Whenever Paul Ryan speaks on the need to reform the welfare state, he declares that what the United States needs is a social safety net, and not a hammock. The idea is easy to understand: A net is meant as a last resort, to keep you from serious danger; a hammock, by contrast, is designed to keep you comfortable or—in Ryan’s words—“lull able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency.”
The latest Buzzfeed story is a look inside of the Obama campaign headquarters, and their preparations for the general election. Their big scoop? Despite the insistence of top staffers like Jim Messina and David Axelrod, the campaign is cocky about their eventual face-off with Mitt Romney and the Republican Party. Here’s Buzzfeed:
Some of Obama’s old Chicago allies however, say they worry that the campaign is getting a little too cocky. Months of blockbuster economic data were interrupted by a March jobs report that missed expectations. Obama allies fear that the president’s team will get caught flatfooted on the economy if growth slows down between now and Election Day.
Writing for the New York Times, Jeff Zeleny and Jim Rutenberg report that American Crossroads—the largest of the Republican super PACs—will soon begin its advertising blitz against President Obama:
With an anticipated bank account of more than $200 million, officials at American Crossroads said they would probably begin their campaign this month. But they said they would focus the bulk of the first phase from May through July, which they believe is a critical period for making an impression on voters, before summer vacations and the party conventions take place.
Yesterday, at TheWashington Post, Ezra Klein argued that Mitt Romney is a much stronger general election candidate than he might look at first glance. As Klein points out, there’s no way that a moderate governor of Massachusetts wins the nomination in a red-blooded GOP without some political skill. Moreover, Romney’s big weakness in the primary—his record for centrism—could become an asset in the fall; it gives him a place from which he can appeal to moderate and independent voters.
Last year, the New York Times’ David Brooks was one of the pundits who declared Paul Ryan “brave” and “serious” for his proposal to pillage the social safety net and direct the spoils to rich people. Since then—and in particular, the debt ceiling showdown—Brooks has become a bit more circumspect about hailing the genius of politicians who promise to solve our problems by yanking security from the vulnerable.
For the March jobs report, economists were expecting another month where the economy grew by more than 200,000 jobs. Instead, what we received—according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics—was a disappointing backslide into the anemic months of last fall. The economy created 120,000 jobs in March, a huge drop compared to previous months. At the same time, however, the unemployment rate dropped to 8.2 percent.
Andrew Sullivan is baffled by the Right’s refusal to take President Obama seriously as a politician or a leader:
Why not fear of Obama’s charm? Or suspicion of his cunning? Why not coopt this oh-so-willing-to-be-coopted figure to move his policies to the right (as if the individual mandate, extension of Bush tax cuts, and escalation of the war in Afghanistan could get further right)?
Via Mike Allen’s Playbook, here’s Joe Scarbourough on yesterday’s Morning Joe with a few candid thoughts on what Republican leaders actually believe about Mitt Romney’s candidacy:
“Nobody thinks Romney’s going to win. Let’s just be honest. Can we just say this for everybody at home? Let me just say this for everybody at home. The Republican establishment – I’ve yet to meet a single person in the Republican establishment that thinks Mitt Romney is going to win the general election this year. They won’t say it on TV because they’ve got to go on TV and they don’t want people writing them nasty emails.”
In an election year, political speeches have more in common with hip-hop “diss” tracks then they do with anything else. In which case, President Obama’s speech last night was the “Ether” to the Republican Party’s “Takeover”—an assured, aggressive response that methodically destroyed the GOP’s rationale for its slavish devotion to the rich.
The good news for Mitt Romney is that the Republican presidential primaries are effectively over; with his decisive win in Wisconsin—and his victories in Maryland and Washington, D.C.—he has established himself as the presumptive nominee. To wit, his victory speech was light on red meat, and heavy on his critique of the Obama administration, with a new variation on his claim that the president sought a society of equal results:
If there was a question President Obama tried to answer with his speech this afternoon to the Associated Press, it was this—“what happened to the Republican Party?” And to that end, he marshaled evidence from a century of political history to show that today’s Grand Old Party is dangerously unmoored from the American consensus, with a budget proposal that amounts to “thinly veiled social Darwinism.”
Easter is a minor gift-giving holiday in the American calendar, and for the last year—and counting—President Obama’s Easter gift has come in the form of House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan. Last year, Ryan penned the “Roadmap,” a budget document for House Republicans that laid out their priorities for the long-term: deep cuts to existing social programs, deep cuts to Medicare, and big tax giveaways to the wealthiest Americans. With the Tea Party at the height of its power, Republican lawmakers were eager to sign on to Ryan’s “right-wing social engineering” (to borrow a phrase), even if it was anathema to public opinion.