Saturday, September 15, 2012

Advice to Romney Campaign: Don't Let Mitt Read New York Magazine

Why? Because it'll break his heart, that's why. Which begs the question: So how has New York Magazine gotten so hardball when it comes to politics? Could it be because Jonathan Chait and John Heilemann are there now?

That upper lip is pretty stiff, Mitt, or did you bite your tongue? (About time.)

Jonathan Chait -- who had been at The New Republic for years -- has really gotten tough on Mitt Romney in recent days, first with his takedown of Romney's about-face on healthcare, entitled "Mitt Temporarily Forgets Plan to Screw the Poor," and now with his article today, called "Romney Tries to Defend Embassy Lies." Core quote:
On Monday night, Romney issued this condemnation of Obama: “It's disgraceful that the Obama Administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.” The lies here are several: The statement was issued by an embassy staffer, not by Obama; It did not express sympathy with attackers; and it was not a “response” to the attacks but in fact preceded them.
Even if you strip out all the lies, the broader argument that Romney is now trying to wage is so completely silly he doesn’t believe it himself. The general thrust of Romney’s attack is that Obama has taken some unusual step by condemning the inflammatory anti-Muslim movie that sparked the protests in the Middle East, and that he, Romney, would refuse to acknowledge any of the protestors' legitimate grievances. In fact, even under the Bush administration it was completely standard diplomatic practice to pair up defenses of the free speech principle with condemnations of provocative attacks on religion. And in his interview with Stephanopolous, Romney — after defending his pack of lies — is forced to admit that he, too, condemns the movie...
Read the entire article. Let's hope Mittens doesn't read it, it could be bad for his fee fees.

As for John Heilemann, late of The New Yorker, Wired, and The Economist, also lays into Romney in his New York Magazine article today, called "Don't Say 'Desperate'." Its core quote:
For Romney, the first blaring sign that his reaction to the assault on the consulate in Benghazi had badly missed the mark was the application of the phrase “Lehman ­moment” to his press availability on the morning of September 12. Here was ­America under attack, with four dead on foreign soil. And here was Romney, defiantly refusing to adopt a tone of sobriety, solemnity, or seriousness, instead attempting to score cheap political points, doubling down on his criticism from the night before that the Obama administration had been “disgraceful” for “sympathiz[ing]” with the attackers—criticism willfully ignoring the chronology of events, the source of the statement he was pillorying, the substance of the statement, and the circumstances under which it was made.
That the left heaped scorn on Romney’s gambit came as no surprise. But the right reacted almost as harshly—with former aides to John McCain, George W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan creating an on-the-record chorus of disapproval, while countless other Republican officials and operatives chimed in anonymously. “This is worse than a Lehman moment,” says a senior GOP operative. “­McCain made mistakes of impulsiveness, but this was a deliberate and premeditated move, and it totally revealed Romney’s character; it revealed him as completely craven and his candidacy as serving no higher purpose than his ambition.”
Don't sugar-coat it, Heilemann! Oh, and, ouch, here's Jonathan Chait again in NYmag from yesterday with his "Romney: My Magic Tax Plan Will Repeal Laws of Arithmetic." Chait sez:
What Romney actually said, in his interview with George Stephanopolous, was that he would not raise taxes on people earning below that level. Here Romney is trying to wriggle out of a trap he blundered into. He has promised to extend the Bush tax cuts and then reform the tax code in such a way as to hold revenue constant, lower tax rates by 20 percent, and close loopholes. This was a vague enough plan that Romney believed he could get by without making any of the ramifications clear, except the good stuff about cutting tax rates. But the Tax Policy Center ran the numbers and found that, even if you granted Romney a series of optimistic to wildly implausible assumptions, he would have to raise taxes on the middle class, by a lot. The rate cuts would lose so much revenue for the rich that there wouldn’t be enough to gain from reducing deductions.
Republicans have been frantically denying the math, which Obama has turned into the potent (and accurate) accusation that Romney’s plan would cut taxes on the rich in order to raise them on the middle class. Republican economist Martin Feldstein tried to defend Romney by doing his own study showing that Romney’s math could work, but in an epic blunder, inadvertently confirmed the charges. Despite cutting all kinds of methodological corners, Feldstein’s study found that the threshold above which Romney would have to raise taxes was not the $250,000 he promised but $100,000 a year. That means Romney would have to raise taxes on a huge chunk of income below $250,000 a year, just as the TPC study found. Feldstein dealt with this problem by writing his column about his study as if it disproved rather than confirmed the TPC, and other conservatives have gone on pretending the same thing.
Chait is generous to Romney on one point, maintaining that Romney didn't mean to say that $200,000 to 250,000 and less was middle income:
Let’s stop this meme before it gets started. Mitt Romney did not say that a salary between $200,000 and $250,000 a year counts as “middle income.” I suppose you could say he asserted that if you used the truth standards of the Romney campaign — which allow you to clip phrases to change their meanings or even to present a person quoting something he disagrees with as his own position — but those aren’t truth standards I’d care to live by.
I didn't read it that way, going with Jillian Rayfield in Salon, who heard the same interview I did. My takeaway was that Romney was defining $250,000 as the top end of middle income. Nonetheless, it's good to see a major writer like Jonathan Chait routinely calling out Mitt Romney and his Republican allies on their constant stream of lies.

The media narrative is starting to turn against Romney, and once it does the money people start to pull their money from a losing cause. They're also likely to start sending it the other way in hopes of gaining influence with the winners. That's why Barack Obama got so much Wall Street money in 2008. He was perceived as the likely winner. Still, Obama backers are wise not to get over-confident. I know his campaign isn't taking anything for granted.

Nonetheless, sorry, Mitt, for hurting your fee fees, but don't look now, Sheldon Adelson may start sending boxes of chips to the other guy.

Together we will go to a magical realm where two plus two equals eleven.

(Hat tip and attribution of photo and caption to New York Magazine.)

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