Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Romney Tries the Etch-A-Sketch on Obama's DREAM Act Record

Of all the answers Mitt Romney gave in his interview with Bob Schieffer—which aired yesterday—this stood out the most: ROMNEY: “[M]y anticipation is I’d come into office and say we need to get this done, on a long-term basis, not this kind of stop-gap measure. What the president did, he should have worked on this years ago, if he felt seriously about this he should have taken action when he had a Democrat House and Senate, but he didn’t. He saves these sort of things until four and a half months before the general election.” … SCHIEFFER: “So he did it for politics.” ROMNEY: “Well, that’s certainly a big part of the equation.” It’s obvious that this is an Etch-A-Sketch moment; six months ago, Romney pledged to Republican audiences that he would veto the DREAM Act if it came to his desk. Now that he’s running for president—and needs to improve his performance with Latinos—his position has moderated somewhat. But my concern for the flip-flop is far less than my concern for the...

Economic Hearts and Minds

Image from Obama ad; Obama campaigning.
The term "hot button issue" first appeared in the mid-1980s, but came into common usage during the 1988 presidential campaign, when the nation soberly contemplated such questions as whether Michael Dukakis was planning to unleash a horde of dusky criminals to prey upon our precious white women. Alas, this year's campaign is nearly devoid of hot buttons for the candidates to push. God? Mitt Romney is the last person who wants to talk about religion. Guns? The Obama administration has done nothing to restrict their ownership, and the NRA's fevered warnings of government confiscating your weapons grow ridiculous even to gun owners themselves. Gays? Just a month and a half after President Obama surprised almost no one by announcing his support for marriage equality, Republicans haven't bothered to make it an issue, probably because they understand that the public has little taste for their past demagoguery. So aside from the occasional temporary flare-up over things like contraception or...

What's Wrong With Politics-Driven Policy?

Flickr/Antonio Villaraigosa
Today's big news is that the Obama administration, through executive action, is enacting a kind of mini-DREAM Act to help undocumented immigrants who were brought to America as children. We'll get to the details in a moment, but one thing we know for sure is that Republicans are going to be very, very mad, or at least they'll sound very, very mad. They'll make three separate arguments: First, they'll have a substantive argument about why it's a bad idea to allow any undocumented immigrant to work here legally. Second, they'll have a process argument about why it's an appalling power-grab for Obama to do this without congressional approval. Of course, they're quite happy with all sorts of executive orders and similar actions when a Republican is in the White House, but that hypocrisy doesn't necessarily make them wrong on that point. Finally, they'll say this is blatant "election-year politics" meant only to secure Latino votes in the fall election. Which it may well be, at least in...

Republicans Possibly Pretending to Be Mad At Other Republicans Definitely Pretending to Care About Health Care

Congressional Republicans discuss health care. (Flickr/nkenji)
The Supreme Court will rule on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act soon, and that has concentrated some Republicans' minds. It was all well and good to shout "repeal and replace!" when there wasn't really anything they could do about it, but if the Court actually strikes down some or all of the law, they'll be under greater pressure to put their money where their mouths are. The central quandary is this: if the law's least popular provision—the mandate for everyone to carry insurance—is struck down, that means the law's most popular provision—the requirement that insurance companies accept everyone, regardless of pre-existing conditions—has to go as well. Not only that, some other popular provisions, like the requirement that insurers allow young people up to age 26 to go on their parents' insurance, would disappear if the Court strikes down the whole law. Should that happen, President Obama and other Democrats will immediately begin attacking Republicans for taking away...

Obama: Romney Equals Bush

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Back in April, President Obama gave a speech to the American Society of News Editors, where he excoriated Mitt Romney—and the Republican Party—for its adherence to the “roadmap” devised by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan. In the speech, Obama presented the Ryan roadmap as modern Republicanism, distilled to its essence. He attacked the plan for its large, across-the-board tax cuts, its complete extension of the Bush tax cuts, and its plan to privatize Medicare. More importantly, he spelled out the implications of Ryan’s budget: to pay for his tax cuts, the federal government would have to suck the marrow from its social services. Everything from food stamps to Pell Grants would see the chopping block, and the federal government would be reduced to a mechanism for upward redistribution, defended by a standing army. Since then, Obama has adjusted his message with attacks on Bain Capital and Romney’s time as governor of Massachusetts, in an attempt to present the Republican nominee as...

Wall Street's New BFF

Today, POLITICO had a big scoop : Wall Street has a huge crush on Mitt Romney. Surprising news, to be sure, especially given the candidate’s propensity to name drop his business experience when discussing any policy issue, his distaste for regulation, and the many corporate conglomerates Romney considers allies. The more startling news in the article is the numbers: The Romney camp is outraising Obama among financial-sector donors $37 million to nearly $5 million. That’s a 7-to-1 margin, and 19 of the top donors supported the Democratic ticket in 2008. This is more scary news for the Obama campaign, recently hobbled by May fundraising numbers and a seemingly perpetual inability to call rich liberal donors into action—and more than a little ironic given that Zachary Goldfarb reported at the end of 2011 that “During Obama’s tenure, Wall Street has roared back, even as the broader economy has struggled.” That wasn’t the only news on the campaign front that strikes another point in Romney...

The State of the Economic Debate

Gallup
Today, President Obama is going to roll out a new speech laying out his case on the economy. From the previews , it looks to be a contrast between what the economy will look like in a second Obama term, and what it will look like in a first Romney term. Essentially, he'll be trying to make this a "choice" election instead of a "referendum" election. Which is exactly what it should be. After all, we wouldn't be replacing something with nothing if we elected Mitt Romney, we'd be replacing something with something very, very different. And as I'm sure Obama will argue today, we have some experience with what Mitt Romney is proposing. Obama will characterize Romney's policies as "exactly what got us into this mess" or some such, but you don't even have to tar him with the 2008 catastrophe to make the case. As I've asked before , if the entire rationale for Mitt Romney's candidacy is that his business experience gives him such unique insight into the workings of the economy, why is it that...

People Who Wish They Were Working On Obama Campaign Complain About Obama Campaign

Barack Obama doing something he's pretty good at. (White House/Pete Souza)
Let's say you're a Democratic political consultant who has never worked for Barack Obama. How do you feel about him and his team? Well, chances are that although you respect their skill, you also think they're too insular and too unwilling to listen to outside advice. Like yours! Because after all, if you're a Democratic political consultant and you don't work for the Obama campaign, you probably wish you did. There's a lot of prestige, and not a little money, in working for the president's re-election effort. If you didn't work for the historic 2008 effort, you probably feel a little left out. And you probably also feel that you're just as smart as David Axelrod or David Plouffe, and you ought to be going on Meet the Press to share your wisdom just like they do. But you can't. So what can you do? You can complain anonymously to reporters that the Obama campaign is doing it wrong : That kind of unflappability is a hallmark of the Obama political operation — and was a crucial...

Facts? We Don't Need No Stinking Facts.

The New York Times does Mitt Romney a favor.
People like me often complain about "he said/she said" reporting, which treats all claims by competing political actors as having equal validity, and doesn't bother to determine whether one side or the other might not be telling the truth. There are lots of reasons why that kind of reporting is harmful, but it's important to understand that it doesn't just keep people soaking in a lukewarm bath of ignorance, it can actively misinform them, leading them to believe things that are false. Today's New York Times has a textbook example of what happens when political reporters can do when they refuse to adjudicate a factual dispute between candidates. In the story , Michael Barbaro doesn't just allow Mitt Romney to deceive, he actively abets that deception in the way he constructs his narrative. Here's the key excerpt: In a speech here in Orlando, Mr. Romney seized on a statement that the president made on Monday about the Affordable Care Act. In an interview, a television reporter had...

Eye on the Long View

Obama hasn’t had the sunniest of weeks on the policy or campaign front. Jobs numbers are falling and he said some poorly chosen words at a campaign event last week. But while Obama’s economic legacy is being crafted at a mile a minute, his foreign-policy legacy is being chiseled into the marble more slowly, as his supporters, detractors, and observers try to work out whether his administration's achievements thus far are works of greatness or unsalvageable breaches of civil liberties. And, as George Packer noted today : “If Obama loses—a possibility that’s become the wisdom of the week—I think he’ll be remembered most for his foreign-policy achievements. And if he wins, the same will be true, except that he’ll have a chance of being a great foreign-policy President.” All in all, this is a strange set of affairs for a president who ran in 2008 mainly on his ambitious domestic-policy agenda—and who’s fate in November rests almost solely on the state of the economy over the upcoming...

The 16 Percent

A bus with Mitt Romney's name on it. (Flickr/Roger Barone)
Like many a candidate before him, Mitt Romney is getting on a bus and driving from one place to another to campaign. For some inexplicable reason, this is supposed to be more down-to-earth and folksy than driving in a car or flying. I don't know if that's because in their public transportation form buses are lower-cost forms of travel than planes, cars, or trains, but if so that doesn't make a lot of sense, given that like all candidates Romney will be riding on a luxurious, tricked-out bus, and not just hopping on a Greyhound (now that would be something). Anyhow, Romney's little sojourn has been christened the "Believe in America: Every Town Counts" tour. So, will the tour be going to every town? Not exactly : Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Monday announced a five-day bus tour through six battleground states, beginning with New Hampshire on Friday. The likely Republican nominee will meet with families and business owners in small towns in New Hampshire,...

The Meaninglessness of "Scoring Political Points"

Where the magic happens. (Flickr/Josh Berglund)
On Friday, President Obama gave a press conference, and in one of his answers to questions he said that "the private sector is doing fine." You may have heard about this. When I got my Washington Post on Saturday morning, I found that the editors of the capital's most important newspaper had judged this comment to be so momentous that it required not one but two separate articles devoted to it. This morning, determining that this subject required much, much more investigation, the paper had a column by Chris Cillizza explaning why this comment is so very important. Plenty of things Cillizza said are perfectly valid as far as they go, though it would have been better if he had mentioned that "gaffes" like this can't become important unless he and his colleagues decide that they're important. There are a couple of lines in his column that deserve particular notice, since they really hold the key to understanding the absurd focus on "gaffes" like this one: Then there is the reality that...

The GOP's Next Internal Debate

Flickr/Donkey Hotey
This morning, Jeb Bush said some somewhat surprising things in a meeting with reporters, at least for a Republican. He noted that neither Ronald Reagan nor his father could be elected in today's GOP, and said in essence that Mitt Romney had moved too far to the right on immigration. He also said some of the things you'd expect a Republican to say, like that the blame for the current partisan atmosphere lies with President Obama, because he didn't seek common ground with Republicans enough. Anyone who has been watching politics for the last three and a half years knows how utterly insane this is, but in case you missed this tidbit , a bunch of influential congressional Republicans got together on the night of Obama's inauguration to lay out a plan for how they would obstruct everything they could and sabotage his presidency. The question of what Jeb is up to sheds some light on where his party is going to find itself this coming fall, should it lose the presidential election. The...

It's the Economy, Putz

New polling from Gallup shows the president’s support among Jewish voters has dropped to 64 percent from 74 percent during the 2008 elections. Though the Gallup report noted that Jewish voters, at 2 percent of the population, “typically are not critical” in determining presidential elections, in a state like Florida, where Jews were 4 percent of the electorate in 2008, such support could be crucial in the electoral battle. Some conservative commentators have interpreted the president’s lower numbers among Jewish voters as a referendum on his stances toward Israel; Obama called for a settlement freeze in 2009 and set Israel's pre-1967 borders as the starting point for negotiations to create a Palestinian state. Liz Cheney summed up their message at the most recent AIPAC convention, asserting that "there is no president who has done more to delegitimize and destabilize the State of Israel.” Unless unprecedented levels of aid, public shows of support, and military cooperation are all...

Are You a Carrie or a Lily?

Lily Ledbetter—complete with sensible blond bob and an Alabama drawl—is the kind of lady who would tell a you to stop wearing peek-a-boo blouses to work and making cookies for the office because both make you look unserious. The poster girl for the 77 cents to a dollar that American women make in the workplace compared to their male counterparts, Ledbetter's not one to be trifled with. The personification of the Obama campaign’s somber economic appeal to female voters, she’s also the kind of lady who calls Mitt Romney out for not taking a stand on equal pay issues. She also appeared in a video released by the Obama campaign talking about what the Congress can do to alleviate barriers to unequal compensation. But Ledbetter’s substantive, real-world message of feminism in action is being undercut by some old-fashioned sexism. Sarah Jessica Parker’s promotional video for the Obama campaign stands in stark contrast to Ledbetter’s. Parker, of Sex and the City fame, is throwing a campaign...

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