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Fox News Forces Candidate to Defend Reality

When politicians hit the campaign trail and make sweeping policy statements, it's the press's role to call them out when their comments stray too far from reality. Basic questioning forces the candidates to stay honest. Fox News, though, reversed that traditional press role during an interview with Jon Huntsman this morning. They brought up Huntsman's tweet from a few weeks ago, which said: "To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy." Fox's Brian Kilmeade took him up on that challenge, and questioned the veracity of climate-change research. Watch the exchange (video via GOP12 ): Huntsman stood by his statement as Kilmeade pushed right-wing conspiracy theories about scientists manipulating studies. "We're not the ones taking grant money with scientists and making up results which hurt the cause," he said. Despite Fox's fearmongering, there is no legitimate dispute among the scientific community on climate change. As The Washington Post 's...

Give the States' Rights...But Not Too Many.

As a leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination, Texas Governor Rick Perry’s claim to fame is his devotion to states’ rights. Under Perry, Texas has pushed the federal government for greater autonomy in the operation of programs like Medicaid, where states are responsible for delivering services and hewing to federal mandates. Perry has also flirted with “ Tentherism ” -- the view that states can reclaim “rightful” power through the Tenth Amendment -- and outright secession. For example , here’s what Perry had to say about Texas and the Union at a Tea Party rally in 2009: “We’ve got a great union. There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that.” As The New York Times reports , conservatives are divided on how they view this rhetoric. For some, Perry’s advocacy for states’ rights is hollow and insincere; yes, the Texas governor sued the federal...

Rick Perry Meme Watch

As I've been arguing for years (buy this 2003 book , and I'll get 50 cents in royalties!), in presidential campaigns, candidates tend to get defined by their one or two most glaring character flaws. You can be a grumpy old man ( John McCain , Bob Dole ), a patrician flip-flopper ( John Kerry ), a congenital liar ( Al Gore ), but you will inevitably be caricatured, and that caricature will have a significant effect on how you're covered in the press. As the shiny new object of the 2012 Republican primaries, Rick Perry 's caricature is just now taking shape. Is he the reckless cowboy ? The religious nut ? The ideological extremist ? Maybe. But now conventional wisdom has arrived, in the form of a Politico article titled, "Is Rick Perry dumb?" (plainly copying this post I wrote two weeks ago titled "Is Rick Perry Too Dumb?") Their conclusion: "Perry may not be a wonk, but that doesn't mean he’s a rube—a costly mistake many of his foes have made." In characteristic Politico style, it...

Did We Overreact to Hurricane Irene?

At The Daily Beast , Howard Kurtz castigates local and national media for overhyping Hurricane Irene: Someone has to say it: cable news was utterly swept away by the notion that Irene would turn out to be Armageddon. […] Every producer knew that to abandon the coverage even briefly—say, to cover the continued fighting in Libya—was to risk driving viewers elsewhere. Websites, too, were running dramatic headlines even as it became apparent that the storm wasn’t as powerful as advertised. It’s useful to imagine the version of this column Earth-two Howard Kurtz wrote (assuming we lived in this alternate universe) after Irene picked up speed and moisture on Saturday, morphed into a Category 2 hurricane – with sustained winds of 100 miles per hour -- and struck New York City with a direct hit, killing hundreds of people who were unable to evacuate, and causing $27 billion in economic damage. In this world, Howard Kurtz was outraged by the complacency of local and national news organizations...

The Bailout Success Story

As grim as the economic news is, as former skeptic Kevin Drum notes it would be even worse had the Obama administration not saved the domestic auto industry. Automobile sales and parts are one of the few robust areas of the American economy, and Drum estimates that the bailout saved roughly a million jobs. While much of the criticism of the Obama administration not being aggressive enough in dealing with the Great Recession has been warranted, this is indeed a success story that doesn't receive nearly enough attention. And as Jon Cohn recently noted , it's crucial to emphasize that the managed bankruptcy wouldn't have worked without a substantial infusion of funds. Should Romney be the Republican nominee, he will probably assert that he actually agreed with the bailout because he supported a bankruptcy process. But supporting bankruptcy without a bailout almost certainly would have resulted in liquidation and upwards of a million lost jobs, and let's hope Obama won't be shy about...

Steve Jobs, Class-War Bystander

Will Wilkinson asks an interesting question: Why doesn't Steve Jobs get the same kind of criticism other billionaires get? After all, Wilkinson says, a lot of his fortune is built on patent trolling and exploitation of poorly paid Chinese workers, and he contributes nothing to charity. His explanation is that Jobs has brought beauty into our lives: Mr Jobs got really stinking rich, in his second tenure as Apple CEO, by adding a dash of elegance to the lives of consumers by selling them gorgeously refined devices at a premium. The average American's life is not overfull with gracefully sleek design, to say the least, and in many ways our standards of living have not improved upon that of our parents. But Apple under Mr Jobs has offered the mass market dazzling technical progress with the sort of tastefully luxurious sheen usually reserved for the seriously well-to-do. For this many of us are grateful... But what about the guys who get rich digging oil out of the ground so we can charge...

The Economy: Still Worse Than We Thought

It’s Friday! Which means another round of bad news for the economy. In this case, the Commerce Department has revised its assessment of economic growth for the second quarter. At the time, economists had estimated 1.3 percent growth for the quarter – sluggish, but an improvement over the first quarter, when the economy grew by an anemic 0.4 percent. The revision shows 1 percent economic growth for the second quarter, a sharp drop and lower than the decline expected by economic analysts. In a rational world, these miserable numbers would spur lawmakers to action with programs to generate demand and put people back to work. As it stands, Republican policies from this spring have already removed billions of dollars from the economy, and congressional Republicans are working to repeat the performance, with further spending cuts and tax increases on working people. What’s more, the Federal Reserve has retreated into continued inaction; this morning, Chairman Ben Bernanke ruled out any new...

The Tea Party In Decline

I've long predicted, perhaps more out of hope than foresight, that once the 2012 Republican presidential nominating contest got underway, the Tea Party would fade away. I expected that all those newly energized activists would channel their energy into their preferred primary candidate, and after that, into helping the nominee defeat Barack Obama . If the Republican wins, the Tea Party will cease to exist utterly, since it was always primarily an anti-Obama enterprise more than anything else. Just as Republicans didn't care about deficits when George W. Bush was president, they'll stop caring about them once the next Republican takes office. And now, as Dave Weigel notes , the Tea Party's primary means of getting attention and inspiring fear among Republicans -- primary challenges to GOP incumbents -- is turning out to be far less effective in 2012 than it was in 2010. Utah congressman and Tea Party favorite Jason Chaffetz decided not to bother challenging Orrin Hatch . Other primary...

The Smarts Primary

Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins , asked to comment on Rick Perry disbelief in evolution, went to town on Perry: Any other organization -- a big corporation, say, or a university, or a learned society - -when seeking a new leader, will go to immense trouble over the choice. The CVs of candidates and their portfolios of relevant experience are meticulously scrutinized, their publications are read by a learned committee, references are taken up and scrupulously discussed, the candidates are subjected to rigorous interviews and vetting procedures. Mistakes are still made, but not through lack of serious effort. The population of the United States is more than 300 million and it includes some of the best and brightest that the human species has to offer, probably more so than any other country in the world. There is surely something wrong with a system for choosing a leader when, given a pool of such talent and a process that occupies more than a year and consumes billions of...

Eric Cantor: Don't Ask for Help, Just Buy Earthquake Insurance

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a noted opponent of federal spending, has come out against deficit-funded federal aid for his district in Virginia, despite Republican Governor Bob McDonald’s request for said aid. “All of us know that the federal government is busy spending money it doesn’t have,” remarked Cantor while surveying damage in Culpepper, Virginia. Indeed, in a stop elsewhere, Cantor laid the responsibility for disaster funding on Virginia residents, despite the rarity of earthquakes in the state, “Obviously, the problem is that people in Virginia don’t have earthquake insurance.” As it turns out, the people of Virginia aren’t so keen on that assessment. Mary Clarke serves as vice mayor of Louisa, Virginia, the epicenter for Tuesday’s earthquake, and one of the towns in Cantor’s district. “I don’t agree with his thinking on this,” said Clarke in a phone interview, “Does he think people are independently wealthy and can pay for repairs themselves?” She then noted Cantor’s...

Rick Perry is Way Ahead

Yesterday, both Gallup and Public Policy Polling released new national polls of Republican primary voters. In a sharp change from several months ago, both found Texas Governor Rick Perry with a large lead over his competitors, including former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. In the Gallup poll, which includes each of the presidential candidates, Perry leads the field with 29 percent support to Romney's 17 percent, Ron Paul's 13 percent, and Michele Bachmann's 10 percent. Likewise, PPP found Perry with a full third of the GOP's support, well ahead of Romney's 20 percent and Bachmann's 16 percent. Even with these numbers, it's possible that Perry is just another flavor of the month in the GOP presidential primary. Remember, at one point, even Herman Cain polled extremely well with the Republican Party. But as Nate Silver points out at The New York Times , Perry has shown a large lead in five of the most recent Republican national polls, despite his low (but growing) name recognition...

Trumka to Obama: Quit Being a Follower

At a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor this morning, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, one of the most powerful union officials in the country, talked with reporters on the state of the labor movement, the recent elections in Wisconsin, President Barack Obama's rhetoric on jobs and the economy, and the labor movement's plan for the 2012 elections. When it came to questions of labor's strength in an age of poor growth, attacks on public-sector unions, and the ongoing decline of private sector union membership, Trumka pointed to recent events as proof positive of labor's continued relevance. "Let's look at Wisconsin," said Trumka, "We put two senate seats away from the Republicans, we had 49 percent of the vote in six districts that are the most highly Republican districts out there, we have organized hospitals, brought 30,000 new members into Working America, so in place like Wisconsin, we're doing well." Trumka wouldn't commit to support for a recall election against...

Lucky Duckies In the Crosshairs

Ed Kilgore explains that the working poor have become the new "welfare queens": Underlying this assault, there seems to be a current of genuine anger at the working families who no longer receive "welfare as we knew it," but remain beneficiaries of some form of redistribution, even if it’s only progressive tax rates. You can debate back and forth endlessly about whether there is a racial element in this hostility, as there definitely was in the old "welfare wedge" politics. The iron-clad conviction of many conservatives that race-conscious federal housing policies caused the housing and financial meltdowns is not an encouraging sign, in any case. But it is clear that the social peace so many anticipated in 1996—after it had been established that no one receiving public assistance could be accused of refusing to work—has now been broken. Work is no longer enough, it seems, to avoid the moral taint of being a "welfare bum." The only thing that's missing is a pithy moniker to refer to...

Non-Evolving Views

In recent days, Republican candidates Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman have both had occasion to share their views on evolution (Perry says no, Huntsman says yes). The National Journal's Ron Brownstein suggests that this might help Huntsman a bit to make his case to "the overlapping circles of the party's best-educated, least religiously devout, and moderate elements." Good luck with that, governor. It isn't that there aren't educated Republicans who understand evolution, and it isn't even that they're a minority within their party -- although they are ( according to Gallup, 52 percent of Republicans think God created humans in our present form less than 10,000 years ago). It's that none of those people care enough to argue about it. They've ceded this issue to the crazies. When somebody tries to get their local schools to teach the fraud of "intelligent design," you aren't going to find elite Republicans complaining about it. They'll shake their heads and go back to writing white papers...

Rick Perry Has Not Yet Begun to Squirm

For a while, the Republican presidential nominating contest was between Mitt Romney and a bunch of underperforming candidates. Then Michele Bachmann entered the race, offering a shiny new object for everyone to look at for a couple of weeks. She was charismatic, novel, and extremist enough to appeal to the large portion of the Republican primary electorate for whom there is no such thing as being too conservative. But then a new shiny object popped up, Texas Governor Rick Perry , who is also charismatic, novel, and extremist. So Bachmann is sinking , and Perry is on top for the moment. What Perry is discovering is that you can be governor of the second-largest state in the country for a decade, but you haven't really been probed until you've been probed by the national media. People are now investigating everything about his time in office, and even before. They're poring through his recently penned book Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America From Washington and discovering that it...

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