Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Mitt Versus the Middle East

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
(AP Photo/Bernat Armangue) A Palestinian woman walks past a section of Israel's separation barrier to cross a checkpoint on their way to pray for the holy fasting month of Ramadan at the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem's Old City, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Friday, Sept. 19, 2008. T ake a breath and think carefully. Was Mitt Romney's candid-camera comment on how he'd handle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict really as awful as it sounds at first? Actually, yes. In fact, it's even worse, especially if you are listening to it in Israel, or the Palestinian territories, or anywhere else in the Middle East. The man who would be president of the United States has said that he would throw the entire region under the bus. "The pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish," Romney says in the now-famous video of his May 17 campaign event, uncovered by Mother Jones . Put aside the candidate's struggle with English diction, and forget the ignorance of geography that allows him to...

We Are the 47 Percent

(AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)
(AP Photo/Mary Schwalm) The former Massachusetts governor speaks to delegates at the New Hampshire Republican Convention in Concord, N.H Saturday. Mitt Romney is the gift that keeps on giving to Democrats. The ancient Greeks had word for it—a phrase, actually: Character is Fate. In one misstep after another, Mitt keeps revealing his true character. What we’re learning about him is that he is another rich guy who is disdainful of ordinary people; that he can’t speak off the cuff without blundering; and that he is clueless when it comes to foreign policy—not to mention ordinary diplomacy. A lovely pattern has set in. Mitt says something truly dumb and alienating to ordinary Americans. The campaign goes into panic mode, and can’t decide whether to walk it back or double down. Meanwhile, some militant conservatives insist that their clueless candidate had it exactly right, as Bill O’Reilly tried to do on Fox News last night. Romney was statistically correct, O’Reilly insisted. 47 percent...

In Pennsylvania, a Victory for Voting Rights—Sorta

(Flickr/whiteafrican)
It's a lot easier to talk about a law—and pass one—than to implement it. Just ask Pennsylvania lawmakers—and Pennsylvania citizens, and judges, and voting-rights activists. The state's voter ID law, passed by Republican lawmakers in March, is best known for threatening to disenfranchise more voters than laws in any other stae. But in mid-August, Pennsylvania Judge Robert Simpson refused to grant an injunction to stop the state from implementing the law in November. The judge said that he believed state officials' assurances that they had plans in place (though some were still not in action) to prevent widespread disenfranchisement. Those promises are not enough for the state supreme court. On Tuesday, in a 4-2 decision, the court vacated Simpson's decision. The justices sent the case back to the commonwealth court judge, requiring him to use a much higher bar than the one the state had to meet in his courtroom the last time around. Simpson originally ruled that the burden fell to the...

Wed, Sep. 19 Electoral Vote Predictor

Romney Gets Three Pinocchios for 47% Remark The Fact Checker has carefully examined Mitt Romney's statement that 47% of the population is "dependent on government" and awarded it three Pinocchios, meaning it is a "Significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions." The worst possible rating is four Pinocchios. In a very literal sense, everyone is dependent on government. Without the police--a government function--America would be Sudan, with roving bands of criminals stealing and marauding in broad daylight. But Romney was not talking about police protection or roads built by the government. He has often said there are two kinds of people: makers and takers and he was implying that 47% of the population are takers, essentially mooching on the other 53%. The number, 47%, is the number of people who pay no federal income tax for various reasons. It includes elderly people who live entirely on social security, students who earn too little to pay, and multimillionaires whose income...

Romney in Wonderland

The world has rarely seen a more fiercely determined smile than the one that stayed fixed on Mitt Romney’s face throughout his Tuesday-afternoon interview with Fox News’s Neil Cavuto. Scrambling furiously to rescue his already-floundering campaign after Mother Jones’ s release of the mother of all secret campaign tapes , the beleaguered candidate must have figured that ten minutes on Fox, his more-or-less official propaganda network, was the safest (or only) option. Instead, the segment with Cavuto provided irrefutable evidence that there is no safe ground for Romney right now. He could not, would not, so much as attempt to directly answer any of the host’s gently prodding questions about his catastrophic remarks to a $50,000-dollar-a-plate group in Boca Raton. You know, the ones about those shiftless no-hopers who just happen to make up half of the country he’s running to lead. The surest sign that Romney has truly got nothing— nothing —with which to counter the perception he’s now...

How Can Romney Bounce Back?

National Review editor Rich Lowry is not kind to Mitt Romney’s instantly infamous comments from a private gathering with fundraisers: “The overall impression of Romney at this event is of someone who overhead some conservative cocktail chatter and maybe read a conservative blog or two, and is thoughtlessly repeating back what he heard and read.” On that note, I’m increasingly convinced that the Romney campaign is beset by a clueless overconfidence about the election. How else do you explain a campaign that did nothing to sell its candidate as a positive figure, and is unable to respond to new attacks or crises? They have the skill, but it’s obvious they don’t see the necessity. After all, their operating assumption has been that, once voters tune in to the election, they’ll flock to Romney on account of the poor economy. When the campaign continues to insist that “the reality of the Obama economy will reassert itself as the ultimate downfall of the Obama Presidency, and Mitt Romney...

What Mitt Romney Was Really Saying

Whenever we get a glimpse of a candidate speaking in a place where he didn't know he was being recorded, there's a powerful temptation to conclude that the "real" person has been revealed. After all, campaigning is almost all artifice, and every other moment at which we see the candidate, he's acutely aware that he is on stage, with people watching his every expression and listening to his every word. This is how many people are interpreting Mitt Romney's "47 percent" comments we learned about yesterday, even though Mitt was certainly on stage, even if he didn't know he was being recorded. For instance, Jonathan Chait says , "the video exposes an authentic Romney as a far more sinister character than I had imagined. Here is the sneering plutocrat, fully in thrall to a series of pernicious myths that are at the heart of the mania that has seized his party." McKay Coppins reaches the same conclusion, that "Romney seemed to give the closest thing to a candid description of his worldview...

Tue, Sep. 18 Electoral Vote Predictor

Romney: 47 Percent Dependent on Government In 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama said people had been so beaten down by the (Bush) economy that they "get bitter and they cling to guns or religion," not realizing that it was being recorded. He took a tremendous amount of flack for that. Now it appears to be Romney's turn. Yesterday it came out that earlier this year he said : "47% of Americans are dependent on government." He added that there was no way he could win those votes and wouldn't try. He also said they "believe they are victims." Obama's campaign manager, Jim Messina, reacted immediately with: "It is hard to serve as President for all Americans when you've disdainfully written off half the nation." Romney made his comments openly to a group of wealthy donors, probably most of whom agreed with him. What he didn't realize, of course, was that someone in the audience was recording it. The video is now online . When it became clear this was going to be the dominant news story...

"Cling to Guns" vs. "the 47 Percent"

Quite a few commentators have compared Mitt Romney’s remarks to a private fundraiser—where he accused Americans who don’t pay income tax of not “taking responsibility for their lives”—to then-Senator Barack Obama’s comments on voters who “cling to their guns and religion.” The argument is straightforward—if Obama can escape damage for his comments, then Romney can make it through his. But the only thing these statements have in common is the fact that they were made to private audiences. Outside of that, there are crucial differences. Obama made his remarks before the primaries were over, before the public was familiar with him, and before the general election kicked into gear. What’s more, his eventual opponent—John McCain—saw no reason to capitalize on the remarks. After a brief flare, things calmed down and Obama escaped unscathed. There’s one other thing that kept Obama’s remarks from blowing up in his face. Here's the full text of his comment: But the truth is, is that, our...

Pilgrims in an Unholy Land

Audience members pray before the start of the Values Voters Summit in Washington, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
The Omni Shoreham, in the Woodley Park neighborhood of Washington D.C., is one of those hotels with décor that makes you feel like, as Holly Golightly said of a certain iconic jewelry store in Breakfast at Tiffany’s , “nothing very bad could happen to you there.” The chandeliers are crystal, the carpets are plush, the glow is golden. The wallpaper isn’t even wallpaper—it’s some kind of delicately brocaded fabric. One half expects Audrey Hepburn’s rendition of “Moon River” to pipe into the lobby; instead, there’s a constant stream of big band numbers. La Belle Epoche with an American twist—emphasis on the American, at least this past weekend, when the hotel bedecked with stars and stripes, played host to the Values Voter Summit, a yearly gathering of conservatives spotlighting social issues that is sponsored by, among others, The Heritage Foundation, the Family Research Council, and Liberty University. Like any good conference, the Summit had oodles of speakers, and Friday morning’s...

The Real (Awful) Romney

If you thought Mitt Romney had a rotten summer—failing to project a more appealing image of himself and his policies, failing to pin the country’s economic woes on the president, failing to get even the tiniest bounce from his convention—the home stretch is shaping up even worse. Fast on the heels of his aggressively wrong-headed response to the embassy attack in Libya (which gets terrible reviews from most Americans), Mother Jones today released a bombshell video of Romney speaking way too candidly to a small group of well-heeled campaign contributors. This is must-see footage—and even if you don’t want to see it, you won’t be able to help it over the next few days. These are words that will haunt Romney for the rest of the campaign—and the rest of his political career. He jokes that he’d have a better chance of being elected if he were of Mexican lineage; he insults Obama voters (and 47 percent of the country) in the most stereotypical and racially-tinged terms possible; he brags...

Mitt "Ayn Rand" Romney

Jamelle has already blogged about the devastating video of Mitt Romney speaking to a fundraising event that Mother Jones’s invaluable David Corn posted today . For those of you who may have missed it, here’s a partial text of what Mitt said in answer to a question about Obama voters: There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax. […] [M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. The only thing I’d add to Jamelle’s observations...

The "Real Issue" Behind Voter Fraud

This, from the New York Times public editor, is an amazing example of what happens when journalists attempt to balance two unequal sides: In his article, which led last Monday’s paper, the national reporter Ethan Bronner made every effort to provide balance. Some readers say the piece, in so doing, wrongly suggested that there was enough voter fraud to justify strict voter identification requirements — rules that some Democrats believe amount to vote suppression. Ben Somberg of the Center for Progressive Reform said The Times itself had established in multiple stories that there was little evidence of voter fraud. “I hope it’s not The Times’s policy to move this matter back into the ‘he said she said’ realm,” he wrote. The national editor, Sam Sifton, rejected the argument. “There’s a lot of reasonable disagreement on both sides,” he said. One side says there’s not significant voter fraud; the other side says there’s not significant voter suppression. “It’s not our job to litigate it...

What Romney Left Behind

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
One of the common misconceptions about the presidential candidate version of Mitt Romney is that he disavowed his greatest achievement in public office, health care reform, in an attempt to appeal to his party's base. The truth is that he never actually disavowed it or said it was a failure or a mistake. What he did was tell primary voters that Romneycare was really nothing at all like Obamacare, and anyway Romneycare shouldn't be tried in any other state. His comments were utterly unconvincing, but since they were always accompanied by a thunderous denunciation of Obamacare, Republican voters were assuaged enough to let it slide. Which means that had he wanted to, Romney probably could have entered the general election making a positive case on health care beyond "Repeal Obamacare!" By continuing to maintain that Romneycare was in fact a good thing when he was challenged on it (even if he didn't want to talk about it all that much), he gave himself enough rhetorical room that he...

Two-Faced on Taxes

Chart of economic growth from New York Times.
A lot of the debate we have in America about economics (like many issues) ends up being statements of principle masquerading as analysis of empirical reality. And maybe this is my bias talking, but it seems like most of this comes from the conservative side. For example, it's now become disturbingly common to hear conservatives say that when you cut taxes, total tax revenues actually go up, since the tax cutting creates an explosion of economic growth that brings in lots of new revenue. This idea has zero empirical support. It isn't that cutting taxes can't increase growth somewhat, it's just that it doesn't increase it enough to make up for the lost revenue. Yet no matter how many times economists demonstrate that cutting taxes doesn't actually increase revenue, Republican politicians continue to claim that it does. This is widely known as the " Tax Fairy ," since believing in it makes about as much sense as believing in the Tooth Fairy. But conservatives would certainly like it to...

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