Archive for the ‘2012 Elections’ Category

Joe Biden Opens Up a Can on Paul Ryan

Monday, October 15th, 2012

 

Joe Biden was on fire Thursday night.

Lots of debate on whether or not he was inappropriate or rude, but I think it’s hard to argue that he was not effective. Biden dominated the debate, refusing to let Ryan sanctimoniously lecture on the inadequacies of the Obama record and laughing not only at the blows that he tried to land, but at Ryan’s whole persona and the persona of Mitt Romney as well. Obviously this was a tactical decision on Team Obama’s part, and it has roots in the historical messaging of the campaign.

Early on in the campaign, Obama’s campaign had to make a decision on whether to attack Mitt Romney for the far right positions that he took throughout his 6 year campaign for the presidency, or on his historical habit of changing his positions depending on what office he was running for. They chose the former and, aside from destroying the contention that he was a “job creator,” their campaign was mostly about the extreme positions that Romney had based his campaign on to date. Team Obama knew that this was never an either/or choice, because if Romney started to move towards “Moderate Mitt,” they could always go back to the flip-flopper charge.

Just before Romney locked up the Republican nomination, top advisor Eric Fehrnstrom noted that once a nominee locked up the nomination, it represented a reset for the campaign, sort of like shaking up an Etch-a-Sketch. Most people assumed that this, in fact, would be Romney’s strategy.   What most people underestimated was how much the far right prevented Romney from moving to the center. This was made evident in August when Romney campaign spokesperson Andrea Saul dared to mention Romney’s Masachussets health care reform in a positive light and the right wing threw a three stage hissy fit. Ann Coulter even demanded that Andrea Saul be fired for daring to suggest that Romney’s major accomplishment as governor could be seen positively. Given these constraints placed on him by his own party, it was perhaps understandable that Romney would not be able to move effectively to the center, but I think the Obama campaign was surprised how Romney neglected to even try.

Fast forward to last week’s debate, where Romney seemed to disavow many of the themes he ran on. $5 trillion in tax cuts by cutting income tax rates? I don’t have a plan to do that… Cover people with pre-existing conditions? Sure, my plan does that, just like yours… Repeal Dodd-Frank? Well, I’m not for all of it, but we really do need regulation. Business can’t function without regulation, and so on…. Frankly, I think that Obama’s team was surprised by this sudden move to the center because it’s probably unprecedented for a candidate to do it with less than a month to go in the campaign.

The Obama campaign spent millions of dollars convincing America that Mitt Romney was a joke, but in one and a half hours of a debate that Obama just neglected to show up to, Romney effectively turned that on its head, seeming not only presidential, but moderate once again, and in the process, erasing all of the gains Obama made post-convention. Biden’s job last week was to once again make Mitt look like the craven politician that he has always been, and (despite the rhetorical excesses) he did that effectively on Thursday night.

Ryan is the conservative Boy Wonder, but Biden treated him an insolent young punk, laughing when he spoke, looking at him with amazement every time he dared to criticize the Administration, throwing his hands in the air and interrupting him frequently.  The pundit class at Fox was outraged (outraged I say!) at Biden’s debate demeanor. The following day we were treated to Dick Cheney on Hannity saying that Biden seemed unstable and that ”It’s not the type of personality I’d like to see in the Oval Office” Ponder that for a second: the guy who invaded the wrong country, shot a man in the face and told a sitting Senator to “Fuck Yourself” on the floor of the Senate thinks Joe Biden is too “volatile” to be Vice President?

To be sure, I thought Biden did take it a little too far (giggling during a discussion of Iran’s nuclear weapons capability was slightly unseemly), but Matt Taibbi summed it up pretty well, arguing that given what Mitt Romney is trying to pull on America, “We should all be rolling our eyes, and scoffing and saying, ‘Come back when you’re serious.’” 

The Romney/Ryan ticket decided, with incredible cynicism, that that they were going to promise this massive tax break, not explain how to pay for it, and then just hang on until election day, knowing that most of the political press would let it skate, or at least not take a dump all over it when explaining it to the public. Unchallenged, and treated in print and on the air as though it were the same thing as a real plan, a 20 percent tax cut sounds pretty good to most Americans. Hell, it sounds good to me.

The proper way to report such a tactic is to bring to your coverage exactly the feeling that Biden brought to the debate last night: contempt and amazement. We in the press should be offended by what Romney and Ryan are doing – we should take professional offense that any politician would try to whisk such a gigantic lie past us to our audiences, and we should take patriotic offense that anyone is trying to seize the White House using such transparently childish and dishonest tactics.

Taibbi points to this specific dodge on tax policy, but that analysis can be applied to any number of characteristics of the Romney-Ryan campaign: from his high profile shifts on long held positions like health care, abortion rights and gay rights, to his claim to be a “job creator” when his firm was a “pioneer in outsourcing” American jobs, to his claim that he views debt as a moral imperative, while his tax and defense plans dig a $7 trillion hole in the budget before they try to balance anything, or to the idea that he claims to be someone who wants to tell America “hard truths,” but refuses to name any of the sacrifices he would ask of Americans in order to get to where we need to go, or to Ryan’s derision of the stimulus as “green pork” when he actually wrote to Biden asking that constituents in his district be awarded green energy contracts since the programs “would create jobs and growth,” or to Romney and Ryan’s laughable assertion that they are the would be saviors of Medicare when they were both in favor of a plan to dismantle it last year, or to his constant criticism of Presdent Obama’s foreign policy when they are offering NOTHING different save their vague promises not to “apologize for America.” The only thing consistent about Mitt Romney seems to be his inconsistency and Joe Biden put that into stark relief last week.

Now that Biden has softened up the target, expect that to be a big theme in Tuesday’s debate between Romney and Obama.

Obama’s Debate Performance Erases Post-Convention Bounce

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Yikes!

A week later, Nate Silver on how post debate polls show that Obama basically erased his convention bump with his no- show at the debate last week.

Lot’s of hard work gone to waste because the guy decided to phone it in.

Plenty of time to turn things around,  but it needs to start now. The Pres can’t afford another week like the last one.

What He Said

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

This is the best expression I’ve seen of the frustration most Obama supporters feel after Obama’s no-show at the debate last week. If you want the humor first, start with this one.

Debate Serves As Wake Up Call for Obama

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

Like a lot of other Democrats, I spent Wednesday night yelling at the TV while watching President Obama debate Mitt Romney. Explanations for his performance abound, but I think it mostly comes down to complacency on the campaign and especially on Obama’s part. 

The President has been leading in enough swing states to win the election for over a year, got a very nice bump coming out of the convention, and the country has spent the past three months watching Mitt Romney self-immolate with a series of unforced errors.  When Jon Stewart recently did a bit on how Romney had seemed to get dumber as the election progressed, his audience cheered wildly. Stewart interrupted them to say “Really? Is that how you want to win this thing? The other guy tears his ACL?” That didn’t seem far from the truth, as a bruising Republican primary in which he sold himself out over and over, a brilliant negative Obama media campaign that destroyed his business record, and gaffe after gaffe, increasingly made Romney seem like an unviable alternative.

Given this set of circumstances, it’s understandable that the Obama campaign would have a conservative strategy in the debates, but that still doesn’t explain the many missed opportunities, the total lack of a strategy to tie the individual policy details they were arguing about into a coherent theme and the general lack of enthusiasm the President showed for being there. What it most reminded me of was George W. Bush’s first debate with John Kerry, when President Bush mostly seemed annoyed that he had to be there. His attitude was something like: I’ve been working my ass off here, making the tough decisions of governing this country while you’ve been running around doing nothing but complaining for a year and a half. I’m the president. Do I really need to explain myself to you? The answer, of course, is “yes.” No matter how lacking in credibility the challenger is, we still expect the President to defend his record voiciferously and with energy, like his job depends on it. Because it might.

To use a boxing analogy, Obama had Romney on the ropes before this debate and could have gone for the knockout punch. Instead, he danced around the ring, playing mostly defense, hoping to win on points. Meanwhile, Romney fought as if his political life depended on it, because it did. If the Obama team thought this was a viable strategy before, you can bet they don’t anymore.

Of course, one debate doesn’t erase an entire political campaign and Bush v. Kerry is proof that you can still lose the debates and win the election, but those debates also show the danger of that scenario. Kerry surged 8 points over the course of those debates and many thought he would win, even on election day.  This debate should serve as notice to the President and his team: this race is gonna be a dogfight. Playing defense and trying to win on points isn’t gonna cut it. If he wants to keep his job, he’s gotta fight for it.

Wonk in Chief Demolishes Romney-Ryan

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

The Democrats wrapped up an amazing Convention last week, but the best speaker by far was former President Bill Clinton. In a speech that was remarkably full of wonky policy details (someone on Twitter refered to it as ”45 minutes of wonk porn” and Ezra Klein dubbed him the Wonk in Chief),  Clinton dismantled the case for a Romney-Ryan Presidency piece by piece.

He spoke about Democratic vs. Republican economic philosophies and economic records:

We Democrats, we think the country works better with a strong middle class, with real opportunities for poor folks to work their way into it, with a relentless focus on the future, with business and government actually working together to promote growth and broadly shared prosperity. You see, we believe that “We’re all in this together” is a far better philosophy than “You’re on your own.”

So who’s right? Well, since 1961, for 52 years now, the Republicans have held the White House 28 years, the Democrats 24. In those 52 years, our private economy has produced 66 million private- sector jobs. So what’s the job score? Republicans: twenty-four million. Democrats: forty-two.

He put the economic and political situation in perspective:

In Tampa, the Republican argument against the president’s re- election was actually pretty simple, pretty snappy. It went something like this: “We left him a total mess. He hasn’t cleaned it up fast enough, so fire him and put us back in.”…

I like the argument for President Obama’s re-election a lot better. Here it is. He inherited a deeply damaged economy. He put a floor under the crash. He began the long, hard road to recovery and laid the foundation for a modern, more well-balanced economy that will produce millions of good, new jobs, vibrant new businesses, and lots of new wealth for innovators…

When President Barack Obama took office, the economy was in freefall. It had just shrunk 9 full percent of GDP. We were losing 750,000 jobs a month.

He compared the situation to when he was in office, intimating that the economy just hadn’t been given enough time to recover:

Here’s the challenge he faces and the challenge all of you who support him face. I get it. I know it. I’ve been there. A lot of Americans are still angry and frustrated about this economy. If you look at the numbers, you know employment is growing, banks are beginning to lend again, and in a lot of places, housing prices have even began to pick up.

But too many people do not feel it yet. I had this same thing happen in 1994 and early ‘95. We could see that the policies were working, that the economy was growing, but most people didn’t feel it yet. Thankfully, by 1996, the economy was roaring, everybody felt it, and we were halfway through the longest peacetime expansion in the history of the United States…. But the difference this time is purely in the circumstances. President Obama started with a much weaker economy than I did. Listen to me now. No president, no president — not me, not any of my predecessors — no one could have fully repaired all the damage that he found in just four years.

The not so subtle message: You know how great I was for the economy, but even I couldn’t have got this economy moving. A very important message aimed directly at moderates who worry that the lack of a more robust economic recovery may be the result of Obama’s economic policies instead of the devastating effects of the 2008 financial crisis.

Clinton defended the Administration’s policy decisions on health care and the auto bailout and then demolished the Romney-Ryan argument on Medicare:

(B)oth Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan attacked the president for allegedly “robbing Medicare” of $716 billion. That’s the same attack they leveled against the Congress in 2010, and they got a lot of votes on it. But it’s not true.

Look, here’s what really happened. You be the judge… There were no cuts to benefits at all, none. What the president did was to save money by taking the recommendations of a commission of professionals to cut unwarranted subsidies to providers and insurance companies that were not making people healthier and were not necessary to get the providers to provide the service. And instead of raiding Medicare, he used the savings to close the donut hole in the Medicare drug program. And — you all got to listen carefully to this. This is really important — and to add eight years to the life of the Medicare trust fund so it is solvent until 2024.

So President Obama and the Democrats didn’t weaken Medicare. They strengthened Medicare.

With his signature, folksy grin, Bill Clinton savaged Ryan:

Now, when Congressman Ryan looked into that TV camera and attacked President Obama’s Medicare savings as, quote, “the biggest, coldest power play,” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry… because that $716 billion is exactly to the dollar the same amount of Medicare savings that he has in his own budget!

And then the coup de gras:

You got to give one thing: It takes some brass to attack a guy for doing what you did.

And then a pivot from Ryan to Romney:

Now, at least on this issue, on this one issue, Governor Romney has been consistent. He attacked President Obama, too, but he actually wants to repeal those savings and give the money back to the insurance company. He wants to go back to the old system, which means we’ll reopen the donut hole and force seniors to pay more for drugs, and we’ll reduce the life of the Medicare trust fund by eight full years. So if he’s elected, and if he does what he promised to do, Medicare will now go broke in 2016. Think about that. That means after all we won’t have to wait until their voucher program kicks in, in 2023, to see the end of Medicare as we know it. They’re going to do it to us sooner than we thought.

Clinton also hit Romney and Ryan on Medicaid cuts, which is a topic that has mostly been avoided by Democrats, since programs for the poor have shown consistently less support than universal programs such as Medicare. Clinton pointed out that all the Romney-Ryan talk about preserving benefits for current seniors is just that: talk.

They also want to block grant Medicaid and cut it by a third over the coming 10 years. Of course, that’s going to really hurt a lot of poor kids. But that’s not all. A lot of folks don’t know it, but nearly two-thirds of Medicaid is spent on nursing home care for Medicare seniors who are eligible for Medicaid. It’s going to end Medicare as we know it. And a lot of that money is also spent to help people with disabilities, including… a lot of middle-class families whose kids have Down’s syndrome or autism or other severe conditions.

Again, subtext: we’re not just talking about poor people here, we’re talking about good, middle-class people like you…

Similarly, Clinton took apart Romney and Ryan’s claim to be the guys making the tough calls on the budget: 

(T)he Romney plan fails the first test of fiscal responsibility: The numbers just don’t add up.

I mean, consider this. What would you do if you had this problem? Somebody says, “Oh, we’ve got a big debt problem. We’ve got to reduce the debt.” So what’s the first thing he says we’re going to do? “Well, to reduce the debt, we’re going to have another $5 trillion in tax cuts, heavily weighted to upper-income people. So we’ll make the debt hole bigger before we start to get out of it.”

Now, when you say, “What are you going to do about this $5 trillion you just added on?” They say, “Oh, we’ll make it up by eliminating loopholes in the tax code.” So then you ask, “Well, which loopholes? And how much?” You know what they say? “See me about that after the election.”

I’m not making it up. That’s their position. “See me about that after the election.”

Now, people ask me all the time how we got four surplus budgets in a row. What new ideas did we bring to Washington? I always give a one-word answer: arithmetic…

If they stay with this $5 trillion tax cut plan in a debt reduction plan, the arithmetic tells us, no matter what they say, one of three things is about to happen. One, assuming they try to do what they say they’ll do — get rid of — cover it by deductions, cutting those deductions — one, they’ll have to eliminate so many deductions, like the ones for home mortgages and charitable giving, that middle- class families will see their tax bills go up an average of $2,000, while anybody who makes $3 million or more will see their tax bill go down $250,000.

Or, two, they’ll have to cut so much spending that they’ll obliterate the budget for the national parks, for ensuring clean air, clean water, safe food, safe air travel. They’ll cut way back on Pell grants, college loans, early childhood education, child nutrition programs, all the programs that help to empower middle-class families and help poor kids. Oh, they’ll cut back on investments in roads and bridges and science and technology and biomedical research. That’s what they’ll do. They’ll hurt the middle class and the poor and put the future on hold to give tax cuts to upper-income people who’ve been getting it all along.

Or, three, in spite of all the rhetoric, they’ll just do what they’ve been doing for more than 30 years. They’ll go and cut the taxes way more than they cut spending, especially with that big defense increase, and they’ll just explode the debt and weaken the economy, and they’ll destroy the federal government’s ability to help you by letting interest gobble up all your tax payments.

To summarize: the three possible outcomes from the Romney plan: 1) huge tax cuts for the rich and increases for the midele class 2) drastic cuts in services that huge majorities of middle class voters support (all to give tax cuts to the rich) or 3) gigantic deficits (with yet another reminder of how abysmal the Republican record on deficits has been since the 1980′s).

Alltogether, Clinton’s argument was a tour de force. He gave Barack Obama the imprimatur of the most popular politician in America, he explained the extraordinary situation that we find ourselves in the during the Great Recession, and he demolished the credibility of the Romney-Ryan budget as well as their criticisms of Obama on Medicare. He did it making a speech that spoke to Americans as adults and didn’t shy away from policy details. But perhaps most impressive: he did it all with a smile on his face and you could tell he was having fun.

This one may resonate for a while.

The Whitewash Convention

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

Bill Maher on the Republican Convention Whitewash of the Bush years.

No Bush, no Cheney, no Rumsfeld, no Bachman, John McCain relegated to a short speech out of prime time and Sarah Palin was not only not invited to the convention, but her scheduled appearances on Fox were cancelled as well, leaving her sitting in Alaska whining to the country on Facebook.  

 

 

Fact Checking Ryan

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

 

Well, you gotta give it up to Paul Ryan for a great convention speech. Veteran political reporter Howard Fineman said it was the best speech he has seen at any party convention and that’s a lot of conventions. But if Ryan gets an A for delivery, he gets an F for truthfulness.

Johathan Cohn has a good summary of the 5 major misrepresentations in the speech.

1) The plant that he argued Obama was responsible for letting close was shuttered during the last months of the Bush Administration. Not to mention the fact that (whatever you think about the auto bailout) it’s hard to argue that things would have been better for auto workers across the Rust Belt without it.   

2) Ryan attacked Obama on cuts to Medicare in order to fund Obamacare, but neglected to mention that under the two budgets he authored in the House, he maintains Obama’s cuts in Medicare while simultaneously cutting the benefits that were part of the Affordable Care Act. Ironically, if you’re a real budget hawk, keeping Obama’s cuts to Medicare can be seen as the right thing to do, but (contrary to their rhetoric that it’s responsible) Mitt Romney’s fairytale budget restores the cuts while simultaneously giving more tax cuts to the rich and providing no details on the imaginary deductions that he will eliminate in order to pay for all of these budget busters. 

To be sure, Obama and the Congressional Democrats left themselves wide open to this attack by making those cuts, but they were part of a larger deal expanding benefits under Obama:

Obamacare’s cut to Medicare was a reduction in what the plan pays hospitals and insurance companies. And the hospitals said they could live with those cuts, because Obamacare was simultaneously giving more people health insurance, alleviating the financial burden of charity care.

But that paragraph won’t fit on a bumper sticker, so you can see why Romney’s pollster stated that they “won’t let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers

3) Ryan blamed Obama for the downgrade of the US credit rating, but this ignores that there wouldn’t have been a downgrade if the Republican House of Representatives hadn’t politicized the debate about the debt ceiling in an unprecedented way.

4) Ryan blames Obama for the increase in debt, but the short lived stimulus is a paltry addition to our deficit over the next decade while the Bush budgets are a huge part of this problem if they’re allowed to stand. And guess who voted for those budget’s: Paul Ryan.

Still, Ryan should boost his grade with some extra credit for the giant brass balls he displayed last night with his statement that

We have responsibilities, one to another – we do not each face the world alone. And the greatest of all responsibilities, is that of the strong to protect the weak. The truest measure of any society is how it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves.

Cohen again:

The rhetoric is stirring—and positively galling. Analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that 62 percent of the cuts in Ryan budget would come from programs that serve low-income people. And that’s assuming he keeps the Obamacare Medicare cuts. If he’s serious about putting that money back into Medicare, the cuts to these programs would have to be even bigger.

Paul Ryan’s a slick guy, and he delivered a good speech. But the Democrats get their rebuttal next week, and they’d be foolish not to point out the many falsehoods in Ryan’s speech and the hypocrisy of this candidacy.

The Campaign of Hate

Monday, August 27th, 2012

Couldn’t resist a comment on Mitt Romney’s “Campaign of Hate” statement.

I get where Romnney’s coming from: He’s been outmatched and run around by Alexrod throughout this campaign, who has consistently taken advantage of every gaffe and misstatement, and hasn’t missed an opportunity to go after Republican nutjob surrogates throughout the campaign. I also get the whole division thing. Obama’s campaign is based on the George Bush and Karl Rove’s 2004 model that drove me crazy as I watched them use all the Guns, God, and Gay’s tricks they had up their sleeves against John Kerry.

But a Campaign of Hate? That’s taking things a little too far.

Remember, Romney’s a guy who has been running for president for 6 years, but has run such a negative campaign to get to this place that he has failed to offer a credible positive case for his candidacy. This is a guy who demolished Perry, Gingrich and Santorum with avalanches of negative ads anytime offered a serious challenge to him. It’s a guy who has spent more than a year traveling around the country bashing the president, who has made common cause with the worst demagogues of his party in order to boost his candidacy and who belongs to a party that has attacked this president with an unprecedented amount of partisanship, obstructionism and vitriol, regularly resorting to racist accusations that he wasn’t born in the United States and was a “secret Muslim” Manchurian candidate.

As I’ve said before about Mitt Romney, this guy has brass balls.

Of course, there was an easy counter for this: the president himself, who appeared his usual relaxed self with the First Lady on Entertainment Tonight from Iowa. Juxtaposing the clip of Romney with Barack and Michelle makes Romney’s speech laughable.    

No secret what’s going on here. Romney has realized that his normal “the economy is bad” attacks aren’t working and that his negative image probably isn’t going anywhere. Barring an ability to get his image out of the muck, Romney wants to bring the president down to his level.

Good luck to Romney on that one. The American people have had almost four years to see this president in action. He doesn’t bear any resemblance to the caricature that Republicans have tried to make out of him.

The GOP’s War on Voting

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

As we get closer to the election and it remains a tight race between Obama and Romney, more attention is being paid to the obviously coordinated efforts of GOP legislatures and executive branch officials to suppress turnout by Democrats. These efforts range from the relatively innocuous sounding efforts to require voter ID, to an instance in Ohio where the Republican Secretary of State collaborated with local election officials to keep polls open later in Republican counties, while maintaining the same voting hours in Democratic counties.

One of the best summaries of these attempts was included in an Ari Berman article in Rolling Stone last year, which is worth quoting at length:

All told, a dozen states have approved new obstacles to voting. Kansas and Alabama now require would-be voters to provide proof of citizenship before registering. Florida and Texas made it harder for groups like the League of Women Voters to register new voters. Maine repealed Election Day voter registration, which had been on the books since 1973. Five states – Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia – cut short their early voting periods. Florida and Iowa barred all ex-felons from the polls, disenfranchising thousands of previously eligible voters. And six states controlled by Republican governors and legislatures – Alabama, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin – will require voters to produce a government-issued ID before casting ballots. More than 10 percent of U.S. citizens lack such identification, and the numbers are even higher among constituencies that traditionally lean Democratic – including 18 percent of young voters and 25 percent of African-Americans.

Since January, six states have introduced legislation to impose new restrictions on voter registration drives run by groups like Rock the Vote and the League of Women Voters. In May, the GOP-controlled legislature in Florida passed a law requiring anyone who signs up new voters to hand in registration forms to the state board of elections within 48 hours of collecting them, and to comply with a barrage of onerous, bureaucratic requirements. Those found to have submitted late forms would face a $1,000 fine, as well as possible felony prosecution.

This portion of the Florida law led to the League of Women voters cancelling all voter registration drives in Florida. It was eventually overturned by the courts.

Berman’s article goes on to discuss early voting, which initially had bipartisan support until it was used to great effect by the Obama campaign in 2008.

Florida and Ohio – which now have conservative Republican governors – have dramatically curtailed early voting for 2012…. early voting will be cut from 14 to eight days in Florida and from 35 to 11 days in Ohio, with limited hours on weekends. In addition, both states banned voting on the Sunday before the election – a day when black churches historically mobilize their constituents. Once again, there appears to be nothing to justify the changes other than pure politics. “There is no evidence that any form of convenience voting has led to higher levels of fraud,” reports the Early Voting Information Center at Reed College…

By far the most common change in voting laws were the passage of voter ID laws in multiple states.

The campaign was coordinated by the American Legislative Exchange Council, which provided GOP legislators with draft legislation based on Indiana’s ID requirement. In five states that passed such laws in the past year – Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin – the measures were sponsored by legislators who are members of ALEC…

In Texas, under “emergency” legislation passed by the GOP-dominated legislature… signed by Gov. Rick Perry (and subsequently blocked by the Obama Administration) a concealed-weapon permit is considered an acceptable ID but a student ID is not. Republicans in Wisconsin, meanwhile, mandated that students can only vote if their IDs include a current address, birth date, signature and two-year expiration date – requirements that no college or university ID in the state currently meets.

The voter ID laws are great vehicles for the GOP, because on the surface they seem like relatively benign, good governance measures. But let’s be clear about what those laws mean. They mean that in many states this year, old ladies who have been voting for years will show up at the voting booth this year and be turned away. And even better for Republicans, studies have shown that people most likely to not possess ID are disproportionately black, Latino and young (groups that, not coincidentally, vote overwhelmingly for Democrats).

Berman again:

roughly half of all black and Hispanic residents in Wisconsin do not have a driver’s license, and the state staffs barely half as many DMVs as Indiana – a quarter of which are open less than one day a month. To make matters worse, Gov. Scott Walker tried to shut down 16 more DMVs – many of them located in Democratic-leaning areas. In one case, Walker planned to close a DMV in Fort Atkinson, a liberal stronghold, while opening a new office 30 minutes away in the conservative district of Watertown.

In Pennsylvania, where a new voter ID law just went into effect, the state department of transportation recently reported that over 750,000 registered voters (or 9%) do not possess photo ID cards issued by the department. While this law does allow other forms of ID such as student ID with expiration dates, military ID, government ID and passports to be presented, there is no doubt that many people will be disenfranchised. If you don’t believe that, just listen to the Pennsylvania House Majority Leader, who was caught on tapeearlier this year bragging about his accomplishments including, “Voter ID, which will allow Mitt Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania – done.”

But surely, cases of people impersonating other people in order to cast ballots for their candidates are widespread. After all, Fox News talks about this so much that they have a “Vote Fraud Unit” dedicated to reporting on these cases.

Well, not exactly: impersonating another person in order to vote would be a very inefficient way to affect an election and a recent study showed only 10 recorded cases of someone impersonating another voter in the last 12 years. This is 1 incident for every 15 million registered voters in the United States. 

I understand the political appeal of those voter ID laws, but we have to look at the consequences as well. Does disenfranchising large sections of the population in order to prevent something that almost never happens make sense? More importantly, it should be difficult for any fair minded person to look at the raft of legislation passed by Republican politicians since 2010 and not see this for what it is: a coordinated Republican attempt to rewrite the rules for their own benefit after a landslide election. 

This is what happens in emerging third world democracies. It shouldn’t be happening in what is supposed to be the beacon of democracy for the world.

Ryan Pick Is Turning Point for The Campaign

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

Mitt Romney’s surprise pick of Paul Ryan to be his running mate may prove to be a significant turning point in the presidential campaign. While many Democrats (including myself) are looking forward to a debate on the plan to gut Medicare that Newt Gingrich called “Right Wing Social Engineering,” fiscal conservatives are excited to have an opportunity for a referendum election that would open up the possibility of a real mandate for their plans to dramatically cut the social safety net and re-distribute the tax burden in this country. Aside from the political consequences, it is clear that Ryan’s nomination offers an opportunity to refocus the country on a debate about the fundamental values that we want America to embody in the decades to come.

Steve Benen commented on Saturday that Democrats are practically giddy over the choice of Ryan. As I wrote previously, the key to Obama’s re-election was to shift the campaign away from a referendum on Barack Obama to a choice between two competing alternatives. The Bain attacks were the first part of this strategy, and with the softening up of Romney complete, Obama had already turned away from the focus on Romney’s business career and towards attacking his fiscal plans for the country. While “Romney Hood’s” own plans provided ample targets for Obama, a significant part of the campaign was to eventually be focused on tying Romney to the Republican Congress and Paul Ryan’s Plan to end the guaranteed health care provided by Medicare and transform the program to a voucher program. With the pick of Ryan, Romney has effectively done the Obama campaign’s work for them.

In the meantime, the Romney camp’s original assumption was that the economy was the number one issue and that a stalled (or slowly growing) economy would effectively turn the country against Barack Obama, and voters would then turn to Romney as a viable alternative just as they turned to Reagan in the last days of the 1980 race. In recent months it has apparently come to the Obama campaign’s attention that Barack Obama is no Jimmy Carter and Mitt Romney is no Reagan: while Mitt Romney’s negatives continued to climb against the backdrop of the unrelenting attacks on his business experience and refusal to release his taxes, Obama largely maintained his standing and seemed to be widening his lead in a number of polls over the last week.

The fact that the usually conservative Mitt Romney campaign made the decision to go with such a high-risk pick  is in itself a tacit admission that their original strategy wasn’t working. As Ezra Klein notes “You don’t make a risky pick like Paul Ryan if you think the fundamentals favor your candidate. You make a risky pick like Paul Ryan if you think the fundamentals don’t favor your candidate.”

More importantly,

Ryan upends Romney’s whole strategy. Until now, Romney’s play has been very simple: Don’t get specific. In picking Ryan, he has yoked himself to each and every one of Ryan’s specifics….

It’s not just that Romney now has to defend Ryan’s budget. To some degree, that was always going to be true. What he will now have to defend is everything else Ryan has proposed. Ryan was, for instance, the key House backer of Social Security privatization. His bill, The Social Security Personal Savings Guarantee and Prosperity Act of 2005, was so aggressive that it was rejected by the Bush administration. Now it’s Romney’s bill to defend. In Florida.

Klein also argues that “the Romney campaign’s decision to pick Ryan (as opposed to Rob Portman of Ohio) is evidence that they feel they need to change the national dynamic, not just pick off a battleground state.” I agree with this sentiment, but there is still the possibility that the electoral college strategy was part of the calculation for Romney. A Romney win in Wisconsin would make Ohio or Virginia must wins for Obama, and a combination of Wisconsin and smaller states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and/or Colorado could become a winning strategy for the Romney campaign. Still, as Chuck Todd pointed out on Meet the Press today, while the Ryan pick moves Wisconsin from lean Democrat to the pure tossup category, it also opens other opportunities for Obama in states with aging populations like Pennsylvania, Florida and Iowa as the campaign turns to a more traditional Democratic fight to save Medicare from (now very real) Republican assaults.

Like Ryan or not, one thing most people seem to agree on is that this is a ballsy pick for Romney. Ryan Lizza wrote that “Romney has made the most daring decision of his political career” and Alex Castellanos’ article on the pick was entitled “Romney mans up”: 

Sometimes… the smartest political thing to do is not the smartest political thing. It is, simply, the right thing for the country. A lot of Republicans and swing voters, as surprised by the Ryan choice as I was, will be energized that Mitt Romney manned-up, got serious, took a political risk for a purpose higher than himself, and chose a VP, not to help him win an election, but to renew our troubled country.

For that reason Ryan may also be brilliant politics. He is a serious, grown up choice when this country, in crisis, needs one.

This too is part of a re-branding strategy: after a campaign in which Romney was (and continues to be) pushed around by the right, his choice to turn into the Obama camp’s line of fire is an attempt to show political courage for one of the first times in his political life and to change the public’s image of him as weak and ineffectual.

Re-branding aside, the Ryan pick offers an important turning point for this campaign.  Mika Brezinski has called this cycle the Seinfeld election: an election campaign about nothing. Despite the high stakes for the country, we have been more focused on Mitt Romney’s taxes, whether he outsourced jobs at Bain, whether contraception should be covered by health insurance plans and whether Obama thinks business owners didn’t build their own business. These issues have their place, but they are peripheral to the debate about what kind of country we are going to have for decades to come.

The Ryan plan is a serious shift in the way our country percieves its responsibilities to the elderly and the less fortunate among us as well as who bears the tax burden in the country. It rightly deserves to be the focus of a debate. Politically speaking, the good news for Mitt Romney is that we’re not talking about his taxes anymore. The bad news is that we’ll now be talking about whether it makes sense to throw Medicare out the window in order to give more tax cuts to the top 2%. But there are political perils for President Obama as well. As the Ryan Budget increasingly occupies the debate, the President will face pressure to offer a realistic plan of his own (not to mention questions about why he hasn’t so far), which could alienate others in the electorate. Ryan provides risks for both sides, but also a potential upside for Americans hungering for a real debate on where we are headed as a country.