Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mutual Admiration Society

You scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours.

Presumably, that was the unspoken agreement between President Obama and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie before they viewed together the tremendous devastation along the New Jersey shore wrought by Hurricane Sandy.

The governor, who had cited "a great working relationship" with the President and stated "he has been outstanding on this" even before the storm hit, appeared with Obama before reporters in Brigantine in Atlantic County.     "I cannot thank the president enough for his personal concern and compassion for our state and the people of our state," Christie said before the President thanked his buddy for his "extraordinary leadership and partnership" and asserting the Governor "throughout this process has been responsive."

This is old-time politics at its best- with a twist.   Two politicians singing each other's praises.  While usually the guys are of the same party, in this case the Republican and the Democrat both are benefited by their show of bipartisanship.

Barack Obama will carry New Jersey easily next Tuesday, as he will adjacent New York State, where stations in the largest media market in the nation will carry these feel-good images.     In Pennsylvania, though, The Philadelphia Inquirer yesterday reported

Restore Our Future, the pro-Romney super PAC run by former aides to the Republican nominee, is spending $2.1 million over the campaign's final week to attack President Obama in the state, including $1 million devoted to the expensive Philadelphia media market.

That's on top of $1.1 million in airtime purchased by Americans for Job Security, a conservative group that does not have to disclose its donors because it is organized under the tax code as a trade association.

Pennsylvania is, thankfully, still a long-shot for the Repub nominee.   Further, there is nothing Philadelphia television stations enjoy covering more than anything, positive or negative, occurring along the New Jersey shore.   These visuals of a President, some of which probably will include Christie saying "he means what he says," will play well in the Pennsylvania suburbs of Philadelphia, a prime swing area (not necessarily a prime area for swingers).   And if independent voters in Virginia, Ohio, Colorado, Iowa, and Florida see on network or local broadcasts a Republican governor gushing over a Democratic president, it's all the better.

Shots of the New Jersey governor praising the Democratic president are hardly going to hurt Christie when he faces re-election in the predominantly Democratic state next year.  Additionally, giving a boost to the incumbent President, aching to be recognized as the bipartisan die-hard he has governed as, helps cut the legs out from Mitt Romney.   If the GOP nominee scores an upset on Election Day, there is no Chris Christie presidential run in 2016.

And make no mistake about it:  Chris Christie, though earlier in the campaign a surrogate for the GOP ticket, is praying hard for Mitt Romney to lose.     He notably, and significantly, has not invited his party's nominee to tour the Jersey shore with him.  And few can completely forget Christie's keynote speech at the Republican National Convention, when he treated Romney-Ryan as an afterthought while he slapped himself so often on the back he had to begin chiropractic treatment once he returned to New Jersey (not really- the slaps were figurative).

Please don't be fooled.  Cultivating a relationship with the President of the United States in order to gain greater assistance from the federal government for the people of his state is smart policy, as well as politics.   But the photo op- on the part of both the governor and the President- was a photo op and little else.

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Monday, October 29, 2012

Hot Air

Mitt Romney wants you to know that, before he finishes breakfast on January 21, 2013, he will declare mainland China a currency manipulator.

He told us so in the last presidential debate, when he maintained

They’re making some progress; they need to make more. That’s why on day one, i will label them a currency manipulator, which allows us to apply tariffs where they’re taking jobs. They’re stealing our intellectual property, our patents, our designs, our technology, hacking into our computers, counterfeiting our goods.

He had told us in the second presidential debate, when he contended

We lose sales. And manufacturers here in the U.S. making the same products can't compete. China has been a currency manipulator for years and years and years. And the president has a regular opportunity to label them as a currency manipulator, but refuses to do so.

On day one, I will label China a currency manipulator, which will allow me as president to be able to put in place, if necessary, tariffs where I believe that they are taking unfair advantage of our manufacturers.

And he did so way, way back in December, 2011, when he remarked during a CBS television interview (as part of a report obviously favorable to the ex-governor) "The actions a president can take are, No. 1, to declare China a currency manipulator. And under our law, that allows the president to apply tariffs in places where the president believes that China's practices are killing American jobs."

Few issues better demonstrate Romney's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde persona than his China rhetoric.   In a fair and balanced (no, really) manner.    Business Writer George Hohmann of The Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail describes the response of the President  to Chinese tires flooding the U.S.A. early in the Obama Administration, explaining  

Charleston native Charlotte Lane was serving on the U.S. International Trade Commission when the United Steelworkers brought the case against Chinese tires in 2009. Lane, who finished her eight-year term on the commission last year, now practices law in Charleston. She remembers the tire case well.

Most disputes like the China tire case are brought under the law that says tariffs can be imposed if products are being dumped at prices below cost. But the tire case was brought under a provision that says tariffs can be imposed if, for any reason, a product is coming into the country in such huge amounts it is disrupting industry.

Lane recalled that she voted in the majority when the U.S. International Trade Commission found, in a 4-2 decision, that Chinese tires were disrupting the U.S. market.

The commission's recommended remedy: impose a 55 percent tariff on Chinese-made passenger tires for the first year, a 45 percent tariff the second year and a 35 percent tariff the third year.

President Obama chose to impose a 35 percent tariff the first year, 30 percent the second year and 25 percent the third year.

Lane recalled that the tire case "was a really big deal" while she was on the commission. "Interestingly enough, the provision the tire case came under was added when China came into the World Trade Organization in 2001," she said.

"There have been several market-disruption cases," she said. "The others, (then-President) George Bush turned down. This is the only one where the President imposed tariffs.

"It was really interesting because most cases are brought by industry," she said. "This one was brought by the United Steelworkers." (The United Rubber Workers merged with the steelworkers union in 1995).

"It was interesting from a political standpoint because it was brought shortly after the President took office, brought by a huge labor union, and with the backdrop that a President had never put tariffs on a product under this provision.

"It was clear when we looked at it that market disruption was taking place, domestic workers were being injured." Under the law, six to nine months prior to the expiration of the tariffs, Obama could have asked the International Trade Commission to investigate whether the tariffs needed to continue. He did not do that. The tariffs expired Sept. 26.

In an article in the current issue of the United Steelworkers' magazine titled, "Tire Tariffs Worked," the union noted that it brought the case against Chinese tires.

The article reports that after the trade commission found that the tires were damaging the U.S. industry, "the Obama administration acted on its recommendation to impose a graduated tariff of 35 percent the first year, 30 percent the second year and 25 percent the third year."

Not mentioned in the article is the fact that the trade commission actually recommended higher tariffs.

The union reported that the tariffs Obama imposed worked.

The tariffs "allowed many American tire manufacturers to maintain stability and return to profitability in the aftermath of the global economic crisis and prolonged recession that followed," the article quotes Steelworkers International President Leo Gerard as saying.

The article goes on to quote Gerard as saying, "Because the tariffs were so effective, extending them to a fourth year could have resulted in compensation being paid to China, so we refused to pursue an option that could potentially reward China for its actions.

"There should be no doubt that President Obama's decisive action and leadership at a critical time saved the domestic tire sector," Gerard said.

But Alex MacGillis of The New Republic has the audio, video, and transcript to get a better idea of Mitt Romney's sentiment as recently as 2009, when Romney engaged in a luncheon discussion of the Foreign Policy Initiative, a neo-conservative organization founded by William Kristol.  It's safe to assume that few of the attendees were industrial workers whose jobs were endangered by cheap imports from Asia, including the behemoth the candidate now seems so exorcised with.     Answering a question "regarding China and our protection of the tire manufacturing industry." Romney commented, in part

To the 50 people who lose their jobs, it’s a very bad idea, and they will resist with great energy and passion the idea of allowing horses to draw plows because it will make their life far more uncertain, at best. Those of us who stand back a bit say, no no no, don’t you understand that by having these plows and releasing those 50 people that someone, one of them or someone else is going to come up with something else for them to do? Making chairs, making movies whatever that is going to make everyone better off. More productivity will make everybody wealthier and more successful...

(Employees, corporations) the shareholders and all the wealth owners, capitalists behind the tire industry are saying don’t let those foreign tires in here, it’s gonna hurt me. And it will -- as those tires come in it does hurt them directly, and therefore what their response is, their immediate response is, don’t let them in. But if that’s what their response is, my experience is over time, they will lose out slowly but surely...

So putting barriers up, trying to put walls up, in my opinion is a defeating strategy and will yield ultimate decline and collapse....

So, long story short, the wrong answer for America’s workers and for the wealth of every citizen of this nation is to try and put up barriers to stop competition, either domestic competition or competition from abroad.

Facing off with Obama in Boca Raton, Romney argued " They’re stealing our intellectual property, our patents, our designs, our technology, hacking into our computers, counterfeiting our goods."   But as MacGillis concludes, "there was one time Obama stood up to China.  And Mitt Romney, speaking behind closed doors to a 'sophisticated audience,' explained why he was wrong to do so.

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Roots Of Benghazi Political Strategy

On September 11 (timeline, from The New York Times, here), preceding the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya that left four Americans dead, the Embassy in Egypt issued the following statement:

The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.

That night (the following morning, in the Middle East) GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney

I'm outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It's disgraceful that the Obama administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.

This statement was released 14 minutes after Politico reported it had been told by an Administration official "The statement by Embassy Cairo was not cleared by Washington and does not reflect the views of the United States government."    Politico noted also the statement (issued two minutes before the Politico article) from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton concluding "There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind."

At the time, however, few if any noted that Romney's hyper-partisan, opportunistic, and irresponsible remark represented a critical tactic in his political strategy.   In the second presidential debate, Romney was slapped down by Candy Crowley and Obama for his Libyan myth making and at the third debate took a pass on the issue.   But now, longtime Democratic strategist Mark Shrum has noted that Romney previously

had pursued the exploitative path he had foreseen in a little-noted part of the notorious “47 percent tape.” After referring to Jimmy Carter’s failed hostage-rescue mission, in which eight U.S. service members died, he told the assembled plutocrats: “If something of that nature occurs, I will work to find a way to take advantage of the opportunity.” I suspect his last round of debate prep included the warning that the president could clock him with that quote if he renewed his push on the Libyan issue, which had stunningly embarrassed him a week before when moderator Candy Crowley had told him he was wrong—that the day afterward, Obama had called the killing of the American ambassador a “terrorist act.”

At the time pursuing the Repub presidential nomination, Mitt Romney assured the assembled millionaires at the famous Palm Beach fundraiser

And yet, in that election, in the Jimmy Carter election, the fact that we have hostages in Iran, I mean, that was all we talked about. And we had the two helicopters crash in the desert, I mean that's—that was—that was the focus, and so him solving that made all the difference in the world. I'm afraid today if you said, "We got Iran to agree to stand down a nuclear weapon," they'd go hold on. It's really a, but…by the way, if something of that nature presents itself, I will work to find a way to take advantage of the opportunity.

There is nothing like a tragedy- ideally, a terrorist attack- to fuel Republican campaigns.  It worked in 2004 for George W. Bush and Romney figured it would work for him in 2012.    In this case, it bought the GOP nominee a lot of grief- but it did draw greater attention to a terrible incident which could be exploited by a candidate who really, truly wants voters to believe that President Obama is endangering the security of the United States.   And it further raises the question of why Barack Obama has gone nearly mum on a tape which fully, and uniquely, reveals the nature of his opponent.

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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Change Of Heart

One person said all of the following about Colin Powell (h/t* to Max Bergmann and Brad DeLong):

after Powell's selection as Secretary of State, on NBC Nightly News on 12/15/00:   "I'm exuberant over the prospect of his [Colin Powell] stewardship of American foreign policy. There's a lot of very dangerous places in the world due to the fecklessness of the Clinton administration"; and the following day on the same program:  "I think his credentials and his charisma will have a significant effect, a beneficial effect, on the conduct of American foreign policy."

when asked for an assessment of the General (I think) on CNBC on 4/20/04:  "Well, Colin Powell's one of the most honest men that I've ever known and I admire and respect him enormously, and so obviously I'd take his word for it." 

upon Powell's departure from State, to the New York Times on 11/15/04:  "When he took the helm at the State Department nearly four years ago, I was confident that Secretary Powell would lead with honor and distinction.   I have not been disappointed."

upon being asked about torture on CBS on 3/9/08: "I don't know the answer to that. I think one of the failures maybe was not to listen more to our military leadership, including people like General Colin Powell, on this issue."

upon being asked on MSNBC's Hardball on 4/23/03 whether President Bush was "blessed" to have Powell working for him:  "I think the president is blessed to have two extremely talented people (Powell and Rumsfeld), experienced people, working for him, and others, but particularly those two."

upon being asked by the Times on 7/13/08 about the U.S. response to genocide: "We have to have effective ways of addressing genocide. I know what you are leading to and that is Darfur, where Colin Powell, a man who I admire as much as any man in the world, person in the world, declared genocide in Darfur several years ago." 

Who is that masked man?  Last Thursday, he reacted to the endorsement by Colin Powell of President Obama for re-election by saying on the (Brian) Kilmeade and Friends radio program "General Powell, you disappoint us and you have harmed your legacy even further by defending what is clearly the most feckless foreign policy in my lifetime.”   The following day, he wrote “it was Colin Powell,with his testimony before the U.N. Security Council, that go us into Iraq.

If John McCain didn't exist, he'd have to be invented. It's never easy to predict how the consistently mercurial Arizona senator will react to anything.  In 2004 he would have taken Colin Powell's word for just about anything and admired him more than almost anyone else in the world, and now he's an apologist for fecklessness.

But give McCain credit for boldness, if nothing else.   In 2008, he was the lone presidential candidate of a major political party willing to accept public financing, and has been probably the leading senate supporter of campaign finance reform.   After recklessly placing a demagogue from Alaska on his ticket, he corrected a campaign supporter when she called Barack Obama "a Muslim," which, compared to the pandering and cowardice of the current GOP nominee, stands out as an act of remarkable political courage.

But criticizing a man who wears the uniform, anyone whose first name is "General," is a risky proposition with little political upside.  Just ask MoveON, which was roundly condemned for its largely accurate ad criticizing General David Petraeus, then in charge of the U.S. war effort in Iraq. Two years later Petraeus was appointed top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, after which the situation in Afghanistan deteriorated.    Now General Petraeus inarguably remains one of the most admired individuals in the nation, and General Powell is not far behind.    John McCain, bless his heart, is one of the most entertainingly impulsive.

*pretentious term used by bloggers for "hat tip"

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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Collateral Damage

The president of Request Foods, a processed food company, has written in his company's newsletter "The past 4 years with President Obama, trying to lead and represent us, has been a complete failure."  In his five-paragraph message, Jack DeWitt summarized

What can we do? What am I going to do? I am going to vote on November 6 for new hope and change by voting for Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and Pete Hoekstra. I hope you will join with me, so we have a better America with less government, less taxes, less regulations, and lower gasoline prices. I believe that voting in these folks would also help lower the number of abortions and enable Request Foods to manage its own health care costs.

He's not alone in his sentiments.  In an eleven-paragraph e-mail to all his employees, David Siegel, founder and CEO of Westgate Resorts (which describes as a "huge national timeshare company and one of the largest resort developers"), sounded a similar alarm.  He wrote (or typed) in a message replete with a sense of entitlement and victimization

The economy doesn't currently pose a threat to your job. What does threaten your job however, is another 4 years of the same Presidential administration. Of course, as your employer, I can't tell you whom to vote for, and I certainly wouldn't interfere with your right to vote for whomever you choose. In fact, I encourage you to vote for whomever you think will serve your interests the best...

So where am I going with all this? It's quite simple. If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current President plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company. Rather than grow this company I will be forced to cut back. This means fewer jobs, less benefits and certainly less opportunity for everyone.

So, when you make your decision to vote, ask yourself, which candidate understands the economics of business ownership and who doesn't? Whose policies will endanger your job? Answer those questions and you should know who might be the one capable of protecting and saving your job. 

The Koch brothers, as the leading supporters of right-wing and Republican causes, obviously aren't going to be left out.   In a voter information packet mailed to all 45,000 employees of its subsidiary, Georgia-Pacific, Charles and David said in part

If we elect candidates who want to spend hundreds of billions in borrowed money on costly new subsidies for a few favored cronies, put unprecedented regulatory burdens on businesses, prevent or delay important new construction projects, and excessively hinder free trade, then many of our more than 50,000 U.S. employees and contractors may suffer the consequences, including higher gasoline prices, runaway inflation, and other ills.

Enclosed with the letter was a flyer [PDF] listing Koch-endorsed candidates, beginning with Romney. Robertson’s letter explained: “At the request of many employees, we have also provided a list of candidates in your state that have been supported by Koch companies or by KOCHPAC, our employee political action committee.”

Mike Elk of In These Times, which broke the story, added

The packet also included an anti-Obama editorial by Charles Koch [PDF] and a pro-Romney editorial by David Koch [PDF]. The letter went on to say, “We believe any decision about which candidates to support is—as always—yours and yours alone, based on the factors that are most important to you. Second, we do not support candidates based on their political affiliation.”

In the flyer sent to Oregon employees, all 14 Koch-backed state candidates were Republicans.

The effort will be boosted this coming week as the National Federation of Independent Business (which backs Romney as it does other Republicans) is holding a session to train its members to get its employees out to vote.  The effort to intimidate workers is yet another reason to overturn the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision which, Elk states, " "overturned previous FEC laws prohibiting employers from expressing electoral opinions directly to their employees."    And it is taking place in an environment relatively favorable to corporate profits.

The Motley Fool has compared average annual corporate profit growth under the past nineteen presidents and found, using January 2008 profit levels as a starting base, it has increased by 6.8% under Obama, higher than that under 14 of the 18 remaining chief executives.  Using as a starting base the month (January 2009) this president took over (as the site did with the other fellows), Obama's record is far more startling, as the graph below indicates.

But Obama has an unfair advantage- he's a Democrat (technically, anyway).  Fox Business (!) in early September noted

history actually shows that the U.S. economy, stock prices and corporate profits have generated stronger growth under Democratic administrations than Republican ones

According to McGraw-Hill’s (MHP ) S&P Capital IQ, the S&P 500 has rallied an average of 12.1% per year since 1901 when Democrats occupy the White House, compared with just 5.1% for the GOP.

Likewise, gross domestic product has increased 4.2% each year since 1949 when Democrats run the executive branch, versus 2.6% under Republicans. Even corporate profits show a disparity: S&P 500 GAAP earnings per share climbed a median of 10.5% per year since 1936 during Democratic administrations, besting an 8.9% median advance under Republicans, S&P said.

DeWitt's plea for support of the right candidate is remarkable given that his company, Zach Carter and Jason Cherkis of The Huffington Post explain, "obtained $5.5 million under a federal grant program that Obama's stimulus bill increased by $1 billion," helping it to hire at least 250 additional employees, and has increased markedly its sales during the administration of the Great Socialist.   Township Supervisor Terry Nienhuis of Holland, Michigan, where the money was used for a new water treatment plant to serve a new facility, said "They are growing strong.  They didn't seem to be affected by it at all.  In fact, I think that was one of their strongest growing periods.  Yeah, they're doing well. They are providing very important jobs for people who are having difficulty finding employment."  

So perhaps these executives (who built it on their own) have a reason, beyond enthusiasm for the candidate of the 1%, to oppose Barack Obama.    As Business Insider revealed (graphs below) in June, just as wages as a percent of the economy (third graph) and employment as a percentage of the population (second graph) are at an all-time low, corporate profit margins (first graph) are at an all time high.   So maybe DeWitt and others have worked it out rationally, believing that in a Romney administration, jobs will decline, wages will decline, and corporate profits accordingly rise.   Crazy like a fox.

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Friday, October 26, 2012

A Feeble Attempt To Demean A President

"If Barack Obama opens up," Donald Trump promised yesterday on YouTube (video below), "and gives his college records and applications and if he gives his passport applications and records, I will give to a charity of his choice — inner city children in Chicago, American Cancer Society, AIDS research, anything he wants — a check, immediately, for five million dollars.”  He will be "happy," the Humble One claims "when he does that to my satisfaction, if it's complete..."   As befits a stunt intended to humiliate the President of the United States, Obama would have to comply by October 31 (Halloween).

Of course, little Barack Obama can do would satisfy Donald Trump and anything he turns over likely would be deemed incomplete.  But no matter.  When asked (video, below) by Jay Leno about Trump's obsession with him, the President smartly quipped "This all dates back to when we were growing up together  in Kenya."

Great line, excellent delivery. Like the late Arlen Specter, he could have a great career in stand-up (or as in this case, sit-down) when his political career ends, probably in four years.

But good humor (not this Good Humor) can go only so far.   Better yet would have been a counter-offer from the President: "I'll be glad to release my college records and passport applications and records" simultaneously with Mitt Romney releasing ten years of his tax returns.

Barack Obama was no more likely to make that offer than Mitt Romney wa sto accept it.    In three debates, the President mentioned "tax returns" as often as he did "Bain":  never.   Explaining (apparently approvingly) today on Hardball the endorsement by Colin Powell of Barack Obama, Thomas Ricks noted "Colin Powell is an Eisenhower Republican.  But guess what? So is Barack Obama."

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Extreme Partisanship

Richard Mourdock (I first typed "Todd Akin" for some reason) has come under a lot of criticism for remarking "I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."

Arguing that God wants a rape to result in pregnancy is clearly outrageous.  But Mourdock responded to a question, in a debate with Democratic challenger Joe Donnelly, about his view of abortion in the case of rape or incest.   In May, Mourdock made another outrageous statement, and that not in a debate or under pressure to pander to a Fox News audience, but to a liberal audience.    Asked by Chuck Todd on the at least nominally liberal (or at least pro-Obama), Todd happily admitted "I certainly think bipartisanship ought to consist of Democrats coming to the Republican point of view. … If we [win the House, Senate, and White House], bipartisanship means they have to come our way, and if we’re successful in getting the numbers, we’ll work towards that."

That not only says more about the GOP Senate nominee in Indiana, but quite a bit more about today's GOP than a callous, radical remark about abortion or rape.

In April, Huffington Post's Sam Stein recounted the description by Robert Draper in the newly published "Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives" about a meeting hours after President Obama's inauguration in which

the guest list that night (which was just over 15 people in total) included Republican Reps. Eric Cantor (Va.), Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), Paul Ryan (Wis.), Pete Sessions (Texas), Jeb Hensarling (Texas), Pete Hoekstra (Mich.) and Dan Lungren (Calif.), along with Republican Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), John Ensign (Nev.) and Bob Corker (Tenn.). The non-lawmakers present included Newt Gingrich, several years removed from his presidential campaign, and Frank Luntz, the long-time Republican wordsmith. Notably absent were Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) -- who, Draper writes, had an acrimonious relationship with Luntz.

For several hours in the Caucus Room (a high-end D.C. establishment), the book says they plotted out ways to not just win back political power, but to also put the brakes on Obama's legislative platform.

"If you act like you're the minority, you're going to stay in the minority," Draper quotes McCarthy as saying. "We've gotta challenge them on every single bill and challenge them on every single campaign."

Senate Majority Leader McConnell was not left out, however, declaring two years ago "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."

This has been reflected in the near-unilateral opposition of the GOP to President Obama's initiatives, as displayed in the graph (from Jon Perr) below:

Additionally, the graph, from political science professors Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthal (via ThinkProgress), demonstrates how the U.S. Congress has become increasingly conservative as Senate (second graph) Republicans have moved rightward and House (first graph) Republicans sharply rightward while congressional Democrats have not changed Republicans have lurched rightward and Democrats (contrary to elite media opinion) have been ideologically stable:

The Senate has followed suit, with filibusters far more common since Barack Obama became President than ever before, as revealed by the graph (from McClatchy) below:

Over the year, the Repub Party has become increasingly radical.  But under this President, as Jonathan Bernstein has argued, it's not about "conservative vs. liberal, conservative vs. moderate, or extreme conservative vs. conservative" but about "radicalism and irresponsible behavior, not ideological extremism."

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Crowley Retreats Into Safety

Perhaps you remember this moment from primary campaign 2012:

King asked Gingrich to respond to allegations by his ex-wife that in 1999, Gingrich asked her to have an open marriage with him.

"Would you like to take some time to respond to that?" asked King.

"No, but I will," responded Gingrich, receiving loud, sustained applause from the audience.

"I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office. And I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that," he said.

The audience gave Gingrich a standing ovation.

Months earlier, in a debate in Nevada, Mitt Romney tried to goad Rick Perry into a fight by putting his left hand onto the Texan's right shoulder during a heated discussion (at :33 in the video below).If Perry had responded as most of us would have, brushing Romney's hand off his shoulder or taking a swing at him, voters would be casting their ballots in two weeks for Barack Obama or Newt Gingrich.

In the first general election debate, the GOP nominee successfully bullied Jim Lehrer.  Martha Raddatz of ABC was chosen as moderator of the vice presidential debate by the Commission on Debates, which received approval from both presidential campaigns.   Barack Obama had attended Raddatz's wedding to a friend of his whom he later appointed to the FCC.   The wedding took place in 1991, the divorce in 1997, but conservatives charged bias.   Really. 

In the second presidential debate, Romney imperiously told the President by "you'll get your turn" and frequently cut off moderator Candy Crowley.  And then there was the signature exchange of the debate:

CROWLEY: Governor, if you want to...

ROMNEY: Yes, I -- I...

CROWLEY: ... quickly to this please.

ROMNEY: I -- I think interesting the president just said something which -- which is that on the day after the attack he went into the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror.

OBAMA: That's what I said.

ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror.
It was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you're saying?

OBAMA: Please proceed governor.

ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.

OBAMA: Get the transcript.

CROWLEY: It -- it -- it -- he did in fact, sir. So let me -- let me call it an act of terror...

OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy?

CROWLEY: He -- he did call it an act of terror. It did as well take -- it did as well take two weeks or so for the whole idea there being a riot out there about this tape to come out. You are correct about that.

Not being stupid or naive Crowley, presumably, imagined the firestorm that would be coming after she pointed out merely that the President had called the Benghazi attack "an act of terror."Following the debate, and anxious to head off inevitable , outrage from Republicans from fact-challenged Republicans, Crowley chatted (video, below) with Anderson Cooper and rationalized "I did turn around and say "But you're totally correct that they did spend two weeks telling us this was about a tape, and that there was this riot outside the Benghazi consulate, which there wasn't."  So he was right in the main, I just think he picked the wrong word."

Crowley apparently didn't say whom she turned around to talk to, nor why she would turn around in the middle of a debate.  Nor did she say what the 'wrong word' was.   Was it terror, act, spontaneous, or demonstration which a guy reportedly worth a quarter of a billion dollars who wants to be the leader or the Free World doesn't understand?

Words matter.   An attack occurs.  The next day, the President declares "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.  Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America."  Later, his opponent claims "it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghzi an actof terror."   Now, Candy Crowley is reading Mitt Romney's mind.  She just knows he must have meant something other than what he said, that he merely "picked the wrong word."   

This mirrors Romney's entire campaign, wherein he routinely denies saying something for which he is on record.  Teachers? I don't want them fired; "I love teachers."  China: we need to keep flooding the market with Chinese tires but "on day one I'll label them a currency manipulator.    Auto industry? "I like American cars. And I would do nothing to hurt the U.S. auto industry."   That wasn't me who wrote "Without that bailout, Detroit will need to drastically restructure itself. With it, the automakers will stay the course — the suicidal course..." 

There is a reason Mitt Romney used "the wrong word."  If he had said that after the President had declared it an "act of terror," Obama emphasized the spontaneous nature of the event, voters would have heard Romney acknowledge that Obama  had immediately labeled it as terror.  If he had argued that while Obama recognized it immediately as terrorism but the State Department emphasized an alleged spontaneity, voters might recognize that the President and (U.N. Ambassador) Susan Rice are not identical.  And in neither case would the charge have the emotional, gob-smacking quality of "it took the president 14 days" before he blamed Arab terrorists.   It would have had the advantage of not being a lie but, hey, this is a campaign, and this is the Republican nominee for President.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012


It is what Jews refer to as "chutzpah."   Unfortunately, it might work.  In a race against a president whose entire administration has been characterized by an effort to promote bipartisanship and who has embraced compromise at every opportunity, Mitt Romney included in his closing statement last night

America's going to come back. And for that to happen, we're going to have to have a president who can work across the aisle. I was in a state where my legislature was 87 percent Democrat. I learned how to get along on the other side of the aisle. We've got to do that in Washington. Washington is broken. I know what it takes to get this country back. And we'll work with good Democrats and good Republicans to do that.

Romney had the last word last night, Obama's closing statement having preceded it.   But the President had opportunities earlier to counter Romney's pretensions to bipartisanship, and whiffed.

The former governor tried it last night on education:

MR. ROMNEY: The first — the first — and we kept our schools number one in the nation. They're still number one today. And the principles that we've put in place — we also gave kids not just a graduation exam that — that determined whether they were up to the skills needed to — to be able to compete, but also, if they graduated in the top quarter of their class, they got a four-year tuition-free ride at any Massachusetts public institution of higher learning.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: That happened — that happened before you came into office.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Governor —

MR. ROMNEY: That was actually mine, actually, Mr. President. You got that fact wrong.

The details of the program to which Romney referred appear are more complicated than he let on and the public school system in Massachusetts excelled well before Mitt became governor.  But those are mere details relevant to the argument, and this is an election campaign.   Obama got caught up in details when he should have said something akin to what Massachusetts Senator, former Democratic presidential nominee, and Obama debate prepper (you got a better word for it?) John Kerry noted on this morning's Daily Rundown with Chuck Todd.   "In Massachusetts," the candidate who dominated George W. Bush in the debates of 2004 said, "people know him well.  He's 20-25 points behind in his home state... People who know him the best like him the least."

Democrats were so fond of their state's governor, so impressed at his ability to reach across the partisan aisle, that Romney (facing near-certain defeat) decided not to run for re-election and instead focused on running for president.  Obama might have mentioned that his opponent is not even contesting his home state and, as Kerry pointed out, it has been decades (56 years, to be precise) since a sitting or former governor lost the state he served as governor.

Massachusetts is a liberal and Democratic state.  But the former governor is running behind the sitting president also in all its bordering states, Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and New Hampshire.  Barack Obama should have told Mitt Romney that all the states which best knew Mitt Romney are the most eager to vote against him.

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A Throwback summarizes

"McCarthyism," as the hunt for communists in the United States came to be known during the 1950s, did untold damage to many people's lives and careers, had a muzzling effect on domestic debate on Cold War issues, and managed to scare millions of Americans. McCarthy, however, located no communists and his personal power collapsed in 1954 when he accused the Army of coddling known communists. Televised hearings of his investigation into the U.S. Army let the American people see his bullying tactics and lack of credibility in full view for the first time, and he quickly lost support. The U.S. Senate censured him shortly thereafter and he died in 1957.

So what does this have in common with Monday's showdown in Boca Raton (or, as the "in crowd" or "cool" ones have it, "Boca") or the 2012 presidential campaign generally?

There is one thing.  The website explains also

During a speech in Wheeling, West Virginia, Senator Joseph McCarthy (Republican-Wisconsin) claims that he has a list with the names of over 200 members of the Department of State that are "known communists." The speech vaulted McCarthy to national prominence and sparked a nationwide hysteria about subversives in the American government.

Speaking before the Ohio County Women's Republican Club in Wheeling, West Virginia, Senator McCarthy waved before his audience a piece of paper. According to the only published newspaper account of the speech, McCarthy said that, "I have here in my hand a list of 205 [State Department employees] that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping the policy of the State Department." In the next few weeks, the number fluctuated wildly, with McCarthy stating at various times that there were 57, or 81, or 10 communists in the Department of State. In fact, McCarthy never produced any solid evidence that there was even one communist in the State Department.

There are only two politicians, one of them Newt Gingrich, who with a national profile effectively combine the charisma and demagoguery of the late Senator from Wisconsin.  The other is the former part-term governor of Alaska, who responded to the third presidential debate in part by declaring

I think President Obama certainly showed his desperation tonight with not only his mannerisms, with all of his interruptions and seemingly angered responses, but his false charges," she said. "And he is trying to make up for lost ground, of course, because the president’s lies are catching up with him. It’s unfortunate that Gov. Romney didn’t have time to answer all the false charges. I made a couple of pages of a list of the false charges.

Palin made it easy for us, even saying "I made a couple of pages a list" rather than "I recorded two pages of false charges."    It was worth noticing also that though she carved out for herself an extremely conservative persona, Palin was effusive in her praise of a candidate who last night sounded more like the late George McGovern (minus the integrity, decency, knowledge, or war record) than Ronald(6) Wilson(6) Reagan(6), Bob Dole, or even George Herbert Walker Bush.

Unfortunately, McCarthyism "did untold damage to many people's lives and careers, had a muzzling effect on domestic debate on Cold War issues, and managed to scare millions of Americans" before the Wisconsin Senator made the cardinal sin of (unjustly) attacking a branch of the United States military.   But the analogy breaks down here.   Sarah Palin has little impact because she has virtually no credibility.  Were she more than a curiosity with a cult-like following, she would have herself run for her party's nomination instead of selling out for a huge payday writing books, giving speeches, and gabbing in front of the Fox News cameras.

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China And The Candidates- Perfect Together

That would be Osama, Mr. Schieffer.   When Bob Schieffer asked President Obama and Mitt Romney at the third presidential debate (transcript here) about Pakistan, he got a little (to be generous) tongue-tied (emphasis mine):

All right. Let me go to Governor Romney because you talked about Pakistan and what needs to be done there. General Allen, our commander in Afghanistan, says that Americans continue to die at the hands of groups who are supported by Pakistan. We know that Pakistan has arrested the doctor who helped us catch Obama's — bin Laden. It still provides safe haven for terrorists, yet we continue to give Pakistan billions of dollars. Is it time for us to divorce Pakistan?

The question provided Mitt Romney yet another opportunity to reverse course on a position he previously held, as well as an additional chance to agree with the President.   His response included "And I — I don't blame the administration for the fact that the relationship with Pakistan is strained. We had to go into Pakistan; we had to go in there to get Osama bin Laden. That was the right thing to do."

Although Barack Obama rarely agreed with his opponent (and had little reason to do so), he concurred in one notable instance.  After Romney responded to a query about his pledge to declare mainland China a currency manipulator, the President began by stating "Well, Governor Romney's right. You are familiar with jobs being shipped overseas, because you invested in companies that were shipping jobs overseas. And, you know, that's your right. I mean, that's how our free market works."

Mentioning "you invested in companies that were shipping jobs overseas" is weak, obviously reluctant, criticism, especially when your opponent has been financially immersed with the Communist Chinese (oops, sorry, Chinese).   The motive for suspension of use of Bain Capital by the Obama campaign is becoming clearer.     Barack Obama simply does not agree with the line of attack.  Shipping jobs overseas may be a part of the free market, but the Democratic candidate- the Democratic candidate- does not have to applaud Mitt Romney's decision to make tens of millions of dollars by sending American jobs abroad.   And that is precisely what the President argued:  "And, you know, that's your right.  I mean, that's how our free market works."  Hooray for the free market and the loss of middle-class jobs.

This is hardly a mere oversight.   Obama's support for the transfer of jobs to other nations, primarily to Asia and especially to mainland China, appears to be the reason he went through 90 minutes in the third presidential debate without once mentioning the word Bain or the phrase offshore accounts.   And 90 minutes in the second presidential debate.  And 90 minutes in the first presidential debate.  It may be, further, why he did not call Romney out on the likelihood that, if his record is any guide, the former private equity manager will not declare China a currency manipulator on Day 1, Day 100, or Day 1461.

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Monday, October 22, 2012

In Principle

There were a couple of curious elements in one of the responses of Republican Marco Rubio on Sunday's This Week with George Stephanopoulos.   Defending his party's presidential nominee on his stance on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the Florida Senator remarked "I think anyone who is working out there and making a living -- if you're the most qualified person for the job, you should be able to get paid, you should get paid as much as your male counterpart.  Everyone agrees with that principle."

It might be nitpicking to point out that Rubio recognized agreement with "with that principle," rather than "with that,"  and that he couldn't quite say "Mitt Romney (and I)," grudgingly employing the generic "everyone."

Clearly, though, Rubio (who voted against the LLA) and, more importantly, nominee Romney, oppose the legislation.   Presumably, Mitt Romney has no objection to an employer choosing to pay women equally to men.  But if the employer is able to keep the pay inequity hidden long enough, he (or, less likely, she) is in the clear, with the employee unable to file an action alleging wage discrimination.

Further, there is question whether Romney even agrees with the "principle" that a woman should get paid as much as her male counterpart.   Asked at the second presidential debate specifically about "pay equity," Romney remarked (in full)

Thank you. And (sic) important topic, and one which I learned a great deal about, particularly as I was serving as governor of my state, because I had the chance to pull together a cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men.

And I -- and I went to my staff, and I said, "How come all the people for these jobs are -- are all men." They said, "Well, these are the people that have the qualifications." And I said, "Well, gosh, can't we -- can't we find some -- some women that are also qualified?"

And -- and so we -- we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet.
I went to a number of women's groups and said, "Can you help us find folks," and they brought us whole binders full of women.

I was proud of the fact that after I staffed my Cabinet and my senior staff, that the University of New York in Albany did a survey of all 50 states, and concluded that mine had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America.

Now one of the reasons I was able to get so many good women to be part of that team was because of our recruiting effort. But number two, because I recognized that if you're going to have women in the workforce that sometimes you need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school.

She said, I can't be here until 7 or 8 o'clock at night. I need to be able to get home at 5 o'clock so I can be there for making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school. So we said fine. Let's have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you.

We're going to have to have employers in the new economy, in the economy I'm going to bring to play, that are going to be so anxious to get good workers they're going to be anxious to hire women. In the -- in the last women have lost 580,000 jobs. That's the net of what's happened in the last four years. We're still down 580,000 jobs. I mentioned 31/2 million women, more now in poverty than four years ago.

What we can do to help young women and women of all ages is to have a strong economy, so strong that employers that are looking to find good employees and bringing them into their workforce and adapting to a flexible work schedule that gives women opportunities that they would otherwise not be able to afford.

This is what I have done. It's what I look forward to doing and I know what it takes to make an economy work, and I know what a working economy looks like. And an economy with 7.8 percent unemployment is not a real strong economy. An economy that has 23 million people looking for work is not a strong economy.

An economy with 50 percent of kids graduating from college that can't finds a job, or a college level job, that's not what we have to have.

Whatever Marco Rubio is trying to sell us, there is nothing in there about equal pay.  Quite the contrary- Romney applauds employers who grant women job flexibility, which might result in lower pay.   On follow-up, the former governor stated "I'm going to help women in America get good work by getting a stronger economy and by supporting women in the workforce."

No one knows what "supporting women in the workforce" means, though apparently it does not mean requiring employers to pay women on an equal basis to men.   No doubt as President, however, Romney would be in favor of "a stronger economy," particularly compared to the current crop of GOP members of Congress, who have sabotaged President Obama's every effort to strengthen the economy.

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

An Open And Shut Case To An Open And Shut Mind

In his 2010 book No Apology: The Case for American Greatness, Mitt Romney accused President Obama of continually apologizing for the nation.  Now shamelessly exploiting the recent attack on our consulate in Benghazi, Romney on September 11 told reporters "I think it's a terrible course for America to stand in apology for our values, that instead when our grounds are being attacked and being breached, that the first response of the United States must be outrage at the breach of the sovereignty of our nation.  An apology for America's values is never the right course." At the second presidential debate, the Repub candidate claimed "the president's policies throughout the Middle East began with an apology tour and pursue a strategy of leading from behind, and this strategy is unraveling before our very eyes."

Romney's claim at Hofstra that "it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror," as well as the "apology tour" he imagines, have been thoroughly debunked, the latter even by Politifact.   His contention, however, that "the administration indicated this was a reaction to a video and was a spontaneous reaction," is not completely ludicrous, given that there were conflicting statements from administration officials in the weeks following the attack.

But the charges that all the violence there was assiduously planned, and that the Administration therefore did not with one voice immediately and consistently label it as nothing more than a terrorist plot for nefarious political purposes, are way over the top.      David D. Kirkpatrick of The New York Times reports

To Libyans who witnessed the assault and know the attackers, there is little doubt what occurred: a well-known group of local Islamist militants struck the United States Mission without any warning or protest, and they did it in retaliation for the video. That is what the fighters said at the time, speaking emotionally of their anger at the video without mentioning Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden or the terrorist strikes of 11 years earlier. And it is an explanation that tracks with their history as members of a local militant group determined to protect Libya from Western influence.

“It was the Ansar al-Shariah people,” said Mohamed Bishari, 20, a neighbor of the compound who watched the assault and described the brigade he saw leading the attack. “There was no protest or anything of that sort.”

To the simplistic Republican mind (but I repeat myself), angry Muslims were involved, and any suggestion of spontaneity is tantamount to apologizing for America.   But the Muslim world- especially- Islamists but including the 'Arab street'- have complaints (legitimate or otherwise) against the U.S.A., including the Iraq War, U.S. support for Israel, and the Administration's extensive use of drone attacks, causes Mitt Romney is hardly critical of.

Arguably, the attack was of a terrorist nature but precipitated by the video; unarguably, intelligence was imperfect. Initial intelligence reports suggested the likelihood that the militants had reacted to the distasteful and offensive anti-Muslim video.  But counter-terrorism veteran extraordinaire Richard Clarke cautions

I dealt with scores of incidents and military operations over 30 years in the Pentagon, State Department and White House. I never saw a case where there was initial and accurate clarity about what happened.

In the case of TWA 800, the FBI thought for months that it had been shot down by a missile, only to learn much later that it was a maintenance problem that caused the fuel tank to explode. When the destroyer Cole was attacked in Yemen, it took the CIA director weeks to decide that the attackers were from Al Qaeda . The Iranian hand in the attack on the U.S. Air Force barracks at Khobar, Saudi Arabia, did not emerge for months.

News media and members of Congress may want instant answers when something explodes, when Americans die, but national security professionals know that “first reports are always wrong.” That is why, when pressed by reporters to say what had happened, UN Ambassador Susan Rice qualified her response by saying that the investigation was ongoing. She then said what the intelligence community had reported to her at that time.

The Washington Post's David Ignatius writes

“Talking points” prepared by the CIA on Sept. 15, the same day that Rice taped three television appearances, support her description of the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate as a reaction to Arab anger about an anti-Muslim video prepared in the United States. According to the CIA account, “The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate and subsequently its annex. There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.”

It would never occur to Mitt Romney, who blasts the Administration for not definitively and consistently laying the blame entirely on "terrorism," to question the nation's primary agency responsible for gathering intelligence, upon which the Administration relied.   Its head, tellingly, is David Petraeus, and one never is to question the sainted General.

The Times' Kirkpatrick concludes

United States intelligence officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, have said they intercepted boastful phone calls after the fact from attackers at the mission to individuals affiliated with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. But they have also said that so far they had found no evidence of planning or instigation by the group. James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, described the participation of individuals “linked to groups affiliated with or sympathetic with Al Qaeda” — acknowledging, at best, a tenuous or indirect link.

“It is a promiscuous use of ‘Al Qaeda,’ ” Michael Hanna, a researcher at the Century Foundation, said of those charging that Al Qaeda was behind this attack. “It can mean anything or nothing at all.”

The Cold War, with the United States on one side and the Soviet Union, is over, a situation little understood by Mitt Romney, who maintains that Russia and not terrorism, Iran, or nuclear proliferation is the greatest threat to world peace.    Contemporary world affairs is complicated and confusing to a lot of us, but we don't have the temerity to present ourselves as fit to be leader of the Free World.

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Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Republican Media:  No. 36

Can a couple of otherwise fine institutions at least be a little less obviously biased? The following is one of the exchanges, pertaining to Libya, during which Barack Obama sliced and diced Mitt Romney at the debate at Hofstra University in Long Island:

Obama: "The day after the attack, governor, I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people in the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened -- that this was an act of terror -- and I also said that we're going to hunt down those who committed this crime."

Romney: "I think interesting the president just said something, which is that on the day after the attack he went into the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror."

Obama: "That's what I said."

Romney: "You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror. It was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you're saying?"

Obama: "Please proceed, governor."

Romney: "I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror."

Obama: "Get the transcript."

Politifact (Tampa Bay Times) and (Annenberg Policy Center, University of Pennsylvania), inarguably two of the leading fact checkers in the political world, took a curious approach to assessing the veracity of Romney's claim.   They noted (as Obama did on Tuesday) that the day after the attack on the American consulate in Libya, the President stood in the Rose Garden and declared "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation."

The two fact-checkers concede Obama the following two days again  used the word "terror" to describe the incident.  On September 13 he asserted in Colorado "I want people around the world to hear me:  To all those who would do us harm, no act of terror will go unpunished. It will not dim the light of the values that we proudly present to the rest of the world.  No act of violence shakes the resolve of the United States of America."At a fundraiser in Nevada the following day he declared "And we want to send a message all around the world -- anybody who would do us harm:  No act of terror will dim the light of the values that we proudly shine on the rest of the world, and no act of violence will shake the resolve of the United States of America."

In a bizarre turn of events, FactCheck then argues "Romney isn't entirely wrong. Romney claimed Obama refused for two weeks after the Benghazi attack to call it a terrorist attack and, instead, blamed it on a spontaneous demonstration in response to an anti-Muslim video that earlier that day triggered a violent protest in Egypt."  Politifact rates Romney's claim "half true."

Politifact reasons that after September 12, "neither (Obama) nor all the members of his administration spoke consistently on the subject. There were many suggestions that the attack was part of demonstrations over an American-made video that disparaged Islam."  FactCheck maintains "We cannot say if there was a deliberate attempt to mislead the public or whether, as the administration says, the conflicting statements in the weeks after the attack were the result of an evolving investigation. We’ll leave that for readers to decide."

Mitt Romney did not say "there were conflicting statements by the Administration following its original acknowledgement that a terrorist attack had taken place."  Nor did he say "the confusion exhibited by the Administration reflected reluctance by the President to identify the act clearly as one of terrorism."    If he had, those claims could have been evaluated on their own merits.  Or Romney might have argued that greater security had been requested for the consulate, and dared the President to blame the congressional Republicans for having blocked additional security funding and now undergoing a deathbed conversion.

Instead, the former governor said this: "it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror."   The attack began on September 11.  On September 12, in a statement which addressed the situation in Libya and only Libya, the President said "no acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation."   Twelve (9/12) minus eleven (9/11) equals one- not 14- except, apparently in the land of some fact-checkers.

In language Politifact would recognize:  "we rate" the claim of Mitt Romney, and of those who believe he was not grossly inaccurate, as "pants on fire."

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This  is a reasonable question. If going to a predominantly Jewish neighborhood to harass and intimidate Jewish people at a synagogue is no...