Harold Meyerson

Richard Lugar, the Tea Party's Sacrificial Lamb

(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
When he was the young mayor of Indianapolis in the late Sixties and early Seventies, Richard Lugar was acclaimed by Richard Nixon as his favorite mayor. An orthodox Main Street Republican, stiff despite his years, Lugar was competent, conventional and Nixonian in a good way (studious, intellectually ambitious) without any of Big Dick’s phobias. He brought those attributes to the Senate, where in recent decades he took on the challenge of ridding the world of loose nukes. It was a task that required him to work alongside his Democratic colleagues, which was never a problem for Lugar in any case. Yesterday, the Republican Jacobins dispatched Dick Lugar to history’s dustbin. He was a creature of the Republican past—a contemporary of Bob Dole and Howard Baker and a generation of not-excessively partisan and certainly not all that ideological Republicans who used to dominate their party. Indiana Republicans, who’d sent him to the Senate for six successive terms, now found him wanting: He...

Gingrich the Undeterred

(Flickr/Joe Crimmings Photography)
Mitt Romney is the candidate of the Northeast, the industrial Midwest, and the Mormon West. Rick Santorum is the candidate of the Plains states and both the upper and lower South. Newt Gingrich is the candidate of—well, not much. Yesterday’s primaries in Alabama and Mississippi, the white South’s dankest backwaters, produced clear victories for Santorum and ended Gingrich’s already-modest hope that he could at least be the candidate of a region. Barring some upheaval, it’s hard to see where Gingrich could win another state. Last week, he ran fourth—behind Ron Paul, dead last—in five of the ten states holding Super Tuesday contests. Like most of the states still to vote, those five were all outside the South. If Gingrich stays in the race, he’ll likely be dueling with Paul for the distinction of coming in next to last. Before this week, by staying in the race, Gingrich deprived Santorum of key victories—in Michigan and Ohio, surely—by splitting the ultra-conservative vote. Yesterday,...

Newt's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Super Bad Tuesday

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Newt Gingrich had a terrible Super Tuesday. Yes, yes, he won Georgia, his home state, going away. But he not only failed to win any of the other nine states that held elections, he failed to place second in any of them as well. He came in third in the other two Southern states that held contests—Tennessee and Oklahoma. In five states—Alaska, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, and Vermont—he ran fourth, behind Ron Paul. To date, Gingrich has won Georgia, South Carolina, and, as he pointed out on Tuesday night, the Panhandle section of Florida – that is, the Southernmost parts of the South. He’s fortunate that the two big contests next Tuesday are in Alabama and Mississippi. Even if he wins them, though he will remain the candidate of the Deep South and nothing more. By winning Tuesday in Tennessee and Oklahoma, Santorum has positioned himself as the candidate of the Upper South (not to mention, the Plains states). But Santorum may well decide that now is the time to knock Newt clear...

Olympia Snowe and Americans Elect

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
New York 's Jon Chait has speculated , with his characteristic perspicacity, that Olympia Snowe’s statement of non-candidacy for the Senate may have also been a statement of candidacy for the Americans Elect presidential slot . He further noted that the endorsement yesterday of Wall Street’s favorite third party by former Oklahoma Senator David Boren (D-Exxon Mobil) sets up a proper Americans Elect ticket, since the group stipulates that its ticket must be made up of one Democrat and one Republican (or two independents). Still, it seems to me that Americans Elect can only make a sizable impact on this year’s election if the Republican Party anoints the champion of Goyishe Sharia, Rick Santorum, as its nominee. A Santorum nomination would send a considerable number of Republicans in search of a more socially moderate Republican alternative, and Snowe most surely fits that bill. But in the more likely eventuality of a Mitt Romney nomination, the political space that an Americans Elect...

Our Anti-Government Hypocrisy

(Flickr/Iguanasan)
Americans, the political scientists (and common sense) tell us, are ideologically conservative and operationally liberal. On the level of ideology, they’re opposed to government’s intervention in the economy. On the level of daily life, they support such universal government programs as Social Security and Medicare. But this split between abstract beliefs and the concrete needs of daily life doesn’t just apply to government programs: It applies to government regulations as well. Last Thursday, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press released a survey that revealed what Pew termed “Mixed Views of Government Regulation.” But “mixed,” in this case, means anti-regulatory in matters of ideology and pro-regulatory in practice. Asked whether they believed that government regulation of business was necessary to protect the public or that such regulation usually does more harm than good, just 40 percent answered that regulation was necessary, while 52 percent said it did more harm...

Republican Haves and Have Nots

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Republicans have reached their 1984. I don’t mean this in the Orwellian sense, though Republicans have more than their share of Orwellian impulses. Rather, I mean that the kind of divisions that have characterized Democratic presidential primaries since the 1984 contest between Walter Mondale and Gary Hart have now popped up in GOP primaries as well: This year, Republicans are dividing along lines of class. According to data compiled by the Wall Street Journal , in all the states that have voted thus far, Mitt Romney has won 46 percent of the counties with incomes higher than the statewide median , and just 15 percent of those with incomes beneath the statewide median. Rick Santorum, by contrast, has won 39 percent of the counties with higher income, and 46 percent of those with lower income. These numbers—a product of the kind of residential-sorting-by-class that Charles Murray documents in his new book, “ Coming Apart ”—reinforce exit polling that shows Romney’s strongest supporters...

Gingrich's Endgame

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci) Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, pauses during a campaign stop at the Tulare World Ag Expo Tuesday, February 14, 2012, in Tulare, California. H ere’s the problem with Newt Gingrich’s campaign for president: We know what Ron Paul’s supporters look like (young, genial) and believe (they’re loony). We know that Rick Santorum’s supporters are downscale and devout. We know that Mitt Romney’s supporters are upscale—indeed, the more upscale the Republican, by evidence of the exit polls, the more likely he or she is to be resigned to Mitt. Above all, they want to win, though they’re having growing doubts that they picked the right horse. And Newt’s supporters … Well, what about Newt’s supporters? What niche do they occupy? What do they believe? It’s hard to say, because Newt himself is nicheless, and his transcendent cause is himself. His sub-transcendent cause is ruining Mitt Romney, but if primary voters share that particular...

Hidden Gems in the Mortgage Deal

AP Photo/Paul Sakuma
In the end, as at the start, Thursday’s deal between five big banks, the Department of Justice, and the attorneys general of 49 states came down to New York, the center of mortgage securitization and securities misrepresentation, and California, the center of mortgage mis-origination. Those states’ attorneys general—New York’s Eric Schneiderman and California’s Kamala Harris, both progressive Democrats elected in 2010—weren’t about the give the banks a pass. Which is why it wasn’t until two a.m. Thursday that the deal was finalized. Schneiderman’s chief concern was to preserve and enhance his and other law enforcement agencies’ ability to investigate the banks. Harris’s foremost interest was to secure the best deal for the hundreds of thousands of California homeowners who were struggling to make the payments on their devalued homes. Together, they compelled the banks and the Obama administration to come up with a better deal than the one that the banks and the Justice Department had...

Miracle in Vegas

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
On Saturday night, as CNN’s wall-to-wall coverage of the Nevada caucuses was wilting from lack of anything to cover (candidates had yet to appear, vote totals were both low and unchanging, commentators had nothing to say), the network decided to air the one caucus still ongoing: the post-Shabbat Vegas caucus that the state GOP had set up to accommodate those observant Jewish Republicans who couldn’t turn out till the sun set. But the caucus was unbearable. Under caucus rules, the moderator was compelled to call on anyone who raised his or her hand to speak, and an inordinate number of Ron Paulistas, when duly recognized, droned on about the apocalypse to come now that we no longer peg the dollar to gold. (Of course, we ceased such pegging during Richard Nixon’s presidency, so the apocalypse has been a long time comin’.) When one speaker finished, another rose to repeat the previous speaker’s points—so much so that the event’s moderator politely suggested that if prospective speakers...

Gingrich the Spoiler

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci) Republican presidential candidate and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks during a news conference after coming in second in the Nevada caucuses. T he most important rule in Nevada is don’t bet against the house. The guys who got it wired tend to win, and Mitt Romney, candidate of the Mormon majority, didn’t disappoint in Saturday’s caucuses. Equally unsurprising was the low turnout, which probably fell short of the number of people dropping their paychecks in the MGM Grand Casino on Saturday night. The best efforts of the media to drum up a story notwithstanding, the Nevada caucuses yielded no surprises and barely anything of interest. Barring some unforeseen upheaval, all that matters in this race is how long Newt Gingrich soldiers on. The campaigns will largely lie fallow for the remainder of February—the upcoming primaries in Arizona and Michigan are on Romney’s turf, and he’s expected to do well. (In Arizona, Mitt’s Mormons will boost his prospects, as...

Wall Street Backs One of Its Own

Flickr/Matthew Knott
Bankers are supposed to be the personifications of economic reasoning, but anyone looking at the financial reports of the presidential candidates and super PACs that have come out this week might conclude that there’s more to their political calculations than dollars and cents. Indeed, what these reports fairly shout is that Wall Street’s political picks have been swayed by offended egos and tribalism. Of course, there’s a straight dollars-and-cents rationale for the bankers' flight from Barack Obama to Mitt Romney. Obama wants to raise taxes on the rich; Romney wants to lower them. But the sheer extent of Wall Street’s support for Romney suggests that there’s even more in play than that. As Sam Stein and Paul Blumenthal of the Huffington Post have documented , Goldman Sachs employees, who gave Obama more than a million bucks in his first White House run, gave Romney $106,000 in the final quarter of 2011 and Obama just $12,000. Citigroup’s bankers, who gave Obama $730,000 in 2008,...

Newt's Vegas Odds

AP Photo
By one measure, at least, Nevada should be Newt Gingrich’s kind of state. Like the Newtster himself, it’s grown comfortable with divorce, having had the highest divorce rate of any of the 50 states in a succession of decennial Census reports. In a state full of weather-beaten tumbleweeds, Newt’s peregrinations should be distinctly no big whoop. Whether a man can build his campaign on his divorce record isn’t likely to be tested by the former speaker, however. In the state’s Republican caucuses coming up on Saturday, Gingrich’s base is clearly made up of the same Tea Party activists who inflicted Sharron Angle on state Republicans in 2010’s Senate contest. But caucuses don’t reflect or necessarily reward anger. They reward organization, of which Gingrich, by all available evidence, has none in Nevada, unless we count Sheldon Adelson. Both Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, by contrast, have more clearly defined constituencies behind them and, more important, actual organizations. Romney’s core...

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...

Greater of Two Evils

What have we learned from the fact that it was Newt Gingrich, not Rick Santorum, who surged past Mitt Romney in Saturday’s South Carolina Republican primary? The voters who turned out, after all, sure fit the profile of Santorum supporters. Fully 65 percent described themselves as born-again or evangelical Christians, and Santorum was the candidate who most stressed the cultural and religious values in which these voters believe, even as Newt’s private life made a mockery of them. Fifty-three percent of the GOP voters had no college degree, and, again, it was Santorum who explicitly defended both the economic interests and cultural importance of blue-collar workers. But Gingrich won the votes of 44 percent of the born-agains and evangelicals, while Santorum won just 21 percent. And Gingrich got 43 percent of the non-college grads, while Santorum ended up with just 18 percent. The appeals that Gingrich made mattered far more to these voters than the religious and economic appeals that...

Geithner's Not-So-Terrific Forecasting Skills

Would Barack Obama have appointed Tim Geithner as Treasury secretary had he been privy to the minutes of the Federal Reserve’s meetings with its regional leaders, which became public yesterday? Geithner, who headed the New York Fed at the time, comes off as utterly clueless about the potential for the housing bubble to plunge the economy into recession, much less the Great Recession. “We think the fundamentals of the expansion going forward still look good,” he said at the December 2006 meeting. Three months earlier, he pooh-poohed the idea that the weakening of the housing market could have any spillover effects. “We just don’t see troubling signs yet of collateral damage, and we’re not expecting much,” Geithner said. And as a grace note to this sonata of obtuseness, here’s Geithner’s comment to Alan Greenspan at the February 2006 meeting at which Greenspan stepped down as Fed chair: “I’d like the record to show I think you’re pretty terrific, too." There were some economists in the...

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