Paul Waldman

Phony Hawkery

Definitely not Paul Ryan. (Flickr/contemplicity)
This is something that other people have mentioned, and Jamelle brings up in his extremely helpful post about Paul Ryan, but it really needs to be emphasized: Paul Ryan is not a "deficit hawk." No matter how many times the news media tell us, it doesn't make it true. As I've said before , you can't call yourself a deficit hawk if the only programs you want to cut are the ones you don't like anyway. Show me someone who's willing to cut programs he favors (Ryan isn't), and would actually take potentially painful measures to balance the budget (Ryan wouldn't), and that's a deficit hawk. Ryan, on the other hand, is a conservative ideologue who couches what Newt Gingrich appropriately called "right-wing social engineering" in a lot of talk about making tough choices. But I've never actually seen Paul Ryan make a "tough" choice, at least one that was tough for him. There's nothing "tough" about a conservative Republican who tells you he wants to slash Medicare and Medicaid, increase defense...

Paul Ryan: The Next President of the United States?

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
Democrats seem nearly unanimous that Mitt Romney's pick of Paul Ryan to be his running mate is a good thing, since it will make winning substantially more difficult for Romney (Jamelle explains why here ). I agree, and I continue to believe that the odds remain substantially in favor of Barack Obama winning re-election. But I thought I'd take the opportunity of an outbreak of hope on the left side of the aisle to offer a little vision of horror. As of Sunday morning, Paul Ryan may indeed be the person most likely to be, in the words of Romney's slip of the tongue , the next president of the United States. The reason I say this is that while we don't yet know the conditions under which the 2016 presidential campaign will take place, the GOP will begin with a substantial advantage. Winning three consecutive presidential terms is very hard. It has only happened once since 1948, when George H.W. Bush beat Michael Dukakis in 1988. No matter how well things are going, the public eventually...

Friday Music Break

Aaron Neville and John Hiatt
For today's Music Break, we're going down to New Orleans for the Neville Brothers, joined by John Hiatt, doing "Yellow Moon." Do you know something that I don't know?

Wolveriiines!

Our first opportunity to watch Charlie Sheen go totally psycho.
If you were a teenager in the '80s like I was, you had to have a complex relationship to jingoistic entertainment. On one hand, the way Cold War competition was grafted onto things like sports and movies was kind of unsettling, since the fate of the world was actually at stake, and one had to think that amping everybody up into a testosterone-fueled frenzy couldn't be a good thing. On the other hand, you couldn't help but swell with national pride at the Miracle on Ice, or at Rocky knocking out Ivan Drago. (Though to be clear, the ultimate message of Rocky IV is one of mutual understanding, and one hears the plaintive cry of a man who knows he is but a pawn of much more powerful forces in Drago's lament, "I must break you." OK, I'll stop.) There may have been no cultural product that captured that atmosphere quite so perfectly as Red Dawn , the 1984 movie in which the Commies actually do take over, and it's left to a small band of high schoolers led by Patrick Swayze to use their...

Romney's Health Care Dilemma Returns

One of these things is...not like the other?
Mitt Romney has been so busy securing his Republican base that he hasn't had time to court independent voters, the ones who will actually decide this election. But now, probably by accident, he has an opportunity to show them that he's something other than a slave to his party's right wing. Will he take it? When Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul committed the apparently unpardonable sin of praising the health care law Mitt Romney passed as governor of Massachusetts, was she making a horrible mistake that made everyone in Romney headquarters gasp in horror, or was she just reflecting what her candidate actually believes? The answer to that question would tell us where Romney is going to go from here on health care, and whether he may at long last try to find some issue on which he can convince voters he's something more than a vessel for whatever his party's right wing wants to do to the country. Most everyone, myself included, initially assumed that Saul just spoke out of turn. After...

The Truth about Welfare

(AP Photo/Steven Senne)
After absorbing months of attacks on him as an economic royalist, Mitt Romney is hitting back with an ad as dishonest as any you'll ever see , accusing Barack Obama of coddling welfare recipients ("You wouldn't have to work … they just send you your welfare check"). Literally every word after the 8 second mark on this ad is a lie, with the exception of "I'm Mitt Romney and I approve this message." But the welfare attack is an old Republican standby; if the middle class suspects you're not one of them, remind them that their resentment should be pointed down, not up. The real enemy is poor people, and those who would indulge them. A GOP presidential campaign that doesn't eventually bust out this attack would be like a wedding band that doesn't know how to play "Y.M.C.A." But since there hasn't been much debate about welfare in some time, it's a good opportunity to remind ourselves of what the program is and isn't, and what role it plays in America today. Needless to say, you won't get...

Lies Are the New Truth

Newt Gingrich explores new frontiers of truthiness.
Being a campaign surrogate isn't easy. You have no say in what the candidate you favor or his campaign decides to say or do, yet you're called upon to defend their words and actions. That can put you in an extremely uncomfortable position, unless you're Newt Gingrich. Yesterday, Newt went on Anderson Cooper 360 to talk about Mitt Romney's new welfare attack ad, which falsely accuses Obama of ending work requirements in welfare, and what he said was truly remarkable, even for him. Now, let me be absolutely clear about something. I've been paying very, very close attention to political ads for a long time. In my former career as an academic I did a lot of research on political ads. I've watched literally every single presidential general election campaign ad ever aired since the first ones in 1952. I've seen ads that were more inflammatory than this one, and ads that were in various ways more reprehensible than this one (not many, but some). But I cannot recall a single presidential...

Dancing with The Mitt That Brung Ya

Afraid? I'm not afraid! What makes you say that? (Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
In the early days of the 2012 Republican primaries, many thoughtful commentators took the position that it was simply impossible for Mitt Romney to win his party's nomination. Despite all his evident strengths as a candidate—money, the most professionally run campaign in the group, the endorsement of many establishment figures—Romney simply would not find a way to get past the fact that as governor of Massachusetts he had passed a health care plan that became the model for the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans had come to see as the very embodiment of evil in the modern world. The party's base would never abide it. Yet he did. Without all that much trouble too. And he didn't deal with the health care issue through some brilliant strategy, either. He made no dramatic mea culpa, and never repudiated Romneycare, at least not directly. Whenever he was asked about it he would give a convoluted and utterly unconvincing argument about how what he did in Massachusetts was great, though...

What Makes An Ad Harsh

Image from a Priorities USA ad.
Just what do we mean when we call a campaign ad "negative" or "harsh" or even "brutal"? That question is raised by an ad released today by the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA, hitting Mitt Romney about a steel plant that Bain Capital closed in Kansas City. In the ad, Joe Soptic, a worker at the plant, tells how when he and his fellow workers lost their jobs, they also lost their health insurance. His wife got sick, but because they had no insurance she didn't see a doctor until it was too late, and she died of cancer three weeks after finally being diagnosed. While he doesn't actually say "Mitt Romney killed my wife," he ends the ad by saying, "I do not think that Mitt Romney realizes what he's done to anyone. And furthermore, I do not think Mitt Romney is concerned." Let's take a look, then we'll break it down: The first question is whether it's accurate. Is Romney responsible for what happened to this company? Although its eventual bankruptcy happened after Romney left Bain, the...

Support Our Troops By Cynically Using Them As Props In a Dishonest Campaign Ploy

They didn't succeed. (Flickr/Barack Obama)
Let's get this out of the way first: Mitt Romney's smear of Barack Obama over the issue of early voting in Ohio is both shamelessly dishonest and utterly despicable. In case you haven't heard, Ohio voters used to be able to vote early in the three days before election day, then the Republican legislature passed a bill eliminating the early voting for everybody except active-duty military servicemembers. So the Obama campaign sued to restore early voting for everyone, which the Romney campaign rather predictably characterized as an attack on our brave fighting men and women. So yes, Romney is just lying. But let's put that aside and ask this question: just what kind of special privileges should members of the military be entitled to? We can start with things that come out of your service. I happen to think that if you got a leg blown off in Iraq or Afghanistan, you should never have to work again if you don't want to. And veterans benefits ought to be funded to a degree that no veteran...

Will We Ever Get to See Romney's 2011 Tax Return?

Flickr/Images of Money
I don't know about you, but this year I filed my taxes just before the April 15 deadline. Most people do. But if you need to, you can file for an extension from the IRS. That's what Mitt Romney did. And if you look around the discussion about his taxes, you'll find that everyone keeps referring to the "two years of tax returns" Romney has agreed to release. But what people don't mention is that Romney hasn't actually released two years of tax returns. He released one year, his 2010 return (and even that was incomplete ). But we haven't seen his 2011 return. He keeps saying he'll release it when it's ready, but is it going to be ready before November? In fairness, Mitt Romney's taxes are really, really complicated. He has so many different income streams and accounts and pass-throughs and roundabouts and double-flipping financial McTwists that it takes a team of accountants to prepare the documents. His 2010 return ran to more than 200 pages. But it's August. Maybe someone should ask...

Everybody Hates Mitt

What do you mean you don't find me likeable? (Flickr/World Affairs Council of Philadelphia)
A new e-book from Glenn Thrush and the folks at Politico contains this interesting tidbit concerning Barack Obama's feelings about Mitt Romney: "One factor made the 2012 grind bearable and at times even fun for Obama: he began campaign preparations feeling neutral about Romney, but like the former governor's GOP opponents in 2008 and 2012, he quickly developed a genuine disdain for the main. That scorn stoked Obama's competitive fire, got his head in the game, which came as a relief to some Obama aides who had seen his interest flag when he didn't feel motivated to crush the opposition. Obama, a person close to him told me, didn't even feel this strongly about conservative, combative House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the Hill Republican he disliked the most. At least Cantor stood for something, he'd say. "When he talked about Romney, aides picked up a level of anger he never had for Clinton or McCain, even after Sarah Palin was picked as his running mate. 'There was a baseline of...

Friday Music Break

"What'd I Say"
Today's edition of Shake Your Head, Shimmy Your Shoulders, Tap Your Feet is Ray Charles doing "What'd I Say." Check out the two dudes in the audience at 1:10, resolutely refusing to do any shaking, shimmying, or tapping. I think they got dragged there by their girlfriends, and found the fast hip movements and general atmosphere of licentiousness to be profoundly unsettling. Tell your mama, tell your pa...

Mitt Romney Passes Wind

Flickr/Steve Abraham
Mitt Romney was in Colorado yesterday, where some people aren't too pleased with him. This week he came out in opposition to an extension of the wind-power production tax credit (PTC), which is set to expire at the end of the year. The tax credit helps make wind power competitive and is credited with enabling the creation of thousands of jobs in manufacturing and construction. This is almost certainly not going to be a huge issue in the campaign, but it does reveal some interesting things about where Romney is vis-a-vis the Republican Party. On one side, you have the parochial economic interests of many Republican members of Congress and some very well-heeled Republican economic constituency. On the other, you have the purely knee-jerk reaction of Tea Party types to anything hippies might like. Guess where Mitt comes down? Yesterday, the Senate Finance Committee passed an extension of the credit with bipartisan support. The PTC has support from members of Congress from both parties...

Harry Reid Gets Under Mitt's Skin

Flickr/Center for American Progress Action Fund
Harry Reid has always been an unusual character. He's often dismissed as a lightweight by Republicans (Senator Tom Coburn recently called him "incompetent and incapable"), but he is also an adept legislative maneuverer who has notched some extraordinary victories, perhaps none more notable than getting every Democrat in the Senate, even ones like Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman who live to make trouble for their own party, to vote for the Affordable Care Act. He's very soft-spoken, speaking most of the time in a near-whisper, but he's also willing to wield a shiv with an enthusiasm few in his party can muster. And now, Reid is doing the kind of work that surrogates are supposed to do for presidential candidates: go out and make the kind of biting, maybe even questionable attack on the opponent that the candidate himself doesn't want to be seen making. Reid has charged that a source at Bain Capital has told him privately that Mitt Romney didn't pay any taxes for 10 years, and that's why...

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