Paul Waldman

Kerfuffle!

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
As I've often said before ( see here ), an absurd percentage of every campaign is taken up by one side attacking the other side for something the other side's candidate said. In almost every case, it's something the candidate wishes he could take back the moment it came out of his mouth. Sometimes, we even get campaign kerfuffles about something a campaign advisor said, as we did when Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom's unfortunate Etch A Sketch remark. And now, we've got something even more ridiculous: a kerfuffle about something said by a political professional who isn't even working for a campaign. In case you haven't checked your Twitter feed this morning, last night on CNN, Democratic consultant and talking head Hilary Rosen mocked Mitt Romney for saying he understands what women are going through, because his wife Ann tells him what they care about. In the course of making that argument, she said Ann Romney had "never worked a day in her life." Cue the faux outrage! It's quite plain...

Conservative Journalism Keeps Getting Better

The Free Beacon
A couple of months ago, Washington Free Beacon (and yes, that's "beacon," not "bacon") launched with some reasonably experienced conservative journalists and a mandate to hold their political opponents accountable with rock-solid journalism. The site describes itself this way: "Dedicated to uncovering the stories that the professional left hopes will never see the light of day, the Free Beacon produces in-depth and investigative reporting on a wide range of issues, including public policy, government affairs, international security, and media criticism." That sounds fair enough. I'm all for rigorous journalism that nevertheless has an ideological perspective—after all, that's what we do here at the Prospect . But let's just say conservatives have a particular perspective on how to go about this. These were the top three stories on the Beacon' s site when I read it on Wednesday: 1. " The Myth of Daphne ," in which they reveal that among a group of millionaires who came out in support...

The Weakness of the Buffett Rule

Pete Souza/The White House
Now that America's burning hunger for Mitt Romney has overflowed, and he really is the Republican nominee-to-be, the Obama campaign must settle on its anti-Romney strategy. Or more properly, they will reveal to us the anti-Romney strategy they settled on many months ago. One central component will be an argument about taxes, contrasting Obama's approach with the Republican one, and the cornerstone of that argument looks to be the "Buffett Rule." Which is kind of unfortunate. The Buffett Rule is, I'm quite sure, good politics. Believe you me, the Obama campaign wouldn't be going whole-hog on it if they hadn't already polled and focus-grouped it within an inch of its life. What it isn't is particularly good policy. The fairness principle at play—that rich people shouldn't pay lower tax rates on their income than the rest of us—is perfectly sound. The problem is the way they've decided to implement that principle. I use the term "implement" loosely, because the chances that the Buffett...

Mitt Romney: Catnip for the Jews

Hey Jews! You know you love me!
In every election season, each month or two will see some conservative discover that this is finally going to be the year when American Jews abandon the Democrats and flock to the GOP's presidential candidate. And it never happens. I've made this point before , but this column by Michael Medved has to be the most hilarious installment this reliable genre has ever seen. Why are Jews going to vote Republican this year? Because, Medved tells us, Jews love Mormons! Seriously. So even if Jews are overwhelmingly Democrats whose liberal ideals contradict pretty much everything Mitt Romney says he believes in, they'll surely cast that aside because of the strong personal connection they feel to members of his religion. After all, as Medved says, "Mormons and Jews frequently laugh together at our common use of the word 'gentiles' to describe the multitudes outside our minority religious communities." Oh, totally. If I had a dollar for every time I've thrown back my head and guffawed merrily...

Romney to Santorum: You're a Loser

Screen cap from Romney ad.
Both political scientists and political professionals have known for some time that in presidential primaries, momentum matters a lot. Win, and you look like a winner; lose, and you look like a loser. This is manifested in multiple ways, from the tone of news coverage to the ease of fundraising. But seldom does one candidate attack another by saying, "My opponent lost an election, so he's a big loser." I've heard plenty of (mostly liberal) commentators note contemptuously that Rick Santorum lost his last Senate race by 17 points as a reason he ought not be elected president, which I never found particularly persuasive. What's far more important is why he lost by that margin, which is that he sold himself to Pennsylvania voters as a mainstream Republican with a populist streak but then became a venomous culture warrior once in office. But the Mitt Romney campaign has evidently decided it's going to play the loser card in Pennsylvania. What's notable about this ad is that there is no...

The Fruitless Search for the Supreme Court's Rationale

Flickr/OZinOH
Yesterday, Ben Smith quoted a conservative lawyer offering a way the Supreme Court's conservative majority may think about striking down the Affordable Care Act. Essentially, this lawyer said, they think that the last 70 years of the Court's interpretation of the Constitution's commerce clause, which underlies much of what the modern American government does, is a giant fraud perpetrated by liberals. Even though they know they can't toss out that last 70 years all at once, they have no problem finding some ridiculous justification for striking down the ACA, no matter whether they really believe it or not. "You have built a fantasy mansion on the Commerce Clause," the lawyer tells Smith. "You can hardly blame us if, in one wing of this mansion, down a dusty corridor, we build a fantasy room called 'inactivity,' lock the door, and don't let you in." None of us have any way of knowing if this is what the justices are actually thinking, persuasive as it sounds. But there's something going...

Today's Unnecessarily Violent Metaphor

Be veeewy quiet - Mitt Womney is about. (Flickr/theseanster93)
For a long time, the National Journal was known as the most staid and serious of Washington publications, chronicling the legislative and regulatory processes with reliable sobriety. Of late, however, they've been trying to liven things up. Which is all well and good, but really, is this kind of thing really necessary? I'm not squeamish or anything, and I know that political coverage is already full of martial metaphors (from "campaign" on down), but come on. "Kill shot"? What is Santorum, some kind of varmint whose brains will be spread across the Pennsylvania landscape?

Purpose-Driven Partisanship

Flickr/Steve Jurvetson
Remember just a few years ago, when "Purpose-Driven Life" author Rick Warren was considered such a bipartisan figure that candidate Obama visited his Saddleback Church, and then invited him to deliver an invocation at the inauguration? Even at the time, a lot of knowledgeable people on the left protested that Warren was actually a deeply conservative person, even if he wore Hawaiian shirts and led the hip and casual megachurch movement that presented itself as inclusive. Well listen to Warren now. In an appearance on ABC's This Week yesterday, he was asked to respond to President Obama saying "I believe in God's command to love thy neighbor as thyself": Well certainly the Bible says we are to care about the poor. There's over 2,000 versus in the Bible about the poor. And God says that those who care about the poor, God will care about them and God will bless them. But there's a fundamental question on the meaning of "fairness." Does fairness mean everybody makes the same amount of...

The Struggles of the War Correspondent

NPR's Kelly McEvers in 2005. (Flickr/uniondocs)
You may have heard that there is a certain kind of breed of journalist who becomes a war correspondent. Maybe they're thrill-seekers to begin with, or maybe the rush of reporting from war zones changes them, but many of them keep returning over and over again to one hotspot after another, putting their lives at risk for the sake of their job. Some of them are wounded, some are even killed. Some, I'm sure, suffer from the same kind of post-traumatic stress disorder that soldiers endure. What we don't often hear, though, is those reporters talking candidly about it as something that is perhaps not too healthy. That's why this segment on the Public Radio Exchange program Howsound is so striking. Kelly McEvers, a terrific NPR reporter based in Baghdad, opened up in a surprising way about her feelings about what she does and the effect it has on those around her: "I have a problem. I mean that's, you know…Yeah. I like that stuff [war reporting]. It's a problem. I mean, I wouldn't do this...

Bait and Convert

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)
The 2012 Republican primaries were without question the most religious party contest in memory. Nearly all the major candidates put their religious beliefs at or near the center of their public personas, from the puritanical scold Rick Santorum, to the prayer warrior Rick Perry, to Newt Gingrich, producer of books and movies on the importance of God in American politics. As for the Almighty himself, He apparently told no fewer than three separate candidates (Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, and Santorum) that they should run. Awfully sneaky of Him not to tell them they were going to lose, but who has time to consult the fine print when you're hearing messages from above? Yet in the end, the candidate who prevailed was the one least interested in talking about his religion. That's not because Mitt Romney isn't devout, but because he's all too aware that his Mormonism presents some political complications. Many evangelicals consider the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) a...

What Contempt for Democracy Looks Like

Democratic legislators in Michigan try in vain to get their votes counted.
One of the old saws about the different ways partisans see the world is that both sides think the other side is more underhanded, more vicious, and more corrupt than their own side. And as far as it goes, that's true: Democrats think this, and Republicans think this. That doesn't mean, however, that they're both right. One side might in fact be more underhanded, vicious, and corrupt than the other. We can debate which one is, and both sides might have data points they'd use to support their contentions. But I'm pretty sure I've never seen a legislature controlled by Democrats do something as unbelievably shameless as what Rachel Maddow documents in this segment . All I could say after watching was, holy crap. The whole segment is a bit long (16 minutes and change), so I've clipped the part where it gets really shocking. The brief setup is this: According to the Michigan constitution, no bill the legislature passes can take effect until after the end of the session, which is usually...

Friday Music Break

TMBG's "Here Comes Science"
In honor of the recent discovery of a 125 million year-old, 30 foot-long dinosaur with feathers, the largest feathered dino ever found, we have They Might Be Giants with "I Am a Paleontologist," from the terrific Here Comes Science , an antidote to every insipid kids' song you've ever heard:

Some Actual Corporate Accountability

200 calories, and a side of voter suppression. (Flickr/twm1340)
You may have heard that in response to a campaign by the progressive group Color of Change, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and now Kraft Foods have all withdrawn their support for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the group that pushes conservative laws at the state level, in part by having corporate lobbyists write model legislation which they then pass to friendly Republican legislators to introduce in their states. It seems that the companies were happy to give ALEC money so long as no one knew about it. But the real question is, why did they support the group in the first place? Coca-Cola's explanation was that "Our involvement with ALEC was focused on efforts to oppose discriminatory food and beverage taxes, not on issues that have no direct bearing on our business." But when you sign on with a group like ALEC, your money is going to advance the entire conservative agenda. That means not just pro-corporate laws, but "Stand Your Ground" laws, voter suppression laws, and laws...

You're Gonna Make It After All

The 20th century's most important hat toss.
The first grownup television show I can remember watching as a wee pup in the 1970s was the Mary Tyler Moore Show, which was a favorite of my mother's (and millions of other women's). It was pretty revolutionary for its time, a show built around a single working woman who was uncertain of herself and vulnerable (and the victim of constant casual sexism), but also smart, competent, and determined to be successful in a world ruled by men. It made Moore probably the central cultural icon of the feminist movement's key period. The show ended its run in 1977, but it was no surprise when Jimmy Carter's re-election campaign in 1980 recruited Moore to encourage women to vote for Carter. Here's the ad she did: If Moore was the central cultural feminist icon of the 1970s, the central political/activist icon was Gloria Steinem, who is still going strong 40 years after she co-founded Ms. magazine. And she's now doing ads for Barack Obama. As Ari Melber observed , the Obama campaign on YouTube is...

A Coming War On Universities?

UC-Berkeley, where young minds are being poisoned at this very moment. (Flickr/Nina Stawski)
When Rick Santorum went after the University of California the other day, it might have seemed like a one-off, fact-free hors d'ouvre of resentment, the kind of criticism of elitist liberal professors that we've come to expect from conservative culture warriors like him. Sara Robinson, however, sees this as the first shot in a coming war on public universities, following up as it did on a report from the Hoover Institution about how the academy is dominated by liberals. And she may be right: But the content of this Hoover report isn't as important as the fact of its provenance, its existence, and its publication on the pages of the WSJ. Right-wing crusades almost always start with think-tank reports; and are issuized on the pages of conservative magazines and newspapers. From there, the ideas are picked up and disseminated by Fox, politicians, conservative ministers, and right-wing bloggers. If all goes well, within weeks, legislators will be paying attention, and lobbyists will be...

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