Posts Tagged ‘John Kerry’

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.

So Far So Good for Obama’s 2004 Model

Monday, August 6th, 2012

A few months ago, I wrote about how I thought that David Axelxrod’s model for this election was George W. Bush’s 2004 victory against John Kerry.

If that’s true (which I think it is), then so far so good.

In 2004 Bush ran a mostly negative campaign against John Kerry, the theme of which was basically: you may not be crazy about me, but this guy is much worse. In the period after Kerry was the inevitable nominee, but before the convention, Bush surrogates absolutely hammered Kerry with their disgraceful “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” ads.  They went after Kerry’s biggest biographical strength (his military service), and tried to denigrate it, suggesting that Kerry may not have earned the accolades he received in the military and therefore could not be trusted.

Similarly, Mitt Romney has staked the positive rationale for his candidacy on being the economy’s “Mr Fix it.” According to this biographical thread, his experience at Bain Capital makes him uniquely qualified to diagnose the issues with the US economy and provide the necessary fixes. But over the past month and a half, Obama and his surrogates have hit Romney hard on the Bain issue, effectively making the argument that Bain’s profits came mostly at the expense of outsourcing jobs in the United States and demolishing his claim to be a job creator. Romney’s rejection of calls to release his taxes have added to the negative perceptions of his business record, leading to suspicions that the Cayman Island and Swiss Bank Accounts detailed in his past two years of returns may be just the tip of the iceberg for Romney.

Romney allies initially gloated the the Bain attacks had not been successful, pointing to the fact that Obama’s margins have been steady throughout this period, while his campaign coffers were drained. But Mitt Romney’s increasingly negative ratings and Obama’s consistent lead in the swing states where these ads have been airing belies that assertion.  The 45% that Romney has been garnering in polls represents a kind of low-water mark for the Republican candidate since it is close to John McCain’s 2008 totals, so don’t expect him to go much lower. The question is whether he can get a large majority of the undecided voters given their negative feelings about him. For an alternate measure of how effective the Obama campaign has neutralized Bain as a positive issue for Romney, look how infrequently Romney mentions his job creating record at Bain during his campaign events.

A few weeks ago, at the height of the Bain controversy, Republican strategist Mark Murray pointed out that the sheer volume of negative campaign ads makes running on biography impossible in modern presidential campaigns and that — the Bain experience effectively demolished — Romney should shift a campaign about the issues. The problem with that advice is that Romney’s not positioned well for that strategy either. While President Obama spent the last four years positioning himself in the center of the electorate in order to win the general election, Romney has spent the last nine positioning himself to win the Republican nomination against people like Texas gun enthusiast and mental midget Rick Perry, paranoid social conservative Rick Santorum and all around demagogue, Newt Gingrich. Independent analysts have determined that Romney’s economic plan which is intended to lower taxes on the rich, will either need to be funded by exploding the national debt, or by eliminating tax breaks that the vast majority if the middle class depend on. The “Right-Wing Social Engineering” of The Ryan Plan has become almost a Republican litmus test and it relies on cutting the second most popular government program in order to (surprise!) lower taxes on the rich.   

Meanwhile, Obama continues to outperform Romney where it matters: in the swing states. Nate Silver, the EF Hutton of election prediction, now gives Obama a 71% chance of winning the Electoral College and Dan Balz points out that, 

nationally and in the battleground states, the consistency of Obama’s lead is striking. More than two dozen national polls have been conducted since the beginning of June. Obama has led in the overwhelming number of them.

Polls in the most contested states show a similar pattern. In three of the most important — Ohio, Florida and Virginia — there have been roughly three dozen polls total since April, about the time that Romney’s GOP rivals were exiting the nomination race. In Ohio and Virginia, Obama has led in all but a few. In Florida, Romney has done better, but overall, Obama has led about twice as often.

If Mitt Romney can’t make inroads in all three of these states, the election is basically over.

In summary, the 2004 model is looking good for the Obama camp. Obama’s job approval still lingers just below 50%, but the attacks on Romney have gone a long way towards diminishing him as a viable alternative. Last weeks jobs report was anemic by any standards, but it dashed Republican hopes to be able to claim that the economy has completely sputtered. The private sector has now had positive job creation for twenty nine consecutive months. Republicans counter that the economy should be bouncing back much more robustly, but this ignores the fact that this is an unprecedented global recession and that the United States’ economy is growing more than any other industrial country in the world. President Obama’s approval ratings by themselves show some evidence that Americans understand the extraordinary situation that the president was handed in 2008 and don’t hold him as responsible for economic conditions as the Republicans would like. 

To be sure, there is still an opportunity for Romney to turn things around, but he faces a limited number of opportunities to do this: namely,  the VP pick, the conventions and the debates. So far, Romney has provided the public a lot of reasons to vote against Barack Obama, but not very many to vote for Mitt Romney. The Romney camp hopes to start filling those details in with the upcoming convention…but has to be worried that Obama’s campaign has already started doing that for them.

Axelrod Hopes 2012 Mirrors 2004

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Over the past year, I’ve often thought of the 2004 presidential election as a model for Obama. In 2004 Bush’s approval rating hovered below 50% for most of the year, hitting 50% only in the days leading up to the election. A few weeks ago, former Bush strategist Matthew Dowd made the comparison and articles written last week by Howard Fineman and Thomas Schaller delve further into the parallels between the two elections.

As Fineman notes:

Starting with Richard Nixon in 1972, and moving on to Ronald Reagan in 1984 and George W. Bush in 2004, Republican incumbents assembled a strategic doctrine that includes the following basic plays: Stress culture, and exploit cultural and regional divisions, especially if doing so helps detract attention from a so-so (or worse) economic record. Declare one’s own strength as commander in chief and the opponent’s ignorance or weakness (or both) in military and foreign affairs. Paint the foe as out of the mainstream and/or elitist in terms of money, education or both. Highlight wedge issues to expand fissures in the other party. Where possible, speak in sweeping historical terms about the greatness and uniqueness of the country. And evoke symbols of manly recreational endeavor.

In one way or another, Barack Obama already has used all of those, and it is only May.

As Schaller notes, the comparisons to 2004 are even more apt when you consider the parallels between John Kerry and Mitt Romney. Both men are rich Massachussets blue-bloods from prominent families who have tried to run away from their past political history. Both have a penchant for squandering political advantage by sticking their foot in their mouth at inopportune moments and both have struggled to connect with everyday people.

As Thomas Friedman noted earlier this year, both Obama and Romney can be seen as running on the theme of “I’m not Mitt Romney.” While Obama is implicitly making the “You may not like me, but at least I’m not him” argument that Bush made, Romney is running away from his own Massachusetts legacy as fast as he can. Friedman bemoans the strategy from both sides as one that fails to deal with the serious issues we face as a country, but the experience of 2004 shows how effective it can be as an electoral strategy.