Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Read Mitt's Lips

After months of leaving practically every element of his policy proposals on the level of abstraction, Mitt Romney has finally offered a bit of clarity. According to his policy director, a President Romney would overturn all of the cuts to Medicare included in the Affordable Care Act, a figure that initially totaled $500 billion but has increased to $700 billion in the three years since the bill became a law. The bulk of these cuts are noncontroversial—Paul Ryan's budget, notably, maintains them—and they don't harm seniors' care one bit, despite Romney's wild claims.

Paul Ryan's Self-Made Myth

(AP Photo)

In politics and journalism, myth often passes as biography. For evidence, look no further than The New York Times and Washington Post's profiles of newly minted vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan, who by virtue of a few well-deployed anecdotes—told by his brother and by fellow congressman and confidant Jeff Flake—has been transformed into the apotheosis of the self-made man. The linchpin of this pull-yourself-up-by-you-bootstraps story is the death of his father when Ryan was 16. "It is remarkable that he chose a path of individual responsibility and maturity rather than letting grief take a different course," the candidate's brother tells the Times, which elaborates with an encomium worthy of an Anglo-Saxon epic:

Is the Driverless Car Menace 2012's Sleeper Issue?

A Florida senior just after her brush with death.

As someone who has gone on record in support of driverless cars, I simply must raise my voice in objection to this ad targeting Florida state rep. Jeff Brandes, who is running for state senate. An inconsequential local race, you say? Not when this kind of vicious anti-technological filth is sent out to paralyze our nation's seniors with fear of walking the streets! If you think American politics is no fun, just take a gander:

The Coming Obama Landslide

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

In terms of demographics, Mitt Romney has one path to victory: overwhelming support from white voters. At the least, he’ll have to outperform every Republican since Ronald Reagan, and win 60 percent of their votes. And this is if minority turnout is at its 2008 levels. If it increases, he needs even more whites to make up the difference.

Mitt Romney's Terrible Laugh

(AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

Some public figures get defined by a single image, or a single statement ("Ask not what your country can do for you"; "I am not a crook"). Others have a characteristic linguistic tic or hand gesture that through repetition come to embody them; think of Ronald Reagan's head shake, George W. Bush's shoulder-shimmy, or that closed-fist-with-thumb-on-top thing Bill Clinton used to do.

For Mitt Romney, it's the laugh. I'm sure that at times Romney laughs with genuine mirth, but you know the laugh I'm talking about. It's the one he delivers when he gets asked a question he doesn't want to answer, or is confronted with a demand to explain a flip-flop or a lie. It's the phoniest laugh in the world, the one New York Times reporter Ashley Parker wrote "sounds like someone stating the sounds of laughter, a staccato 'Ha. Ha. Ha.'" Everything Mitt Romney is as a candidate is distilled within that laugh—his insincerity, his ambition, his awkwardness, and above all his fear. When Mitt laughs that way, he is not amused. He is terrified. Because he knows that what he's saying is utter baloney, and he knows that we know it.

So he pretends to find it hilarious that an interviewer wants him to explain why, say, Romneycare was great for Massachusetts but the nearly identical Obamacare is a Stalinist horror for America. Perhaps it is the pain of enacting this facsimile of delight so many times that has hardened Mitt's heart and allowed him to run what has become a campaign of truly singular dishonesty. But whatever moral calculation underlies the decisions he makes, this is the place we have arrived: There may have never been a more dishonest presidential candidate than Mitt Romney.

I Know You Are But What Am I? Medicare Edition

In the good old days, you could get political speeches on LP.

Republicans' pleasure over Mitt Romney picking Paul Ryan for his running mate is tempered by their nervousness that Democrats will use Ryan's budget to hammer them on Medicare, particularly in Florida. And yes, they will. So how are Republicans going to respond? The answer is that they'll employ the time-honored "I know you are, but what am I?" strategy.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, the House Republicans' campaign arm, is sending out memos to its members telling them to, in the title of one, "Stay on offense on Medicare." And how do you do it? You say, we're not the ones who want to destroy Medicare, the Democrats are the ones who want to destroy Medicare! We're already hearing it from Romney and Ryan, and it'll be coming from all kinds of other places as well; here's the Heritage Foundation saying "Obamacare ends Medicare as we know it." (How? Because it's all governmenty.)

This kind of muddying of the waters has worked before...

Shiny, Happy Ryan

(AP Photo/Conrad Schmidt)

Although Paul Ryan has only been on the Republican presidential ticket for two days, the punditocracy's opinions on how he will influence the race this fall have already solidified. Republicans think he is the saving grace of a candidate wounded by chronic awkwardness, a schizophrenic policy history, and, well, just being filthy rich. Democrats, meanwhile, have been chortling non-stop for the past 48 hours, relishing the chance to tell all those elderly swing voters in Florida about Ryan's evil plot to dismantle Medicare.

Phony Hawkery

Definitely not Paul Ryan. (Flickr/contemplicity)

This is something that other people have mentioned, and Jamelle brings up in his extremely helpful post about Paul Ryan, but it really needs to be emphasized: Paul Ryan is not a "deficit hawk." No matter how many times the news media tell us, it doesn't make it true. As I've said before, you can't call yourself a deficit hawk if the only programs you want to cut are the ones you don't like anyway. Show me someone who's willing to cut programs he favors (Ryan isn't), and would actually take potentially painful measures to balance the budget (Ryan wouldn't), and that's a deficit hawk. Ryan, on the other hand, is a conservative ideologue who couches what Newt Gingrich appropriately called "right-wing social engineering" in a lot of talk about making tough choices. But I've never actually seen Paul Ryan make a "tough" choice, at least one that was tough for him. There's nothing "tough" about a conservative Republican who tells you he wants to slash Medicare and Medicaid, increase defense spending, and cut taxes for the wealthy. That's like Homer Simpson telling you he's making the tough choice to skip the salad and eat three dozen donuts instead.

But oh boy, have the media ever bought into the idea of Ryan as the courageous budget-cutter...

How to Get Out the Vote in a Voter ID World

(AP Photo/The Kansas City Star, Mike Ransdell)

Voter ID laws create an unnecessary barrier to voting that disproportionately affects poor and nonwhite voters. If you’re going to have them, you should at least tell people that they're going into effect. But given the impetus of these laws—to disenfranchise Democratic-leaning voters—it's no surprise that few of the states that have passed them have made any effort to educate voters.

Five Things to Know about Paul Ryan's Plan

(AP Photo)

Long before he won the Republican presidential nomination, Mitt Romney had enthusiastically endorsed the budget of Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan as the template for his own proposals. As I detailed in the Prospect's print magazine, Romney promises to extend the Bush tax cuts, cut income-tax and capital-gains rates, and reduce corporate taxes. 

Paul Ryan, Culture Warrior

Mitt Romney's choice of Paul Ryan to be his running mate, as the Prospect's Jamelle Bouie points out, leaves no doubt that if elected Romney will pursue Ryan's agenda of savage cuts to the already threadbare American safety net in order to finance upper-class tax cuts and additional defense spending that even the Pentagon doesn't want. The Ryan choice does not merely reveal, however, Romney's commitment to 19th-century fiscal policy. It also demonstrates Romney's commitment to a 19th-century view of women and gays and lesbians. Not only would Medicare be unlikely to survive a Republican administration, Roe v. Wade would almost certainly be gone as well.

Paul Ryan: The Next President of the United States?

Flickr/Gage Skidmore

Democrats seem nearly unanimous that Mitt Romney's pick of Paul Ryan to be his running mate is a good thing, since it will make winning substantially more difficult for Romney (Jamelle explains why here). I agree, and I continue to believe that the odds remain substantially in favor of Barack Obama winning re-election. But I thought I'd take the opportunity of an outbreak of hope on the left side of the aisle to offer a little vision of horror. As of Sunday morning, Paul Ryan may indeed be the person most likely to be, in the words of Romney's slip of the tongue, the next president of the United States.

Paul Ryan: Behind Blue Eyes

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

After a campaign spent pandering slavishly to the right, Mitt Romney has finally inspired a giddy burst of bipartisan consensus: On the right and left, everyone’s jumping for joy about his new running mate. For conservatives who’ve always regarded the former “Massachusetts moderate” with cold suspicion, it wasn’t enough for Romney to endorse and effusively praise Paul Ryan’s infamous budget—a plan that would give the richest Americans an average tax cut of at least $150,000 a year and cap Medicare benefits, meaning that seniors would fall further and further behind over time. They didn’t believe Romney. But now, with Ryan on the ticket, it’s clear that Mitt fully intends to bomb the social safety net back to the 19th century, and to turn America into a land of super-haves and 99 percent have-nots. The Prospect’s Jamelle Bouie has long argued that Romney truly meant it when he embraced Ryan’s blend of Austrian economics. And if anyone still had a doubt who will be setting economic policy in a Romney administration, he did introduce his pick this morning on the USS Wisconsin as “the next president of the United States, Paul Ryan.” It was a slip of the tongue, but also a grim reminder: What Dick Cheney was to foreign policy, Ryan would be to domestic policy—terrifyingly running the show.

Lipstick on a Wonk

(AP/Scott Applewhite)

It’s official: Mitt Romney has picked Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan to join him as his running mate. I’ve already written why I think Ryan is a terrible choice. In short, his plan to cut taxes on the rich and gut the welfare state is one of the most unpopular proposals in American politics. Conservatives love Ryan, but seniors, young people, women, nonwhites, veterans, the disabled, and the poor might feel differently about a man who wants to make the federal government an ATM for the wealthy.

Paul Ryan: Obama's Dream Opponent

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)

UPDATED: Mitt Romney has selected Paul Ryan as his running mate.

As Beltway anticipation builds for Mitt Romney’s vice presidential announcement, conservative pundits have re-upped their calls for a “bold” and adventurous choice. This morning, the Wall Street Journal editorial page took the lead with a plea to add House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan to the ticket.

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