TAPPED

Rick Perry at Mach 4

So you're thinking about voting for Rick Perry in the Republican primary in your state, but you feel like he hasn't given you that cheek-flapping feeling you get when you're plunging to earth at 500 miles an hour, experiencing g-forces that could rip the eyeballs out of your head? Well, your wait is over: If this style looks familiar, it's because Perry has hired Lucas Baiano, the admaker who produced Tim Pawlenty 's awesome ads, which showed just how exciting a presence Pawlenty was. I look forward to the next spot, in which Perry stares at some gay illegal alien terrorist enviro-hippie welfare mooch, grits his teeth, and makes the guy's head explode .

Why Is Elliot Abrams Still Around?

The Atlantic 's James Fallows, among the most reasonable and thoughtful people in Washington, responds to a crude article by Elliot Abrams that appeared on his magazine's website by writing a characteristically reasonable and thoughtful post explaining why Abrams' approach to criticizing the Obama administration is enormously unhelpful. Not only is the piece, as Fallows says, "deliberately vulgarizing an issue he knows is harder than he is letting on," the whole point of it is that Abrams is chastising the administration for its insufficient commitment to human rights. Why is this notable? Because to hear this coming from Elliot Abrams is kind of like having Donald Trump give you a lecture on the evils of ostentation and conspicuous consumption. Abrams first gained notoriety as one of the architects of the Reagan administration's Latin America policies in the 1980s, in which one murderous, oppressive regime after another was propped up and lauded, so long as they opposed any hint of...

Iowa's Tea Party King

My article in the Prospect 's October issue is up at the homepage . It's a long feature, but here's a quick version: After the Iowa Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2009, social conservatives at the local and national levels joined forces to attack the court. They used a once-obscure procedure of judicial selection to kick three judges off the bench, though the ruling on marriage still stands as law. What's probably most interesting here at TAPPED is how this judicial election made Bob Vander Plaats -- the guy who led the campaign against the Iowa judges -- into a key figure for the 2012 presidential election. Once he succeeded in his efforts, Vander Plaats formed a group that has been vetting Republican presidential candidates. This summer, he received national attention when he asked them to sign a pledge that hammered home his normal litany of anti-gay rights positions, but he took things a little too far by suggesting that African American families were better off...

The Race is Close in South Carolina

Since entering the Republican presidential primary in August, Rick Perry has led the pack in South Carolina -- according to Public Policy Polling’s most recent survey of the state, Perry led the entire field by at least twenty points. Shortly after that poll was released, I spent some time in South Carolina, and found that -- among the rank-and-fle at least -- opinions weren’t as cut and dry. Admiration for Perry was widespread, but there was plenty of ambivalence about his ability to lead when compared to more established candidates like Mitt Romney or Michele Bachmann. The most recent poll of South Carolina Republicans, conducted by Winthrop University, captures some of that hesitancy. According to Winthrop, Rick Perry takes 30.5 percent of the voters who will definitely participate in the presidential primary, while Mitt Romney pulls in 27.3 percent. Among all Republicans in the state, 35.4 percent chose Perry, while 29.4 percent chose Romney. It’s hard to draw any broad...

It's the Demand Side, Stupid

Republicans' response to Obama's deficit-reduction plan -- which calls on millionaires and large corporations to pay higher taxes -- predictably consisted of two terms: "job creators" and "class warfare." Who are these job creators, anyway? They want you to think it's small businesses, but Obama's proposal to raise taxes on millionaires wouldn't affect 98 percent of small businesses. In reality, it would affect millionaires who, despite their wealth, haven't been creating jobs for some time. Republicans represent a view of the world in which our economic well-being depends on the few at the top helping everyone below them. As The New Republic 's Timothy Noah put it yesterday, "Sometime while I wasn't paying attention trickle-down economics got respectable." Sure, tax cuts can encourage businesses to hire, and Obama's jobs plan includes employer-side payroll tax cuts for this reason, though their impact is assumed to be limited. If trickle-down economics worked, then we wouldn't see...

Looking for Someone to Blame? Try the GOP

While liberals cheered President Obama’s speech on deficit reduction, New York Times columnist David Brooks was disappointed. “This wasn’t a speech to get something done,” Brooks writes , "This was the sort of speech that sounded better when Ted Kennedy was delivering it. The result is that we will get neither short-term stimulus nor long-term debt reduction anytime soon, and I’m a sap for thinking it was possible." For Brooks, the blame falls squarely on Barack Obama, who has abandoned his “Reasonable Man” approach in favor of one that draws clear contrasts with the Republican Party. As far as Brooks is concerned, this is part of a pattern, where Obama proposes substantive policies -- comprehensive tax reform, a “grand bargain” of deficit reduction, etc. -- and pulls away from them at the last moment. “To be an Obama admirer is to toggle from being uplifted to feeling used,” Brooks explains. There are a few problems with this narrative of betrayal, the least of which has to do with...

Certain About Uncertainty

John Judis has an enormously depressing article over at The New Republic about the economy, titled, aptly, "Doom! Our Economic Nightmare is Just Beginning," which includes this vivid anecdote: When I was in New Hampshire this summer, I accompanied Republican Congressman Charlie Bass on a visit to a small factory that produces industrial-strength air-conditioning filters. Bass asked the factory owner what he would do first if he were Obama. The owner replied immediately: "Cut spending." Later, as I was touring the plant, I learned that schools, government buildings, and the military bought their filters there. As Bass was leaving, I asked the owner whether, in proposing that Obama reduce government spending, he wasn't cutting off his nose to spite his face. He was taken aback and took a moment to reply. He began by denying that cutting federal spending would have any effect on his business, which was mostly local, but then acknowledged that schools and offices now had less money to buy...

Talkin' Socialized Medicine

Rick Perry is apparently amping up his attacks on the health reform Mitt Romney passed in Massachusetts, explaining that "the model for socialized medicine has been tried before … whether it was in western Europe or in Massachusetts." This is, of course, complete nonsense, as Trudy Lieberman of the Columbia Journalism Review tries to explain . It isn't like we haven't heard this before, but since Perry and Romney are running for president, maybe reporters could demand some clarification from the Texas governor. I'm pretty sure that if you asked Rick Perry to explain what "socialized medicine" is, he couldn't tell you, beyond "Government tellin' you what to do." But should a presidential candidate have to understand the difference between an actual socialized system (as in Great Britain), a full single-payer system (as in Canada), a single-payer-plus-private supplemental system (as in France), a heavily regulated mandated private coverage system (as in Germany), and the system we'll...

Obama Needs an 'A' for Effort

President Obama's jobs plan is touted as a plan to put Americans to work and get the economy back on track. But beyond the White House briefing room, Obama's plan is campaign outreach program targeting the key demographics that elected him -- women, minorities and 18 to 29-year-olds -- and was, arguably, written with them in mind. Obama’s endgame is not just the passage of this jobs bill, despite his new catchphrase. It is near impossible that his plan will pass in a robust form anyway. As an election strategy, however, he needs an 'A' for effort. In 2008, Obama won 95 percent of the black vote, 67 percent of the Hispanic vote, 66 percent of the youth vote and 56 percent of women’s votes but his approval among these groups is lagging to worrying lows. Obama cannot win reelection without the coalition that supported him four years ago. On the White House website, there are several fact sheets describing how the jobs plan will specifically help women , Hispanics and youth voters. The...

The Smarty-Pants Problem

Chris Mooney -- Prospect alum, science journalist, known smart person -- is unsettled when liberals say conservatives are dumb: Over the weekend, Maureen Dowd penned the column that somebody—some liberal—was bound to pen eventually. Basically, it was about, uh, why conservatives have embraced being "stupid," or at least anti-intellectual. Reading this, I winced, both because I knew my fellow liberals would eat it up, but also because I have learned, from studying the psychology and science of our politics, how misguided and self-defeating it is to take this approach to the political right... For while there are indeed more "eggheads" on the left today (more advanced degrees among liberals, see here ), the word itself implies much more than merely being smart. It connotes being prone to abstraction, getting lost in thought, the perfect image of the absent-minded professor. And it is that —rather than intelligence—that conservatives (who are often very smart themselves) have little...

Obama Takes a Stand Against Compromise

With $580 billion in cuts to mandatory spending, $1.1 trillion in savings from the drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan, and $1.5 trillion in tax increases on the wealthiest Americans, President Obama’s recommendations to the Super Committee – unveiled this morning in a speech at the White House – are the most liberal deficit-reduction proposals in a debate dominated by demands for deep spending cuts. In practical terms, this ensures that it will never pass Congress. Between the Republican Study Committee and Representative Paul Ryan’s budget proposals, House Republicans are committing themselves to dismantling entitlements, slashing discretionary spending to the bone, and spreading the wealth to the richest Americans. These Republicans, and their colleagues in the Senate, would never accept a proposal that calls for the rich to pay their “fair share.” Indeed, as far as congressional Republicans are concerned, a return to Clinton-era tax rates amounts to “class warfare” on high-income...

A Better Tax Idea

Over the weekend, President Obama proposed a new tax to make sure people earning over a million dollars a year don't get away without paying taxes, something that sounds a lot like what the Alternative Minimum Tax was supposed to do. He's calling it the "Buffett Rule" in honor of Warren Buffett , who often tells people that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. That's clever, because every time the term is used, journalists will have to repeat the explanation of where the name comes from, thereby repeating the White House's message. Republicans responded by saying that they too think it's absurdly unfair that wealthy investors can pay lower taxes than people who work for a living and pledged to work with Obama to devise a fairer tax system. Kidding! They decried it as "class warfare." Everyone knows this will never pass Congress, so it's mainly an attempt to shape the debate about taxes and the economy. Which is fine, but as long as we're looking for persuasive tax-reform ideas...

Jews Weirdly Interested in Political Opinions of Jews

Andrew Gelman raises a point about why we bother discussing "the Jewish vote," as though this 2 percent of Americans, mostly congregated in non-battleground states like New York and California, actually matters: This sort of concern is not restricted to Jews, of course. Different minority groups exercise political power in different ways. I just thought it was worth pointing out that this isn't a pure public opinion issue but rather something with more indirect pathways. But I get annoyed when pundits talk about the Jewish vote as if it's about votes. Actually, I don't think it's even about Jews' donations, or any other exercise of the their power. Here's what it is: You know who's interested in the political opinions and behavior of Jews? Jews, that's who. And who is dramatically over-represented among those who write about politics? You guessed it.

Crank Up the Scandal Machine

One of the most remarkable accomplishments of the Obama administration is that it has been in office nearly three years without a significant scandal, or really any scandal at all. This is pretty much unprecedented in recent decades. It's particularly notable that the Recovery Act, with a few hundred billion dollars spread around the country to all kinds of projects, came off without any charges of graft or waste. But now, Republicans think they have found their scandal, in the solar company Solyndra, which got a half-billion dollars in federal loan guarantees and has now gone bankrupt. We're just learning about what happenned, but it appears that the administration was too taken with this company's potential, and pushed to get the loan approved quickly so it could trumpet Solyndra as a symbol of its commitment to clean energy and reviving American industry through modern, whiz-bang technologies. So ought it to be a "scandal"? Here's a list off the top of my head of some things that a...

All I Want For Christmas Is My Kung Pao Chicken

Time magazine tries to determine why Jews love Chinese food, without success: There have been a few theories. One, articulated by the writer Jennifer 8. Lee and many others, is that Jews and Chinese are the two largest non-Christian immigrant groups in the U.S. I find this somewhat unconvincing, since the Jewish love of Chinese food is largely unrequited. Jews and Chinese are said to be shoved together cheek by jowl in urban settings, but this stopped being true by midcentury, when both groups began the great suburban diaspora. Schoenfeld thinks Jews are primed for the "gutsy" flavors of Chinese food by their own cuisine, but I disagree with him as well because, as I've said in the past, Jewish food is the blandest, most boring in the entire world. So here is my best guess. The thing to remember about Chinese food is that, besides being cheap, it is eminently suited to take out; at least three-quarters of the Chinese food I ate growing up was at home. And Jews love eating at home. We...

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