Jamelle Bouie

Don't Blame Mitt

It’s not unusual for a flailing presidential campaign to air its dirty laundry ahead of the election; staffers will use the media to place blame where they think it resides, to avoid responsibility for losing the White House, and leave themselves room for future employment. What is unusual is for this to happen in September, when voters are just beginning to tune in to the election and both candidates have a chance to convert new supporters and energize old ones. Which is why it was a shock to see Politico headlined by a clear attempt to blame adviser Stuart Stevens for the campaign’s string of missteps and stumbles. I don’t have words in defense or support of Stevens, and there isn’t much to glean from an anonymously sourced piece on the campaign; given the difference between where Romney is, consistently behind President Obama, and where Republicans thought he’d be—well ahead—it’s no surprise that there are angry staffers and disgruntled allies. But buried in all of this is a...

Today in Chutzpah

Speaking of that Mitt Romney interview with George Stephanopoulos, it contained this hilarious bit of chutzpah : Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, whom Democrats have charged is too loose with his facts, predicted that President Obama would lie in the October debates. “I think he’s going to say a lot of things that aren’t accurate,” Romney said in an interview ABC News’ “Good Morning America” anchor George Stephanopoulos. Here’s what the Romney campaign had to say about “accuracy” and “facts” just two weeks ago : “We’re not going let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.” I remain astounded by the sheer laziness of Team Romney’s dishonesty. They just don’t care anymore. As it stands, according to the latest poll from ABC News and The Washington Post , President Obama has a serious advantage on the question of honesty. By a seven-point margin—49 percent to 42 percent—more voters believe the Obama campaign is “saying things it believes to be true” rather than “...

Both Romney and Obama Are Wrong about Who Is "Middle Class"

If Mitt Romney began this week with a misstep over foreign policy—accusing President Barack Obama of “sympathizing” with the people who attacked the American embassy in Cairo—then he has ended it with a misstep over class. In an interview with Good Morning America’s George Stephanopoulos, he said that “middle income is $200,000 to $250,000 and less.” Here’s the full context: “I said that there are five different studies that point out that we can get to a balanced budget without raising taxes on middle income people,” he continued. “Let me tell you, George, the fundamentals of my tax policy are these. Number one, reduce tax burdens on middle-income people. So no one can say my plan is going to raise taxes on middle-income people, because principle number one is keep the burden down on middle-income taxpayers.” Pundits and partisans have jumped on this quote because it fits perfectly into two narratives of the Republican presidential nominee. First, that he’s an aloof plutocrat, and...

Obama's Decisive Bump

President Obama’s convention bounce shows no sign of subsiding. Yesterday’s Fox News poll shows him with a five-point lead over Romney among likely voters—48 to 43 percent—and he continues to lead in the Gallup tracking poll, which shows him with a six lead over the Republican nominee, 50 to 44 percent. It’s hard to overstate how dangerous this is for Mitt Romney’s bid for the presidency. Conventions are one of the few points when candidates can shift the race and make meaningful gains. This makes sense—they’re little more than long, effusive advertisements, broadcast by major media outlets and seen by tens of millions of Americans. But while conventions can do a huge amount to change the dynamics of a presidential race, things tend to stabilize afterward. In their new book The Timeline of Presidential Elections , political scientists Robert Erikson and Christopher Wlezien explain the extent to which conditions harden in the post-convention period: It is easy to imagine that many...

Team Romney Doubles Down on Its Terrible Reaction

It appears that Team Romney is hardening its stance on the protests in Egypt and the attack in Libya. In a press conference this morning, Romney repeated the message of his initial press release, saying that “the administration was wrong to stand by a statement sympathizing with those who had breached our Embassy in Egypt, instead of condemning their actions” and that “it’s never too early for the United States government to condemn acts on Americans and to defend our values.” Peppered throughout were references to the Obama administration’s “apology” and a second attack on the Cairo Embassy’s statement, which—we now know—was an attempt to prevent violence. Here’s the full press conference, if you’re interested: The Romney campaign has also released talking points to other Republicans, in an effort to keep everyone on message. Like the press conference, they doubled-down on the claim that Obama has somehow “apologized” for American actions and is “sympathizing” with the attackers: We...

Mitt Romney Responds to Libyan Crisis in Worst Way Possible

Last night, an armed mob—angry over an American-made video denigrating the Prophet Muhammad— attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing Ambassador Christopher Stevens, along with three of his staff members. This came after a similar uprising in Egypt, where protesters climbed the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and tore down the American flag. Initial reports on the situation—which revealed the death of a U.S. official—were followed by this statement from the Romney campaign: “It’s disgraceful that the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn the attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.” Likewise, Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus tweeted that “Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic.” Both are in response to a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo—released before protesters breached the compound—which criticized said film for hurting “the religious feelings” of...

Mitt Romney Is Not the New John Kerry

If there’s anything anyone remembers about the 2004 election, it’s the Bush campaign’s vicious attacks on John Kerry’s foreign policy record. From his Iraq War vote to his decorated service in Vietnam, the Bush campaign worked to tarnish Kerry’s bona fides and present him as someone unfit to lead the country during a time of war. By the end of the election, when the polls were still close, Team Bush was openly floating the idea that the United States would face a terrorist attack if Kerry was elected president. “If we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we’ll get hit again—that we’ll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States,” Dick Cheney said in a speech to supporters. Writing for Politico , Mike Allen and Jim VandeHai see a repeat of this in Team Obama’s attacks on Mitt Romney. Indeed, they go as far as to call it the “Kerry-ization” of Romney and his campaign. Here’s their explanation : Romney—whose convention speech didn’t include...

On Foreign Policy, Romney Promises Bush Redux

If there’s one must-read on the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, it’s Kurt Eichenwald’s op-ed in the New York Times , in which he illustrates the extent to which intelligence agencies had warned the Bush administration of Osama bin Laden’s activities on American soil. The most striking detail is the fact that the infamous August 6 memo—“Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.”—was preceded by a series of documents, stretching back to the spring of 2001. For example: By May 1, the Central Intelligence Agency told the White House of a report that “a group presently in the United States” was planning a terrorist operation. Weeks later, on June 22, the daily brief reported that Qaeda strikes could be “imminent,” although intelligence suggested the time frame was flexible. But some in the administration considered the warning to be just bluster. An intelligence official and a member of the Bush administration both told me in interviews that the neoconservative leaders who...

The Obama Bounce and What It Means

Jamelle Bouie
The Washington Post describes its latest poll as “virtually unchanged” from the one taken just before the Republican and Democratic national conventions. Among registered voters, in late August, the Post and ABC News found Mitt Romney with a slight lead over President Obama, 47% to 46%. In its post-convention poll, among likely voters , it finds an equally tight race with Obama slightly ahead, at 49% support to Romney’s 48%. This looks like good evidence if you’re inclined to think that the Democratic convention was a wash for President Obama. But it’s an odd way to make the comparison. Unless there’s no gap between registered voters and likely voters, then it makes more sense to ask two different questions: What was the pre-convention/post-convention change among registered voters, and what was it among likely voters? The previous Post poll didn’t survey likely voters, but given the usual Republican advantage among likely voters—who tend to be whiter and wealthier than the electorate...

Five Takeaways from the DNC

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA —Now that the Democratic National Convention is over, both parties will move to take positions in the final phase of the 2012 election. Republicans have already launched their opening salvo, with a massive advertising buy of 15 spots in 8 states. Indeed, now that Mitt Romney is the official nominee, his campaign is finally free to spend a large chunk of the money it raised over the last four months. With the help of a poor August jobs report, the Republicans will continue to hammer President Obama over the weak economy, and try to drive undecided voters to their side. As for Democrats, they’re banking on a few things to carry them to November and a second term for President Obama—while avoiding one major issue they need to tackle. Here are five big takeaways from the convention: Context, context, context When I asked one member of the New Mexico delegation how she would sell Obama’s first term to a skeptical voter, she paused and gave an answer I’ve heard...

Trading Places

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) President Barack Obama stands on stage after addressing the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA —When the economy is poor, an incumbent president has few options for reelection. If he looks back, he reminds voters of hardship. If he looks forward, he seems like he’s ignoring the problem. His only choice is to defend his record, and hit the other side for unfair attacks. It’s not an effective approach—voters don’t like it when the president pleads for fairness. Challengers have an easier task. As long as they can identify hardship and propose a plan that looks effective, voters will join their cause. Yes, the economy is poor, but this is not the scenario faced by President Obama. It’s been four years since the most serious economic collapse in eighty years, and the economy is growing. We’re creating jobs at a steady clip, and the stock market has bounced back. But, as Bill Clinton pointed out last night,...

In Defense of Kerry 2004

CHARLOTTE —John Kerry just gave a strong speech at the Democratic National Convention, inspiring a lot of commentators to wonder where this Kerry was when he challenged George W. Bush in 2004. As it stands, he’s become a punch line for poor presidential efforts. But, to defend the Senator from Massachusetts, Kerry actually out-performed the fundamentals in 2004. According to political scientist James Campbell, Bush was favored to win that year, based off of economic indicators and his overall approval rating: In the 2004 presidential election, the fundamentals tilted to the re-election of President Bush. They were not overwhelming by any means, but there were no factors that clearly favoured Senator Kerry. Both presidential approval and the presidential preference polls tilted in Bush’s direction, not by wide margins but by what appear to be clear enough margins to make it his election to win or lose. […] Finally, the election-year economy, whether the first half or the second quarter...

Michael Dukakis on Mitt Romney

Jamelle Bouie
CHARLOTTE —Since 1980, three Massachusettians have run for president—Mitt Romney, John Kerry and Michael Dukakis. Romney is not at the Democratic National Convention, obviously, and Kerry is somewhere away from the main floor. But Dukakis was mulling around the downstairs press area, talking to reporters and prepping for a radio show. We talked for a bit about Mitt Romney, who, it seems now, has a good chance of joining the small club of losing, Massachusetts-based presidential candidates. When it came to Romney’s chances in November, though, Dukakis was much more bullish than other Democrats I’ve spoken to. “Don’t kid yourself, this is a tough race. Any time the economy is less than optimal, the incumbent is going to be in trouble—no matter who they are or what their ideology is.” But as a challenger, he said, Romney has a unique weakness—his record as governor of Massachusetts. “On the other hand, we saw Romney in action for four years—at least when he showed up. When it came to...

Big Dog, Unleashed

CHARLOTTE —For the last month, Team Romney has been playing a dangerous game with the Democratic Party. With its false attacks on the administration’s welfare waivers and its constant invocation of his policies, Team Romney has tried to present their candidate as the true heir to Bill Clinton. In something that resembles a “good Democrat/bad Democrat” routine, the Romney campaign has consistently attacked President Obama for returning to the unpopular liberalism of the 1970s and betraying Clinton’s legacy of reform. Yesterday, Romney surrogate John Sununu attacked President Obama for having the gall to mention Clinton at all. “[W]hile President Obama and his allies would love to be able to borrow credibility from the nation’s forty-second President, the contrast between Bill Clinton and Barack Obama—particularly when it comes to economic and fiscal issues—couldn’t be greater.” But there’s always been one glaring problem with this strategy: Bill Clinton is still alive. In fact, he’s...

A Conversation with a DNC Anti-Abortion Protester

Jamelle Bouie
Jamelle Bouie CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA —Outside of the convention center, and around downtown Charlotte, are a handful of anti-abortion activists. It’s hard to miss them. They carry large signs plastered with graphic photos of dismembered fetuses and preach their message with loudspeakers: “God is not pro-abortion.” “The Lord will punish Obama for killing babies.” As you can imagine, these activists have an acrimonious relationship with delegates and attendees at the DNC. On Monday, there was a shouting match between an activist and an attendee, with one yelling “God is holy” and the other yelling “God is love.” (For those who aren’t familiar with this line of argumentation, “God is holy” is shorthand for the idea that God demands justice as much as he shows love. For Christian fundamentalists, abortion and same-sex marriage are two things that require a demonstration of God’s “justice.”) I spoke to one of the activists, a middle-aged man named Ante Pavkovic, while he was...

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