Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Laughing All the Way

The most pressing question that Joe Biden faced, heading into Thursday night’s debate, was a tricky one: How do you handle an opponent who’s going to be lying his well-defined buttocks off for 90 minutes? The lack of a strategy for dealing with serial dishonesty had left President Obama dumbfounded in his first debate with Mitt Romney. He shouldn't have been taken aback: The Republican ticket-mates know perfectly well that being honest about their policies and platform would make it impossible for them to win a general election. You can’t advocate deficit-reduction and a $5 billion tax cut and a few extra billion in defense spending and be up front about what all that would actually mean—or whether it’s even mathematically possible. You can’t say that you’ll do everything possible to see that Roe v. Wadeis overturned. You can’t say what replacing Medicare with “premium support” really means. Which means Romney and Ryan can’t not lie—unless they want to spend election night wondering...

Does Mitt Romney Want to Raise Taxes on the Wealthy?

Mitt Romney, not sharing with job creators what he's really proposing to do to them.
At last night's debate, the mathematical impossibility of the Romney tax plan came up, just as it did during the first Obama-Romney debate, and just as it surely will in the second Obama-Romney debate on Tuesday. The real problem with Romney's proposal, though, isn't just that it's mathematically impossible, but that it's logically strange in one important way nobody seems to have noticed yet, namely that Romney seems to be proposing big tax increases for the wealthy. I'll get to why that is in a minute, but before I do let's review the problem. Since Kevin Drum gave a nice explanation , I'll just steal it: Romney has promised a 20 percent across-the-board rate cut, which includes people making over $200,000 per year. This would reduce tax revenues by about $251 billion per year. But wait! What about the economic growth this will unleash? That's mostly mythical, but let's bend over backwards here. If you incorporate the growth estimate of one of Romney's advisors, Greg Mankiw, Romney'...

Watching the Debate with Paul Ryan's Constituents

Patrick Caldwell
Patrick Caldwell T he debate got off to a bumpy start, with the bartender struggling to sync the audio between each of the bar's four TVs. City Haul Lounge in Racine, Wisconsin isn't the type of drinking hole where you'd typically find a crowd straining to hear politicians gab. A dive bar in the true Midwestern sense, City Haul is the sort of place with an unironic Pabst Blue Ribbon sign on the side of the building, a place for cheap drinks and few frills, with mixed drinks served in small clear plastic cups. Yet on Thursday night, a dedicated contingent from Paul Ryan's home district trekked past the old warehouse across the street to this small bar to watch the debate, and they didn't need crystal-clear audio to know their opinions on Ryan. "Yes Joe! Fuck you Ryan!" one middle-aged, slender woman wearing a black blazer shouted as she kneeled on a barstool, flipping her congressman the middle finger as he walked onto the debate stage. I was at City Haul for a viewing party hosted by...

Phew!

Keep talking, buddy. I'm coming for you.
We all know that vice-presidential debates don't matter, or at least that's what we knew until last night. This one, however, may turn out to matter quite a bit, even if it doesn't produce any major movement in the polls, for two reasons. The first is the obvious one: it has already made despondent Democrats feel a lot better. They wanted to see their guy aggressively take on the other side, and that's exactly what they got. Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos probably spoke for most Democrats when he wrote , "Tonight felt great, didn't it? ... we base liberals are happy again, which means we'll be productive bees because no matter what some of you claim, no one likes to work hard for the team that is 10 points down (or feels that way)." Conservatives, on the other hand, are unanimous in their judgment that Biden was overbearing and mean. Last night on Fox, Brit Hume called him "a cranky old man." "Biden Bombed," reads the Fred Barnes piece on the Weekly Standard web site. "Classless Joe,"...

Nailing Jell-O to the Wall

Biden did a lot better than his president did in the first debate. But Obama still needs to hammer home all of the inconsistencies and evasions in the Romney-Ryan positions on such key issues as Social Security, Medicare, and taxation. Between moderator Martha Raddatz’s questioning and the vice-president’s persistence, the viewer just about grasped that the Romney-Ryan arithmetic was entirely bogus when the Republicans claim that there were $5 trillion worth of loopholes that can be closed to pay for new tax cuts without cutting programs, giving further breaks to the rich, or increasing the deficit. But Biden did not quite demand in so many words: Which loopholes would you close? What would they add up to? And (since the Republicans have no plausible answer) why aren’t you telling us? The Romney-Ryan position that these details would be worked out with Congress is, in Biden’s term, malarkey. But the viewer had to be paying careful attention to appreciate the full phoniness of the...

White House High Rollers

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
(AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke, File) In this January 25, 2006 file photo, Senator John McCain, left, chats with Senator Russ Feingold on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Supreme Court on Thursday, January 21, 2010 threw out a 63-year-old law designed to restrain the influence of big business and unions on elections, ruling that corporations may spend as freely as they like to support or oppose candidates for president and Congress. The justices also struck down part of the landmark McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill that barred union- and corporate-paid issue ads in the closing days of election campaigns. W hen George W. Bush ran for president in 2000, he assembled a fundraising effort more effective than any the country had ever seen. During the primary campaign, Bush's fundraising approached $100 million, an unprecedented total many at the time found mind-boggling. Yet just eight years later, Barack Obama's campaign raised $191 million in the month of September alone. This year'...

Fri, Oct. 12 Electoral Vote Predictor

Biden Ends Democratic Freakout After President Obama's lackluster performance in the first presidential debate, Democrats were tearing their hair out, wondering if Obama was actually interested in having a second term. He seemed bored and afraid to fight Romney. Those accusations will not be leveled at Joe Biden for his performance in the vice-presidential debate. Biden was at the top of his game, fired up, attacking Representative Paul Ryan at every turn, and raising all the points Obama failed to raise. He did what Obama should have done and failed to do: fire up his own base while at the same time appearing reasonable to independents. Click here for full story

The Vice-Presidential Face-Off, GIF-ified

Raddatz, right out the gate: Ryan gives props to Beau Biden. "MALARKEY!" "Let's move on to another war." :( Biden is a real-time, one-man fact-checking team. Ryan: Biden: "Mitt's a car guy" line transitions to Biden's car accident story. Biden addresses the camera directly. 47%, 47%, 47% Ryan launches into his five-point economic plan. Then Biden explains that plan's feasibility. Ryan: Biden: Ryan is anti-choice because of "reason and science." Biden demands time to speak Martha Raddatz at the end of the night:

Revenge of the Biden

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)
(AP Photo/Eric Gay) Republican vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan, representative of Wisconsin, listens to Vice President Joe Biden during the vice-presidential debate at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. “This is like the Avengers, when the Hulk grabbed Loki and smashed him on the floor.” I watched this debate in Chesapeake, Virginia, with a group of local Democrats, and it’s fair to say that they were excited by Vice President Biden’s performance in tonight’s debate. They cheered his jabs—“This is malarkey”—and cheered when he directly attacked Paul Ryan for his rhetoric. In other words, if Biden’s job was to cover for President Obama and rebuild Democratic enthusiasm, then he accomplished it with flying colors. From foreign policy to Medicare to taxes and national security, Biden defended the administration’s policies and offered a strong retort to claims from Paul Ryan and the Romney campaign. Biden was dominant throughout the debate, but there were particular areas where he...

In This Corner...

Vice-presidential debates often make for better TV than the more sober presidential face-offs. (If you’re not convinced, take a look at the Prospect’s video compilation of the best moments from the VP debates.) There’s been nothing in a presidential debate to match the delightful absurdity of a candidate—in this case, Ross Perot’s addled running mate, Admiral James Stockdale—introducing himself to millions of viewers by posing the existential puzzler, “Why am I here?” There’s never been a slapdown in the main events to equal the iconic moment when Lloyd Bentsen punished Dan Quayle like a naughty schoolboy for likening himself to JFK. And sadly, no presidential contender has yet found it a terrific idea, as Sarah Palin did in 2008, to wink at the camera. When Joe Biden and Paul Ryan take the stage tonight, the memorable moments are likely to be different—more about jobs and taxes and economic philosophies than “zingers." There’s every potential for a sizzling exchange, especially given...

Memo to Joe, Re: Debate

TO: VPOTUS FROM: Robert Reich RE: Debate Beware: Paul Ryan will appear affable. He’s less polished and aggressive than Romney, even soft-spoken. And he acts as if he’s saying reasonable things. But under the surface he’s a right-wing zealot. And nothing he says or believes is reasonable—neither logical nor reflecting the values of the great majority of Americans. Your job is to smoke Ryan out, exposing his fanaticism. The best way to do this is to force him to take responsibility for the regressive budget he created as chairman of the House Budget Committee. Ryan won’t be able to pull a Romney—pretending he’s a moderate—because the Ryan budget is out there, with specific numbers. It’s an astounding document that Romney fully supports. And it fills in the details Romney has left out of his proposals. Mitt Romney is a robot who will say and do whatever he’s programmed to do. Ryan is the robot’s brain. The robot has no heart. It’s your job to enable America to see this. I suggest you...

Brown Versus Warren, Round III

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Unless you live in Massachusetts—or maybe even if you do—you probably missed the Elizabeth Warren/Scott Brown debate last night. That’s too bad, because it was a kick-ass debate—a model for political debates—run by Jim Madigan, from Springfield, Massachusetts’s public television station. (I know, I know—like Big Bird, he has to be careful, lest Romney fire him.) Here’s the truly groundbreaking part: Madigan actually moderated. He asked substantive questions about policy, drawn from those voters sent in. He kept the candidates to strict time schedules, giving them 20 seconds here and 5 seconds there, forcing them to articulate their beliefs quickly and crisply. He actually cut Brown off mid-sentence as Brown meandered around one point. Imagine that! As the debate went on, they started speed-talking to beat the clock. There was no time for Scott Brown to hurl his ludicrous accusations about Warren’s ancestry, although he did go ad hominem as often as he could. But we actually heard...

Will the Munger Kids Kill California's Schools?

(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes) Proposition 38 supporters from left: Marco Regil, television host for MundoFox, Molly Munger, civil rights attorney and the primary advocate behind Prop 38, Melissa Revuelta, bilingual high school teacher, and actor James Olmos, during a news conference in Los Angeles on September 26, 2012. Proposition 38, a State Income Tax Increase to Support Public Education, is on the November 6, 2012 ballot in California. This is the second in a Prospect series on the 174 initiatives and referendums up for a vote this November. A merica has the Koch brothers, and now California has the Munger kids. Unlike the right-wing Kochs, Molly Munger and her brother Charles Jr. entered politics from opposite directions—she’s a liberal Democrat and a champion of inner-city schools; he’s an economic conservative, a social moderate, and a Republican activist. But thanks to the vicissitudes of California politics and the self-absorption that wealth can bring (their father is Charles...

Stuck in Second-Class Debate Gear

(AP Photo/Laura-Chase McGehee)
The 2012 election is the fifth straight presidential election to feature no third-party candidates in the debates—and as a result, there's also a lack of engagement with issues that the two major-party candidates don’t want to discuss. The debates are organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates, a 501(c)(3) organization created by the Democratic and Republican national committees and funded by corporate sponsors. This year, as usual, the commission extended invitations to only the Democratic and Republican candidates—much to the chagrin of third-party candidates and the handful of nonprofit organizations committed to including more voices in the debates. “The commission survives on deception. ... It sounds like a government agency, but of course, it’s not,” said George Farah, executive director of Open Debates, a group leading the charge to include third-party candidates in the presidential debates. “Every four years, it allows negotiators, the Republican and Democratic...

Could the VP Debate Be a BFD?

(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
(AP Photo/David Goldman) A banner made by a local middle school depicting Republican vice presidential candidate, Representative Paul Ryan, at left, and Vice President Joe Biden, at right, hangs on the wall inside the media center ahead of Thursday's vice presidential debate, Wednesday, October 10, 2012, at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. I f you find yourself moved to prepare for tonight's debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan by watching the 2008 vice-presidential debate , your first response will be, "Holy cow, I'd almost forgotten what a nincompoop Sarah Palin is." But after that, you'll be reminded that before he became the shirtless, Trans Am-washing guy so hilariously lampooned in The Onion , Biden was known as one of the most eloquent speakers in his party. He was well prepared for his meeting with Palin; not only did he talk fluidly about a range of issues, but he came armed with an array of factoids that he parceled out effectively and he was ready with practiced...

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