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Archive for October, 2012

Posted by The Agonist on October 21st, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Conventional wisdom, buttressed by significant statistical history, says that Presidential debates do not influence the candidate’s standing in the polls.  So what happened this October, when President Obama’s dismal performance at the first debate caused his substantial advantage in the polls to shrink almost overnight, to the point where in some polls and some critical states he is now the underdog?

 The first contributor to the Obama swoon was the laziness of his campaign in defending his presidency.  Obama, David Axelrod, and David Plouffe allowed Mitt Romney to do all the work of reelecting the President.  Romney had so many self-inflicted wounds in September, that his campaign was beginning to threaten Republican candidates in the Senate and the House.  Obama didn’t help himself with a flat performance during his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, and it was left to Bill Clinton to energize the Democratic base and make the fundamental case to the public that Obama deserved a second term.

 It’s generally thought that Obama’s desultory first debate was the second cause of his quick slump in the polls, but this misses the point.  A politician shouldn’t give up eight to ten point leads in many critical state polls just because he has an off night in a debate.  What is at work here is a) half of his lead or more was given to him by Romney’s terrible campaign management and his reputation as an enemy of the common man, and b) the other half of his lead was shallow and skin deep.  It is the last point that matters, especially with independents, but even with Democrats.  There is a basic distrust in the Democratic Party of Barack Obama, particularly among liberals, because he has so many times triangulated against them, and against basic Democratic Party principles, such as support for Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid.  Combine this with the fact that Obama sounded like a liberal/progressive in the 2008 campaign, but turned out to be a conservative in office, and you have the element of betrayal brought into the picture.  Millions of voters were willing to give Obama a second chance despite this betrayal, especially considering the alternative was such a palpable oligarch as Romney, but when Obama couldn’t even defend himself in public, and when he could find nothing in Romney’s debate performance to challenge, it felt like betrayal all over again. 

It may seem odd that Democratic liberals, and a good many independents, should react so fiercely to the reminder that their principles have been betrayed time and again by Obama during the last four years.  It is Mitt Romney, after all, who has perpetrated the ultimate betrayal, unheard of in American politics for at least a century.  Romney spent two years garnering votes in Republican primaries from Republican voters who listened to his far-right platform of massive tax cuts for the wealthy, and entitlement cuts for the poor and middle class.  This was all stitched together with a  healthy dose of militaristic posturing when it comes to foreign policy, combined with deferential genuflection to anything Benyamin Netanyahu wanted.  Suddenly, on the night of the first debate, this Romney disappeared and was replaced by moderate if not liberal Mitt Romney, who thinks the wealthy aren’t paying their fair share, and the average person is carrying too high a tax burden.

 Maybe Barack Obama couldn’t face up to a politician who doesn’t just flip-flop on some issues, but who adopts a face transplant covering everything he ever stood for in the primaries.  Or maybe Obama couldn’t face up to his döppelganger – a politician willing to massively betray his base in order to achieve power.  Romney’s transformation was so absurd, and his lack of any basic political integrity so obvious, that even the media noticed. 

 The public had to notice this as well, but didn’t care.  It was as if millions of voters decided they were given two choices: politician A who suddenly betrays his base and whatever is left of his political principles, or politician B who has been betraying his base and his campaign promises for four years.  Which is the greater evil?  Romney is the unknown evil who might actually be a moderate Republican forced to act temporarily like a Tea Party Republican in order to get his party’s nomination, whereas Obama is a known evil who threw out the single payer health insurance program he had endorsed in the campaign, who expanded Bush’s powers to kill Americans without trial, who has hounded whistleblowers in the government to a degree unimagined by Republicans, who has refused to indict and prosecute malfeasance on Wall Street, who says he outlawed torture but still found a way to incarcerate Bradley Manning in solitary confinement for several years without charging him with any crime, who said he would shut down Gitmo but did not, who promised an open administration but fights sunshine requests at every opportunity, who left Iraq only to expand the war in Afghanistan and extend it now to East Africa and Libya, who insists on the right to spy on Americans domestically as part of the prosecution of the “War on Terror”, who assiduously prosecutes medical marijuana clinics even in states where it is legal, and who drools over the possibility of a “Grand Bargain” with the Republicans wherein he will damage if not abandon Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid. 

 No wonder independents and Democrats walked away from Barack Obama after the first debate.  It was not that they were suddenly going to vote for Mitt Romney.  It was more that case that they were no longer enthusiastic about another four years of Barack Obama, having been so forcibly reminded of all the disappointments of the first four years.  Many of these voters are in blue states, which are still going to give Obama their electoral votes even if all liberals sit out this election.  It is in the swing states where this question of betrayal matters.  Obama’s plunge has been just as fierce in these states, where he now requires the dollars and the votes of independents and liberals just to stay alive.

 Why, however, do the Democrats and independents react so forcefully to betrayal, while the Republicans do not?  There has not been a peep of protest about Mitt Romney’s betrayal from the spiritual leader of the Republicans – Rush Limbaugh – nor from the minions who man the conservative propaganda machine – Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, Erik Erickson, Rich Lowry, Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Ralph Reed, Karl Rove, or Newt Gingrich.  Of course, everybody loves a winner, and things looked awfully bleak for Mitt Romney and the whole Republican Party until the first debate.  Republicans, especially, when they don their brown shirts and strut about in authoritarian mode, love anyone who kicks-ass, especially when the people being brutalized are pure evil, like Democrats and liberals.  And one should never discount the rampant racism in the Republican Party – giving the boot to the Kenyan Usurper has to rank high on the list of most Republican voters, especially in the South.

 It is, nonetheless, remarkable that the entire Republican Party leadership and propaganda apparatus have remained completely silent on the fact that their nominee has abandoned them and their platform.  The only time they have thought to tug on Romney’s coattails and rein him in a bit is when he crossed the line on the great moral litmus test of conservatives everywhere: abortion.  Romney quickly had to assure everywhere he really was pro-life.  All this shows either that the Republicans have no principles, other than obtaining power, and/or they understand that what Romney is doing is necessary to appeal to the independents and undecided voters.  Once he steps into the Oval Office, he will be under the control of the Party’s right wing ideologues again. 

 We have, therefore, the bizarre spectacle of Republicans being entirely mum about the fact that the man they are about to vote for has ostensibly nothing politically in common with the Party he is supposed to represent.  In the meantime, independents and quite a few Democrats, especially liberals, are acting in the opposite manner.  They have suddenly turned against President Obama or are at best lukewarm about him, having lost their enthusiasm to get out the vote for him or give him money, and all because he has failed to speak up passionately in favor of the political principles they hold.  One half has no political principles to speak of – or at least their candidate doesn’t – and the other half is so concerned about their own political principles being ignored or betrayed, that they are willing to see their own man go down in defeat.  And remember, on the Democratic side, the number of independents and liberals who are disaffected by Obama need not be large in size or significant in terms of traditionally supporting the Democratic Party – there just needs to be enough of them in the swing states that Obama’s lock on the Electoral College suddenly is broken.

 Obama could still squeak out a victory here, if only because demographics and Electoral College dynamics still play in his favor.  But given where he was before the debates began, if he does win reelection, will he be chastened in any way by this experience?  Liberals can only hope, but there is absolutely nothing in Obama’s performance over the past four years which suggests that hope of any sort is in order.  The candidate of Hope and Change long ago abandoned both of these blandishments.

 If Obama loses, it will go down as one of the classic political collapses of US presidential politics.  Perhaps at that point the Democratic Party will begin to ask very serious questions about what its principles really are.  Given how the rolling global economic depression appears to be reasserting itself, and that financial calamities are about to befall all the major Western nations irrespective of which political party is in power, being the party in power may not be a good thing after all.  If that’s the case, anyone concerned about democracy in America ought to hope that the Democrats do not take the wrong lesson from a defeat, and begin emulating the Republicans in their wanton lust for power.  The country does not need both political parties employing cynicism, hypocrisy, and deceit as a means of maintaining office. 

 Oh – but wait a minute.  The Democratic Party already employs cynicism, hypocrisy and deceit, or at least its President does.  Perhaps the best that can be expected, if Barack Obama loses, is that his party abandons his way of governance – triangulation, which boils down to beating up the party’s base so that some magical bipartisan solution to major problems can be reached.  All that does is reward the Republicans for incessantly pushing the political center to the right, and it confirms the Karl Rove and Grover Norquist strategy of “starving the beast” – depriving the federal government of so much revenue because of tax cuts that inevitably even the Democrats will be obliged to shut down the social safety net.

 If you don’t live in theUnited States this is all mystifying and perplexing.  But if you are an American voter of any sort – Republican, Democrat, or independent – it is worse.  It is positively demoralizing that the political leadership in this country is so bereft of integrity and credibility, that you have to hang your head in disgust no matter whom you vote for.

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Posted by The Agonist on October 20th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

So says the New York Times (but see the update below):

The United States and Iran have agreed for the first time to one-on-one negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, according to Obama administration officials, setting the stage for what could be a last-ditch diplomatic effort to avert a military strike on Iran.

Iranian officials have insisted that the talks wait until after the presidential election, a senior administration official said, telling their American counterparts that they want to know with whom they would be negotiating.

News of the agreement — a result of intense, secret exchanges between American and Iranian officials that date almost to the beginning of President Obama’s term — comes at a critical moment in the presidential contest, just two weeks before Election Day and the weekend before the final debate, which is to focus on national security and foreign policy.

That’s going to make for an interesting Monday debate. Obama can fairly say his tactic of pushing harsh sanctions has brought Iran to the table, cap in hand, while challenging Romney to say whether he’d go forward with the talks if elected. If Romney says he wouldn’t, he’s effectively saying it’s war if he’s elected.

“It would be unconscionable to go to war if we haven’t had such discussions,” said R. Nicholas Burns, who led negotiations with Iran as under secretary of state in the George W. Bush administration.

Iran’s nuclear program “is the most difficult national security issue facing the United States,” Mr. Burns said, adding: “While we should preserve the use of force as a last resort, negotiating first with Iran makes sense. What are we going to do instead? Drive straight into a brick wall called war in 2013, and not try to talk to them?”

Over to Mitt, and the necon advisors who are pulling his strings, to say whether he’d bomb, bomb, bomb Iran. That’s certainly the hawkish Israeli government’s plan. According to the NYT,

when asked for a response on Saturday, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael B. Oren, said the administration had not informed Israel, and that the Israeli government feared Iran would use new talks to “advance their nuclear weaponsprogram.”

“We do not think Iran should be rewarded with direct talks,” Mr. Oren said, “rather that sanctions and all other possible pressures on Iran must be increased.”

Where ‘all possible pressures” means pre-emptive strikes despite their own military saying those would be the wrong move to make, plunging the entire region into a dangerously large war.

Nice October Surprise there, Mr. Obama.

Update: Despite there being an impressive set of names on the NYT byline for this story – Helene Cooper, Mark Landler and David Sanger - the BBC’s Kim Ghattas just tweeted:

Senior US official tells BBC no agreement with Iran on direct negotiations after elex, dismisses NYT story.

— Kim Ghattas (@BBCKimGhattas) October 20, 2012

While Reuters reports that the White House refused to comment. So as of now, we’re not sure if this report is the real deal or not.

Update 2: Looks like the NYT report is simply false – major egg on their faces.

Also, NSC spox just put out statement saying: not true US Iran have agreed to one-on-one talks or any meeting after US elex

— Kim Ghattas (@BBCKimGhattas) October 20, 2012


WH on NYT report: “It’s not true that the United States and Iran have agreed to one-on-one talks or any meeting after the American elections

— Steve Brusk (@stevebruskCNN) October 20, 2012

I should have known better than to trust at face value anything on Iran that David “Judy in drag” Sanger had a hand in…

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Posted by The Agonist on October 20th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

…because the night belongs to us:

Post ‘em if ya got ‘em, Agonistas.

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Posted by The Agonist on October 19th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

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Posted by The Agonist on October 19th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

I have no words…

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Posted by Peace Action West on October 18th, 2012

From our partners at Peace Action West

Jon just had an OpEd go up on The Hill — one of Capitol Hill’s leading papers, and widely read among policymakers. It’s great timing, given next week’s presidential debate, which will focus on foreign policy.

When voters mark their ballots on November 6th, there will be 68,000 U.S. soldiers stationed in Afghanistan. In spite of a long campaign, it’s still unclear what each candidate believes should happen with those soldiers after Election Day.

Nothing captures the ambiguity better than Tuesday’s news from the State Department about the formal opening of negotiations to extend the US troop presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014. This follows on the heels of Vice President Biden’s much-noted statements in the vice presidential debate that, “We are leaving in 2014, period.” President Obama has also been trumpeting the coming end of the war, with a partial withdrawal completed this summer. But the U.S.-Afghan strategic partnership agreement he signed this year, along with statements from the Pentagon, leave the door wide open to a large troop presence as far out as 2024.

Read the rest here.

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Posted by The Agonist on October 18th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

by Russ Choma

(Originally posted by OpenSecrets Blog, republished under a Creative Commons license)

The story of the money behind this year’s political conventions hews very closely to the funding narrative of the entire election cycle — the Republicans had a huge advantage, led by generous donations from individuals, and the Democrats turned to a coalition of traditional supporters and a very large regional company.


Both parties looked to regional backers to foot large parts of the bill for the respective conventions. A number of well-heeled Tampa-area individuals and companies picked up much of the tab for the Republican Convention in August, while Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank Of America was the single largest financial supporter behind the Democratic Convention in that city in early September.
In total, the 2012 Tampa Bay Host Committee raised $55.8 million and spent about $52.4 million, while the Committee for Charlotte 2012 raised a much more modest $35 million and spent $33.4 million. Contributions from Bank of America to the Democratic event came to $10.9 million, nearly one-third of the total. Bank of America also donated $1.1 million to the Republican event. 
If one big bank’s support was key to the Democrats’ event, extremely wealthy individuals, in particular Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, played a similar role for Republicans. Adelson gave $5 million, while Bill Edwards, a Tampa area resident, gave $4.6 million through two of his companies, Marketing Solution Publications and Mortgage Investor’s Corp. Several big hedge fund players also topped the list of individual donors — Paul Singer of Elliott Management, who has donated millions to conservative super PACs, gave $1 million, as did Robert Mercer ofRenaissance Technologies, also a large donor to conservative super PACs. Paulson & Company, the hedge fund run by John Paulson, gave another $1 million. James S. Davis, the chairman of shoe company New Balance, also donated $1 million.
The Republican convention also received a $1 million donation from David Koch, the billionaire liberals love to hate, but the Democratic convention got $310,000 from the Tides Foundation, which is partially funded by liberal billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Institute.
Regional support played a role for both conventions. Behind Bank of America, the second largest donation to the Democrats came from Duke Energy, a North Carolina based company, which gave $1.5 million. Duke Energy CEO James Rogers personally gave another $339,000. Florida Power and Light gave $1 million to the Republican event, while the New York Yankees gave $150,000 — not a surprise considering the Steinbrenner family’s connection to Tampa.
Unions gave $5.9 million to the Charlotte committee, and several American Indian tribes also made notable appearances, with four tribes combining to give $400,000 to the Democratic event. One of those tribes, the Chickasaw Nation, also gave $100,000 to the Republican convention, and the Seminole Tribe gave $350,000 to the Republicans as well.
Big business gave to both sides, but large donations from major publicly traded corporations top the list of donors to the Republican event: AT&T gave $3 million (not counting in-kind donations for telephone service), Microsoft gave almost $1.6 million and United Health Care Services gave $522,000. The Republican convention also got a significant boost from the oil and gas industry — the American Petroleum Institute gave $2 million, while America’s Natural Gas Alliance chipped in $400,000.
Missing from the Republican convention’s list of donations — small checks. The committee collected just $1,200 in unitemized contributions (donations of $200 or less) and just six donations from people giving between $200 and $500. In total, the Republicans had 304 itemized donations (including in-kind donations).
The Democrats, on the other hand, relied heavily on small donors. The Charlotte committee listed $866,000 in unitemized contributions, and had 1,558 donors who gave between $200 and $500, more than five times the total number of donors to the Republican convention.
(Image:  Barack Obama, Flickr.) 

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Posted by The Agonist on October 17th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Now we’ll be treated to another round of “ZOMG terrorism!” on the election trail. Seems to me we keep ignoring just how many of these terrorists are set up by sting operations. But anyhow:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested a 21-year-old Bangladeshi man in New York on Wednesday after he allegedly attempted to detonate what he thought was a thousand-pound bomb at the Federal Reserve Bank in lower Manhattan.

The man, Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, was arrested after he bought and attempted to use  explosives that were “rendered inoperable” by agents working undercover for the bureau’s New York Field Office‘s Joint Terrorism Task Force, the FBI said, adding that the public was never in danger.

…Working alone, Nafis attempted to recruit individuals to form a terrorist cell inside the United States, according to the complaint. He “actively sought out al Qaeda contacts within the United States to assist him in carrying out an attack.” One of those inviduals was an FBI source, the bureau said, and an investigation was launched by both the FBI and NYPD.

…Early Wednesday, Nafis and an undercover agent “assembled what he believed to be a 1,000-pound bomb” inside a van, and then drove to the New York Federal Reserve Bank.

According to the NBC report, the same agent who helped him assemble the bomb had been stringing him along for months and had provided him with the fake explosives in the first place. “Law enforcement officials stress that the plot was a sting operation monitored by the FBI and NYPD and the public was never at risk.” If the FBI and NYPD hadn’t helped him, how far would he have gotten, would he maybe have just gone home in defeat? We’ll never know.

It all smacks a bit of terorism kabuki, but neverless this guy came all that way to find AQ sympathizers and all he could get to help him were FBI agents. Doesn’t that mean something good?

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Posted by The Agonist on October 17th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

I give Obama about an 80 or 85 on his debate performance last night. It was a beauty to behold and left Romney sputtering and stammering at points.

I’d rank the President higher but as always, he left a lot of chips on the table when all was said and done.

Let’s look at this question by question:

1) Mr. President, Governor Romney, as a 20-year-old college student, all I hear from professors, neighbors and others is that when I graduate, I will have little chance to get employment. What can you say to reassure me, but more importantly my parents, that I will be able to sufficiently support myself after I graduate?

Romney, as always, didn’t answer the question. He and Obama were given two minutes each to answer each question, and by my count, Romney spent 1:40 of this answer sucking up to the audience and talking about how important an affordable college education was.

In the final 20 seconds (plus a few) he spoke about “creating jobs.” Now, Obama’s response was on point and answered the question: He spoke of opportunity, building the manufacturing base, education, repurposing all the money we’ve wasted on wars to rebuild America, and surprisingly, energy. This last might have deflated his very good points, but it also forestalled a Romney attack on gas prices.

Crowley followed up with What about those long term unemployed who need a job right now?

Romney mentioned his “five point plan” which I’m led to believe involves curling his fingers and fisting Americans (especially women and particularly single women). And then he was stupid enough to draw attention to his comments about Detroit, and the wheels fell off the wagon:

And one thing that the president said, which I want to make sure that we understand, he said that I said we should take Detroit bankrupt. And that’s right. My plan was to have the company go through bankruptcy like 7-Eleven did and Macy’s and Continental Airlines and come out stronger.


And I know he keeps saying, you want to take Detroit bankrupt. Well, the president took Detroit bankrupt. You took General Motors bankrupt. You took Chrysler bankrupt. So when you say that I wanted to take the auto industry bankrupt, you actually did.


That opened the door for Obama to remind people that Romney wanted to close GM and probably never reopen them. He wanted to let private vulture capitalists like Bain funnel the funds through the bankruptcy, while Obama took the firms through the bankruptcy with government money and got paid back.

And Obama got in a dig at the one percent. Beautifully played.

2)  Your energy secretary, Steven Chu, has now been on record three times stating it’s not policy of his department to help lower gas prices. Do you agree with Secretary Chu that this is not the job of the Energy Department?

This is one question I think the President could have done better on: level with people. The President’s role in setting gas prices is nearly non-existent, even less than what he can do about jobs. About all a President can do is suspend the Federal taxes on gas, and release some of the Strategic Reserve. Neither of which is called for right now.

Here’s what I would have said: “No one understands what gas prices do to the family budget better than me. Each dollar a gallon goes up is $15 out of your pocket with the typical sedan. That’s a lunch, or a movie. The fact is, there is very little a President can do currently to keep prices down. This is a free market issue and tahnk goodness we live in a nation where a President can’t dictatethe price you pay for a gallon of gas. 

And when they’re run up by speculation of the kind that firms like Bain Capital and other hedge funds and private equity firms indulge in, it’s very frustrating. I would like to have legislation that gives me a little influence over the level of that speculation (ed. note, I haven’t really thought what that would mean through. Yet.)

Gas prices are a function of the demand of the entire world, not just the US (ed note: Obama made a great point about the artificially low prices in 2008) and we’re going to have to live with increasing prices at the pump unless we do two things: first, we need to ensure that we have sufficient domestic production (here’s where I’d talk about increasing gas leases in the first four years) and that we begin to develop affordable renewable energy to lower our demand. Lower demand means lower prices.”

Here’s where Romney really shot himself in the foot by swallowing the right wing talking points about gas and oil leases. Obama had the chance to explain about the non-use of those leases and Romney, sensing his error, tried to talk over him and failed.

Crowley followed up with the new norm question, which I sort of covered above. One note, tho: Obama got in a devastating anecdote that will play well in Ohio about Romney standing in front of a coal plant in Massachussetts as governor and saying “This plant kills.”

Romney was right, but own it, dude. Also, Barack Obama is President of the United States. Don’t tell him “I’m speaking, you’ll get your turn.” And Candy Crowley all but tells Romney to shut up.

3) Governor Romney, you have stated that if you’re elected president, you would plan to reduce the tax rates for all the tax brackets and that you would work with the Congress to eliminate some deductions in order to make up for the loss in revenue…concerning (t)hese various deductions, the mortgage deductions, the charitable deductions, the child tax credit and also the education credits, which are important to me, because I have children in college. What would be your position on those things, which are important to the middle class?

Here, Romney starts talking about a “bucket of deductions”. In essence (and what he should have said) he means he’ll expand the standard deduction and eliminate most itemized deductions, while lowering tax rates 20%. He claims this will lower tax burdens, but I’m not convinced, particularly in high tax states like, say, Ohio, or Pennsylvania, or Virginia. My local taxes exceed $11,000. My property and school taxes would bump that over $15,000 easily. Even with a 20% reduction in taxes, I’d still pay more.

He says he’d cut taxes on bank interest and dividends for those under $200K a year. I can get behind that much, at least. But it doesn’t address inequity in taxes from rich to poor.

Luckily, Obama noticed this as well:

Now, Governor Romney has a different philosophy. He was on 60 Minutes just two weeks ago and he was asked: Is it fair for somebody like you, making $20 million a year, to pay a lower tax rate than a nurse or a bus driver, somebody making $50,000 year? And he said, “Yes, I think that’s fair.” Not only that, he said, “I think that’s what grows the economy.”


Well, I fundamentally disagree with that. I think what grows the economy is when you get that tax credit that we put in place for your kids going to college. I think that grows the economy. I think what grows the economy is when we make sure small businesses are getting a tax credit for hiring veterans who fought for our country. That grows our economy.

Romney’s rebuttal?

You heard what I said about my tax plan. The top 5 percent will continue to pay 60 percent, as they do today. I’m not looking to cut taxes for wealthy people. I am looking to cut taxes for middle-income people.

That’s fairness? That depends.

Crowley’s follow up, if somehow when you get in there, there isn’t enough tax revenue coming in, if somehow the numbers don’t add up, would you be willing to look again at a 20 percent — was cut off by Governor Romney who then made an unforced blunder:

Well, of course they add up. I was — I was someone who ran businesses for 25 years and balanced the budget. I ran the Olympics and balanced the budget. I ran the — the state of Massachusetts as a governor, to the extent any governor does, and balanced the budget all four years.

The Federal government bailed him out. So did the state of Utah and the city of Salt Lake. You didn’t build that, governor. And that even neglects the condescension Romney showed towards Crowley. He was sinking fast and knew it.

4) In what new ways do you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?

Do I need to say it? “Women in binders.” End of discussion. Romney could have pulled a draw on this question if he hadn’t mangled that sentiment so badly and in so doing, exposed his inhumanity. He could have said “countless resumes” or “an overwhelming number of candidates,” but chose a businesslike metaphor, indicating this wasn’t a moral choice for him to hire more women, but a calculated political one designed to curry favor.
Obama did all he had to here: Lilly Ledbetter.
5) Since both you and President Bush are Republicans, I fear a return to the policies of those years should you win this election. What is the biggest difference between you and George W. Bush, and how do you differentiate yourself from George W. Bush?
Here’s where I think Obama could unleashed his snarky side: “President Who? Oh, you mean the guy the Republicans have run away from all year? The man never even mentioned once in the debates or the convention, except when Jeb Bush said ‘my brother’? That guy?”
Oddly, here’s where Romney might have stolen a question: he was very specific (if a little wrong) on contrasting a Romney administration against a Bush administration. Had he used this line in 2008, I think he might have beaten John McCain.
But Obama zinged him with the “Governor, you’re the last person who’s going to get tough on China,” and raising obliquely the issue of Sensata (which I would have raised directly.)
6) Mr. President, I voted for you in 2008. What have you done or accomplished to earn my vote in 2012? I’m not that optimistic as I was in 2012. Most things I need for everyday living are very expensive.
Now, this gave Obama a chance to roll out the accomplishments, and there have been many and there are times I wish President Obama was a more boastful and less Christian man, of his first term, and how he may have saved us from the abyss we were staring into.
His mistake here? Not being a bit more specific to the question of why he deserves a second term. What will he accomplish?
7) President — Romney, what do you plan on doing with immigrants without their green cards that are currently living here as productive members of society?
Both candidates were very specific as to what they would do here, and it’s pretty much boilerplate. Fix the laws, offer opportunity, and deport those who don’t deserve to be here. Bromides.
But Obama had the rhetorical flourishes on this one that Romney lacked, possibly because his RAM was overheating. Particularly moving was talking about children who have grown up here and pledge allegiance to our flag every day in school, thinking they’re American. That was masterful oratory.
Romney, on the other hand, wants to privatize deportation. Hmmmm.
Oh, and Obama got in his kitchen in a big way here. Romney was whining like a little baby towards the end of this exchange.
But the best exchange of the night occured as Romney tried to shift the focus back to China:

MR. ROMNEY: Mr. President, have you looked at your pension?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: You know, I don’t look at my pension. It’s not as big as yours, so it — it doesn’t take as long.

8) This question actually comes from a brain trust of my friends at Global Telecom Supply in Mineola yesterday. We were sitting around talking about Libya, and we were reading and became aware of reports that the State Department refused extra security for our embassy in Benghazi, Libya, prior to the attacks that killed four Americans. Who was it that denied enhanced security and why?
Here, Romney does score some large points, but because the president was first up on the question, he got to deflect a lot of the rhetoric by taking responsibility for the mess.
However, Romney blew any advantage he could have had here by completely misquoting the President AND being corrected by the moderator:

MR. ROMNEY: Yeah, I — I certainly do. I certainly do. I — I think it’s interesting the president just said something which is that on the day after the attack, he went in the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror. You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack it was an act of terror. It was not a spontaneous demonstration.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Please proceed.

MR. ROMNEY: Is that what you’re saying?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Please proceed, Governor.

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

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Get the transcript.

MS. CROWLEY: It — he did in fact, sir.

So let me — let me call it an act of terrorism — (inaudible) —

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy? (Laughter, applause.)

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

MR. ROMNEY: This — the administration — the administration — (applause) — indicated that this was a — a reaction to a — to a video and was a spontaneous reaction.

You read that correctly: the only time in the entire debate, the audience applauded because Barack Obama has been vilified on the right for something he didn’t do, and Romney showed his ass and got it spanked.

9) President Obama, during the Democratic National Convention in 2008, you stated you wanted to keep AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. What has your administration done or plan to do to limit the availability of assault weapons?

This was a stupid question, full stop. While it’s true that the administration could do more, should do more, it’s Congress that’s forcing this issue to be raised by letting the Brady ban expire. It’s an obvious answer for Obama to make but he did include a great line:

But I also share your belief that weapons that were designed for soldiers in war theaters don’t belong on our streets.

Here’s where Romney makes a smaller but noticable blunder: he says automatic weapons are already banned, but the fact is those weapons have been used repeatedly in mass killings over the past four years, and they were purchased legally.

He did bring in Fast and Furious but by now, he’s so garbled and mangled his overall message that no one caught it.

He also dissed single parents, altho he does try to pave over this disgusting “family values” moment in what can only be described as a patrician attempt to smooth feathers. His recent bump in support has come from “waitress moms”. He just lost them.

And then the President zinged him again: “[F]irst of all, I think Governor Romney was for an assault weapons ban before he was against it.”

10) The outsourcing of American jobs overseas has taken a toll on our economy. What plans do you have to put back and keep jobs here in the United States?

And Romney, who was given this question, ducked it by hiding behind China’s currency manipulations. Nevermind that Bain has taken advantage of those manipulations– and here, the President could have, should have, made a better linkage to Bain, but he was pressed for time so shorthanded it– and nevermind that under Romney, there would be even more outsourcing because he’d allow for even more expatriation of earnings. Under the President, China’s currency has actually risen as China has gradually untied the yuan from the dollar.

This is good news, but it’s also bad news for us. It means China feels secure in its world leadership position now.

11) What do you believe is the biggest misperception that the American people have about you as a man and a candidate? Using specific examples, can you take this opportunity to debunk that misperception and set us straight?

“If you wewe a twee, what kind of twee would you be?”


Well, I mean, I guess they can’t all be hard questions…

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Posted by The Agonist on October 16th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Post your thoughts and links before, during and after tonight’s debate.

To get you all started, here’s Dave Dayen at FDL with one that’s sure to be controversial – Obama’s Debate Challenge: Identifying an Actual Agenda.

The Obama campaign to date has entirely looked outward, focusing on Romney’s programs, Romney’s plans, Romney’s ideas.  Small wonder that the public got the message on who has programs, plans and ideas, and it just took a little ju-jitsu from Romney to cobble together with spit and paper clips an image of competence.

Maybe you think that Obama’s record is worth running on, or maybe not.  Politically speaking, there are ways to run on either of those scenarios, either touting successes or castigating a do-nothing Congress and offering a vision and a plan.  Democrats appear to have gotten Republican primary debate disease.  They laugh and point at the spectacle, without remembering that you have to give people something to believe in.

It’s best if you run for political office on a record and an agenda.  In the absence of either, even a distorted record and a fuzzy agenda will start to look good.

Go ahead, the thread is open.

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