Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Newton Gingrich's Passage to Power

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
The existence of the Republican Party has been marked by five incarnations in its century and a half, peaking early with its first president and the country’s greatest, Abraham Lincoln. The second Republican age culminated at the outset of the last century with Theodore Roosevelt; the third age with Dwight Eisenhower; the fourth with Ronald Reagan—whose harbingers were Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon—and whose coda was George H. W. Bush. The fifth that ultimately would coalesce around the presidency of Bush’s son was inaugurated by Newton Leroy Gingrich of Georgia, and not even W. has better represented the party’s style and substance these past 20 years. It might be natural, then, even to someone less possessed of Gingrich’s megalomania, to believe that it was natural for him to retake command of the Republican forces after the party’s worst presidential loss—not merely in numbers but morale and reason-to-be—since 1964. So enraged was the party at everything and everyone but itself...

By All Means, Politicize the Bin Laden Killing

Pete Souza/The White House
Imagine that you called a carpenter to come repair your deck, and after looking at the rotted timbers and split rails, he said, "Well, I can fix this deck. But the one thing I'm not going to do is come over here and engage in a bunch of carpentry. That would be wrong." You'd probably suspect that the carpenter was insane. Yet politicians and their campaign advisers–people for whom politics is a profession no less than carpentry is the carpenter's profession–are constantly complaining that their opponents are engaged in "politics," or are committing the horrible sin of "politicizing" something that shouldn't be political. So it was when Barack Obama's re-election campaign took the opportunity of the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama Bin Laden to remind voters who was president when it happened, in the form of an ad retelling the story and questioning whether Mitt Romney would have made the same decision as Obama did were he in the Oval Office at the time. The condemnations...

Chill Out. Romney's Not Picking a VP for a Long Time.

(Flickr/Gage Skimdore)
Are you already sick of the endless series of articles extolling the virtues of various potential Mitt Romney running mates? Are you also sick of the posturing— TV ads , major foreign policy speeches —of wannabe VP candidates? Too bad. If Romney follows precedent it will be quite some time before he selects his partner on the Republican ticket. Geoffrey Skelley analyzed past picks and found a pretty clear trend. Candidates don’t announce their running mates until the last minute before their party’s convention. On average, the vice presidential candidate has been rolled out four days before a convention since 1992, with John Kerry’s selection of John Edwards an outlier at 20 days before the start of the 2004 Democratic convention. Even if Romney tilts toward the earlier end of the selection spectrum, that still means we’ve got months of the Veepstakes remaining. The Republican convention in Tampa doesn’t kickoff until August 27. However Romney is already in the phase of testing out...

The "Catholic Vote" is Tautological

(Catholic Church [England and Wales]/Flickr)
A new survey from Gallup shows an even split among Catholic voters—46 percent support President Obama, and 46 percent support Mitt Romney. If you disaggregate by race, the picture looks very different; only 38 percent of non-Hispanic Catholics support Obama, compared to 70 percent of their Hispanic counterparts. Among white Catholics, if you break the numbers down by religiosity, the most religious and moderately religious support Romney, while the nonreligious support Obama. This data has led the Washington Post to declare that Catholics are the “bellweather” swing vote for the 2012 election. Here’s Chris Cillizza and Rachel Weiner: [I]n the last two presidential contests the Catholic vote has tracked almost exactly with the popular vote. In 2008, President Obama carried Catholics by nine points and beat Arizona Sen. John McCain (R) by seven points nationally. Four years earlier, Bush won the Catholic vote by five points and beat Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (D) by three points...

"Friends," By Which He Means Not Really Friends

Mitt Romney with some of his friends. Really. (Flickr/World Affairs Council of Philadelphia)
Via Andrew Sullivan , Fox News' Shepard Smith had some kind of weird brain event and burped out a bit of fascinating honesty upon reading Mitt Romney's statement on Newt Gingrich pulling out of the presidential race. We shouldn't treat Smith like a hero just for saying what a normal person might say upon reading this, although the fact that he works for Fox does make his implicit criticism of the Republican party's nominee a bit brave. Anyhow, let's watch: Indeed, Shep, politics is weird and creepy, and lacks even the loosest attachment to anything like reality. Now I'm sure Mitt Romney didn't actually write that statement professing what great friends he is with Newt Gingrich, the guy who just spent the better part of a year calling him a despicable, dishonest, disreputable dirtbag. But let's say for the sake of argument that somebody on his staff showed it to him, and he took a quick look and said, "Yeah, that's fine." It's the kind of white lie that we accept—nobody who hears it...

A Toast to Newt

The end of a campaign is too often treated like the death of a person—say something nice, at least for now, or keep your mouth shut. In the case of the much-belated official demise of Newt Gingrich’s presidential bid, the kid-glove treatment might be considered especially appropriate, given that it also represents the final passage of his long political career. But as Newt said himself , debating Mitt Romney, “Can we drop a little bit of the pious baloney?” As when a truly terrible human being expires, the only thing worth celebrating here is the death itself. And the thing to mourn is not the loss of Newt on the national political stage, but the time that he spent on it. Belying his Michelin Man looks and those fabulously nutty notions of moon colonies and such, it’s worth remembering that Gingrich did more damage to the tenor and substance of American politics than anyone alive. Leading the impeachment of President Clinton while he was also having an affair was just the ticket for...

Romney's Distasteful Spin

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
The Romney campaign has tried their darndest to divert the media and wipe their hands clean of Richard Grenell after the national security spokesperson abruptly resigned his post yesterday afternoon. When the news leaked to The Washington Post 's Jennifer Rubin, it was immediately framed in terms of Grenell's status as an openly gay man in a party that advocates against LGBT civil rights. However Rubin didn't mince words in explaining Grenell's departure. "The ongoing pressure from social conservatives over his appointment and the reluctance of the Romney campaign to send Grenell out as a spokesman while controversy swirled left Grenell essentially with no job," she wrote. The last thing Romney wants is a string of stories accusing the presumptive Republican nominee of being a homophobe. Romney's campaign manager Matt Rhodes issued a release claiming that they were "disappointed" by Grenell's decision, and they contacted publications such as Politico to change the narrative, claiming...

TV Ads Are Not All There Is to Presidential Campaigns

Egad! Negative advertising!
Every election, commentators can be relied on to predict that this will be the most negative campaign in history. We've already heard such predictions this year, and we'll surely hear more. It almost certainly won't be true, but you can also predict that when one side attacks the other, the side being attacked will respond by saying, "Our opponent is just trying to distract Americans from the real issues/his failed record/that disturbing story about him and a goat." But we should keep things in perspective. It's possible to have a lot of negative ads and still have a relatively positive campaign, believe it or not. That's because ads are not the only thing a campaign does. They're interesting to reporters for a number of reasons, including the fact that they synthesize the campaign's message neatly down to 30 or 60 seconds, and they contain pretty moving pictures. That makes them particularly compelling to television reporters and those who write for the web, because those reporters...

The Beginning of the End in Afghanistan

(White House/Flickr)
If anyone was expecting President Obama to spike the proverbial football during his address this evening from Afghanistan, they were sorely disappointed. In a sober, 11 minute message, Obama retraced the path that brought the United States to Afghanistan, and outlined the next two years of American policy in the country. First, he noted the extent to which the United States had mostly achieved its military goals in the country—“One year ago, from a base here in Afghanistan, our troops launched the operation that killed Osama bin Laden,” the president said. “The goal I set—to defeat Al Qaeda, and deny it a chance to rebuild—is now within our reach.” From there, he announced a strategic partnership with Afghan President Hamid Karzai that would begin the process of withdrawal for American troops, leading to their complete departure in 2014. Between now and then, the United States—with the help of its NATO allies—would transition responsibility for security to Afghan troops, and step back...

Romney's Gay Episode

Mitt Romney accomplished a rare political feat when he hired Richard Grenell to serve as his foreign policy spokesman: He managed to provoke politicos of all ideological stripes. Liberals were up in arms over Grenell's impolitic tweets (more than 800 of which he has deleted) haranguing female politicians and journalists, among others. The press corps was equally disturbed, as reporters recalled stories of Grenell's ill temperament during his time as a U.N. spokesperson. Yet it was a separate character trait that appears to have doomed Grenell by riling up social conservatives: He’s gay. The National Review disparaged Romney's appointment, with one writer suggesting that Grenell was "a man with questionable judgment" for supporting same-sex marriage. The American Family Association's Bryan Fischer said that "Romney stepped on a landmine by appointing Richard Grenell, an out, loud and proud homosexual." This afternoon—less than two weeks after Grenell’s hiring— The Washington Post broke...

Why Romney Won't Pick Condi

(Eric Draper/Public Domain)
The Hill 's Christian Heinze smacks down speculation that Condoleezza Rice might get tapped as Mitt Romney's running mate. Heinze offers one simple yet convincing explanation—Rice is pro-choice, an intolerable stance among the GOP base. It would be difficult for any Republican to convince the party of a pro-choice VP, but it’s a particularly acute challenge for Romney, a former moderate who has devoted himself to selling conservatives that he is in actuality one of them to only middling success. Romney has spent the last six years trying to convince social conservatives that he's really, truly, actually, and honestly pro-life. Why would he destroy all of that by picking Condi? And make no mistake about it, all of that would be destroyed within ten minutes of announcing the pick. And think about this. If John McCain opted out of picking the pro-choice Joe Lieberman because it would inspire full-scale revolt with the base, do you really think Romney would dare? I think there is a far...

Mitt Romney, Not Quite As Tough As Jimmy Carter

Tougher than he looks.
Now that we're fighting over just how great it was that Barack Obama gave the order for Seal Team 6 to go in and get Osama Bin Laden, Mitt Romney has given what is probably the most politically wise answer to the question of whether he would have ordered the raid, "Of course." But then he added, "Even Jimmy Carter would have given that order." As James Fallows correctly notes , on the substance of the question, Romney's remark is incredibly stupid: Jimmy Carter did indeed make a gutsy go/no-go call. It turned out to be a tactical, strategic, and political disaster. You can read the blow-by-blow in Mark Bowden's retrospective of "The Desert One Debacle." With another helicopter, the mission to rescue U.S. diplomats then captive in Teheran might well have succeeded -- and Carter is known still to believe that if the raid had succeeded, he would probably have been re-elected. Full discussion another time, but I think he's right. (Even with the fiasco, and a miserable "stagflation"...

The Opportunity Society

The Romney grandchildren, in no particular need of bootstraps.
Whenever the subject of inequality comes up, conservatives usually say the same thing: Barack Obama wants equality of outcome , while we want equality of opportunity . The first part is ridiculously disingenuous, of course—no one could honestly argue that Obama's major goals, like raising income taxes from 35 percent to 39.6 percent, would bring us to some kind of pure socialistic society where everyone has precisely the same income and no one is wealthier than anyone else. But the second part is, I think, offered sincerely. Conservatives not only seek a world where everyone has the same opportunities, most of them think that's pretty much what we have already, so major changes aren't necessary, except in the area of getting government off your back. After all, this is America, where any kid, no matter where he comes from, can achieve whatever he wants if he's willing to work hard. Right? Which brings me to the story of Tagg Romney. Today's New York Times has a story about the private...

Obama Jabs Romney on Outsourcing and Swiss Bank Accounts

(Barack Obama/Flickr)
Barack Obama won’t officially kick off his reelection until this weekend—with dual rallies in Ohio and Virginia—but that hasn’t stopped his campaign from beginning its negative attack on Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Yesterday, the campaign questioned Romney’s ability to make critical military decisions, and today, it goes after his ability to make smart economic decisions, with an ad that will air in Iowa, Ohio, and Virginia: The point—which harkens back to Rick Perry’s attack on Romney for “vulture capitalism”—is that Romney’s brand of capitalism empowers corporations at the expense of ordinary people, and that Romney himself is so detached from average lives that he doesn’t realize it. The implicit contrast is that Obama will stand up for the economic interests of ordinary people. As Greg Sargent points out , this is “designed to sow doubts among swing voters about whether a President Romney would truly have the economic security of middle class Americans at heart.” Where the...

Rove Goes Mean Girls on Obama

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
Barack Obama is too cool to be President: It’s the implicit argument of the new ad from Karl Rove’s mega PAC American Crossroads , which shows President in a series of his cooler moments, and tries to argue that such coolness undermines his ability to do his job. The ad makes no logical sense, of course. There’s no reason to think that a quick wit or good taste in music somehow prevents someone from understanding how to run a country. But then again, this is Karl Rove we’re talking about, a man who built his career tapping the animal instincts of the electorate, hoping to activate the knee-jerk reactionary inside all of us just long enough to win at the polls. The only question is, why does he think this particular appeal will work? Rove does have a fine-tuned ear for every grievance uttered by the privileged but petty, so it’s no surprise that he’d try to find a political angle to the sport of hipster-bashing. As I’ve detailed before , hipster-bashing used to be the province of...

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