Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

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...

FineGaffeGate!

President Obama says something horrible.
If you don't follow a bunch of conservatives on Twitter, you may have missed the fact that in a press conference this morning, Barack Obama said the most horrific thing any president has ever said, an extemporaneous utterance so mind-boggling, so vile, so earth-shatteringly awful that it will forever transform the way all Americans look at him and make it plain that he should not be re-elected. What was it? "You know, Hitler had some good ideas," perhaps? "I saw Milli Vanilli on tour three times and every show was awesome"? No such luck. Behold: We've created 4.3 million jobs over the past 27 months. The private sector is doing fine. Where we're seeing problems is with state and local government, often with cuts initiated by governors or mayors who are not getting the kind of help they're accustomed to from the federal government. Madre de dios! Sacre bleu! Holy crap! If you said that this would make Mitt Romney very fake-indignant, you'd be right . "Is he really that out of touch?,"...

What's the Deal With All These Voting Restrictions?

(AP Photo/Michael S. Green)
Though it is the crown jewel of our charming little American democracy, the right to vote hasn’t ever been a thing of glittering beauty. At its best, voting is the stuff of fluorescent-lit hallways at local middle school schools and the withering glares of geriatric poll workers. At its worst, it’s the stuff of racist poll taxes, land owner-only discrimination, and good old-fashioned sexism. Most of us have, understandably, gotten so caught up with the myriad problems facing our nation—a money-oozing general election campaign, rampant cannibalism, and the heartbreaking realization that we just might not be able to keep up with the Kardashians—that recent kerfuffles over voter ID laws and cries of disenfranchisement might have slipped under our radar, awash in that pre-7 a.m. white noise on NPR. Even if you’re lucid and caffeinated, it can be difficult to keep up with all the moving parts of voter ID legislation, court decisions, and good ‘ole fashioned Sunday morning verbal brawling...

Joe Scarborough and the Hostile Media Effect

The New York Times, showing blatant pro-Romney bias.
I have a soft spot for Joe Scarborough. Back when I was more of a partisan warrior I used to go on a lot of conservative radio and television shows, including "Scarborough Country," and he was without question the most fair-minded of the hosts I dealt with. There were even a couple of times when he admitted he had been wrong about something, which is pretty rare. But I'm going to have to object to some of his recent remarks, in particular because they offer a vivid demonstration of what communication scholars call the Hostile Media Effect. Here's the quick version of what happened: The New York Times published a story in their Home section about Mitt Romney's house in La Jolla (the one with the car elevator) and how the neighbors are reacting to having the Romneys in the neighborhood. There are some not-particularly-friendly comments from some of Mitt's Democratic neighbors, and some details that are complimentary (Mitt was recently seen touching up the paint on the fence, just like a...

Why "Outside Money" Isn't Something to Get Angry About

Center for Public Integrity
The chart of the day, which comes via the Center for Public Integrity , is both vivid and, I'll argue, mostly beside the point. But before we get to my objections, the first thing to notice is what's obvious: Scott Walker and his allies spent way, way, way more money than the other side did in Wisconsin. While it's true that the more high-profile an election is the less a spending advantage matters, and while it's also true that as long as the other side has enough funds to compete, a spending advantage matters less, we're talking about a 7-to-1 difference here, which is pretty striking. Now, to the chart: I'll ignore the fact that they use a pie chart, which is if not a capital crime of data visualization, at least a misdemeanor. In any case, there are two points this chart is making: the difference in Walker's money versus Barrett's money, and the difference in the amount each raised from out of state. To the latter, I say, who cares? This data point—that one candidate raised more...

The SBA List's "Free Speech" Battle

Last week, the Susan B. Anthony List’s computers were seized as evidence in an ongoing federal lawsuit in Ohio. Yesterday, the group’s president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, sent out a fundraising e-mail with the news and a plea for donations. “As important as it is that we vigorously defend against the opposition’s efforts to strip us of our cherished First Amendment right to speak, every minute (and dollar) we spend doing it takes away from our efforts to defeat Planned Parenthood and their pro-abortion Congressional allies,” Dannenfelser wrote. The lawsuit’s plaintiff is a former Ohio representative for the Cincinnati area, Steve Driehaus. He filed it in 2010, and it stems from the SBA List’s campaign activities in that year’s midterm elections. The group attacked Democrats who oppose abortion around the country, arguing that their support for the health-care-reform act that year would direct taxpayer dollars to abortions. Billboards in Ohio would have read “Shame on Steve Driehaus!...

The End of 5-4

The Supreme Court in 2010.
Of all the things we talk about during a presidential campaign, the Supreme Court probably has the lowest discussion-to-importance ratio. Appointing justices to the Court is one of the most consequential privileges of the presidency, one that has become more important in the last couple of decades since the Court has become more politicized. But there isn't a great deal to say about it during the campaign, beyond, "If we lose the election, we'll lose the Court." The candidates aren't going to say much of anything about whom they'd appoint other than a bunch of disingenuous bromides ("I'll appoint justices who will interpret the law, not make law!"), and we don't actually know who's going to retire in the next few years, so in the campaign context there isn't much to be said . But if there's anything that ought to make you afraid of a Mitt Romney presidency, it's this. First of all, if Romney wins he will be under enormous pressure to make sure that anyone he appoints will be not just...

Pages