Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama’

4 People Died

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Well, after 3 months off, I had hoped to start with something more positive, but inspiration often comes from outrage, so I want to rant a little about what Joe Klein dubbed the Benghazi Circus back in November, and which any close viewer of politics can tell you is apparently still parked in Washington DC.

Last week, Senate Republicans bestowed on themselves the dubious distinction of being the first Congress ever to filibuster a Secretary of Defense nominee. The reasons for this vary (the main reason was to see if they could dig up a little more dirt on Chuck Hagel), but one cited by both Senators McCain and Graham is that they wanted the White House to release more information on the Benghazi attacks. This latest stunt is just one in a series dating back to the campaign, with the most prominent being Senator Ron Johnson’s ill advised attack on Hillary Clinton and the gentle smackdown provided by John Kerry the following day.

In order to understand the reasons that Republicans have wasted so much energy on the Benghazi attacks, you don’t have to look far. As Kevin Drum pointed out months ago, it’s the same thing that makes Republicans think that it would be good politics to hold the Attorney General in contempt of Congress over the “Fast and Furious” scandal that no one who doesn’t watch Fox had ever heard of, or that our electoral system has been severely compromised by Acorn and the six guys in the New Black Panther Party: Fox News. Even after the rest of the country had moved on, many Republicans continued to “very closely” monitor the story of “who knew what, when” after the Benghazi attacks. Why? Because it was on their TV every night.

Just to be clear, I’m not someone who thinks that there was no issue here. Clearly the White House soft pedaled the attack carried out on the anniversary of 9-11. While Susan Rice’s mentions of the “spontaneous response” to an anti-muslim video can be explained with reference to the talking points she was given by the intelligence agencies and the evolving reports from Benghazi,  President Obama’s repetitions of this incorrect narrative are harder to justify. In addition, there are lessons to be learned about how we protect our embassies in distant lands, many of which were detailed in the a State Department commissioned  report on the incident.

But let’s put this incident in historical perspective. President Obama shades the truth about four dead Americans and it’s a national tragedy that deserves months of media coverage, multiple hearings and the filibuster of a Secretary of Defense nominee who wasn’t even in the Obama Administration at the time. On the other hand, President Bush and his cronies lie our country into a war which results in the death of over a 100,000 people, including the death of 4,000 Americans and the maiming of tens of thousands of others, and there is nary a peep from those same Republicans. Where is the sense of proportion here?

Rand Paul, during the final Senate testimony of Hillary Clinton, said that if he were president he would have fired Secretary Clinton, and that the death of 4 Americans in Benghazi was the “worst tragedy since 9/11.”

First of all, Senator Paul, you’re not president, nor will you ever be president. And second of all, “the worst tragedy since 9/11″?! Were you sleeping through the entire eight years from 2000 to 2008? Again, 4 People Died. That’s a tragedy, and we mourn all Americans who die in service to this country, but were talking about 4 people, not the tens of thousands wounded in Iraq, not to mention the deaths of almost 2,000 Americans during Hurricane Katrina, or the many others who have died in mass shootings that could have been mitigated (if not stopped) if the GOP wasn’t completely in hock to the NRA.

Proportion, Republicans…

Proportion.

2012 (Not Quite) Final Results

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

Final 2012 Electoral College Map.

Obama managed the unlikely feat of winning 8 of the 9 swing states, losing only North Carolina. Not bad considering the challenges he faced.

The Democrats picked up of two seats in the Senate in an exceedingly difficult year, with the class of 2006 defending their seats. Scott Brown out in Massauchsetts, Claire McCaskill and John Tester re-elected, Tim Kaine takes the seat that Jim Webb won by less than 10,000 votes in 2006, an unlikely Democratic win in North Dakota,  the first openly lesbian Senator in Wisconsin…. No one would have predicted these results earlier in the year.

The House elections were less fruitful, in no small part a result of Republican gerrymandering that allowed Republicans to keep a 40 some seat majority even though they garnered less vote share than Democrats. One small ray of sunshine on this front is that some of the most annoying Tea Party candidates like Joe Walsh and Alan West are on their way to defeat (Michele Bachman managed to escape by about 400 votes).

All in all, not too shabby.

Avalanche On Bullshit Mountain

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

John Stewart’s classic look at the moment the Republicans realized they had lost and tried to justify it to themselves. 

What an incredible story to tell yourself: We would have won were it not for the moral failings of the non-real America. Fox lost because last night minorities, who feel entitled to things, came and took the country from the self sufficient white Medicare retirees and upper class tax avoidance experts, or as they’re also known, your audience.

Perfect.

Reality Pierces Republican Bubble

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

Last week’s election was a big victory for President Obama and the Democrats.  But aside from a win for the Democrats, the election was also a win for the pollsters — you know, the trained statisticians who make their living surveying public opinion? These guys were under attack this year by Fox News and the conservative media. According to the perpetually paranoid over at Fox News, the pollsters who were showing Obama leading in the Electoral College for the entire year were just as liberally biased as the overwhelming number of scientists who believe in global warming and the statisticians in the Bureau of Labor Statistics who showed a decline in the unemployment rate in the run up to the election.

Even to the bitter end, Fox contributor and Harvey Fierstein impersonator Dick Morris was predicting an electoral college landslide for Romney, and the conservative media bought it hook line and sinker. I always try to keep Mark Twain’s maxim about statistics in mind, but when you have different polls with varied methodology all telling you something that’s at odds with your view of the world, that’s a pretty good indicator that your assumptions might be incorrect. Morris was contrite this week, explaining that he assumed a turnout more in line with 2004, but it’s not clear that there was any evidence to suggest this except the personal opinions of him and others on Fox.

I was having this debate months ago with my conservative uncle whose comeback for “the polls are showing you behind” was always “not according to Scott Rasmussen.” Rasumssen was was the king of the 500 person automated poll which assumed a strong Republican turnout based on responses to questions regarding party identification. Rasumussen’s polls consistently showed a Republican bias of a few points, which can make a real difference in a close election. But a little knowledge can be dangerous and Rasmussen’s polling bred a cottage industry of bloggers contesting the polling in the presidential race by adjusting the party identification mix the pollsters were predicting based on their interviews. The website unskewedpolls.com was the most prominent of the naysayers and they “specialized” in taking other peoples polls and recasting the results by adding more Republicans to the mix.

Meanwhile, the conservative media shills needed to find a visible scapegoat and they found it in Nate Silver, a statistician who turned to election prediction in 2007. Silver had a great record in 2008, predicting every state except Indiana for Obama. In the wake of that election, he was hired by the New York Times as a blogger, where (in case you were wondering) he did well predicting the Republican Congressional landslide year of 2010 as well.

Silver’s model was projecting an Obama win for most of the year based on his narrow but steady lead in the Electoral College polls. Oftentimes, his percentage prediction of an Obama win seemed over-optimistic, so you could quibble with the confidence level, but it’s hard to look at a guy who leads for most of the year in enough electoral college states to win the presidency and argue that he’s not the favorite. Plus, this is a statistical model. One assumes that if Romney was showing the same swing state resiliency, then it would have shown the same result for him.

By the Monday before the election, Silver had Obama at an 85% chance of victory. Meanwhile, the folks at Fox were still telling their viewers that Romney had the momentum and was going to win this thing. Dick Morris, George Will and others predicted a Romney landslide. Perpetually smarmy Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan wrote a blog post that Monday in which she predicted Romney would win the election based almost completely on… a feeling she had. Business Insider called it “the most anti-Nate Silver column imaginable,” not because she spoke about or even alluded to Silver, but because her analysis was almost completely devoid of empirical facts. This seemed like bravado at the time — a way to embolden the troops before a big fight–but in the aftermath it looked like they spent so much time in their own bubble that they couldn’t imagine any other objective reality where a majority could vote for Obama. Last week James Fallows likened it to the dismay attributed to Pauline Kael in the wake of the 1968 election when she couldn’t imagine how Nixon could have won, since “no one I know voted for him.”

To a certain extent, this makes sense. If you spend all your time talking to white Republicans who think that Obama is leading this country on a dangerous slide to socialism, that’s going to color your analysis. To be sure, Romney did carry white voters by a big margin and if the electorate turned out to be as white as they all seemed to think it would be, then we would have been looking at President Romney. But with all of the evidence pointing the other way, these guys should have known better. I have to imagine that there’s more than a few Fox viewers this week who feel like they’ve been had.

It’s Demographics, Dummies

Sunday, November 11th, 2012


Today’s Meet the Press panel on the demographic bomb that helped to decide this election.

I joked this week that the good news for Mitt Romney is that he won the white vote decisively. The bad news is that it’s not 1952…

As Chuck Todd wrote the day after the election:

Yes, the auto bailout mattered in Ohio. Sure, Hurricane Sandy helped the president. And, yes, the economy was the No. 1 issue. But make no mistake: What happened last night was a demographic time bomb that had been ticking and that blew up in GOP faces.

Steve Schmidt points out that the last Republican to win 60% of the white vote was George H.W. Bush and he won 400 electoral votes as a result. This week, Mitt Romney won 206 with a similar percentage. Not only did Obama benefit from increased numbers of Hispanics in the electorate,  his get out the vote efforts brought out a higher percentage of African Americans in 2012 than in 2008, as well as (contrary to most predictions) increasing youth turnout, with 60% of 18-29 year olds voting for him. Romney also took a beating at the hands of single women, losing that demographic by a whopping 36%.

This trend was a long time coming for the Republicans, with George Bush winning 44% of Latino’s in 2004, John McCain winning 31% in 2008 and Romney winning only 27% this time around. If you want to understand the reason for this change, just watch some Republican debates from earlier this year. If you want to understand the single women margin, just watch Todd Akin’s infamous “Legitimate Rape” interview or Richard Mourdock’s “God’s Plan” comment, or read Virginia’s forced ultrasound bill.  As Matthew Dowd noted last week, the Republican party is “a Mad Men Party in a Modern Family world.”

Don’t get me wrong, I love watching Mad Men. I’d just rather live in the modern world, and apparently neither would most Americans.

 

Four More Years

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

Obama’s Firewall

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Sometimes I lag a little and someone writes the article I wanted to write. This Sunday was one of those days, when I awoke to John Cassidy’s article in the New Yorker. So I am writing the original post I wanted to write and stealing Cassidy’s graphic (above). Without any further ado…

It’s hard to overstate the damage Barack Obama sustained in the aftermath of his no show debate performance a few weeks ago. He basically ceded all of his post convention bounce and then some. Romney now has narrow but real leads in North Carolina, Florida and Virginia and has pulled even in Colorado. There is some evidence that the race has begun to stabilize, but it’s too early to speculate on whether Obama will be able to roll back those gains.

Still, amidst the bad news is a ray of sunshine for the president: For now at least, he has been able to maintain what amounts t0 a firewall in three to four states that give him a lead in the the Electoral College. Let’s assume that the President can’t count on North Carolina, Florida, Virginia or Colorado, but give him Pennslyvania. In this scenario, the most likely path to 270 for the President is through the states of Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa and/or Nevada.

The lynchpin of this firewall is Ohio, where President Obama has maintained a solid lead over Mitt Romney for the last year. In the few weeks after the first debate, Mitt Romney has made inroads on the seven point deficit he faced, but President Obama still holds a 2% lead in the Real Clear Politics average.

In traditionally Democratic Wisconsin, Obama holds a lead that is closer to 3%.  If Obama can win both Ohio and Wisconsin, he needs 6 more Electoral College votes, which he can get from either Nevada or Iowa, two states in which he currently leads by 3% and 2.5% respectively. In this scenario, New Hampshire is gravy for Obama, but if Romney is somehow able to swing Wisconsin, the president needs Nevada, Iowa and New Hampshire (which is currently a dead heat).

I think my electoral map looks pretty close to Cassidy’s. I had previously assumed that Nevada and Colorado would end up in Obama’s column. Both states polled extremely close in 2010′s Senate races, but both bucked the national tide and re-elected Democratic incumbents mostly on the strength of Latino and women voters.  Colorado has leaned more toward Romney in recent polling, but can still go either way. Assuming that it does go Romney’s way, I’d feel more confident in Nevada than in Iowa to provide Obama’s winning advantage. This is, after all, the state where Harry Reid greatly outperformed his final poll results in 2010 after he was all but left for dead. Iowa’s record has been more mixed, voting for Gore in 2000, for Bush in 2004 and for Obama by a large margin in 2008, but I feel pretty good about Iowa as well.

If Ohio is breached, Obama’s math gets much more difficult, but he can still pull it off if he sweeps Colorado and Nevada in the West, keeps Iowa in his column and adds New Hampshire.

Bottom line: Obama still has more paths to 270 than Romney does, but he can’t afford any further erosion.

Obama Bounces Back

Saturday, October 20th, 2012

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Great summary of the Obama-Romney debate from Chuck Todd on the Daily Rundown.

Todd notes that, if the debate ended at 10:10 Eastern Time, then it would have been called a draw, but then came the exchange on Benghazi. You could see Romney thinking that he had the president cornered when he said that he never called it a terror attack, but Obama was cool as a cucumber. Didn’t take the bait at all. He just said “Please proceed Governor Romney…”  Romney should have known something was up, but kept going.

Then Candy Crowley fact checked him right on the spot and Obama amplified it with “Can you say that a little louder Candy?”

Right or wrong, these debates often do turn on the little gaffes and momentum shifts and that Benghazi exchange was the key moment of the debate.

Boy, I’d hate to have been the aide who told Romney that the president never referred to it as an act of terror. Romney doesn’t seem like a very nice boss when things don’t go his way.

Obama closing the debate by bringing up Romney’s 47% comment for the first time was the coup de gras.

Altogether, a great debate performance by Obama. Too bad this guy didn’t show up for the first one.

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.