Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Mitt, Biggest Fibber of the Year

In the last frantic days of the 2012 campaign, Mitt Romney turned to desperation. His campaign realized that Ohio was slipping out of contention and turned to untruths to peel white, working-class voters away from Obama. They rolled out a campaign ad charging that, under Obama's auto bailout, Chrysler would be shipping Jeep manufacturing over to China. That, of course, was an outright lie. Even Chrysler jumped in to dispute the claims, but Romney was not dissuaded, assuming the public wouldn't be smart enough to parse through the dispute. That fib landed Romney Politifact's "Lie of the Year" award on Wednesday. "The Jeep ad was brazenly false," they concluded. Politifact, the Florida-based publication at the forefront of the newspaper fact-checking movement, has annoyed liberals in the past; earlier this year, Rachel Maddow made a habit of tearing apart the organization, once terming it "shockingly, shockingly bad" during one epic tirade. And in crowning Romney as the king liar of...

Why Republicans Won't Get Specific

This squirrel sees right through you, McConnell. (Flickr/Californian Em)
A few years ago, somebody (forgive me for forgetting who it was) suggested that newspapers should have a daily feature called "Things That Are Still True," which would remind readers of important facts that are still important even if they haven't generated news in the sense of being new. In that spirit, during the current budgetary debate it's a good time to remember what I think is one of the three or four most enduring and important facts about American politics and public opinion. Almost half a century ago, Lloyd Free and Hadley Cantril argued that Americans as a whole were ideologically conservative but operationally liberal, meaning that in broad terms they like "small government," but when one gets specific it turns out they like almost everything government does, and want it to do even more of it. This fact explains practically everything about how the Republican and Democratic parties set about appealing to voters. Republicans talk in broad, ideological terms about small...

The Republican Bait-and-Switch

Detroit Regional Chamber / Flickr
Detroit Regional Chamber / Flickr Michigan Governor Rick Snyder opens the Detroit Regional Chamber 2012 Mackinac Policy Conference. One striking thing about Governor Rick Snyder’s successful push for a right-to-work law in Michigan—and Scott Walker’s similar push against public employee unions in Wisconsin—is that they relied on bait-and-switch tactics. In their campaigns, neither governor announced their support for right-to-work laws, or more broadly, their opposition to labor unions. They both campaigned as moderate Republicans, interested in a straightforward agenda of job creation and deficit reduction. Snyder, in fact, categorically denied that he supported right-to-work laws at all, as Dave Weigel shows in a helpful post collecting various quotes from the last three years: The Detroit News, July 30, 2009 : Someone else asked if Snyder supported Michigan becoming a so-called right to work state, where individuals can opt out of joining a worker’s union. Snyder said the issue was...

Election Officials Defend Their Partisan Status

Flickr/Steve Rhodes
This campaign cycle, even election rules were grounds for partisan fighting. Republican Ken Detzner, Florida’s secretary of state, attempted a purge of the voter rolls, prompting accusations of discrimination. In Colorado, Secretary of State Scott Gessler, also a Republican, tinkered with a similar effort. Pennsylvania’s Secretary of the Commonwealth Carole Aichele, another Republican appointed by Governor Tom Corbett, openly supported the state’s voter-ID law. Most famously, there was Jon Husted, Ohio’s Republican secretary of state, whose decision to limit early-voting hours to keep them consistent across the state prompted cries of outrage. All of the partisan wrangling makes Wisconsin, which has a nonpartisan model for running elections , look pretty appealing. In 2008, the Badger State created Government Accountability Board, a group of retired judges approved by members of both parties who administer elections for the state. While it doesn’t stop legislative tinkering—the state...

Mitch McConnell Doesn't Understand What the Debt Ceiling Is

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
Now that Republicans have pretty much resigned themselves to the idea that there is going to be some kind of tax increase for the wealthy, they're comforting themselves with the idea that come early next year, they'll still be able to re-enact the lovely conflict we had over the debt ceiling in 2011 and hold the American economy hostage to their demands. President Obama has quite sensibly said that we ought to just get rid of the debt ceiling itself, since it serves no purpose and allows a party to engage in just this kind of economic blackmail if it's desperate and cynical enough. So Republicans are pushing back, none more so than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. But in the process, McConnell has revealed that he has no idea how the debt ceiling actually works. What McConnell has been saying is that if we eliminate the debt ceiling, it will give the president all kinds of new powers, to spend money willy-nilly however he wants to, run up the debt, and generally become a kind...

Afghanistan Sketches

Victor Juhasz
*/ I n July 2011, equipped with his sketching tools, a camera, borrowed Kevlar, and Dragon Skin body armor, illustrator Victor Juhasz arrived in Kandahar, Afghanistan, to embed for three weeks with Major Shane Mendenhall and his medevac unit, the 1-52nd Arctic Dustoff out of Fairbanks, Alaska, as well as members of Alpha Company 7-101 from Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Juhasz had participated in the United States Air Force Art Program for several years, documenting in drawings various Air Force operations on bases around the U.S. and overseas. This independent trip, with extended time in a war zone, would give him a chance to do more. “Rendering planes in the sky or on the ground had not been what drew me to the program,” Juhasz writes. “I was looking to draw real people who happen to be warriors; to witness and create images both on the spot and back in the studio telling their stories.” Presented here is a sampling of his work and observations from his trip. Slideshow Afghanistan Sketches

Not Another Wall Street Puppet

AP Photo
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak President Barack Obama walks with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to the Oval Office at the White House after speaking about the fiscal cliff at Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers. I n his first post-election press conference, President Barack Obama said voters had awarded him only one mandate: to help middle class families and those striving to reach the middle class. In line with fulfilling this charge, the administration’s top priority would be creating manufacturing jobs and rebuilding the nation’s schools and infrastructure. An early bellwether of the president’s commitment to this will be his selection of a replacement for Timothy Geithner, who is expected to step down as Treasury secretary early next year. The nomination presents an opportunity for a White House course correction, finally putting Main Street ahead of Wall Street. With Geithner’s appointment four years ago, Obama chose someone acceptable to the banking...

The Billionaires' Long Game

AP Photo
From left to right, the largest Republican donors: Sheldon Adelson, owner of the Las Vegas Sands casino empire; Harold Simmons, owner of Contran Corp.; Bob J. Perry, head of a Houston real estate empire; Robert T. Rowling, head of Dallas-based TRT Holdings; and William Koch, an industrialist. I keep hearing that the billionaires and big corporations that poured all that money into the 2012 election learned their lesson. They lost their shirts and won’t do it again. Don’t believe that for an instant. It’s true their political investments didn’t exactly pay off this time around. “Right now there is stunned disbelief that Republicans fared so poorly after all the money they invested,” said Brent Bozell, president of For America, an Alexandria, Maryland-based nonprofit that advocates for Christian values in politics. “Congrats to @KarlRove on blowing $400 million this cycle,” Donald Trump tweeted. “Every race @CrossroadsGPS ran ads in, the Republicans lost. What a waste of money.” Rove’s...

Scalia's Unpersuasive Argument

Republicans are engaged in a bout of soul searching following the calamitous results of the 2012 election. But the party is held back by ideologues who can't get with the times. Take same-sex marriage. The trend lines are clearly against the Republican Party's opposition to marriage equality; young voters overwhelmingly support full marriage rights for LGBT couples and each year the share of the electorate that supports gay rights grows. If the GOP hopes to sell conservatism to younger voters, moderating its stance on same-sex marriage would be a quick and easy fix. Yet the GOP won't have an easy time severing its homophobic ties. Yesterday, during an event at Princeton, Supreme Court Justice and conservative icon Antonin Scalia didn't mince words in criticizing LGBT rights. "If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality," Scalia asked before a room of students, "can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?" The statement was a response to a question...

Conservatives Get Glum

Flickr/Kristina Alexanderson
A look around the web today makes clear that the crisis of American conservatism in general, and conservatives' relationship to the media in particular, is clearly our topic. First, none other than William Kristol, the very axis about whom the Republican establishment spins, is extremely worried about what has become of his movement: And the conservative movement​—​a bulwark of American strength for the last several decades​—​is in deep disarray. Reading about some conservative organizations and Republican campaigns these days, one is reminded of Eric Hoffer’s remark, “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” It may be that major parts of American conservatism have become such a racket that a kind of refounding of the movement as a cause is necessary. A reinvigoration of the Republican party also seems desirable, based on a new generation of leaders, perhaps coming​—​as did Ike and Reagan​—​from outside the normal channels...

No Need for New Ideas

Gage Skidmore / Flickr
Gage Skidmore / Flickr Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina speaking at the 2012 Liberty Political Action Conference in Chantilly, Virginia. One way to read Jim DeMint’s departure from the Senate is as representative of a split between Tea Party Republicans—who hated Mitt Romney and insist on a return to absolute intransigence—and their more establishment-minded counterparts, who have begun to resign themselves to the fact that President Obama has leverage and political capital on his side. I think this is a little exaggerated—there’s still plenty of synergy between the two wings of the party—but there is truth in the analysis. Writing at Rolling Stone , Matt Taibbi uses this take to make a smart point about where the Republican Party currently stands, it where it could go: [T]he Democrats were facing a similarly bitter split not too long ago, when their party’s mainstream unforgivably backed Bush’s idiotic Iraq invasion and then saddled us with a war-waffling presidential candidate...

Political Punishment as Policy

AP Photo/Paul Sancya
Michigan is about to become a right-to-work state and according to Republicans, labor brought it on itself. That’s because on the November ballot, labor groups put a measure to enshrine collective-bargaining rights into the state Constitution. The measure failed, but for daring to wage the campaign, the unions need to be punished, it seems. Governor Rick Snyder previously avoided right-to-work legislation. "One of my concerns was about raising the whole profile of the discussion about labor issues," Snyder said in an interview with MLive . “I said it could stir up the whole topic that we're discussing right now—right to work—or freedom to choose is the way I prefer to look at it.” Greg McNeilly, who runs the pro-right to work PAC Michigan Freedom Fund, put it even more bluntly. “Bob King put this on the agenda,” he told The Washington Post , referencing the president of the state’s most powerful union, the United Auto Workers. “He threatened this state [with the constitutional...

The Obama Administration Plays Hardball On Medicaid

President Obama signing the Affordable Care Act.
When the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, it also gave Republican states a gift by saying they could opt out of what may be the ACA's most important part, the dramatic expansion of Medicaid that will give insurance to millions of people who don't now have it. While right now each state decides on eligibility rules—meaning that if you live in a state governed by Republicans, if you make enough to have a roof over your head and give your kids one or two meals a day, you're probably considered too rich for Medicaid and are ineligible—starting in 2014 anyone at up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level will be eligible. That means an individual earning up to $14,856 or a family of four earning up to $30,657 could get Medicaid. Republican governors and legislatures don't like the Medicaid expansion, which is why nine states—South Dakota, plus the Southern states running from South Carolina through Texas—have said they'll refuse to expand Medicaid (many other states have...

The Fiscal Cliff Proxy War

Flickr/Talk Radio News Service
(AP Photo/Paul Sancya) President Barack Obama speaks to workers about the economy during a visit to Daimler Detroit Diesel in Redford, Michigan yesterday. W ashington has a way of focusing the nation’s attention on tactical games. We almost never get to debate or even discuss the big problems because the tactical games overwhelm everything else. The debate over the fiscal cliff, for example, is really about tactical maneuvers preceding a negotiation about how best to reduce the federal budget deficit. This, in turn, is a fragment of a bigger debate over whether we should be embracing austerity economics and reducing the budget deficit in the next few years or, alternatively, using public spending and investing to grow the economy and increase the number of jobs. Even this larger debate is just one part of what should be the central debate of our time—why median wages continue to drop and poverty to increase at the same time income and wealth are becoming ever more concentrated at the...

The Price of Boehner's Speakership

A fiscal cliff deal hasn't even begun to take shape and John Boehner's speakership already might be in jeopardy over capitulations to Democrats. Conservatives were initially disquieted last week when a string of right-wing ideologues in the House who had voted against the party line during the last session were purged from plum committee assignments by the current speaker. Now they're also warning against potential deals to avert the fiscal cliff. National Review 's Robert Costa interviewed Georgia Representative Tom Price, who unloaded scorn on Boehner's leadership of the Republican caucus. "My concern is that within our conference, conservatives, who are a majority, don’t have a proper platform,” Price said. “That’s true at the leadership table and on the steering committee." Costa interpreted that as a hint that Price might to run against Boehner as House Speaker, a rumor reinforced by anonymous Republicans. For what it's worth, Price's office dismissed such speculation Monday...

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