Executive Branch

And One More Thing from Newt

TAMPA, FLORIDA —Newt Gingrich yesterday laid out an ambitious plan for his first 24 hours, speaking before a geriatric crowd in the Villages. His first day in office would include signing a repeal of three separate bills—because of course the weight of his victory would compel Congress to work past their differences for his grandiose vision—and a series of executive orders. He upped the ante on Monday in Tampa, adding even more items to this already-busy hypothetical agenda. "I would sign an executive order authorizing construction as of that day," he said, referring to the new conservative hot-button issue of the Keystone pipeline. An executive order mandating an embassy in Jerusalem was included as well. Gingrich's most severe condemnation was saved for the Obama administration’s decision to include birth-control coverage as part of the basic requirements for health-insurance companies. He referred to his Catholic faith and said that Obama was violating the tenets of the...

Newt's Old-Time Religion

LUTZ, FLORIDA — On the last Sunday before the Florida primary, Newt Gingrich bowed his head at Exciting Idlewild Baptist Church, a megachurch in a suburb north of Tampa. As the remaining Republican candidates scramble to reach as many voters as humanly possible before Tuesday's all-important primary, every chance to preen before a captive audience is a golden opportunity. And no audience is more glued to their seats than devout Christians on a Sunday. Most parishioners appeared unaware that a celebrity was scheduled to be in their midst. When Gingrich stepped off his bus, reporters formed a swarm that enveloped him as he rushed inside the sanctuary. He walked in quickly, ignoring the media flock as he huddled in close conversation with the church's senior pastor, Ken Whitten. Gingrich made no remarks once inside the church, but he sat in the front center pew where the thousands of congregants could see him sing and sway. When Pastor Whitten recognized Gingrich, the church cameraman...

Winning Big by Going Negative

Talk to Newt Gingrich's supporters in Florida, and you'll likely hear someone bemoan the negative tone of the presidential campaign. They're sick of the attacks, both against Gingrich by the super PACs and Romney himself, but some also say they dislike the idea of negativity in general, even when it's done by their preferred candidate. Peg Bradley was "infuriated" when I spoke with her after a Mitt Romney rally on the Space Coast last Friday. In her view, Romney and Gingrich are ripping apart the Republican Party with their "divisive" attacks both "twisting the other one's record." She wanted to hear what Romney had to say in person but considered her vote pretty much decided. "Because Romney's super PAC started it all, I'm voting Gingrich." Romney's supporters did, indeed, start the fight, and they're also the ones who have continued throwing punches at Gingrich even after it became clear that he was down for the count. Democratic sources gave Talking Points Memo 's Evan McMorris-...

Who Is to Blame for Polarization?

For as much as Beltway pundits and old Washington hands pine for a new age of bipartisanship, the simple fact—as this new Gallup analysis suggests—is that the conditions for bipartisan cooperation have long since evaporated. President Barack Obama, for example, is the most polarizing president in Gallup polling history, followed by Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton (if you isolate George W. Bush’s last three years, polarization is extremely high): Although presidents always try to pursue policies that satisfy their supporters—and, in most cases, anger the opposition—it’s important to remember that presidents themselves aren’t responsible for the increase in polarization. That Republicans and Democrats have a stark contrast in opinions on the performance of President Obama has less to do with Obama, and everything to do with the public itself, which has grown more ideological and more partisan over the last 30 years. To wit, co-partisans are more likely to live near each other—think...

Memo to GOP: Cold War's Over

Mitt Romney can be funny. Seriously. That's how I saw it when he confronted a protester during the South Carolina primaries. The young man asked how the former Massachusetts governor, as a member of the 1 percent, planned to support the 99 percent. Romney gave an answer that he'd been polishing for a week about the need for unity during our country's darkest hour and how demands of the 1 percent were attempts at division and rancor among the citizenry. Then he cited countries that we were supposed to understand were not better: "If you’ve got a better model, if you think China’s better, or Russia’s better, or Cuba’s better, or North Korea’s better, I’m glad to hear all about it. But you know what, you know what, America’s right, and you’re wrong.” It was an uncharacteristic moment of candor for the metabolically stiff Romney. We can't see the protester in the video showing Romney's answer, but I can imagine the look on his face. It's of total befuddlement, as if to ask: "Did he really...

Competing for Space

CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA —Mitt Romney took a note from the Gingrich playbook Friday afternoon when he visited Florida's Space Coast. Beyond the photo-op in front of a space module that once went up on one of the now retired space shuttles though, Romney made no attempt to match Gingrich's grandiose vision. He laid out reasons why he will continue a basic investment in space exploration—namely commercial, national defense and Armageddon type catastrophes—but didn't lay out any precise ideas for what he would do if he becomes president other than a vague suggestion that more of the burden should rest on private enterprises. Instead he proffered an inspirational story of a time when he spoke at a Boston Boys Scouts meeting. They had invited a scoutmaster from Colorado, who relayed a story of how NASA had once taken a flag from the troop and would fly it to outer space. Only it never left the atmosphere; the flag launched on the shuttle Challenger, which exploded upon launch in 1986. As it...

Mom-and-Pop Bain Capital

ORLANDO, FLORIDA —Mitt Romney just can't drop his phony everyman act, and he added a new spin on it Friday night: the struggling young businessman. By this point anyone with even the slightest interest in politics is well aware of Romney's extreme wealth. Criticism from his rivals finally forced Romney to enter his most recent tax returns into the public record, and the figures were astounding. He earned $21.7 million in 2010; he earns the average median household income in less than a single day. Yet he continues to uncomfortably wear his regular-guy jeans over his Brooks Brothers suits, trying his hardest to convince voters that he can relate to their economic woes. When he was here in Florida last year he told a group of voters that he was also unemployed and, in New Hampshire, the Harvard MBA/JD said he had also had moments where he was concerned about getting a pink slip Romney included a new narrative of hardship at a rally hosted inside a pant factory plant in Orlando on Friday...

The Many Uses of "America the Beautiful"

CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA —Presidential campaigns are often rote affairs. This fact is shielded from the majority of the voters, who tune into the debates and perhaps attend one town hall. The candidates strive to present their stump speeches as organic conversations delivered extemporaneously, not the finely tuned scripts they truly are. But it's obvious to journalists who tag along with the traveling press corps—you hear the same boring anecdote delivered hour after hour, day after day. The candidates continually make minor shifts in their message, but one tale typically defines the course of the overall campaign. They're usually folksy tales rather than lengthy explications of policy. In 2008, John Edwards had James Lowe, the man who didn't have the money to fix his cleft palate. Or Barack Obama, who would rally the troops with a stirring rendition of "fired up, ready to go." In 2012, it's been Mitt Romney's singular commitment to rediscovering the lyrics to "America the Beautiful."...

Newt's Final Frontier

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA—I'm an avowed space nerd who would love nothing more than to see a human land on Mars during my lifetime. So last night's debate was the most entertaining for me of the unending series in this year's election. Thanks to vapid moderation from CNN's Wolf Blitzer, the majority of the debate was devoted to personal life questions better suited for Oprah's couch than a debate stage. He ended the night by asking the candidates why they were the most electable candidate, essentially requesting each of them to offer a shorter version of their usual stump speeches. One of the few moments where the candidates actually engaged on policy was when the discussion turned to space; specifically the bold vision Newt Gingrich had announced the day before during an event along the Space Coast. Gingrich defended his plan for a lunar colony and a Northwest Ordinance for Space while his opponents harrumphed, claiming it was impractical during a time when Republicans are eager to see...

Hemming and Hawing on Blind Trusts

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA —The candidates declined easy chances to attack one another with a surprising frequency during last night's debate. "This is a nonsense question," Newt Gingrich said when moderator Wolf Blitzer provided a prime opportunity to attack Romney's tax returns. "Look, how about if the four of us agree for the rest of the evening, we'll actually talk about issues that relate to governing America?" Romney didn't buy the truce-talk. "Wouldn't it be nice if people didn't make accusations somewhere else that they weren't willing to defend here? " he said. But Romney had his own trouble distancing himself from harsh rhetoric. Blitzer asked Romney what the message was behind an ad that accused Gingrich of referring to Spanish as "the language of the ghetto." "I haven't seen the ad," Romney replied. "I'm sorry, I don’t get to see all the TV ads." He hemmed and hawed, denying any responsibility when Gingrich said it was an inappropriate distortion of his statement. "I doubt that...

The Winner Is...Romney's Debate Coach

AP Photo/Matt Rourke
We learned so many things during Thursday night’s GOP debate in Jacksonville. Callista Gingrich would be a swell first lady because she plays the French horn and loves the arts. If you’re a Palestinian-American, don’t bother asking a Republican candidate in Florida to acknowledge your humanity, or even your existence. Immigration policy is really all about undocumented grandmothers. Rick Santorum used to go to church with the governor of Puerto Rico. And Ron Paul is itching to take on the other candidates in a 25-mile bike ride in the heat of Texas. The last debate before the Florida primary was, even by the standards of the 18 debates that preceded it, a stunningly vapid event—thanks largely to the preponderance of The View -level questions that moderator Wolf Blitzer and Jacksonville audience members asked. (Let’s not bother with Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, poverty or income inequality; we must know why the candidates think their spouses would make the best first ladies!) But the...

Unleash the Newt

Those who felt let down by Newt Gingrich’s muted performance at Monday night’s debate—and, really, who among us did not?—should expect to get their money’s worth tonight. Live from Jacksonville at 8 p.m., it’s Wolf Blitzer’s turn to be Newt’s media-elite piñata (and, happily, audience reactions will not be discouraged this time). But the former house speaker will have many more targets at which to aim his barbs—especially after a furious two-day bombardment by Mitt Romney and the right-wing media elite. Matt Drudge, Ann Coulter, R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., and the editors of The National Review —to name a few—have declared all-out war on Gingrich. “Our Bill Clinton,” Tyrrell called him. “Re-elect Obama: Vote Newt!” Coulter declared . The Drudge Report featured no fewer than 14 anti-Gingrich headlines at mid-afternoon today. On a day when Gingrich’s campaign admitted that he lied to John King last Thursday about offering ABC News interviews with people who would contradict his second wife’s...

Pop Goes Obama

The competition is stiff, but there may be no more abused word in political discourse than “populism.” (“pop·u·lism. A political philosophy supporting the rights and power of the people in their struggle against the privileged elite.”) It came in for a special flogging today, as pundits groped for ways to describe President Obama’s eloquent-but-mishmashy State of the Union address. Even The Hollywood Gossip was asking , “Will Populist Message Help Obama?” The answer is that it certainly could—if he had one. While Obama nodded toward populist themes last night—chiding the irresponsible financial sector, lashing out at the do-nothing Congress, pledging to make the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes—you’re hardly on Huey Long terrain when you frame a speech around the military virtues of everyone being in it together, or make a point of quoting Abraham Lincoln saying that “government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more.” Certainly, this re-...

Florida Kingmaker

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
Each time Mitt Romney's campaign enters a tailspin, the former Massachusetts governor rolls out a major endorsement to right his establishment-approved ship. He announced Chris Christie's endorsement on the eve of a debate when Herman Cain was cresting in the polls, and last week he brought Bob McDonnell out to South Carolina in a last-ditch effort to rebut Gingrich's rising tide. Almost the entire roster of would-be vice-presidential nominees has been at Romney's beck and call. As Romney flounders in the latest Florida polls, now would be a prime opportunity for another red-carpet rollout of a big-name local surrogate. But Jeb Bush pulled back from an endorsement after apparently being on the edge of backing Romney. And the most pivotal potential supporter in the Sunshine State has split loyalties between Gingrich and Romney. Freshman Senator Marco Rubio could be the rare single endorsement that creates a discernable shift in election outcomes. He is one of the few politicians whose...

The Difference Between Viagra and The Pill

Starting in August, women will no longer have to pay more than men for the prescriptions (the Pill, Viagra, Cialis) that enable them to have active sex lives. That was the big news this past Friday, when Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius declared that almost* all employers must now pay for contraception in their health plans under the Affordable Health Care Act's requirement that insurers cover all preventive services. No co-pays. No deductibles. Whether or not women should pay for having sex—whether financially or through pregnancy—has been, shall we say, a hot topic for centuries. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the U.S. birth rate dropped dramatically because of new technologies (rubber condoms, that invention of Goodyear). Teddy Roosevelt decried contraception as "race suicide." Margaret Sanger went to jail for keeping women from withering and dying from gestating and delivering one after another bundle of joy. Late-19th- and early-20th...

Pages