TAPPED

The Problem With Rick Perry's Swing

Via Kevin Drum , The Economist 's Robert Lane Green offers what sounds like a perfect summation of what has happened to Rick Perry : But success as governor often breeds two things: confidence and higher ambition. So if you're like Mr Perry, you run for the presidency (like everyone wants you to do). But if your background thus far has been mostly limited to your home state, you're not ready for the onslaught of impertinent, annoying questions about your policy towards Durkadurkastan. In a panic you start to study. But there are so many damned Stans! And then people want to know whether your tax-policy numbers add up, the bastards. And you're expected to know stuff like how the alternative minimum tax works. And where all of America's troops are. And then the snivelling reporter from the Globe and Mail asks a question to tease out whether you know what the prime minister of Canada's name is—you're sure it's something really ordinary, but is it Stephen Parker or Ben Harper or Michel...

Herman Cain May Not Have a Firm Grasp of Statistics

There's a part of me that wonders whether it's worth expending time and energy explaining just how shallow and uninformed Herman Cain is, since he is most assuredly not going to be the Republican nominee for president. But at the moment he's actually leading the polls, so I guess we have no choice. To wit, there is something he has said a few times in interviews that has bugged me, when he's asked about how the figures add up in his 9-9-9 tax plan. Here's an example: Here is how we arrived at it. I had some of the best economists in this country help me to develop this plan. You know, my background is mathematics. It was a simple regression analysis. We took the government data and looked at how much tax revenue from personal income tax, how much tax revenue came from corporate tax, how much revenue came from capitol gains tax, how much revenue from the death tax. We added them all up and you do a simple regression analysis and say in order to reduce this much on corporate income,...

Congress Takes Up Radical Anti-Abortion Bill

The House of Representatives is right now taking up H.R. 358, the Protect Life Act -- a bill proposed by anti-abortion stalwart Representative Joe Pitts, a Republican from Pennsylvania, that would allow hospitals to refuse to perform an abortion, even when the life of the mother is at stake. Currently, hospitals that generally do not perform abortions (but are required to if the mother's life is at stake) are still required to help transfer a woman who needs one to a hospital that will provide it. But the Protect Life Act waves that requirement as well. There are over 600 federally funded Catholic Hospitals in the country run by Catholic Bishops and whose bishops make final decisions about care in hospitals under their jurisdiction. If you think denying a woman a procedure to save her life is never going to happen, you need only look to the bishop of Phoenix, who in 2009 said, "While medical professionals should certainly try to save a pregnant mother's life, the means by which they...

Mitt Romney's Honeymoon Period May Be Coming to an End

Had you asked Mitt Romney a year ago how he would have liked the pre-primary period of the 2012 presidential election to play out, he probably would have said something like this: First, I'd like to be widely assumed to be the inevitable nominee. Then, I'd like to have a series of candidates emerge, capture public imagination for a few weeks or so, and then flame out spectacularly. It's OK with me if some of them move ahead of me in the polls briefly, if they come under the harsh glare of the media spotlight, then whither and die. It doesn't even matter if they all actually get in the race, so long as they take up all the oxygen one by one until they implode, all while making sure as few people as possible are paying attention to the reasons they don't like me. That, of course, is what happened. As this race has gone on, we've barely been talking about the front-runner at all. First Mitch Daniels was going to be the hot Republican candidate. Then Donald Trump was going to upend the...

Rick Perry's Talking Problem

As I watched last night's debate, it struck me, not for the first time, that Mitt Romney is really, really articulate. He's not particularly eloquent -- his words aren't going to move you to tears -- but he speaks in full sentences, at times even in full paragraphs. He rarely stumbles, or gets halfway into a sentence, backs out, and then starts again, like most of us do when speaking. There are times when he pauses for just a few milliseconds searching for the right word, but he always seems to find it, and it's usually a pretty good one. Newt Gingrich , on the other hand, is both articulate and fairly eloquent -- his sentences are more likely to have a poetic sweep, although he does rely on a couple of rhetorical crutches that get old once you've heard them a few hundred times (every change must be "fundamental," things he likes are "profound," and things he doesn't like are "corrupt"). Being articulate is part natural talent, but mostly practice. In Romney's case, he probably...

iVote

As I wrote yesterday, 2010 has been a rough year for voting-rights advocates. Under the guise of fighting voter fraud, Republicans have exploited their new legislative majorities in the states to pass a slew of bills that will restrict access to the ballot. But with all the doom and gloom, there are bright spots. Late last week, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that will allow residents of the state to register to vote online. “The registration process is the biggest barrier for young Americans participating in our political process," Rock the Vote president Heather Smith said in a statement, "and too many are left out of the process because of outdated and restrictive voter registration practices." I spoke with Eric Marshall of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights' for my print piece last month. In normal years, his group would be pushing state legislatures to update their voting systems and help increase turnout. "There's a broad concept that we support called voter-...

David Brooks Will Tell You Who the Real Radicals Are

On its face, David Brooks’ most recent column for the The New York Times is a policy-focused critique of Occupy Wall Street and the “We are the 99 Percent” movement. “If there is a core theme to the Occupy Wall Street movement,” he writes, “it is that the virtuous 99 percent of society is being cheated by the richest and greediest 1 percent.” But Brooks -- in a partial defense of those elites -- objects. The problems facing our economy, he writes, “implicate a much broader swath of society than the top 1 percent.” By focusing on the wealthy minority, Occupy Wall Street handicaps its ability to offer real solutions to our problems:“If you think all problems flow from a small sliver of American society, then all your solutions are going to be small, too.” Of course, this is complete weak sauce. Occupy Wall Street provides plenty of fodder for public policy. Over the last decade, the richest 1 percent of Americans reaped vast economic benefits while the remaining 99 percent made do with...

Unfortunately, Medicare Does Not Reimburse for Debate-Induced Despair

At last night's Republican debate, Newt Gingrich got asked about the fact that Medicare spends a huge amount of its funds on procedures in the last two years of patients' lives, much of which are pointless or even harmful. His answer was, essentially, that the government should pay for any medical procedure anyone wants, no matter if it works or even if it kills people. And more than that, the government shouldn't even endeavor to find out whether particular procedures work. "The most recent U.S. government intervention on whether or not to have prostate testing is basically going to kill people," he said ( video here ). He also weirdly described the recommendations as a "class action," I guess because, you know, trial lawyers! Or something. But the truth is that the recommendation of the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force isn't a "government intervention"; it's a recommendation. And it said what many doctors have believed for a long time: that PSA tests for prostate cancer are...

Good Candidates Are Hard to Find

Why do liberals love Elizabeth Warren so much? It's because of her actual record and positions, of course, and also because she is very talented at taking complex issues and presenting them in ways that are easy to understand without dumbing them down. It's also because she has a kind of nurturing warrior thing going on -- like if you broke into her house, she'd break both your arms and then sit you down on the couch and give you some cookies to eat while you waited for the cops to arrive. This parody video, which should be exploding across the interwebs any minute now, captures it perfectly: But look -- did Scott Brown really think he was going to get away with being an elected Republican in Massachusetts for long? Who knows, maybe he'll be able to pull it off, or maybe Warren will suffer some kind of Red Sox-related campaign disaster . But for the moment, liberals can have at least one candidate to love next year.

Block the Vote

Flickr/Vaguely Artistic My feature from the November issue is up on the homepage today. Republicans, after gaining control of many state legislatures in 2010, have undertaken a coordinated effort to suppress voting rights. Photo-identification laws have been the splashiest measures passed, but a slew of subtler changes pose just as large a threat. My piece covers the full national landscape, but I highlighted Maine, where Republicans used their first legislative majority in nearly four decades to rescind Election Day registration laws, a measure used by 60,000 voters in 2008. Voting-rights groups have fought back, and a referendum on same-day registration will be on the ballot next month. Charlie Webster, the chair of the Maine Republican Party, has been warning about rampant voter fraud in his home state. When I spoke with him last month, Webster mentioned a specific allegation about individuals who registered their address as a hotel. "We found 19 in 2004 in the John Kerry-George...

What Herman Cain Understands About Conservatives

Politico reports on this exchange between Herman Cain and conservative radio host Neil Boortz: Boortz, at the tail end of the interview, asks Cain how he’d do in a debate against Obama: “It would almost be no contest.” Ticking off ways he could compete with Obama, Boortz says that Cain would be able to talk about the black experience in America. Cain’s response: “[Obama’s] never been a part of the black experience in America.” There are more than 30 million black people in America, spread out across 50 states and living within countless overlapping communities. Cain notwithstanding, the “black experience” doesn’t exist. Rather, there are -- and have always been -- an abundance of black experiences . Yes, the “black experience” of a military brat from the Virginia suburbs is immeasurably different from that of a rural Texan or a denizen of Seattle’s Central District, but it’s no less black. Blackness is inclusive, and it encompasses Barack Obama’s experiences as much as it does Herman...

Unfortunately, We Now Have to Take Herman Cain Seriously

When a candidate from the party you dislike has no chance at all of being successful, it's hard to get too worked up about him or her. Yes, Rick Santorum is repellent, but how mad can you get at him? It's not as though he'll have the power to affect millions of lives anytime soon. But once the oddball longshot candidate starts getting some juice, exploring just what a jerk he or she is begins to seem more urgent. Which brings us to Herman Cain . Though still a novelty candidate, Cain is now running second to Mitt Romney in most polls. Which means that while we may not have to take his candidacy seriously as something that might result in him becoming president, we do need to take seriously his effect on our national debate. A couple of weeks ago, I went after Cain for saying that if the Affordable Care Act had been in force when he had cancer, he'd be dead, since instead of doctors making decisions on his care it would have been done on "the government's timetable." Depending on what...

Rick Perry Still Has a Chance

With a full three months before the first Republican presidential contests, there’s still a lot that can change in the race. For now, however, Mitt Romney is riding strong in New Hampshire, a crucial primary state. According to a new poll released by Harvard University and the Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm University, Romney is leading the field with 38 percent support among likely voters in the New Hampshire presidential primary. Herman Cain takes the second place spot with 20 percent of the vote, and Ron Paul finishes third with 13 percent of the vote. The remaining candidates, including Rick Perry, poll at 5 percent or less. This obviously isn’t great news for the Texas governor. But it’s not terrible news either. The simple fact is that Herman Cain isn’t a serious candidate. His policy knowledge is slim and his political organization is nonexistent. Yes, he’s traveled to a few primary states, but that has more to do with book sales than it does with actually running for...

The Need-to-Know Presidency

Here, courtesy of Think Progress , is Herman Cain doing a little preemption for when future interviews reveal him to be not particularly knowledgeable about the kind of stuff a president needs to know: Yes, he said, "Ubeki-beki-beki-stan-stan." And it's good to know that before he departs for a state visit to a foreign country, he will indeed learn the name of that country's president. Strategically, though, this is pretty smart. Instead of bothering to inform himself about the world or the policy challenges he'd face were he to become president, he can reframe the question, so that his very failure to display knowledge is evidence that he's focused on what's important. His ignorance becomes an asset, demonstrating his commonsense approach. You couldn't get away with that in a Democratic primary, but apparently some Republicans are just eating it up. I'll grant him one thing, though: The kind of pop-quiz interviews Cain is referencing here are indeed idiotic. Even if it doesn't lend...

ObamaneyCare Part Deux

Despite a long history of ideological heterodoxy, Mitt Romney has managed to move through the Republican nomination process unscathed by conservative attacks. To a large degree, you can say that Romney has been blessed with terrible opponents. Lower-tier candidates like Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have never posed a threat to the Romney juggernaut, while genuine challengers like former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty have floundered when offered the chance to ding Romney and take the shine off of his campaign. At one point, Texas Governor Rick Perry was the hoped-for challenger to the Romney machine—on paper, at least, he was primed to knock Romney off of the map with well-placed attacks on his record as the moderate, reform-minded governor of a liberal state. But Perry entered the primary after a decade of easy wins in his home state and was unprepared for the rigors of a high-profile nomination contest. At debates and other events, Perry missed his mark and gave Romney a chance...

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