Posted tagged ‘Romney’

To Moscow With Love

November 2, 2012

Mitt Romney, interview with Wolf Blitzer, March 26, 2012:

I’m saying in terms of a geopolitical opponent, the nation that lines up with the world’s worst actors, of course the greatest threat that the world faces is a nuclear Iran, and nuclear North Korea is already troubling enough, but when these terrible actors pursue their course in the world and we go to the United Nations looking for ways to stop them, when [Syrian President] Assad, for instance, is murdering his own people, we go to the United Nations and who is it that always stands up for the world’s worst actors? It is always Russia, typically with China alongside, and so in terms of a geopolitical foe, a nation that’s on the Security Council, that has the heft of the Security Council, and is of course a massive security power — Russia is the geopolitical foe.”

Mitt Romney, Republican National Convention acceptance speech, August 30, 2012:

President Obama … He abandoned our friends in Poland by walking away from our missile defense commitments, but is eager to give Russia’s President Putin the flexibility he desires, after the election. Under my administration, our friends will see more loyalty, and Mr. Putin will see a little less flexibility and more backbone.

Mitt Romney, final presidential campaign debate, October 22, 2012:

“I’ll respond to a couple of things that you mentioned. First of all, Russia I indicated is a geopolitical foe. Not … Excuse me. It’s a geopolitical foe, and I said in the same — in the same paragraph I said, and Iran is the greatest national security threat we face. Russia does continue to battle us in the U.N. time and time again. I have clear eyes on this. I’m not going to wear rose-colored glasses when it comes to Russia, or Mr. Putin. And I’m certainly not going to say to him, I’ll give you more flexibility after the election.

Matt Romney, as reported by Peter Baker in The New York Times, today, November 2, 2012:

…While in Moscow, Mr. Romney told a Russian known to be able to deliver messages to Mr. Putin that despite the campaign rhetoric, his father wants good relations if he becomes president, according to a person informed about the conversation.

The rest of this post, I think, writes itself.

 

Images:  M. Minard, Chart depicting the change in size of Napoleon’s army during the Russian campaign of 1812-13, 1869

Caravaggio, Christ Expels the Money Changers from the Temple, 1610.

Dessert Topping or Floor Wax?

November 2, 2012

Yesterday, Bernard Finel attempted the valiant intellectual feat of trying to get inside the mind of one W. Mitt Romney.  The question:  what lies behind his pre-Sandy hate on FEMA?  His answer:

When Romney talked about killing FEMA it wasn’t because he really thought the states could or should do it, nor did he think the private sector could or should. When Romney went after FEMA in the primary debates, it was all about letting GOP voters know that he sees the Black Helicopters too.

That’s plausible, certainly, and I’ve no doubt that when you’re betting on Romney’s combination of cynicism and opportunism, you’ll never lose taking the over.  But at the same time, I think this particular stance was overdetermined — and that it’s worse, not better, that Romney’s views on federal involvement in any social good derive even in part  from remnants of genuine belief.

Here I have just a hint of (one remove) personal insight to share.  Y’all recall that among the Romney “home states,” Mitt and his family did in fact live in Massachusetts for a lot of years.  Which means he had friends here, people who knew and liked him before ambition consumed his soul.  As it happened, I had dinner with a couple of those folks last week — people who had  met him in the context of (non-sectarian) social action and who had become personal friends over the years the they knew each other, beginning well before Romney embarked on his political career.

My friends barely recognizes their friend any more, which saddens them, but in talking about Mitt’s charitable interests, our dinner companions emphasized two things:  the first is that Romney does recognize that there are people in need, those for whom a helping hand is both needed and likely to be effective.

The second: Romney possessed then, and presumably does now, an enduring commitment to the Mormon church — not just to the formal tenets of the faith, but to the institution as it saw itself, a kind of corporate entity integrated into all facets of its members’ lives.  That’s the context in which Mitt had no problem with the idea of a group responsibility to ensure individuals’ well-being-in-extremis.  But such social service properly takes place (in my understanding of my friend’s gloss on Mitt’s views) within the private sphere, in the settings that Mormons or others find themselves.  The idea of state intervention was not just unnecessary; it was an unwarranted intrusion.

The virtue of such an approach is obvious, I think:  within specific communities, there are real, kept, mutual guarantees.  Its defects are equally plain:  for one, the price you pay for such common cause is that the gentile — and we’re all gentiles to somebody — is not part of the deal; and for another, there’s the problem of scale.  In a country of 310  million-plus folks of all kinds of origins and destinations, the moral and practical implications of that kind of approach are catastrophic.  As Sandy illustrates with brutal clarity, if your approach to the problems of society within the nation we actually inhabit is a canned goods drive…well, were he actually in charge, the consequences that would flow from what at least were once Romney’s beliefs would be pretty certainly disastrous.

And hence the real problem, IMHO.  Throughout this election season, plenty of folks who should know better have floated the notion that the GOP candidate seen on the stump is a fake Mitt — thus enabling the fantasy of some pragmatic, moderate Mitt who would both seek and be able to govern from the sensible center.  I think that’s pretty certainly hogwash on the face of it; the running mate choice, if nothing else, is the one actual Presidential decision a nominee gets to make before the election, and I think Mitt’s shows the direction of a putative Romney presidency pretty clearly.

But even if there still survives some real Mitt behind the facades we’ve seen to date, here’s the rub:  to the extent that the archaeology of friendship exposes that person, we find a man who does not accept the implications of what it means to live in a heterogeneous nation and a pluralistic society.

So, that’s what you have to ask yourself: is it better if Mitt didn’t care what he said about FEMA before it became inconvenient to have uttered his wingnut-bait?  Or should we prefer that he actually believed in the proposition?

To me, it’s the second option that truly terrifies.YMMV.

Image:  Egbert van der Poel, View of Delft after the Explosion of 1654,  1654.

I Believe The Word You’re Looking For Is “Boy.”

October 9, 2012

Soonergrunt and I saw this at about the same time*, but here’s that survivor of adversity Josh Romney commenting on the nature and character of the President of the United States (via TPM):

“I don’t know if you guys saw the debate last week,” Josh Romney said, as the crowd cheered and applauded. “I take a lot of pride in that, because — I don’t know if you noticed, but I was — me and my brothers were responsible for my dad doing so well…

“So as a father, he learned how to debate an obstinate child. We had a lot of fun, we had a lot of fun watching the debate.”

Seriously, once again, I find myself in the odd position of wanting to thank a member of the opposing team.  Really, Josh, I appreciate this insight, this glimpse inside the real views of Team Romney.

The President of the United States — the one who steered the country through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the one who passed the most significant health care reform in two generations, the one who saved the auto industry (in which your own family once took pride, as I recall), the one who steered a very delicate course that ended with the fall of more than one dictator and the transformation of autocratic Arab regimes into something much closer to one their own people recognize as legitimate, the guy who got Bin Laden and all the rest — that great American is to you “an obstinate child.”

Really?

Oh — and I forgot to mention.  That president, our president, your president, like it or not, happens to be the first African-American to hold that office, which among many other things means he has to deal with a level of identity pressure unlike anything a born-rich, never-has-to-wonder-about-your-children’s-children’s-material-well-being guy like yourself.  And with all of that you’re going to call that man “an obstinate child.”  Just a brat arguing with Daddy-knows-best at the dinner table.  A servant, perhaps, a member of the lower orders, who should, by rights, know his place?

As I said, the word you are looking for is “boy.”  Really, you just said it.

IOW:  we approach asymptotically the point at which the entire GOP shouts as one: Ni-CLANG!

Oh. One more thing. Again, thanks Josh.  A significant portion of your dad’s polling boost has come from increased enthusiasm on your side, and a depressed drop on ours.  Stuff like this makes me and mine take notice, and it only does us good when you stir the pot this way.

Speaking out of snark for just one minute, despite all the evidence to date, Josh Romney’s remark reminds me once again that there is simply no bottom over there — no reservoir of shame nor self awareness that can puncture the single conviction that I can be sure the Romney clan possesses:  that theirs is the divine right to rule.  Such faith is, of course, singularly disqualifying its possessors from the reward they seek.

Let us make it so.

*Soonergrunt twittered on it first, but I got to Starbucks WiFi before he did, so there!

.Image: Jan Mitjans, Portrait of Maria of Orange with Hendrik van Zuijlestein and a servant,  c. 1665

Post Debate Punditing Without A License

October 4, 2012

I’m going to do something I very rarely wish to inflict on y’all.  Usually, I like to invoke at least a schmear of empirical evidence to drive an argument, but just this once I’m going to go all pundity…

….which means, I guess, that I gotta with a Penetrating Glimpse of the Obvious:

Last night’s debate was a poor showing for President Obama and those of us who see the prospect of a President Romney as a clear and present danger to the Republic and our kids’ future.

Which leads to the equally obvious (but true) pivot:

No campaign is a single event. Counting today there are 32 full days to go before the polls open on Tuesday, November 6.  Last night’s farrago will become part of the river of stories that flow towards that day — but it is the sum of those tales, not any single shiny moment, that will determine the outcome.

Already, some folks — partisans for now, to be sure — are trying to draw attention to what Romney actually said, and in doing so, identifying the significant vulnerabilities this debate exposed for the Republican cause.  For example, I agree with Mistermix that Romney’s signal mistake was to open himself up for a renewed assault on his Medicare position — and that link to Krugman shows it ain’t just us DFH’s paying attention.   I also think Romney’s tripling down on his tax plan will allow a lot of people, and not just wonks, to remind folks of the gap between arithmetic and all the BS Romney and Ryan have thrown out on this one.

As Josh Marshall says in that second link, this is the kind of thing that takes several news cycles to build.  But recall:  we were all enraged at the brazen embrace of easily refutable lies in the Ryan RNC Convention speech.  We didn’t have faith in either the MSM or the Obama campaign (Democrats after all!) to take on the deceit with anything like the attention needed to defuse such weaponized ruminant excrement.  But they did, and (with some help from the marathon man himself) Ryan has become at least a bit of punchline ever since.*

So:  President Obama missed many opportunities last night, perhaps most significantly in not drawing a sharp enough line between the “you’re on your own” Romney vision and the “we’re all in this together” music Obama has played to such great effect in the past (and I’m sure will again, soon).

But the real test of the Obama campaign will be what it does over the next week with the actual missteps Romney made last night.  How will they use his internal contradictions in the ads?  What will Obama and his surrogates say to local news folks?  How quickly can their operation drive the mainstream media to go to town on stories like this one? (Shorter: it took almost no time at all for a Romney aide to contradict Romney’s core claim about pre-existing conditions and Medicare.)  No guarantees exist, but I have to say I’ve been damn impressed with the side of the Obama campaign that pursues such ends.  (Note also that Fallows reminds us that (in his view) debating is the best campaign technique for Romney.  Obama’s operation has been superior to his rival’s in every other phase so far.)

To repeat the cliché — holy hell, if I’m pretending to be a pundit I’ve got to hammer those too — but campaigns are marathons, not sprints.  Romney’s performance last night was like ripping off an 15 second 100 yard dash in mile 18th on the way to the Back Bay.**  Yup, he won that stretch of road.  Now comes the time to reel him in.

Which leads me to my last thought, the one I hope y’all take home: 32 days, peeps. It’s not just Obama and the grandees of the profession, the Axelrod’s and the Plouffe’s who can’t let themselves get too much sleep between now and then.  There’s the rest of us.  There’s me.

I have to confess — I’ve been less involved in a boots-on-the-ground kind of way in this election than the last, and by a good margin too.  My wife and I have been giving money on a regular basis, but I used to be a phone bank hero, and then got into door-to-door as my preferred mode of participation.  Haven’t done that this year; pretty much all I’ve done that requires me to upgrade from a bathrobe in front of a screen in my basement*** is to show up at a couple of Warren events.  That’s not enough — if there is one true lesson to be gained from the debate it is that nothing is in the bag, not the Presidency, not the Senate, surely not the House.

I’m not Tim F.  I can’t match his gift for catalyzing action.  But action is needed, so here’s my pledge.  I’m going to do something every week from now through Monday, 5 November.  I’ve got the day job and I’ve got the kid and there’s some real life stuff happening in my extended family, so I can’t do what I did when I was a mere pup, and just take off for New Hampshire for the last two weeks of the 1992 election.  But I’ll be heading that way to canvas this weekend and everyday I can liberate from my daily round between now and the 6th; I’ll be tossing more bucks in the pot today, and no doubt on days to come; I’ll keep looking for useful tasks that I can tackle.  I really don’t want to do this — I’m becoming more misanthropic and generally grumpy with each passing year, but that’s what’s required, so I’m just going to kick my ass out the door as much as I possibly can.

You?

Update: Just to show it ain’t just my rose-colored monitor screens coloring my view, here’s a dispatch from the inner sanctum of the Village, NBC’s First Read:

*** Who wins the post-debate? If Romney won the instant reactions from last night’s debate, it is more than possible that the Obama camp can win the next 24 hours. Why? Because Romney said several things that could make life difficult for him today or in the next debate. First, Romney declared, “I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans.” But in addition to supporting the extension of the Bush tax cuts, which are skewed heavily to the wealthy, the non-partisan Tax Policy Center says that Romney’s tax plan would give the Top 0.1% an average tax cut of more than $246,000. Next, he stated that “there will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit.” While he has said his plan will be paid for, he’s yet to lay out any SPECIFICS on how he’ll pay for it. Romney also said, “I’m not going to cut education funding. I don’t have any plan to cut education funding.” But the Ryan budget plan, which Romney has said he’d sign into law, leads to long-term spending reductions in education. And Romney also didn’t disagree with the description that his Medicare plan would consist of “vouchers” for future retirees. Winning a “debate” is always a two-part deal — the night itself, and then the aftermath. This is now an opportunity for Team Obama and a challenge for Team Romney.

Update 2: And on cue, here’s an opening shot from Team Obama (via):

<div align=”center”></div>

None of this is to say all is well.

It isn’t.

This election is a month away and it really, truly ain’t in the bag yet.  So what I said above:  If the idea of waking up on November 7 to the words President-Elect Romney gives you the cold sweats, listen to the man — and don’t just vote, put mind, money and muscle behind the campaign to get your fri

*Via DeLong, a new game:  Where’s Waldo Paulie?

**Boston stuff — never mind.

***Not intended to be a factual statement.

Image:  Franz Marc, The Yellow Cow, 1911.

Blunt Clarity (From A Source Not Often Cited In This Space)

September 13, 2012

Via Ed Kilgore, I came across this from frequent blogosphere object of scorn, William Saletan.  He first makes clear exactly what it was the US Embassy in Egypt said in its tweets and other communication through the critical period leading up to and during the attack on the compound:

When you read the tweets alongside the initial statement, the message is clear. Free speech is a universal right. The Muslim-baiting movie is an abuse of that right. The embassy rejects the movie but defends free speech and condemns the invasion of its compound….

He then lines that up against Romney’s disastrous and deeply corrupt performance, stating at one point:

Romney’s description of the embassy’s initial statement—“sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt, instead of condemning their actions”—was blatantly false…

And at another:

At a news conference Wednesday morning, Romney escalated his assault: “The administration was wrong to stand by a statement sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt, instead of condemning their actions. It’s never too early for the United States government to condemn attacks on Americans and to defend our values.”

Until, the ground prepared, Saletan offers this blunt exegesis of that sorry text:

At his press conference, Romney accused Obama of “having that embassy reiterate a statement effectively apologizing for the right of free speech.” Romney claimed that the embassy had said, in his paraphrase, “We stand by our comments that suggest that there’s something wrong with the right of free speech.” This, too, was a Romney lie. The embassy had declared five times in writing that free speech was a universal right.
What made Romney’s statement and press conference disturbing, however, was his repeated use of the words sympathize and apology to conflate three issues the Cairo embassy had carefully separated: bigotry, free speech, and violence. The embassy had stipulated that expressions of bigotry, while wrong, were protected by freedom of speech and didn’t warrant retaliatory violence. Romney, by accusing the embassy of “sympathizing with those who had breached” the compound, equated moral criticism of the Mohammed movie with support for violence. In so doing, Romney embraced the illiberal Islamist mindset that led to the embassy invasion: To declare a movie offensive is to authorize its suppression….

Exactly so.  And to my mind Saletan here has expressed as well as anyone yet exactly why Romney’s statements over the last couple of days were more than just grandstanding — a case of shoot first and aim later as our President put it last night.  And it’s certainly more than the Smirk, no matter how bizarrely revealing it was to see Romney grin at the thought of having politicized (successfully, he seem to have thought) the deaths of four Americans.

What Romney’s words actually mean, Saletan says (and I agree) is something profoundly un-, even anti-American.

Which is to say that Romney’s behavior over the last couple of days disqualifies him from the job he seeks both because he’s shown he lacks the basic temperament and analytical habits to do the job, and because what instincts he does have are at war with the values of a small “l” liberal polity.

Or, as Saletan concludes:

I don’t know where you were born, Mr. Romney (just kidding!), but where I come from, there’s nothing more American than recognizing the idiocy of a man’s views and, at the same time, his right to express them. If you can’t tell the difference between those two things, the main threat to our values right now isn’t President Obama, the Egyptians, the Libyans, or our diplomats in Cairo. It’s you.

Yup.  Go read the whole thing. (Or at least that rump I haven’t already lifted…;)

Image: Circle of Rembrandt, Bust of a laughing young man, c. 1629-1630

Brutus Is An Honorable Men

August 13, 2012

I’m completely down with DennisG’s post below on the return (did it ever go away) of Romney/Republican racism.  The only signs of progress I can detect are  first,  as we have  seen a lot lately, the Romney team just isn’t that competent as racist scum — and the campaign’s attack on the changes in welfare rules the Obama administration has advanced at the request (inter alia) of GOP governors has been relatively easily countered.  No vicious virtuousity here — just imagine Lee Atwater sitting down and having lunch:  he would have been spitting out the Romney team’s metacarpals by 12:45.

And second, as DennisG rightly points out, it does seem that slowly, slowly, the Village is beginning to recognize the actual evil that lies within the choices the Romney campaign is making here.  One swallow does not make a spring and all that — but when, as Dennis notes, ur-Villager Dana Milbank chides Romney for overt racism.  Here’s a passage that is, frankly, more blunt than I’d thought I’d see this election season from this particular pen:

What makes Romney’s welfare gambit dispiriting is that, as a member of one of the most persecuted groups in American history, he knows more than most the dangers of fanning bigotry. Yet now he has injected into the campaign what has for decades been a standard device for race-baiting — a suspect move because welfare hadn’t been on the radar screen.

Good on you, Dana!  Romney=Race Baiter.  Simple, clear, true.

But then there’s this line:

This is my problem with Romney: He is a decent man, but he’s too weak to stand up to the minority on his own side who are not.

Crap.  Just a steaming pile of that which emerges from the south end of a north facing horse.*  How would you define a decent person?  For me, it’s pretty simple:  that would be someone who does decent things.**

That is to say:  I can’t know, and nor can MIllbank, the true nature of Romney’s heart.

I’m not privy to how he thinks and feels in the long dark teatime of his soul.  And it doesn’t matter.   Who cares if a slug believes himself to be St. Francis?  It’s what happens when he or she actually does stuff in the world that defines their moral valence.  In case you were wondering, the residue of my religious training leaves me an acts not grace kind of person; whether or not that floats your boat as a doctrine of your faith, it seems to me that it is the only possible stance from which to weigh civic life.  No amount of predestination can turn, say, Dick Cheney into a good man.

And so it is with Mitt:

With the welfare attack, he is encouraging them [the indecent minority***]. After releasing the ad claiming Obama would “just send you your welfare check,” Romney made the racial component official when his Republican National Committee hosted a conference call the next day with Gingrich, who, sure enough, reprised his food-stamp assault, telling reporters that “an honest discussion about dependency doesn’t mean you’re a racist.” But what about a dishonest discussion?

Thursday, the RNC hosted a call with Santorum, who did everything but revive the “welfare queen” attack of the 1980s.

“What the president wants to do is turn back the clock and do what he has done with every single other entitlement program in this country, which is increase the number of people on it, increase dependency,” Santorum charged.

To be fair to the He Iz Lerning Milbank, by the end of his column he does seem to get that when someone makes the same choice over and over again, eventually, you have to realize that it is what it is:

The week before launching his welfare attack, Romney told a group of donors in Jerusalem that “culture makes all the difference” in the “dramatic, stark” disparity between Israeli wealth and Palestinian poverty.

Saeb Erekat, an adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, called the statement “racist.”

Romney may not have meant it to be — but, as Santorum likes to say, this is a pattern.

Again, good on Milbank here for this save after the stumble above.  That’s as close as I think it possible for a headliner at Kaplan Daily to out-and-out say that Romney is so desperate for power that he’s perfectly OK with trading on hate to get there.

But it is really, really time to stop giving Mitt — or Santorum, or Gingrich, or anyone on the GOP side who does not explicitly condemn this nonsense (Paul Ryan….I’m looking at you) — the benefit of the doubt.

You use bigotry as a campaign tactic?  Then you’re a hater…and not to be trusted anywhere near the levers of government.

Factio Grandaeva Delenda Est.

Bonus soundtrack:

watch?v=snSM7qJiqOs

*Horse HoHos as we used to refer to the stuff as kids.  Just thought I’d share that with you.

**We are all human, and hence fallible, so this isn’t a sainthood standard:  good folks will act in a range of ways, not all of them exemplary.  The issues are what do they strive to do as a default impulse to action…and much more importantly, on balance, how their actions tote up.

***How does Milbank know that those to whom Romney panders are the minority in the Republican party? Could be, I guess — but given the decades-long series of choices to anchor the party in white Southern resentment, I’d say that’s an assumption not in evidence.  Were I Milbank’s editor I would have corrected that line to Romney’s “too weak to stand up to those in his party who are.”  This is a quibble — except it’s not.  One of the most damaging tropes in elite journalism these days is the lazy and/or unconscious weave of “knowledge” that is in fact unknown into the fabric of a piece.  Once assumed, it requires no interrogation by the writer…and bullshit takes on just that little bit of added authority by having become a “fact” within some MSM journal of record.

Image:  Michiel Jansz. van MIerevelt, Anatomy Lesson of  Dr. Willem van der Meer1617

 

Unreal Americans

July 17, 2012

Just to pile on the Sununu meltdown– as one must, in this case:

John Sununu does us all a favor.  He comes ever closer to the moment when some prominent Republican just up and says it.  Not Ni-Clang! exactly — but the underlying conviction that lies behind that word.

As everyone reading this no doubt knows by now, Mr. Sununu, former governor of one of the whitest states in the union, former chief of staff to Bush the First and now one of Mitt Romney’s official surrogates, said this today (via TPM):

John Sununu, the former governor of New Hampshire and a leading Romney surrogate, told reporters that Obama’s recent defense of public infrastructure shows he “doesn’t understand how America works.”

“I wish this president would learn how to be an American,” Sununu said later.

I’m white.  Have been all my life.  Haven’t had to put up with the daily tests that attend being nonwhite in America.  So I’m not going to go on long about this.  But I can tell you that you don’t need to be African-American to ask yourself what you are hearing when John Sununu tells you that Barack Obama, President of the United States, born here, educated here, married here, raising two kids here, the whole run — doesn’t know how to be an American.

I think I can guess:  hell — I don’t need to guess.  As I said, I’m a white guy, but I hear Sununu loud and clear, and what I pick up is a prominent Republican saying pretty damn clearly that African Americans aren’t real Americans.  They need to learn how to pass…

One could say that I’m being overly particular here.  To Republicans, as we’ve seen over several administrations now, Democrats aren’t real Americans.  When on occasion some Democrat manages to dupe the electorate into sending someone with a “D” after their name into high office, that’s simply an error to be corrected, by restricting the franchise to the right people — real Americans — if need be.

But just because a result is over-determined, that doesn’t mean that the most grotesque explanation isn’t true.  As here, IMHO.

Is John Sununu — surrogate to Republican presidential nominee-presumptive Mitt Romney — a racist?

A simple yes or no is not quite the right way to respond to that form of the question.  Rather ask:  Did John Sununu just say some racist shit, dog whistling to that portion of the electorate that responds to such filth?

I stand within a tradition that weighs works, not any inner manifestation of piety.  By that standard?

Now the question answers itself.

Image:  Jan Steen, A Class with a Sleeping Schoolmaster, 1672.

 


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