TAPPED

Looking at Gadhadi

After Osama bin Laden was killed, I wrote a somewhat contrarian piece arguing that the government should release a photo of his body. I then went on NPR's On the Media to talk about it, alongside the New Yorker 's Philip Gourevitch, who was rather contemptuous of my position (audio here , transcript here ), but I stuck to it. And today, grainy video footage of Moammar Ghadafi's body has emerged. OTM asked me what I thought -- you can read my response here , as well as see the video if you haven't already, but here's what I had to say: This is a very different situation from the Bin Laden question. First, in that instance there were very few pictures of Bin Laden, and so an image of his end would be all the more important. Second, any photograph the U.S. government released would have been carefully composed to represent the American victory over him. In Gadhafi's case, the images are from cell phones -- they're much more spontaneous, chaotic, and violent. They don't display the...

In Defense of Rachel Maddow

After Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity in Washington, D.C., last year, Rachel Maddow convinced Stewart to sit down with her for over an hour to discuss politics and the media. She dedicated her entire show that night to the interview. I don't see how anyone could have come away from that interview thinking Maddow had not given serious thought to the state of the media today and her own role in it. So you can imagine my astonishment when The New Republic listed Maddow on their list of Washington's 10 "over-rated thinkers." But sure enough, alongside Newt Gingrich and Ayn Rand, there she was: Maddow is a textbook example of the intellectual limitations of a perfectly settled perspective. She knows the answers even before she has the questions. The truth about everything is completely obvious to her. She seems utterly incapable of doubt or complication. Her show is a great tribute to Fox, because it copies the Fox style exactly. TNR seems to have missed the Stewart interview, as...

Herman Cain's Racial Hucksterism

To the extent that Georgia businessman Herman Cain has an identifiable rhetorical style, it relies on the regular use of racially inflected humor, as The New York Times notes in this story on Cain’s tenuous position in the Republican nomination contest: He has no qualms, for instance, about playing off black clichés: should he become president, his Secret Service codename should be “Cornbread,” he wrote in his memoir, “This is Herman Cain! My Journey to the White House.” Mr. Cain’s traveling aide, Nathan Naidu, already refers to him as Cornbread on the internal campaign schedule. (Why? Mr. Cain says he just loves cornbread.) Ta-Nehisi Coates is right to describe this as “hucksterism,” and as a huckster, Cain’s snake oil is a false sense of racial absolution. He offers conservative audiences the ability to point to liberals and say, “We’re not racist”, as if casual support for a black presidential candidate is evidence of full racial acceptance. To wit, Cain’s use of “uneducated black...

Republicans Only Hate 9-9-9 Because It Makes Their Goal Too Clear

After Herman Cain rose to the first tier in the latest polls, the other Republican candidates finally decided to pay attention to what has been his sole selling point: the catchy 9-9-9 tax plan. The results weren't pretty at last night's debate. "Herman's well-meaning, and I love his boldness, and it's great," Rick Santorum said. "But the fact of the matter is, I mean, reports are now out that 84 percent of Americans would pay more taxes under his plan." "I like your chutzpah on this, Herman, but I have to tell you," Mitt Romney said, joining the chorus, "the analysis I did, person by person, return by return, is that middle-income people see higher taxes under your plan." They mostly danced around what exactly was wrong with Cain's plan, but Ron Paul went straight to the problem. "Oh, it is [dangerous], because it raises revenues, and the worst part about it; it's regressive," he said. "A lot of people aren't paying any taxes, and I like that. I don't think that we should even things...

What Happens if Obama Can't Fill Judicial Vacancies?

The Washington Post ’s Al Kamen gives a quick update on the pace of judicial confirmations in the Senate. In short, President Obama shouldn’t expect to fill many more vacancies on the federal bench: Presidential election years are notoriously bad for nominees. For one thing, the Senate will probably meet fewer days in 2012, as it usually has in presidential election years. And the mood in Congress gets even testier, making what’s become a contentious process that much more partisan. And during recent presidential election years, confirmation votes for circuit court nominees end in early summer. Last votes for district court nominees were in September or October. It’s hard to overstate the extent to which next year will feature a complete slowdown in the pace of judicial confirmations. In addition to the partisan pressures of a presidential campaign, it’s simply the case that Republicans have a strategic interest in denying the administration’s judicial nominees, even if they are...

Leave Mitt Romney Alone!

Stand back, folks, while I defend Mitt Romney over the question of who cuts his lawn. Patrick has the details on the original case below, but here's the exchange between Romney and Rick Perry that happened during last night's debate: Many people, even those of us who are not as rich as Mitt, have had services provided in their homes. Even if you cut your own grass, chances are you don't patch the chimney yourself if there's a leak, or fix the washing machine when it breaks. You call someone with the tools and expertise to do that job, and they do it. I'll come clean on this one and reveal that we have a service that cleans out our gutters twice a year. Not only do I not demand to see the Social Security numbers of everyone on the crew, for all I know they could be three-headed aliens from the planet Glagrax; every six months they show up, clomp around on the roof for about ten minutes, and then they're gone and we get a bill in the mail. Does it really make you "soft" on immigration...

Romney's Lawn Problem

As Jamelle noted earlier, things got testy between Mitt Romney and Rick Perry at last night's debate. After being hammered on immigration issues for the past several weeks, Rick Perry turned the tables and accused Romney of hypocrisy. “Mitt, you lose all of your standing, from my perspective,” Perry said, “because you hired illegals in your home and you knew about it for a year." Romney turned red, visibly shaking during the exchange as Perry spoke over him. “Rick, I don’t think I’ve ever hired an illegal in my life. … I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake, I can’t have illegals," he said. So what's the hubbub about? Perry was referencing a series of articles in the The Boston Globe revealing that undocumented immigrants worked on lawn care at Romney's home in Belmont while the Massachusetts governor was posturing over the need for stricter immigration enforcement. The Globe first reported in 2006 that the firm Romney hired to tend his two-and-a-half-acre estate was staffed by...

What Will Happen with Black Turnout in 2012?

The thing to remember about Barack Obama’s support among black voters in the 2008 election is that it simply wasn’t as remarkable as it was presented. Obama won 95 percent of African American voters, which is not substantially higher than John Kerry’s 88 percent performance in 2004 and Al Gore’s 90 percent performance in 2000. In other words, African Americans are stalwarts of the Democratic Party, and routinely deliver huge margins to Democratic candidates in national, state, and local elections. Insofar that there’s a difference between 2000, 2004, and 2008, it’s turnout -- Obama managed to boost black turnout to 13 percent of the electorate, a two-point increase over 2004, and a three-point increase over 2000. You should keep all of this in mind as you read this Washington Post story on African American support for Obama. The question presented by the Post is whether the president can “hold on to African American voters in 2012” given the extent to which the president has begun to...

Majority of Americans Now Support Marijuana Legalization

Yesterday, Gallup reported that in its latest poll, support for legalization of marijuana has for the first time cracked 50 percent: Why has this happened? I'd point to a few reasons. First, we've had a fairly active debate about medical use of marijuana for some time, and that debate has been soundly won by the pro-legalization side, with as much as three-quarters of the public favoring legalization for medical purposes. It may well be that when poll respondents get asked "Do you think the use of marijuana should be made legal?", many are thinking of medical marijuana. Second, the decline in crime rates may make cracking down on anybody who thinks about lighting up seem like a waste of time. But the most important factor, I'd be willing to bet, is the aging of the population. As Gallup shows, support for legalization is at 62 percent among adults under 30, 56 percent among those aged 30 to 49, 49 percent among those aged 50 to 64, but only 31 percent among those over 65. People who...

Liberal Media Bludgeoning Obama; Conservatives at a Loss to Explain It

The good folks at the Project for Excellence in Journalism are constantly doing evaluations of news coverage, and one of the things they determine is how favorable or unfavorable coverage is to various political figures. Their latest report has some interesting findings. Rick Perry started off getting enormously positive coverage, but that changed after his poor performance in debates. Here's the interesting part: One man running for president has suffered the most unrelentingly negative treatment of all, the study found: Barack Obama. Though covered largely as president rather than a candidate, negative assessments of Obama have outweighed positive by a ratio of almost 4-1. Those assessments of the president have also been substantially more negative than positive every one of the 23 weeks studied. And in no week during these five months was more than 10% of the coverage about the president positive in tone. Is this going to lead conservative media critics to abandon their assertion...

Herman Cain Is Extremely Confused

(Flickr/ Gage Skidmore ) Dan Amira at New York has located some bizarre video of Herman Cain trying to explain his position on abortion on a television program a few months ago. To appreciate the muddled thinking, you just have to watch it: As Amira says, it was as though Cain "simply gathered some common abortion-related words and phrases — 'her choice,' 'government's decision', 'sanctity of life' — then randomly assembled them into sentences." Cain was only marginally more coherent on Meet the Press last weekend answering a similar question - he says he's pro-life with no exceptions for rape and incest, but when David Gregory presses him on whether there should be an exception to save the life of the mother, he says "the family is going to have to make that decision." On the basis of what he's said, Cain is either the most pro-life candidate running in the Republican primary, or the most pro-choice candidate running in the Republican primary, but it's hard to tell which. I think I...

Big Government, Getting Up In Your Business

Here's your daily dose of big government oppression : WASHINGTON — Users of cellphones and other wireless devices who are nearing their monthly limit for voice, text or data services will receive alerts when they are in danger of being charged extra, under an agreement reached by carriers and the Federal Communications Commission... A 2010 study by the F.C.C. found that one in six mobile device users had experienced bill shock, with 23 percent of those users facing unexpected charges of $100 or more. A separate F.C.C. report noted that 20 percent of the bill shock complaints it received during the first half of 2010 were for $1,000 or more in overage charges. Expensive charges can also be incurred for roaming, when a user travels out of a company’s defined area of coverage or, as often occurs, when traveling overseas. Even so-called unlimited data plans often have a cap limiting downloads each month to a certain number of megabytes — a technical measure that, unlike a number of calls...

The Action Against the LRA Does Not Increase Presidential Authority

David Dayen objects to the Obama administration's decision to send 100 American troops as part of an effort to hunt down war criminal Joseph Kony. The action, according to Dayen, "furthers a long, slow decline whereby the President becomes a unitary executive in matters of foreign policy, even though Congress has explicit rights regarding war powers." On a technical point, the "unitary executive" actually refers to a theory about the president's control of the executive branch; presumably what Dayen means is that this action will further the unilateral power of the president in military affairs. But does it? Via my colleague Robert Farley , Tom Hilton cites the relevant portion of the LRA Disarmament & Northern Uganda Recovery Act. Congress, in fact, unambiguously authorized the Obama administration's actions against the Lord's Resistance Army: ...providing political, economic, military, and intelligence support for viable multilateral efforts to protect civilians from the Lord’s...

I Was Born in a Small Town ... but I Left

Over the weekend I had a piece in the Los Angeles Times arguing that there's something wrong with the fact that candidates who grew up in small towns tout their roots, but those who grew up in the cities or suburbs -- where most Americans actually live -- never do. Here's an excerpt: What exactly is it that candidates are attempting to communicate when they tell of their small-town roots? It isn't experience, competence, intelligence or wisdom. It's that set of characteristics that are most central to modern campaigning: affinity and empathy. I'm one of you, the candidate is saying, and I embody the values you like to see in yourself. I understand you, and I haven't forgotten folks like you as I've risen to the heights of power and influence. The equation of small-town roots with groundedness and empathy is beset with ironies, however. First, most Americans no longer come from small towns where the owner of the general store knows everyone and tractors lumber down Main Street. In the...

Friday Weirdness

I'm not even sure what to say about this, from Jonathan Alter . Apparently, the hot rumor is that the Obama administration is considering having Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden switch jobs late in the 2012 campaign if things are looking dire: Biden would reluctantly agree because his consolation prize is a job he can truthfully argue he has coveted for 20 years. It would leave him less humiliated than incumbent vice presidents like Henry Wallace, whom Franklin D. Roosevelt dumped from the ticket in favor of Harry Truman in 1944, and Nelson Rockefeller, booted by Gerald Ford to make room for Bob Dole in 1976. Clinton would say yes because she is dutiful to a fault and because everyone asked to be on the ticket for the last 40 years has accepted, with the exception of Colin Powell turning down Dole in 1996 and John McCain rebuffing John Kerry in 2004 (that’s how liberal McCain was then). Job switches of this kind are hardly unprecedented. In 1985, Ronald Reagan arranged for Treasury...

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