Sunday, October 7, 2012

Romney’s Sick Joke


October 4, 2012

“No. 1,” declared Mitt Romney in Wednesday’s debate, “pre-existing conditions are covered under my plan.” 

 No, they aren’t — as Mr. Romney’s own advisers have conceded in the past, and did again after the debate.

Was Mr. Romney lying? Well, either that or he was making what amounts to a sick joke. Either way, his attempt to deceive voters on this issue was the biggest of many misleading and/or dishonest claims he made over the course of that hour and a half. Yes, President Obama did a notably bad job of responding. But I’ll leave the theater criticism to others and talk instead about the issue that should be at the heart of this election.

So, about that sick joke: What Mr. Romney actually proposes is that Americans with pre-existing conditions who already have health coverage be allowed to keep that coverage even if they lose their job — as long as they keep paying the premiums. As it happens, this is already the law of the land.

But it’s not what anyone in real life means by having a health plan that covers pre-existing conditions, because it applies only to those who manage to land a job with health insurance in the first place (and are able to maintain their payments despite losing that job).
Did I mention that the number of jobs that come with health insurance has been steadily declining over the past decade? 

What Mr. Romney did in the debate, in other words, was, at best, to play a word game with voters, pretending to offer something substantive for the uninsured while actually offering nothing. For all practical purposes, he simply lied about what his policy proposals would do.

How many Americans would be left out in the cold under Mr. Romney’s plan?  
One answer is 89 million. According to the nonpartisan Commonwealth Foundation, that’s the number of Americans who lack the “continuous coverage” that would make them eligible for health insurance under Mr. Romney’s empty promises. By the way, that’s more than a third of the U.S. population under 65 years old.

Another answer is 45 million, the estimated number of people who would have health insurance if Mr. Obama were re-elected, but would lose it if Mr. Romney were to win.

That estimate reflects two factors.  

First, Mr. Romney proposes repealing the Affordable Care Act, which means doing away with all the ways in which that law would help tens of millions of Americans who either have pre-existing conditions or can’t afford health insurance for other reasons.  

Second, Mr. Romney is proposing drastic cuts in Medicaid — basically to save money that he could use to cut taxes on the wealthy — which would deny essential health care to millions more Americans. (And, no, despite what he has said, you can’t get the care you need just by going to the emergency room.)

Wait, it gets worse. The true number of victims from Mr. Romney’s health proposals would be much larger than either of these numbers, for a couple of reasons.

One is that Medicaid doesn’t just provide health care to Americans too young for Medicare; it also pays for nursing care and other necessities for many older Americans.

Also, many Americans have health insurance but live under the continual threat of losing it. Obamacare would eliminate this threat, but Mr. Romney would bring it back and make it worse. Safety nets don’t just help people who actually fall, they make life more secure for everyone who might fall. But Mr. Romney would take that security away, not just on health care but across the board.

What about the claim made by a Romney adviser after the debate that states could step in to guarantee coverage for pre-existing conditions?
  That’s nonsense on many levels.
  • For one thing, Mr. Romney wants to eliminate restrictions on interstate insurance sales, depriving states of regulatory power. 
  • Furthermore, if all you do is require that insurance companies cover everyone, healthy people will wait until they’re sick to sign up, leading to sky-high premiums. 
  • So you need to couple regulations on insurers with a requirement that everyone have insurance. 
  • And, to make that feasible, you have to offer insurance subsidies to lower-income Americans, which have to be paid for at a federal level.
And what you end up with is — precisely — the health reform President Obama signed into law. 

One could wish that Mr. Obama had made this point effectively in the debate. He had every right to jump up and say, “There you go again”: Not only was Mr. Romney’s claim fundamentally dishonest, it has already been extensively debunked, and the Romney campaign itself has admitted that it’s false.For whatever reason, the president didn’t do that, on health care or on anything else. But, as I said, never mind the theater criticism.

The fact is that Mr. Romney tried to mislead the public, and he shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it.

The Caucus: On Health Care, Two Visions With Their Own Set of Facts (October 4, 2012)

Chronicling Mitt's Mendacity, Vol. XXXVII

By Steve Benen
Fri Oct 5, 2012 2:45 PM EDT

Joe Conason watched the presidential candidates' debate this week, and had a reaction I could relate to.
"'It's not easy to debate a liar,' complained an email from one observer of the first presidential debate -- and there was no question about which candidate he meant. Prevarication, falsification, fabrication are all familiar tactics that have been employed by Mitt Romney without much consequence to him ever since he entered public life," Conason wrote.

Concerns along these lines were not uncommon yesterday. In fact, note David Gergen's take from Wednesday night:

"I think [President Obama] was so surprised, he thought Romney was just flat-out lying," Gergen said. And if the president was thinking that, he had good reason to.

I find this article one of the best, Romney must really think WE the PEOPLE of the United States...... must all be deaf, dumb, and blind to believe what he said on Wednesday night was even a glimmer of truth, I know that what he said was a huge pile of elephant dung. And believe me, that, was a BIG pile of dodo, falsely colored to make it look good. Yuck lie, lie, lie l-i-e, liar, lie lie, lie l-i-a-r

Consider, for example, the 38th installment of my weekly series -- easily the longest of 2012 -- chronicling Mitt's mendacity.

1. In reference to the unemployment rate, Romney said, "The reason it's come down this year is primarily due to the fact that more and more people have just stopped looking for work."

That's not true.

2. On Fox News last night, Romney said in reference to the president, "[W]hat I find so offensive about his tax plan is by raising taxes on small business, as he does, he will kill jobs."

In reality, Obama has repeatedly cut taxes on small businesses -- by some counts, 18 times -- and if given a second term, his tax plan would have no effect on 97% of small businesses.

3. Speaking yesterday at the Colorado Conservative Political Action Committee Conference, Romney said, "this sequestration idea ... came out of the White House."

No, it didn't. This sequestration idea emanated from House Republicans.

4. In the same speech, Romney said Obama "spending more and more, borrowing more and more, putting us on a road to Greece."

That's painfully untrue.

5. In Wednesday night's debate, Romney said, "I don't have a $5 trillion tax cut. I don't have a tax cut of a scale that you're talking about."

Independent analysts determined the proposed across-the-board rate cut would cost $5 trillion.

6. Romney said, "I'm not going to reduce the share of taxes paid by high-income people. High-income people are doing just fine in this economy."

That's not true. The wealthy would receive a massive, disproportionate tax break under the Romney plan.

7. Romney said, "[G]asoline prices have doubled under the president."

To blame gas prices on the president's policies is ridiculously untrue.

8. Romney said, "I'm not going to cut education funding. I don't have any plan to cut education funding and grants that go to people going to college."

That's a lie.

9. Romney argued, "Energy is critical, and the president pointed out correctly that production of oil and gas in the U.S. is up. But not due to his policies. In spite of his policies. Mr. President, all of the increase in natural gas and oil has happened on private land, not on government land."
10. On taxes, Romney said, "I do want to reduce the burden being paid by middle-income Americans. And to do that that also means that I cannot reduce the burden paid by high-income Americans."

This is ridiculously untrue (and more than a little incoherent).

11. On taxes, Romney argued, "I will not reduce the share paid by high-income individuals. I -- I know that you and your running mate keep saying that, and I know it's a popular things to say with a lot of people, but it's just not the case."

Yes, it is the case.

12. Romney said, "I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans."

That's slightly different than the other lie. It's also equally wrong.

13. Romney said, "I will not, under any circumstances, raise taxes on middle-income families." He cited "six studies" to back him up on this.

There's ample evidence that Romney will have no choice but to raise taxes on middle-income families and the six studies don't back him up.

14. Romney said, "I saw a study that came out today that said you're going to raise taxes by 3 to $4,000 on middle-income families."

The study is wrong, and that's not what it said.

15. Romney said on tax rates, "Mr. President, you're absolutely right, which is that with regards to 97 percent of the businesses are not taxed at the 35 percent tax rate, they're taxed at a lower rate. But those businesses that are in the last 3 percent of businesses happen to employ half -- half -- of all of the people who work in small business."

That's a new one. It's also not true.

16. Romney said, "[Y]our plan is to take the tax rate on successful small businesses from 35 percent to 40 percent. The National Federation of Independent Businesses has said that will cost 700,000 jobs."

Oh, please.

17. Romney said, "What things would I cut from spending? Well, first of all, I will eliminate all programs by this test -- if they don't pass it: Is the program so critical it's worth borrowing money from China to pay for it? And if not, I'll get rid of it."

The implication here is that U.S. debt is financed by the Chinese, but this isn't true -- China only holds about 8% of the nation's debt.

18. In reference to how he'd balance the budget, Romney said he'll "get rid of" the Affordable Care Act.

This is incoherent and absurd. "Obamacare" cuts the deficit to the tune of about $109 billion over the next decade. It's simply incoherent to say you'll cut the deficit by eliminating a law, which would in turn increase the deficit. That's like promising to put out a fire by using more kerosene.

19. Romney said, "The president said he'd cut the deficit in half. Unfortunately, he doubled it."

Maybe Romney doesn't know what "double" means. The deficit on Obama's first day was $1.3 trillion. Last year, it was also $1.3 trillion. This year, it's projected to be $1.1 trillion. When he says the president "more than doubled" the deficit, as he has many times, Romney's lying.

20. Romney argued, "The president's put in place as much public debt, almost as much debt held by the public as all prior presidents combined."

He's said this before, but it's not even close to being true.

21. On subsidies, Romney said to the president, "[Y]ou say Exxon and Mobil -- actually, this $2.8 billion goes largely to small companies, to drilling operators and so forth."

Nice try, but no.

22. Romney said to Obama, "[Y[ou put $90 billion -- like 50 years' worth of breaks -- into solar and wind."

That's not quite right, and much of the $90 billion was appropriated by George W. Bush, not Obama.

23. Romney argued to the president, "[Y]ou said you get a deduction for getting a plant overseas. Look, I've been in business for 25 years. I have no idea what you're talking about."

Romney's admitted cluelessness notwithstanding, he's simply wrong to argue the tax deduction doesn't exist. It's real.

24. On entitlements, Romney argued, "[N]either the president nor I are proposing any changes for any current retirees or near retirees, either to Social Security or Medicare. So if you're 60 or around 60 or older, you don't need to listen any further."

That's demonstrably wrong. Under Romney's policy, the cost of prescription drug prices and preventive care for seniors would go up immediately -- for current and future retirees. For that matter, since Romney's plan hastens Medicare's insolvency -- soon -- seniors should listen closely.

25. Defending his Medicare plan, Romney said the idea originated in part with Paul Ryan and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), "who's a co-author of the bill."

According to Ron Wyden, that's ridiculously untrue.

26. In reference to Dodd-Frank, Romney said, "[I]t designates a number of banks as too big to fail, and they're effectively guaranteed by the federal government. This is the biggest kiss that's been given to New York banks I've ever seen. This is an enormous boon for them.... I wouldn't designate five banks as too big to fail and give them a blank check."

This simply has no basis in fact.

27. In reference to Wall Street reform, Romney said, "It wasn't thought through properly.... [I]t's killing regional and small banks.

No, it's not.

28. In reference to the Affordable Care Act, Romney said, "It cuts $716 billion from Medicare to pay for it. I want to put that money back in Medicare for our seniors."

As I suspect Romney knows -- he'd already endorsed these same cuts earlier in the year -- he's just not telling the truth.

29. In the next breath, Romney says of the health care law, "[I]t puts in place an unelected board that's going to tell people, ultimately, what kind of treatments they can have."

This is getting awfully close to the "death panel" argument, and it's not true.

30. Romney vowed to "sit down with Democratic leaders as well as Republican leaders -- as we did in my state."

That's wildly misleading. In his one term, Romney issued more than 800 vetoes, over 700 of which were overridden, and demonstrated a "relative disinterest in bipartisan collaboration."

31. According to Romney, congressional Republicans unveiled a "bipartisan" health care reform plan in 2010. "It was swept aside."

There was no "bipartisan plan" from GOP lawmakers. Romney just made this up.

32. Asked what he would replace the Affordable Care Act with, Romney's exact words were, "Let, well, actually, actually it's , it's, it's a lengthy description."

That's a lie. Romney's online description of his health care reform plan is just 369 words.

33. Romney said, "Pre-existing conditions are covered under my plan."

I really wish that were true. It's not.

34. Romney, offering "proof" that the president's agenda is "not working," said, "23 million people are out of work."

That's not true. As of the time of the debate, there were 12.5 million Americans unemployed.

35. In reference to public support for green-energy companies, Romney argued, "These businesses, many of them have gone out of business. I think about half of them, of the ones have been invested in, they've gone out of business."

As Romney's own aides later admitted, this is demonstrably false.

36. In a TV campaign ad released this week, Romney said "Obama and the liberals already have ... raised taxes on the middle class."

That's obviously untrue; Obama has repeatedly cut taxes on the middle class. In fact, Romney admitted as much just last week.

37. In the same ad, Romney accused Obama of creating "government-run health care."

As Romney knows -- his own state health care law served as the blueprint for the president's plan -- the Affordable Care Act relies on private insurers, and is not "government-run health care."

38. The same ad claims consumers will be forced to "pay more for your medicine."

Actually, the only change in the cost of medication came for seniors -- and "Obamacare" closes the donut hole to make sure they pay less, not more.

39. The commercial goes on to say the Affordable Care Act "includes a trillion dollars in higher taxes -- even on the middle class."

This is apparently in reference to the individual mandate. And if the claim is true, then Romney's Massachusetts law also includes higher taxes -- even on the middle class.

40. In his weekly podcast, Romney said Obama's vision of international affairs is premised on seeing the United States "as merely one among many nations rather than as an exceptional nation."

Obama is the only president in American history to publicly and explicitly endorse the principle of American exceptionalism.

41. Romney also argued "our moral standing has declined" around the globe.

No, it hasn't. Respect and support for the United States around the world has improved under Obama.

42. Romney went on to say Obama no longer supports "standing with Israel."

Israelis say otherwise.

43. Romney also said the president "refuses to meet with Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu."

Obama has met with Netanyahu many times.

44. He went on to say, hoping to draw a contrast with the president, "I will never apologize for America."

How is it possible the whole "apology" lie hasn't gone away yet?

45. At a campaign event in Wayne, Pennsylvania, Romney said the president is "planning on cutting our military by about a trillion dollars over the next decade."

No, he's not. Obama is planning to cut defense spending, on the recommendation of the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs, by about $500 billion over the next decade. There are other cuts looming, but they were crafted by Romney's party and endorsed by his own running mate.

46. At the same event, Romney argued, "[T]he president adds about a trillion dollars a year to the national debt."

It's true that in recent years, about a trillion dollars a year to the national debt, but it's not the president who's doing it.

47. Romney went on to say, "Do you realize that our Navy is smaller in terms of the number of ships than any time since 1917?"

This one again? Romney dropped this lie a while back, but it's apparently made a comeback.

48. Romney also vowed, "I will not raise taxes on middle-income Americans."

There's ample evidence that Romney will raise taxes on the middle class.

49. Romney went on to promise, "I've got a plan. I've got a plan to help free people pursue their dreams and get this economy going. And the good news is this: It'll create 12 million jobs."

Putting aside the pesky detail that Romney doesn't actually have a specific jobs plan, the fact remains that if we do nothing, we're on track to create 12 million new American jobs over the next four years anyway.

50. Romney added, "I want to take that big cloud off of the small business world that's hanging over them. Three-quarters of them say they don't want to hire more people because of this cloud and that cloud is Obamacare."

Romney's referring to a "survey" conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce if its members. The claim, however, is a misleading joke -- the Chamber, a pro-Republican lobbying institution heavily invested in helping Romney, put up an unscientific online survey. Treating this as a legitimate poll of businesses is fundamentally dishonest.

Spin Cycle: Obama Advisers Assess the Debate

The campaign will reconsider a new strategy while fact-checking Romney.

Posted: 10/04/2012 02:00 AM EDT

It turns out that President Obama left his shine back at the White House on purpose.

In response to a flurry of criticisms about the president's uninspired debate performance Wednesday night, senior campaign adviser David Axelrod said that Obama had made a choice to simply answer the questions he was asked and avoid a situation in which he and Mitt Romney would be "insulting each other" all night, ergo no mention of the "47 percent," Bain Capital and other tried-and-true attacks. Still, Axelrod appeared to understand that the Mr. Nice Guy approach may not have been the wisest strategy and said that some adjustments will need to be made for rounds two and three.

In a Thursday morning conference call with reporters, Axelrod said that the campaign would take "a hard look" at the president's performance, likening the debates to a playoff series, and added that it also would "make some judgments about where to draw the lines in these debates and how to use our time.”

Axelrod wasted no time offering a critique of Romney's performance, which he said might win the Republican an Oscar but not the presidency.

"Gov. Romney came to give a performance and he gave a good performance and we will give him credit for that. The problem with it is that none of it was rooted in fact," he said, describing the Republican nominee as "a serial evader" and an "artful dodger.”

Policy adviser James Kvaal provided reporters with a litany of issues on which the campaign believes Romney distorted his policy agenda, rebuttals that would have served the president well if he'd offered them during the actual debate. He and Axelrod pledged that the campaign would spend the coming weeks doing what they said would be setting the record straight.

The Obama that supporters wished they'd seen on stage turned up on the campaign trail Thursday, using a bit of humor that seemed to be a bit of commentary on both candidates' performances.

"When I got on stage, I met this very spirited fellow, who claimed to be Mitt Romney. It couldn’t have been Mitt Romney," he said at an afternoon rally in Denver. "The real Romney has been running around the country for the last year promising $5 trillion in tax cuts that favor the wealthy. The fellow on stage last night said he didn’t know anything about that. He does not want to be held accountable for the real Mitt Romney's decisions."

According to Axelrod, the debate was Obama's "first chance to see the Romney routine up close" and he's "very eager" for the next debate.

Likewise, Democrats and others, who were, frankly, stunned by Obama Wednesday night, are eager to see the real Barack Obama, not someone who simply claims that's who he is.

Don’t Be Fooled, That Debate Was a Big Deal

Published October 05, 2012

“Well, I'm a little confused here, because I don't see how you can grow the deficit down by raising people's taxes. You see, I don't think the American people are taxed too little. I think they're taxed too much. I went for one tax increase and when I make a mistake I admit it. I said that wasn't the right thing to do.”

-- President George H.W. Bush in an Oct. 15, 1992 town-hall debate with Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton and Reform Party nominee Ross Perot.

Mitt Romney beat the britches off of President Obama in their first debate, including the devastating sound bite “you’ve been president for four years.”

It was the most-watched debate in 20 years and was the most decisive victory by a challenger in at least that long, but to look at the news today, you might be tempted to think it really didn’t matter.

Another month of essentially flat job growth is being trumpeted as just the comeback the president needed, with reporters, addicted to the top-line unemployment rate, freaking out about the fact that the measure fell below 8 percent.

(Power Play will spare you another lecture on the irrelevancy of this measure in a stagnant economy. The number to watch to know how people are really doing is the larger measure of those unemployed, underemployed and those who have given up work, which held steady at 14.7 percent.)

Certainly the very presence of an avalanche of favorable, if misleading, economic headlines will give the president a boost. And he certainly needs one given his botch on Wednesday.

The most effective spin from Team Obama so far has been that this kind of thing happens all the time – that incumbents always have trouble in their first debates. Why, just look at Ronald Reagan in 1984 and George W. Bush in 2004, they were off their game, came back and won.

While the long-term spin from Obama and his campaign is that Romney is a liar and a phony who only won by taking advantage of an incumbent too tirelessly committed to honest politics and detailed answers, the most urgent matter is to get the establishment press to minimize the importance of the president’s loss.

Some reporters were on that buggy right away, talking about the “debate curse” of the incumbent even before the first Big Bird Twitter meme had begun. The “curse” concept is picking up speed as is the expectation on the right and left that Obama will be back on his game by the time the two men meet up again for a town-hall debate at Hofstra University.

There is lots of truth in that. The president will come back strong and certainly there will be a phalanx of reporters there to say that the old magic is back and that Obama looked potently presidential.

The Romney Obama contest was the most watched first debate since 1980, when an estimated 80 million viewers watched the only contest between President Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan

But don’t be fooled into thinking that what happened on Wednesday was not a massive moment for the race.

Consider the margin of victory. The most frequent comparison for the Obama-Romney debate was that of John Kerry’s win over George W. Bush in the first debate of 2004. Certainly Bush did himself no favors by looking annoyed with his opponent and by muffing several answers.

Since the conventional wisdom holds that this election is a replay of the narrow contest of 2004, with Romney filling the role of doomed Massachusetts politician destined to come just short of victory against an embattled incumbent, the Kerry v. Bush comparison is like catnip on the Obama press plane.

But does it fit?

When CNN polled debate viewers about who won the 2004 match up, 53 percent said Kerry had won, while 37 percent said Bush won, the remaining 10 percent call it a tie – it was a decisive win that helped Kerry erase what had been a steady lead for Bush heading into the home stretch. It was the magic moment for the challenger who seemed headed for a big defeat.

How did Romney score by comparison? CNN’s post debate poll this time found 67 percent believed Romney won compared to 25 percent for Obama, with 8 percent calling it a draw. Based on debate scores alone, the “cursed” Bush of 2004 looks like Daniel Webster compared to Obama.

What about eyeballs? More than 62 million viewers watched Kerry and Bush duke it out eight years ago. For Romney and Obama, it was more than 67 million, plus millions more watching online.

The Romney Obama contest was the most watched first debate since 1980, when an estimated 80 million viewers watched the only contest between President Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. This year’s mile-high smackdown was the most watched of any debate since the second contest of 1992.

And it’s that debate that may prove the most instructive for this year. That was the first-ever town-hall contest, pitting struggling incumbent George H.W. Bush against challengers Bill Clinton and Ross Perot.

That was the debate in which Bush, already tagged as out-of-touch, kept checking his watch as if to say “Are we done here? I have a government to run.” Obama’s grimacing, downcast look said very much the same thing, as did his dismissive tone toward the challenger. Voters didn’t think Bush the elder had earned a second term and wanted to see him work for it. The same is true for Obama.

You will see lots of stories suggesting that today’s jobs report will put Obama back on track. But Bush the elder actually had an improving economy in 1992, measurably better than the one Obama is lugging this time.

While media slant will help Obama make lemons out of lemonade at every moment possible, it isn’t enough to roll back what happened on Wednesday when Mitt Romney all at once became a plausible alternative.

With voters hungry for change in Washington, that’s a perilous thing for Obama.
And Now, A Word From Charles

“With Romney on the rebound, I think Big Bird ought to worry.  Thanksgiving is coming up.”

-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

'Up To Us': What Are Youth Voters Concerned About In The 2012 Elections? (VIDEO)

Posted: Updated: 10/05/2012 2:20 pm EDT

Our Time, a group focused on youth voting and economic issues, is out with a new film tackling the issues most pertinent to younger Americans this elections season.

The group partnered with Generation18 and Own The Vote to create the film, which aims to encourage "the millennial generation" to "get educated on the issues and proposed solutions, demand specific commitments from their local and federal candidates and, after the election, hold those policymakers accountable to the interest group that matter’s most: the future."

To this end, two of America’s leading youth political engagement organizations – and Generation18 – have come together to make a film for the 2012 election that will voice the concerns and issues of young Americans who are struggling in the recession. The film follows two young Americans, Atlanta native Kyle Murphy, who has served as an AmeriCorps member at Habitat for Humanity and Brandon West a MPA graduate who has been underemployed for 18 months but is seeking work in the public sector. As we follow them on their journeys, both individuals display the resilience and idealism of this generation and our desire to have an impact on our world. The film also features interviews with journalist Jonathan Alter, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, political analyst Margaret Hoover,, Jessica Alba, and more. Directed by David D. Burstein, the Executive Director of Generation18 and produced by, Up to Us, shows an optimistic solution for young America’s economic future, one that envisions an expansion of national service to grow economic opportunity alongside increased opportunity for millennials to achieve their idealistic goals of tackling social problems. The film seeks to inspire and activate our generation support the campaign to get one million new national service jobs and to turn out to vote this November

Where's the 'real' Mitt Romney?

The Situation Room|Added on October 5, 2012  CNN's Gloria Borger looks at the employment numbers and the "real" Mitt Romney.

The Role of the Debate Moderator

The Situation Room Added on October 5, 2012

Howard Kurtz and Lauren Ashburn talk about Jim Lehrer and President Obama's performance at the first presidential debate. 

The Morning Plum: Don’t be fooled by Mitt’s moderate makeover

At the debate on Tuesday, Mitt Romney masterfully obscured his true positions on everything from taxes to education to health care. He presented himself as the technocratic centrist he used to be and gave voice to a balanced approach to the role of government that is sorely lacking from his actual policy proposals.

Mitt Romney's shift to the middle
Anderson Cooper 360|Added on October 5, 2012

The next step in this makeover came last night, when he disavowed his remarks about the freeloading 47 percent:
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is disavowing his controversial remarks dismissing “the 47 percent” of Americans who don’t pay federal income taxes, saying in an interview Thursday night that the comments were “just completely wrong.”
“My life has shown that I care about 100 percent, and that’s been demonstrated throughout my life,” Romney told conservative commentator Sean Hannity on Fox News. “And this whole campaign is about the 100 percent.”
The problem here, of course, is that after the freeloading 47 percent video came to light, Romney stood by the remarks he had made, allowing that they were not “elegantly stated,” but describing them as “a message which I am going to carry and continue to carry.” It seems clear from that videotape that Romney does subscribe to the “makers and moochers” worldview, at least in some form, even if he has now recognized that it’s toxic to his presidential hopes.
More broadly, pundits claim all of this suggests the reemergence of moderate Massachusetts Mitt. But that’s not what’s happening here at all. As Steve Kornacki notes, all that’s really changing is that Romney is reinventing his own plans as part of a broader effort to redirect his rhetoric away from the base and towards swing voters. Case in point:
His debate exchange with Obama over taxes is a perfect example. Romney is clearly vulnerable on the issue; the plan he’s presented would slash tax rates in a way that disproportionately benefits the wealthy, and would either explode the deficit or require the elimination of popular, widely used tax deductions. This reflects the actual priorities of the Republican Party, but it’s also at odds with what most Americans (who consistently tell pollsters they don’t like deficits and want taxes on the wealthy raised, and who are fond of their tax deductions) want. Romney’s solution: Insist during the debate that the rich won’t get a tax break and that the deficit won’t explode and avoid specifying any deductions that might be on the chopping block.
And he’s doing this on issue after issue. What’s happening now is that Romney is busily obscuring the true nature of his policy proposals and the priorities and ideas about government that inform them, because they are out of step with what the American mainstream really wants. The real story coming out of the debate is that Romney is proving to be very adept at this. The question is whether the media focus on Romney’s undeniably excellent performance, rather than on the substance of his serial evasions, will enable him to get away with it.

* A spotlight shined on Romney’s evasions: Relatedly, the New York Times comes through with a big stand alone piece documenting the startling number of shifts and evasions on issues and previous positions that Romney displayed at the debate. As the Times puts it delicately, Romney’s “striking new language to describe his policy proposals” may be “sowing confusion about how Mr. Romney would govern.”
As Jonathan Bernstein notes, it’s possible that Romney’s mendacity, not just his dominant performance, could become a main storyline out of the debate, which could blunt any Romney bounce, just as Paul Ryan’s dishonesty became the story of his convention speech.

* A better than expected jobs report: It’s in:
The unemployment rate decreased to 7.8 percent in September, and total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 114,000, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Employment increased in health care and in transportation and warehousing but changed little in most other major industries.
This is still not good enough, but the drop in unemployment does kill Romney’s talking point about unemployment remaining over eight percent.
Also: The August jobs report — which pundits spent days hyping as a wet blanket on Obama’s candidacy — was significantly revised upwards from 96,000 to 146,000. Can we learn from this?
This is only one metric, and the question, as always, is what direction people perceive the economy moving in. So this is good news politically for Obama. But keep in mind that public perceptions of the economy are more complex than this one metric captures.

* Romney ad highlights disappointment in Obama: The Romney campaign is up with a new ad in Nevada that features a former professional basketball player claiming he voted for Obama but has “lost faith” in him because “over the last four years we’ve heard enough excuses.”. This is the softer messaging about Obama that’s geared towards speaking to people’s disappointment, telling people who voted for him last time that it’s okay to move on — it’s not you, it’s him.

* A silver lining for Obama in the debate? A counterintuitive take from Robert Shrum: Even if voters may have decided Romney put on the better show, Obama advanced arguments and issue positions that will matter to key constituencies, and he elicited evasions and concessions from Romney that will damage him in the home stretch.

* How to judge the post-debate polls: Nate Silver has a useful metric: If Romney’s debate performance closes the gap between him and Obama, the key thing to watch is whether Obama’s support comes down from 49 or 50 percent. If Romney’s gains only come from undecided voters coming back into his column, and Obama remains at that threshold, the President will still be on track to win.

* Romney’s evasion on preexisting conditions: Paul Krugman devotes a whole column to Romney’s debate claim that his plan covers people with pre-existing conditions. As Krugman notes, the campaign keeps backing away from that claim after he makes it, arguing that states can guarantee protections for them, which is policy gibberish.
I would add that this is a pattern: When he’s addressing millions, Romney claims he’d guarantee coverage of pre-existing conditions. Subsequently, his campaign issues a clarification no one will see.

* Dems try to expand Senate map: The Dem-leaning group Vote Vets, which is already running ads in the Arizona Senate race, is putting another half million dollars behind a new ad hitting Tea Partyer Richard Mourdock, the GOP Senate candidate in Indiana. The effort reflects an effort by outside groups to expand the Senate map in the belief that the overall environment in Senate races is trending their way.
* And the “study” backing up Romney’s tax charge: Romney ads cite an “independent, non-partisan study” to back up the claim that Obama and “liberals” will raise middle class taxes by $4000. But as Allen McDuffee notes, this study is actually an analysis produced by the American Enterprise Institute. Romney cited it at the debate, too.
By the way: The Tax Policy Center — which produced the study showing that Romney’s plan must raise the middle class’ tax burden to remain revenue neutral — really is independent and nonpartisan, no matter how often folks lie to the contrary.

What else?

By  |  09:04 AM ET, 10/05/2012

The Rumble 2012: Bill O'Reilly vs Jon Stewart (Full)

Published on Oct 6, 2012 by
The Rumble 2012 - "Daily Show" funnyman Jon Stewart and Fox News host Bill O'Reilly faced off in a debate Saturday tonight at the Lisner Auditorium on the campus of George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Viewers can watch the event. dubbed "O'Reilly v Stewart 2012: The Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium" streaming on the web at

Starting at 8 p.m. ET, we'll be live blogging every jab, joke, and smart-aleck remark with this live blog. Join the conversation and leave your thoughts in the comments.

WASHINGTON (AP) — There were all the trappings of a high-octane presidential debate: the over-the-top declarations, the pre-practiced zingers and the schmaltzy appeals to America's truest values. But the presidential candidates were nowhere to be found.
In their place Saturday were two celebrity gabbers who have claimed their stakes to the polar opposite ends of the political spectrum: Bill O'Reilly and Jon Stewart. The political odd-couple came to Washington ready to tangle in an event mockingly dubbed "The Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium."
Choice words not suitable for the faint of heart dotted the 90-minute exchange between the Fox News anchor and the star of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," who bantered aggressively but good-naturedly over birth control, President George W. Bush and the so-called "War on Christmas."
Stewart came prepped with a mechanical pedestal he used to elevate himself in the air, making the height-challenged comedian appear taller than the lanky O'Reilly when he wanted to drive a point home.
"I like you much better that way," O'Reilly quipped at one point as he gazed up at his ideological foe.
The political feud between the two caffeinated TV personalities dates back more than a decade. Much like family members who just can't resist pushing each other's buttons over Thanksgiving stuffing, Stewart and O'Reilly love to disagree, but appear to hold nothing against each other once the latest spat has run its course. The two have appeared on each other's programs since 2001, but the face-off Saturday at The George Washington University marked their first head-to-head debate.
Appearing wholly presidential in dark jackets and face makeup under a sign reading "Yum, this banner tastes like freedom," the two quickly turned to talk of government spending and the 47 percent of Americans that Republican Mitt Romney said in a video are dependent on government.
Stewart, defending government involvement in health care and social programs, said the U.S. has always been an entitlement nation.
"We are a people that went to another country, saw other people on it and said, 'Yea, we want that," Stewart said. "Have you ever seen 'Oprah's favorite things' episode?"
Asked who he'd like to see as president, O'Reilly dead-panned: "I'd have to say Clint Eastwood."
"Well why don't we ask him," said Stewart, mocking the Hollywood actor's widely panned speech in August at the Republican National Convention by getting out of his chair and staring at it while the crowd erupted in laughter.
In an apparent show of bipartisanship, Stewart even got on O'Reilly lap at one point. "And what would you like for Christmas, little boy?" O'Reilly said slyly.
"The display that you saw tonight is why America is America. Robust, creative, no holds barred," O'Reilly told reporters after the debate. "You can call it whatever you want, but you wouldn't see this in a lot of other countries. That's for sure."
Organizers said about 1,500 people attended the event, but the main audience was intended to be online, where the event was live-streamed for $4.95. On Twitter, viewers complained they missed the event when the video servers crashed. Organizers said video will be available for download and that those who experienced errors will be eligible for a refund.

Full Presidential Debate: 

Battle Over Economic Policies  President Obama and Mitt Romney's economic policies took center stage
Streamed live on Oct 3, 2012 by TheNewYorkTimes
First presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in the run up to the general election in November.