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The Eternal Return of Economic Arguments

Seth Masket points out one more reason to be worried about the 2012 election: It seems fair to say that the economy will not be roaring again any time soon, meaning that Obama will at best win by a squeaker. If it dips back into recession, he's toast. Most likely, it will end up just being a really competitive and interesting race on par with 2004. The party occupying the White House when the economy does finally start booming will get the credit among the public for saving the country. It doesn't matter so much who was in power when the recession hit or whose policies helped or hurt the recovery. To a large extent, it's simply a matter of being in the Oval Office at the right time. It is indeed horrifying to imagine the day when the economy is finally humming again, and President Perry tells us, "See? You elected me, and we're back on track. So let's not hear about this Keynes idiot anymore." Nevertheless, I don't think the national conversation is going to be too different either...

In Eric Cantor's District, President Obama Demands That Republicans "Pass This Bill."

Last night, closing his assertive speech on the American Jobs Act, President Obama made a promise. “This plan is the right thing to do right now, and you should pass it,” he said to the joint session of Congress, “And I intend to take that message to every corner of this country.” This morning, Obama made his first stop in front of a crowd of cheering college students at the University of Richmind in Richmond, Virginia, the state’s capital. There, in a brief address, he said his $447 billion jobs plan aims to reduce unemployment and jump-start the economy through payroll tax cuts, infrastructure spending, and renewed unemployment benefits. In addition, Obama pledged to introduce a plan for long-term deficit reduction as a companion piece to the AJA. He didn’t offer specifics – outside of the usual references to wasteful spending and entitlement “adjustments” – but he did attempt to make a case for deficit reduction, albeit without the passion of last night’s address. “We spent a whole...

TV News Gives More Tell, Less Show

Veteran TV newsman Dave Marash reports in the Columbia Journalism Review that television news operations, both cable and network, have been turning away from prepared video packages: We asked [the Project for Excellence in Journalism] to break out its data for two periods, four years apart—the first three months of 2007, and the first three months of 2011. What they showed is that airtime devoted to video packages "was down significantly," says Jurkowitz; on the three network news shows and the three cable news channels the time devoted to packages dropped from 43 percent of the typical broadcast in 2007 to 37 percent in 2011. Almost all of that drop is attributable to CNN, where in 2007, 46 percent of programming was video packages. By 2011, that had dropped to 18 percent. Across the categories—domestic stories, US-international stories, and non-US international stories—in 2011 CNN was giving less than half the airtime to video packages as it did in 2007. That time has been replaced...

What Ever Happened to Glenn Beck?

Remember Glenn Beck ? For a while there he was the most talked-about media figure in the country, his mug shouting from magazine covers as he channeled the particular brand of crazy that had seized the Republican party. His unhinged conspiracy theories and venomous hatred for Barack Obama were perfectly in tune with what a significant portion of the country was feeling; his books shot up the best-seller list, his Fox News show got great ratings, and everyone was talking about him. And now? Not so much. When his TV show was cancelled (because of falling ratings, advertiser unease, and the remarkable fact that even at Fox people thought he was kind of nuts), Beck wasn't defeated -- he'd just grow his media empire all by his lonesome. The centerpiece of that empire was to be GBTV, a subscription-based Internet television service. How's it going? As Bloomberg Businessweek reports , it's complicated: Restoring Courage [the rally and related events Beck held in Israel] illustrates the...

More on Perry and the Death Penalty

Perhaps the most telling moment in last night's GOP debate was the crowd twice cheering the 234 executions Rick Perry has presided over. This would be grotesque enough if this high rate of executions was the product of a scrupulous criminal justice system. But as the case of * Cameron Todd Willingham * illustrates all too well, it is in fact possible for someone to get executed in Rick Perry's Texas on the basis of no reliable evidence whatsoever, and not only will Perry let it go forward but he'll quash any subsequent investigation. And Willingham is just the beginning -- under his watch, Texas has executed juvelilles, the mentally disabled, people guilty of "felony murder" (i.e. who didn't kill anybody), and defendants with inadequate counsel. This is a record to be ashamed of, not one to boast about. And yet, Perry was cheered. He has become the Republican frontrunner not in spite of being abominable, but in large measure because of it (although his continuing assertions that...

When It Comes to the Death Penalty, Americans are A-OK

As Patrick Caldwell mentioned already, of all eight candidates at last night’s GOP debate, it was Rick Perry who sickened many progressives when he defended his record on the death penalty: “In the state of Texas, if you come into our state and you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you’re involved with another crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas, and that is, you will be executed.” Perry's smugness was so distasteful here in light of the well-publicized case of Cameron Todd Willingham, a Texan who was convicted of arson and murder after his three children died in a 1991 home fire. Willingham maintained his innocence, and after his conviction and death-penalty sentencing, new evidence, both personal and scientific, came to the attention of the court. Even in the face of flawed science, recanted witness statements, and experts willing to testify, Perry denied a stay of execution. Since Willingham's death,...

On Executions, Even George Bush Looks Compassionate Next to Perry

(Photo: Flickr/ simminch ) Comparisons between Rick Perry and George W. Bush have become routine since the current governor announced his presidential campaign. It's a natural assumption given their shared conservative credentials and Texas backgrounds. But at last night's debate , Perry showed himself to be even more extreme than Bush in at least one area: their description of the death penalty. Where Bush's 2000 rhetoric strove to portray him as considered and deliberate before executing a criminal, Perry's image was that of a cold-blooded killer last night. When Perry was asked if he ever "struggled to sleep at night" about the 234 executions during his watch, Perry left no doubt that he's resting just fine: I’ve never struggled with that at all … in the state of Texas, if you come into our state and you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you’re involved with another crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas,...

Extremism and the General Election

At the moment, many liberals are looking at the abysmal economy and saying to themselves, "It'll be OK. Rick Perry is an extremist nut, and once people learn that, he'll never win a majority." He'll be the next Barry Goldwater or George McGovern , nominees just too far out of the mainstream for the American electorate to stomach. Jonathan Bernstein says don't be so sure: First, the general record on these things is that perceived ideological extremism hurts in presidential elections — but only by a few percentage points. If we're really in for a true double-dip recession, Barack Obama isn't likely to be saved by such things, and if the economy winds up hitting the upside of economists projections, he won't need to be saved by them. What's more, there is still plenty of time for Perry to blunt charges of extremism by modifying his positions and, especially, emphasis. Yes, the Obama campaign has the debate footage saved and ready to deploy. And yes, it will make no sense at all when...

How the Affordable Care Act Helps Republican Candidates

Last night's Republican presidential debate featured an interesting exchange about health care -- I haven't been able to locate a transcript, but the gist was that Rick Perry was asked why Texas has the highest rate of people with no health insurance in the country ( over a quarter of Texans have no insurance), and he responded that it was the federal government's fault, because they aren't giving states enough "flexibility" in Medicaid. From the standpoint of logic, this is obviously pure nonsense -- if the reason so many people have no health insurance was that the federal government isn't giving people good enough health insurance through Medicaid (an odd argument coming from an anti-government Republican to begin with), then every state would be affected equally, and Texas would be no worse off than anyone else. Nevertheless, it was a revealing answer. The problem Perry has in answering questions like this one is that he has no generalized interest in health care. He has some...

It's Only a Surprise When Ed Rollins Sticks Around

The Bachmann campaign announced over the weekend that campaign manager Ed Rollins would be vacating that role and assume the more auxiliary position of "senior advisor." Rollins' health was cited as the explanation for the move. Though it does seem possible that the daily grind of a campaign could get to a 68-year-old, it looks like there was more going on in this case, as Rollins' deputy and ally David Polyansky left the campaign on the same day. I, for one, am not all too surprised by the transition. Rollins is made out to be one of the savants of Republican operatives (his decision to work for Bachmann helped boost her from the fringe to the crème of the crop candidates), but he has a checkered past with few actual successes. Rollins struck it big by managing Ronald Reagan's 1984 reelection campaign that won 49 of the 50 states. Yet after that, his candidates went nowhere. He advised Jack Kemp's 1988 campaign that failed to win any primaries, resigned just two months into helming...

Drudge Goes Beyond the Dog Whistle

This, from the front page of the Drudge Report, is just unambiguously racist: Get it? Because black people are lazy, shiftless moochers, they are naturally ecstatic about President Obama’s forthcoming push for renewed payroll tax cuts and unemployment insurance. On a related note, a July survey from the Pew Research Center found a large uptick in the Republican Party’s standing with white voters, from a modest lead of 46 percent to 44 percent in 2008 to this year’s gulf of 52 percent to 39 percent, a 13-point difference. Without question, a significant portion of this reflects economic conditions and the long-standing white disaffection with Democrats. But given the large change, I would be surprised if this didn’t also reflect growing racial resentment on the part of older whites who both left the Democratic Party and disapprove of President Obama.

Anti-Government Conservatism, Sort Of

We'd all agree that our politics would function better if conservatives and progressives could understand each other's point of view better, instead of simply vilifying one another. In that spirit, I'd like to offer a window into the way we on the left think on one particular issue -- and particularly, what we think about what you think -- in the hopes that it will give our conservative readers (and I know you're there, since some of you take to the comments to tell me that I'm a stupid lying despicable America-hater) some perspective. We have a fundamentally different perspective on government, as you know. We on the left think that while government makes its share of mistakes, just like other institutions, it is also absolutely necessary for a free and just society to operate. The key question is not whether government is big or small but whether it's doing the things it ought to be doing, and doing them well. You, on the other hand, tend to believe that wherever government moves,...

Gun-Shy Governor

(Photo: Flickr/ Gage Skidmore ) By most accounts, Rick Perry has become the Republican front-runner less than a month after he entered the race. He not only leads by wide margins in national polls, besting former leader Mitt Romney by 15 percent in a survey released yesterday; he appears to hold the edge in many of the early primary states that will decide the nomination long before the rest of the country has any say. In the latest polls from Iowa , South Carolina , and even Nevada , Perry tops the field. One problem: Most GOP voters have yet to see Rick Perry in action. So far, he's ducked the media and stuck to speeches before small, friendly crowds. That will change tonight when he takes part in his first presidential debate. He missed his first chance to share the stage with his opponents when he ducked out of a Monday forum in South Carolina to return to Texas to tend to the spreading wildfires. But that natural disaster won't keep Perry away from the debate in California this...

Polls on Obama Looking Surprisingly Good

Before we get into this post about polling in the presidential race, please understand that I'm not saying that anything we're seeing today predicts what will happen next November. With that out of the way, let me point out something interesting. Yesterday, two new polls came out on President Obama and the 2012 race. The headlines said it all: " Obama Ratings Sink to New Low As Hope Fades ," says The Washington Post . " Obama Hits All-Time Lows ," reports the NBC/ Wall Street Journal poll. His approval is at 43 percent in the former, and 44 percent in the latter. Very bad, but about what you'd expect when the economy is in in the toilet. But could they be burying the lede? Here's an excerpt from deep down in the NBC story: If there's a silver lining for Obama, it's that a combined 70 percent of respondents still find him likeable (though nearly six in 10 say they disapprove of many of his policies). And 50 percent approve of his handling of foreign policy, which Hart says is...

Courts Push Back Against Republicans

A.G. Sulzberger has a good article about about recent federal court decisions preventing various radical anti-abortion and anti-immigration measures passed by Tea Party-dominated legislatures from going into effect. Particularly interesting are the injunctions against measures like South Dakota's three-day waiting period for women seeking abortions and the onerous Kansas regulations designed to cause two of the state's three abortion providers to close. These regulations go beyond the regulations upheld in Planned Parenthood v. Casey , the controlling Supreme Court precedent, but are not clearly precluded by it either. How the lower federal courts interpret Casey 's vague "undue burden" standard will determine in the short term whether or not women in these states will have their access to abortion further restricted by arbitrary regulations. Eventually, some of these new regulations will probably be evaluated by the Supreme Court, which would not be good news given its current...

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