Scott Shane looks at an area where American continues to be unrivaled?denial.
Imagine a presidential candidate who spoke with blunt honesty about American problems, dwelling on measures by which the United States lags its economic peers.It might also be nice if this mythical candidate mentioned that, far from being oppressed by an overbearing government taking every dime, Americans are extraordinarily lightly taxed and regulated. There's a direct relationship between the miserable funding we provide in many areas and miserable rankings.
What might this mythical candidate talk about on the stump? He might vow to turn around the dismal statistics on child poverty, declaring it an outrage that of the 35 most economically advanced countries, the United States ranks 34th, edging out only Romania. He might take on educational achievement, noting that this country comes in only 28th in the percentage of 4-year-olds enrolled in preschool, and at the other end of the scale, 14th in the percentage of 25-to-34-year-olds with a higher education. He might hammer on infant mortality, where the United States ranks worse than 48 other countries and territories, or point out that, contrary to fervent popular belief, the United States trails most of Europe, Australia and Canada in social mobility.
The candidate might try to stir up his audience by flipping a familiar campaign trope: America is indeed No. 1, he might declare ? in locking its citizens up, with an incarceration rate far higher than that of the likes of Russia, Cuba, Iran or China; in obesity, easily outweighing second-place Mexico and with nearly 10 times the rate of Japan; in energy use per person, with double the consumption of prosperous Germany.Sorry, there are only four issues which candidates are allowed to discuss: cutting taxes, killing terrorists, why the other guy is wrong on abortion, and how quickly they will bomb Iraq. Mentioning that America might have actual problems, requiring actual changes and possible sacrifice? Not permitted.
David Sanger looks at promises to restore America to a military dominance it never lost.
In Mr. Romney?s telling, America can ? and must ? restore itself to the glory days when it had unquestioned pre-eminence in the world. It was a brief, shining moment ? that decade bracketed by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the destruction of the World Trade Center, when the United States was what the French called, with some derision, a ?hyperpower.? A longing for that era lurks in Mr. Romney?s critique of what has gone wrong in the Obama years, which he describes as a messy age of jihadist revivals, new nuclear worries and a looming threat from Beijing, and an era in which, he wrote recently, ?our country seems to be at the mercy of events rather than shaping them.?In Republican fantasyland, a glower from America makes terrorists surrender and dictators faint. But that kind of power only exists in fantasyland. Romney isn't just planning to re-fight the last war, he's planning to refight the Cold War. Enemy optional.
Frank Bruni has spent some time with the GOP's future, in the form or Marco Rubio, and the party's present Mitt Romney. Unfortunately, no matter how time's arrow turns, the Republicans are empty suits.
When the conversation turned ... to taxes, [Rubio] followed Mitt Romney?s lead and became maddeningly evasive, indicating support for Romney?s half-formed proposal of across-the-board cuts in marginal rates that somehow won?t diminish federal revenue.I know the answer to this one: Republicans did. The GOP turned Norquist into the uncrowned king of not just their party, but the entire budget process.
Before we go deeper into that proposal, a question: when did we become so spectacularly tax-phobic? Who appointed Grover Norquist our national revenue muse?
Romney?s bunk, like his pension, is bigger. Or at least seems to be. We can?t know for sure, because he won?t give us details. He says that his proposed 20 percent cut in marginal rates won?t sap the Treasury because of all the tax loopholes he?ll close, but then he won?t name which loopholes.See, Mitt Romney really has learned from previous Republican presidents. He's combined Nixon's secret plan with Reagan's voodoo economics.
His vagueness serves a dual purpose. It prevents voters from panicking about a lost deduction and analysts from checking his math. There?s no math to check.
The New York Times looks at healthcare, the issue where Romnesia strikes more often than any other.
Although Mr. Romney has said he wants to ?repeal and replace? the Affordable Care Act, he has provided few details on what he would replace it with. When challenged to do so at the first presidential debate, Mr. Romney never quite answered and made some egregious misstatements along the way, some of which were repeated by Mr. Ryan in the vice-presidential debate.As it turns out, Republicans didn't use the primaries to locate with the most moderate candidate or the most conservative candidate. They chose the biggest coward; the candidate most afraid to take an identifiable position.
Mr. Romney asserted that his plans had already been laid out in ?a lengthy description,? implying that anyone could read the whole story by turning to his campaign Web site. As it turns out, the site has a page-and-a-half statement that says he would rely on private markets and state leadership but gives no hint of what it would cost or who would pay. A one-page list of frequently asked questions about his Medicare plan assures us that ?Mitt continues to work on refining the details.?
David Firestone looks at a man who shares none of Romney's inability to stand by a position.
Bill Clinton took the stage at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay on Friday night and delivered an hour-long education in the real issues at stake in this election. He talked about Medicaid and financial reform and the student loan system with an appreciation for the granular not usually displayed by the man he was stumping for, President Obama.Please sir, more. Let's be the party that not only has better solutions, but enough faith in both the public and our policies to provide details.
It was the dream speech of a policy wonk, but Mr. Clinton never assumed that the details would bore a general audience, and they did not. The 2,200 people packed into the Kress Events Center ? mostly students, whose flagging enthusiasm Mr. Obama desperately needs in this contested swing state ? soaked up the details, laughing and applauding through discussions of derivatives, visibly grateful for a speaker who didn?t condescend to them with the usual platitudes.
Dana Millbank thinks that the Tea Party deserves a lot of thanks... from Democrats.
There are those who say that the tea party is fading in influence, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the movement is on the cusp of achieving what once seemed nearly impossible: keeping the Senate Democratic. ...Thanks to the Tea Party, we've been spared two years of "Majority Leader McConnell," and through the continuing efforts of those Lipton bag-wearing patriots, America may yet be spared government by turtle. In the words of the immortal Buck Owens, "Salute!"
In the 2010 cycle, tea party candidates caused the Republicans to lose three Senate seats easily within their grasp: Sharron Angle allowed Democratic leader Harry Reid to keep his seat in Nevada, Christine O?Donnell handed Joe Biden?s former seat right back to the Democrats in Delaware, and a tea party favorite in Colorado, Ken Buck, lost a seat that was his to lose.
Among those items apparently not on the short list of things candidates can talk about: global warming, any mention of which has been absent from the first two debates. Still, scientists stubbornly persist in researching climate issues, and several paleontologists looking at the early Triassic have seen something more than a little scary.
Some 249 million years ago, parts of Earth were so hot they were literally uninhabitable. The scorching temperatures directly led to an extinction event ? the only time this has happened in Earth's history. Many species were unable to survive in the tropics and could only cling on close to the poles.Temperatures in the tropics were well above an average of 100. It was hot enough that few plants could survive, and animal life was whittled down to a few types of insects. That the world came that close to shrugging off its cloak of life should be sobering to everyone.