt Romney’s campaign has asked Florida Gov. Rick Scott to tone down his statements heralding improvements in the state’s economy because they clash with the Republican nominee’s message that the nation is suffering under President Obama.—Bloomberg’s Michael C. Bender.

    “I wouldn’t characterize it as an effort to purge Latinos from the voting rolls. I think there’s goal of enduring that everyone who votes in Florida is qualified to vote.”—Rising GOP star Marco Rubio on purging voting rolls.

  • Obama, Romney Address Latino Leaders in Florida
  • Obama and Romney deliver remarks at the National Association of Latino Elected Appointed Officials Conference in Orlando, Florida today. While GOP leaders stand up against the president’s immigration move, Romney has remained remarkably mum. In the process, Obama is reaping political dividends, making the governor’s predicament with conservatives and Latinos more difficult. During the primary Romney vowed to veto the Dream Act if elected president.

    Poll Watch

    A fresh Bloomberg News poll is the most positive picture of the general election seen in several weeks. While the results offer a mixed review the survey shows Obama leading Romney 53 percent to 40 percent. Fifty-five percent of voters in the poll say Romney is the candidate most out of touch with Americans, while 38 percent say that about Obama.

    Nuns on the Bus

    The two-week bus tour is about Catholic Sisters standing with their bishops in opposing the immoral budget proposed by Congressman Paul Ryan and passed by the House. Asked what part of the budget scares her most Sister Simone Campbell said: “It is that the Ryan budget undermines our Constitution. Our Constitution was based on the promise of individual rights in community. The Ryan budget is just about protecting rich individuals and devastating the community. This is a fight for the soul of the nation. Catholic social teaching says that the positive role of government is to counter the excesses of each culture. Our cultural excess at this point is individualism, so the work of government is to counter that by emphasizing our responsibilities to each other.” 

    What They Said

    “There’s a widespread feeling that 2012 is a comedown after the grand drama of 2008—especially for Obama, who is missing the “kind of glow of possibility” of the last campaign and in his early days in office. As for Romney, “I don’t see a lot of people who are willing to go through the wall for him.”—Richard Ben Cramer, author of the landmark presidential campaign book, ”What it Takes.”

    “In effect, the challenger and the incumbent have reversed the traditional roles: Romney is running a kind of Rose Garden strategy, trying to stay above the fray and coast to victory, while the president bobs and weaves, trying to throw his Republican rival off his game.”—Ross Douthat, New York Times.

    “President George W. Bush asserted executive privilege 6 times, Clinton 14 times—both of whom protected the same category of documents we’re protecting today.”—White House aide on Obama asserting it ahead of the Holder contempt vote.

    “Crossroads GPS seems to believe that it can run out the clock and spend massive sums of money in this election without accounting for as trace of its funding.”—A complaint filed by the Obama campaign with the Federal Election Commission alleging that the group, funded by Karl Rove and others, can no longer shield the identity of its donors by defining itself as a social welfare organization. 

  • Parsing the Obama Playbook; Overheard Chatter
  • Barack Obama’s campaign won’t admit it but for the past two months the outlines of their strategy has been unmistakably clear: Mitt Romney is the candidate of old, straight, white men. The Republican nominee wants the campaign to be about blaming the president for a wobbly economy and failed agenda. But as a GOP pollster who has represented Jeb Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger put it: “You’re going to lose another close election if you’re focused only on getting out your base when your base is shrinking.” White voters in the U.S. electorate dropped from 88 percent in 1976 to 74 percent in 2008 while total minority groups more than doubled from 12 percent to 26 percent, according to a Republican research group. Democrats are running a campaign within a campaign, including women, African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, youth, seniors, and gays and lesbians, along with veterans and military families.

    Immigration Poll

    Obama’s order to halt the deportation of certain young illegal immigrants enjoys huge public support. The Bloomberg poll found that 64 percent of likely voters approved the president’s new policy, while 30 percent disagreed. The order appeals most to Obama’s base, with fully 86 percent of Democrats supporting it, while a majority of Republicans, 56 percent, opposed the measure. Among independent voters the measure was popular with 66 percent backing the change and 26 percent opposing it.

    Overheard

    ABC News reported Tuesday that Mario Rubio will not be seriously vetted, which one outside Romney adviser confirmed to The Washington Post. Hardcore Rubio supporters disputed the reports, putting Romney in an awkward position. The leading vice presidential candidates appear to be Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio), and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty who are undergoing more intensive review. … Popular Hispanic talk show host and media personality Christina Saralegui, known as ‘Hispanic Oprah,’ made her first-ever presidential endorsement in support of Obama. … The president’s campaign has named Sen. John Kerry to play Mitt Romney during three mock presidential debate rehearsals this fall. … Former voice presidential candidate Sarah Palin rallied conservative media activists for “victory in 2012” as the keynote speaker at the RightOnline conference in La Vegas on Friday, but never mentioned Romney.  … Republican Sen. Scott Brown’s terms for debating Democratic nominee Elizabeth Warren at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute in Massachusetts were rejected Tuesday, a move that prompted Brown to pull out of the event. His failed ploy was that Vicky Kennedy, the late senator’s widow, would not make an endorsement in the race.

    California Politic

    Lawmakers may have passed a budget, but Democratic leaders and Gov. Jerry Brown are in a standoff over his proposal to restructure the state’s welfare program.
    The governor wants deeper cuts amid a projected $15.7 billion shortfall. Brown, a Democrat, is focused on putting people back to work, while reducing aid for parents who aren’t meeting the requirements under CalWORKS. The governor’s office says his plan would save $880 million. Speaker John Perez said it’s foolish to invest in training for non-existent jobs.

    Fear and Loathing

    “It’s not so much what I like about him, it’s what I dislike about Obama.—Pennsylvania Republican; … “I think people are here because they are against Obama rather than for Romney.—Don Ross, Englewood, Ohio; … “He just kind of scares me, he really does.—GOP voter Pee Ide at a New Hampshire farmhouse.

  • Scalia Reverses Himself: Disagrees with Key Precedent
  • AS the Supreme Court prepares to render its opinion on the Affordable Care Act oral arguments, it would come as no surprise that Justice Antonin Scalia is likely to strike it down. But there has remained one major wrinkle in his prior jurisprudence that gives hope to a handful of the health care law’s proponents that he’ll vote to uphold it, Taking Points Memo reported. Of more than passing interest is the fact that in the shadow of the historic ruling Scalia is releasing a 500-page new book in which he finds fault with a Roosevelt Supreme Court ruling that forms a critical part of the legal undergirding for the health care reform law. For the conservative justice, that’s a dramatic turnaround, because he has previously embraced the premise of that decision in an opinion he authored in 2005 that supporters of the Affordable Care Act have frequently cited. Scalia says the landmark 1942 ruling Wickard v. Filburn—which has served as the linchpin of the federal government’s broad authority to regulate interstate economic activities under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause—was improperly decided. In a preface to the book, Scalia, writing about himself in the third person, concedes that he knows there are some, and fears that there may be many, opinions that he has joined or written over the past 30 years that contradict what is written here,” in the health care ruling. “This is typical Scalia,“ said Adam Winkler, a professor at UCLA Law School. “And disregards them when they don’t… “He respects precedents when they fit his conservative ideology. “Once again, we see that Scalia’s originalism is a charade.” Fear for Obamacare.

    Quotable

    “Consider, for example, what would be happening in Florida right now, in the aftermath of its huge housing bubble, if the state had to come up with the money for Social Security and Medicare out of its own suddenly ruduced revenues. Luckily for Florida, Washington, rather than Tallahassee, is picking up the tab, which means that Florida is in effect receiving a bailout on a scale no European nation could ever dream of.”—Paul Krugman, noting ever since Greece hit the skids, the origins of this disaster lie further north, in Brussels, Frankfort and Berlin. 

    Appearing Sunday on CNN, Rick Santorum, now a Romney surrogate, said the Republican nominee is “trying to walk the line“ on his immigration stance in order to avoid sounding “hostile” to the increasingly important Hispanic voting bloc.—The reality is a terrified Romney will still not say five days after Obama’s immigration policy statement whether he will reverse the president’s policy if elected.

    “If they don’t give Ron or Rand Paul prime time, they will turn Tampa 2012 into Chicago ’68,” said a Iowa radio host, referring to a Democratic National Convention that was beset with riots and violence. “They will lose their minds.”

  • Mitt: Overturn Obama Immigration Order?
  • President Obama’s lightening strike Friday to grant immunity and temporary legal status to some undocumented immigrants has put rival Mitt Romney in an irreconcilable predicament between Latinos and his immigration-weary conservative basis. During the long series of Republican debates for the presidential nomination Romney said he would veto the Dream Act. Obama supported passage of the Dream Act in 2010 but it was blocked by Republicans in the Senate. The president put Romney on the defensive, and may have preempted him on a solution to illegal immigration for a GOP alternative to the Dream Act proposed by Sen. Mario Rubio of Florida that talked about visas for some immigrants, but no path toward citizenship. Appearing Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Romney three separate times declined to say whether he’d reverse Obama’s decision if elected president. Romney said he’s work for a “long-term solution for the children of those who have come here illegally.” Romney’s chances of getting at least 35 percent of the Latino vote in November may have vanished. 

    Interrupting 44

    Tucker Carlson, the ultra-conservative Daily Caller Editor–in-Chief, is desperately trying to defend his reporter Neil Munro for interrupting President Obama’s remarks on changes in immigration policy Friday, suggesting the reporter’s actions were similar to those of former ABC White House correspondent Sam Donaldson during the Reagan years. The aggressive Donaldson was having none of it, rejecting the comparison to Munro. “Never once did I interrupt the president in any way when he was making a formal statement, a speech, honoring awardees or in any other way holding the floor. Even at Fox News, where Carlson is a contributor, host Chris Wallace said the interruption was “outrageous” and different than the way Donaldson did his job in the 1980s. Compared to serious reporting by Huffington Post and Politico Carlson is a real embarrassment.

    On Political Media

    New Yorker Washington correspondent Ryan Lizza, about working with the White House, getting people to talk on the record and how Twitter is imperiling political journalism: “We were talking earlier about daily gaffes and Twitter and the news cycle, and I’m as much to blame for helping that atmosphere as anyone. We all engage in tweeting and commenting and hammering these guys when they say something off message. It’s created a crisis for political journalism. People genuinely do not think it is in their interest –both White House and campaign officials, both campaigns, it’s not a partisan thing at all. It’s Democrats and Republicans—they genuinely do not believe it’s in their interest to talk in an unguarded way.”

    Quotable

    “The term has been more that usually taxing. Some have called it the term of the century.”—Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, predicting that the Court would be sharply divided over a series of high profile cases due at the end of the month.   

  • Andelson’s $10 Mill for Mitt Super PAC; McCain’s Worry
  • Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire philanthropist who owns the Las Vegas Sands, and who has given away hundreds of millions of dollars, is turning the 2012 presidential campaign into something like a personal sandbox, The Los Angeles Times reported. The latest chapter is about The Sands welcoming right-wing bloggers to a two-day conference designed to counteract the left’s Netroots Nation gatherings. The crowd of several hundred was greeted by Andy Abboud, vice president of government relations, on behalf of Adelson and Dr. Miriam Ochshorn Adelson, “our owners.”  He went on to say that “you are in the largest building in the world, you are in the largest hotel in the world, and the only nonunion property on the Las Vegas Strip.” With that, the crowd erupted in applause and cheered. Abboud said with a grin, “Oh, and we have the highest paid benefits on the Strip.” “We dabble in politics,” Abboud said as the crowd erupted in knowing laughter. “It’s like fantasy football.” In the real world Adelson initially backed Newt Gingrich who won in South Carolina but finally folded in May. Adelson’s total investment in Gingrich’s campaign was $21.5 million. Last week Adelson signaled he plans to put his considerable financial weight behind Mitt Romney, pledging $10 million to Restore Our Future, the Super Pac supporting the former Massachusetts governor.”

    Foreign Cash in Election

    Sen. John McCain of Arizona, one of Romney’s most prominent surrogates, re The New York Times, that a “super PAC” backing Romney may have provided a conduit for foreign money to enter the presidential race. He was asked about the recent contribution of $10 million, called Restore Our Future, from Adelson and his wife Miriam. He noted that Adelson’s casino empire draws much of its revenue from overseas casinos, including major properties in Macau. McCain told PBS that “obviously, maybe in a roundabout way, foreign money is coming into an American campaign. To somehow view money as not having an effect on election, a corrupting effect on election, flies in the face of reality.”

    Swing-Voting Independents

    A new ABC News-Washington Post poll shows that among this group the economic plans of both candidates are more or less equally despised, with a 38 percent rating for Obama’s and 35 percent for Romney. “That’s a serious opening for Obama,” said Frank Rich in New York Magazine. 

  • The Gloves Are Off; Preview In Ohio
  • President Obama laid down the gauntlet Thursday in Cleveland saying his bid for re-election offers the country a stark choice between government action to lift the middle class and a return to the Republican economic policies he said had caused a deep recession. He told enthusiastic supporters at a community college that their vote will finally determine the path we take as a nation—not just tomorrow, but for years to come. It seemed clear that he recognized that he’s in a fight for his political life, determined to stem two weeks of political and economic fumbling that began with a grim jobs report. Mitt Romney, his political rival, gave a speech 250 miles south in Republican-friendly Cincinnati, mocked the president and said private enterprise, not government was key to expanding the economy, not the administration’s policies on financial regulation and other issues. Ohio tends to be a predictor of the presidential race, and its 18 electoral votes are crucial in the fall election with both candidates in a virtual dead heat. The unemployment rate in the Buckeye state is at 7.4 percent, almost a point below the national average.

    Obamacare Sidebar

    Signaling tensions between conservatives and the GOP over ‘Obamacare,’ a Senate Republican leadership member and extreme right-wing blogger Michelle Malkin exploded Thursday on Twitter over whether to reinstate pieces of the health care reform act in a possible replacement plan. Malkin suggested that big-government Republicans have shown appalling indifference to the dire market consequences, calling out Senate GOP Conference Chair Roy Blunt who told a St. Louis radio station two weeks ago that he supports keeping at least three Obamacare regulatory pillars. Blunt’s response led to a series of tweets between the two.

    California Politic

    Campaign treasurer Kinde Durkee will have to wait for sentencing until October 10 for stealing more than $7 million in political funds from at least fifty clients, including U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein. She pleaded guilty June 10 in federal court but prosecutors are trying to determine the full extent of the embezzlement scheme in their determination about how many years Durkee should serve.

    Quotable

    If Congress can require Americans to buy health insurance, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia asked, could it force people to buy just about anything—including a green vegetable that many find distasteful. “Everybody has to buy food sooner or later,” he said. “Therefore, you can make people buy broccoli.” In terms of the fight against the health care law Scalia’s absurd argument, while seemingly reasonable, is in fact wrong.

    The Watergate that we wrote about in the Washington Post from 1972 to 1974 is not the Watergate as we know it today. It was only a glimpse into something far worse. By the time he was forces to resign, Nixon had turned his White House, to a remarkable extent, into a criminal enterprise.—Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, co-authors of two Watergate books. This is their first joint byline in 36 years.

  • Supreme Court Ruling: Trouble for GOP?
  • The Hill notes that the Supreme Court’s ruling will pose a big test for Republicans, even if the court strikes down all or part of President Obama’s healthcare law. The court is expected to decide whether the mandate’s mandate that individuals buy insurance is constitutional—and, if not, whether to throw out the entire law, or only part of it. An adverse ruling would be a major setback, and Republicans would claim it validates their opposition to the president’s signature legislative achievement. But it also would present policy and policy questions the GOP is not necessarily ready to answer. The most difficult challenge for Republicans would come from a decision to strike down only the mandate, leaving the rest of the law intact. House Republicans would pass a bill to repeal what remains, which will die in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

    Murdock & Britain

    The coalition government came under renewed strain on Wednesday after its junior partner, the Liberal Democrats, withheld parliamentary backing for Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron’s handling of events following the failed bid of Rupert Murdock’s News Corporation to take full control of BSKYB, the country’s biggest satellite broadcaster. Cameron, British political commentators say, faces a least five hours of questioning Thursday in his harshest test yet, with his government weakened and standing in opinion polls slipping. 

    Arizona

    In a contest full of emotion, Ron Barber, whom former Rep. Gabrielle Gifford picked as her successor, defeated his Republican rival on Tuesday in a closely followed special election seen by many political strategists as testing ground for the power of national issues in deciding competitive races. Barber defeated Jesse Kelly by eight percent, with the two running again in November for the full term. Giffords resigned in January, a year after she was shot in the head when a gunman opened fire outside a supermarket in Tucson.  On Tuesday night, she walked unaided into a ballroom, greeting supporters, but standing back as Barber spoke with reporters. 

    California Politic

    Senate leader Darrell Steinberg and Speaker John A. Perez are preparing to toss a budget to Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday, rejecting slightly more than $1 billion in Brown’s proposed cuts to welfare, child care, in-home care and college financial aid programs. It’s not clear whether the governor will go along with any of it, or not. Early reviews from Brown, The Los Angeles Times reported, are not positive. On Tuesday evening the governor said the Democrats’ plan was “not structurally balanced.”

    What They Said

    “When you eliminate a deduction, it’s OK with me to use some of that money to get us out of debt. That’s where I disagree with the pledge.”—South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham, suggesting that the GOP should break with the Norquist tax pledge, and go for a grand bargain. “I just think it makes a lot of sense.” And if I’m willing to do that a Republican, I’ve crossed a Rubicon.” 

  • Obama Campaign: Page from Truman’s Playbook?
  • The Hill reports that the calendar of working days on the Republican majority leader’s website shows Congress is scheduled to be in session only 52 days this year. That allows little time to address the debt ceiling again, extend the payroll tax cuts, prevent student loan interest rates from doubling and decide whether to extend the Bush tax cuts. President Clinton believes that President Obama should just go ahead and give the Republicans another extension of the Bush tax cuts, but not forever. Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein speculated that one reason to vote for a Republican president is that it would eliminate all excuses and force the GOP House majority to take action on the economy. The hint here is that the GOP is playing politics while the economy burns. Stephanie Cutter, 44’s reelection spokesman, said there are “a million jobs on the table in Congress right now that they could move on.” Ed Gillespie, Romney’s senior adviser,
    Says Congress is right to do nothing because the White House has created a “hostile environment” for job creation. So as Juan Williams, the author and political analyst for Fox News pointed out that is an opening for President Obama to play Harry Truman. Government payrolls dropped 13,000 in May. By contrast, the private sector added 82,000 jobs. But the GOP Congress refuses to invest in public sector spending to steady a fragile economy. But the GOP never acknowledges it and refuses to work on his plan to create new jobs. In 1948 embattled Truman attacked a “do-nothing Congress.” This time the chant should be, “Give ‘em hell, Barack!”

    Key Voting Blocs

    Both parties are appealing to key groups which could determine the outcome of the 2012 election. Democrats are working hard to portray Republicans as hostile to the interests of women, Hispanics and young voters Republicans want to contain the damage without aggravating conservatives in their base. Among women, Romney has trimmed the Democratic advantage somewhat but the GOP’s best hope is to dampen the turnout of these blocs by Election Day.

    What They Said

    “It was time for us to cut back on government.”— Romney on Friday responding to Obama’s calls for Congress to make more of an effort to retain the jobs of firemen, police and teachers. 

    “Well, your company has declared war on my government, and we have no alternative but to make war on your company.”—Newspaper tycoon Rupert Murdoch’s comment on then-British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, part of the judicial inquiry led by Justice Lord Brian Leveson into the phone hacking scandal that engulfed Murdock’s tabloids last summer. “The conversation never took place,” Brown told the inquiry on Monday. 

  • Obama, Clinton: Focus and Win
  • The Stunning Excuse about Bill Clinton, offered by his aides, is while still “mentally sharp, the former president is older and a step off his political game.” An exultant Fox News bannered this headline: “Once shunned Clinton emerges as the GOP’s election year ally.” The issue was not Hillary—and for once, the network of the reactionary right was right. Robert Shrum, the longtime political consultant who has worked many famous Democratic campaigns, weighed in with The Daily Beast on a series of unhelpful comments, notably defending Mitt Romney’s business career as “sterling” and suggesting the with his record as governor, Romney “crosses the qualification threshold.” Maybe it’s in the nature of Democrats that they never miss and opportunity to panic; Republicans by contrast are a least publicly steadfast. “ Shrum recalled the vital distinction being two kinds of private equity and the power of the issue when he was Ted Kennedy’s strategist in his 1994 Senate race against Romney who held a 1-point lead; on Election Day he lost by a landslide. In 2012 in places like Ohio and Michigan, the workers in Obama ads, speaking in their own words as they did the Kennedy ads two decades ago are far more compelling than Clintonian reservations about the propriety or political wisdom of such chatter. Romney still can’t talk about this critique except in the briefest and most awkward ways. “No campaign can afford a multitude of competing strategies—not even if one of them is the president who brilliantly brought the party out of the desert of 12 years of defeat.” Shrum’s message: “So Bill, give advice—but not in the media. You can make the right kind of difference in this election—for Democrats.” 

    Briefs—At their private conference, the justices of the Supreme Court will decide Thursday whether and how to take a second look at the Citizens United campaign finance decision. The odds are about one in a hundred they will do nothing. Justice John Paul Stevens, who has retired, also dissented and said the Supreme Court’s First Amendment jurisprudence had become incoherent since Citizens United and required revision.…The Court on Monday refused to hear an Obama birth certificate challenge, handing perennial American Independent Party challenger Alan Keyes yet another ignominious defeat.

    Read ‘em and weep

    “Ronald Reagan would have, based on his record of finding some degree of common ground, as would my dad—they would have had a hard time if you define the Republican party—and I don’t—as having an orthodoxy that doesn’t allow for finding common ground….Back to my dad’s time and Ronald Reagan’s time—they got a lot done with a lot of bipartisan support.”—Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, said both Republican presidents would have had a difficulty time getting nominated by today’s ultra-conservative Republican Party. I would be shocked if broadcaster Ron Reagan, the Great Communicator’s son, on hearing about Jeb Bush’s comments, would not second them.

  • Demographics vs. Economics
  • THE SHIFTS in key battleground states could aid President Obama’s re-election bid, the New York Times’ John Harwood reported. Jan van Lohuizen, a Republican pollster who advised President George W. Bush, said many historically large rural states are urbanizing. Ruy Teixeira, a Democratic political demographer, noted that in 12 battleground states, the proportion of votes cast by working-class whites, a group Obama badly lost, will drop by 3 percentage points this fall. By contrast, the proportion cast by minority voters who backed Obama by huge margins, will rise by 2 percentage points. While Tom Barrett, the mayor of Milwaukee, failed to oust GOP Gov. Scott Walker, exit polls showed Obama was favored by 51 percent over 44 percent over Mitt Romney in Wisconsin.

    California Politic

    After Wisconsin, the union battle is moving to California in November. Labor and business interests have quietly been raising millions of dollars and testing messages for months, preparing for a November ballot measure that could fundamentally shift power to Sacramento. The campaign battle, The Sacramento Bee reported, is likely to consume $50 million or more in political spending. The measure, not yet with a proposition number, would ban both unions and corporations from contributing directly to candidates, but both sides could still freely spend money on their own independent interests. Proponents include former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan and former Univision CEO Jerry Perenchio, both very wealthy Republicans. Ken Jacobs, a labor expert at UC Berkeley, said opponents will also work to frame the initiative as part of a larger attack on unions, and the middle-class values they espouse, that gained momentum with the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United ruling. The decision found that corporations and unions have the right to spend unlimited money on political causes—a decision which significantly favors corporations.

    On Books

    Colin Powell’s new book, “It Worked for Me,” hits the hardcover nonfiction list at No. 2 this week. The four-star general and former secretary of state is making news largely because of a chapter called “February 5, 2003,” about Powell’s speech to the United Nations on that day, and his role in the buildup to the war in Iraq. He writes, “How could we have been so far off the mark? How could our seemingly solid case have been so devastatingly unraveled?” He faults the process, especially Vice President Dick Cheney’s control of intelligence, but accepts responsibility for the speech.

    “If you don’t know multiple people who are suffering, then you must be living in a very rarefied atmosphere. You must be maybe a member of the Romney clan, or something.”—Economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, out with a new book, “End This Depression Now,” suggesting that the country’s economic problems are solvable. “Solving this depression is not fundamentally an economic problem, it’s a political problem.”

  • Latinos: Mitt Far Behind McCain in 2008
  • Romney, despite a new outreach to the Latino community, is stuck in a deep hole. Obama leads him 66 percent to 23 percent among registered Latino voters, according to a new poll by Latino Decisions. It’s in line with Obama’s 67 percent to 31 percent margin over John McCain in 2008. In the Republican primary, Romney moved hard to the right, allying himself with Kris Kobach, architect of harsh legislation cracking down on illegal immigrants in Arizona and Alabama, which a pledge to veto the Dream Act, which would grant a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants who serve in the military or attend college. According to the poll some 87 percent of Latinos support the Dream Act, supported by Democrats that Republicans filibustered in 2010. Romney has not walked back any of his positions in the primary—and virtually ignoring the immigration issue.  The only possible route to moderation that may be offered to Romney by Sen. Mario Rubio as an alternative to the Dream Act is a path to legal status for some illegal immigrants but not citizenship. For my two cents plain Romney will be lucky if he beats McCain’s weak showing four years ago.

    What They Said

    “If I knew two days before what I knew two days later, I would have handcuffed myself to the truck to prevent him from leaving the compound,” Steve Schmidt said, recalling the moment that McCain left to announce the selection. “I guess the evidence of that trauma I still have four years later.”—Steve Schmidt, the senior strategist for John McCain’s losing 2008 presidential campaign who said he had not spoken with Sarah Palin since the night McCain conceded. His criticism of her has been a defining theme of his post-2008 years. On Palin, he said, “she absolutely should not be president: no way, no how. I’ve watched her on the public stage over the past four years. There has been zero effort—zero—to improve any of her obvious deficiencies.”— Schmidt’s political resurrection, The New York Times.

    “No, Mitt, corporations are not people. People have hearts. They have kids, they get jobs, they get sick, they love, they cry, they dance, they live, and they die. Learn the difference.”—Massachusetts Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren, opposing Republican Sen. Scott Brown in November, at a Netroots convention in Rhode Island.

     

  • Brown, Leaders $2 Billion Apart; Budget Deadline Looms
  • PUBLIC approval of Gov. Jerry Brown is eroding in a new Field Poll released Friday with nearly as many voters now disapprove of the Democratic governor’s performance (40%) as approve of it (43%). Since Brown was elected in 2010 on a pledge to break Capitol gridlock and fix the state’s chronic fiscal mess his approval rating has fallen five points since 2011 while his disapproval rating has doubled in that time from 21% to 40%. The good news for Brown is that he fares better than the Legislature. Just 19% approve of the job lawmakers are doing. That said, the governor and Democratic legislative leaders met daily all week behind closed doors about $2 billion in differences over budget cuts that would affect the poorest Californians.  Facing a June 15 constitutional deadline Democratic leaders say they intend to send Brown a budget by next Friday, and preferably a budget that the governor will sign. At issue is disagreement with Brown specifically on his cuts to welfare-to-work, Cal Grants, In-Home Supportive Service Services and child care for low-income families. Last year, Brown signed the first on time budget in five years on the last day of the fiscal year.

  • Follow the Money: Mitt’s Federal Blind Trust
  • JESSE UNRUH, the legendary Speaker of the California State Assembly, was famous for the phrase that “money is the mother’s milk of politics.” And as The Hill’s Overnight pointed out no campaign can run without it. Last month Romney and the Republican National Committee raised $76.8 million while Obama and the Democratic National Committee raised $60 million. So it will be interesting to compare the June numbers. In a conference call Thursday the Obama campaign struck hard at ripping Romney for saying that he would only say he would only move his holdings into a federal trust if he is elected president. Obama campaign general counsel Robert Bauer was quick to respond to The Hill: “The trust [Romney currently uses] is not blind, nor has he taken any steps to make the trust blind from the vintage point of the federal ethics rules. “It just raises a host of questions of why it is that he will not abide by more rigorous standards and address the question of conflict of interest, since we know that he has far-flung investment interests”

    Romney on Economics

    The GOP candidate delivered a passionate indictment of Obama’s economic policy in St. Louis on Thursday, accusing the president of attacking “the cornerstone of American prosperity—our economic freedom. He rallied supporters with a prolonged defense of free-market economics, and decried the president’s economic policies as a “moral failure.” But Romney has yet to offer any significant examples of such extreme moral failure.

    Poll Data:

    The New York Times’ FiveThirtyEight: Nate Silver’s Political Calculus has Obama slightly ahead of Romney in most national polls, and a somewhat clearer advantage in polls conducted at the state level. Obama would be about 80 percent likely to win an election held today, according to the model….Obama has a 5-point lead over Romney in Wisconsin, 46 percent t 43, according to a We Ask America poll—the first survey since Gov. Scott Walker won his recall election. Obama has a 5-point lead over Romney in Virginia as well according to a Quinnipiac University poll.

    Tweet of the Day: “So Gentle/Kind 2 entire Fam. Told him I would like 2do what I can 2 help Re-elect.” – Cher on meeting President Obama at one of his Los Angeles fundraisers Wednesday night.

  • When Mitt Romney was Mr. Mandate
  • PROGRESSIVE bloggers are having a “gotcha” moment ahead of the upcoming landmark Supreme Court decision on a report that Mitt Romney pushed more forceful than previously known for an individual health care mandate while governor of Massachusetts. Through a public-records request, the Wall Street Journal obtained internal documents when Romney was in office, which shows, among other things, that the governor personally drafted an op-ed defending the individual mandate. Among the reactions: “At the time…Democrats weren’t on board with an individual l mandate, but Romney and his aides championed the provision.”—Steve Benen at the Rachel Maddow blog….”Romney considered it essential to a functioning health care law.”—Annie-Rose Strasser, Think Progress….”Romney flipped sides. He hasn’t fully backtracked, still terming his Massachusetts plan the right action for his state.”—Patrick Caldwell, American Progress….”No way is this guy going to get the support of a national business lobby sharply opposed to universal health care”—Alec MacGillis, The New Republic. (The Body Politic (June 6) wrote about Romney’s hire of former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt as his presidential transition team chief whose thoughts on the individual mandate has angered conservative Republicans.)

    Ray Bradbury, 91

    A master of science fiction died Tuesday in the same house in Los Angeles he lived in for more than 50 years. Recalling his “hungry imagination” as a boy in Illinois, “It was one frenzy after one elation after one enthusiasm about one hysteria after another. You rarely have such fevers later in life that fills you entire day with emotion.”

    Bullet Train

    As legal challenges to the California bullet train project mount Gov. Jerry Brown began circulating proposals to significantly diminish the possibility that opponents could stop the project with an environmental lawsuit. The legislation would most affect suits brought by the Central Valley agricultural interests. A lead question is whether the governor is asking too much of the green lobby. Like it or not Brown is on the right track to bring high-speed rail to the state.

    Quotable

    “If I were President Obama, I’d focus my entire campaign now on an effort to reforge a “grand bargin” with Republicans based on a near-term infrastructure stimulus tied to a Simpson-Bowles long-term fiscal rebalancing.”—Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times.

  • Mitt’s Pro-‘Obamacare’ Hire Irks Right
  • LIFE is becoming more complicated for Mitt Romney. Hard-line conservatives are furious with him for choosing former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt to chair his presidential transition team. As Talking Points Memo has reported Leavitt has committed two deadly sins. He’s encouraged state leaders to implement the health care exchanges required by President Obama’s Affordable Care Act—and he’s profited from it. Many top conservatives consider that apostasy. They believe the health care law must be completely eliminated – even parts people like and including parts conservatives have supported in the past. Through a public records request the Wall Street Journal reported a trove of emails which show that the former Massachusetts governor defended the insurance mandate for state residents when he signed the bill on April 12, 2006, and that night signed the law and sent an email thanking a top aide, saying the law would help “hundreds of thousands of people…have healthier and happier lives.” In a July meeting with a bipartisan group of governors, Leavitt called exchanges “a very practical solution to a problem that needs to be resolved.” In February he told Politico that “the Affordable Care Act needs to be repealed, period.” But he is not an anti-‘Obamacare’ fire breather that meets conservative litmus tests. Romney 2006 is a far cry from his judgments and flip-flops today.

    What They Said

    “The picture for America in 2012 bears a stunning resemblance to the great mistake of 1937, when F.D.R. prematurely slashed spending, sending the U.S. economy—which had actually been recovering fairly fast until that point—into the second leg of the Great Depression. In F.D.R.’s case, however, this was an unforced error, since he had a solidly Democratic Congress. In President Obama’s case, much thought not all of the responsibility for the policy wrong turn lies with a completely obstructionist Republican majority in the House.—New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, noting that while there’s a Democrat in the White House, for all practical purposes, this is already the economic policy of Republican dreams. 

    Former President Bill Clinton on Monday accused Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and the Republican Congress of having “adopted Europe’s economic policies of austerity.” He said Obama has the “right” economic policy to promote job growth and long-term budget restraint.”

    Tweet of the Day: Donald Trump has cancelled his subscription to USA Today. Does anybody really care?

  • Romney’s Top Political Adviser: Romney
  • WHEN George W. Bush ran for president in 2000, there was never any question about who his political maestro was. Karl Rove was later dubbed “Bush’s brain.” In his second run for the presidency Romney still has no Rove-like figure. But, as Politico reported, aides and insiders say there is someone very much in charge—and that would be, for better or worse, Mitt Romney. Romney consists o a set of interlocking circles, created during his time in business and in government, tied together by a CEO-campaign manager over the operation but with the candidate himself at the center. (Romney) likes a pretty horizontal organization where there’s a number of different inputs into him,” said former Missouri Sen. Jim Talent, a Romney ally and surrogate. 

    Netroots Nation

    The annual gathering of liberal bloggers and activists holds its annual conference this week in Providence,  R.I., and the president may have to smooth over relations with his most ardent liberal supporters. 044 has reportedly upset many with personally approving names on a terrorist “kill list used to direct overseas attacks by armed drones—seen as a violation of human rights. Another report said that Obama personally directed a series of cyberattacks against Iran’s nuclear enrichment equipment program using a virus developed during B43’s administration. 

    Polling

    ABC News reports that a look at past presidents’ June polling shows that in every year since 1980 except 1992 (when Ross Perot led in June,) the leader in June went on to win in November. Good news for Obama who leads Romney in the latest ABC News-Washington Post poll (+ 3), and the NBC News-Wall Street Journal survey (+4). He trails Romney by one point in the latest poll by Gallup. 

    California Politic

    U.S. Representatives Howard Berman and Brad Sherman are competing in the same San Fernando Valley district. Because the district has twice as many Democrats as Republicans, both are expected to face off on the November ballot. Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, a Republican, called Berman “one of the best “congressmen in America, oddly closing with: “One of the two Democratic congressmen who are running will surely win. Please don’t waste your vote.” 

    What They Said

    Ezra Klein, the liberal columnist for the Washington Post, Bloomberg News and an MSNBC contributor—notes Talking Points Memo editor Josh Marshall—makes the case that Romney might actually be more of an effective Keynesian in 2013 because Republicans would let him govern and not be focused on crashing the economy.

    “She’s our shot in 2016. Why shouldn’t she run? She’s a magnificent secretary of State.”—House minority leader Nancy Pelosi beating the drums for Hillary Clinton.

    “I have a big announcement coming on Friday. Stay tuned.”—Rick Santorum, Tweet of the Day.

  • O44: Battle of Ideas Trumps Bain
  • Robert Shrum, the gifted Democratic consultant, offered some personal insights on the rapidly shaping-up Obama-Romney battle in his The Week column. Romney’s effort to unseat Sen. Ted Kennedy in 1994 is quite instructive.

    “Right now, Obama is winning the battle to make the contest a choice, not a referendum. Like FDR, who in 1936 arraigned the “economic royalists,” Obama can reinforce and enrich his brand, not subvert it. Before the Bain commercials, Kennedy’s favorables and unfavorable ratings were about equal. After two weeks of ads, his favorables were suddenly 57 to 38 and climbing…What explained the shift was that Kennedy, by taking up the workers’ cause, was powerfully communicating to the middle class and working families in Massachusetts that he was on their side. As Obama moves on issues like Medicare, tax fairness—and, yes, jobs—Obama will have laid the predicate for his overall case: He’s the one who will fight for a future fair for all.” 

    What They Said

    “The man who has been governor and had a ‘sterling’ record business and in Massachusetts means that he is ready to serve as president.”—Former President Bill Clinton, in a bracing reminder questioning the president’s campaign to discredit Romney, suggesting that jobs numbers mean their path to victory may lie more than attack and winning the battle of ideas with their Republican rival. The Washington Post

    “The administration lost the communications war with disastrous consequences that played out on Election Day 2010, and Obama never got credit for the two pieces of legislation where he reached for greatness, the stimulus and health care bills.”Ed Rendell, the former Democratic governor of Pennsylvania.

    “The free enterprise system can be cruel.”—Sen. John McCain, a top surrogate for Romney, explaining his private sector experience.

    Of course, one of the most potent arguments for pushing the court to be bold on the issue will not be heard in any courtroom: next January gays could face the prospect of President Romney. Mitt Romney not only opposes gay marriage and civil unions; he is committed to filling any Supreme Court vacancies with Scalias.—Bill Keller, former executive editor of the New York Times, in op-ed brief on Justice Anthony Kennedy, the likely deciding vote.

    “For the modern American right doesn’t care about deficits, and never did. All that talk about debt was just an excuse for attacking Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and food stamps. And as for Chris Christie (the Republican governor of New Jersey,) well, he’s just another fiscal phony, distinguished only for his fondness for invective.”—Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize columnist. 

  • Obama: Too Much Presidential Power?
  • The New York Times on Tuesday revealed who is actually making the final decision on the biggest killings and drone strikes: Turns out it’s President Obama himself. And the newspaper finds it very troubling. Obama has demonstrated that he can be thoughtful and farsighted, but, like all occupants of the White House, he is a politician, subject to the pressures of re-election. A Times editorial on Thursday said “No one in that position should be able to unilaterally order the killing of American citizens or foreigners located far from the battlefield—depriving Americans of their die-process rights—without the consent of someone outside his political inner circle.” John Brennan, Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, has said the administration chooses only those who pose a real threat, and prefers to capture suspects alive. It does not pass the smell test. Obama campaigned against some of these abuses in 2008, and has a moral responsibility for these decisions. He has read the just-war theories of Augustine and Thomas Aquinas and should re-read them. The precedents now being set will be carried on by successors who may have lower standards. Without written guidelines, they can be freely reinterpreted. A unilateral campaign of death is untenable.

    Arizona’s Immigration Law

    Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, in a recent op-ed piece in the Washington Post timed to the Supreme Court’s consideration of Arizona’s anti-immigration SB-1070, wrote that “I am deeply concerned about the human consequences if Arizona’s law is upheld. The Supreme Court decision Arizona v. United States will mark a critical junction in our nation’s immigration history. We will either maintain the direction which has made us a great nation or embark on a darker course that weakens and divides us.”

    Will Latinos Switch to Romney?

    Sen. Marco Rubin on Thursday predicted that the Republican candidate’s standing among Latinos “is going to change.”  recent Pew poll gave Obama a large lead over Romney among Latinos – 67 to 27 percent. Asked if he, a son of Cuban immigrants, could move the numbers, he responded, “It’s just not me.” What’s interesting is that former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, a wealthy Republican, is mounting a statewide radio campaign to encourage Latinos to vote and consider the GOP. The challenge is huge. A new L.A. Times/USC Dornsife Poll shows Obama leading Romney among Latinos by 74% to 18% in California.

    What They Said

    “I have a very large Twitter,” Donald Trump told Greta Van Susteren of Fox News. A turn out Trump has 1.2 million Twitter followers, Obama 16 million, and Lady Gaga has 24.9 million, according to Politico’s Roger Simon.

    Neither candidate has struck a theme, though both seem to think they have. At the moment both candidates are generally understood as biographies: “I’m the successful businessman,” “I’m the breakthrough president.” This accounts for a certain frustration among voters: “I don’t want a biography, I want a plan.”—Peggy Noonan, in her Friday Wall Street Journal column.

May

  • Lessons Mitt Romney Learned
  • LAST WEEK, as the Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus noted Wednesday, two insightful profiles of Mitt Romney’s parents offered an implicit, and disappointing, contrast with their more successful son. New York magazine’s Benjamin Wallace-Wells describes the force of nature that was Michigan Gov. George Romney, headstrong in his convictions and at odds with an increasingly conservative Republican Party. In Time magazine, Barton Gellman focuses on Lenore Romney and her relationship her youngest son who has won the Republican presidential nomination that eluded her husband. George Romney failed to win the Republican presidential nomination in 1964, while Lenore’s reluctant, husband propelled bid for the Senate two years later—shaped young Mitt and his approach to politics. “It was Lenore who gave Mitt a model for engaging in public life. Gellman writes. “Whereas her husband relished a good fight, she sidestepped and looked for common ground with her critics. Mitt displayed much the same temperament as he grew up—cautious and increasingly self-controlled. In politics, he adopted his mother’s tactic of melting away from battle whenever possible.”

    Blitzer Calls Out Trump

    The CNN anchor said on Tuesday that he didn’t understand why Trump “doubles down on this birther issue” after the state of Hawaii confirmed the legitimacy of Barack Obama’s ’birth certificate.” Trump fired back that he had reported the story “accurately,” he might get better ratings, which Trump said he thought were “pretty small.” As Trump continued with his conspiracy theories, Blitzer had enough, and said, “Donald, you’re beginning to sound a little ridiculous, I have to tell you.”

    Why A Religious Exception? 

    Dozens of Roman Catholic organizations have filed lawsuits challenging a related regulation that requires employers or their health insurers to offer birth control coverage to workers. The plaintiffs argue that complying with the regulation would violate their religious freedom. As the Los Angeles Times has editorialized the Obama administration has been sensitive to concerns that the contraceptive mandate might undermine freedom of religion. These concessions have not satisfied Catholic organizations that offer many legal arguments that merge into a single contention:  a religious organization must be insulated from rules that govern secular institutions. (The complainers do not include the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the largest archdiocese in the United States.)

    Quotable

    Longtime McCain adviser Mark McKinnon said Trump undermined Romney’s brand and made him look like “an out-out-touch rich guy without any real core, which means he’ll associate with anyone if he thinks it will further his ambition.”

    “My bigger concern is not positive reinforcement for the birthers, but rather positive reinforcement for a guy who loves the spotlight and probably will come out and crap all over Romney just to get some attention for himself for a couple of months.”—Liz Mair, an unaligned Republican strategist, fretted to Talking Points Memo that without an intervention from Romney, Trump’s election tour was probably just getting started.

     

     


     

  • Hard Right: No Waver on Obamacare
  • PUSH BACK matters in the murky world of Republican politics. No sooner had some rational House members begin warming to some provisions of President Obama’s health care law, influential conservative groups warned the GOP not to waver on their promise to repeal the measure in its entirety. Ideas like including its coverage regardless of pre-existing conditions, the ability to remain on a parents’ plan until age 26 and provisions that close the Medicare “doughnut hole”—Forget it! FreedomWorks and Club of Growth, two of the most powerful conservative interest groups, fresh of purging Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar for insufficient fealty to the right, are hell bent on the kill. A spokesman for Club for Growth added, said “complete repeal doesn’t mean partial. It means complete.” The translation for millions of uninsured Americans is, “Sorry folks. You’re on your own.” 

    Quotable

    “He’s a president who is quite comfortable with the use of force on behalf of the United States.”—Thomas E. Donilon, President Obama’s national security adviser.
    (Mitt Romney’s call on Obama to adopt a Syria strategy comes days after one Obama administration official discussed it with the press days earlier.)

    “That stimulus he put in place, it didn’t help private sector jobs, it helped preserve government jobs and the one place we should have shut back—or cut back was on government jobs. We have 145,000 more government workers under this president. Let’s send them home and put you back to work.”—Romney, confirming he doesn’t understand the effective of the stimulus package which Obama used to save the auto industry.   

    “For the modern American right doesn’t care about deficits, and never did. All that talk about debt was just an excuse for attacking Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and food stamps. And as for Mr. Christie, well, he’s just another fiscal phony, distinguished by his fondness for invective.”—Paul Krugman, winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize, who has a special dislike for the Republican governor of New Jersey who has been widely held up, not least by himself, as an example of a politician willing to make tough choices.

  • “Obamacare” Decision: Which Side Hurt Most?
  • Obamacare’s fate will be decided by a landmark Supreme Court decision in June but some Republicans have been privately considering a plan to reinstate some of its popular provisions if the law is struck down. That possibility, Talking Points Memo reported, has sent conservative advocates into a tizzy, forcing House Speaker John Boehner to reaffirm his commitment to “to repeal Obamacare in its entirety.” But more evidence is emerging that Republicans believe that’s not possible. Rep. Alan West (R-FL), a tea party favorite, told ThinkProgress that he supports preserving three popular provisions of the Affordable Care Act. For West that would mean people keeping their kid on insurance until 26; making sure no American gets turned back for pre-existing conditions, and keeping the doughnut hole closed. It’s a no-win predicament for the GOP—gut Obamacare and take the blame for destroying popular programs, or face the wrath of powerful conservative groups. If struck down, Obama and Democrats face a terrible setback but can run against an activist conservative court in November. For Republicans, the political reality is far tricker if they get what they want. 

    Read ‘em and weep

    Last week, Meghan McCain, the socially liberal Republican and MSNBC contributor, went on Al Sharpton’s show to talk about extremism in the Republican Party on a subject she knows a lot about. She told Sharpton that many Republicans treat me like a freak, especially the extreme-right members of my party. I want on to say that I don’t understand the appeal of bloggers like Michelle Malkin and the late Andrew Breitbart.”—McCain, focusing on GOP extremists, Twitter and Internet bullies.

    “I do not understand the cost-benefit here. The costs are clear. The benefits—what voter is going to vote for him because he’s been seen with Donald Trump? The cost of appearing with this bloviating ignoramus is obvious, it seems to me. Donald Trump is redundant evidence that if your net worth is high enough, your IQ can be very low, and you can still intrude into American politics….I don’t understand the benefit. What is Romney seeking?”—Conservative columnist George Will, calling out Trump and embarrassing Romney.

  • Romney’s ‘68 Defeat, Lessons for Mitt
  • WHEN George Romney, the Michigan governor ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 1968, he believed that his deep faith in the institutions of American life would be enough to beat back his party’s radical wing, he was badly mistaken,” writes Benjamin Wallace-Wells in the May 28 issue of New York Magazine, a compelling read. When Romney was asked by a reporter about American greatness, whether the country really compared with imperial Britain or ancient Greece, he replied, “It’s an open question.” His defeat was swift, tragic, and, for his son, Mitt, instructive.

    “It is possible to think of the difference between George and Mitt Romney as a series of adaptive changes, in which the original moderate instincts that have devolved so completely that Mitt’s response to a rising and angry conservatism resembles Nixon’s far more than his father’s. Perhaps Mitt noticed, following the 1968 campaign intently from Europe that it was Nixon’s opportunism, his skill at exploiting fears of unsettling demographic change that won. But it is also true that George Romney’s cherished institutions have lost their power, and the vision in which they would make a better society has collapsed. In Mitt’s politics, his father’s fervent progressivism has become instead an ideologically empty pragmatism that succumbs to whatever his audience wants to hear. What remains is the peculiar character of the current Republican nominee for president, an organization man without organizations.” So far, Mitt is not into the “vision thing”—neither was George H.W. Bush—and when asked by Time’s Mark Halperin about specific spending cuts as president treated it as a gotcha question.

    Anti-Tax Rigidity

    Former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wy,) one of the most remarkably candid Republicans in the country, on Sunday lashed out at members of his party for their unyielding opposition to new tax revenues, whom he accused of vetoing a debt reduction agreement. “I guess I’m known as a RINO now, which means a Republican in name only, because I guess, on social views, perhaps, or common sense would be another one, which seems to escape members of our party,” said Simpson, a co-chair of President Obama’s fiscal commission, on CNN Sunday….And if that means more to you than your country when we need patriots to come out in a situation when we’re in extremity, you shouldn’t even be in Congress.”

  • National Circus: 044, Booker, Bain
  • Frank Rich, the longtime and perceptive political observer for the New York Times, has shifted to New York magazine. He has some tart comments on last Sunday’s “Meet the Press” kerfluffle when ambitious Newark Mayor Cory Booker called President Obama’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s Bain record a “nauseating” distraction from the real issues. Writing that he hoped no one was nauseated with the suggestion that it sounded like idle self-promotion on the mayor’s part. “Booker is a smart and capable leader but I fear he may have spent too many mornings drinking the ‘Why can’t we just get along?” Obama rebuffed Booker, and was firm that Bain attacks were very much what the campaign was all about but to go after the main record Romney is running on, which is his record at Bain. Rich said Romney has steadily misrepresented that history in his effort to position himself as a Mr. Fix-it for the economy and a brilliant exemplar of job creation in the private sector.

    Pledge Time

    Among activist Republicans the phrase is simply know as “the pledge,” and over the past generation it has become the essential conservative credential for Republicans seeking elective office. Of the 242 Republicans now in the House, all but six have signed the pledge. But, as the Washington Post reports, a growing number of GOP candidates for Congress are declining to sign the promise to oppose any tax increase – a small sign that could signal a big shift in Republican politics on taxes. Among the 25 candidates this year promoted by the Republican Congressional Committee – the top rungs of a program that highlights promising candidates who are challenging Democrats or running for open seats—at least a third have indicated that they do not plan to sign the pledge authored by anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist. Since 1986, Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, has been effective in getting signers to also pledge to oppose the elimination of tax credits and deductions unless they are matched dollar-for-dollar with tax cuts. But the signs seem clear that despite his assertion that collection of pledge signatures are running ahead of schedule, Norquist’s’ grip may be slipping.

  • Brown’s Approval Slips; Tax Ballot Issue Alive
  • THE HONEYMOON appears to be ending for Gov. Jerry Brown. For the first time in a major California poll since he took office a plurality of likely voters disapprove of the job he is going, according to a Public Policy Institute of California poll. The margin is wafer thin – 43 % disapprove while 42 % approve. In April his approval was 47%. Poll director Mark Baldassare said there are things you don’t have control over, “People are getting worried again.” Despite a dimmer view of Brown likely voters still support his November issue to raise taxes—56% to 38%. The initiative, a major part of Brown’s agenda this year, would raise the state sales tax and income taxes on California’s highest earners. The poll indicates the governor’s approval rating remains positive—39% to 36%. A Field Poll in February found Brown’s approval rating slipping, but still positive at 45%. 

    Newspaper Futures

    The New Orleans Times-Picayune announced Wednesday that it will significantly downsize its staff and start publishing only three times a week on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Ricky Mathews, the new president of the paper, said “it’s the toughest part of transition from a print-centric to a digitally-focused company in transition to become in combined content operation of NOLA Media Group. “Digital” is the key word here and Media News Corp., with the second largest circulation in the country may contemplate a model similar to the Times-Picayune model. The giant Los Angeles Times dominates the regional news market and one wonders about the survival of smaller MNC newspapers like the Los Angeles Daily News, South Bay Daily Breeze, Long Beach Press-Telegram, San Gabriel Valley Tribune and Pasadena Star News.

    Immigration Reform

    Campaigning in Florida on Wednesday Mitt Romney addressed a conservative group of Latino Coalition of business owners. He talked about education, expanding charter schools, and pledging to lower taxes and cut federal spending. Notable was the fact that he never once mentioned or addressed the issue of immigration. It was astonishing because the Latino Coalition has strongly advocated comprehensive immigration reforms in recent years. Romney and top Cuban American supporters in Florida have attacked Obama for approving a visit by Raul Castro’s daughter to attend a conference in San Francisco. Republicans were silent when similar visas were issued by President Bush.

    Quotable

    Appearing on CNN on Wednesday night Dan Rather told the network’s Erin Burnett that the 2012 presidential campaign is “by far the worst” of the eleven he has covered in his career. The former CBS News anchor, now with HDNets’s Dan Rather Reports. “Not only will it be a three billion dollar presidential campaign—three billion dollars—but it will be ugly enough to choke a buzzard before we get through with it.” 

  • Campaign Trail: Private Equity Tales
  • Mitt Romney tells Time that he has spent his career as a job creator as opposed to Barack Obama whose experience is as a politician and a community organizer. The president has taken aim at Romney’s record at Bain Capital, creating a lively debate over the fairness of the attacks. Steven Rattner, as a former Obama administration official, said in a New York Times op-ed he was uncomfortable being used in a Romney ad supporting his position. But he was also concerned that the Obama ads, narrowly accurate, could be seen to portray Bain in an ugly light because a few of the companies the firm invested in went bankrupt while Bain still made money. On Monday, Rattner added that Obama struck the right balance, making clear that he wasn’t attacking private equity but questioning Romney’s Bain Capital credentials to be the job creator in chief. Rattner said it was fair comment because Romney himself has been foolishly reweaving history to suggest, as recently as last week, that he helped create 100,000 jobs while at Bain. His jobs assertion rests heavily on a few early investments originally hatched to provide venture capital to young enterprise with successes like Staples and Sports Authority. Rattner suggests that while Bain Capital sold off those early investments years ago, he takes credit for every job ever created at every company Bain invested in during his tenure. He cites four instances of Bain Capital investments during that time, of which two were featured in the Obama ads, later went bankrupt, costing thousands their jobs. Aware of private equity’s reputation, Romney still moves around the country erroneously calling himself a “venture capitalist.” He suggested last week that Obama was responsible for 100,000 jobs lost in the auto industry over the past here years. It’s false because the auto industry and dealership jobs have increased by 50,000 since January 2009 when Obama took office despite Romney’s claim that industry would have been better off without Obama. Rattner concludes adding jobs was never Romney’s private sector agenda, and it’s appropriate to question his ability to do so.

    Powell on Foreign Policy

    The retired general and former secretary of state, who endorsed Obama in 2008, said this week he’s not yet ready to do so again. But he slammed Romney’s conservative foreign policy advisers who he called “quite far to the right,”and his recent statement that Russia was the “No. 1 geopolitical foe” of the U.S. Hard to imagine Powell switching back to Romney.

    Media Beat

    In terms of news viewer interest researchers at Fairleigh Dickinson University updated a study they conducted in late 2011 which only sampled respondents from New Jersey where the university is located. This time it was a nationwide poll. It asked questions on both international news and domestic affairs, Congress, unemployment and the Keystone XL pipeline which most people were usually able to answer. The study found that people who watched only Fox News fared worse..

  • WMR: Candidate of the Few
  • As Robert Shrum, the Los Angeles native and legendary Democratic strategist points out in The Week (May 21), Mitt Romney’s first television spot offers no clues about what really makes him tick. In contrast the Obama commercial on Bain and the destruction of GST Steel starkly reveals the real Romney as a vulture capitalist and a narrative that will position him as the candidate of the few, by the few, and for the few. Shrum points out that Obama ad is powerful because, like the Ted Kennedy ads in Romney’s losing 1994 Senate race, the story is told by working people, not a professional narrator whose jobs and lives were shredded so Mitt and his men could amass millions. With his then partner Tad Levine Shrum conceived and produced the Kennedy spots in 1994. Romney initially led, but swiftly fell in the polls and then melted in a televised debate and on Election Day lost to Kennedy by 18 points. He suspects that Romney will have to eventually abandon his strategy of treating the election as a referendum and not a choice—and attempt to defend his business record in paid media. The 1994 outcome suggests that any other course is a road to defeat. It is Romney who has made has business experience the centerpiece of his campaign. Bain is the spine that holds the whole Book of Romney together. 

    Dumb and Dumber?

    According to a new Sunlight Foundation analysis of the Congressional Record using Capitol Words Congress now speaks at almost a full grade lower than it did seven years ago. And most conservative members of Congress speak on average at the lowest grade level. But lawmakers of both parties still speak over the heads of the average American, who reads at 8th and 9th grade level.

    California Politic

    Gov. Jerry Brown, burdened by persist budget deficits, with much of his agenda still unfilled, likened his predicament on Tuesday to that of a protagonist in a classic play. Alluding to Aristotle’s poetics Brown told about 1,000 people at the California Chamber of Commerce’s annual Host Breakfast in Sacramento that   Aristotle talks about three acts: There’s a beginning, there’s middle and the end.” Brown said “we’re just beginning Act 2…but we’re going to get to Act 3 very soon.” Enigmatic as usual.

    What They Said

    As the Washington Post’s Fix bloggers have pointed out, Booker’s response of mad-dash tweeting and a “hostage video” did not walk back the gist of his initial statement…But it’s fitting that Booker turned to the instant-amnesia medium of Twitter and YouTube to mitigate the damage to his Democratic party rising star and/or his relationship with Obama.—Ana Marie Cox, Guardian, UK

    “This initiative is being launched during an election year in which one party has assumed the mantle of faith and charges the other with attacking religion. The bishops need to do much more to prevent their national campaign from becoming a not-very-covert rallying point for the Republican Party and its candidates. If that happens, it is the church and the cause of religious freedom that will suffer.”—Commonweal, the progressive Catholic magazine.

     

  • Bain Capital: Middle Class Vs. Rich?
  • President Obama flew into Chicago set on ending the war in Afghanistan—and left his hometown engaged in a new war over Bain Capital with Mitt Romney. “When you’re president, as opposed to the head of a private equity firm, then your job is not simply to maximize profits…So, if your main argument for how to grow the economy is ‘know how to make a lot of money for investors,’ then you missing what this job is about, Obama said. “It doesn’t mean you weren’t good at private equity, but that’s not my job as president.” Obama’s staff and Romney aides have been locked in a bitter exchange after Newark Mayor—and Obama ally—Cory Booker blasted the president on “Meet The Press” for targeting Bain Capital, a venture capital firm, before walking back on his remarks. But Republicans have had a field day suggesting that Booker is on their side, but the certainty that Obama is not bowing to the donor elites serves him well. Attacks on private equity have been effective in past Romney races, notably when Ted Kennedy used it to beat him in the 1994 Senate race. Media strategist Mandy Grunwald said the Bain attack reinforces Obama’s larger message: He’s protect the middle class, and Romney will shelter the rich.

    The Crisis Next Time

    Paul Krugman, wading into the Jamie Dimon debacle, makes the point that an institution like JP Morgan—a too-big-to- fail bank, not to mention a bank whose deposits s are guaranteed by U.S. taxpayers—shouldn’t be engaged in this kind of speculative investment at all. And that’s why we need to return to a much stronger financial regulation, stronger even than the Dodd-Frank regulations passed back in 2010. Will we get that kind of regulation? Not if Mitt Romney wins; he wants to repeal Dodd-Frank, and in general has made it clear that he will do everything in his power to set us up for another financial crisis. Even if President Obama is reelected, getting the kind of regulation we need will be an uphill struggle.

    What They Said

    Poor Cory Booker. It turns out that it’s easier to rescue old ladies from burning building than to step into the 2012 election without, well, stepping in it.—Carlos Osorio, Associated Press.

    “This was a loss to shareholders and owners of JP Morgan and that‘s the way America works. Some people experienced a loss in this case because of a bad decision. By the way, there was someone who made a gain.”—Romney, tap dancing around the regulation issue. 

  • Parsing Obama-Romney Polling Data
  • MITT ROMNEY, according to polling by the New York Times and CBS News, is decidedly unpopular with his approval rating floating around 30 percent, according to Andrew Rosenthal, the New York Times editorial page editor since January 2007. Other polls, he writes, show voters think President Obama is more likely to have good ideas about improving the economy than Romney. The recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll give Obama an edge of about 30 points in areas like “cares about people” and “compassionate.” The question, then, is why Romney is running even with the sitting president in national polling.  Peter Hart, a veteran Democratic pollster, gave Obama only a 50-50 chance of re-election. The first two shots by the Romney campaign offer some insight. Both are based, as Rosenthal notes, on pretty healthy fabrications (the TV spot says Romney will create thousands of jobs by approving the Keystone XL pipeline, which, in fact will create only a few hundred long-term jobs.) So what will Obama tell Americans to get them to vote for him? He can talk about the stimulus but it did not stop unemployment dead in its track. Did anyone think it would? As Paul Krugman and the editorial page have argued repeatedly, the stimulus was too small—because Republicans insisted on slashing it. Obama can energize his based by endorsing marriage equality and women’s reproductive rights. As Hart pointed out, Republicans are much more focused on the election than Democrats. But the president can associate Romney with the failed economic policies of George W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan before him. But the mythology of Republican competence is still alive and well. But the Obama campaign can and will use Romney’s record a governor of Massachusetts against him.

    Quotable

    On Sunday, the question was whether Nancy Pelosi wants to serve again as Speaker. She did little to quell speculation, saying her concern is making sure that Democrats win back the House majority. She told ABC’s “This Week” that she’s proud Obama heads the ticket. “I feel pretty good about where we are. Democrats need to win at least 25 more seats in order to win back the majority in November.

  • Europe, Obama Favor Growth, Not Austerity
  • LEADERS of the world’s richest nations joined together on Saturday at Camp David, Md., to back more pr-growth policies to stem the deepening debt crisis in Europe, as President Obama for the first time received wide support that Europe, and the U.S. by extension, cannot afford Chancellor Angela Merkel’s one-size-fits-all approach promoting austerity. Obama’s reelection bid is tied to a fragile economy which could reverse if Europe’s economy does not move into a euro-zone growth package. Last November, when world leaders met last time in Cannes to discuss the European debt crisis, Nicholas Sarkozy, then French president, joined with Merkel to push Italy to stick with the austerity package. Francois Hollande, the new French president, met with Obama in a pre-arranged meeting at the White House before Camp David, to focus on the growth issue—a new twist in the evolution on that debate. It mirrors the bitter debate surrounding the 2012 presidential debate in the U.S. in which Republicans favor austerity while Obama favors growing the economy driven by a massive stimulus policy to counter GOP budget chairman Paul Ryan’s Ayn Rand philosophy..

    Romney’s Big Fumble

    On Friday Romney critiqued Obama’s stimulus program during a speech in front of what opponents called New Hampshire’s “bridge to nowhere.” He has argued that the president’s $787-billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was a waste of money. He mocked a project to preserve and enhance the historic Stone Arch Bridge in Hillsborough and the money spent to upgrade it.  As he spoke, protesters across the road at the outdoor event taunted him by chanting “Obama! Obama! Obama! causing him to speak under eight minutes. WMUR’s Political Scoop blog reported that the New Hampshire Legislature overwhelmingly approved $138,000 in work, including 28 legislators who endorsed Romney this year. It’s a fresh example of how unprepared he on the campaign trail. 

    Read ‘em and weep

    “I believe I owe the gay community an apology.”—Dr. Robert L. Spitzer, 80, often considered by some to be the father of modern psychiatry, recanting a 2003 self study that supported the use of so-called reparative therapy to “cure” homosexuality for people strongly motivated to change.—The New York Times, citing a World Health Organization report last week calling the therapy “a serious threat to the health and welfare—even the lives—of affected people.”

    Under fire for requiring employers to provide contraceptives to their employees, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, a Catholic, speaking at Georgetown, cited John F. Kennedy’s vision of America “where no religious body imposes its will on public officials—an invitation extended by the Jesuit university for a free expression of ideas.

    Sean Hannity, the right-wing commentator on Fox News, told Mitt Romney last Thursday on both his radio and television show that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee was weak not to disavow a proposal to attack President Obama’s past association with Jeremiah Wright, his former pastor.

    .

  • GOP ‘Super PAC’ Attack Foiled
  • MITT ROMNEY on Thursday condemned plans by Republican strategists and TD Ameritrade billionaire Joe Ricketts to run a $10-million advertising campaign linking President Obama to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his incendiary former pastor, about race-related sermons. “I repudiate that effort,” Romney told reporters in an impromptu news conference Thursday, at the same time standing by remarks made in February on Sean Hannity’s radio show that Obama wanted to make America “a less Christian nation.” He went on to say “I’m not familiar, precisely, with what I said, but I stand by what I said, whatever it was. The New York Times expose about Wright put Romney on the defense but during the afternoon he accused Obama of running a campaign of personal attack based on the former Massachusetts governor’s long association with Bain Capital. By afternoon, Ricketts formerly rejected the idea but documents obtained by the Times showed that he was more than a passing participant. The proposal to use Obama’s association with Wright quickly raised comparisons between Romney and Sen. John McCain, the GOP nominee in 2008. In that campaign McCain spoke forcefully in defense of Obama, telling Fox News that Wright’s rhetoric “are statements that none of us would associate ourselves with. Ricketts, a big player in the 2008 campaign, said “that the nation had seen that ad, they would never have elected Barack Obama.” On Thursday, McCain, a profile in courage, said he would again forbid advisers from using material about Wright. 

    California Politic

    Times columnist George Skelton noted Gov. Jerry Brown’s presence in the governor’s press conference room Monday as he struggled to find a solution to fix the staggering budget overrun. He was almost pleading. In fact, he did plea to voters: “Please increase taxes temporarily.” As Skelton said, “This deficit isn’t all his fault, even though he has not exercising his full political muscle.”

    Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman, who failed in her bid to defeat Jerry Brown, will announce a company-wide restructuring plan next week with 30,000 jobs targeted. The cuts will be carried out over a relatively long period of time, perhaps a year or more. Whitman, very close to Mitt Romney, will suggest the cuts are necessary—not to bolster HP’s earnings and please shareholders, but rather as a means to make needed investments. 

    Quotable

    “So what is this all about. Actually, it’s about taxes. The disgraceful gazillionaire, Joe Ricketts, who commissioned the proposal for this ad campaign is mostly concerned about “ending spending.” What on earth does that have to do with Jeremiah Wright?—Joe Klein, TIME.

    If Greek officials are looking for “stimulus to be pursued for growth in the euro zone, which we could pursue in the interest of Greece, we’re open for this. Germany is open for this.”—German Chancellor Angela Merkel, arriving Friday for a meeting of the Group of 8, signaling a softer approach to the struggling country.   

  • Obama, Boehner, Debt-Ceiling Hike
  • President Obama and House Speaker Boehner clashed during a White House meeting Wednesday, with Boehner telling the president he was “not going to allow a debt-ceiling increase without doing something serious about the debt, according to his office. Obama convened a meeting of the bipartisan leadership to discuss his “to-do-list” for Congress. Predictably, however, other issues like expiring tax provisions and the next increase in the federal debt limit dominated. White House press secretary Jay Carney said the president warned the leadership that he would not allow a repeat of last August’s debt-ceiling “debacle” which led to a downgrade in the U.S. credit rating. But Boehner was pleased with the sandwiches served.

    Analysis

    Nate Silver, who writes the New York Times’ FiveThirtyEight political column, suggests that we are beginning to see narrow poll leads by either Obama or Romney, but that probably nothing fundamental has changed in the race. The most reliable benchmark of when a presidential elections deviate from those predicted by approval ratings in when of the candidates has a relatively “extreme” ideology like Barry Goldwater or George S. McGovern. Romney does not qualify as an extremist by the various measures we can look at that try to quantify this objectivity—neither does he qualify as a moderate. Instead, he is a “generic” Republican. It is extremely early for a general election campaign. And if one of the campaigns has a good attack line or a great piece of opposition research, using it now, when most voters are paying little attention, doesn’t make sense. 

    Briefs

    Veepstakes Ratings (ABC): Top-Tier: Rob Portman, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Paul Ryan; Second Tier: Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie, Kelly Ayotte, Bob McDonnell, Bobby Jindal and Tim Pawlenty. My pick is Portman:  Washington Post/ABC News poll notes that more independents view Romney’s pledge to repeal “Obamacare” unfavorably by a 47 percent to 33 percent margin and these voters are about evenly split on the former Massachusetts governor’s tax plan.

    LA Politic

    The Times, too slowly for my taste, is now increasing the pressure on L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca who seems out of touch and too timid to take firm control of the jail system now the subject of both federal and county investigations. A 2006 proposal to break up secret deputy cliques was undermined by then-Assistant Sheriff Paul Tanaka, now Baca’s second in command, who still sports a Vikings taboo. The sheriff, an elected official cannot easily be removed, needs to reassert a “command presence” long been missing in the nation’s largest police organization of its kind. 

    Quotable

    “I’m for Mitt Romney.” ”George W. Bush, the 43rd president, to ABC News as the doors of an elevator closed on him, after he gave a speech on human rights a block from the White House.

    Democrat Elizabeth Warren, former head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and expected to battle Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown this fall: “Even now, Wall Street banks that got bailed out are still at it, gambling recklessly.”

  • Congress: Another Debt-Ceiling Crisis?
  • House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday in a talk before a Fiscal Summit in Washington he will insist on spending cuts in exchange for a vote in Congress to raise the nation’s debt limit, creating a year-end showdown that would be reminiscent of the standoff that resulted in a gridlocked Congress and the nation’s first ever credit rating downgrade. Boehner’s remarks were the first to directly establish what the Washington establishment has expected: Republicans will once again use the need to raise the nation’s debt limit ceiling to force President Obama and Democrats to make deep spending cuts. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner warned against another political showdown over the debt ceiling, which he said would likely need to be raised by early 2013. Last summer, Congress came to a standstill when Obama and Boehner failed to strike a “grand bargain.” Congress finally agreed to allow more borrowing, but the standoff led to a historic credit rating drop. Boehner wants the House to consider legislation soon to extend all tax breaks for one year as Congress considers a broader tax overhaul in 2013.

    Over There

    Rebekah Brooks, 43, the former head of Rupert Murdoch’s British newspaper empire, was formally charged Tuesday, along with her husband and four others, of perverting the course of justice in a long-running scandal that has deeply roiled British public life and shows no signs of abetting. It was also a blow to conservative Prime Minister David Cameron who has long maintained a cozy social relationship with Brooks and husband Charlie Brooks, a prominent racehorse trainer. Ms. Brooks won access to the political elite and befriended successive prime ministers. Cameron, under siege in the House of Commons, once signed text messages to her with the letters “LOL,” believing it to mean “lots of love,” she told a judicial inquiry only days ago. 

    What They Said

    “It isn’t about me, it is about what is at stake in this election and quite frankly I wish that so much were not at stake in this election.”—House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, joined by ABC’s Jon Karl on her morning walk.

    “Health care reform is working in Massachusetts which should be recognized.”—Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick.

    “We stand by our latest poll with CBS News and a call-back survey of respondents from our most recent poll in mid-April.”—New York Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy, defending criticism by the Obama campaign which a month ago had Obama and Romney tied a month ago, with the former governor now ahead 46 to 43, within the margin of error.

  • JPMorgan Chase and Volcker Rule
  • REGULATION is the new buzz word in the banking world even though, as Paul Krugman writes, current right-wing mythology has it that bad banking is always the result of government intervention or meddling liberals in Congress. Regulators are putting the final touches on the so-called Volcker Rule, which would ban banks from making speculative bets with their own money. But the question remains: What is proprietary trading? Addressing JP Morgan’s stunning $2 billion loss reported last week, Barney Frank, co-author of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, told ABC News that the Volcker rule, part of the reform bill would place limits on certain speculative trading, is still being formulated . Frank said “part of the problem frankly is that Republicans have reduced funding we’ve asked for, for the agency that’s supposed to regulate derivatives.”

    Ron Paul

    The libertarian Texas congressman puts an end to active campaigning in states that have not yet voted but urges those supporting his candidacy for presidency to organize in the states that have in order to win delegates to the national convention. But he intends to make waves in Tampa in the hope that large numbers of delegates from states that Romney won vote for him instead. While Gingrich and Santorum have talked about going all the way to the convention Paul actually intends to do so. His message to the Republican National Convention: “Liberty is the way of the future.”

    California Politic

    Gov. Jerry Brown was quite succinct Monday: “This is a day of reckoning…we have to take our medicine.” Some ideas: state employees work four days a week for 38 hours instead of 40, or 9.5-hour shifts; cut $544 million from state’s trial courts; more cuts to health and welfare programs; giving UC $38 million less than earlier this year.

    What They Said

    “We hope the president will reach out to people who disagree with him on this. The more conservative churches need to know, need to be reassured that their religious liberty is going to be respected here.”—Rev. Jim Wallis, a religious adviser and president of Sojourners, a liberal evangelical organization. 

    “I would argue that last week’s referendum banning same-sex marriage shows just how much more work needs to be done to ensure freedom and equality for all.”—New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in a commencement address at the University of North Carolina, defending the right of gay men and lesbians to marry.

    “I would say the pranking would read true, but the bullying was just a shock to me.”—Peter Maxwell, brother of one of the four boys to recount the story of Romney pinning a classmate down and cutting his hair, to ABC News.

  • House GOP Vote: Bias Against Gay Troops
  • During the week in which President Obama announced his support for the expansion of the right to marry to all Americans Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee turned back the clock and passed two measures to undermine both in an effort to deny equal rights to gay men and lesbians. On a party-line vote, the committee approved an amendment to the annual military budget that would bar the use of a “military installation” under the control of the Department of Defense for a same-sex marriage. A lead editorial Sunday in the New York Times wrote that it was a flagrant violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of religion. The other amendment says the military must accommodate “the conscience and sincerely held moral principles and religious beliefs of the members of the Armed Forces concerning the appropriate or inappropriate expression of human sexuality.” The measure’s sponsor was Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., in a primary race to run against incumbent Democratic senator, Claire McCaskill, this fall. The Senate seems certain to strip the offensive amendments from the final bill.

    Rebuking Rand Paul

    The Kentucky U.S. Senator and son of presidential wanna be Rep. Ron Paul spoke at a Faith of Freedom Coalition Friday in Iowa and said Obama’s views on gay marriage “couldn’t ’get any gayer.” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” and NBC’s “Meet the Press.” strong disagreed with Paul’s choice of words. “I don’t think this is something we should joke about. We are talking about individuals who feel very strongly one way or the other, and I think we should be civil, respectful, allowing all sides to have the debate.” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, on “Meet the Press,” echoed Perkins’ comment. Is this a sign that the GOP will tread more lightly, at least rhetorically, on the issue of gay marriage? 

    California Politic

    “We will have to go much further, and make cuts far greater, than I had asked for at the beginning of the year.”—Gov. Jerry Brown, in a video posted Saturday, stating that the state’s projected budget has ballooned to $16 billion, much larger than $9.2 billion estimated in January. He will detail his revised spending plan today in the Capitol.

    Read ‘em and weep

    “(Obama’s) embrace of gay marriage was not a profile in courage. It was good, better than ‘evolving,’ but not particularly brave….Who know how long he might have kept evolving, while his advisers gamed it out, if Joe Biden, Arne Duncan and Shaun Donovan had not forced his hand by speaking out in such an unabashed way in support of same-sex marriage.”—Maureen Dowd, New York Times.

  • GOP Leaders, Gay Marriage, Near Silence
  • THE instant conventional wisdom was that if Barack Obama endorsed gay marriage it would hand Republicans a powerful issue in an election year. Instead, as Politico notes, it has landed like a feather. Except for Ed Gillespie, a key adviser to Willard Mitt Romney who predicted to MSNBC that it would be a significant campaign issue, the muted Republican response calls into question the thought that president’s endorsement could prove perilous. The relative silence from key national Republicans suggests so far that 2012 may look nothing like 2004. There is every indication that like Republicans, Obama doesn’t plan to keep talking about the subject.  GOP strategist Whit Ayres who advised Jon Huntsman’s presidential campaign, seemed to hit the right tone: “I recommend that Republicans focus like a laser on the economy.”

    Noted

    As the Daily Beast has reported it’s possible that the publication of Robert Caro’s fourth volume on Lyndon Johnson which includes a discussion of LBJ’s courageous stand on the 1964 civil rights bill may have triggered Obama’s decision to come out for a gay right he sees as long overdue. Like Johnson, Obama is taking this on in an election year….ABC’s Matthew Dowd, suggested most peoples’ high school experiences sit just on the surface—the good ones and the bad ones. The Republican consultant opines that Romney has not put this to rest and still needs to do something bigger and bolder on this….The Romney campaign is opening its first coordinated campaign office in Pennsylvania next week. Obama’s campaign opened its 24th PA office this weekend …California continues to be the Gold Rush state for the president who returns May 23 to the Bay Area for a Redwood City event at the historic Fox Theatre, and has a big June 6 LGBT fundraiser in Los Angeles starring entertainer Pink.

    Quotable

    “We never said we never make mistakes. Hopefully, the smaller the better, but this one is not so small.”—Jaime Dimon, the confident chief executive at JP Morgan, explaining its $2 billion trading loss in a taped interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Wednesday before the disastrous trade, returned Friday to apologize again for the losses. 

    “In the last election, Nicolas Sarkozy lost his wife. In this one, he lost France. Hi friends worry about how the high-strung, pugnacious bantam will adjust to his political Elba.”—Maureen Dowd, The New York Times.

    “The increase in support is taking place among all partisan groups. While more Democrats support gay marriage than Republicans, support among Republicans is increasing over time. The same is true of age: younger people support same sex marriage more often than older people, but the trends show that all age groups are rethinking their position.”—Jan van Lohuizen, B43’ reelection pollster, in a memo to GOP operatives.

  • An apology-too-cute-by-half
  • A Bullying Story about how Mitt Romney harassed a prep school classmate nearly 50 years ago and who later came out as gay, first reported by The Washington Post, has created a perception problem for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. “As pranks were played back then, I don’t remember them all, but again, high school days, if I did stupid things, why, I’ve got to say sorry for it.” “To this day it troubles me,” said Thomas Buford, the school’s wrestling champion, who joined Romney in the bullying of their classmate, John Lauber. “What a senseless, stupid, idiotic thing to do.” For Romney,” said Richard Cohen, a Post columnist, “this is not a failure of memory, it is a failure of candor.” Jennifer Rubin, the Post’s conservative blogger, attacked the story, saying it was unfair and misleading. Steve Schmidt, the GOP strategist who ran John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, found the story “ludicrous” and said he did not believe Romney would suffer any political injury. I dissent. Besides displaying a flip-flop persona on diverse issues Romney has managed to use selective amnesia as a clever way not to remember the past.   

  • Gay Marriage: The 2004 Election
  • PRESIDENT OBAMA’S decision Wednesday to support gay marriage has raised intense questions about the political impact it might have on the outcome of the November election. In 2004 Matthew Dowd, chief strategist for President George W. Bush’s campaign, was deeply involved in examining and determining which issues might motivate conservatives and evangelicals. Dowd said gay marriage initiatives in 11 states had no discernable effect on turnout among conservatives. Not even in Ohio which was a swing state that Bush narrowly carried and where conservative turnout was up by five percentage points. The increase in turnout among conservative groups did not vary between swing states with and without these initiatives on the ballot. In his analysis not a single social issue rose to the top five motivators—not abortion or gay marriage. Dowd remains determined to shatter the myth about 2004. Whether the issue this fall becomes a major motivator is unclear in an election certain to center on budget, taxes, jobs and national security issues.

    Feinstein Update

    The Federal Election Commission deadlocked Thursday over whether the California U.S. Senator could ask for replacement of funds from some donors who had already given the maximum allowed under campaign finance law. The FEC panel split 3-2 on two draft opinions, failing to reach the four votes needed for approval and offering Feinstein’s campaign little certainty about how it can legally attempt to recoup the funds. Several of the commissioners expressed sympathy for the campaign, but said they didn’t have much leeway in their decision.

    L.A. Politic
    The County Sheriff’s elite gang unit has uncovered yet another bizarre tattoo problem to deal with—a clique called the “Jump Out Boys.” Members had matching tattoos of a gun-toting skeleton, which deputies would modify to celebrate their involvement in a shooting. Such tattoo-like cliques —with names like Grim Reapers, Little Devils, Regulators and Vikings—in past years have reached into the highest levels of the department. Sheriff Lee Baca admitted last year that Undersheriff Paul Tanaka still wears a Viking tattoo but has denied it represented anything sinister. Something is seriously rotten in department and the Board of Supervisors must move quickly to restore accountability to the largest law enforcement agency of its kind in the country. 

    Quotable

    With a new Quinnipiac University poll out Thursday showing Obama and Romney tied in Ohio would Romney’s picking Sen. Rob Portman as his running mate do much to help him carry the Buckeye state? The answer: it would produce no measurable change.

    Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) effort to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress is on hold. Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy have stepped in to slow the issue down for a month or longer. Hmmm.

  • Obama: Make Same-Sex Marriage Legal
  • O44, after “evolving” for almost two years on the issue of same-sex marriage publicly endorsed it on ABC News, taking an historic stand on one of the most politically contentious social issues in American history. “I’ve always been adamant that gays and lesbians Americans should be treated fairly and equally,” he said. The president’s stand injects a volatile new issue into the campaign debate and puts him at even sharper odds with Mitt Romney, who opposes same-sex marriage and favors an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to forbid it. Obama’s hesitation was shaken Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” when moderator David Gregory pushed Vice President Joe Biden about his position on gay marriage. Three days later the president ended mounting pressure to qualify his position. Nationwide, the Pew Research Center found a plurality of swing voters favors same-sex margin, 47% to 39%, and outside the South the margin widens to a majority of 53% in favor, and 35% opposed. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent, said, “No American President has ever supported a major expansion of civil rights that has not been ultimately adopted by the American people.”

    Lugar Provides Democrats Ammo

    Respected Sen. Richard Lugar (R) delivered a slashing attack on Tea Party nominee Richard Mourdock who defeated him for the Republican nomination, thanks largely to millions in negative ads funded by conservative groups. A Lugar statement issued by his staff took a direct hit at Mourdock, specifically naming FreedomWorks and the Club of Growth to tear down Lugar in the closing weeks of the campaign. “In effect, what he has promised in this campaign is reflective votes for a rejectionist orthodoxy and rigid opposition to the actions and proposals of the other party.”

    California Politic

    Obama can’t seem to get enough star time in Los Angeles. He returns Thursday to separate more Democrats from their 40,000 grand in Studio City at actor George Clooney’s pad which will raise about $12 million. LA Observed recalled Obamajam, which has inconvenienced tens of thousands of Angelenos in drive time, this time in the Valley….The Federal Election Commission issued a draft statement Tuesday that would allow Sen. Dianne Feinstein to solicit replacement funds from donors who had already contributed the maximum amount solicited under campaign finance law. The FEC takes up the issue again Thursday but appears divided. Former Democratic treasurer Kindee Durkee, to be sentenced in June, admitted that she stole more than $7 million from roughly 50 political clients.

    Quotable

    “What I’m most curious about is whether it’s your belief that—in this time of rising debts, and medical issues, and all the rest—if Republicans would go out on a limb and try to make this a campaign issue while sitting, very firmly, without much issue, on the wrong side of history on it.”—Fox News anchor Shep Smith, blowing past the absurd headline on the Fox Nation website, ”Obama Flip Flops, Declares War on Marriage.”

  • Mitt: Amnesia on Auto Bailout?
  • When Romney appeared at a Cleveland TV station to take credit for rescuing the automobile industry on Monday his claims didn’t hold up. Steve Ratner, the “auto czar” who advised the White House on the auto rescue, told TPM that Romney has been on every side of the issue and said different things. In the Capitol on Tuesday two Republicans, Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham who opposed the bailout, struggled to respond to Romney’s claims. “Romney said that he was responsible for the auto bailout?” said McCain in disbelief. Graham tried to finesse Romney’s claim: “I think the idea of restructuring…look what happened to save the companies in question.” Go figure! 

    Tea Party Win

    Reports of their demise, at least in Indiana, were premature based on the defeat of veteran long term Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, one of the Senate’s most pragmatic politicians. He lost to conservative Richard Mourdock, the state treasurer and a darling of the movement with the predictable backing of Sarah Palin and Rep. Michelle Bachmann. Establishment heavyweights like Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) couldn’t save him. Murdock will face Blue Dog Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly, a three-term congressman from South Bend, who had a lot in common with Lugar.

    L.A. Politic

    Austin Beutner, the former investment banker and one-time economic adviser to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, confirmed Tuesday that he’s abandoning his bid for Los Angeles mayor, saying he wants to spend more time with his family. A poll taken last month by the Center for the Study of Los Angeles found only 2 % of voters who had an opinion about the race said they would vote for him. Beutner’s exit may encourage wealthy business and civic leader Rick Caruso to enter the race. It would surprise if the mall developer’s poll numbers were much better than the departing Beutner.

    California Politic

    Gov. Jerry Brown is pinning his budget hopes on his multibillion-dollar tax hike on sales and high-income earners. But The Sacramento Bee reported Tuesday that he’s facing a tough challenge from wealthy civil rights attorney Molly Munger and the California State PTA, who said they have submitted 848,000 signatures for a separate tax initiative, more than enough to qualify in November. She told The Bee she had not met with Brown in person but the two had talked on the phone last week and it was the start of a good conversation. The daughter of billionaire Charles Munger, she is the sole financier of the campaign so far with $7.2 million in contributions to date.

    Opinion

    “But the austerity debate continues here, too. So is there a warning for House Republicans who have endorsed Rep. Paul Ryan’s draconian budget. And for Mitt Romney, their presumptive presidential nominee? Controlling deficits is important, but too much austerity too soon will stall the recovery, or worse, and wreak havoc on lives.—New York Times.

  • Europe to GOP: Austerity Is Big Loser
  • FRANCOIS HOLLANDE is the new French president, the first Socialist elected to the Elysee Place in 17 years. The center-left politician made it clear that painful austerity is untenable not only in the Fifth Republic but also in Greece with a powerful backlash against the German-led cure for the region’s debt crisis. When Mitt Romney heard the news Monday he immediately called Barack Obama a Socialist even though the Republican-led austerity regime, managed by Paul Ryan, has not restored prosperity, but wallows in a renewed recession. As Democratic strategist Bob Shrum pointed out in This Week Republicans root for a recession, but it looks like they won’t get it. Nicholas Sarkozy’s fate points to a dilemma for Romney whose serial pandering to the far right came in the primary, perhaps even believing the extremism that he uttered. A big gender gap with women and a loss of appeal to Hispanic are critical problems for the governor. Romneynomics and the reactionary social policies that ride with it sidesaddle were defeated across the Atlantic. Shrum’s belief —Next up: November in America. In 1971 Richard Nixon declared that “I am now a Keynesian in economic policy.” Down with austerity, up with stimulus! 

    Bookmark

    The Congressional scholars Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein have been drawing huge attention with their new book which surfaces a truth that, until now, was unmentionable in polite circles. They say that our political dysfunction is largely because of the transformation of the Republican Party into an extremist force that is “dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”

    Read ‘em and weep

    At Romney’s Town Hall in Cleveland on Monday when an audience member, in the process of asking him a question, asserted that Obama should be tried for treason, he remained silent during the question-and-answer session, only to say that he “of course” did not agree with the sentiment while greeting voters after the event. After the event Romney appeared on CNN and said “Obviously, I don’t agree he should be tried.” It was a weak answer compared to a 2008 campaign stop by John McCain when he confronted an audience member who asserted that Obama was a Muslim. By lacking the courage to do what McCain explicitly did Romney has shown a lack of courage.

    “If there ever was an event that separates the press from the people that they’re supposed to serve, symbolically, it is that one.”—Tom Brokaw, the legendary NBC icon, who uniquely grasps the annual White House Correspondent’s Dinner in recent years has been overrun by celebrities and wannabes.

    McCain said Sunday that Sarah Palin’s qualifications were the overriding reason he selected the former Alaska governor to be his 2008 running mate. “I believe it was the primary factor in my decision.” The recent movie “Game Change” demonstrated just how disastrous that decision turned out to be.

  • Romney’s Jobs Growth Failure
  • THE former governor on Friday blasted Obama, noting that the economy added only 115,000 jobs in April. He said that in a normal recovery “we should be seeing numbers in the 500,000 jobs per month.” Aping George W. Bush he has espoused policies—notably deregulation and tax cuts for the rich—that were favored policies under B43’s administration when job growth was anemic, at best, as the economy slid into the Great Recession.

    Romney’s sole claim to the presidency is that his business experience will help him accelerate job growth in the America. But the GOP debates revealed that he was a failure as governor, with Massachusetts 47th in the nation in job growth, and only one of four states that did not recover to the pre-2001 recession job levels before the Bush/Cheney economic collapse hit, as the Huffington Post has documented.
    As governor he added 61,000 new jobs. At the time, Massachusetts had 2.5 percent of the nation’s population. Thus, extrapolated to the nation as a whole, Romney would have added 2.4 million jobs. During Obama’s first three years, 4.1 million private-sector jobs have been added. That is, the president has added 40 percent more jobs in absolute terms than Romney in ¾ of the time.

    Romney’s new stunt is comparing himself to President Jimmy Carter, believing that he is somehow tougher or better. After all Carter was just a peanut farmer and former Georgia governor with nothing compared to Romney’s Bain experience. Turns out that Carter added ten million jobs in four years, a faster pace than President Reagan, and just slightly slower than President Clinton. Romney’s extrapolated-to-the-nation job growth as governor is less than 25 percent of Carter’s record. 

    What They Said

    “I would love to see job performance like that. But after the deepest recession in 75 years, it’s hard to see you could generate that.”—Austin Goolsbee, a former senior economic adviser to Obama, casting doubt on Romney’s 500,000 jobs created per month.

    “We don’t need a president to tell us in what direction to go. We know the direction to go. We want the Ryan budget.—Anti-tax enforcer Grover Norquist, the most influential outside figure among modern Republicans, who said Romney’s role as president would be to rubber-stamp Ryan’s budget.—New York Magazine.

  • Arnold: Bring GOP ‘Big Tent’ Back
  • Former Gov. Schwarzenegger, in a Sunday Los Angeles Times op.ed, said it’s time for California Republicans to abandon their “small tent” mentality and embrace the true Reagan, who believed in solutions and compromise. He recalls that it was Richard Nixon who brought him into the Republican fold. Recently arrived from Austria he was impressed watching the presidential candidate speak about free enterprise, less government and taxation, and the need for a strong military. “We need to remind the Republicans who seek to enforce ideological purity that if they succeed, they will undo Reagan’s work to include an inclusive party that could fit many different points of view.” Schwarzenegger notes that Reagan was never afraid to buck his party, raising taxes to get the state out of the red and creating the California Environmental Protection Agency and seeing the wisdom of protecting natural resources. As president Reagan worked with Democrats to do big things, raised taxes when necessary and in 1983, he doubled the gas tax to pay for highway infrastructure improvements. Citing Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower, the former governor writes that the GOP’s history is filled with leaders who rejected ideology in favor of seeking solutions, adding that “it’s time to stop thinking of the Republican Party as an exclusive club where your ideological card is checked at the door.”Writing his memoirs he notes that this election cycle marks his 44th year as a Republican. Despite Schwarzenegger’s dream for a “big tent” revival forget it. In California Democrats are in firm control of the Assembly, the state Senate and have a three-term Democratic governor. Nationally, as the National Review wrote recently, treating the elevation of the chairman of the House Budget Committee over the presidential nominee as his party’s standard-bearer as so obvious it requires no explanation.”

    Obama in Ohio

    “We are going to win this thing the old fashioned way: door by door, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood.  I don’t care how you explain it—Corporations aren’t people. People are people,” the president said Saturday to huge applause, attacking Romney’s gaffe when he told a hostile crowd during the campaign in Iowa that “Corporations are people, my friend.”

  • Romney, Bork and Extreme Legal Views
  • ROBERT BORK has been one of the most divisive figures in American law and a right-wing standard bearer in Republican politics for nearly 40 years as a New York Times editorial recently pointed out. In 1973, when he was solicitor general, he fired Archibald Cox as special prosecutor on order of Richard Nixon to aid the Watergate cover-up. Nominated to the Supreme Court by Ronald Reagan in 1987, the Senate rejected him by a vote of 58 to 43, the largest margin in American history. Now, Mitt Romney ignoring history, has made Bork chairman of his Justice Advisory Committee. His central position in Romney’s legal team says much about the presumptive presidential nominee’s approach to the law, none of it admirable.
    As the right wing has always pointed out Bork’s defeat was entirely partisan. In fact, the confirmation process shed considerable light on Bork’s extreme views. He is no fan of what he calls the “imperial judiciary,” contending that except when the Constitution expressly says otherwise, the court must defer to the will of the majority. Otherwise, he said, “it makes corrupt constitutional law.” Such thinking has led Bork to be wrong side of many settled legal issues: opposing broad protection of free speech; questioning the constitutional right to privacy; and once opposed integration of public accommodations by the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Outside of the mainstream, Bork resigned his federal judgeship and became a polemicist for ultraconservative ideas. As the editorial wondered, whether Romney picked Bork for his legal views, to arouse the right wing or both, the choice raises stark questions about his candidacy. 

    Read ‘em and weep

    The cynicism dates back to Bill Kristol’s 1993 memo to Republicans in the Senate, advising them to oppose any sort of health care plan because Bill Clinton would get the political credit. Kristol, a noted patriot, thus helped create the rot and gridlock that has paralyzed this country for the past 20 years: Democrats could play that game too—and they did on Social Security reform. Where they might have made a few concessions, like raising the retirement age for upper-income recipients and raising the tax cap on upper income workers, while denying George W. Bush his privation scheme. But the nihilist tacticians have combined with the ill-informed ideologues to create a Republican party that stands in steadfast opposition to Republican ideas.—Joe Klein, TIME.

  • Obama Turns Page; Krugman Opines
  • The President, speaking from Bagram Air Base on the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s killing, squandered an opportunity to fully explain his exit strategy from a war in Afghanistan that Americans are desperate to see brought to an end. A New York Times editorial expressed concern that the president does not have a clear policy to ensure that the country does not implode once the Americans are gone. A Wall Street Journal/ABC News poll found that two-thirds of Americans said they think the decade-long battle there has not been worth the cost it has incurred. Even a majority of Republicans held a negative view of the conflict. This longer term commitment will please John McCain and the GOP war hawks but not a majority of the country but the United States will need some presence in Afghanistan to keep pummeling Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

    Obama May Lose Re-Election

    Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist, suggests that Obama can do little to improve the economy between now and November. But telling a clear story about why it remains weak he fears the Obama team is getting that critical narrative wrong. “They’ve tied themselves up in knots because they’ve bought into this notion that it would sound wrong to admit that they haven’t been able to do everything that they really should have done,” Krugman told Talking Points Memo in an interview following the release of his new book, “End This Depression Now!” Krugman said what the Obama campaign should be saying is, “We have the right ideas and we’re pursuing them as far as we can given the opposition from Republicans. In his book Krugman laments the “shadow of economic catastrophe” we live in, and the opportunity cost of huge stockpiles of underutilized human and physical capital. The government should put that to work, Krugman says, first by reversing the state layoff of teachers, firefighters and other state employees and other employees, and then ideally with a new New Deal-style public works push to rebuild American infrastructure by putting the unemployed to work. Even though GOP opposition makes this all but impossible, Krugman believes it’s a mistake for Obama not to go the extra mile and tell voters he did all he could. Still, he believes, despite the economy, Obama will probably win because there are other issues.

    Quotable

    “By the time the Republican-led House returns next week, members will have been working in Washington on just 41 of the first 127 days of 2012—and that was the busy part of the year. They are planning to be on vacation-er, doing constituent work’—17 of the year’s remaining 34 weeks, and even when they are in town the typical workweek is three days.—Dana Milbank, The Washington Post.

    “Well I like to think I am a serious legislator and trying to get things done. That’s my goal in life, to get things done. It’s not about sizzle for me.”—Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), former OMB director and viewed as a leading contender for the Republican Vice Presidential nomination.

  • Medicare Savings; SCOTUS Poll Plunge
  • Obamacare is savings seniors billions on prescription drug costs by bridging a coverage gap. Over 220,000 beneficiaries have saved an average of $837 in the first three months of 2012, the Medicare agency said Monday. The savings were wrung through a combination of discounts on Medicare prescription drugs. But looming in the near future is a decision by the Supreme Court in late June about the future of the Affordable Care Act. A new survey by the Pew research Center found that Court’s favorability rating has plummeted to a 25-year low, with Americans on both sides of the aisle demonstrating historically negative views of the high court, according to a poll released Tuesday. Only 52 percent have a favorable opinion of SCOTUS, the lowest in the history of the poll which began in 1987.

    Avoiding Murdoch

    Fox and Friends was in full swing when the news broke Tuesday morning that Rupert Murdoch was declared by the UK Parliament as unfit to lead an international company. Regular Fox viewers, as Talking Points Memo noted, will recognize the familiar sound which introduces a “Fox News Alert” as news breaks between shows. But the sound did not materialize as an introduction to the Murdoch story as the network pressed on with other stories. After several segments Fox finally ran the big news about the Murdoch. It’s a bad omen for conservative British PM David Cameron’s cozy relationship with the Murdoch Empire.

    New Romney Spokesman Out

    Richard Grenell, a former George W. Bush administration official and Romney’s controversial choice for national security spokesman choice, was busy less than two weeks ago deleting more than 800 of his past tweets on previous swipes aimed at media and prominent Democratic women while taking down his personal site. But the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin reported Tuesday that the openly gay Grenell is resigning because of a full-court press by anti-gay conservatives. He had drawn harsh criticism during his tenure as a spokesman for the United Nations. A former Reuters reporter told HuffPost that Grenell “often lied. “The Post later reported aides to Romney tried to convince him to stay.

    L.A. Politic

    Two Los Angeles Democratic members of Congress, Howard Berman and Brad Sherman, are likely to square off in the 30th district election under the state’s new two top primary format in what Roll Call has reported as one the most expensive House races ever. Both campaigns are trying to distinguish the candidates from each other, something the Los Angeles Times admitted in endorsing Berman who has purchased a half-million dollars in cable TV ads next month. The buy comes shortly after Sherman purchased about $400.000. 

    What They Said

    “The curse of {Walter] O’Malley is officially over today.” Bruce C. Ratner, the builder and major owner of the NBA Brooklyn Nets, leaving New Jersey, and selling most of the team to a Russian billionaire in 2009. Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz said the basketball Nets are the first major league team there since the Great Betrayal over a half-century gap since O’Malley moved the baseball Dodgers to Los Angeles.

  • Mitt’s Electoral Vote Challenge
  • IT should not come as a surprise that Mitt Romney has a narrow path to win the presidency in November. A detailed examination of the electoral map means he will need 270 electoral votes to defeat Barack Obama. An analysis by the Washington Post suggests he would absolutely take a 290-electoral-vote victory but with only 20 electoral votes to play with—a paper-thin margin of error. This relatively low electoral-vote is not unique to Romney. No Republican presidential nominee has received more than 300 electoral votes in more than two decades. (Vice President George W. Bush won 426 electoral votes in defeating Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis in 1988).

    Auto Bailout

    Romney’s position on the auto industry bailout is predictably unclear, with him boasting that the bailout was successful because it was what Romney himself had proposed. In 2009, Romney wrote a New York Times op-ed “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” through a managed bankruptcy. The dispute over government vs. private financing of the bailout remains a dispute between Romney and President Obama. Romney appears to be backtracking to a version of his 2009 take on the bailout, but his position is weakened by his own vagueness on how to finance the process. Obama’s position is not to share credit because Romney would have let the industry fail. 

    L.A. Politic

    The U.S. Supreme Court refused Monday to shield Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca from being sued for racial gang violence in the jails he supervises. The justices without comment on Monday turned down an appeal by Los Angeles County lawyers, who argued Baca cannot be held personally liable for the stabbing of an inmate since he had no personal involvement in the incident. Given rising concerns about lax management of the county jail system Baca is certain to come under increasing fire by the Board of Supervisors. The outcome is made worse because the court let stand a divided decision by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which said Baca can sued for “deliberate indifference” to the inmate’s rights since he was on notice of jailhouse violence and failed to take action to stop it.

    What They Said

    Paul Ryan likes to dispel two ”urban legends” around him. The one that matters is that he is not a disciple of Ayn Rand, the strident libertarian. But in a 2009 Facebook video, Ryan said the “kind of thinking” in the Rand epics, “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged” was “sorely needed right now.” Really?

    “The notion that somehow the president or Democrats would be the roadblock to any progress on immigration is ridiculous.”—Sen. Mario Rubio’s effort to blame Obama for his watered down DREAM Act if it fails had a White House official telling TPM the reason will be with the Republicans.

April

  • Jerry Brown, Agenda Incomplete, in 2014?
  • California’s governor, on “Face the Nation,” was asked by CBS’ Bob Schieffer for any advice he might have for politicians about managing expectations. “I’ve learned you don’t get things done overnight. It does take time.” Brown said the things he was concerned about 30 years ago—pension reform, renewable energy, completing the California water plan, high-speed rail, “they’re right at the top of the agenda today.” Noting that you can’t get it done in a term, he added: “we’re into instant gratification. If you don’t do it in two years, you’re a failure. Life doesn’t work that way, at least from the point of review of somebody in their 74th year. It looks like things take longer, and I’m kind of glad they do, because I still have something to do.” About the presidential election he says it turns on which of the candidates screws up first and makes a mistake. The governor and first lady Ann Gust Brown attended the 98th annual dinner of the White House Correspondents’ Association, but he declined to say whether he will run for re-election. The signal that he’s raising money strongly suggests that he will—bad news for pretty face and ambitious Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom who will have to be content as a new host on Al Gore’s Current TV and it’s minuscule national audience.

    What They Said

    “The American people do not want to vote for a loser. They don’t want to vote for someone who hasn’t been successful. I think Mitt Romney has a chance to show the American people that they, too, can be successful.”—Speaker John Boehner to CNN’s Candy Crowley, struggling to make the case that the middle class can also become rich.

    “I think what’s happened to Bernanke…he’s become more concerned, probably unconsciously, with defending the Fed’s institutional safety, because it is the apostle of price stability.”—Paul Krugman, the economist and New York Time columnist, blaming the nation’s continuing economic issues on Bernanke’s failure to take actions like buying a greater portion of the government’s debt.

    “Jesus in the Gospels repeatedly talks about poverty and social justice, yet never explicitly mentions either abortion or homosexuality. If you look at who has more closely emulated Jesus’ life, Benedict or your average nun, it’s the nun hands down.”—Nicholas Kristof, New York Times.

  • Mitt’s Sugar Daddies
  • Frank Rich, in New York (April 30), has a must read article on the “Sugar Daddies,” the old, white rich men who are buying this election for Mitt Romney. “They are the vulture capitalists, throwbacks less to the relatively modern bankers and industrialists that FDR sought to police in the Great Depression as to the more primitive titans and robber barons of the Gilded Age that Teddy Roosevelt took on a generation earlier. As Rich, the longtime former New York Times columnist wrote, “Mitt’s own coterie of Wall Street vulture capitalists is second to none in rapaciousness—starting with the hedge-fund capitalist John Paulson, who collaborated with Goldman Sachs on his megabet against the entire American housing industry before the crash by shorting the market and subprime mortgages in 2007. So it was no surprise that Romney held a big-dollar event at Paulson’s posh townhouse at 9 East 86th Street on the Upper East Side of Manhattan on Thursday night for wealthy donors. As New York grocery billionaire John Catsimatidis told the Daily Beast. contributors like himself are “fighting for the very soul of America.” Rich writes that what the more than 25 sugar daddies want from Mitt is clear enough: “the widest possible regulation-free birth for any vulture businesses they have a hand in.” That said, Rich notes Obama is talking the talk of the two Roosevelts, whose reformist zeal and political courage helped bring America back from the brink after the privileged plundered it in the Gilded Age and the Jazz Age.   

    Quotable

    “He took the harder, and the more honorable path. And the one that said in the 1 ½ minute video ad, “And the one that produced, in my opinion, the best result.”—Former President Bill Clinton, rebutting Karl Rove’s Super PAC produced ad that mocked President Obama as a celebrity, with a “counterpunch that touted O44’s most powerful achievements,” including killing Osama bib Laden and wondering what Mitt Romney would have done.

     

  • Joe Biden as Attack Dog
  • THE Vice President gave his fifth in a series of campaign speeches Thursday, drawing sharp contrasts with Mitt Romney on foreign policy. He boiled down the administration’s record to a “bumper sticker” slogan: “Obama is dead, General Motors is alive.” He hit Romney hard for “counting on our collective amnesia” to return to the policies of Obama’s predecessor. “Americans know that we cannot afford to go back to the future. Back to a foreign policy that would have America go it alone, shout to the world you’re either with us or against us.” Biden also made prominent use of an April 2007 Romney quote on Bin Laden, in which he told the Associated Press “it’s not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars trying to catch one person.

    An American Arab Spring?

    Thomas L. Friedman, the wise New York Times columnist, asked a profound question earlier this week and called on Frank Fukuyama, the Stanford professor and author of “The End of History and the Last Man.” ”He detected from his recent writings and research a very radical question about America’s political order today: has American gone from a democracy to a “vetocracy”—from a system designed to prevent anyone in government from amassing too much power to a system in which no one can aggregate enough power to make any important questions at all? Fukuyama said “there is a crisis of authority, and we’re not prepared to think in these terms. When Americans think about the problem of government, it is always about constraining government and limiting its scope.” But he added, “We forget that government was also created to act and make decisions.” Friedman suggests our political divisions have become more venomous than ever. Russ Feingold, the former Democratic senator, once remarked to him that at the rate that polarization is proceeding, partisans will soon be demanding that consumer products reflect their politics: “We’re going to have Republican and Democratic toothpaste.”

    What They Said

    “There’s always hope. I did talk to Sen. Rubio about his idea, and he gave me some particulars about how it would work. I found it of interest. But the problem is with this issue is that we’re operating in a very hostile political environment and to deal with a very diffult issue like this would be very difficult at best.”—House Speaker John Boehner, offering little encouragement to Sen. Mario Rubio’s DREAM Act now. 

    “I am afraid that Chairman Ryan’s budget reflects the values of his favorite philosopher Ayn Rand rather than the gospel of Christ. Survival of the fittest may be okay for Social Darwinists but not for the followers of the gospel of compassion and love.”—Father Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest at Georgetown. Ryan defensively replied that the Rand slams are inaccurate, part of an effort by the left to paint him as a cold-hearted Objectivist.

  • Paul Ryan and Social Justice
  • The House Budget Committee chairman visits Georgetown University today and members of the academic community see it as an opportunity to discuss Catholic social teaching and its role in public policy. The latest challenge to Ryan, a Catholic, came in a letter Tuesday signed by nearly ninety faculty members and priests at the Jesuit University in Washington. It challenges his continuing misuse of Catholic social teaching to defend a budget plan that decimates food programs for struggling families, radically weakened protections for the elderly and sick, and gives tax breaks to the wealthiest. “Your budget appears to reflect the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” the letter says. Apart from pressure on Ryan, there is an effort by some Catholic independents, liberals and Democrats to make clear that the church is not an arm of the Republican Party. Catholic bishops, on the other hand, have attacked the Obama administration over what they regard as a violation of religious freedom, in particular the mandate that religious employers must private health insurance that covers birth control.

    Quotable

    Justice Antonin Scalia, a Reagan appointee, in his fervent defense Wednesday of Arizona’s right to crackdown on illegal immigration “likened immigration enforcement to crackdowns on bank robbers.” What’s wrong about the states enforcing federal law?”—The line drew uncomfortable laughter and gasps in the courtroom.

    “You just endorsed Mitt Romney?—Piers Morgan, in a CNN interview with Rick Santorum who told him, he ‘can call it whatever you want.’” Romney and Santorum will meet on May 4.

    “I don’t think that their nominee is going to be able to suddenly say, ’Everything I’ve said in the past six months, I didn’t mean.”—Barack Obama, in a cover interview with Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, which, according to AP’s preview, hits newsstands Friday.

    “Over the course of his decade with Romney, [former aide Kevin] Madden says, [Eric] Fehrnstrom has become ‘a Tom Hagen figure. He’s consigliere to the governor.’”

  • Radical Plan to Erase Obamacare
  • ROMNEY hints at a radical health care plan to replace ‘Obamacare’—far more disruptive to the existing plan if fully implemented.  What’s what the Los Angeles Times uncovered in a story that apparently sailed past the White House and the campaign declined to discuss with Talking Points Memo. Turns out it is a plan broadly similar to the widely mocked blueprint John McCain ran on in 2008. The underlying idea is to eliminate the existing major health care system and use the revenues to finance billions of dollars in subsidies to buy insurance on the existing private market. Experts suggest the results would be a significant increase in the number of uninsured Americans in an economy where, for better or worst, employers would likely no longer provide their workers with health care insurance. The market reforms would come on top of Romney’s better-understood plans to phase out traditional Medicare, similar to “Obamacare” that would provide seniors subsidies to buy heavily regulated private insurance. Though it’s likely to be overshadowed on the campaign trail by the fight over “Obamacare” and its close cousin “Romneycare,” Obama will move the argument center stage by Labor Day.

    A Tight Race

    Charlie Cook, the eminence grise among political handicappers, suggests in his weekly National Journal column that taking a wave of polls, focus groups and other survey research in taking the temperature of the race, certain clear themes are emerging. The RealClearPolitics average of recent polls shows President Obama leading by 3.1 percentages, 47.6 percent to 44.5 percent. HuffPost Pollster estimate is 47 percent to 44.8 percent. The feeling is Republicans and independents who frequently support GOP candidates will ultimately back Romney but don’t yet feel a connection toward him. The focus groups suggest that the campaign needs to make him a more multidimensional figure, and a more compelling personality.

    Read ‘em and weep

    “We are busy in Washington with a corrupt government that I said more than a year ago was perhaps—because of the money, because of the amount of TRRP and stimulus funds—the most corrupt government in history.—Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) to Bloomberg TV.

    “Prohibition,” W.C. Fields recalled, was a time “when I was forced to live for days on nothing but food and water;” “Romney is certainly a throwback, to what I’m not sure. Don Draper in need of a drink, perhaps.”—Timothy Egan, New York Times.

  • Mitt: 2011 Tax Returns Delay
  • Does Romney, in failing to release more than one year of tax returns, suggest that he has something to hide which might be politically damaging? That’s the thesis advanced by a former White House spokesman and Priorities USA strategist Bill Burton to keep pressure on Romney over a decision to make public only his 2010 and as-yet-uncompleted 2011 returns to the public. “If there was nothing damaging in his tax returns, Romney would have already released them,” Burton writes in a memo shared with Politico over the weekend. The failure to disclose at least hints at what might be in his private financial records and appears to signal Democrats are prepared to go in that direction. Among the possibilities, according to Priorities USA: Extent of Romney tax avoidance in the Cayman Islands; Unreported foreign accounts; and Romney’s lowest tax rate. Records would show it would provide context for his opposition to proposals like the Buffett Rule. Romney’s campaign has consistently described the tax issue as a distraction—an attempt by Democrats to divert attention from a bad economy. The jury is out and time will tell.

    Ballot Box

    Speaker John Boehner said Monday that his party faces “a real challenge” in holding its majority in the House, The Hill reported. In an interview with Fox News scheduled for today he sounded less certain than many of his GOP colleagues and many nonpartisan prognosticators. He put the odds at 2-to-1 of retention. Early this month House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said chances of flipping the House were greater than 50-50. 

    California Politic

    Supporters of repealing the death penalty appear confident that the initiative will qualify for the November ballot. If voters approve, the measure would replace the death penalty with a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. A change in the law will save the state $184 million a year by closing down death row and reducing the number of drawn out appeals in state and federal court system. While most county district attorneys oppose eliminating the death penalty former Los Angeles County district attorney Gil Garcetti who once favored the death penalty said “the law is totally ineffective and obscenely expensive.”

    What They Said

    “Don’t do that again. Underscore who you want to be: serious.”—WSJ Columnist Peggy Noonan, advising Romney to avoid the mistake that John McCain made in 2008 in putting Sarah Palin on the ticket.

    Time‘s Jon Meacham, suggesting that the Obama-Romney race will be close all the way, and that for the anti-Romney arguments the Democratic camp will have to find one that can’t be shaken off. 

     

  • Secret Service: More Women Agents
  • THE scandal widens each day and it took two female members of oversight committees, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-New York), and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), on ABC’s “This Week” to zero in on the problem. They praised a female Secret Service supervisor, Paul Reid, who ordered the crackdown on agents working in Cartagena, ahead of the visit by President Obama last weekend. Reid, 46, a tall, thin black woman who has worked for 21 years in a mostly white, male -dominated agency, has a reputation for being demanding and exacting. Maloney had a conversation with Mark Sullivan, the Secret Service director, about Reid’s leadership. She asked Sullivan how many women served on the force and he put the number at 11 percent. She said, “I can’t help but keep asking this question. Where are the women? We probably need to diversify the Secret Service and have more women and minorities.”

    Sunday Shows

    A new study by Fairness & Accuracy, a liberal watchdog group, monitored ABC’s This Week, NBC’s Meet the Press, CBS’s Face the Nation and Fox News Sunday, indicates that from August 2011 to February 2012 seventy percent of one-on-one interviews featured Republicans. That’s 166 Republican guests to 70 Democrats. For roundtable discussions, Republicans and/or conservatives made 282 appearances to 164 by Democrats and progressives. So liberal bias on Sunday TV is a blatant myth and overpaid network chiefs need to balance the scales now.   

    Question of the Week

    The Romney VEEP derby heats up. But, despite Sen. Marco Rubio’s embarrassing attempt to be relevant, savvy journalists confide that seasoned Ohio Sen. Rob Portman has an edge.

    California Politic

    Talking Points Memo asks Californians for comment about Gov. Jerry Brown’s push to fund high speed rail in the Golden State: Have proponents stripped the project down so far to make it politically palatable that they’ve doomed it with unworkable practical, technical, or economic constraints?

    Read ‘em and weep

    “This is the same church that ignored people who were pedophiles. We really know why they’re focusing on the women. It’s all about control. It’s all about exercising authority.”—Sister Jo’Ann De Quattro, a Los Angeles nun for more than 50 years who has worked as a teacher and advocate for peace and justice, in an interview with Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez, which should go viral.

    “The leveling or deterioration of public behavior has got to be worrying people who have enough years on them to judge with some perspective.  Something seems to be going terribly wrong.”—Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan on America’s Crisis of Character. 

  • Mitt’s Weak Favorables; Bachelor Vote
  • Romney, in a speech last week in Charlotte, N.C., dubbed a “prebuttal” to President Obama’s convention speech in that city this summer, said, “Even if you like Barack Obama, we can’t afford Barack Obama.” But ABC News pollster Gary Langer said Romney has emerged from the Republican primary season with the weakest favorability rating on record for a presumptive presidential nominee in ABC News/Washington Post polls since 1984, trailing Obama in personal popularity by 21 percentage points. Langer added that “Romney is the first likely nominee to be underwater and seen less than favorably in ABC/Poll polls in eight presidential primary seasons over the past 28 years. If Romney is to have a shot in November he must convince voters that their affinity for the president can diverge from their support oh him, that they be for the president but vote against him, that they can’t afford their own affection. Seems very confusing.  Charles M. Blow, the New York Times columnist, said one group seems to him most receptive to that argument is unmarried men. The ABC/Post poll found that this group had the widest gap between the percentage that viewed Obama favorably (63 percent) and those who approved of his job performance (41 percent). By comparison, 66 percent of unmarried women had a favorable view of Obama and 63 percent approved of his job performance.

    Ted Nugent

    Romney was endorsed by the conservative shock rocker despite him calling Obama a criminal and denouncing his “vile, evil American-hating administration. If he becomes president again in November, I will either be dead or in jail next year.” The Secret Service gave Nugent a pass despite his inflammatory rhetoric against the president. Troubling!

    What They Said

    On election night in 1972 the president watched the returns with Colson and the White House Chief of Staff, H.R. Haldeman. “I couldn’t feel any sense of jubilation,” Colson said in a 1992 television interview. “Here we were, supposedly winning, and it was more like we lost.”—Charles W. Colson, a political saboteur for President Richard M. Nixon, whose dirty tricks led to the president’s downfall, and who emerged from federal prison as an important national evangelical leader. He died on Saturday at 80.

    “You have to campaign to govern, not just to win. Spending the precious time and dollars explaining what’s at stake and a constructive program to make life better. And as I say, look at everything through the lens of folks who have yet to achieve.”—Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana, who has endorsed Mitt Romney, to The Indianapolis Star, appearing to criticize him for not offering a more positive message to voters.

  • Ryan Questions Bishops’ Opposition to Budget
  • The House Budget chairman dismissed the concerned of the U.S. Conference of Bishops in an interview with Fox News on Thursday, after the powerful advocacy group criticized his budget for “failing to meet [the] moral criteria,” of protecting human dignity. Ryan also suggested that the criticism itself might not represent the Bishops’ consensus view—an insinuation the group directly rejects. Ryan, a Catholic and graduate of Miami University in Ohio, suggested that the criticism itself might not represent the Bishops’ consensus view. A spokesman for the USCCB cleared the air in an email to Talking Points Memo. “Bishops who chair USCCB committees are elected by their fellow bishops to represent all of the U.S. bishops on key issues at the national level. “The letters on the federal budget were written by bishops serving in this capacity.” Ryan also used a similar tactic recently to defend his plan to give the Pentagon more money than the Joint Chiefs felt necessary to promote U.S. strategic interests. Ryan, who has a reputation for being impetuous, later claimed he misspoke and called Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, to apologize.

    Read ‘em and weep

    “The intensity of the initial skirmishes in the campaign between President Obama and Mitt Romney underscores a new reality about presidential politics. What happens between in the months before Labor Day and the candidates’ debates in the fall will shape the race and, if history is a guide, determines who wins in November.”—Dan Balz, The Washington Post.

    “There’s no such thing as a fall campaign anymore. Once the nomination is sewn up a presidential campaign is a continuous enterprise. The fall campaign is fundamentally about executing on the platform you build over the spring and summer. Wasted time is hard to make up.” Steve Schmidt, chief strategist for John McCain’s 2008 general election.

    “Much of the deficit hole could have been filled if Gov. Jerry Brown had manned up and used the governor’s power to push taxes through the legislature—as did his dad, Pat Brown, and later Ronald Reagan, George Deukmejian, Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger.”—Los Angeles Times’ Capitol Journal reporter George Skelton, noting that Brown was cowed by GOP gubernatorial opponent two years ago, and in a campaign gimmick, promised voters they’d have the veto power over any tax increase. 

  • Beohner Dismisses Bishops on GOP Budget
  • House Speaker John Boehner is demanding that the Conference of Catholic Bishops rethink its stinging critique of the Paul Ryan-inspired Republican, which it said failed to meet…moral criteria,” of protecting human dignity, prioritizing the needs of the hungry and the homeless and promoting the common good. Boehner cast the GOP’s budget as a plan to preserve key federal support programs, which he said were unattainable and will cease to exist without far-reaching reforms. It’s really astonishing to hear Boehner’s cutting admonition aimed at the Bishops considering that he’s a graduate of Xavier University in Cincinnati, a major Jesuit institution of higher learning in the country. The Speaker may need a refresher course on social justice issues. And, as Talking Points Memo noted, the Bishops, an influential interest group on Capitol Hill, aren’t reading Republican priorities incorrectly, or failing to see the bigger picture, as Boehner suggested.

    Conspiracy Politics

    Is Romney already losing his grip? “There will be an effort by the vast left-wing conspiracy” in the media to attack him and boost Obama’s chances of being re-elected. Breitbart.com cited the role of nonprofits, Media Matters specifically, alleging that these organizations are nonprofits and they’re working on the campaign, with Romney suggesting that such groups are bending or breaking the law. Ari Rabin-Havt, executive vice president of Media Matters, shot back, calling the accusations” complete, evidence-free garbage,” and deemed the focus of Media Matters, during the Breitbart interview, given Romney’s status, “delusional and pathetic.” 

    California Politic

    Gavin Newsom, the current Democratic lieutenant governor, is the latest talk show host to be recruited by Current TV following the firing of legendary Keith Olbermann. Current TV chairman and former Vice President Al Gore lavishly praised the former San Francisco mayor and a successful entrepreneur who will host “The Gavin Newsom Show” as the struggling network tries to gain some national traction. A smoothy, Newsom has never disguised his interest in becoming a major player in state and national Democratic politics. A key question: will Gov. Jerry Brown, 74, elected to a third term in 2011, run again?

    Quotable

    “The parental rules were clear. Mitt would have the career, and Ann would run the house.”—Michael Kranish and Scott Helman’s book, “The Real Romneys.”

    “If Mitt Romney calls and wants to discuss it with me, I will sit down and talk with Gov. Romney about it.”—New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, currently in the second tier of potential Veep candidates.
    The racial powder keg is being ignited right now by GOP efforts to “shave off” 10 percent of the minority vote with “voter disenfranchisement” laws.—New York Times columnist Charles Blow.