| October 1, 2014
Why Romney's Comeback Will Hit a Brick Wall
Mitt Romney's resurrection may now be the most hyped since Jesus Christ. Just days after conservative columnist Byron York announced "Romney 2016 is for real," the Washington Post, Vox and now the New York Times declared that "Mitt Romney isn't ready to call it quits." So, after Mitt Romney's repeated promises that "we're not doing that again" and his wife Ann's 2012 vow that "he will not run again, nor will I," the two-time White House loser now says "we'll see what happens."
Unfortunately for Mitt Romney, what will happen is what always happens. If absence makes the heart grow fonder, familiarity breeds contempt. Or to put it another way, the closer they get to Election Day, the less Americans like Mitt Romney.
The list of reasons why voters inevitably come to disdain the man from Bain is a long one. But his shocking lack of self-awareness, as he showed in the recent New York Times profile, has to rank near the top:
"My mistake was that I was speaking in a way that reflected back to the man," Romney said. "If I had been able to see the camera, I would have remembered that I was talking to the whole world, not just the man." I had never heard Romney say that he was prompted into the "47 percent" line by a ranting supporter. It was also impossible to ignore the phrase "If I had to do this again."
Romney's camera-at-all-times plan, however, reflected his own limitations as a candidate. By the same token, it was quite an indictment that "Mitt" -- made by a little-known filmmaker on a shoestring -- created a more palatable rendering of Romney than his campaign, which spent hundreds of millions on genius operatives and image makers. Romney, for his part, seemed to understand this. No matter how content he appeared, when the conversation turned to his disappointment in losing, his voice dropped. "It really kills me," he said. "It really kills me." He became inaudible, and it seemed as if he might tear up.
On paper, the wealthy, handsome businessman with "shoulders you could land a 737 on" is the very model of the modern major presidential candidate. A former blue state governor and scion of famous political family, Romney arrived from central casting to claim the 2008 GOP nomination.
But it didn't work out that way. Even after jumping to the front of the pack in November 2007, Romney's descent began as the Republican primary debates heated up. Despite spending $45 million of his own money, Mitt was out by the end of February 2008. (Romney's willingness to write off that investment and to instead fundraise for John McCain was not enough to secure him the VP slot.) In 2011, the process almost repeated itself with a comically weak GOP field, with Romney at one point or another trailing the likes of Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich. Eventually, Mitt won a grueling war of attrition against Rick Santorum, a niche candidate who lost his previous Senate re-election campaign by a whopping 18 points. And yet, despite a brutally slow economic recovery and high unemployment that would have doomed most incumbent presidents, Barack Obama comfortably dispensed with the tax-dodging, 47 percent mocking, gymnastically flip-flopping, pathologically lying, champion of self-deporting, Muslim-conflating chameleon and vulture capitalist.
It's no wonder that Governor Romney said of that defeat, "It really kills me." But not because he has "no question" he would have been a better president or that "Obama is even worse than I expected." It was actually his wife, Ann Romney, who gave it all away during the 2012 campaign. As Salon reported:
"I truly want Mitt to fulfill his destiny, and for that to happen, he's got to do politics," Ann told the Los Angeles Times on the eve of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. In his book "Turnaround," Mitt says he initially resisted the offer to take over the games until Ann changed his mind. "There's no one else who can do it," he remembers her saying. Last year, when Mitt entered the presidential race, Ann told Parade, "I felt the country needed him ... This is now Mitt's time." In a March radio interview, Ann declared, "He's the only one who can save America."
But Americans didn't believe that in 2008 or 2012. And even with the supposed buyer's remorse and a beaten and battered 2016 GOP field working to his advantage, Mitt Romney is not going to become the 45th president of the United States.
The voters, it turns out, just aren't that into Mitt Romney. Especially when it is time to vote.
| September 27, 2014
JFK Schools Dick Cheney on Civil Rights and American Global Leadership
Former Vice President Dick Cheney is outraged--outraged!--that Barack Obama felt compelled to mention the national shame of Ferguson, Missouri during the President's powerful address to the United Nations. Accusing of Obama of comparing the killing of Michael Brown to the butchery of ISIS, Cheney declared, "I am stunned."
But he shouldn't have been. Most Presidents have long understood that American credibility and leadership around the world require linking progress on civil rights at home to the emancipation of all people. To put in another way, victory in twilight struggles against threats past and present to the global order like the Islamic State and the Soviet Union demands the United States hold both the "commanding heights" and the moral high ground. Even as the Cold War nearly turned hot, President John F. Kennedy never stopped stressing that principle.
Two years after the construction of the Berlin Wall and just 9 months after the Cuban Missile Crisis, JFK made that very linkage in his nationally-televised address on civil rights. In announcing his decision to force the desegregation of the University of Alabama, Kennedy explained:
"We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the Scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution."
But that's not all he said. In the worldwide confrontation without Soviet communism, Kennedy warned his listeners in the U.S. and around the world, America's call for the freedom of all nations would fail unless the same promise was realized at home:
"Today we are committed to a worldwide struggle to promote and protect the rights of all who wish to be free...We preach freedom around the world, and we mean it, and we cherish our freedom here at home; but are we to say to the world, and, much more importantly, for each other, that this is a land of the free except for the Negroes; that we have no second-class citizens except Negroes; that we have no class or caste system, no ghettos, no master race, except with respect to Negroes?"
Kennedy understood, as Mary L. Dudziak documented in her book Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy that the U.S. government "needed to safeguard America's image and counter Soviet propaganda by constructing a story of the nation's past that acknowledged racial discrimination but presented American democracy itself as the only viable path forward." Civil rights, in a nutshell, was a national security issue during the Cold War.
As, to perhaps a lesser degree, it must be in the long-term American effort to discredit and destroy the Islamic State. Keeping with the finest traditions of American foreign policy, President Obama this week told the UN General Assembly:
"Of course, terrorism is not new. Speaking before this Assembly, President Kennedy put it well: 'Terror is not a new weapon,' he said. 'Throughout history it has been used by those who could not prevail, either by persuasion or example'...
"I realize that America's critics will be quick to point out that at times we too have failed to live up to our ideals; that America has plenty of problems within our own borders. This is true. In a summer marked by instability in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, I know the world also took notice of the small American city of Ferguson, Missouri - where a young man was killed, and a community was divided. So yes, we have our own racial and ethnic tensions. And like every country, we continually wrestle with how to reconcile the vast changes wrought by globalization and greater diversity with the traditions that we hold dear.
But we welcome the scrutiny of the world - because what you see in America is a country that has steadily worked to address our problems and make our union more perfect. America is not the same as it was 100 years ago, 50 years ago, or even a decade ago. Because we fight for our ideals, and are willing to criticize ourselves when we fall short. Because we hold our leaders accountable, and insist on a free press and independent judiciary. Because we address our differences in the open space of democracy - with respect for the rule of law; with a place for people of every race and religion; and with an unyielding belief in the ability of individual men and women to change their communities and countries for the better.
After nearly six years as President, I believe that this promise can help light the world."
Of course, Vice President Cheney doesn't welcome the scrutiny of the world. But to him, the moral high ground has never mattered, probably because he has never been there.
| September 25, 2014
Senator Pat Roberts: "You Have No Civil Liberties If You Are Dead"
As the Washington Post explained Wednesday, Kansas Republican Senator Pat Roberts is in real trouble. And the consistently ineffective Senate veteran didn't help his reelection cause when he called Senate Minority Harry Reid (D-NV) a "dictator" and accused President Obama of leading the United States down the path of "national socialism." After all, it was Roberts who defended the Bush administration's program of illicit NSA domestic surveillance by proclaiming, "You really don't have any civil liberties if you're dead." And it was Roberts who spearheaded the GOP effort to prevent the American people from learning about President Bush's uses--and misuses--of intelligence to sell his war in Iraq.
That checkered past didn't Senator Roberts from making nightmare predictions about America's future. As TPM described his dire warnings:
There's a palpable fear among Kansans all across this state that the America that we love and cherish and honor will not be the same America for our kids and grandkids," Roberts said, "and that's wrong. That's very wrong."
..."We have to change course because our country is heading for national socialism," Roberts said. "That's not right. It's changing our culture. It's changing what we're all about."
Roberts' slander was double. When it comes to the Big Lie so beloved by National Socialists, Pat Roberts did the full Goebbels in defense of President George W. Bush.
After the New York Times revealed the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping of Americans in late 2005, Roberts was quick to join colleagues John Cornyn (R-TX) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL) in declaring:
"You really don't have any civil liberties if you're dead."
And Roberts didn't rest there. During his opening comments in the CIA confirmation hearings of General Michael Hayden in May 2006, then Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) returned to that favorite Republican sound bite in defense of illegal domestic surveillance by the NSA. Roberts proclaimed:
"I am a strong supporter of the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment and civil liberties. But you have no civil liberties if you are dead."
And according to Pat Roberts, Americans have no right to know how their government lied to them into an Iraq war that cost 4,500 American lives and over $1 trillion. It was his job, after all, to make sure that remained secret--at least until after President Bush had safely secured reelection in November 2004.
On June 20, 2003, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence began its work. Led by Republican Chairman Pat Roberts (KS) and Democratic Vice Chairman Jay Rockefeller (WV), the SSCI promised a two-phase report on the march to war in Iraq. Phase 1 would examine the failings of the American intelligence community. Phase 2 would investigate the uses of pre-war intelligence and whether the administration had manipulated it to create a causus belli. Conveniently for the Bush White House, the potentially damaging Phase 2 inquiry would not come until after the election.
Not surprisingly, the SSCI Phase 1 Report released in July 2004 sought to lay the blame for faulty intelligence at the feet of the CIA. Chairman Roberts concluded that "what the President and the Congress used to send the country to war was information that was...flawed" and "most of the key judgments in the October 2002 national intelligence estimate on Iraq's WMD programs were either overstated or were not supported by the raw intelligence reporting." But Roberts also presumed the conclusion of the as-yet-uncompleted Phase 2 report, "the committee found no evidence that the intelligence community's mischaracterization or exaggeration of intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capabilities was the result of politics or pressure."
During the very same press conference, Vice Chairman Rockefeller in response expressed his frustration and alarm over Roberts' statements:
"And I have to say, that there is a real frustration over what is not in this report, and I don't think was mentioned in Chairman Roberts' statement, and that is about the -- after the analysts and the intelligence community produced an intelligence product, how is it then shaped or used or misused by the policy-makers? So again there's genuine frustration -- and Chairman Roberts and I have discussed this many times -- that virtually everything that has to do with the administration has been relegated to phase two. My hope is that we will get this done as soon as possible."
Rockefeller had good reason to worry. As it turns out, Senator Roberts simply had no intention of ever pursuing the Phase 2 inquiry into the Bush's administration's use - or misuse - of pre-war intelligence. On July 9, 2004, Roberts told reporters, "We will proceed with (that work in) phase two. It is a priority. I made my commitment and it will get done." But on March 10, 2005, a straight-faced Roberts changed his tune:
"It got to be a problem in regard to a subjective point of view. If you ask any member of the administration, 'Why did you make that declarative statement?' ... basically, the bottom line is, they believed the intelligence and the intelligence was wrong. In addition, we were in an even-numbered year and you know what that means. So, we sort of came to a crossroads and that [Phase 2] is basically on the back burner."
Roberts' stonewalling for the Bush administration didn't end there. Upon the release of the Silberman-Robb Commission Report, Roberts on March 31, 2005 concluded, "I don't think there should be any doubt that we have now heard it all regarding prewar intelligence. I think that it would be a monumental waste of time to replow this ground any further." Satisfied that the pretense of an investigation was provided while the Bush administration was still protected, Roberts added, "To go though that exercise, it seems to me, in a post-election environment--we didn't see how we could do that and achieve any possible progress. I think everybody pretty well gets it."
As for the Silberman-Robb Commission, it was designed to avoid the very issues Senator Roberts had so steadfastly refuse to investigate. As with the 9/11 Commission, President Bush initially opposed the formation of an independent panel to investigate Iraq WMD intelligence. And just as with the 9/11 Commission, Bush flip-flopped, caving to public pressure for an inquiry. But Bush's panel, led by Judge Laurence Silberman (the same judge who overturned Oliver North's felony conviction), would not include the subject of intelligence manipulation within its charter. The report concluded that the CIA had been "dead wrong" about Iraq WMD. But as Silberman himself noted:
"Well, on the [that] point, we duck. That is not part of our charter. We did not express any views on policymakers' use of intelligence -- whether Congress or the president. It wasn't part of our charter and indeed most of us didn't want to get into that issue because it's basically a political question and everybody knows -- you can look at the newspaper and see what people said and make your own judgment."
That judgment is what the Phase 2 report finally provided by the Democratic-led committee in June 2008.. As McClatchy summarized, the report determined:
"Statements by the President and the Vice President indicating that Saddam Hussein was prepared to give weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups for attacks against the United States were contradicted by available intelligence information," the report concluded.
Claims by President Bush that Iraq and al Qaida had a partnership "were not substantiated by the intelligence."
The president and vice president misrepresented what was known about Iraq's chemical weapons capabiliies.
Rumsfeld misrepresented what the intelligence community knew when he said Iraq's weapons productions facilities were buried deeply underground.
Cheney's claim that the intelligence community had confirmed that lead Sept. 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta had met an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague in 2001 was not true.
Ten years ago, Pat Roberts with a straight face declared his committee's probe "a priority," adding of the critical Phase 2 report, "I made my commitment and it will get done." But he reneged on his commitment, which is why Kansas voters need to send him packing.
After all, you don't have a right to a Senate seat when you're a liar.
| September 23, 2014
When Romney Met Alinsky
Back in the spring of 2012, right-wingers began foaming at the mouth when the late Andrew Breitbart revealed that then Illinois State Senator Obama was part of panel discussion after a 1998 play about 1960's radical organizer Saul Alinsky. Now, the same conservatives are hyperventilating about the correspondence between the young Hillary Clinton and Alinsky, an ally with whom she parted company in 1969.
Of course, the Republican rage is more than a little ridiculous. After all, Tea Party faithful including Breitbart Youth James O'Keefe boasted of their use of Alinsky's tactics during their ferocious if failed campaign to stop health care reform in 2009. And as it turns out, Mitt Romney's beloved father and Michigan Governor George Romney not only met with Alinsky back in 1967, but largely agreed with his message.
As Andrew Kaczynski first noted (and Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller also reported), Michigan Governor George Romney met with Alinsky in the wake of the devastating Detroit riots. While the Library of Congress has photographs of that meeting, author T. George Harris described the tete-a-tete in his 1967 book, Romney's Way:
When slum organizer Saul Alinsky, with the West Side Organization's militant Negroes and clerics, wanted to meet with the white Detroit rulers, Romney indirectly arranged the meeting, and attended. Democratic Mayor Jerome Cavanaugh avoided the rough company.
"I think you ought to listen to Alinsky," Romney told his reluctant white friends. 'It seems to me that we are always talking to the same people. Maybe the time has come to hear new voices." Said an Episcopal bishop, 'He made Alinsky sound like a Republican.'"
To be sure, George Romney has had an outsized impact on his son. Mitt Romney didn't just call himself just "a guy from Detroit," but spoke passionately of joining his father for the 1946 Golden Jubilee in his home city. (Unfortunately for Mitt, that event occurred the year before he was born.) And Mitt didn't just recall his dad as "a lath and plaster man could work his way up to running a little car company called American Motors and end up Governor of a state where he had once sold aluminum paint," but remembered important rules of the road from him as well:
"I happened to see my dad run for governor when he was 54 years old," said Romney. "He said, 'Mitt, never get involved in politics if you have to win election to pay a mortgage.' If you find yourself in a position when you can serve, you ought to have a responsibility to do so if you think you can make a difference."
Of course, during his first run for the White House Mitt Romney repeatedly claimed that he also "saw" his father march with Martin Luther King, Jr. While Mitt later admitted his "figure of speech" was not literally true, he countered that "I think the thing that's relevant is that my dad was a champion in the civil rights movement, that he aligned himself with Martin Luther King."
That kind of activism wouldn't win George Romney any friends among today's Tea Partiers. Nor, as Rick Perlstein pointed out, would this Alinskyesque quote:
As a CEO he would give back part of his salary and bonus to the company when he thought they were too high. He offered a pioneering profit-sharing plan to his employees. Most strikingly, asked about the idea that "rugged individualism" was the key to America's success, he snapped back, "It's nothing but a political banner to cover up greed."
As it turns out, neither George Romney's son nor his political party would listen to that kind of message today. But in an important sense, the Republican Party including its Breitbart shock troops followed George Romney's 1967 admonition, "I think you ought to listen to Alinsky."
As Politico reported in September 2009, the Tea Party's manufactured campaign against the Obama administration appropriated Saul Alinsky's methods if not his message:
The 1971 agitator's handbook "Rules for Radicals" -- written by Saul Alinsky, the Chicago community organizer who was the subject of Hillary Clinton's senior thesis, and whose teachings helped shape Barack Obama's work on Chicago's South Side -- has been among Amazon's top 100 sellers for the past month, put there in part by people who "also bought" books by Michelle Malkin, Glenn Beck, and South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint.
Yes, the same folks who brought you Obama the socialist have been appropriating the words and ways of leftists past -- and generally letting their freak flags fly...
James O'Keefe, the activist and filmmaker who posed as a pimp for an expose of several ACORN offices in the Northeast, told the New York Post earlier this week] that he, too, had been inspired by "Rules for Radicals," which includes such tactical lessons as "Ridicule is man's most potent weapon" and "Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules."
Among those conservative rules, apparently, is spouting dark warnings of dangerous - if spurious - ties between President Obama and peripheral figures in his own or his father's life. Of course, Newt Gingrich's ridiculous claim that "Saul Alinsky radicalism is at the heart of Obama" is no more true of the President than it is of Mitt Romney. Then again, as Bill Moyers and Alinsky chronicler Hillary Clinton pointed out:
"Much of what Alinsky professes does not sound 'radical."... His are the words used in our schools and churches, by our parents and their friends, by our peers. The difference is Alinsky really believes in them and recognizes the necessity of changing the present structures of our lives in order to realize them."
All of which explains why, as the Wall Street Journal reported, Andrew Breitbart's allies at FreedomWorks not only give Mr. Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals" to its top leadership members, but distribute an abridged version to its entire network.
| September 20, 2014
The Tortured Logic of NFL Commissioner Condoleezza Rice
With NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell under fire for the league's reprehensible handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence case, the names of potential successors are already being bandied about. But one of them--Condoleezza Rice--would be among the very worst choices the National Football League could make. After all, the NFL's credibility is at risk for having condoned violence toward and degradation of women by some of its players. Unfortunately, Secretary of State Rice didn't just defend torture perpetrated by the government of the United States; she followed in Richard Nixon's footsteps by claiming "if it was authorized by the president, it did not violate our obligations under the Convention Against Torture."
On its face, Condi Rice's experience in business, government and academia, her groundbreaking biography and deep love for the game make for an impressive resume to take over the NFL's headquarters in New York. In 2002, then Bush national security adviser and longtime Cleveland Browns fan Rice made it clear that being commish was her "dream job." In 2005, she declared, "If that jobs becomes open, I'm gone." Already selected to the committee that will decide the four teams for the NCAA's college football championship playoff, Rice has been suggested by press (see here and here) and pundits right and left, including Juan Williams of Fox News and Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post. As Williams put it:
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