GOP Hired the Right Crook for the Voter Suppression Job

It should be a scandal eclipsing Mitt's 47-percent comments -- but it's not.

[Raw Story:]

The Republican National Committee fired a voter registration firm owned by a paid consultant to the party’s presidential candidate Mitt Romney Thursday, after Florida officials traced more than 100 possibly fake registration forms back to the company.

NBC News reported that the RNC cut ties with Strategic Allied Consulting (SAC), run by party strategist Nathan Sproul, had been paid $2.9 million this year to register voters in five swing states before being dismissed.

Sproul is also the founder and managing partner of another company, Lincoln Strategy Group, which records show was paid by the Romney campaign paid to do “field consulting.”

The Romney campaign told NBC News, "We used this vendor for signature gathering services during the primary but have not used them since 2011." The question should be why Romney or the RNC hired Sproul at all. The man should be washed up and unemployable in the voter registration business -- or in anything to do with elections.

Mark Crispin Miller reported in 2005 that Sproul's Strategic Allied Consulting "got into a bit of trouble last fall when, in certain states, it came out that the firm was playing dirty tricks in order to suppress the Democratic vote: concealing their partisan agenda, tricking Democrats into registering as Republicans, surreptitiously re-registering Democrats and Independents as Republicans, and shredding Democratic registration forms." Miller's report is damning.

And here Sproul is, doing exactly the same thing again. And here Republicans are, hiring this crook again. If this was the sort of thing they wanted to avoid, they've gone about avoiding it in exactly the wrong way. We can only assume that Sproul is an illegal voter suppression expert and that the GOP and the Romney campaign hired him for exactly those skills; as I said, the man should be considered unemployable otherwise. He's really useless for anything else. And Sproul's not the only one out there.

I'm going to keep writing the same phrase until everyone starts repeating it: the enemies of democracy are the enemies of freedom. Free people get to vote. And people who try to undermine and cheat democracy are not democracy's friends. The GOP is trying to undermine and cheat democracy. They only fired Sproul because he got caught. You hire Strategic Allied Consulting because you want them to do this stuff. There is no other reason to hire them.

Combined with their push for suppressive voter ID laws, it's becoming eminently clear that Republicans are trying to do away with free and fair elections and replace them with rigged games. They oppose democracy. Therefore, they oppose freedom.

We need everyone to get out and vote in November -- Republicans can't possibly keep every non-Republican away from the polls. You need to get out and vote to cover those whose votes were stolen. If they get away with it this time, next time they'll be even worse.


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All Things to All People, President to None

Mitt Romney is now reduced to begging people to believe he gives a crap. Limping along with a self-inflicted wound across 47% of its body, the Romney campaign has released a new ad assuring America that their candidate isn't a psychopath and is capable of human emotion. "Compassionate conservatism" again enters the conversation and again causes some to ask why the word "compassionate" must be added to the word "conservatism." Modern conservatives tend to leave the compassion out of their politics. Remember how terrible they argued empathy was?

Just as Republicans apparently prefer unfeeling automatons as judges, who'll hand down verdicts and rulings without caring whose lives they ruin, so they apparently (or at least naturally) prefer the same sort of robotic coldness in their politicians. Consider their love for "tough talkers" who tell "hard truths" and "make the tough decisions." You know, guys like Paul Ryan. What they're really saying in all this is that they need people who'll do what they think needs to be done and who don't care who they offend or screw over. The emotionless psychopath is the perfect conservative leader, just as it's the perfect conservative judge.

And that fact, combined with Mitt Romney's current emo-trouble, brings up a very interesting question: can a candidate appeal to the Tea Party base and the general electorate and go on to win national office? So far, that's looking like a no. Romney had to go behind the scenes to rip on freeloaders and welfare queens. Now that it's right out there, his big chore is convincing everyone he didn't mean it. He's even throwing the anti-healthcare reform people under the bus.

"Don't forget - I got everybody in my state insured," Romney told an NBC affiliate in Toledo. "One-hundred percent of the kids in our state had health insurance. I don't think there's anything that shows more empathy and care about the people of this country than that kind of record." Heathcare reform is good until he talks to someone who thinks it's not. A social safety net is important until he needs to talk about freeloaders.

And this has been a big part of Romney's flip-flop, etch-a-sketch problem all along: the Republican base -- who a primary candidate has to appeal to -- lacks anything resembling human decency. I'm talking the real wingnut, fever-swamp, birther base with talk-radio-controlled brains here. They don't disagree with people, they hate people. They hate the poor and gays and women seeking abortions or birth control. They hate environmentalists and atheists and immigrants. They hate kids on free school lunch programs and public employees and community organizers. I could go on, but it's easier just to say they hate everyone who isn't a Republican. And not just any Republican, but their idea of a perfect Republican. Anyone else is a "RiNO."

But you can't win a national election that way. It's like you have to act like a lunatic for the base, then pretend to have been cured somewhere along the way. You have to be a multiple-personality candidate -- an unfeeling hard-ass for the 'bagger crowd and a person capable of empathy for everyone else. And it's looking like it simply cannot be done. The contradictions are just too extreme.

If Mitt Romney does manage to pull this out of a tailspin and win, it'll be despite the Tea Party base, not because of them. And if he loses (the more likely scenario), that same base will conclude he wasn't extreme enough -- that he wasn't cold enough and hateful enough and cruel enough. That he was a RiNO.

And in a prime example of learning the exact wrong lesson from their mistakes, the base will probably demand even more extremist leadership.

I'm willing to be proven wrong on that one, but I doubt I will be.


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Big Trouble for Mitt Romney

This is not good news for Team Romney.


President Barack Obama is over the magic 50 percent mark and tops Gov. Mitt Romney among likely voters by 9 to 12 percentage points in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to a Quinnipiac University/ CBS News/New York Times Swing State Poll released today.

Voters in each state see President Obama as better than Gov. Romney to handle the economy, health care, Medicare, national security, an international crisis and immigration. Romney ties or inches ahead of the president on handling the budget deficit.

Matching Obama against Romney in each of these key states - no one has won the White House since 1960 without taking at least two of them...

In this race, Mitt Romney needs -- absolutely needs -- Ohio and Florida to win. MSNBC's First Read notes that Romney begins a bus tour today that "has to do more than stop the bleeding for Romney in Ohio; it has to be the beginning of a turnaround for him in this state. Losing Ohio isn’t checkmate, but it’s close." Losing Florida and Ohio? That is checkmate -- and Mitt can't tour both states at once. So he seems to be piling all his chips on Ohio.

Publicly, Team Romney's trying to put a happy face on the situation. Asked yesterday about poor polling numbers in Ohio, Romney's political director Rich Beeson said, "There's still 42 days to go. We are by any stretch inside the margin of error in Ohio. And the Obama campaign is going to have some problems there."

That's not the case anymore. Quinnipiac has Romney down 10 in the Buckeye state, 53%-43%. They don't put out polls with a margin of error spanning ten freakin' points. The margin of error for this particular poll is, in fact, 2.9%. Romney is not any stretch inside the margin of error in Ohio. And he's going to have some problems there.

All of this means that the debates are going to be must-see TV. Team Romney, already scrambling to make up lost ground, will shift into panic mode. Mitt's wild charges and ridiculous falsehoods may become wilder and more ridiculous. And it will happen at the worst possible time.

I say that because the debates were where I expected his campaign of lies to unravel anyway. It's one thing to put out insane lies in a stump speech or a thirty second ad, it's another to do it to your opponent's face. I have no doubt that Romney will lie shamelessly, but this time those lies will be answered immediately.

And that's really what began to sink Romney after the conventions. The Democrats wisely used their convention, scheduled after the RNC, to rebut Republican lies. In any debate, the person with the final word is in the strongest position to make a convincing case -- it's one of the reasons why the defense argues last in a criminal trial. Democrats (and Bill Clinton in particular) used that position well. They answered GOP lies and made a case for Democratic governance. As a result, Romney's polling began to crash and he's never really recovered.

It's normally the case that the candidate down in the polls during the debates puts out a call for more debates. Mitt Romney may just break with that tactic, because I doubt it would serve him well.


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Ignorance Becomes a Political Tactic

The Republican break with reality is nearly complete. From the historic failure if trickle-down economics to global warming to evolution to the fact you don't choose to be gay, conservatives have been waging a War with Reality for years. And it's the nature of that war that the believe they're winning, despite the fact that they can't possibly. I wrote about an aspect of it yesterday, but that was before this story broke on Buzzfeed:

Republicans have taken their complaints about media polls allegedly favoring Democrats a step further this morning, embracing an obscure new polling website that re-engineers public polls to add more Republicans to their samples, and which gives Republican Mitt Romney a wide lead.

Some Romney supporters have long complained that public polls suggest higher Democratic turnout, and lower Republican turnout, than they think is likely this year. Pollsters have replied that their samples are dictated by what poll respondents themselves say. (This exchange between Hugh Hewitt and Lee Miringoff is illustrative of the argument.)

Dean Chambers, a blogger on Examiner.com who writes from his home in Duffield, Virginia, took that complaint a step further — producing wide Romney leads far beyond what the Republican's campaign or Republican pollsters have suggested is the case.

The site -- unskewedpolls.com -- is of course made entirely of the purest, most highly refined BS. Basically, he takes polling samples that are the most favorable to Republicans, then applies those percentages to other polls. In other words, if he believes the poll oversamples Democrats, he subtracts a percentage of dem respondents and adds a percentage of GOP ones. As you can imagine, this changes everything radically. Buzzfeed posted a Chambers chart from yesterday and Romney leads in a spread of +3 to +100.

"[Y]ou cannot compare partisan weighting from one polling firm to another," pollster Scott Rasmussen told Buzzfeed in response to this story. "Different firms ask about partisan affiliation in different ways. Some ask how you are registered. Some ask what you consider yourselves. Some push for leaners, others do not. Some ask it at the beginning of a survey which provides a more stable response while others ask it at the end."

And, as the number of people who will vote a certain way changes from day to day, so does party affiliation. If the pollster isn't asking how a person is registered (and in a lot of states, you don't have to register with a party), then the party affiliation numbers will also change from day to day. This is not astrophysics and the party percentages aren't unchangeable like the speed of light. How do you determine the partisan make up of the populace? You ask them, in a survey, and then -- and here's the real important part -- you don't just ignore what they say.

As a result of these BS rejiggered numbers, many on the right are expecting Mitt Romney to win by a landslide. And consider the rationale for doing all this; the media is colluding in a conspiracy to reelect Barack Obama. They've all gotten together, agreed to skew polling, and (somehow) this means Barack Obama wins. But that's way too complicated; if the press really wanted to get together to sink Mitt Romney, they'd just publish photoshopped images of him hunting malnourished, homeless children for sport or something. Trying to get everyone to join in on some bandwagon effect would be a gamble, to say the least.

But that wouldn't play into the conservative penchant for victimhood. They're planning their martyrdoms in advance now. After November, should Romney lose (as is looking more and more likely), they're going to run shrieking into the streets, waving these totally madeup numbers, and claiming to have proof that Obama stole the election. The media was spinning polls so you wouldn't notice how far off the final vote tally was. It was all a big conspiracy to take over the country for socialism or terrorism or terrorist socialism or whatever. And a blizzard of victim cards will fly. "Obama stole the election" will be the new birtherism. If the old birtherism is any indication, the new variety will spread like plague.

The whole thing's as dangerous as it is delusional. This is a party that almost literally worships guns. If the government is seen as illegitimate, these are exactly the sort of nutjobs who would use their "second amendment freedoms" to right that egregious wrong. The Tea Party right is already a bonfire of stupidity, gullibility, and misplaced anger. Rightwing blogs are preparing to throw gasoline on it.

They think that'll work out great. As I said, they aren't big fans of reality.


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No Rightwing Blogosphere, Everything is Not Fine

The electoral math seems daunting. As of today and based on state polling averages, Talking Points Memo gives President Obama 313 electoral votes to Mitt Romney's 191. Electoral-Vote.com is more generous in handing out leaners and has it 328 Obama, 206 Romney. Finally, Real Clear Politics has the numbers as 247 Obama, 191 Romney. While 270 electoral votes are needed to win and Obama falls short of that mark in almost everyone's count, Romney has a lot more ground to cover.

And it's clear that Romney's the one losing steam here. After pretty much writing off women, Latinos, gays, Muslims, African-Americans, etc., he's finding constituencies he's relying on slipping away as well. Older voters, concerned with Paul Ryan's Medicare-slaying plans, have moved away from Mitt. Romney's support among the 60-plus crowd has dropped from a 20-point lead to four -- in the past two weeks. He's hemorrhaging seniors. More telling, the Republican candidate is now losing among NASCAR fans -- 48%-41%. This is a group of mostly southern whites who can normally be counted on breaking Republican. All the news for the GOP is soulcrushingly bad -- until you look closely, then it's even worse.

I say that because The American Conservative's Noah Millman takes that close look at the race and sees disaster -- not only for their presidential candidate, but for the Republican Party as a whole. The turning point was the conventions and things have just kept going south since then.

As I’ve observed the race since then, I have only become more convinced that what has changed the dynamics of this election has been a fundamental reevaluation not merely – or even primarily – of the two candidates, but of the two parties. This election is becoming nationalized, and it is becoming nationalized in the context of an across-the-board swing in the direction of the Democrats.

The reason, I think, is a simple one. The Republicans Party – not just the Romney campaign, but the party as a whole – is running on nothing. They are running on the presumption that the country has already rejected the Democrats, and that therefore it is their turn. They are behaving as if choosing Democratic governance was some kind of “experiment” that didn’t work out, and now the American people will, of course, come back to their natural home.

By contrast, the Democrats actually made a case for their party. They explained what their party has done, and why they should be able to set the national agenda. They defended their foreign policy, their economic policy, and their social policy in strong, unapologetic terms.

So yes, Mitt Romney is an amazingly clumsy, inept, and "inelegant" candidate, but this doesn't really explain the down-ticket slide. Besides, if this election really was a referendum on Obama's term -- as Republicans keep insisting -- Romney's competence as a campaigner would be less of a problem.

But it's that "referendum election" theory that's killing Republicans right now. Romney's campaign slogan might as well be "Obama said fill-in-the-blank, that's terrible. Elect Mitt." He offers no argument for himself, just as the GOP as a whole offers no argument. They're just the alternative to a party they've convinced themselves simply cannot win.

This is bad enough, but the base is convinced there's nothing wrong and Romney's killing. Over at PJ Tatler, we're told that Obama showed up for a rally in Wisconsin and didn't attract a crowd of 18,000. He was at a venue with only 5,000 seats, so the lame-stream media is just lying to make Obama look good by saying he attracted 18,000. Never mind that the venue is an outdoor arena in the waterfront park used to host Summerfest -- the grounds are huge. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Obama did indeed fill the 5,000 seat pavilion, "along with thousands more who sat in bleachers and stood on the pavement beyond the protection of the roof, even as wind and rain lashed down in the latter moments of the near 30-minute speech." 18,000 could fit easily with room to spare -- I ought to know, I attended Summerfest. I'm pretty familiar with the grounds.

And that's how every story about Barack Obama's campaign is being treated on the right -- it's a horrible disaster marked by gaffes and tiny crowds. The only reason anyone thinks Obama is winning is because the press is in the tank for the guy. In rightwing world, Mitt is slaughtering, everything is fine, and everyone is going to vote Republican forever. It's like the South Korean press ministry over there.

I'm pretty sure this constant spin is well-intentioned, but it can't possibly be helping. When your candidate is in trouble, you don't want to sugarcoat it, you want people freaking out. You want people knocking on doors and making calls and raising money. You don't want people sitting at home, reading wingnut blogs, smug in the certainty of Mitt Romney's march to victory.

And worse, think about what sore losers conservatives were the last time. Imagine how insufferably whiny they'll be in November if trends continue. Obama won't just be a secret Muslim terr'ist, he'll be a secret Muslim terr'ist who stole the election. And maybe killed Reagan and orchestrated 9/11. You think they're insane now, just wait until this fantasy world they've constructed for themselves implodes.

If it happens, it won't to be pretty.

Or extremely rational.


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Mitt's Ongoing Cloud Strategy

Mitt Romney knows he's in trouble. That much became obvious yesterday, when reporters asked Mitt whether he was going to campaign harder in the wake of a slew of bad polling. The candidate almost literally answered with, "Quick, look over there!"

"Ha ha. We’re in the stretch aren’t we? Look at those clouds. It’s beautiful," Romney answered, pointing to the sky. "Look at those things."

I suppose the reporters could be thankful Mitt didn't just tell them their shoes were untied, then take off running when they looked down. Meanwhile, Ann Romney's on the radio telling conservative critics to back off:

During an interview with radio Iowa, Ann Romney was asked how she would respond to influential conservative critics like Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol.

“Stop it!” she snapped. “You want to try it? Get in the ring.”

Ann Romney added: “This is hard and, you know, it’s an important thing that we’re doing right now and it’s an important election and it is time for all Americans to realize how significant this election is and how lucky we are to have someone with Mitt’s qualifications and experience and know-how to be able to have the opportunity to run this country.”

“It’s nonsense. And the chattering class, they — you know, it’s hard, of course. They don’t — I don’t let it sink in. You hear it and then you just let it go right by. And you’re used to it. Honestly at this point, I’m not surprised by anything.”

So the Romneys and the term "grace under pressure" don't really go together all that well. You've got to wonder how they'll take the news from Nate Silver that President Obama's post-convention bounce is starting to look less like a bounce and more like a legitimate and lasting rise in the polls.

I hope Team Romney keeps Mitt and Ann away from clock towers and rifles.

I would be remiss if I didn't point out that the polls are still very close nationally. But the path to victory is narrowing. Swing states he needs to win are beginning to slip away from him and something's going to have to change to swing them back. Something more substantive that distracting reporters with clouds and telling conservative critics to STFU.

And it's there that Team Romney may find more trouble. The tendency among bad politicians is to face this sort of receding tide with blind panic -- which makes them look even worse. Mitt's already sniping at every word Obama says (and every word he's ever said) and it makes him come off more like a childish and dishonest tattletale than anything else. As is always the case with conservatives, if something's not working, they seem to believe they need to do more of it -- so expect Romney to launch more "But Obama said *INSERT RIDICULOUSLY OUT-OF-CONTEXT STATEMENT HERE*, so Mitt deserves to be president" attacks.

It's not going to be pretty. And it's probably not going to help. And that's been the problem with Romney's campaign all along. It's been all about why Barack Obama shouldn't be president and not about why Mitt Romney should. In the end, Romney's argument for why he should be president has always been, "Look at those clouds. It's beautiful. Look at those things." Now he's just amping that up to eleven.

"Quick, look over there!" is a tactic, not a strategy. And it's certainly no reason to make Mitt Romney president. He's going to have to do better, but I'm not convinced he can. If he could, it seems to me he already would've.


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Swinging Away

Mitt Romney has some serious trouble in the swing states. A slew of new polling yesterday demonstrated that well. As Taegan Goddard pointed out yesterday, "There are 11 swing state polls so far today and Obama leads in all of them." This is not good news for the Grand Old Pachyderms. It turns out that, in order to win the national election, you have to win some state elections. And all those swing states seem to be swinging away.

In fact, where Ohio and Virginia used to be concerned crucial to Mitt Romney's victory, conservatives are now trying to figure out how to do it without those states.

[Real Clear Politics:]

“Their biggest concern right now is: How do they win Ohio and Virginia?” one GOP strategist said, echoing comments made by several other national Republicans outside of the Romney campaign. “They’ve got an issue with those two states.”

Obama leads in Ohio by 4.8 percent and in Virginia by 4.7 percent, according to the latest RealClearPolitics polling averages.

There are many reasons why Romney’s climb looks steeper in these two states than it does in other battlegrounds, but at the heart of the matter is a perception that the economies in both are rebounding faster than is the case elsewhere.

The problem is that, without Virginia and Ohio, the math is actually worse.

There is a scenario whereby Romney could eke out an Electoral College win while suffering defeats in both states, but he would have to run the table in the other six tossups, including Wisconsin, which had been viewed as leaning firmly in Obama’s direction until native son Ryan was added to the GOP ticket. (The president currently holds a 6.4 percentage point lead there, according to the RCP Average.)

A more likely strategy for Romney to survive, should he lose Ohio, would be for him to hang onto Virginia and then pick off either Iowa or Wisconsin -- states Obama won by double digits in 2008.

The problem there is a Marquette University poll out yesterday that shows Obama surging to a 14-point lead in Wisconsin. So yeah, probably not. Iowa is much tighter, so some hope there.

None of this is to say that Mitt Romney is doomed. In fact, his best hope may be a Tortoise and the Hare sort of race, where Democrats are so complacent that they stop volunteering and contributing -- or even fail to show up to vote. It's still a very close race nationally, but those swing states where Mitt looks competitive are becoming fewer and fewer. And the math is becoming more and more difficult.

"The question for the past week-plus has been whether President Obama’s convention bounce and a series of stumbles for Mitt Romney have recast the 2012 race," writes the Washington Post's Aaron Blake. "Some national polls say yes, and a few say no. But more and more, the data at the state level point to some real movement in Democrats’ favor. At least for now."

So Obama would seem to have an advantage at present and he's clearly the better politician -- Barack Obama has never lost an election and Mitt Romney has won exactly one. The candidate most able to capitalize on that advantage has it and the candidate least able to overcome disadvantage is currently the underdog.

Caution is advised, but optimism is far from unwarranted.


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No Conservatives, That's Not The Good News You Think It Is

Anyone who thinks the Romney campaign isn't in trouble just hasn't been paying attention. While Mitt's 47-percent controversy is the first thing to come to mind, this is the old one-two -- one disaster following another. His comments on the unrest in Libya that claimed the lives of US personnel have caused four in ten voters to think worse of him, according to one poll. So he was still recovering from one blow when the second landed. The past seven days have not been kind to the Republican nominee.

The New York Times' Michael Barbaro writes that a "palpably gloomy and openly frustrated mood has begun to creep into Mr. Romney’s campaign for president." Conservative columnist Peggy Noonan calls the Romney campaign "incompetent" and calls on "activists, party supporters and big donors" to pressure them to make radical changes to their approach. And remember, this all comes after a "reboot" that was supposed to reinvigorate an election campaign that seemed to be running out of steam. After the reboot, things are actually worse. Much worse.

So any not-so-bad news is excellent news. The problem is that, from where conservatives stand right now, pretty much everything looks like not-so-bad news, even when it's not. The desperate wanderer in a desert might be more likely to see a mirage and the desperate partisan may be more likely to spot good news. So it is with Mother Jones' release of the full video of Mitt's 47-percent controversy.

[Legal Insurrection:]

David Corn of Mother Jones released the “complete” audio and video of the secretly recorded Mitt Romney speech at a private fundraiser.

Yet the complete audio and video is not complete. There is a gap in the recording immediately after Romney’s now famous discussion of the 47% of voters who don’t pay taxes. The cut in the audio and video comes while Romney is in mid-sentence, so we actually do not have the full audio of what Romney said on the subject.

The next audio/video (Part 2) picks up with Romney talking about China.

Yes, one or two minutes are apparently missing. Given the nature of the recording, this isn't surprising. Still, good news! Mittens may have been taken out of context! (This despite the fact that most of the wingnut blogosphere is arguing that Mitt's comments where the smartest thing anyone's ever said about anything; exhibit A.)

But what context could there possibly be that would make this all right? Unless the gap has Romney saying, "Of course, only a dick would say those things, which is why I completely disavow the argument I just made," he's screwed. And Romney hasn't said he was taken out of context, he says his argument was "inelegantly stated" -- as if it was merely the words he chose and not the argument he made that offended so many. If Romney did not argue that 47% of Americans are freeloaders with a victim mentality as he seems to have, why is he defending that argument now?

No, Mitt Romney said what he said. The video cutting out doesn't change that and the candidate isn't playing along with your clumsy attempt to create a new narrative.

This is not the not-so-bad news the rightwing blogosphere seems to believe it is. That's a mirage you're seeing out there, not a lake.


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Mitt's Red State Freeloaders

Apparently, Mitt Romney really wants to have this conversation:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.

Yes, let's talk about all those red state freeloaders. Mitt's wrong about one thing; the majority of non-income taxpayers are red staters, as the map above demonstrates. So let's talk about what a tremendous failure Republican economic policies are. Let's have that conversation.

It wouldn't be the first time I've brought it up. I covered it way back in 2009. And it's not a conversation a Republican will walk away from looking good. Observe:

Let's get right to the point. The five poorest states in the nation are Mississippi, West Virginia, Arkansas, South Carolina, and Kentucky. The five wealthiest states are Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York, and Maryland. Those are the numbers from the US Census and they tell us a lot about the partisan divide in America. Of the five poorest states in the union, five are Red States that went for McCain in 2008. On the other hand, of the five wealthiest states, all five voted for Obama -- see for yourself. In other words, the anti-tax, screw-the-poor, federal-government-isn't-the-answer crowd comes mainly from the poorest states and are, therefore, among the most lightly taxed. They're the ones who seem most likely to benefit from federal government money. In terms of federal taxes spent in their states, Mississippi gets 202% of every dollar they pay, West Virginia get 176%, Arkansas gets 141%, South Carolina gets 135%, and Kentucky gets 151%. The only state in the five wealthiest that receives more than they pay out is Maryland, at 130%. People marching around in angry little circles with signs showing President Obama with a Hitler mustache haven't been paying their fair share. Kind of makes their concerns about the deficit a little hard to take, doesn't it?

So, in terms of who's not paying taxes and who they vote for, Mitt's got it exactly wrong. The fact is that Republican governments use social issues like abortion and gay rights to distract voters from the fact that their economic policies are failing all but the top 1%. If we really have this discussion about who does and doesn't pay income tax, Mitt's going to have to explain why it is that Republican-dominated states are so damned poor. He'll have to explain why he wants to pursue economic policies that are proven failures year after year after year. He'll have to explain to red state voters how he wants to screw them even more. I'm guessing that's really not the conversation Romney wants to have -- which explains why his comments were made in private to millionaire donors.

I want to have that conversation. And I'm guessing Mitt Romney only wants to pretend to have that conversation.


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Defending a Con Man's Right to Run a Con

If the honor wasn't already taken by wingnut blogger Jim Hoft, fellow wingnut blogger Glenn Reynolds would be a solid contender for the title of Internet's Dumbest Man. They both deal in histrionic dishonesty and over-the-top fake outrage, aiming their posts straight at the most gullible, paranoid, and idiotic readers on the web. If their websites went dark overnight, the world would be a much less stupid place.

But, like Hoft, Reynolds serves a purpose -- both are excellent examples of just how insane the right wing in this country has become and both of these would-be Glenn Becks demonstrate the strident, limitless idiocy that characterizes the wingnut blogosphere. If I were to write a counter post for every stupid and just plain wrong post just one of these two morons wrote, I would never post anything else -- there are only so many hours in a day. So it's not my intention to straighten out the readers of this Reynolds post, but rather to show just how unfathomably stupid those readers must actually be. Anyone who joins in on the hero-worship of known con artist and meth cook Nakoula Basseley Nakoula is a proven idiot, but this goes far beyond that.

Long story short, Reynolds believes (or pretends to believe -- I'll take him at his word and assume he's dumb enough to believe it) that President Obama must resign because of this:

By sending -- literally -- brownshirted enforcers to engage in -- literally -- a midnight knock at the door of a man for the non-crime of embarrassing the President of the United States and his administration, President Obama violated [his oath of office]. You can try to pretty this up (It’s just about possible probation violations! Sure.), or make excuses or draw distinctions, but that’s what’s happened. It is a betrayal of his duties as President, and a disgrace.

He won’t resign, of course. First, the President has the appreciation of free speech that one would expect from a Chicago Machine politician, which is to say, none. Second, he’s not getting any pressure. Indeed, the very press that went crazy over Ari Fleischer’s misrepresented remarks seems far less interested in the actions of an administration that I repeat,
literally sent brown-shirted enforcers to launch a midnight knock on a filmmaker’s door.

But Obama’s behavior -- and that of his enablers in the press -- has laid down a marker for those who are paying attention. By these actions he is, I repeat, unfit to hold office. I hope and expect that the voters will agree in November.

Yes, Glenn Reynolds really is that dumb (remember, I'm taking him at his word and assuming he means the things he writes).

Nakoula is, of course, one of the people responsible for a video that's sparked Muslim protests around the world -- including one in Libya that resulted in the deaths of American personnel. He's also a felon on probation. And that means that the free speech rights that Reynolds is so freaked out about don't actually exist. The man is serving a sentence for a crime (fraud, by the way) -- he doesn't actually have First Amendment rights. Or any civil rights. Technically speaking, he's a prisoner -- the only rights he has are human rights. When you commit a felony, you forfeit civil rights. He can't own a gun or vote, either.

But Reynolds' idiocy is far, far deeper than this. Demanding President Obama resign for violating rights that don't actually exist is one thing, rushing to the defense of someone who was clearly trying to rip off the sort of people who read your blog is another entirely. And it is so clear that this is the case here.

The video in question is supposedly the trailer for a longer film. Directed by soft core porn producer Alan Roberts, the trailer for Innocence of Muslims is almost certainly the only part of the movie that actually exists. For one thing, the actors had no idea the video was even about Mohammed and Islam, but rather about war in ancient Egypt:

"The entire cast and crew are extremely upset and feel taken advantage of by the producer," they said in a statement to CNN. "We are shocked by the drastic rewrites of the script and lies that were told to all involved. We are deeply saddened by the tragedies that have occurred."

Cindy Lee Garcia, an actress from Bakersfield, Calif., told Gawker that in casting notices the film was referred to as "Desert Warriors." She also said that "Dr. Matthew" was the pseudonym actors were instructed to use instead in place of the name "Mohammed," which was later haphazardly dubbed over their voices in post-production.

So there was clearly no movie-length script. If there was, the subject of the film would be obvious. No script means no movie. What's apparently happening here is that Nakoula and Roberts were running a con -- Nakoula is, after all, a con man. They produce a "film" that confirms every bigoted belief haters have about Islam (Mohammed is portrayed as a child molester, for example) and then get bigots to finance a movie that doesn't actually exist, so they can get "the truth" about Islam out there. The riots and the attack on the Libyan consulate got it press before they were ready and now the whole con is coming apart at the seams.

And the police -- under the direct instruction of Obama, according to Reynolds -- picked Nakoula up for possibly violating the terms of his probation, which include a ban on internet use. Since the video was uploaded to YouTube, it's pretty goddam clear that there was some internet usage going on there. It would be a dereliction of duty not to bring him downtown for questioning. Those brownshirted deputies Reynolds is so worked up over are investigating an actual crime -- something Glenn thinks shouldn't happen. Nakoula should be free to run his con on Reynolds' readership, because liberty -- or something. Police are trying to save those readers from falling prey to this guy's scam and Reynolds is so convinced that this is the worst thing ever that he wants the president to resign over it.

This is aggressively idiotic. You couldn't be dumber if you actually tried. But for Reynolds, it just comes naturally.


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Reality-Based Economics

It's obviously largely coincidental, but it seems like reality is trying to punctuate a point Bill Clinton made last night -- that Democratic presidents vastly outperform Republicans in terms of job creation. "Since 1961, for 52 years now, the Republicans have held the White House 28 years, the Democrats 24," Clinton said. "In those 52 years, our private economy has produced 66 million private-sector jobs. So what's the jobs score? Republicans 24 million, Democrats 42 [million]." PolitiFact rates the statement as true.

And today, the Department of Labor reports that "First-time claims for state unemployment benefits declined by the largest amount in more than a month in the latest week."

"The number of initial claims in the week ending Sept. 1 fell 12,000 to 365,000," MarketWatch reports. "The consensus forecast of Wall Street economists was for claims to fall a slight 1,000 to 373,000."

Steve Benen explains, "In terms of metrics, when jobless claims fall below the 400,000 threshold, it's considered evidence of an improving jobs landscape, and when the number drops below 370,000, it suggests jobs are being created rather quickly. We've only managed to dip below the 370,000 threshold seven times in the last 22 weeks, but the more encouraging news is that we've been below 370,000 in six of the last nine weeks."

As I say, it's largely coincidental that a marked improvement in employment seems to be happening at this moment, but it's not a coincidence that it's happening during a Democratic administration. Where Republicans go for a bass-ackward "trickle-down" economic theory where everyone's fate is supposedly tied to that of the very, very wealthy, Democrats believe in a long-proven economic policy based on a pretty common sense notion -- what lefty commentator Jim Hightower describes as "Everybody does better when everybody does better."

And that notion has been a common argument from the Democratic National Convention; that the "job creators" aren't employers, they're consumers. Republicans argue that employers hire as many people as they can afford, regardless of the number of employees they actually need. It's a stupid argument, which explains why they never put it exactly that way, but that is basically the argument. If you give rich people big, fat tax cuts, they'll go on a hiring binge because... Well, that's not extremely clear. Just because, I guess. For Republicans, everybody does better when the one percent does better. Not that it ever works out that way in the real world -- eight years of Bush pretty much proves the failure there.

But if -- as Democrats believe and history has proved -- consumer demand drives growth, then employers hire only the workers they need. And they need those workers because of demand. Those jobs exist because those jobs need to get done, not because some trust fund baby decided on a whim that they'd finally made enough profits to hire someone they may or may not need. If people are spending money, people are making money. If everyone's spending money, everyone's making money. Everybody does better when everybody does better.

So it's no surprise that Democrats are better at job creation. They know how it's done, while Republicans know how they wish it were done.


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Republicans Whine About Republican Job Losses

OK, this is dumb:

[Talking Points Memo:]

One claim Republicans make to support their proposition that the country’s worse off than it was “four years ago” is that there are fewer jobs in America today than there were when President Obama took office.

“[H]e hasn’t created one single net new job since he’s been president,” Mitt Romney’s spokeswoman Andrea Saul said on MSNBC Tuesday afternoon.

The keys here are the words “net” and “since he’s been president.” And by that extremely narrow and literal reading, the claim is true — there are fewer net jobs in the country today than there were on the day Obama took office...

Of course, the problem here is that there are a lot of job losses that the president shouldn't take the blame for. As he took the Oath of Office, job numbers were crashing at a terrifying rate -- are those losses Obama's fault or Bush's? As is always the case, we'll stop blaming Bush for things like that when they stop being Bush's fault. In fact, as Steve Benen points out, one prominent Republican had previously argued that Obama shouldn't be blamed for those losses.

Mitt Romney recently said it's only fair to give a new president "at least six months or a year" to get put together an economic plan, assemble a team, and put his or her "policies in place." With that in mind, if we acknowledge President Obama took office in the midst of catastrophic conditions that weren't his fault, and we don't include his first year against him, 3.88 million jobs -- and 4.44 million private-sector jobs -- have been created in less than three years.

That's not using Obama's standard; that's using Romney's standard.

The only way Team Romney's talking point makes sense is if you include job losses that happened immediately after Obama became president -- an argument Romney himself once dismissed as "silly" -- and include public-sector job losses that Republicans say they support.

Further, if we leave out those "public-sector job losses that Republicans say they support," things look a whole lot better.

Even if we make Romney's "silly" argument that this president is responsible for every, single job loss since the second he took office, public sector jobs are in the black. In fact, he outperforms George W. Bush in that area. It's the private sector that's dragging down job numbers. And the people responsible for those private sector losses were getting wild applause for their budget-slashing at last week's Republican National Convention. The job numbers we're seeing now are Republican job numbers and those Republican governors, mayors, county execs, etc. are inarguably responsible for those job losses because they're the ones who did the firing. Republicans treat these guys like heroes. It's laughable that they'd turn around and drop these losses in Obama's lap and suddenly claim they're a bad thing. The fact of the matter is that Republicans are big fans of those job losses, they brag about them, they're responsible for them. I'd add that those public sector losses add to private sectors losses as well, because every lost job of any kind represents a drop in consumer demand. So those net private sector jobs come despite the best efforts of local Republican officials to tank the economy.

But how inconsistent is it that these public sector job losses are both good and bad, depending on what you need them to be at the moment? And when you need them to be good, they're the towering triumph of whatever GOP governor you're trying to build up. When you need them to be bad, they're Obama's fault -- despite the fact that that governor handed out the pink slips.

If Team Romney really has a problem with job numbers, they can tell Republican governors to stop firing and start hiring. The solution really is that simple.


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The Savvy Idiots of Political Journalism

My view is that there’s nothing that’s secret in campaigns anymore — but that doesn’t mean everything is understandable in a campaign. The ability of campaigns to run circles around journalists in some places is strong, and it’s not healthy.
-Terry Nelson, John McCain's 2008 campaign manager.

It isn't getting much coverage -- and it's easy to understand why. In a New York Times op-ed over the weekend, journalist and author Sasha Issenberg informs us that nearly everything journalists think they know about political campaigns is wrong and those misconceptions are reflected in reporting.

I covered the 2008 election for The Boston Globe, filing articles that I hoped would rise above the superficial and ephemeral poll-driven reporting that I had been trained to disdain. But after spending the last two years reporting on the scientific revolution that is quietly reshaping politics, I realized how much of the story my colleagues and I had missed.

Over the last decade, almost entirely out of view, campaigns have modernized their techniques in such a way that nearly every member of the political press now lacks the specialized expertise to interpret what’s going on. Campaign professionals have developed a new conceptual framework for understanding what moves votes. It’s as if restaurant critics remained oblivious to a generation’s worth of new chefs’ tools and techniques and persisted in describing every dish that came out of the kitchen as either “grilled” or “broiled.”

“When I went to work for my first campaign, in 1994, I was actually surprised at how journalists tended to think one step ahead where campaigns are four steps ahead,” says Joel Benenson, a former newspaper reporter who now serves as President Obama’s chief pollster. “Think of it as a level-five player in chess and a level-eight player in chess. You had people covering campaigns who are at the mercy of the grandmasters of politics.”

In a way, all of this is actually a trap political journalists set for themselves. It's a problem that longtime media critic Jay Rosen calls "the cult of savviness":

...In politics, our journalists believe, it is better to be savvy than it is to be honest or correct on the facts. It’s better to be savvy than it is to be just, good, fair, decent, strictly lawful, civilized, sincere, thoughtful or humane. Savviness is what journalists admire in others. Savvy is what they themselves dearly wish to be. (And to be unsavvy is far worse than being wrong.)

Savviness is that quality of being shrewd, practical, hyper-informed, perceptive, ironic, “with it,” and unsentimental in all things political. And what is the truest mark of savviness? Winning, of course! Or knowing who the winners are.

The problem with all this savviness is twofold; first -- as Issenberg points out -- it's all wrong and all the super-serious chumps with microphones have no idea what the hell they're talking about. But the second part of the problem is probably more important: there's absolutely no reason why you, the voter, needs to know all this inside baseball crap anyway.

Think about it. Issenberg identifies a problem with covering campaigns; journalists only think they know "what moves votes." But is there some reason why you should care about which candidate has the better strategy to win your vote? Have you ever voted for the candidate you thought used polling data better or was more skilled at manipulating demographics or had the wisest media strategy? When it comes to information you can actually use, this is all trivia. Yet in political reporting, it's treated like it's the most important information in the world. Strategy becomes much more important than policy, which means policy -- i.e., the stuff you care about -- is covered almost exclusively by the campaigns themselves, which the media then picks up as a he said/she said story.

Mitt Romney, for example, can tell lie after lie after lie and the press won't identify them as lies -- but they will go in depth with polling and talking heads and face to face interviews to determine whether those lies are working. That's not the useful information. The useful information is that all that stuff Mitt's saying just plain is not true.

All of the problems Issenberg identifies wouldn't be problems at all if the cult of savviness were to close up shop for good. Journalists are reading polling data wrong? So what, who cares? It's not like that information is useful to voters anyway. Cover policy instead of strategy and everything will go like clockwork.


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