Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Madness of the Right, or Mitt Romney Baptises Dead People

The Republican primary has degenerated from farce to madness. The early days were fun. Who can forget the grin-inducing sight of Marcus Bachmann dancing gaily and unselfconsciously with his shell-shocked Raccoon of the Right Michele? And then there was the walking sexual harassment lawsuit that was Herman Cain and his remarkable rise to the top by dumbing it down so much even a Tea Partier could get it. And Rick Perry. Need we say more? Rick Perry. His decision to run, in a word – oops.

The humor is gone now, though, and only the madness remains. Newt Gingrich’s rhetoric ratchets desperately from grandiose to bellicose. He attends three separate church services in one day, raising the God bar to heavenly heights. Two Baptist churches and one Catholic were graced with the attendance of the sybaritic non-believer and his young homewrecker. At least in his crass play of the God card he shows a rational Machiavellianism. It is in Mitt Romney’s legitimately held religious beliefs that we see real madness.

Mitt Romney baptises dead people. A longtime practice of the Mormon church was to baptise deceased non-Mormons in order to bring them into the fold. Several popes, hundreds of thousands of Jews. Elvis. Some non-believers, including Edward Davies, the deceased atheist father of Mr. Romney’s wife Ann.

The Mormon church claims the baptism isn’t definitive, only that the deceased are offered the chance to become Mormon in the afterlife. A kind of neighborhood proselytizing beyond the grave, apparently, missionary work in the Undiscovered Country.

Apologists for the actions claim it’s no big deal, yawn, hardly more invasive than lighting a candle for somebody. Jewish groups have complained mightily, however, and the Mormon church alleges it stopped the practice in 1995. (Though there is evidence the practice of "proxy baptism" continues.)

Mr. Romney’s father-in-law was a committed atheist, considering all organized religion "hogwash." He died in 1992 and was baptised by the Romney clan a year after his death. We can think of no action more disrespectful to Mr. Davies’ belief system than this proxy baptism. Mr. Romney and the Mormon church have fired the first salvo of criticism and disrespect with their actions, and we consider Mr. Romney’s Mormonism fair game in the ongoing discussion of his credentials for the presidency.

For months we thought Mitt Romney was the only sane candidate in the midst of folly and farce. The more we learn about him, the more we suspect he is the nuttiest of them all.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Critical Mass.: Elizabeth Warren Vs. Scott Brown

Time out from Florida. Time out from Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and the months-long question that frames the GOP primary: Which clown will be the last one driving the car?

We turn to a different race, the critical Massachusetts Senate race of incumbent Republican Scott Brown against Elizabeth Warren, middle-class advocate and co-creator of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Not to up the ante too much, but the fate of America might hinge on this race.

It’s an odds-on favorite that the Republicans will hang onto the House of Representatives, and will probably pick up a few seats in the Senate, even if the President does win re-election. Most of the Senate seats that are toss-ups this election cycle include 6 Democratic incumbents and just 2 Republicans. Currently the Senate is 53-47 Democratic. Lose a net four seats and the Republicans hold the Senate.

Republican leader Grover Norquist has as much as promised impeachment hearings against the president, should Mr. Obama win re-election and the GOP controls the House and the Senate. (Yes, impeachment is an opposition tool, apparently, as it had been during Bill Clinton’s presidency. We wish the Democrats had remembered that during the George W. Bush years.) The Massachusetts race could very well be key in hanging onto the Senate for the Dems, and thwarting any attempt by the Republicans to play their impeachment games.

Scott Brown is a smart and charismatic Republican, such a rarity these days in the GOP that we really can’t think of anybody to compare him with. A former model and Cosmopolitan centerfold, he knows how to carry himself in the visual medium that is modern politicking. He’s laconic and attempts to straddle the political fence, hard to do for a Republican in Massachusetts. We saw the word "independent" quite a few times on his campaign website, but rarely saw the word "Republican." To paraphrase one of his best-known quotes, "People in the Republican Party vote for me, people in the Democratic Party vote for me...hell, people who just like to party vote for me." Cute.

Warren can beat him. She’s polling well, slightly ahead in a December poll, and she seems intent on running a serious, take-no-chances campaign, something her predecessor in the 2010 special election to fill the late Ted Kennedy’s seat failed to do. General consensus on Martha Coakley’s campaign for the Dems range from, She phoned it in, to Worst Senate campaign ever.

To reiterate, this is a key match-up, and we offer a link to a Daily Show interview on Ms. Warren’s campaign website:


We will follow this race closely, and other key House and Senate races.

We will return to Florida anon, where the campaigns and their helmsmen continue to beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The End of Newt Gingrich; the Ginned-Up Wrath of the Right

There is no Fountain of Youth in Florida. Newt Gingrich acts as old as his 68 years, turning in weary, sub-par debate performances, getting cranky with the reporters in his train, insisting he’s not going to drop out of the race regardless of what happens in Florida.

When they start insisting they’re not going to drop out of the race, you know they’ve been seriously talking about dropping out of the race.

The numbers: They’re tanking. Mr. Gingrich is down to Romney by over 10 points in the latest polls. Ten percent of the vote is already in, mail-in ballots sent when Romney was leading by almost 25 points. On Tuesday, primary day, Mr. Gingrich will begin a 40,000-vote underdog.

It’s all breaking bad for Newt Gingrich. He got the Herman Cain endorsement; following hard on the heels of the Todd Palin (dude!) endorsement, and the Sarah Palin just-short-of-an endorsement (the former Wasilla, Alaska, mayor has commitment issues). (We are following the burgeoning journalistic trend of referring to Mayor Palin with the title of the most recent job she did not abruptly quit in the middle). We call this endorsement trio the "triumvirate of doom" in political endorsement land. We await the George W. Bush endorsement, permanently sealing Mr. Gingrich’s fate.

Accompanying the poor debate performances, his moon-base insanity almost sealed his fate. Mr. Control the Budget wants a permanent moon colony by the end of his second term. He says it’s dreaming big. We say it's madness. And we say this as, we must admit, a long-time science fiction nerdy type who thinks a permanent moon-base would be not only awesome but, eventually, inevitable. We also know that the technology for it is nowhere near reality at the present, and that a plausible time-frame would be 80 years from now, not eight. The trillions of dollars it would cost, and the mobilization of the entire planet’s brain trust and resources, to do it in eight years is, in a word, impossible. As in Ain’t Gonna Happen. It’s Newt telling unemployed and under-employed space workers on Florida’s Space Coast what stuff he thinks they like to hear.

Finally, Mr. Gingrich’s very lame television commercials permanently sank his ship. The health care ads were the most visible, and the most ineffective. First off, he began the most prominent commercial with a sepia-tinted profile shot of Mr. Romney, trying to make him look scary. Count Dracula-like. We hate to point it out to the Romney camp, but the shot was the first time in this campaign that Mr. Romney has actually looked kind of cool. The commercial devolved into the typical attack line from the right wing, that Mr. Romney’s Massachusetts health care plan is pure evil, that it’s like President Obama’s health care plan, which is even more purely evil. Etc.

Really. Dear Right Wing Tea Partiers: Nobody is all that angry about health care plans. Truly. Neither Mr. Romney’s nor Mr. Obama’s. We don’t care, the undecided voters don’t care, and frankly, you don’t care. (We are reminded of the line from noted atheist Penn Jillette, who said – paraphrasing here – that he was such an atheist that not only did he not believe in god, he also didn’t believe that anybody else really believed in god, either.)

We don’t believe anybody on the right is all that upset about health care. It’s the Thing they’ve latched themselves to, like pissed-off little limpets who had to find something to grab hold of. This is what they’ve got to work with, so they try to get themselves all het up about it. If it weren’t health care it would be something else. They can’t stand there and scream that they hate President Obama JUST BECAUSE. They need an issue. This is it. And nobody cares.

Their anger is free-floating, personal. If it is attached to anything it is attached to the man: his foreignness (to them), his color, his brains, his ability to skewer whoever they put up against him. They can’t understand how a guy with a middle name of Hussein can be President of the United States. None of their friends can understand it, either. Their anger is not about issues or events. If they were event-oriented people, they would have been angry at the last president. They would have been angry at the incompetent fool who allowed New York City to get blown up. They would have been angry at the manipulators of the truth who lied through their teeth to drum up a pre-emptive war in Iraq, slaughtering thousands along the way just ‘cuz. The worst decisions by a president of the last hundred years occurred on the Bush watch. Where was the ire of the Good People of the Right Wing? Where was the shrillness as he wasted the Clinton budget surplus and ran up record deficits? Nah, no ire. No shrill. He was a good old boy. He talked like a good old boy. Mr. Yale Man rich kid elite snob SOB, but all he has to do is dumb down the speech patterns to Texas Moron and all the right wing lemmings loved him.

Now they howl, writhe, froth at the mouth in worked-up outrage at "health care." They don’t care, and beating that drum was a misstep by the Gingrich camp.

His day will soon be finished, and he will slouch back to the land of K Street lobbying, right wing punditry, golf with Donald Trump and indulging at random whichever of the Deadly Sins rears its temporary head. After Tuesday, Mr. Gingrich, we suspect we will be bidding you adieu.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Barack Obama on Attack; Real Clear Politics

The most useful site on the web for touting the great race of our time is Real Clear Politics (www.realclearpolitics.com).  A cornucopia of the latest statistics, it has dramatically updated today to show current totals in delegates, popular vote count, all current polling data, and so much more.

President Obama’s numbers are surging in polling match-ups. Against Newt Gingrich, for instance, the president is at +18 in the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. The NBC poll has him at +6 against Mitt Romney. Six weeks ago the numbers were much closer, with the president and Mr. Romney in a virtual tie.

Trend lines for Mr. Obama’s job approval rating has hovered around 50 percent for the past two years. Congressional approval rating in the same period has dropped substantially, from 30 to 13 percent. More than one Republican congress member looked rather nervous at the State of the Union address (we think especially of you, Mr. Cantor), as the president of late has changed tactics in dealing with the opposition, from attempting bipartisanship in the past three years to rather abruptly slapping them around.

With his recess appointment of Richard Cordray to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, President Obama gave a veritable flip of the finger to GOP obstructionists who seem a bit shell-shocked that Mr. Nice Guy has suddenly turned into Mr. Chicago. We expect Mr. Obama’s approval numbers to continue their rise; the presumption by the right wing has been that the president’s soft approval rating has indicated broad support for his opposition. That presumption has been incorrect. His less-than-stellar numbers have been from his supporters disapproving of his refusal to put boot to throat of obstructionist GOP members of Congress. As the bootheel (finally) begins to twist, we expect his approval rating to soar.

In the Florida primary, Mr. Romney is in the catbird’s seat. The latest polls show him at a solid +9 against his closest rival. And with some 10 percent of the vote already in, what with Florida’s mail-in voting option, Mr. Romney most likely has at least a 40,000-vote lead before polls open Tuesday morning. A big win in Florida will give the Romney camp the momentum to pretty much lock up the primary. Unfortunate. We would like the horse race to continue. The mud that gets kicked up sticks – sometimes permanently – to the horses’ asses.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Newt Gingrich On the Ropes -- GOP Lies About Housing Debacle

Newt Gingrich did himself no favors in last night’s debate. He needed to score some major body blows on front-runner Mitt Romney – he did not. He barely treaded water, ending up with no more than a tie in the must-win performance. Prediction markets capture the feeling surrounding his candidacy, with the likelihood of his winning the Republican primary falling to under 7 percent (down from 30 percent less than a week ago).

Rick Santorum and Ron Paul are increasingly non-factors. Santorum heads home today, no longer bothering to campaign in the winner-take-all state of Florida that he knows he can’t win. Ron Paul isn’t really angling to win – he has his message, he’s using this bully pulpit to broadcast it, and we assume he’s enjoying himself on some level.

It could be all but over on the Republican side after Tuesday.

Just as well. Bring on the real debate, between the pasha of plutocracy on one side, and the proponent of pragmatism on the other. The contrast will be stark between Mr. Romney and President Obama. We can trust the Republican candidate to do what Republicans always do, and as they did last night, warp reality to fit their ideology of unchecked, unregulated capitalism.

When asked last night what they would do about the housing mess, all four candidates fell back on their easy ideology and the talking point they’ve created to cope with it: The government created the mess, through the vehicles of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

In their lemming-like flight from reality, these four candidates – indeed, all Republicans – have re-written history for far too long. The housing debacle we are in was caused by unfettered capitalist excess, not government intervention. To reiterate: The housing crisis was created by unchecked oligarchs pushing bad loans and getting filthy rich in the process.

With increased deregulation and the consolidation of major banks, lenders no longer had to hang on to the housing loans they made. The numbers of bad loans mushroomed, with lenders realizing they could make a profit on ANY loan they made, as it could be passed up the food chain to a large investment bank. The investment bank then bundled the loans together and sold them as investment vehicles, bribing ratings agencies along the way to give the subprime loan bundles Triple A credit ratings. With no regulation going on anywhere, including the newly created investment casino-style games like CDOs and derivatives, the big players could make leveraged bets on almost any scenario, including huge bets on the decrease in value of the same mortgage investment bundles they were selling to investors.

Eventually trillions of dollars were in play, funny money leveraged to the point of absurdity, with Fed Chairman (and infamous Ayn Rand disciple) Alan Greenspan – and all other free market enthusiasts – thwarting any attempt to regulate the increasingly out-of-control leviathan.

Everything collapsed. The huckstering of easy loans at the ground level caused a frenzy in the housing market, pushing prices up and up. When the bubble burst, we could see what had happened: Unfettered capitalism did what it always does – it made a few people very rich and bollixed it up for the rest of it.

We remember wondering how the right wing would explain such a mess. We were quite certain they wouldn’t acknowledge that they had been so obviously wrong about the ability of unchecked, laissez-faire capitalism to produce the greatest good for the greatest number. We recall hearing the first of their salvoes, then what became their sole talking point on the issue: Fannie and Freddie. Fannie and Freddie. They found a couple agencies involved in the mortgage mess with government ties, and tried to pin the whole debacle on them. They did what Republicans did best: lie to their advantage, magnify their lie a thousand-fold through their hundreds of right wing media outlets (which scream incessantly of a "liberal media" HA), and worked to warp reality to fit their needs. (We are reminded of the Karl Rove dictum...Reality Is What We Say It Is....)

And what are those needs? What they’ve always been. To allow an unchecked capitalism to continue to produce wealth for the very few, at the very top, now and forever, amen.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Gingrich by the Numbers

Four hours until tonight’s GOP debate on CNN, the final debate before voting Tuesday for Florida’s winner-take-all primary. With a whopping 50 delegates up for grabs, a victory by Mitt Romney would nearly doom the Newt Gingrich candidacy.

Mr. Romney leads by 6-8 points in all the current polls, a dramatic shift from just a few days ago. Mr. Gingrich’s mediocre debate performance Monday night suggests the most likely reason for the shift. He is in the underdog position of having to score a near-knockout punch every time he and Mr. Romney enter the ring. A performance far short of that will not cut it. When attacked Monday, Mr. Gingrich tried the rise-above-it frontrunner approach, and it did him no favors. He must stay in attack mode without cease, or he will go down.

Newt Gingrich’s numbers in the prediction markets have plummeted in the past four days. From a peak of 30 percent (predicted to win the Republican primary) on Jan. 23, the day of the last debate, his likelihood to win the primary has dropped to 10 percent.

Those numbers – and the polls – undergo sudden shifts in this quirky primary, and a solid debate performance tonight could give Mr. Gingrich the uptick he needs to pull off the necessary upset in Florida. The audience will be geared up to make some noise, if for no other reason just to show those dang lib’ral moderators they can’t tell US what to do – and the bombastic Speaker has presumably prepared a number of blood-soaked quips to toss to the crowd.

If Mr. Romney plays the above-the-fray frontrunner, he leaves himself open for a desperate Newt-ron Bomb or two. It should be good. We are ready to rumble. We have snacks. They are not particularly Newt-ricious.

Republican Scapegoating, Angry White Men, and Newt Gingrich

The participant we most hope to hear from in tonight’s GOP debate is the audience. Muzzled on Monday by an unusually stern Brian Williams (the possibilities for humor are endless, but debate moderators have taken enough abuse of late), audience members responded with stoic acceptance. There was little to relish in the resulting chat-up, and it appeared obvious that the bombastic Newt Gingrich felt most hampered by the New Quietism.

Let the audience react! insists Mr. Gingrich, who has threatened not to participate in any future debate where the audience has been instructed to be silent. Yes! we agree. Loudly, with standing ovation.

The best thing about this multitude of debates has been the utter delight in knowing that all of America is getting to see Republicans being Republicans. What used to be done in back rooms, or "quiet rooms," as Mitt Romney terms his ideal of secretive government, what used to be done under the cover of white hoods and bed sheets, is now made public, for all of America to see. Let America see Republicans cheering for the death penalty and the unplugging of coma victims. Let America hear them – and watch them – boo one of our (gay) soldiers and boo the word "Mexico." Indeed, we hope for more visuals, more pans of the audience as they work themselves into corpulent frenzy, cuts to their screaming faces reminiscent of "America’s Got Talent," the collective anger of Unfit White Men Behaving Badly.

Eighteen debates. How many more? Fifty – was that the number bandied about? Thank you again, whatever mole the Democrats inserted into the GOP leadership cabal. (Ahem.) (See our previous column dated Jan. 21, "Michael Steele – Our Own Kim Philby?") Somebody actually thought this would be a good idea for Republicans. Remarkable.

The GOP has staked its political survival for decades on scapegoating. It’s worked, in the short run. Identify an outgroup, vilify it, rally the base against its evils and its dangers. It doesn’t matter who the outgroup consists of – African-Americans, gays, latinos, Muslims, homosexuals – just beat them with a stick and hope the other primates who kinda look like you will jump in on your side. It’s the bully factor, writ nationally. Works every time – in the short run.

In the long run, the GOP has lost those groups, and it doesn’t stand a chance in hell of getting them back. Huge blocks of voters, forever lost. Ninety-plus percent of African-Americans. Sixty-five percent of latinos. An uncertain percentage of homosexuals, but doubtless most (with the exception of all the closeted gays in Republican leadership positions, but that will be the stuff of future writings.)

This unprecedented primary makes the guts of the Republican party transparent, everything they’re about, from the plutocracy of Romney to the demagoguery of Gingrich. The Republicans wanted a referendum on the president. What they’re going to get is a referendum on their own party, a party that has failed, repeatedly, when given power, and has moved so far outside the mainstream of American life as to be unrecognizable.

We reiterate: Please let the Republican audience react. Encourage them, even. Toss the red meat, Newt. America is watching.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Roosevelt and Hoover: Last Night's State of the Union

Our level of anticipation last night was not for the President’s State of the Union address (we knew he would do well), so much as for the GOP rebuttal, to be delivered by the esteemed Mitch Daniels, Governor of Indiana. Gov. Daniels has been ceaselessly touted as The One, The Man Who Could Have Been, a Republican contender who might have ignited a feeling loftier than boredom or disgust.

Which really is where the GOP candidates currently reside, with Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich having staked out terrain on opposing ends of that continuum. On Mr. Romney’s Greensward of Boredom we remember, vaguely, the forgettable faces of Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman. Over in the Slough of Disgust paddled, for a time, Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain. (The always anomalous Rick Perry managed to occupy an outlier position of Southern Fried Stupid.)

The Republican loyal, though they would probably not share our terminology, have sensed for months that something is Not Quite Right with their candidates, and have searched far and wide for a contender who would not embarrass them in the general election. They have pleaded with Chris Christie, toyed with Marco Rubio, and actively courted Mitch Daniels. (Rick Santorum, just clever enough to sniff the wind, has taken to referring to himself as the Goldilocks Candidate. As in "not too hot, not too cold," or, to fit the paradigm of today’s column, lying somewhere in the comfortable middle of the boredom/disgust continuum. We do not think this tactic will work for him – his poll numbers stagnate in the low teens, in Florida and nationally. And it is probably not wise for a man of such delicate appearance, who has fixated so greatly in his career on the vilification of homosexuals and their "agenda," to refer to himself using fairy tale terminology. Just saying.) The courting of Gov. Daniels continues, as the GOP lovelorn are, by turns, either bored or disgusted with the men in their lives.

Last night, Gov. Daniels frankly disappointed. He rests on the far end of the boredom scale, not quite a Pawlenty, but close. He gave a speech that Herbert Hoover might have been proud of, proclaiming that math might save us, or somesuch. We remained awake, just. Little more can be said.

One serious candidate runs who neither bores nor disgusts. The prediction markets ticked upward in his favor after President Obama’s State of the Union address last night, and downward for his Republican rivals. The rhetoric of a Roosevelt soared in overture to the tinny, tone-deaf Hooverism that was to follow.

After months of listening to the children squabble, it was a pleasure to spend time with the grown-ups.  Considering the current disarray of the GOP, we are increasingly certain we will be spending four more years with one.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Barack Obama Wins GOP Debate

The Republican default setting of passing every buck that can’t be pocketed was in full display at last night’s GOP debate, while their willingness to take credit for every Democratic achievement of the past 50 years increased.

Newt Gingrich continues in his attempt to rewrite history. The Historian Who Isn’t would have us believe that the excellences of the 1990s were the result of his and Tom DeLay’s obstructionist Congress, that President Clinton did not sit competently at the helm during that Golden Age of America.

A Golden Age indeed, at least in contrast to the debacle to come, the nigh collapse caused by the arrogance and ignorance of Bush the Child.

Three of the four Republican nominees are cut from the same cloth as Bush the Younger, and would give us more of his ill-considered policies. All three would continue to slash taxes on the rich, and would continue to explode (in more ways than one) the military’s budget into the stratosphere. Government expansion would continue, and we would waste our blood and resources on the shores of every foreign entanglement we could gin up. (The fourth nominee, Ron Paul, pursues policies that would make him anathema to the power structure should he have a real chance of winning: cut the military’s overseas spending, close our foreign bases, bring our troops home. We would fear for his safety were his polling numbers more consequential.) The budget – balanced during the Clinton Era – would see less revenue and increased spending, and we would continue to be as unsafe as we were during the Bush years. Let us not forget that W.’s incompetence resulted in the World Trade Center attack. Let us never forget that, and let us never let the Republicans forget that.

Newt Gingrich’s sole reference to the 9-11 attacks were to try to blame them for the economic collapse of the Bush Era – again, passing the buck in classic Republican fashion.

The tune the Republicans play wears thin, as serious people continue to clean up the mess of the spoiled child who inhabited the White House for eight years. They continue to let us know what they’re all about: spend spend spend in an attempt to bully the world, refuse to tax enough to pay for their follies, then find some poor sap getting a few hundred a month in food stamps and blame him for it. Their song plays sweetly on the ears of their demented base, but its unharmonious screech will send the rest of America running in the direction of the only grown-up in the room.

Last night’s debate winner was Barack Obama. Of the four standing on the stage, the new front-runner in Florida – Newt Gingrich by nine points in current polls – took some blows for his lobbying work, but he continues to embody that Place of Wrath most sad, discomfited Republicans detect in the depths of their unwell bodies. He can win if he is adequately organized, but there’s the rub – the Romney machine chugs along in all 50 states, while Mr. Gingrich scarcely has a machine. Which matters, frankly – he’s not qualified for the ballot in Virginia, for instance, rendering all 49 delegates of its winner-take-all primary slated for the Romney score column.

Overall, we still would bet on Mr. Romney to win the primary, but Mr. Gingrich has momentum, and in his flesh and jowls and tiny eyes looks so much the external manifestation of the what the GOP is all about, that we cannot count him out. We continue to expect a protracted battle, and we look forward to America getting to know what the Republican Party is all about.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Anchor Baby Mitt Romney to Release Tax Records

Andrea Mitchell, noted telejournalist and Ayn Rand disciple, smashed a pinata on the Chris Matthews Show last night, claiming members of the Romney clan entered the country illegally from Mexico. To quote:

"The other interesting little fact is about the Mexican Romneys. Those looking back at all of those records say that Mitt Romney should look back at the records because the Romneys that came back from Mexico to the United States, they crossed the border illegally."

Ninety seconds research on the internet neither confirmed nor disproved this claim, but we did learn that Mr. Romney still has several relatives living in a Mormon community in Chihuahua. Aye, Chihuahua.

All of which would be of little concern to anyone except the most extreme of racist Americans, who see red and froth and whatnot at the mere utterance of the word "Mexican." In other words, most of the Republican base – whose votes Mr. Romney feels slipping through his fingers like the sands of his ancestral desert homeland.

Mr. Romney hopes to weather a different storm of controversy, that surrounding his continued unwillingness to release his tax records. He has claimed he will flash a bit of his financial dainties tomorrow, hopefully sparing himself from further attack on this issue at tonight’s debate. We presume he will spend the time saved continuing to attack President Obama for his alleged incompetence. We assume the irony is self-evident.

Surely Newt Gingrich sits and laughs and jiggles like Jabba the Hutt, as minions from a nearby science fiction convention feed him pieces of candy that have fallen to the floor like manna. We will not speculate as to whether Callista owns a Princess Leia outfit.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Newt Gingrich Takes Small Lead -- and Takes Credit for Clinton Era

Amid the hullabaloo of Newt Gingrich’s strong victory in South Carolina resides the quiet reality of the actual delegate tally of the final four candidates. To wit:

Newt Gingrich: 32
Mitt Romney: 20
Ron Paul: 9
Rick Santorum: 4

The numbers reflect Jon Huntsman’s support of Mr. Romney (2 delegates), and Rick Perry’s endorsement of Mr. Gingrich (3 delegates).

In short, Mr. Gingrich controls fewer than 50 percent of the allotted delegates and has a solid though not overwhelming lead over his closest competitor. The winner-take-all state of Florida looms (a whopping 50 delegates), a state where we must pick Mr. Romney as the likely winner. Vote-by-mail has been underway for weeks, during which time Mr. Romney has led substantially in the polls. More to the point, Mr. Gingrich has a way of handling victory badly, turning into – how to put it delicately? – a horse’s ass.

Witness his level of pomposity in his victory speech Saturday night. In a short few minutes he managed to take credit for the collapse of the Soviet empire, challenge Barack Obama to seven 3-hour debates, a la the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858 (of which there were – yes! – seven in number, proving Mr. Gingrich’s credentials is a consummate historian, or at least an internet-savvy 68-year-old capable of accessing Wikipedia), and, most pompously, taking credit for the numerous successes of the Clinton era.

Yes, the Clinton era. Mr. Gingrich is apparently unaware that eras in American politics are named for the sitting presidents of the time, not for members of Congress, members of cabinet, postal workers or dog-catchers. We refer to the Reagan era, not the Tip O’Neill era. We refer to the Roosevelt era, not, in no particular order, the William B. Bankhead, Henry T. Rainey or Joseph Wellington Byrns eras. (We can use Wikipedia, too.) And we don’t refer to the Clinton era as the Tom Foley era (the first Speaker) the Newt Gingrich era (the second Speaker) or the Denny Hastert era (the third Speaker during the Clinton years).

It is a delight to actually see the Republicans step back in time to when the country was on the right track – prior to the devastation of the Bush Junior era – but of course they are trying and will continue to try to take credit for the numerous Democratic successes of the Clinton era. Good luck to them with that.

Newt Gingrich in victory is always unappealing. Mitt Romney in defeat, we suspect, will make a comeback that will seal Florida for him, propelling him into a substantial lead in delegate count. At which point – well, Newt Gingrich in defeat is always scrappy, interesting, and dangerous. Several more months of drama lie ahead.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Mitt Romney -- Afraid to Debate? Michael Steele -- Our Own Kim Philby?

As South Carolinians cast their votes today, we take a turn from the quotidian to idly speculate on some of the strategic aspects of the current GOP primary. Specifically, The Debates. We ask: Why are there so many of them? And did the Republicans In Charge actually think it would be a good idea to have this many of them?

Monday’s debate is a go, by the way, with all four candidates confirming their attendance, newsworthy only in that Mitt Romney’s camp had previously hinted at the possibility of their candidate’s absence.

We understand why Mr. Romney would attentively consider skipping a debate – or two. His lunch, to be frank, is being handed to him by the transparently Machiavellian Newt Gingrich. Mr Romney is out of his league in these debates; his days of looking good are in the past, when he could be favorably contrasted with such ambulatory conceptual art pieces as Michele Bachman, Herman Cain, and Rick Perry. Even Jon Huntsman made Mr. Romney look good by compare, or at least "street smart," as it were. Huntsman, who was so tone-deaf he deemed it sensible to flaunt his fluency of Mandarin Chinese at a Republican debate. (How did he ever achieve mastery of such a pitch-intensive language?)

But those days are gone, with Rick "Is He Smarter Than A 5th Grader?" Perry slinking home to consider his future in politics, nevermore to deflect attention away from Mr. Romney in the matter of who might be the worst at this whole debate thing. Hands down, now, Mr. Romney is the worst.

Ron Paul isn’t really debating. He’s staying on message, saying his piece, and trying to nab as many delegates in the proportional states as he can, in order to walk into the convention this summer and – what? We do not know. We do not know if Dr. Paul knows. We look forward to finding out.

Rick Santorum is not debating so much as interviewing for position of vice presidential running mate. He said at a recent debate that a true conservative should be "on the ticket," which is as much an intentional flash of his hole cards as we can imagine.

The real debate – the overt one, at any rate – is between the two candidates who are really serious about winning this thing. And Mr. Romney simply cannot compare with the Evil Yoda of Infighting.  Newt Gingrich is as brilliant at the rough-and-tumble of politics as he is personally unattractive and morally repugnant. He might not win the nomination, but he will infect it with his unique blend of ethical jiu-jitsu, flipping such questions of personal responsibility and sleazy life-decisions back at the accuser in an attempt to make himself the aggrieved party, which works quite well with the psychologically impaired base of the Republican Party, but probably won’t play so well at large in the general election. Again, we can understand Mr. Romney’s increased aversion to these debates. Frankly, we must wonder if the Republican leadership isn’t wondering who the fool was who made the decision to have their candidates so intimately scrutinized for such a long period of time. Surely Republicans know by now that they do better in the dark...when they make their decision in "quiet rooms," to borrow one of Mr. Romney’s phrases.

Current Republican National Committee chair Reince Preibus, for one, questioned the sense of such exposure, and early on, too, in a Bloomberg interview back in October. (That really is his name, by the way. Reince Preibus. These are Republicans we’re talking about here.) The real debate that is going on, outside the GOP, is this: Will any one of these yahoos be a better president than Barack Obama? Increasingly, as President Obama’s approval ratings tick upward, we must assume that the country is deciding that, no, none of these yahoos is fit for the White House. As we watch their posturing and game-playing, as we watch the audience of the faithful cheer for death, war, and ruination, we must thank whoever it was in the RNC who decided on this level of transparency.

We have to wonder if previous RNC head Michael Steele was the one responsible for such a blunder. He made several during his tenure as Republican top-dawg, from funding sex-parties with RNC petty cash to getting on the wrong, and very public, end of a pissing match with Rush Limbaugh. We often had occasion to wonder if Mr. Steele perhaps worked secretly as a Democratic Party plant in the elephantine bowels of the GOP, the jack-ass who kicked from within. If it could be learned that he was the one actually responsible for this Gallipoli of a debate schedule, it would almost confirm the likelihood that for two years the Dems had a Kim Philby planted at the highest levels of the opposition. The timing works out: Mr. Steele was RNC head till early 2011.

Idle speculation, nothing more, as the votes are cast today in South Carolina. We look forward to the next debate. Thank you for the delightful and illuminating show, whoever made the decision to show the American people what Republicans are all about.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Sex, Lies, and Tax Returns: Damage Control in the GOP

Newt Gingrich has pulled ahead of Mitt Romney in three current polls for the South Carolina primary. It is uncertain whether the data reflects Thursday night’s revelations by Marianne Gingrich of the former speaker’s philandering ways; it is also uncertain how greatly Mr. Gingrich will be injured by those revelations. The former Mrs. Gingrich’s comments were not as inflammatory – or as inflaming – as one might have hoped. She didn’t actually use the word "threesome." Or, for that matter, the terms "menage-a-trois" or "Newtie Sandwich." Alas.

Mr. Gingrich’s handling of the potentially damaging story was masterful at Thursday’s South Carolina debate on CNN. Moderator John King led off with the good stuff – sex first; Mr. Romney’s shadowy financial empire later – and Newt responded with a calculated and seemingly effective anti-media tirade.

No Republican, it is safe to say, has ever been at fault for any of his actions; the fault has always rested with the media outlet reporting those actions. A recurrent riposte generally falls along the lines of "Why aren’t you reporting this stuff about Barack Obama?"

It is of course possible that the media has knowledge of Barack Obama engaging in a wide range of perverse sexual activities, and the egregious Liberal Media has chosen not to report such stories. Occam’s Razor, however, would suggest that a more likely scenario is that President Obama has never, for instance, approached the First Lady about including, say, Susan Rice in a nighttime orgy of socialist lust.

Regardless, the anti-media assault by Mr. Gingrich probably helped soften some of the blows he was about to take, and the recent revelations about Mr. Romney’s offshore Cayman Islands accounts will probably generate a similar hit on the increasingly shifty-eyed plutocrat. It really has become a delight to watch Mr. Romney’s Pavlovian response when ever the words "tax returns" are uttered. He immediately turns into the Good Kid with something Really Bad to hide. One can only speculate what that Bad Thing might be, but the speculation is quite a bit of fun. I suspect it is a combination of the Wealth of Croesus combined with multiple offshore accounts. Or something else. Worse. Who knows? And we won’t know until he releases his tax returns, and then we really won’t know either, because it will probably be only for the current year, and one can be certain that year will look much more gentle than an aggregate of the past dozen years, which will doubtless remain unseen.

Rick Santorum and, God love him, Ron Paul, are increasingly non-factors in the race. Santorum is out of his depth, and obviously angling for a VP spot, stressing that a true social conservative should be "on the ticket" – "How about me, guys?" – and one suspects Ron Paul at any moment will devolve into the favorite great-grandpa at the family reunion. "When I was in the Army, we were stationed on the Pakistan border...this was back in the 60s...and that border...it was porous, you see...." He gets there, though, eventually, to the comparison with our own border, and how we should be bringing the troops – all the troops – home, and God love him for speaking the unspeakable. But it really does seem to take him a longer and longer time to get there, and we do hope this race won’t end up being a bad thing for him.

Polls in South Carolina open in 24 hours. Predicted order of finish:


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Romney and Gingrich and Threesomes, Oh My

Where does one begin? Rick Perry dropping out of the race? Mitt Romney stashing huge sums of money in offshore Cayman Island accounts? (Huge to us, at any rate: 8 million dollars, which perhaps isn’t all that much to Mr. Romney.) Rick Santorum actually winning the race in Iowa, though for some arcane reason his win is now being called a "draw." Or Newt Gingrich and the Threesome That Could Have Been?

Threesomes trump everything else in politics.  Perhaps in other areas of life.  We wouldn't know for certain.  Really. As of the time of this writing (noon PST, Thursday Jan. 19), Mr. Gingrich’s ex-wife Marianne will give an interview on ABC tonight regarding the moral excesses of her then-husband, the then-Speaker of the House. Gingrich apparently wanted to have an open marriage with Marianne, enjoying both her and his younger intern Callista simultaneously. Marianne refused. And now, on the eve of the most important election of the GOP hopeful’s life, she will be sharing the intimate details on national TV.

One must wonder how the Republican voters of South Carolina will react. How the word "threesome" will feel on their lips. How it will resonate in their brains. Presumably they won’t be voting for Mr. Gingrich Saturday. Perhaps they will be voting for Mr. Romney?

Another bombshell dropped this morning: Mitt Romney keeps millions of dollars in offshore investment accounts based in the Cayman Islands. At a time when taxes, and how little the wealthy pay in taxes, are among the most pertinent of issues in the election, this revelation can’t help the man who is becoming the poster boy for plutocracy. Though there has been no allegation of wrongdoing by Mr. Romney, the words "Cayman Islands" certainly conjure images of the seamier side of high finance, and could very well drive away the blue-collar voters who are doubtless preparing to abandon Newt Gingrich’s foundering vessel.

Perhaps those voters will look to Rick Perry. Or perhaps not – he’s dropped out of the race, though with polling numbers so low that one could be forgiven for not noticing. (Seriously, how does he keep winning the governor’s office in Texas? Is it a regional thing? Is he somehow not considered, how to put it politely, sub-par in intelligence down there? In the land of the blind, is the one-eyed man king?)

Who remains to attract the South Carolina free-floating conservative vote? Herman Cain’s name is still on the ballot, and with social satirist Stephen Colbert launching an Occupy movement to take over that ballot spot, a few percentage points could lodge themselves on the Cain Train as combination protest vote/Colbert fan vote/I hadn’t heard Mr. Cain had dropped out of the race vote. A few percentage points. Possibly more than Mr. Perry would have received, had he continued to run, which could very well have been the deciding factor in Mr. Perry’s sudden departure from the race.

So, we come to Rick Santorum. We come and we go. Though the evangelicals in Texas recently gave him the nod, he is as finished as Rick Perry. Nobody really likes him. The sweater vests. The baby-boy look. We know that look is big with Republicans right now, but really. It just doesn’t work for the Man Who Would Be King. And when you google him, the terrible things you encounter. His name is synonymous with, well, we must quote it directly: "The frothy mix of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex." It’s incredibly unfortunate for him that his name just happens to mean that. Didn’t he consider changing it while younger, before he went into politics? Maybe change it to Rick Smegma? Alas, he probably doesn’t have a chance to hold national office with such an unfortunate last name.

Unfortunate seems to be his middle name, as well. When he was behind by eight votes in the Iowa count, it was hailed as a huge win for Mitt Romney. Now that the final count has been tallied, Rick Santorum is 34 votes ahead, and the race is being officially called a draw by Republican Party officials. Apparently, with votes from eight precincts missing (and, let’s face it, with the Anointed One no longer ahead in the vote count), the final results are too inconclusive to declare a definitive winner. Unfortunate.

And who remains? Ron Paul?

The GOP primaries have gone to the land beyond bizarre. The man who would slash the military, would close almost all bases overseas, and wouldn’t have ordered the hit on Osama Bin Laden, might stand a chance to win in South Carolina on Saturday....

Or not.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Book of Romney

A 200-page white paper languishes on the internet casually termed the Romney Book.  Its assumed origin is the 2008 McCain campaign, containing as it does comprehensive background on Mr. Romney's utterances, stances, and actions during his long political and private careers:


Gov. Romney's views on a plethora of matters emerge, and dipping into it one explores a wellspring of modern concerns.  On the Confederate flag issue, for instance, The Romney Book quotes The New York Sun that the governor believed it to be a state issue. 

On the matter of his business experience, the Romney Book concludes that the self-proclaimed "business legend" led Bain Capital in its "relentless focus on bottom line at expense of workers and jobs."

The funnest bits in the Book or Romney are under the heading Awkward Moments, containing quotes and descriptions of video where the candidate has shown tendencies toward the tone deaf.  "I thought becoming rich and famous would make me happy.  Boy, was I right." Ah yes, the lighter side of Mitt Romney, who is increasingly drawing comparison with Reggie from the Archie comics.

We feel compelled to contrast such a sentiment with the wisdom of the Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 26: "But the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish."

Mr. Romney is, of course, more profit than Prophet, and should he win the GOP primary, the general election will be an interesting referendum on America's fundamental values.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Ron Paul on Osama Bin Laden: Wouldn't We Have Liked to Question Him?

A principle delight of the unending Republican debate season has been the audience.  What will they cheer next?  Coma patients getting their collective (gasp) plugs pulled?  Execution without cease in the great state of Texas?  A pregnant mother seeking an abortion forced to bear her fetus and, upon birth, give it to a wealthy Mormon?  And what will they boo?  Last night, Ron Paul.  And his neanderthal respect for international law.

The moderators were hoping to set up the irascible Texas gold-bug, getting him to come down hard against the killing of Osama Bin Laden.  Paul did not disappoint, reiterating that he would not have made the decision to kill Bin Laden, but rather attempt to capture him.  The biggest boos of the night came from the audience as Paul continued to prove he is beyond the pale of the GOP, what with his continued respect for international law -- how last millennium! -- but the quasi-truther continued, making the pertinent point that perhaps Bin Laden had information we might wish to retrieve. 

Well, yes, actually, he probably did have information our intelligence services would have found of interest.  Hard intelligence beyond imagining, actually -- but perhaps the acquisition of real intelligence is also so, so last millennium, when compared to the pleasures of bloodlust, good TV, and tying up a few more loose ends.

Paul continues to amaze with his ability to stand in the middle of a roomful of Republicans and speak his nigh-forbidden words with utter fearlessness.  Such qualities will never win him the nomination, of course, but he is doubtless the last good reason to hold a scintilla of hope that the Grand Old Party might still have a hint of morality lurking somewhere in its elephantine bloat.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Latest Poll: Romney Pulling Away in South Carolina

Insider Advantage's Jan. 15 poll shows Mitt Romney clearly pulling away from the pack in South Carolina with an 11-point lead over closest challenger Newt Gingrich.  Taken before Jon Huntsman's withdrawal from the race, the numbers are de facto even higher for Mitt.

A solid win in South Carolina will make him all but unbeatable.  We at PHR must admit to more than a bit of sorrow over the imminent termination of the GOP primary race.  It has served up pure pleasure as theater of the absurd, with so many hopeful conservative standard bearers attempting to outflank Romney on the right that his small cohort of centrists has managed to hang on to the high ground.  The upshot will be a candidate who does not speak to the majority of his party.

That might not be such a bad thing for Romney in the general election, however.  A candidate must of course play to the base in the primary, and move to the center in the general.  Romney is more than capable of pulling a chamelion act, pretending he is a conservative at the present moment, pretending he is a moderate in the general, and if he wins it all, pretending he is a president for four years.

The continuation of spirited attacks by Newt Gingrich is probably the only way to pull Romney down from his modest hillock.  It is doubtful that Gingrich has the guts to stick with his most effective line of attack -- pointing out Romney's excesses and excrescence as Bain Capital head.  Gingrich does not wish to be persona non grata in the only political institution perverse enough to claim him -- the Republican Party -- and his finely honed lobbyist's sensibilities disallow him from comfortably filling the role of Prophet in the Wilderness -- a role more than adequately filled by Ron Paul.

In five days, this nomination process will be all but over.  R.I.P. GOP.

South Carolina Primary Musings, Jan. 16

Five days to go until the greatest unknown of the 2012 election is resolved: Will Mitt Romney lock up the GOP nomination early?  If so, Republicans can retrench, fund-raise their way through the ranks of the 1 percent, fine-tune their message -- or lack of one -- and prepare for a serious battle with Obama.  If Romney loses, a protracted process will hurt the eventual winner's chances, probably critically.

This lengthy process is killing the GOP brand.  With each new debate the electorate is getting an unusually honest look at the muddled thought processes of the Republican elite.  Airing their views in public is killing them, for instance, with Hispanic voters. Add that group to the long list Republicans have irrevocably lost, and they will eventually cease to exist as a major party.  If your base is down to a few Idaho panhandle militia members and the employees of Fox News, you're going to have a hard time winning a plurality.

If Gingrich or Santorum can pull an upset in South Carolina, the anti-Romney wing will gain traction -- and I find that I am compelled to Root for Newt.