Jamelle Bouie

The GOP Wants to Make this Todd Akin's World

Yesterday morning, before the GOP completely turned its back on Todd Akin, I noted that—despite their harumphing —few Republicans disagreed with the substance of Akin’s remarks. In Congress and across the country, GOP lawmakers have supported a raft of bills designed to restrict or end abortion, as well as most forms of contraception. Look no further than the Republican platform, which— as CNN reports —will include radical and restrictive language on abortion: ”Faithful to the ‘self-evident’ truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed,“ the draft platform declares. ”We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children." Republicans have been quick to distance themselves from Akin. Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown—who is running a...

The Radicalism of Akin and Romney

Since yesterday morning, political conversation has been dominated by the comments of Todd Akin, a (formerly) obscure Missouri congressman and Republican candidate for Senate. "First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare,” Akin told local reporters , explaining his absolute opposition to abortion, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” And if these natural defenses fail? “Let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work, or something,” Akin said. “I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.” Captured in these words is a constellation of ugly ideas about women, beginning with the ludicrous belief that some rapes are “legitimate,” others fake, and that through some undiscovered mechanism, the female body will prevent implantation in the case of the former. Indeed, his statement betrays the extent to which Akin isn’t concerned with...

Romney's Taxes Return to the Campaign

This afternoon, during an event with the press, Romney answered questions about his taxes with a declaration that he has never paid less than 13 percent: He says that, for the most recent year, he paid 13.6 percent in taxes. There’s an obvious problem here: Unless Romney answers calls for more tax returns—which have come from Democrats as well as top supporters —it’s impossible to prove that he’s paid that tax rate. And even if it's true, 13.6 percent is an astoundingly low rate for someone whose annual income was $21 million in 2011. For comparison’s sake, the middle fifth of taxpayers pay an effective tax rate of 15.5 percent. Overall, Romney pays a lower rate than nearly 60 percent of Americans. Just because he can disprove Harry Reid’s allegations—and, so far, he can’t—doesn’t mean that the public will respond well to a multi-millionaire who pays low taxes and supports a budget that would lower his rate to just under 1 percent . Romney’s continued refusal to release his tax...

Romney Is Stuck Between Two Terrible Messages on Medicare

It’s hard to overstate the muddled message Republicans have had on Medicare since Paul Ryan joined the ticket last weekend. As soon as the announcement was official, Team Romney issued talking points distancing their nominee from Ryan’s budget, including his plan for Medicare. On Monday, however , Romnney took the opposite approach, telling crowds in Miami he was on the “same page” as Ryan. The next day, Romney changed course again with an ad that hit Obama for Medicare cuts in the Affordable Care Act. The health care bill reduces Medicare spending by $700 billion, which is used to bolster prescription drug coverage, provide preventative care for seniors, and extend Medicare's solvency. The problem: Those cuts are also included in the Ryan budget—though they're used to pay for upper-income tax cuts, and not better care for seniors. If Romney is on the same page as his running mate, then he has to embrace the cuts. If he doesn't, then there’s an area of real disagreement. Today, the...

The Worst-Ever Attempt at Swiftboating

(White House/Flickr)
The “swift boat” attacks in the 2004 presidential election were effective, in part, because they played on real public anxiety: “We’re fighting two wars, is now a good time to change leaders?” For a critical number of Americans, the answer was no, and John Kerry couldn’t overcome the sense that we shouldn't change horses in midstream (to use a cliché). “ Dishonorable Disclosures ” is a 22-minute video from a group of former special operations and C.I.A. officers that attempts to do the same to President Obama. The group, called Special Operations Education Fund (OPSEC), bills itself as a nonpartisan group—it calls on supporters to “stop the politicians, President Obama and others”— whose main goal is to inform the public. More specifically, it's registered as a 501(c)4, or "dark money" group, which doesn't have to reveal its donors to the public. Its message is straightforward: The Obama administration is leaking sensitive national security information for the sake of political gain...

Don't Hold Your Breath for a Romney Budget that Makes Sense

If you missed it, Mitt Romney gave a long interview to CNN Money in which he explained his plans for dealing with taxes, cutting the budget, and juicing the economy. The interview is boilerplate Romney—vague declarations about policies he won’t detail—but he does comment on the recent analysis from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center (TPC). In short, the Center found that Romney’s goal—across-the-board tax cuts that don’t affect revenue—is impossible without raising taxes on most Americans. Romney calls this a “garbage conclusion”: I indicated as I announced my tax plan that the key principles included the following. First, that high-income people would continue to pay the same share of the tax burden that they do today. And second, that there would be a reduction in taxes paid by middle-income taxpayers. Those are the key principles of my plan that the Tax Policy Center chose to ignore. Instead they made various assumptions about what they thought I would do which are not in fact...

Crocodile Tears from the Koch Brothers

The latest campaign from Americans for Prosperity—the Koch-funded conservative group—is a $7 million ad buy meant to highlight the disappointment of various Obama supporters. The commercial, which runs for one minute, will air on broadcast and cable in 11 battleground states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin. CNN has a few excerpts : “I had hoped that the new president would bring new jobs–not major layoffs, not people going through major foreclosures on their homes,” one woman says in the ad. Another voter adds: “He said he was going to cut the deficit in his first term. I’ve seen zero interest in reducing spending. He inherited a bad situation, but he made it worse.” Piling on, a third voter says: “I still believe in hope and change. I just don’t think Obama is the way to go for that.” At the Washington Post , Greg Sargent calls this an “emerging GOP tactic for dealing with Obama’s personal popularity...

Mitt Romney's Implausible Bid for the High Road

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
Politics is tough, and most politicians—including President Obama—are willing to bend the truth to win an election. But there’s a difference between the small distortions of all campaigns, and the brazen dishonesty we’re seeing from Romney. In a 48-hour period, Mitt Romney has doubled-down on the false charge that Obama has ended work requirements for welfare, lied about the Affordable Care Act’s Medicare cost savings, and kicked up a storm over comments made by Vice President Joe Biden. That last one is noteworthy for the sheer chutzpah of Romney’s complaint. During an event in Danville, Virginia (pronounced Dan-vul) with African-American supporters of the president, Biden deployed somewhat unfortunate language in attacking Romney’s promised repeal of financial reform: "Romney wants to let the — he said the first 100 days — he’s gonna let the big banks once again write their own rules. Unchain Wall Street,” Biden said at an event in Danville, Va. “They gonna put y’all back in chains...

Romney Pivots from Welfare to Lie about Medicare

I have a feeling that I’ll be writing this with some regularity over the next three months, but the Romney campaign has released a new, shamelessly dishonest ad attacking President Obama for the Medicare cuts in the Affordable Care Act: Romney’s ad paints the Medicare cuts as some kind of theft—the money was meant for seniors, but Obama took it away to fund his “government takeover of health care.” The truth of the matter is that Obama achieved the bulk of his cuts by reducing costs in Medicare Advantage, a program within Medicare that subsidizes private health insurance plans. Advantage allows seniors to purchase private health insurance plans, with most of the cost covered by Medicare. The program had been overpaying for coverage, and ACA reduces those payments to generate savings. Billions more are saved by reducing reimbursement rates to providers and using Medicare's heft to lower payments to drug companies. These savings were then used to extend the life of Medicare—by eight...

The Coming Obama Landslide

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
In terms of demographics, Mitt Romney has one path to victory: overwhelming support from white voters. At the least, he’ll have to outperform every Republican since Ronald Reagan, and win 60 percent of their votes. And this is if minority turnout is at its 2008 levels. If it increases, he needs even more whites to make up the difference. Seniors play a key part in this coalition. The New Republic ’s Nate Cohn puts it bluntly : “Romney’s road to the White House runs through seniors.” John McCain won 51 percent of seniors, beating Obama by four percentage points. At the moment, Cohn notes, Obama’s support among this group is in the low 40s. If the former Massachusetts governor can outperform McCain and crush Obama among older Americans, he can eke out a narrow win. But if Obama can hold his own—and move closer to his 2008 total—he’ll have secured victory. Enter Paul Ryan. As a congressman, the Wisconsin representative’s signature accomplishment is a proposal to reform entitlements,...

Five Things to Know about Paul Ryan's Plan

(AP Photo)
Long before he won the Republican presidential nomination, Mitt Romney had enthusiastically endorsed the budget of Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan as the template for his own proposals. As I detailed in the Prospect 's print magazine, Romney promises to extend the Bush tax cuts, cut income-tax and capital-gains rates, and reduce corporate taxes. Now that Romney has selected Ryan as his running mate—and the former Massachusetts governor says he'll play a key part in his administration—odds are even higher that this plan will be implemented by the Romney administration. Both candidates envision a rearrangement of the federal government and its responsibilities, but Romney has always been responsive to the needs of a presidential election. Not Ryan. As someone responsible to congressional Republicans, his proposals had room to be far-reaching and radical. Here are five charts that illustrate his proposals and give a sense of his true priorities. Ryan wants to end most taxes on the top...

Lipstick on a Wonk

(AP/Scott Applewhite)
I t’s official : Mitt Romney has picked Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan to join him as his running mate. I’ve already written why I think Ryan is a terrible choice . In short, his plan to cut taxes on the rich and gut the welfare state is one of the most unpopular proposals in American politics. Conservatives love Ryan, but seniors, young people, women, nonwhites, veterans, the disabled, and the poor might feel differently about a man who wants to make the federal government an ATM for the wealthy. In terms of the election, it’s hard to see how Romney gains from this choice. Because of its large population of working-class whites, Wisconsin has the potential to become a swing state, but for now, Obama has a solid lead . Yes, vice presidential nominees provide a home-state boost, but it’s small— on average, two points . Barring a major change in the race, the most Ryan will do is help Romney lose Wisconsin by a somewhat smaller margin than he would have otherwise. With that said, a...

Paul Ryan: Obama's Dream Opponent

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
UPDATED : Mitt Romney has selected Paul Ryan as his running mate. As Beltway anticipation builds for Mitt Romney’s vice presidential announcement, conservative pundits have re-upped their calls for a “bold” and adventurous choice. This morning, the Wall Street Journal editorial page took the lead with a plea to add House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan to the ticket. The Journal acknowledges the appeal of VP frontrunners Tim Pawlenty and Rob Portman—working-class roots and high-level experience, respectively—but says that Ryan is the only politician with the gravitas and vision to campaign on a presidential level. Here’s the op-ed: Too risky, goes the Beltway chorus. His selection would make Medicare and the House budget the issue, not the economy. The 42-year-old is too young, too wonky, too, you know, serious. Beneath it all you can hear the murmurs of the ultimate Washington insult—that Mr. Ryan is too dangerous because he thinks politics is about things that matter. That dude really...

Why Mitt Romney Can't Help But Flounder

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
Romney’s task for this summer was to reintroduce himself to the public as a competent moderate—someone who could get the economy back into shape by sheer dint of his business experience. But since Team Obama began its savage attacks on Bain Capital, the Romney campaign has been on the defensive. Revelations about Bain-led outsourcing, his “shadow years” at the company, and his opaque tax returns have wreaked havoc with his favorability ratings. Romney’s unfavorability is higher now than it’s been since the GOP primaries. Romney’s 40 percent favorability is the lowest mid-summer rating for a presidential nominee since 1948. This, to put it lightly, is a big problem for Team Romney. Contrary to what the campaign seems to think, the economy isn’t bad enough to guarantee a defeat for President Obama. As Nate Cohn points out at The New Republic , Obama’s disapproval rating has hovered at 47 percent—the same as his approval rating. Americans are divided on the president’s tenure, but aren’t...

The Return of "Welfare Queens"

Yesterday, Mitt Romney unveiled a new attack that—even by the standards of his campaign—was incredible in its dishonesty. First, a little background. A few weeks ago, after urging from both Republican and Democratic govenors, the administration allowed states more flexibility when it came to fulfilling welfare work requirements. The memo , issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, stipulates that states can receive a waiver as long as their programs achieve the same work goals as the original program. The hope is that, with flexibility to try new approaches, more recipients can be placed into jobs. This, it should be said, was a reform pushed by Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts. Rather than praise the change, or ignore it, the Romney campaign went on the attack, accusing Obama of “ending the work requirement” and turning welfare into a cash grant. Here’s the ad: Today, the Obama campaign released its rebuttal, which hits Romney for flagrantly distorting the...

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