I have neglected to update this blog for some time. But after reading about the Senate GOP’s filibuster of Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary – an unprecedented move by an opposition party – it’s difficult not to comment. The only term that can describe this move is obstructionism, plain and simple. There is no justification for an opposition party to hold up the nomination of a Defense Secretary while the nation is at war. It undermines the President’s ability to protect the nation and carry out his duties as Commander-in-Chief. If the Republicans wanted to choose the members of the President’s cabinet, then they should have waged a better presidential campaign for Mitt Romney.
“We stand with the children and we stand with the families and the parents of Chicago because education reform, that’s a bipartisan issue,” Ryan continued…
“We will stand with education reform, we will champion bipartisan education reforms,” Ryan said. “This is a critical linchpin to the future of our country, to our economy, to make sure that our children go to the best possible school, and that education reforms revolve around the parents and the child, not the special interest group. This is something that’s critical for all of us.”
But if his (immediate) past record in congress is any indication of what he means by “bipartisan education reforms,” he is probably referring to his highly partisan Blueprint Budget that garnered the total support of zero Democrats, and which would slash funding from K-12 education by up to $2.7 billion.(3/22/2012):
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan warned lawmakers today of potentially dire ramifications if the budget blueprint put forth earlier this week by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., were to become law.
“We could see disastrous consequences for America’s children over the next couple of years,” Duncan said in remarks prepared for testimony before the House subcommittee that oversees education spending. “Passage of the Ryan budget would propel the educational success of this country backwards for years to come and that is a risk we cannot afford to take.”
To put the cuts in perspective, Duncan said the $14.5 billion Title I program, which helps districts cover the cost of educating disadvantaged kids, could see a $2.7 billion cut. As many as 38,000 teachers aides could lose their jobs, he said.
Now the real question is whether any news reporter will actually ask him to back up his rhetoric. Though most likely, he’s going to continue to stump on this without any critical examination by the press.
With the political conventions finished and a little over 50 days until voter’s cast their ballots on November 6th, the focus on the campaign trail is now on how Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will perform against one another at the presidential debates. Here’s a handy television schedule of when the 2012 Presidential debates will take place, as well as the single Vice Presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan.
2012 Presidential Debate Schedule
|October 3, 2012||First Presidential Debate: Domestic policy Time: 9:00-10:30 p.m. ET
Location: University of Denver in Denver, Colorado
Moderator: Jim Lehrer (Host of NewsHour on PBS)
|October 11, 2012||Vice Presidential Debate: Foreign and domestic policyTime: 9:00-10:30 p.m. ET
Location: Centre College in Danville, Kentucky
Moderator: Martha Raddatz (ABC News Chief Foreign Correspondent)
|October 16, 2012||Second Presidential Debate: Town Hall format foreign and domestic policyTime: 9:00-10:30 p.m. ET
Location: Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York
Moderator: Candy Crowley (CNN Chief Political Correspondent)
|October 22, 2012||Third and Final Presidential Debate: Foreign policyTime: 9:00-10:30 p.m. ET
Location: Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida
Moderator: Bob Schieffer (Host of Face the Nation on CBS)
A Rasmussen Presidential tracking poll released today confirms what has been widely suspected since friday: President Obama gained a significant “bump” in his polling numbers from the Democratic National Convention this past week. The latest Rasmussen poll puts Obama at 49% over Mitt Romney’s 45%, while the Gallup poll from Friday had Obama with a 49% to 44% advantage. As this article in the HuffingtonPost points out, “Obama is now polling against Romney better than he has since early March.”
It’s hard to imagine that Romney is going to gain any ground back on Obama with his tepid performance on Meet The Press that aired this morning. You see, when asked by NBC’s David Gregory about the specifics of his tax-cut plan (AKA the foremost expected line of questioning), Romney consistently prevaricated and avoided giving Gregory a single direct response to the question of specifics about his tax plan:
Here’s a highly abbreviated version of their exchange:
GREGORY: But, Governor, where are the specifics of how you get to this math? Isn’t that an issue?
MR. ROMNEY: Well, the– the specifics are these which is those principles I described are the heart of my policy. And I’ve indicated as well that– that contrary to what the Democrats are saying, I’m not going to increase the tax burden on middle income families. It would absolutely be wrong to do that. But you know I’ve had the experience of being a governor. I’ve demonstrated that I have the capacity to balance budgets. I balanced them four years in a row in Massachusetts and we cut the taxes 19 times in Massachusetts.
GREGORY: Can you give me an example of a loophole that you will close.
MR. ROMNEY: Well, I can tell you that people at the high end, high income taxpayers, are going to have fewer deductions and exemptions. Those– those numbers are going to come down. Otherwise, they’d get a tax break. And I want to make sure people understand, despite what the Democrats said at their convention. I am not reducing taxes on high income taxpayers. I’m bringing down the rate of taxation, but also bringing down deductions and exemptions at the high end so the revenues stay the same, the taxes people pay stay the same. Middle income people are going to get a break. But at the high end, the tax coming in stays the same. But we encourage small business, because small business is able to keep more of what it makes and therefore hire more people, which is my priority.
So Romney hits the specific talking points of (a) the Democrats want to tax the middle class but he’s cut them “19 times” as governor, and (b) he’s for small business! — all the while, refusing to answer Gregory’s simple question of naming a single loophole, deduction, or exemption that will offset his upper class tax cuts. This must be a successful interview in his book, since he clearly entered the interview without any intention of giving the media anything substantial.
During his speech last night to delegates at the Republican National Convention, Paul Ryan made some astoundingly misleading and fraudulent claims about President Barack Obama’s previous 4 years in office. So misleading and deceitful was his speech that the Associated Press released a fact check article this morning titled, ”Ryan takes factual shortcuts in speech,” that calls out Ryan for his fraudulent claims. One of the most mendacious claims that Ryan made was that President Obama refused to tackle the national debt when given a plan by a congressional debt commission (8/29/2012):
He created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing
Congressman Ryan, one of 12 members of Congress on the 18-member bipartisan debt commission, had telegraphed a no vote on Wednesday, but stated straight-up at a Monitor breakfast for reporters Thursday that that is his decision.
“Obviously, I’m not going to vote for it,” said Congressman Ryan, who is an important voice on the commission as incoming chairman of the House Budget Committee come January.
The Republican National Convention has decided to use the slogan “We Built It” as a major convention theme intended to attack President Obama for remarks he made in July that have been wildly taken out of context. In the following excerpt from Obama’s speech, in which he stresses the importance of taxpayer funded infrastructure and the unselfish ethos of American society, the Romney campaign takes the line, “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that,” and removes the surrounding content in order to re-alter the interpretation of the line:
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet. The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.”
Without reading the surrounding context, one is left to conclude that President Obama is literally saying that American business owners didn’t create their own businesses. However, with the context, it’s obvious to see that Obama is referring to the pre-existing infrastructure and society that enables a new business owner to succeed.
The problem with this line of attack — blatantly misinterpreting your opponents words and creating the rebuttal slogan “we built it” — by the Romney campaign and the Republican Party is that it sounds awkward and it reeks of insincerity. If you’re anybody who hasn’t been tuning into the 2012 election so far this year and happen to have kept on your TV after America’s Got Talent to happen upon coverage of the 2012 RNC, you were probably thinking WTF does “we built it” even mean? Who are they referring to as we, and what did they even build?
Out of context (which it is to the majority of Americans), the GOP’s “we built it” slogan sounds like nonsense. One can’t help but feel estranged and out of the loop. It’s not like John McCain’s “Country First” which anybody could identify its meaning as having explicit patriotic overtones. Instead, it leaves you confused, perplexed, and stuck on the ambiguity. Perhaps the slogan has these qualities because it is inherently based on a lie.
Former President George W. Bush won’t be attending this year’s Republican National Convention in Tampa Bay, but the specter of him will certainly be attending the 24-hour news coverage of Hurricane Isaac. Hurricane Isaac is now projected to make landfall along the Gulf Coast this Wednesday, August 29th, and if that date sounds familiar that’s because it’s the 7th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina — the one where government incompetence, mismanagement, and negligence made one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history into one of the worst man-made disasters in U.S. history. At the helm of the ship was President George W. Bush whose first inclination was to survey the wreckage of the Gulf Coast before he
landed in Louisiana to meet with local and state officials to coordinate relief operations flew back to Washington, D.C.:
The last thing the Republican Party could possibly want right now is for their recent past, that of the George W. Bush era, to come back. Besides the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina is perhaps the most striking example of Bush’s failed leadership. This image is not what the Republican Party wants to be attributed to them while they are beginning their convention to nominate Mitt Romney for President; however, it’s what they are now going to have to deal with.
A major theme that has emerged during Mitt Romney‘s presidential campaign has been his refusal to face the press and answers questions. This was most evident during his overseas trip to Europe and Israel at the beginning of this month when he brought along an entire press pool who were essentially denied any access to the former governor. In one exchange when journalists began shouting questions at Romney, Romney’s press secretary Rick Gorka told reporters to “kiss my ass.” Even Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren complained that there was “no press access” during the trip and that the press pool had become a “modified petting zoo.”
The latest iteration of Romney’s ducking for cover from journalists happened yesterday when his handlers insisted to a local Denver TV station that they could not ask him any questions regarding the topic of abortion or Missouri Congressman Todd Akin‘s “legitimate rape” comment. As TPM reports:
Politico is running a news article today titled, “TV stations love super PACs,” which examines the price differential between a candidate’s ad buy and a Super PACs. The article notes that:
Stations have to provide discounted rates to qualifying candidates running for all public offices. But they don’t have to give those same breaks to the super PACs and the nonprofit groups like American Crossroads, Restore our Future and Priorities USA that are spending millions of dollars on the election.
So that means Barack Obama and Mitt Romney can stretch their dollar more than Karl Rove or Bill Burton. And the influx of political ad spending from super PACs and outside groups is serving as a boon to broadcasters and their corporate owners.
For example, Romney paid just under $100,000 for 74 spots between July 30 and Aug. 26 to ABC affiliate WEWS in Cleveland. Crossroads GPS paid the same station $84,000 for only 48 spots in a shorter period of time – between July 30 and Aug. 20, according to records the station filed with the Federal Communications Commission.
While the news media (television, radio, and print) has certainly spent a considerable amount of time and resources covering the fundraising race, the question of who receives the money after it has finally been used on ads has been almost entirely absent. This is important, because in order to truly understand the full impact of Citizens United on the political system, we have to be able to see who else profits besides the candidates and their backers.
As the Politico piece points out, TV stations are making out like bandits in the era of Super PACs since they are now able to sell commercial spots at their regular market price without any interference with federal election regulations. But really, who are the TV stations? They’re mainly local stations that are network affiliated and whose ownership can be small time media companies, but are usually big media outfits like Hearst, Disney/ABC, and CBS. These are large corporations who run what we know as mainstream media and who operate the majority of news operations that we tune into on a daily basis.
This leads to a very simple question which must be asked – but has not been – if we seriously want to discuss the influence of money on the political process: How can we trust the media to accurately report on Citizen’s United if their continued existence is now being financially backed and guaranteed by the very same policy that they are claiming to be reporting impartially?
Last week we were talking about the increasingly dirty tactics used by both Obama and Romney. Super PAC Priorities USA ad which insinuated that Romney was culpable for some woman’s death was particularly nauseating, but not as much as the refusal to repudiate the ads by those in Obama’s corner. Gibbs’ showing on Morning Joe was embarrassing, Bill Burton’s feigned obfuscation was equally so. Worst was the decision by the White House and official Campaign to simply deny any responsibility for the ad. Its obviously intellectually dishonest and its a line that even Newt Gingrich did not cross in the GOP primary. Its pretty unfortunate to watch.
The Romney response to all of this (before the Ryan announcement) makes clear exactly why Obama is wining. Instead of continuing with their relatively successful long term strategy of connecting Obama to prepackaged controversial policies that ultimately touch back to the economy they completely shifted gears. They released this ad which attacks Obama’s character, and this ad that connects him to the Priorities USA Super PAC but has a similar messaging objective in mind.
There is no coherent messaging here and Romney has completely lost control of what the media is talking about. We’re less than 90 days till the election Romney’s team has yet to successfully connect Obama to the economy, nor have they presented Romney as an concretely attractive alternative. So, like McCain’s “experience” theme, they seem to be giving up on that line of attack. But in favor of what? Connecting the Obama campaign to a Super PAC is a conversation that no one cares about. Even wonks in the media will immediately recognize the futility of the story. The Romney campaign suggests a connection and the Obama camp denies it. So the Romney camp has to find ridiculous evidence to try to prove what everyone already knows, and for everyone involved the whole process feels like proving that there is gambling in Casablanca. At the end of the day the Obama camp issues countless denials no matter how it might bruise their intellectual integrity to do so. Entire ads dedicated to this are going to be effective only in making voters disinterested. I am confident it will go nowhere.
Unless the Ryan pick restarts the original narrative, what will the GOP convention be about? Will they display images of Obama with dark shades and ominous music? All the moderates know that Obama’s personality isn’t liked by the right, but that’s irrelevant to the middle class moderates who are worried about the future of the country. For those moderates, and the media alike, attacks on Obama’s character will play as shamelessly political.
I would say that going after Obama’s character is a huge mistake by the Romney advisors, but I’m questioning whether the few weeks of Romney’s media strategy have been coordinated by seasoned senior advisors. Lately, their focus seems to be less on long term strategy and more on winning day-to-day media battles, which is the job of press secretaries. Then again, its not unusual for the press secretaries to rise up and become senior advisors.
Romney has a chance to re-focus the rhetoric of his campaign with Ryan and the convention. His ability to do this will be critical.