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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Say goodnight Mitt

The best evidence that Mitt Romney is in trouble can be found right under his nose -- as the Boston Herald tries to turn Annie Dookhan into Willie Horton.

The Herald is now offering regular GOP comment on how the "rogue chemist" at the heart of the crime lab scandal could pose a drag on the 2016 presidential ambitions of Deval Patrick.

Never mind that Patrick is disavowing national ambitions and that in a perfect conservative world 2016 would be the campaign to launch Romney's second term.

The indicted chemist seemed to act without supervision in manipulating drug samples necessary to make court cases stick. The fallout is already significant and could escalate to the release of more than 1,000 inmates convicted by evidence tainted by her review.

The Department of Public Health, which used to run the lab, has dismissed several supervisors for failing to supervise and a once-highly regard commissioner has resigned amid the fallout.

But the Herald is looking for a bigger scalp (to channel Scott Brown):
“If Deval Patrick were to run for president, this would be a huge issue,” former state treasurer Joe Malone, a Republican, said. “This is a case where every American would understand that this kind of malpractice on his administration’s part puts criminals back on the street. Willie Horton certainly comes to mind.”
Malone knows about miscreants operating under him. The embezzlers were top aides and associates, not state employees well down the food chain. While ultimately Patrick is responsible for everything that happens on his watch, it is a stretch for Malone to bring up Horton.

Until we remember that Malone launched the second career of former Herald reporter Eric Fehrnstrom, now a key part of the brain trust of both Romney and Brown.

A tad conspiratorial? Perhaps. But political consultants live in a tight-knit world and often look several moves ahead on the chess board. And Romney's options are certainly beginning to shrink.

Fehrnstrom may be coming to grips with the reality that a West Wing office is not in his future. What better resume item can a consultant hopeful present than killing a potential rival candidacy at birth?

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Saturday, September 29, 2012

O'Brien Fever Grips Hub

It was a tough season for Red Sox fans and an even tougher one for a Cleveland Indians and Cleveland Browns rooter (why do I torture myself?) So the sound of scuffling sneakers is especially inviting right about now.

And despite the defection of Ray Allen to LeBronville -- not to mention changes in LA, Brooklyn and Philly -- I can't help but feel optimistic about the Celtics, the new Big Three and their likelihood to be playing late into the season once again.

The core of a team that played with heart is back -- along with the two guys who made the Celtics the unquestioned leader of teams with games lost to heart surgery.

While Jason Terry is an unquestioned good pickup and Courtney Lee an intriguing addition, the best reason for optimism is the real heart of the team -- Kevin Garnett.

KG rose from the dead last year after he moved to center -- although finally shaking his knee woes didn't hurt. Backed by a broad collection of big and wide bodies, including intriguing rookie Jared Sullinger, Garnett is likely to provide more inspiration than perspiration during the dog weeks of mid-season.

That leaves it to the remaining members of the Big Three -- Paul Pierce and newly minted leader Rajon Rondo to produce the offense with Terry and Lee and hopefully Jeff Green. And the guard corps will only get better when Avery Bradley returns from double shoulder surgery.

Let's not forget Bradley replaced the ankle-impaired Allen in the starting line-up and played smothering defense while finding some offensive tools to boot.

Maybe I'm overly optimistic, but I think not. After all, I'm rooting for my Brownies to achieve distinction by posting a perfect 0-16 record.

But this year's edition of the Green is intriguing. A team that played with guts now has reinforcements. Why not No. 18?

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Friday, September 28, 2012

Mixed signals

Scott Brown's new scorched earth tactics are being accompanied by calls for a return to the kinder, gentler version.

Even as the Brown campaign launched truth-challenged robocalls created by Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, Brown's media advisers, er, the Herald, is cautioning the candidate to rein in his "alpha-dog" debate tactics.

The robocalls can be seen as violating the spirit, if not the letter, of the "People's Pledge" where both candidates agreed to keep pout third-party television ads. Brown same the loophole and engaged the man once known as Bush's Brain (among kinder names) to bombard homes with anti-Warren messages.

You know, those annoying calls that come around dinner time and try to sell you things you don't want?

In this case, the message isn't even accurate. As the Globe notes:
One call criticizes Warren’s work leading a panel that monitored the federal bank bailout, erroneously suggesting she ran the bailout, and another claims that her support for President Obama’s health law could limit Medicare availability, even though the law does not propose doing so.

Brown has obliterated his nice guy in the past week by going all-out negative on Warren's heritage as well as twisting her complex legal work for corporations -- who are normally Brown's best friends.

The new personality recalled that of a Republican who lost a Senate race to a high-profile Democratic opponent -- in part because of boorish behavior. Syracuse University professor Jeff Stonecash sees echoes of Rick Lazio's assaults on Hillary Clinton's space in 5the 2000 New York Senate race:
“Truly one of the worst moments I’ve ever seen from a politician in my life. He just was lambasted for being too aggressive with a female, and tried to intimidate (Clinton). The smartest thing Scott Brown can do is, he has to present himself as a pleasant moderate who really stands for good policies and is independent of the Republican leadership of the Senate.”
Since that was Brown's modus operandi until recently, you can only assume the internal polls are even worse than the majority of public ones that show the race turning toward Warren,.

But annoying dinner-time interruptions hardly seem the best counter.

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

"Message: I care"

Not since George H.W. Bush marveled at a supermarket scanner have we seen a Republican quite as out of touch with the American Experience as Willard M. Romney.

It was another day, another mixed message as Romney stared directly into a camera to offer a message that he hoped would make 47 percent of voters forget what he said about them when he didn't know there was a camera recording his conversation with rich donors in a Boca Raton mansion.
“President Obama and I both care about poor and middle-class families,” Mr. Romney says in the ad. “The difference is my policies will make things better for them.” 
By cutting taxes on the wealthy and telling 60 Minutes he thought his 14 percent tax rate was fair?

Multiple Choice Myth then doubled down on his insincerity, insisting a sign of his empathy with middle America is the fact that he supported RomneyCare, the Massachusetts health care reform law that he has sped away from throughout the campaign season.
“Don’t forget — I got everybody in my state insured,” Romney told NBC late Wednesday afternoon. “One hundred percent of the kids in our state had health insurance. I don’t think there’s anything that shows more empathy and care about the people of this country than that kind of record.”
Yet true to form, the Kama Sutra Kandidate did an immediate back flip:
I will repeal Obamacare and replace it with real health care reform,” Romney said during the rally in Toledo, Ohio. “Obamacare is really Exhibit No. 1 of the president’s political philosophy, and that is that government knows better than people how to run your lives.”
The gyrations could have conservatives running for high blood pressure medication, much as they did the last time the Romney camp professed any love for its orphan child.
Prominent conservative blogger Erick Erickson said it could “mark the day the Romney campaign died.”
 But at least he would have health care.

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Scott Brown says he is now, well, red-faced, after the principal chief of Cherokee Nation called him out on his staff's mockery of Elizabeth Warren.
“The conduct of these individuals goes far beyond what is appropriate and proper in political discourse,” the chief, Bill John Baker, said in a statement. “The use of stereotypical ‘war whoop chants’ and ‘tomahawk chops’ are offensive and downright racist. It is those types of actions that perpetuate negative stereotypes and continue to minimize and degrade all native peoples.”
Brown offered a statement of regret through a spokesman, declaring:
“Senator Brown has spoken to his entire staff – including the individuals involved in this unacceptable behavior – and issued them their one and only warning that this type of conduct will not be tolerated. As we enter the final stretch of this campaign, emotions are running high, and while Senator Brown can’t control everyone, he is encouraging both sides to act with respect. He regrets that members of his staff did not live up to the high standards that the people of Massachusetts expect and deserve.” 
But the staff behaving badly episode is overshadowing Brown's own words during last Thursday night's debate, an issue raised by Brown nemesis Rachel Maddow about Brown's personal challenge to Warren's veracity,(around 0:25):
"Professor Warren claimed she was a Native-American, a person of color and as you can see, she is not."
Maddow leveled both barrels at Sen. No More Mr. Nice Guy, noting Brown was:
“... declaring himself the authority on Warren’s heritage based on how white she looks to him. Brown is confident just asserting that Warren is not Native American. He can tell. Can he smell it?”
Brown needs to address how he can make such assessments, given the fact that Baker, who is 1/32 Cherokee, would apparently meet the senator's eyesight test.

Senator Barn Coat is knee-deep in the muck and sinking fast.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Dr. Jekyll and Sen. Brown

Scott Brown, our laundry folding hero, has gone rogue.

Brown and his campaign have been spewing venom since the Thursday night debate with Elizabeth Warren. But the campaign hit a new low with the war cry chanting and tomahawk chopping performance of Brown supporters -- and the wash his hands attitude of the man at the top.

At least two members of Brown's staff mocked Warren's heritage during a campaign stop Saturday at Dorchester's Eire Pub. And what did the man who touts his family values in his issues-less campaign ads say to the calls for an apology for the disrespect shown his opponent:
“The apologies that need to be made and the offensiveness here is the fact that professor Warren took advantage of a claim, to be somebody – a Native American -- and using that for an advantage, a tactical advantage,” Brown said.
Color him clueless.

Brown is in the middle of an issues-less scorched earth campaign, attacking Warren on her family history and some complex legal issues she handled as a law professor. It's a great way to shift attention from his voting record.

Massachusetts has, until now, escaped the raging incivility of the GOP right -- and Brown had apparently realized that any connection with his fellow party members could be toxic. Why else skip most of the Tampa coronation of his fellow Bay State Republican Mitt Romney or include Barack Obama in commercials that avoid party labels?

But with some recent polls suggesting Warren opening a slight lead, the campaign suddenly shifted gears and went on the offensive from the first minute of the first debate.

It's a highly dangerous tactic, reflective of some real if masked concern within the campaign. And the pugnacious candidate has eliminated the halo he worked so hard to wear as his ace in the hole in Democratic Massachusetts.

Warren's campaign has picked up its own response, launching an new commercial going after Brown's support for tax cuts for millionaires. But what it really needs to do is get serious about a tactic she used only slightly during the debate.

And that is to make Massachusetts voters of the consequences of returning Brown to a Senate where he has played a key, if inconsistent role, as a handmaiden in Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's agenda of making Barack Obama a one-term president.

Brown touted his role as the 41st Republican capable of blocking the Democratic agenda. If anyone has any doubt he would line up with the Party of No to continue gridlock -- or allow the unabated rise or the rich -- that shabby staff performance should eliminate it.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Role reversal

It's remarkable, but Scott Brown has managed to make this Senate race about Elizabeth Warren's record. And her lack of preparedness could prove fatal.

Despite a roster of votes that includes supports Wall Street over Main Street, Brown has Warren on the defensive, yet again, over a $10,000 payment for legal work from a company that opposed a congressional requirement that it pay millions of dollars into a fund for its retired coal miners’ health care.

The latest Brown offensive came just days after he presented a "true but misleading" accounting of her work for Travelers Insurance in an asbestos case.

And it came just hours after Warren finally offered an effective ad to counter Brown's relentless assault on her family history.

Somehow the hunted has become the hunter -- and the prey is being too accommodating for her own good.

The corner has remarked regularly about Brown's ads which portray him as a kind and gentle family man. But those ads now appear to be deposits in a goodwill bank account that allow him to emerge in what now appears to be a scorched earth attack on his opponent's primary claim as a consumer advocate fighting for the middle class.

And given Warren's relative newness to the scene, Brown is the comfortable choice for many who may not like his assaults but feel they "know" him better than this "outsider."

Lawyers have records almost as complex as elected officials and can be "for it before they are against it." And the arcana of bankruptcy law is good substitute for a sleep aid.

But the Warren campaign is now heading onto very thin ground just six weeks before an election in which the Massachusetts seat could determine whether Mitch McConnell is majority or minority leader of the Senate. You know, the same guy whose principal goal is to make Barack Obama a one-term president.

Warren has slowly opened a slight advantage in a majority of recent polls, a lead that could very well evaporate with these latest Brown assaults.

While the candidates agreed to keep negative third-party ads out of the race, it obviously doesn't prevent them from launching attacks. Brown is out of that gate first -- and effectively.

Warren needs to step up her pace -- teaching voters about Brown's Wall Street ties and tying him to McConnell and the national GOP as tightly as Brown is trying to run away from them through association with washed-up Democrats.

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Monday, September 24, 2012

What's the matter with Mitt?

What does it say about a presidential candidate who is losing his home state by more than 20 points?

The national campaign is roaming far and wide from Massachusetts, where Real Clear Politics is showing Barack Obama swamping Mitt Romney by an average of 22.8 percent.

Meanwhile, the man who ended Romney and the GOP's 16-year reign in the Corner Office has emerged as one of the leading surrogates carrying the message about Romney and his short tenure as Bay State governor.

Which raises the question of why isn't anyone paying more attention to the folks who know Romney best?

Massachusetts, of course, has been stereotyped on the national stage (and in certain local newspapers) as home of the "loony left," unfit to offer guidance to "normal" Americans.

Yet until Romney arrived on the scene, Massachusetts voters had an affinity for bipartisanship, electing three Republicans as governor to counterbalance the Democratic legislature.

And Bay State voters as recently last year fell for a siren call of "bipartisanship" in the selection of Scott Brown for "The Kennedy Seat."

So despite the national tag as leftist nirvana -- a tag hung on the state because it opted for George McGovern over the only man to resign the presidency in disgrace -- Massachusetts can entertain politics that many would describe as mainstream.

And it's falling in and out of love with Mitt Romney is Example No. 1.

Romney collected just shy of 50 percent in a five-person race, besting Shannon O'Brien by almost 5 percent. That despite what now feels like standard concerns about his veracity on issues like where he made his home.

He remained fairly popular -- in part by playing down what he now claims are "severely conservative" roots.  He balanced budgets, as required by law,  by closing loophole and raising fees while insisting he never raised taxes.

And of course, he was part of a bipartisan coalition that passed a health care law that bears a strong resemblance to the one he now opposes.

The love affair ended after 2004, when Democrats turned out in big numbers to vote for John Kerry over George Bush. In the process, Team Romney, assembled to bring balance to the Democratic Legislature, managed to lose seats and Romney lost interest in his job for the final two years of his term.

The absentee governor then went gallivanting around the nation, trashing the state that elected him, in an effort to win a presidential nomination. The rest is history -- as reflected by the overwhelming defeat Romney appears headed to in one of his many "home" states.

So here's a suggestion America: you may think we're loony, but we're not. We actually elected this guy and are still regretting it. Massachusetts is offering you a warning sign you should heed.

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Double speak

Ray Flynn says he's for Scott Brown because he's "pro-life," while Brown runs ads in which women hail him for his support of their right to choose? So who's right?

Flynn, the supposed epitome of working class Democrats, is crystal clear in his reasons for backing Brown -- not the first time Flynn has backed the GOP:
“He was endorsed by Massachusetts Citizens for Life,” Flynn said. “That’s an organization I believe in. That means there must be something there, that he has a lot of respect for life and the needy.”
Yet Brown is on the air with ads in which he touts his support of  a woman's right to choose, not to mention equal pay. And his record -- from support for the Blunt Amendment and his votes pay equality -- are nowhere to be found.

The Flynn endorsement -- and Castle Island hot dog photo op -- are all part of Brown's Faux Tour -- pretending to be a senator in direct contrast to his actual voting record, the "nice guy" who touts his own personal history while denigrating Warren's upbringing.

But clearly something is amiss with Brown's conflicting position on women's issues. Is Flynn misinformed? Or is Brown airing commercials that misrepresent his actual votes?

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Answer Woman

By now it should be clear Scott Brown wants to talk about anything except his record. Elizabeth Warren needs to stop enabling him.

Brown scored one hit from his uneven debate performance Thursday night (not the beaten horse issue of her heritage) by raising the complex relationship she had with Travelers Insurance.

The senator who was too tired to meet the media Thursday (but not too tired to party with supporters)  sought to press that issue at a Friday news conference, complete with rustling papers.

Brown insisted Warren betrayed her consumer protection roots by joining a complex asbestos lawsuit that the giant insurer was eventually able to turn against consumers.

As with so much in politics today, Brown had the basic facts right, but presented them in a distorted fashion.

But that didn't stop the Cosmo Centerfold from going before TV cameras to declare:
“She can’t hide behind commercials any more. She’s got to answer the questions.”
Pretty hilarious stuff from a man who has posed with his wife, daughters, veterans, fishermen and assorted fanboys and girls in what has been a issues-free advertising campaign that seeks to obscure his votes for the financial services industry.

But the problem is Warren failed to come up with a strong rebuttal -- whether Thursday night or on Friday. The failure to immediately address what a Brown website has called a "fake Indian" problem has allowed the incumbent to continue to change the subject when questions are raised about his own record.

Unlike the heritage issue, where Brown is questioning Warren's family lore, there are concrete answers to the Travelers imbroglio, but not the kind of answers that can be easily addressed in a 30-second commercial or a 10-second sound bite.

But the Warren team needs to do just that and fast -- so Brown can't keep fudging his positions and shifting the discussion away from his actual voting record.

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Friday, September 21, 2012

By dawn's early light

The loudest message on Scott Brown's performance in last night's debate was offered by the Boston Herald -- which led with John Tierney rules for an upcoming debate.

Howie Carr's inevitable slam of Elizabeth Warren was one of the positive reviews for Brown -- whop took it on the chin from the Globe's Scot Lehigh and Joan Vennochi and scored on some points from Tom Keane.

Vennochi wins the lead award on this one:
The woman who made Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner squirm made Senator Scott Brown sweat.
The Brown camp must be rattled this morning after. When your cmpaign newsletter seeks to change the subject, that can't be good.  And with a preponderance of polling that shows Warren making a move, the "professor" can't be the only thing making Brown sweat.

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

No more Mr. Nice Guy

If you go for the jugular, you better get it right. Scott Brown didn't and the fallout will be interesting.

Brown attacked Elizabeth Warren right out of the box, questioning her heritage. Her reply, after calling Brown a "nice guy," was to defend “the stories I knew” growing up about having a Native American heritage.

Warren was cool, calm and collected while Brown glowed hot, a far cry from the man who took down Martha Coakley. Maybe it was a form of jet lag after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid insinuated Brown was trying to dodge the encounter.

Time after time, Warren fended off Brown, so much so that he started agreeing with her, particularly when it came to Barack Obama.

Anyone hear about a guy named Mitt Romney?

Brown faced a very large hurdle because Warren hurled his record against him, a far cry from the "fake "Indian" opening and the endless, condescending "professor" references. And if you ever had a doubt that his goal was condescension, his attempt to link her (healthy) salary as the cause of the nation's high cost for higher education should relieve any doubt.

Initial assessment: Warren by knockout. But stay tuned.

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The hits keep coming

Turns out Mitt Romney is the 47 percent.

One day after our Man Myth made a hash of it by denouncing the 47 percent of Americans who don't pay taxes as dependents who aren't his voters (when they really are) a new tape emerges that shows Romney actually was a member of the group when his father accepted public assistance after immigrating from Mexico.

Poor Mitt. Oh wait, not any more.

The tangles are the inevitable result of chameleon candidate who changes his positions as easy as some of use change socks. And while Mr. 1 percent is now trying to show his solidarity with the masses, the facts offer a hard time. And that's without his hidden tax returns.

For starters, while Romney has had some nice landing pads in Michigan, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Utah and California, doesn't hail from the states where the 47 percent hang their hats at night:
Research by the nonpartisan Tax Foundation showed that in 2008, the states with the highest percentages of tax filers who did not pay federal income taxes were Mississippi, Arkansas, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, New Mexico, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, and Texas. Obama won Florida and New Mexico but lost the other eight.
Not only did he miss the states, he writes off a large chunk of the non-taxpaying public who in reality are his voters.

Romney continues to soldier on with campaign-fed lines like "[m]y campaign is about the 100 percent in America," but each day brings a new distraction that pulls him more off his message.

And reveals the price of trying to be able things to all people.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

We are the 47 percent

It's not merely the fact that Mitt Romney dissed 47 percent of voters as Obama backers as dependent on the federal  government. Or joked about how his chances would be better if he were Latino.

Mitt Romney's latest ingestion of his foot is also very different from Barack Obama's caught on tape moment lamenting about "bitter" Americans who "cling to their guns and their religion."

The tape of a May fund-raiser, unearthed by Mother Jones, simply reinforces a belief many already have of Romney as an aloof 1 percenter who won't come clean about his taxes or just about anything else.

That perception is not yet widespread enough to disqualify him, even in the eyes of the Obama-hating GOP that nominated him for the presidency last month. Or for the frustrated independents who hope for a miraculous turnaround.

The real damage of the tape is the reinforcement of Romney the Bumbler that has been on display since the convention. The guy who let a Hollywood star and an empty chair upstage his most important speech; the guy who made intemperate and ill-timed remarks before all the facts were in on Libya. A guy whose campaign is already openly pointing fingers.

Those in turn go with the man on the road to trip from hell: where he irked the British, the British for crying out loud!, by speculating, incorrectly as it turns out, about Olympic security before turning on Palestinian wrath while simultaneously injecting his old pal Bibi Netanyahu in the presidential race.

Romney has spent the last month, pre-and post-convention alternately stubbing his toes then putting them in his mouth. For a man whose message was designed to be "it's the economy, stupid," we are getting only "stupid."

And at the time when most voters start to zero in and make decisions on who they support.

With that context, let's go to the tape, which will play a role in hardening those opinions.
"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what,” he said in the video, over sounds of waiters pouring drinks and clearing plates. “All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. . . that that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. . . . These are people who pay no income tax.”
Aside from questioning where he got 47 percent, Romney labeled virtually half the American public as dependent and "victims" who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them. That 47 percent includes seniors receiving Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid assistance for nursing homes.

And last we looked, a lot of people who paid no income tax we those same seniors, not to mention people making less than $20,000, people with children who they felt were "entitled" to food.

Oh, and rich Americans like Romney who pay capital gains on their investment income at rates well below what average Americans get socked with.

In other words, the video shows the real Romney, in a comfortable moment among his fellow 1 percenters. That's even reinforced by the damage control statement from Romney declaring:
"I’m speaking off the cuff in response to a question,” he said. “And I’m sure I could state it more clearly and in a more effective way than I did in a setting like that. . . . Of course I want to help all Americans — all Americans — have a bright and prosperous future.”
"Off the cuff" in a comfortable environment where he could let his guard down. And commit the worst campaign gaffe: speaking the truth.

Obama suffered a similar fate in a San Francisco fund-raiser when he mused about the motives pushing Pennsylvania Democrats to the polls. It was, as Jamelle Bouie declared, "inartful and condescending."

But while Obama lost the presidential primary to Hillary Clinton, his gaffe came while he had enough time to change the subject. Romney is running out of time.

Each day that goes by with the Republican candidate talking about something other than the economy -- even when he offers no specifics on how he will accomplish his mathematically impossible solution of lower taxes for the dinner guests, fewer programs to support those "entitled" 47 percenters -- is a lost day for him to close the deal with a public that slowly appears to be gravitating back to Obama.

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Bundle of secrets

He won't tell you what tax breaks or programs he will cut and now Mitt Romney is clamming up on who will benefit from his tax cuts for the rich.

That's because Romney is refusing to release a list of "bundlers," the people who solicit the big-dollar donations that have become the life blood of political campaigns. Barack Obama makes the names public and George Bush even offered special recognition by naming them Pioneers and Rangers.

And making them ambassadors or offering them special access. Not to mention their incomes likely qualify them for the massive new tax cuts Romney is proposing.

The Romney campaign is within its legal rights to withhold the names, but the move is in keeping with the campaign's opacity. Remember, this is a candidate running on vague promises that waggish headline writers declare will repeal the laws of arithmetic.

Romney supporters wave off the secrecy as a kerfuffle because "who does the asking doesn’t matter much. What counts is who is writing the big checks." Even though they also write the checks.

Not so, says Columbia University Law professor Richard Briffault:
"In some ways bundlers are more important, or at least as important, as the donors themselves, because someone who is able to bundle half a million dollars together has influence."
What is truly important is the entire tone of secrecy from the Romney campaign, whether it is budget or tax specifics or the candidate's own tax returns. Romney's pitch is now premised on "trust me," a highly dangerous concept from a candidate who has no core beliefs but will say or do whatever he thinks is necessary to close a sale.

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Heavens to Betsy

One fact clearly emerges from today's Boston Globe look at Elizabeth Warren's heritage. The Herald has it wrong in calling her Liz.

Warren's brothers -- Don, John and David Herring -- succinctly sum up the tempest in a tea pot launched by Scott Brown in questioning his Democratic rival's ancestry:
“The people attacking Betsy and our family don’t know much about either. We grew up listening to our mother and grandmother and other relatives talk about our family’s Cherokee and Delaware heritage. They’ve passed away now, but they’d be angry if they were around today listening to all this.”
Warren has long refused to go into detail about her past and her identity, but Sally Jacobs offers what is hopefully the last word on this superficial distraction designed to avoid talking about Brown's record as a defender of Wall Street and an opponent of women's rights.

There appears to be almost as much confusion in Warren's family over an ethnic identity that was once shunned as there is in Brown's family about his recollections of abuse.

Warren has had the good sense and decency not to call Brown a fake anything. Although she has lots more evidence when it comes to Brown's pro-woman claims.

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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Snake Oil Scotto

How can you be supported by Massachusetts Citizens for Life and be "pro-choice" at the same time? That conundrum clearly summarizes the mendacity of Scott Brown's campaign.

This hasn't been a good week for Brown and the state GOP, which took to ham-handed news management to try and quell public discussion about the local party's eventually aborted embrace of the anti-woman national party platform.

And smack in the middle of the morass is Brown (R-Two Faces) who has used his campaign commercials to date to present a warm and fuzzy image of hubby, dad and laundry folder who believes "like a lot of you, I came from nothing."

Senator Barn Coat, who hosts a website that declares Elizabeth Warren a "fake Indian" took faux umbrage at a new look Elizabeth Warren ad in which Lowell fighter Mickey Ward gym owner Art Ramahlo accuses Brown of ‘‘siding with the big-money guys.’’

Brown responded with two ads, one claiming she started the negativity (after his web site) and one in which he promotes his stance on abortion and women's rights.

This from a man who supported the retrograde Blunt Amendment on insurance coverage for contraception; opposed the Paycheck Fairness Act designed to bring women's pay in line with men; and has the backing of the state's leading anti-choice group, even if it also questions how firm his convictions are. Says Anne Fox, president of the Massachusetts Citizens for Life:
“We have to take his word for it when he says he is prochoice. But what we’re looking for is someone who votes prolife, and he does.”
This is a Pinocchio with his Pants on Fire.

That dilemma is no doubt at the heart of the state GOP's decision to ban Globe reporter Stephanie Ebbert from an open public forum where the state party eventually tabled a move to adopt the national GOP agenda which condemns same-sex marriage and abortion, including in instances of rape or incest.

What made state GOP spokesman Tim Buckley's stance so egregious was his decision to selectively ban only Ebbert and David Bernstein of the Phoenix while allowing access to others because in Buckley's words the Globe “already had two stories on topic; we just want everyone to get their ‘fair share.’ ”

Political hacks do not make news judgments.

Brown has a long history of speaking out of both sides of his mouth: offering praise for Main Street while supporting Wall Street at the top of his list. He is also running a commercial with Barack Obama in which he takes credit for a bill he claims he filed but which was actually one offered by Joe Lieberman.

He has also played the class card with particular skill, lambasting "Professor" Warren while ignoring the fact his fabled truck was purchased the haul a trailer for his daughters' horse.

Now the senator is getting as skittish as a colt when Warren attempts to bring out the Two Faces of Scotto.

CORRECTION: I incorrectly stated Mickey Ward appeared in a Warren ad that questions Brown's support for the "little guys." Lowell gym owner Art Ramahlo appears in that ad. Ward pulled a potential endorsementr of Brown because of the senator's stance on gay marriage and labor unions.

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Friday, September 14, 2012

Blood on their hands

Did far right hatred against Islam trigger the violence in Egypt and Libya that killed four Americans? Emerging evidence suggests the answer is yes.

The full picture of what took place this week remains somewhat murky. But one constant in all the accounts is "Innocence of Muslims," an anti-Islam video produced in the United States and promoted by Terry Jones, the right wing Florida pastor who previously enraged the Muslim world by burning a Koran.

And Mitt Romney, who muzzled the hard right for the one week of the GOP convention, continues to pander to the wing nuts with his ill-considered remarks blasting the Obama administration for condemning the film.

ABC News and the Washington Post reveal a web of lies and distortions in the making of the film by a convicted drug manufacturer with a string of aliases and false stories. Actors claim to have been duped about the intent, with new words dubbed over what they read from the script.

The international picture has become complicated by Egypt's botched initial response to the film and the violence it generated, and inadvertently gave the right's Public Enemy No. 1, Barack Hussein Obama, the opportunity to display the type of leadership that Romney lacks, as proven by his inflammatory bluster.

The far right remains Romney's worst nightmare as he attempts to Etch a Sketch his positions and appeal to a broader segment of the electorate. His knee-jerk attempt to appease them, meddling in a volatile international incident, hardly reflects the type of cool-headed leadership required to handle these types of crises.

The hard right is unlikely to refute the provocateurs: this is precisely what it lives for. But if the broad public comes to the conclusion that anti-Islam paranoia indeed had a role in triggering international violence, we will be talking about the September Surprise that doomed the Romney presidential bid.

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Hair trigger lip

There has long been an unspoken rule that politics ends at the water's edge. And and even older one that you should know the facts before you open your month on foreign matters.

Meet Mitt Romney, who just topped his London gaffe, in spades.

While US diplomats and intelligence experts were trying to get to the bottom of what could be an organized terrorist attack in Libya and Egypt that claimed the lives of four Americans, including an ambassador, Romney used a political rally in Florida to denounce Barack Obama for not speaking out before all the facts were in.

After all, Romney does that all the time.

The usually volatile Mideast is at it again --  this time triggered by a provocative video clip by an Egyptian-American involving Florida pastor Terry Jones denouncing Islam. It's a surefire method to generate a wild response in the Arab street.

It was not clear then, nor is it certain now, that the anger that began in Egypt over the clip triggered -- or is even connected -- to the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi that claimed four lives.

That did not stop Romney from rushing to the stump to denounce Obama for "apologizing."

As the Globe explains:
Romney alleged that Obama was sympathizing with the attackers because of a statement that the US Embassy in Cairo issued condemning an online video offensive to Muslims as an example of religious intolerance. Romney said Wednesday the statement was issued after the attack in Cairo, as a response to it. But it was actually issued before the attack, specifically in response to growing anger in Egypt over the offensive video.
But in reality:
US officials said Wednesday that they are investigating the four-hour ­assault that killed the ambassador to Libya and three other Americans as a well-orchestrated terrorist attack, not a spontaneous reaction to an inflammatory movie about the Muslim prophet Mohammed.
And as for Obama?
“Make no mistake, justice will be done,” Obama said, adding that “we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.”
While right wing commentators applaud Romney hair trigger lip, the incident raises all sorts of troubling questions about the former Massachusetts governor';s capacity to lead. For someone who apparently was data-driven as a businessman, his willingness to speak out before all the facts are known is rather terrifying.

You would have thought he learned a lesson speaking out about fears for security at the London games before all the facts were in. This is a far worse diplomatic gaffe, that could be described as offering comfort to our enemies.

Romney also continued the newly found GOP tactic of making international diplomacy a political topic, rejecting the long-held belief that partisan politics ends at the water's edge because a nation should be united when facing an imminent threat.

If the shoe were on the other party's foot, cries of treason would surely rise.

The outburst also suggests a sense in the Romney camp that the momentum may be shifting to Obama, requiring a forceful action to shake things up.

Making political hay without full knowledge of what he is talking about could indeed do just that -- reflecting how ill prepared Romney is for the international stage. It even suggests that his supposedly data-driven mind is prone to manipulation from the last person to speak with him.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Warren's SNL moment

Midway through a Saturday Night Live 1988 presidential campaign debate, "Michael Dukakis" turns to moderator "Diane Sawyer" and declares "I can't believe I'm losing to this guy!"

Elizabeth Warren must be muttering the same thing under her breath. But if she isn't, some Democrats are starting to get nervous and yes, even the real Dukakis thinks it's time for a strategy change.

Speaking to a group of Bay State activists and delegates at the Democratic convention, Dukakis declared:
 “Yeah, I know Elizabeth’s media hasn’t been as good as it should be, and she knows that, and I think you’re going to see some significant changes.’’
In fact there's a strong overall similarity to Dukakis' 1988 run against George H. W. Bush and Warren's  campaign against Scott Brown. Both Republicans tried -- and so far have succeeded -- in painting the Democrats as out-of-touch Harvard elites.

Brown has a distinct advantage over Bush, a Connecticut Yankee awkwardly transplanted to Texas. Brown has a personality that has been amply on display in his ads -- starting with the truck and the barn coat in 2011 and moving on to the truck and a Bruins' T-shirt this year. Substance? Nah.

Bush used Roger Ailes and third-party slash-and-burn to destroy Dukakis, while Brown has eschewed those tactics so far. And with good reason, beyond the People's Pledge.

Warren's spots have been roundly panned as preachy and stilted, reinforcing the Harvard tag Brown uses at every opportunity. And while there's still a long way to go -- and lots of money to spend -- the Warren brain trust may finally be getting the message, particularly when it is delivered by respected Democrat hands like Dan Payne:
“Brown looks and acts like a Massachusetts political figure,’’ Payne says. “He is engaged with people and their problems. Her commercials could be for any Democratic candidate for Senate anywhere in America. They feel like cookie-cutter. There is no feeling in those ads that she is even in Massachusetts.’’
The Warren team is said to be ready to make some changes, a wise move before she gets tarred with the same brush that doomed Martha Coakley -- and Dukakis.

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Monday, September 10, 2012

How's that again?

Chameleons don't change colors as much as Myth Romney.

In a rare national televised interview not on Fox, Romney said he would retain some of the health care law, tweaked Republicans for agreeing to defense cuts as part of the fiscal cliff and said America is in "some ways safer" under Barack Obama.

Did someone drop the Etch a Sketch? Or is his staff reading polls?

In an interview with the less-than-tough David Gregory, Romney appeared to backtrack on several key planks of his campaign:
“I’m not getting rid of all of health care reform,”Romney said, while emphasizing that he planned to replace the president’s plan with his own. “There are a number of things that I like in health care reform that I’m going to put in place. One is to make sure that those with pre-existing conditions can get coverage.”
Not to get too technical Myth, but the "president's plan" is your own.

On the subject of the financial headaches facing the nation, Romney, as usual, offered no explanation of how he would both cut taxes and balance the budget, that same GOP recipe that created the mess in the first place. But he did say defense cuts are not the way to go:
“I thought it was a mistake on the part of the White House to propose it. I think it was a mistake for Republicans to go along with it,” he said.
And the man whose foreign policy experience consists of insulting the British and the Palestinians, offered an olive branch to Obama on drone strikes and the assassination of Osama bin Laden.
“That was a great accomplishment,” Mr. Romney said on Sunday. “Using the drones to strike at Al Qaeda targets. I think those are positive developments.”
While somewhat encouraging for Obama partisans, polls that reflect a post-convention bounce are notoriously unreliable and it is safe to assume even the Romney brain trust is smart enough not to pivot slightly toward the center as a result.

More likely, the slight drift in a number of key states -- such as Pennsylvania and maybe even Ohio -- is creating the need to move toward the middle.

Or maybe Myth just confused because he has taken so many contradictory positions on so many issues.

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Sunday, September 09, 2012

Buried lead

GOP partisans will scoff at today's Boston Globe's examination of the pace of the economic recovery, but they ought to think twice.

Republican hackles are sure to be raised by the following analysis:
“The thing I take the most exception to is the argument that government screwed up here — government saved our bacon. It was very costly, but the cost would have been measurably different and greater had the government not interceded.”
Then consider the source of that quote: Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, a forecasting firm in West Chester, Pa., and an economic adviser to John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign. You know the one where the Republican candidate, not the Democrat, said "If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose."

Megan Woolhouse offers the type of analytic reporting that has been largely missing from political coverage this year -- and most others too. She consults the academics who say the pace of recovery is on par with historical standards. And she talks to the analysts who spell out where Barack Obama could have done more.

Republicans are trying to take a page from the 1992 Clinton campaign by declaring, "it's the economy, stupid." But while James Carville's description was intended for internal staff who wanted to change the subject, the 2012 Romney version assumes the voter is "stupid" and won't recall who got us into this mess and have stood in the way of what might have been a more full-throated recovery.

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Friday, September 07, 2012

Straight talk expressed

Four years ago, the Republican presidential nominee promised "straight talk." This time it was Barack Obama who leveled with America.

After John McCain derailed his Straight Talk Express -- and Republicans derailed Obama's hope for change -- it was the president who offered the nation a reality check on the progress we have made since he GOP-created Great Recession.
“I won’t pretend the path I’m offering is quick or easy; I never have. You didn’t elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear. You elected me to tell you the truth. And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades.” 
Obama offered a more sobering reality check to Mitt Romney's mythical promises by bluntly talking about the Elephant in the room:
“They want your vote, but they don’t want you to know their plan. And that’s because all they have to offer is the same prescription they’ve had for the last 30 years.” 
And he made clear, without using the now tainted words, that he recognized that Republicans shared a very different vision for the nation:
“On every issue, the choice you face won’t be just between two candidates or two parties. It will be a choice between two different paths for America. A choice between two fundamentally different visions for the ­future.”
Political conventions are nothing if not elaborate infomercials, subsidized by the American taxpayer. But the Democratic version was a bit more realistic than Romney's Arpege sale pitch.

In place of Romney's detail-free "plans," Obama staked out turf of jobs, education, energy and the deficit. But no perfume promises, this time:
“Know this, America: Our problems can be solved. Our challenges can be met. The path we offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place,” Obama said, describing his goals as “real, achievable plans that will lead to new jobs, more opportunity, and rebuild this economy on a stronger foundation."
So now the battle is joined, with the Republican candidate offering vague promises of hope and change and the Democrat riding the straight talk express.

What a difference four years can make.

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Mythical moment

When you type away in the dark, you never know who's listening. Apparently in my case the answer is Barney Frank.
“Here is the problem – and this is a hard one for me because of my diction,” Frank said. “It turns out my governor was Mitt Romney, when we needed Myth Romney.” 
I can't prove I built it, but I know I have been using the myth moniker for the man from Massachusetts-New Hampshire-Michigan-Utah-California for at least five years.

And one quibble on usage: I would argue we have been saddled with Myth Romney and I'm not convinced we ever needed Mitt.

You're welcome Barney. No charge.

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Thursday, September 06, 2012


For all the Myth-mauling in Charlotte, the real damage to the GOP nominee may be in today's Boston Globe. Don't tell anyone, but Mitt Romney's economic track record is not what he claims it to be.

The Globe does a deep dive in Romney's four years (give or take) dealing with the Bay State's economy and reveals he inherited a mess similar to the one Barack Obama received from George Bush -- and the tools he used to try to get out of the hole are similar to those he is now criticizing as wrong-headed.

Quelle surprise, the fact of the Romney record does not match the myth-making.

The "CEO governor" danced on a head of the pin in "raising fees" and "closing loopholes" rather than "taxes." He had the government "build it," by offering tax breaks to companies as a lure to relocating to Massachusetts.

But unlike Obama, Romney did his best to undermine his own efforts after wanderlust set in following the 2004 legislative election debacle. Romney then took off on his first presidential quest, making the bad mouthing of Massachusetts a central part of his pitch to GOP voters.

Romney's tepid results came after a disaster he inherited from Jane Swift -- a nearly 4 percent loss of jobs in a national recession that hit Massachusetts harder than most. Romney left office with a 1 percent growth in jobs, but as the Globe report:
...the pace of job growth significantly lagged the nation’s, and only a huge outflow of Massachusetts workers to faster-growing states kept the unemployment rate from climbing higher.
The Globe recognizes the issue is more complicated than simple job growth, much as today when the economy continues to dig out from the disaster of the Great Recession fueled by lax regulation that allowed the financial industry to run wild before bringing the world economy to its knees.

And one thing Romney did not face, unlike Obama, is a legislative branch that put politics over policy. While Massachusetts lawmakers were not enamored of Romney, they worked with him to close the tax loopholes and promote growth, in sharp contrast to the GOP House that didn't even deign to take up Obama's jobs bills.

So forget the rhetoric and look at the facts: Romney governed Massachusetts with a similar if not identical set of basic philosophies design to benefit "job creators" and workers. The GOP model he now embraces is a direct contrast.

That leaves the option of deciding whether Romney was wrong then -- or lying now.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Treacle done politics?

Apparently Scott Brown's new campaign song is No More Mr. Nice Guy. Now it's the politics of personal resentment.

On the same day as the Herald's "Truth Squad" claimed the Democratic Convention's  Native American Council requested a meeting with Elizabeth Warren (a claim the council and the delegate deny) Brown's campaign launched a new website labeling Warren a "fake Indian."

It was also the same day that Brown's campaign issued a press release rapping Warren for "mudslinging."

Stay classy Scotto.

After a summer of treacly commercials focusing on veterans, fishermen and laundry, featuring washed up Democrats like Ray Flynn and Paul Walsh, Brown appeared to take the unofficial Labor Day campaign launch to heart with the new attacks, timed to Warren's speech to Democrats tonight.

But what's most intriguing is the apparent timing of the Herald's report that the Native American convention delegates want to speak with her and the story by the Globe in which Harlan Geronimo rebutted the words put into his mouth
One of the concerned delegates named in the Herald report was Harlyn Geronimo, the great grandson of the Apache warrior Geronimo. But Harlyn Geronimo also told the Herald he was unfamiliar with Warren’s claim, and he is not a convention delegate, according to a list on the Democratic convention website. Three others featured in the Herald story are delegates.
The truth of the Truth Squad's report aside, the harsh negativity of the new website is in sharp contrast to the nice guy image Brown has carefully nurtured and has carried him to a slight lead over Warren.

It would also suggest less confidence than one would assume from a candidate who continues to have more money in the bank than his opponent and has been content to offer soft commercials on what a great father and husband he is rather than discuss his votes to support the financial services industry fight reform measures.

The new line of attack probably opens up possible second looks into some of Brown's claims that were seemingly contradicted in a Globe report about his childhood.

And the whole incident sure has the feel of Eric "CrazyKhazei" Ferhrnstrom taking the gloves off. Wonder what the internall polls are telling him?

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Tuesday, September 04, 2012

All eyes on...

As Democrats gather in Charlotte most attention will be focused on Barack Obama. But a significant subset will be turned to a Senate race in Massachusetts.

The Boston Herald "Truth Squad" set the tone of the convention sub-story, resurrecting the Native American saga, complete with a picture of Harlan Geronimo, yes, that Geronimo,  a Democratic delegate seeking an audience with Elizabeth Warren prior to her convention speech tomorrow night.

Memo to Warren staff: do it and make sure your own cameras are there. And be prepared to answer the questions from the heart, once and for all.

Yep, Warren is likely to be the under card for this event. To the national media, she is one of the party's "brightest stars." To her hometown press, she's the rapidly fizzling phenom, the candidate whose party keeps stepping into traps sprung by Republican Scott Brown.

While Warren has the love of the party faithful, she's done a tepid job of wooing the rank and file -- and the independents -- who have been taken in by Brown's commercials that highlight his personalty rather than his votes.

Labor Day marks the unofficial start of the real campaign -- what's taken place so far has been so much sparring. And it's clear Brown has won that phase with his treacly commercials combined with some surgical strikes at "Professor" Warren. A Democratic-leaning telephone survey gave him a five percent advantage last month.

Warren has failed to make a real connection with a lot of voters, despite her own compelling personal story. Small example: I've been bombarded by fund-raising letters from the Obamas, Bill Clinton and the Democratic Party fund-raising apparatus. Not one piece of mail from the Warren camp.

The candidate has been out and about according to Twitter posts, the same source for party bragging about a lot of grassroots campaigning.

But the campaign apparently believes everything starts this week -- from yesterday's Labor Day breakfast to tomorrow's prime time national speech.

If that's the case, she is setting a very high bar, particularly with a media contingent that believes her efforts to date have been a lot of smoke and very little fire.

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Sunday, September 02, 2012

They all do it

Cynicism is the mother's milk of journalism. It is drowning the baby.

This weekend finds two political journalists, one mainstream, the other web-based, poo-poohing the hand-wringing over the the half-truths, misstatements and outright lies that emanated from the Republican Chair Fest in Tampa.

One of them, Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post, controls that newspaper's Pinocchio scale. Yet he declares that "hey it's a political convention, what do you expect?"

It is a fact that truth is often the first victim of politics and every candidate has a shaky relationship with it at one point or another. But when a campaign or a candidate takes fiction to a whole new level, that in and of itself is a story.

And the Romney campaign seems to have a special relationship with distortion, according to no less an "authority" than Kessler, who gives Romney and the GOP the lead over Barack Obama in the fiction department.

And he's far more generous than PolitiFact, the Tampa Bay Times fact-checker that goes through pages of GOP "Pants on Fire" entries compared to the Democrats.

Don't get me wrong -- there's a lot not to like about fact-checking, which can often seem to be dancing on the head of a pin. That's particularly true of PoltiFact, which has so many grade levels it makes you head spin.

Which brings me to BuzzFeed's Ben Smith, who seems to have bought the spin, hook, line and sinker.

Sorry, but a campaign that doctors an Obama quote totally out of context, then declares itself the Etch a Sketch campaign is entering new levels of dishonesty. And that doesn't even get to a vice presidential nominee who has distorted not only his own record on Medicare and deficit reduction but even lied about how fast he ran a marathon.

An unusually honest election Ben? Yes, there have been far nastier races, from Grover Cleveland and James Blaine to Michael Dukakis and the swift-boating of John Kerry. But nasty is not the same as shape shifting and outright lying.

It is the job of political reporters to overcome the f- 'em all sentiment that a nasty campaign generates and dig down into the facts. Cynicism and an acceptance of truthiness have no place in journalism.

And that's The Word.

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Saturday, September 01, 2012

Two Americas

Admittedly John Edwards is not the most credible authority, but several stories in today's New York Times offers a sharp focus on the erstwhile Democratic hopeful's description of America's yawning inequality gap.

The Times introduces us to Doug Wallace Jr., a nearly blind 31-year-old college graduate with $89,000 in student loans who needs to prove a "certainty of hopelessness" in order to get some relief from his crushing debt.

We are also offered a look at the New York real estate market, where former Citigroup chairman Sanford Weill sold his Central Park West penthouse apartment for $88 million and experts are trying to compare real estate values to art.

What's the connection, aside from the similar numbers, give or take some zeroes?

Wallace and others in his position are paying the price imposed by Congress under increasingly tougher laws governing individual bankruptcy. Some may argue it's a fair penalty for fiscal irresponsibility in running up such debt.

Citigroup and its financial service industry compatriots are reaping the rewards of congressional indifference to the same sort of irresponsibility by Wall Street, unchecked behavior that has contributed mightily to the mortgage bubble and the looming student loan debt bubble.

The Obama administration has been less than forceful in going after Wall Street excess that started with the elimination of Glass-Stegall banking restrictions under Bill Clinton and escalated wildly under George W. Bush's watch.

But they will seem draconian under the vision painted by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, who have charted a return to the Bad Old Days where Wall Streeters will see lower taxes and middle income Americans will be forced to find new ways to pay for health care after the repeal of ObamaCare and the voucherization of Medicare.

The bright side? Yacht owners won't have to be quite so cost-conscious, pinching pennies on operating costs.

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