Since leaving Congress, Newt Gingrich managed to put together a souped-up version of the way congressional heavy hitters make a living after leaving the life of legislating. As befitting a world-historical figure like himself, simply signing on with one of Washington's elite law firm/lobby shops wouldn't be enough. Instead, Gingrich constructed what I like to call GloboNewtCorp, a network of quasi-think tanks, policy centers, and publishing enterprises whose role was to promote all things Newt. They worked symbiotically, each feeding off each other's work. So for instance, if you're a health-care company, you could pay six figures to Newt's Center for Health Transformation, you weren't only paying for Newt's access to powerful Republicans, you also saw your favored policy ideas show up in the products of other arms of GloboNewtCorp, like Newt's op-eds and books.
One would imagine that a presidential campaign could only aid GloboNewtCorp in acquiring new clients and new income, heightening Newt's visibility and reputation as a visionary, knowledgeable insider. But it seems to have had the opposite effect. This morning we learn that the Center for Health Transformation, one of the cornerstones of Newt's empire (the "for-profit think-tank" raked in $55 million over the last decade), has filed for bankupcy protection. And I predict that it won't be the last arm of GloboNewtCorp that suffers because of Gingrich's presidential campaign...
In a new tactic that TPM appropriately called the "I'm rubber, you're glue" strategy, Mitt Romney has decided to accuse President Obama of being too vague in his plans for a second term. Once you get past the absurdity, there's something meaningful going on. But first, to Mitt's charges: "Nancy Pelosi famously said that we would have to pass Obamacare to find out what was in it. President Obama has turned that advice into a campaign strategy: He wants us to re-elect him so we can find out what he will actually do. With all the challenges the nation faces, this is not the time for President Obama's hide and seek campaign." Riiiiight.
This probably seems to you like a weird accusation to make. After all, Obama's plans for a second term seem pretty clear: more of the same! You may think that'd be great, or you may think that'd be a hellish nightmare, but either way it's not like it's some big mystery. It isn't as though he's going to come out and really shock us with some new policy turn that is totally different from the kind of things he's been doing for the past three years. But that's what you think only if you don't reside deep in the heart of the Republican base, which is where the key to this appeal lies...
I'm sorry, but I refuse to let this one go, even if I have to repeat myself. Time's Alex Altman writes, "A very conservative party is on the verge of nominating a relative moderate whom nobody is very excited about, largely because none of his rivals managed to cobble together a professional operation." I beg you, Alex, and every other reporter covering the campaign: If you're going to assert that Mitt Romney is a "relative moderate," you have to give us some evidence for that assertion. Because without mind-reading, we have to way to know whether it's true.
What we do know is that when he ran in two races in the extremely liberal state of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney was a moderate. Then when he ran in two races to be the Republican nominee for president, Mitt Romney was and is extremely conservative. There is simply no reason—none—to believe, let alone to assert as though it were an undisputed fact, that the first incarnation of Romney was the "real" one and the current incarnation of Romney is the fake one.
As gloomy as liberals can sometimes be, it's been a long time since there was a presidential election in which Democrats actually thought their presidential candidate was certain to lose. The last one would have to be 1984, and before that, 1972. But in the 28 years since Ronald Reagan got re-elected, there hasn't been a Democrat who has been totally blown out of the water, an election in which even his own partisans thought he had little or no chance. The closest would have been Michael Dukakis, who famously had a 17-point lead after his convention, even if he did end up losing by a healthy 7-point margin.
But if you listen to Joe Scarborough, Republicans have basically given up on winning in November. He's not the first person to say it (George Will suggested a month ago that the time to give up on the presidential race was coming), but we haven't heard anyone of his prominence say so vociferously that Republicans are all thinking this one's over, as Scarborough did on today's "Morning Joe"...
Someday, all Americans will have access to health care, just as all people in Germany and France and Japan and Sweden and every other advanced industrialized democracy do today. It may take a decade or two after the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in 2014 (if it survives the whims of Anthony Kennedy) to fill in the gaps the law leaves behind, or it may take decades beyond that. But it will surely happen eventually. And at some point after it does, we'll come to a consensus as a society that it was a collective moral failure that we allowed things to be otherwise for so long.
One of the strange things about living in Washington, D.C. is the ongoing presence of lots and lots of Republicans. In my adult life I've lived in two other large cities (San Francisco and Philadelphia), and in both of those members of the Grand Old Party are not only few in number but nearly invisible. Sure, there are a few cities where Republicans are plentiful (Dallas, I hear), but on the whole the more urban the area you're in, the more likely Democrats are to dominate the place's political, cultural, and social life.
But here in the nation's capital, Republicans are plentiful. You see them going in and out of think-tank offices, traipsing about Capitol Hill, even walking down the street in broad daylight. Famous ones, ordinary ones, ones in all sizes and ages and genders. They're everywhere...
Are you ready for some campaignin'? (Flickr/Obama campaign)
Barack Obama's re-election campaign has finally begun in earnest, with a TV ad hitting Mitt Romney as an ally of the oil industry and a speech coming up later today in which he'll attack Paul Ryan's budget, which almost every Republican in the House voted for and Mitt Romney endorsed. Ryan's budget won't ever pass, but it's a pretty forthright ideological statement, and the Obama campaign is endeavoring to make sure everyone understands where it's coming from. And in doing so, he's offering more hints that his campaign could actually turn this into more of a real debate about fundamental values, and less of a clown show about things like who loves America more.
Aaron Sorkin, the creator of The West Wing, among other things, is coming out with a new HBO series called The Newsroom. What can we expect? If Sorkin's oeuvre is any indication, we can expect lots of rapid-fire dialogue delivered while people are walking purposefully down hallways, surprisingly cogent explanations of issues, and, above all, thorny moral quandaries tackled with bold truth-telling. Let's take a look at the trailer:
A couple of weeks ago, Rick Santorum got into some trouble for saying that Barack Obama was "a snob" for wanting every American kid to be able to go to college. Santorum elaborated that universities today indoctrinate people in dangerous liberal ideas and convinced them to abandon their religious beliefs. And now he's offering more details on just how un-American universities are:
I was just reading something last night from the state of California. And that the California universities – I think it's seven or eight of the California system of universities don’t even teach an American history course. It's not even available to be taught.
Shocking! And it would be even more shocking if it were even remotely true...
Not what George W. Bush is doing these days. (Photo by the White House)
Poor George W. Bush. He served his country for eight years, doing all that decidin', trying to engineer a permanent Republican majority, and these days the politicians in his party practically pretend his presidency never happened. The people who worked for him, Politico tells us, are nevertheless convinced he'll be vindicated by history, even as Republican candidates avoid him like the Ebola virus. Yeah, I wouldn't hold your breath for that. Somehow it seems unlikely that the Iraq war and a couple of trillion dollars in tax cuts mostly for the wealthy that turned surpluses into deficits will, in retrospect, turn out to have been great ideas. The article also has a lot of bitter sniping from Bush aides at Bill Clinton, who is so "narcissistic" that he has been out, you know, doing stuff since leaving office. What a jerk.
Which leads me to this question: What does George W. Bush actually do with his days?
Everyone involved in politics knows that there is almost nothing the president can do to affect the price of gasoline. Democrats know this. Republicans know this. People in the oil industry certainly know this. But they all, at various times, play a game in which they try to deceive the American public into believing something they know to be false. So right now, an oil industry group is running ads saying the high price of gas is Barack Obama's fault (you'll be shocked to hear that the ubiquitous Koch brothers are involved). Republican leaders are saying the increasing price at the pump is Obama's fault. And what about the public? Are they buying it?
The polls we've seen so far actually show that the answer is, not really...
In advance of Tuesday's primary in Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel gave a tepid endorsement to Mitt Romney, worrying that "Romney's finger-to-the-wind tacking across the political sea leaves us to wonder if he is anchored anywhere," but also citing his "moderate inclinations" and saying, "it's those moderate impulses that make Romney the best candidate. His challengers don't share the same sense of pragmatism or were woefully shortchanged on the temperament gene." But here's the question: What, exactly, is the evidence that Mitt Romney has moderate inclinations?
Here's what we actually know. When Romney ran for Senate and then governor, he was a fairly liberal, pro-choice, pro-gay Republican—in other words, the only kind of Republican who would have had a chance to win in Massachusetts. Then when he ran for president, he became a fire-breathing conservative—the only kind of Republican with a chance to win his party's nomination. The only way you can conclude that he's a moderate in his heart is if you believe his "true" ideology can be ascertained just by averaging the candidate he was in Massachusetts and the candidate he has been in Republican presidential primaries, and then presto, that average gives you the candidate he'll be in the general election.
For today's edition of Ridiculously Catchy Pop Songs By Bands Named After Towns In Northern New Jersey, we have "Hey Julie" by Fountains of Wayne. The offices of The American Prospect look strangely like the one depicted here, at least in so far as the constant, embarrassing group dancing goes. Which is why I work at home.
Today, the members of the Supreme Court will meet in private to begin deciding the fate of the Affordable Care Act, and the millions of Americans whose lives and futures stand to be made more secure because of the ACA. It's entirely possible that Anthony Kennedy will discover some place in his heart where integrity and a respect for the true role of the Court are supposed to be and the Act will be upheld, but at the moment you won't find too many people willing to bet on it.
So I'd like to spend a few moments working through what might happen if the Court takes the middle course, which could be the most likely—striking down the individual mandate, but leaving the rest of the law intact—both in the short and long term.
Apparently, Mitt Romney's supporters are concerned that the real Mitt isn't coming through, and some of them are practically begging him to show us the true heart beating beneath the finely tailored suits and presidential hair:
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — The voters were pleading with Mitt Romney to share personal details of his life. They stood at town-hall-style meetings and chatted before rallies, clamoring for a story or an anecdote that would help them connect with the real Mitt Romney.
"I wish that you would speak more to a lot of the things that I think you should speak about — the fact that you were pastor at your church, the fact that you were a missionary, the fact that you do speak about helping with the Olympics," Mary Toepfer, 40, of Warren, Ohio, said at a recent event.
Without these kinds of stories, she added, "it's hard for us, who are trying to support you, to address them when trying to explain to them why you would be the better candidate."
I feel bad for them, and I actually feel a little bad for Romney on this question too.