Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Romney's Gay Episode

Mitt Romney accomplished a rare political feat when he hired Richard Grenell to serve as his foreign policy spokesman: He managed to provoke politicos of all ideological stripes. Liberals were up in arms over Grenell's impolitic tweets (more than 800 of which he has deleted) haranguing female politicians and journalists, among others. The press corps was equally disturbed, as reporters recalled stories of Grenell's ill temperament during his time as a U.N. spokesperson. Yet it was a separate character trait that appears to have doomed Grenell by riling up social conservatives: He’s gay. The National Review disparaged Romney's appointment, with one writer suggesting that Grenell was "a man with questionable judgment" for supporting same-sex marriage. The American Family Association's Bryan Fischer said that "Romney stepped on a landmine by appointing Richard Grenell, an out, loud and proud homosexual." This afternoon—less than two weeks after Grenell’s hiring— The Washington Post broke...

Why Romney Won't Pick Condi

(Eric Draper/Public Domain)
The Hill 's Christian Heinze smacks down speculation that Condoleezza Rice might get tapped as Mitt Romney's running mate. Heinze offers one simple yet convincing explanation—Rice is pro-choice, an intolerable stance among the GOP base. It would be difficult for any Republican to convince the party of a pro-choice VP, but it’s a particularly acute challenge for Romney, a former moderate who has devoted himself to selling conservatives that he is in actuality one of them to only middling success. Romney has spent the last six years trying to convince social conservatives that he's really, truly, actually, and honestly pro-life. Why would he destroy all of that by picking Condi? And make no mistake about it, all of that would be destroyed within ten minutes of announcing the pick. And think about this. If John McCain opted out of picking the pro-choice Joe Lieberman because it would inspire full-scale revolt with the base, do you really think Romney would dare? I think there is a far...

Mitt Romney, Not Quite As Tough As Jimmy Carter

Tougher than he looks.
Now that we're fighting over just how great it was that Barack Obama gave the order for Seal Team 6 to go in and get Osama Bin Laden, Mitt Romney has given what is probably the most politically wise answer to the question of whether he would have ordered the raid, "Of course." But then he added, "Even Jimmy Carter would have given that order." As James Fallows correctly notes , on the substance of the question, Romney's remark is incredibly stupid: Jimmy Carter did indeed make a gutsy go/no-go call. It turned out to be a tactical, strategic, and political disaster. You can read the blow-by-blow in Mark Bowden's retrospective of "The Desert One Debacle." With another helicopter, the mission to rescue U.S. diplomats then captive in Teheran might well have succeeded -- and Carter is known still to believe that if the raid had succeeded, he would probably have been re-elected. Full discussion another time, but I think he's right. (Even with the fiasco, and a miserable "stagflation"...

The Opportunity Society

The Romney grandchildren, in no particular need of bootstraps.
Whenever the subject of inequality comes up, conservatives usually say the same thing: Barack Obama wants equality of outcome , while we want equality of opportunity . The first part is ridiculously disingenuous, of course—no one could honestly argue that Obama's major goals, like raising income taxes from 35 percent to 39.6 percent, would bring us to some kind of pure socialistic society where everyone has precisely the same income and no one is wealthier than anyone else. But the second part is, I think, offered sincerely. Conservatives not only seek a world where everyone has the same opportunities, most of them think that's pretty much what we have already, so major changes aren't necessary, except in the area of getting government off your back. After all, this is America, where any kid, no matter where he comes from, can achieve whatever he wants if he's willing to work hard. Right? Which brings me to the story of Tagg Romney. Today's New York Times has a story about the private...

Obama Jabs Romney on Outsourcing and Swiss Bank Accounts

(Barack Obama/Flickr)
Barack Obama won’t officially kick off his reelection until this weekend—with dual rallies in Ohio and Virginia—but that hasn’t stopped his campaign from beginning its negative attack on Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Yesterday, the campaign questioned Romney’s ability to make critical military decisions, and today, it goes after his ability to make smart economic decisions, with an ad that will air in Iowa, Ohio, and Virginia: The point—which harkens back to Rick Perry’s attack on Romney for “vulture capitalism”—is that Romney’s brand of capitalism empowers corporations at the expense of ordinary people, and that Romney himself is so detached from average lives that he doesn’t realize it. The implicit contrast is that Obama will stand up for the economic interests of ordinary people. As Greg Sargent points out , this is “designed to sow doubts among swing voters about whether a President Romney would truly have the economic security of middle class Americans at heart.” Where the...

Rove Goes Mean Girls on Obama

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
Barack Obama is too cool to be President: It’s the implicit argument of the new ad from Karl Rove’s mega PAC American Crossroads , which shows President in a series of his cooler moments, and tries to argue that such coolness undermines his ability to do his job. The ad makes no logical sense, of course. There’s no reason to think that a quick wit or good taste in music somehow prevents someone from understanding how to run a country. But then again, this is Karl Rove we’re talking about, a man who built his career tapping the animal instincts of the electorate, hoping to activate the knee-jerk reactionary inside all of us just long enough to win at the polls. The only question is, why does he think this particular appeal will work? Rove does have a fine-tuned ear for every grievance uttered by the privileged but petty, so it’s no surprise that he’d try to find a political angle to the sport of hipster-bashing. As I’ve detailed before , hipster-bashing used to be the province of...

All Good Ideas Belong to Mitt Romney

(White House/Flickr)
Back in 2009, when the newly elected President Barack Obama was contemplating a bailout of the auto-industry, Mitt Romney emerged from his temporary hiatus to push policymakers in the other direction. “Let Detroit go bankrupt,” he urged in an op-ed for New York Times . For Romney, a managed bankrupcy of the kind he had pioneered at Bain Capital was the only way to “save” the American auto industry. As for Obama’s approach, Romney warned that “If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye.” A few months later, Romney repeated his warning: If Obama continued on his path, “it would make GM the living dead.” Three years later, Romney’s prediction hasn’t come to pass. The American auto industry is thriving even as conservatives run with the idea that government is categorically ineffective. In February, during the Republican primary in Michigan, Romney further disparaged the auto...

Cool Kids Versus Squares, Continued

Now that's cool.
Yesterday, I wrote a post looking at an ad aired by GOP uber-super-PAC American Crossroads that went after Barack Obama for being a "celebrity" and doing things like going on Jimmy Fallon's television show. I argued that it looked like once again we are in for a renewal of the old battles that started in the 1960s between the squares and the cool kids (or, depending on the historical moment, the jocks and the hippies). In the course of my post, I talked about Barack Obama's image of "cool," which he certainly works to cultivate. I'm hardly the first person to note this about Obama, and I didn't actually say anything about whether coolness makes one a good president. Nevertheless, Matt Welch at Reason seemed positively outraged , enough to illustrate his post responding to mine with a giant picture of me (great!) and accuse me of arguing something I didn't actually argue (not so great). Here's what he had to say (it begins with a reference to the "pound hug," that combo handshake-hug...

A Fight Over Fairness

(WEBN-TV/Flickr)
A few weeks ago, Amanda Marcotte described the Romney team as running an “I’m rubber, you’re glue” campaign, where—instead of addressing the claims against him—the former Massachusetts governor turns them around on his opponents. It’s a brilliant formulation that neatly captures a dynamic that—if Romney’s riff on “fairness” is any indication—will become a defining feature of his presidential campaign: “We will stop the unfairness of government workers getting better pay and benefits than the very taxpayers they serve,” the former Massachusetts governor said. “And we will stop the unfairness of one generation passing larger and larger debts on to the next.” It is all part of a concerted strategy to try to reverse perceived campaign weaknesses for Republicans as the general election campaign launches. I doubt this will convince anyone other than true believers, but that’s not the point; the idea is to muddy the waters when it comes to coverage of Romney’s message. By attacking Obama on...

The Only Reasonable Response Is Alarm

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
I’m not surprised that Michael Gerson, architect of “compassionate conservatism,” has convinced himself that this generation of Republican leaders is carrying on in his footsteps (via Mike Allen ): Obama’s overreach has also produced another conservative reaction – a Reform Conservatism. The key figure here is Paul Ryan … Its brain trust includes thinkers such as Yuval Levin, James Capretta and Peter Wehner. The reform movement … looks for ways to achieve the ends of the welfare state both through more private means and more efficient public means. … Speaker John Boehner has adopted Ryan’s reform approach as the de facto ideology of the House Republican majority. [Emphasis mine] The Ryan budget does a lot of things. It flattens the tax code and dramatically cuts taxes for high-income earners. It caps federal spending at 20 percent of gross domestic product, and it calls for higher military spending. It turns Medicaid into a block grant for the states, and gradually shifts Medicare to...

Get Ready For A Nasty General Election

(Flickr/borman818)
Let the general-election fun begin. Less than 24 hours after Mitt Romney rebooted for the umpteenth time , the Obama campaign announced the official start of rally season. The campaign announced an impromptu press conference call Wednesday evening to announce campaign swings through Ohio and Virginia by the president and first lady on May 5. "We understand we've pulled one or two of you out of the bar and we apologize for that," said campaign Press Secretary Ben LaBolt. "I want to go on record: I was opposed to pulling you guys out of the saloons, I didn't think that was the right thing to do," echoed senior advisor David Axelrod, who was joined by campaign manager Jim Messina. Once they finished pandering to reporters' alcoholic tendencies, the two ripped into Mitt Romney, laying the groundwork for the next six months of talking points. "Welcome to the general election," Messina opened. "As you've all been reporting today the Republicans have settled on their candidate, or should I...

The Cool Kids Versus the Squares, Yet Again

Barack Obama greeting Jimmy Fallon in a plainly unpresidential way.
When Barack Obama appeared on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon the other night, he walked on stage and gave Fallon a quick pound hug , that handshake/one-arm hug that we cool guys do these days to express a sentiment something like, "It is good to see you again, my friend; we know and like each other, but are not so intimate, nor have been apart so long, that a full two-arm hug is warranted." When I watched it, the first thought that came into my head was, "Mitt Romney has never done that with another man in his life." Which is fine, of course—Romney is 65 years old, and the pound hug really only came along only about 10 or 15 years or so ago. And let's face it, even if he was a lot younger, it's just not his style. Mitt Romney is many things, but "cool" is not one of them. Barack Obama, on the other hand, is pretty cool. He has the ability to move easily among people of varied generations and backgrounds, without doing awkward things like blurting out "Who let the dogs out? Woof, woof!"...

Young, Restless, and Not Voting

(Flickr/Matt Ortega)
This week, as the general election campaign “ramps up” for the umpteenth time, President Barack Obama has been conspicuous about talking to the young folks of America. He’s gone where they congregate—college campuses to talk about student loans and on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon to slow jam the news and stand next to “The Roots,” absorbing their cool by osmosis. In the last presidential election, young Americans ate up the heaping spoonfuls of hope served to them by the Obama campaign— 66 percent of 18-29 year olds voted for him, while John McCain got only 32 percent of the same demographic. By comparison, in 2004 , 54 percent of the same age group went for John Kerry, 45 percent for George W. Bush. But the youth of 2012 are a bit more pessimistic than they were in 2008. According to a poll released late last week, 61 percent of college-age Millennials (the futuristic-sounding name given to the generation born in the late 1980s and early 1990s) are registered to vote, but only 46...

Opposites Attract

In an interview with Rolling Stone , President Obama said that the 2012 election will be "as sharp a contrast between the two parties as we've seen in a generation." While this may be true on the policy front, the campaigns have one key thing in common: Both have hired attack dogs as chief advisors, adding some bite to their candidates' even keel. As GQ 's Jason Zengerle writes about Mitt Romney advisor Eric Fehrnstrom: "The best political operatives are the ones who provide their clients with a tangible quality the candidate himself lacks. If Karl Rove was Bush’s brain, then Fehrnstrom is Romney’s balls." The same might be said for David Axelrod, Obama's closest advisor during the 2008 campaign, and his communications director this go-around. A New York Times profile of Axelrod in 2008 quoted someone saying, "They are sort of a yin-and-yang personality. David can be so much more volatile than Barack." That said, the Romney campaign is no mirror image of Obama's. While they have...

Newt Gingrich, Bridge Burner

(AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
(AP Photo/Chuck Burton) Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks to the media after a campaign event in Cramerton, N.C., Wednesday, April 25, 2012. So much for a last stand. Newt Gingrich, who banked everything left in his shell of a presidential campaign on pulling off an upset victory in Delaware last night, failed utterly. With 27 percent of the vote, he garnered less than half of Mitt Romney’s Delaware vote share last night. Where does Newt go from here? On Wednesday, Gingrich hinted that he would turn his back on his pledge to campaign all the way through the Tampa convention. "You have to at some point be honest about what’s happening in the real world as opposed to what you would like to have happened," Gingrich said at a campaign stop this morning. It's hard to see any other path forward. Besides his surprise victory in South Carolina, Gingrich has only placed first in his home state of Georgia. At the same time, his campaign has been...

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