Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Mitt Romney's Implausible Bid for the High Road

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
Politics is tough, and most politicians—including President Obama—are willing to bend the truth to win an election. But there’s a difference between the small distortions of all campaigns, and the brazen dishonesty we’re seeing from Romney. In a 48-hour period, Mitt Romney has doubled-down on the false charge that Obama has ended work requirements for welfare, lied about the Affordable Care Act’s Medicare cost savings, and kicked up a storm over comments made by Vice President Joe Biden. That last one is noteworthy for the sheer chutzpah of Romney’s complaint. During an event in Danville, Virginia (pronounced Dan-vul) with African-American supporters of the president, Biden deployed somewhat unfortunate language in attacking Romney’s promised repeal of financial reform: "Romney wants to let the — he said the first 100 days — he’s gonna let the big banks once again write their own rules. Unchain Wall Street,” Biden said at an event in Danville, Va. “They gonna put y’all back in chains...

Ryan and Biden: No Catholic Guilt Here

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
The current media frenzy over Paul Ryan seems to boil down to two things: his fiscal conservatism and his broad-shouldered good looks. Not since John F. Kennedy has a White House hopeful caused such a handsome fuss—Ryan, with his stiff-bristled black hair, aquiline nose, and earnestly furrowed brow has all the lean good looks of an early 20th century prize fighter in the back bar rooms of the Lower East Side. But Ryan is heir to JFK in more ways than hunkiness. The guy just may be the single greatest thing to happen to American Catholics since the 35th president took the oath of office, ending the White House’s WASP streak. In 1960, speaking before a group of Texas ministers, Kennedy addressed his Catholicism head-on, dispelling the notion that, as president, he would take directives from the Vatican. “I do not speak for my Church on public matters—and the Church does not speak for me,” Kennedy said . “Whatever issue may come before me as president—on birth control, divorce,...

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 . But hey, any chance to fear-monger with old white folks about that scary man in the White House, right? As our own Jamelle Bouie wrote today, Romney needs to win a large majority of the elderly vote if he hopes to win in November. What would it mean to leave Medicare untouched? Ezra Klein dug into the implications of Romney's promise, combined with his other budget plans. You will be shocked, no doubt, to learn that the...

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: His self-reliance followed him to summer camp, where as a counselor he canoed and hiked, and into young adulthood, where he took up deer hunting. … It followed him into college, where he immediately took a passionate interest in the canon of conservative economic...

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 representative 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: Clearly, this Brandes character is some kind of fifth column infiltrator preparing us for the coming robot apocalypse, when Roombas start mowing down helpless seniors in their homes and ATMs reach out and swallow you when all you wanted was to take out $20 and make it to the early bird on time. For all we know, Brandes might be a robot himself. Actually, before long robots will actually be used to provide companionship and assistance to seniors. It's already happening in Japan. And also, help them pull off jewel heists:

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. Seniors play a key part in this coalition. The New Republic ’s Nate Cohn puts it bluntly : “Romney’s road to the White House runs through seniors.” John McCain won 51 percent of seniors, beating Obama by four percentage points. At the moment, Cohn notes, Obama’s support among this group is in the low 40s. If the former Massachusetts governor can outperform McCain and crush Obama among older Americans, he can eke out a narrow win. But if Obama can hold his own—and move closer to his 2008 total—he’ll have secured victory. Enter Paul Ryan. As a congressman, the Wisconsin representative’s signature accomplishment is a proposal to reform entitlements,...

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...

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. Here's one of my favorite ads from...

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. However, Democrats' entrenched evaluations fail to include an essential variable in the equation of how the Wisconsin representative will play with voters: however strident his policy proposals, you can't fault the packaging. When Paul Ryan was a young twenty-something working at the conservative think tank Empower America, Jack Kemp taught him that conservative talking points could be " delivered with a smile " instead of apocalyptic threats, and Paul Ryan is a...

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...

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. Since 2010, 12 states have passed laws requiring voters to show government-issued identification in order to vote. One such law is Pennsylvania's, where studies estimate anywhere from 780,000 to 1.2 million could be turned away at the polls on Election Day because of new ID requirements. A state court is expected to rule this week on whether the law can go forward, but in the meantime, many have blasted Pennsylvania's anemic efforts to inform voters. Because the state originally estimated that far fewer voters would be affected, the plan was simply to remind those who turned out for the April primaries...

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. Now that Romney has selected Ryan as his running mate—and the former Massachusetts governor says he'll play a key part in his administration—odds are even higher that this plan will be implemented by the Romney administration. Both candidates envision a rearrangement of the federal government and its responsibilities, but Romney has always been responsive to the needs of a presidential election. Not Ryan. As someone responsible to congressional Republicans, his proposals had room to be far-reaching and radical. Here are five charts that illustrate his proposals and give a sense of his true priorities. Ryan wants to end most taxes on the top...

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. Because Romney had to express pro-choice views in order to secure the governorship of Massachusetts, some pundits are sure to suggest that Ryan pick reflects a focus on fiscal issues but a moderation on cultural issues. But, in fact, there's no reason to believe that Romney's opportunistic support for abortion rights reflects his "...

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. The reason I say this is that while we don't yet know the conditions under which the 2016 presidential campaign will take place, the GOP will begin with a substantial advantage. Winning three consecutive presidential terms is very hard. It has only happened once since 1948, when George H.W. Bush beat Michael Dukakis in 1988. No matter how well things are going, the public eventually...

Paul Ryan: Behind Blue Eyes

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan touts his 2012 federal budget. Today, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney announced Ryan as his running mate. As the chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan gives Romney a link to Capitol Hill leadership and underscores Romney's effort to make the election a referendum on the nation's economic course. 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...

Pages