Newt Gingrich Promises To Create 'Millions Of Jobs Right Now'

Huffington Post   |   Jason Linkins   |   December 28, 2011

In the latest campaign ad from Newt Gingrich, God of Carnage, the former House Speaker says that "we can create millions of jobs right now." Is this to be achieved by Gingrich hiring one million people to manufacture and market "Ellis The Elephant" merchandise? Because I'm just just trying to plan my next couple of days around Gingrich solving the crippling unemployment crisis in the next few hours or so:

Okay, so, not exactly. Gingrich will create a million jobs by "repealing laws that raise taxes and strangle businesses" (despite the fact that such be-strangled businesses don't seem to exist), "cutting taxes" (which is another way of saying the first thing he said), and "unleashing the power of our energy industry." (I'm guessing that means "cutting taxes" and "repealing laws," as well.)

Also, there's a blink-and-you-might-miss-it graphic in the ad noting that Gingrich won the endorsement of "the architect of Reagan's economic plan," a reference to Arthur Laffer, who bestowed his blessing earlier this week. And if you're reading between the lines, here, maybe Gingrich's plan for "job creation" is the one that Laffer touted earlier this year in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, in which he suggested that "enterprise zones" be created in inner-cities, establishing a bunch of mini-Saipans within the United States where all of the labor practices we've come to know and enjoy would be suspended: no payroll taxes (and big giveaways to corporations whether they headquartered in the "zone" or not), no minimum wage, no union organization, and no "codes, regulations, restrictions and requirements" that "unjustifiably impede economic growth" (or, in other words, no codes, regulations, restrictions or requirements that keep laborers alive). Profits earned by those who don't have to live in these laissez-faire hellscapes would be taxed at a discount, of course.

This was the secret scheme that Herman Cain came up with when he had to make his 9-9-9 Plan less onerous on the poor after the whole "poor people would buy used products" to avoid the new 9 percent sales tax was deemed to be too hilarious by reporters. I also suspect that it's a thing you have to be "for" in order to get Laffer's endorsement. So, if you personally feel that the unemployment crisis in America has been caused by a dearth of Triangle Shirtwaist Factory calamities, Gingrich is your man.

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Bob Woodward Recalls Key Insight Into Newt Gingrich

Huffington Post   |   Jason Linkins   |   December 28, 2011

Ever since Newt Gingrich capitalized on the episodic collapses of his fellow rivals for the GOP nomination to briefly rise into contention as the Not-Romney candidate du jour, George Will has been using his syndicated column as a one-man war blog against the former House speaker, warning that Gingrich is a dangerous, bomb-throwing egomaniac who doesn't care what parts of the conservative movement are damaged by his pyromaniacal tendencies.

At some point in the past few days, some of this must have rung a bell with Bob Woodward, because on Christmas Eve, he published a remembrance of the 1990 budget battle between President George H.W. Bush's administration and Congress, which briefly led to an October shutdown of the government. Definitely go read the whole thing, but if you've no time to spare, Brad DeLong helpfully distills the important details:

Days earlier, Gingrich had dramatically walked out of the White House and was leading a very public rebellion against a deficit reduction and tax increase deal that Bush and top congressional leaders of both parties -- including, they thought, Gingrich -- had signed off on after months of tedious negotiations. ...

[Office of Management and Budget Director Richard] Darman called Gingrich. ... Gingrich told Darman "you've got to go" and said that he wanted Bush to be defeated. Gingrich did not dispute Darman's version of the conversation, but he said he later told him that he had changed his position and did not want to knock off Bush. "I am a loyalist," Gingrich said, adding that he worked hard for Bush's reelection in 1992. ...

Darman asked [Rep. Vin] Weber to mediate. ... "It was one of the most bizarre experiences of my life," Weber said, "because I never intended to be either a psychiatrist or marriage counselor. And the sessions were very much of that magnitude. They both should have been laying down! I had this very strong sense that I was dealing with a couple of people that had grown up without any friends ... a couple of kids that were the smartest kids in their school class but nobody liked them."

Weber said the two did not have real discussions or disagreements about policy. ... "I got pretty bored with it all, to be candid, sitting there listening to these guys talk about, you know, 'Well I thought you liked me, if you liked me, why did you say that about me?'" Weber said. ...

"I know Newt didn't want Dick Darman to resign," Weber said. "Newt wanted Dick Darman to sit down and spend hours and hours talking with him. And set up a process of communication that would make sure that everybody knew that, you know, Newt had Darman on the phone any time he wanted him and had his ear on anything he wanted to." Weber portrayed Gingrich in various ways throughout the 1992 interview, at one point calling him "a high-maintenance friend and ally, needy" and at another saying that "Newt, as you know, views himself as the leader of a vast, national interplanetary movement."

Somewhere, George Will is saying, "Told you so," but the larger question is the one that DeLong asks, which is, basically: Why didn't Bob Woodward report this years ago? As DeLong notes, Woodward's 1992 account of the budget fight characterized Gingrich as just a major player in what amounted to "bipartisan opposition." The antagonism against Bush and the bizarre account of how Gingrich wanted to wrap Darman into his "interplanetary" cult of personality didn't make the cut. It seems unfair to take the Democratic opposition to that budget -- which was rooted in policy principles -- and suggest that it had equivalence with Gingrich's solo operation into megalomania, but that's precisely what Woodward did in 1992.

Woodward is likely to get credit for some exquisite timing, especially in light of Gingrich's new interview with Matt Bai, in which he casually remarks that he's a threat to the GOP's "old order." As Alec McGillis recalls, this is the position Gingrich defaults to when his electoral chances are threatened: His backstabbing of Bush in 1990 was basically the same play call Gingrich is making today when he compares being left off the Virginia primary ballot to Pearl Harbor.

But seriously, what was Woodward saving this two-decade-old reportorial tidbit for, exactly?

Bob Woodward Tells Us Now What He Knew About Newt Gingrich Two Decades Ago [Brad DeLong]
What Bob Woodward Left Out [The New Republic]

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Romney Version 2.0 Successfully Interfacing With Humankind, Apparently

Huffington Post   |   Jason Linkins   |   December 28, 2011

The New York Times, which has been following presidential hopeful Mitt Romney around on the campaign trail, published a dispatch today on the way his 2012 campaign seems to be a "carefully crafted do-over" of his 2008 campaign. You may have already noticed that this time out, Romney is no longer running strong on having conceived and enacted an innovative health care reform program while he was the governor of Massachusetts -- now that his idea has been co-opted by the Obama administration, his Commonwealth Care has become something like the bathrobe from those Abilify commercials, an awkward burden he has to carry that makes him sad inside.

But that's not the Times' chief concern. Instead, the paper has a long and exactingly detailed piece on the many firmware upgrades that have been made to Romney's user interface:

A close-up study of Mr. Romney’s casual interactions with voters captures a candidate who can be efficient, funny and self-deprecating, yet often strains to connect in a personal way.

Yes, the recently launched Mitt Romney update is a candidate that features an enhanced mode of communication, in which he reads voters' visages, notes the way they interact with other people, and then starts guessing their ages and relationships as a means of breaking the ice. In case you missed this when Dave Weigel wrote about it in June, here's how it works:

“Sisters?” he asked. (Nope, stepmother and stepdaughter.) “Your husband?” he wondered. (No, just a friend from the neighborhood.) “Mother and daughter?” he guessed. (Cousins, actually.)

The results can be awkward. “Daughter?” he asked a woman sitting with a man and two younger girls at the diner in Tilton, N.H., on Friday morning. Her face turned a shade of red. “Wife.”

Oh, Mr. Romney said. “It was a compliment, I guess,” said the woman, Janelle Batchelder, 31. “At the same time, it was possibly an insult.”

For Romney, it's a process -- specifically a process that's governed by millions of carefully executed neural subroutines. And as Romney processes the information in his environment, he fills the spare seconds with stray facts (“We stayed in the Courtyard hotel last night...[i]t’s a LEED-certified hotel,” says Romney, apropos of nothing), awkward laughter ("Ha-ha," says Romney, adding, "Ha-ha."), a new default greeting ("Congratulations," he says, about everything) and a carefully calibrated set of physical reactions to greeting human beings:

Mr. Romney, never much of a hugger or backslapper, stands with his hands straight down at his waist, tilting forward ever so slightly and turning from side to side as he searches for the next hand to shake or poster to sign.

I was sort of hoping for details on the precise angle of the tilt and the full radius of Romney's new swiveling capabilities, but I guess that's closely guarded proprietary information. Nevertheless, this Times piece is perhaps the closest examination of the new Romney's technical specs that we have on offer, scooping many of America's premiere gadget blogs.

Perhaps the best new feature that Mitt Romney offers is that he will now perform useful calculations for the people he encounters.

But his inner wonk has at times endeared him to potential supporters, as it did at a farm supply store in Lancaster, when Mr. Romney began discussing the intricacies of cow milk with Jessica Hebert, an Obama voter who was at the store.

Mr. Romney delved deeply into the topic, with real curiosity and a barrage of questions, after Ms. Hebert, who has shown dairy cows, explained that a prize animal produced about 100 pounds of milk a day. He began a series of rapid-fire calculations to determine how many gallons are in a pound: “Eight-point-three pounds per gallon. So 8 into 100 is going to be about 13, 14, gallons. Oh, 12 — there you go.”

So, Mitt Romney is like Siri, in that he is friendly in aspect, answers simple questions, and probably will not direct people to any nearby abortion providers.

The Retooled, Loose Romney, Guessing Voters’ Age and Ethnicity [New York Times]

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The 2012 Speculatron Weekly Roundup For Dec. 23, 2011

Huffington Post   |   Jason Linkins   |   December 23, 2011

We'll be home for Christmas, as the saying goes, but sadly, our heroic 2012ers -- still foraging for votes in the wilds of Iowa -- won't be able to say the same. Back when this whole shebang began, the candidates might have been able to look ahead to this week in December as a time when they could all pause, take a few cleansing breaths, spend a holiday weekend nestled in the bosom of family and Yuletide cheer, and gather a second wind for the New Year. But as the chaos of the primary season calendar shook out in a way that bounced the Iowa Caucus to Jan. 3, there's no sleep till Sioux City.

So it's hardly been an off-week for the GOP presidential hopefuls. Just ask Newt Gingrich, who got to spend a second week listening to the news herald the collapse of his support in Iowa, and the thinning of his national lead over Mitt Romney, which two weeks ago was making headlines and heads spin across the media landscape. Since his ascension, Gingrich has been the target of a full-out assault from establishment GOP types, from the entire staff of the National Review, to syndicated columnist and eminence-grise George Will, who seems to have a bottomless supply of venom to spit in Newt's direction. But in Iowa, Newt's downgrade has most likely come at the hands of his rivals -- most notably Ron Paul and Mitt Romney (and his super PACs!), who have mounted a considerable air war against the former speaker of the House.

Of course, here's where we see the liabilities of having a rickety campaign infrastructure come into play. When Gingrich lost his entire campaign staff to -- well, to his decision to constantly be on vacation -- he brushed it off, bragging about how his campaign was going to be a different model. But it seems that running a social media campaign in virtual reality isn't yet a good enough idea to supplant campaign traditions like having "campaign offices" with "telephones." This week, Gingrich had to stop campaigning in Iowa in order to travel to Virginia -- where he lives -- to get on that state's ballot at the last minute. Meanwhile, the whole world laughed as the NewtGingrich.com domain -- which would normally be seized by a competent campaign -- directed visitors to all sorts of embarrassing locations.

His plan, it seems, for this stage of the contest, was to try to get his rivals to go along with running a positive campaign, free of criticism. Romney and Paul have not obliged him, and now Newt's left to yell about how unfair it is that everyone gets to hide behind their super PACs -- an unusual circumstance for a guy who championed the infamous Citizens United ruling. And for everyone who theorized that the endless debates of 2011 were what was keeping many zombie candidacies on their feet, Gingrich is confirmation. And he seems to know it, too. This is why he badly wanted that Donald Trump debate to go forward on Dec. 27. And it's why he is trying to bait Romney into participating in his continual fetishization of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. "Won't you please agree to come be a part of another televised display of forensics, which are the only hope I have of making up for my lack of campaign infrastructure?" asks the Gingrich campaign.

"Ha, ha, no!" says the Romney campaign, and smartly so. This week, Romney started to take back the mantle of inevitability he'd ceded to the Gingrich surge. And he managed to regain his footing even after chickening out of taking a position on this week's big political debate over the payroll tax cut extension. It wasn't all sunshine for Team Romney however -- another shifting stance, this time on the Iraq War, provided critics with plenty of late-season attack fodder.

Of course, the immediate beneficiary of Gingrich's collapse may be Ron Paul, who is suddenly appearing atop Hawkeye State polls and is now being touted far and wide as the odds-on favorite to prevail in the Iowa caucuses. But it's come at a cost, as a perennial controversy -- his age-old Ron Paul newsletters, for years packed with incendiary, nativist garbage -- have swung back into the newscycle on the strength of a Jonathan Chait column. And Paul, despite having more than three years to develop an answer to this age-old mess, hasn't come up with anything that settles the issue.

Paul and his most ardent supporters continue to insist that it's old news, that Paul has voiced strong support for various civil rights heroes and that his policy portfolio is precisely the sort that enfranchises and supports many historically denigrated constituencies. But they all miss the point by a country mile. The reason curiosity persists over these newsletters is because Paul demonstrates a complete lack of curiosity or interest over how it came to pass that such nonsensical, divisive bilge got disseminated in his name in the first place. He just does not seem to care, and it makes little rational sense. As Dave Weigel notes, he's "blowing it":

But Paul isn't giving an answer on the newsletters that could possibly end the story. He's annoyed about being asked uncomfortable questions? Who cares? News flash: The media doesn't just want to run fun pieces about how great your best ideas are. No one, in any kind of public life, could get away with publishing content under his own name then saying he had no idea who wrote it. He obviously has some idea. Will he have to admit that he's still friends with the people who wrote it? Will he have a story about how he ostracized those people? Either one of those admissions would answer the questions.

Of course, I think Weigel would agree that maybe Paul figures he can skate on this, because there's no sign that any of this controversy is hurting him in Iowa. Though there's no evidence that he'd be damaged by making a chapter and verse explanation of how it came to pass that this content was distributed under his banner, what Paul did -- if anything -- when he found out about it, who -- if anyone -- was taken to the woodshed by Paul over the matter, and what steps -- if any -- Paul has taken or will take in the future to ensure it never happens again.

Meanwhile, in Iowa, the long moribund campaign of Rick Santorum is finally starting to show some momentum. Last week, we wondered why influential Iowa social conservative Bob Vander Plaats hadn't just given Rick Santorum -- the best avatar of the beliefs enshrined in The Family Leader's "Marriage Vow" -- his endorsement a long time ago. It's been obvious for months that Santorum was their guy, and finally, Vander Plaats came around to that realization. Of course, Santorum could have used the endorsement weeks ago. Making matters more complicated are a pair of controversies that have come attached to Vander Plaats' blessing: a report that he bestowed his approval on Santorum in exchange for a monetary supplement, and another report that he'd urged Michele Bachmann (who we're no longer able to pretend is anything more that a 2012 footnote) to quit the race. Vander Plaats denies both charges, but the candidates say otherwise.

And Rick Perry isn't going away either. If Gingrich needs the debates to survive, the lack of debates has allowed Perry to campaign on his own terms, and, combined with all of the volatility on the top tier, it's created a small opening. His campaign seems to understand that this is it, now is the time, and he's being touted as a guy who you might want to get behind if you want to take a gamble. In Iowa, Perry's back to double digits, and is widely seen as the guy who'll benefit if the top tier collapses in a heap of unfulfilled expectations. (He still can't quite escape his tendency to gaffe it up, however: This week, Perry gave a statement on the death of "Kim Jong Two.")

Jon Huntsman is, essentially, the Rick Perry of New Hampshire. He managed to leave a good impression at the last few debates, forsaking the grunge-era jokes for substance, and ably presenting himself as the "adult in the room" -- mirroring the technique that his old boss, President Barack Obama, has taken in Capitol Hill debates. He's suddenly in reach of the top spot in New Hampshire, and depending on how roiled the race gets coming out of Iowa, he may have an opportunity of his own. He's milking all the "Let's give Huntsman a second look" chatter, and is doing to Romney in the Granite State what Romney has done to Gingrich in Iowa -- blast him mercilessly. For his effort, this week Huntsman earned the endorsement of the Concord Monitor.

At the bottom of the rankings, the candidates who have been largely frozen out of the discussion are still making moves of their own. If Ron Paul is reaping the benefits of many years building the foundation for a unique constituency, Buddy Roemer may be doing that now. His hopes of achieving the nomination remain dim, but this experiment of his is roping together a Paul-like movement of disaffected types who might put aside their traditional opposition to create a cross-pollinated movement of Occupy Wall Street types, Tea Party originalists, and good government/campaign reformers who have looked for a hero and found it in Roemer and his "let's start here, let's start now" campaign. If he misses his shot at the nomination this time around, there's a movement for Roemer to lead, if he wants it.

If Roemer is looking to a future allied coalition, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson is opting to retrench and get back to basics. This week, all those hints that he might quit the GOP finally yielded to a decision to join up with the Libertarian Party and run under its banner. Johnson now has new hoops to jump through, and he'll do it with a party that would probably prefer to net Ron Paul as its standardbearer. That would make for an excellent debate, by the way, between Paul -- who's never had to account for the cost of his views as one congressman among many -- and Johnson, who actually had to fuse his philosophies with the requirements of having an executive position in New Mexico.

Fred Karger, like Roemer and Johnson, has no room for error in his all-retail, all-the-time campaign in New Hampshire. And unfortunately for Karger, he made what might be a fatal error this week when he opted to put up a sponsored website making fun of Mormons for, in his words, their "crazy beliefs." Here, Karger gets back to an animating issue -- the Mormon influence over the Prop 8 debate, and his belief that Mitt Romney, as a national leader, could have gotten the Mormon church to stand down from the fight against gay marriage. We've long been amenable to his sunny, positive campaigning -- in a cynical year, it's been a tonic. And we've always been curious as to how Karger's fervent support for the LGBT community might shake up any of the debates in which he's been denied participation. But this latest move is ill-advised, undermines the entire non-divisive spirit of his campaign, and we just can't cotton to it. It's a bad move, and it has not been received well.

Finally, we have President Obama, who is back to having a decent week politically -- his stance in the battle over the payroll tax cut extension led to a week-long media cycle in which the GOP was largely cast as a comical band of infighters. Obama's approval ratings during this time swelled back to the sort of level that makes you a viable candidate again. Now, the only extant question is whether or not voters will remember this week in 11 months' time, when it really counts, and if the economy will continue demonstrating some health.

Normally, this would be the time that we'd be inviting all of you to get into the Speculatron slideshow for even further details, news and analysis, but this week, we've decided to give the heroic editors who tame this beast on a weekly basis the chance to knock off early and get their Christmas celebration started. And we hope you do the same! If we could get you, our readers, anything for Christmas, it would be a switch we could flip so that the 70 percent of you who are dreading the coming campaign season wouldn't dread it so much. As we can't do that, please take our best wishes and our sincere thanks to you for tuning in each Friday.

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Ron Paul Touted His Controversial Newsletters In 1995 C-SPAN Interview

Huffington Post   |   Jason Linkins   |   December 22, 2011

Yesterday, presidential hopeful Ron Paul had an exchange with CNN's Gloria Borger (I believe the go-to descriptor we're using these days is "testy") in which the Texas Congressman, weary of answering questions about the newsletters filled with racist/homophobic/xenophobic goulash that were published in his name many years ago (content Paul has, at various times, denied being the author of and, at other times, denied having knowledge of) removed his microphone and withdrew from the interview. At the time of his walk-off, Paul had one thin sliver of a point to make -- Borger was essentially re-asking questions that had been asked by her CNN colleagues days earlier. So if we want to call it a protest against CNN having nothing new to ask about the matter and asking it anyway, that's fine, let's call it that.

But, hey, in the interest of having something new to say on the subject, here's Ed Morrissey with the latest video scoop from C-SPAN archive-diver extraordinaire Andrew Kaczynski -- a circa 1995 interview with a then-out-of-office Paul, in which he discusses how he's staying involved in the political world. (The salient part begins about a minute into the video.)

Paul said in the interview:

But along with that, I also put out a political type of business investment newsletter that sort of covered all these areas. And it covered a lot about what was going on in Washington, and financial events, and especially some of the monetary events. Since I had been especially interested in monetary policy, had been on the banking committee, and still very interested in, in that subject, that this newsletter dealt with it. This had to do with the value of the dollar, the pros and cons of the gold standard, and of course the disadvantages of all the high taxes and spending that our government seems to continue to do.

Morrissey says: "For a man who now says that he didn’t pay any attention to the newsletters published under his own name for years, he certainly seems to be pretty conversant with its contents in 1995." And the time period is an interesting one, if we recall what Dave Weigel and Julian Sanchez found out about the newsletters once they started investigating the matter:

The tenor of Paul's newsletters changed over the years. The ones published between Paul's return to private life after three full terms in congress (1985) and his Libertarian presidential bid (1988) notably lack inflammatory racial or anti-gay comments. The letters published between Paul's first run for president and his return to Congress in 1996 are another story—replete with claims that Martin Luther King "seduced underage girls and boys," that black protesters should gather "at a food stamp bureau or a crack house" rather than the Statue of Liberty, and that AIDS sufferers "enjoy the attention and pity that comes with being sick."

Eric Dondero, Paul's estranged former volunteer and personal aide, worked for Paul on and off between 1987 and 2004 (back when he was named "Eric Rittberg"), and since the Iraq war has become one of the congressman's most vociferous and notorious critics. By Dondero's account, Paul's inner circle learned between his congressional stints that "the wilder they got, the more bombastic they got with it, the more the checks came in. You think the newsletters were bad? The fundraising letters were just insane from that period."

So, at the time of the interview, the content of the newsletters was of the more infamous variety, rather than the tamer stuff of the mid to late 1980s. At the same time, the content that Paul seems most "conversant" about in the interview is the tamer stuff in which he's consistently and conspicuously taken an interest -- monetary policy, central banking, and the gold standard.

Not that you'd go on C-SPAN and say, "Hey, check out these racist newsletters I've been putting out," mind you!

Whether or not Paul means to tout these newsletters, and get more subscribers, is debatable. That he was aware of their existence at the time of their most vicious content is not. And yet the same air of mystery -- which is perhaps constructed, by design! -- over what Paul knew and when he knew it remains unpenetrated. If you are inclined to defend Ron Paul, you can say that he still seems to lack awareness of the newsletters' content. If you are inclined to disparage Paul, you point out that here he is, essentially copping to running a lucrative post-political career newsletter operation that traded in divisive venom.

The larger question that remains was best put into words by Steve Kornacki this morning:

That's the galling thing -- if Paul is the victim here, why isn't fingering the culpable party something that consumes him? I think we can reasonably speculate that most people, if faced with a similar controversy, would move heaven and earth to clear their good names. Paul has, in the recent past, said that he takes "moral responsibility" for these writings, but this seems to be the bare minimum of effort that one puts forth when one just wants to close the chapter. It's old news...I want to put it behind me...it's time to move on...these are the sorts of things that professional athletes say at the press conference they stage after they've been caught knocking their wives around.

Whether or not Paul is ultimately responsible for these writings, it remains a yawning vacuum into which responsibility must be poured. At the moment, Ron Paul is the only person who can fulfill this responsibility, and simply repudiating the contents of the newsletters and asking everyone to move on is clearly not cutting it.

A suggestion, then: let's allow that these newsletters are a product of journalism -- bad, irresponsible journalism -- that their publisher must now responsibly retract. To my mind, the best way to go about this is a three-step process. First, you explain, in chapter and verse detail, what the controversy involves -- you literally narrate what happened. Second, you explain, as best as you are able, how it came to pass that this bilge ended up in newsletters bearing your name. Third, you detail as fully as you can your step-by-step strategy for ensuring that it never happens again.

And perhaps the fourth part of the process is that you accept that even after a full explanation, you maybe don't restore your tarnished credibility. Nevertheless, Paul has treated this matter as an object that appears in his rearview mirror, rather than stopping to face it head-on. He ought to give it a try.

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Iowa Not A Completely Terrible Place To Stage The First Contest Of The Primary Season, According To Math

Huffington Post   |   Jason Linkins   |   December 21, 2011

The Iowa Caucuses are mere days away, and that means two things. First, it means we all get to start our stories by saying "the Iowa Caucuses are mere days away." And second, it means that we get to stage the perennial argument over whether Iowa is representative enough of the country at large for it to have such an outsized role in determining the eventual winner of the presidential primary season.

There are a lot of reasons we have this argument, ranging from the way coastal elites who drive media coverage don't relate to Iowans, to the fact that the race in Iowa eventually becomes about how well each candidate survives their encounter with the ethanol lobby. Plus it's cold in Iowa in January and reporters hate going from there to the even-more-wintry New Hampshire to shiver and be depressed because they thought covering politics would be more glamorous. (Why they thought this in the first place is anyone's guess.)

There are also a lot of reasons the argument doesn't really go anywhere. For starters, Iowa -- along with New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada -- form a sort of early-state cartel that keeps everyone's traditional role in place. Threaten to jump the gun on one state and soon you'll have all these other states braying about how unfair it is and warning that they'll push their primaries into December.

Beyond that, it's not like any other state really has an solid argument about why it should go first, either. Put the question to the other states and there's a long pause as everyone nervously eyes everyone else. Eventually New Jersey says, "Well, if I could make a case for the Garden State," only to be interrupted by Montana, who says, "Not even, New Jersey. Not even." And then Jersey's all, "Well, Montana, do you really think you should go first?" And Montana stands up, arms wide, and exclaims, "Why not? Seriously! Why don't we start the primary season in beautiful Butte?" And then Oregon snickers, "Yeah, your mom told me to start in her beautiful Butte last night," because Oregon can just be such a child sometimes.

Thankfully, the American Prospect, with the assistance of a professor named Michael Lewis-Beck, settles the matter forever and proves Iowa is not an "outlier," using math:

Theoretically, if Iowa is a "perfectly" representative state economy, it should register a "typical" score on the factor: more specifically, it should score at the mean.


To test the hypotheses we observed how far the Iowa score deviated from the zero mean, in comparison to the other states.


Perhaps surprisingly, the Iowa score (-.02) rests virtually at zero, and nearer that ideal representative point than any other state. (Its rival in "first in the nation status," New Hampshire, lies away and in the other direction, at .26). On the economic dimension, then, the Iowa representation hypothesis is fully sustained. Once state economies are measured by multiple relevant indicators, Iowa is most representative of all the states. Its cross-section of economic forces, especially within the controlled context of the socio-political factors, best mirrors the general strengths and weaknesses at work in an American state economy. If one state must lead the presidential candidate selection process, then Iowa seems an ideal selection in terms of the economy. Identification of the preferred "first state" with respect to the economic dimension seems paramount, given the abiding importance of the economy for the vote generally in American elections (Lewis-Beck and Stegmaier 2007).

So there you have it. Iowa is perfectly attuned, economically speaking, to begin the process for all of us, according to this professor from -- wait a minute -- The University of Iowa?

Okay, so, perhaps the debate will rage. One thing is certain, however: Should Ron Paul win in Iowa, the media will, to some varying degree, follow Chris Wallace's lead and declare the state to be "discredited." (Or whoever comes in second will be declared the "winner," by the headlines.)

[Hat tip: Dylan Byers]

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George Allen Did Not Enjoy That Facebook Chat He Had With You, Virginia

Huffington Post   |   Jason Linkins   |   December 21, 2011

Apparently, former Virginia Sen. George Allen, currently vying with former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine for the chance to reclaim his seat from the outgoing Jim Webb, gave a "townhall meeting" yesterday that was streamed live over Facebook. We're sure that was awesome for the 35 or so people who are said to have tuned in for the event. But it's what happened after the meeting had concluded, and Allen thought the cameras were off (because he was told they were), that has people buzzing today.

After taking a long pause to stare at the camera, wondering what to do next, Allen is told that the session is over and the camera is off. Spoiler alert: it's not off! And so Allen keeps on talking. (Before you ask: no, Allen did not use any obscure racial epithets.)

ALLEN: All right, did that one take or not?

OFFSCREEN VOICES: It took. They were having server problems ... the live stream was ...

ALLEN: Reindeers in the server? Elves?


ALLEN: Oh, God. Torturous. [Unintelligible.] Great spontaneity, take three!

OFFSCREEN VOICE: (Sighs.) It's very nervewracking.

ALLEN: How do you reckon it was for me? (Sarcastically) Let's do this tomorrow!

The incident has earned mockery from the folks at Blue Virginia, and generally, it's being reported that it's not at all a good thing to be caught admitting that talking to Virginia voters is like torture. For their part, Allen's press shop is saying that "he was frustrated [because] staff couldn’t confirm if technical difficulties [with Facebook] townhall prevented people from viewing."

Anyway, watching streaming townhall videos on Facebook isn't exactly anyone else's idea of a good time, either.

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The Schoen/Caddell Calls For Hillary 2012 Are Getting Progressively Dumber

Huffington Post   |   Jason Linkins   |   December 20, 2011

Douglas Schoen and Patrick Caddell really want people to believe that they authentically want Hillary Clinton, and not Barack Obama, to be president. So much so that they keep publishing the same op-ed on the matter with minor thematic tweaks, and people keep running it despite the fact that it is, essentially, high-toned gibberish. But, whatever, Politico needed to be the fourth or fifth media organization to peddle this idea to its readers, so let's take a look-see.

The new bold idea that Schaddell brings to the table today is for Democrats in New Hampshire to get behind nominating Clinton as president through a write-in campaign:

First, and most important, ordinary Democrats and independents in New Hampshire should mobilize behind a grass-roots effort to write in Clinton's name during the Jan. 10 Democratic primary.

Second, a committed group of Democrats with resources and stature needs to help facilitate an authentic citizens' movement -- independent of party structure, Clinton and organized interests -- to support a massive New Hampshire write-in campaign and put this before a deeply disaffected electorate.

There is already an online petition to draft Clinton, created by Democrats.

"We the undersigned Democrats want a new Democratic nominee for president who can win in 2012. We are convinced that the only person with the national stature, experience ... who can win in the general election in 2012 is Hillary Rodham Clinton. We are fully prepared to take matters in to our own hands and launch our own massive write-in campaign," it reads.

Where to begin? Well, one could probably point out the fact that "authentic citizens' movements" that are hastily assembled by party elites for three weeks are not actually "authentic citizens' movements." Right now, there is an "authentic citizens' movement" that gives President Obama a 49 percent approval rating. As Steve Benen points out, the latest CNN poll finds that "81% of Democrats want their party to renominate Obama for 2012," which is "nearly the strongest intra-party support the president has enjoyed in two years."

There will also be an "authentic citizens' movement" that will rally behind a GOP nominee, who will propose a set of policies that are the antithesis of the current administration. (Depending on what they choose to do, candidates like Ron Paul, Gary Johnson and Buddy Roemer might be able to accomplish assembling an "authentic citizens' movement," but each has already invested a significant amount of time and effort building such a movement -- in Paul's case, it represents years of work.)

The real question to be asked is, what do Schoen and Caddell imagine would be substantively accomplished by this elites-driven write-in campaign? And the answer is mostly based in atmospherics and voter-resentment. There are lingering Clinton supporters who never forgave Obama for not withdrawing after Super Tuesday in 2008, good heavens! There are liberals for whom Obama has not been sufficiently "tough" or sufficiently "liberal," and who seem to not understand the concept of "centrist Democratic senators" who needed to be sufficiently appeased in order to avoid a filibuster.

What, exactly, would Clinton have done differently? Not much. You can still look it up. By and large, she supported a massive health care proposal that provided universal coverage by taxing the rich, whose Bush-era tax cuts she -- wait for it! -- wanted to repeal. She opposed Social Security privatization and promoted green jobs, wanted to reduce middle class tax burdens and support students with tuition subsidies. This is all a prelude to the same big budget fights and the same GOP obstruction, unless you believe that Clinton had a magic plan to avert this. (Obama's main fault as president may have been providing his opposition with too many chances to bargain, as if he were the only person in Washington not in on the joke that his policies would meet lockstep opposition no matter how many accommodations he allowed.)

Alex Pareene basically nailed this the last time Schoen and Caddell emerged from their hole to promote this idea:

So Hillary Clinton should be president instead of Barack Obama, because Obama is too partisan and divisive. America needs a bipartisan plan to attack the deficit and also create jobs, and it is Obama's fault that that is a vague, magical fairy tale. Hillary Clinton will make this fairy tale real, thanks to the fact that, as we all know, Republicans love cheerfully working with the Clintons for the good of the nation. When a Clinton's in the White House, partisan politics are always put aside!

This is self-evidently dumb on about ten different levels -- Clinton won't run, President Clinton wouldn't have any more success negotiating with Congressional Republicans than President Obama, Clinton's popularity is a result of her not being a partisan candidate for office anymore, if there was such a thing as a "bipartisan" plan to reduce the deficit while also stimulating job growth (and protecting entitlements!) we'd presumably have already decided to act on this fantastical plan, everything resembling such a plan is explicitly supported by the White House and rejected by Republicans, Republicans would not endorse said plans if President Obama promised to go away because then they'd simply want to wait for a Republican to take over for him, and Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen are not, as they claim to be, Democrats -- but the Journal published this regardless, as they always do with fresh tripe from Schoen and Caddell.

Could such an idea -- a massive, New Hampshire-based write-in campaign for Clinton -- even work, practically speaking? Schoen and Caddell say there's precedent, and it is almost convincing if you don't know anything about history.

This primary -- traditionally well before other primaries -- allows independents to cast ballots for either Democrats or Republicans, unlike most other "closed primaries," in which only registered Democrats and Republicans can vote on their respective parties' ballots. It's justly famous for write-in candidates, who often had substantial success.

In 1964, write-in candidate Henry Cabot Lodge had an upset victory over GOP front-runners Barry Goldwater and Nelson Rockefeller. In 1968, incumbent President Lyndon B. Johnson was not on the ballot, but as a write-in, he received nearly 50 percent of all Democratic votes.

If I could interrupt your reverie of memories and emotions of how great we had it in America during the Lodge administration, let's consider how stupid it is for these two to use the example of Lyndon Johnson in this instance. At the end of Johnson's first full term, the Democrats were in authentic disarray, split into numerous unmanageable factions, all of which led to a chaotic year of conflict that gave rise to Richard Nixon's first term.

What Caddell and Schoen either are too stupid to understand or don't want you to know, is that Johnson was sitting where Obama sits today -- only the discontent over his presidency was more widespread and significantly angrier. The Democratic party base still resoundingly supports Obama today, as Chris Cillizza noted four weeks ago:

Although African Americans remain the base group most broadly supportive of Obama, liberals and Democrats are very much in his camp as well. In Gallup's most recent data, Obama's job approval rating stood at 78 percent among Democrats and 70 percent among liberals.

Those numbers are similar to where President Bill Clinton stood in November 1995, when 78 percent of Democrats in Gallup polling approved of the job he was doing. (Bush had the support of 87 percent of Republicans in the fall of 2003, but those numbers were the result of the boosts he received from the start of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.)

As Cillizza adds, "Obama's base strength does not mean that he will face an easier-than-expected road to reelection." And that's a claim that no one should make at this time. Nevertheless, Obama is not experiencing a Lyndon Johnson-level of discontent.

But the comparison that Schoen and Caddell make is sillier for another reason. Let's cast our mind back to Johnson's astonishing write-in campaign in the 1968 New Hampshire primary. His 49-42 victory over Eugene McCarthy was such an earth-shattering success that...he withdrew his nomination days later! (Hubert Humphrey and Robert Kennedy subsequently joined the race, Kennedy was assassinated, the 1968 convention was the venue for riots, and the eventual nominee, Humphrey, won 191 electoral votes.)

So, for a lot of reasons, it's just dumb to stand around and encourage people to help replicate Lyndon Johnson's "success" in New Hampshire.

But it's no wonder that Schoen and Caddell are instinctively drawn to the 1968 election and the epic failures of the Democratic Party, because despite the fact that Caddell bills himself as "a pollster for President Jimmy Carter" and Schoen touts himself as "a pollster for President Bill Clinton," neither man is an authentic Democrat today and neither wants traditional Democratic candidates or policies to actually succeed.

Neither man, for example, supports Democratic health care reform policy. Schoen buried his dislike of the policy within a call for something more bipartisan -- but he either wasn't smart enough to know or wanted to mislead readers into thinking that there was never a possibility of a bipartisan health care deal during Obama's first term. Caddell, for his part, compared the Affordable Care Act to "Jonestown."

In April of 2010, here was their great advice for Democrats:

To turn a corner, Democrats need to start embracing an agenda that speaks to the broad concerns of the American electorate. It should be somewhat familiar: It is the agenda that is driving the Tea Party movement and one that has the capacity to motivate a broadly based segment of the electorate.

In other words, the best thing that Democrats could do is dismantle their own party and become Republicans. In the meantime, they praise the people that even rank-and-file Republicans think are buffoons: They think, for example, that Michael Steele and Sarah Palin are terrific! If you are a Democrat and you're wondering what you can do to make Schoen and Caddell happy, ask yourself: Are you doing enough to ensure that the Democratic party does not exist? If the answer is "no," then you know why they aren't happy with you.

In 2010, Caddell was briefly involved with Andrew Romanoff's failed bid for the Colorado Senate seat, until Romanoff was made to understand that he was a right-winger. And most recently, Schoen willfully misrepresented his own polling results in order to provide Karl Rove with fodder for an attack ad against Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren.

The best way of describing Schoen and Caddell comes, once again, from Alex Pareene, who very aptly dubs them "professional Democratic Concern Trolls." But what's comical about this pair isn't that Democrats no longer respect them -- Schoen and Caddell invite that disrespect and are happy to have it. What's hilarious is that their GOP pals don't respect them either: These two go forth on a daily basis to pollute the air with ideas and strategies that the GOP elite know full well is absolute, unpractical, unworkable idiocy. But it's useful idiocy, so why not let them make it under the guise of being Democrats while they tend to the hard work of developing their own candidates and selling their actual policy platform?

Schoen, for his part, continues to insist, as he did Tuesday with Politico's Glenn Thrush, that he has "always considered myself a Democrat and certainly still do," and that he "strongly believe[s]" he "can be a good Democrat without supporting what passes for orthodox Democratic policies and positions today."

But Hillary Clinton does support "orthodox Democratic policies and positions today," so you should not fall for this junk.

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CORRECTION: This article originally described Elizabeth Warren as a Massachusetts senator, but she is actually a Senate candidate.

The 2012 Speculatron Weekly Roundup For Dec. 16, 2011

Huffington Post   |   Jason Linkins   |   December 16, 2011

Let's see, what can we say about this week in the 2012 race? Frankly, we're tempted to just say, "What we said last week, except more intense, and maybe a twist ending in Iowa? Or not!" This was the week where the seesaw that sawed Newt Gingrich into the top spot in polls in Iowa suddenly was seen to be see-ing back in the opposite direction. To the benefit of Mitt Romney? Maybe.

Romney could not have possibly started this week worse. First, he gets into a manhood measuring test with Rick Perry over the part of his book he changed and its context and significance, by daring Perry to make a bet. It's a bet that Romney would have won, if the matter had been judged by Politifact. But it was the swaggering amount of the bet -- $10,000 -- that had everyone's jaws dropping, and every Romney opponent reaching to stamp him with the patrician elitist label. (Let's be clear, of course, Rick Perry could have covered that bet. He's not exactly a tenant farmer anymore.)

With that, Team Romney began The Campaign To Humanize Mitt, and it was announced in a Politico feature story that unfortunately came with a picture of Romney poised to envelop some poor gray-haired lady in his robot arms. "Let me gently grind you with my upper body grasping pincers, human female!" was the message the image conveyed. Later in the week, Romney accepted and touted the endorsement of Delaware political grifter Christine O'Donnell, who for some reason is a person who journalists talk to. Her praise sounded like an epitaph: "He's been consistent since he changed his mind."

And yet somehow, this was actually a much, much worse week for Newt Gingrich. Why? Because all of his Republican pundit friends just cannot stand him. They hate him like they hate a bowl of cream of tapeworm soup. The Washington Post allowed George Will to be the centerpiece of a "page of Newt Hate," in which the denim-hating columnist teed off on Gingrich for daring to denigrate capitalism. But the National Review, said, "Okay, WaPo, we'll see your page of hate and raise you by a whole magazine worth of anti-Gingrich venom." By mid-week, the polls suggesting that Gingrich's support in Iowa was starting to crumble had begun their steady march.

Also aiding in the crumbling of Newt? Ron Paul! And not getting damaged by the relentless negative attacks? Ron Paul! Paul's never been closer to winning the Iowa Caucus, and succeeding there would be a critical "proof of concept" test for his movement, and a sanity-wracking event for everyone else in the GOP. Chris Wallace went so far as to say that such a result would "discredit the Iowa caucuses." Most people simply figured the win would be a boon for Romney. A few probably sized up John Huntsman's sudden strength and darkly wondered about the possibilities of a brokered convention. Maybe we should re-read that Mayan calendar we heard so much about, and see if it predicted the Donald Trump debate. (Which is not happening, thankfully.)

In short, bonkers bonkers nuts bananas times infinity plus one! But remember, all rides soon come to an end, and after Jan. 3, it's likely that one or more of our beloved candidates will be joining Tim Pawlenty and Herman Cain in the sweet bye-and-goodbye.

But for the moment, we roll on. This week Michele Bachmann teed up the easiest entry that Politifact has ever posted in its life. Rick Perry's campaign jumped the shark with a comparison to a sports hero. Ron Paul saw an old scandal take new life. Rick Santorum waited by the phone for his evangelical friends to call him back. Gary Johnson mulled a destiny-changing decision, someone you wouldn't believe is ahead of a big-name contender in New Hampshire, and you will never guess what candidate suddenly might win a single delegate from the Iowa caucuses if he plays his cards right. To find out, please enter the Speculatron for the week of Dec. 16, 2011.

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Ron Paul's Controversial 'Newsletters' Edge Back Into The News Cycle

Huffington Post   |   Jason Linkins   |   December 15, 2011

This week, as Ron Paul has surged in the Iowa polls, the Texas congressman's bid received a surprise endorsement from the Daily Beast's Andrew Sullivan, who was willing to look past some of Paul's "nuttier policy positions" for the sake of emphasizing his overall civility. Sullivan writes:

I see in Paul none of the resentment that burns in Gingrich or the fakeness that defines Romney or the fascistic strains in Perry's buffoonery. He has yet to show the Obama-derangement of his peers, even though he differs with him. He has now gone through two primary elections without compromising an inch of his character or his philosophy. This kind of rigidity has its flaws, but, in the context of the Newt Romney blur, it is refreshing. He would never take $1.8 million from Freddie Mac. He would never disown Reagan, as Romney once did.* He would never speak of lynching Bernanke, as Perry threatened. When he answers a question, you can see that he is genuinely listening to it and responding - rather than searching, Bachmann-like, for the one-liner to rouse the base. He is, in other words, a decent fellow, and that's an adjective I don't use lightly. We need more decency among Republicans.

Over at New York Magazine, Jonathan Chait tosses an "O RLY?" in Sully's direction:

Around four years ago, James Kirchick reported a lengthy story delving into Paul's worldview. As Kirchick writes, Paul comes out of an intellectual tradition called "paleolibertarianism," which is a version of libertarianism heavily tinged with far-right cultural views. The gist is that Paul is tied in deep and extensive ways to neo-Confederates, and somewhat less tightly to the right-wing militia movement. His newsletter, which he wrote and edited for years, was a constant organ of vile racism and homophobia. This is not just picking out a phrase here and there. Fear and hatred of blacks and gays, along with a somewhat less pronounced paranoia about Jewish dual loyalty, are fundamental elements of his thinking. The most comparable figure to Paul is Pat Buchanan, the main differences being that Paul emphasizes economic issues more, and has more dogmatically pro-market views.

Ah, yes. It was around this time last presidential cycle that Kirchick presented the magnum opus on the various newsletters branded under Paul's name, which at different points in Paul's political past were given such titles as "Ron Paul's Freedom Report," "Ron Paul Political Report," and "The Ron Paul Survival Report." Kirchick says that running the newsletters to ground and evaluating their contents was "no easy task" for a variety of reasons:

Of course, with few bylines, it is difficult to know whether any particular article was written by Paul himself. Some of the earlier newsletters are signed by him, though the vast majority of the editions I saw contain no bylines at all. Complicating matters, many of the unbylined newsletters were written in the first person, implying that Paul was the author.

But, whoever actually wrote them, the newsletters I saw all had one thing in common: They were published under a banner containing Paul’s name, and the articles (except for one special edition of a newsletter that contained the byline of another writer) seem designed to create the impression that they were written by him--and reflected his views. What they reveal are decades worth of obsession with conspiracies, sympathy for the right-wing militia movement, and deeply held bigotry against blacks, Jews, and gays. In short, they suggest that Ron Paul is not the plain-speaking antiwar activist his supporters believe they are backing--but rather a member in good standing of some of the oldest and ugliest traditions in American politics.

Some of these newsletters were, indeed, vile. A well-traveled quote from a reaction piece to the 1992 Los Angeles riots usually makes any list of plucked sentences: "Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks three days after rioting began." It was pretty typical for these newsletters to contain dire warnings of coming race wars, as well as paranoiac, virulently homophobic takes on the AIDS crisis.

But as Chait points out, the lack of bylines has always been Paul's easy out: "The slight complicating factor is that Paul's newsletter was unsigned, so even though it purported to express his views, he can plausibly deny having authored any single passage personally." He goes on to add, however, "But the general themes of white racial paranoia are so completely pervasive that the notion that they don’t represent Paul's own thinking is completely implausible."

And that's where all the arguing begins. A few weeks after Kirchich published his piece, Julian Sanchez and Dave Weigel (then writing for Reason) attempted to resolve the question of the provenance of the newsletters' content. They did not, to my thinking, manage to exonerate Paul -- who, during the same period in 2008, went from saying he had "no idea" who wrote the toxic portions of the newsletters to telling Sanchez and Weigel that the newsletters were "ancient history." He also, during that time, repudiated the worst of the content. Weigel summed up his conversation with Paul thusly:

Paul's position is basically that he wrote the newsletters he stands by and someone else wrote the stuff he has disowned.

It's hard to not be skeptical, but subsequent reporting by Sanchez and Weigel managed to take things a small step in Paul's favor. Numerous contemporaries of Paul came forward to identify Ludwig von Mises Institute founder Lew Rockwell as the author of the newsletters and, presumably, the most incendiary content. Indeed, the worst stuff in the newsletter very closely mirrored the political musings of Rockwell at the time:

During the period when the most incendiary items appeared--roughly 1989 to 1994--Rockwell and the prominent libertarian theorist Murray Rothbard championed an open strategy of exploiting racial and class resentment to build a coalition with populist "paleoconservatives," producing a flurry of articles and manifestos whose racially charged talking points and vocabulary mirrored the controversial Paul newsletters recently unearthed by The New Republic.

As Sanchez and Weigel note, during this period of time, Rockwell (along with Murray Rothbard) had embarked on "schismatic 'paleolibertarian' movement, which rejected what they saw as the social libertinism and leftist tendencies of mainstream libertarians":

Rockwell explained the thrust of the idea in a 1990 Liberty essay entitled "The Case for Paleo-Libertarianism." To Rockwell, the LP was a "party of the stoned," a halfway house for libertines that had to be "de-loused." To grow, the movement had to embrace older conservative values. "State-enforced segregation," Rockwell wrote, "was wrong, but so is State-enforced integration. State-enforced segregation was not wrong because separateness is wrong, however. Wishing to associate with members of one's own race, nationality, religion, class, sex, or even political party is a natural and normal human impulse."

The most detailed description of the strategy came in an essay Rothbard wrote for the January 1992 Rothbard-Rockwell Report, titled "Right-Wing Populism: A Strategy for the Paleo Movement." Lamenting that mainstream intellectuals and opinion leaders were too invested in the status quo to be brought around to a libertarian view, Rothbard pointed to David Duke and Joseph McCarthy as models for an "Outreach to the Rednecks," which would fashion a broad libertarian/paleoconservative coalition by targeting the disaffected working and middle classes. (Duke, a former Klansman, was discussed in strikingly similar terms in a 1990 Ron Paul Political Report.) These groups could be mobilized to oppose an expansive state, Rothbard posited, by exposing an "unholy alliance of 'corporate liberal' Big Business and media elites, who, through big government, have privileged and caused to rise up a parasitic Underclass, who, among them all, are looting and oppressing the bulk of the middle and working classes in America."

Rockwell has denied involvement with the various Ron Paul newsletters. And Paul's self-defense in 2008 basically boiled down to a rejection of these ideas and an adamant insistence that he'd never written any of the hateful passages in the newsletter and found them to be "abhorrent."

"I have publicly taken moral responsibility for not paying closer attention to what went out under my name," Paul said at the time, claiming that he had been taken advantage of, that he'd never been heard in his public political life saying such things, and that the only reason the subject was being aired was due to "political reasons."

And indeed, in Paul's most recent runs for office, you don't hear the voice that so shockingly comes forward in those newsletters. Nor do you hear his supporters giving voice to these ideas. And that's all well and good, but a critical test of plausibility has yet to be met: how do you let such tripe appear in print under your name without putting a stop to it? How can one not pick up a newsletter that purports to contain your authentic political thoughts and not vet it? And who took advantage of Paul? Paul seems generally uncurious about answering these questions.

Four years ago, the matter boiled down to what side had more credbility. Paul prevailed by maximizing his own, but he never really settled the larger issue or definitively eliminated the charges against him. Flash forward to today, and it's an open question if a rehash hurts Paul's chances. Reflecting on the matter Thursday, Weigel imagines that it won't. But the issue never really goes away, either. And neither will the feeling among Paul's supporters that whenever the matter crops up, it's always because some unseen other wants to put the brakes on Paul's hopes.

Nevertheless, the big takeaway is that if you don't want racist garbage being published under your name, you should probably do something about it. (Perhaps Ron Paul just thought that the "free market" would take care of it?)

*Also please note that Ron Paul did, in fact, totally disown Reagan.

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GOP Elite Suddenly Terrified That Romney's Bain Capital History May Be A Liability

Huffington Post   |   Jason Linkins   |   December 14, 2011

Back in 2008, Mitt Romney had some widely-known liabilities -- his lifetime of politically expedient flip-flopping topping a list that included "might be a Replicant" -- along with some well-regarded assets. Chief among the assets were the conception and implementation of the Commonwealth Care health care reform bill in Massachusetts and a long, successful private sector career as the founder of Bain Capital. Four years ago, those assets more than offset the liabilities among Republicans who looked with approval upon his bid for the White House. Romney was a guy who'd go over well with Big Business and the investor class, and his health care reform was a feather in his cap -- he could be a conservative who'd co-opted a key Democratic issue.

Four years later, Romney's still widely criticized as an ideological contortionist, but there's not as much ink spilled on the way the ground has shifted beneath his feet since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which was largely modeled on Romney's idea. The once voguish individual mandate is now anathema, and those who once backed Romney -- Ezra Klein reminds us this morning that this group included Tea Party Saint Senator Jim DeMint -- now expect him to repudiate, to some degree, the signature accomplishment that got him to this level of political stature in the first place. It's like asking Bruce Springsteen to renounce "Nebraska."

But Romney's problems apparently do not end there. According to Benjy Sarlin, Republicans are growing increasingly concerned that Romney's history at Bain Capital will prove to be a liability. And as Sarlin points out, in recent days, Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman -- the two rivals who can do the most damage to Romney in his New Hampshire stronghold -- have used Bain as a brickbat against Mitt. This is like now going back to Springsteen and telling him, "You know what, "Born To Run" is problematic as well." But as Sarlin explains:

The real subtext is electability. President Obama has made it absolutely clear that this race is going to about the 99% vs. the 1% on taxes, entitlements, and regulation. Sure we think Bain Capital is a paragon of free market values, Romney's Republican critics argue, but what about those swing voters who are all too easily swayed the first time they see an ad featuring workers Romney laid off?

“If you can make the argument either directly or indirectly that this makes him unelectable, then you have fundamentally undermined the rationale of his candidacy,” one unaligned Republican strategist skeptical of Romney told TPM.

Behind the scenes, Republicans opposed to Romney have long whispered that Bain is the candidate’s glass jaw, that it killed his Senate campaign in 1994, that he’s shown no sign he’s learned to handle the issue on a national stage because it’s not a big factor in the Republican primaries.

“A main argument Romney has made to Republicans has been that they should hold their noses and vote for him because he has the best chance of beating Obama,” one Republican operative at a rival campaign told TPM. “But a lot of Republicans who have thought through how his record at Bain could be used against him, especially in nasty campaign ads in economically depressed parts of swing states, think Bain is a huge liability and that Democrats will bludgeon him with it. Expect to see a lot more scrutiny of Romney’s record in business, and of Bain, in the next month.”

Next thing you know, someone at the RNC is going to realize that the "Winter Olympics" are the less-popular Olympics and its gold medals tend to be won by Norwegians.

Naturally, two big questions immediately spring to mind. The first is, "You guys are only just now figuring out that the Democrats might choose to exploit Romney's Bain Capital years in attack ads?" The second is, "What do you expect the guy you hate for always changing his position to do about it, exactly?" As Sarlin notes, the Democrats seem ready to go on the Bain-attack if Romney secures the nomination, and the Romney camp "has been preparing for these attacks for years." Sounds like a challenging set of circumstances, but who didn't see this coming four years ago? It's like everyone is panicking because they didn't expect the sun to go down at the end of the day.

Of course, as Jonathan Chait noted earlier this week, there are reasons why the GOP typically avoids nominating people, who -- like Romney -- "[look and sound] like a paragon of the upper class, with his regal appearance, precise diction, and dignified graying sideburns." "Republicans," Chait says, "have usually sought to avoid this problem by nominating candidates who can at least sell themselves as authentic representatives of the middle class." Romney's has an awkward time doing so -- in public appearances, he's dedicated himself to a fair amount of "I care about the 99%" schtick, but still draws mockery when he claims to be "unemployed."

Interestingly, Chait observes that months ago, the idea that Romney would prove to be out of touch with working Americans wasn't high on anyone's list of concerns:

Romney proposes only to eliminate capital gains taxes on income under $200,000 a year. That would cover just a tiny portion of capital gains, making it essentially a symbolic measure. A few months ago, the Wall Street Journal editorial page railed against Romney’s plan. The problem, the editorial noted, was not just that Romney wasn’t offering any new tax breaks for the rich. It was that the retreat "suggests that he's afraid of Mr. Obama's class warfare rhetoric" – that, in general, he will shrink from the task of advocating for policies that increase income inequality.

So, in a matter of months, Romney's critics have gone from assailing him for not being enough of a one-percenter to being too much of one. What's changed? Well, a few months ago, the acid test for whether 99 Percenterism could be turned into a drag on a Democratic candidate came in the form of Crossroads GPS attacks on Elizabeth Warren. That effort ended up backfiring (and since then, the attacks on Warren have also undergone a similar 180-degree shift). In more recent days, of course, there was Romney's $10,000 dollar bet, which brought him a round of terrible press and allowed the target of that bet -- Rick Perry -- to adopt a more populist pose. Perry referenced the Iowa households he drove past while campaigning, in which few people lived who could casually bet ten grand.

Of course, Perry wasn't the only Romney rival who's lately tried to make Mitt's wealth the Bain of his existence. When Romney suggested that Gingrich give back the money he'd earned as a shill for Freddie Mac, Gingrich shot back: “I would just say that if Governor Romney would like to give back all the money he’s earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over his years at Bain Capital, that I would be glad to listen to him.”

That probably helped nudge this full-blown Bain Capital panic along, but it came wrapped in a contradiction in the form of a broadside from George Will, accusing Gingrich of a "capital crime" -- "He faulted Mitt Romney for committing acts of capitalism." But as Sarlin reports, it's those acts of capitalism that GOP elites now believe is a liability for Romney.

Confused? Don't be. Ordinarily, the GOP wouldn't worry too much about this -- it's nothing new to have a candidate with a well-known flaw you can predict will be attacked by opponents, and in Romney's case, it's one for which they've supposedly prepared. What's different is that the GOP's dislike for Romney is so vast that it's now essentially consumed all of the qualities they once held in esteem. Complicating things further is the fact that the GOP elites also don't like Newt Gingrich, and most of the other alternatives are either unacceptable-to-the-establishment (Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman) or embarrassing (Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry).

Really, this is a story about a room full of people helplessly shrieking, "Somebody do something!"

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Ron Paul: Poised For An Upset In Iowa?

Huffington Post   |   Jason Linkins   |   December 13, 2011

The basic story of the campaign season, if you've been absorbing the most conventional accounts from the most conventional media, is that Mitt Romney established himself early on as the candidate to beat. One by one, the other candidates have, in rapid succession, risen to the challenge but failed to surmount it. In that storyline, we've gone from Michele Bachmann to Rick Perry to Herman Cain to -- now -- Newt Gingrich. And the movement up and down for these various candidates has been chiefly the result of the sorts of crash-and-burn errors that the media dearly loves to report on, from Bachmann's HPV debacle to Perry's brain freezes to Cain's alleged sexual harassment of his subordinates.

Now, the media waits in wonder for the story to repeat itself with Gingrich. Sure enough, the first sign of his presumed decline came yesterday when Reuters reported that a University of Iowa poll suggested that Newt's "support could be slipping." It wasn't the most convincing poll in the world, for a variety of reasons related to timing and sample size that are too complicated to expound upon at length, but it nevertheless shot around the world on social media, as the political press geared up for another turn at the flame-out feeding frenzy. And as luck would have it, Public Policy Polling came out today with another set of numbers that suggested the same thing.

So who benefits if Gingrich fades in Iowa? Not so fast, everyone who just said, "Mitt Romney." Via PPP:

There has been some major movement in the Republican Presidential race in Iowa over the last week, with what was a 9 point lead for Newt Gingrich now all the way down to a single point. Gingrich is at 22% to 21% for [Ron] Paul with Mitt Romney at 16%, Michele Bachmann at 11%, Rick Perry at 9%, Rick Santorum at 8%, Jon Huntsman at 5%, and Gary Johnson at 1%.

Oh, yeah! Ron Paul. Remember him? His basic story, if you've been absorbing the most conventional accounts from the most conventional media, is that Ron Paul doesn't...quite...exist. Paul's the candidate who has consistently gotten ten times the amount of support of the various candidates who get excluded from the debates, without getting much more in the way of press coverage. He consistently outperformed Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum, now has Bachmann and Perry envying his position, and yet, even as he's peaked, the disrespect continues. At the last debate, Paul received only about eleven minutes of time to answer 8 questions -- this despite the fact that he was entering the night at third place in the polls. (I think it took Diane Sawyer the same amount of time to actually pose the questions.)

But there are dissenters to the disrespect. Take Matt Dowd, who made a bold prediction on ABC's "This Week With Christiane Amanpour" some weeks ago that Paul was going to win the Iowa Caucuses. And if Dowd has it in him to make a casual $10,000 bet of his own, those PPP numbers must look awfully enticing:

Gingrich has dropped 5 points in the last week and he's also seen a significant decline in his favorability numbers. Last week he was at +31 (62/31) and he's now dropped 19 points to +12 (52/40). The attacks on him appear to be taking a heavy toll- his support with Tea Party voters has declined from 35% to 24%.

Of course, who's in Iowa working to drag Newt down? Paul, who has been running some scorching attack ads aimed at the former speaker. Of course, the conventional wisdom is that going negative drags down the attacker behind the attackee, but in Paul's case, this does not appear to be happening:

Paul meanwhile has seen a big increase in his popularity from +14 (52/38) to +30 (61/31). There are a lot of parallels between Paul's strength in Iowa and Barack Obama's in 2008- he's doing well with new voters, young voters, and non-Republican voters.


Young voters, independents, and folks who haven't voted in caucuses before is an unusual coalition for a Republican candidate...the big question is whether these folks will really come out and vote...if they do, we could be in for a big upset.

And this is key: "Paul's supporters are considerably more committed to him than Gingrich's are. 77% of current Paul voters say they're definitely going to vote for him, compared to only 54% for Gingrich."

So keep that in mind as you read the way this Paul surge is captured and the way the candidate himself is treated. Most tend to frame Paul as the guy who's going to bail out Mitt Romney -- here's Time's Adam Sorenson, the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza, and our own Sam Stein playing it that way.

But that's not nearly as frustrating to Paul supporters as the way their man was treated on "Meet The Press" last Sunday, when David Gregory plied Ron Paul with question after question about ... Newt Gingrich. And Mitt Romney. What did Paul think of those guys? Who could he get behind as a GOP nominee? I thought it was a "journalistic failure." Jon Stewart was less polite, quipping, "Hey, would you like to go out Saturday night? I know this quiet little place where we can talk which one of your friends I want to f--k."

Naturally, Ron Paul's bid in Iowa faces significant challenges. Much depends on what happens to Gingrich and Romney, and whether or not Paul's coalition can outnumber those two candidates' own constituents on January 3rd. And for Paul, the Iowa Caucus is not just a chance to earn delegates -- it's the acid test for both his ideas and his organization's vaunted mettle. But if you like to see the media's conventional narratives shattered, there's probably a part of you that wouldn't mind seeing Paul prevail.

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Trump Steps Down As Moderator Of Ridiculed Debate

Huffington Post   |   Jason Linkins   |   December 13, 2011

The writers of The Daily Show are mourning today. After a few weeks of having candidate after candidate opt to avoid his debate -- citing such reasons as "he's clown-like" and it's "beneath the office of the Presidency" and "LOL" -- reality teevee/real estate mogul and farmer of uncertain hair Donald Trump is pulling out as moderator of the Newsmax-sponsored GOP debate, currently scheduled for Dec. 27.

Trump's announcement has apparently caught Newsmax off guard, because as of this writing, Newsmax is still running this banner atop its website:

When the announcement was made that Donald Trump was to serve as a debate moderator, it was almost universally hailed as a moment when the entire political discourse in our country had finally given up and skulked off to the dark end of the parking lot to huff gas and wait for the pretty colors to come. GOP elites, especially, were not happy. Charles Krauthammer called the debate "a joke," George Will asserted that refusing to participate was a test of presidential mettle, and Karl Rove beseeched the Republican National Committee "to step in and fix this." RNC Chair Reince Priebus eventually did so, citing concern over the fact that Trump had not been willing to rule out an independent run of his own for presidency.

Meanwhile, the rest of the candidates did what they could to get out of showing up, with responses to the invitation ranging from genial declinations (from Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann) to mockery (from Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul). That left Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich as the only participants and an angry Trump declaring that it was refusing to participate in his debate that was causing Mitt all of his misfortune in the polls.

But that was, you know, yesterday. Today, Trump has found the RNC's concerns to be a convenient way of saving face:

The Republican Party candidates are very concerned that sometime after the final episode of The Apprentice, on May 20th, when the equal time provisions are no longer applicable to me, I will announce my candidacy for President of the United States as an Independent and that, unless I conclusively agree not to run as an Independent, they will not agree to attend or be a part of the Newsmax debate scheduled for December 27, 2011. It is very important to me that the right Republican candidate be chosen to defeat the failed and very destructive Obama Administration, but if that Republican, in my opinion, is not the right candidate, I am not willing to give up my right to run as an Independent candidate.

No word yet on whether Gingrich and Santorum will still attend this debate or even if it will go forward without Trump as the moderator, but who has time to think about that knowing that Tuesday night Christine O'Donnell is going to announce whom she is endorsing for president?

[Would you like to follow me on Twitter? Because why not?]

The Huffington Post   |   Jason Linkins   |   December 12, 2011

Here's the you-just-knew-this-was-coming spoof of Rick Perry's ad from the folks at Bad Lip Reading, who are making a strong bid to become the "Auto-Tune The News" of this particular cycle in American politics.

[Hat Tip: The Cajun Boy @ Uproxx]

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