Executive Branch

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...

Obama's History Channel

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
After months in which the Republican candidates for president have dominated the nation’s political discourse—likely, to their own detriment— President Barack Obama retook center stage last night with a State of the Union address that was the overture to his own re-election campaign. His theme was the indispensability of collective action—of national purposes advanced by public commitments to such mega-goals as the reindustrialization of America, with the burdens and rewards shared equitably by all. (At times, the speech sounded like a rebuttal to Maggie Thatcher’s assertion that there is no society, just individuals.) At the same time, however, Obama vowed to go it alone, if needs be, in reaching those goals—or, more precisely, that if congressional Republicans weren’t going to help him, he’d call them out again and again. The speech mixed Thomas Jefferson (attacking finance) and Alexander Hamilton (fostering domestic manufacturing, making the case for public investment in new energy...

The Scarlet Tax Return

AP Photo
Mitt Romney’s newly released tax returns, showing that he paid taxes in 2010 at a rate of just 13.9 percent on income of $21.6 million, should provide ammunition for President Barack Obama’s newly rediscovered populism. Obama is on record supporting a “Buffett Rule,” that the boss should pay at least the same tax rate as the help. In the watered down economic dialogue of 2012, a flat tax rate rather pitifully passes for the progressive position. Not so long ago, progressives were of the view that the more money you made, the higher your rate should be. The tax schedule should be, well, progressive. The original presidential sponsor of this concept was that Bolshevik, Theodore Roosevelt. That view of progressive taxation was widely held and was public policy in America, until the supply-side revolution of the Reagan era and its claim that lower taxes on dividends, interest, and capital gains would reward, and hence promote, investment and growth. Unfortunately for the theory, taxes,...

Dark Horse Victory

AP Photo/Matt Rourke
In one of the most startling turnarounds in presidential-primary history, Newt Gingrich scored a double-digit victory in South Carolina over Mitt Romney on Saturday. When the week began, Romney was coming off an easy win in New Hampshire and had a comfortable-looking lead in every state poll. Every political forecaster in America saw him as the inevitable Republican nominee. But his worst debate performance of the campaign on Monday night was followed by a week of fumbles that gave the lie to his campaign’s legendary “discipline.” Romney, cast as a “vulture capitalist” and out-of-touch one-percenter—in a state with high unemployment—could not even muster a clear answer to questions about releasing his tax returns. Gingrich, who finished fourth in both Iowa and New Hampshire, eased up on his denunciations of Romney’s record at Bain Capital—with the damage already done—and made the most of his local knowledge from next-door Georgia to deliver rabble-rousing performances at Monday and...

Sex, Preaching, and Abortion

AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
You know the colloquial definition of "chutzpah" as well as I do: the man who murders his parents and then throws himself at the mercy of the court because he's an orphan. As you know by now, our good buddy Newt is steadily exercising more chutzpah than our homicidal orphan. Do you remember that, way back while he was trying to impeach President Bill Clinton for, um, perjury, Newt Gingrich had to resign as speaker because he was cheating on Marianne? And now he is shocked that the liberal media would bring all that up, despite his career as a moral scold . ("Liberal media" is one word, just like "gays in the military" once was.) He prayed it all away, OK? 'Nuff said! Ah, just another entertaining moment in the sideshow we call the primaries. But while you were snorting out your coffee over Newt's antics, the Guttmacher Institute announced that the drop in the world's abortion rate has stalled. (Guttmacher is generally respected as the most accurate and nonpartisan source of...

Fighting Words

AP Photo/David Goldman
For the first question of tonight’s Republican debate in Charleston, the moderator, CNN’s John King, questioned Gingrich on the allegations made by his ex-wife that he wanted an open marriage. Immediately, Gingrich ripped into King, CNN, and the news media. “I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office, and I am appalled that you begin a presidential debate with a question like that,” declared the former House Speaker. The audience roared in support, John King looked chastened, and it’s no exaggeration to say—as several outlets rushed to proclaim—that this was the moment Gingrich won the debate. But this sort of lashing out is par for the course for Gingrich. At Monday’s debate, he attacked moderator Juan Williams for questioning the racial insensitivity of Gingrich’s rhetoric; he got a tremendous bounce from South Carolina voters as a result. That the former...

Out of The Quiet Rooms

AP Photo/John Amis
Even the most disciplined candidate can't get through an entire presidential campaign without uttering at least one or two gaffes, those emblematic statements journalists will mention again and again to provide vivid illustration of his or her character defects. Few candidates are more disciplined than Mitt Romney, but the likely Republican nominee has already built up a small library of such verbal misfires, which could become the signposts of a most enlightening and overdue discussion on which we will now embark. If we're lucky (and Romney is unlucky), that discussion will move beyond the oversimplifications we've gotten used to, and demand that we re-examine some very basic ideas about our economy, like what "business" really represents, how capitalism creates its winners and losers, and what government might do about it. In recent days, Romney has added some doozies to his growing list of cringe-worthy comments. In June, the man worth an estimated $200 million joked to a group of...

Vulture Capitalists at the Lizard Thicket

Rick Perry had a hard time answering questions about unemployment in South Carolina Wednesday.
Jamelle Bouie Rick Perry on the trail at the Lizard Thicket restaurant in South Carolina Wednesday. Lexington, South Carolina —If Rick Perry’s travel schedule is any indication, he has a real affinity for small Southern chains that tout their “real country cooking,” and serve a laundry list of desserts, cured meats, and fried poultry. This morning’s stop at the Lizard Thicket restaurant in Lexington, South Carolina, a short drive away from Columbia, the state’s capital. “We don’t endorse any of the candidates,” said Sara Krisnow, whose family owns the franchise, “This is more of a public service.” Unlike his Monday event in Anderson, where there was too much space and too few people, this was held in more intimate surroundings—a small, closed off section of the establishment. As such, it seemed livelier, even if there weren’t as many people in the audience. And perhaps as a result, Perry seemed less subdued than he did on Monday. As for his remarks, Perry didn’t venture far from his...

An Ax to Grind

AP Photo/Mike Carlson
Cable-news pundits rejoiced a week ago when Rick Santorum drew Mitt Romney into an essential tie for first place in the Iowa caucuses. For all the ups and downs throughout the fall, this election has been inherently boring. Until Iowa, Romney had inched along unremarkably to the general election while a rotating group of talking heads ran nominal presidential campaigns in order to boost their fees on the lecture circuit. But then Rick Santorum arrived in the spotlight and won an actual vote, not just front-page headlines. Finally, we could train our sights on someone who could, just maybe, make Romney work for the nomination, pushing him out of the general-election comfort zone that he had coasted on all last year. Unfortunately for those invested in an extended horse race, the Santorum surge hasn't panned out. His campaign was an abject failure in New Hampshire last night, even under the arbitrary rules of the expectations game, finishing a distant fifth. Turns out, despite his weak...

The Romney Campaign Heads South ... of the Border

AP Photo/Chris Carlson
The most Mexican man in the world. Mitt Romney won the New Hampshire primary last night with 39.3 percent of the vote, but 11 hours ago, the Twitter handle @MexicanMitt won 100 percent of the Twitterverse's heart (rough approximation). The fake Twitter feed—most likely inspired by the fact that George Romney, the candidate's father, was born in Mexico, giving Mitt Romney the option of dual citizenship —already has more than 300 followers, and, in less than a day, has provided more exciting rhetoric than Mitt Romney has said during his entire career. Starting off strong with the tweet, "Corporations are peoples, my amigos!" and segueing right into, "You know how you can tell I am Mexican? Because I take the Americans jobs!" moments later, it's hard not to take the self-proclaimed "Most Mexican Man in The World" seriously. Romney's stance on immigration won't win over the Hispanic voters that Republicans need if they want to have a strong showing in November, so @MexicanMitt will...

The Tough Sell

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
Nashua, New Hampshire— Mitt Romney is the sort-of acceptable man in this year’s Republican field. His strong victory here yesterday was rooted in his support from all quadrants of the Republican Party. He carried 40 percent of the voters who told exit pollsters that they supported the Tea Party movement, a far higher percentage than anyone else in the field. (Ron Paul finished second with 22 percent of Tea Partiers.) Romney also led the field among voters who said they were neutral toward the Tea Party. Only among voters who said they opposed the Tea Party—and that was just 17 percent of yesterday’s Republican electorate—did he come in second, to Jon Huntsman. Romney also carried all but one income category, doing best among voters whose annual income exceeded $200,000. The only income category he lost was those voters whose annual income was less than $30,000, a group won by Ron Paul. Paul’s voters were disproportionately young, male, low-income, unmarried—and not self-described...

The Spoils of War

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
Manchester, New Hampshire— This year’s Republican primaries look increasingly less like a battle and more like a mopping-up action after the fight. The dominant fact of the 2012 GOP contest is the complete absence of plausible alternatives to Mitt Romney. When those plausible alternatives either failed to show up (Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie—though Christie’s manner is probably too thuggish to achieve genuine plausibility) or showed up and turned instantly implausible (Rick Perry), the contest was over even before it began. Ron Paul? Jon Huntsman? Rick Santorum? Newt? Compared to the rest of the field, Romney looks like a giant—which is why the turnout in tonight’s primary and last week’s caucuses was altogether underwhelming. Jon Huntsman’s attempt to anoint himself the Comeback Kid of this year’s New Hampshire primary took place in a small, jam-packed restaurant on Elm Street, Manchester’s main drag. It was a sub-Clintonian performance, however. Huntsman’s talk was too short and...

Same Schtick, Different Day

AP Images/Vince DeWitt
DERRY, NEW HAMPSHIRE— Newt Gingrich is a master of Stalinist history. In the New Hampshire campaign’s closing days, he made much of his own role in the job creation of the Reagan and Clinton years (though he never mentioned Clinton by name) and contrasted himself with his rivals by touting his ability to reach across the aisle during Clinton’s presidency. As Gingrich recounted it to a crowd of 300 gathered in a high-school auditorium in Derry late yesterday afternoon, he and Clinton both “concluded very early on that we really wanted to get together to do something for the country.” They would meet privately, he said, while bashing each other publicly. His account is notable for its obvious omissions. It makes no mention of Gingrich’s forcing Clinton to close the government down at the end of 1995 (Clinton wouldn’t accede to Gingrich’s demands to cut Medicare). It leaves out Gingrich’s decision to have congressional Republicans campaign for office in 1998 on a platform of impeaching...

Running on Faith

AP Photo/David Goldman
Jamelle Bouie Rick Perry seemed more like a preacher than a politician at a campaign stop in South Carolina Monday morning. Anderson, South Carolina —Five months ago, when Rick Perry announced his campaign for the Republican nomination in Charleston, South Carolina, he was the hottest kid on the block. The three-term governor of America’s second-largest state, he promised a credible Tea Party alternative to the opportunistic conservatism of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. But Perry wasn’t prepared for the rigors of a presidential campaign, and it showed. His campaign stumbled through debates, and alienated potential allies with tone-deaf rhetoric on immigration, and his position on the HPV vaccine as governor of Texas. By the end of year, his failures were a national joke and his campaign was abandoned by conservatives looking for someone to deliver them from Romney. After his fifth-place finish in Iowa, it looked as if Perry would drop out. Instead, he opted to renew his...

Mitts Off

AP Photo/Charles Krupa
T he non-Romney Republicans had ten hours to stew over their abject failure to lay a glove on the Mittster in Saturday night’s lackluster prime-time debate. Nudged on Sunday morning by moderator David Gregory, who launched the proceedings by asking the aggrieved Newt Gingrich to make an argument against Romney’s electability, they came out with guns blazing at the Meet the Press debate. But it was almost certainly too little, too late, to bring down the frontrunner. Romney’s ludicrous pretense of being a non-politician was deflated at last, as Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich ganged up on him effectively. When Santorum asked why Romney didn’t run for re-election as governor of Massachusetts, given his great passion for improving the state, Romney revived his hoary rhetoric: “Politics is not a career. My life’s passion has been my family, my faith, and my country.” Gingrich parried: “Can we drop a little bit of the pious baloney? The fact is, you ran for Senate in 1994 and lost … you...

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