Pundits from both sides of the aisle lauded Mitt Romney’s strong debate performance (10/3), praising his preparedness and ability to challenge President Obama’s policies and accomplishments. But Igor Volsky of ThinkProgress.org noted that Romney only accomplished this goal by repeatedly misleading viewers. Romney spoke for 38 minutes of the 90-minute debate and told at least 27 “myths,” Volsky noted.
Steve Benen, who has been “Chronicling Mitt’s Mendacity” since January, counted 30 lies during the debate out of a total 50 told during the week. As of 10/5, Benen, who started at WashingtonMonthly and moved to MaddowBlog.com in February, had chronicled 769 lies. (Follow Romney’s race to 1,000 lies Friday afternoons at MaddowBlog.com.)
For example, Volsky noted that Romney said that making the US “energy independent” would create 4 mln jobs, but his plan relies on a study that assumes the US continues with fuel efficiency standards set by the Obama administration, which Romney proposes to undo.
The biggest lie was his denial that he planned a $5 tln tax cut, despite a nonpartisan Tax Policy Center analysis of Romney’s proposal for a 20% across-the-board tax cut in all federal tax rates, eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax, the estate tax and other tax reductions would reduce federal revenue $480 bln in 2015 and $5 tln over the decade.
Romney added, “My view is that we ought to provide tax relief to people in the middle class. But I’m not going to reduce the share of taxes paid by high-income people.” But Volsky noted if Romney hopes to provide tax relief to the middle class, his $5 tln tax cut would add to the deficit. There are not enough deductions in the tax code that primarily benefit rich people to make his math work.
Romney said, “My — my number-one principal is, there will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit. I want to underline that: no tax cut that adds to the deficit.” But as the Tax Policy Center concluded, Romney’s plan can’t both exempt middle class families from tax cuts and remain revenue neutral. “He’s promised all these things and he can’t do them all. In order for him to cover the cost of his tax cut without adding to the deficit, he’d have to find a way to raise taxes on middle income people or people making less than $200,000 a year,” the Center found.
Romney also said “about half” of the green firms Obama invested in with $90 bln in American Recovery Act loans have gone out of business, but Michael Grunwald, author of The New New Deal: The Hidden History of Change in the Obama Era, noted that after the debate Romney aides admitted he didn’t mean to say half of the stimulus-funded green firms failed. Greenwald estimates that less than 1% of green firms have gone bad in terms of loan value.
See the ThinkProgress report at (bit.ly/PzQxI6) and Chronicling Mitt’s Mendacity Vol. XXXVII at (on.msnbc.com/Pfdeqe).
BANK IS WHERE THE HEART IS. When he was criticizing Obama’s $90 bln investment in green jobs and solar energy, Romney said, “the place you put your money makes a pretty clear indication of where your heart is.” So Mitt’s heart is split between the Cayman Islands and Switzerland?
OBAMA LET GOV. ‘ETCH-A-SKETCH’ TAKE CONTROL. President Obama may have been playing rope-a-dope with Mitt Romney in the first debate, but Charles Pierce wrote at Esquire.com (10/4), “if you’re going to play rope-a-dope, sooner or later, you have to come off the ropes and throw a punch. You bounce off the ropes and land the left and then the right over the top, and then the other guy goes out of the ring in a blanket. Otherwise, it’s just a way to get yourself punched in the stomach a lot. Along about the 48-minute mark of Wednesday night’s debate, it became clear to me that the president simply was not going to do that.
“And it wasn’t that the president lacked opportunities. However well-prepared he was, and however energized he was, Willard Romney spent a lot of the evening running away from everything he was forced to say and do to win the Republican primaries, running away from the critical elements of his own tax plan, and running towards, of all things, his record as governor of Massachusetts. (A good question to have asked him might have been, ‘Governor, if you did so much for education and health care and the economy in Massachusetts, how come I’m beating you there by 30 points and your approval rating up there has been in the crapper for six years?’) Romney trafficked in the most obvious of previously debunked lies — the Affordable Care Act is ‘a government takeover of health care,’ he said, even death panels — and he fashioned out of himself a new populist image by baldly asserting at one point that he, Willard Romney, who needs a passport to visit most of his money, is going to break up the big banks and stand up for the embattled middle class. This would have been comical if anyone on the stage had cared to point that out.
“And Romney came out of it largely unmarked. His lying pack of sons must be very proud ...”
GOP: JOBLESS RATE HAS LIBERAL BIAS. Republicans have bet so much on keeping the economy down during the Obama administration, that when the unemployment rate finally reached 7.8% — below the level when Obama took office in the midst of the Bush-era economic collapse — Republicans cast doubt on the job numbers. Leading the charge for the “BLS truthers” was Jack Welch, the former chairman of General Electric, who claimed, with no evidence to back him up, that the Obama administration had cooked the numbers to help the campaign. His claim was quickly picked up by Republican officials and right-wing pundits.
“It was nonsense, of course,” wrote Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, in his New York Times column (10/8). “Job numbers are prepared by professional civil servants, at an agency that currently has no political appointees. But then maybe Mr. Welch — under whose leadership GE reported remarkably smooth earnings growth, with none of the short-term fluctuations you might have expected (fluctuations that reappeared under his successor) — doesn’t know how hard it would be to cook the jobs data.”
Barry Ritholtz noted at ritholtz.com (10/5) that Welch headed GM from 1981 until 2001. After Welch retired, Ritholtz wrote, “we learned of earnings manipulation and accounting shenanigans” that required $50 mln to settle accounting fraud charges with the SEC in 2009. “So if anyone knows a thing or two about cooking the books, its GE’s Jack Welch,” Ritholtz noted.
Krugman noted that the monthly employment report is based on two surveys. One asks a random sample of employers how many people are on their payroll. The other asks a random sample of households whether their members are working or looking for work. “And if you look at the trend over the past year or so, both surveys suggest a labor market that is gradually on the mend, with job creation consistently exceeding growth in the working-age population,” he wrote.
The improvement in job figures show the economy is healing but should not imply that the situation is good, or deny that we should be doing better, Krugman wrote, but he also noted the shortfall is “largely due to the scorched-earth tactics of Republicans, who have blocked any and all efforts to accelerate the pace of recovery. (If the American Jobs Act, proposed by the Obama administration last year, had been passed, the unemployment rate would probably be below 7%.)”
The furor over the September jobs report “revealed a political movement that is rooting for American failure, so obsessed with taking down Mr. Obama that good news for the nation’s long-suffering workers drives its members into a blind rage,” Krugman wrote. “It also revealed a movement that lives in an intellectual bubble, dealing with uncomfortable reality — whether that reality involves polls or economic data — not just by denying the facts, but by spinning wild conspiracy theories.
“It is, quite simply, frightening to think that a movement this deranged wields so much political power,” Krugman concluded.
Among other Republicans who have joined the BLS Truther movement are Newt Gingrich, who said Welch’s comments “ring true on a deeper level without getting into the conspiracy.” Donald Trump who said the numbers were altered through “a lot of monkey business,” with no evidence to back up his belief, of course. On Fox News (10/8), he said, “I don’t believe the number and neither do any of the other people that have intelligence.”
Obama campaign adviser Robert Gibbs, who took part in the same NBC panel as Gingrich, told host David Gregory, “I assume, David, there’s a number of people that believe the real unemployment report is somewhere in a safe in Nairobi with the president’s Kenyan birth certificate,” Gibbs said. “This stuff is absolutely crazy.”
TRUMKA: ECONOMY BUILDING MOMENTUM. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said (10/5) that while unemployment remains far too high, particularly among Latinos (9.9%), African Americans (13.4%) and teens (23.7%), the September jobs report confirms that “the economy is finally beginning to build some momentum, as we work to dig out of the devastatingly deep hole that President Obama inherited from George W. Bush and a generation of flawed policies. Now we need the President and Congress to build on this momentum and keep their focus on job creation, including by passing the American Jobs Act.
“Thanks to the policies of President Obama and Vice President Biden, we have avoided what could have been the Second Great Depression. Instead, we have seen two and a half years of private sector job growth, culminating in more than 5 million new private sector jobs since early 2010. With the upward revision to July and August job figures, significant growth in household employment, and some wage growth, the September jobs report provides some grounds for optimism.”
Trumka added that the first presidential debate “underscored that on November 6th, we face a clear choice about the future of our country. The austerity and deep spending cuts proposed by Gov. Romney will gut essential services and leave the most vulnerable worse off – all to pay for tax cuts for the richest 2%. In contrast, President Obama has laid out a concrete plan for shared prosperity policies based on investing in America and restoring our democracy. The labor movement is committed to the policies of ‘Prosperity Economics’ — reforms that will unite and strengthen America by creating jobs, promoting economic security and rebuilding our democracy.”
GM TO ADD 2,000 JOBS IN MICHIGAN. More bad news for Republicans: GM announced it will create 2,000 jobs in Michigan, starting with 1,500 information technology jobs in Warren. “Gosh, aren’t you glad President Obama didn’t ‘let Detroit go bankrupt,’ like some Republican presidential nominees wanted?” Laura Clawson asked at DailyKos.com.
In September, GM announced it would hire up to 500 people for an info technology center in Austin, Texas, and it plans to open two more information technology innovation centers at places to be announced.
BANKSTERS FACE FRAUD ALLEGATIONS. New York Atty. Gen. Eric Schneiderman (D), who chairs the President’s mortgage fraud task force, filed a civil lawsuit against JP Morgan Chase charging “widespread fraud in the sale of mortgage-backed securities,” ThomHartmann.com noted (10/2). This is the first legal action brought against the banks by this task force.
Most of the allegations are actually against failed bank Bear Stearns, which JP Morgan Chase bought just before the economy went into meltdown in 2008. According to the lawsuit, bankers at Bear Stearns knowingly sold defective loans and mortgage-backed securities and kept their investors in the dark about how crummy these deals were, Hartmann noted.
Like banksters at Goldman Sachs, Bear Stearns’ banksters openly bragged to each other about how bad the deals were and how much their customers were getting screwed, Hartmann noted. Officials within Schneiderman’s office are suggesting JP Morgan Chase is just the first in a long line of banks that could be hit with similar lawsuits.
US Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan filed a civil mortgage-fraud suit against Wells Fargo (10/9), alleging the bank for more than a decade wrongfully certified risky mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration that ended up costing the government hundreds of millions of dollars. The lawsuit alleges the bank failed to properly underwrite more than 100,000 loans it certified to be eligible for FHA insurance, the Los Angeles Times reported (10/9).
The Wells Fargo case is the fifth such mortgage-fraud case against a major lender brought by Bharara’s office, the Times noted. Three of those cases settled this year: CitiMortgage Inc. for $158.3 mln, Flagstar Bank FSB for $132.8 mln, and Deutsche Bank and MortgageIT for $202.3 mln. A lawsuit against Allied Home Mortgage Corp. is pending.
Hartmann commented, “Yes, hitting the banks with lawsuits for their fraud is a good thing. But we need to go a step further; instead of civil lawsuits, we need criminal lawsuits. The only way to stop these billionaire predators from crashing our economy against is to send some suits to jail.”
ANN ROMNEY FEARS FOR MITT’S MENTAL WELL-BEING. Ann Romney told a Nevada TV station her biggest concern if her husband, Mitt, becomes president was his “mental well-being.” In an interview with KTVN, Reuters reported (9/28) Mrs. Romney said, “I think my biggest concern obviously would just be for his mental well-being,” she said. “I have all the confidence in the world in his ability, in his decisiveness, in his leadership skills, in his understanding of the economy. ... So for me I think it would just be the emotional part of it.”
A week earlier, in Iowa, she In Iowa a week ago, she had a tough response for Republicans who have criticized her husband. “Stop it. This is hard. You want to try it? Get in the ring,” she told an Iowa radio station. “This is hard. It’s an important thing that we’re doing right now.”
RYAN SEES STRUGGLE OF TAKERS VS. MAKERS. While Mitt Romney was expressing regret about his disparaging remarks in the “47%” video about the 47% of Americans who don’t pay federal income tax and his lack of concern for them, other videos were surfacing of running mate Paul Ryan expressing similar sentiments. In 2010, Ryan said 60% of Americans receive more financial benefits from the government than they pay in taxes, making them “takers,” rather than “makers,” according to a video of Ryan speaking with Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.). “So we’re going to a majority of takers versus makers in America and that will be tough to come back from that. They’ll be dependent on the government for their livelihoods [rather] than themselves,” Ryan said in the video, which was posted on Ryan’s official YouTube account, RepPaulRyan (6/7/10) and had been viewed just 965 times as of 10/5, Huffington Post reported.
Ryan’s 60% comment to Jones was not a one-time gaffe, but an iteration of a point Ryan has repeatedly made while arguing for his plan to replace Medicare with a voucher system. “Do you want the American idea of an opportunity society with a safety net where you can take a risk, start a business, make a difference, succeed and be honored for being successful?,” Ryan said at a 6/15/12 fundraiser. “Or do we go down the path the president is proposing — a social welfare state, a cradle-to-the-grave society where we have more takers than makers,” using the terms popularized by Ayn Rand, whose writings inspired his political career.
MITT BOUNCES, OBAMA REBOUNDS. Mitt Romney scored a definitive post-debate polling bounce, but the improved jobs numbers reported on 10/5 may have caused an Obama rebound. Markos Moulitsas noted at DailyKos.com (10/8) that Obama led 50-45 in pre-debate Gallup polls but in the three days after the debate it was 47-47, which moved the 7-day average to a 49-46 lead for Obama. Then, on Sunday (10/7), Obama did well enough to restore the 7-day average to 50-45.
Moulitsas noted that Romney has solidified the GOP base and shrunk Obama’s lead in key states such as Wisconsin (49-47) and Virginia (50-47) in Public Policy Polls and Ohio (51-47) in a CNN poll after the debate — but the fact that Obama is at or near 50% is encouraging.
SOME REPUBS TORN BETWEEN HATING OBAMA AND LOVING OBAMACARE. Some Republicans may have a hard time casting that vote against Obama and his Democratic running mates in November, knowing that Romney and Republican members of Congress are committed to repealing the “Obamacare” that already guarantees insurance for children despite pre-existing conditions and in 2014 will extend that guarantee to adults.
Between 20% and 50% of all Americans have a preexisting condition, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. Obamacare tells insurance companies they can’t say no to people with preexisting conditions, or charge them more because of their health issues. According to his website, Romney’s health plan calls for “preventing discrimination” against people with preexisting conditions as long as they’ve maintained continuous insurance coverage in the past, but does not define what “continuous coverage” means.
CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen noted (10/7) that Jon Campbell, 49, has voted Republican in nearly every presidential election since he cast his vote for Ronald Reagan in 1980, but for two years his stepdaughter, a self-employed dog trainer, now 22, didn’t have health insurance. Under Obamacare she was allowed onto her father’s insurance. The Olathe, Kan., resident is leaning toward Obama, but not just because of his stepdaughter. Campbell’s wife, Barbara, has diabetes and is in the final stages of breast cancer treatment. She’s now on his insurance, but if he ever lost his job, his wife would be faced with trying to buy insurance on her own and would surely be rejected. But he says he is still torn. “Because of Obama, I now have a wife who can get covered. But really, at heart, I”m a limited-government kind of guy.”
Jill Thacker, 56, a gun-owning, big-government-hating Republican, can’t get insurance to cover her asthma. She’s still paying off a $22,000 emergency room bill from last year. Her daughter, who also has asthma, is on her father’s insurance only because of Obamacare. She said she just doesn’t like Obama. “I really do feel conflicted,” she said. “But for me, it’s all about health care. It’s my number one thing.”
DEMS LOOK GOOD IN SENATE RACES. With Democrats hoping to keep their 53-47 majority in the Senate, Jonathan Bernstein of WashingtonPost.com (10/8) counts 16 Senate races that could go either way, leading to anything from the Dems gaining four seats, for a total of 57, to Republicans grabbing 12 seats, leaving them with 59, but the consensus is that things are looking better for the Democrats than many expected — and the Democratic nominees include some solid liberals.
Charles Cook (10/4) rated five seats now held by a Dem as a tossup: Montana, where Sen. Jon Tester is the most endangered incumbent, as well as North Dakota, where former Atty. Gen. Heidi Heitkamp seeks to succeed retiring Sen. Kent Conrad; Virginia, where former Gov. Tim Kaine seeks to succeed retiring Sen. Jim Webb; Wisconsin, where Rep. Tammy Baldwin seeks to succeed retiring Sen. Herb Kohl; and Connecticut, where Rep. Chris Murphy seeks to replace retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman.
In two other states, Rep. Mazie Hirono (D) is favored to beat former Gov. Linda Lingle (R) for retiring Sen. Daniel Akaka’s seat in Hawaii and Rep. Martin Heinrich (D) is favored to win retiring Sen. Jeff Bingaman’s seat in New Mexico.
Five tossup races for seats now held by Republicans include Arizona, where Richard Carmona (D) is in a tight race with Rep. Jeff Flake (R) for the seat Sen. Jon Kyl is giving up; Indiana, where Sen. Dick Lugar (R) was unseated by teabagger Richard Mourdock in the primary, giving Joe Donnelly (D) an opportunity with centrist voters; Maine, where Sen. Olympia Snowe’s retirement gives an opening for independent centrist former Gov. Angus King, who is expected to caucus with the Dems; Massachusetts, where Elizabeth Warren (D) is giving Sen. Scott Brown a strong challenge; and Nevada, where interim Sen. Dean Heller (R) faces a strong challenge from Rep. Shelley Berkley (D).
DEMS HAVE A SHOT AT WINNING HOUSE. Most of the political handicappers still think the Democrats will be unable to win the necessary 25 seats, Alex Seitz-Wald wrote at Salon.com (10/8). “House majority remains out of Democrats’ grasp,” veteran handicapper Stu Rothenberg titled a blog post (10/7). Charlie Cook agrees. So does Kyle Kondik, the House editor for Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, who wrote (10/4), “there’s very little indication that Republicans will lose their House majority.”
But Seitz-Wald noted that Democratic leaders have been saying publicly for weeks that they think they have a good shot of picking up the House, which pundits dismiss out of hand as empty posturing. “Privately, some Democrats say they really believe the odds are better than 50-50 and that all the pundits and handicappers are a month behind — a month that’s seen a nose dive for Mitt Romney, with a potentially dire coattail effect for House Republicans. But Democrats are wary of making their case too strongly, they say, for fear that conservative super PAC money will abandon Romney and starting pouring into key House races, where a relatively little bit of money can make a huge difference. So for now, at least, they’re sitting back without pushing back too hard on the prevailing conventional wisdom.”
Even the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol seems a bit concerned. “If the polls are right, and if nothing much changes over the remaining six weeks, the House could well be in play,” he wrote recently. “Maybe Republicans will hold on in an even popular vote election with the help of incumbency advantages and post-2010 redistricting. But it’s also possible that an Obama +3 victory on Election Day would drag the Democrats to an edge in the congressional vote — and control of the House. In any case, based on current polling, I don’t think one can say that it’s now out of the question that we could wake up on the morning of November 7 to the prospect of … Speaker Nancy Pelosi.”
Indeed, there’s some reason for Kristol’s concern in the polling. In early August, the Reuters/Ipsos poll House generic ballot test — which asks if respondents would vote for a generic Democrat or generic Republican — showed the parties tied at 46%. In September, this same poll showed Democrats leading by 6 points, 49% to 43%. An NBC/Wall Street Journal generic poll had similar movement since July, as did an Economist/YouGov poll. The most recent generic poll comes from NPR, which shows Dems up 3 points. Another recent poll of exclusively battleground congressional districts, conducted by Politico and George Washington University, had Dems up 2.
Democrats need 25 seats to win, and internal polling shows there are 32 Democratic candidates leading or tied with their Republican opponent, according to a memo from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the official body tasked with electing Democrats to the House. The committee claims a total of 75 races are “in play” across the country, and has put 53 districts in its Red to Blue program, which means they think there’s at least enough of a shot at winning in those seats to invest money and resources.
The DCCC has outraised its GOP counterpart, the NRCC, by about $10 million over the cycle and is prepared to spend about $18 million more on commercials. Democrats have reserved $65 million in airtime before Election Day, while NRCC has received just over $47 million. But that advantage could be easily wiped out by outside Republican super PACs, explaining why Democrats are hesitant to tout their optimism about the battle for the House. Karl Rove’s American Crossroads and its affiliate Crossroads GPS spent $50 million on House races between Oct. 13 and Election Day alone in 2010.
The key, Democrats say, is Mitt Romney and his lackluster performance. “In August, the pick of Congressman Paul Ryan made his Medicare-ending budget the ticket mate for every Republican running for Congress and gave us the nationalized Medicare debate we’ve wanted all year. Then Congressman Todd Akin’s offensive comments reminded voters how extreme Republicans are,” the DCCC memo states. It’s still unclear whether Romney would bring the House down with him if he lost, but it’s certainly possible. Even with all this, Democrats’ chances of capturing the House are still shy of 50% — 25 seats is a tall order — but probably better than a lot of pundits think.
ROMNEY FUMBLES FOREIGN POLICY SPEECH. In what was billed his first full-blown foreign policy speech of the campaign, at Virginia Military Institute (10/8), Mitt Romney said the next president will face many difficult and complex foreign policy decisions. “Few will be black and white,” he said. “But I am here today to tell you that I am guided by one overwhelming conviction and passion: This century must be an American Century. In an American Century, America has the strongest economy and the strongest military in the world. In an American Century, America leads the free world and the free world leads the entire world ... Let me make this very clear. As President of the United States, I will devote myself to an American Century. And I will never, ever apologize for America.”
Fred Kaplan wrote at Slate.com, “Mitt Romney has delivered a lot of dishonest speeches in recent months, but Monday’s address on foreign policy may be his most mendacious yet. “It was expected that he would distort President Obama into a caricature of Jimmy Carter,” Kaplan wrote. “But it was astonishing to watch Romney spin a daydream of himself as some latter-day George Marshall, bringing peace, prosperity, and hope to a chaotic world — this from a man who couldn’t drop in on the London Olympics without alienating our closest ally and turning himself into a transcontinental laughingstock.
“To the extent that Romney recited valid criticisms of Obama’s policies, he offered no alternatives. To the extent he spelled out specific steps he would take to deal with one problem or another, he merely recited actions that Obama has already taken.”
Romney began with the recent attacks on the Libyan consulate, the killing of the US ambassador, and the anti-American riots that broke out across the Middle East — all signs, he claimed, that “the threats we face have grown so much worse” while President Obama does nothing.
But Kaplan noted that these threats are not worsening; in fact, the number of attacks on US embassies is near an all-time low. Also, the spate of attacks, riots and American flag-burnings, which followed the attacks in Libya and Egypt, ended almost immediately. Romney himself, after recounting the grim events, noted that we’re now seeing “something hopeful” — protests by “tens of thousands of Libyans” against the militants and in support of the American ambassador.
“Yet Romney ignored the reasons why the riots subsided and why the Libyan people went after the militants,” Kaplan noted. “These things happened because President Obama had supported the Libyan rebels in their resistance to Muammar Qaddafi—and because, after the storming of the US Embassy in Cairo, Obama had a long phone conversation with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, spelling out the facts of life: that Morsi had to choose between siding with the Islamist militants (who formed part of his constituency) and rejoining the civilized world. Romney repeatedly bemoaned Obama’s passivity, but one can only ask: What is he talking about?”
Jed Lewison noted at DailyKos.com (10/8 that Romney made just one mention of China, compared with 21 mentions of the Middle East, 10 of Iran, six of Israel and eight of Libya. He only mentioned Russia once, despite having said it is America’s biggest geopolitical foe. And he didn’t mention India at all, despite it being the world’s second most-populous nation. “That’d be one thing if this were a speech about Middle East policy, but it was supposed to be a speech about Mitt Romney’s overall foreign policy. Yet based on this word cloud, Mitt Romney doesn’t seem to realize that beyond the Middle East, there’s still a big world out there,” Lewison wrote.
NEOCONS APPLAUD ROMNEY. The people who brought you the invasion and premature withdrawal from Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq liked Mitt Romney’s speech at VMI (10/8).
“What’s not to like?” asked Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, a leading foreign policy hawk and backer of Bush’s war in Iraq, who called the speech “kinder, gentler neocon.”
“Kristol could have written it himself,” said Michael Goldfarb, an aide to Sen. John McCain’s 2008 campaign who now chairs the conservative Center for American Freedom. “Strong on defense, strong on foreign involvement and aid, strong (and courageous) on Afghanistan and Iraq. “For all the talk about fissures in the party — the [Project for a New American Century] guys are the ones who will be toasting the Republican candidate tonight,” he said, referring to a group that pushed in the 1990s for, among other things, an invasion of Iraq.
“Terrific, comprehensive speech by Gov. Romney,” former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld tweeted. Former US Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton said, “Mitt Romney understands that the best way to preserve international peace and security is for America to lead from the front.”
COLE: ROMNEY MISUNDERSTANDS MIDEAST. Before the VMI speech, Romney published an op-ed column in the Wall Street Journal (10/1) criticizing President Obama’s Mid-East policies, but Juan Cole, professor of modern Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan and an astute observer of the Middle-Eastern affairs, wrote at JuanCole.com (10/2) that Romney “completely misunderstands the history of the US role in the region, which causes him to misunderstand its present dilemmas.”
For example, Romney writes, “The first step is to understand how we got here. Since World War II, America has been the leader of the Free World. We’re unique in having earned that role not through conquest but through promoting human rights, free markets and the rule of law. We ally ourselves with like-minded countries, expand prosperity through trade and keep the peace by maintaining a military second to none.”
In fact, Cole wrote, “the United States after World War II was mainly concerned with securing petroleum for its European and Asian allies, and with keeping Communist influence out. These interests caused it to promote dictatorship, not democracy. He cited US roles in overthrowing the democratic parliament in Iran, support for the fundamentalist Islamic king of Saudi Arabia, unwavering support for the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories since 1967, support for a series of dictators who, with the backing of the military, provided stability in Egypt and even the Bush administration’s willingness to do business with Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, including sending political prisoners to him to have them tortured, after he gave up his nuclear and chemical weapons ambitions in 2004.
“So, Mr. Romney does not understand ‘how we got here.’ By supporting oil despots to the hilt, backing corrupt and/or mercurial military dictators, waging a war of aggression on and occupying Iraq, and de facto supporting Israeli colonization of Palestinian territory, the US made itself a monster from the point of view of ordinary Arabs and Iranians,” Cole wrote.
Cole also wrote about the "Top Seven Errors President Obama has made on the Middle East.
MITT ALSO MISUNDERSTANDS SPANISH BUDGET CRISIS. Romney’s offhand quip about Spanish overspending got little attention in the US media but has caused more foreign policy problems with a NATO ally. “I don’t want to go down the path of Spain,” Romney said during the first presidential debate (10/8). He argued that government spending under Obama has reached 42% of the US economy, a figure comparable with Spain. “I want to go down the path of growth that puts Americans to work.”
Juan Cole noted at JuanCole.com (10/8) that Romney “is the least diplomatic politician in America, having by now managed to imply that the British might not be up to hosting the Olympics, that Russia is our Enemy No. 1, that the Palestinians do not exist, and that Spain’s economic woes come from budget deficits.”
In fact, Cole wrote, Spain’s government ran lower deficits than most European countries in the run-up to the 2008 crisis. Spain’s crisis mainly derives from the bursting of the real-estate bubble in the private sector. “Romney consistently tries to shift blame for any problem away from the private sector onto the government, even when this approach involves out-and-out falsehoods.” And he apparently doesn’t know that Spain last year elected a conservative government headed by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, which is dedicated to exactly the kind of fiscal discipline and austerity that Romney favors. That austerity has repeatedly provoked tens of thousands of people to take to the streets, including students objecting to cuts in education.
Meanwhile, Cole noted, Rajoy’s austerity policies have demonstrably worsened Spain’s crisis and increased its unemployment. “Romney doesn’t know that sacrificing all just for the sake of a balanced budget has turned Spain into a nation of hobos and has deeply damaged the education system. (He wants to do the same thing to us.)”
OBAMA’S ECONOMIC BRIGHT SPOT. The US is doing well, compared to the rest of the world. The story was different during the Bush recovery. Andrew Leonard notes at Salon.com (10/8).
Compared to the rest of the world, the U.S isn’t so bad after all, economically speaking. So says the “Brookings Institution-Financial Times tracking index.” Yes, economic growth in the US is sluggish and uninspiring, but you should see the other guys! — “The US is the brightest spot in the world economy, as another global recession threatens.”
It’s not just the European Union, stumbling and bumbling through its high-profile sovereign debt crisis, that is lagging. The so-called “BRICs” — Brazil, Russia, India and China — are also hitting major speed bumps.
How times change! It is instructive to jump back 10 years and recall how well the BRICs did during the last lackluster US economic recovery. From 2002-2006, in the United States, George Bush oversaw what, at that point, was the weakest economic recovery in the post-WWII era. Job creation limped along at an average of 102,000 a month and annual economic growth averaged 2.7%. And this performance, supposedly goosed along by huge tax cuts, came after a very mild recession.
During that same period, the BRICs exploded. In 2006, China’s annual GDP growth hit an absolutely scalding 12.7%. India’s GDP growth rose from 3.9% in 2002 to 9.3% in 1006. Brazil rose from 1.1% in 2003 to 4% in 2006. The Russian Federation grew at a rate of 8.2% in 2006.
Over the next four weeks, we are certain to hear Mitt Romney reiterate his complaints about economic growth during Obama’s first term. But a little context is always useful. Obama, who arrived in office with the economy shedding 800,000 jobs a month, has steered the country to a position where it is performing better than any other major developed nation, even as some of the world’s biggest superstars of the last 10 years have slammed on the brakes. But during his first term, Bush barely got the US moving beyond a slow trudge, even as the rest of the world exploded off the starter’s block.
VOTER REGISTRATION FRAUD. Republicans have been caught red-handed trying to sabotage the Democratic vote ahead of this year’s election, Thom Hartmann noted in his radio show. As Brad Friedman reported at BradBlog.com, the Florida Republican Party was forced to cut ties with a political firm known as Strategic Allied Consulting after it was discovered that firm changed addresses on numerous voter registration forms to block newly registered Democrats from voting in November.
The scandal was spreading as at least 10 counties in Florida have discovered the fraudulent registration forms. Law enforcement authorities are getting involved. The Republican National Committee also has cut ties with the firm, which got $3.1 million to register voters in swing states, including Florida, Nevada, Colorado, North Carolina and Virginia.
CONGRESSMAN PROBES VOTER SUPPRESSION. A Tea Party organization launching a multi-pronged voter suppression effort is under investigation by a congressman for a possible “criminal conspiracy to deny legitimate voters their constitutional rights.” Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) sent a letter to True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht, warning her that the Ohio branch of the group, in suing to throw thousands of students, trailer park residents, homeless people and African Americans off the voting rolls, may be violating the law.
Republicans have pursued a range of voter suppression efforts, including voter ID laws, voter registration purges and restrictions that make it difficult to register voters. Most of them have been killed in courts or delayed until after the election. In many cases, judges have concluded that minorities would be disproportionately affected by these efforts. Indeed, Aviva Shen noted at ThinkProgress.org (10/6) an analysis of the failed voter purge in Texas, True the Vote’s home state, found that African American and Latino names were much more likely to be flagged for removal and African-American districts received more letters questioning their eligibility to vote than other districts.
True the Vote is also mobilizing a national network of volunteer poll watchers to challenge and intimidate voters on Election Day. In light of the misinformation and questionable tactics disseminated in volunteer trainings, Cummings, the ranking minority member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, is seeking “the data you have been using to challenge voter registrations, the training you have been providing volunteers to conduct these activities, and the manner in which you have been determining where to deploy your resources in select jurisdictions.”
WALKER CALLED TO TESTIFY IN CORRUPTION TRIAL. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) has been subpoenaed to testify at the criminal trial of his former aide, Kelly Rindfleisch, who is accused of four felony misconduct charges of doing campaign work while at her job in Milwaukee as deputy chief of staff to Walker in 2010, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported (10/8). The charges grew from a two-year secret “John Doe” investigation that has focused on former aides and associates of Walker.
Charles Pierce noted at Esquire.com (10/9), “There are several sentences of which no politician likes to be either subject or object. One is any sentence containing ‘messy divorce.’ Another one is any sentence referring to the ‘former aides and associates.’ ...
“This latest development presents Walker with an interesting array of options, none of which is politically palatable.
“He can testify, which no politician with plans for the future wants to do.
“He can plead the Fifth. (Welcome to Fox News analyst Scott Walker!)
“He can fight the subpoena and string the story out for even longer while he tries to burnish his national credentials.
“Or he can cut some kind of deal for this testimony and appear both corrupt and disloyal, since Ms. Rindfleisch stands to do jail time, and since half of Walker’s old political operation is on the witness list for her trial, and since there still remains the ongoing trial of Kevin Kavanaugh, who stands accused of embezzling $42,000 literally from the widows and orphans of the war dead, and especially since Walker is also on the witness list for the upcoming trial of Timothy Russell, another alleged embezzler and former deputy chief of staff and, reputedly, the guy who knows where all the bodies are buried in Walker’s political career. It appears that, in the words of Lamar Parmentel, the crooked New Orleans lawyer in *The Big Easy*, Walker’s old office in Milwaukee was ‘a marvelous environment for coincidence.’”
From The Progressive Populist, November 1, 2012
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