Every presidential candidate has to oscillate between courting moderates and energizing his core supporters, but the arc is unusually wide for Mitt Romney. On most issues, there?s a huge gap between his conservative base and the median voter. Most voters want a short-term plan to fix the economy, lower health care costs, higher taxes on the wealthy to lower the defict, lower spending on the military, and higher spending on education and other investments.
The conservative base wants none of those things. Its priorities, as articulated in Paul Ryan?s ?Roadmap? and Romney?s own economic plan, are large upper-income tax cuts, significant increases to military spending, massive cuts to non-defense government services, and a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act. They also want a better economy, but these policies are more likely to cause a recession than improve the recovery.
Even for a gifted politician, squaring this circle would be difficult?imagine a world where Bill Clinton had to both win suburban moms and promise to advance the capitalist state to its inevitable destruction. Mitt Romney isn?t a bad politician?he was governor of Massachusetts, after all?but compared to our three most recent presidents, he?s a step down. This would be a problem even if there weren?t a growing divide between Republican Party and the average voter; see the minor diplomatic incident caused during his trip abroad.
With the GOP far to the right of most voters, Romney hasn't been able to make a path that satisfies both without offending either. The New York Times captures some of this with a look at Romney as he campaigns in Colorado?which leans Obama?and Indiana, which he will likely win by a significant margin. Here?s Romney in Colorado:
?We?ve got to have someone that goes to Washington that buries the hatchet and says, ?You know what? There are good Democrats, there are good Republicans that care about America,?? Mr. Romney said at a rally in a Denver suburb. ?Let?s work together to get the American people working.?
And here he is in Indiana:
During a brief stop on Saturday afternoon here at Stepto?s Bar-B-Q Shack?known for its pulled pork?Mr. Romney did not say anything about the need to work with Democrats. And he avoided mention of issues he and [state treasurer and Republican Senate nominee Richard] Mourdock might disagree on.
But he did underscore his commitment to some Tea Party principles. As he outlined his five-point plan for renewing the economy, his biggest applause line came when he described his proposal to slash government programs.
?You can?t keep spending massively more than you take in, and a treasurer knows that, a governor knows that,? Mr. Romney said, referring to Mr. Mourdock and himself.
Romney has received a lot of criticism for his lack of specifics?as seen in both quotes?but I think that has more to do with his situation than any particular character flaw. Rather than try to please two divergent groups of voters with a single, definitive statement, he?s opted to say nothing, in hopes of offending no one. The upside is that, if the economy gets worse, the strategy might work. The downside is that, if the status quo holds through the fall, voters may feel uneasy about electing someone whose administration remains a mystery?we can guess from his proposals (which lack specifics), but no one really knows what Romney intends to do as president.
At the beginning of the last decade, Mitt Romney made a bet that the Republican Party would eventually want a technocratic moderate to carry its standard?hence his run for governor, and his effective championing of health-care reform. He was wrong. But he still wants to be president. Everything about Romney?s candidacy?from his reliance on bland platitudes to his willingness to lie and distort?stems from that original misjudgment.Mitt RomneyRomneyGovernorship of Mitt RomneyPolitical positions of Mitt RomneyPolitics
Jet travel is an everyday modern marvel. We are able to fly over the place. I’m at the airport in Houston right now looking at airplanes. Soon I’ll be up in the air on one of these planes. I’ll be posting from Chicago and the Chicago-area this week. Mobile communications are an everyday modern marvel [...]
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US agencies have been ignoring evidence of right wing and supremacist links to domestic terrorism ever since a DHS report pointed out the growing risk. The latest killings at the Sikh temple is likely to bring forth the same right wing reactions. TBogg[...]
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Time to Row, or Sail? A Few Implications It’s Time to Think About Absolute Returns RIP, Darrel Cain Maine, Home, and Carlsbad
Note to readers: Due to internet connection problems from the Shadow Fed . . . → Read More: Time to Row, or Sail?
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A new e-book from Glenn Thrush and the folks at Politico contains this interesting tidbit concerning Barack Obama's feelings about Mitt Romney:
"One factor made the 2012 grind bearable and at times even fun for Obama: he began campaign preparations feeling neutral about Romney, but like the former governor's GOP opponents in 2008 and 2012, he quickly developed a genuine disdain for the main. That scorn stoked Obama's competitive fire, got his head in the game, which came as a relief to some Obama aides who had seen his interest flag when he didn't feel motivated to crush the opposition. Obama, a person close to him told me, didn't even feel this strongly about conservative, combative House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the Hill Republican he disliked the most. At least Cantor stood for something, he'd say.
"When he talked about Romney, aides picked up a level of anger he never had for Clinton or McCain, even after Sarah Palin was picked as his running mate. 'There was a baseline of respect for John McCain. The president always thought he was an honorable man and a war hero,' said a longtime Obama adviser. 'That doesn't hold true for Romney. He was no goddamned war hero.'"
A brief digression: as John McCain taught America, you can be a war hero and also be a jerk; the latter doesn't subtract from the former. But McCain is the one politician who is always defined by the most admirable thing he ever did, even though it happened four decades ago, while most politicians are defined by the worst thing they ever did. In any case, assuming Thrush's reporting is accurate, it's interesting to see the famously cool and detached Barack Obama actually displaying emotions.
It's a reminder that politicians, even presidents, are human beings. If someone was going around the country every day telling anyone who would listen that you sucked at your job, and not only that, you also don't really understand or believe in America, you'd have to be the Dalai Lama not to decide that that person is, down to his very core, an asshole.
Of course, Mitt Romney is a special case. As Kevin Drum says, "something about the presidency seems to have brought out the worst in him. His ambition is so naked, his beliefs so malleable, his pandering so relentless, and his scruples so obviously expendable, that everyone who spars with him comes away feeling like they need to take a shower." The fact that Romney hasn't given us much reason to like him means there's nothing to counteract the negative reaction we have to the awful person he is as a politician. Different candidates are able to do this in different ways. With Barack Obama it was his inspiring personal story, with McCain it was the war record, with George W. Bush it was his easy-going, friendly manner. The result is that even when we see them engaging in some campaign hardball, we're able to tell ourselves, "OK, I didn't like that much, but I realize that he's basically a good guy."
Romney doesn't have an inspiring story (feel your heart flutter at "Son of wealth and privilege grows up to obtain even more wealth and privilege"), and his manner is, shall we say, strained. There have been occasional attempts to use his wife Ann and sons, the interchangeable Tagg-Craig-Turf-Gorp or whatever their names are, to humanize Romney, but it never seems to get very far. So when he makes up things about his opponent or refuses to tell us how much money he has or what he does with it, there's nothing on the other side of the character scale to counteract the impression voters are left with. The person he is as a candidate is all anyone can see. And that person is pretty repellent. So it's no surprise that his favorability ratings are extremely low and probably going nowhere but down.Mitt RomneyJohn McCainBarack ObamaJohn McCain presidential campaignPolitical positions of Mitt RomneyPolitics
Several former Wall Street Journal environmental reporters -- including a one-time environmental editor at the paper -- criticized the paper's editorial page for its history of skewed coverage of environmental issues.
The former staffers reacted to last week's lengthy report on the Journal editorial page's poor record on environmental issues posted by Media Matters. The report details the Journal editorial board's long history of distorting facts to downplay concerns about issues ranging from the ozone layer to acid rain.
Notably, the Journal continues to cast doubt on whether human activities are contributing to climate change in the face of a strong scientific consensus driven by abundant evidence. Following the pattern they used in responding to previous environmental threats, the paper has downplayed this consensus, claimed that fixing any potential problem is too expensive, and attacked those seeking to fix the problem as motivated by politics, not science.
It's not Harry Reid's fault that claims about Mitt Romney's taxes can't be substantiatedRepublicans say they are apoplectic about unsubstantiated claims about Mitt Romney's taxes. Well, about some unsubstantiated claims. Specifically, the ones being made by Harry Reid.
Republicans were downright furious. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus lambasted Reid as a ?dirty liar? while Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell called the allegations ?reckless and slanderous.? Conservative columnist George Will likened Reid?s attacks to Joseph McCarthy?s witch hunt during the 1950s.The Republican outrage continues today, with Priebus saying he will "triple down" on his "dirty liar" insult. And it's not hard to see why they are so eager to get Reid to shut up: they are desperate to prevent Mitt Romney's tax return secrecy from becoming more of a liability than it already is.
?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, complains about people with money but lives in the Ritz Carlton here down the street, ? Priebus said during an appearance on ABC?s ?This Week.?
But condemning Reid for making unsubstantiated claims about Mitt Romney's tax returns is a double-edged sword, because Mitt Romney has provided no more evidence than Harry Reid to back up his own tax return claims. And unlike Harry Reid, Mitt Romney is running for president.
The one absolute and indisputable fact here is that Mitt Romney has the power to make the speculation disappear. All he has to do is follow the lead of both his father and of President Obama and release his tax returns. And until and unless he does that, the questions about what Mitt Romney is hiding will continue to grow.
Yesterday morning, Washington Post blogger and de facto Mitt Romney surrogate Jennifer Rubin published a lengthy critique of the Tax Policy Center's recent report on Romney's tax plan. The TPC described Romney's goal of a revenue-neutral plan that does not raise taxes on lower income workers as "not mathematically possible." Rubin rejected the Tax Policy Center's analysis, calling the group both "left-leaning" and "very partisan." That's a far cry, however, from last October when the TPC released a report critiquing the tax plan of Romney's then-opponent Herman Cain, and Rubin touted the "independent" group's analysis as proof that "Herman Cain's math is wrong."
Here's Rubin on October 13, 2011, showing the TPC some love:
Herman Cain certainly has an issue. He's put all his chips on 9-9-9 and brazenly dismissed critics as know-nothings or misrepresenters of his plan. It's become obvious, however, that it is he who is trying to pull a fast on. First Read discovers what many of us have: The plan is highly regressive. Yet another independent set of eyes has looked at Cain's plan now:
The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center is readying a report on Cain's plan, though it is waiting for more details from the campaign. But it has come to some conclusions already.
Cain's plan "cuts taxes for the rich and raises taxes on the poor," Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the center, tells First Read. He added that it would create a "much more regressive tax system."
The plan would represent a "major tax cut" for the rich and raise taxes "substantially" on the poor and middle class, Williams said. "Given that a big chunk doesn't pay any income tax, this would be a big tax increase on people at bottom end. At the top end, the opposite happens."
Fast forward to yesterday, as Rubin once again took on a TPC report on a detail-light tax plan from a Republican presidential candidate:
From the August 6 edition of Fox News' Hannity: