Friday, September 7, 2012

Mitt Breezes Past 600 Lies This Week

It's been a relatively slow week for Steve Benen's "Chronicling Mitt's Mendacity" series at The Maddow Blog, as Romney spent several days out of the public eye, preparing for next month's debates, but the indefatigable Benen did record 16 "stretchers" for Vol. XXXIII. That brings the running total to 618 lies told by the Republican presidential nominee since Benen started documenting Romney's departures from the truth in January.


By Charles Cullen

Andrea Mitchell and all the other dingbat talking-heads whining about Obama's speech clearly suffer from the same brain injury the main character in Memento suffers from. When I first watched the film I thought it was just a neat piece about a guy who can't remember new things for more than a few seconds (or minutes, depending on the time in the film), I didn't realize it was a documentary. We have to help these people.

First we have Andrea Mitchell's wrong-headed criticism that there wasn't enough cold, hard, substance in the President's speech. Seasoned reporters, heck, casual observers, know that every speaker at a convention has a relatively specific job to do. Whether it's firing up the base (Michelle Obama), appealing to undecided voters (Lincoln Chaffee) or attacking voter suppression laws (John Lewis), they didn't just amble on stage accidentally. They went there with a plan, and a speech geared to advance it.

It's so migraine-inducingly obvious that Bill Clinton, among other things, intended to be very policy-oriented and to give voters an idea of what Obama would do in a second term. You know, specifics.

In it's purest form, Clinton's speech was designed to specifically highlight the President's accomplishments and give voters an idea of what to expect if they re-elected him. Obama, Clinton intimated, would continue the long work of healing the United States after Bush/Romney economics nearly destroyed it. Clinton did this so that Obama wouldn't be weighed down by the necessity of a wonkish speech, and could accept his nomination properly.

As it happens there was plenty of substance to sift through in Obama's speech, unlike Romney's, and there was plenty of oratory. That was the other (and in a so sad it's funny kind of way) criticism leveled at Obama's acceptance. "It wasn't as good as his keynote speech" in 2004, whined many a moron. Guess what: when you are a keynote speaker, you get to deliver speeches like the one Obama is famous for. When you are a sitting President, you are expected to behave rather more Presidentially.

I honestly don't know how a large portion of the television news media dresses themselves in the morning if they don't realize what's going on here, or that their criticisms are contradictory.

This fury crystallized a notion that had been growing for me throughout my coverage of the campaign: Obama is the most put-upon President since World War II. Say what you will about Nixon, Johnson or Clinton, they've got nothing on President Obama. As he tries desperately to clean up a Republican-made disaster, his life has become like a baseball player who is expected to hit a home run every time he steps to the plate and is eviscerated if he does not. Know what, kids? Even the best hitters in the game will tell you that you can't hit 'em all out of the park. Do we criticize Ted Williams because every ball he hit didn't go 450 feet into the stands? No. But we do criticize Obama for not doing the political equivalent every time he opens his mouth to speak.

It's irresponsible, reckless, and, for lack of a better word, just plain stupid.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Peek Behind the Curtain

By Charles Cullen

Yesterday I arrived at the Convention Center and Charlotte Bobcats Arena early, partially because I was excited by the list of speakers and partially because the nightmare of hoops to jump through that was Tampa was still very fresh in my mind. Let me make this clear; when I say I arrived early, I don't mean "I got there before most," or "I had more than enough time to set up." I mean I got there before almost everybody. Including the Democrats themselves.

While embarrassing, this mistake allowed me the chance to see what goes into creating the visuals that were seen on TV, and will be played again and again, throughout the week by news organizations. It was fascinating. The Democratic staffers were meticulous, down to forcing Debbie Wasserman-Shultz to practice her walk again, and again, and again. Then debating whether or not she stepped too near a power source. "She stepped on the power chord," one convention consultant said, "She did not!" retorted another, loudly enough for the microphones to pick up. This is really how the sausage gets made: speakers names were tested out, then it was time for the band to rehearse. Did I mention I arrived early?

Everything was tested. Everything had to be pitch-perfect. And, by and large, everything was. Say what you will about Obama, but his messaging team leaves nothing to chance. And I suppose that's what was so impressive about last night; the delegate day is SUPPOSED to be the day of flubs, the day people misspeak, go off script, contradict themselves. Not so in camp Obama. Everyone, including the "civilians" who presumably do not spend their spare time speaking to nationally-televised crowds in packed stadiums, were on point almost down to the second.

The Democrats were raucous, happy, and incredibly enthusiastic. In stark contrast to Tampa, the only delegate interruptions were constant cheers of "Four More Years," "USA, USA, USA," "Fired up, ready to go," and more than a few variations of "I love you Michelle!" when the First Lady spoke.

As for the other speakers, they delivered hay-maker after hay-maker to Romney. And the crowd was eating it all up with a spoon.

Whether it was the line "Mitt Romney proudly wrote an op-ed entitled 'Let Detroit go bankrupt,' to which President Obama responded "Not on my watch!" or Newark Mayor Cory Booker's line that "being asked to pay your fair share isn't class warfare; it's patriotism."
The delegates seemed to feed off the energy of the speakers and give back as good as they were getting, especially when it came to women's rights, healthcare (the Affordable Care Act), and the issue of wealth/opportunity-inequality. If there is an enthusiasm gap, I've seen no evidence of it. Rather, I think we have one party who is running desperately for President, and one party whose guy IS the President and because of that seems somewhat less frenzied than it was at the end of the Bush years.

Cats Offer An Opinion on the President

By Kevin Kreneck

Monday, September 3, 2012

Mostly Quiet On the Western Front

By Charles Cullen

Today I am in Charlotte, North Carolina, covering the Democratic National Convention and was witness to the not quite awesome power of "Operation Chaos," or whatever Seussical name the Republicans were using in Tampa for their plan to disrupt the Convention here. So far, "Operation Chaos" has consisted mostly of a very, very small group of Republicans locking arms and sitting down outside the Charlotte Convention Center ... then, getting hot, and crestfallen because no one was paying attention to them, leaving.

Rep. Paul Ryan is hovering around in Greenville, giving short speeches that seem in danger of swerving into the Ayn Rand nonsense that got him in trouble in the first place. There's even a "Paul Ryan Rally" planned. But it suffers from the same problem as the Republican arm-lockers; no one really seems to be paying much attention. Everyone at a Paul Ryan rally has made up their mind. This isn't news or persuasion; it's just pandering.

An Internet ad has also been produced, juxtaposing Obama's speeches from 2008 to his speeches from 2012. The tag-line is "Same Speeches, Same Promises." But at least Obama is consistent. Were the Democrats to run a similar attack ad against Ryan and Romney, they'd find nothing but contradiction. Mitt Romney has taken every possible position on just about every political issue, while Ryan has had to repudiate his philosophical compass (Ayn Rand) in light of her less than conservative-kosher beliefs.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus looks like he's trying not to vomit as he outlines the many states that Romney needs to campaign heavily in, and win, to overtake the President.

And while Priebus is doing a good job of keeping it all down, and of lying through his teeth, I am increasingly confident that this race is President Obama's to lose.

Into and Out of the Heart of Darkness

By Charles Cullen

My experience at the RNC Convention has lead me to a few unshakable beliefs. First, whomever decided to have the convention at the Tampa convention center was making a purely political calculation (the Republicans want to win Florida) without any consideration for human life or reporter sanity. The whole thing was a horror show of newly blocked-off roads, cone mazes and rightly short-tempered law enforcement. I saw more crazy driving in Tampa in those few days than I did in the last half-decade. I almost hit a police-woman because her partner yelled at me to drive.

Second, someone really should have appealed to the Ron Paul folks -- if they did so at all -- more. The Ron Paul Nation howled at the party speakers as they changed the convention rules, staged walkouts, and generally did whatever they could to be disruptive all the way up to the final night. Then, it seemed, they were content to let Clint Eastwood carry on a bizarre conversation with an empty chair; overshadowing a perfectly serviceable and unusually gaffe-free speech from Romney.

Third, this election is absolutely vital for the Democrats and the country as a whole. If Romney wins, the absolute fringe of the Republican party will see it as a vindication of their dishonest strategy and upside down morality. As long as we operate under a basically two party system, we need the other side of the aisle, the Republicans to at least be sane. And sanity is something the Tea Party (etc.) has avoided like the plague. I didn't recognize it before but the Tea Party attitude was born under Bush. And it has now become organized and politically diverse in way that one could hardly have imagined. We, as a party, have to acknowledge that Obama's policies are more in line with what a moderate Republican of yore than with liberal Democrats. Liberal Democrats occupying high offices are few and far between. More likely, the true liberals are working behind the scenes; as organizers, politicos, and so on. It's the best they can do. They survey the political landscape, and see what I see: a nation that has been dragged so far to the right that moderates are called liberals, and extremists are called innovators.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Old Times There Are Not Forgotten (Why Southern States Still Need Voting Rights Act pre-clearance)

Graduates of the class of 1973 at St. Martinville, La., Senior High School decided that, after nearly 40 years, they would stop holding segregated class reunions. But old habits die hard, and after the reception before the homecoming game on Friday, Sept. 21 (to which all graduates are invited), the class reunion invitation lists an "After Game Get Together (White Graduates Only)."

Harold Cook, a political humorist from Austin, Texas, mocked Republican complaints that the Justice Department has contested voter suppression laws, particularly in Southern states regulated by the Voting Rights Act because of those states' historic suppression of black voters. "Do Southern states still need Voting Rights Act pre-clearance?" he asked rhetorically. "Because, really, all those attitudes are behind us. Right?"

Talk to the Chair

By Charles Cullen

It's never good to get upstaged on the night you accept your nomination to run for President. It's even worse if you're upstaged by a seemingly unhinged elderly man, engaged in a lively debate with a chair. But that is exactly what happened to Mitt Romney on the night he was set to give what (to that point) would be the most important political speech of his career. Clint Eastwood put on a bizarre and somewhat offensive display that took too long, and shifted the media focus from Mitt (who actually acquitted himself quite well) and onto the sometimes impromptu ramblings of a very good actor/director. And, as it turns out, absolute train wreck of a convention speaker.

This was supposed to be Romney's hour but the damage had already been done by the time he entered the spotlight. He took the stage too late, when all but the people who were going to vote Republican no matter what had turned off the television, and delivered a perfectly passable acceptance speech. He'll never reach the oratorical heights of President Obama, but few can. The real problem was that night, and the next day, people were talking about and trying to figure out just what the heck Eastwood was doing. The comedy shows had a well deserved field day with Eastwood's antics, and the rest of the media was left scratching their collective heads.

Most, including NBC political reporter Chuck Todd, reckoned that Romney's only path to victory was to increase his popularity among "Undecided" voters, despite most polls showing that there aren't enough truly undecided voters to put Romney in the White House.

Lies, money, and voter suppression are the only way Romney wins this race. And judges around the country seem to be trying to keep an eye on voter suppression.

That doesn't mean every good Democrat should take the race off. In fact, they should work like hell to get the President re-elected. But a couple of days of joy at the damage done to Mitt Romney can certainly be excused.